Grass rustled lightly as a gentle paw was placed softly on the forest floor. A black tail swished carefully, making sure no leaves or pine needles were misplaced by the intruding animal. A pink tongue darted from the parted jaws and absently licked the black cat's muzzle. Eyes were dead set on a crow that picked at a berry a couple of lengths from where the she-cat was creeping forward. The wind direction were just right, blowing against the cat, bringing along fresh scent of crow.
Her muscles bounced under her sleek fur as she prepared to leap at the bird. At a painfully slow speed, the cat began to lower herself closer to the ground. Flexing her claws impatiently and rocking her haunches.
On a silent signal, the she-cat rushed forward, claws outstretched and her body arched in a huge leap. The sight of the cat made the crow caw in alarm and it shot upwards, flapping its wings in a desperate manner.
Aome quickly followed the bird. Making a magnificent jump high into the air as she landed a swipe on the wing of the crow, hooking her claws into the soft feathers in the wing.
The bird let out a choked noise as it was heaved to the ground. As both the cat and the bird landed on the ground with a thud, the cat lunged at the bird with a snarl. Driving her teeth into the spine of the crow, effectively snapping its fragile bones.
Her mismatched eyes shone with pride as she removed her teeth and inspected her freshly killed prey. Aome's tail waved back and forth as she quickly licked the blood off her paws and got rid of the feathers between her claws.
“You can come out now,” the cat purred gently as she swung her head in the direction of a healthy birch tree. “It's still warm.” The she-cat offered as the white rat scurried over to her.
Kio stared at the crow with wide eyes, his small heart thudding strongly against his chest. It missed several feathers, claws marks were visible on the body and blood continued to well out from the otherwise clean wound where Aome had snapped it's spine. The bird had without a doubt died the second the she-cat had sunk her fangs in.
“Is it dead?” He stuttered, his mind refusing to accept the clear evidence that lay bare by his own paws.
Aome looked at him with thoughtful eyes. “Yes.” She said, swiftly bending her head and taking a large chunk of meat from the rest of the warm body. Expertly, she stripped the bird off any feathers, and proceeded to eat it steadily.
Kio watched in horror as his friend ate another animal. She seemed uninfluenced by the fact that it had just as much right to live as they had.
“Stop it!” Kio gasped out, shaken to his very core by the disturbing scene in front of him. No matter how he thought about it; It just felt so wrong.
The cat stopped her meal momentarily. “No.” Aome meowed firmly, before resuming to eat in a slow pace, seemingly unaffected by the rat's outburst. Kio watched in silence as the she-cat took bite after bite, ripping and tearing at the dead flesh as she gulped down her prey.
“Want to taste?” Aome asked, her voice empty of any emotion. With a slow paw, she pushed the piece of half eaten prey towards Kio. The bloody bird was an image of pure terror as Kio felt his stomach turn at the sight.
Its body was bare, the flesh raw where the skin was still intact and it's belly had been expertly torn open by predatory teeth.
“Why?” Kio retorted, a sour taste caught in his throat. Aome didn't answer right away, she just watched the rat as she pushed the bird closer to him. Kio took a step back when the dead bird got too close for comfort, ears pressed flat against his skull.
“Because you need to know what it taste like before you try to kill one.” She answered sternly, continuing to push the bird closer and encouraging the rat to take a bite.
Kio stared at her, a lump caught in his tiny throat as he moved his muzzle to take a bite of the stringy flesh. The feeling of his teeth boring down into the hot substance made his body shudder as he chewed off a piece of meat.
The bird was incredibly tender and juicy. The meat almost falling apart as he chewed it in his tiny mouth. Flavors of all kind mingled and hit Kio's senses.
It was all such a new experience for him, yet it felt weird. Kio chewed less and less, thinking about what horrors the bird might have felt in its last seconds. The pain of those claws raking into the wing. Those sharp teeth breaking the spine.
Kio jumped backwards and spat out the meat before he could swallow it. “Yuck!” He proclaimed, sticking out his tongue to improve his point.
Aome stared at him with an amused face. “Sure,” the cat purred and rolled her eyes. She had been like that once. Defiant and unwilling to take a life. But it was needed. It was either her life or theirs.
Letting go of that strain of thought, she gently sat up and stalked over to Kio. He didn't notice her silent approach. He was too busy lapping his tongue eagerly at a small puddle to clean off the taste of bird meat.
“You may not like it now, but one day you will.” Aome said softly, settling herself beside Kio and his continuous lapping.
The rat looked up to the she-cat with black, pleading eyes. “Do I have to?” He asked quietly, stopping his frantic licking to be serious.
The black she-cat said nothing as she gazed into the face of the white rat. His cheek fur was fluffed up in his futile attempt of washing his tongue and his black eyes had locked with her own pools of color, showing his solemn mode and fragile nature.
He was too kindhearted and naive.
Aome continued with the silent treatment and simply flicked her tail over Kio's ears, signaling for the rat to follow her.
Swiftly, the she-cat trotted over to where the half-eaten crow laid defeated. She quickly ate the rest of the bird in quick and hungry gulps, licking her lips as she finished her meal.
Kio continued to stare at her every action, a look of hurt stuck in his gentle eyes. Was that really all there was to other creatures like him? Hunted down and killed so others could live. Kill for the sake of your own life?
The fragile looking rat shrunk even more as he thought of a question. And an answer he hoped was for his best. “Are you going to eat me too?” Kio whispered, just loud enough for Aome to hear.
The black cat whipped her head towards him, her eyes burning with something Kio couldn't quite place. “No!” She snapped, lashing her tail and fluffing up her fur.
Kio lowered himself closer to the ground at her sharp tone. Sure enough, the answer was the one he wanted to hear, but her tone had definitely not been a good one.
“Why should I?” She continued, her tone harsh and unfriendly. “I mean, how--” Aome cut off abruptly. Her voice slithering back down her throat as she saw how submissive Kio was.
His whole body pressed against the cold ground, his ears flat and the pink tail drooping in the dust. He almost looked like a frightened cat.
“Sorry.” Aome murmured sheepishly, flashing the rat a guilty look.
Kio sat up and inspected his wounded tail once again. “It's okay.” He muttered, even though the unease in his body posture betrayed his words.
“Are you up for some hunting training right away?” Aome asked in a casual voice, their previous word battle obviously brushed off her fur.
Kio just nodded his head slowly.
Without glancing back, the she-cat padded towards a pine tree. Prodding away a low and prickly branch with a gentle tug of her black tail, easily making a small space for the animals to stay under.
Tucking her paws under her fluffy chest, Aome settled under the cold shade of the tree. A purr rumbled in her throat as she noticed how nervous the rat was, his eyes bulging out of his head as he watched the tree with tension.
“The tree isn't going to bite you know,” she called out to Kio, his body tensing at her call.
“I'm just not used to this.” Kio muttered, as he walked under the pine tree. Crouching down, the rat began to rock his haunches in a hypnotizing manner.
Aome watched with a look of utter confusion on her features. It was only when the rat gave a push and jumped onto the nearest branch that her eyes lightened with understanding.
“How well can you climb?” The she-cat asked in an interested voice, her whiskers quivering with excitement at the display of his jump. Kio continued to gaze at the hovering clouds that was barely visible during summer, his voice laid to rest somewhere deep in his brain.
The rat simply shrugged his shoulders. “I don't really know,” he said as a cloud drifted by.
Aome glared at the branch where the rat sat, her eyes gleaming and her spirit high. “If you can jump that well all the time, then all you need to learn about hunting is how to sneak.” The black cat told Kio with a proud voice as if she had taught him how to jump.
Kio turned his head from the clouds to the cheery face of Aome. “Really?” He asked, jumping down from the branch, his claws leaving tiny marks on the dark wood.
“Really,” Aome stated firmly and started crouching as the rat closed in on her. “This is the crouch you need to learn.” She mewed to him. Kio watched silently as his eyes drunk in the sight of a hunter.
Her tail was held low to the ground and her belly fur barely scraped the grassy ground as she was hunched over. The black paws were placed silently on the ground, as she slithered forward in a swift and flowing movement, making no sound at all even though her claws were painfully stretched.
“Think you can do it?” She asked Kio as she had demonstrated the movement. Kio was speechless, his mouth slightly ajar at the impressive demonstration.
Kio nodded slowly, still trying to digest the information.
“Smell that?” The she-cat whispered in an excited voice, her mouth open as she tasted the forest for any new scents.
“Smell what?” Kio whispered back. Sure there was a stench of forest and undergrowth, maybe even some berries here and there.
Aome flicked her tail over the rat's shoulder. “You may turn out to be a good hunter, but you definitely do not have the nose for it,” she whispered back to him, her voice taking on a playful edge. Kio gave her a hard stare. “There is a blackbird over there-” Aome said, gesturing with a paw, “A couple of meters away.” She finished in a hushed voice. “Try to see if you can catch it.” The black cat added as she turned away from the direction she had pointed out.
Kio crawled a bit forward, his limbs sprawled out in an awkward fashion as he stalked forward the best he could. Turning his head slightly, he saw Aome mouth something to him. Tail! She signaled, waving her own fluffy tail. Kio gave her a look and watched his own tail.
It was straight up in the air, its pink color giving away his hiding spot. Lowering it close to the ground, he stalked through the well known undergrowth of his home.
Home. He thought with a pang of regret.
No! This was no longer his home as he once knew it. He had a new purpose in life. To find that dog and the reason for the destruction of his colony.
With new fueled anger, the rat crept towards the oblivious blackbird. Placing a silent paw in front of the other, he crept closer and closer. His small heart thumping against his chest as the smell of the blackbird tingled his nostrils.
Suddenly the blackbird turned around.
Black stared into black as the two creatures watched each other. The bird made no attempt to escape as it started to peck into the ground again.
Surprised, Kio crept a bit closer to the blackbird.
When the rat was no more than a few paw steps away, he quickly threw himself at the confused bird.
Kio's small rodent teeth clamped around the throat of the bird as he bit as hard as his jaws would allow him to. Blood oozed from the wound as the blackbird flapped its wing hopelessly before it went limp in Kio's grasp.
The metallic tasting liquid stung in Kio's throat as he accidentally swallowed some of the blood as he let go of the dead blackbird. The rat coughed a bit as he tried to steady his breathing and calm his rapidly beating heart.
Turning his head towards Aome, he said in an exhausted voice; “Never again...” The rat spoke truthfully. He had expected some kind of fight, like when Aome had taken down the crow. Not just some bird who was watching him like he was a harmless friend.
“You're already a good hunter.” The cat stated as she inspected the dead blackbird, turning it with a single paw as not to ruin the way it had died.
“But I felt horrible doing that!” Kio hissed out, his body shaking as the taste of blood continued to burn on his tongue and down his throat.
“I felt like I pretended to be its friend! Didn't you see how it just stared at me!” He stated with rage filling his voice.
Aome watched him with emotionless eyes. “But even so, you managed to kill it.” She snarled with bitterness. “You did what you had to!” The she-cat spat at him, her claws flexing and tearing at the ground.
“Maybe,” Kio mumbled in a sad voice. “But I won't do it again.” He stated in defiance. His black eyes burning with determination.
“Fine.” Aome sighed, and looked Kio straight in the eyes. “But then you should at least find some berries, or whatever it is you eat anyway. You are going to need a full belly when we leave the forest.” She declared, disappointment dripping off her every word.
“Why?” Kio asked, even though he could feel his small belly growling in protest.
“Because we are going to the city.” She stated.