Kakane scowled as Serena wrapped length upon length of white cloth around his torso and arms. She seemed more irritated than he was, swatting his arms and snapping at him to stay still as she bandaged him.
“Damn it, Serena, I’m fine! Let go!” She slapped a handful of green goop onto his face in response. “What the hell!? What is this stuff?”
“It’s a salve made from honey, yarrow, goldenrod, lavender, and valerian, all infused with healing magic,” Serena said cooly. “It’ll help heal all those cuts and scrapes.”
“It smells weird,” Kakane protested angrily.
“I’m not going to let you die from an infection because you were too stubborn to get the proper medical treatment,” Serena said pointedly, grabbing his arm and applying more salve.
“I’ve never needed crap like this before! Let me go!”
Serena said nothing but continued to apply her ointment. Kakane tried squirming away from her only to end up with the stuff in his mouth. He spat it out in annoyment, glaring at her and hissing as she applied the cream to a particularly nasty looking cut. Kakane managed to twist out of Serena’s reach but she wasn’t having any of this.
“Oh, quit it, will you!” she snapped angrily. Startled by her outburst, Kakane remained still and quiet, although he grumbled as Serena continued working.
“Shouldn’t you be helping Blondie with her research stuff?” he huffed.
“She’s consulting with the Dagaalyahanno elders today. Besides, I’m willing to work through the night if I have to. It’s not like I haven’t done it before.” Serena shrugged. “I’m more concerned about you and all these injuries you have! Why do you have to be so reckless!?”
“It’s not my fault Ponytail is an annoying bastard who insults my kingly pride!” Kakane protested. “He pisses me off whenever I see him. His face is just asking to get punched.”
Serena sighed and wrapped the final bandage around Kakane’s torso. She poured him some tea, which also smelled weird, and then left, presumably to find Mira.
Kakane wiped the sticky green slop off his face and arms as soon as Serena was gone. He scowled as it got stuck on his hands and clothes, goopy, sticky, and gross. But the pain from his burns and cuts had vanished, replaced by a cool numbing sensation. Kakane would rather feel the heat and prickling sting from wounds, something he was used to, rather than this insufferable cold wave on his face. His palms crackled with fiery energy as they always did when he was angry or annoyed, burning away the last of the thick green cream.
But he had to admit, he was sort of surprised to see all his burns and cuts as soft, tender pink skin rather than ugly scabs. Some of them he had just gotten a few hours ago, yet they were already this far in the healing process. His muscles felt fresh and relaxed, despite being tested to their limits during combat. What the hell did Serena put in that salve? Kakane shook his head, not deeming it important. He had his strength back, and his magic was overflowing with power. The next time he battled Takeru, he wouldn’t lose.
When he grabbed one of his shirts, he was startled to see it was washed. Had Serena done his laundry? When? Also, it was really well done! There wasn’t a speck of dirt and the fabric was smooth. The bloodstains were hardly noticeable too. Thinking back on it now, wasn’t Serena the one who made lunch the other day? That was really good. So she knew advanced first aid, knew useful healing and enhancement magic, could cook, and do the laundry… Perhaps Kakane would have to give more credit to her; with her skillset, she’d make an excellent travel partner.
He went outside the teepee only to see Serena hassling Takeru too. The dual-haired boy was more resistant to Serena’s prodding and was yelling all sorts of foul stuff at her face. There were insults, swear words, and everything in between being thrown at her. Kakane couldn’t help but be irked by Takeru’s treatment of Serena, but the final straw came when he flung the container of salve to the ground. He seemed to have injured Serena’s wrist in the process since it was now bright red and she was holding it tentatively. Kakane felt anger boil up within him to a dangerous level, evident by small but mighty explosions erupting from his palms.
He. Is. Dead.
Kakane marched up to them, burning with rage. He turned to Takeru and, with an angry cock of his head, gave the dual-haired boy a good flame-boosted punch to the face. It felt so satisfying, hearing the ponytailed bastard choke on his own blood and feeling something crack underneath his fist. Vengeance was sweet. Takeru staggered onto the ground, twitching. Kakane grabbed Serena’s uninjured hand and stalked off, but not before spitting at Takeru. He led Serena near the river, where there weren’t any people. Serena was looking at him like he was crazy, but he would not take back anything he did.
“What was that for?” she asked. “Didn’t you take that a little too far?”
“Let me see your wrist.” Kakane ignored her, taking her arm and, after seeing the swelling, clicked his tongue. “Do you have any bandages on you still?”
“I-In my pocket.”
Serena watched in amazement as Kakane took the linen wraps and deftly wrapped up her wrist. The way he did it indicated he was no amateur at this, and his work was highly skilled, not to mention fast.
“Where did you learn to do this?” Serena asked. Kakane shrugged.
“I’ve been mostly on my own for ten years,” he said. “I figured out how to do this pretty quickly. Anyway, what the hell were you thinking!? You should’ve just left the minute Ponytail started yelling shit at you!”
“But he was hurt!” Serena insisted. “I couldn’t just do nothing!” Kakane groaned.
“I get it, but you can’t just force help on people who don’t want it. Otherwise, stuff like that happens.” He gestured to her wrist.
“No buts. Let’s go find your friend.”
It didn’t take them very long to find Mira. She was just upstream, fiddling with some vials of mud. Serena began assisting her while Kakane began stretching. His muscles felt a lot better now, and his wounds were healed. He turned around to thank Serena when he saw that Takeru had recovered and was now talking to the white-haired girl. He seemed sheepish and was rubbing the back of his head. Frowning, Kakane moved in a bit closer to hear what they were talking about.
“I’m sorry for hurting your wrist, Serena. Will you be alright?”
“Yes, I’m fine. I’m more concerned for you, though! Kakane hit you hard…”
“Eh, I deserved it. He had every right to be mad.”
“If you say so.”
Then Takeru noticed Kakane’s glowering features from across the river. The intensity in the scarred boy’s red eyes spoke volumes as he put a finger to his neck and made a swiping motion across his throat. Takeru felt chills run down his back and started laughing awkwardly.
“W-Well then, I’ll be off.” Gulping, the dual-haired boy nodded to Serena and started heading back towards camp.
Then the ground began rumbling, speeding up the current of the river and even sloshing water over the edge. Looking around wildly, Serena was shocked to see the plains heaving up and down like a walking foot. Plants were being uprooted, the soil was falling all over the place in mini avalanches, and a nearby herd of buffalo was rampaging everywhere in a confused panic. The entire earth was vibrating and making strange groaning noises.
It was absolutely terrifying.
Takeru was yelling at everyone while Serena waded out of the water and took refuge by Mira’s side. The two girls hugged each other desperately as the terrain boomed and gnashed and shook. Serena could feel herself move with the earth, getting tossed around as dirt sprinkled on her hair. Beside her, Mira was muttering to herself that everything would be alright, even adding a prayer to a New World god she called Nash. Serena could hear Kakane cursing, but his voice was drowned out by Takeru’s cries. Then, after one final quake, it was all over.
The earth was silent. The plains were flat again, albeit completely messed up, with the appearance of having been tampered with and trampled over.
“What the hell was that!?” Kakane asked. His hood had fallen off, revealing his horns and messy black hair.
“Shut up and get to camp!” Takeru yelled.
“It’s a plains worm, dammit, run!”
Something burst out of the ground, accompanied by a large explosion of dirt and an eerie howling, moaning noise. It was surrounded by clouds of dust and swung back and forth in the air, hissing and growling. If Serena was terrified before, then that was nothing compared to the fear she felt now.
What were they to do in the face of this horrifyingly monstrous creature?