Wolf Children - Yuki's Next Chapter

Chapter 5

The news of another wolf child on the way spread quickly as the children told their parents. It didn't upset me. I wanted people to know. For my family at least, it was cause for celebration. Mom insisted on staying with me, and I was thankful for her help. I knew nothing about how to be a mother, nor what to expect as an expecting mother, other than the nausea and sickness that went with. Amazingly for a first time mom, it began to show after only 8 weeks. It was a wonderful sensation the first time I felt the baby kick. The kids at the daycare were very curious, and nearly all of them wanted to feel. Most were disappointed. My baby wasn't the most active, but every once in a while, they got to feel a solid kick. There were many days I was feeling too sick to head to the daycare, much as I wanted to. Souhei stayed by my side whenever he could, and when he couldn't Mom was there for me. She had a few herbal tea recipes that helped me to feel better, if only for a short time. She actually had some interesting stories to tell me from her time since she arrived. When she wasn't helping me, she wandered in the natural areas around the town, usually being accompanied by Ame, who still held a lot of love for his mother. But his life was starting to change as well.

Even as a wolf, Ame knew he couldn't abandoned his human side entirely. Other than the time with Mom, he avoided pretty much all human contact. One morning, though, he had an interesting run in. A young lady spotted him and offered him her sandwich. It didn't seem she knew it was him, but it didn't stop her. Whether courageous or foolish, no one could say. Ame mostly kept his distance, though when given the offer of food, he came in to accept it once she set it down and gave some distance. After their first meeting, she made a habit of returning every day. Most of the time, she didn't see him, but when she did, she always had something to offer him. She didn't even try to get him to talk. It was as if she felt him communicate with no words, but after some time, he broke his silence. “Why?” he asked. “Every day, you wait here. Always you have something to give me. Why?” It was then he discovered something that shocked him. She was a mute. She couldn't speak. She placed a hand gently on his head, and he began to understand. “Did you want a friend?” he asked her, to which she nodded. Gently, he pulled back. “Look elsewhere. I am a wolf, and you are a human. Human blood is in me, I cannot get rid of it.” She closed her eyes, trying to hug him. He quickly jumped away from her. “I say I am wolf, and you still wish me a friend?!” he asked in shock, to which she nodded. He looked down, before dashing off. Her kindness was not wasted. That was the most he had ever opened up to someone outside his family since he made his choice to be a wolf. Mom had seen him on a number of occasions, enough that she could grasp what was going on. To her, it was obvious that the icy prison around his heart was starting to melt, if slowly. It was music to my ears to hear that, but neither Mom nor I wanted to interfere. We wanted to allow them to become friends at their own pace.

The days stretched along, and with Mom's herbal teas, it did not take long to get past my morning sickness. It felt great, passing that hump. There were still times I didn't feel well, but it was nowhere near as bad. During my days at home when Souhei wasn't with me, like my mother, I began to practice my sewing. She showed me the little wolf plush she had made when she was pregnant with me, and I wanted to make one like it. Sewing did not come naturally to me, but I had plenty of time to practice. One morning, Mom walked in carrying a pheasant. “A gift from Ame,” she said with a smile. “Lone wolf or not, he hasn't stopped caring about his big sister.”
“I knew,” I said with a smile, getting to my feet with only a minor struggle. “That's why I'm glad to have my family with me. I know Souhei has to work, I understand. I know he'll be there for the big day no matter what.”
Mom pulled me into a hug. “That's the spirit, Yuki. Anyhow, you take it easy. Today, I'm cooking for you and Souhei.”
“I'm not so big yet that I can't help you cook, Mom,” I said with a chuckle.
“That's not what I said. I'm still your mother, and if I want to cook for my little girl, I'm going to.” She put her hands on my shoulders gently. “You take a seat.” With a smile, I realized I couldn't win this one. I took a seat in front of the fireplace as Mom stepped over to the stove. “Your father made this dish for me when I was pregnant with you. It was essentially a pheasant ramen.” I gave her a nod, and before long, the wonderful smell of spices and roasting meat began to fill the air in the apartment. I closed my eyes, just letting my senses wander. The sounds of the water starting to come to a boil and Mom chopping the fresh spices grown on our windowsill complimented the smells from the herbs. It was a relaxing sensation, one I'd not felt in a while. Slowly, my ear began to show, as did my tail. It was good that being pregnant hadn't interfered with my ability to change form. My clawed hand rested gently on my furry belly as I felt the baby kicking. Slowly, I began to nod off for a nap. Mom had encouraged me to get as much sleep as I could before the baby arrived, because in her experience, she had very little time for sleep caring for Ame and me. I knew there would be hard times, but that didn't discourage me.

I awoke a few hours later to Souhei's arms around me. Mom had kept the stew on low to let it simmer and permeate the flavors throughout the entire pot. “Morning, sweetie,” he said, kissing me right between the ears. “Did you have a good nap?”
I gave him a nod as he helped me to my feet. “Yes. Mom insisted I take it easy, and I guess my body agreed.” We made our way to the dinner table, sitting down to a lovely meal. I had never had pheasant that I could recall. I had caught one as a child when I was still hyper and wild, but it managed to get away. One taste was all it took before I felt that old wild ravenous urge hit me, and it was even harder to fight when I was eating for two. I couldn't control myself as I wolfed down the stew I had been served. My mind was a total blank until I looked up, my face soaked with broth. My fur hid my blush as I grabbed some paper towels, drying off. “What...what in the world came over me?” I asked, covering my face.
“It's a mother thing,” Mom said, taking my hand. “I had quite the appetite when I was pregnant with you. It's not uncommon. You're a bit different being a wolf child. When your hunger hits, your maternal instinct as a wolf is much stronger.”
“As long as it doesn't get out of hand,” I said. “I'd hate to black out like that and wake up to find I'd hurt someone.”
“Then you'll just have to work harder to fight it,” Souhei said. “I know you can do it. You're a very strong woman.”
“Thank you for the vote of confidence, Souhei.” I pulled him into a hug, licking his neck gently.

As the weeks passed, I had to leave the daycare. I was still easily able to get around, but my instinctual hunger was starting to get out of control. My appetite and control of my wolf form were regressing as the baby developed. For the safety of the children, I had to stay away. It was a struggle to keep from biting Mom while she was cooking, and more and more I felt like I was going crazy. Even when I ended up biting her, Mom never got angry with me. Being a pregnant half-wolf was a challenge in and of itself. Souhei was taking an even greater risk. When I started to get out of control, he pulled me close, holding me until I settled down. He ended up with a lot of scratches from it, but he never yelled in pain. Thankfully, none of the scratches scarred, but it left me terrified. I felt like I was putting my own family in danger, and I had no idea how to control myself. Some days, I hid myself away in the bedroom, snacking on whatever I grabbed. I began to wonder if Ame would be able to help, since he knew much more about his wolf side than me. One night, when Souhei and Mom were asleep, I slipped out, completely in my wolf form.

I made my way to the woods outside, letting out a howl. Thankfully, Ame answered, making his way over to me. “Ame, I need your help. My wolf side is racing out of control. I nearly ended up biting Mom's hand off, and Souhei's gotten hurt so many times. Teach me. Please, teach me how to control my wolf side so I don't hurt those I love anymore!”
He gave me a stern look, shaking his head. “I chose to embrace my wolf side, not suppress it. I do not see how I can help.” I gasped slightly, looking down.
“Please, Ame. There has to be some way you can help me. It's not constant, but when I go crazy...”
He remained quiet for a few minutes. “Your need for food drives your instinct out. When it comes out, you are overcome with need to protect yourself to protect your child. Wolf mothers dig dens and isolate themselves. You may need to isolate yourself for your family's safety.” He looked up at the wolf. “I know little more than that.” And with that, he left. I felt my heart sank as I feared he was right. As much as I loved my family, for their safety, it might be inevitable. With a heavy mind, I made my way back to home. Souhei woke up when he heard me come in, coming to hug me as I turned back to my human form. I stepped back, shaking my head. I looked away, speaking quietly. “I went to see Ame. He said mother wolves isolate themselves, and I think that's what I have to do to keep you and Mom safe.”
He shook his head. “If you feel you need a place to be alone, that's okay,” he said. “You can use our bedroom, and I'll sleep on the chair in the living room. There's no way I'm totally leaving until the day you give birth. If that means I can't hug or kiss you until that day, then that's just something I'll have to endure.” he put his hands on my shoulders. “I know it's difficult for you, all the changes you're going through, and I want to do whatever I can to help.” he let me go, heading over to the chair. “I'll see you later.” With a sigh, I headed to the bedroom, closing the door. I had months of essentially being a shut-in ahead of me, and I didn't look forward to it.

My life became incredibly boring and monotonous. I stayed in the bedroom, leaving only to use the bathroom. Mom and Souhei brought food in to me. They still tried to lift my spirits, telling stories through the door. It was nice to at least have some form of interaction, especially as Mom kept me updated on what was happening with Ame and his new friend. “Have you found out her name yet?” I asked her.
“Not yet. She tried to write it out for him, but he's lost his ability to read, and I was too far away to make it out. He hasn't opened up to her much yet, but he has made progress. Yesterday, the two of them actually went for a short walk together. That's a lot of progress for Ame.” A smile adorned my face.
“Keep telling the story, Mom. I'm going to close my eyes and try to imagine it.”
As her story continued, I could see it well.

Ame was still not very willing to spend time with a human outside his family, but with this girl, her patience was truly astonishing. Everyday, she waited for him, with no explanation why. What was going through her mind, no one could really say, but her patience was working away that glacier about Ame's heart. My heart soared when I heard Mom tell me that Ame actually let the girl hug him. His paws gently draped over her, if only for a moment before he pulled back and ran off. In time, he was starting to return her kindness. Always she had something for him, but now, he started to bring her small things; Rabbits or other small prey he had hunted or a smooth piece of quartz. He didn't know much about the way of giving gifts, but it was as if he felt indebted to her for all of her kindness. In time, he came to Mom and asked her for her help in reading what the girl had written in the dirt after she had left. It was a true surprise to see he had come to care that much, and it was nice to finally learn her name; Jasmine. It took months for him to even get that far, but it felt good to know he was starting to actually find a friend.
As the months dragged on, it felt like I was a prisoner to my own instincts. Ever since I had isolated myself, my violent urges has come to a stop. My hunger still surged quite often, though, and I was glad to have my own pack to help. It didn't feel good, having to rely so heavily on them. It felt the only thing I had to keep me from losing what was left of my mind to boredom was my mom's stories. Ame and Jasmine were actually starting to become friends, and he had even expressed a wish for her to meet me, once I had given birth and was no longer a wild risk. In the meantime, he was actually starting to take an interest in her.
“You always wish to see me. Why?” he asked her. She just rubbed his ears, unable to answer him. The lack of communication made it quite difficult for them, but she was committed for reasons unknown. “Someday, I wish to find out why.” She looked over to him in surprise. It was the first time he had ever expressly shown interest in her. She reached out, running a hand along his back gently.

Their relationship grew slowly, stretching into months. Mom kept me up to speed the entire time. One night, as she was telling me more about them, I seized up and let out a howl from my wolf form. “M-mom! G-get Souhei home, quickly! The baby is coming!” I heard her run to the door with a slam, followed by a second slam. Apparently, she was so rushed, she ran into the door. I let out a chuckle, before I climbed up onto the bed. Wolf instinct or not, I wanted my lover, my mate by my side. I closed my eyes, whimpering as I waited. Souhei soon came bursting through the door, taking my paw. He looked into my eyes.
“I don't care how much you claw me up. I'm not missing this Yuki.” He kissed my forehead, rubbing my back gently. I hadn't planned on being in wolf form for this day, but I couldn't control it. I looked up into his eyes.
“Please don't leave me, Souhei. I need you!” A few tears glistened in my eyes as he held my paw tighter.
“You will always have me. You can do it, Yuki. I know you can.”
It felt like months I was there with Souhei at my side, when it took a few hours. When it was over and I heard my baby's first cries to the world, I felt myself turn back to my human for, lying on my back, exhausted. “Tell me our baby is healthy, Souhei.” I took his hand.
He gave me a nod. “Yes, Yuki. Our little boy is healthy and beautiful.” Mom toweled him off and wrapped him in a soft blanket, giving him to me gently. I couldn't stop smiling the entire time.
“Souhei, after all I've put you through this whole time, I'd love...if you could name our little boy.”
He scratched his head with a goofy grin. “Hope you aren't expecting something amazing. That's never been my strong suit.” He took some time to think while our new boy was nursing. Mom quietly slipped out, leaving Souhei and I alone with our new child. “How about Itonami?” Souhei said, climbing in bed beside me.
“A name that means life.” I gave a smile. “A wonderful name for a wonderful boy. My wish for him is the same as Mom's wish for me. I just want him to be happy.”
Souhei chuckled a little as he saw little Itonami hiccup and turn into a wolf. “Then it's up to us. We have to do whatever we can to make it happen.” I gave him a nod before I nodded off, drained from the ordeal.

As a couple weeks passed following Itonami's birth, my wolf need for isolation tapered off, until finally I was myself again. It was wonderful to be able to feel Souhei's arms around me again without flying into a manic rage. It was surprising to see Ito change anytime he sneezed or hiccuped. Mom said that happened with me the first couple years of my life. From my own experience, it would be a few years before he would have any degree of control over it. Mom returned to her home back in the country 1 week after Ito was born, but she said if I needed advice, she was just a phone call away. I knew nothing about how to be a mother, and I was certain I'd be calling her a lot. Souhei still had work to keep up with, and now that Mom had left, I was home all alone throughout most days. I needed to get out of the house. Being cramped up so long in my bedroom was maddening. With Ito in my arms, I made my way out of the house and into the woods outside of town. It felt good to smell fresh air and feel the sun again. Ito began to stir a little. In my time alone, I had some up with a soft tune as a lullaby for him, and he calmed down any time he heard it. This time was no exception. Our walk through the woods had an interesting turn as we came across a young girl sitting with a small brown paper bag in her hand. I approached her with a smile, and she soon turned to look towards me. “Are you Jasmine?” I asked her, to which she nodded. She stood up and bowed to me in a show of respect. I shook my head with a smile. “Please, you don't need to bow to me. I didn't move here to be some sort of guardian. I wanted to live where those who are half-wolf can live among people in peace. As we spoke, Ame soon showed up.
“Sister. It is nice to see you,” he said, stepping closer. “And the new wolf child. His name?”
“Itonami,” I said proudly. “Souhei chose it for him. It means life.” Jasmine tapped my shoulder, making a gesture like cradling a baby. I wasn't quite understanding, until Ame stepped closer.
“She wishes to hold him,” he said. “In time, I have learned to understand her without the use of words.”
“Ame. I'm honestly a bit surprised. I didn't think you'd actually want to learn about her.” I chuckled a bit. “You were so set against being a human before.”
“As you were set against being wolf,” he said. “Time changes people.” He looked to her. “You can trust her. She will be careful with Itonami.” With a nod, gently placed the little boy in Jasmine's arms. She knew exactly what to do, supporting his head and body.
“Have you cared for a child before?” I asked her. She gave a nod. “Wow. You're even younger than I am. It's amazing you've been a mother.”
She blushed vehemently, shaking her head. She motioned with her head towards Ame, then to me. “She is an older sister,” Ame said. “And she is not much younger than you. 18 years in 3 months.”
“Ah. Well, happy early birthday!” I said with a smile. Ito began to fuss a little in her arms, turning to his wolf form as he opened his eyes. I began to hum his lullaby softly, and as always, it calmed him right now. “This is the first time someone other than his father, his grandmother or I have held him. He was probably confused by your smell. He's definitely got the sharp nose of a wolf.” With a nod and a smile, she carefully sat on the stump behind her. Ame stepped closer, and much to my surprise, he nuzzled against her side. This girl, without a single word, had tamed the wild wolf in Ame and made a true friend of him. I didn't say a word. I didn't want to ruin it.

A chill began to set in. “I need to get back and make sure the fireplace is well stocked,” I said. Jasmine nodded and stood up, carefully giving Ito back to me. “I hope you will come for a visit sometime,” I added. “Hopefully while Souhei is home as well. He works so hard, it feels like I almost never see him.” Jasmine placed a hand on Ame's head, the formerly wild wolf closing his eyes. It was as if they shared a telepathic link.
“Treasure every moment you get with him,” he said, much out of character for him. “He is your life mate. Seeing him only short times is better than never having him.”
I gave him a nod. “I knew all along. I have never taken my time with him for granted. Dad taught me that. It was his final lesson to both of us.” As I said that, Ame looked down, a tear clearly visible in his eye. I left without another word, not wanting to cause him anymore hurt.
“Thank you, Yuki,” he called as I walked away. “I had...all but forgotten him.” I gave a subtle nod, but I did not look back.

When I returned home, Ito needed to nurse. He had a healthy appetite, though it didn't rival mine from my childhood. When he was done, I gently placed him in his crib to sleep, then began to stock the fireplace and lit it. The warming glow filled the whole house, and soon the smell of a delicious dinner mixed with it. I ran to the door to pull Souhei into a hug as soon as he got home. “There's my girl,” he said with a laugh, spinning me around in the hug. “How was your day?”
“Oh, it was wonderful,” I said with a cheery smile before I kissed him. “I finally got out of the house for a bit. Ito and I went for a little walk in the woods, and wouldn't you know, we got to see Ame and Jasmine.”
“Man, I wish I could have been there for that. Did I miss anything exciting?” He gave a smile as he sat at the table.
“Amazing, really. He's actually opened up to Jasmine, and without a word, they can communicate. It's almost like their minds are linked.” I served up the soup I had made for dinner. “Don't feel bad, Souhei. I know how hard you're working, and I appreciate all you do.”
“But I just feel like I've been missing out in everything that's been happening here at home.” I laughed a bit as he said that.
“You mean missing out on sitting in the living room while I had to stay isolated in our bedroom to avoid going crazy?” I took his hand gently. “We all have responsibilities, Souhei. Even if you had to be gone for a full year, I would still be waiting to greet you with a hug and a kiss when you returned. I pledged to be faithful to you for the rest of our lives together, and I'm not going to turn my back on that.”
He gave me a smile, standing up to give me a kiss. “I love you so much, Yuki. Thank you. I needed to hear that.” When we finished our meal, I pulled him over to the couch. We sat together for hours, his arm around me as I rested my head on his shoulder. When I changed to my half-wolf form, he began to scratch my ears gently. My tail started to wag as I lay down with my head in his lap. Getting to spend time with him was all I wanted, and hearing me say how much he meant to me was his greatest joy. We understood each other so well. The moment was disrupted by Ito waking up and crying out. I leaped to my feet, picking him up gently. I sat back on the couch with Souhei while Ito nursed, and he used one arm to support Ito's head gently. “I want to be there for him. I know it was rough for you without a father, and I don't want Itonami to go through that because of my work schedule.”
“It's not like you're gone all the time, Souhei. And you work just 2 blocks from here. It wouldn't be a trek across the ocean for us to come visit you.” He chuckled a bit. “No need to be so dramatic, Souhei.” I kissed his cheek gently, letting him rest his head atop mine.

The next day, Souhei had off, and we were determined to spend the day together. It promised to be a warm day, and I wanted to spend it outside. I had a baby carrier for Ito, freeing my hands up so I could walk hand-in-hand with Souhei. Nature was our friend today as we headed outside the town. As if on cue, we ran into Jasmine in her usual clearing. Ame had yet to arrive, so we had some time to talk. We still couldn't make out what Jasmine was trying to say from her hand gestures, until she began writing in the dirt. “You're out here every day,” Souhei said, tilting his head. “Why is it we've never seen you in town before?” Jasmine looked down, not answering. “I'm sorry. I shouldn't have asked.” Souhei didn't know how he may have offended her, but he felt it best to apologize anyway.
“Because she has no home, nor anyone to return to,” Ame said as he approached, overhearing us. “At the age of 5, her parents died in a car accident, as did her younger brother, leaving her the only surviving member of her family. She lived in an orphanage until age 9, but when it became too old and damaged to inhabit, it was shut down, and she had nowhere to turn.” He walked to her side, nuzzling her gently. “At that young age, she had to learn to fend for herself. Without her voice, she had no way to call on anyone for help. She has been forced to live the lone wolf lifestyle I chose for half her life now.” Jasmine's face was covered with tears as she nodded. “I think that is why I felt such a connection to her. She and I have been alone for so long.”
“Wait, you said she has no home. Where do you sleep then?” I asked. Jasmine waited for a time before standing up. She led us to a small shelter she had erected near the river. It offered no protection from the elements or the wildlife, and I could only imagine how difficult winters were for her. “You seem to do quite well. You're quite clean for living in the wild. I suppose the river is in part to thank for that. How do you keep your hair in check, though?” She dug out a small knife that was well-maintained. I honestly felt stupid for asking such a thing. “Jasmine, come back to town. We can find you a home.” She hesitated, looking between myself and Ame. After a time, she shook her head, stepping over and placing a hand on Ame's head. I gave her a nod. “I understand. You have a friend, and you don't want to leave him. In a way, with Ame, you've found yourself a pack to join.” She nodded, Ame placing a paw on her back and giving her a push.
“You are my friend, but you are also human, Jasmine. Giving up large pack of humans for pack of one wolf is not wise.”
Jasmine closed her eyes. “I...want...my friend,” she said, shocking all of us that she spoke.
“Jasmine...?” Ame backed up a bit. “I thought you couldn't speak.”
“I have not...spoken...in 13 years.” Her speech was slow and broken, much like Ame's when we first met him after his departure.
“But why?” Ame asked.
“I think I understand,” Souhei said. “As a child, that was agonizingly painful for her. The trauma of the loss of her family took away her ability to speak. I've seen it before.”
“Having a friend...has made me happy,” she said, looking at Ame. “A friend...I do not want...to lose. 1 true friend...is better than...a full town of people...who do not know...my name.” She stepped back a little. “But...I do not want to...force you to be my friend.”
Ame closed his eyes, a clear conflict in his mind. Until now, he had chosen the life of a lone wolf. Now he had to choose again; continue to live his life alone and force a poor girl to continue living the same lone life she was forced into, or go against everything he had lived since that rainy night and accept a member into his pack. Souhei stepped forward, but I gently stopped him, shaking my head. This was a big decision for both Ame and Jasmine, one she had entrusted to him. It was not our place to interfere. It was Ame's decision to make. He soon sighed, looking up to her. “Jasmine...you've become a friend to me...” he stepped closer, jumping up and placing his paws on her shoulders. “And now, you are a member of my pack.”

To be certain of her situation, we followed Ame and Jasmine as he led her to his den. He had fashioned a sizable place for himself, and while not luxurious, it did offer good protection from the elements. Jasmine was now able to sleep without having to worry about the cold and the wind. Satisfied, Souhei, Ito and I returned to our own nature walk. “I was surprised,” I said, taking Souhei's hand. “Ame choosing not to be a lone wolf anymore. That's the last thing I expected.”
“It shouldn't be too surprising. I mean, I used to be that way, remember?” He gave me a smile. “But I had a true friend to help me.”
“Yeah. And now he does too,” I said with a smile. “Do you think it might blossom into something more?”
“That's up to them. If it does, it does. If it doesn't, at least they're still friends. I guess sometimes one true friend is all someone needs.”
“And with you, I was blessed to find more than that,” I said, kissing his cheek.

Our time together continued to be a wonderful one, and we still regularly got to visit Ame and Jasmine. In time, I was able to return to the daycare, balancing my time teaching the children and taking care of Ito. The children always enjoyed getting to see him. They promised me they would be friends to him and really make him a member of their pack. I chuckled a bit as they used the wolf terminology. Time marched on, and it seemed like the blink of an eye before it was Itonami's first birthday. It felt like he had developed quickly in that year, already speaking and walking, and starting to gain a little control over his wolf form. He still didn't seem to fully understand the difference, much like Ame and I as children. I made sure when we played, I used a mix of my human form, my wolf form, and my half wolf form. I wanted him to get used to seeing all three and to recognize that they were all part of him as well. Souhei was a wonderful father. Whenever he was home, he always found time to play with Ito and teach him, always wearing his smile. All too many times, he kicked himself for missing a major milestone for our little wolf child, such as missing his first word, but I tried to console him as best I could. “Souhei, you're a great father. You always make time for our son when you're home. I'm sure he recognizes that.” I pulled him into a hug with a kiss on the lips. “One day, when he's looking back on his childhood, he'll remember how his father made every effort to give him whatever time he could, and he'll know you are, and always will be an excellent dad.”
He gave me a kiss in return. “Thank you, Yuki.” He looked over to Ito watching him, giving me another kiss. “Let's leave no doubt for him that I'm an excellent husband, too,” he added with a laugh.
“Yeah. It'll be good for him to have a great role model when he finds that special girl someday down the road.”
“Whoa. That's still a long way off, honey.” He ruffled my hair a bit.
“Yeah, but you know how it goes with kids. They learn best in their first few years of life.” I walked over, picking Itonami up. He was starting to become a feisty little one. Luckily, he didn't cry as much as I heard Ame did. “We were out to visit Jasmine and Ame today. I took her a new set of clothes. Her old ones just didn't seem to have much life left in them.”
“Oh? How are they doing?” he asked, giving Ito a little kiss on the forehead.
“Pretty good. Ame's not letting her just sit around while he does all the work. He makes her pull her weight in hunting, but she seems to enjoy it. They're definitely happy as a pack of 2. She seems to be embracing the wild. She declined the clothes I took her, wearing a set she made from fur, including boots and gloves enhanced with bear claws.”
“Bear? Impressive they took a bear down with just the two of them. So, she's becoming a wild child.” He chuckled a bit, shaking his head. “I guess that's not too surprising.”
“Yeah. In a way, it's like Ame has become the Sensei now. He taught a guardian back in the mountains where Mom lives, and now, he's teaching a member of his pack.”
“You know, talking about pack members, it makes me think. We haven't seen any of our old friends since our wedding day. Well, other than Shino going wild as she caught the bouquet.”
I looked to him thoughtfully. “That's true. We could try to look some of them up, but...” I sighed a bit.
“Are you still afraid?” he asked, to which I nodded.
“The people of Shizuoka accept me being half-wolf, but our old friends. They might not be so understanding.”
“Do whatever feels best to you,” he said with a smile. “You're the wolf among us. If you want to tell them, it's up to you. I told you before. I'm never gonna tell anyone.”

That definitely gave me a lot to think about. It had been a while, and Shino had always been a great friend to me. She was a friend even longer than Souhei, simply because I'd met her sooner and we went on to high school together. Perhaps she could handle the truth, but if I told her and she freaked out, I could be putting my entire family in danger. In hindsight, though, I'd taken a much bigger risk with the town, throwing all my cards on the table at once. What was one close friend compared to the entire town. “Souhei, I think I'm going to do it. I want to look up Shino. It would be nice to have another old friend to talk to.”
“Then I say go for it. Maybe her old cell number still works.” He pulled out his cell phone, taking a look. He handed the phone to me with Shino's number highlighted. I took a deep breath before I hit the call button. Fortunately, her number still worked, and after a few rings, she answered.
“Heya Souhei! Haven't heard from you in what feels like years.” She had the same cheeriness in her voice as always. “What's up?”
“Actually, Shino, it's Yuki.” I chuckled a bit. “It's been an eventful couple of years, that's for sure. We just celebrated Itonami's birthday a few days ago.”
“Uhh...Who's that?” she asked.
“That would be my son,” I told her with a smile. “A wonderful healthy little boy. You have to come see him sometime.”
“A little boy?! You gotta send me a picture!!” she squealed in delight.
“Easy there, Shino. You can come see him for yourself. Souhei and I have been living happily in Shizuoka.”
“Really? Haven't heard that name in ages. Wasn't that the town you were researching in high school? Something about wolves there or something?”
“In a way, yes. I wanted to see it for myself, and it's a lovely little town. We chose to make a life together here.”
“Well, all right. I'll head out there this weekend. It's going to be a long drive, so I hope you don't mind if I stay over for a few days.” she hung up abruptly, and I guess she went to start packing.
“Looks like we'll have company for a few days,” I told Souhei with a smile. “Good thing the couch pulls out.”

The weekend came all too soon. Itonami was playing in his wolf form, chewing on an old rag doll. It was late into the afternoon before we heard a knock at the door. The suddenness of the knock startled Ito back into his human form. In my human form, I headed to the door, and as I opened it, I found myself tackled onto the floor by an excitable Shino. “Well, I see you never lost your pep, huh?”
“Nope. I'm incurable peppy, and I'm afraid it's terminal,” she said with a giggle, getting back up and offering a hand to help me. “So, where's the little cutie?”
I headed over, picking up little Itonami. “Shino, this is my son, Itonami.”
“Awww. He's so cute.” she reached out to take his hand gently, and he growled a little, scratching at her in his half wolf form. She went wide-eyed as she saw his ears. “Wh-what...Is that some special pair of pajamas for him or something?” I shook my head. “But...he's...he looks like a wolf! Wolves are extinct in Japan. What's going on here?”
“What's going on here is a legend that's all but extinct, but slowly making a come back. Shino, there was another reason for my research into Shizuoka and the Honshu wolf...and it will shock you.” I stood back, gently giving Ito to Souhei. “You'll probably think I've gone crazy when I tell you. It doesn't sound like it could possibly be true. The man my mother fell in love with was also a wolf. My boy is a wolf child...” slowly, I changed to my half wolf form in front of her. “And so are Ame and myself.” Shino stepped back, her back against the wall.
“I see it, but I still don't believe it.” She pinched herself. “Am I dreaming? Are you wearing some sort of special effects makeup?” I shook my head, moving my hair to show my normal human ears had vanished and moved her hand to my wolf ears.
“It's no dream. It's the truth.”
“I knew you were different from other girls, but I never would have imagined something like this.” she shook her head a bit. “But it can't be a lie. Those ears are definitely real.” A deep breath calmed her down a bit. “Well, this is actually pretty cool. I know a living Honshu wolf, a species everyone else thinks is extinct.”
“Not entirely. There are 3 of us now.”
“And it's a proud heritage you need to pass down,” she said with a smile. “Now, if you'd be so kind, please show me to the couch. I think I'm about to faint.” Sure enough, she fell forward unconscious into my arms. The shock was enough to make her pass out. I chuckled a bit moving her to the couch.
“Rest well, Shino.”

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