Chapter 14: Un-Bearable
The snow crunched underneath his feet as he carried me across the trail. I comfortably rode against his back as he supported my legs in a piggyback ride. How much time had passed was something I wasn't aware of. Instead, I just asked him questions the whole time. He didn't seem to mind. I mean, he had an answer for every question, so I just kept going on and on.
"How tall are you?"
"Seven-point-zero feet tall."
"What are you supposed to be?"
"I am the white Ninja of Ice."
"What about your brothers?"
"Kai is the red Ninja of Fire, Cole is the black Ninja of Earth, and Jay is the blue Ninja of Lightning."
"Are they actually your brothers?"
"We're not linked by genetic makeup, but linked by our training to be a team. But I assume you could say there isa hint of brotherly love in our relationship."
"So you love them?"
"Of course, they're my family."
"I feel you."
"That was your first response that wasn't a question," he pointed out.
"Oh, oops. Um…why's your name Zane?"
"Because my parents chose for me to be Zane. And before you ask another question, may I ask why you're so interested in me?"
"Well, what else am I supposed to do? Go to sleep?"
"If you want to."
"Nah, this is more fun."
With the wool blanket draped over both our shoulders, the sting of the cold didn't bother us as bad it did before. Well, let me rephrase that. It didn't bother me as bad as it did before. Zane never shivered even before I put it on him.
"Why aren't you cold?" I asked.
"Before I was ever a ninja, I lived in a village where blizzards raged on a daily basis. I worked in them because I can easily withstand cold. It's just a piece of my natural abilities."
"Do you like heat?"
"I prefer cold but heat is comfortable, I suppose."
"Are you getting annoyed by me?"
"Of course not. You're just trying to pass the time."
I exhaled a little louder than I intended. Cloaked drowsiness finally revealed itself in my eyes. He said I could go to sleep if I wanted to. Maybe a little nap wouldn't hurt.
I lightly pressed my forehead into his shoulder. I felt nothing but the wool of the blanket, his muscular back, and his arms underneath my legs. Only hearing the crunching of the snow, I was lulled asleep, but not for a long time.
He stopped walking for a second, slightly jumping to prop me back up. I jerked my head up and looked around at the surrounding darkness.
"My apologies, but you were slipping from my hold," he said.
I didn't respond. The darkness was suddenly spooky to me. We were trekking on the side of a mountain, in a place where farmers and gathers from Jamanakai Village come to acquire their products for purchase at the marketplace. That was why it was so easy to walk here for Zane, because the constant trodding of the ground made the snow so shallow. But even though it was a frequently visited place, who knew what creatures lurked here at night.
The thought kept me awake for a while longer, but I didn't ask any questions. I kept watch, per say. There were no signs of life around us, or at least some that I couldn't see. For some reason, Zane gave off a vibe of calmness. It made me calm, myself. With him, I felt protected from anything out here.
"What?" I asked.
He didn't move. I realized he was intently looking ahead. "I sense something," he robotically replied.
I didn't understand what that meant, but I assumed it meant something bad. He lowered himself to the ground so I could get off. When I did, I gathered up the wool blanket and put it under my arm.
"Stay close to me," I heard him say. Then I could hear him begin walking, but it was so dark that I couldn't see him.
"W-Wait," I quickly said.
I heard him halt.
I took a couple steps in the direction he went and reached out in front of me. When I touched him, I found his arm and put my hand in his. Now I felt much better.
With this, we continued to walk through the wilderness, dodging leafless shrubs and skinny trees. Zane said there were also coniferous trees, which I couldn't understand how he knew.
There was a loud growl. I stopped and gasped. Zane turned around and nudged me in the opposite direction.
"Macca, you have to run," he commanded me.
"What about you?" I shrieked.
"It's okay, just go!" And then I couldn't feel his hands on my shoulders.
"Run, Macca! Run as far away as you can!" I heard him run towards the charging noises.
When there was a distinct collision, I reverted around and sprinted. Whatever that animal was, it sounded big. Only one animal of that size lived in a biome like this: a bear. Zane was fighting a predator that could be bigger than him, had sharp teeth, a powerful bite, and massive claws. As I ran, I heard the roaring become a distant sound.
My breathing came out in huffs as I fought against the shallow snow. The blanket fell from the ball I bunched it in. The end of it drug behind me. I tripped over debris on the ground and ran into trees and shrubs. The shrubs' branches poked my legs and tugged against my pant legs like desperate, crippled hands looking for someone to save them from the extreme cold. I collided into so many trees that I knew my body was covered in bruises now.
The whole time I scrambled what seemed like miles away from the bear, I kept thinking about Zane. He fought off legendary Serpentine, but a bear? In the dark? I could feel the claws tear through his flesh, its teeth snap down on his limbs. I could feel the pain, and I could feel the life leave his body.
If Zane dies, I'm going to be stuck out here all by myself with a fucking bear, I whimpered in my head.
Tears soaked the turtleneck around my cheeks as I sobbed at the thought.
No. Zane couldn't die. He couldn't leave me out here to be hunted down and eaten.
I scurried through a patch of bare shrubs. The blanket got completely tangled in branches and ripped from my hand. I only stopped for a moment but then continued. The blanket didn't matter.
My sobbing clogged my brain from thinking straight. For a while, Zane was the only person I could think of. He was my only source of survival. My tears thickened, and I inevitably crashed into another tree truck. An ache formed in my chest from the impact. My fingers wrapped around the cold bark as I slid down to my knees. They crunched into the snow.
Although the roaring of the bear still rang in my ears, the noise that only surrounded me here was the whistle of the wind. My cheek pressed against the tree. I didn't have the will to run anymore.
Jen watched my pitiful weeping with a blank expression from the other side of the wall. She didn't care about what was happening around me. She didn't care I could die out here. She was just…
I could suddenly hear rustling behind me. It moved around twigs and snow. For a moment, I could hear a heavy sniffing.
I gasped and got to my feet. Even though it was pitch black, I knew it was the bear. There was no trace of Zane. He was undeniably dead.
"No…" I quietly wailed, making my sobbing severely worsen.
What was I supposed to do now? There was no hope for me. Zane was dead. He was dead…
"Zane…" I wailed louder. "No…"