He didn’t know what to expect with walking them through the village. Thankfully Caji knew to keep the boy close to him by placing him on his shoulders so he could look at the beautiful village decorations without running around everywhere. It also kept Clara calmer knowing her remains close by.
Kane did mess with Caji’s unusual ears on his head, ignoring the Great Fire they were walking by. So far they had already caught the sight of many of the three tribes, the Rhuzeche, Maurea, and even his own. A Rhuzeche even surprised Clara, who approached her with wobbly legs and already intoxicated out of his mind. Another of his kind was yelling behind him laughing, “Kito, watch out for Ulley! We had him taste testing all the Rubar and he had too much!”
The Rhuzeche approaches Clara and stops for a second to begin his rapid blinks at her. She blinked once back, staring at the large curved horns on his head that looked like a goat. Or does goat's horns look that way? She was never around a farm too much, but his eyes were not slits and seem human. His skin, which was bare from his hip up and his trousers ripped, and his eyes were a dark muddy brown that suited his hair. He even had a light amount of hair on his masculine chest. She leaned away from him when he stumbles another step closer.
“Hey...” Ulley’s voice was shakey. Slurred. “I neva seen you befowe. Do you wan' ta try-”
He stood closer than Kito liked, even almost falling on her once. He grabs his horn and leans him just far enough into the pile of baskets next to them and he fell in like a large sack of sand. Hard. He must have fallen unconscious in it because he didn’t get back up. Kito swallows a growl, “You can continue, Clara. That was just a fool.”
She gives the unconscious man a weird face before continuing forward. That was weird...
Caji was the one leading them while Kito walks behind. Kane points to a large flower hanging on the side of a tree, a bright pink and yellow one with large petals big enough for him to reach out and touch. “What’s that!?”
Kito never saw the flower and it’s coloring before. The size of it was impressive. It was the size of Kane himself. “I was told that it was a Leraylu flower. They can even grow bigger than this in the much deeper part of the jungle. I have seen them as big as my hut.”
“Really?” Kane gasps, automatically impressed and he attempts to imagine a flower that big. “Is it deadly?”
Kito laughs, “If it was then we wouldn’t keep it here. But they could be used for other things besides decoration.”
Clara cuts in, “Kane, I don’t think he would want to answer so many questions about flowers.”
He walks beside her now as he sees the entrance of the washrooms now in sight. Once they reach the trail he was sure that no other would bother them and they would be out of the village sights. Besides the Scouters. “I do not mind. Some women like to use them for their tunic designs or medicine. Their petals can be used to make a mixture to help with the bug bites.”
They walk through the large arch that was also decorated. He would hate to be the ones that would have to take all of these down after the ceremony. “The washrooms are in a cave, but it has warm water heated from underground. And it is cleaned always.”
“So everyone has to walk through this long path just to take a bath?” She asks.
He nods, “It isn’t bad of a walk.”
The gentle breeze of the wind and the sight of the trees was enough for him to enjoy himself. He was enjoying the color, the scenery of the bright green leaves, and the blue sky that the dark clouds finally faded away to reveal. There was still time until night. He didn’t know what to expect when the ceremony begins.
The one view that wasn’t too bad was the sight of her. He could easily tell the differences between her and Alira by the tunic she wore alone. He didn’t think that Clara’s breasts would have been bigger than hers, and it was. It was something that Kito often found his mind wander sometimes even though it was too early to. He thinks. He had only touched her a little and he made sure to be careful. He remembered how Kai would take every opportunity to make contact with Mia, be it a gentle brush of fingers over her arm or holding her hand.
Kai would like to blame him for being the one who forced Mia into Heat, but Kito was sure now he wasn’t the only one to blame. It was just fun then.
Then again they had met when they were young so it came much easier than his situation. If he would do such things to Clara now then she would give him the same look she gave the Rhuzeche before. He didn’t want that look towards him.
Or maybe the tether would make her curious than frightful but scared of the reaction her body had. The battle of mind over body. He didn’t want to chance it.
They made it to the entrance of the washrooms that looks to Clara like the natural mouth of a large cave. It was the brightly lit inside that assures her to enter, the torches on the wall showed the handprints and drawings that were on the cave walls. The handprints were small and had to belong to a child, and the sights made Kane happy. When he heard how much louder the cave made his voice he talks softly, “Who made these hands on the walls?”
“I think every young cub in the village,” he couldn’t help but smile at the sights now. Each of the hands a different color and some pictures were drawn. Some of the cub’s mother or father, other birds that they had seen. Their cubs were always lively and happy, and rarely did they cry unless something was wrong. Caji stops in front of the washroom for cubs and lifts the boy down from his shoulders. Kito begins again, “Here it is. There are also more washrooms, one for females and the other for males. But we think this will would be alright for Tonilla’s rules. She is in charge of this place.”
Desperate to clean the mud off of her Clara immediately walks through the small tunnel to the large open area. Everyone immediately follows, especially Kane who made Kito feel that green pinch inside when he held her hand and she accepts it with a smile. How much he wanted that to be him. He shouldn’t be jealous of a cub.
Caji made a small noise to catch Kito’s attention. It worked, the Xutashi spots the small grin on the Kikera’s face.
“You think it’s funny,” he lightly growls, thankful that the two were already in the washroom and out of earshot. “You do not know what situation I am in.”
He looks in Clara’s direction, the two seeing the woman looking around the quiet washroom where the children would play. There was one large pool in the center that would almost reach Kane’s waist and not an inch higher, and there were more private bathrooms around the edge for families to go with their cubs. The Xutashi liked their privacy, and the central pool was where the little ones played in. The water could naturally clean itself with the natural minerals that surrounded it, making it a perfect place for the cubs. And not too deep. It amazes her the cleanliness of this place and the dark rocks that surrounded it.
Caji’s tail curls and he grins at Kito again. Caji had a way to give off a look of being younger, it must have been the look of his eyes that made him appear so. He wonders what the Kikera thought about at times. “Just keep a close eye on Kane.”
He walks away and strolls deeper into the washroom and steps closer to one of the private rooms and opens one of the hanging covers to expose another bath. “You can use this to clean away the mud. I will bring Kane something cleaner to wear. I think there is also some soap already in there, in a small bottle.”
“I want to do it myself,” Kane says while crossing his arms. “Can I go in one by myself?”
Kito tilts his head and looked to Clara for an explanation of what he asked. She shrugs, “he has been in these moods where he wants to do everything himself. I just let him. Kane,” she crouches down to his level and points to a private room next to hers. “That one looks like a perfect one for you. It’s small and right next to mine in case you need anything.”
“Cool!” He didn’t waste a breath before he jumps up and towards his very own private area, grabbing the blanket and moving it out of the way to dash inside. Everyone could hear his wild giggling, and even some things drop, but Kito decided he would just pick up whatever fell later. He had another concern to deal with.
He pulls the cover wider to the side and revealed the triangle entrance to Clara only, he tried on his best welcoming smile. “This one is just for you then. Caji and I will wait outside when you two are ready.”
“Um...” She steps up to the entrance, stopping briefly as they made quick eye contact just so she could say a shy, “Thank you,” and steps inside. He made sure to shut the cover. He could feel how a deep part of him tingled inside when she became shy of him, his body knew why before he did. He could also sense her nervousness, the kind that he likes to sense in her. His close presence made her nervous in a feminine way.
He glances behind him to find Caji cleaning the yellow powder from before out of his hair and off his face. His clothes were a different issue he will have to wash later on his own. The men stay by each other at the edge of the pool while Clara and Kane were cleaning on their own.
Kito did remember to go to a small section in the corner of the large washroom where baskets of young cub clothing were. The parents were organized and like to keep sizes in different baskets, which he had to search each one for what appears like it could fit the five summers old boy and returned to his private washroom, lifting the cover slightly and slide the clothes under it before lowering the sheet. “I brought you some clothes, Kane, so tell me if they don’t fit.”
He didn’t reply. He perks his head when he instinctively felt watched and his shoulders slump at the sight of Kai leaning against the entrance with his arms crossed. His look was more observing than anything else, with his tail moving slowly to show the curiosity he felt. That didn’t stop the grin that did form on his face when he was caught.
Kito was annoyed when he spotted him. He quickly heads towards his way so the others would not hear his voice and become worried about someone else being in here. Especially the very cautious Clara.
Once they were at the exit of the washroom was when Kito spoke with his aggravation, “Why are you here? Do you not have other things to do than to follow me?”
“Tell me you had not followed me when I was with Mia for the first time,” Kai laughs humorously, picking up the staff he had left at a spot. “I was only curious, brother. I saw her wearing one of Alira’s outfit. So you asked her to give away one of her tunics?”
“I will give it back, it does not fit her that well anyway,” he reacts. “I needed a female’s help. Wait, I do not need to discuss this with you. I have too much on my mind now to even begin why you shouldn’t follow me. Where is Mia? Go back to her.”
“She is sitting with Ruro and Zeta and with the Tribe leaders. I told her I was going to find you.”
“Did you tell her about-”
“It came across my mind,” he rubs his chin as he considers it once again. “I do not like keeping secrets from her and if she asks I will tell. I only just didn’t bring it up to her, but I should. And the Rhuzeche is speaking of the other humans they have seen with you and Caji. I am afraid that Zeta might catch whispers of that,” he didn’t sound sorry. “Ruro saw you himself. What made you think you could walk through the village without being seen by someone?”
“Father knows?” That couldn’t be that bad. He was nothing like his free-spirited mother who would fawn over Clara like she did Mia. Or at least tried if Kai had not been as stubborn as Kito was finding himself to be now. “He is more patient than mother. Right now I do not think it would be wise for this one to be surrounded. She is very cautious and does not trust anything easily.”
“When it comes to the tether then her trust comes naturally. The only problem I would worry about is the fear she will feel for these strange feelings, and when you convince her that she is safe it should be easier,” he was trying to calm his little brother who he knew had no idea what he was doing when it came to a female, little alone a human. He was sure he can find his way on his own as everyone did. “Female humans are different than ours, they are curious and easily frightened by our features that they are not used to seeing there. Would you like another word of advice from me that I think will be useful for you?”
He was already intrigued by the things Kai had to say. If anyone knew about human females it would be him, one who had been with one and even met one as a cub himself. Plus he managed to keep Mia and claim her, which he remembered that it was him that forced her to go into heat by putting Yumuja in her drink. A small joke before that he knew he would be thanked for later. And he had, right after he was beaten in the jungle.
“I would take what I can get now,” he didn’t let pride get in the way. He wanted Clara the same way Kai had Mia, the same relationship he was constantly jealous of him for.
“If she had been treated by the male in the other world the way you tell me, and she is cautious of everything, then it would be nice to give her control of something. Give her something she did not have before and she will gradually look to you differently as others.”
“Control of what?”
He shrugs, “I do not know. I have never met her, that is something you will have to find out. That is just my thoughts and advice on it.”
Kito was silent for a moment to let his words soak in. In the process, however...
Kane runs to him with his new clothes on. His trousers were the perfect size which gives Kito a big sigh of relief, and he wore a small vest that young males wore that was made of thin fabric so they could stay cool. He smiles when he saw him approach, his appearance now like one of their own. Kane stands before Kito and tilted his head far up to look at the golden Xutashi with small laughter. He didn’t notice Kai standing just a few feet away watching. “There is a hole in the back of these pants. I didn’t rip them though, it was like that when I got ’em.”
He crouches down to his level so they could meet eye to eye. Kito couldn’t stop the chuckle that left him at the boy’s innocence. “You did not rip them, Kane. They are made like that for our kind with tails. You just don’t have one.”
“Oh,” he says. Kito helped the boy fix his tunic right on him. He didn’t know that these kinds of things usually bugged the young child but this time he didn’t mind. He liked his help, and Kai could see the admiration in the little ones’ eyes for him.
Seeing Kito with the boy made a saddened expression pass Kai’s own at the thought of him wanting one of his own. And him and Mia trying. He knew Mia was more upset with the passing summer that they had tried but with no prevail, with no signs, and his heart sank further when he caught Mia the other day weeping in secret to Zeta about her fear of not being able to bear one for Kai all because of her own mother’s difficulty to have one. Mia was the one who wanted to have one after this year.
He knew Mia worries about many things even when he had told her that she should not do it just for him. Yet he could not deter her from it. She wanted to give him a cub the same way Tina had Valerie and Ivy giving Nuru the little Kikera infant Ruvi. She cares about Kai that much to want to do it. That was why it hurt him to see her upset when no signs ever came.
He had hope, however. If Mia’s mother could have had Mia then there was no doubt in his mind that she couldn’t have one of her own. With only him, of course.
Seeing Kito caring for this boy and helping him fix his clothes the way it should be was a sight that he didn’t think he would have seen before. The boy had taken a deep interest in Kito already. That was Ser’avi’s doing.
Kane turns his head to the side and instantly was startled by the taller presence that was silently watching. His chin tilts up just to see the yellow eyes of the new stranger.
He didn’t feel fear. No, instead he just grew his normal big smile and became excited that another one just like Kito was near. One that was taller and instead of golden had pure black hair, ears, and the long tail that curved behind him. “Cheeto, who is he?”
Kito stops to try to recall what the boy called him. “What did you say?”
“Oh, um... ” he thought about it for a second. “Cheeto. I forgot your name so I thought that was it. It’s not Cheeto, huh?”
Kai leans against his staff and snickered. Such an odd name. He hopes it sticks.
“Call me Kito,” he straightens and looked at Kai. “Kane, this is my older brother Kai. He had just come to find me and will be leaving soon.”
“That’s your brother?” That was the only thing Kane grasped during his sentence. His excitement escalated and he jumped in front of Kai and reached to wrap his hand on his staff. His small hand barely could fit, but he didn’t pull it or anything. He just had the innocent compulsion to touch it and Kai allowed it. Many young ones liked to touch it. “Wow, this is a cool stick! I would ask to hold it but I am too small and I would fall,” he risked the trouble to looked up at the tall Xutashi again. “Why is it cut like this?”
“Carved,” Kai even crouched down so the boy wouldn’t hurt himself to look up. One thing that he noticed was that the boy was smaller than the other little ones here and how Kito could find clothes to fit him was a miracle. “These are symbols, not cuts, they all mean something.”
“What do they mean?”
“Kane,” his head turned when his name was called. “I know you’re curious but he has to go back to where he came from.”
“Can I go with him?” He let go of the staff to say. “I want to see more.”
“I do not think your sister would like that,” not this soon when he was trying to gain her trust just to leave the washrooms and find that he had already sent him with another elsewhere. He could see it now, and it wasn’t pretty. “How about you go to Caji and play with him until your sister is done, and then I will show you more around the village.”
Kane was a little upset but didn’t argue. He stepped back and waved at Kai, “Bu-Bye.”
He did what he was told and ran off to find Caji. Kai remained crouched on the floor with one hand firmly on his staff and one arm rested on a bent knee. He gave Kito a small look, “That boy is too small.”
His ears lowered. His brother had to notice everything. “So is the woman. I do not like it as much as you do. But I can see that she took care of him more than herself, which means the fool did nothing,” it angered him beyond growls. She had to do it all alone, feeding the young boy more than she would herself. Luckily the woman didn’t look like a skeleton.
Kai stood, “I need to get back to Mia. I have a feeling she is waiting for me,” he turns his head behind him like she was there, but he didn’t leave before he gave his brother one last look. “Bring her to the village to look around some more. Maybe seeing the others will do something good for her.”
He didn’t give Kito time to answer before he was gone. He made sure that he saw his brother turn the corner at the end to make sure he was leaving and not staying to watch him a little longer, the strange man. Kito went back to his original spot and watches Kane and Caji play at the edge of the pool, Caji even allowing the boy to help clean some of his things that had yellow powder on them.
Clara came out later, her hair wet and thoroughly washed with the same outfit she had on before on. The smell of the soap she used filled his nose and it made his tail curl at the sweet scent of flowers. And her. Something that made him satisfied that she was wearing the smells from his world than her own. Right now he despised the human world. It angered him.
Kane greeted her with a hug, and Kito came in from behind to speak to her. His words were calm and somehow managed to catch her attention quickly, “I am going to take you into the village. I know it is soon but I want you to get a better understanding of where you are, and even meet another human here. What do you think?”
He was asking her thoughts on this? She stood there and tried to piece together what kind of thought one tends to make in this situation. She didn’t know. But deep inside she was glad that her opinion was asked. A simple question, but it was respectful. She was not used to that so the answer came out in a way that she didn’t expect. “I-I... Um... Well, I don’t know. I... Uhum... would think so.”
Would think so? Would think so? She has been around people before and you never gave a response like that. That didn’t even answer his question, she was mentally slapping herself at her words. She didn’t usually stutter that bad. He just made her so nervous. Not in the same way Richard made her.
Was it a bad sign?
He just chuckles at her adorable response. She could never do any wrong in his eyes, “follow me then,” he beams. “Closely.”
(Not so) fun story fact: During the planning of the first book Kai and Kito was close to having a third younger 8-year-old brother. The idea didn’t make it when writing the book.
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