I considered cutting this is half because it is 5438 words and I usually keep it under 3000, but I didn’t know the best even part to cut it for it to be even 3k.
Kito remained patient as he sat outside of the tent waiting for her. No doubt the other women inside were telling her the awful stories of what he did in the Maurea village when he was younger. He was hoping they wouldn’t tell her the time Pippie and him accidentally burned down one of the large huts in the Maurea village for seeing who could make their fire in each fireplace bigger. It was something he still gets scolded on by elders today, but he did spend a large time trapped there until Pippie and him finished building it back. It took forever.
Pippie was sitting next to him, passing the time by chatting. It was when the moons were slightly higher than Dia finally exits alone. Kito opens his mouth to ask but she speaks first, “I arranged to find a perfect outfit that just needed a little changing with size, something that wouldn’t take long, I just want to let you know before the others talk her out. She is so shy,” she giggles. “I would be too in the human world. But I think she likes you,” she steps closer to fix Kito’s strap over his chest that led to his pouch that she found irritating to see uneven. “If anyone knows about females liking the males it’s a Maurea lady.”
Kito let her with a light chuckle, relieved that she didn’t touch his skin. Now every else touch was like trespassing. He hasn’t expected that to be true after first having Clara touch him, even if it was brief. “She asked a lot of questions about you. And yes, I told her everything,” a more serious look. “Everything. ”
Even the burning hut. He inwardly sighs. It was just a stupid game.
Clara finally leaves the tent behind the three other women that were coaxing her out, and when she stands where he can see her his eyes didn’t waste a second to observe her new outfit. Her tunic wasn’t the bright vivid colors Xutashi’s wear but instead the Maurea’s darker colors. It covered one of her shoulders and left the other one exposed. It also fit her figure much better than Alira’s, covering her chest and hung to her knees. He likes it. A lot.
Only he was allowed to reach out and grab some of the beads to look at the colors. Clara watches him observe in silence. His presence somehow never felt like someone was trespassing in her bubble, but a part of it. It was foreign to her.
“I like it,” he looks at her with a smile. “Do you feel better?”
At her nod, he steps closer, boldly positioning a hand on her shoulder and looking at Dia. “Thank you, Dia. Could you make sure the other tunic is returned to Alira?”
Dia pouts, revealing to Clara that whoever this Alira had a history with her. She didn’t speak.
“Please?” He half begs but it was enough to get Dia’s shoulders to relax. “Okay, I will return it to her. Thank Sooda that I like you. Now would you like to stay and-”
The ground underneath them shook.
It was sudden. The vibration of the surface came and the screams of everyone crams the air with the sound of the clattering rocks. Kito didn’t know what to expect when his feet had to work to keep flat on the ground. Things start to fall.
Pippie shouts in alarm, “Look out!”
The tremor was rough, so rough that everything that was in the trees plunges and hits hard. Fragile things smash and scatters and people tumbles because they couldn’t get their balance.
Kito wraps his arms around the terrified Clara who almost fell on the ground herself, she succumbed to the shaking because her ankles were too weak to keep her up, and he snatches her off the ground and out of the way of another falling spot for a killer. Dia and the girls ran to pull some frightened young kits to keep them away from anything large that could fall on them because pillars fell. Decorations unraveled.
The world felt like it was grinding.
Pippie had to shout loud enough over the screams for Kito to hear, “Find somewhere safe! Now! I have to find Pasha!”
Kito didn’t waste another second or did he leave Clara behind. In a situation like this everything was out of mind, so he put his body close to hers and moved through the panicking crowd so she didn’t get run over. He ran into a bunch of panicking people who weren’t paying attention to where they were going. Moving forward was impossible, Clara couldn’t keep herself standing, and she fell again. He immediately covers her.
She covers her head with her hands and curls up under him, remaining silent while she felt the ground push and pull against each other. Her brain was banging against her skull a lot, the quake was unforgiving. All kinds of things fall on him and hitting his back. Some things that hit him hurt worse than others. He didn’t care. His main goal was to keep her covered until this passes.
It went on for ages, the movement was making his head ache and no doubt hers. He looks down and noticed her eyes were open and watching the feet of the ones still running around panicking, even seeing someone fall from a tree. “K-Kane!” She thought of him. Where he could be now.
Kito covered her sight with his arm, “Close your eyes until it stops.”
She did it by instinct. She didn’t know why she listened but she did, curling into a tighter ball and wonders why he was covering her this whole time. She heard his grunts whenever something hit him, and not to mention his whole body was touching hers. Luckily the situation was too serious for her to focus on that too much.
Just a quick that it was started the quaking ceased. They remain like that a little longer as the screams around them slowly came to a halt. Kito perks up first to make sure everything was secure before moving off of her, debris falling off his back. She opens her eyes and looks around at the aftermath.
The decorations that were around the village were ruined, the flowers all on the ground along with the shattered pots and largely fallen totems. People were standing around looking at everything that has collapsed, like the tents that were put up had tumbled and set alight by the campfires that the Maurea gathered with water to try to extinguish it before it swells towards the trees.
Kito was halfway over her when he spoke, his heart throbbing at the experience. “Are you alright?”
“I’m fine,” she sat up and slowly slid from him, momentarily dazed from being on shaking ground. “Dude, are you okay? You were on top of me.”
Even though the serious situation she made him grin, “I am fine if you are safe, Clara. Now let’s find Kane and Caji to see if they are safe.”
He helps her up and places her back on her feet on the now still ground. She follows Kito closely, and when she couldn’t catch up he chooses to just take her hand and keep her close so that she wouldn’t falter. He didn’t ask or look at her, his hand just enclosed over hers to get her through the village much faster. Their eyes scanned the damage as they made it closer to the center where the uneven Great Fire was, and it was there that he saw his family gathered. And to see Kane with them made Clara’s world that much brighter.
It seemed that Kane’s safety had a price when he saw Caji sitting on the ground with his family surrounding him. He had blood running down from his hairline and over his face, even coating his eyes and cheek, and confused. Mia was beside him with Zeta who was already fixing his head of his injury.
Kito approaches and lets her hand go so she could comfort the crying Kane. He looks to Kai and Ruro and walks between them, “What happened to Caji?”
“The cub was playing with the other ones,” Ruro was too much grown into tradition to call the boy anything else. “And the shake came and startled them, he was knocked down and a large totem was falling his way and Caji pushed him and was hit on the head. I grabbed him and pulled him to safety. Are you alright?”
“I am fine,” Kito nods, glancing at Kai who had a cut on his arm. “Any worse anywhere else?” He asks in concern.
“Nothing I can’t fix,” he said. “That shake came from nowhere. Others were injured, even one of the humans.”
“The one names Dixie, a pole landed on her leg and she is unable to walk. Ro’Jin is panicking because she kept screaming so Zeta sent someone to help her. That is all we know now.”
Mia held Caji’s jaw and cheeks in her hands to face him her way and keep his head still while Zeta examines him, placing medicine in it and making sure it didn’t need stitching. Meanwhile, Caji just stared at Mia with a dazed, blank look as the world looked like it was spinning. “Oh, Caji. Keep your eyes open for me. It’s not a good idea to close your eyes.”
Another scream tore into the air that caught the attention of everywhere, their eyes landing on a Chayeene woman digging through the rubble of a Xutashi hut that collapsed from one place above. “Xain! Someone help me!” It was Tani who was digging through the rubble frantically, and it wasn’t long before Manik came in and pushes everything he could away.
Kai and Kito directly ran to the rubble and started to pull off everything. Manik growled out with his fear and joined lifting a thick pole that fell over it, budging only a little. “Why were you in a Xutashi hut, stupid pup?” He was already giving his son a scolding under his breath. Kito and Kai and another Warrior helped Manik pull the pole off, cleaning some of the broken hut walls before they found Xain.
He wasn’t alone.
He was covered by more things and as more things were revealed Manik and Tani could see that Xain was using his body to cover Janice who was inside of the hut before the shake. His body was cut and damaged but he took most of the damage. Xain’s father grabs his injured body and pulls him out who was whimpering as he reached for Janice who was bleeding from the little impact. Kai and Kito made sure to bring her out safely, seeing that her injuries were only minor cuts and some sore spots, but she should be fine.
Manik drags Xain away from the hut only to hear the pinning whimpers rose from him, even fighting his father once to get back into the rubble to grab her himself but was subdued quickly by a larger body. “No, Xain. That can wait. You are hurt, son.”
He was near tears as his worry overflowed, “She’s hurt. Let me hold her.”
He had to hold Xain’s head to the ground to keep him contained so that Janice’s half-conscious body can be carried out by Kai. Watching her from his position his father kept him down so that he didn’t run and grab her and hurt anything else, or attack. She was already hurt enough, seeing her face wince as her whole body was sore during the impact. And there was blood dripping from her fingers where her lower arm had been sliced by a sharp object. It was that sight that made him react the way he did.
Clara watches in confusion at his reaction.
“Get off of me,” Xain’s dark snarls manifests after his please didn’t work. He had a goal in mind. “Get off me. She’s mine. I know she is.”
Manik didn’t seem worried about his son’s frantic movements and his reckless vicious behavior, holding him down and nodding for his Chayeene Warriors to approach. Obvious years of practice. They waited for further orders. His words were soft to his son, the voice of reason against his aggressive impulses. “I know, but she is going to be cared for by the Rhuzeche medicine man. She will be fine.”
His snarl grew louder, “No. You let another male touch her other than me!? I will kill him if you do.”
“Fine, she will be taken to the Maurea. They have a medicine woman. Now stop your behavior and make this easier on my Warriors, you overheated pup. I’m going to throw you in something cold. You will be taken to her later when your much worse wounds are tended to.”
He didn’t want to make it easy. Clara stares as he moved like a wild animal trying to get out of the more professional Chayeene, and when the Warriors came to subdue him made everything much more startling when it was more work to contain him without him hurting anyone. The largest Warrior chaining him in a chokehold had to move him away from Janice. She wonders why he was so worried about a human that was here for just a day.
Kito returns to the startled Clara and treads closer than she expected him to, seeing gentle blue eyes land on her face and scan every inch of it to try to decipher what emotion she had. All he could do was sense it. She was frightened and worried and she didn’t know what to make out of all of this. He could understand that. “I am sorry, Clara. Xain is a Chayeene and they can become angry quick and aggressive. Especially him.”
“Why did he care so much for Janice? ” she queried. “He went crazy, Kito. You would think he would worry about the ground shaking than her right now.”
He understood Xain although she didn’t. Not yet. It was why he would rather have his body over hers to protect her in the middle of an open area to keep himself from acting in such a way. He did enjoy her under him though.
“I will answer that question when you understand a bit more,” he even dares to move closer and watch her cheeks change color and her face become flushed when he was closer. He could hear her heart pounding. He felt self-satisfaction blooming from within at the thought of him making her more flushed than Pippie ever could. He didn’t even make her heart pound as much as hers did right now.
If only it was a better time...
“Caji?” Kane walks over to the Kikera sitting on the ground and looked at him with tears running down his cheek. The boy felt horrible as he watched the side of his head being wrapped, the bandage over his forehead as he kept his eyes on Mia who was speaking to him to keep him awake. He was still in the clouds. Which made Kane sadder, wiping his tears with the back of his hand. “He’s broken.”
“He isn’t broken, sweetness,” Zeta’s sweet voice attempted to soothe him. “The world is spinning for him for a little time but he should be fine.”
Shinto came into view and saw the young Kikera, his ears lowered and crushing by his side. “Caji,” Shinto said breathlessly. “Hurt?”
Caji smiles and blinks slowly. His eyes were still on Mia. Caji always had a big interest in Mia, which Kito knew was a motherly figure. She used it to her advantage to keep his attention on her and not sleep although it was obvious it was what he wanted to do. “He will be fine, Shinto,” Mia told him. “Aren’t you?”
Caji shamelessly purres while his tail lazily curls and moves. “See?” She smiles. “You’re going to be just fine.”
Kai’s ears lower for different reasons, “I do not like the way he is looking at you.”
She sighs and looks at him, “He just got hit on the head with a large pole, of course he is going to look at something strange.”
“That is not what I meant.”
She frowns and clearly expresses her irritation towards him, “We’ll talk about that later, Kai. Right now let’s make sure everyone is okay.”
Kito picks Kane up from the ground and held him in one of his arms, which the boy welcomes by high on him tightly are in his neck in a tight hug as he cries. “I did not mean to get him hurt, Cheeto, I didn’t.”
Again with the name.
“No, none of this is your fault,” he tries to reassure him. “Caji would rather it be him than you, he can take the damage. He will be healed by tomorrow.” Kito let it by him without correcting him this time. He senses Clara suppressing a giggle but wiped it off to continue a serious look for the situation. It was too serious right now for laughs.
He didn’t even know what was funny.
Clara was rubbing his back to soothe him further until his cries became quieter, and when they were silent he looks at her with a raised brow. “Why does he call me that?”
There was that giggle she tried to suppress now, “Cheeto. It’s, um-”
Mia spins and fully giggles at the word, “It’s a little snack.”
Kane held his neck tighter than even he thought a frightened human boy could hold. He looks to Ruro who was standing by, “where did the shake come from?”
“It happened too quickly to say were,” he browses over the ground. “I have met a similar one before far away from here and the ground was broken apart, which means this was not caused by the ground. There has to be another reason for it but I do not know. I just hope it doesn’t happen again.”
“We need to move Caji to my hut,” Zeta waves for Shinto to help, which he could easily pick up the Kikera effortlessly. “Maybe not everything inside has fallen over.”
Caji was being taken away.
Kito was taking in another sight of the damage the shake had caused, the ground was littered with different flowers and many tents were down and was being fixed. It was a tragic sight, and the things that were set on fire were being taken care of quickly by the mixture of Tribe folks to keep it from spreading. The Celebration was ruined.
Ruro saw this too and sighed, “I guess I will speak to the other Chief’s after we make sure everyone is taken care of to see what to make of the Celebration. We may restart another day.”
“I want to go check on Tina,” Mia places her hands on Kai’s cheek and gently caressed it with her thumb before sliding her hands over his chest. Clara saw the transition on the Xutashi’s face from irritation to putty in seconds. She could even hear his shameless purrs and how his ears soften, and his bright yellow eyes turned soft like a lovesick fool she had seen on television. Well, none of the people she had seen on T.V had feline features.
She saw the guy almost melt.
“Of course,” his purrs even mingles with his words. “Let us go.”
Clara looks at Kito and blinks inquisitively. “Can you purr like that?”
He remembers the many close calls. Even with Kane being held against him with one of his arms he could still manage stepping close to her and doing the same boyish grin he wore before. “Would you like to hear it?”
She felt her cheeks warm upon her face and she knew that it was red. Her smile was even nervous. Why would he ask that? Why was it making her act like a silly high school teenager? She gulps anxiously. “Um...”
Kane secretly peeks at his sister’s face and hid his smile with his shoulder as his head rested on Kito’s shoulder.
Kito had to remember that it was a serious time right now to push his luck. “We need to go find Pasha,” he said. “She is a friend of mine that I want to see if she is safe. Come with me?”
He held out his hand to her and this time she took it only to realize later that she didn’t hesitate. Then again he did make sure she was safe while the whole world was shaking.
It would also keep her from lacking behind as he hurried towards the market place and to the long hut Pasha was in. He knew Pippie would be there.
This was the first time Clara was brought to the long hut, and to Kito’s relief, it was still intact due to the sturdiness that it was built for. The ground was covered in fruit that they had to walk over, this part of the Village was temporary void of people due to the Celebration that has started. The moons in the sky were bright and illuminated brighter than he remembered them to be. Maybe with color, it was brighter. It seemed like it was saying sorry for what the world had done.
They made it to the two large closed front doors and he placed Kane on the ground to open them. He would much rather put the boy back on the ground than let go of the contact that holding her hand caused, letting Kane and Clara walk in first and then followed their fingers still locked. He wasn’t even ashamed that he wanted to take in as much contact as he could until her hand slid from his first. She thought that maybe holding this long would be awkward. She didn’t see the saddened face he made.
Her eyes were too busy scanning the inside of the now messy inside with the walls nearly clean with all the objects that fell to the floor. Kito immediately set his sights on Pasha, who was laying on her back on a pile of blankets with Pippie putting pillows under her head to keep it elevated.
Pasha was hurt.
“Pasha,” Kito gasped and was by her side. Clara watched as she realized that the person he was talking about on the way here was an elderly woman, and he was holding her fragile hand with lowered ears seeing the Elder on the blankets still conscious. He went to Pippie for answers, “What happened?”
“I came and found her on the ground after the shake, her body is sore from where a shield came down and hit her back, but luckily it didn’t break anything.”
“I am fine,” Pasha’s head was sideways and she lightly squeezed his hand. “It was only a small shield, Na’Kito.”
Kane moved closer to see the situation more clearly, “Kito? What’s wrong?”
Pasha’s calm eyes went to Kane and Clara standing by watching. Seeing Clara made her close her eyes and smile a warm smile that could make a room cozy. Even at a moment like this. “Oh, my golden Warrior,” she took on another exhausted breath. “See? Always so impatient.”
“Do not speak, Pasha,” Pippie was scrambling through some of the clutter to find a mixing bowl for Kito to use to make the medicine in his pouch. “Rest while we make the medicine to help you.”
Pasha was speaking to Clara now in a tone close to a whisper, “If I was not in this bed I would like to have talked to you. Shame. Maybe after my nap.”
Pippie finally found the mixer and return, placing it by Kito so he can begin on it. Which he did immediately.
Kane was sitting by and watching without saying a word. He was afraid that if he did while Kito seemed to focus on this task it would annoy him. Clara also remained silent for the same reason as she watched him care for the woman that he seemed fond of. The woman seemed to like Kito too when she was speaking so kindly to him. It made her wish that she had a grandmother of her own like that.
Seeing each of them caring for each other was a little too much for Clara to emotionally take in as she was reminded of a past she tried to forget. She looked to Kane and tapped her finger on her lips to hush him as she went to the front doors and opened it slightly to stand outside for a while as they did everything that could help her. She figured that it would be alright standing outside until they were finished.
She stands there alone. She gazes around at the scene with no intention of going anywhere from this spot. She did find it unique how this place has its little market place. Or trading stations. Did they use currency or did they trade something for something else? She wanted to ask Kito that at a better time.
She holds her hand that was still tingling from when he was holding it earlier. She found it so unusual how her hand felt like she was putting it in a fire when she held his. Not the fire that was painful but the strange sensation of fervor that she felt past her skin. Maybe even too her bones.
Goodness, her heart even launched slightly at the idea.
Her body was becoming an alien to her now. New. It was something that frightened her and made her curious simultaneously. Clara had always been a curious person by nature and always wondered what things felt like. Her body has never done things like this before. It never welcomed anybody touching her so easily except for her little brother. Yet when the strange feline man Kito touches her it felt like something she had been waiting for years for. She placed her hand on her chest to keep her breathing back in order.
The woman with bunny ears who were fixing her a quick but stylish outfit was telling her all about him. She asked questions about who he was and everything without having to get him to tell her himself and have her wonder if he was even telling the truth about anything he says, or if they were telling the truth too. The woman was very generous with answers, especially giggling when they told her about all the crazy things that he did when he was younger.
Burning down a hut, searing a Ruchin’s (which she didn’t know was a cow until they explained to her what the animal was) bottom with the end of a metal rod and causing it to run amok in the middle of the tribe and destroying a good bit of things. And when Kito told all the kits in the village about a monster that hid in the dark that only watches them from behind and disappears when looked at, hence why they could never see it. That made them unable to sleep in the dark. He was, as Clara concluded, someone who was the opposite that she would be with. An asshole.
Other humans may be fine with men who are half cats and dogs but she didn’t see herself with anyone little alone him. She gave up completely on relationships and even more intimate things when she had to drop out of high school to take care of her little brother when high school seemed more like a problem than a solution when juggling with her jobs and taking care of Kane. She would worry about getting a GED another day when he was older. She had always put him before her because Richard would do absolutely nothing.
Her whole world has fallen apart since seven years ago when her mother married the bastard. Now this one was going to fall apart too. She didn’t know what to make of any of this, of the people of the new tribal cultures with each tribe inhabited by people stranger than the other. It has her mind blown. There was no way anyone could come up with things like this. She never knew a world like this existed and to be honest... She felt a little special that she was brought here. Although it might have broken the world.
She doubted it was her fault anyway. Quakes happen all the time.
“No, please! No!”
A shriek springs Clara into focus. Her eyes went to where her ears heard it around the large and long hut. There was a scream, and then silence, and the way it suddenly stopped made the hair on the back of her neck stand on end.
She turns to grab the handle and return inside to tell someone but froze when she remembered that they were already busy with their task. Then again she didn’t want to go and check the scream.
What if someone else was hurt?
It was a feminine cry which made her question herself further about checking. It could be someone stuck under something from the quaking.
Why would they be screaming “no”? What would be the damage of just checking?
She had to check. She was just too curious to stand in her spot and act like she never heard anything in the first place. Her feet stirs into motion to begin wandering around the corner of the hut that was much bigger than she expected it to be. She peeks over the side and saw nothing, but the sound of whispers of a female drew her closer around the end and towards the back.
The whispers progress, “I-I did it... I did what you asked of me...”
Clara sticks her head around the second corner to the back to find the source of the voice. A woman. A woman that is similar to Kito’s kind sitting on the ground on her hand and knees and her back facing her, with long solid black hair and a similar color of feline ears and a tail behind her that rests immobile. She couldn’t see the front of her as she resumes to murmur, unaware of her presence. Even when she steps closer.
“Yes... Yes, I feel it... It feels good... So good.”
Everything the woman says was confusing to Clara. Was she hurt somehow during the shake? She makes herself known, “Hello?”
“...What...? It is already done... What else should I do...?”
The woman didn’t stop to Clara’s voice and seems satisfied in her little world. Clara’s spine shudders with how emotionless her words came out to be. Like a robot that didn’t know any other emotion.
Clara turns to ice when the woman shifts, standing fluidly in a way she knew she could never pull off if she tried a hundred times. The woman prevails unhurried, one leg pushes her body up until she was fully standing.
Clara’s hand flew to her mouth when she saw what the woman was hiding in front of her.
Laying on the ground was the second woman that she could recognize the face just before the shake. Spreading on the ground with her eyes wide open and blood seeping from her gut, soaking into her own handcrafted outfit and pooling on the surface and melding with the soil. Dia lays lifeless on the ground.
The woman twists to look at her with green eyes and pupils so thin it could be no thicker than the blade the bloody dagger she held in one of her hands guiding downwards. Fresh dark crimson liquid dripping from the tip.
The woman’s head tilts with glass eyes when she gapes at Clara without blinking. She was mortified.
“You...” She begins. “Come with me or I will find the human boy... They can tell me where he is. She can tell me...”
She was threatening Kane.
Clara still couldn’t find it in herself to speak, the sight was dreadful. It never got easier seeing lifeless bodies...
The woman rests a bloody finger on her lips and lightly shushes her, speaking faintly, the blood covering her chin and lips. Was she... Drinking it before?
“Come now,” She says. “The whispers speak to me... And if you do not come, I will kill him too.”