The light of the moon pushed through the holes that led into the darkness as three bodies fell deeper. Lower into the darkness they went, hitting and tangling in the overgrown vines that engulfed the hidden chasm. Each body flipped and twirled once impact was made repeatedly, and Clara became twisted in the vines slender ropes. Kito fell a bit further before he was caught by his ankle and was dangles.
Alira fell further into the dark and her screams faded, those screams died long after she was out of sight.
Everything became silent. The only thing that he could hear was the heavy breathing he made as his heart pounds. When the world ends its spinning and his eyes adjust to the new darkness his first thought was to find Clara. He spots her soon thanks to the high moons that made the entrance above bright, seeing her wrapped everywhere from her waist, ankles, and wrists. She was in a stretched out seating position with her limbs sprawled out. She was confused about the fall and didn’t respond when he called her name.
Forgetting about Alira below he made it his mission to get to Clara. He grabs the vines in front of him and used the strength in his arms to pull himself into an upright position, holding himself with one hand while he used the other to get the dagger from his belt and cut the vegetation away and free himself.
He had to be careful. One wrong cut could lead him to his death. He began to climb the vines and wiggle his way through the complicated vegan web. It was like thick ropes that he could become trapped in again if he wasn’t wary and just slashing it away would drop him further down. He uses his natural flexibility to slide through the tighter sections to get to her.
It was her moan that gives him the mercy of little relief and he calls out her name again. “Clara! Can you hear me?”
She was finally adjusting to her situation before she responds, “K-Kito... My hand is slipping! Wait, I’m slipping!”
He grabs another vine and pushes off the stone wall to climb faster. “I’m coming for you. I’m almost there.”
And he was. Two arm lengths away.
One of the vines snapped under the pressure and a brief scream echoes throughout when she tumbles a couple of feet further and below him before she was stuck again in another position, her head facing down and her eyes looking below to see the darkness. It was an eerie sight like she was staring past the twilight zone in the middle of an open ocean, it made her wonder if it even ended. She didn’t want to find out.
Going down was easier than climbing up and he let himself slide down to finally reach her. His arm went around her quickly, and instead of cutting the thick vines and causing them to fall, he tried to unwrap her instead. It went easily with her legs and wrist but the vines trapping her torso had to be cut off with his dagger. She held on when she was finally freed of the strange wet slimy ropes. She didn’t like this.
She clutches onto him like a lifeline. Even though they weren’t out of trouble yet he still had to take that moment to be relieved that Alira hasn’t taken her from him. How broken he would have been.
“Are you alright?” His relief even brought a soft purr that surprised her in his situation. He even had his head on her shoulder with his hand holding them up and his body relaxed on vines that were tightly webbed.
Her hand that touched his bare shoulder blade could feel the tender thrumming. It was the same that his brother made before with that Mia woman. It was piquing her curiosity about how he was achieving it.
She finally remembers that he had asked her a question. She stutters out her answer, “I-I’m fine. I want to get out of here.”
“It’s too thick for me to climb up and we fell far, we are too deep now to make it,” he looks up at the bright ring with the largest moon that almost filled the center. The sight was breathtakingly beautiful yet still horrifying. “We are going to have to climb down, the bottom should be closer than the top.”
She squeezes her eyes shut and shook her head, “Oh, no, no. It’s pitch black and we don’t know what’s down there.”
“I can see in the dark,” he soothes her with soft words. He needed to calm her down somehow. “Don’t worry, I won’t let anything happen to you.”
“How do you know that when we’re being chased by some cave monster? Jeez, I wish I had some wood to knock on now. Shit.”
“I will try my best. Hold onto me.”
His whole plan was crumbled and now he didn’t know what to expect or what to say. But she didn’t say anything else as her eyes shut, but he knew to continue with his plan even if no answer came from her. He deliberately lowers themselves with her holding him around his neck and keeping silent as he worked downward. Sometimes sliding a little way, the vines thinning out further and further down.
He made sure to ease himself on the longest one. He wondered if it was the right choice at all to go down and deeper into trouble. There were also no signs of Alira’s body. Did she make it?
There was a bottom. His feet touch the cave ground as he saw a larger open cave that was tall. The large opening had the echoes of water dripping and sharp spikes cover the top. He places her onto her feet as well and looked around for Alira. There was still no sign of her.
“I can’t see anything,” Clara whispers and hears the deep echoes that told her how vast the cave was. Or chasm. She tried to use her other senses since her sight wasn’t much use. Right now none of her senses was useful.
Kito grabs her hand so he could guide her. He could see well in the night, especially in this darkness. He would play games in pitch dark caves like this with Kai, Alira, and his other friends. Pippie didn’t enjoy caves.
He felt a flash of sadness in his heart at the reminder of what she used to be like. So full of life and then driven by loneliness to take a life. A life she wouldn’t have taken if he hadn’t sent the victim to her.
He led her over the slippery rocks and even lower sections by helping her with each step of the way. She had no choice but to let him lead her through the labyrinth. Hopefully this place didn’t have bull men too.
“Who was she?” She whispers because speaking didn’t seem to be safe enough for her. “She said she wanted you and stuff.”
He looks at her to see her blindly staring in another direction. He resumes forward, “We were once friends when we were cubs. Her, Kai, and I were once a well know three that were once friends in the village, including Pippie. We were all once friends. She had a pointless crush on Kai, she must have been confused. Back during the suns before Kai went to the human world and met Mia, and when he came back he wasn’t the same cub she had a crush on before. She did everything to get him attached to her, she lied to our mother claiming she was pregnant with him and forced herself on him. When Kai was older he had enough of her and sent her away to the Maurea village to stay with Dia, the only woman that could put up with her-”
“She did not stir any trouble for a while and was invited back to the tribe with Kai’s permission. And he only did so because he knew that it was near the time he counted down for Mia to be brought from her world to this one. He wanted her to see his home as he did hers. Alira still never caused problems between the two falling for each other and even was calm after they mated. She did start problems for me afterward.” And he let her.
He could finally see the entrance of another smaller cave and went that way. It was the only entrance he could see in this entire place.
“What kind of problems?”
He didn’t expect her to ask that question. He knew he should answer it if he liked it or not. She deserves that much. “Her mother had passed away not too long before so she was lonely. She was an unmated female in the village and had no one, she was the last of her family with no siblings.” Luckily she couldn’t see the solemn expression when he remembers his own time in the deep despair of loneliness. Sitting in his hut secluded and hearing nothing but silence. It pained his heart even now. “She came to me and asked me to... Give her a cub. To mate with her. I didn’t do it. She didn’t understand that I can’t bring myself to do something like that.”
He knew that it was about to be deep. He knew that everything would be revealed and there was nothing he could do about it but sit by and wait for her to adjust to the information. To hope that it didn’t terrify her. Or overwhelm her.
There were always quiet breathings before he questions. “Why can’t you do that? She is a pretty woman of your kind. Well... If she wasn’t crazy.”
“Do you really want me to answer that?” He warns as he leads her through the cave that was now becoming more complex as he went and the only smells that he caught were theirs.
“I just get really curious a lot,” she confesses. “But you don’t have to answer the question if you don’t want to.”
She was giving him choices like he deserved it. “I do not mind. I just can’t... We do not fit me. I can not react the way she wanted me to, she did not understand us males. She is not my other half. I cannot blend well with one that is not a match to me. That is the best way I can explain it.”
“She kept talking about her wanting you. And how she wanted to... Kill Mia. She is planning to get rid of her to somehow show your brother that he is not really in love with her or something, and she wanted to get rid of the babies. The baby that, um, I cannot remember their names but the guy looks like Caji and Ivy’s baby. Well, basically all the babies that the human women have. She was talking a bit insane.”
“Nuru,” he responds. “and their cub is Ruvi. I can’t let her do that. She can’t touch any of the infants, especially Ruvi. She is the firstborn female Kikera since the Dark Times when they were nearly wiped out and only the males made it out, only four can have cubs. The cub is under the protection of all the Kikera’s and when their tribe is done rebuilding they would move there. If I find her I will need to...” He winces in the dark. “You know... She needs to be dealt with.”
“I understand,” and she did from a lesson that she had to learn from Richard. She sometimes wonders if anyone ever found his body lying in the kitchen and the two of them missing, and now her and Kane’s faces were being pinned on the wall of where she worked. How would Jimmy react to that? “I’m sorry that this happened to you. I knew that she was your friend.”
She was talking about Dia.
His heart felt like a heavy boulder and grief compresses him. He had had many great conversations and times with her, and Pippie and her once were mated before they went their separate ways, like all Maurea’s usually did. Out of all the females he has been with, and there are many still, she was the longest he had. For three moons they had been together once, and that was impressive for him. Until he mated with Minni behind her back.
She was a kind woman. And an amazing friend.
And he led her to Alira.
It was as if she knew what he was thinking, her hand squeezing his tighter in a comforting way. She knew what his silence means. She knew it all too well herself. “It’s not your fault, Kito. No matter what it was never your fault. If you would have known what would happen you would have never sent her.”
“How do you know that I wouldn’t?”
It may have been a testing question just to know what her answer would be. Her answer was not what he had expected it to be. “Because I know bad people. And meeting you I know you’re not a bad guy or a zoo-tooshie. But you can be an asshole though, no doubt about that.”
He grins at her attempt to speak of a word from this world. A light chuckle escapes him. She was adorable. His chuckle also hid the emotion that nearly chokes him at her words towards him. It was an emotion that he was not used to before. A kindness that effected him deeper just because it came from her.
The stone underneath them transitioned to soil. He scans the walls of the cave to see it was covered in strange florescent colorful patterns of vegetation similar to moss.
“I don’t know what to make of thi- oh, wow!” She gasps. “The walls glow to sound!”
It was a pleasant sight. When she spoke a wave of blue light emitting from the moss would travel a distance down the cave before it would fade away to show where her voice was echoed. It also shines under their feet, amazing her with each step she took. She never heard of anything glowing because it was triggered by sound. It was a brilliant sight. When the light slowly subsided it would be dark again. So she spoke, “I never seen anything do this before. Not even in my world. This is cool.”
Humans often did use the reference of cool although he didn’t know the meaning of it. He did understand her delighted expressions and her smile as she laughed, making everything brighter and staying lit longer. He was happy that she was getting some enjoyment from this unpleasant experience.
“Kane would like to see this place,” she giggles. “It’s so pretty. At least I hope it’s this pleasant through this place. Or maybe it can warm up a little bit. It’s kinda cold.”
He wishes he had something to give her to help her with her chill. He didn’t have anything much on him to spare. “Hopefully I can find another exit through these caves. I have never been here before and I am just going by smell right now.”
“By smell?” She doubts. “What smell? I don’t smell anything.”
“I have a stronger sense than you do,” he didn’t say it in a bragging tone that she was used to guys using when she heard them at her job. His voice as he said it was casual. Stating pure fact. “Especially smell. Right now all I can smell is the two divided paths around this curve ahead, the right one leads to a dead-end and the left one goes on a little further. The wind carries it to me, and the wind is always a good thing to follow underground.”
And just as he said when they made it past the curve there were two divided ways, and it was the left that they went to. And it stretches further on.
“That is impressive,” she remembers that they were still holding hands although the path could be seen every time there was noise. When she tried to let go he gazes back and shook his head, “No. I need to keep you with me in case Alira is hiding somewhere waiting.”
How could she forget? “I thought it would be awkward.”
“Clara,” he freezes in the middle of their journey to lift her hand that was trapped with his to his mouth. She blushes when she sees him -felt him- place a soft kiss on it. It was just a small butterfly kiss, even making sure that it was over the same spot Pippie had planted one before. But it was his that made her heart nearly stop. Why wasn’t it awkward? He goes on and it took an effort to focus. “I do not mind holding your hand for this long. I like the contact. And I’m sure you like it too.”
Her pink cheeks turn violet from the blue light illuminating from the cave walls. She didn’t know what to say to that. What does someone say? Her heart had even forgotten its rhythm when he started being intimate. Greedily soaking in the connection for a moment. He figured he deserves that much.
“I remember her telling me about me being your ‘mate’. That’s why me and my brother are here. That you said I was yours,” maybe she was playing with fire a little too much here asking a question she might not be ready for. “I don’t listen to what crazies say. But is it true? At least, some of it?”
“Are you sure you want this to be the place where you want me to answer that question?” He once again wants to warn her of her powerful question with a more powerful answer.
He was pleased that she gave it a thought. She never jumped in without testing the depth of the water. “I would. I want to know why everything is going on. I hate being kept in the dark about anything and only being told small bits at a time. Can you just tell me from your own words? I want to hear you say it.”
His ears move to match his surprise. The more she answered his question the more she enchanted him. Na’mer’an’s stars, she was extraordinary.
His face seems defeated now and his tail hung low. He couldn’t even look her in the eyes as he provides her the answer, and she understood his reasons. She didn’t want to make him look at her. “She is right about one thing. We are mates... Well, Lifemates. It’s a thing my kind does. All except the Maurea.”
They continued to stand in the center of the cave when he adds more. “I will be honest with you. We mate for life. There is only one for us, and that one is who is apart of us. Each male is born with only half of his soul. The half that will he will carry with him always and he continues to do so until he is older. Each of us is born without the sight of color and everything is grey and boring. Dull. As cubs, they do not mind it only when they grow older and realize the piece that they are missing. And that piece can only be filled when they see their Lifemates for the first time. The males see color and everything in them is drawn to her. His half calls to hers and hers to him to finally be whole. It’s called the tether attached between them. ”
He breathes slowly just to draw out a calming breath. He finally faces her. “Alira is right about the more a pair touch each other the more they crave for it again. It builds up more and more until they... Go into Heat for each other. Well, it is mostly the female, the male is affected. It’s a time where they are not seen for a while due to mating. One does not go into Heat just once. It happens every so often when the couple touches each other again, and so on. Usually, cubs happen after the second Heat. During it however, the first time doesn’t produce cubs although it is known to. Tina and Dahl have a first Heat cub. Ivy and Nuru passed a few Heats before Ruvi.”
Clara thought about how complex these people were other than their nice village and the way they look. They even have the way of... That too.
And she puzzled it all together herself. “And Alira was saying that we... We are...?”
“Mates,” it was a little easier each time he said it to her. It was a good thing. “That is the reason why humans are coming here, I will not lie to you. Each of those women that came here found a mate, even a male. I did not lie about the choice the woman can make when it comes to returning them home. They do have that choice, but after meeting their Lifemate they wanted to stay of their own free will. We would never force them to stay where they are not happy. They worship each other.”
Worship them. That was the best word to explain to her to help her understand how he had watched them. Nuru always found Ivy flowers and he could barely keep Kai’s attention when Mia was around.
Now that she thought back to the inside of that tent with the other humans she could see that they were all smiling and talking. None of them seemed anything other than happy. “Why didn’t you tell me that before?”
“You had come to the world for the first time and had never seen my kind before,” he likes having her hand in both of his. Hers was much smaller compared to his own. “We know humans in your world find us strange. I have been told that they do not take well to it, and so we do not send any of our own there. Plus the trousers there are extremely uncomfortable,” she could even see it on his face. “I had to tuck my tail in, which moves constantly on its own.”
“You went to Earth before?” She blinks.
He didn’t remember what their world was named before she said it. “I had to go for my brother to find Mia and I had Dahl with me then too. It was a task harder than I thought with so many humans, smell, and random locations, but we managed to find her walking in the largest hut I have ever seen-”
“-the mall, ” she giggles at his choice of description, that gasps. “Wait, it was you that went into the mall bathroom and grab her?” She remembered that part well. “How did you get out?”
“It is a tricky task when it comes to bringing someone back, we had to take apart strange bowls that filled with water by itself with a hold already in them, so it was hard to fill. Zeta said something about it being tied to water. We destroyed them and waited. We somehow, by luck, was pulled back,” he knew that they should begin walking again if they wanted to find a way out of this place. He would answer more of her questions as they journeyed on. “Blue Water is the only thing that connects our world’s and it is rare to find throughout the world. Only two were known to exist. One was destroyed for being used selfishly and the other one is near our tribe and is guarded to keep the others from knowing the location for safety reasons. Only a few know about it-”
“The Blue Water shows small pieces of your world on the surface, and I saw Kai a few suns after he fell in and I reached in for him and managed to pull him out. He hated me then,” now it was only a funny memory. “He didn’t speak to me for a while for taking him away. He was a cub who met his mate and it was a good idea to separate them since Mia was only a little one herself. He figured that out on his own many summers later. Cubs cannot control their emotions.”
The more he spoke the more she was convinced that this world wasn’t a dream she would be waking up from soon and find herself back in her bed and Richard alive and well on the armchair. Something about that left her uneasy.
She had many more questions in mind but something told her that this wasn’t the moment to ask them. She would need to give her brain a second to process everything instead of forcing it to continue although she knew that he would answer every single one.
They remained silent they walked through the dark cave, the sound of their footsteps lighting the moss under their feet to help them are a little further, and he knew that they were only going deeper and deeper in.
They just needed to follow the faint wind.