It took a while before he dares to go near her. He had to get himself collected first, to suppress impulses, and go through the pain doing so. He couldn’t believe the thoughts that ran through his head, the things he wanted to do. The things he wanted to do to her.
He would never touch her, would he? He made sure to force that mindset in him. He didn't want her to hate him. If he were to do any of the things that he thought of he was going to get out of this cave first. He was going to pull himself together and get his mind on the important things first.
So he woke her up without touching her skin. Gently rocking her, her lashes fluttered open and she stretched legs first before her arms. “Hmm....” She hummed. “Did I sleep long? I don’t remember going to-” she yawns. “-sleep.”
“You slept for a good while,” he knew he didn’t. He would live, however. He will sleep another time. “I looked a little further and it seems there is more walking ahead. We must hurry if we want to find an exit sooner.”
He moves away from her, turning his head and missing her reaching out her hand as a normal routine of when he always held his out for hers. He didn’t do it this time. He just seemed in a hurry to move away. Even when it was just a slight difference a flash of hurt crossed her face and she lowered her hand. She felt silly. Why had she expected him to do it again?
She stood up on her own and looks away from him when she couldn’t hide her hurt fast enough. He didn’t need to look at her face to notice that he did something wrong. She cringed when he caught sight of her, “Are you alright?”
She aimed to push the thought of it all away. It was silly to be hurt over something so small as to him not reaching for her hand. It did make a deep part inside of her pinch in pain when he didn’t grab hers. A chance to touch him was missed. She nods, “I’m fine. Really. We need to get going. ”
They begin to walk through the cave again. This time there was no hand-holding, he never offered his and she knew she would never gain the courage to ask him. This is probably what she was told about craving something too much when they touch. Now she was itching to grab it just to feel his skin. That tingling sensation that ran through her arm that she never thought she would become addicted to. She grabs her arms on her side and not her lip as she felt the uncomfortable feeling inside of her settle.
She even tried to convince herself that he wasn’t human at all. That he had qualities of a cat and lived in a whole other world, and she shouldn’t be thinking of things like that with him. She didn’t know how Mia or the others could be with one of them. That they would... She never did that sort of thing before with a human guy little alone one of these... Zutaki. Zushafee? She couldn’t remember what they were called. Or the other tribes.
Her steps expired and she froze into stone. Why was she even thinking about dirty things like that? She never thought of things like that. She was always around a little boy and those thoughts didn’t even have the time to form in her mind. Now... It was nearly all she thought about. And goodness... Dream about. Her mother would definitely douse her in holy water. Buckets of it.
He steps four times forward and stops when he noticed her presence was further and went around to see her. “Clara? What’s wrong?”
The light from the lava was enough to give away her red cheeks. She stares at him nearly frightened. “Can I ask you a question? And... Will you not laugh at me?”
Her voice, the way she said those words, made him want to melt on the ground before her. She had a soothing voice was could calm him faster than any purr. “I would never laugh at you, Clara. You can ask me anything.”
“I... Um...” The question took longer than she thought it would. It was hard to ask. She plays with her fingers, making her innocence more known. Now she looks younger herself. Similar to Kane. “The humans in the village... That decision to stay. Do they... I’m sorry, this is a harder question to ask than I thought.”
“You do not have to be uncomfortable with me,” he meant it. He wanted her to trust him with anything. “What about the other humans?”
She had to take another breath to ready herself again. “Do they... Actually, you know, get together with one of your kind... Like, bed wise?”
“You know, together in bed, so to speak. Do they really get together? Like that?”
His mind required some time to try to register what she was trying to hint to him. When it did finally hit him what she means a boyish smile met her eyes. At first, she thought he would laugh until he slid closer and was brave enough to hold her chin with two fingers to tilt her chin up so she could look at him. He was much taller and intimidating although he wasn’t trying to be. He was even taller than Richard. He never made her feel threatened before.
Richard would have never had a chance against him.
Even when he touched her chin something inside of her seemed to sigh in relief at the small contact of skin. Her skin warmed up. She stares at him innocently. She endured what he had to say.
“There is a reason that human women always have a smile on their face, hmm?” He didn’t act like his usual laid back self when softly teasing her. Taking this chance. Compelled to. “And you have to know that Ivy and Nuru made their cub somehow, along with Tina and Dahl?”
She couldn’t believe that she had asked a stupid question when he revealed the obvious. Before she could mentally slap herself he puts in, "I have never done it myself, but it is the same for humans and us. How we mate. There isn’t much different than what is in your world,” he couldn’t hold back his purr, letting it echo. He liked speaking about this with her. “But yes, the other women do those things with my kind. My brother’s mate never complained about their differences at all. Could you answer a question for me now?”
She licks her dry lips to add moisture to them. The act made him stare intently. He remembered that dream again and his mind went to how close he was to kiss her. He yearned to. Deeply. He still refrained himself. Now was not the place. She slowly nods.
“Now this male Richard. How bad did he hurt you?”
She was silent as expected. She comes off slightly uneasy about answering, but she convinces herself that it was better to tell. What would be the point in keeping it to herself?
“Um...” She exhaled the breath she trapped for a time. “He didn’t get the chance to do anything other than tear my shirt. Kane stopped him before he could do worse with a bat, but I fought him. I guess it was the adrenaline that motivated me, it was... He did have a nasty mouth towards me, he did look at me, but he never physically hurt me. Except for that night. He just... Attacked. I guess I should have prepared more. I always assumed that he would not do anything more.”
“How did you get away?”
“He slipped and hit his head. I didn’t kill him, honest, or maybe I did... I did kick him. He was drunk though. But the fall killed him, and I ran with Kane because I was scared. I didn’t want to lose Kane because people could have thought I killed him. I guess I could have done things differently. Running away was stupid. I should have at least tried to call, instead of leaving the body...”
Perhaps everything was fine the way it needed to before she was sent to this world, however Ser’avi or Kerrani works. He was happy alone hearing that he was at least dead. He had it planned originally to go to the human world just to kill him.
“You did what you needed to survive, something we all do in tough situations. Some in different ways than others, I remember doing something awful to a friend that I think I could have done differently. If the situation was different. Thank you for telling me this,” He lowers his hand and offered it free for her to hold. “I hate ending this so soon, but we need to keep going.”
She felt that part inside her cheer when she held it again so they could continue. This time no more distraction. They needed to find a way out.
This place was much larger than he gave it credit for before. Maybe he should have attempted to climb up the vines in the first place? But after cutting them he was afraid he would have grabbed a loose one and send each of them down anyway. The wind picked up more and more as they continued further, something that he could feel rather than her. His skin more sensitive than things than hers would be. All his senses were. So she put his trust in them the whole way.
The shaft grew larger. They strolled out of the tunnel and into another one of the underground vast rooms, this time it didn’t have any entrance above. It was completely sealed with pockets of lava placed here and there to help lighten the area enough for her to see.
When they tread in the center something shuddered. It wasn’t the whole cave but a large boulder tumbles over the tunnel that they had entered from. Each turned and saw the exit plugged.
“I guess we can’t return that way,” Kito shrugs. “Let’s go. I don’t want anything else to start falli-”
He hesitates when the dark, rich laughter of female bounces on every wall enveloping them. He knew that it wasn’t Clara, who looks just as confused as he did, and their eyes search for the source of where it came from. The laughter brought chills down her spine. Something wasn’t right.
Clara shows Kito by guiding with her finger, revealing Alira standing high on a ledge with a second entrance above the one they hiked out from below, her hands and body dirty from shoving the large rock. Her knees were even scuffed, but she didn’t pay any of the little scrapes and dirt as the smirk of ill intentions decorated her face.
He also saw her eyes were darker than he had seen before. Green slowly transitioned to black, now midway into devouring her green eyes whole. She didn’t look much like Alira any longer, and it appears as if she was crying black. To Clara, it could resemble ink. She looks like she had some sort of nasty infection.
“I cannot let you get away and try to ruin my plans,” her voice was venom, full of power and... Not Alira’s. “You should have tried to climb back to the top, stupid soft Xutashi. You and her will die down here. I have planned too long for this and I will not have it ruined with you two following me.”
“Kito... ” Clara was astonished by Alira’s new voice change. The new voice was a different woman, a darker and more cynical sound that gave her an appearance of some more mature. “That doesn’t sound like Alira...”
“No,” he agrees. He took his arm and put it in front of her, using it to sweep her behind him protectively. He didn’t know what was happening now. He spoke loud enough for her to hear, his voice ricocheting off the cave walls, “Alira? We are not following you. We are trying to leave before this place is fills with lava and falls apart.”
“That's why I'm taking my chance to escape,” her laughter was smooth, mellow. It made it that much frightening. “Those other two reckless abominations are fighting throughout this whole cave. It seems like he found her within these grounds again. I hope they destroy everything fighting each other and make this all easier on me,” her eyes traveled from them and higher, laying on the next much larger entrance behind them. “Those two ugly creatures can fight all they want, I am going to finally get out of here. You two won’t make it out alive, unfortunately. I will make sure of it, so I planned ahead. I led a curious little friend further down here, I hope you two don't mind the extra help.”
The sound of nails scraping stone faintly absorbs the atmosphere of the cave that emerged with more negative laughter.
He didn’t want to take his eyes off of her. Yet, hearing the sound, he knew that there was a much dangerous threat behind them. He turns his head and watches the entrance that “Alira” was leading them to before. His arm still urging Clara behind him, her eyes peeking from around his arm to see what was happening.
A spark from inside the cave exhibited the paw of the shadow. A spark that emitted from the scraping of black claws against the stone floor, and when darkness came a growl that was deep enough to make bones shiver came closer. He knew that there was something else in here that she blocked the exit so they couldn’t get away. Her threats becoming promises as the sounds swells closer.
“She’s gone,” Clara saw the empty spot that Alira was once before. She had vanished in the cave behind her.
He didn’t answer. His eyes were to the noises, watching when the figure finally arrives close enough for him to see first with his eyes, but Clara was stuck with the horror of seeing it when the animal emerges from the dark and sourly melts into the light.
It was on four legs, the length of its body was massive without the need of its tail to increase its longer length. Its whiskers were as dark as its dirty fur, and black strips only noticeable from the lava’s glare. Its paws huge and its talons just as massive, sticking from the fur ends after the arch, the ebony tip touching the ground to achieve sparks seen before.
Then there was the large head. The canines protruding from the side of its jaws as its lips curled back in a snarl that revealed the rest of its sharp rows of teeth. It’s head lower and the nose on its small snout wrinkles as it hisses pills back it's lip to hiss territorially. Blood already covers its mouth from where it had eaten before.
And it looks hungry again.
Kito’s heart pounds when the moment became dangerous. Too dangerous. He knew what creature this was... He feared that he might not get them past it alive.
“W-what is that?” Her voice shook as he stepped back with her still hidden behind him when it strides forward. His eyes connect with its black ones. It was surveying, even pacing at one time, and waited for him to look away. He didn’t. He didn’t dare.
“Nahgua,” he answers back in a whisper in hopes that he wouldn’t trigger it. “Clara, you need to listen to me quickly before we get cornered against a wall.”
He steps back again slowly, not snarling nor growling to keep it at bay. The animal did it enough for each of them. “I’m going to distract it and when I do you run. Do you hear me? You run. Don’t stop for anything. You keep running and I will find you later.”
She looks back and saw them closer to the wall. Her heart pounds with anxiety too much for it to be healthy, her fear heightened with his words. They did not calm her. “What about you?”
“Don’t think about that now,” he needs to do something quickly before they get trapped. The Nahgua’s were known to be intelligent when they were determined for something. Like food. It was why the Xutashi’s respected them and kept out of their territory. They were almost cornered. “Run... Now.”
He ran first. The Nahgua saw the sudden movement, and it thundered loud enough to make Clara’s ears begin to ring. It didn’t run after her, its eyes motions to Kito once he sprints. It kicks into the air and lands, directly using its paws to swipe at him but misses when he rolls. She ran for the entrance that the creature exited.
The animal’s ear twitches when she stumbles over a noisy rock and its eyes sight her. It dismissed him instantly, recognizing the easiest win, and it hisses before it kicks its back legs on the ground and took off after her. Kito felt like his spirit left his body at that moment. It went after her.
“No!” He fumbles into a run after he had to slide from the swipe it made for him. It darts into the tunnel and he pursues by pushing his legs past its speed. He couldn’t run as fast as Caji but he would try to get to this beast before it won.
When she heard the animal chase her the world went away and the only thought in her mind was keeping distance between them. The shaft was larger than before and was even darker, making her even more unnerving as she falters over certain rocks blindly and renewed her speed out of luck. She could hear the animal’s breathing around the corner behind her, the way the talons scratches the ground when it runs. Even when her lungs burn she hurried forward. She would like to have her lungs burn rather than shredded apart.
There was another larger opening with what she needed. Light. Another section of the cave has a flat ground rather than one with spikes, but when she sprints over the surface the slippers underneath her feet were warmer and cracks of the molten liquid barely seep through. The Nahgua lunges from the entrance of the cave and right behind her, wanting to surprise her, but before it could try to pin her in its claws the weight of the animal broke the plates beneath each of them.
The quake influence her to fall sideways on the ground, a small piece of the thin surface broke off and the slipper from her right foot slips off and over the edge, burning in the grasps of the lava that dissolves it away.
“Too close, too close!” She chants as she rushes back to her feet, her quick action to leap on the next plate kept her from burning on the last one when it slowly submerged. The large paw went to snatch her again burns itself instead. Its fur smokes from the singed fur it jerks away and roars in misery.
The platforms were scorching hot. When she jumps over each one to get distance from the animal she had to stand up and balance herself on her one slipper, cooling her other foot down before she bounces again.
She looks up an edge to see Kito standing there with half of his body hanging down and his hand stretched as far as it would allow reaching for her. “Come here! Hurry while it’s distracted!”
She didn’t have to be asked twice.
She pounces over another platform to try to get to him, one time almost tripping again. The deadliest trip of her life. She managed to keep her composure and continue forward.
Behind her, the animal, who now officially knew the dangers of what was below it, was lightly pressing its uninjured law on a platform for the sturdiest. It chases her that way, it’s size making it easier to cover more ground.
“Don’t look back!” He urges her forward and shouts before she turned her head to the beast. “Focus on me, hurry!”
Just two more platforms left.
She jumps the first one easily, unaware that the Nahgua destroyed the one she was on seconds before. She could hear it, trying to find another route. Her feet were burning and she wanted off these rocks. She jumps the last one, and it was the heat that made her use the last of her energy one last time to find the height in her jump to grab his hand. He wasted no second pulling her out of the way from the final swipe of the Nahgua.
He tugs her over the ledge and away, his arms quickly caging her as he slid back with her towards the wall and away from the edge where he could hear the next roar of anger. He places his head against hers, his breathing heavy from both worry and running. A small saddened noise escaped him. “Are you alright? Is... your feet hurt?”
“No,” she had to take in more breaths before speaking again. “It was just hot, well maybe some blisters later. I... Lost a slipper.”
He didn’t reply. Instead, he just lay there a moment to try to get his body back in control.
He didn’t even get the chance.
Clara screams. His eyes snap open when he saw the singed paw reach over the ledge and it’s sharp claws lodging in a stone to help heave the rest of the body it was attached to up to run away from the danger below, its eyes landing on the two and snarling in its wrath.
He had to get distance before it could pull itself up. His eyes spot another entrance and he picks her up quickly to start running for it. The growls and grunts of effort behind them urged them to run faster, he even made sure to keep a hold of her to increase their speed of getting away.
He knew by the roar behind them was its victory to escape its situation.
They turn another corner, and he halts abruptly when he felt the faintest wind coming from the wall.
He remembers something then. He flattens the palm of his hands on the wall and starts to feel each crevice and indention, trying to get his fingers through something. Clara looks behind her anxiously as she could hear the beast again. This time closer. “K-Kito? What are you doing?”
“As a cub, I used to hide from my brother in a cave as a game. I would hide in secret hallow areas in walls that can only be found by the wind and vines. It’s a secret section, a rock plate can be removed and there is a hidden spot inside. This wall is made of them.”
“I don’t think we have time for this right now, Kito!” She was panicking when it was getting closer. “I like to not be eaten today, thank you.”
His fingers finally found the curve of the plate and jerks it to search it from the small vines that held it back. He looks inside and saw that it wasn’t as big as the ones he had hidden in before but no complaining would be involved. Clara stood there shocked. How did he know that was there?
He just told her.
“Get in, hurry,” he let her crawl in first head first. He wanted for her to be fully inside before he crawls in himself with the plate against the wall, so when he was inside he turned to grab it, the vines making it easier to lift it.
The Nahgua came around the corner and spots them, and he hurries to put the plate in place, the vines helping it snug in its original place tightly at the muffled hisses and snarls came from the other side. It even grates the wall to get to them.
He shifts into position next to her, his arms instantly grabbing her as their feet were inches away from the closed-off entrance to get as much distance from the creature outside trying to get to them. She buries her head in his chest and closed her eyes as silence was met between them, afraid to speak to urge the creature onward to get them. He did whisper though. A soft, faint one near her ear to calm her down someway. Anyway. “It should get bored and leave. Just stay silent. We should be safe for now.”
He was aware of how tightly her hands gripped the strap across his back, the only excess clothing he had for her to grab into as she was consumed by her fear. He couldn’t help the slight purr that escaped him when he sensed that fear. His arms tightened around her to bring her closer so no space was left between them. Soothing her the best he could.
It should get bored and leave soon. Right now they just waited. And remain silent.
Nahgua (Na-Gwah)- A large feline predator (similar to the mixture of a black panther and a tiger) as long as a large truck (not counting the tail) and taller than an average person. With razor-sharp claws and fangs, and a knack for climbing in the largest trees (and even some rocks), they tend to live in the deepest part of the jungles and away from tribes.