Kai was sitting on the stairs in front of his hut watching as everyone was making the Great Fire ready so they could burn the body of Dia near the setting sun. It was what the Maurea had planned for today and Ruro offered the Great Fire to send Dia’s body to the stars for Na’mer’an. The fire was usually used to send the bodies of those to the stars.
It was what the Xutashi all wanted to do for her. All of them, including Kai, was ashamed that it was one of their own that took the life of someone of a tribe. Especially the Maurea, an ally. Ruro and the rest of the Chiefs spoke endlessly about it.
Luckily everyone already knew that Alira had a reputation. None had expected her to do something as horrid as this. His ears lowered as he watched Dia’s body that was wrapped in a white fabric laying on a table near the fire for now so the family could place their small gifts beside her to be burned with her in the fire so she could have them in the afterlife. Flowers and her tunics she had designed, along with silk bracelets and Maurea wood carvings.
He was watching Mia place the small string bracelet that they had made together one day, she also was upset that the young girl that she had known to be the kindest Maurea to now lay stiff before her. It was odd how she looks like she was sleeping peacefully. Resting.
She returns to Kai shortly afterward once she was done. Sitting next to him and fixing her tunic politely. She places her head on his shoulder and sighs, “When will they put her in the fire?”
“Skaal had told me when the sun sets,” he seems down. It made her hug his arm that she was leaning against. “Kito told me that Alira didn’t make it out of the cave when one of the shakes hit. Skaal was hoping to have her alive for the execution because he feels like her death was way was too good for her. But what is done is done,” he made a saddened noise that Xutashi’s could make. He wanted to put his head against hers because her closeness comforted him. Especially with the small tingling sensation that moved through him with the thought of what laid in her.
He couldn’t help sliding his hand to her stomach just to feel the tingling further. It was an addicting sensation that made him want to be around her more than any other time before. “Did you eat today?”
“Yes,” she nods with a small giggle, her hand on the side of his head that was buried in her neck. She noticed how attached he has been since he knew. “I told you not to worry about it so much, okay? I am eating perfectly fine.”
“I don’t want you to be alone at any time,” his hand spans over her stomach so he could feel it again. He knew without a doubt that there was something there, alive, and growing. He could have his hand there all day and never get bored of sensations. It amazed him how he could feel it within her. “I should send someone else to teach the other Warriors for a while. I want to look after you.”
She knew talking him out of that would do no good. He was very stubborn. So she just told him something that had been in her mind, “I had seen Tina pregnant and her belly wasn’t as swollen as I have seen pregnant women in my old world. Will I be like that too? My stomach not being as big?”
He chuckles. He knew she would start thinking about every possible problem that might occur. He knew it wouldn’t. They will be healthy. “You have seen how small we are at birth, little Mia. I do not think you will hurt as bad as a human birth because Ikna’s can mask the pain. You will only feel a slight discomfort besides the discomfort women feel. That is why our women are not afraid to have more,” he grins. “A little cub and Ikna’s can do great things.”
“I haven’t seen Kito and Clara for a while, all day actually,” she uses her hand to rub his chin and feel. His kind didn’t usually grow hair like the other kinds did she noticed. Not a single Xutashi has a beard. She plants a soft kiss on his lips, making him smile. “Where are they? Pippie has been going around trying to find him.”
His smile fades at Pippie’s name. She knew he didn’t like him because the two always clash when they had a conversation and the Maurea always did things just to annoy him. The biggest reason was that Kai did not like his habit of taking different women to his bed almost every night. He was too set in his way and having a perfect bond to understand why he had to break hearts just for a night. It was just something he couldn’t stand about Pippie.
Even more so when he talks to Mia in a flirtatious manner.
“Pippie doesn’t understand that Kito will not want to be bothered for a while,” he slightly growls. “Na’Kito wouldn’t want to play any of his devious games or go back into the Lands anymore because he is mated,” he looked towards the fire. “I like the human. I would like to speak to her one day. She will help him realize how bad of a friend Pippie always has been to him.”
“I never saw him so happy,” it made her feel her happiness bubbling inside with how she watched Kito look at her and followed her everywhere. Similar to how she remembered Kai doing. Well, what he still did. “But you never answered my question. It means you know where he is if you don’t answer me.”
She was the only woman that always managed to see past his little tricks other than Zeta. It made him laugh rather than anxious, his tail curling and he looked in the direction of the washrooms. “Tonilla came to me and told me to go drag Kito and his mate out of the washrooms for breaking some rules and she was even more very angry with me when I allowed it, but I told her to leave them be,” he watches her face transition to surprise. “It is Kito after all. If anyone here deserves to have a rule bent for someone this is the time. I feel like he deserves as much.”
“Oh, Kai,” she covered her face and dragged her hands down. “The washroom? People wash in there. ”
“He is only using the mated section,” his humor didn’t stop. “and the water is self-cleaning there. And I am sure Kito will not make too much of a mess. Do not worry, mate. I have everything under control. I also wanted him there so Pippie couldn’t find him. He already went by his hut twice, I wonder if he has something to ask him.”
“You hate Pippie that much that you would hide Kito away from him?”
Caji climbed onto the stairs by pulling himself from the side after jumping from a tree, he had seen the two sitting here and wanted to join them. Frowning with his tail moving low he sat near Mia and made a saddened apologetic face, his yellow-green eyes filled with sorrow. His noises were sad too as he lowers himself in front of her and Kai.
She could see just by his cheeks alone he had been crying.
“Caji?” She looks at Kai to see his reaction too. He wasn’t surprised. He stares at the Kikera with a straight face. She held her hand out and touch his shoulder to move closer. “Why are you crying?”
“Remember, my Mia,” Kai always felt displeasure inside when he saw her hugging him around his neck tightly. He let it slide because he knew he wouldn’t win if he said something about it. She was just too kind not to hug him. “He had grabbed you and bit me.”
Caji heard him and a deeper noise left him and his tail moved slightly, only looking at him halfway even though Mia was hugging him. Guilt had been eating at him that he had hurt them. They were two of his favorite beings, and although he had many favorites it was them that he was felt close to. Even if he wasn’t allowed to live in their hut. He knew his time in Kito’s hut was closing to an end as well.
“Don’t worry about that, Caji. I knew it wasn’t you. I know you wouldn’t hurt me,” she moved away and moved his head tenderly so he could finally see Kai. “See? He is fine too. We both know that if it was within your power you wouldn’t have done that. Shinto probably thought nothing of it too. You know he cares about you enough to not worry about it.”
He went to Shinto first and tried to make things better. Shinto forgave him too, so he knew she was right. He looked at Kai and moved away from her and closer to him. He knew he didn’t like it when he was around Mia. He notices everything about body language. Especially the narrowed gaze that the Xutashi couldn’t hide when he was near her for too long.
He places his head on Kai’s knee and sat on the steps. Kai’Riba sighed and placed a large hand on his head. “You are forgiven, Caji. I wasn’t even mad during it. I knew you would not have done that on your own.”
He lifts his head and half-smiled.
“Look, I see Kito,” Mia stands up when she saw Kito and Clara returning from the washrooms. Each of them has wet hair to indicate that they used the washrooms. Kai stood up as well. Caji remained low and looked at them with a blink.
Kai noticed the sun and laughed, “It always surprised me that he always managed to show up to things on time. Let’s go,” he places a large hand behind her lower back. He looked behind him at Caji, “You can come too.”
Caji jumps in excitement with a full smile and followed behind them. None had to ask him twice when he was invited to go anywhere.
Na’Kito didn’t fail to notice the three of them as they stepped closer. They had stood near the body of Dia not too long before so he could place something near her that was burnable. It needed to be able to burn for her to have it where she was now. Clara was beside him with his hands around his arms like a small hug with her head on him. She might not have known the woman for very long but the small conversation they had in the tent while she fixed a tunic she gave her was enough time for her to find out that she was a sweet woman.
She didn’t deserve this.
Kai stood next to his brother with his staff in his hand between them, his other hand was occupied by holding Mia’s. Each of them has their mates standing close to them as they looked towards the Great Fire.
“How mad is Tonilla?” Kito gave Kai a small sideglance. His question brought out his chuckle. The only chuckle that filled the air. “I think you know.”
Caji came up to Kito and smiled, he was quick to move behind him and close to Clara. She looked at him as he looked at her, watching how he breathed in and turned his head and sneezed. His senses overfilled quickly. He could smell Kito all over her and it made him sneeze twice more, stepping away so he wouldn’t be near them while he did so.
“Um, bless you,” Clara said to him.
Kito speaks, “What does that mean?”
“When someone sneezes someone else is supposed to say ‘bless you’,” she shrugged. “It’s a human thing.”
Caji was in between Kai and Kito, looking at each of them. Even humans. He wants to get closer to Clara because of his curiosity. He liked meeting new humans. He thought humans were adorable. He knew when there was a risk involved when getting too close to a female that’s newly mated. Instead, he seeks Mia’s attention and reaches out but moved back with Kai’s slight growl of caution. His ears lowered and he moved his hand away. He guessed all women were a risk to be around.
“That’s mean,” Mia said with an irritated pout. “Stop.”
“There is a time when it is too much, ” he looked back at Caji. “Just stand there and wait for the burning. You can stand still for a moment, can you?”
He beamed and nodded rapidly and looked at the Great Fire. A little while longer until she is sent away.
“Na’Kito!” His ears perked at his name and his head turned to it. So did Clara. His name came from Pippie who was standing a small distance away with his arms crossed and waiting, he looked slightly impatient. Kito tilts his head and looked at Clara, “Stand by Kai and Mia for a moment while I speak to him.”
“Are you sure?” She hesitantly releases his arm and he moved it away, each equally reluctant. He decides he would make the conversation quick to come back to her. Even the second they lost contact he was already thinking about letting her hold his arm again and pretend his name wasn’t even called. Except for the second time, Pippie called him. He sighed. “I will make it quick. You can talk to Mia,” he urged her closer to her. “Kai may bite, however. It is him that you will have to watch.”
Kai’s warm laughter made the sentence slightly harder to believe. If she had to go by the way he stood and how serious he looked half of the time it would be believable. She trusted Kito though, and from what he had told her his brother couldn’t be a bad guy himself. She rolled her eyes at him, “Alright. Go have fun.”
He surprised her with a kiss that he stole. Uncaring that anyone else could see it, even Pippie, who watched them drag it on as long as they could before he could finally manage to pull himself away. Kai stared at Pippie with the same look he always had for him, but this time he knew that if Pippie knew better he would just leave Kito alone. There would be no way that he would stay with him longer than a conversation, not to go do a small trick nor to hang out with him like they usually did.
Tricks shouldn’t be planned during times like this anyway.
If there was one thing about Pippie was it was stubborn. He had a bad feeling about this. While Mia and Clara were lost in their conversation Kai looked at Caji, “Stand near them, but not too close. If anything happens I think you know what to do.”
The Kikera nodded to acknowledge his request and left his side. Caji didn’t need to stand close to be there, he could run fast enough to them without any effort. He only moved for Kai.
Kito walks over to Pippie to the spot where he stood waiting for him. He waited for the Xutashi to step closer before he began, “Where have you been, Kito? You vanished for a long time. I was looking everywhere for you and I can’t seem to find you after you left the boy-kit with me. I was glad when Zeta finally took him. I heard Alira was dead.”
“I think that the rocks that fell in the cave Clara and I were trapped in crushed her,” he clarified. “I did not plan to leave him with you for that long. I am sure he didn’t cause you too much trouble.”
“Well... ” he tapped the front of his right foot on the ground. “He didn’t cause me too much trouble. He just asked a lot of questions,” he gave his friend a small once over look. His friend looked different. A kind of difference he couldn’t put his finger on. Lively, maybe. More so his eyes. He just looked different. “What have you been doing this whole time? I thought you would get rid of Alira and came back and we can celebrate that crazy lunatic's death.”
“I didn’t get rid of her,” he turned his head and looked at Clara a couple of times. Pippie noticed it every time he did it, his actions similar to an impatient child. “Clara and I went through a lot. Alira told her how she wanted to get rid of each of the human cubs that were born. Dahl’s and Nuru’s. I’m glad she won’t be able to do it. She looked very sick.”
Pippie did have an explanation for his suspicions about how his friend looked simply by the smell that caught on the wind towards him. The human female covered him like a blanket heavily. He could see why his friend had disappeared now, he finally managed to use another tool under his belt. “Would you like to go and -”
“I am sorry,” he wanted to stop him before he asked. He knew where it was going to go. “I don’t think I can go anywhere else with you to look at the burning unless Clara comes with me as well. I don’t want to be alone without her for a time. I am bonded now, newly mated, I know you can tell.”
The confusion that he had hidden inside seeped out onto the surface of his face. His head tilted to the side and he blinked. “Why does she have to come? You spent a while with her, shouldn’t it be satisfied by now? She can stay with Kai and Mia and we can speak alone. You know how I do not like females listening to our conversations. They talk to each other.”
“I am only leaving her for a short time with them until I go back,” his voice was different as well to Pippie. It was much softer and calm, a little more grown than he was used to. All of this was alien to him. It was a change he didn’t know could happen and happen too suddenly. “I don’t like leaving her for long.”
A white brow arched and he held his elbows with his arms still over his chest. “You haven’t been away from her that long, Fern’s scales... We haven’t even started this conversation for that long. You can go back to her after the burning is done and she will be fine. Separation wouldn’t kill you.”
His ears are slightly lower. “I am sorry, Pippie. But I don’t want to wait until afterward. I want to be with Clara.”
The frustration came next on his face and he punched the skin above his nose and between his closed eyes and let out a deep breath. “You should hear yourself. You sound just like Kai’Riba does. Like some kind of mindless follower. Seriously, Kito, leaving someone for a time won’t kill you. Why are you making it out like it will be the end if you do?”
Kito stood there silent and his ears low. Pippie didn’t understand. He was starting to notice some changes. Like how quickly frustrated he seemed to have gotten. “Why is that bad? I do not think I sound like Kai. I just... Want to be next to Clara. Pasha would be happy if you stay next to her during this.”
“Can we just leave Clara’s name out for a moment?” His voice had a small bite to it. He never heard anyone’s name come out of someone else this much before in his life in such a short time. “She is standing right over there, not here. You are talking to me. Wait, I just thought of something. How about we go find some -”
“Pippie,” he had to use a little more force with his name to get his attention. His sentence stopped and the Maurea’s ice blue eyes blinked at him. “I don’t-”
“I just want to see this line that you believe gets stretched too thin you both die because that is what you’re pretending it’s lik-”
“Listen,” he grabbed his shoulders and lightly shook him. That seemed to only way to grab his attention and keep him from talking. He needed to listen. “You just don’t understand. I know I won’t die, but I am newly mated. I will be with her for a while.”
“I think it’s all nonsense, Na’Kito. You have more control than that.”
He released his shoulders and steps back. “I just want to watch the burning without ruining anything.”
Creases grew between Pippie’s eyebrows slightly, expressing his slight anger. “You would have joined me without a second thought of it meant a good laugh. Now all you do is want to stand around her.”
“Clara, I would like it if you called her by her name.”
“You do it enough for both of us,” he looked at Clara past his arm. “What does she have that I don’t that makes you want to be with her and not with me? Other than this stupid bond nonsense that we each have laughed at before. We joked about how silly it was each night and now you’re going against everything you said you wouldn’t do. We always sit together during these things.”
“She is my mate,” he even put his hand over his chest, laying above his heart. His tail curled at the tip and swayed, he seemed entranced more than anything about her. He even slightly smiled, something he couldn’t hold in when it came to her. It shocked Pippie when he heard a brief purr. “I do not want to cause trouble anymore like we did. I still want to be friends, but I no longer want trouble. Or to return to the Lands with you, to them. It was fun while it lasted,” his own blue eyes went soft and dazed. He was eager to walk back to her already. Everything that Pippie still didn’t understand. “But I simply don’t want to go back to that anymore. I have my own to look after, that is what I want to do.”
He left Pippie speechless when he turned his head to see Clara looking at him as well and smiling. He mirrored that smile and finally couldn’t resist it anymore. He needed to go back to her. “We will speak another time, my friend. She is waiting for me.”
He was in a passive mood when he walks away from his friend without giving him another glance like he had done Clara. He was craving her hand around his arm again and touching him. Skin on skin.
Pippie felt furious. He didn’t take well to him leaving so abruptly well. He felt that it was unfair that he would leave him standing so that he would return to her. How stupid this whole bonding shit was. His winter eyes turned cold and his hands balled into a fist.
He spoke loud enough for Kito to hear. And everyone else. “Oh, I see now what she has that I don’t. So you finally found a way to get yourself in between her thin legs and now you can’t seem to find the time to get back out from in them?.”
Everyone went silent and turned their heads. Pasha, who was sitting on a bench in the corner heard this and out her hand over her mouth and gasped heavily. “Pippie!”
He snapped his head around and snarled deeply and stepped forward, “What did you say?”
“You heard me,” he motions his hand as if to wipe him away. “I never understood you Xutashi’s and that silly ‘Lifemate’ joke. It makes me laugh. From what I can see it’s only a reason for your kind to try new things other than your own kind. Well, if it’s tight human holes you like to dip yourself into then go right ahead. I bet that woman of yours has nothing compared to what a Maurea woman can-”
Even from the distance, Kito strikes to close in with a powerful pounce and another deep throaty snarl that cause both of them to roll on the dirt and enter a brutal fight. No words, Kito simply pounced. Pasha stood up faster than her old bones could probably allow and she screams, “Boys! Stop this now!”
Kito kicks Pippie with his back on the ground and the Maurea flew into numerous fruit-filled baskets that went everywhere. Pippie jumps up quickly, pushing the baskets out of the way and even towards Kito and letting out a battle cry before ramming the Xutashi on the ground. Clara panicked herself and went running for him but Mia’s quick thinking to grab her wrist kept her from going. She shook her head, “Trust me, you don’t want to be in that. Someone else will get them.”
Not at first. There were no good openings as they wrestled and fought. Delivering punches when one had the other pinned, and things were destroyed. The fight happened so fast Clara was trying to register what her eyes were seeing.
More punches were thrown, the flying of a dagger thrown out of one’s hand and to the ground, each rolling or throwing the other into something else to cause more destruction. Kito’s fury managed to pin Pippie more and have him deliver more punches. Pippie had fluent combat skills on his side while Kito blocked and knew how to counter them for his hits. Best friends made the worst enemies that way when they would know your next move.
Before any further damage was done Caji found his opening and came in from behind and snatched Kito around his chest and neck and yanked him off of Pippie. Kai had to step in and help detain Kito who was on a mission. He struggled to slither himself out of their grips and reached his hand out for Pippie with dark intention in his eyes and snarling.
The Maurea stumbled up and wiped the blood off his lip with the back of his hand and he looked at Kito with equal anger, but his kind didn’t growl. It was the Warriors surrounding him with pointed spears that earned him not to go after him.
“Get out of this village!” Kito shouted in his anger towards Pippie. His pupils were slitted. Caji still had his arms in an iron grip to keep the fight from starting all over again. Doing a good job keeping him away. “How dare you talk about her or any of our humans that way! You should know to not make me choose, now get out or I’ll rip your ears off your head!”
“Fine,” he spits blood on the ground and stood up. “Don’t come back to me when you get bored with her.”
That sparked his anger further and he nearly escaped Caji’s arms. Kai had to step in further. Kito yelled the final retort, “Get out!”
He said nothing else. He turns and stormed off in the market section. Pasha stands and looked at each of them with tears in her eyes and she tried to figure out which one to go to. Each of them was equally important to her. She didn’t know how to choose.
“Go to him, Pasha,” Luckily Kai made it easier for her. “Kito will be fine. Follow him.”
She went in the direction Pippie went. She couldn’t walk as fast as him but a Xutashi Warrior followed her for safety.
Mia released Clara’s wrist. “Now you can run to him.”
She didn’t hesitate. She went through the crowd of Warriors, Caji let him go when he saw her approaching and stood back. Kito continued to stand and growl in Pippie’s direction until he felt familiar hands touch his back and arm. He was disarmed immediately. He turned to look at her with a few cuts and bruises of his own and a cut on his cheek. His ears lowered and he made a low sad noise deep in his throat. “I will not let him say anything bad towards you.”
She put her hand on his cheeks and avoiding that small cut to calm him. He moved into her touches easily. The Warriors dispersed when they saw it and knew he would be fine. “He is like a different person to me, my Clara. I do not understand it. I found half of the things he spoke about irritating and disrespectful. Has he changed?”
She remembered what Zeta said. She even looked to her side to see Zeta sitting on her chair next to Ruro watching everything happen, she had a knowing look on her face and she knew what she was thinking. Thanks to her words from before it helped her understand exactly what was going on.
“The problem here Kito is that you changed,” she decided to explain it to him. Right now it seems that she would be the only one he would listen to. That could be why his mother told her. “And the really bad thing is that he didn’t. You just see things differently now that you have me,” she moved her hand down his neck and on his chest to comfort him further. “You just saw him from a different point of view. I’m sorry.”
He didn’t say anything else back to that. He turned his head to the Great Fire and noticed that they were getting everything started. He shook his head of the previous madness. “You have nothing to be sorry for. Let us forget about this and watch the ceremony,” he said solemnly. “I only have room for one heartbreak tonight.”