A Different Species

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Chapter 9

As June and Kargon continued their journey, the forest was calm and almost quiet. There was an occasional gust of wind that ruffled the leaves of trees. Every now and then they'd hear the small critters that lurked nearby. June had gotten used to their sounds—still alert in case anything out of the ordinary happened—but thanks to her giant, she wasn't afraid.

She was still oblivious as to where they were heading, but she assumed he had to go home at some point. Unless Kargon somehow lived alone. At the thought, she frowned. She hoped that wasn't the case and that they were heading to his people. June asked herself all kinds of questions. How many of them were there? How much more different was their culture and evolution from humans? Would they accept her?

At the last question, she swallowed hard and suddenly, her hands became damp. Would Kargon do anything at that point? It wasn't the same being in danger of the creatures lurking in their planet versus not being accepted by his people.

Don't think about those things, June. You'll only manifest it.

If that time came, she'd deal with it then. She cleared her mind of any negativity and looked forward to however long their journey would last and take them to.

June immediately halted her steps before she slammed onto Kargon's back. She opened her mouth to call for him, but no sound left her lips when she noticed his state.

His back muscles flexed as Kargon pulled out his blade. He glanced to his right. She noticed his ear twitch. June followed his gaze, but didn't see anything but miles filled with trees and bushes. What is he—

Kargon immediately turned to his body left. He stepped between June and where the sound of a twig snapping had come from. June took two steps closer to him, but still kept about a foot between them.

What was going on?

They waited. Kargon had stepped between the threat and June. Whatever it was, it had been following them for a while. From the sound of its footsteps, Kargon guessed it was about June's height. At first he found it harmless, thinking it was just passing by—but the longer it trailed them, the more Kargon grew anxious.

The thing was foolish enough to follow them. Whatever it's reason was, Kargon wouldn't let it get any closer to June. As much as he hated getting blood on his hands, he would do it if he needed to save June.

He could feel the thing's eyes on him, probably because he was in the way of what it actually wanted. It made sense. If it was hunting then it was looking for something either it's size or smaller, something it knew it could kill easily.

Sadly, June was easy prey.

But what didn't make sense to him was why it was still after them even after it knew Kargon was there. Any animal would've darted away, looking for another prey to feast on—knowing it wouldn't be able to take on two.

This one was both stubborn or stupid, or both.

Kargon grew more anxious and angrier with every passing moment. He couldn't see where it was. He didn't even know what it was. All he felt was it's presence.

He rolled his shoulders. They had to keep moving. It at this point it didn't seem they would be attacked—or at least for now it wouldn't—but the thing could follow them home.

Without further thoughts on whether they should wait it out or leave, Kargon turned till he could see June. With his chin, he pointed ahead. June got the message and began walking. Instead of being behind him, she stayed beside him.

Kargon tightened his grip on his blade. Just as he predicted, it followed them.

• • •

June knew something was wrong. Even as they settled into their new cave, Kargon was still tense. His blade had remained in his hand the entirety of the day and every once in a while he'd glance at the entrance of the cave.

She was clueless as to what to do. She felt useless.

June suddenly stood from her leaf mat. Her feet patted against the rocky ground until she reached Kargon. His eyes immediately left the opening of the cave and met hers.

She sat beside him. Their eyes never left each other. "Kargon," she began. "Listen big guy. I know something's bothering you."

Kargon frowned. "I know there's still a language barrier," June sighed. What can I do to show him I'm worried?

"Are you hungry?" Kargon managed to understand the words he taught her. He shook his head and asked her if she wanted food to which she also refused.

June's eyes skimmed to the burn scars on his arms. Switching her gaze between his arm and his eyes, June slowly brought her hand to him. Kargon knew what June was asking, but he didn't know whether to let her or not. She stopped before her hand touched him and met his stare.

He swallowed—breath stilling—and sent her a curt nod. June waited another second, waiting to see if he'd change his decision. When her fingertips met his skin, Kargon couldn't stop his muscles from tightening.

The last time anyone had touched him was when he was being treated for his burns. That was years ago. Since then less people approached and spoke to him, feeling uncomfortable around him.

June immediately froze when she noticed his state. She kept her hand at a safe distance from him. She was unsure whether she had somehow hurt Kargon, but the frown on his face showed he was bothered. Most likely by her touch. She apologized, knowing he wouldn't understand, but managing her tone to where she hoped he'd get the message.

Before Kargon could say anything, or do anything to stop her, she stood and walked to her mat. Before turning her back to him, she gave him a small smile and wished him a good night in his language. Something he had taught her a few nights ago. "Noye bun."

Kargon repeated the words, softly. His violet orbs returned to the spot June had touched. His frown deepened.

This was new to him.

He didn't feel any pain from her touch. As his burns healed, turning into scars, his skin became less sensitive. The scars be there for the rest of his life. The fire had damaged many areas, ranging in the depth. Aside from his physical appearance, his movement had suddenly decreased. In the early years of his recovery, Kargon couldn't do the things he could've before. He couldn't pick things that were heavier than a small pebble. His muscles couldn't allow him to carry weight that caused strain. Even the action of picking things up was difficult.

As his burns healed, parts of his skin were lost. What remained now was the skin that pulled itself together into tight areas. Staying active did help him somewhat regain a lot of his movement, but not all. It's one of the big reasons why he avoided interacting and fighting large animals. It took a big toll on him.

Due to his limitations and constantly having to seek treatment for a majority of his life, Kargon was alone most of the time. Why would children want to play with someone who couldn't? Who would anyone want to be the parent of a child who lost his entire family and would depend on someone even as an adult?

Things got better as he grew up and showed signs of improvement, but they weren't the same as before the fire occurred. Kargon couldn't reconnect with those of his clan the same way anymore. There were only a handful of people he spoke to, but only for small talk. Other than that, he was alone.

Until June.

He took a quick glance at June who was sound asleep. His frown loosened just as his muscles did. He knew June meant no harm, but he felt safer detached from people. June would soon meet his people. They would accept her and introduce her to the clan, and their customs. Even with the language barrier, she'd fit right in.

And once again he'd be alone.

The thought shouldn't have bothered him, but it did. For once, he didn’t feel like an outcast. For once, he had a friend. But he wouldn’t be selfish.

With a shook of his head, he stared at the outside. There were no sounds out of the ordinary. It seemed the thing that was following them had finally left. The night was peaceful.

It would be no good to either June or him if he stayed up all night. He was ready if anything were to come at them during the night. Kargon accommodated himself on his mat and allowed sleep to come upon him.



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