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Predator Instincts

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The huddle survivors of Scarlemagne’s vicious invasion of The Second Clover scattered across the old ruins which they had taken shelter in as night began to draw ever so closer.

Wolf herself was currently in the middle of patrolling the area around the centuries old building, She was currently feeling, annoyed. She had long gotten used to Kipo’s eccentricities, even coming to see the burrow girl as a sister. But having to deal with a whole group of terrified mole-people who all hold the same inexperience at surface survival as Kipo, was something which was really getting on the young survivor’s nerves.

It doesn’t help that all these people have lost their friends and families to Scarlemagne and many blame Kipo for leading him to the burrow. The fact they would act so cold to Kipo after ever since she’s done for them got on Wolf’s nerves much more than their inexperience.

Kipo was itching to go after Scarlamange directly, but despite that she’s also insisting that they help the rest of her people get to safety first, no matter how ungrateful they act at times. Or how stupid. Wolf vividly recalls having to stop several of them from petting all sorts of dangerous Mutes, it seems lack of any self-preservation instincts was a genetic trait shared by all underground mole-people.

Wolf jumps rapidly across the boundary of the ruins, making a final sweep to ensure none of Scarlamange’s scouts have found this place nor have any burrow refugees wandered off.

Statisifed and beginning to tire for the night, Wolf climbs back in through the window before making sure to closer what remains of the blinds behind her. She takes in the huddled masses, Benson helping calm some of them down with his music, having promised Wolf he’d make sure not to have it on too loud. Dave was currently in his prime form and showing off to the easily impressed burrow humans.

Even though it’s been a few days since they had left the remains of the The Second Clover, Wolf has always made sure to keep her distance from its survivors. When questioned on it she’d just glare and say she didn’t want to go soft from spending too much time around mole-people.

But the reality was that she wasn’t scared of going soft. Well she was, but that was a secondary concern. Really she was just intimidated by all those people, even after having their numbers ripped to a fraction of their original size, there were still more humans here than she was used to.

Yawning, Wolf surveys the room with a frown. Walking through the middle she briefly passes that creeper who’d tried to take Stalky when they’d first met, at least he seemed to end up being one of the more competent of his people. Wolf still didn’t particularly feel like engaging with him and he was far too busy tending to everyone to make note of her, so she continued on.

Soon she came to the realisation that Kipo was indeed not present within. Her frown deepens as she marches over to Asher and Dahlia, Kipo’s two… friends from the burrow. Wolf didn’t know why Kipo’s attention briefly leaving her in favour of this pair caused her to feel so weird, but she didn’t want to tell anyone about it and simply decided to try to forget about it.

One of them, Asher she thinks, spotted her as she closed in on them. Asher quickly waved Wolf over with a smile.

“Hey Wolf! Me and Dahlia were just making our own snuggle blankies!” She exclaims with glee as both she and Dahlia hold up a pair of cloaks they had made of scavenged materials they’d collected since leaving the burrow.

“Aren’t they so fluffy? Now we’re fitting in on the surface like you!” Dahlia adds on as Wolf’s frown somehow even deepens, adding a glare on top of it.

“I thought I told you to never call it that again” Wolf said during her best to be intimidating as she defensively held her cloak back.

Asher gives an apologetic frown “Sorry but we just couldn’t resist… they’re just so soft and warm.”

Wolf wiped her face downwards with her hand as she sighs “Whatever. Look, have either of you seen Kipo.”

Both immediately switch to a look of nervousness which caused some alarm in Wolf as the pair before her glance at each other as if at a loss for words.

“...Well?” Wolf says, impatient.

Dahlia eyes the rest of the room burrow survivors, making sure no one was listening in, before leaning closer to Wolf and speaking in a whisper.

“We saw Kipo leave out back earlier, she was going to train her…. Uh…`` she trails off as she points Wolf in a direction, not knowing how to refer to Kipo’s abilities.

Wolf merely smacks herself across the face in frustration for not having realised sooner that Kipo had left for another training session. It didn’t take long for Kipo to start training her Mute powers, even roping Wolf in often when possible.

Asher then leans in as well, “Are we going to become… Mutes too? Is that what happens to people on the surface?” She asks in a tone carrying both concern and curiosity.

Wolf doesn’t know how to answer that question “What… Of course not! I’m not a Mute and I’ve spent my entire life up here..”

“Are you sure you’re not a mute…?” Questions Dahlia, only to immiendenially regret it due to the sharp and swift glare it summons from Wolf.

“Neither of you are becoming Mutes” Wolf says flatly, finishing the conservation as the two other girls nods meekly as Wolf walks away to the area she had been pointed towards.

She crawls over some rubble and into another part of the building, walls were mostly intact but the roof had been partially collapsed by a large tree which has sprouted up through the room.

And there she was, Wolf’s self-proclaimed adoptive sister Kipo. She was currently in the process of smacking an array of cans from one side of the room with her massive jaguar arm, so focused on her task that she didn’t even notice the small wolf skin covered girl entering.

Mandu was sitting at the edge of the room, watching Kipo intently and smiling as Wolf entered his vision. Wolf briefly paused to pat Mandu before turning her attention towards Kipo.

Wolf slowly made her way over to where Kipo was training, she had to admit Kipo did seem to be getting the hang of this. Her stance and precision was much more adept than their fight with Scarlamange’s flamingos.

An ancient can flung from a wall and towards Kipo, her reflects quickly kicking in as she caught it midair, bringing the attention of a very startled looking Kipo unto her.

“Oh Wolf!, Oh my gosh I’m so sorry I didn’t see you there!” Kipo said as she turns towards the new arrival, smiling at the company.

“It’s fine, I see you’re practicing” Wolf says as she rapidly switches pose, throwing the can into the air before smacking it back towards Kipo, who just manages to barely catch it with her large feline arm.

“Nice catch” Wolf comments as she goes take a seat near Kipo, who in turn also sits down as well.

Kipo smiles warmly at Wolf “Thanks. These powers are my only chance at saving my dad… which is why i need to get good at them fast” her eyes filled with the determination which Wolf admired about Kipo, when that girl sets her mind on something she tends to do it, no matter how stupid that thing is.

And to any sane Human, attacking Scarlamange would be very high on the list of stupid things to do. Yet Wolf for some reason never found herself questioning why she’s going along with it. She was tired of running, and even if it meant doing something this stupid and against every instinct she has gained as a survivor,.she still was going to do it.

“I just finished scouting the area, we should be safe from Scarlamange’s army here… for now anyway”

Kipo looks revelived at the news “Good, I don’t think I could live with myself if I did anything before I made sure what’s left of my people are safe. Although I do think they blame me for well.. everyone… not that I blame them..” A look of regret washes over her face as Wolf stares, unsure of how to act.

“They.. don’t hate you… They’re just scared Kipo” Despite her attempts at sounding reassuring, Wolf found that she was a look of regret washes over her face as Wolf stares unsure of how to act.

“They.. don’t hate you.. They’re just scared Kipo.“ Wolf tries to sound comforting, although she isn’t exactly used to it.

“Scared of me more like it… I can’t believe that after everything I did to try to get back to my people, I ended up hurting so many of them…”

“You couldn’t have known Scarlamange was going to attack, you don’t even know if it was you who led him there.”

Kipo didn’t look up, instead continuing to stare at the cold ground “Yeah.. maybe..”

Feeling awkward and uncertain of how to cheer up her best-friend, Wolf chose to instead change the subject.

“Uh… anyway. That cook guy from your burrow should be preparing dinner soon so maybe we should head out. They’re having-” but before she can finish Kipo’s head shoots off and her noise begins sniffing out a scent.

moss soup! I can’t smell it’s sweet taste from here” Kipo exclaims, her mood brightened as her mind left her previous train of thought

Wolf smells the air for a few moments before looking around, confused “I can’t smell anything..”

Kipo looks nervous all of a sudden, scratching the back of her head she explains “Oh… uh.. well I didn’t want to mention it but I’ve kind of been able to… well smell basically everything for a while now…”

All Wolf responded with was a flat “What” with a hint of annoyance worked in. She’d gotten more or less use to Kipo’s Mute abilities, yet the fact there was another thing Kipo hid from her did peeve the young survivor.

Kipo frantically waves her arms defensively “I’m sorry.. I just… being able to smell everything is so disgusting and I kind of didn’t want to offend anyone.. so.. I just kind of never brought it up…”

Wolf narrows her eyes as she sniffs herself “I don’t smell that bad…”

Kipo gestures towards her “See! This is what I mean. I didn’t want to be rude.”

“I suppose that’s… fair” Wolf says as she turns her attention back to the pink half-Mute before her.

Wolf sighs and turns around “We better go rejoin your people, it’s getting late” she begins walking back towards the pile of rubble she’d crossed to enter this room, before pausing as she noticed the other girl wasn’t following “Kipo?”

Wolf glances back to see Kipo was still in the same spot as before, having not moved an inch,

“I was just thinking… maybe I should just stay back here for the night. I don’t think… I just maybe the rest of the burrow needs a break from me for a bit..”

Wolf turns back around to face Kipo, a sad and sympathetic expression on her face “Kipo….”

“You go back with the others Wolf… I’ll just eat later.. I’m not really in the mood of mushroom and moss soup right now anyway..” Kipo begins slowly moving towards the tree, climbing up it and onto a large branch with surprising ease before laying chest down on top of it.

Mandu and Wolf both exchange a sad glance before approaching the tree.

None say a word for what seems like eternity, before Wolf breaks the silence with a cough after being nudged slight forward by Mandu.

“Uh… I was just thinking… maybe you’d like some company up there? Uh.. rule eighty-two of surface.. sleepy without friends is dangerous” she barely remember what number she is on anymore, this latest rule being something she just came up with on the spot.

“Are you saying we should have a… sleepover?” The voice which comes down from the tree quickly gaining the distinct tone of Kipo’s regular cheerfulness

“Uh… yes?” Wolf says, barely really knowing what she just agreed to.

Kipo’s face glances downwards towards the pair, her depressed expression rapidly swigging to one of childish glee as she uses her strengthened arm to hoist a startled Wolf up onto the branch.

Wolf takes a seat against the main part of the tree at the beginning of the branch as Kipo turned around to face her, while still lying in the middle.

A sudden realisation seems to hit Kipo “Oh! Wait, what are you going to eat if your out here with me?” However a sudden happy squeal from Mandu answers as both girls are drawn to the sight of the Mute pig holding a bag of snacks, shaking them in the direction of Wolf, who proceeds to lift both Mandu and the bag up with Stalky.

“That answers that. Thanks Mandu” Wolf says as she pets the happy pig “Do you want some Kipo?” She offers the bag of snacks to her.

“Oh no thanks, I’m not that hungry now. But anyway not that we are having a sleepover-”

“Uh Kipo don’t we sleep near each other all the time?”

“I know but this is our first official sisterly sleepover. We need to braid each other’s hair! Oh but first this place gives a great view of the sky and the stars are beginning to come out, see that one over there is...”

The night seems to blur as Kipo explains one star after another. Wolf had never give much thought to the stars before, they may for a useful light source when it was cloudy at night, but otherwise they’ve just been there. It’s only after meeting Kipo that she’s began to begrudgingly catch some of the same fascination with them that Kipo seems to have.

The night drowns on as Wolf begins to get drowsy. Something about this makes her let her guard down, something she hasn’t down in a long time. She feels safe around Kipo, in spite of the burrow girl’s inexperience with the surface and fighting. Wolf’s final thoughts before drifting to sleep are wondering if this is what having a real sister is like.

Suddenly Wolf is back in the past, the wolves who took her in surround her with vicious growls. They’re hungry. They close in. Wolf screams, crying her eyes out as the one she thought of a sister approaches her. She lunges.

In a flash Wolf wakes up with heavy breaths, she rubs her tired eyes only to find she’s alone on the branch.

“Kipo…? Mandu…?” Wolf was worried, had Scarlamange attacked while she was asleep? She internally cursed herself as she climbed down the tree, reaching the ground just in time for Mandu to come running in from a crack in the wall and towards her.

“Mandu? Where’s Kipo. Is she okay?” Wolf is becoming increasingly concerned by the moment as Mandu begins tugging her clothes and leading her outside, Wolf follows without question, needing to know where Kipo is.

Mandu leads her around bushes and trees across the streets and eventually to a ledge looking over a field and river, Wolf is about to head down there before being tug behind a rock by Mandu.

“What is it Mandu?” Wolf asks, only for the Wolf To motion to the field below. The bright night sky and the glowing plants scattered around the field allows Wolf to barely make out an almost frightenly familiar figure.

Kipo walks slowly on all fours across the field, her body almost entirely covered in fur. A Rat Mute can be seen in front of her, slowly backing off with his hands up. Wolf, confused at what’s going on, quietly makes her way downwards to get a better look.

It’s dark but Wolf can make out an expression on Kipo’s face, one of hunger. She can hear the pleas of the Rat, echoing through the night as Kipo moves in.

“Hey I don’t want any trouble, you wouldn’t eat a Rat with glasses right?” The Rat nervously straightens his glasses as Kipo ignores every sound coming from his mouth.

The word ‘eat’ echoed in Wolf’s mind as she watched with silent horror. Even before meeting Kipo she’d never eaten anything that could talk, only remorseless inhuman predators… like wolves, do that.

Wolf is frozen as she sneaks a look at Kipo’s face. It doesn’t like like anything she had ever seen on the burrow girl, her purple eyes burned with an innate hunger. A vicious smile showing newly grown teeth donned her face, so unlike the genuine smiles she was used to seeing in Kipo.

“Please, I’ll give you all the times I’ve scavenged” the panicked offer of the Rat goes ignored by Kipo as she growls, it’s different from that a wolf yet shocking none the less, causing both the Rat and Wolf to back away in fear.

This wasn’t Kipo, Kipo was kind and compassionate and not a blood thirsty beast who stalked prey in the night. Kipo never looked like this, she never stared at a Mute, let along a talking one, with hunger in her eyes This Mute wasn’t Kipo.

The only thought running through Wolf’s head was that she couldn’t do this again. She quickly yet quietly climbed back up the ledge, Kipo not noticing her due to he too fixated on her prey.

Wolf doesn’t know what to do. She knows she needs to leave, run away and hide where no one can hurt her. Yet something still makes her wants to say. She watches Kipo from afar, from here all anyone would see is just another Mute, and a dangerous one at that. Any sane surfacer would run far away.

So why hasn’t she?

She looks back downwards towards Kipo, who was circling the Rat, preparing to pounce.

Mandu looks at Wolf, waiting to see what she’s going to do.

Wolf meanwhile keeps flashing back, back to her time with the wolves who pretended to be her family.

If they could fake it so could Kipo, another sick game carried out by Mutes wanting to get the most out of their Human prey. A ploy meant to trick gullible and stupid young Humans to let their guard down and not realise it when their turn on the menu has arrived.

A battle raged in her mind as the Rat continues to attempt to back away.

Part of her mind is screaming at her that Kipo is just like all Mutes, that she’s dangerous and if Wolf stays then she’ll be Kipo’s next victim. Telling her she never should’ve gotten this close to a Mute and that she was right to run away in the first place.

But another part was saying that Kipo loved her. That they were real sisters. She thought back to all the time they’ve spent together, a few weeks at most yet that bond felt real. Like they’ve always been sisters, long before even meeting.

She looks down at Kipo, now a deranged mindless killer and wonders why she didn’t just kill her while she was alone and defenceless with her. Wolf had put her guard down and fallen asleep alone with only Kipo to watch over her, she was the easier prey out there.

Wolf thinks back to how Kipo had forgiven her for concealing the letter from her dad, how Kipo was there for her despite barely knowing her.

Wolf sighs and hands Stalky to Mandu “Mandu, I’m about to do something really stupid and am probably going to die. If I do, please make sure Stalky finds a good wielder who isn’t Dave”

Mandu nods as she holds the deathstalker in her mouth, getting the closet thing a pig can do to a salute as Wolf places her cloak onto Mandu’s head before petting her. If she was going to do this she couldn’t do this as a surface survivor, she needed to do this as Kipo’s sister.

Wolf makes her way down to the field, unarmed and alone with two Mutes, one of which was clearly dangerous.

“Kipo!” She yell, her voice sounding more painful then she’d like it. But Kipo ignores her, instead focusing on the now frantic Rat.

“Kipo! It’s me Wolf!” She yells, her voice echoing across the empty night. Kipo briefly look at her, a look of near realisation crossing her face before sniffing the Rat, causing her to growl and turned her attention back at him.

The growl causing Wolf to step back and begin breathing even more heavily. Images of that fateful midnight hunt when she learnt everything she’d had come to know was a lie flashed across her vision.

She steadied her breathing and stepped forward. Pushing past the flashes of her past with some effort and instead focusing on the current. She needs to get through Kipo, make her remember who she is. Against all logic, Wolf still believed that kind hearted burrow girl still existed, somehow.

Taking a deep breath, Wolf resorts to the only language Kipo knows.

“Uh… we may not have sunlight.. or starhine or storms.. or was starlight…” Wolf quickly tried to repeat the song Kipo had sung to temporarily snap that Mega-Mute from its Mind Control. Her words were disoriented and shaky, her fears and inexperience with singing shinning through.

“But we’ve got each other and that’s.. even greater..” Wolf pushes her mind to recall the lyrics as Kipo pauses in her advance of the defenceless Rat, her attention becoming increasingly divided between Wolf’s singing and her prey.

“You don’t need the stars… er.. sun to keep you warm when you’ve got arms” Kipo’s attention began to firmly become placed on Wolf, causing the young girl to become nervous as she tries not to stumble over words.

“Uh.. wishes from me.. you. Come not from star…” Wolf is sweating as Kipo walks closer, and despite everything she has ever known about Mutes, wolf walks closer to Kipo as well.

“We may have. er.. not have storm clouds, but the sky’s always.. blue” Wolf has beginning to get the hang of this, sort of, when she and Kipo arrived near inches from one another.

“We’ve got something special hear, and what we have is.. you…” Wolf is crying now, all of this overwhelming her as she grabs onto the furry body of Kipo and clings to her tightly.

In any normal tale this would be the part where the Mute eats the young naive Humana and moves onto its next prey, but not here.

The muffled sound of crying comes from in front of Wolf as tears swell up and pour from Kipo’s

“I’m… I’m so sorry Wolf…. I.. I couldn’t.. couldn't... control myself..” Kipo’s words barely make it through as her voice seems constantly on the verge of choking up.

“Kipo… what was that..” Wolf question as she clings closer to Kipo, no letting the half Muteout of her grip.

Kipo breaths heavily from a bit before calming enough to talk “I… the more I use these powers… the more I felt.. cravings.. everyone started smelling.. delicious”

The word strikes fear in Wolf’s heart, causing her to momentarily back away. This action grants her a good view of Kipo’s face, still furry yet not a waterfall.

“I tried to ignore it gut I had this constant urge to hunt and it just kept getting stronger and stronger until I had no choice.. I didn’t want to hurt you so I left…” Kipo looks ashamed, she looks away from Wolf.

“Kipo…”

“I’m sorry Wolf… I wasn’t strong enough to control myself.. I could’ve put you and everyone else in danger, as if I haven’t done enough of that. I’m a terrible friend-“

She’s suddenly interrupted by Wolf reentering the hug “No you’re not. And you’re also a great sister. Whatever it is you’re… going through… we will get through it together and we’ll save your dad and your people. I promise”

“Wolf…” A weak smile comes onto Kipo’s face.

“So… Uh, can I go now? Sorry I didn’t want to interrupt the moment” The voice of the Rat breaks up the hug in an instant as both turn their attention to him.

“Oh my gosh I’m so sorry for trying to eat you! I shouldn’t have done that, I’m really sorry, sorry, sorry” Kipo frantically apologises to her would be victim.

The Rat laughs it off “Heh, it’s fine. Not the first time someone tried to eat me. Most aren’t polite enough to apologise about it though, so we’re cool. Now if you excuse me I better get going. It looks like you two are all fine to work through whatever’s going on with you” the Rat tips his hat and wanders off into the darkness, leaving Kipo and Wolf alone.

“Come on, let’s go rejoin your people” Wolf said with odd calmness.

“What? No! I can’t go to them like this. What if I hurt them, or they see what I really am or..”

“Kipo. They care about you, I care about you! We all do. Just, don’t go through this alone. I know you wouldn’t let me deal with something like this by myself so don’t make us let you suffer. I love you sis” the words come out between an array of short snorts and sobs, Wolf saying words she never thought she’d say.

“Okay Wolf… I trust you..”

The pair rejoin Mandu and together they walk back to the ruins where Kipo’s people are hiding.

Climbing back in they find most have gone to sleep, although some are still up and about,

“Hey you two aren’t dead! Now how about that” Dave says as they enter, causing Wolf to roll her eyes and Kipo to smile. Benson soon arrives, summon by Dave’s announcement.

“I’m so glad you guys were okay! Me and Dave just about to go look for you” Benson says as he walks up to greet them.

Asher and Dahlia also soon run up to the pair.

“Kipo, you're not alive! As I’m not dead.. again…!”

“We were so worried about you, we would’ve gone out to look for you if you hadn’t come back soon.”

“Thanks guys..” Kipo as she hugs them, quickly pulling Wolf into the hug as well.

“Wow your… un.. fur is so soft” Asher comments.

“It’s like you have your own self made blanket!” Squeals Dahlia silently as she leads the group to a quiet corner where they saved some food.

Kipo downs her soup quickly, hungry from being deprived of her prey earlier.

Wolf lays down next to Kipo as their friends surround them. Something makes Wolf feels safe about all this, despite Kipo’s instincts and the world they live in, Wolf feels safe.

Kipo looks at Wolf and back at everyone else before speaking up “Guys.. I need to tell you something..”

Kipo reveals everything as her friends listen without comment, from the very first instance of her powers to the events of the night.

After she’s finish they all sit in silence for a while. None knowing how to respond to this.

Wolf decides to take initiative “She still Kipo, no matter what, and we need to be there for her. Rule eighty-three of the surface, never let a friend fight a battle alone” a while ago she never would’ve thought something so idealistic could’ve come from her mouth, yet here she was lecturing an entire group of friendship.

“Wolf’s right, we’re all here for you Kipo” Benson says with a smile.

“Yeah don’t worry about a thing, we’ll have you so in control that your killer instincts won’t even know what hit it!” Dave adds on in support.

“We don’t really understand much of this, but you’re still our friend Kipo, and we’ll be there for you too” Dahlia says as Asher continues on “Yeah, don’t go running off to deal with this your own okay..?”

Mandu even gives a some reassuring happy oinks as she shakes around.

Kipo gains a massive smile for the first time in a while as sje looks at her friends and her sister.

“Thank you.. thank you guys”

The night devolves into a series of questions on Kipo’s powers as well as idle talk. Wolf watches from beside as Kipo gradually cheers up more and more. The talk lasts a while but soon they must get some sleep.

Kipo head back to the tree this had all started in, staying she feels more uncomfortable up there.

Kipo leaves Wolf and the rest of her friends and departs alone over the rubbles pathway and into the next room.

After a few moments Wolf and the others exchange looks, an unspoken course of action determined immediately as they follow behind Kipo, over the rubble and towards the tree which she was trying to fall alsdep on.

“Hey, Kipo? I brought a few more people for our sleepover” Wolf says as Kipo slowly lowers to head to find all her friends having arrived with blankets in their hands, her face swifting into another smile as she does.

Gradually all members of the group settle in around or on the tree, Wolf taking place against the bark next to Kipo as her mind drifts off for tiredness.

As she looks over the sleeping bodies on Kipo and their friends, her last thoughts are perhaps having a sister isn’t that bad after all. Whatever’s going on with Kipo is something they’ll all get through together, but for now it’s time for sleep.

Wolf, as has become increasingly common as of late, falls asleep with a smile.