Chapter 1: Mistake
Kipo curled up on the floor, it wasn’t comfortable but she didn’t deserve the comfort of bed at the moment. It was her fault. She could see it in their eyes when she had woken up. And then she had run. Just run, almost made it to the outskirts before turning back. She had to own up for it. The mistake.
Why? Why did she do it. She just had to open up the cage. Couldn’t help herself. But the man had just seemed so nice. A mistake. A terrible mistake. Too trusting, she had once been told described her.
Stupid Kipo. She curled in further on herself. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
Unlike everyone else, she’d gotten off easy. While it was nasty looking, the wound that had diagonally marked her chest would fade to a scar. Furthermore, she might have a concussion, maybe, doubtful considering who she was. But it was better than dead, which is what the escapee was now, or still unconscious with an eye missing. She didn’t remember much after getting hit. She remembered running in desperation and the knife as she had pushed the one who raised her out of the way. And the pain. He had thrown her out and yowled for help before the doors had closed upon them. Then she had lost consciousness and then, and then
A knock. She whimpered.
“Kipo? I know you’re there, I can smell you.” She didn’t answer. A sigh. “He’s asking for you.”
Immediately she was on her feet, door open, looking up at the nurse. “He’s awake?”
“Yes, and he refuses to sleep until he sees you.”
Kipo ran, skidding to a stop before the door that held the one that raised her behind it. She froze, took a breath, it still smelled like fresh blood, and entered.
“Kipo,” came the groan on the bed.
“Scar!” Coming up just short of the wounded occupant. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”
“Hush, and come up here.” She did and lay against him where he prompted. Carefully positioning herself so she didn't aggravate any injuries.
“Scar,” she whispered as she buried her face in the crook of his neck, “I’m sorry.” She took a breath, he smelled like home, it was calming.
“Just as long as you’ve learned your lesson. Now tell me, what did we learn?”
“Humans can’t be trusted.”
She felt him smile and felt just a little bit better. A little bit braver.
“Can I ask you a question?”
“Who was he?”
She felt the vibration of his growl as his voice dropped and he spoke, “Lio. Lio Oak.”
Chapter 2: No Escape
How it all goes down for Lio.
A/N: We’re going back in time a bit. Less dark, more… it’s not fluff, it’s uh… background? I honestly tried to make him seem bad, but couldn’t. Also, someone please write a darker fic soon, because I refuse to have this monopoly. I also, um, may have realized I was off by apocalypse time by 200 years. So that's been adjusted to be accurate now.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
One Year Before
Lio Oak sat and waited in the dim light. It was silent, save for his breathing and the light rain outside. But he could have sworn there had been a movement, it had looked almost human in shape. Yet, it had been outside of the walls Hugo had built to keep his kind in. Not that he knew for sure that there were other humans in there, but he’d heard the guards talk about them. Hugo had built a special cage just for him, you know, for old times sake. He had been fed by things that seemed almost human in manners but once visual contact had been confirmed, it was obvious how inhuman they truly were. He had studied their movements enough, mostly to stop from going mad, well madder, to note the differences. None of them moved the way a human would, at least, he didn’t think so. Except this one.
It was quite possible that the shape he had seen, might have seen, thought he’d seen, was just a product of insanity. Even Hugo’s, he refused to call him by that ridiculous name he’d chosen, “polite talks” could ground him for only so long before he succumbed to the inevitable. He had thought about it before and he knew that it was only a matter of time before he became a gibbering mess begging for freedom, willing to do anything for it. In his darker moments, he could see him becoming nothing but rage and violence.
Hugo. Rage burned in Lio’s chest at the unfairness of it all. He’d lost his wife, his baby, and his world under the span of eight or nine hours. Could have been longer. But it was probably nine hours, he’d run the math hundreds if not thousands of times. And it had happened because he had been asleep. God, he had been… wait. He squinted, was that movement?
“Hello?” Nothing. He sighed, of course there wasn’t anything there. “You’re just seeing things. This is it, you’re finally going crazy. Loco, insane, 미친 .” Heh, his wife used to call him that.
“What was that last word? Mii-chayn?”
If Lio had the mute ability to shed his skin out of fright, he would have done so. “Who? What?”
“Sorry, sorry.” Now that he was expecting a response, it sounded...young and female? “Hi, I’m Kipo. It’s nice to meet you.”
Kipo, huh, that was a name they had discussed, never decided on one though.
“Ah, above you.”
“Above?” He muttered squinting his eyes to look. It was pitch darkness all around outside of his cage, after all it was supposed to be night, or at least he thought it was. It was hard to tell when his cage gave off a constant source of light.
“Can humans not see in the dark?”
”Ha! I knew it wasn’t just me!” Not a human then, that was unfortunate. But it was still the first friendly voice he’d heard in years.
“I’m going to assume you’re not human. So if I can ask, what are you?”
“Dunno. Scar doesn’t know either.”
“Scar?” Don’t think about it, it probably wasn’t him.
“Scar-le-mag-ne.” It was, why wouldn’t it be. Although, the probably cub? Pup? Child, he decided, was probably closed to Hugo if they could get away with calling the murderer “Scar”. Scarlemagne, that name. Lio took a deep breath, don’t scare the kid. Besides Hugo, who really only came by to gloat or boast about his future plans, no one really talked to him. He had known that looking forward to the visits meant that he was starved for company. And if this child was able to sneak in here and maybe willing to come back. It would at least be a nice change of pace. And maybe, just maybe, it could be a way out.
“Tell me," Lio said settling onto his back. "What do you know about stars?”
Lio woke to the sound of metal banging. He didn’t bother to move, it was probably just food being delivered. But when it clicked, that was the exact sound of a door being unlocked. The door squeaked open, well now that was unusual. If it was Hugo finally coming to kill him, he was taking his time. Lio waited, counting the footsteps silently, it had to be just right and he could escape. Except, it didn’t have the same gait as Hugo, coming in slower, smaller, but steady pace.
He sat up and turned to face, “Kipo?”
She squeaked, both startled and an affirmation. She had moved quickly backward, now outside the cage of the door.
Honestly, he’d never actually seen her. She had been careful to be just outside the radius that the light had shown, smart for however old she was. Being able to properly see her now, he realized that she was possibly several years younger than initially guessed. But some mutes matured fast so it was equally possible that she was considered an adult. Not that their interactions had indicated so. She looked so… human for one who claimed not to be one. But she could have a tail somewhere under the layers of clothes she was wearing. Besides the clothes she also wore an ill-fitting silver mask, not unlike those he’d seen on other humans.
“Kipo, why are you here?”
“Shh. We gotta go.”
“Kipo, what’s going on?” He asked gently even as he moved quickly toward the cage exit.
Her eyes darted toward him and then off to where he knew the hall doors. “He’s going to kill you.”
“So what’s the plan?”
“We’re going to get you out.” Alright then, no plan. He moved toward the hall doors and listened. Nothing. No patrol. Odd. He put his hand on the knob. When Kipo’s gloved hand tugged it away and shook her head.
“Wha-?” She motioned for him to listen.
Thump, thump, thump. That was the sound of a frog coming down the hall. He hadn’t heard it even in the near silence. They waited there until it had passed.
“This way,” Kipo whispered opening the door and following the frog.
They made it a few meters before Kipo tugged him into an unlit crawlspace just as another patrol went by.
“Are the preparations finished?” That was Hugo. The voice echoed metallic through the space. There was an affirmation. “First on the list tomorrow then. Afterall one needs to attend to business before pleasure.” Lio wanted to listen more, but Kipo was already moving. He followed quietly.
“Kipo, I need supplies.” He said when they were a safe distance away. She looked at him blankly.
“Like a weapon.” Nothing. “Shiny pointy things.” That she understood that and took the next left before opening the door on the right. Lio stopped and stared. These were artifacts from before. He picked up a knife and grabbed the nearest belt to secure it to his person. Hugo had stockpiled a lot old weapons, and in relatively good repair, which meant he was closer to his goal than Lio had initially believed. He needed to end it now, he could avenge Song, and prevent Hugo’s plans of domination. He just needed a weapon. But what about Kipo? She was bouncing from one leg to another. Lio grabbed the lightest shortsword that he could reach.
“Let’s go,” Lio said as he began to form a plan. When they had to hide in another dark aea, he took his chance. The hilt of the knife came down on her head, praying that it was just enough and he didn’t accidentally kill her.
“I’m sorry,” he said as she fell. “But this has to end now.” Then he slipped back into the hallway toward where Hugo’s voice was coming from. He nudged open the door. Hugo and a rodent mute were the only ones there. He could do this. Taking out the sword, he still kept the knife in his dominant hand. He had a plan. He could do this, he could do this. The knife left his hand as he entered. It was a lucky shot but both mutes had turned to look at him and the rodent dropped clutching its paws to its eye.
“How did you escape?” Hugo spat angrily. “No matter. I was planning on waiting until tomorrow, but this will be much more fun.”
To say the fight was even would be giving Lio too much credit. Even with the other mute down he was hard pressed to keep up with the primate. Lio was full of wounds and bruises while Hugo had a few scratches. WIth each piece of flesh that came off the human, Hugo appeared to become more assured of his victory. But Lio knew how to play the long game, and he knew that overconfidence could be anyone’s downfall. So when Hugo finally made a mistake, he took his chance. Knocking his opponent off center, he reared back to slash down at his long time tormentor and felt it hit, but not his intended target. A smaller body had run forward and covered the primate’s body with its own. With the masked knocked off and in the lit space, Lio saw the face of his companion for the first time. Horror crashed down upon him, he knew those facial features. It was just one second, that lasted just short of forever, he knew.
“Song?” Except, no, that was the wrong name, it wasn’t right but it wasn’t wrong either. The spell over Lio was broken by a cry of rage as Hugo leapt forward and buried both feet into his rib-cage, throwing him against the far wall. He barely felt the impact against his head as it slammed into it. He did however, acutely feel the metal pipe that his midsection had been impaled on. Dazed, he watched his attacker throw Kipo, (his daughter?) out of the room. Hugo slammed the doors shut and turned toward the man on the ground.
“You better hope she lives, or I will find a way to bring you back and ensure that your second death is much more painful than this.”
“Song’s daughter. Not yours,” Hugo said as he swung the knife the human formerly wielded. And unlike Lio, he did not miss his intended target.
A/N: Lio says “michin” at least that’s how it is translated into English lettering, it’s Korean. I’m actually not sure if Song is Korean or Chinese, I went with Korean because it appears that the voice actor has ancestry there, although Kipo’s voice actor has Japanese ancestry… *shrugs*. I just don’t know Chinese as well as I know Korean (which is only about 5 words, Chinese I think I know 2?) so Korean it is. I have an ideas for Scarlemagne and Song but that's a whole other issue and I don't know if I'll ever get around to writing them. Also... cannibalism would be involved in Scarlemagne's chapter so there's that...
Chapter 3: Plans
This is the worst chapter I've written. I may re-write but I'm not writing anymore after this for a while, unless the next chapters (Song/Kipo/Wolf, yes there's three potential ones) decide to write themselves through my fingers. Song's chapter would likely be ridiculously long and would probably be titled "Consequences".
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Perhaps it was better this way. Kipo had learned a valuable lesson. Several if he did it right, it would take a certain finesse to get her to see it his way, but she did always strive to please him. And that made her a valuable asset. Someone who acted out of friendship, loyalty, and not fear was not a familiar sight in his world. The last one had died because of it. Paid for it in blood by his hand. And for that he valued highly the gifts that it had given. His freedom, and this child.
Scarlemagne looked down at the last true remnant of his past. It might be kinder if he just put her down. He could kill her, here and now, while she was asleep in his arms. She was so small still, she wouldn't put up much of a fight. His fur was still damp from where she had cried against it. If she was dead, she couldn’t be hurt anymore. He forced the thought from his head. Dead meant breaking a promise, and while he had broken many in his time, he wasn’t inclined to break that particular one. Even if she could sometimes be a nuisance. Incessant questions, not following instructions, trying to pet or worse hug (and he swears this by the graying of his fur) everything . Somehow she always managed to see the good in others, whether they deserved it or not.
But tonight had proved that he couldn’t protect her forever. It was bad enough that most mutes he employed only tolerated her because of his insistence. It had taken a particularly vicious first example to ensure they had fallen in line. Now he would have to downplay this disaster, somehow. Luckily this incident had involved Mateo, who of course would be compensated accordingly. At least he seemed to like Kipo or at least enough to indulge some of her more… physical inclinations. If he woke up that is.
Humans. If there were two traits they possessed to a madening degree, it was the knack they had for getting into trouble and the capacity to cruelty. He had thought that Song was an abnormality in the amount of trouble, most humans he kept didn’t get into half as much, but then Kipo had come along and perhaps it was more genetic than he’d initially thought. He’d had to address that, but how? Humans did have a large capacity for violence, maybe he could redirect those tendencies in such a way that could benefit them both. An idea, then a plan began to form in his mind.
“Kipo,” Scarlemagne watched as the girl flinched at the sound of his voice. He had tried to make it sound gentle, but that came difficult to him. “Eat.” She’d been pushing around her food for the last ten minutes, taking bites only when prompted. “Please.” This had been going on for two days and her guilt was still oozing into the atmosphere. It was making it very difficult to enjoy the meal. Which was a waste, because this was a delicacy that he’d ordered specially prepared.
“Kipo, I’ve been thinking,” Her head snapped toward him, terrified. “I don’t want a repeat of recent events, so I’ve called the Mod Frog Boss-”
“Don’t send me away. Please. I’ll do better. Please, it won’t happen again.” He blinked, he hadn’t accounted for that. She fell silent as his mind swiftly worked through what she said. He could work with that.
“I’m not sending you away, I asked her to send someone to train you.” Asked, more like ordered. The instant relief that Kipo felt, followed by confusion was easily read on her body. Predictable.
“How to defend yourself, I don’t want you hurt again.” Or himself in danger over something as stupid as human trust.
“Sir,” a small mammal addressed Scarlemagne. On his nod she continued, “you asked to be notified of any changes, Mateo is awake.”
“Very well. Make sure he is comfortable.” The possum bowed as she left. He turned toward Kipo, who was clearly using all her self control to keep from running to the infirmary. “Eat first, then you may go.” She scarfed down the food, he taught her better than that, but she was already out the door with a “thatwasverygoodthankyoubye”. He wondered if she knew Mateo would never recover his eye, and the dagger had done some damage to his brain. Usually, Scarlemagne would have put him out of his misery since there was no more use for him, but he had taken a gamble. Time would see if it paid off. Besides Kipo liked him, so he could prove useful.
He sighed, she was such a nuisance. Well if the Mod Frog assigned to the job didn’t kill her, maybe he could throw her to the wolves next, and if she survived that… perhaps the timbercats would be willing to take her in for a bit. That might take some “negotiation” though... His plate was empty, he called over a wolf and ordered another serving. In seconds another piece of meat was in front of him. He didn’t know what use she could be but he'd find a way to fit her into his plans. Somehow. It wouldn’t do to put all this work into her for no concrete reason.
As he took a bite, he lamented that it really was too bad human didn’t keep long.
A/N: Honestly, I don’t think Scarlemagne knows if he cares for her, or not so he gets it wrong a lot. And he sends a lot of mixed signals even in his own brain. Kipo though, is so oblivious, doesn’t care.