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Where I Live (Part 14)
I paused for a long time. My intention had been to drop Kole back off at his house and for Ethan and I to leave without him. Though he would be leaving home in a year or so, he was still so young. I didn’t want him coming with us. We were dealing with a hard core Hunter, someone who had managed to capture and contain numerous Birds of Prey and Wolves without getting his blood on the scene. He had even kept them intact enough to take pictures.
“Kole . . .” Ethan started, “I don’t think . . .”
He jerked his shoulder away as Ethan reached out to him. “I knew you were going to leave me. Why do you think I kept this?” He held up the paper for a second and then put it back into his pocket. “You’re not going anywhere without me guiding you.” He unfurled his wings.
“Kole, what are you –!?”
Without another word, Kole spun, took a few running steps and took off into the air. Snapping open his own, much larger wings, Ethan bent his knees and jumped up as his wings pumped down, shooting up into the air. At a loss for what to do, I took off into the forest, using all fours and running as fast as I could. I caught glimpses of black and white wings darting back and forth, back and forth. Ethan was trying to catch Kole, but Kole was dodging and Ethan would never just knock him out of the air. And with the paper still in Kole’s pocket, there was no way to take it from him.
They finally started slowing as I skidded to stop at the top of the outcropping where I had launched my bike into the water. Thankfully, the biker that had been chasing me was long gone, but I knew what Kole was going to do and that sucked away all the joy from being free of pursuit.
I watched helplessly as Kole dipped down close to the water and let something small and white fall from his hands. Folding his wings down flat, Ethan dive bombed towards the water, hand outstretched, but I didn’t see if he caught it. All I could think of as he plunged into the water was that it must have hurt. I waited anxiously, searching frantically around the area he had disappeared in.
He didn’t resurface.
Eyes wide with terror and worry, I launched myself off the edge and dove down into the water. It didn’t hurt nearly as much as before and I swam forward as fast as I could. My eyes adjusted and I saw Ethan floating easily, squinting a little against the water in his eyes. I pulled up in front of him and shook my head, then pointed towards the surface. I started to go up and when he didn’t follow, I gave his hair a little tug. He winced, most of his held in air escaping, and started to follow. I broke the surface silently and he came up coughing and sputtering. I thought it was kind of unfair that if he kept his wings spread out on top of the water like they were he didn’t have to swim.
“What was that for?” He asked, still coughing.
“You were staying down too long.” I replied simply, looking around as I treaded water.
“I could have stayed down there longer.”
“It doesn’t matter anyway.” I sighed, “Even if you found the paper the ink would have either washed away or run down enough that we won’t be able to read it. . . Come on,” I added when I saw his downtrodden look. “Let’s get back to shore. A little bird told me that another little bird is about to die.” I turned and started to swim away.
“That could be a problem.”
“Why?” I turned back to look at him. He hadn’t moved.
“My wings are keeping me floating but I’m not sure I know how to swim.”
I couldn’t help but smile, mad as I was, and held out a hand to him. “Just take my hand and kick your feet.”
He reached out hesitantly and grabbed my hand, then pushed his wings underneath the water with an effort. He sunk a little, making him panic for a split second, but I pulled on his hand, keeping his head above water. I turned to face him and kicked my feet, careful not to hit him. He must have known how to swim before he lost his memory since he did surprisingly well.
When we got to shore, I was panting a little and I looked up into the trees, searching until I saw a flash of black. Baring my teeth in fury, I leapt up onto one of the lower branches and within seconds had gotten to the highest branch I could get to. Feeling like my clan’s namesake, I crouched down and waited for my quarry to come into view. Then, I launched myself up into the air.
Kole gave a yelp of surprise as I slammed into him and tumbled down into the trees. I fell in after him and managed to catch myself before I started bouncing off branches. Kole had gotten caught in the tree’s limbs a few feet down and was hanging limply, trying not to fall again. Ethan had folded his wings in and was climbing up to help.
I growled down at him, making him cringe in fear. “You insignificant little insect! What did you think you were doing!?”
“Making myself an asset.” He called back. “Now if you want to find this guy I’m going too.”
“Do you have any idea what that means?” I climbed down a few branches closer, claws digging into the tree’s bark. “We’re going into a Hunter’s lair. It has to be big enough to hold all of the Birds and Wolves that are missing which means we’ll probably get lost as he sits back and does what he was born to do. Hunt. I’m not going to lie to you, young though you are. We’re probably going to die.”
“Kryn.” Ethan reprimanded as he got closer.
“Or worse,” I continued, coming down a couple more branches, “We’ll get caught. Now I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting a Hunter except for one that hadn’t even started to learn the tricks of the trade. I was little but even then, my dad was there. We’re dealing with a full-fledged adult who’s caught and detained many Birds and Wolves, all varying in ages. Do you think it’s going to be easy? We’re just going to walk in and say, ‘Release them, you heathen!’ like your precious Tsukasa did? And I, like his dear Ayumi, will help him save the day with a sweep of my sword?” I swung my arm like I was holding the weapon in my hand. “Is that how your fantasy world goes?”
“Kryn!” Ethan snapped, helping Kole right himself. “Stop! You’re not helping.”
“I’m helping him see the truth, the reality of the fact that we’re about to walk to our deaths!”
“Calm down, Kryn. Let’s talk about this rationally.”
“Maybe I don’t feel very rational right now! Maybe I feel like Ayumi! Maybe I won’t change like she did! Maybe I can’t be a hero!”
“Change? Change from what? Like Ayumi . . .” He slowly put the pieces together, “Changed . . . when she saved Tsukasa. . .” He looked up at me, eyes registering worry and a little fear. “There’s something to change? Before she changed . . . Ayumi wanted to kill Tsukasa. . . D-Does that mean . . .”
Realizing my mistake, I launched myself out of the tree and landed in the next one over. Then, barely touching the branches to slow my fall, I jumped down to the ground. I shoved my hands in my pockets and started walking in the direction Kole had pointed to.
“Come on, boys,” I shouted up at them, “We best get moving.”
They started following me after a while and, showing surprising will power, Ethan refrained from asking what I knew was on his mind. Ayumi had tried to kill Tsukasa before joining him. Ethan wanted to know if I felt the same way towards him. The truth was that I did, but I would never admit it.
We walked in silence for a long time, Kole leading the way. Every once in a while, he would climb up one of the trees and look to see which way we should go. But after the trees started thinning out, he walked with more and more confidence. It took nearly an hour once we got back onto normal roads, but we easily found the library where the website had been updated. Though our clothes were dry, Ethan and I still looked frazzled and dirty, which attracted unwanted stares, so we went to a clothing store and bought a change of clothes. When we were done with that and went to the library, we found out something that put us all in a depressed mood.
There were no more clues.