Chapter 4, Day 6 – The Looming Storm
Mīwa wakes up to a grey morning, rain drizzling from the sky and her fur already soggy. For a minute, she’s confused as to why grass is beneath her instead of the familiar mosses and dry seaweed of her nest; then she remembers where she is and everything comes flooding back.
Their home is gone. Kōri is gone. Sashi is gone. Everything is gone.
For a minute she lies still, feeling the dripping rain send cold shivering through her. She feels suddenly tired, a bitter, hard tiredness instead of normal exhaustion.
But she learned a long time ago that sadness isn’t worth it. So she pushes herself to her feet and checks the situation, as rain drips into her eyes and down her face and trickles along her beak.
Pipiri is curled up beside where Mīwa was; still apparently asleep. Rōre was next to the wanderer, Sēse, when they settled down last night, but apparently it made their new tribe member uncomfortable, or she was unused to being so near others, since she’s sleeping a bit of a distance from the others instead. A dryer patch near the edge of the clearing, apparently his sleeping spot, is the only sign of Kūta ever existing; but after a quick scan Mīwa sees a trail of crushed grasses marking the route he took away. She decides not to worry about him.
The thick clouds coating the sky from horizon to horizon make it impossible to see the sun, but Mīwa guesses it is around the same time as they first arrived on this island the previous day; just after sunrise. The air has a biting chill to it, and the water seeping through her pelt only amplifies the cold, leaving Mīwa shivering. She can’t imagine how cold Pipiri will be when she awakes.
Although tempted to lay back down in the grass and let it shelter her from the rain, Mīwa soon comes to the conclusion that she will only become wetter and colder; and it also occurs to her that they don’t yet have a steady supply of food. She glances back at the sleeping tribe. Nobody is stirring, so she turns away and starts to push through the damp grasses away from their temporary camp.
After moving a few paces away, she pauses. She doesn’t know if it’s safe to go out alone in this new place… but after thinking for a few minutes, she decides that the matter of food is urgent enough that she’ll risk it. Anyway, they have a healing plant tucked away in the nearby grasses in case of emergencies. But there’s also the problem of where exactly prey, or any kind of food, may be. The berry bush they gathered from the previous day was in the other direction, past the sleeping-place, and now that she’s left she doesn’t want to double back and possibly wake anyone up.
Instead, it occurs to her that with her platypus beak, she may be able to gather worms from the sea-floor, or even catch fish. Although she doubts either of those will be an enjoyable meal to the others, it’s the least risky option; so a short while later she’s padding towards the low, constant roaring sound of waves breaking against the rocky island shore.
The second Mīwa steps out from the sheltered grasses, she feels an icy wind slicing through her pelt; it seems to blow constantly along this dreary shore, even on clear days like the one before. The noises of the rain and sea and wind mingle, forming a low sound that drowns out everything else. Despite this making her nervous – how is she meant to be wary of danger when she won’t hear it coming? – Mīwa starts moving across the beach, her feet sinking into thick, wet sand with every step.
She reaches the ocean after what feels like an eternity struggling against the wind and stops with the waves lapping her claws, feeling the freezing chill in the water. Then she takes a deep breath and moves deeper, the choppy waves splashing against her legs, and after a few more steps, her belly.
Blinking water out of her eyes yet again, she tries to see through the churned-up water to find a soft patch of sand that she can dig in with her beak. But the storm-tossed waves are foamy and tumultuous, dark and blurry from sand and shadows. After struggling for several minutes to see anything through the water, she decides she has to resort to diving down.
She takes a deep breath and plunges under. Immediately, the world turns quiet. Distorted shadows of waves pass over her head, and silver glints of fish flicker past. She forces herself not to get distracted and quickly searches the seafloor, using her deformed paw to skim over the sand and find soft patches. Just before her breath runs out, she finds one; but she has to swim to the surface, gulping for air. Her hind legs, barely grazing the bottom, are all that keep her from being swept out by a current.
She dives under again as soon as she gets her breath back, but as is the nature of turbulent seas, she’s lost the spot. She finds another one – or maybe the same – quicker this time, however, and plunges her beak into the soft sand, using the flat, spade-like top to scrape it away. Her vision is obscured by the fine clouds of sand that fill the water, but she manages to feel the worms she unearthed and hold them in her beak as she kicks off the sea-floor, shooting to the surface.
Her ears are filled again with the loud rush of rain and waves, and she’s disorientated for a moment. When she gets her bearings again, Mīwa realizes she’s further out to sea then she expected, and she hastily starts swimming back. It’s hard going, and by the time she reaches shore – half helped along by a smaller wave – her legs ache and she’s shivering with cold.
That is NOT worth a few puny worms, she thinks remorsefully as she deposits them on the ground.
There are only three of them, not even enough to feed everyone. In their old home, she’s brought back as many as nine; then almost everyone here could eat two, which would be ideal. But as it is, only three of them will get to eat, and only one worm.
She sighs, hoping the others have the sense to gather from the berry-bush they found the previous day. Otherwise it’s going to be a hungry morning and a hard day, searching for food until dusk.
A while later, Mīwa steps into their temporary camp just as the rain starts pouring down even harder. Everyone else is awake – and to Mīwa relief, Pipiri has some berries piled in front of her, mostly fresh as if gathered from the bush only today. It seems they were waiting for Mīwa before they started to eat.
She pads up and drops the worms next to their berries. “Good morning.”
Pipiri smiles at her, before frowning a bit and glancing back the way Mīwa came. “Where’s Kūta?” she asks.
“No idea,” Mīwa replies, a bit startled. “Why? Haven’t seen him?”
“No,” Pipiri replies, looking slightly concerned.
Sēse is eyeing the berries hungrily, but she glances up. “We thought he was with you,” she explained. “But I guess not?”
“I haven’t seen him all morning,” Mīwa says.
Pipiri hesitates, and then sighs. “Well, we’ll look for him after we eat; just leave some for him.” Mīwa nods; Sēse looks uncertain, but then nods too. Rōre refuses to acknowledge any of them except for Sēse, so he just glowers at the rainy sky before grabbing two berries and starting to eat them. Mīwa eats a worm, since she knows the others will rather have berries; and by the end of their meal, nobody has touched them, so she has another. All that’s left for Kūta is the third worm and two somewhat shriveled berries that nobody else wanted.
“Let’s go look for him,” Pipiri mutters, clearly unhappy. She pushes the remaining food to the side, where it’s well-hidden, before forcing her way out of the grass ahead of the others, following the trail that Kūta left that morning. It’s more subtle now, but still visible; and Pipiri can probably smell his scent, too, something Mīwa finds tricky at the best of times due to her unusual snout.
Suddenly Pipiri stops, Mīwa almost stumbling into her. Mīwa can’t see past her, but from how tense Pipiri is, it’s not good.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Pipiri growls at someone. She steps forward and Mīwa sees what is going on; Kūta is crouched beside the healing plant, and the flower is gone.
He sits up, looking startled, and Mīwa sees bright orange petals scattered around the wet grass.
“Well, I found it yesterday,” he starts, “and I remembered they heal wounds and stuff, so I thought-”
With a snarl, Pipiri leaps at him, pushing him away. He stumbles, slipping on the wet grasses, eyes wide and shocked. Mīwa moves to Pipiri’s side as she scans the ground, but nothing remains except scraps of petals, glistening with raindrops.
“You ate it,” Pipiri growls, her voice low and threatening. Her eyes are like twin flames, blazing with rage.
“…Yeah, w-what’s wrong with that?” Mīwa is amazed by how straightforward he is, no excuses. His voice is shaking a bit, but if Pipiri hadn’t been angry Mīwa suspects he would’ve made it seem casual. Like, why not eat healing flowers whenever he wants? She glares at him, too.
Pipiri shoves her muzzle in his face, and he flinches back, looking almost comically startled. “What if I’d gotten hurt? Or Mīwa?” Mīwa is interested to notice she doesn’t even mention Sēse or Rōre – both of who had now emerged from the grasses and are standing nearby. She hopes that if one of them did get hurt, Pipiri wouldn’t deny them the right to get healed. There’s part of our tribe, too, and she leads this tribe. Forcing down her worries, she keeps listening as Pipiri continues.
“Then would you have eaten this plant for – what? Your sickness?” Pipiri lashes her tail. Mīwa is startled; she had almost forgotten about his sickness, and now she feels guilt prickling through her fur for her earlier anger.
Of course he ate it. If I was sick, I suppose I would have probably done the same.
She touches Pipiri’s flank with her tail and she looks back, startled. Mīwa’s gaze seems to convey her thoughts to Pipiri, because her gaze hardens is annoyance before she turns back to Kūta as he starts speaking.
“I mean… yeah… why shouldn’t I? Nobody else was hurt, so I thought-”
Pipiri cuts him off sharply, but in a calmer voice then before. “That’s understandable. But you should have asked my permission.” Mīwa is relieved to see that Pipiri understood her wordless message.
Kūta looks anxious, ears lowered, before admitting quietly, “I thought you wouldn’t let me.”
She probably wouldn’t have wanted to, Mīwa thinks to herself. But I would have convinced her to. Really, he should’ve just asked; then there wouldn’t have been trouble.
Pipiri narrows her eyes, before flicking her tail sharply. “It doesn’t matter. You’ve eaten it now, so there’s nothing we can do.” Seeing nervousness flicker in Kūta’s eyes, she adds, “I’m not going to punish you.” He sighs, relieved, but she continues in a harder voice; “Just don’t do that again. Ask my permission next time.”
Kūta immediately looks nervous again, but he quickly nods and mumbles some words of confirmation. Mīwa stands quietly at Pipiri’s side as she says something about food, but as Pipiri starts heading back toward camp with Kūta following, Mīwa hangs back. “Are you two coming?”
Sēse and Rōre are still by the plant; at Mīwa’s words, they look up, Sēse with surprise and Rōre with undisguised hostility. “No,” he snaps. “We’ll catch up later.” When she doesn’t immediately leave, he adds, “Better go catch up to your great leader before she gets back to camp, or she might banish you for being slow.”
Mīwa’s fur bristles in rage, and she glares at him. “Pipiri is our leader now,” she hisses. “You’d better learn to respect her.”
With that, she turns away and pads back towards camp, forcing down her lingering doubt.
Yes, I finally finished this chapter! I’ve been working on this on and off for about four days now, and I’m very happy to finally have it done. From now on, chapters will not be posted every day; I’ll try and post one every two days, but it may be as long as a week between chapters. However, I promise I’ll try my very best to post at least one a week.
After this chapter there will be a time-skip, because the next few days in-game are just them moving further up the mountain.
Also, sorry for the lack of photos; the entire scene with Mīwa getting worms was actually not a real scene! It was instead a replacement for a scene at the very beginning where she gathered worms, which I did not include here. So obviously I had no photos of that scene, otherwise I would’ve posted them.
If you’re surprised that I used basically a fake scene… I’m going to do that a lot. It makes the story seem much more real, so that’s why I do it. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed! See you in the next chapter!