4. Second by Second
"How do you do this every single day? I'd have died of boredom after half a day," Ikaika muttered to Mahli as he plucked a blade of grass and tore it to tiny pieces. He leaned back, throwing up the grass bits like confetti into the air. "Seriously, can't we do something else? I'm going to die if we don't get up and move around or something."
"You just want an excuse to go into the forest again," Mahli growled. He was noticeably more irritable around Ikaika lately. "I didn't ask you to come with me so why are you even here?"
Ikaika turned over, grinning toothily at his best friend. "Aww, don't be like that, Mahli. Are you still mad at me for what I did last time? You know I didn't mean to torture you so much. I mean, I know you want me so badly but—ow. Heh..." He rubbed his ribs where Mahli had jabbed him. "You're really angry, aren't you? Come on, Mahli, lighten up. I came here to keep you company. Don't you want me here?" Laughing, he grabbed Mahli from behind and began tickling his sides. The younger boy tried to fight.
"Get - off!" Mahli wheezed. He was trying hard not to laugh but that was all he could do, at the mercy of Ikaika and his hands. "I mean it, get off!" Finally able to push Ikaika away, he straightened his shirt and glared at his friend. "Seriously…you're such a pain."
"You don't mean that." Ikaika wound up for another attack and lunged but caught nothing but air. "Come back, Mahli, my dah-ling!" he cried pathetically as he saw Mahli get up and lead the sheep up the hill. "Does this mean we can finally do something else?"
"Not with you," was Mahli's short reply.
"Fine, then I'll just sit here, all alone… Talk to myself…all alone…" Ikaika whimpered as he sat down and plucked another blade of grass, throwing Mahli puppy faces every now and then. He heard his friend sigh and grinned as he looked up. "Come on, Mahli. Let's—"
"No." Mahli was glaring Ikaika down now. "We're not going back into the forest. I'm not going to let you bully me into it this time."
"That wasn't what I was going to suggest but point taken," Ikaika said, raising his hands in defeat. He smiled. "You know, you look pretty cute when you're all pissed like that. I just want to—" As he lunged for Mahli, he found he was stopped by a hand in his face.
"Shut up, you idiot." Mahli was frowning as he stared at a point beyond Ikaika's shoulder. "Did you hear that?" His voice was no louder than a whisper.
"Hear what? Your heart crying out to me—"
"No, that!" Mahli hissed at Ikaika to hush, straining his own ear. "That…"
Ikaika shut up obediently for once and tried to hear this strange noise that had caught Mahli's attention. "I don't hear anything, Mahli—" He stopped short. He'd definitely heard it that time. It was very faint, as if the source was far away, but he definitely heard it. That howling sound, like a dog would make but deeper, more enigmatic… The boys looked at each other. "Mahli, take the sheep and get back to the village, right now," he told his friend in a low voice. His voice no longer had that joking tone.
Mahli shifted nervously. "What about you? You're not going after it, are you? Ika, it's dangerous. Don't—"
"I'll be fine. Just take the sheep and go back, alright? I'll be back. I just want to take a look. I won't make you come with me this time if you really don't want to." Ikaika was already heading toward the edge of the forest by the time Mahli opened his mouth to argue.
"Ika, you idiot! Let's just go back," Mahli called down. Ikaika didn't stop or even look back.
"I'm going, Mahli. Don't worry about me. Just get back as quickly as you can." By then he was already standing at the edge of the forest, where the trees grew together in a dense mass. He glanced back quickly to make sure Mahli had done as he'd told him to and gone back. Slowly, cautiously, he took a few steps into the forest. The air suddenly felt different, as if he'd walked through an invisible wall. It was stifling, almost to the point of suffocating, but he trudged on regardless. The hairs on the back of his neck were raised and he could feel a shiver coursing under his skin. Still he knew he had to go on. He had to find out this time. He had to know.
After a while, Ikaika stopped in his path. He'd walked quite a distance into the forest and all he could see were the occasional rodent scurrying into its burrow upon hearing his approach or the flutter of wings as crows scattered in the canopy above. He let out a low sigh. So much for that, he thought to himself as he turned and began to head back. At that moment, his arms seemed to sprout numerous goose bumps. It was as if a demon were breathing down his neck. He turned back.
It wasn't a demon but it could have been close. The large beast before him was even more majestic than he remembered. Motionless, it pierced Ikaika with those blue eyes, taunting him, daring him to run. They both knew that if it came down to speed, Ikaika was at a loss. He couldn't wrestle the animal either; it would probably gnaw him to bits before he could land a punch. Out of options, Ikaika just stood there, sharing that strange staring contest with the wolf.
It felt as though he stared for hours. The sun barely peeked through the foliage above, but the light fell in such a way that the wolf's white fur glistened. Ikaika was close enough that he could see the beast's nostrils flaring as it sniffed. After a moment, he saw the wolf's ears twitching and heard branches breaking behind him. He whirled around, suddenly afraid that he'd find himself surrounded. His eyes widened. "Mahli! What are you doing here? Go back, right now," he hissed, still not moving the rest of his body.
Mahli was staring forward, entranced as well by the great animal before them. His body froze as soon as he'd grabbed Ikaika's arm. "What do we do? Do we run?" he whispered. He was trembling, his fear practically reverberating into Ikaika's body.
"Move slowly. We'll walk back," Ikaika replied lowly. He pushed Mahli, forcing him to walk. His own eyes never left the wolf. As the two boys slowly crept backward, the animal only watched them, a seemingly amused glimmer in his eyes. When they were finally far enough, Ikaika broke into a run, dragging Mahli along with him.
Finally they reached open grass. Both Ikaika and Mahli's chests heaved as they panted, still staring behind them into the trees. It was growing darker and seemed to send chills down their spines. "Why did you come back, Mahli?" Ikaika demanded. "You should have stayed in the village."
"I was worried about you. You're such an idiot. You could have died…we both could have died." Mahli was still clutching Ikaika's arm for dear life. His grip tightened. "We can't tell anybody we were back there. We'll get in so much trouble…"
Ikaika frowned as he pried Mahli's iron grip from his arm before he bruised. "No, we have to warn them. We have to tell them that the wolf is real."
"I'm telling you, Ika, we can't—"
"And I'm telling you, Mahli, that if we don't tell them now, that wolf is going to come to the village one night while everybody is sleeping, and then what? We'll be off-guard, and who knows what that thing might do." Ikaika looked down at his friend with unwavering eyes. "Come on. We'll go to my father."
Mahli hesitated. He shook his head. "Nobody's going to believe us. Remember what happened last time?"
"This time I've got you to back me up. Right?" Ikaika frowned when Mahli avoided his gaze. "Right, Mahli?"
After a moment's silence, Mahli finally spoke. "I'm sorry, Ika. I don't need any more trouble right now. Nobody's going to believe us anyway. Your father told us not to go back to the forest too."
Ikaika sighed in frustration. "A load of help you are," he grumbled as he marched right up to his house. He shoved the door open. "Father, there really is a wolf this time!" he called out. Immediately his father emerged from his room.
"What are you babbling about, Ikaika?" the man demanded. He looked up to see Mahli standing at the door, looking terrified. "Don't tell me you boys went back to the forest. I distinctly forbid you from going back—"
"Father, please listen. There was a noise. We both heard it. It was a wolf, I swear. Mahli saw it this time too. It was big and white and—"
"Silence!" Ikaika shut up immediately as his father's voice boomed through the house. "I will not tolerate any more of this. Ikaika, if you go back to the forest one more time, I will not overlook it. Any more disobedience from you and—"
"And what? You'll kick me out of the village? Disown me?" Ikaika met his father's furious glare. "Father, you never listen to me. Just once will you please—?"
A sharp sound filled the air as Ikaika's head snapped to the side and his cheek turned a deep red. "I will not hear of this any longer, Ikaika. If I find out you have disobeyed me one more time, I will have no choice but to have you banished from here."
Ikaika looked up at his father, cheek still stinging but face resolute. "I didn't think you'd be such a dictator, Father. What would mother think?"
"Ika, stop!" Mahli rushed forward, finally able to move his legs as he grabbed Ikaika by the arm and pulled him back before his father could pummel him. By now the man looked at his son like a bull about to charge. "I'm sorry, Sir. I promise it won't happen again. I'll make sure to keep Ikaika away from the forest."
"Make sure you do, Mahli. This is your last chance, Ikaika." The man turned sharply after that and disappeared into his study.
Mahli exhaled. "Ika, you're such an idiot—"
Ikaika jerked his arm away from Mahli. "Get out of here. You didn't even think to back me up, did you? You're such a coward," he muttered. He turned his back to the other as he plunked down in a chair.
"I may be a coward but at least I know when to shut up about things," Mahli retorted.
"Yeah, that's all you're ever good at, isn't it? Keep your mouth shut."
"At least I'm not so selfish like you! Did you ever think about me, Ika? I have my own family too. I have my life here. If your father kicks us both out for being liars and riling up the whole village, I'll have nothing. Did you ever think about that? I can't just throw everything away like you. I'm not carefree and yes, I'm a coward sometimes, but that's because there are things I care for that I don't want to lose. What about you, Ika? All you ever do is cause trouble and drag me into it. Is it because you're bored? Then why don't you leave here and go somewhere far and look for adventure or something stupid like that? That's something you'd do, isn't it?"
"Don't talk about me like you understand me."
Mahli scoffed. "I do understand you. I know you better than anybody. Ever since your mother—"
"Don't you dare talk about my mother," Ikaika growled. The chair fell backward as he lunged to his feet and grabbed Mahli by the collar.
"What are you going to do, punch me? Come on, I dare you to." Mahli muttered. He looked at his best friend sadly. "Can't do it? Coward." He stumbled a few steps back as Ikaika let go and shoved him back.
"Get out of here."
"Fine. But you need to get your priorities straight, Ika. What's more important to you right now?" Mahli sighed softly as he turned and left, closing the door softly behind him.
2 years? Dayum. But an update at last! I was going through my many backups and found my old story bin and figured, why the hell not. I'm bored and have nothing better to do but do it for the lulz. Big thanks to you readers and reviewers. You guys rock my socks D.
So much talking in this one, ain't there? Kinda emotionally charged at the end too. Kinda... I need to work on my dialog. But I'm tired and just had a mega-nap that turned into a mega-sleep and decided to churn out this chapter. If there are any glaring errors please feel free to let me know!
Will there be more chapters? Probably! When? Dunno! +)