Chapter 12

It was almost noon, and Ruby and Elia had not found Sable yet or found their way out of the forest's maze. Since the alacat encounter, the two young women treaded the forest with more caution. Ruby, however, grew paranoid and could not help her imagination carry her to vicious bears and other predators lurking in the Ajar Forest.

"Let's play a game," Elia said, noticing the redhead's anxiety.

"A great way to kill time," Ruby remarked dryly without much enthusiasm. "Are we going to play a question game?"

"Sure," the blonde replied. "Whatever 'game' we can play."

Hmm, Ruby thought. What should I ask her though? An idea finally appeared in her head. "What will be the last thing you would do before you die?"

"Umm…" Elia contemplated hesitantly.

"What you say must be perfectly true," added the grinning redhead. "If I think you're lying, then you'll lose the game."

Elia gazed at Ruby, unsure how to answer the question. She did not care much for losing the game, but she did not lie either. "If that's the case…" the warrioress began, "then before I die… I want to spend my last time with you."

Ruby blushed, staring embarrassing at Elia. Was she kidding with her? The warrioress said it with such a straight face that it could not been a lie. Elia probably had meant it. "Are—are you just trying to make me feel better?" Ruby stammered.

Elia did not move her eyes away from Ruby's. "I'm serious, Ruby. You asked for the truth, so that's my answer."

"Then, that's what I want too before I die," Ruby replied, looking down at the ground. She had no idea what she had just said, but she knew she had just confessed feelings that were stirring inside of her since they met again. The redhead received a warm smile from Elia.

The two broke contact when they spotted figures walking toward them in the distance. Could it be Sable? Before Ruby's mind could process her thoughts, Elia gently took her hand. "Come on."

Bluey was sleeping like a rock in Sable's arms throughout the walk. Since the alacat cub had been lost, she had not slept much without being afraid. Sable had a small conversation meanwhile with Colin about his life in Serendi. When she was about to tell him about her grandmother, they spotted Elia and Ruby sprinting towards them. What was peculiarly interesting was that the two tall women were holding hands together.

"Sable!" Elia called out, catching her breath. "We've finally found you. Who's this guy?" She moved her eyes curiously at Colin whom appeared he was hiding behind the ranger; he was greatly terrified by the tall warrioress and her hooded companion. Elia suddenly recognized him as the fur trapper she saw in town. "Wait, he's that fur trapper!" It took less than a spilt second for Elia and Ruby to whisk their weapons out. Colin shrunk back more behind the ranger.

"He's not an enemy," Sable began coolly as she stroked the sleeping cub's fur. "He tried to feed Bluey."

Ruby and Elia stared at the alacat Sable was petting and sheathed their weapons back. They apologized to Colin.

"It's all right," Colin replied as he recovered. "I expected this. I was part of the fur trading business, but I was new to it. I just came to realization that it was wrong." He told the two women what had happened when he had been with Tyrell and Cathan.

"You aren't going to put a bounty on her head, right?" Ruby asked.

Colin shook his head hard. "No, I won't! I wouldn't do such a thing. I'm kind of glad that… they're dead."

Sable stopped petting Bluey and looked up at Ruby. "A bounty on my head? What is… that?"

"A bounty hunt is basically a paid assassination," Elia answered. "Towns tend to post bounties for 'wanted' people whom tend to be dangerous."

"Well, that sounds very unpleasant," Sable remarked. "I may had killed Tyrell and Cathan, but I only did what a ranger would do to protect Bluey and the forest's alacats. I am justified for what I did." Nevertheless, Sable could never imagine anyone going after her; if they could find her anyway. "Thanks for sticking with me," Sable said as she glanced at Elia, Ruby, and then Colin. She really meant it; if it was not for them, she would never had found Bluey. "Do you want to leave Ajar Forest now?"

Ruby and Elia glanced at each other. "Actually…" Elia began. "I feel a bit hungry now. We've been walking around looking for you…"

"And lost," the redhead added.

Sable's stomach started to rumble. Guess she was hungry as well since the last thing she remembered eating was the blackberries she picked. "We'll go hunting then," the ranger decided.

Everyone sat down together in the tree cavern. There was enough room for everyone to settle together to eat the fresh, cooked, hunted deer. Elia, Ruby, and Colin told stories about themselves and plans for their future. The redhead offered Colin to work with her father in his weapon shop, but he kindly declined. Meanwhile, Sable was watching Bluey gobble the raw venison ravenously. Her thoughts wandered curiously to how raw meat would taste like.

The alacat cub finished eating and stretched her body to gaze up at Sable. The ranger chuckled at the cub whom ate so messily. Blood stains were left all over Bluey's face and paws, but she started to groom herself to clean them off.

"What about you, Sable?" Elia asked. "Will you ever travel out the forest?"

Sable glanced up at the warrioress and shrugged. "Who knows?" The last time she was in town was when she was living with her grandmother back in Tameka Forest years ago. Tameka Forest, however, could never compare to the Ajar Forest where she had now called home. Sable was satisfied living with nature and preferred that than be surrounded by a human environment. Towns or cities were not her tastes.

After everyone's hunger was satiated, Sable escorted the three to the entrance of the Ajar Forest.

Ruby invited the ranger to visit her and Elia sometime in Serendi. "You can find Elia and me under the name of Jaden Royce, my father," the redhead said. "Please do visit us. I hope we will meet again."

Sable smiled at her. "Maybe when time calls."

Elia held her hand out to Sable. "And it was nice to meet you."

Sable shook Elia's hand with a nod. She glanced at Colin and nodded at him in recognition. He shyly waved his hand goodbye and turned to leave the Ajar Forest together with the two women.

Sable was now left with Bluey whom was in her arms. The alacat started to squirm, so the ranger placed her down. Bluey padded beside Sable and they headed back to the tree cavern. Sable gazed up the clear sky, her dark brown eyes softening. Two birds were soaring together which made a smile escape her lips.

Thank you, grandmother, Sable whispered silently. A light breeze kissed her cheek.

A monarch butterfly swooped over them, catching Bluey's complete attention. Bluey's cerulean blue eyes dilated with excitement. Jumping up to catch the butterfly in her paws, the alacat cub missed as it slipped out of her grasp. It taunted the cub as it fluttered ahead of them.

Bluey chased after the monarch butterfly, and Sable sprinted after the cub. "Wait up, Bluey!" Sable called out as her laugh echoed in the Ajar Forest.