"Ferra? Kain?" Zakk called out into the dark void as he passed through the shattered doorway. The debris filled lobby was barely visible through the dim lights that flickered occasionally only made known from the faint glow from the outside glare. "...Markus?" The hyena tried to gain anyone's attention at this point.
Ari stepped over to Zakk's side, leaning over to speak to him. "Don't ask me to be your glowstick in here, I'm pretty squeezed out as is," Ari brought his dirty humor in with him, referencing his Albedo glowing tendencies, and his weak, flacid labido in the same sentence. Luckily, it flew over Zakk's head as he stalled in the lobby, waiting for a response from the other group. Bewilderment was on full display on the hyena's face as he glanced from hallway to hallway, hoping to see a figure move within the shadows.
"...Little guy!" Zakk's sight fell onto the pangolin as he asked the golem a question. "You know your way around these parts, right?" His words had only left Acca speechless.
"Your little buddy doesn't speak Empyrean, remember?" Ari reminded his son with a chuckle, Acca shifted his eyes to the laughing armadillo, wondering what was so funny about their situation.
"...Of course," the sand-runner slapped his own forehead in realization, "sort of forgot in the heat of the moment back there..." He admitted, drawing Acca's attention with his voice. An idea soon dawned on the hyena as his eyes glimmered with inspiration. "...Hey Dad, by any chance can you speak his language?" he grasped the armadillo's shoulders as he stared into his eyes, hoping to convince him to talk to the pangolin without actually asking him to.
"...Sorta, all those years with Empyrean really made me forget the Terran language," Ari shrugged off Zakk's paws. "But if memory serves me right, you were speaking it too when you were a runt!" Ari grinned, unintentionally shifting the honors back to the sand-runner.
"Really?" The hyena raised an eyebrow, wondering how that was even possible when... "The flashback we had, that was all in Empyrean, I remember it as such," he brought up a valid point which the armadillo was quick to counter.
"That's because you understood it within here," Ari raised his tail up to prod its tip into the hyena's chest. "As sappy as that sounds, it's true," the armadillo grinned.
"Sounds like you've experienced it more than just once," Zakk stated his observation, curious about Ari's memory-filled tales.
"...More than I'd like to say," The albedo admitted, his cheeks turning red from his guilt. "My vicious search for crystals is a memory I'd like to forget..." He released a regretful sigh, knowing that he played a big role that led to their current situation.
"Hey, at least we're a family again!" Zakk remained positive, happy to have his father back. He would gladly do it all over again if it meant having Ari by his side.
"...Not quite," the armadillo shook his head with another heavy exhale, "Kira and Kevin... They're still gone," Ari was reminded with the fact. Hopelessness was the only thing alive in his eyes as his gaze fell down to nowhere in particular.
"Who?" Zakk asked, interested in who the Albedo was talking about. Their names sounded familiar to the hyena, he was sure he heard them somewhere before.
"Kira and Kevin... They're my family," Ari glanced back up at the sand-runner, fighting any ounce of sadness that would think of welling up and seeping out onto his cheeks. "My wife and son..."
"Oh... Yeah, I remember now," the hyena recalled the flashback he experienced with Ari. He shared a bittersweet moment with the armadillo and his photobook of beautiful landscapes and his long lost family. Images of Kira and Kevin from most of the photos he seen popped into his head. "I..." Zakk was at a lost for words, never fully experiencing first hand the loss of a friend or family member.
"You don't need to say anything, I'm sure they're in a better place now," Ari released his pent up feelings in a drawn out sigh, swallowing his tears and year long depression along with it.
"I'm sure you want some closure though... We made a promise to find them, remember?" The memory burned brightly in the hyena's mind, there was no way he was going to ignore a heavy promise he made as a child.
"I know, and I do, but... I've come to terms with it already..." Ari shook his head slowly, "Zakk, it's been years, they're gone now, I'm sure, I don't need to reopen that wound anyways," The armadillo regretted bringing the topic up in the first place. Ari sat himself down against a wall, Amelia still cradled in his arms, snoozing away.
"You need some more faith, Ari," The striped hyena took a seat next to him as Acca grew more impatient with their chatter. "It's been years for us two as well," he replaced his paw on the armadillo's shoulder. "And our paths crossed twice before... Even if they weren't on the best terms," Zakk let a nervous laugh slip out for a moment. Ari returned the gesture, able to laugh about it now that it was all behind them.
"I see your point..." The smile left the armadillo's lips with another heavy breath. "But it still hurts to think about them, that's why I've come to terms," Ari explained his heavy heart.
"...That's depressing," Zakk withdrew his paw, the Albedo's attitude was infectious. "I'm sorry, but it is!" He exclaimed with full honesty. Before the hyena could go off on a tangent, Kain had creeped in on them, walking up behind Acca.
"You guys done playing house!?" The porcupine had his paws on his hips as he scowled at the group with a tilted head. The golem picked up the familiar voice, spinning about instantly to meet the porcupine, toe to toe. Acca snarled at Kain, forcing the porcupine back with his sheer intimidation. Grabbing at his own rear, Kain didn't want to invoke another spanking from the problem child. Acca stepped closer, making sure the line between the porcupine and Amelia was easily seen. Zakk tried to understand what the pangolin was trying to prove, but shook his head as it was lost upon him.
"We were looking for you, but got caught up with some things along the way," the sand-runner stood up and walked over to the porcupine, making sure to pull Acca back as he passed the golem by. Kain's attention immediately swapped to the hyena as he grew closer, the pangolin now out of sight behind him. When the distance was close enough. Kain took Zakk aside to whisper something that meddling pangolins weren't aloud to hear.
"Why is the brat still with us?!" The porcupine kept his outburst to an angered hush, pulling the hyena closer by the collar of his armor, "shouldn't he be playing with blocks or picking his nose or something?"
"Well, he's kind of the ruler of this city and I dunno, his princess is in our care right now," Zakk rolled his eyes trying to state the obvious in a thick layer of sarcasm.
"Still! I don't like that look he's giving me right now..." The porcupine peeked over Zakk's shoulder to see the pangolin still giving him the evil eye. The hyena laughed it off, finding Kain's fear of the kid humorous at this point.
"You're afraid of a little tyke, aren't you Kain?" The sand-runner rubbed the fact in Kain's face, finally having something to hold over the porcupine if he happened to get on the hyena's nerves.
"Maybe if you felt the way he dishes out a beating you'd be scared too!" Kain felt his rear tingle hearing his own warning, his fur and spines standing on edge.
"Kain," The hyena placed his paws on the porcupine's shoulders, "You're a grown adult who can practically fry someone to a crisp with that electric power of yours, don't let him push you around. Rough him up a bit, let him know who's boss. Bonus points if you make him wet himself too!" There was a moment of self searching silence before the fact clicked with the porcupine, his eyes lighting up with the courage to confront his silly fears.
"You're right Zakk! I'll handle this!" The porcupine set the hyena aside as he marched up to the pangolin, rolling up sleeves that weren't there. Acca kept his eyes aimed at the approaching Thunder God, not intimidated in the slightest. "Look here you little shit," Kain greeted the pangolin with a staggering shove, his electricity seemingly lost on the pangolin's rocky scales. The fault was easily noticed by the porcupine, his mind instantly flooded up with second thoughts, but it was too late to back out now.
Acca regained his balance, his expression didn't change as his eyes remained locked on Kain, who kept running his mouth, "I don't appreciate you being a pain in the ass, so if you don't want an ass whoop-" The porcupine was immediately cut off by the golem with a swift upper hook to where the sun doesn't shine. The impact left Kain immobilized with a quiet, high pitched wheeze for mercy. He fell over onto the ground, paws over the afflicted area as he squirmed in agony. A few moments of silence broken by Kain groaning had passed before Acca left them to return to Amelia's side.
Zakk had covered up his muzzle to hide the cackling he tried so desperately to suppress. He knew Kain was going to get back at him for this, even if the hyena's intentions were pure and true. Calming himself down, the Sand-Runner brought himself to the porcupine's aid.
"Uh... Sorry about that," Zakk wasn't so good at apologies during awkward situations, and it really showed here. "Maybe you should have thrown the first punch?" He offered Kain some late advice.
"N-now you tell me," Kain groveled, still pressing his palms against the swelling which started to become slightly numb. "Asshole," the porcupine added as he felt his bladder begin to release.
"Hey! I am sorry!" Zakk pleaded, soon noticing the puddle growing out in front of the porcupine. It was then any hope of holding back his laughter was completely gone.
"Dammit! This isn't funny!" Kain shouted at the hyena. No matter how hard the porcupine tried, he couldn't stop the flow of his own stream. "T-This is all your fault!" The porcupine blamed his inferior for his misfortune. Zakk didn't bother to help Kain until he was sure the fluffball was empty.
"Heh heh... Let me help you up," the hyena calmed himself as he reached out a paw, though hesitated as Kain reached a soaked yellow one in return. "...Uh, hold on," Zakk retracted his paw, repositioning himself to pick the porcupine up from behind. Grabbing under Kain's shoulders, the hyena lifted him back onto his feet, cautious not to get wet with Kain's accident.
Instead of a thank you, Kain smacked Zakk in the stomach with the back of his paw, causing the hyena to recoil a bit. Zakk brushed himself off. Hoping the porcupine didn't leave any urine residue on his armor. "Let's just get going..." Kain hobbled off, one paw still standing guard over his bruised fruits.
"Agreed," Zakk glanced back to wave Ari's group onwards. He followed the limping porcupine as Ari stood up and jogged to Zakk's side, Acca trailing along side him.
"Wow," Ari began quietly between them, "and you thought I was being mean..." The Albedo commented on the recent event. He didn't know whether to be amazed, jealous, or proud.
"It wasn't on purpose!" Zakk replied defensively, also keeping his voice low. "I honestly had Kain's best interests in mind!"
"You can't fix everyone's problems Zakk," Ari replied, shaking his head. "I should know," Ari recalled their last troubling conversation during a brief pause. "Just let him simmer for now. He'll cool down eventually, you two can make up and kiss then," the armadillo reassured his son.
"Well... If you say so," Zakk watched Kain waddle about, "but we can do without the kissing part," the hyena had many reasons not to lock lips with the electric porcupine.
"Sure, I just added that last part for the laughs," Ari admitted as the group honed in on their destination. Zakk rolled his eyes at the armadillo as they entered through the doorway to the medical bay. Kain was the first inside, trudging over to the nearest open gurney as he flopped onto it with a groan. Ferra took notice to the porcupine's new condition.
"What happened to you?" The rat smirked, wondering what trouble the spiny rodent had gotten himself into. Kain had only groaned again in response, covering himself under the sheets and burying his head under the pillow. Zakk decided to speak for the porcupine.
"He happened" The hyena pointed a thumb back at the pangolin, who was oblivious that he was being referenced at, instead watching the armadillo laying the spotted hyena onto the bed besides Rosa's.
"...Children," Ferra labeled both Acca and Kain, knowing the porcupine had some growing up to do.
"It was sorta my fault too..." Zakk admitted, poking both of his index fingers together as he avoided the rat's gaze. "I kinda talked him into standing his ground against the little guy, it... Didn't work out as expected," the hyena forced a nervous chuckle.
"Well, that would be Kain's fault then for falling for it," Ferra was unsympathetic towards the porcupine. Kain had grumbled and moaned in response, wanting to protest the rat's words without putting up a fight. "He'll live," the rat assured both Zakk and Kain.
"...My kids won't," the porcupine muttered into the sheets, squirming slightly to readjust his sore package.
"You did your children a favor," Ferra retorted, knowing the last thing she would want is for Kain to breed his stupidity.
"Wow," Zakk paused, soaking in the verbal burn the rat gave the porcupine. "That was really low Ferra..." The hyena was slightly ashamed to be related to her. Kain couldn't care less about the emotional abuse. Compared to his physical pain, the tongue lashing was less than miniscule.
The rat shrugged it off, not worried in the slightest about losing respect from her son. "Not my problem," Ferra took a seat on an open bed, hanging her legs over the edge.
"Whatever," Zakk wasn't going to argue about it, instead putting his efforts into helping Kain recover. His eyes glanced over to Ari. As quick of a fix that it would be, Zakk knew it would be like taking a panicking child to get a shot at the doctor's office. "...We got any ice packs lying around?" The hyena asked the group, his eyes searching out an answer from anyone. Ari was the first to respond.
"In this dump?" He raised an eyebrow at Zakk, "you're probably more likely to find an intact, rusty syringe here. Any ice around around these parts has long melted by now," Ari gave his input, not having high hopes for Zakk's ice expedition.
"Wait a minute..." Zakk squinted at Markus, soon smacking himself against his forehead for not realizing it sooner. "Markus!" The wolf's ears perked up to the sound of his own name.
"What's wrong Zakk?" Markus was highly skeptical about the twinkle in the hyena's eyes. Zakk made his way over the wolf, making grabby fingers at Markus as he closed the distance between them.
"Oh nothing! I just hope you don't mind me borrowing some of the snow off of your back!" Zakk tried to play it off innocently enough, his attempt didn't fool the doubting snow wolf.
"Oh-Off my back?" Markus replied timidly, "...It won't hurt w-will it?" The wolf's wild imagination had gotten a laugh out of the hyena for a short moment. The noises coming out of Zakk's mouth had made Markus back up a bit out of paranoid caution. It wasn't a laughter that Markus could very well trust.
"No... " Zakk paused, actually having to think about it, "at least I don't think so," The hyena's judgement wasn't exactly comforting to the nervous snow wolf. The thought of pouncing Markus for his flakey pelt came to Zakk's mind, but he didn't want to risk demolishing the whole place further chasing the wolf down if he skittered away.
"W-why do you need it?" Markus tried beating around the bush, hoping to divert the hyena from grooming the snow from his fur. It was the first time anyone wanted to harvest the snow from the wolf's back. The poor wolf didn't know what to expect out of the procedure.
"We need something cold to help soothe Kain's pain," Zakk explained, trying to pull off a convincing, warmhearted smile to coax Markus into agreeing. "You wanna help Kain, right?" He took another step closer, pacing himself slowly enough not to startle the wolf into fleeing.
"K-Kain?" Markus repeated, having vaguely met the porcupine before back at Sanctuary. The two weren't properly acquainted, but being a friend of Zakk's was enough reason for the wolf to be sympathetic towards the porcupine.
"Yeah, can you do that?" Zakk inched closer, the wolf calming down a bit to the hyena's steady approach. "I think Kain would greatly appreciate it," The sand-runner tried to butter Markus up with Kain non-existent affection,
"O-Okay..." Markus lowered his head, mostly out of fear rather than submission. The wolf shrank closer and closer to the ground as Zakk closed the distance, eventually planting his rump on the floor. His actions has Zakk astonished for a short moment, imagining the trouble administering shots to Markus would be like.
"Geez, what does Rosa see in you?" Zakk contemplated for a second, crouching down to Markus' level. "...If it hurts, just tell me and I'll stop, alright?" The hyena compromised, ruffling up the wolf's mane with a paw before brushing down his back. Markus only gave a quiet whimper as he nodded, letting Zakk go through with it.
The hyena buried his paw deep into Markus' coat, feeling the icy exterior of his skin beneath. His flesh was odd to the touch. It stood frigid like its element, yet temporarily curved to the pressure of Zakk's fingers as he dragged them across Markus' back. The wolf shivered fearfully as Zakk began to scoop the flakes of snow clumped to Markus' fur, each stroke down his back had gathered up more and more snow. The feeling eventually settled in with Markus, the sensation turning into a good brushing rather than something prickly as pins and needles. His trembling ceased as his tail began to wag from side to side.
"There!" Zakk had finished up, pulling out a handful of packed snow, "all done! That wasn't so bad now was it?" The hyena gave a small chuckle, the wolf smiling back in response. The clever form of affection left Markus craving more, but he resisted the urge to annoy Zakk with his desire. All awake eyes were on Zakk as he carried his pile of snow wolf shavings over to the porcupine. Without thinking, the hyena began to peeling the sheets covering Kain. The action almost scored him some flying feet to the face.
"Don't even think about touching me there!" Kain grumbled, overprotective of his swelling injuries. Huffing and puffing, the porcupine sat up in his bed, covering himself back up with the sheets. "Just give me the damn thing and I'll do it myself!" He scowled, holding out an open paw for the hyena to deposit his pile of snow onto.
"Fine, fine! Just don't try and gouge my eyes out next time! Geez..." The hyena replied with an irritable sigh, placing the snow in the porcupine's care. He watched as Kain brought it under the sheets, readjusting his legs with a few grunts, working past the pain to prepare his valuables for the relief they desperately cried out for.
"...Aaaah, There we go!" Kain shivered, carefully pressing the pack of snow closer against himself. Exhaling a long, comfort-filled breath of air, the porcupine leaned back against the pillows that kept him propped up. Ari covered up his laughter with a hand, his attempts to hush himself had failed as Kain picked up on it. "What is it this time?!" Kain leaned up as he glared at the cackling armadillo.
"Y'know Thunderbutt, you're not doing your lightning rod any favors by putting it under something cold," Ari spouted out some unwanted advice to the porcupine. Kain's face burned red, his tolerance for the armadillo drained as he brought the half melted, stained snowball out from within the sheets and whipped it square at Ari's forehead, hitting his target with powdery results.
"Shut it, hardass," Kain growled at the armadillo. "... I didn't ask for your opinion," His angry gaze hovered over Ari like flies on stink.
"Geez, Thunderbutt! It was just some man to man advice!" The armadillo scraped the yellow stained snow off his face with a gag. "...Really hope the smell washes off, bleck!" The scent of stale piss was far from pleasant to Ari's nose. Kain was smug with his achievement, surprised that the shot had made connection with the armadillo's face. To add insult to injury, the porcupine blew a raspberry at Ari, holding no remorse for his actions.
"Really Kain?!" Zakk was grossed out by his friend's choice of action. Ferra found it slightly amusing, but hid her enjoyment behind a strong poker face. Markus, as always, was oblivious to the situation, searching for the answer within someone else's eyes.
"He started it!" The porcupine defended himself in a childish demeanor. "Anyways... If you don't mind, I could really use another," Kain gave Zakk a guilty smile, seeing the dead seriousness in the hyena's facial language.
"Only if you don't throw it again," Zakk laid out the conditions for the porcupine to accept, crossing his arms as his patience wore thin.
"Fiiine," Kain whined. Restraining himself from dishing out vengeance upon Ari would be no easy task, but the recovery and comfort of his child maker depended on it. He swallowed his pride for the moment.
"Markus," Zakk called the snow wolf over, waving him closer. "We need some more snow," Zakk informed him as Markus eagerly met the hyena next to the bed, ears perked and tail wagging.
"Okay!" The wolf grinned from ear to ear, letting Zakk turn him about to get a better reach at his back. Markus began to pant shamelessly as the hyena dug his paws through the wolf's fur. Zakk found it a little unnerving that his friend enjoyed the grooming a little too much.
"Geez, I'm afraid to see what happens next if I keep this up," the hyena hurried himself, fearful the wolf would want his stomach rubbed next. "...There! Batch number two is ready!" Zakk pulled the ball of snow from Markus' back, promptly handing it over to Kain.
"... Thanks Zakk," Kain expressed his gratitude to the hyena, taking him off guard.
"Well that's a first," the hyena chuckled, appreciating the gesture. Kain soon caught onto his own leniency towards his inferior.
"My balls thank you, don't get used to it," Kain muttered, shaping the snow to fit his form. Ari was about to pipe in with something regarding Kain's statement but was quickly deterred by Zakk's haunting gaze.
"Well now that's settled... " Zakk started only to get interrupted by a tug at his belt. He turned to find that it was the pangolin trying to get a hold of his attention. "Uh... What is it little guy?" The hyena stooped down to Acca's level, hoping Ferra would keep an ear out and translate for their conversation. The golem mumbled between his native tongue and whimpering gibberish as he presented the dead city drone to Zakk, nearly shoving it into his face. Pulling away before Acca could bop him on the nose with it, Zakk shifted his gaze over to Ferra, who sighed and rolled her eyes. Despite not wanting to be the team's translator, she knew exactly what son wanted. Her subtle affection for the hyena was greater than her own needs.
"He wants you to fix his toy," the rat spoke nearly word for word in the pangolin's terms. Zakk returned his sight back on Acca and his drone, wondering why anyone would refer to such a dangerous machine as a toy. Disregarding the thought, Zakk took the drone off of the pangolin's hand, holding it for a few moments before shaking his head.
"I can't fix this..." The hyena stood up and glanced about looking for a face that would have more expertise in the robotic department. "If only Sheila was here... She'd have this thing back up and working in no time," the sand-runner sighed as he recalled his lost friend. "...Ari, can you fix this?" Zakk held out the drone towards the armadillo. The Albedo laughed for a few seconds before actually giving a verbal reply.
"Do I look like an engineer to you?!" He snorted, trying to calm himself. Rosa would have been the hyena's first choice if there wasn't a risk of her biting his head off in the process. Plus the fact that they left off on a really sour note didn't help things either. Zakk figured he would apologize with the collie after they both were well rested.
"...Thought it was worth a shot," the hyena shrugged and crouched down to Acca's height again. "Sorry kid, looks like you're outta luck for now," he gave the drone back to its owner. The pangolin was clueless to Zakk's words, a blank expression glued on his face.
"Out-a-luck..." Acca repeated, hoping to find some kind of hint at understanding the Empyrean language. It had only left him with a discouraged sigh and welled up eyes ready to burst into tears. He sniffled as the first few drops of sadness dripped on to the drone. Zakk couldn't help but empathize with the pangolin.
"Look little guy..." He put a paw on Acca's shoulder and smiled at him. "Get some rest, we'll see what we can do tomorrow, okay?" He tried to calm the pangolin's emotions. No one would be able to get a wink of sleep with a blubbering child mourning over his dead, metal cronies.
"...Oh-kay?" Acca recited, unsure if he should share in the hyena's optimism. He turned his search to Ferra for an answer, who reluctantly played translator once again.
"He says he'll look at your toy tomorrow, so get some rest... No promises that he can fix it though," Ferra added, knowing the credibility of Zakk's word was usually subject to change depending on the situation. Acca put his faith in Ferra's words, seeing as it was the only thing he could understand. With nothing else to say, the pangolin crawled into the nearest open bed and cuddled up with his death machine.
"...Anyways," Zakk addressed the crew who were still awake, "Now's the best time to rest up, if no one wants to take watch tonight I'll-" The hyena was about to offer before the rat cut him off.
"I'll stand guard for the evening," Ferra stepped forward, still slightly shaky from the battle. Zakk was about to refuse her position, but instead decided to convince the sand-runner to rethink her choice.
"You sure you're up for it? You look pretty scraped up y'know," Zakk commented on the rat's condition.
"I'm your mother, Zabakku," Ferra threw that fact into her son's face once again, "it's my job to look after you." There would be no convincing the rat otherwise. "Even if I'm old and gray with every ailment in the world," she showed off her small, elusive smile to the hyena.
"...Thanks," Zakk returned the smile, blushing a little. The hyena was unsure if it was Ferra's motherly love, or the fact that her smile really broke her character, making her quite dorky in his eyes. "...Mom."
Ari and Kain exchanged glances before bursting out in uncontrollable laughter, both for two entirely different reasons. Kain was the first to calm down, speaking his mind instantly.
"Hahaha! Looks like the ice queen really DOES have a heart!" The porcupine exclaimed with more laughter, careless that he spoiled a precious moment between mother and son. The Sand-Runner duo scowled at the giggling pair. Ferra returned to her usual grimace before retorting to Kain's statement.
"Oh wow! And the thorny shrimp really DOES have a pair!" The rat confronted the porcupine, holding his package hostage against the sheets with the pointed tip of her staff. Kain instantly went stiff with fear, feeling the pressure of the staff's tip nipping through the sheets. Zakk pulled Ferra back from the porcupine's bed before she could perform invasive surgery on the quivering fluffball.
"Ferra! Cool it!" Zakk ordered the rat to stand down. She gave an irritable sigh before following through with the hyena's command. "And Kain," the Sand-Runner faced the porcupine before addressing his mocking statement. "Zip it!" The hyena mimicked sealing his own lips together with his fingers. Kain nodded profusely, holding his family jewels tighter than ever.
The group was plunged into dead silence for a few moments before Zakk recollected himself with a deep breath in and out. "...Everyone should get some rest, we've got another long day ahead of us to find..." The hyena struggled to find the words to label their goal. "Whatever it is that Ari's got waiting for us down here. And frankly, I don't want to spend the night prying everyone off of each other's throat, Okay?" The party agreed mutually in an assortment of nods, hums and grunts.
Everyone had dispersed into a bed. No one dared bothered with the flickering lights, knowing they might risk not getting them to turn back on. Zakk sat himself down on a bed, kicking off his boots and peeling off his armor, That alone had taken a load off the hyena. Stripped down to nothing but his black boxers and a simple grey t-shirt, Zakk fell back into bed, or right into Markus' side.
"Markus..." Zakk started, the sternness in his tone of voice was easy to hear. "What are you doing?" He questioned the wolf's motives as he pulled himself off of the wolf, his fur taking some of Markus' snow with him.
"Rosa won't let me sleep in her bed..." Markus whimpered, putting on sad eyes to go along with it. "I don't like sleeping by myself," the hyena gazed into the wolf's sight, unable to say no to him with a face like that.
"Fiiine, you can sleep with me," Zakk allowed reluctantly, "but stay to your side of the bed!" he added the conditions, knowing Markus was a bed hog.
"Okay!" The wolf was ecstatic, thankful he didn't have to tough it out alone in his own bed. Once Zakk was down for the count on his side of the bed, Markus decided to express his gratitude by snuggling up to the sand-runner from behind, taking him off guard. The affection was foreign to the hyena, but he didn't think too hard over it, already struggling to sleep through Markus' chilly pressure.
Luckily, Zakk was able to tune out the freezing sensations, or at least get used to them long enough to fall asleep. Eventually rest found the entire crew, all minus Ferra, who vigilantly stood guard, minding her footsteps in her patrol around the halls. Although it was pointless to keep quiet under all the snoring, the rat's instincts had forced her to stay silent out of habit.
War broke out between who was the loudest sleeper. Ari and Kain were neck and neck in volume, followed up by Markus, who sounded off right into Zakk's ear. It wasn't loud enough to reach into whatever dream world the hyena was in.
It seemed to be the routine of things for the night. That is until Markus rolled himself off of the bed. The sleeping stunt had caught Ferra's attention, calling her over by the thud of his body hitting the ground. Upon discovery, the rat was surprised to find the wolf still sound asleep.
"...You haven't changed a bit, Markus," Ferra murmured quietly to herself, scooping him up in her arms. She knew Markus was a heavy sleeper as well as a fidgety one. History would only repeat itself if she were to place Markus back into Zakk's bed. There wouldn't be any harm done putting the already passed out wolf in his own bed.
"Now I don't want any crying out of you," Ferra laid the wolf down, mindful not to tuck him in. She figured out the hard way that covering up Markus only resulted in shredded, soaked sheets in the morning. She smiled a little at the wolf, recalling his antics back during the hay days at Sanctuary. Besides Rosa, Ferra was pretty much Markus' other mother when Rosa was too busy at work. It turned more into a grievance when she took on her rat form. Deep down she found out she missed tending to the lug of snow, at least when he was quiet and well behaved.
With Markus taken care of, the rat lifted her gaze, instantly spotting Zakk sitting up in his bed. The hyena clutched the tan crystal in his in paws, his dead eyes were entranced as the glossy rock glowed brightly in his grip. Intuition clicked inside of Ferra in a heartbeat as she bolted for the hyena, snatching the crystal from his grasp and following up with a hard, sobering slap across his face.
"What the hell do you think you're doing Zabakku?!" Ferra grumbled in a hushed frenzy, shaking the crystal in Zakk's face, awaiting his excuse. There was only petrified fear from the hyena. Waking up to a hostile Ferra would net anyone with the same results.
"I... I don't know," Zakk replied, the pain started to fill in the marks of the rat's assault. He put a paw over the tender area, rubbing the pain through carefully. "I..." his voice trailed off, at a loss for words. His eyes returned to the crystal, seeing it glow within Ferra's constricting grasp. Unable to control himself, he reached out for it casually, only to have her pull it away from him.
"No! You've already proven you can't be responsible with this!" The rat shook her head at Zakk, "I'll hold onto it," Ferra forced Zakk back into bed with a stern shove against his shoulder.
"...I thought it was a dream..." Zakk spoke once the matress springs settled, glancing into his palms. "...It called out to me, I could feel it... Hear it," His gaze met Ferra's, scowling as he assumed what she was going say to him, "...Or are you gonna tell me that's another trick from The Burrow?!" Ferra visibly hesitated at her son's words, knowing very well that crystals just didn't call out to anyone.
"...N-no, not at all," the rat lowered her arm, still weary of trusting the hyena's self control. Her leniency was mistaken as Zakk latched onto her arm, twisting it about to strangle the crystal out of her grasp.
Ferra howled in pain as her arm flared up from the stress it endured from the hyena's crippling grapple. It wasn't long before her nerves gave way, dropping the crystal onto the bedsheets. Zakk's eyes followed it all the way down, his whole body soon pouncing down onto it, crushing it underneath his pressure. In an instant, the hyena absorbed the dust, overflowing his senses as the rush of sensations had him pass out over the bed.
"Zabakku!" Ferra yelled out, her voice echoing in Zakk's head as it was the last thing he heard before the memories began to replace his reality. The transition left him dazed, or at least that's what he concluded as shapes and colors started to fill themselves in within his sight. His sanity slowly returned to him, able to place names to surroundings.
"Ugh... I guess I got more than what I bargained for this time around..." The hyena speculated, finding himself unable to actually move his lips. "At least I didn't wet myself this time around," Zakk remained positive, that is until the rest of his senses came rushing back, "Wait a minute... Nope, those shorts are definitely soaked... Dammit," he felt the wet fabric plastered against his nethers and thighs. "I just hope I grew out of this sometime soon..." The hyena cringed at his former self's weak bladder.
With his vision fully intact, Zakk tried his best to take his mind off of his predicament by observing the dimly torchlit area around him. Nothing but the cold, rigid blocks of sandstone made up most of the interior, leaving him with the impression that he was placed right back into the heart of The Burrow. "...Well this is all too familiar," Zakk huffed, realizing he was behind bars. His physical self had no desire to shake and rattle his way for attention like the last time. "...You okay buddy?" Zakk asked himself, waiting for some sort of response or trigger to spring the young hyena into motion.
A few seconds of silence convinced the older half that the younger half was brain dead. Zakk returned his focus on his sight, staring through the child's dull gaze across to the cell in front of them. Many other children were imprisoned along with him, clearly displaying signs of also being just as brain dead as himself. The hyena cringed at the drooling faces and strabismic, lifeless eyes. "I don't know if I should be concerned or terrified... It seems like junior here couldn't care any less," Zakk commented on the situation, soon bringing things back into focus. "...So where's the guest of honor? I assume he's the scumbag behind all this... Just show yourself already!" The hyena grew impatient of waiting on the lynx, especially sitting in wet shorts.
And on cue, a large door from down the hall squealed its rusty hinges together as it swung wide open. Zakk couldn't convince his other half to look at their approaching company, restricted as he was trapped inside the mind of a warped child. "Ugh... Why do I even bother?" The hyena groaned, wanting to at least see more than what his memories would allow him. His dismay was soon replaced with hesitation as a shadow creeped across the ground. It only worsened as another one poked through besides it. "...Two people?... No worries, just act natural I suppose," Easier done than said. But Zakk's wishful thinking wouldn't change the history of time.
"Alright Kyo, this is our catch for the week," A rough voice bounced through the hall, ringing in Zakk's ear. It was oddly familiar, he could have sworn he heard it before. "...Anyone you want as your disciple is yours," it had assured their companion.
"Anyone?" A much younger voice replied, the duo's footfalls drawing closer to the hyena's position. Zakk's young ears physically twitched at the sound of feet scraping the ground.
"Anyone," the older voice confirmed as they came into view, causing the little hyena to blink at their presence.
"Him?" Zakk felt his chest sink, seeing both a sandy lynx who was a few years older than the hyena's past self and a dark komodo dragon whose age was beyond him. Zakk was more concerned with the dragon, appalled the boss of The Burrow had knowledge and a hand in the child abduction scheme. Betrayal set in the hyena, knowing the dragon had put on a comforting giuse to coax him into trusting him back at his brief moments inside The Burrow. "...You're kidding me," Zakk could do nothing but wait for the memory to play out.
They had turned their backs on him, looking at the ragtag band of defunct children in the cell on the other side. "And what will happen to the rest?" The lynx spoke, curious to the fate of those who didn't meet his standards.
"Sold back on the black market for the highest bidder... This is just a small part of the business that keeps The Burrow's blood pumping, Kyo," the dragon didn't sugarcoat his words. Both Zakk and the lynx had trouble digesting what was just said.
"I was a part of that... Who knows what happens to the unlucky ones who are sold off to whatever scumbag under the sun," Zakk knew he was one of the more fortunate cases. But the risk of being put back in a cage didn't sound all that pleasing to him. "...I won't go back there, I won't!" The hyena protested in the confines of his unbudging memories.
"But don't feel bad for them," the dragon added with a huffing snort, "Not like they had a chance surviving on the surface anyways," his statement was half true, only saying such a thing to ease the lynx into making a decision.
"That's a lie!" Zakk shouted to absolutely no one. "Ari took good care of me! And my mom-!" He stopped in his tracks, unable to pull up any memories of Ferra. "...She had to care... Right?" The hyena began to doubt himself and Ferra's claims. If she was half the rat she is now, all this wouldn't have taken place. His faith in his mother began to fall drastically. "No! She still cares too!" Zakk reassured himself realizing Ferra would have never followed them this far if she didn't have an ounce of affection and remorse for her son.
"...You make the surface world sound worse than the underground!" The lynx scratched the back of his mane. Truth was, the sand-runner was sheltered within The Burrow for his whole life.
"But it is, Kyo! Ever since Empyrean have come to spread their plague upon us, the surface has been nothing but trouble!" The dragon replied.
"You mention Empyrean a lot, Father... Who are they?" The way the lynx addressed the dragon had Zakk's jaw on the floor. Recollecting himself, Zakk had talked it out, trying to connect the pieces.
"You're telling me that ball of fur is the big scaly-ass guy's son? How do you...? A Lynx and a Lizard? How? ...Why?" Indulging in the thought didn't help at all. He shook the idea away, quick to return his attention to the conversation as the pause between the duo was broken.
"In short, they're here to destroy who we are as a people!" The dragon placed his claws on the lynx's shoulders, looking him straight in the eye before continuing on. "They're here to harvest our men, our children! Anyone who's aligned with an element, they want to see us and our kind extinguished! They parade around in glowing and flashy armor, claiming they're here to save us, but they're only here to help themselves!"
"...That's terrible," Kyo replied, hoping never to run into an Empyrean in his lifetime.
"Lies! Lies! All lies!" Zakk bellowed inside, rattling at the bars in his mind. Four months in Empyrean didn't give Zakk the whole story, but he was sure that most of the claims the dragon made were false.
"I know son, that's why we have to stop them," the dragon gave the lynx's shoulders a squeeze before letting go. "We must save our people,"
"I... I understand," Kyo swallowed the lump in his throat, knowing that he would grow up to face the Empyrean menace eventually.
"I'm glad you do. Now, pick yourself a companion and I'll get things taken care of for you!" the dragon reminded him, the lynx facing away, towards Zakk's general direction. Their eyes met, The hyena was surprised his younger self was still able to move, even if it was just his eyeballs.
"...They all look so sad..." Kyo stated his observations, approaching the hyena. The lynx stooped down to Zakk's level, the young hyena's eyes slowly following him down.
"They're pumped up with sedatives," the dragon answered, coming up next to the lynx. "They won't remember being here by the time we move them," he gave a small sinister chuckle.
"Well apparently I still remember this..." Zakk muttered to himself, unaware that Kyo was reliving their shared memories as well. The moment went on for a little while longer before the dragon cut in again.
"I see you've got quite the eye for valuable goods," he commented on the lynx's taste. "We're holding him for rather high ransom," the dragon scraped his palms together, imagining the riches.
"...What makes him so special for that?" Kyo faced the dragon, raising an eyebrow. To the Lynx, the hyena was just some snotty, drooly brat that pissed himself. If anything the Lynx would have to be paid the ransom to choose something so awful to look at.
"His guardian happened to come into a very nice fortune a year or so back. Needless to say, he felt entitled to waive the protection tax over it. So we roughed him up for awhile, kidnapped his family and left him dry as we could, but couldn't find his riches," he gave a small laugh or two. "We came back a few months later after he purchased the brat here with a sliver of his fortune. He should have known better than to bait us... Now that we have the child, he'll be eating out of our hands sooner or later... So I wouldn't grow too attached to this runt if I were you," the dragon warned, expecting a speedy payment from the armadillo.
"...Now that you mention it, Ari never did bother to come get me again... Something's not adding up," Zakk grew ever more doubtful, regretting that he got himself in this situation.
"I'll take him," Kyo nodded, wanting the cream of the crop, "if he's so valuable, I want him!" His selfishness was clearly showing, striking a nerve within Zakk.
"So our friendship stemmed off of greed, nice to know Kyo..." Zakk huffed within his thoughts, almost wanting to tune the rest of the flashback out. The dragon had no objections to the lynx's decision to both Zakk and Kyo's surprise.
"...I suppose I can give our client the run around and drain his riches dry in the false promise he'll eventually get his child back," the dragon rubbed his claws together as he imagined the outcome. The lynx turned to face the young hyena.
"...So, what's your name," Kyo asked the dazed child as he squeezed his arm through the bars to grab and lift Zakk's chin, hoping to coax some words out of him.
"Grrr, if I could, I'd bite your fingers off right now! Sand-Runner or not!" The older hyena was boiling on the inside, forced to stare into Kyo's scheming eyes.
"Oh! I forgot to introduce you two! This is Zabakku, he's more popular here than you think!" The dragon added. "It's his second time here believe it or not!"
"Zabakku..." The lynx recited with a sly, smug grin. "You'll make us rich," he patted him across the cheek, letting his head droop back down.
"Like, hell..." Zakk's internal voice trialed off, thankful he didn't have to see the lynx's mug anymore. The dragon opened the cage and plucked Zabakku out from within.
"A few more doses of the suppression serum and he won't remember a thing," Zakk could feel the sticky warmth of the dragon's breath on him, "he'll be all yours then..." Zakk felt a jab in his neck, causing both hyenas to completely black out.
Zakk peeled his eyes open. "...Is it over?" His vision focused as he tried to move his lips. "...Nope." He soaked in his surroundings, this room was more comforting on the eyes, though still as dim as the last. His sense of touch seeped back into place, the touch of fabric curving to his body... "Well this pretty cozy," the hyena observed, the queen sized bed and the fancy decor was quite the royal treatment.
"Zabakku?" Kyo's voice called out from the side of the bed, drawing the young hyena's attention over. Zabakku gawked at the lynx, unsure if he could believe what his eyes were seeing. "Look, I know this is probably confusing for you right now, but just know that everything will be fine." The lynx smiled at him, but Zakk saw right through it.
"Oh shut up..." The older hyena rolled his eyes. growing tired of Kyo's lies. His younger half was eating it all up however.
"Your big brother Kyo's here with you now," he reached a paw over, clasping it over the hyena's paw. Zabakku stared at it for a few moments before glancing back at the lynx. "You're safe and sound now," Kyo's reassurance coaxed a smile out of the small hyena. The gullibility from Zakk's former self had him disgusted with himself.
"Okay, I might be stupid now, but holy crap was I dumb..." Zakk insulted his younger self, unable to fathom how he was easily convined. "When I wake up, I'm slapping myself for being a gullible idiot!"
"Tomorrow we will begin training," Kyo informed the hyena, "so just get some sleep for now, it's still late in the night and you'll need all the rest you can get," Kyo tucked Zabakku back in. Zakk felt his head nod at the lynx, soon watching him back towards the door. His eyes grew droopy as a yawn slipped out of him. The blackout swept over him once again, transporting him to another place in time.
Zakk woke up standing, his senses swift to return to him. Kyo was right at his side, armed with a bow as he drew back an arrow to fire into the dim distance. The older hyena wondered if they were in any imminent danger given his brief observance. The younger hyena watched the lynx release his arrow into flight. Both of them followed its path with their sight as it planted itself into a ratty wooden target dummy with an audible thud.
"Wooow!" Zabakku was left in awe. It wasn't a fatal blow, but the connecting shot was enough to impress the small hyena. "That's amazing, Kyo!" The little hyena cheered, making the older one gag internally.
"Big whoop, anyone can shoot a lousy arrow, I could probably do that easily," Zakk wasn't fazed in the slightest. "Come on, show 'em how it's done buddy," Zakk encouraged his younger self in spirit.
"Give it a go," Kyo offered, handing down the bow to the hyena. Zabakku eagerly took hold of it, grasping it in his paws firmly. It was the first time he held a weapon in his life, and it was more of a mere toy to him.
"You got this bud," Zakk would have patted his younger self on the shoulder for support, however Kyo had that covered as he passed the child an arrow from his quiver.
"Don't rush it, Zabakku," the lynx shedded some advice on the hyena, who disregarded every single word as he was gung-ho ready for some fun. Zakk's younger self set the arrow sloppily on his line and drew it back without hesitation. His feeble strength couldn't hold the draw for more than a brief moment. The line slipped from his fingers as the arrow darted into the wall, bouncing off shortly after impact.
Zakk had immediately lost all faith in his younger self. "Wow... Shoulda' guessed the pants wetter wasn't capable of much," At least he was thankful Kain wasn't around to see his constant failures.
"No-no, not like that!" Kyo shook his head, taking out another arrow. This time around he decided to guide Zabakku physically by hand, placing his paws over the youth's as they both drew it back in their grasp. "Now hold it like this," The lynx slowly released his grip and let the hyena to hold his own extension. It didn't last long as Zabakku began to struggle against the pressure.
"Oh, this won't be good," And as if his words were magic, The wooden end of the bow came flying into Zabakku's face, knocking him out cold with a hard thwack straight between the eyes. It was lights out for Zakk once again as he awaited the next waking moment with bated breath.
The hyena woke up in mid sprint, almost tripping over himself. "And bad turns to worse," Zakk grumbled, reminding himself there would be a happy ending after all of this was done, or at least a path leading up to where he was sleeping haplessly in the future. Kyo was in front of him and widening the distance, causing the little hyena to panic.
Zabakku glanced down at himself, momentarily inspecting the spoils that he and Kyo recently pinched from an unsuspecting group of Empyrean troops. A bag of an assortment of crystals. "Now that's quite a catch," Zakk tried to examine all the colors he could in the tiny instant that he had. "Pretty much got the entire rainbow in this sack!" Zabakku fastened it closed and hauled it over his back.
Peeking over his shoulder, both hyenas saw the approaching opposition, furious over the thieves that made off with their belongings. The younger hyena added a whine to his pant and step, not having any desire to be caught by their scary clutches. Who knows what kind of punishments they were capable of dishing out. The angry squad of Empyreans had fired off some warning shots at the sides, spooking them into a frenzy.
It had the most effect on Zabakku, his pants soaked in pure fright as he feared the sounds of Empyrean high-tech weaponry. "Wow... You're pretty hopeless," Zakk commented on the mess Zabakku made, forced to endure the discomfort of his accident. It was the farthest thing on Zabakku's mind given the circumstances.
Things only had gotten worse for the youngling as he tripped over a loose tile in the pathway, falling into the ground as he lost grip of the bag. Nearly all the contents from within spilt out upon the floor. There was no time to recollect their treasure as Kyo was swift to aid in the hyena's recovery, snatching him from off the ground. Fortune was still in their favor as Kyo still had a hold of his own bag.
"So he's got my ass this time, doesn't exactly excuse him for being one," Zabakku observed the lynx's deed. The younger hyena passed out, the surge of adrenalin being too much for his body to handle. The scene shifted again, finding himself in another bed, the room was very familiar to both hyenas. Though the biggest concern for Zakk was that he was in drier clothes. "Well... By the looks of it, we survived that chase," The older hyena assumed as the duo observed their surroundings.
"Oh, you're up!" Kyo's voice had tore Zabakku's focus away as he directed his vision at the lynx who was standing at his bedside. "You were out for the longest time, almost had me worried there for a second," Kyo chuckled lightly, giving the young hyena a smile and getting one right in return.
"Glad to know I'm pretty high on the priority list, Kyo..." Zakk was rolling his eyes as he spoke in complete sarcasm. A yawn escaped Zabakku as he stretched his arms in the air along with it. "Is it all over?" The youngling asked, the chase from before still running through his mind.
"Yeah," Kyo nodded, "it's all over," he ruffled up Zabakku's mane for a bit, coaxing a short giggle out of him. Zakk found it irritating and demeaning however, still wanting to bite the lynx's paw off. He longed for the madness to end. Fed up with it all. He drew up everything he could to push through the memories, at least fast forward to another memory that wasn't as sappy.
Zakk's efforts managed to be somewhat successful, waking up somewhere in his teen years. He could smell the fresh surface air once again. No amount of time could get him used to the stale scent of The Burrow's chambers. They were back in Sand-Runner City, within one of its countless dark alleyways. Zakk was first to mentally point out Kyo nearby, pressing someone against the wall, keeping them pinned down. There was clearly a conflict taking place as the oppressed person struggled for their freedom.
The both of them grunted and shuffled about, battling each other's strength. It wasn't until both hyenas heard whimpering from somewhere else that the vibe of it all seemed to change drastically. "What's going on?" Zakk questioned as the younger hyena lowered his gaze. He was in mid embrace with a sobbing child, around the age of eight or nine by the sound of her cries. She bawled into his chest, pulling at both hyena's heartstrings.
"Kyo...!" Zabakku lifted his head, glaring at the lynx, "you roughed him up enough, you're scaring the kid! Let him go already!" the hyena demanded, rubbing the child's back to calm her cries.
"Tch... Fine," Kyo delivered one last, quick hook to the side of his opposition's face. It connected hard enough to send him to the ground. Seeing who it was, Zakk made the figure out to be a spotted hyena, around Kyo's age.
The child retracted her head the moment the struggle ended. She instantly shedded off Zabakku's embrace and rushed for the downed hyena, soon shaking him, asking if he was okay and to wake up over and over again. Past and present hyena made the connection that the two must have been related as she was spotted herself.
"Let's go Zabakku," Kyo ordered as he walked of, his anger was seen in the way he carried his steps along. "...Before I change my mind," he waved him over with as much as a simple glance back.
Zabakku stood up and followed without a word. The sounds of the distressed child soon drowned out in the distance. "Wow, that was pretty harsh," Zakk stated his observation, "...Then again, this is Kyo we're talking about," he didn't think about the reasoning behind Kyo's intentions for long... Zabakku was still struggling with the thought however. He ended up asking the lynx when the entered the open streets.
"Was that really necessary?" Zabakku stayed a step ahead of Kyo, glaring at him as he fired off his question. He was brushed aside as the lynx was in no mood for his friend's confrontation. "...You didn't need to smack him around that much!" The hyena tried to guilt him through morals.
"You're fighting the wrong battle, kid," Zakk tried to convince his younger self that his efforts were for nothing. It was a pain watching himself go against the grain of who he was and what he knew now.
"...You didn't see the scars all over her body," Kyo spoke with a growl, "he obviously abuses her when no one's looking!" He made a wild assumption, but Zabakku would have none of it, getting right back in the lynx's face.
"How do you know? All we seen was him do was push her... Once!" Zabakku stammered, hoping to pull back Kyo's sense of reason. "...I'm sure it was just a little dispute that didn't need to be blown out of proportion!"
"...Just walk, Zabakku," Kyo glared at the hyena, not having the patience to deal with the hyena's morals and words. A sigh escaped from Zabakku's lips as he remembered his place in their partnership. The hyena didn't have anywhere to go if he were to be kicked out of The Burrow. It was best not to risk anything now, especially seeing as no one made it out of The Burrow alive. Those who have, never dared showered their faces to the public at all.
Few blocks down the road a small posse of young, scantily clad women whistled down Kyo. Zabakku knew it was just the lynx they were after. He made the mistake of accepting their catcalls for the first time before, only to get dejected for the royalty he served instead. Kyo's popularity with the ladies had Zabakku a little envious, but he didn't let an ounce of it get to him. He did ponder the idea of having a female companion from time to time, but there wasn't much room for such when you were the right hand man of the boss' son.
"Oh come on ladies, you can find better tastes in other guys besides Kyo," Zakk complained, wondering what the girls saw in the lynx that made him so alluring. The thought escaped him as the duo paid them no mind, or at least Kyo. Zabakku couldn't help but give them a glance or two. Their trek continued in awkward silence, the hyena not wanting to provoke the lynx and the lynx in no mood for conversations. Fortunately Zakk had blacked out before he became bored with the stagnant repetitiveness.
The hyena came to, back in the dusty depths of The Burrow once again, its familiar dry air tickled his nostrils each time. "Geez, I don't blame Zabakku for wanting out of this crusty place," he began to empathize with his former self. The hyena kept his ear pinned to what was either a wall or a stone door. Both hyenas could barely make out what was going on from the other side. It was some kind of muffled dispute, words and objects seemed to fly across the place. The commotion had Zabakku on edge and Zakk could clearly feel the vibes.
The hyena flashed his eyes at the glaring guards. They stood motionless, though ready to strike if the hyena had gotten too curious to bust through. Their blades pointed at the hyena, had reminded him to not try anything suspicious. As much as Zabakku's curiosity cried out for satisfaction, he didn't let it take hold of him. Luckily, he didn't have to wait long before his questions were answered. The door creaked open slowly, pushing the hyena back a few steps.
"...You look like a wreck," Zabakku commented, seeing Kyo limp out carefully, "what happened in there?" He caught the lynx before he fell from his faulty footing. Kyo was scratched up good, for a Sand-Runner. Kyo latched onto the hyena for support as the door closed behind him. Peeking at the guards, it was best not to blab his problems out in the open.
"Just go... I need a few crystals to calm my nerves," the lynx voice trembled. Zabakku kept a good grip on his ally, he was used to carrying him around at this point as Kyo got himself into more trouble than the lynx would like to admit. At this age he had made rounds around the bars with Zabakku in tow, usually to pick up on the women and make himself look good in comparison to the socially awkward hyena. Half of the time Kyo would hook up with the wrong girl who was already with a guy who didn't take too kindly to Kyo's advances.
His luck usually landed him on his ass, even getting whooped by non-elementals. They were always more stronger than him and it had drove him crazy, especially the day after. He took his anger out in training, cursing himself for his twig body frame and feeble strength. His father wouldn't do anything about the battles Kyo lost, seeing no reason to help a lowly loser out. It would only matter to the dragon if Kyo was murdered, and nobody had a deathwish like that.
But fights with his father? Those were something entirely different in and of themselves. As few and far between as they were, they were the most terrifying for both the lynx and hyena. Each one left Kyo near death's door, usually as a punishment from his father for something or other he didn't approve of or a failure to meet his expectations. This beating was gained for asking... demanding, the wrong questions be answered. It landed Kyo in a world of hurt. He grew adjusted to his father's physical responses... Just not to the pain that accompanied it.
It was another awkwardly long walk of silence, filled only with the groans and hisses of agony from Kyo. It got on Zakk's nerves more than it did his former self's. "Geez you'd think he's giving birth or something..." Zakk poked fun at the way the lynx carried himself.
Inching into their room, Zabakku carefully aided Kyo into his bed. After his rough transition, Kyo waved the hyena off to fetch him some crystals. "You know where they are by now," the lynx watched as Zabakku scrambled through Kyo's drawers to scrounge up some crystals. Gathering up a handful, the hyena laid them out next to Kyo.
"...So what happened this time?" Zabakku asked as Kyo grabbed hold of one of the many crystals, holding it above himself before crushing it within his grasp. He let the dust fall onto his chest, his body quickly absorbing the contents. Zabakku stood by as he watched Kyo's body sew itself up and slowly erase the injuries that were sustained.
"...He killed my mother..." Kyo swallowed his sadness as he mumbled through angry gritting teeth. "That bastard..." The crystals couldn't heal the betrayal in the lynx's heart.
"Your father?!" Zabakku's eyes widened in shock. "Why?!" Zabakku shared in Kyo's pain. Neither of them knew a hint of the lynx's mother. Kyo had kept persistent in asking his father of her whereabouts.
"Who the hell knows?" The lynx broke open another crystal with a growling grunt. "I wanna kill him...! I want him dead, NOW!" Kyo blindfully vowed vengeance against his father. Zabakku kept Kyo down as the lynx pulled himself up.
"No! Don't be so rash, Kyo!" The hyena fought against the Lynx's trying strength, lucky that Kyo was still in the recovery process. "You know that's a lot more trouble than it's worth!" His words were enough to keep the lynx down, if only for the moment.
"What do you know?!" Kyo lashed back once more, thrashing against Zabakku's hold. "The only reason you're here is because that asshole had you stolen from your father!" He had let the cat out of the bag, however the big secret had no effect on Zabakku.
"What are you talking about? I was born and raised here!" The hyena replied hastily without actually thinking about it. Kyo smirked, finding it hilarious Zabakku never questioned his origins throughout his entire life in The Burrow, not even once. Zakk was pulling his hair out having to bare witness to his former self's gullibility.
"Really now? Who are your parents then? Tell me!" The tides had turned as Kyo put more pressure on Zabakku than the hyena could even muster to keep the lynx pinned in place.
"I... I don't know," he couldn't draw up a logical explanation. "It's been so long... I always thought you were my brother, even if we weren't blood related..." His words made Zakk gag in disgust, 'brother' would be the last thing the older hyena would use to describe Kyo. Kain was a better candidate for that sort of title.
"It proves you know nothing!" The lynx was grinning from ear to ear, confident that he won the battle. "Don't you want to know who your real father is?" Kyo pushed further, but Zabakku would have none of it, sticking to his metaphorical guns.
"...I do! But I'm not going to kill someone and ruin my life over it!" The hyena replied promptly, his hesitance replaced with common sense. "You shouldn't either! Especially not out of revenge!" Zabakku tried to convince his friend to rethink his decision.
"Then what should I do then, Zabakku?" Kyo gave up his struggle, still staring fire into the hyena's eyes. The lynx was willing to hear him out, hoping there was some sort of brilliant idea floating around in that empty mind of his.
"...We can run away!" The hyena started, "to Empyrean! They'll offer us protection and you'll be fighting against the same person who you want dead!" It wasn't a half bad idea at all. There was just one little problem with that option...
"And join the tyranny that wants to see my kind extinct? I might be desperate, but I'm no fool." Kyo grumbled, expecting such a blasphemous reply from the hyena. "You can run away to Empyrean, I'll take my chances on my own!"
"...Fine," Zabakku gave up trying to save his friend, releasing him from his grasp. "But don't go dragging me into your mess," the hyena began to feel their friendship breaking at the seams and Zakk was able to sense it as well.
"Is this the big betrayal Kyo was going on about?" Zakk examined the embers of their disagreement as Kyo had pushed his way through the hyena's defenses and out the door for round two. Zabakku was already too beat himself to follow the lynx out. Kyo would have to limp and hobble his own way back to his room. Though as a precaution, the hyena gathered up the crystals neatly on the lynx's bed before heading off to his own to sleep his troubles away. "Nah... can't be, Kyo would have wanted me dead otherwise at that very moment," Zakk was becoming more keen of what was to come and braced himself for the worst. He secretly wished to wake up back in the decaying hospital bed and avoid any more tragedies he had to bare witness to.
However, his wish was far from granted as he was still stuck in Zabakku's skin, buried within The Burrow no less. This time he was standing in front of the door of Kyo's room. The sounds of extremely suppressed screaming were easily identifiable from his position as the walls had trouble muffling the cries. At first take, Zakk assumed it was Kyo probably blubbering over his injuries. The pitch of it all begged to differ. Zakk was about to comment on the situation, only to get instantly interrupted by Zabakku mumbling some sort of monologue under his breath.
"This is it old friend," He began as Zakk felt the hyena's paws go for the latch, beginning to pick the lock underneath. "I've stuck by your side through thick and thin, only to see the sickness of revenge corrupt your mind," he made sure to take his time, making sure his tinkering was dead silent. He had studied the lock days before, preparing himself for this moment. "I've been silent for far too long... You've treated me like dirt, you've forced yourself onto innocent women, and even took part in abusing the children The Burrow holds ransom... But I will thank you for one thing," the latch clicked, though overshadowed by the commotion. "You've made Empyrean look reeeal nice from where I stand," Zabakku turned the lever carefully, peeking into the room to see the lynx making an example of Zabakku's second accusation.
"Wow... Well this is some blackmail material for sure..." Zakk saw a brief glimpse of the heinous act before Zabakku pinpointed his eyes on the target. The former hyena was confident that Kyo was more than buried in the moment to notice his new visitor. He inched cautiously closer from behind, keeping his sights glued on the horny lynx. Thankfully, Kyo and his bounty were faced away from the doorway, unable to see the storm that was approaching.
Zabakku pulled out a handkerchief from a thigh pouch of his. The cloth was peppered with sleeping dust, one wiff was all you needed to go lights out. "Goodbye, Kyo," the hyena murmured before wrapping the rag across the lynx's muzzle. A brief thrashing came about Kyo before he passed out in Zabakku's arms.
"Daaamn, someone's got their big boy pants on today," Zakk commended his former self for his initiative. "...Can't say the same about Kyo, though," who wore his pants at his ankles. The hyena slid the lynx from his sheath, letting him flop onto the floor. There was nothing else covering his victim, who was quivering and whimpering in fear, wondering why the Lynx had stopped.
Zabakku focused his attention back on the naked spectacle on the Kyo's bed. She was a fennec fox that the hyena swore worked at the brothel that Kyo frequented with the hyena reluctantly in tow. She was young, a tad too young to be working there in his opinion. It upset the hyena to see her selling herself there, and more to see her exposed and violated in Kyo's bed. Patches of her fur were tangled and torn, ravaged by the lynx's grasp and claws. The hyena had to shake himself from the sight, seeing something bodily wounded other than Sand-Runners had him sickly enticed. He never had to experience a bloody mess, minus the rare occurring bloody nose or minor scrape. Living his life within The Burrow had Zabakku convinced he was a Sand-Runner like the majority.
"Now don't just sit there! Do something!" Zakk yelled at his former self to take action. The hyena came around to the side of the bed, reaching a gentle paw out towards the shivering fennec. He stroked carefully down her back, hoping to calm her nerves. It had little effect, going as far as to cause her to jump a little.
"It's okay!" Zabakku kept his words to a whisper, extremely careful not to startle her further. "He's not going to hurt you anymore," he gave her another brush across her back. She was unresponsive as the hyena soon realized she was blindfolded and gagged. Little time was wasted as Zabakku went to work removing the blindfold and tearing off the gag. Her face was soddened with tears, snot, saliva, and some blood. It was slightly off-putting to the hyena, but he didn't let the sight hinder his rescue operation.
The fennec still hadn't responded once they were locked in each other's sight for a brief moment. She was still flat on the bed, only her eyes made the effort to move. Zabakku had cut the ties from her wrists and helped her off of the bed. "...Can you walk?" He asked, willing to carry her if need be.
"...Y-yes, I think so," her feeble voice uttered out as she struggled to attain balance. The hyena left her side briefly to grab a cloak in one of the wardrobes nearby, dressing it over the fennec without warning.
"You'll need this," He let her tie the cloth together, "it's a cold night, and the last thing you want is to draw the wrong attention..." Which probably got her here in the first place, but he wouldn't dare say that to her now. His biggest concern was the matter of their escape and their safety. She nodded with a short hum as they quickly prepped for escape. Zabakku dragged Kyo back onto his bed, not bothering to clean him up or tuck him in. He had no idea how long it would be before the lynx woke back up, so fooling around with the minor details would waste their precious time. Rushing to the door, Zabakku took the lead as they ventured back outside. "Follow me! And keep your head low!" He warned as they took off. The fennec exhausted herself to keep up with the hyena, desperate not to be left behind, her injuries had put a demented spring to her step.
Zabakku was sure no one would give them trouble. The less they were seen, especially the girl, the less trouble would tail them towards their whereabouts. The fennec followed orders, keeping extra close to the hyena, grabbing hold of him to keep up with him on certain occasions. Too bad Zakk had blacked out to see the rescue attempt through to the end.
"Well, I hope she got out safely..." He could only think of the fennec's wellbeing, already assuming he himself was still alive further in time. His eyes were forced open once again, a deep blue starry sky graced his sight from above. The sweet fresh air of the surface world filled his nostrils. "Man. Feels great to be out of that hole again..." Zakk hoped he didn't jinx it by opening his big mouth. He was still restrained by the confines of his replaying memories, but the brief moment of peace was satisfying enough to make up for it. It didn't take long for the rest of his senses to kick in, feeling the embrace of another. "...Amelia?" Was all Zakk could think of, feeling the familiar warm cuddle of calm intimacy working its way under his skin.
"You doing alright?" Zabakku spoke as he glanced up and over at his recent fennec companion, she was clearly beat from their escapade of escape. Both hyena's felt the same butterflies fluttering in their stomach. Zabakku had a bad habit of not letting anyone in, at least not this close. It was comforting, but a dangerous kind of comfort, one that had peeled his guard away and replaced it with a sickly sensation that numbed his awareness, leaving him vulnerable.
His feelings were in conflict with his situation. He wanted to shake it away, but it felt too good to part with it. It was the closest resemblance to love he had felt, and it was quite fulfilling. "Yeah..." the fennec replied softly between tired heaves of breath. Their eyes locked for a brief moment before Zabakku answered back.
"..W-we should get going then," Zabakku pulled himself up, but the fennec refused to depart from his side, giving a painful groan in response. Their sprint from the innards of The Burrow had her drained and her condition wasn't going to improve overnight.
"Not so fast!" She replied, pressing against the hyena to hinder his movement. "I swear my legs feel like they're gonna fall off," she warned him, not willing to move an inch. Zabakku sort of regretted bringing her along, but his sense of morality wouldn't let him leave her behind.
"...I'll carry you then, how about that?" He maneuvered his arms around her and scooped her in his grasp. She tried to smile past the pain, appreciating the kind gesture. But before she could express her gratitude, the duo felt the ground tremble slightly beneath them. Even Zakk knew this wouldn't lead to anything good. Before the hyena could react, the ground erupted beneath them. A grand force overtook Zabakku, tearing him from the fennec's hold as he was lifted into the sky. Coming back down, the motion revealed that it was Kyo behind the surprise attack. The Lynx shamelessly used Zakk as a brace on their way back down. The impact was going to hurt the hyena in the morning, and he was sure he displaced something internally as his back collided with the ground.
"You really thought you could get away with stealing my girl? Huh?" Kyo's claws were grappled dangerously around Zabakku's throat. The hyena flailed about, trying to get a gasp of air as he fought against the lynx's rage and anger. Zabakku's eyes swiftly searched for the fennec. She was sitting herself up, staggering about in agony more than ever as she was still registering what was happening.
"Run!" Zabakku managed to gurgle out against the pressure applied against him. His voice had given the fennec a second wind as her senses came back into focus. The sight of the hyena pressed up against the ground had left her conflicted for a moment. However, it was the sight of her rapist that made the final decision. She pulled herself to her feet and scrambled away in an awkward gallop. Zabakku watched her go, only to have his sight readjusted on Kyo as the paw from the hyena's throat grabbed onto Zabakku's muzzle to forcefully lock sights with him. The lynx's eyes glared fire into the hyena's, instilling crippling fear. Kyo's anger was terrifying and was something Zabakku had always steered clear from... It was now right in his face sizing up its target.
"You really think I'm gonna run after that bitch?" He squeezed the hyena's snout tighter, silencing any possibility of getting a response out of him. "I'm gonna make sure I don't have a thief smuggling my goods from under my nose first!" He growled before releasing his grip over the hyena to deliver a devastating hook with the same paw. The blow shook the lights around inside the hyena, traveling far enough to give Zakk a migraine.
"Damn... I'm thankful I didn't have to go toe to toe with this asshole," Zakk grumbled, only to get further pummeled into a beating, his face becoming a bloody pulp. He was still alive, but his face was doused in his own blood. He was still alive, but couldn't even bring himself to even struggle anymore. He felt himself sink into the ground as his vision went from red to black. It felt as if a few moments passed before the hyena was slapped back into consciousness.
"Wake up, ya runt," A stern woman's voice called out, pulling him closer to the land of the living. The sound of her voice was clearly different than the fennec's, more harsh and hostile, like the slaps across his face. Zabakku opened his eyes, his vision considerably less red than before, but burry from first sight. Thankfully for his sake, the light was dim and gentle, easing him into focus. He noticed two silhouettes hunched over him, one was practically glowing golden.
"Ari?" Zakk thought at first glance only to suddenly remember that his surrogate father didn't become a glowing eyesore until long after the hyena left The Burrow. "...No, Ari didn't have a rack that big," Zakk's eyes came into focus, landing on quite the perky boobs. "...Who's the Albedo, then?" he tried to fight his former self to lift his head to see his mystery caretakers.
"Heeey, Kiddo!" the darker figured replied this time, his voice carried more joy than his shiny companion. "Long time no see!" his words perked Zabakku's attention, directing his gaze by sound alone. It wasn't much of a shocker to him, but to Zakk, it was as if he was looking straight into a mirror.
"What am I doing here?!" Zakk sat dumbfounded, mesmerized by his doppelganger. "Aren't I me? ...Who's this imposter?" He was convinced that this hyena was hiding behind some sort of black magic, Burrow or Empyrean.
"Well..." The sand-runner hyena continued, "First time to be exact," he gave a chuckle to his slight correction. "...You don't look so excited to see me... It's me, your old man!" He revealed to both of them. The connected duo had their minds tangled in stupor.
"Well... I guess I could believe that," Zakk concluded with a pinch of salt. Still holding some reservations that it was just an act to go along with the disguise. "...He seems pretty nice by the looks of it too... We'll see where it goes," he made sure to keep a close eye on the hyena, even if the Albedo's tits would compete for his attention. Zabakku blinked for a few moments, the information had digested slower in his thoughts than his current self's. The recovering hyena lifted himself up to a sitting position on the bed he was laying in. His eyes shifted to and from the two Terrans who surrounded him.
"Okay, so if you're my father... " He soon turned to the albedo, with the same questioning look in his eye, "does that make you my mother?" His question caused the two strangers to exchange glances before the Sand-Runner burst out laughing heartly.
"Oh, don't we both wish, pup!" The Sand-Runner spoke through the hilarity. "She's just my girl..." He nudge the Albedo with a prodding elbow. The gesture got on her nerves, but she did her best to not show it. Zabakku's eyes fell back on her. Admiring the shiny striped skunk's assets among other things. She was the grumpy type... Sort of like his own mother as Zakk saw it.
"I don't think I'd want to see those two in a room together, that's just asking for disaster," Zakk pondered the thought of his mom squaring up with the Albedo, hoping they wouldn't be winding up meeting these people again.
"Your mom however," The Sand-Runner's sight trailed off as he traveled down memory lane. His trip didn't last long as the Albedo rudely interrupted him.
"Was a coward and a whore," she said with no filter. Her arms crossed as she grew slightly more frustrated with the conversation. "Good riddance," she grumbled, still not even happy with Zabakku's mother's absence.
"Hey! Don't say that in front of the pup!" The sandy hyena scowled and gently whacked the albedo across the arm. "It's his mother we're talking about!"
"What in the hell is she talking about? Ferra is the least cowardly person I know! And by that merit alone I can assume she wasn't just some whore either," Zakk felt the need to punch the Albedo across the face.
"Does it look like I give a damn? I can smell her scent all over him," the skunk commented, her eyes staring fire into the recovering hyena.
"Lilly!" The Sand-Runner put a paw on the Albedo's shoulder. "Chill! He may be Ferra's kid, but it doesn't mean he is her by any means!" He tried to talk some sense into her only to have her shake off his grasp.
"Ferra's kid?" Zabakku asked, his head tilting slightly, "who's Ferra?" His query had gotten him conflicting reactions from both parties. The Sand-Runner took the opportunity to inquire further.
"You honestly don't know your own mom, huh?" He was honestly surprised, soon feeling sorry for Zabakku.
"...Probably for the best," Lilly replied, feeling no sympathy whatsoever. "She was probably too busy sluting herself around to focus on raising a child," her comments got on both the Sand-Runner's and Zakk's nerves.
"Lilly! If you can't keep quiet about Ferra, I'll make you be quiet!" His threat had visibly gotten a slight reaction out of the glowing skunk. She leaned back as her face eased off the scowling. "Anyways..." Isaac returned his focus on Zabakku, "I met your mother while I was working for Empyrean," Lilly went to say something, only to close her own mouth. She would vent to the recovering hyena on her own time. "She was pretty nice, took me in when I thought I was a goner... I don't think I'd be where I am right now if it wasn't for her." His reminiscing had Zakk admiring his mother in a whole new light. He wish he could just pull himself out of his former body and interview the Sand-Runner on the spot... He decided asking Ferra these questions would probably net him about the same answers.
"...So where is she?" Zabakku found himself cutting straight to the point, he had no time to be gambling his chances with strangers who claimed to be related to him.
"...That's what we're trying to find out," the Sand-Runner replied with much hesitancy. "We... I, thought she'd be with you. Looks like that wasn't the case," he placed a paw on the Zabakku's shoulder. "...I'm sorry pup," He rubbed the area, hoping Zabakku wouldn't start crying, he didn't work well with other people's negative emotions let alone his own.
"...I see," Zabakku was unsure if he could trust these people, he just wanted to leave and get to Empyrean as soon as he could. "I can keep an eye out if you're looking for her," he scooted himself off of the bed, only to be halted by the skunk, who pushed him back onto it.
"We just found you runt. you think we're gonna let a few years of work just walk out the door? You're sadly mistaken," Zabakku knew nothing of what Lilly was capable of so her threats were only taken at face value. Zakk, however, knew more about Albedo elementals and the tricks they could pull right in front of his eyes... He knew Zabakku wouldn't be leaving this place on his own any time soon.
"Look, I didn't ask for any help here!" Zabakku argued back, growing a slight attitude. Lilly would have none of it, refusing to budge for the recovering hyena. Luckily, before any conflict could break out, the Sand-Runner intervened.
"Hey! Guys, quit it!" He pushed them both aside before directing his attention on Zabakku, "Zakky, look, if it wasn't for Lilly and me, you'd probably be dead meat!" He did his best to defuse the situation, but one little word had struck underneath Zabakku's skin...
"Zakky? ...Really?" The hyena was far from impressed with the Sand-Runner's ability with nicknames. "It's Zabakku, Za-Ba-Ku," he sounded it off for the seemingly deaf Sand-Runner.
"And I'm dad, Duh-Add," he dished out the same response to the hyena. "Nice to meet you," a taste of his own medicine caused Zabakku to roll his eyes.
"Why can't I just go?" Zabakku protested, wishing he was rather dead than be held against his own will. "I didn't ask for any help regardless!" He remained stubborn.
"We've been searching high and low for you ever since I came across a note from your mother that you were born and that I was a good-for-nothing father who wasn't there for either of you... You know how it goes, I'm just trying to make it all up before it's too late," the hyena spoke genuinely of his desires, but Zabakku still wasn't buying it.
"Well it's too late now! So let me go!" The hyena responded without a hint of remorse. His demands were ignored.
"You're not even gonna give your old man a chance?! Come on now!" He felt insulted that he was pushed aside so easily. "Let us be a family again!"
"I don't have time for a family! Especially not your demented family!" Zabakku's sights shifted at the glowing skunk, his accusation hadn't fazed her in the slightest.
"Oh really? How do you explain this, lover boy?" The hyena raised his eyebrows has he waved Lily out of the way, revealing the fennec from before sleeping soundless in a bed on the other side of the room. A sharp groan escaped Zabakku's throat as he rolled his eyes once more.
"She's not my girlfriend!" He responded, becoming fed up being backed into a corner with their assumptions and flawed logic.
"Oh really?" The Sand-Runner grew smug over the hyena's defensive reaction. "You two looked so adorable cuddling under the moonlight together!" News of his observation had made Zabakku's face flush completely red.
"H-hey! She was weak, exhausted, and scared! That doesn't mean we were a couple!" The hyena spoke honestly, but he would be lying to himself if he didn't have slight feelings for the fennec that developed during their short intimate moment together.
"Oh come on now! You don't have to hide it, pup!" The Sand-Runner elbowed the hyena, proud of his catch. "I can read it all over your face!" He let out a loud chuckle or two, nearly provoking the hyena to march right out... If it wasn't for the imposing skunk standing in his way with a sneer that could pierce into his soul.
"Knock it off! I said she's not my girlfriend okay?" Before the argument could go any further a crash of rocks and boulders could be heard falling to the floor in another room nearby. Both the Sand-Runner and Albedo sprang to their feet. By their reaction, Zabakku knew it was nothing good. The idea to escape eluded him, even if he could slip by undetected, he would have trouble finding his own way out, let alone running into more trouble.
"Lilly, go check that out for me, I'll keep the kids under watch," the Sand-Runner quietly ordered his partner, who nodded with a grunt and disappeared in a blink of an instant. It was a feat unseen by the younger hyena, the act causing him to rub his eyes to reassure himself he wasn't just hallucinating.
"...The hell was that?!" Zabakku threw his question at the Sand-Runner in a hush, his training reminding him to use near silence when speaking. Sure, Sand-Runners were able to melt and morph into any shape or form, but to disappear in a sliver of a second, something like that was unheard of to him.
"Uhhh... Empyrean basic training?" The Sand-Runner tried to play it off, but his tone was far from convincing and Zabakku could easily tell. He didn't hesitate for an instant to call the lying hyena out on it either.
"I've dealt with plenty of Empyreans, they don't just teleport!" He pointed out, causing the Sand-Runner to panic for a few moments as his eyes darted about for an easier answer.
"...Lilly's just... One of a kind! That's all!" He replied with a nervous grin, hoping the hyena would leave the topic alone. However Zabakku's demeanor hadn't changed in the awkward silence, forcing the liar to play his hand. "Okay, okay... Look, things got a little strange when Lilly turned okay? ...She's nothing like we've seen... She doesn't like it when I ask questions, but as far as we know, she's still pretty much the same ol' Lilly... More or less," he tacked on with a hint of uncertainty.
"So she's an elemental then, huh? What kind?" Zabakku hadn't seen much beyond his Sand-Runner band of thieves, Maybe the occasional oddball elemental working for Empyrean, but none had the radiance that Lilly held.
"We're not sure, but Lilly doesn't care and I don't want to get whacked over the head for asking, so neither do I," He chuckled, his answer was far from satisfying to Zabakku's ears. Zakk on the other hand already knew what Lilly was but there was no way of enlightening his company of the fact.
He couldn't even attempt to convey the message before a fight split back into their room. The skunk tumbled back, with a familiar Lynx right on top of her, dominating the fight by what the hyenas could tell. The Sand-Runner was the first onto the scene to help his partner out, quick to tackle the unaware Lynx over.
Zabakku had kept his distance, wondering if he should just take the fennec girl and run. The fighting duo made the perfect distraction, their scuffle was loud enough to cover an escape if Zabakku seized the chance. Then again, the opportunity to finish Kyo off once and for all was quite tempting to the hyena. In the end, he decided to wait it out, opposite of what Zakk wanted to do.
'Fight or flight, Zabakku, don't just sit there!" He yelled at his former self to take action without even considering the ramifications of those choices himself. The duo continued to watch the brawl. Lilly had raised her paws into the air as they began to glow brighter than the rest of her body. It intrigued Zabakku more than it did Zakk. Her actions didn't shake them until she brought her paws down onto Kyo's who howled sharply in pain as she made the connection to his ankles.
His grainy flesh had burned into glass and began melting into the floor, filling the cracks and crevices, ensuring he wouldn't be going anywhere anytime soon. The duo were equally as stunned from what they witnessed.
"Holy crap! I thought Albedos could only heal, who knew they could burn as hot as the sun?!" Zakk commented, making a mental note to inform Ari about his discovery sometime in the future.
"Keep him down!" Lilly yelled out at her partner as she when for Kyo's wrists next, producing similar results, agonizing screams and all. "There... We'll figure out what to do with him later," the Albedo climbed off of the lynx, onto her feet. The Sand-Runner followed suit, though visibly more out of breath than her. Kyo however was groveling about, moaning in pain. Letting out a huge exhale of relief, the Sand-Runner brushed his paws together in accomplishment.
"I guess that's all taken care of now, eh pup?" He flashed a toothy grin at the hyena. Zabakku knew Lilly did most of the work, but nodded anyways just to stroke the Sand-Runner's ego. "But now what do we do with 'em?" He glanced back at the suffering lynx, the pain too intense for him to even glare death into the Sand-Runner's eyes. He was stuck and no amount of flopping across the floor would free him from his own natural binds.
"...Let him go?" Zabakku harmlessly suggested, clearly able to see his ex-companion in extreme pain. His option didn't go over so well with the other elementals.
"I wish..." The hyena replied with a shake of his head, "but we can't just let someone leave knowing of Lilly's condition," his choice of wording had gain a spiteful glare from the glowing skunk.
"...And it's the same reason you won't let me go either, huh?" Zabakku replied, growing frustrated. The Sand-Runner could read him like a book. He paused for a moment to recollect his thoughts with a sigh.
"...Look, Zabakku," The sandy hyena's new form of seriousness took the hyena by surprise. "I really want us to be a family again." He approached Zabakku and placed his paws over his shoulders. "Even if we can't find all the pieces, I want to make this work..." The hyena was drawn into a long, awkward hug, an embrace not felt since his forgotten, carefree days of youth. "Give us a week pup... Or at least until we find your mum, yeah?" His words seemed convincing, coaxing a creepingly slow hug back. The Sand-Runner faced the glowing skunk, still holding his kin tight, "Come and share in the love Lilly, you're family too," he waved her in with an arm, nodding up for her cooperation.
She gave an audible groan before rolling her eyes, "uggh, whatever," her tone was reluctant, but she piled onto the group regardless. The Sand-Runner pulled her in tighter, testing her personal space and patience. All was quiet, minus Kyo's complaining, which was easily tuned out in the moment they shared together. All feelings of doubt had fell from the hyena as he savoured the comfort he had within the grasp of his new allies. It seemed as all was right in Zabakku's world, until reality came knocking once again as the Sand-Runner shook briefly in his arms. Pulling the hyena back, Zabakku opened his eyes to see the life from his father's eyes begin to leave.
"Z-Z-Zakk..." He uttered out with his last breath as Zabakku pulled himself away, his eyes catching the point of a knife jutting out from the Sand-Runner's chest.
"Isaac!" Lilly screamed as her glow began to die, clutching her lover in her arms, "Isa-a-ac!" She felt him began to sink her arms as his body decomposed into lifeless sand. The duo watched his crystal fell to the floor with Lilly disappearing from existence entirely. All who were left in the tragedy were Zabakku, Kyo, and the fennec girl who had brandished the driving knife, still outstretched. Silence filled the room As both current and past hyena tried to comprehend the situation.
"...Was that really necessary?!" Zakk almost shouted. Isaac was now dead and he would have to tell Ferra of this discovery, who was still actively searching for him. He couldn't wrestle with the thought now, it was best to save it when Zabakku wasn't dealing with crazy. The former hyena kept his thoughts to himself, his mind was a washing machine at this point as he continued to process what was going on, practically choking on the details.
The fennec's armed hand shook, her eyes were devoid of any grain of sanity. She projected her knife further out at the hyena, the words almost ready to jump from her tongue to attack him. She trembled in her stance for a few seconds before retracting her blade and rushing out of the room blindfully, stepping on Kyo's stomach during her stampede, forcing an agonized cry from the lynx.
Zabakku's eyes fell upon the crystal that was left of Isaac. He slid off of the bed and onto the floor, his sight never leaving the glimmering rock. Left alone with his thoughts, Zabakku wrestled with himself to find the emotions, the words to speak, something to keep him rooted in reality. It all felt like a terrible dream he couldn't wake up from. Zakk picked up the crystal in his gloved paw, staring at it intensely. Kyo leaned his head up to see the hyena holding the shining rock close to himself... A little too close.
"Zabakku..." The lynx groaned for his attention, "Give me... The crystal," Kyo's throaty breaths couldn't pierce the hypnotic spell Zabakku seemed to be under. "I can fix this... We can go back... To the way things used to be," he ranted on, hoping to get through to the hyena. His words had only reached Zakk, who wouldn't have any of Kyo's banter. But seeing his former self entranced by a crystal didn't lead to a good outcome either.
"Oh this better not be one of those dreams within a dream bullcrap!" Zakk clamored as he saw the inevitable coming. Without another moment's notice, Zabakku smashed the crystal into his own face, even causing Zakk to recoil as he expected the worst to come. Thankfully for his case, the worst was already over.