The sun did not come out that morning. It was rainy and cold. Worse, Kern refused to get up. It struck the young pup as odd. Normally his guardian and protector were awake by now. Had he decided to sleep in today? The canine didn't really mind but he knew that it would be only a matter of time before their human friends wanted to go mystery solving.
Mystery nudged the large fox in an attempt to raise him from his slumber. "Come on Kern, it's morning. Time to wake up."
To his surprise, it seemed that Kern was already awake. His breathing was more shallow than normal, crimson eyes weakly looking up at the puppy that loomed over him with concern planted on his face. "I cannot rise, my partner," the fox said softly.
The canine halted at the vulpine's words, a frown forming on his muzzle. Why couldn't he get up? What was wrong with him? Why did his voice sound so small and weak? It wasn't anything like how it normally was, so wise, confident, strong, sounding. The protector looked so frail on top of that. Something he had never seen in the fox before.
"...Why not? What's wrong?"
"I am very weak, partner. I cannot rise. I... I fear my long life is reaching its end."
Mystery's eyes widened in a mix of horror and shock. Kern was dying? Was that even possible? He didn't think that the vulpine would have been able to die considering he already lived inside him, sharing his body with him. The eight-tailed fox was connected to him through mind and soul. How could he die?
"Y-You can't die..." the canine whined softly, moving to rest behind the black-and-red furred kitsune. He couldn't imagine a life without him.
The fox offered the pup a small smile.
"Oh, there are many ways I can. One seems to have caught up to me."
His ears perked up. Did he even want to know what could cause his friend to leave him? "W-What is it?"
"It is called the Sickness of Shadows. It is because I stopped being cruel that it has come to me."
"...Can't you be cruel again? Maybe it'll go away! I don't mind if you are if it keeps you alive, Kern."
The fox chuckled softly. "I can never return to the way I was pup. You made me see the good in myself. "
"B-But now that's going to kill you..." Mystery whimpered. He had changed him. Made him not be able to be cruel anymore. Was it his fault his partner was dying?
"Mystery my partner," Kern said with a smile, "I cannot hurt you. I will not."
The puppy frowned and nuzzled the black-and-red fox. "...But I don't want to lose you."
"You...will be free of me though."
"I don't want to be free of you!" Mystery told him, voice rising in pitch and shaking at the thought of losing his friend. "You're my friend. I don't want you to die, Kern!"
"Alright, young one alright... there is... another way."
"What is it?"
"It...is a serum made from things hard to get."
"Things hard to get?"
"Yes. Ecto plasm... the heart of shadow, flowers wilted from no sun, three share fruits, and seven hairs from a hellhound."
Mystery listened closely as he listed what he needed. The puppy nodded. He was determined to save his partner. No matter what.
"I'll go and get those for you Kern."
"I cannot allow you to do this. It is too dangerous."
"I don't care. Dangerous or not, I want to help you. And if this will keep you alive, then I'll do it."
"You...you are so kind to me pup."
Mystery offered him a smile. "You're my friend Kern. Of course, I would be."
"I don't deserve this..."
"Have you forgotten what I did to you?"
Mystery shook his head. How could he forget what the fox had done to him when they first became one with each other? He was forced to be his servant, doing anything he asked and if not, he was punished for it. Yet, somehow he was able to soften the kitsune's hardened heart and change him. Something he was proud he had done. Kern was nicer now and he wasn't hurt like before. It was better being allied with the great beast then fearing him and his wrath if he disobeyed him. He was stuck with him anyhow and he was better that they worked together rather than against one another.
"No, I haven't. But it doesn't matter anymore, does it? It's in the past, Kern! Besides, you were only doing what you knew how back then."
The puppy turned around to pad off. He glanced back at his friend and gave him another smile. He didn't want to leave him knowing that he was sick and dying, but he knew that if he didn't, then his friend was going to die and he'd never forgiven himself if he allowed that to happen knowing there was a way to save him.
"I'll take Misery with me so I won't be alone if that makes you feel better," he told his ghost friend. "Amy and Scrags can keep an eye on you while we're gone. Spooks too! They'll make sure nothing bad happens to you."
He turned back around and raced away to find the two humans and little kitten that he had a crush on. Before he disappeared or was out of earshot from the eight-tailed fox, he called one last thing to him.
"Misery and I will be back soon, Kern! We'll make sure we get everything to save you! I promise. Just hold on until we get back!"