Hard yaoi and yaoi fiction on the lighter side

Fiction~~The Last Pure Human~~Ch. 33


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The Last Pure Human
Chapter 33 - When the Cat's Away, the Guards Will Play

Ch 1 | Ch 2 | Ch 3 | Ch 4 | Ch 5 | Ch 6 | Ch 7 | Ch 8 | Ch 9 | Ch 10 | Ch 11 | Ch 12 | Ch 13 | Ch 14 | Ch 15 | Ch 16 | Ch 17 | Ch 18 | Ch 19 | Ch 20 | Ch 21 | Ch 22 | Ch 23 | Ch 24 | Ch 25 | Ch 26 | Ch 27 | Ch 28 | Ch 29 | Ch 30 | Ch 31 | Ch 32 | Ch 33 | Ch 34

Leaning against the corridor wall inside the Haven, Rui held Mick’s arm as Davin calmly bandaged it up. His ears flickered, cataloguing every sound for potential threat, but he made sure to watch Davin’s hands and nothing else. The limp foot visible out of the corner of his eye was bad enough; he might dishonor himself and run if he looked at the dead body that went along with it.

Ever since the fight had ended, he felt disconnected from his own skin. His stomach was hot with the need to vomit. He sweat as though it were mid-summer.  It didn’t matter that all these men were purists. They were dead. What about their mates and consorts, now?  And their families!

Rui’s hands shook on Mick’s arm and he concentrated until they steadied. Before today, he’d never seen a dead body, and now he’d seen people killed.

He’d killed.

Rui shuddered. When his troop had come in, he’d had no idea it would be this bad. He’d been excited about getting to do something, and checking out the ass of that shy new guard, Zerard, while they milled about in the storage room. Zerard had left ahead of them with Zonta’s troop, so Rui had been able to watch his backside all the way down the long tunnel into the Haven.

And then everything had gone to hell. There’d been bodies on the floor, uncared for. Blood had been so thick it made the floor slick in places. And almost none of the boxes were still operational to call back to the Citadel. No one had any idea what was going on, or where Kasan and his men were, and the best they could do was leave trail sign in the dust along the edges of the floor and hope it survived. None of them had thought to bring something to mark the walls with.

It hadn’t been exciting any more.

Rui had thought that was the worst thing he’d ever seen, dead Kyashin splayed across the floor. But then they’d come across Mick’s team, on the verge of being overwhelmed by purists, and it had been nothing but terrifying movement and noise. His lieutenant Emal ordering them forward, bodies and skin blocking Rui’s vision, and suddenly, he’d been face to face with his first purist.

He’d almost died right then. The other man had tried to gut him. Dodging with a wild yell, Rui had fallen back, but it was like all his training had drained out his ears. He should have died. If a blood-spattered Mick hadn’t stepped in to help, Rui would have been spitted without even getting his spear up on time. By the time he’d cleared the shock from his system, another purist had charged him. Rui’s feet tangled with each other rather than steadied. Snarling, he’d brought up his spear, knowing it was too late; the other man’s blade was already too close. But someone had bumped into the man from the side, knocking his aim off. The other spear had cracked against the wall behind Rui, and the charging purist had impaled himself.

Rui couldn’t forget the feel of it, his arms slammed against his stomach as the spear jerked, feeling the blade go in. And another man’s face right in front of his own, shocked, going slack already as Rui pulled back frantically.

Rui had been staring at the dying man, still impaled, when Mick screamed as a short sword sliced open his arm. Davin charged by Rui with a vicious snarl to ram his spear so hard into the other Purist that it went clear through his stomach and out his back. Davin had kicked the man off, slicing him open further, and then defended his consort like a maddened beast when anyone else tried to get near.

He’d only let Rui help when Mick finally managed to get to his feet and hugged Davin around the chest with his good arm until he calmed down.

And the purist’s body, the purist Rui killed, was still there on the floor, within touching distance. Staring at them with blind eyes. “Why would they do this?” They could have surrendered when Rui’s troop showed up. No one had to die like that.

Davin finished tying the knot on the crude wrappings and kissed Mick’s forehead. “Some people need someone to blame when the world is fucked up.” He ran a finger over the blade of his spear, smearing the blood there. “Crap mates, boring jobs, no money – it’s always someone else’s fault. Never an accident, and sure as hell never their fault.” 

Davin looked down at one of the bodies and spit on the floor next to the dead man. Rui flinched. Davin’s pupils were slits when he raised his head. “People like that…they lose every fucking speck of morality. They do anything and everything that keeps their damned delusions alive. Kidnapping. Murder. Betraying the family.” He spit again. “Fucking shit-for-brains, puss-ridden-”

Mick pulled himself up by his own spear, leaning on it for balance as he stroked Davin’s cheek. Rui looked aside uncomfortably as he heard the murmur that was probably meant to be private. “Shhh, love. Shhhh. It’s done now. You didn’t have a choice. They would have killed us both. Shhhh.” Davin leaned against his consort, jaw tight. His hands trembled over his spear and Rui wondered for the first time if Davin was as shocked by all this as Rui was.

He stood there quietly next to the older couple. “They were trying to kill us-” Rui whispered, still unable to comprehend it. He jumped when Mick reached out and stroked his ear once, too.

“I know. It’s senseless. But we lived.” Mick tried to smile. “As much as I wish none of you young ones had to be a part of this, I’m very glad you showed up when you did.”

Rui swallowed, nodding.

Davin pulled away from Mick’s embrace and raised his voice. “We need to go.” He paused, staring at the dead bodies no one had moved away yet. His ears calmed as Mick gave a covert brush of fingers against his hand. “Kasan’s gone on ahead with the shokan but he can’t have gone far. It’s only been a few tics.”

Lieutenant Emal nodded curtly. He gave instructions to three of his own men. Two of the guards with Davin were too badly hurt to walk; they’d need help back to the Citadel. Everyone else silently gathered their gear and followed Davin and Mick down the hall past the small pile of bodies. Rui ended up just behind Emal and tried not to tremble when they turned a corner and dodged another pair of bodies. He averted his eyes at the next one, breathing deeply as inconspicuously as he could.

The next hallway split in three different directions and Davin stopped. “Shit.” His ears flattened. He examined the ground for any signs left in the dust.

Emal crept up close, keeping his voice low. “What do you think? Should we split up or take these one at a time?”

Davin gestured to the three areas. “I’ve no fucking idea. The Haven is crawling with purists.”

Emal snorted. “I noticed.”

“…but Kasan’s close to the end. If we slow down to search every corridor one at a time, I’d lay odds that he won’t last long enough for us to find anything but a cooling corpse.”

“Fuck, really? He looked out of it when we were searching the Citadel, but I didn’t think he’d fail that soon.”

Davin lowered his voice. “Throwbacks go down quicker, I’ve heard.”

Neither of them spoke, staring down the corridors. Mick’s fingers brushed against Davin’s again.

Rui wished he were at the back of the group, unable to hear just how likely they were to fail. He liked Prince Kasan. Kasan was grumpy, but he was always nice with the littles, and since he’d found his consort, he’d been mellow. Even friendly. Kasan shouldn’t die like this, wasting away in agony from the heat raging out of control.

Davin tamped his spear on the floor and looked to Emal. “We have more coming in to clean this damn place out, right?”

“Dozens. It’s a fucking warren, but as soon as they get all the search parties in from town, we’ll have enough in here to take care of the rest of the fanatics.”

“Then we should split up. We have the best chance at getting to Kasan. The others can take care of the purists. Standard signals if he’s found, right side of the corridor floors still? The dust is even thicker on the edges around here; should work. Or we can always use a box.”

Emal nodded grimly and glanced at a broken piece of metal hanging from the corner “If there’s a box that actually still works in this relic.”

“Of course.”

The lieutenant started splitting them up with minimal fuss. Rui ended up in Mick’s group of nine, Davin taking the lead. Rui was feeling comfortable that at least they had enough to defend themselves when they turned another corner and were faced with three corridors yet again. Davin hesitated a moment and then picked two of the more experienced guards to lead. They split into threes.

Rui went with Mick and Davin again. He ground his teeth at every intersection as they stopped to listen for the slightest sound, peering slowly around the corner before they padded out into the open. Rui started at his own footsteps, jumping and cursing at himself whenever his foot shuffled against the floor. He had to push the image of the dying purist out of his head or he’d break down in a trembling heap. He’d never felt so terrified in his entire life.

Part of him wished he was young again, when all he had to do to stay safe was hide in a corner and mewl for help until his mother came.

Davin growled under his breath at yet another turn with multiple openings. They couldn’t split up any further or they’d have no chance against any purists. Davin prowled the openings to the other corridor, examining the clear floor fruitlessly. Rui clutched at his spear and stayed out of the way. Nervously keeping an eye out behind them, he noticed a bright spot on the floor, only as big as a drop of water. If he hadn’t been at just the right angle, he would have missed it.

Rui skittered over and crouched down, looking back at the intersection where Davin and Mick were now staring at him.

He could see a small trail of dried droplets with a different luster than the stone, barely discernable in the dim light. “They went straight!” 

Mick raised an eyebrow. Rui gestured them over and they all crouched down while he pointed it out.

“See the spots with the brighter shine? Right there, leading straight ahead. It’s saliva. Shokan drool sometimes when they’re hunting and the saliva makes a sheen just like that on the rocks when it dries.”

Now Davin raised an eyebrow. “You’re familiar with shokan?”

Rui flushed, shrugging uncomfortably. “I grew up on the fringes.”

Mick and Davin glanced at each other and each took a step to the side, opening up the way for Rui. “We’re both city-bred. If you can track…take the lead. Kasan needs all the help he can get.”

Which is how Rui ended up staring into the open forest with two more experienced men at his back, clutching his spear so hard he was surprised it didn’t crack. Few went into the forest near dark, and no one without a death wish went out there soon after the shokan whelped. He’d been taught that since he was just a little on his mother’s knee. Stepping out into the forest right now was like slitting your own throat.

But Kasan was out there, with a shokan that everyone swore hadn’t attacked any of them. They could just see his trail sign in the fading daylight, pointing the way.

Mick climbed up the steps to the outer door, panting. “I marked it down in the hallway. They’ll know where to come looking for us, as soon as another patrol comes this way. Hopefully we’ll have Kasan and his little one by then.”

Rui swallowed. How could Davin and Mick both be so calm? He rolled his spear in his hands and stared out at the forest again.

Davin patted his shoulder. “Come on, little tracker, fall apart later. We need you here now. Ears up, eyes forward, senses on. You can do this. Kasan needs us, and we need you to get us to Kasan.”

Rui swallowed again and took a step out into the forest, praying for all he was worth. At least Kasan’s signs were clear. And Rui could see the stumbling prints of his consort periodically as well. He was thinking they might have a chance when the tracks grew blurred and frantic, leading away from the citadel and through a slick patch of neon gore

The tracks from the little one disappeared after that. Rui could see a point where they’d slid over the damp earth, scrabbling for purchase before the human lost his footing. But he’d never fallen; a shokan’s print was in the way, and it’s next step was deeper, as though holding an extra weight.

Rui hadn’t realized they ever took a kill unbutchered back to their den.

He had the urge to vomit all over again.

There was no hope, now. The human would have been dead within minutes, once the shokan sunk their claws in. And even worse, Kasan’s cloth trail signs stopped soon after.

Rui informed Mick and Davin in a subdued voice, tears pricking his eyes, before hunting around and picking up the trail by foot prints alone. It was significantly slower now, hampered by the dim light and the lack of clear signs, but Rui wasn’t going to give up. Not now.

They could at least find Kasan so he wouldn’t die alone, with only an animal for company.

None of them spoke after that. There seemed no point. Rui couldn’t stop thinking about Kasan and his consort, though. So horrible. Kasan would be eaten alive by the kouloc as it raged out of control, and his consort….

The poor little thing. Shokan poison was supposed to be an extremely painful way to die, no matter how quick it was.

Rui was circling a darkened patch of hard packed dirt listlessly, looking for another sign, when he heard the high-pitched voice of Kasan’s human.

Kasaaaaan! You can’t do that! Tails do not go there! You-  How did you-  Holy crap!

They stopped walking, balancing on a large root. Three sets of ears swiveled to the left in the same moment, followed by sharp jerks of their heads.

“He’s alive?” Davin’s voice cracked and he cleared his throat. A wide smile crept across his consort’s face and they gripped each other’s hands tight.

Are you rimming me with your TAIL? Oh. My. GOD!” The human’s tone was recognizable to anyone who’d guarded Kasan’s door in the last few days. His voice seemed to grow more piercing the closer he was to climaxing.

“He’s alive!” Davin kept beaming, staring at Rui and Mick with dazed eyes. Mick leaned against Davin, favoring his wounded arm but smiling broadly just the same.

Rui gaped stupidly, his brain running in circles. “How can he be alive?” And having sex! “The shokan should have killed him! How can he be-”

Kasan!” A deep groan followed that they all recognized as Kasan.

Rui shut up. Whatever the explanation, it didn’t matter right now. Rui hadn’t failed them; they’d found Kasan and his human, and they both still lived. He closed his eyes in a brief prayer of thanks, his lips finally relaxing into an amazed grin. They were alive!

Kasan groaned again and Rui swallowed, staring around them nervously. They were alive for now. They still needed to make it out of the forest, at night, without running into any more shokan or their cubs. Rui would have sworn it was impossible, but if Kasan and his consort had found each other, miraculously escaping from an entire pack completely unscathed, surely all of them could find their way out of the forest intact?

Kasan only needed to-

“Crap! Kasan, wait. Wait, wait, wait….  Nnnnnnng, fuuuuck yes…

-finish what he was doing first.

Rui flushed, looking back to Mick and Davin. He wanted to sprint toward the sound and get the couple out of here as fast as possible, but moving slowly in the forest was too ingrained. You never knew where a predator might be hiding and only a wet-furred kitling attracted its attention by running.

With smiles twitching across their faces every time Kasan’s consort squeaked or moaned, they crept toward the sounds, scanning above and below. Rui was happy they could hear the little one, he truly was, but if they could, so could the local wildlife. And whatever strange happenings were going on with that shokan helping Kasan, they couldn’t count on wild shokan acting the same.

They crept between trees, made a number of turns around some brush too tangled to push through, and finally found a dark hollow under the canopy of two enormous trees, with enough brush to completely enclose it. Kasan’s low groan echoed out, confirming the spot.

 A tosa munched on leafy debris to the side. The silky pink skin glistened when a stray beam from the setting sun hit it as it glided along the ground, burbling quietly to itself in low tones. Mick tilted his head, ears questioning as Rui heaved a huge, relieved sigh.

Rui nodded at the animal. “Shokan never allow tosa too near the dens. It would be torn apart like those last ones we found. And if a tosa smelled one of the beasts, especially one of the cubs, it would posture and charge.”

Davin’s ear twitched once. He kept his voice low. “So you’re saying that we’re not next to the den and there’s no shokan nearby for the moment.”

“Well, it’s not fool proof, but a tosa’s sense of smell is pretty keen. They’re not just for weed control, you know. All of us on the fringes kept a few around. Best early warning system that the shokan are expanding their territory.”

The trundling, unassuming little blob continued eating, ignoring them completely. It crossed the entrance into the shadowed thicket, where they could now hear two males panting in a rhythm that could only mean one thing.

And then it stopped. The protective spikes emerged and it swiveled toward the entrance.

“Shokan!” Rui crouched low automatically.

“What the-” Mick fumbled his grip over his spear. Davin shoved him back and took up a protective stance at his side, back to back.

“Where is it?” Davin hissed.

“I can’t see anything!” Rui heard his voice going up and choked before it got worse. Where was it? Could it be in the thicket with the prince and his consort? But they’d already be dead, then!

They all jumped backward as the human let out a high-pitched ‘God YES!’ at the same moment two shokan leapt down from the trees and promptly flipped and disemboweled the tosa in a gory spray of pink slime.

Rui’s mouth dried up. His ears flattened and he crouched lower, shaking. Davin and Mick were next to him, as ready to defend as he was, but he couldn’t take his eyes off the shokan.

The animals weren’t full grown, although one was obviously already on his last growth spurt. The larger animal watched them carefully, clearly sniffing the air. Rui waited for the inevitable charge and blinked stupidly when it abruptly yawned, sat on its haunches, and cleaned itself as though it wasn’t concerned in the least with three grown Kyashin and their spears.

The smaller shokan growled. It looked female – the dark marks surrounding the eyes were very noticeable in this one. When she took a step forward, still growling, the male stepped in front of her with a look until she ducked her head. He went back to cleaning with long slurps of his tongue.

“Sometimes I would give a hell of a lot for a citadel that let us use laser pistols,” Mick said, swallowing heavily.

“Shhht!”

They waited for the attack, hands slick with sweat on their spears, and all three nearly dropped their weapons when the male finally stopped cleaning and moved. He stood up to his full height, stretching and yawning wide. His fangs were enormous. With a bored twist of his spine, he backed off, shuffling the female behind him as he stepped to the side and out of the way of the entrance to where they could hear Kasan and his consort still engaged.

Rui had never seen shokan act like this. They didn’t sit quietly; they ripped you apart!

After another minute, with the sounds from Kasan growing louder, the shokan huffed and sat down on its haunches again. It shook out its head, pawed at the ground closest to the opening and looked back at them.

They didn’t move. Rui didn’t think he could move even if he wanted to. Not if it meant getting closer to those teeth and claws.

Another huff. It waved its head toward the entrance then stared at them hard, snorting.

“It’s not…it’s not gesturing at us, is it?” Davin whispered.

Another huff.

“Maybe it's the one who was with Kasan?” Mick returned.

“But there’s two now!”

Mick tilted his head. “Could it have found another? It does seem to be injured. Look at the back leg. Wait, yes! I would swear that’s the remains of a stud in his leg. See the glint in the fur there?  I think it might be that…what did Kasan call it?…Ando-kees?”

They all jumped back with wide eyes as the shokan nodded its head.

Rui’s hands shook. “Did it-”

“Trick of the light,” Davin said in a shaky voice.

Rui nodded his head. “But what if it really-“

The shokan huffed irritably again and backed away from the entrance another step. They looked at each other, swallowing. Davin shrugged.

“We’ve got to go get the prince, right? If it’s letting us…” He shrugged again. “Let’s get in quick before it changes its mind. We can defend better from inside, if we have to.”

With light steps, they crept closer to the entrance, not daring to take their eyes from the two shokan for a moment. When they reached the entrance, the male let out a small, soft bark and they all jumped, fumbling for their spears. It sat back on its haunches, mouth open, tongue lolling, looking for all the world like it had done it deliberately to spook them.

Rui would swear he saw it wink that them. “I’m losing my mind.” 

They went into the shadows, Mick backing in last, keeping his eyes fixed on the shokan. He settled in quickly, guarding their backs.

As soon as Rui’s eyes adjusted to the nearly black shadows under the tree cover, he gulped. His pulse jumped. His hands began sweating even more heavily. No matter the stories that city-bred always told, Rui had never been exposed to a couple that couldn’t find privacy in a proper way.

Even with the knowledge of two shokan just outside the thicket, it was riveting.

Kasan was on his back, knees bent and exposing the heavy weight of his balls as he thrust up into his consort. The human’s pale skin was an erotic contrast to the darker flesh tones of Kasan’s hands where they gripped his hips and pulled him down. Rui could see the pale skin in between the v’s of Kasan’s fingers, the little one’s bottom swelling through the gaps in the tight grip.

Hips thrust back, whimpering and pleading, the little man on top let out deep moan at another thrust. His back arched in a smooth curve, sweat glistening faintly in the dim light like small pearls. Rui had a perfect angle to see Kasan’s cock disappear into the smaller body, except for the fact that Kasan’s tail was involved as well. As soon as he’d imbedded himself, it curled up and looked as though it was tickling the sensitive, stretched flesh around Kasan’s cock.

Kasan! Oh God, come on! You can’t just- uhhhh

Rui swallowed heavily and heard Davin do the same, watching the tail push at the entrance to Max’s body as though it would enter as well. The muscles gave, but the tail didn’t have the proper strength to actually force its way in.

The little one didn’t seem to care, considering he was rolling his hips into the sensation and babbling.

A deep breath, an adjustment to his loincloth, and then Davin elbowed Rui in the stomach. “Check the area,” he whispered hoarsely. Rui one nodded with a jerk, shivering when Kasan suddenly pulled the little one up and then back down to impale him again.

“Y-yeah. I’ll make sure and- Damn but that’s hot.” His voice trailed off and he swallowed again, but finally looked away.

Rui took the left side, Davin the right. They looked up as high as their vision could manage, up into the treetops, and all the hidden areas within the thicket. No threats. No shokan.

But Kasan and his consort still weren’t done. And Rui was trapped, watching. He couldn’t drag his eyes away, now. The musky scent of sex and male sweat was thick in the air. And Kasan kept thrusting, and thrusting, and thrusting….

Rui’s blood flashed suddenly with heat and he growled low in his throat, shaking as a sharp pain slashed through his groin and up his spine.

“Rui?” Davin touched his arm and Rui yanked it away. Davin cursed when Rui met his eyes. Then he slapped Rui in the back of the head. “Stop looking!” he hissed.

Rui shook his head. It felt fuzzy. “But…what about-”

Davin cursed again. “Shit. I should have known this could set you off!”

Rui stared at him and found his eyes drifting back to Max and Kasan until Davin smacked him again.

“Stop looking! You’re only making it worse!”

Rui stared pointedly into the shadows above the couple’s head. “Worse?”

Davin rolled his eyes. “Welcome to adulthood, Rui. Your heat just started, courtesy of Kasan and his consort. The fight today probably didn’t help. Or rather, did.”

Rui automatically shook his head, struggling to keep his eyes averted. He focused on a brown, dying leaf on the nearest bush. “I’m not due yet. Not for months.”

“Sometimes it comes early, you know that. Especially with the kind of violence and sex you were exposed to today. Shit.” He sighed. Rui caught him peeking at Kasan one last time before Davin met his eyes again. “As soon as we get back, you get in touch with an Elder – these kind of heats can go fast. You need to pick someone out today.

Rui swallowed, shaken. “But…” He’d wanted to get to know that new guard, Zerard, the one with the cute fold to his ears and the cuter ass. How was he supposed to find someone in a day?

“It’s happening,” Mick said gently from behind them. His ears were angled back toward them, but his eyes stayed focused outside on the forest. Kasan and Max moaned in the background and Rui’s stomach rolled with molten heat. “I’m sorry it’s given you so little time, but you know we can’t fight it. Accept it and find someone. It’s not forever, yes?”

Rui nodded, closing his eyes, trying to ignore the sounds of Kasan and Max and completely unable to.

Mick and Davin were quiet for a while and then Davin chuckled, glancing back at his consort. “You should have bet with me in the pool, love,” he whispered.

Mick gasped on a half-giggle. “Seriously? You saw?  And he-?”

“Penetration doesn’t look possible. I told you it wasn’t. Tail-play, on the other hand…oh yeah. I’m cleaning up on this one. We can have that weekend upcountry that you keep wanting.”

Mick chuckled. Rui suddenly remembered the ongoing bet regarding Kasan’s sexual habits and he flushed. You weren’t allowed to enter the pool until you’d fought in your first Battle, and that only after you mated. Which would mean this year for him, he supposed.

Rui started to smile, too, but the moaning grew in pitch and speed and he squirmed instead, closing his eyes again. The slap of flesh meeting flesh in a vigorous fashion echoed in the little thicket and this time, their groans were echoes by Rui.

God, they always went on for so long! “And I thought guarding the outside of their bedroom was hard.” Sweat began to trickle down his back despite the cooling air as the sun dipped below the horizon.

“At least they’ll be done soon,” Mick said.

Davin snorted. “We wish.”

“But…they’re almost done. I can hear them.” The panting paused with a half-roar and a high-pitched wuff from the human. Their breathing was heavy, although barely more than the guards. “See. Now we can-”

Davin interrupted. “Kasan almost never stops after one time. At least, not with women.”

“Maybe with his consort he’s different.” The panting behind them slowed, ending with low murmuring from Kasan’s consort.

Rui couldn’t help but hope Mick was right, but he shook his head anyway. “I had my shift this week when he had a heat spike. He doesn’t stop at one with his consort. Or two, sometimes.” He couldn’t stop flushing. His groin had a stimulating heated buzz that was making it hard to think. 

Davin patted his shoulder carefully. “Sorry, Rui.”

“Maybe he’ll stop at two then,” Mick whispered hopefully. “They can’t always-” The human moaned again. He started to mutter Kasan’s name, ending with a surprised squeak of breath.

Rui glanced behind him, his eyes widened, and he whipped back around.

Davin snorted again. “Yeah, I wouldn’t count on that. With as close as Kasan was to missing the heat spike, this might…take a while.”

“Then how long?” Mick’s grip shifted over his spear, still staring out into the forest. “We need to get out of the forest. It’s nearly dark.”

“It’ll take as long as it takes, you know that, love.” Davin sighed as Kasan growled behind them and his consort squeaked again, then started to babble. “We’ll need to take shifts keeping guard. It might…be a while. Rui, try and ignore it. Take the post guarding the entrance first. Maybe looking out for the shokan can…refocus your attention.”

Rui nodded, shaky as his body did its best to ignore Kasan and his consort. “I’ll stay alert,” he said hoarsely.

“I know you will.” Davin turned his head and tapped Rui’s lip softly. “You found them, after all. You’ll make it through this too.”

And Rui found the strength, somewhere, to stare into the darkness outside the thicket rather than what was going on inside it.

Kasan!

Mostly.

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