“You might not require it,” he conceded defensively, “but you can always use help?”
“The world is different in the concrete jungles. You will not like it.”
“We are not that ignorant about them, mighty Zaniyah.”
The Hunter frowned, having a strong sense that she was going to regret her decision.
“Do not act without my say so.”
He smiled heavily and broadly.
“So I can go with you!”
Why not? She had transitioned, why couldn’t he? Taking a man away from the jungle tribe was probably a blessing on a number of women and children. And if he had expectations about her, well, she had no responsibility to meet them. If he believed she did, he would find out otherwise.
“They speak other languages so you should practice silence.”
“Practice silence? How does one need to practice silence?”
She rolled her eyes and walked on, followed by Thunuk, who didn’t waste time on going back to being a chatterbox.
Being on the open made her nervous.
Perhaps there were more beasts waiting for her to pop out of the jungle. Maybe that one beast which she had eluded was waiting to ambush her.
Zaniyah wasn’t really listening to most of Thunuk’s endless monologue, instead scanning their surroundings. Even outside of the jungle, the terrain was still thick with flora. Fields of flowers, carpets of grass, trees isolated or in small groups yet still providing a great deal of space in-between them.
She was heading to the nearest city. An underdeveloped place set up alongside a conformed tribe that nevertheless had a train station. From there, she would send a messenger bird to find the Wild Felids. They had most likely switched locations, she needed to know where they had settled, if they had even settled in the first place. Perhaps, they were still roaming around.
Thunuk seemed to know the little town, his tribe and they apparently enjoyed some commerce. That surprised Zaniyah, she wondered how much the tribes had changed in the time since she had been gone. Many years had gone by but she never imagined they could change, least of all so much.
Then again, she never imagined someone like Thunuk could behave respectfully but he surprised her again by dealing with the town guards politely.
He smiled at her surprise.
“I imagine you have been away for long. You maybe have forgotten the difference between wild and savage.”
She had not forgotten. It was simply that the perception of the line between them was different in the eyes of the civilized world.
She didn’t argue, however, Zaniyah wasn’t one to argue.
When she went to have a message sent, she surprisingly found one waiting for her. It was unexpected. She left the Wild Felids without really saying where she was going, she had thought nobody knew where she was.
I hope this message finds you well and successful.
The Shadow Conclave will reconvene in five days. We have sent you a scroll alike the one you used during the competition. Please keep it safe and check on it often, we need to keep in touch.
The Shadow Conclave
She frowned. Zaniyah had wanted it to be from the Wild Felids. Far as she knew, they were still in disarray, hurt, and unable to find Mother Superior. She felt guilt she didn’t know for sure.
Zaniyah opened the scroll. It already had entries: a lot of them. Funny enough, it seemed like lines were being pushed up to the top, disappearing once they were old enough.
This is great!
Everyone, what do you call a squirrel ready for winter?!
She scowled. The Squirrel would have nuts, why would he be called nuts? That didn’t make sense. Most of the scroll was just filled with Circus Freak making nonsensical jokes. It led to the Mad Genius threatening to kill him. The Circus Freak wrote laughter like a drawing in response, at which point he remarked upon the fact that the scroll could actually just show everything he scribbled on it.
And then he started drawing butts and penises.
Circus Freak, we have disabled your scroll. You will now only be able to read.
Everyone else, please take this seriously.
Is the meeting still valid to hold?
I will be attending.
That had been remarkably short for the Mad Genius.
I’ll radio in. I’m not leaving Igtahlia again.
The country’s mine, though.
Four days to the meeting.
I will be there.
Successful and then some. I’ll be attending.
Also, anyone else being attack by Led by Anarchy?
They wish to assist the beasts.
Everyone should expect their interference.
Well thanks for the heads up, effin’ L. Earlier woulda been helpful.
Three days to the meeting.
S, we have what you retrieved, it’s safe out of the beast’s hands.
H, we have news you care about, we’ll discuss in person.
I did not know, I am not led by anarchy.
I am led by vengeance.
Zaniyah wondered what the Shadow Conclave was talking about when they offered Shadow condolences. More importantly, what news did they have for the Hunter? Certainly, it concerned her guild. She felt very worried all of a sudden but she wanted to believe that if they thought waiting for the meeting was better, that they could wait.
On the other hand, if Mother Superior was yet not safe, she had waited far more than she should.
The initials, The Hunter realized, represented the people who were talking. “CF” was Circus Freak, and so on. Following that protocol, she wrote her update.
I retrieved the artifact. It seems to be important since the beast was there to destroy it.
I will leave for the meeting point but may not be in time.
She blushed at seeing both “H”s. So the initials were imprinted automatically. Looking up, she could have guessed that from Circus Freak’s entries, his drawings were also prefixed by his initial.
“What is that?” Thunuk asked, peering into the scroll.
She twitched her nose in doubt.
“That is a good question,” she closed the scroll and began writing a message for the Wild Felids, on normal paper. “It is a strange world out there, Thunuk. We all make use of many things we do not know or understand.”
“That does not sound safe.”
“It is not about what is safe,” she explained, “it is about what works…most of the time.”
She signed the letter. It was a simple letter that explained she had run off to complete the task given to her by Mother Superior. She had been successful. She would deliver the retrieved item to their allies at Shadow Conclave. She additionally asked that they would send someone to meet her with new instructions…and news.
“Most of the time?”
The Hunter shrugged in response and handed the message to the bird warden, along with a string that he would attach to its claws to verify it came from her.
“You should save your questions,” she looked at him compassionately, “the real world has very little answers. Especially one that satisfy our queries.”
“The real world does not sound like a fun place.”
Turning thoughts to more important matters, Zaniyah felt inexplicably hopeful. The others seemed to all have been successful which meant they really were making some considerable progress in their fight against the beasts. Perhaps, they would actually be the ones to make a real difference and save the world.
Surely, Thunuk’s assistance and dedication was the stuff of miracle: destiny guiding hearts across the right paths, towards preordained goals. It almost had her not worry about Mother Superior so much.