*heavy sigh* Unfortunately everything that I've typed that ISN'T in the chapters you've already seen, is gone. Computer trouble, etc. And I haven't worked on this in a long while- (Sorry!) So I don't remember everything I was going to include. *Hisses* Curse iiiiiiiiit. I do remember a little bit though- main plot points, etc. Anyway, here.

This story is dedicated to all the animals at my job who have passed away. I began typing this chapter after we lost an especially beloved feline. This chapter specifically is dedicated to all those who we lost since then. So... ... anyway, that's why much of this chapter is going to be sad. Sorry if it's short.

To Lia Silverclaw: Thank you so very much for the sympathy and understanding; it is deeply appreciated. Thank you! Ahhh, I'm so glad you liked it! Thank you for waiting, and thank you for the compliments.

To xPrimalHunterx: Thanks, friend! Me too- the potential for angst, emotional turmoil, and moral issues, is sooo much fun to work with! Yeah! I remember watching some of that anime, it was pretty good. Nick and Judy are my favorite, I think. Awww! The could be good together, but I decided not to make them a couple; there's another OC coming eventually(*cringes* sorry!). WHOA, that's a great idea! I had planned to have them encounter humans, with Chirin .

To sankhya-kid: Really? Thank you so much! I do plan to continue it, thanks. WOW! Thank you sooo very much!

To Prime Jeremy: Yay, I'm so glad you like it! Thank you very much, I'm hoping to improve my writing skills as I go. Very good point- I'd forgotten that... Thank you so much! I tried making her realistic but unique, and wasn't sure if I'd succeeded or not. Thanks, I'll so my best to make it good. Yeah, Chirin goes through some more character development.


"I'm going hunting," the she-wolf announced abruptly, head tilted back over her shoulder. Then she spun around and went bounding off into the blizzard.

Chirin stared after her for a moment, not having enough time to voice his reply of, "You said that already."

Oh well. Maybe it was a female sort of thing. His mentor said that females of all species tended to think differently than males did.

He flinched. His mentor was gone. He'd never hear his advice ever again. No more exploring, no hunting, no running across the lands, always alongside one another.

Never, ever again. Gone forever. Dead. Buried right there under the snow. His fault.

The ram shuddered and curled up again, head lowering till his horns scraped the ground. The horns that had impaled his mentor, his father.

He remembered the feel of the great wolf's weight against his head, the thick fur matted with hot, dripping blood-

Chirin twisted his head to one side,trying to tear himself away from the memories. He wanted to. He wanted to forget, wanted to travel back through time. He wanted to break his horns, right off of his head, maybe even dig them into his own self! The pain would be a welcome distraction from this torture, this hopeless emptiness!

There was no enemy for him to search out, the way there had been when his mother died. He was the one who'd killed the wolf, his own mentor who was practically his father and who was now gone!

How could it hurt so much? If he'd been standing he would've fallen, the grief was so intense. Everything felt heavy, in way, yet also light as if everything inside was empty. Maybe that's why his limbs felt so weak, maybe the muscles were withering away and turning to shattered pieces of stone along with his heart.

Maybe, maybe, maybe he would die here, if he stayed still long enough and let everything inside keep hurting and shriveling until nothing was left... And he'd never kill again.

He sniffed, shoulders twitching with the harsh intake of breath. His last kill. The one person he cared about, who'd taught him everything, was his last kill. That made it more awful somehow.

The ram pressed harder against the hard-packed earth, his horns and skull so accustomed to similar actions that they didn't even hurt. Chirin thought he would've preferred the pain, and turned his head so that his cheek and snout hit the ground.


Now what? He sighed, arching his neck around to curl up more tightly. It was colder now that the she-wolf had left, but he noticed the fact only distantly.

He hadn't felt this way with his first kill. Not the mother bird's eggs, those had been an accident...

He remembered that of course: the horror, the absolute disbelief and denial and misery and guilt and shame...

Yes. That was similar to this.

He tried to remember how he'd gotten over that. Another sniffle, louder this time, escaped. The Wolf had told him it was alright to cry.

Another good lesson, more cherished advice, that he would never hear from the Wolf ever again. Chirin had taken the teaching to heart, and oh the irony...

Some kind of sobbing, joyless laugh materialized and found its way out of his throat. Startled and ashamed at the involuntary action, he choked it back, letting tears slip down his face.

If all this had been happening to some other animal and he'd seen it, perhaps he'd be smirking humorlessly at the irony. Then he'd tell the Wolf about it and they'd muse over the things of life and death, before going about their business...

Instead, his mentor was gone. And there was nothing even slightly amusing about it.

'How can you be gone?!' he thought abruptly, eyes wide with despair and filling with fresh tears, 'How can this be real, how can you be gone, how can you be gone, how can you be gone?'

The thought spun circles in his head over and over, each repetition seeming to increase the pain in his heart tenfold. It wasn't quite the same as the past night, the grief new and uncontrollable and wild and full of desperate, disbelieving shock. This was heavier.

This was a slow, deep agony. And instead of wanting to scream and run from the impossible, inescapable truth, to deny it, change it, FIX IT...! Instead he was slowly being crushed by the fact that he knew he couldn't. He couldn't do anything.

And he didn't want anything. Except to have his friend back.

A recurring, delirious thought floated through his head yet again. He brushed it away but the delusion niggled at his mind, desperately promising hope.

It suggested, lied, insisted, that if he felt enough pain- punished himself with enough pain- then his mentor would come back somehow.

Impossible, he knew... but he wanted to do it.

He wanted to do it, he wanted to do it SO MUCH! Wanted to hurt, punish himself, he deserved this suffering, after everything he'd done, he wanted some meaningless agony in his skin and muscles and bones to block out the despair and the torment in his heart and soul, he wanted the pain, he wanted the pain to stop, why why WHY did everything always have to be PAIN?!

He sobbed, making a sound that was almost a roar and blindly whipping his head side to side, feeling his horns strike the sides of the cave. Again the tempting thought reappeared, promising the impossible.

Chirin pressed his face against the ground again, harder, not sure if he was listening to the idea or trying to make it go away. Did it matter, he wondered distantly? Probably.

The ram gave a sniffling kind of sigh, gazing sightlessly past the dirt filling his vision.

He'd felt a bit like that, some of the time, after his mother died. If he pushed himself hard enough, travelled far enough, was strong enough... then maybe, maybe somehow, he'd win the right to have his mother back...

The memory only increased the pain in his heart. Fresh tears burned his eyes and he closed them, crying softly yet again.

...Jihi's POV...

The she-wolf sighed, warm breath tickling her whiskers as it drifted through the snowflakes as fog. She turned her head back toward her den and Chirin, wondering how he was holding up, and if maybe she should've stayed to keep him company.

He shouldn't have to be alone, she thought, frowning sadly to herself. Perhaps she ought to go back.

She sighed again, a bit more sharply, displeased that nothing had been gained from her brief expedition. She'd left her unhappy guest alone, not to mention had wasted her energy and had nothing to show for it.

Her brows furrowed suddenly; if the dangerous sheep-goat saw that she'd failed in her hunt, would he think she was weak? Would he decide to go back to his old ways of killing those eh thought were weak?

No, no, it was unlikely... But, possible. She didn't know him well, and in his present state of mind...

Maybe she could just bring back some grass for him?

Jihi huffed an annoyed growl at herself and shook her head, sending little clumps of snow flying. No. She would not give up and return empty-pawed, she would keep at it until she found something. She had to.

So she prowled onward through the forest, trying to ignore the dulled-but-still-present pain in her leg, focusing on keeping her pawsteps silent.

The dampening effect the snow had on sound made it easier, for which she was grateful.

But the snow was of course one of the reasons she could not afford to give up the hunt. By the rate and size of the falling flakes, along with the unending darkness of the clouds, it looked to be a very long storm.

If she waited too long, any potential prey- carcasses or living creatures- would be buried, likely for days. Another reason it was so important to find food NOW was that she wasn't sure how much longer she'd be able to resist killing Chirin out of hunger.

And, she admitted grouchily to herself, she was too stubborn. She'd already put forth so much time and effort, she was NOT giving up now!

Plus, with the leg-injury and the energy she'd already expended, the need for sustenance was growing more and more dire.

Normally she tried to hunt large animals, so she'd have to kill less frequently, but now she knew she'd be grateful to catch even a mouse! She swiped her tongue over sharp, curved fangs, voice softly echoing the growl of her stomach.

She hurried ever onwards, determination lending strength to her muscles and volume to her wordless declaration of threat and promise.

She would not. Give. Up.

...Chirin's POV...

Chirin gazed quietly out at the falling snow. It had piled a bit higher by now, marking the length of time he'd spent lying on the floor, weeping for the wolf and for his mother.

Revisiting the old sorrow of his mother's death seemed to have actually helped a little. It was an old, familiar, more distant pain. A terrible one, yes, but a pain that he'd already endured and pushed through and survived.

Maybe, not very well, he admitted to himself for perhaps the first time. He wished he'd done things differently.

The ram tilted his head in silent thought, still watching the soft snowflakes whirling past through frigid winds. Did he wish he'd never left the barn? He didn't think so... Chirin was glad he'd left, seen and learned so much about the land.

If he'd stayed, his world would've remained limited, tiny, pointless. He doubted he could've been happy again, there. Maybe he would've taken out his pain and anger against the sheep there, too.

He huffed a very soft sort of half-chuckle; he didn't even really think of the sheep as his own kind anymore. He was so different.

His mother would not be happy about what he'd done. Regret pulled heavily at his heart, but not as overwhelmingly as before. He managed a bittersweet smile. She would've been happy that he was still alive, and so strong now.

But she would've been so much prouder if he'd accomplished it in a better way. Maybe...


Chirin frowned in serious thought, contemplating.

He was still alive. He was strong. He wasn't dead. He was still here, breathing, remembering, thinking and feeling, the ground beneath his feet, the sky above his head, the entire world before him.

It was a good thing to be alive. It hurt, very much sometimes...

But, he was alive! And there was hope he could have and there were chances he could take. It was hard, but...

Maybe... he could use this chance... to do something his mother would be proud of.

Something good.

Ok, that wasn't fun. But I did my best, and I'm proud of much of it. Sorry if it seems kind of short or awkward or filler-ish. Hopefully the next chapters will be better. Also I tried to end this depressing chapter on a more hopeful note.