45.71% Switched at Death / Chapter 16: Hunting

Chapter 16: Hunting

After running, the children have worked back up an appetite. Rather than go back to the river, it's decided we're going to hunt.

Zain mutters in a small saddened voice, "I thought we weren't going to do that again after what happened last time."

They fall silent; the question of what happened is on the tip of my tongue, but when I see the unshed tears in their eyes, I swallow it back down. Unwilling to let the awkward silence drag on, I say, "so... hunting... how do we start?" As it's a skill I never acquired, seems like a good place to steer the conversation.

Zain, bless his sweet little energetic heart, follows my lead and starts talking about the hunting process. The others soon follow and the tension releases.

The next few hours are a test in patience. And I failed. I berate myself when I compare to Ivo and Zain waiting silently for their prey to fall into their trap. I keep fidgeting; almost knocking myself off my perch in the tree. Ivo and Zain are on branches above me, as I'm unwilling to keep putting distance between me and how far I'd inevitably fall to the ground. We all have enhanced abilities, but I'm woefully unpracticed in using them. Taking me roughly three times the amount of time Ivo and Zain used to get up the monstrous trees. I sigh, staring down and the trap created using a net and rope. Hoping something falls in before I fall out the tree. Monna and Daric remain down below hidden in a tunnel. Since Daric's ankle is still recovering, he can't climb up the tree with us. Monna's keeping him company; which is the only positive thing about Daric's injury.

When I start considering taking a nose dive off the branch for some excitement, we finally catch something. Ivo and Zain move quick, reaching the ground between one heartbeat and the next. I'm still staring in awe as they coordinate together and quickly subdue the creature. I belatedly scramble down the tree. In my rush, as expected, I crash from the tree to the ground. Graceful, I am not. I play it cool in an attempt to pretend it never happened. However, Ivo and Zain's snickering ruined it. I ignore them and focus on the boar-like creature; unfamiliar with this particular animal. It's a brown beachball sized boar with yellow spots along its back and sharp tusks craning out of its mouth with sharp cone-shaped hooves. I shrug, as long as it's edible.

Still giggling, they tie up the animal to take it back to the bunker. We pick up Monna and Daric. With our haul, we make our way back toward the bunker. We tied the animal to a branch, allowing it to hang upside down by its legs. Ivo and I carry it between us; me at the back carrying it on my right shoulder with Ivo in the front carrying it on the opposite shoulder. The bark bit in uncomfortably where it sat. I dread the walk back, knowing it will take hours.

Daric walks with noticeable improvements; only having a slight limp. Mage blood improving his recovery, as well as his physic. At this rate, he will be fine by the end of the night. Monna, thankfully, spoke little. Focusing more on tending to Daric than conversing; which didn't stop her from the occasional glare she threw at me. Zain is a tiny bundle of energy; managing to chatter the entire way back about nothing. But he's too cute, and I can't find it in me to be annoyed.

____________________

The tree is heavy on Ivo's shoulder, painfully digging in. He bites his lip and continues. Knowing the faster they get back, the sooner he can drop it. He takes a detour to avoid the akumon's territory. They're in the tunnels, but an akumon could easily find us through smell.

Zain is happy to hold a conversation about nothing particular single-handedly. Before Emma, he was the most recent addition to our small group. Monna argued against him joining, but she's always against anything involving new people. Ivo understands after everything she went through she has difficulty opening up to others, but she can't let that keep her from living. When his parents were killed, he didn't let anger and resentment keep him from reaching out to someone in need. Unwilling to let others suffer the way he had. He's still haunted by Mother's screams and Father telling me to run. He tried to fight the killers off himself; they threw him aside like he was little more than air, so he ran for help. Battered and bruised he cried as he begged, for someone to do something. No one listened, no one came. When he got back to that tiny home, it was too late. Their killers fled, and his parents were dead. Bodies ravaged and sightless eyes forever frozen in the horror of their deaths. Shaking, he threw up and ran.

A couple of days later he met Monna. As he did for Monna in her time of need, he did for Daric and Zain when he found them. Monna slowly accepted them, and he's sure she will gradually accept Emma as well. For now, he'll try to keep them from fighting each other.

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