Eight spent the remainder of his araw relaxing before work. His very light sleep that morning was wearing quite thin.
As ever, he had plenty to think about and occupy his mind. The new information that came to light from Zen earlier left him standing at the entry to the woods for a moment or two, dumbfounded.
'I suppose I aught'nt be off guard sa pamamagitan ng it.' He thought silently to himself, struggling with the idea 'They do seem to resemble one another...'
He thought on the "Moonlight Howl" as he trekked along slowly, finding his own path through the woods, back to the place that he arrived at on that very first night.
The idea of the 'Howl was interesting to him. He imagined ipinapakita up and taking lila to a special place where they'd howl in the most perfect harmony together. These thoughts swam through his head even after he arrived at his destination. A fitting place to stop and consider the gravity of the upcoming days. He knew that it was only a matter of time before he or lila had a chance to see one another again, and he knew that he'd have to tell her how he felt. To keep it inside him any longer would surely kill him. Or perhaps he was being dramatic.
He sat in wonder for some time thinking of her but madami to the point, thinking of them. He was there for much longer than he realized initially. The Beta was snapped from his dream-like trance at the sound of approaching paw steps. He knew before he ever saw anyone that it must have been ipakita time.
His ears twitched as they recorded and translated the steps. They were heavy, but close together, there was a slight miss in one of them. The lobo coming in his direction was indicated to be small, but muscular hence the heavy, short steps. The miss in one step made it softer, someone who was favoring that paw. As though there were any doubt, Stern appeared around a grouping of rocks, usually the first to arrive on the scene, he did his best to hide his mild surprise when he saw Eight there before him.
The mataba lobo walked over to Eights location in silence, then turned and sat beside him, eyes closed, facing the stony trail that lead around from the woods to the direction of the den.
Eight waited for a moment to see if he had anything to say, when Stern was silent as he sat there though, he didn't utter a word, he was silent even in drawing breath into his lungs.
"Good to see that you're out and about, Cap'n." Eight offered, speaking plainly and softly trying to leave his usual energy inside. It didn't take much to get a rise out of Stern and his no-nonsense nature, Eight's personality was often times, enough for that. So he did his best to keep things low leveled.
Stern drew a heavy breath, heavy, but calm and spoke to Eight,
"I come here early, before the others arrive so that I can have a moments silence to reflect." When he spoke, there was no anger in his voice as usual, he told Eight what he meant and he did it with normal breath. "I also have to make sure that any patrols I've been planning are good enough to carry out without some last minuto alterations."
Eight nodded, "Got it. I'll leave you to it then." Before the Beta could rise and take his leave, Stern opened an eye to look at him,
"You don't have to leave." he stated, closing his eye again and assuming a high posture, "Besides," His voice began to carry some of the cut that Eight had come to expect, "Your stupid paws are noisy.".
Eight sat back down and remained in silence until the others arrived.
Stern stood strongly, asserting in his very motions that he was the dominant party of the group, regardless of injuries.
In truth, he was lucky to be alive. A fact that did seem to take to him a little bit, he was quieter, madami reserved. Or at least, thats how it seemed for now.
The first of the regular trio to arrive was Shade. The small brown lobo appeared from nowhere, as was his usual custom. He silently approached Stern and stood a few feet from him, he gave a grin and a nod and Stern did the same. A sort of silent acknowledgment between comrades, as to say "I'm glad to see you again, Brother."
Dolph and Ayame arrived together, they to spoke a silent greeting to their leader before standing to one side, each side sa pamamagitan ng side, creating a row across from Eight, who also now stood. Everyone stood motionless for a few moments as Stern waited for another member to arrive.
It didn't take long for a member of Eight's own regular hunt party to emerge from around the rock. Peace approached them with Felan, the Omega from that fateful night in tow.
Stern took nodded to Peace as she approached.
"Big happy family." She said, acknowledging that the intended party was present and accounted for. With that, she moved to Eight's side and stood in line, "Good Evening, Eight." She smiled lightly, her eyes flashing in the last light of the day.
Felan stopped before Stern, who seemed to have words for him.
"Felan, you're here because I've been requested to help train you. Make no mistake, You're not here because I want you here."
His voice took on a caustic nature as it usually did, but it was different at the same time. madami stark, less boasting. He didn't speak with the same cocky edge that he had before. It may have been because he wasn't speaking to Eight, though, in all honestly.
"You showed that you have the courage to rise in ranks, and the higher-ups have taken note of that." He started back in, "So, you'll be going along with Peace tonight, she'll ipakita you what you need to know."
Felan nodded, "Understood."
"Good. Now Fall in." Stern sinabi sharply.
He then turned to watch the Omega form ranks susunod to peace, before he turned back, he spoke to Eight "Eight, you'll be with me again... Try not to make my job harder than it has to be. I don't have time to be halik your 'boo-boos'."
Eight stood in silence, he knew that this was Stern's paborito thing to hear from him and did his best to appease him, at least in front of his troupe. In any case, Stern's remarks weren't as insulting now as they once were, they hardly needed a rebuttal.
"You and I will be headed to the South tonight. The hunt teams are looking for intel on the herd, we need to find out if it looks like they'll be migrating any time soon."
He turned to Peace and Felan, "You two will patrol the western forests, try not to run afoul of anything you don't have to. If you run into trouble, don't engage, just ulat your findings to Shade as quick as you can."
The two replied.
"Dolph," He turned to the larger brown wolf, "Think you can handle the northern outskirts on your own tonight?'
"You got it, boss." Came Dolph's deep voice.
"Good." Stern replied, turning his attention to Ayame, "Ayame, you'll be working scout duty with Shade tonight. We'll be spread out, so it'll take two of you to run it tonight. Decide which of you wants to take what length of the run."
A single, silent nod came from Ayame.
"Alright. We've all got jobs to do, now lets go do them."
With that, each member headed in their respective directions. Eight stuck sa pamamagitan ng Stern as he watched his members leave out and then, himself, turn and pace to the south.
Tonight may have been the first time Eight realized something about Stern, it could have been his slight shift in demeanor but he seemed easier to relate too now. Before Eight wanted nothing to do with him and didn't want even to do ask he asked, but now, Eight was obliged to help him out. It could have been his condition, it could have been what they went through, it could have been simply that Stern's usual verbal bite didn't seem to carry the desire to 'draw blood', as it were. His insults were all in place, and his tone sharp and short still, but there was something lacking about his energy. Maybe it would return with time.
Eight noticed now, without the veil of his 'short stack complex' that he wasn't so bad. To see how the others treated him with respect even though he was a pompous ass... He couldn't have been as bad as the front he put up.
"You gonna keep up with me or what?" Stern called over his shoulder. Eight had fallen behind for a moment in his thoughts, a dash pasulong and he was right up on Stern's left side. He had a limp now, as was expected, but it either wasn't that bad, or he hid it very well.
"Just remember to keep that trap of yours shut, and we shouldn't have any problems tonight, got it?" Stern shot a glance to Eight as they traveled on.
"You don't have to worry about me, cap'n." Eight reassured him.
"Off to a bad start." Stern shot back.
The two trailed on through as the last light of araw left the waking world. Stars began to dot the sky and soon enough they would be a blanket. The moon was already making its ascent, another night and it would be full.
It made for perfect visibility, even in the dark, it was so bright now that it cast hard shadows on the ground beneath the duo as they treaded through the grassy plain to the herd's grounds.
The silence of the evening took over, no chirps of insects, no wind to speak of, just the silent paw steps of two mga lobo traveling across the hard ground beneath them a the cold tried to balutin around their bodies as the night came in full.