Everything’s a mess. A huge, ugly mess. There’s dead people everywhere. And limbs—there’s lots of limbs as well. But no sign of any predators. Who did this? Practically every important person was here for the competition; this is like declaring war on the whole world. It’s probably Snow, that crazy bastard. I have no evidence, but my hunches are only wrong 80% of the time! That means there’s a 20% chance I’m right. I was already wrong four times this week, so that means this was definitely Snow’s plot! And Ilya said I didn’t know how numbers worked.
“Can you track the other predators, Mrs. Wuffletush?”
Mrs. Wuffletush nodded and sniffed the ground. A second later, she dashed off at speeds faster than I could run. Faint screams were resounding from the distance, but they were getting closer with every step Mrs. Wuffletush took. How does she run so fast? It’s because she has four legs, isn’t it? I bet I could run just as fast as her if I had another pair of legs.
“It’s another one!” someone shouted. “We’re doomed!”
More screams ensued as Mrs. Wuffletush leapt into a barricaded area. There were a dozen or so people hiding in an alley, and a destroyed building blocked off one end. But that didn’t do much to stop us from entering. The people dashed away, and I didn’t stop them. Why would I? I’m only here for Ilya’s dad and Ilya Number Two’s grandmother. “Mrs. Wuffletush, can you locate Ilya’s dad’s scent? Ilya was the short person who was with me. Ah, I have some of her dad’s shampoo over here, smell it.”
Mrs. Wuffletush stared at me like I was an idiot. Then she shook her head. Well, I guess even giant squirrels aren’t like dogs. I was hoping her sense of smell would be enough to track Ilya’s dad down. Wait a minute…. “Puppers!”
“This is degrading,” Puppers said as he climbed out of my socks and hung his head. “I’m not a dog.”
“Shut up, you’re already a sock spirit; how can you fall even further? Can you track him or not?”
Puppers sighed and opened the shampoo bottle before sniffing it. He handed the bottle back to me and pointed his nose towards the sky while closing his eyes. His snout twitched, and he sneezed. “That way,” he said while rubbing his nose and pointing in the direction we had just come from.
“Why didn’t you tell us that before we came here?” I patted Mrs. Wuffletush and urged her back towards the coliseum.
“You didn’t ask,” Puppers said and sighed. “You’re just going to leave those people behind? What about the predator? It should be close.”
“I’m not a hero! The dad and grandmother pair are my top priority right now. Everyone else can wait.” That’s how the world works. If something happened to Ilya’s dad while I was saving a bunch of random people, I’d never forgive myself. I don’t think Ilya would forgive me either. “Hurry up, Mrs. Wuffletush. I’ll be sure to treat you to something even better than acorn stew if we can save them with no issues!”
Mrs. Wuffletush’s speed increased even further, and I was almost thrown off of her body. Good thing her ears are right there to hold onto or I really would’ve fallen off my mount. How embarrassing would that be? “Keep giving directions, Puppers!” …Why isn’t he responding? “Puppers?” Ah! He fell off!
“Keep going straight!” Puppers yelled. “I’ll go back to help the—” His words cut off and he disappeared and reappeared beside me. He coughed. “Uh, I forgot I had to stay within a certain range of you or that would happen. We’re getting really close to the smell, slow down a bit.”
I patted Mrs. Wuffletush and she bounced to a halt. Puppers sniffed the air and squinted. “That way,” he said and pointed towards the right. I tugged on my mount’s ear, and she whirled around.
“Go! But why aren’t there any screams? Maybe they managed to hide from the predators—that must be it. They can’t be dead.” Ugh, I feel sick. I hate the feeling of dread so much; it reminds me of my time as a slave. But this time, I actually have things to lose. Please be alright, Ilya’s dad and Number Two’s grandmother!
“One’s coming! Now!”
Huh? Doesn’t that voice sound like Ilya’s dad? Wait! What the heck are those people doing up there!?
“Set it on fire!” That was Ilya’s dad! But what’s he doing standing on the roof with a barrel of something that smells suspiciously like oil? Ah!
“Stop! Stop! Don’t set anyone on fire!”
“Huh? Lucia?” Ilya’s dad asked from his position on the roof. “Are you riding a predator?”
Before I could respond, someone threw a torch into the alleyway I was in. The walls and ground were set ablaze. “Gah! Mrs. Wuffletush, up, go up!” I think my tail’s on fire. I think Mrs. Wuffletush’s tail is also on fire. Why is it always the squirrely tails that get set aflame!? How come Puppers’ tail is perfectly fine?
Mrs. Wuffletush climbed to the top of the roof, and smacked her tail repeatedly against the tiles. I joined her, and it didn’t take long for our tails to stop burning. But they weren’t fluffy anymore. I look like a rat. “Who threw that torch!?”
“S-sorry!” a demon shouted and dropped to his knees, banging his head on the roof. “It was instinct!”
“What’s going on, Lucia?” Ilya’s dad asked, stepping in front of the kowtowing man. “Where’s Ilya? Is she alright?”
“Ilya’s fine. Mrs. Wuffletush ran into the competition area, and I tamed her. Ilya’s still hiding around in the coliseum since it’s dangerous out here.” I’m glad Ilya’s dad is safe. Phew. And Ilya Number Two’s grandmother is also here! Two birds with one stone! “Il—Mirta’s fine too.”
“Thank the lord,” Ilya’s dad said and exhaled. “When those predators came out of nowhere, I thought I was going to die. If it wasn’t for Marilyn’s quick thinking, our group would’ve perished at the start.”
“Quick thinking?” How’d they escape from a group of predators?
“I threw a barrel of acorn stew in the opposite direction we were running to,” Ilya Number Two’s grandmother said. “I was saving it for you after I saw you helping Mirta out during the competition, but I couldn’t hold onto it in the end. Sorry.”
“Your strange taste indirectly saved our lives,” Ilya’s dad said.
There’s nothing strange about my taste!
“So what’s the plan? Have you taken care of the other predators? There were five of them, including the one you’re riding.” Ilya’s dad furrowed his brow. “And I hate to admit it, but I can’t help you. Not with a predator present.”
“I’ll take you two back to the competition area, then I’ll beat up those other predators!”
Ilya Number Two’s grandmother made a strange expression. “You’re actually willing to risk your life to save those being hunted? You … didn’t seem like a hero.”
“Huh? Saving people? How am I supposed to make an army of predators with only one of them?” Mrs. Wuffletush alone isn’t enough to make me a real legend. I have to leave behind a terrifying legacy! “There better be some male predators amongst the four.”