Everything was so confusing. There were all sorts of new plants and new animals, some of which were a threat to the pack. Fuzz wasn’t sure how everyone sifted through so many scents so quickly without even seeming like they sniffed anything at all. Then again, the pack leaders were so strong it was understandable. They’d been the ones to save Fuzz and the others from the plants that were eating them. He was taken to be part of a new pack, though he wasn’t sure why. He was injured and weak. Even his own pack wouldn’t have wanted him. Everything was so confusing.
There was another one he thought might be one of the pack leaders for the first few days. He was just coming to understand what made the pack all so strong at the time, but the fourth maybe-pack-leader had been left behind. Then there had been a long time of going to new places with their pack of nine. They didn’t hunt much, but they always had enough food. He didn’t have to fight anyone for it. That was good, because he would lose. Even with one of the pack leaders making him stronger, he could tell the others were more.
Just as he was getting used to nine, there were suddenly many more. And some of them were even weaker than Fuzz. They didn’t have any of the power of the pack leaders, and there was even a pup. It must have been younger than Fuzz, because it was very tiny. One of the pack members got lost and seemed to be unable to find her way back. Fuzz followed her and tried to get her to come back, but she didn’t until one of those with power came to get her. Fuzz liked being somewhere near the top half of the pack, but that didn’t even last until dawn. Then there were a whole lot more pack members with power. It was small compared to the pack leaders, but more than Fuzz.
The pack started traveling more quickly. Was it a dispute over hunting grounds? Fuzz had smelled some blood and they seemed to be being chased. It was hard to imagine anyone stronger than the pack leaders, but they knew what they were doing. Along the way the female pack leader kept doing things to Fuzz that he felt gave him more power. She even made his rear legs work again!
Then they were attacked by big rocks. The rocks had the same power as the people, and the pack huddled together for safety. Two of the pack leaders fought away from the group, while the woman who was helping Fuzz grow stronger stayed to protect the rest of the pack. Fuzz wanted to hunt, but the creatures were so dangerous he understood why they ran away. The confused woman ran the wrong way and was killed, because she didn’t stick to the safety of the pack.
Then the pack had gone to a very scary place. There were others everywhere. At first Fuzz thought maybe all of them were from the same back, but it seemed to be some sort of neutral territory. That made some sense, because there were many dens to defend and the rocks were dangerous. The place with many packs also wasn’t any good as hunting grounds. There were only humans, and humans didn’t seem to hunt other humans.
At least Fuzz thought that, but now they were hunting humans. It must have been some sort of territorial dispute. Maybe they were going to live here? He wasn’t sure. For a day the pack leaders had gone away and left him in the den, but now he got to go out. Most of those with the special power did. Some stayed behind to protect the rest of the pack, but Fuzz got to go hunting. It was a good place, lots of prey to be had. It seemed the pack leaders were more concerned with the other humans though. It was probably dangerous to hunt prey when there was competition.
The oldest member of the pack had Fuzz memorize the scent of a specific human. It seemed to be a warning, because Fuzz could smell how much power that one had. It didn’t smell like a pack, so it was probably a lone wolf. A lone human? Those could be quite fierce. Either way, it was definitely too strong for Fuzz, though he couldn’t tell if it was stronger than the pack leaders. He needed to get better at using this power.
Now they were waiting where the scents of the probably-enemy pack had passed before. Since they were waiting in ambush, Fuzz was nearly certain that they were enemies. However, he was wary of attacking before the pack leaders gave the order. He didn’t want to cause trouble for the pack.
The wind changed directions, and Fuzz smelled them coming. Several strong humans. They smelled stronger than the others with the power, but weaker than the pack leaders. Dangerous, but that was why they’d brought most of the pack. From his pack, Fuzz smelled anticipation and fear. He understood. However, the woman pack leader had claimed the territory, and he felt her power and the rest of them were stronger. Fuzz was nervous but also excited. He wanted to prove he could help the pack. They just had to take down a pawful or two of these strong humans.
Somehow, the approaching humans didn’t smell them at all. They were so close when they realized that Fuzz’s pack was waiting in ambush. And he was certain that was what they were doing, because the humans had their not-fangs ready. Fuzz had tried to figure out how they worked, but they weren’t part of the humans. He’d seen one alone, and it had been cold and tasted like blood. But also not like blood? It was also sharp, and it had almost tasted like Fuzz’s blood. Fortunately, the power protected his tongue from the edge.
The female pack leader was the first to attack. Fuzz also thought he understood the words that said to do so, but he mostly followed everyone’s lead. This was their territory now. He looked for the most vulnerable enemy. He wasn’t stupid enough to think that just because he was with the pack he could take down the strongest foe. He found one, and lunged for their leg. They stabbed down at him with a long not-fang with the sharp part on the end. One of the other pack members shoved the attack away. Fuzz liked this pack. He also liked his old pack, but they weren’t particularly protective of each other except for the pups. Fuzz thought he might still be a pup, except pups didn’t get to fight.
His fangs wrapped around an ankle. The strange power made his teeth hurt, but his own power protected them. He didn’t manage to sink into the leg, but he still pulled. Three pack members next to Fuzz used his own not-fang to maul the enemy. Even though Fuzz hadn’t managed to pull him to the ground yet, it still seemed he could do some good.
Fuzz smelled a lot of blood. He could see some of it was from his own packmates. He could also smell the power of the other two pack leaders, who were fighting against enemies that outnumbered them. Fuzz wanted to go help them, but the rest of the pack was still fighting here. He sprang into action, biting and nipping at the legs of the humans. For some reason, the power they kept around their legs was usually less, even though it was so easy to reach. Once Fuzz even managed to crack through it and bite into some sort of already-bloody leg. But it wasn’t wet? Then actual warm blood came out when he bit harder. How strange.
A not-fang cut across Fuzz’s back. It hurt, but the power and his hide kept him safe enough. He could still fight. Besides, they were winning. He couldn’t retreat while they were winning. Fuzz surveyed the battlefield, seeing one of his pack had been pulled down. He jumped up to bite at the back of the neck of the other human trying to attack with his not-fangs. He barely managed to stagger the man with his weight, but the human found it hard to attack him from its position. Apparently his not-fang wasn’t made to attack behind him, and whlie the man tried to grab onto Fuzz, Fuzz kept his jaw clenched. He wasn’t able to bite deep into the neck, but he wasn’t going to let go and allow him to kill the fallen pack member.
He did find himself being spun around in circles, though. His teeth really hurt, but he refused to let go. He couldn’t really see, but he thought maybe he was getting close to a tree. Should he let go? Before he could decide, Fuzz felt the power of the oldest pack member. Somehow he managed to make it break off from the rest of him and attack at a distance. Fuzz wanted to know how to do that, but he probably had to be stronger first. Either way, that power killed the man he was latched on to. Fuzz took a few moments to unclench his jaw, extracting it from the weird hard fur some of these humans had. He’d used up all of his power and his jaw hurt, but he had to help. But… his pack was winning. The other pack was retreating. Fuzz knew he couldn’t give chase, so he chose to watch the downed members of the enemy pack instead. He couldn’t tell if they were all dead, and without his power he felt like their not-fangs would be quite dangerous. So he took a guarded position and kept low. Until the female pack leader picked him up.
“Fuzz!” Catarina cried out. She was already pulling out bandages and needles to stitch him up. However, when she picked him up to move him to a better place she could tell his wound wasn’t bleeding too badly. The others probably needed help first.
Even though everyone who had participated in the fight did so voluntarily, Catarina still felt bad for involving people at the first and second stars against mid Body Tempering opponents. One wrong move and they could have easily died. As far as she could tell none were, but a few were critically injured. Fuzz would have to wait. Though, she could help him at the same time. The most important thing was making sure nobody bled out, and she was getting better at medical formations. Fuzz had even helped with that, or rather the state they’d found him and others in.
The damage to Fuzz from removing the moss growing into him had mostly ignored muscle and bone, but it was the smaller and more important nerves that had been the biggest problem. Catarina honestly hadn’t known what she was doing. Carving formation marks into the fur of a wolf was crazy, but she hadn’t really known what else to do. So she kept doing it, and either the energy tempering his body had helped him recover or one of the things she tried. She considered trying to do it to herself, though she wanted to reach the eleventh star first. Though she’d like to wait until the prime tempering for Spiritual Connection, doing it as early as possible was the second best option. It was extremely important for getting better at formations, and Catarina realized that though she was good for her age there was still a lot more to learn. She couldn’t afford to wait years to improve, either. Not if she wanted to help her grandfather. It was only a bit more than a year he’d been cultivating and he was already up to such crazy stuff. She needed to go for what was most useful now. Besides, she could always make up for it not being the prime tempering later.
An hour later all of the bandits were captured or dead, and all of their own people were… alive. That was all that could be said for a few of them. They had to get them back to the city for treatment, and even then they were on shaky ground. The miners sure were tough. They worked together well, too. Sure, fighting two or three to one made things easier but there was always the chance that they could be killed in a single blow. Some almost had, with the difference being they were just nearly dead. Most of the bandits hadn’t died instantly either- mostly the ones Hoyt hacked through. Even one Anton shot in the heart had lived until the end of the battle. He just hadn’t been able to do anything but stabilize his own blood flow after he was hit.
Honestly the most important factor to their victory was probably the bandits themselves. They had decent cultivations, but saying they were skilled wasn’t accurate. Most of them weren’t young, having taken many years to reach where they were. And since they were intending to pick on weak villagers who only had a few cultivators as guards to protect them, they weren’t really prepared for an ambush. Catarina was glad she’d pushed it to be just a little bit more effective at defending people. She wasn’t good with people she knew dying.