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It simply wasn't fair; he and he alone had separated the juvenile Mamenchisaurus from its herd and driven it towards the rest of the pack, where they all swarmed like flies on dung - grabbing it and biting it every which way until it lay still and stopped breathing - and now he was being denied his share. The fact that he could see the amusement in their eyes aggravated him even more. His anger was beginning to show physically too, notably his constant stomping and his baring of teeth.
This had been the norm for just about every single hunt his pack had conducted. Always he was chosen to be the shepherd, driving the selected victim to the allocated ambush point where his pack would pounce and put the creature out of its misery. And always he was left without a share. He growled to himself.
The leader, a slightly larger female, must have heard his displeasure as she pricked her head up and stared at him sternly - with what little expression Yangchuanosaurus faces allowed. He swallowed his own saliva at the thought of what he may or may not have brought upon himself.
She hopped down from the stomach region of the dead Mamenchisaurus, her eyes fixated on him and him alone. He backed up slowly, peering left and right for the remote possibility that there was something behind him that caught her attention. There wasn't. The rest of the pack watched on, making mocking calls at him, knowing what was coming next. He knew it too; he had the scars to prove it.
She brought her snout up close to his and glared at him with a piercing stare, causing him to feel nearly completely hollow inside. He urged himself to move and took a single step sideways, all the while keeping his body aimed at her. She didn't react. He risked another sidestep. She snarled - his signal to start running.
He twisted around as fast as he could and sprinted hard with the pack leader in speedy pursuit. It was no secret she was much faster than he was as she had chased him down and rolled him over and scratched and bitten and kicked and stomped on him many times. How many times exactly was beyond his count, but they happened as often as he complained about his treatment. And since he was very expressive about what he thought about things, it was nearly every time they mistreated him, he complained.
The pack was howling in encouragement.
There wasn't much cover out on the open prairies for him to duck around and gain the lead by a precious moment, spare the odd boulder or tree here and there. The forest to his right would be too dense for him to manoeuvre through and keep up a speed at which he could outrun her. There was only one other place he could think of at that time - the only place he ever truly felt safe since he was forced to leave his father's pack.
Up ahead, a great number of sprinting strides away, was a small valley. There was a specific location that he went to to escape her and she knew where it was, and she was trying to deny him that sanctity.
was gaining, he could see with his peripheral vision. She opened her jaws as she was nearing his position, ready to grab him and topple him over so more pain could follow. He deliberately twisted to and fell on his left side and skidded across the green field. Her bulk meant she was unable to stop as easily as he could, especially as she was so well fed where he was malnourished. He used his own sliding speed to grip his feet onto the dirt and launched himself into the air, landed on his feet, and continued to run past her while she was turning.
Small little tricks like that helped sometimes, but never solved the problem. Many times they simply failed and he would come to a tripping, toppling, disorientating end. This, lucky for him, was one of the more fortunate attempts at evasion.
The pack's howling faded out as he entered the small valley. She was still chasing, huffing angrily at the fact he had outwitted her and gained a few moments' lead. She was faster too. Not good.
There it was! On his right. A cave. Correction: the cave. The cave that was large enough for him to pass through yet small enough for her to not do the same. He turned towards it. She knew where he was heading and cut him off. He'd never been in this situation before and had to think on the spot.
He faked a step right and she fell for it. He faked a step left and she fell for it again. She narrowed her eyes and expressed her rage by letting out the biggest roar he had ever heard from a Yangchuanosaurus in all his life. She would outmanoeuvre him if he actually tried to run past her, no doubt about that, so the only way past was through. He tilted his head downward and pushed off the ground. The action caught her completely off-guard - he could tell by how little resistance there was when he slammed into her left arm, ran past her and slid down the cave's opening on his side. Safe.
He stood up when he finished sliding and leaned against the rear wall of the cave, putting the furthest distance he could between him and the mouth that was now trying to break through the solid rock. He couldn't back up any further, but he pressed into the wall harder, his feet slipping on loose pebbles scattered around the floor.
Her snout was now bloodied from her continued efforts, but she didn't seem to care and tried again many more times - he couldn't care to count.
Eventually, however, after many long moments, she backed away, let out a roar into the cave, then walked away, probably back to the pack. As soon as he heard the heavy huffing leave, he let himself slink down and allowed his panting to turn into whimpering. She'd been angry at him before, but he never attacked her when she chased him.
He would have to wait more days than usual for things to calm down before returning. If he was permitted to return.
His cave was the only place he ever truly felt safe from anything. When he came of age he was forced to leave his father's pack to form one of his own, or join a pre-existing one. While he may have been of age, he was always more than a little short compared to everyone else, consequently strangers saw him more as prey than as an asset. After travelling many great distances, he reached where he was now - a cave with a small freshwater spring inside of it in the side of a valley.
There were only ever two seasons to a year, one wet and one dry, so he was twenty-one seasons old and at that point. He travelled from place to place in search of a pack, but always he returned to the cave; the cave where he felt at home being alone with no one but his echoes for company.
To that moment in time he had relied on carrion as his food; he wasn't big enough to take down prey of his own. Dead bodies that hadn't been eaten were hard to come by, however, and those that weren't picked clean were usually claimed by another pack, so if he wanted to be without hunger, he had to find a group who would accept him.
He spent many days searching for approval and able to find none, and so spent many nights inside the cave where he was accepted always. It was like a non-sentient parent: always there when he needed it, providing shelter from the elements and those who would want him disposed of, yet he could freely stray from it whenever he liked. Silly as it may have been, he cared more for this inanimate hollow than for just about anything or anyone else.
He shook his head, dispelling the deep thoughts. Deep thoughts don't get you far in a world of hate. He was sitting on his stomach and had been thinking while staring blankly at the wall of rock ahead of him.
He turned his head to his right and took a drink from the spring.
Eventually he had found solace with a group of boisterous adolescents and a rather brutal adult female, namely the one who was chasing him. This came after they observed him stalking a herd of Mamenchisaurus, using the forest and his low silhouette to his advantage. In all honest truth he wasn't going to attempt a kill, or an attack for that matter - he just wanted to see what their behaviour patterns were like; to see when they were at their most vulnerable. He wanted that information come the time he found a pack. And they chose him. They hated him but they chose him. That had to mean
He stood up and looked up to the horizontal entrance. His tummy had the rumbles. The only cadaver he knew of was back at the pack. This late in the day they would all be settling down for sleep, and it was around this time that he would - on any other day when he wasn't chased away - eat what hadn't been eaten.
The air between him and his pack hadn't eased: while invisible there certainly was a level of tension hanging around. The consistent running away and straggling back gave him a sixth-sense when it came to the situation, and he could tell it would take, at best, three days before she forgave him.
It was a bad decision.
He shimmied on his stomach up to the sloped entrance and out into the dark of the night. This was the kind of night where the moon shone almost as brightly as the sun, allowing him to even pick out the leaves of the trees in the distance. It was a good night for raiding. But if he made too much noise and they woke up and caught him eating his fair share...
He hoped he hadn't broken her arm.
He wasn't feeling regret when he was nearly at the kill site; rather he felt nothing on his inside, only hunger and a determination driven by the fact that this could be his only meal for another few days. There was no anxiety or feeling of dread as he had expected there would be, nor was his heart beating fast or his breathing uncontrollable. Nothing he was doing, consciously or subconsciously, suggested he was nervous: all he was doing was putting one careful foot in front of the other, trying to make the least amount of sound possible.
If any of the pack roused from sleep now, they would easily see him circling them, slowly reaching the Mamenchisaurus carcass. Sight however was the least of his concern. He had specifically chosen to
circle clockwise around them because the wind was blowing that way. Knowing how erratic the wind could be, it was foolish to place his trust in something that would probably switch directions at any given time. One whiff of his scent and they would all stop sleeping and glare at him. He didn't want to picture what would happen next.
He closed his eyes hard to try to stop thinking but not trying to think made him think harder. They would all see him by the light of the moon and think he had come back to steal from them. They would think that was the last straw and exile him if not kill him.
But he wasn't stealing. He was just taking the fair share they owed him without seeking their permission. That was it. Nothing more nothing less. A few more cautious steps forward.
Thankfully she was asleep too, but he didn't want to get too comfortable around her - she was growling and snarling in her sleep. Probably about what she would do to him if she caught him sneaking about, like right now. He really had to stop thinking and focus on not being heard. He took a stride forward and was at the body.
Pretty much everything from the stomach had been devoured so that only the ribs were left. That was okay, he was used to eating the less-meaty parts. He shouldn't be complaining anyway, not when he was trying to go undetected.
After the first bite he couldn't help but let out a sigh of indulgence. How wonderful a less-than-satisfactory meal tasted after days of going without food. He could not restrain himself from gorging and swallowing and filling up his stomach in such a fast manor. He really wanted to chew and savour the taste so he could remember it for later, but he was just too hungry.
It was after the fifth bite when he realised he was making too much noise and returned to a controlled state. He tore away from the body, chewed what he had in his mouth and gulped it down. He moved to take another bite. The Mamenchisaurus carcass moved.
He dreaded what he knew he would see if he looked up, but he did anyway.
He turned his head upwards and saw, staring right back at him, her. She didn't make any intentional sound; she just stood on top of the body, her right foot on the cadaver's exposed left thigh and her left on its tail, with bared teeth and heavy breathing. Her left arm hung limply. Dislocated, if not broken. The damage of his desperation had been done.
The urge to run grew. But where to? As his cave was in her direction, she had effectively cut him off from the only place he could be safe. He shifted his weight to his rear foot in case of the near-certain event things would go downhill.
She leapt down from the body and landed on the floor without much sound at all, then toppled him over onto his side, pinning him with her right foot. He was so surprised by the speed he didn't even think of reacting. Restrained by his neck, he could feel the weight on his throat increase as she brought her face
up close to his, still in unnatural silence. He could barely breathe by the time her mouth was nearly touching his ear, yet he didn't struggle because he knew fighting punishment would make
punishment even worse. He closed his eyelids, whimpered and whined in complete terror, even though he could expect no pity from her.
Then she stood back up. He waited for the jaws to close around his neck or his stomach or wherever she preferred, but they never came. He opened up his eyes and, still with panicked panting, held his head up. She was still there and she was still staring at him with a look of malice, but her stance was neutral.
He rolled over onto his feet and picked himself up and faced her. Cautiously, he put a foot forward.
He was met with a vicious growl as she put her body between him and the rest of the sleeping pack. He pulled back and the growling stopped. He took a reluctant step backward. She stopped showing her teeth and gave a satisfied hum.
His insides sunk to an all-time record low. He stood there for a good few moments feeling hollow and thinking sad thoughts while his head drooped slowly. Banishment. Exile wasn't mercy; she judged it to be a fate worse than sudden death, and she was right. Without a pack he stood no chance on his own, gradually starving, barely living off the small amount of bodies littering the prairies, until malnourishment would finally overcome him and he would die in pain. Exile wasn't worse than death - it just ensured he would die slowly.
Bitterness, for some inexplicable reason, suddenly turned into angry huffing. He looked upwards with his eyes rather than his head and stared at her with a fierce glare. This was the only pack to accept him after many years of searching. After seasons and after the uncountable great distances
he travelled searching, this was the only group to accept him - a severely disadvantaged Yangchuanosaurus. And he put up with their bullying because he thought their acceptance meant something. And now she was discarding him because he just wanted to be treated like one of them?!
Forget her! Forget her and forget the pack! Forget all of them! Why should he care for them if the never cared for him?! He was the one doing all the hard work by sneaking around the herds and steering the selected prey to the ambush zone! They didn't value that?! Forget them all!
He finally realised that as he was thinking to himself he had slowly been approaching her, and was now in her face. Both of them had their teeth bared and were growling in unison. He didn't loose composure when he realised they had woken the rest of the pack, who were now watching without expression. They all exchanged glances while the two stood firm, not backing down from one another.
As much as he wanted to start a brawl right then and there he knew he could never win against her. He was unafraid of fighting, but he was fearful of losing. He backed up slightly only so that he had enough room to roar in her face, making sure some saliva was thrown her way too, then turned around and walked away, ensuring his tail smacked across her face in the process.
He looked back in case she decided to retaliate. But no. She simply stood there looking absolutely stupefied, as did all of the rest, as if this was the most unlikely thing they had ever expected. The fact he even attempted to stand up to her surprised himself. But he wasn't himself. This self was someone different, and maybe it was best to let that self take over for now.
So long as it meant it would get him a pack. Or a meal.
This new self of his was really starting to pay off. It had been several days since he was forcibly removed from his pack, and so far, despite his size, he had chased away groups of Yangchuanosaurus ranging from three to seven in number who had been feasting on their kill. For a time he had been well-fed from all the bodies he had claimed, until the packs realised numbers beat attitude. Since then he went into hiding and scavenging again, but he did not lose confidence. To his surprise the new self didn't want to rely on the cave for a feeling of safeness - this self wanted to be out there and doing things without help. Without anyone to help him. No one ever helped him before, so maybe it really was best to go solo.
That was how he found himself on the outskirts of a forest, hidden, stalking a mixed herd of Nanyangosaurus and Yunnanosaurus.
Confidence and hunger had pressured him into hunting for his first kill in his entire life. And he loved every moment of it.
The herd was large. Much larger than he expected. Whether that would prove to be a problem or an advantage was yet to be seen.
He kept his body low and in the shadows, even though he knew full well that he was clearly out of their line of sight - the brown stripes across his back and grey-green base colour would easily conceal his outline amongst the trees and ferns of the forest. The shade provided by the canopy would help too.
To have a pack of his own would have made things easier, providing everyone else contributed equally.
But since now he had basically ticked off every group of Yangchuanosaurus in the immediate area - or they chased him away because of his size - the possibility of that becoming a reality had been reduced to zero.
The herd was crossing lengthwise to the forest, an unavoidable but poor decision. Close too. Very close.
Within striking distance even. He resisted the temptation to charge - that would be completely unwise on his part: he was yet to identify the young, old and weak. Though why should he settle for premature, overdue or tender meat if there was a perfect selection of adults in their prime in plain sight.
Then it was settled. His new self wanted something in its prime; a more difficult challenge with a tastier reward.
If he moved any closer to the edge of the woods, the shifting bushes would give him away easily. He proceeded a little deeper into the forest and ran parallel to the herd. He could easily outpace them when they were
this calm, but the trees of the woodland caused him to duck and weave out of
the way - something he was used to but it didn't change the fact that it
hampered his overall speed. If he didn't
hurry up, they might clear the woods before he reached the front of the herd.
He arrived at the edge of the forest going in the same direction as his prey. Darn. At least he was far beyond them. All he had to do was wait and hope they didn't see him see them.
The leader of the herd, a Yunnanosaurus, looked like an old one; it had slight wrinkles all along its face and body, though he shouldn't really judge age by looks. Movement was what he should observe to judge age: any hitching in the joints and slowed reaction time would tell him if they were old or not. In that case the leader was not that old. It had a stocky build too; muscles relatively bulky compared to the rest. Maybe that was how it came to be the herd leader.
No, no it couldn't be. Migration required memory, so the one with the best memory led the masses. Best memory or not, his size impediment would make it difficult for him to take it down without injury, if it was brave enough to stand up to him with those muscles. Best not risk it.
The Yunnanosaurus beside it was small. Too young.
The Nanyangosaurus behind that was keeping good pace, but limping.
The Nanyangosaurus next to it was labouring in its movements.
The Yunnanosaurus following...
He bared his teeth.
He broke through the undergrowth in silence, his eyes, legs, mind and mouth focussed on the target; a relatively healthy adult Yunnanosaurus. Or maybe it was an adolescent. Why should he care?
The herd finally took notice of the branches flying from their trees, and the Yangchuanosaurus charging their way. Their instant reaction was to stop and run away. Predictable. But as he was coming in from their front, it was taking longer than they wanted for them all to realise there was a threat and to find space to move. For them it was like trying to swim against a riptide. That was his plan to get closer before they realised what was really going on.
By the time they all started to gain momentum in the other direction, he was within several sprinting strides from his selected target. The chorus of distressed Nanyangosaurus and Yunnanosaurus calls and the cacophony of feet meeting earth deafened from any and all other sounds, yet he did not lose track of which of the herd he had chosen.
This new self seemed to have a soft spot for the atmosphere of chaos the hunt brought with it. The dust, grass and dirt kicked up by the flurry of feet did nothing to deter him from paying close attention to what he was after.
For a brief moment, however, he looked down to ensure none of them had fallen over and become an obstacle he could trip over. No bodies, but a lone Yunnanosaurus youngling was falling behind from
the herd and was staring straight at him, completely terrified. Instead of bringing his left foot down, he hopped the step on his right, keeping his left leg in the air. Then as he passed the youngling, he resumed running regularly.
Turning his head back up, he could see his chosen prey had made a mistake by leaving the safety of the herd. Well... being in the herd wouldn't have been so safe anyway, but it was better than leaving it at any rate. But now that it had left, there was no going back for it now. Too bad.
Despite looking somewhat front heavy, it really was a nimble thing. When he tried to speed into it, it would dodge out of the way. When he tried to follow its movements, it would weave back the way it came, much like he'd done when she chased him.
He was growing tired of this, both mentally and physically. It must be toying with him! The stupid creature! He'd show it what happens when you toy with the dominant species!
His fatigue dropped suddenly in his rage and he was able to move more freely. His slow, gradual turns became sharp, precise bends. His feet pressed against the ground harder than they had ever been pressed before. This was the angriest he had ever been, and the new self loved the anger.
It gobbled the anger up and spat it out, ready for more hate to enter the mind.
The Yunnanosaurus was beginning to tire; it had put up a good fight, but now it was time to pay the price for taunting one such as himself. The twisting was now taking longer for it to complete. Consequently he was gaining precious ground, narrowing the speed gap to a split moment. Then as it was making a third bend in running in a zigzag pattern, it happened.
Its left foot slipped.
He tilted his head down and continued running forwards.
It made a little, pathetic whimper right before his skull made contact with its upper-chest region from its left side. The sound of bone crunching made him think to wince but the new self refused it, forcing him to look up at the airborne Yunnanosaurus, open his jaw, latch onto it, and slam it into the ground.
It wailed and screamed in pain and fear before he even began biting. It struggled desperately, but he easily held it down with his foot pressing into its arm, probably broken by his ramming. He tore away and bit and swallowed and repeated the process. All the while the prey refused to give up trying to get away. He ripped and shredded up one, two, three, four mouthfuls of meat and blood and still it didn't die.
And he simply couldn't stop eating! It tasted so nice! He was just so hungry, and the hunger replaced the anger he had experienced not a few moments ago. He dove his head into the squirming body again, now seeing innards instead of just fat, skin, and muscle. And even when he bit one of the more stringy entrails, it refused to die. This was the case until he ripped out one small pulsing organ and snapped it from all the veins and arteries holding it in place, momentarily spurting blood all over his legs and mouth.
The Yunnanosaurus stopped altogether. All its flailing limbs dropped. Its cry for help was cut short as its head flopped to the ground.
And finally, there was silence.
The air was still and did not blow. The herd had long departed the scene. The sky's clouds were gone too. Everything was silent. Except for him gorging himself on the first kill he - the undersized Yangchuanosaurus: him and him alone - had ever made.
And one other thing.
The new self told him not to, but he paused eating to look for the source of a sound just over the body of the recently deceased Yunnanosaurus. The taste of meat lingered in his mouth, so he wanted only to see what the source was so he could get stuck into carcass's gut again.
It was the youngling. It was crying out wildly into the air for no apparent reason. The new self growled at it to run along back to the herd - wherever it may be - and leave him to eat it peace. This was his kill, making it his property, meaning no one but him should be anywhere near it.
It ignored the warning and continued to cry out, moving erratically while doing so, even holding onto its neck with its hands. He became more intrigued than disturbed, or maybe he was disturbingly intrigued or intriguingly disturbed. Either way, he ceased eating entirely to observe.
It was running one direction one moment, and then walking in the other direction the next. It did this several times over until it sat on its belly, hands on its neck, and breathed shallow breaths.
He didn't understand. He'd never even touched it and yet it was acting as if it was hurt in some way.
Then it did something unexpected.
The youngling, still on its stomach, pushed itself along the ground up to the dead Yunnanosaurus. It stood up, let its hands flop back to their natural position, and nudged the dead one's head. When the body didn't respond it curled up next to it and continued to breathe short, irregular whimpers.
His eyes darted between the Yunnanosaurus carcass and the youngster, trying ever so hard to comprehend why the youth would ever care for an older... member of the same... species... Unless they were... related...
He realised he was a more than a little short of breath, and a feeling of dizziness was growing in his head. He suddenly found it very difficult to stand up straight. His belly felt-
He turned away and regurgitated, expelling every bit of meat he'd eaten. Parent and child! He tore them away! He and he alone tore them away from each other! How could he! And the hate...! Thinking he was dominant was no better than to become her. No... he was no better than her.
His breathing didn't settle even after many long moments. Thoughts fought and distress grew.
Leaving behind the whimpering Yunnanosaurus, he hurried to the only place he could think of going.
The blackness of night descended in the valley. In his cave, night became more than just black - it became a void of nothingness bordered by walls of impenetrable rock with only one entrance in and out. The solitary confinement did nothing to improve his mood; it only gave him more time and space to think over what evils he had done. He curled in on himself, not unlike the youngling did, and stared blankly into whichever direction he was facing. And all he could think, all he could ever think, was a single thought repeated over and over.
That single thought sounded itself out every time he tried to think of something different. No matter what he tried to focus on; the slight breeze blowing through the valley, the sound of the cave's spring flowing, even the very faint call of distant dinosaurs... it all was drowned out by the thoughts of regret and spite over the things he had done.
Those thoughts had a sound too: a sound he could not pronounce, yet he knew what that sound sounded like. It was like a collection of noises formed into one thing, and desperately he tried to hear it. Maybe if he heard the sound of sound he would finally be at peace.
His new self was gone entirely, thankfully. It left with the meat he spewed up. Given time for reflection, it probably was best if it stayed there, rotting on the plains, if that self was turning him into something he couldn't be. So which him was he to blame for the death of a youngster's parent? Himself? Or himself?
After an uncountable amount of moments, he gave up playing the blame game and attempted the impossible task of falling asleep. But all he could think about was the sound the pulsing organ had been making while it was in his mouth and the look on the little one's face when he passed over it. Terror. Pure terror. The kind of terror he felt when she was chasing him. He really was not better than her.
He sighed and curled up as tight as he possibly could.
Then the sound of pebbles shifting caught his attention. He raised his head and looked up to the entrance. The same bright moonlight illuminated the landscape outside. It was probably her checking if he was back inside. The only thing he could ever really compliment her on was her persistence. But even so, her presence here was not welcome, not while he was in this state of mind, whatever it was called. He snarled at the sound, telling it to go away.
But to his surprise, and immediate distress, it was not the pack leader at all: it was the young Yunnanosaurus. He slowed his breathing to the bare minimum and watched in concern as it walked up and halted at the entrance to the cave. He barked at it to scare it away but it remained, unmoved. Then it slid down the entry and into the cavern, and looked directly at him. There was an air of sadness about it. Or was that just the moisture of the cave?
He got up to his feet - his back almost touching the ceiling - and stared back at it. Why didn't it go back to its herd? Why here? With him? It had a continuously moving home to go to. Again, why here? If it could track him down, why couldn't it track the herd?
The answer came to mind as soon as he asked himself the question: it had been so focussed on watching its... parent being eaten alive... that it didn't see in which direction its herd went, whereas it saw where he went. He rejected the food he had brought down and spared the young one, and that, strangely, must have been enough to entice it to follow him back to the cave. Or maybe there was something else motivating it, he couldn't tell. Or maybe he was just thinking too much... He really should learn when and how to stop thinking.
In any case, there were really only two options:
Either he went out the next day with the youngster, tracked down the herd and returned it to its family - providing any family remained - or end its loneliness right then and there with his jaws around its neck.
He had already dealt enough violence for one lifetime, but if one option was easier to achieve than the other...
He took another look over the green prairie. So much greenery... yet so much red blood to contradict its peacefulness.
He had to move on; she wasn't coming back, and neither was his daughter - the last survivor of a clutch of twelve eggs. Predators were everywhere, all of them feeling no pity and no remorse for what they do. Yes they all had lives of their own and their own mini mouths to feed, that he understood, but why did it have to be his mate and his only child?
Of course, if it was not his then it would be someone else's offspring or mate they'd take. Food was all they were: moving meals. Why did nature have to create such a cruel thing like carnivorous creatures if it meant things that could think and feel would have to feel loss and think about it over and over? He sighed, and then led the herd onwards.
The fields by the sea's cliffs were usually ripe this time of year, providing the Mamenchisaurus hadn't swept through the area as they usually did when he least needed them to. Maybe eating until his gut was bursting would finally take his mind off their deaths. There probably wouldn't be, but if he was lucky there might be some of those rare plants with the strange berries that gave him a headache - that might keep him from thinking too hard. But if a predator came by while he was under the fruits' effects... No... He'd have to keep his mind clear for the plausible event of attack.
He realised his head was sagging. He picked himself up, puffing his chest out, and continued forward.
Then he saw it. At first it was just a speck in the distance, but it slowly grew into a two-legged
figure of medium size and a grey-green complexion with... brown stripes along its back.
No... It couldn't be...
It was back.
It was usually at least five days, maximum of eight, before the same carnivore attacked again, but this was only three days since that Yangchuanosaurus took his family. And it was walking right at them, not even attempting to conceal itself, like it wanted them to run away so it could have a nice long chase. He signalled all stop for the herd, but they had already done so, seeing it just as soon as he had. Those who hadn't seen were going on tiptoes to get a better view, or circling around the side to form one giant line of Yunnanosaurus and Nanyangosaurus. Against natural instincts, everyone was motionless; no one was going anywhere.
It saw that they were all standing firm, but onward it marched, seemingly uncaring for what their stance was.
The Yangchuanosaurus was now within a few sprinting paces' distance from them. Then a few running paces. And then it stopped at a few jogging paces away, staring at all of them with those brown, murderous eyes it had. It did nothing but stand there and watch.
A family killer was what it was, nothing more, and if it wanted them to stand aside, it had another thing coming. It would have to go around them, not through, and he made sure that statement was clear by stepping forward and roaring the loudest roar his mouth could possibly allow at it. The rest either must have had the same thing on their minds or they all played follow-the-leader, not knowing any better. Except the ones on the furthest reaches of the line, for some reason they didn't tell it to move on.
It did nothing in response, just shift its feet to relieve the discomfort of standing idly, and continue to stare at them without expression. The Yangchuanosaurus simply waited until the roaring died down - which took a fair while - and then made a sound like wind passing through a small hole as it twisted its head slightly to its side.
Then something appeared from behind the Yangchuanosaurus's legs, and he stood with a mixture of happiness of what the something was, mortification at how he didn't see the something beforehand, and bewilderment as he began to question why the something was still alive.
That something was his daughter.
His last remaining child ran up to him without hesitation and rubbed herself all along his legs and belly, and where he had the chance, he would stroke his daughter with his hands and rub his cheeks along her body. This continued for a few moments until he realised how close the Yangchuanosaurus had come during his bonding session.
He didn't know why or how or any reason as to why it would return his son, but he was thankful it did, and he wanted to express his thanks in someway or another.
The Yangchuanosaurus took a small step closer and placed its nose to his, then tilted it head down so his was tilted down and both their heads were touching. And it stayed like that for a long while as it breathed in... and out... and in... and out... and in... and out... and in... and then it stepped away, gazed at him directly i the eyes, and then walked away in the direction it had come from.
He was left wondering what exactly he had just experienced.
As they all pushed on to wherever the herd leader was taking them, he noted that the Yunnanosaurus and Nanyangosaurus were making noises: a kind of whooping. It was the sound they used to express their joy and happiness at the return of one of their own... Nothing could describe it, because the emotion in those calls...
He had no intention of going back to his cave to be alone. Not anymore. Not when he stole someone away from someone else's life. Now he was going to ensure, from the shadows of the forests, that that life was long and happy, and anyone who was going to deny it the wellbeing it deserved was going to have to go through him first. His food would be the bodies they would find along the way, or the ones of this herd who died of natural causes. No more hunting. If he would starve because of that vow, then so be it.
But he took a life. Now it was time to give a life back.
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