With the sun high in the sky, the summer heat beat down on the fields of Lightning Empire, and upon the empire's camp. Luckily, today seemed to be rather mild compared to the rest of the week... the heat had been hot and groggy, even unbearable for some, but today things were much more pleasant... perhaps because summer was finally starting to come to an end. The ever present star left the earth down below pleasantly warm, with a light breeze blowing through the plans. It was nice, but for one particular cub, it didn't really seem to matter... not to her.
Cream paws awkwardly stepped out of the apprentice's den, followed by a medium, pinkish brown nose and a body mottled with unique rosettes. She's was a new arrival on the scene, and to say the least, she felt rather... out of place in Lightning Empire. Her name was Xalo, and yesterday she had been rescued by a patrol that raided the caravan she happened to be riding on. Just a short while prior, the snow jaguar had been taken from her mother with no real explanation... she was only told that she was going away. Where? And why? It wasn't long before Xalo came to the obvious conclusion that she hadn't impressed her mother, hadn't been good enough... or at least, it had seemed obvious to her. The whole thing had left the cub hurt and broken... and if that hadn't been shocking enough, she'd found herself being snatched from her cage from a group of strange cats and taken somewhere she'd never known existed. She hadn't really taken the time to notice who the cat carrying her was... it was all too weird, and she was still feelings rather upset herself... before she knew it, the day had passed by. Such a terrible, confusing day. She wasn't able to sleep very well that night, so it was late by the time she found herself able to push herself out into the camp clearing... which brought her where she was now.
Slowly, Xalo raised her head. Just a few days ago, she'd thought there was nothing beyond the vast city of Massilia... it was her whole world. She'd learned so quick that not only was there much more beyond the walls, but that there were a bunch of cats living in the wild, without the help of humans. The empire seemed so different from the cats back home... but though she wasn't sure what to make of it, Xalo was sure that if she didn't do her best to be ladylike, like momma taught her, they would send her away too... the cub nodded. Yes, she'd have to-
Her thoughts interrupted, Xalo turned her ears to face the direction of the voice. It sounded like a cub, but had a harsh tone to it she couldn't quite place... it was the kind she'd never heard before, which caused her to wince at first. It wasn't until the owner of the voice started to approach her that Xalo turned her head, hearing the pawsteps. "P-pardon, but were you talking to... to me?" She tried to hold her head high to have good posture, as she'd been taught ever since she could walk, but she thought that maybe she wasn't doing it right... this strangely colored cream, mahogany and ashy gray cub was giving her weird looks, and the snow jaguar couldn't help but shift her paws uncomfortably. "Er... miss?" She tilted her head a little, wondering what was wrong.
The colorful cub only rolled her eyes. "No, duh!" she replied. "Of course I was talking to you!" Xalo flinched at her crude vocabulary and rough tone. She found her patience being tested, but always remembered that it wasn't good to lose your temper, so lifted her head a little higher.
"You might take more care in the way you talk, miss." Xalo warned. "The adults will get mad if you keep speaking like that."
"Well, I'm getting mad just listening to you!" the cub shot back.
Xalo narrowed her eyes a little. "Excuse me?" She couldn't help but twitch her long, fluffy tail a couple times. She couldn't believe what she was hearing. Didn't this cub's momma teach her how to be polite? Apparently not.
"Whatever, whatever!" the nameless cub shouted. "I'm bored, so let's go!" Xalo was confused by the statement. Go where...? However, she didn't want to argue with this... ruffian, as mother might say, so simply nodded.
Then, the cub did something strange... he did... some sort of bow. It didn't... seem like a very nice one... but maybe that was how they did it here. Xalo knew it was only polite to bow back, so leaned down on on one paw, tucking in her head respectfully. She was quite surprised when the other cub barreled into her, chuckling happily as the snow jaguar was knocked onto her back. Her acquaintance got on top of her before she could push herself to her feet. "Hah! Finally!" the cub shouted. She seemed happy, and filled with enjoyment. But was was so fun, so good about knocking her over?
For Xalo, that was the last straw, and without thinking, she reached up and struck the cub on the side of the face. The slap was done too hard, with her claws unsheathed, leaving a few fine scratches where her paw had passed. Xalo was a bit surprised with herself, but didn't stop herself from glaring at ... whoever she was. The paler cub was confident that at this point, she deserved it.
As for the cub, she seemed equally ticked. "What was that for?!"
Xalo returned the shout for the first time. "It's not nice to knock down a lady!"
The snow jaguar felt as if she were burning when the cub only scoffed. "Humph! You are no lady!" Xalo struck again, this time with her claws sheathed, but still with just as much force. "Hey, cut that out, stupid!"
"Take it back!" Xalo demanded.
Xalo rolled her eyes. "Take it back, please!" she corrected.
"Why should I?!" the cub asked with a small hiss.
"You have to!" Xalo informed her. "I said please! It's a rule."
"That's not a real rule!" The cub spat.
The snow jaguar's long fur bristled. "Is too!"
"Is not, stupid!"
Xalo choked slightly as the cub pressed down on her chest. She reached up and stuck her nose in the other cub's face. "My name isn't Stupid!"
"I know that, stupid!" The cub pushed at Xalo's head with her nose. "And get outta my face!"
Xalo just pushed back. "Use my name, and I will! It's Xalo!"
Only then did the cub finally get off her. "Whatever! I don't want to play with you anymore!"
As the cub started to walk away, Xalo blinked and started to follow. "P-play???"
"Yeah!" the cub said. "What did you think I was doing?!"
Xalo blinked, her anger washed away in an ocean in confusion. "Playing isn't allowed... is it?" Her mother absolutely hated rambunctious and childish games, so Xalo never really had many opportunities to play.
"Course it is, stupid!" She gave the snow jaguar a look that Xalo didn't particularly like. "Where have you been living, under a rock?"
"No!" Xalo huffed. "And I told you, it's-"
"Yeah, yeah, I know. You're Xalo." the cub cut her off. "I'm Alexandria. Whatever, see ya."
Xalo let the cub walk away for a moment... maybe things were different here... and to be honest, that made her feel a little alone. She didn't know how to play, and she seemed... a bit different from the other cubs. But she wasn't going to give up. She was going to learn. With a smile, the argument was soon forgotten, and Xalo ran after the other cub. "Hey, Alexandria!" The name had a nice ring to it. "Wait up!"
Rolling her eyes again, Alexandria turned to face Xalo. "What is it now?"
"I'm terribly sorry for hitting you in the face!" Xalo apologized. "That wasn't very ladylike of me. But I... I don't really know what it's like to play..."
Alexandria cocked a brow. "You're kidding right? All cubs play!"
Xalo shook her head. "Momma didn't like it, so it wasn't allowed! Anyway, would you please teach me?"
"Or..." Xalo paused to think, before glancing back again with optimism. "Just play with me! Please? I won't hurt you this time, I promise!"
As Alexandria seemed to take time to mull it over, Xalo added, "By the way, I really adore your name! It's very pretty!"
For the first time, the strange looking cub finally met Xalo's gaze. "Hah! It is, isn't it! Ok, I'll play with you now!"
"Yay!" Xalo squealed. "But I'm just gonna call you Dustbunny. Cause of the grey on your shoulders!"
"So I can't call you stupid, but you can call me Dustbunny?"
"Yep!" Xalo giggled. "Now, c'mon! Play play play!"
Alexandria laughed. "Alright." The cub again took the bow-like stance. "Just come at me!"
And then, without hesitation, Xalo jumped at Alexandria. This time, it was the other cub who ended up on the ground, and for a moment, Xalo's mother and everything else she left behind in the city were forgotten, swept away in the river of joy.