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Printed from https://shop.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2313246-Finding-West
by JD
Rated: 13+ · Novel · Fantasy · #2313246
Chapter 6: Kadence and Hunter
Kadence and Hunter 🖤



The moment Hunter glimpses Kadence, his body sways in a metaphorical dance of imbalance, all stirred by the alluring presence of a girl adorned in a white breezy sundress. Her cascading long black hair, in stark contrast to her fair complexion and vivid blue eyes, presents a youthful beauty unlike anything he has encountered before.

West, noticing Hunter’s piqued interest, offers him insight. “Kadence is Rida’s granddaughter,” he explains.

Approaching with a baby lamb in her arms, Kadence swiftly notices Hunter, her gaze drawn to his meticulously styled, short brown hair and captivating hazel eyes that radiate both depth and warmth. His lips, with a natural rosy hue, form a confident yet gentle curve, creating an inviting expression that enhances his overall allure.

“I can’t get him to eat,” Kadence confides in Rida, her keen gaze momentarily fixated on Hunter.

Crue, the leader of the Mantra village, interjects the conversation with his own agenda, prompting West to introduce the new guests, Hunter and Laken. Once he’s done stealing everyone’s attention, he borrows West for a brief discussion, leaving Rida and Laken to converse about feeding the fussy baby lamb.

Soon after, Kadence delicately passes the infant lamb to Laken and approaches Hunter. "I'm Kadence," she introduces herself, oblivious to his awareness of her background.

Inhaling her fresh floral scent, Hunter reaches toward her delicate shoulder, apologizing, "I'm sorry, but there's a bug on you." With a gentle brush, he guides it away, causing it to flutter off.

“Thank you," she murmurs, her body buzzing with delight after his fleeting touch.

“No problem," he conveys, "and it's a pleasure meeting you, Kadence."

The calm, deep-toned voice of Hunter is greatly admired by the precocious sixteen year old, bringing her a sense of security and serenity.

“Where are you coming from?” she asks, swaying slightly in her knee-length, cotton dress.

“Oklahoma City,” he answers, casually inserting his hands into the pockets of his black athletic shorts.

Unfamiliar with the place, her brow furrows with confusion. A quick memory from a book she read clarifies that "city" is a human term, and it hits her – Hunter isn't from the distant villages of her people but rather from the expansive realm of the human world.

Intrigued, she sweetly expresses, "Well, I'm genuinely excited you're here—both of you," she adds, gracefully sidestepping any potential awkwardness. "Would you and Laken be interested in a tour of our village?"

“That sounds great," Laken conveys, cradling the lamb with care. "But Hunter, you should send a text to Alex and Morgan to keep them from worrying."

Retrieving his phone from his pocket, he says, “Good idea.”

Rida takes deliberate steps as she strolls to the nearby table, her thick mane of white hair bouncing with each move. "That device won't work here, my dear," she advises.

“Really?” He asks, continuing to text.

Settling into her seat, she replies, “No form of technology exists here, nor will it function on our land."

“Oh,” he mumbles, peering at the “failed to send” message on his phone.

“It’s still early,” Laken points out, “they’re probably still asleep anyway.”

Hunter offers her a subtle smirk.”Or engaging in extracurriculars.”

Noticing her faint blush and slow shake of the head, Kadence can't help but feel a twinge of envy as she observes their shared moment, a connection that seemed to echo good times and understanding.

“How long have you two been friends?” She inquires, swooping her naturally wavy hair to the side.

“Almost a year,” Laken states, her eyes glued to the lamb gently sucking the bottle of milk.

“Feels like ten though, “ Hunter admits with a smile, prompting a scoff from Laken. “But obviously not in a negative sense,” he hastily adds with a chuckle. “There’s this ease and comfort to our friendship, one that would typically take years to develop.”

“I agree,” Laken remarks, appreciating his sentiment with a broad smile.

West returns from his discussion with Crue, his face quickly softening from the view of Laken and the baby lamb. After requesting her presence, the two of them amble into the fields, leaving Rida, Kadence and Hunter to decide their own course of action.

“You still want that tour?” Kadence asks, her voice hopeful, a glimmer of anticipation in her eyes.

“Of course I do,” he replies with enthusiasm. “I’m just waiting for you to lead the way.”

The excitement in his voice sends a warmth to her soul and a slight blush to her cheeks.

“Have fun,” Rida exclaims, clearly not about to get up from her seat.

Kadence and Hunter follow a red dirt road, which guides them to the heart of the primitive village. On either side of the main pathway, distinctive buildings with unique shapes stand proudly, crafted entirely from natural materials like mud and clay. The quaint village unfolds to a path stretching down the center, leading towards distant crop fields. Beyond that, a picturesque backdrop of sizable hills cloaked in lush vegetation completes the serene scene.

“That large wide building on the left is our dining hall,” Kadence points. “It’s where we hold big gatherings, meetings and most meals. The tall skinny one next to it is the archives."

“Archives?” Hunter asks, lifting a brow in fascination.

“It’s where we keep very old manuscripts, historical maps and books, and fictional stories. Most are hand written but we do a have small section of actual printed books. They came fr—“ she clips herself off, realizing she was about to say “from the human world.” The last thing she wants is for him to perceive her as crazy or odd.

Hunter waits patiently for her to continue, when she doesn’t, he asks, “What are the smaller structures that are lined horizontally on both sides?“

“Homes,” she speaks warmly.

Taking it all in, Hunter notices a few of the houses along the perimeter resemble huts, with thatch as its covering. The rest of the larger humble abodes have roofs made from wood. Vibrant hand woven tapestries hang on openings of some of the homes, adding to the village charm.

Amidst the unique homes, Hunter and Kadence continue to engage in friendly conversation, surrounded by distinctive handmade tools, neatly arranged woven baskets on welcoming porches, and strategically placed clay pots. Colorful garments sway on twine, as sheep, goats, and a contented donkey find solace from the morning warmth.

Later, they amble by an open communal area, where wood stumps form a circle around a central fire pit. “Do you ever have singalongs?" Hunter asks, a subtle pang of regret accompanying his choice of words.

“Not really," Kadence replies, a touch of uncertainty lingering in her response.

Down the deserted stretch of road, their footsteps echoing, he inquires, “Where has everyone gone?”

“Most are out harvesting—wheat, cotton, and our summer vegetables, others are planting crops. It might be a small village, but it still takes a lot of time, sweat and hungry people to keep it running. At least, that’s what my father likes to say.”

Stopping under an oak tree, Hunter wipes the heat of the morning from his brow. “Are you close with him?” He inquires, leaning his back against the tree trunk.

“Yes and no,” she explains, fiddling with her tan sandals. “I have deep affection for him, and our bond is strong, but my father seems trapped in a constant state of functional depression. He dedicates most of his time to the fields, the workshop, or trade trips, avoiding home as much as possible.”

Approaching her, Hunter's face softens with a sympathetic expression, genuinely curious about the burdens she may be carrying. “Do you know why he’s struggling?” He asks, crossing his arms with concern.

“My prolonged birth took my mother's life, and my father never truly recovered.” Her voice softens to a murmur as she confides, "I believe he stays away because I resemble her too closely."

As Hunter observes Kadence in a vulnerable moment, an emotional chord resonates within him. "I can't fathom anyone wanting to stay away from a face as beautiful as yours," he admits, his gaze tender. “I'm certain he regrets it every day," he adds, maintaining a respectful distance.

With a blush hidden by the warmth of her face, she conveys, “You’re really sweet.”

“Thanks, but once you catch me in a grumpy mood, you might change your mind. I can become quite the sour creature," he admits with a playful tone.

She chuckles with his description, while also relishing in the thought of getting to see him grumpy. Not that she wants him to be, but the idea of spending more time with him lifts her mood and presents hope. Hope that a relationship is possible, despite the unique circumstances.

Indifferent to his origin from another world, Kadence has no interest in learning how he arrived. Only, that he’s here now, presenting her with feelings she’s longed to have. Feelings of genuine regard and self respect, affection and thoughtful attention. But also, a whirlwind of intense emotions, euphoria, fascination and an insatiable desire to be close with someone worthy of her trust.

Their journey through the village evolves as Hunter embraces a fresh outlook. The initial awe of Kadence’s beauty, mellows into a captivating vulnerability. Her openness sparks a growing fondness, and a different kind of attraction takes root.

“That must be the work shop I’m hearing,” Hunter says, wincing from the loud pounding noise.

“Yes, it’s just ahead there on the right,” Kadence claims.

As they pass some buildings used for storage, a group of kids come barreling out, giggling and screaming as if they just engaged in something mischievous. It forces Hunter into a laugh.

“Don’t encourage them,” Kadence warns. “Last month those same kids fashioned a makeshift trap using vines and leaves, surprising the first person to enter. It was insanely clever and hilarious to hear about, but guess who had to help clean it up?”

Suppressing a chuckle, Hunter says, “And why were you the lucky one chosen for such a task?”

Her voice lowers with a hesitant reply. "It was a punishment given out by Crue and the other elders."

Lifting one eyebrow, Hunter presents her with a feigned, concerning glare, followed by a smirk of amusement.

"Don't look at me like that," her blush demands, averting her eyes with an embarrassed smile.

Chuckling, he asks, "How am I looking at you?"

"Like I'm some sort of tribe troublemaker."

"Well, are you?" he presses with more fake dismay, relishing how easy it is to tease her.

"No," she rolls her eyes, drawing a smile from him. "Do you see that building on the left corner?" she points.

Hunter reads the scrawled sign aloud, "Barney's Treasure Den."

Kadence adjusts her voice, weaving a tune of regret and frustration. "It's a cramped store filled with worthless junk and forgotten relics that nobody truly desires, let alone bargains for. Well, last month, I was caught with something forbidden by our tribe. Something Barney swore would remain our secret. Clearly, that didn't happen."

“Please, continue," Hunter insists, curiosity piqued. "What was the item?"

Reaching the edge of the lush green grass, she peers off into the distance and says, “A vial of a rare and potent herb that induces visions.” Meeting Hunter’s surprised gaze, she adds. “It’s considered a disruptive influence on our traditional rituals and beliefs. Those were the exact words from the elders.”

“Why would you want to induce visions?” He questions, a hint of worry evident in both his voice and eyes.

With a weary sigh, she replies, “It’s a long story, one that I don’t care to share right now. I’m sorry.”

Disappointment falls on Hunter’s face as be suddenly feels cutoff and helpless. The downcast eyes and slumped posture of Kadence suggest she’s just as dejected. Even though Hunter hungers for answers, his empathy prevents him from pushing her for additional details.

Instead, he glances around the picturesque scene before him, observing groups of people everywhere working together in the various fields and gardens, carefree kids running and laughing on the green grass, and lush hills adorned with vibrant vegetation. The stunning panorama view is complete with a small body of water in the distance.

“Never in my life have I observed something so enchanting,” Hunter expresses, absorbing his surroundings with a look of awe and wonder. “It feels like I’m in another world.”

“Perhaps you are," she says, hinting at a touch of truth.

Catching her gaze, Hunter expects to see a small smile or at least an indication that her thought was meant to be lighthearted, yet he only finds a solemn expression.

“Are you trying to tell me something?” he asks playfully, eager to keep the conversation flowing.

Impulsive by nature, Kadence unleashes an ambiguous confession. "What if I told you that you're no longer in your world, but a part of mine? Would you believe me?"

Hunter reflects on her words, as though abruptly faced with a profound test. Glancing around the hard-to-fathom environment, he answers with sincerity, yet maintains his whimsical sarcasm, "Yes, I would believe you. In fact, I’m half-expecting to see unicorns and flying monkeys parading through the fields any moment now."

Eliciting a laugh from her, Hunter smiles, pleased with his successful objective. Then softly adds, "Seriously though. Trusting you comes naturally. Your honesty, more than your beauty, is the most transparent quality I've observed so far."

Kadence immediately melts with his warmth, yet finds it difficult to endure his praise. Her secrets are eating at her gentle spirit.

For a moment, she paces the line of grass that meets the dirt, fighting an internal battle with faint groans.

“Something on your mind?" Hunter inquires, running a nervous hand through his hair, his concern palpable.

With sharp and steady eyes, Kadence approaches him. “If I show you something, do you promise to remain calm and collected?”

“You have my word.” He nods, his gaze locking onto hers, the weight of those words echoing solemnly.

“OK, hold on.” She scans the fields intently before finally exclaiming, "Rex!"

A robust teenage boy springs upright from the gardens, his eyes brightening at the sight of Kadence.

Cupping her mouth and chin with her hands, she calls out, "Can you come over here?"

“Be right there!" he shouts, starting his jog with bare feet and a chiseled, shirtless chest.

Hunter scratches his face. “Friend of yours?”

With urgency, she shifts to him. “Listen, I’m going to ask him to do something, and you need to act surprised, but not too surprised, OK?”

Before Hunter can answer, Rex is already in front of them, a goofy grin upon his face. “What’s up K-dog?” he asks, playfully nudging her shoulder.

Swaying slightly in nervousness, she asks, “Can you please show my friend here how fast you phase? He really wants to see.”

“Right now?” He groans softly. “I don’t know. I really like these shorts.”

“Please?” She begs. “I’ll get you new ones.”

Sighing in resignation, Rex utters, “Fine, but you owe me.” He jogs several feet away, then prepares himself by patting vigorously on his sweaty sculpted abs, making loud obnoxious grunts.

Struggling to make sense of everything, Hunter stands baffled, his hands fidgeting in his pockets. “What’s happening right now?” He asks. “And why is he acting like Tarzan?”

“Who?” Kadence wonders aloud quietly.

Bolting forward with the intensity of a whipped horse, Rex sprints towards them. In a matter of seconds, as he propels himself into the air, his shorts tear away as if ensnared by an unseen force, disintegrating into shreds. His once muscular human frame undergoes a swift metamorphosis, morphing into a majestic four-legged creature with a gleaming copper-colored coat. Landing with grace and precision, he tilts his furry head back and releases a short deep howl, galloping towards the village shortly after.

Kadence observes Hunter carefully, witnessing the shock and bewilderment on his face. "Say something,” she requests, eager to hear his thoughts.

With a tentative tone, he murmurs, "A wolf? How can that be possible?"

“You’re in my world now,” she divulges, “a world of strictly werewolves.”

Digesting the information, he widens his eyes in disbelief, then peers around the bustling fields once more. “Everyone here can do what he just did?” He asks, gazing back to her.

“Everyone sixteen and older. With the exception of one person,” she admits ruefully, glancing down at her feet. “The rest have the werewolf gene and will eventually convert around their sixteenth birthday.”

At a loss for words, he struggles to grasp the situation, shaking his head momentarily with confusion.

“I know it’s a lot to absorb,” she admits. “I’m still trying to wrap my head around meeting my first human.”

“I’m the first human you've met?" he asks, raising the pitch of his voice.

“You and Laken,” she explains, beginning to wander towards the perimeter of the grass. “As far as I know, you’re the first humans to enter our world.”

“Wow.” He gulps, ambling next to her with more questions than his brain can process. His heightened sense of hearing only adds to the chaos, with the rustling of crops and the rhythmic sounds of laboring tools intensifying in his ears.

“You probably have a million questions, and I promise to answer them all. But first, I have an important one for you,” she states thoughtfully.

“What’s that?” He asks.

"Now that you know what we are—what we can do, do you want to leave here?"

With a solemn demeanor, he conveys, "I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to stay in a place more. The beauty of your world, of you," he pauses for emphasis, "and the way you can transform into something mystically extraordinary is far too fascinating. I won’t lie, it’s a little intimidating, but I’m also not afraid if that’s what you’re worried about."

“Good.” She smiles sweetly, despite the inner turmoil of her muse. Feelings of inadequacy and anguish persistently linger beneath her serene facade, casting a shadow over the sweetness of her smile. Though Hunter feels a subtle unease from her, he opts to withhold his vocalized concern for the time being.

Continuing on the tour, they approach a weathered barn with a thatched roof, patched with straw. A clucking chicken comes bobbing out, moving its legs rapidly.

“Should I chase him down?” Hunter asks, appearing amused by its comical movements.

“You’ll never catch him,” Kadence replies in a giggle. “Besides we let our animals roam free for the most part.”

Keeping his gaze on the brown chicken, Hunter follows Kadence into the barn.

Inside, dim light filters through gaps in the wooden walls, revealing a basic, functional space with rudimentary stalls for animals and sparse tools hanging on hooks.

Four horses reside, two chestnut, one white, and a black and white speckled one. A pen of three goats, all a mix of colors, also inhabit the barn. Their bleating sounds begin with the sight of Kadence. She’s quick to pet them, passing them a handful of grains from a nearby bin. Hunter approaches the enclosure, eager to watch her interact with a radiance that illuminates the surroundings.

"I spend most of my time caring for the animals," she says, offering him a carrot. Moving to one of the chestnut-colored horses, she pets its muzzle and adds, "Give him that treat, and he'll be your best friend."

The horse takes the carrot from Hunter’s hand, chomping it with satisfaction, its eyes reflecting gratitude as it enjoys the sweet crunch of its favorite treat.

“His name is Whisper," she says, giving it a few chin scratches, noticing the horse shift closer to Hunter.

As Whisper leans in with his warm muzzle, Hunter can't help but chortle in response to the affectionate gesture. A soft whicker escapes the horse's throat, adding a gentle and contented note to the warmth of the moment.

“Told you,” Kadence laughs.

“Yes you did.” He chuckles. “Hey, can I ask you something, about being a wolf?” He inquires, rubbing between the horses ears.

“Depends on what you want to know," she replies, her voice steady but her eyes betraying a subtle heaviness, as she walks over to the white horse.

“What’s it like? Do you feel much different than you do now?”

“I... I can't really answer that," she stammers, her voice trailing off as emotion overwhelms her. She continues to gently stroke the horse's mane, tears welling up in her eyes.

“Kadence, what’s wrong?” He asks, sensing her discomfort. Hastily drawing near, Hunter gently sweeps her hair to the side, hoping to shift her attention towards him. While she faces him, he speaks softly, “Why are you crying?”

“I’m sorry. I promise I’m not always like this,” she pleads, dropping her chin to her chest, tears rolling down her cheeks.

Raising her chin with a gentle finger, he says, "Hey, it's OK. I happen to think crying is a healthy way to relieve stress." When she doesn't reply, he gently asks, "Can I give you a hug?"

Her nod beckons Hunter into a comforting embrace, enveloping her in the warmth of his arms. With her head finding solace on his chest, a cascade of tears escapes, and she struggles to stifle the sobs that seek release.

Tenderly rubbing her back, he apologizes, “If I said something that brought these tears on, I’m truly sorry.”

“It’s not your fault,” she mumbles into his sturdy frame. Withdrawing slightly from his hold, she wipes away her tears. “Remember when I said everyone sixteen and older can transition except for one person?”

He nods while wiping a tear from her face.

“That one person is me. My sixteenth birthday came and I never changed.”

“Oh,” he remarks, the realization taking him a moment. “Well, maybe you’re just extra special.”

Turning away from him, she quips, “Yeah, right. At this point, you’re probably considered more special than I am. I bet Crue is discussing just how special with the elders as we speak.”

"I feel like I'm saying all the wrong things right now," he admits, trailing behind her towards the goat corral.

“I don't expect you to fully get it." She faces him, her foot resting casually on the gate. "But picture being the only one in the history of your tribe who never makes the transition into a wolf."

Mimicking her stance, he says, “That must be really difficult and lonesome.”

“The worst part is my tribe doesn’t have any hope that I’ll ever change. That’s why they pretty much let me do whatever I want. They don’t expect me to amount to anything.”

“What?” He exclaims, pulling a grimace. “I don’t believe that. They can’t be that heartless or that devoid of faith.”

“Oh but they are. In our culture, traditions and beliefs take precedence over blind faith.” Resting against the post, she clarifies, "The herb I was caught with—that was my last hope. I had tried everything else."

He tightens his brow. “How was it supposed to help?”

“Barney thought if I could induce a strong enough vision, it might help me transition.”

“So it’s all experimental? There’s no evidence that it would even work?”

Shrugging, she confesses, "I didn't care to find out. I was desperate."

“I hope you don't still feel that way," Hunter says, concern etching his features. "I would be devastated to know that you risked your life for a slight maybe."

“It’s OK,” she says softly, trying to offer solace, though her words sound feeble. “I’ve already given up hope.”

His shoulders slouch in remorse at the sight of her visible defeat. “Don’t say that,” he murmurs, waiting for her gaze. “Without hope, there’s nothing to fuel us. Nothing to inspire us. Believing that better outcomes are possible even in difficult circumstances is what keeps us pushing forward." His voice, a gentle reassurance, seeks to reignite a flicker of hope in her eyes. “I have faith that you’re exactly the way you’re supposed to be in this moment. I don’t think we would have met otherwise. Do you?”

Her arms find her way to him, burrowing her face into his shoulder with a firmer embrace than before. Hunter envelopes her gentle frame, whispering words of encouragement, “My hope is strong enough for the both of us. I can be your strength until you find yours.”

In the embrace of his nurturing spirit, Kadence surrenders to silent tears—tears that carry the weight of newfound hope and the overwhelming warmth of happiness.

© Copyright 2024 JD (jillrjy2k at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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