Behind him, the lone crow followed his path through the trees. If he stopped, maybe the crow would flutter down, sit on his shoulder, a silent wise companion.
Kaidoh stopped. The crow flew up into a tree. Well, Kaidoh could be silent and wise on his own. He sat down on a pile of leaves and ignored the damp that seeped through them.
He pulled the cold air into his lungs, counting "one, two, three" in, "four, five, six" out. Just like Inui-senpai had taught him.
The crow called out. Kaidoh balled his fingers into his palms and looked up.
Momoshiro stepped into the clearing.
"I don't want to see you," Kaidoh said.
"No problem." Momoshiro tromped around right behind Kaidoh and flopped down too.
"What do you want?"
"I've been feeding one of the crows." Momoshiro leaned his back up against Kaidoh's back. "To make it a pet."
Momoshiro was warm so Kaidoh didn't scoot away. His legs and arms were all goosebumps in the chill mountain air.
"But I'm not sure it's the same one every time. Do you think they're tricking me?"
Kaidoh snorted. "It wouldn't be hard."
Momoshiro was quiet for a few minutes and Kaidoh matched his breathing to Momoshiro's, their backs pressing tight when they inhaled, slack when they exhaled.
"Mamushi," Momoshiro said. "We're a better doubles pair then they are, any day."
Kaidoh picked up a dry leaf and crushed it in his palm. "I don't know who you're talking about."
"When we get off the mountain, let's challenge them." Momoshiro paused. "If you want. If we ever leave. If the crows don't make us their pets."
Kaidoh took a long, long breath. "You're an idiot." He jumped up.
Momoshiro fell onto his back. "You won't say that when the crows take over."
"We'll be kings of the crows," Kaidoh said. He held his hand down to Momoshiro. "Let's go practice."
Momoshiro grabbed Kaidoh's wrist and let Kaidoh haul him to his lazy feet. "Kings of the crows?"
Kaidoh looked away. "Shut up."
Momoshiro hooked his arm around Kaidoh's neck. "As if I could."
Kaidoh looked back at the clearing. The crow was watching them with one dark eye. "We are better."
On to beltenebra!