Chapter 031—Claw’s Orphans

‘This deer is way heavier than I expected. Let’s see… I’ll eat some, then I’ll bring the rest back home for the cubs.’ The tigress tried to figure out the way home while burying herself in the deer. The deer was agile and vigorous, which made her run a long way. It even headbutted and trampled over her several times when struggling to escape, using up all her energy. There was a lingering pain in her left hind leg.

‘It was worth it.’ The tigress suddenly thought of her five adorable cubs, and she immediately forgot about her pain. A gentle smile grew on her face.                                                           

It had been a long time since they were well-fed. They were so starved that their limbs felt weak. They had to spend the whole day in the cave lying down.

She felt helpless.

It was somehow a short summer this year. Leaves had already turned yellow when they hadn’t even been green yet. This wasn’t a good sign, as this meant autumn would arrive early this year. All residents in the forest hadn’t had enough time to store food for the winter. Everyone started to panic and looted each other’s food. Those who were negligent had even lost their lives for this. The deer with broken limbs in front of the tigress was one of the unlucky ones. It exposed its own whereabouts just for the sake of a taste of fresh grass, which ended up with it being caught by the tigress. 

After filling its belly, the tigress tore off the deer’s right hind leg and started off her journey back home during sunset. It was only when the crescent moon rose in the sky that the tigress arrived at her den, worn out and in pain. To her, the journey back home seemed to be endless and the deer in her mouth was as heavy as lead. 

With the moon hung high above the sky, the tigress started to nod off and her steps grew slower.

A sudden odd breeze blew by her side. A slight aura of danger was enveloped within the strong leafy scent and the claggy dampness in the air.

The tigress didn’t make a sound, and pretended she didn’t realise the other’s presence.

It was a young black bear. As it didn’t go through much in life, it actually forgot to observe the wind direction when following its prey, and ended up startling the tigress. Could it be that it was just passing by and had no intention in attacking her? No. If it were really passing by, it wouldn’t be worth the effort to keep such a close distance while treading in stealth.

The bear definitely didn’t come with good intentions.

The tigress was drained of energy. Apart from her left hind leg which was badly injured, she also had to take care of the deer’s leg in her mouth, so the odds of winning were greatly compromised. The bear was a fierce one too. Fighting head to head with it right now was surely not a wise choice.

The tigress decided to take a detour and kept herself away from the den, so as not to frighten her cubs. The bear had pounced on the tiger from its ambush before the tigress could take more than a few steps. The tigress let go of the deer in its mouth straight away, distancing herself from the bear by running and jumping.

‘I know times are tough now. So this is for you.’ The tigress was calm, conveying that she meant no harm, without losing the dominance of a noble.

The bear didn’t answer back, but instead bit off the deer’s leg and wolfed it down. The tigress intended to turn away and leave quietly. Out of the blue, the bear let out a roar and stopped her from leaving. Without another word, the tigress bared her teeth and fangs and gave the bear its last warning.

Acknowledging the tigress’ wound on her leg, the bear knew she couldn’t make nimble dodges. And so, it initiated its first attack by hurling the deer’s leg towards her, blocking her vision so it could seize the opportunity to slash her stomach open. Contrary to its expectations, the tigress endured the pain in her leg and bolted away. She moved sideways and sliced the deer leg into two with her right paw, also scarring the bear’s left eye and its chest. Meanwhile, the bear also managed to slash the tigress’ right forearm, greatly weakening her.

Their deafening roars rent the air.

Frightened birds soared in the sky and erupted into chaos. Their ceaseless chirps of terror lingered in the air.

Everything happened within seconds, but the two confronting beasts were already out of breath. The fallen leaves were washed and painted red with the blood gushing out of them.

The next strike would determine the life and death of the two.

Neither of them dared to jump the gun. Their minds were fixated on their own plans.

An odd gust of wind came by quickly. The gravels on the ground circled in the air, which unintentionally brought a twist of events.

The tigress sensed the scent of her cubs in the strange breeze. Could it be that her bellows woke them up? They must be coming this way now! She could no longer wait for the right moment to strike back. She must get rid of the bear before their arrival!

The tigress struck first. She raised a cloud of gravel, which irritated the bear’s right eye. Following along with the momentum, she then moved around to its left and gave a heavy blow on its chest once more in an attempt to squish its heart. It came to no avail—the bear had a sturdy physique. Besides, the tigress was lacking energy, giving the bear an opportunity to strike back.

Amidst the mayhem, the blinded bear discovered the cubs nearby with its nose. This made it direct its target to the cubs instead of their mother who could barely move. The bear handled two cubs like a piece of cake. Seeing their siblings die tragically in front of them, the remaining three cubs stopped running away and started attacking the bear. Yet, their assaults were futile. The bear killed one of them with each swing of its paw. The last surviving cub was shivering with extreme fear, and his limbs shrank in front of the bear.

He thought the bear was going to kill him in cold blood  Unexpectedly, the bear paused its large claws and said, ‘Leave! I was left orphaned by your mother’s claw…’

The tigress threw herself at the bear before it could even finish talking, and she sank her teeth into its throat until its last breath. Seeing the one cub of hers safe, the tigress finally uttered her final words at ease. ‘Do not massacre the innocent.’

Despite not knowing what she meant, the little cub nodded along, so as to let his mother be at peace.

An endless stream of questions rose in his mind. Why mother, why?

Wasn’t it because Mother didn’t ruthlessly kill the bear that she got into trouble? Why did she still teach him to not massacre the innocent? 

***

Time flew by, and the little cub grew up to be a tiger against all odds. Yet, his mind was still wrapped around his mother’s final words. He killed only to feed or defend himself. He killed many, but also spared many. Later on, he met the love of his life, and started a family together.

The tiger was at the prime of his life. One day, he was having a chat with his lovely wife, and they brought up their childhood stories.

His lover mentioned that she was saved by a strange black bear. ‘It said that its parents were killed by a tigress along with its siblings, and he was left alone. I then asked him why he would save a tiger like me. He answered me by saying, “Every animal has its purpose of surviving. Tigers do kill bears, but they also help in scaring humans who destroy the forests away. If the number of tigers drop, then ultimately all animals in the forest will be eradicated. I was only targeting the tigress and her family…”’ The tiger’s wife cocked her head to the side in a silly way. ‘Actually, I still don’t understand what he meant by that. Not even now. Do you get it?’

‘I do.’ The tiger looked around the forest, and let out a sigh of relief. ‘I now also understand what my mother’s final words meant.’ He sprang forth towards his children, and played with them together, enjoying his time with his family.


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