All minks are born warriors, and their training starts early in order to refine that potential into a tool for Zou's future success. It was customary for those young minks who dreamt of pursuing a life as defenders of the Dukedom to undergo especially demanding training, where they faced off against one another to strengthen bonds of camaraderie but also to ensure they had good combat experience.
Wolfgang was such a one, and today he would engage in sparring matches with his fellow tryouts to see who had what it took to become a Guardian with time. At just about eight years old, he was the youngest of those trying out by quite a margin, and hadn't he been the son of a Musketeer they would likely have refused him until he aged a bit. But his mother had taught him well.
Even now, she stood behind him, watching him as he got into the ring with a significantly older ox mink, who was at least three times larger than he was. Her muscular form towered over most of the adults present, and her mink was the same color as that of Wolfgang's himself, a bluish shade of indigo that was extremely rare among canine minks. She, like him was a wolf mink, his brother had inherited the traits of their gentle father instead. Their father was a warm man who mostly stayed at home looking after them, while bartering fruit and groceries in his personal shop.
The moment the match began, Wolfgang was already in movement, he easily evaded the strong but lazy punch thrown by his opponent before he leapt up into the air and sent the older kid hurtling many meters away with a single powerful kick to the face. Whether it was because he'd been understimated or because the other kid happened to be that much weaker than him didn't matter to Wolfgang. He was just happy to make his mother proud.
Wolfgang might've thought it easy, but the adults and other young minks appeared impressed at his strength and speed despite his young age. They kept muttering the word prodigy, which Wolfgang rightly didn't know what meant, but at least it made his mother smile.
"Fufufufufufufu!" came the laughter of the pup's older brother, Foxpack, from the crowd that had gathered around the ring. The trial to be named a member of either of the two combat forces within the Mokomo Dukedom was one many came to spectate; the minks were a warrior race after all, they simply itched for battle as if a tick had burrowed its way into their fur.
It was a trial held twice every year, once every six months, and it was planned accordingly so that both forces --day and night-- could be present at the same time and participate without having to worry about getting in each other's way. However, of course that wasn't the way it worked out. For even now the arena was split into two separate factions: on one side, cheering for Wolfgang was the Inuarashi Musketeer Squad, and parallel to them, the Guardians of the night, who even despite having lost the last match, were rooting without an end in sight.
"Did you see that you silly tiger?! My brother just wiped the floor with your pathetic excuse of a warrior!" Foxpack hollered across the arena, cupping his hands around his snout to better project his voice.
"C-Captain..!" a panda musketeer at his side cried, "you musn't aggravate him!"
Over on the other side, the tiger mink known by the name of Mengis glared his eyes and furrowed his brow at the mere sight of that stupid fox. "What's that? Sorry, but I don't talk to those I can't see!" His response was what it always was, an insult against the fox mink's petite stature.
The two of them were as bitter enemies as Inuarashi and Nekomamushi themselves, and with good reason. They were polar opposites of one another. They had very little in common at all, aside from the fact that they were both aged at precisely two decades. One was tall, one was short. One a feline, the other a canine. And as it best pertained to the each of them, they were both the captains of their respective forces, serving directly beneath the rulers of Zou.
The boy turned around towards the Inuarashi squad, his eyes beaming with joy at the praise of his big brother. His mother however remained silent, it was unusual for her to speak words of praise to Wolfgang. Even though her youngest son absolutely adored her with every hair on his body, the boy had come to define himself by his praise from her, craving it like an addict craved his drug.
Her son turned around to face her, his eyes wide with anticipation his tail wagging. Eager to receive what he considered to be the real reward of doing what he did. Whatever the womans reasons, she simply gave a single nod in his direction but otherwise said not a word. Almost as if he'd simply done passably, an expected and therefore ultimately unimpressive outcome perhaps.
At that Wolfgang's furious wagging came to an end and he looked at her quietly, before nodding back at her. It was a strangely somber moment, even though it shouldn't have been. For several moments mother and son simply looked at one another awkwardly, from the outside it resembled less and less a bond between child and parent and more a bond between student and teacher.
When she finally spoke she looked directly at Mengis, her voice imperious as she spoke with much edge but no venom. "A decent warmup, why don't you send one of the senior trainees at him instead? He's got the seed of greatness in him, and that needs to be nurtured closely to maximize his potential in the future, otherwise he'll turn out like you."
Unsure, Wolfgang looked at his brother. He really wanted to run to him, he really did, if his mother was his moon then Foxpack was his sun. No mink could possibly have so great a big brother as him! But he wanted to please his mom so bad, so he turned around and entered the trial arena once more, assuming a combat stance.
"Hmph! Don't speak so boldly! Your son only lucked out, that's all. That poor ox has been battling a terrible flu for several days!" Mengis' feline tongue rolled around in his mouth, slathering his canines with gooey saliva. His lies were hardly believable.
As the Ox got up on his feet and returned to the bleachers, his shoulders slouched, Mengis made sure to punish him… with kindness. "Hoy, don't be so hard on yourself," he said, patting the young mink's back, "you gave it your best out there and that's all that matters, eh? Now go on and get some rest. We're a team here. One man down, next man up!"
Scanning the bleachers for another warrior, the only thing on the tiger mink's mind now was victory. A child he may have been, Mengis didn't care to pick another fighter that was Wolfgang's age. This was a trial to see who was worthy enough to join either of the two combat forces. There were a number of mature warriors present among them.
"You there." Mengis pointed at zebra mink that was older than him, even. "Why don't you go out there next?"
The zebra mink nodded, and before long, he stood across Wolfgang, his large shadow consuming the young pup.
Foxpack's eyes lit up at the sight of the older mink that was preparing to combat his brother. "Hoy, that's unfair-gara! Wolfgang is only but a kid!"
"Oh hush! This isn't some contest for children!" Mengis quickly retorted. "This is a trial to elect new warriors into our ranks! Age doesn't matter here!"
Foxpack turned around over his shoulder, gazing upon Inuarashi, who was sitting in a makeshift thrown behind the crowd of musketeers. Surely he would see something wrong in this? "I-Inuarashi-sama!"
The massive canine mink rose up his hand, dismissing Foxpack's concerns. "He's right-gara. It would be against the honor of a mink to show your brother any less of an opponent." Inuarashi smiled, recalling Foxpack's earlier days and the promise that he himself had showed while under his direct tutelage. "Besides, he reminds me a lot of you when you were his age."
"Reminds you… of me…?" Foxpack's eyes widened slowly. He too thought back to the days when he was Wolfgang's age, more than a decade ago. Their mother had been harsh with him then too; after he had failed to impress her with his level of talent, she had refused to train him any further. It was at that point that Inuarashi intervened, volunteering to see to Foxpack's training in her stead. And Foxpack could never repay him for his gratitude. To have the ruler of the day himself become his master when his own mother had given up on him… he nearly shed a tear just thinking back upon it.
Foxpack turned back around with a nod. It was true. He had been nothing more than a disappointment in his mother's eyes. For a race quite literally born to fight, Foxpack was a complete embarrassment of a combatant in his early days, a strike contrast to prodigies like Mengis and now, Wolfgang.
That was where their rivalry had begun, with Mengis showing up Foxpack in more times than one. If anything, Wolfgang was far more like Mengis than he was like him, Foxpack reasoned. Mengis too was highly talented, to such an extent that Nekomamushi had taken a liking to him and decided to oversee his training himself.
Perhaps that was why Inuarashi had elected to train Foxpack, to stir up the rivalry between he and Nekomamushi once more. The aged rulers were far too old to sort out their differences themselves now, so they had instead been living it through Foxpack and Mengis.
But now here he was as the captain of the Musketeers. He had proved them all wrong and yet still failed to earn his mother's praise. That battle Wolfgang was fighting now, trying so desperately to impress her… Foxpack had lost that battle long ago. He had given up, flatout. Wolfgang too, would learn to do the same, he figured. It was impossible to meet her expectations.
"Hoy!! Go get him, Wolfgang! I know you can do it-gara!!" Foxpack cheered.
A calm smile formed along Inuarashi's snout as he observed the battle that was about to take place.
"Just do your best, my boy-gara!" A gentle male voice droned from the audience as a fox mink with gentle features joined the circle of spectators. His face beamed with pride and joy, even as he wore his pink and frilly apron, smeared with marks of fluour and other confectionaries. His happiness was well-founded for he was the father of Foxpack and Wolfgang.
Standing next their mother, one could scarcely fathom a stranger couple. Foxclub was a mink who loved life and his family, and he smiled so much that he'd developed prominent dimples. In his hands he held two cupcakes, one for each of his sons. They'd eat them together later.
Their mother Wolfpouch was severe and serious all the time. Her heavily muscled form easily surpassing the gangly Foxclub in both height and strength. In many ways they symbolized the different halves of Zou, day and night. Foxclub had chosen her, even though he was understandably popular with female minks in his youth.
Wolfgang loved his father too, but he felt an overwhelming desire to please his mother in everything. Her affection somehow meant so much more than that of his father, who practically worshipped the ground his children walked on.
Something within the young mink felt a twinge of nervousness upon being confronted with the towering figure of his opponent. But he knew that his mother would never praise fear or hesitation and so he spurred himself into motion in an instant.
Great pain surged through Wolfgang's body as he pressed his muscles far harder than they'd any right to be pressed given his young age. If he'd been like a flash before, now he moved like a lightning bolt, as he vanished from his position in an indigo blur, arcs of electro coursing through the air in the place he'd just stood.
Mommy dearest had taught him how to fight more experienced combatants than him, especially those larger and stronger than him. If he fought his foe recklessly he would be defeated, because physical strength was unlikely to suffice on its own.
Like a streak he jumped from tree to tree, using the large treetrunks as footholds to build up greater and greater momentum and speed. As well as to confuse his opponent with his raw agility.
Finally he unleashed himself into a spear-like kick aimed at the zebra minks back. Electro covering his entire body, generated through the extraordinary friction. In combination with his raw speed and momentum, Wolfgang had turned himself into a living lightning bolt, one who could hopefully defeat his foe in a single blow. Even as Wolfgang braced himself for the immense pain that would come as a result of this enormous taxation of his muscles..
The zebra mink had tried his best to keep up with Wolfgang's movements. But even that in itself had proved to be too much for him, and before he knew it, he was struck in the back and sent reeling off of the platform the minks had prepared for the tournament, and onward into the dirt. The crowd around the makeshift area parted, running to two sides to make room for the zebra mink as he kept on skidding and skidding, until he finally came to a stop after contacting a large tree stump.
Mengis slammed his face into his palm. It was too much to bare. The horror of another loss to that filthy Foxpack! Surely there was someone that could outdo his brother?
"Hoy!!!" Foxpack cheered, clenching his hands into fists and throwing them over his head. Jumping around, he continued to chant as loud as he could, his voice ringing across the arena and into Mengis' ears. "That's the way, Wolfgang!! That's the way-gara!!"
Wolfgang fought back tears as excruciating pain wrought havoc throughout his small body. But he knew that his mother would not appreciate weakness in her favorite son, and so he shambled onto his feet, even as it felt as though his very muscles were burning up from the inside. Wolfpouch often told him that pain tolerance was essential for a warrior and so he pressed on as he moved slowly towards his mother.
In one of her rare moments, Wolfpouch moved towards her sun, taking him into her arms and holding him close to her chest in a very unusual display of motherly affection as she whispered into his ear. "You are truly my son, Wolfgang." Words that spread an all-consuming feeling of warmth and recognition in the body of mink boy, who burrowed his face in his mothers mink.
Her love was a reward to her son, for the rest of the day she would spend time with Wolfgang and do regular things one would normally expect of a mom. Singing him to sleep, reading him bedtime stories and treating him with the affection he was owed. However, the notion of unconditional love was ultimately a foreign notion to her, and it hinged mostly on her childrens achievements.
Burrowed as he was into her fur, Wolfgang swore that he'd earn her adoration every day, one day, when he was an adult, Wolfgang would be the greatest mink ever. Perhaps then Wolfpouch would love him for who he was.
The Beast of ZouEdit
The vacant eyes of Musketeer George looked back at Wolfgang blankly, as the mink held the zebra minks head in his hands. Blood pooled around the mink, his dark fur now soaked with the crimson lifefluids of his former comrades, people he remembered from his childhood.
Friends perhaps? No, Wolfgang had never had any need of those.. friends were a hindrance in the grand scheme of things, they were a distraction to ones true purpose. Besides, such luxuries were for regular minks and he'd long come to terms with the truth that he was a demon, at his core he'd come to accept that he relished destruction.
One day he might get actual friends, other monsters. Wolfpouch had comforted and shown her love for him when he defeated George as a child and he was sure she would be prouder of him even now. He'd dominated him before killing him, only letting him die when he begged him to stop.. surely that meant that he was the greater warrior?
Standing up, Wolfgang's maw opened wide and George's striped head and vacant gaze vanished into the abyss with a crunch. Somewhere behind him he heard a terrified gasp as a rabbit mink who'd wisely hidden herself underneath the corpse of her ally dashed towards the forest while he was preoccupied with chewing.
There was no need to move from his spot, and instead he simply turned around to face her fleeing form, growing smaller in the distance. George's cranium was soft to his teeth, but when expelled it would make a powerful projectile. And that was precisely what he did, as he pursed his lips and spat out a piece of the zebras cranium at the fleeing female.
A screech pierced the air as the projectile streaked across the space between him and her, there was roughly a millisecond for her to react. She missed it, and her entire torso was blown apart as the projectile struck with earth-shattering force, leaving nothing but a succession of wet thumps as Wolfgang looked at all of the corpses assembled.
A clatter of triumphant sparks of electricity resounded in the near vicinity. Appearing through tall and taller trees were two minks so viciously engaged in combat between one another that they hardly took any notice of their allies.
It had always been this way anytime Foxpack and Mengis so much as looked at one another. The moment their paths crossed, the two were at each other's necks, hell bent on discovering which one of them was superior.
Hundreds if not thousands of stalemates had occurred in this fashion. They had finished consuming their meals at the very same instant, smashed the exact same number of boulders, climbed as high as one another in their mountain climbing contests. And even now as they exchanged fists, hammering away at each other's furried forms, one was matching the other par for par, par for par.
Another clatter sounded off, one that appeared to have shaken up the whole jungle. In a blinding flash of electro, the two minks leaped backward in unison, each retreating to opposite sides as they skillfully landed onto the ground below. Foxpack's paws etched the grass, as Mengis' own pitter-pattered into a pool of… blood.
At once the tiger mink looked back over his shoulder, daring to look away from a battle with his arch nemesis at the expense of something far more important. His eyes widened as he bore upon the sight of his own soldier, Wolfgang, gnawing away at the zebra mink, George.
"Olivia!!" Foxpack exclaimed, as he hunched over unto the ground and held the freshly corpse of the rabbit mink within his paws. The skull in the shape of a zebra lay beside her body. "Olivia!" he cried again, shaking his comrade, "speak to me, speak to me-gara!"
"W-Wolfgang..!" Mengis' figure shivered under the pretext of… what was this sensation? Was it anger over how far Wolfgang had gone? Was it resentment at the thought that Wolfgang had killed one of their own kind? Or was it fear over the thought that if left unchecked, perhaps he too would be devoured by this enraged beast?
"What is the meaning of this, Wolfgang?! Explain yourself!" Mengis turned around completely now, showing his back to Foxpack. The rage in his voice was evident, as were the strains of blood in his sapphire pupils.
Laying down the rabbit mink gently onto the grass, Foxpack surveyed the countless other corpses that were piled around the field, of which he had been far too absorbed in his personal battle with Mengis to realize. His breath grew short.
Wolfgang dropped his meal as he turned around to look at his brother and mentor. His maw split into a happy smile, even as blood trickled down his jaw onto the grass. He assumed that this meant that the Guardians had won this scuffle.
"George wanted me to fight him seriously, told me he wanted to set things straight between us once and for all. It would be dishonorable of me to turn him down, wouldn't you agree Aniki?"
Still smiling, he looked at Foxpack knowingly. As if this scenario as twisted as it was made sense in its own macabre way. Wolfgang turned his gaze towards the blood-soaked ground below him, where the shocked expressions of numerous minks looked back at him.
"His Haki was lacking, I disemboweled him with a single swipe of my claws. You know, Captain, you ought to devote more time to training your subordinates. My brother is great and all, but don't compare new recruits to him.. he's different from me." Wolfgang shrugged nonchalantly as he began slowly walking towards his shocked companions.
Some would expect some sort of emotional response, horror over what he'd done, but Wolfgang showed neither remorse nor glee at what he'd done. It was like a footnote in his history, an unfortunate event on an otherwise good day.
His voice reflected this, he sounded more or less like he always did, nothing in his demeanour changed. There wasn't a sudden beastly awakening.
"At any rate, following my duel with George, the others screamed at me and charged in numbers. Saying something about avenging his death. Fearing death I chose to defend myself, which is surely the only natural response I could make, I wouldn't want to cause you any worry, Aniki."
Wolfgang flashed a beaming smile at his brother through bloodgrimed teeth, a gesture made all the more gruesome because of his carefreeness.
Tilting his head, the wolfman's smile faded when he caught eye of the rabbit mink. "That's a shame, I liked Olivia, if I'd seen who she was I would've held back. She should've told me."
Still absentmindedly chewing on bits of George, Wolfgang suddenly grimaced and spat out what little remained of the zebra, which was a single brown eye.
"Disgusting. I thought that uglier usually meant better-tasting! Aniki, you liar!"
Abruptly however, the otherwise calm visage of Wolfgang broke apart and he bored his eyes into Mengis, his tail swaying gently from side to side to emphasize his current mood. There was no trace of anger to his demeanour, even as he claws balled into fists, not in fear or anxiety but out of sheer excitement. He'd been caught in the act, the thrill was intoxicating, would his brother and his greatest comrade band together to kill him? He suspected no, but he welcomed the prospect, even if he knew with himself that he could never bring himself to kill Foxpack.
On the other hand, he'd long wondered if his current level of strength was sufficient to dominate Mengis. His own Captain forced to bow down to the might and prowess of a subordinate, what an exhilarating thrill that would be, to stand tall with a foot upon the corpse of his mentor. Wolfgang's bloodlust was unleashed in that moment, completely overtaking his otherwise nonchalant demeanour as his muscles practically trembled with anticipation.
It was a brief glimpse into what resided in the depths of Wolfgang's heart, washing over the surrounding area like a palpable miasma even though it was entirely psychological. Paradoxically it held no true malice, reflecting Wolfgang's own detached worldview of morality. However, at its core was nonetheless an unstoppable infatuation with violence and brutality.
Feeling his body tremble at the thought, Wolfgang let out a long sigh as he spoke softly, his voice quivering with excitement at what might occur. "So. Captain, what will you do.. are you gonna attempt to bring me to justice for this act of self-defense, or will you find another solution? If we fight, dear Captain.. understand this." Wolfgang's voice quieted for a moment before he completed his sentence.
"There is no shame in dying by my hand.."
The blood red eyes of the Cat Mink, Hyotazu shot open as he saw the pool of blood and corpses that surrounded Wolfgang. "Grrrr..." He voiced, anger welling as his claws shot out of his paws and his blades gripped by both of his tails. However, he held back as Wolfgang's attention was drawn to the Captains of the Guardians and Musketeers. Getting involved in such a conflict was something beyond his station at the moment.