The surrounding area was illuminated by the faint blue ethereal light of the ley line activating. Cobalt rubbed his eyes with his wing tip as Japan started to come into focus. It was not long afterwards that his hedgehog friend appeared floating above him. Once the vision of the external world was fully in focus, the hedgehog spoke quietly, “here …” The eagle nodded while he stepped out of the light beam, finding the outside world to be much warmer than the forest. There was a high humidity in the air, and the stones were wet. Cobalt whispered, “it must have rained before we arrived.” The former human turned around to face the light beam, the eagle watched its magical light fade. Pudgy dropped slowly onto the flat stones, with slight crackling electrical energy discharging from his quills.
In the scant light provided by the moon, both friends could see that there was a fountain behind the portal. Water flowed out of the mountain through ancient stone carvings, sending the tranquil sounds of falling water throughout the area. Water lilies floated on the surface, though the flowers were beginning to droop as the light of the day was vanishing. Cobalt would have loved to linger, to study each of the carvings, and view the ancient buildings around the portal. Sadly, there was no time for to linger for scholarly pursuits, and it was not long until the hedgehog scampered beside his eagle friend. Cobalt watched as his friend pulled the strap on his backpack, and the perch bars snapped upwards.
Neither friend spoke further, and the eagle started to flap his wings hard. Performing a well-rehearsed choreographed routine, the former human was quickly able to gain enough altitude. Banking hard to the left to turn in a quick circle, the eagle swooped in to snatch up the hedgehog by the bars on his pack with his talons. Once safely acquired, the eagle began to flap his wings much harder so that he could ascend to a more optimal flight path. Despite the low light conditions from a moon who kept ducking behind the clouds, the two could see that the temple was built on a mountain. There were so many buildings nestled between the trees, and tucked away into the various contours of the land. Each building served a purpose, though neither friend could tell exactly what, as they all looked about the same. They were wood constructed buildings, painted generally brown. Though the roofs were in the traditional Japanese construction style, flared and vibrantly painted colors.
As the eagle continued to ascend, Pudgy watched as they circled the largest temple building. It was a uniquely Japanese style structure, complete with its signature curved end brown tiled roof. It looked like the builders placed multiple roofs on top of one another, because several flared out in different spots. The triangular fronts revealed ornate yellow backgrounds and black fore timbers to show different scenes. Although many of the timers were starting to turn gray, due to years of poor maintenance arising from the lack of human priests to perform maintenance. Pudgy could just barely see an assortment of kanji letters were still a vibrant black paint, that spelled something out. Neither friend could read Japanese, so the meaning of the letters was lost upon them.
As the hedgehog dangled underneath his eagle friend, the last visages of a twilight sunset were just barely able to be seen to the west on his left. The eagle noticed that too, and began to level off, as he adjusted his wing trim to head towards the north as per the hedgehog’s vision. The tree tops were still too close for his liking, so Cobalt began to flap again. Higher and higher into the darkening skies of Japan the eagle flew, until they reached a suitable altitude to coast. Extending his wings wide, the eagle tried to recover from the exertion. Pudgy called out from below the eagle with a timid voice, “can we speak now?” The eagle chirped, “I think it is safe to for now. Pudgy am I heading the right way?” The little hedgehog squinted in the fading light, “Pudgy remember when shinobi rabbits took friends this way. We left the palace, and followed a canal, before turning left. There is a long winding road with crumbling houses, and then the temple is at the top of the hill.”
The eagle nodded as he just barely could see a long river canal in the distance, “keep the canal to the left. Ok, that works for me. I will try to stay as far as I can away from the palace.” Adjusting his wings, the eagle started to coast more to the right, adding some distance just to be safe. Cobalt did not speak further, leaving Pudgy to ponder to himself quietly. The little hedgehog knew that the palace was the center of the emperor’s forces. What was in their favor, was that his forces were primarily animals that operated during the day time hours. This meant that the shinobi rabbits as well as their leader would most likely just be starting to slumber. The critter settled in for a long flight, watching as the tightly packed crumbling human homes flew past underneath him. There were many shops that sped by quickly underneath. One unique aspect of Japan was that many of the shop keepers lived above or beside their businesses. Before the humans disappeared, back home in America, it was the opposite. Very few business s people lived within their business structures, choosing to keep work and home separate.
How many humans once lived here, the little hedgehog thought? The little hedgehog wondered, while pondering what was sold in the shops? Pudgy really hoped there was a cookie store somewhere below. A nice Japanese grandmother making cookies, and selling to bouncing children and hedgehogs. Cobalt carrying Pudgy around in his backpack, while he nibbled on a cookie. Pudgy sighed and whispered, “those days are over.” Shaking his head, the critter tried to refocus on what they were going to do next? Pudgy knew that eventually Cobalt would need to sleep. Hopefully his eagle friend could fly for as long as he was able to. If they could get past the imperial palace without being spotted, perhaps they would be able to find a safe place to rest. High up in a tree, far beyond the reach of the shinobi bunnies. The rabbits back home had a lot of trouble climbing trees, so perhaps it was the same here in Japan?
Once Kyoto was a sprawling metropolis of tightly packed homes and businesses that radiated out from the imperial palace and various shrines throughout the area. Now, it was a sea of darkness, and crumbling buildings. The forest was quickly reclaiming lands lost long ago to humans. Pudgy was having a hard time telling how much time had passed, since it was hard to see the sky above his eagle friend’s body. There was a sound, that started to occur, from a place the critter could not tell? It was soft at first, but slowly gained in volume. The hedgehog then recognized the familiar sound. Straining his eyes to look into the dark skies, the sounds grew louder and closer. Blinking hard, and rubbing his eyes with his paws, he could recognize owl greeting calls. The sound was coming from somewhere below them. The hedgehog could just barely see owls starting to fly towards them from below. The Japanese owls were flapping their wings as hard as they could muster, trying to reach them. “Cobalt! Pudgy sees owls!”
The eagle chirped in acknowledgement, but did not speak. Extending his wings as bit, he began to flap harder. Using his training by Iron Wood’s eagle flight instructors as well as the artic owl’s guidance, he started to ride the air currents. This style of flight meant they were going down and up more, which made it harder for both the bird and the hedgehog. Pudgy was whipped around at times, which was uncomfortable, but the predatory bird had a purpose: try to find the owls and call out their location. The flight speed was increased considerably, though it came at an expense. The former human was working harder, so he was tiring his body at an accelerating pace. Pudgy watched as their distance increase between the approaching nocturnal animals. The owls’ calls faded away, hampering their desire to get the eagle’s attention. Pudgy wiggled his nose as the faint outlines of the owls disappeared, since they were not able to match his friend’s speed.
When there were no more calls from the darkness, Cobalt decided it was safe enough to glide once again. Hopefully enough time could pass, so that the former human could recover his stamina. In the distance to their left, the faint rectangular outlines could be seen of the imperial palace. To their right was a line of forest covered mountains, and below a sea of decaying buildings with crumbling streets. Pudgy watched as they flew over what looked to be like a school. “Pudgy think we missed the school festival.” Cobalt chirped as he laughed, and pondered about the various schools in anime that he watched long ago. The moment of respite was short lived as the predator bird coasted on the warm winds. Pudgy wiggled his nose and whimpered as once more the owls appeared again, their eyes were burning bright, and their calls growing angrier. “Cobalt, they sound mad.” The former human chirped, “yes they do ….”
Once more the evasive flight pattern was once again repeated, allowing the owls to be kept at a safe distance to their rear. The owls faded away once again, allowing time to rest. The city was beginning to thin out below them, and the outlines of more forest covered lands appeared. Cobalt banked to the right and headed in a north-easternly direction. Trying to add more distance away from the city, they were approaching the line of mountains. There was a valley which ran between them, and Pudgy could see a long flat section of land covered with a stretch of two lines that reflected slightly. The hedgehog recognized it was a railroad, though it did not resemble any that he had ever seen before. Cobalt saw it too, and recognized that it was most likely for the bullet trains which once crossed the land. The trains that ran in the land once called the United States were laid in the 1800’s. While maintenance was done, many of the bridges and original steel was from that time. Japan had a much newer set of tracks, and they were surviving the withering much better than back home.
Once more, the calls began again, though Pudgy watched as more owls had joined the pursuit. The hedgehog whimpered when he realized what this meant: the entire parliament had now arrived. Cobalt was wheezing, as his muscles burned, and he could not take the evasive maneuvers. This allowed the Japanese owls to come within range, and were hooting loudly. “Stop! By order of the emperor!” The scared hedgehog cried out, “Cobalt, they almost caught us, we have to go!” One owl called out, “I see a hedgehog! That must be Pudgy!” Another owl called out, “just what on earth is that bird? I have never seen something like that!” Another owl flapping his wings as hard as he could was coming perilous close to Pudgy, “Pudgy … please tell your bird friend to stop!” The hedgehog looked up, “Cobalt! They are right behind us!”
The eagle cried out an attack call, which sent a shudder through the pursuing owls. The owls watched as the bird of prey folded his wings back a bit, and started a power dive. The quick movement caught the owls off guard, and watched as the strange bird was flying straight towards a tall tree. Hooting out of anger and concern, “wait stop you fool! You are heading for a tree! STOP! STOP!” Cobalt had just barely enough light from the moon to see, and at the last moment, the eagle unfurled his wings. The large bird had picked up so much speed, that the owls had no way to match the speed. The little hedgehog dangled underneath the eagle, and felt his rear end get brushed by a tree branch. The critter whimpered with his eyes shut until his friend finally levelled off. As the hedgehog looked around, he could just barely see the outlines of industrial buildings passing by quickly underneath them. “I can’t keep doing this Pudgy, my wings hurt so bad,” Cobalt chirped out as he wheezed.
The hedgehog nodded, “Cobalt, I do not see the owls anymore. Where do you think they went?” The eagle groaned, “most likely to the palace. I was hoping it would be longer until we were discovered. I need to find a place to land that is both rabbit free and owl safe. The hedgehog nodded, and both friends became quiet once again. Pudgy spotted a river flowing beneath them, and watched as it snaked its way through the forest and surrounding buildings. In the distance, a huge series of rectangular buildings could be seen. It looked like 6 rectangular buildings were arranged around a central courtyard. In the distance, a sign was being illuminated by a flickering spot light. There were the familiar kanji letters in white, but there were also words in English written as well. Pudgy read out loud, “Rakuto High School. Nooo …Pudgy do not wanna go to school.” Cobalt chirped as he laughed, as they flew over a bridge and approached the school. It was covered with a mixture of pale beige and a slightly darker light brown brick, and featured an imposing three storied structure. The windows had been busted in by storms, as well as other causes. The clock face on the front entrance was stuck at 6:18.
The eagle started to come in for a landing on the roof, which was covered with black weather-stained gray asphalt shingles. Releasing his talons, Pudgy dropped onto the roof, and bounced a couple times. He wiggled his nose as his eagle friend landed a short distance away from him. Cobalt moaned, “owwww…..” Pudgy stood up and started to walk towards his eagle friend, and was thankful that the roof did not have a steep pitch to it due to the shingles being not as gritty as they once were. The former human tapped at the roof with his clawed talon. “This roof has seen better days, the granules are mostly gone. Hey, you be careful Pudgy, it might be slippery.” The little hedgehog nodded, and then carefully positioned himself to sit beside his friend. As the eagle nestled down a bit, he craned his neck left then right. So far, there were no more owl calls, though he did see a couple bats flying around.
It was not long until the bird had fallen asleep, leaving Pudgy alone with his thoughts. The skies cleared, and soon the star filled night sky was on full display. With no light pollution from the humans, any animal could see the full beauty of the celestial heavens. The stars looked so clear, they might be able to be plucked from the sky, if one were to reach their paw out towards them. The hedgehog pulled out straps on either side of his pack, which had little metal hooks on them. The field mice had listened to his stories, and made an enhancement to his travelling pack. The ties on either side would allow the hedgehog to securely clip himself to trees at night while he slumbered. While Pudgy did not think he would need to, he used one clip just in case. Pudgy’s eyes became very heavy, and he too succumbed to the call of sleep. Only the sound of a gentle breeze rustling the leaves in the trees could be heard. With the safety clip in place, Pudgy quickly drifted off to sleep.
What neither slumbering friend knew was that far away, a set of golden eyes was locked onto to school’s roof. The eyes made no attempt to come closer, and only kept a vigil to ensure no further movement from the strangers to their land. Hours passed, and soon the light of dawn started to appear on the eastern horizon. As the sunlight started to illuminate the tree tops, Cobalt opened his eyes but did not move his body. Using his far more superior eagle sight, he scanned the area and could see a tree that was moving in an unusual way. Peering between the gently rustling leaves, he could see small brown bodies perched. Several owls had apparently landed during the night, and was keeping them under surveillance. The former human pondered why they did not attack during the night? Perhaps it was because they too had flown so hard, they ran out of energy as well? Either way, the eagle spoke very softly. “Pudgy …wake up … but do not move. Pudgy! … wake up … but do not move.”
The words spoken caused the hedgehog to stir, and his eyes opened as he looked up at his eagle friend. He could see the former human staring to the west, at a strand of tall oak trees that were standing near what looked to be like a baseball field. The scoreboard resembled one from back home, but it was written in Japanese. Cobalt whispered again, “owls.” The hedgehog nodded while he slowly sat up, and unclipped himself from the roof. As Pudgy put away the straps, the critter spoke not a word. The eagle kept a watchful look on the trees, and then started to run to leap off from the roof. The hedgehog knew the drill, and pulled the strap to extend out his perch bars from each side of his backpack, and then got down on all four paws. It was not long until the bird of prey swooped in, and snatched up the hedgehog and began to ascend into the sky.
Pudgy watched as the school circled below them, with what looked to be an overgrown park inside the interior courtyard of the school. The garden must have been serene once, the little critter thought as soon they had resumed their north by northeast course. The school was in the north-by-north west part of Kyoto. There was a mountain range covered with dense forests, then the city of Otsu which sprawled around the massive lake Biwa. As Cobalt leveled off to glide on the wind with his wings stretched wide to either side, the wide eyes hedgehog watched as the forests revealed the secrets. Tucked into many places were red painted wooden shrines, with their familiar Torii gates. These shrines appeared to be much smaller than their imperial counterparts.
Unlike his first time in Japan, Pudgy had a moment just to drink in the natural beauty of the country. In many ways, the trees looked like those from back home. There were tall oak trees, full of green leaves. The occasional pine tree was tucked away, but what was more prevalent here were the cherry trees. Sadly, it was not the season for the cherry blossoms, but the abundance of the trees made for interesting scenery. They flew over a large highway, which was still in a relatively good state of repair, given the natural withering that was occurring within the world. This led both friends to ponder why their home withered first, while Japan seemed to be reverting at a much slower pace? Perhaps it was due to years of neglect, or substandard maintenance? Or was it due to other factors at play that none were aware of?
Flocks of birds could be seen flying around, though at a much lower altitude. Pudgy wondered why they did not approach, though perhaps it was due to the fact that Cobalt was so much larger than the native birds. Bald Eagles are not native, so to them, he might look like a monster. There are eagles that live within Japan, but their size is much smaller than their north American counterparts. The absence of the pursuing owls allowed for a much easier flight today. Cobalt also was having fun watching the scenery unfold around him, while gliding high above on the winds. It was also a stark reminder that taking French in high school was a terrible idea. He should have learned Japanese; it would have helped tremendously now. Although, no one could have planed all humans disappearing, and the world being taken over by animals.
As the hours passed, Pudgy was growing bored. They passed over what used to be a large equestrian center. The horses had broken free of their stables, and were loose. They were running and playing with each other, sending their whinnies into the air as the hedgehog waved while passing overhead. The horses had been imported to the country many decades prior, and were well cared for. This meant that they looked and sounded exactly same as their American cousins. Quickly, the horses disappeared, and the forests gave way for a sea of concrete once more. Tightly packed buildings were once again everywhere, and spread out along the various roads and highways that stretched throughout. The eagle though the high-rise buildings were of most concern as he spotted them in the distance. Pudgy pointed, and Cobalt chirped, as they watched several ten story buildings leaning at a very dangerous angle. Large gaping cracks had opened in the concrete, and it looked like the land was either subsiding or rising. The surrounding buildings had clear signs of fire, as their blackened shells were collapsing into piles of debris.
Massive earthquakes had struck the area, causing the land to react violently. The gas lines, had all caught fire and exploded. Clear evidence of massive traffic jams, and hundreds of accidents unfolded below them. Cars were crashed into store fronts, burned out wreckages from their engines catching fire, and trucks flipped onto their sides were everywhere. These various forms of devastation had resulted in the tall structures starting to collapse. The two animals watched as what appeared to be office furniture was sliding out of windows and pouring onto the ground below. “Pudgy hope no animal is near there, this place is dangerous.” The little hedgehog said as he worried out loud. The eagle chirped in agreement, and turned his eyes forward once more. Just visible in the distance, both friends could see what appeared to be a lake. Cobalt called out, “Pudgy look. I think that’s lake Biwa, like Shima Moyo said.”
Pudgy nodded as he wiggled his nose, “we need to follow the lake. Somewhere at the northern most part is where Pudgy saw Genghis and the Pallas cats camped.” The eagle chirped, “I don’t know about landing there, Pudgy. We will most certainly do a fly over, though.” The hedgehog wiggled his nose, “they may know what is going on? We can not trust the emperor, so they are a better source of information.” The eagle couldn’t argue with that logic, and banked to the left to fly a parallel course with the lake. Lake Biwa was a massive fresh water lake, which one served the reservoir for many millions of Japanese citizens that lives around the lake. Teeming with fish, it also once boasted a large oyster farming operation in certain regions of the lake. It was at least three hundred feet deep in the center most part of the lake. There was a strange aroma that was blowing in from the lake, which neither friend could quite place. It was not a bad smell, but much different than the lakes back home.
It was not long until finally the local birds curiosity got the better of them, and a flock of grey herons started to fly up from the lake. The highly unusual sight of the dangling hedgehog underneath the equally strange brown bird with its white head, was the talk of the various flocks. Pudgy waved, and the birds chirped with a friendly greeting in return. The birds were a light gray color, and had pale orange beaks. There were darker gray or black adornments at the ends of their wing tips, and on their heads near to their eyes. Much smaller than their American counterparts, they reminded Pudgy of his blue heron friends from West Virginia. It had been a long time since they returned to Friendship Town. Pudgy hoped they were doing ok, wherever they had flown off to? The gray herons did not speak, and eventually eased off, as they flew towards the lake’s surface once again.
The hedgehog wiggled his nose, “Pudgy wonder why they didn’t talk to us?” Cobalt pondered that too, but said nothing. Unlike the night before, flying was much easier today now that he did not have to take multiple sets of evasive actions. Just as with Kyoto, the city of Otsu was massive. It ran the entire eastern side of lake Biwa. Unsurprisingly, along the shoreline were marinas too numerous to count. They ran the gamut of small private marinas, to large commercial fishing marinas full of fishing boats. The eagle’s belly started rumbling, and made a noise so loud that even Pudgy could hear. “Cobalt, can we stop somewhere? Pudgy hungry too,” the little hedgehog said. The eagle chirped in agreement, and adjusted his wings to start to descend. The eagle scanned the area with his eyes, trying to find a suitable place to land. They had to think of both access to food, but also a place to hide should the owls return this evening?
Pudgy watched as they flew over what clearly once was a hotel. The swimming pool was full of a thick bloom of green algae, so going for a swim was out of the question. Unlike the other buildings they observed, clearly visible green English letters spelled out “O’PAL.” The building had gaping holes throughout, and morse signs of fire damage. There was also an odor of natural gas coming from somewhere, so the cause of the explosion could be determined with a fair degree of certainty. “Aww man, the pool is closed,” Cobalt chirped with a chuckle. The hedgehog wiggled his nose, and remembered a time he swam in a pond like that once. He came out covered in a thick coating of algae and upset tadpoles. That frog mother was so mad at him, but thankfully her children were safely able to be returned to their pond.
While the critter remembered about the algae filled pond, the scenery changed. Much to both friends surprise, suddenly a sizeable stretch of farm land appeared. Fields full of overgrown green leafy plants appeared, labeled with signs written in Japanese. It was hard to tell what had been planted, but Cobalt could tell that one of the fields was supposed to be flooded. It looked like there was a dam failure, and the water had drained away. The eagle remembered that rice has to be grown in a flooded conditions, so that was most likely the case. Soybeans were also being grown, which were a higher priority crop. Japanese cuisine used tofu, which was made from soybeans. The former human did not care for it, and Pudgy would only play with it when he was offered a small piece. The eagle spotted a place that seemed suitable for their needs ahead of them, just along the lake shore. Cobalt chirped, “we will land in that marina up there. Perhaps they will have some supplies for you, and it will give me a chance to rest before I go out hunting for fish. I need to know you are safe, before I leave you alone.”
The marina quickly appeared, and was full of boats that were placed on stands. Large commercial boats, with pilot houses were covered in ratted blue tarps. There was also a wide assortment of smaller recreational boats, though several had O’Pal painted on their sides. The resort must have kept their boats here as well, which would make sense since the resort was also had lake access along its eastern side. Cobalt recognized this area as the dry dock, which would be used to store boats during the winter. The dry dock also facilitated boat repairs, such as resealing the hull, or working on the inboard engines. There were two buildings in the center of the marina, that were surrounded by overgrown weeds. One building was blue, and looked like it had been constructed from a shipping container, placed on a white concrete block foundation. The second building resembled a restaurant, and had two floors. Large glass windows were seen all along the lake side of the building. Weather stained, splintering cedar boards clad the building.
Coming in for a landing, the eagle flew very close to the concrete road surface, and released his talons. The hedgehog dropped onto the ground, and watched as his friend landed a short distance in front of him. Pudgy wiggled his nose, and stretched his body in every direction he could wiggle. The former human stood up as tall as he could make his body go, and craned his neck to look in all directions. Strangely, there was not a single sound, save for the lake water lapping up against the nearby shoreline. “I think we should be all right Pudgy, but stay close just in case.” Cobalt said, while he also noticed that the wind had stopped moving. The humidity in the air was increasing considerably, while the clouds were starting to darken as they thickened.
The hedgehog stood up, and pulled his perch bar strap on his backpack. The bars folded down and clicked into place once secured. Scampering quickly to the eagle’s side, the hedgehog headed with his friend towards one of the buildings. The blue and white building seemed to be the business office for the marina. There was only one word written on the door with kanji letters. Regardless of language, the former human could tell what the building’s purpose was. The two headed instead to what looked to be like a restaurant. The wide set of glass doors which once served as an entrance to the building had been shattered. There were clear signs of chairs being thrown through the doors, so perhaps during the time of human disappearance, there must have been a disturbance here. There were slick promotional posters within glass shadowboxes on each side of the room. The pictures of people fishing, water skiing, wake boarding, swimming, and sightseeing could be seen throughout the room.
“This must have been where the resort would bring people to charter boats?” The former human pondered out loud. Pudgy was navigating the shards of broken glass as he walked, and pointed to a big sign hanging from a dark oak wood beam that was written in both Japanese and English. “Cobalt, that is written in English. Gift shop, activities, oh boy …restaurant upstairs!” The eagle nodded, and walked slowly with long strides. The two walked on smooth polished concrete floors, that still had a shine on them despite years of neglect. Following the signs, they passed the gift shop, which had been emptied of anything useful. Pudgy did want to play with the claw game, but there was no power in the building, so that was off the agenda for today. It was not long until they found a wide set to wood stairs, that were open between each plank. The boards had been well worn with years of use, though remained smooth a slightly golden color from the stain that remained locked within the wood’s fibers.
Cobalt flapped his wings, and hopped up the steps at a quick pace. Which made the hedgehog wiggle his nose while grumbling quietly. “Pudgy, I’m going to look around, take your time climbing.” The eagle said, as he disappeared from the top of the stairs. One by one, the little hedgehog hoisted his body up plank by plank. Twelves stairs to climb, one at a time … by the time he had done three, the critter was worn out. So, he stopped to take a break, and looked around. The lobby was empty, save for a couple chairs laying on their sides surrounded by broken glass. There was a large board leaning against the wall painted white and had pink English letters on it. “Wake board, laugh while you break your neck,” the little hedgehog could tell the sarcasm was high with the saying. As he chuckled, Pudgy resumed his climb, and after two more rest stops, reached the top of the stairs. Huffing and puffing, he dropped down on his belly and looked around.
The restaurant was a huge room, that spanned the entire second floor of the building. The glass windows were bright from the sunshine pouting in. The lake was on full display, and the water gently rose and fell with small waves. Many tables filled the area, but were much lower than the ones back home. There were also woven tatami mats on the floor, with cushions surrounding the tables. “Cobalt, are you there?” Pudgy called out as he slowly moved towards the center of the room. The floor was polished wood floors, from what he could see between the edges of the woven mats. The eagle chirped but could not be seen, “yes Pudgy. I found the kitchen. This place looks like it was a tea house. They had food, but it was not a place to get a meal. The cupboards were mostly empty, though I did find some tea, crackers, and what looks to be three cans of sardines.”
The hedgehog followed the sound of his friend’s voice, and found the eagle with the stated food items. The eagle was truing to open the can of sardines, which was a bright red can with wildly scripted black kanji letters. Pudgy found the open box laying on the side, and quickly darted inside. He pulled out a plastic bag from within, and took out a cracker in the shape of an octopus. Nibbling, Pudgy bounced happily, as there was a mildly sweet taste to the cracker. “Pudgy don’t know what the box says, but this taste good!” Cobalt stopped working at his can, and looked up. There was movement from underneath a nearby table. Narrowing his eyes, he scanned the room, and then returned to his task of opening the can. Using his beak, he had managed to pull up the tab and was just now starting to work the lid. The movement occurred again out of the corner of his eye, and the eagle looked up again. “Who’s there, I keep seeing you!”
The hedgehog turned to see a tiny brown field mouse with large round ears peeking from behind a table leg. Pudgy waved at the rodent, “would you like a cracker? Pudgy thinks taste good!” The mouse twitched his nose, and slowly moved closer, with wide black eyes firmly locked on the eagle. Cobalt chirped, “my name is Cobalt. This is Pudgy, we are not from around here.” The hedgehog waved, and reached into the bag to pull out a cracker shaped like a bunny rabbit. The mouse quickly scampered over and took the offered food item, and nibbled away. Pudgy smiled as he nibbled, “Pudgy glad to meet you Mr. Mouse.” The mouse’s cheeks were stuffed full of cracker, and he tried to speak with his mouth full. That did not work, so after he had time to swallow his food, the mouse bounced happily. “Konnichiwa … my name is Daiki.”
The eagle was able to open the can, and chirped with a tone, “those are not sardines.” The field mouse looked, “oh that is canned natto.” Pudgy wiggled his nose, “what is natto?” The mouse nodded, “fermented soy beans. My Grandfather would make those, when the harvest was coming in from the fields.” Cobalt blinked, and stuck his beak into the can. The beans were stringy, and did not look appetizing at all. The eagle was able to eat it, but had a look on his face the entire time. Thankfully the can was small, and the bird pointed at a blue can, “Daiki .. I can not read Japanese. Can you tell what these other two cans are?” The mouse pointed to a black can with white letters, “that is Yakitori seasoned squid, and the other is tuna packed in soy sauce.” The former human nodded, and started working the can for the tuna. The natto had a salty taste, and resembled cottage cheese that had gone bad.
Pudgy bounced happily, and nibbled crackers with Daiki. The filed mouse looked at the hedgehog, “I have never seen an animal like you before … nor your friend.” The critter nodded, “Pudgy is a hedgehog. Pudgy live with Cobalt in Friendship Town. We built a town in our forest, and there are all sorts of animals that live there.” The mouse nodded as he nibbled on a cracker in the shape of a cat. “That sounds like a nice place,” Daiki said as he watched the eagle’s expression sour again. He had opened the can of squid and not the tuna. There were many annoyed bird noses, as he dipped his beak into the can and pulled out a tentacle. This was going to be a rough dinner. Both hedgehog and field mouse were very glad, they had nice …safe …crackers to eat. Pudgy started to tell stories of back home, as the field mouse nodded and listened with an excited expression.