Early the next morning, the new family refreshed itself at the foot of the waterfall and set off to continue its journey. Both Kineosho and Viddi had enjoyed playing in the water and were quite content to doze off on Curie’s and Griffon’s backs as they stepped up the pace once more. The journey continued for days.
“It’s good to be back here again,” said Griffon when they stopped late one afternoon for a break. “Almost forgot what this felt like—being in the wild, I mean. It feels like ages since we moved there to keep an eye on those destructive humans.”
“It was a restricted but comfortable life though—calm, peaceful, plenty of food. Except for the odd visits by those obnoxious scientist types,” replied Curie. “Nothing to do—”
“—if you enjoy the new,” said Griffon, smiling as he completed her sentence.
“Yenn-Joy!” yelled Viddi suddenly in an odd accent as she looked at Griffon. She fluttered her long eyelashes like a coy butterfly.
Griffon and Curie both looked at her and laughed. “Yes—enjoy!” they both said loudly in duet.
“Enjoy!” chorused Kineosho shakily a few seconds later, drawing even more laughter. His first word was a good one.
After a short rest, Griffon led the way for the last leg of their trek. The forest was becoming darker and more stifling as they continued. Both Kineosho and Viddi were awake and silent, both anxiously looking at the numerous eyes staring at them from the trees and undergrowth. After a while, they arrived at a small clearing.
“Almost there,” said Griffon, “. . . home for the next while.” Griffon nodded at Curie who stepped forward and lifted Viddi off his back. “Wait here quietly. I’ll make sure it’s secure,” whispered Griffon as he cautiously climbed a bit farther above the clearing.
There was a moment of absolute silence and then a huge roar. That was something this part of the forest had not heard for a long time. Even the trees shook. Suddenly fifteen tiny mice scooted from underneath a heap of leaves and broken branches, bumping into everything they could possibly bump into. The one that had bumped into Griffon’s paw was not happy. It shrieked loudly and started running backwards, slapping one of its companions repeatedly across its face with its tail. That mouse in turn also started running backwards and stepped on the mouse behind it, which also shrieked. It was chaos.
“Fall back! In line! Cairo!” commanded a small mouse suddenly, in stern military fashion.
Griffon could barely keep track of what happened next. Within seconds, each mouse had rolled on its back, somersaulted forwards, and dashed to the far right of the heap of leaves and broken branches. Two seconds later, they had all stacked themselves up into a pyramid formation facing the lion. The old, commander mouse standing at attention on the top of the pyramid glared at Griffon. He brushed back his long white whiskers and said, coldly pausing after each word: “Can . . . we . . . help . . . you?”
The mouse continued his piercing glare for a few seconds longer. Then suddenly he relaxed his eyebrows and asked, “Great Banyan Tree . . . Griffon?”
“Master Wu,” said Griffon, as he bowed his head.
“Griffon!” exclaimed the mouse as his eyes lit up.
“Stand down! Scatter! Kitchen!” commanded Master Wu as he jumped onto a nearby branch. Immediately the pyramid collapsed and the remaining fourteen mice disappeared in fourteen different directions.
“It’s been a long time,” said Master Wu, twirling his long white whiskers like an actor from a bad 1970s kung fu movie. “Is everything well with you? Aren’t you supposed to be keeping guard in the north?”
“Actually, I have a rather large favour to ask,” replied Griffon with a smirk on his face.
Master Wu paused, raised his right eyebrow, and stopped twirling his whiskers. “I thought you had decided you weren’t going to have children, Griffon! I remember your long lecture about the sad state of the world and how selfish it would be to bring one more creature into it,” he laughed.
“It wasn’t exactly planned,” smiled Griffon, recalling the conversation that took place many moons earlier near the very spot he was standing on.
“Accidents happen for a reason, you know. Although I’m still trying to figure out what the reason is behind platypus here,” said Master Wu, pointing to a fat, smelly platypus nesting behind some broken branches. “But that’s a story for another day. I’m sure yours was a welcome accident.” Master Wu paused for a bit, stuck his nose up in the air, and sniffed. “Come!” he called out loudly.
“Master Wu, it’s an honour—I’ve heard so much about you,” said Curie with a short bow as she appeared from the bushes a few seconds later. Kineosho appeared next, with Viddi pulling on his tail behind him. Viddi looked up at Master Wu sitting on the branch and opened her eyes up really wide.
“Oh my—identical twins . . . you didn’t tell me!” laughed Master Wu. “I see Griffon still hasn’t dropped the habit of picking up strays along the way.”
“And I thought that was all part of your training Master Wu!” retorted Curie.
“Hardly! Come, let me introduce you to my team and feed you all,” said Master Wu as he led Griffon behind the heap of broken branches. The fourteen mice had gathered in another small clearing. They had collected numerous bits of colourful food and arranged them for display in a rather elaborate fashion. “Fall back! Attention! Paris!” he commanded them.
The mice immediately formed two diagonal rows of seven mice, each facing the other. They stood at attention for exactly two seconds and then uniformly kicked up their right legs in Moulin Rouge style and knelt to complete their formation. “Griffon and family—meet the League of Domino Mice,” said Master Wu proudly.
Viddi could not help herself seeing this well choreographed spectacle. She sat up and clapped away hoping to get an encore of the performance. The mice smiled at each other, pleased to be at the receiving end of an appreciative audience.
Kineosho, in the meantime, had started playing around with two strange balls that looked a bit like cabbages with rabbit ears growing out of them. Master Wu leapt onto one of the balls and said sternly to Kineosho: “We don’t play with food.”
Kineosho looked at Master Wu, a little shocked at his strict tone. His ears dropped a little and he looked at Curie. Master Wu stepped off the ball and turned Kineosho’s head towards him. “What is your name?”
Kineosho looked at him gleefully and replied, “Enjoy!” They all laughed.
Curie came up from behind, nudged him gently and whispered in his ear: “Kineosho.”
“M . . . Kineosho?” said Kineosho hesitantly to Master Wu.
“Kineosho—good,” replied Master Wu. “And you are?” he asked Curie.
“I’m Curie,” she replied. “And this is Viddi,” she said pointing to Viddi, who was still staring in goofy-eyed awe at the little Moulin Rouge mice.
“Come, let’s eat now,” said Master Wu. “Griffon, Curie, these are some fresh cabbits for you—have you tried them before?” he asked, tapping the cabbage-like ball with the rabbit ears sticking out of them.
“No—but I’ve heard about them! They look so . . . strange . . . is it true that they farm these locally now?” asked Griffon.
“Rocco has a farm about three days from here. All that genetic engineering finally paid off for him. Not too soon either—many an innocent cabbage was sacrificed for the cause. The nutritional value of one of these can keep any animal, herbivore or carnivore, going for days—we all live off them now,” said Master Wu, as he headed over to a huge communal bowl of soup. “Monkey, you have some fruit with the cabbit until you grow a bit more,” he said to Viddi, pointing at a pair of bananas in the middle of the clearing.
After a filling meal, Master Wu looked up at the moon and said to Griffon, “Rest well tomorrow—I have some work to take care of. We start at dawn the day after next.”
Viddi yawned and put her long arm around Kineosho. She could not believe how her life had changed so quickly. She reached out with her short arm to hold Curie’s ear and smiled as she touched it. Even Kineosho felt oddly settled in his new surroundings. That night, they all slept blissfully, looking forward to the promise of a new day.
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