The decision was pretty clear. You couldn't just stay here and wait.
You really had to go look for civilization.
There was a tiny voice in the back of your head telling you that maybe, just maybe, there was none to be found, but you squashed it. There was little sense in taking things in that direction, it wasn't as if you had any better odds of staying alive here than if you began moving. Especially when you were growing increasingly short on resources.
You're not sure exactly why it was that your mind so loudly repeated to you what you already had as your primary and main goal, but... well, it was nice to be reminded about it. That meant other things, cat-lady things, had to be dealt with, organised, moved about. Looking at the pouting cat-lady, you made big obvious gestures for her to come over.
She pouted harder and turned to look away much more indignantly than the first time.
"Come on... come?" You spoke, to which she didn't even respond, of course she wouldn't, did she even know English? "How long until the carrier is done?" You asked muscle-glasses, what was his name!? You were so sure you knew it too, gah.
"Not long." He replied.
"Good." With a nod and a frown, you decide to use this bout of motivation to find civilization to skip a second or two to make a choice and instead begin stomping your way towards the cat-lady. If you're going to move, you were going to need her to come along.
Her ears turn to pick the sound of your feet, the flick of her ear acknowledges your presence but doesn't turn. Her tail becomes completely still, attentive regardless.
"Hey." You call out with a neutral tone, taking out a chocolate bar, the sound of the wrapper earning her looking at you through the corner of her eye, barely turning her head in your direction.
A part of you knows this has some risks, but you've come to comprehend that so long as she wasn't losing face and was at least tangentially related to things she enjoyed, she'd be far more accepting about whatever it was you did to or with her. It was rough on your nerves that's for sure, but doubly so when it could compound, you wanted to show confidence to make certain the message came across, so being nervous made it easier to be even more nervous.
Taking a bite of the bar, you lean down and kiss her.
The gesture caught her by surprise, probably not expecting it, or maybe she'd never even experienced it? You weren't sure, only that she froze as you did this, lips parting easily and accepting the piece of chocolate, her tongue lashed at it, at your lips. Your cheeks are glowing slightly as you hear a holler from Katherine in the background, and promptly ignore her in favour of focusing your attention on the cat-woman and on ignoring the taste she had in favour of the one of the chocolate you were providing.
After a second or three, you pull back, her mouth closes with a plop, licking her lips, chewing the chocolate with an absent look in her eyes that lasts only until she swallows it in a loud gulp. She looks back up at you and smacks her lips and licking them slowly again, the gesture seeming more curious than sensual. Her hand reached to her mouth, touching it, staining the fur with some of the bits of the chocolate, she licks it off without a second thought, appearing pleased.
"We need to move." You raise the chocolate bar and show it to her, taking a step back and prompting her to stand up. "Will you come?"
Her eyes wander from the chocolate bar to your mouth, and back. She smacks her lips again, absently looking at you as if pondering something. Then, she stands up and grabs the sides of your head with the soft pads of her paw-hands before pulling you into another kiss. It's sloppy, with little chocolate to save you of the rancid taste of her previous meals, you were definitely going to eat a pack of mentos after this.
But damn if her clumsy enthusiasm didn't make it very very hard to keep from reciprocating.
"Purrsian." She seemed satisfied with the look in your face, her smile a smug grin. You didn't realize she'd snagged the candy-bar from your hand up and until she'd plopped it into her mouth wrapper and all.
The look of smugness vanished, followed by gagging coughing sounds as she hissed and spit out the chocolate wrapper. She looked betrayed at the thing and then at you. A loud snort followed as she leaned down to pick up the wrapper, sniff it, and begin to gingerly lick it. You had a thought to take the wrapper from her paw, but you weren't feeling particularly suicidal, so you stomped on that thought mercilessly.
"Yes." You declared, looking towards muscle-glasses (you made a mental note you'd ask him his name in some discreet way later), Alice, and May. They had made a sort of stretcher but apparently meant to be dragged rather than carried on both ends at the same time.
"If you put me on that thing, it will be after I've half beaten you to death." Mr Gabriel proclaimed proudly. To which you couldn't bring yourself to reply, you'd force him there yourself if he slowed you too much, having one problem that could get you killed was enough. Until then you'd let him keep his sense of pride.
"The others went that way." Alice pointed in the exact direction opposite from where you'd last heard May's brother screaming from. Made sense. But you had to wonder if that was the best option, not that you had that much information to go on.
Silently you began to chew on a mint candy now while the feline was occupied with the wrapper. "Ok, ok, just stop for a minute." You mutter, rubbing your the bridge of your nose. "I don't think we should head south."
"What?" It's a statement made in unison by everyone else.
"I've been thinking about it." You muttered. "She came from the west." You point towards the cat-lady who's currently standing on the sideline and watching curiously, licking chewing and spitting bits of the wrapper. "If she came from the west, then there must have been water in that direction."
Unless the entirety of her water needs came from the... meat she ate. You didn't want to think about that for too long.
"...where there's water there's better chances of civilization." Gabriel frowned with half a nod, but clearly looking displeased. "But we agreed to meet up with them."
"It's not like we're going in the opposite direction." You replied. "If we don't find a river to follow or signs that could lead towards civilization, then we head south and follow them. If we find civilization we can ask for help to rescue them as well."
They look amongst each other, seeming troubled, but there was a slow nod amongst them. "I don't like it, but... I don't think we have any clue at all about what's south of here." Alice spoke with a half-hearted nod.
"Show of hands?" You spoke, raising your own. Much to your surprise cat-lady mimicked the gesture, tilting her head a little.
"If she's in I'm in." Katherine giggled, raising her own hand, then comes Mr Gabriel, Alice, muscle-glasses, and lastly May.
You sigh in relief, lowering your arm and scratching the back of your head. "With that out of the way, there's one more thing before we start walking." You turn towards the cat-lady. "What's your name?"
She tilts her head as you speak. "?" The question was clear in her expression.
"I am not going to call her that." Alice whispered under her voice.
You took a deep breath, reaching out towards her paw-hand but not grabbing it. She hesitated, not appearing very clear on what you wanted to do, but placed it in your hold.
"Rick." You said, pressing her paw against your chest, then moved it to the old man. "Gabriel." Then Ms Smith. "Alice."
"Kat." Katherine spoke up, perking at the touch of the paw with an eager smile.
"May." You add when pointing at the younger girl. "And, uh..." You pause a second, looking at muscle-glasses. The look the young man gave you with a heavy unspoken 'really!?'.
"Tomas." He says, glaring at you.
Then you move the paw to her own chest.
"Purrsian?" She says, tilting her head, then she reaches to your chest. "Purrsian." She intones. "Purrsian." She adds touching Gabriel's chest. "Purrsian, Purrsian, Purrsian, Purrsian?" She says with each one.
"I am not calling her Purrsian." Kat hissed.
"What do you think?" Alice asks you. "She seems to like you the most."
"Hm..." You mutter under your breath. "How about Monica?" You turn towards the feline-woman, using her paw to touch your chest. "Rick." Then you move it to her chest. "Monica."
"Meownica." The cat-lady said, perking up. visibly happy about it, her mouth moved, lips twisting as she tried the word. "Meownica!"
And everyone gawked.
"Did she...?" Kat blinked.
"I think she can learn how to speak normally," Tomas said, appearing the most aghast of the group. "Maybe she just never-."
"Well, it's settled, Monica, that's the name. Let's go." You interrupted Tomas.
You didn't want him finishing that thought out loud. If Monica could learn words, the fact that she hadn't could very well be a sign that she hadn't come in contact with any forms of civilization.
The thought was pushed aside.
Time to walk and hope you didn't stumble onto anything in the woods.
Heading eastwards had been a relatively easy task. Nothing but forest, with not much in the sense of things that would make you jump and shit your pants in fear.
Better even, nothing to make you want to run for your life screaming.
Well, only if you ignored Monica.
The naked feline woman was currently happily biting down on the leg she’d taken from one of the corpses once she realized you were leaving. You ignored the... sounds. The monster-lady hadn’t needed any sort of explanation regarding their intent and had merely draped a corpse and a half over her shoulder before leisurely walking in front of the group with a proud swaying gate.
The unnerving sight of the headless corpse being carried like a sack of potatoes had been the source of uncomfortable silence for quite a while now. No one dared look at them, nor the feline, gazes lowered. There was the feeling of oppression, and the definite thought that being with Monica was wholly, entirely, a potential one-way ticket to joining the pile of bodies.
You felt that maybe it’d be best to break the quiet. “So…” You briefly cleared your throat.. “Am I the only one who can’t quite make sense of this?” A quick pause “I mean besides… you know.” You quickly added, trying to ignore the way Monica's hips swayed or how she looked over her shoulder towards your group and her smile would grow more and more every time.
“You mean how she can say two words now?” Alice offered, flushed and pointedly looking elsewhere that wasn’t the leading feline’s derriere. “But only exclusively two words?”
“Yes, that.” You muttered, scratching your head at the conundrum. “If I wasn’t so sure she’s not pretending, I’d have thought she was fucking with us.”
“But she is! So far she’s gotten you and gramps.” Katherine forced the giggle. “Wonder how long it’ll be before she jumps muscle-glasses.”
“It’s Tomas.” Muscle-glasses spoke with a grumble.
“You’re ripped and cute, I’ll ask for your name when we both wake up naked in the same bed.” She shot a wink at him.
“Katherine!” Gabriel growled.
“Young lady!” Alice balked.
“...!!” Muscle-glasses blushed and shrank into himself, looking the other way.
Kat for her part looked about as catty as Monica up ahead. “Oh come on! You had a roll with the cat-lady, right? How can you still be blushing like a virgin?” Tomas only became quieter, his face redder.
For your part, though you appreciated the banter, your focus was elsewhere. The forest was quiet in an unnerving sort of way, as if there just wasn’t any life left in it to make any sound with. The back of your mind was telling you that it was dangerous, and that you should be far more alert.
The howl startled you, it sounded far, but it was loud enough to be clearly heard. Your head whipped in its direction and warily eyed Monica through the corner of your eye. The feline had also turned in the direction, ears perked and eyes narrowed. The feline made a snorting annoyed sound, inhaling deeply.
The sound knocked and rattled your head around like a ping-pong-ball, your ears were ringing, you had to take a step back, stunned, blinking, and entirely unsure what had just happened. You watched Monica snort again, lick her lips, shrug, and continue walking in the same direction she'd been following thus far.
“Th-th-that…” Tomas stuttered something, becoming pale once everyone had regained their sense of hearing.
You glanced at him with a slight moment of wariness. “What is it?”
“The howling came from the south.” He muttered.
Immediately you’d begun exchanging complicated looks between each other, all too aware that this was the direction the other had taken. There was very suddenly little doubt that the howling was almost assuredly related to the other group. “If they’re being attacked by wolves, they won’t stand a chance without Monica.” Gabriel spoke solemnly.
“If… if the wolves are monsters like Monica…” Kat’s words hung in the air, a sense of dread pervading the group.
“I don’t think we should go there.” Tomas muttered, looking downwards. “If they’re wolf monsters… even with Monica…”
The eyes turned towards you and you gulped. “Why are you looking at me like that?”
“Because we're mostly sure that if you start walking towards the sound, then Monica will follow.” Katherine said matter-of-factly. “She doesn’t want to lose her favourite dildo!”
The young woman broke into a fit of nervous giggling that cracked a smirk even on Mr Gabriel’s otherwise stoic expression, the sound alleviating the tension a bit. Monica herself looked over her shoulder and gave a half smile followed by a yowling sound, the sway of her hips and the swing of her tail becoming more pronounced once she confirmed you’d been looking her way.
"Even with Monica, if it's more than one monster we'd be in trouble since one could keep her busy and the other come after one of us." You nodded along, feeling a sense of weight in your chest.
As much as you regretted not being able to help, you were all too aware that you were in no position to boast having any power to actually try.
"Wolves never howl if they're alone." May muttered in agreement, the collective nod was given.
The uncomfortable silence returned.
Everyone present knew what was likely happening over at the other group, and a sense of shame and guilt pervaded past the relief of not being put into a life or death situation. The footfalls were feeling heavier.
The sun had reached past its summit and was now very slowly starting to head towards the horizon. "Look." Alice quietly nudged your shoulder, you turn your head to look towards the left.
You blinked as you saw a tree with its bark stripped away, deep claw marks all over the bare area. As soon as you notice this you also begin to spot those same markings in several other trees, and though for a brief instant you worry... It takes you a second to piece it together, you realize they'd been done by Monica.
It seemed you were entering her territory. You wondered how safe it was, were there less monsters here? Or would she have somehow gathered some she'd considered likeable? You could only wonder how a woman as lustful as her had passed the time before your group had appeared besides hunting for food.
The number of markings on the trees appeared to increase the further ahead you went, and the further you went, the happier Monica appeared to be. The silence of the forest was slowly breaking by a sound you could barely register, you had to take a moment to stop and listen to realize it's the sound of squeaking and sobs.
The others notice this as well, and you glance at one another with a slight silent worry.
Eventually, the flatland of the forest took an abrupt upwards incline that was rather quick to leave Mr Gabriel out of breath even as you'd barely gone more than a couple dozen meters. "Meownica!" The feline called out while dropping the corpse and vanishing through the foliage.
As soon as she did this, the squeaking sobs changed from an almost rhythmic sound to a shrill scream that only grew louder and more terrified. Something kicks in the back of your head and you run ahead of the others, climbing further up the steep hill and finding that the corpses had been dropped at the entrance of a naturally forming small cavern of sorts.
It's not deep enough for the insides to be hidden in darkness, so it's easy for you to see the one doing the sound.
She was small, mousey in more ways than just her barely a meter thirty stature, and she looked just shy of being dead. Her whole body was covered with dirt, bruises, and half-closed lacerations, some of the ones that were better healed being purple in colouration; she was missing a couple of her front teeth, one of her mousy round ears gone while the other that poked above her head looked chewed up. Her body was covered in a light gray fur wherever there weren't scars, but large swathes were missing and her pronounced face that looked some odd mix between a face and a muzzle was currently split open as she screamed for her life.
The reason was simple, she was being dragged towards the cave entrance by Monica from her mouse-like tail. It was now that you noticed both her legs seemed broken as well, odd the bones looking like they had odd angles on them.
"Purrsian." Monica cheerily dropped the monster-woman in front of you, grinning from ear to ear as the poor creature became so tense she froze solid, eyes wide, only just narrowly looking at you from the corner of her eyes but definitely not taking Monica out of her sight.
One part of you, a huge part, was horrified at the state the mouse was in, at the realization of what Monica had done to this poor creature, and for God only knew how long. Many many questions bubbled from within you at the mere sight of the poor small girl. Just what sort of life did these monsters have in the wilds? Why had all the ones you'd met thus far look female with extra parts?
But all that was pushed back when Monica kept looking at you with those pure emerald eyes. She'd done this because she didn't know better, hadn't she? You took a moment to look at the creature had clearly been her plaything, suppressing the shudder. Broken legs... so she couldn't run away. You could imagine that each time she'd tried to run, Monica would've hunted her and brought her back with more wounds.
It was... you paused. The randiness. You wanted to groan. Monica had sexual urges and up until you came along, she clearly had never found a partner who'd willingly stay with her. "Yes Monica, well done." You spoke with a weak stomach and a slightly forced smile.
Well, at least you were sure now, Monica would be less likely to eat you if you kept her orgasm quota going. What a weird and nerve-wracking thought. No, it was time to be practical, no sense in dwelling on the queasiness.