“it am tyme foa sweep nao?” Minty asked as she rode on Scarface’s back.
“Nu, Mintie. It nu time foa sweepies yet. Nee tu fin’ shewtew fiwst.” Scarface was exhausted, not physically, but mentally as he had to put up with Minty asking if it was time to go to sleep every five minutes. In the past week or so, Scarface became very familiar with the trials of fatherhood, especially since Minty took to calling him “daddeh” once she first opened her eyes two days ago.
The four of them had been scouting multiple alleyways throughout the night, only finding small scraps of food and had a run-in with a lone smarty who inadvertently attracted a local alley cat to their location. They managed to escape unscathed. The smarty, on the other hand, wasn’t as lucky. They were able to hear his screams as they ran down the sidewalk as fast as their little legs could carry them.
They came across a rather secluded alleyway that was blocked mostly by a dumpster. Sun pointed to the gap between the dumpster and the side of the one building.
“Hewe. Wewe stay hewe foa a bwight tyme oa two untiw eye can tink abow wah tu du next.”
They squeeze through the gap one at a time until the four of them were in the alleyway. There was garbage everywhere, and the smell was nigh intolerable. Luckily for the four fluffies, they had gotten used to horrible smells like this from their time on the road.
Except for Minty, who was gagging at the scent of weeks-old garbage. “huhuuu… nu smeww pwetty… huhu-” uukkkkk!
Scarface winced as he heard Minty vomit off his back. “Smawtie? Can we fin somewhewe nu smeww pwetty nu as bad? Minty has sickie wawas.”
Minty vomited again as Sun nodded to Scarface’s request. “Dewe is a nestie pwace wight oba dewe.” He pointed his hoof over towards a small disused garage with a rusted red bike inside. “Take Mintie dewe.”
Scarface nodded as he could hear Minty heaving on his back. “It am otay, babbeh. We gu to smeww pwetty pwace nao.”
Scarface waddles into the garage and kneels next to a ratty blanket for Minty to get off. Minty climbs down onto the blanket. The smell was still there, but it wasn’t as strong, and she stopped heaving.
“Babbeh feew betta nao.”
Scarface smiled as he nuzzled his nose into Minty’s face.
“hehe! Dat tickwes!”
Back outside, Sun Tzu and Beefcake are scouring the many piles of garbage searching for food or useful items like the containers and satchel bags they had. They had searched two bags so far and the garbage inside them was too rotten to be edible.
“Fin anyting, Genewaw?”
Sun plowed his hooves into the garbage and started sifting through it like a 19th-century miner looking for gold.
“Nu yet, Beefcake!”
As they continued their search, Scarface came out from the garage to join them.
“Babbeh is asweep nao.” He said as he approached the other two fluffies digging through the garbage.
“Gud.” Beefcake said. “Hewp us wook foa nummies.”
“It nu wong tiw big bwight tingie come up.”
Scarface nodded and joined in on the garbage digging. For about an hour, they sifted through the garbage and found a decent amount of edible food. Most of it went into the containers, the three of them ate the rest, with Scarface chewing food for Minty since her teeth hadn’t fully grown in yet. The four of them ate in the cool shade of the small garage before going to sleep.
Several hours later, Sun was fast asleep when he heard a noise come from past the junction.
“Wah… am dat?” he said groggily but heard nothing else. He just shrugged and went back to sleep.
A moment later, the sound echoed again.
“…hewp!” He wakes again and strains to listen.
“Hewp!” This time it sounded like someone calling for help. “Oh poopies.” He stretches himself as he got on his feet. Walking out into the sunlight… well overcast since it was drizzling at that moment, out of the garage and then hears the cry for help loudly.
“HEWWWWWWWPPP!! PWEASE SABE HEWD!!” This snaps Sun out of his sleep-induced stupor. He runs for the junction but stops just short of jumping out into the clearing. Remembering the real Sun Tzu’s advice, he hugs the wall; not literally; and carefully edges his head out to get a good look of what might be in the alley.
To his shock, it was a small herd of feral fluffies. Two earthie toughies, two mares and five foals that stood closer to him. At the head of the group stood a chunky purple unicorn, the smarty, as he puffed his cheeks at a pack of large rats.
Getting a good look at the rats, Sun remembered that some of the trash bags in the alleyway had large bite marks and were partially eaten through. These rats must be the current residents of the alleyway.
The two toughies were fighting the rats, but one was being overwhelmed by two of the rats as they bit off pieces of him at a time, leaving bits of flesh and blood on the ground. One of the foals was in the mouth of one of the rats and another stood nearby puffing its cheeks, hoping to intimidate the rat to let go of its sibling. One of the mares, an emerald-green fluffy with mint green hair was sobbing as its one babbeh was being eaten. The other mare, orange with a red mane stood in front of the other mare to protect her.
“Stay behin’ fwiend, Emawowd!”
Sun didn’t like the way things were looking. The herd was outgunned. And once they were dealt with, the rats would come after Sun and Beefcake and Scarface and…
“Eye betta get weinfowcements.”
Sun runs back to the garage to get Beefcake and Scarface. Meanwhile, the rats had managed to force the one toughie to submit to being eaten alive as three other rats went after the other toughie. The chubby purple smarty was still having his standoff with the biggest of the rats.
“Gu way, dummeh wat munstah! Ow Smawtie gib ou wowsest hewties!”
The rat just stood there on its hind legs staring at the smarty. The smarty was getting impatient with the rat.
“Smawtie said…” He leans forward. “Gu way, munstah! Ow Smawtie gib ou foweba swe-“ With the Smartys face so close to that of the rat, the rat simply bit its large teeth into one of the Smarty’s cheeks, drawing blood and causing air to noisily escape like a balloon.
The smarty screamed in pain and tried to run off, but the rat still had its teeth lodged into his cheek. When he tried to run, the rat clawed at his eyes, blinding him and causing him to trip and fall on his face.
“SCREEEEE-Crack” The fall was hard enough to snap the smarty’s fragile neck, killing him instantly. The other rats who were chowing down on the toughies, heard the smarty fall and they run over to begin feasting on the oversized fluffy carcass. One toughie was dead, parts of his head were on the pavement, the other toughie was still alive, but barely, as he watched the now dead smarty get devoured.
“Nuuu… Smawtie… huhu…”
As five of the rats fed off the dead smarty, two approached the two mares.
“Gu way, munstahs! Fwuffies nu am nummies!” The orange mare still stood in front of the green one, but the rats were undeterred. One started creeping closer to them.
“Stay behin’ me Emawowd!” They braced themselves for the bitie hewties and closed their eyes tight.
The rat leapt and then there was a loud scream… from the rat. The orange mare opened her eyes and saw a big green muscular Pegasus standing on top of the rat who was now squished under him.
Beefcake turned around to face them. “Awe yu two otay?” The orange mare nodded and turned to face Emerald who was crying softly.
“It am otay, Emawowd!”
As the orange mare comforted Emerald, the other rat prepped to jump, but…
“Don… TWY IT!” Scarface rams his head into the rat, delivering a powerful uppercut with his forehead. The rat is knocked to the ground bleeding from its snout. Scarface gives the rat a deathly glare and the rat runs… toward him.
“Wah Scawface say?!” The rat made a slight leap, but Scarface just smashed the rat’s skull with his hoof. He felt the bone within the rat’s head shatter and the mushiness of its brain as his hoof came down.
“Dey neba listen.” He steps off the dead rat and casually wipes his hoof on the ground.
Sun and Beefcake dash for the other remaining rats. Sun rams into the dead smarty, knocking the rats down. Before some of them could get up, Beefcake lands on top of two of them, killing them. Sun bit down on the tail of one rat and spun it around in his teeth for a second before throwing it against the nearby wall. Three down, two to go.
Scarface ran toward the other two and rolled onto them, crushing them under his weight. The rats were now dealt with. Sun looked over the scene of the carnage. Satisfied with the results of their planned attack.
He hears the faint breathing of the surviving toughie.
“Scawface! Oba hewe!” Sun and Scarface go to tend to the dying toughie.
“Beefcake! Gu see tu da mawes and da babbehs!” Beefcake nodded and galloped in the direction of the mares and surviving foals.
As Sun and Scarface approach the toughie, he struggled to breathe.
Kaff kaff! “huuuuu… fwuffy nu… wan die…” wheeze
To the both of them, it was obvious the toughie didn’t have long before he succumbs to his wounds. All they could do now was make him comfortable and give him company. Scarface whispered into Sun’s ear.
“He nu wook gud. I dow’n tink he have wong tiww foweba sweepies.”
Sun nodded in agreement. “Wet’s get im to somewhewe moa comfowtabaw.” Sun took off his satchel and they scooted the toughie onto it, then they pulled him into the garage in the alley using the satchel like a makeshift sled. It took a few minutes with some help from Beefcake and the orange mare.
For the next hour afterward, everyone huddled around the toughie as he lay on his side dying. Beefcake found a discarded blanket in the trash as the toughie complained about being cold. Minty and one of the four surviving foals gave him hugs in the vain hope it would heal him. Emerald sat in front of the toughie trying to feed him, but he couldn’t hold anything down as he kept coughing. Scarface and Beefcake sat with the rest of the foals making sure they didn’t get into trouble. Sun sat away from the small crowd, waiting for when it would be time to dispose of the body. He had seen enough death in his short life, and he couldn’t stomach seeing someone else die in front of him again like the old man.
Sun sat there disappointed in himself thinking he didn’t act fast enough to stop the rats from killing the two toughies and the one foal. He felt no remorse over the smarty, however. He had gotten his herd into trouble and died for it. After they moved the dying toughie, they disposed of the smarty’s body… or at least attempted to. The smarty was too fat and heavy for even Beefcake to move with help, so they just left the body out on the sidewalk to rot. They “buried” the already dead toughie and what was left of the foal that had been eaten by the rats by stuffing their remains in whatever open garbage bags they could find.
Sun sat lamenting over his mistakes, thinking he was alone, not knowing that the orange mare sat next to him, looking concerned.
“Awe yu otay?” She asked.
Sun sighed. “Nu weawwy. Wis eye couwd ‘ave gotten hewe soona.”
The orange mare patted him with her hoof. “Yu stiww sabed us fwom da wattie munstahs. An we nu habe to be wit ol’ smawtie nu moa.”
Sun nodded and then looked up at her. “Wah am yu namsie?”
She smiled. “Am Fiwebaww. Wah bout yu?”
“Am Sun Tzu.”
Before anything else could be said, Scarface called to Sun. “Smawtie! Toughie wan talk tu yu!”
Sun nodded and went over into the garage, squeezing past Beefcake as he played with Minty and the other foals. Scarface was waiting for him when he arrived at the dying toughie’s bedside.
“Eye’ww take it fwom hewe.”
Scarface nodded and gave them some space. Sun walked up and sat down beside the toughie. The toughie was still wheezing from his attempts to breathe, occasionally coughing up blood. “F-fwiend… I don… feew… so gud…” kaff
Scarface moved the container full of water closer to the toughie. “Tank… yu…”
As he drank, Sun asked. “Id dewe anyting ewse we can du foa yu?”
He coughed once and sniffed. “Wet… wet toughie gu… foweba sweepies… pwease… tuu… many… hewties…”
Scarface came up beside Sun and watched on as the toughie laid his head down and his breathing began to slow.
“…babbeh… i-is dat yu?..”
Sun and Scar looked at each other wondering what he was talking about. The toughie then smiled.
“It am… otay… daddeh… hewe… nao…”
His chest stopped and his head rolled to the side. He finally passed.
“It am oba, Smawtie.” Scarface said.
Sun, feeling a tear drop down his face, replied. “Eye nu.”
Sun stepped up to the dead toughie and closed his remaining eye with his hoof.
“West in peace. Toughie-Fwiend.”
The other fluffies looked down in sorrow, even the foals stopped playing to partake in the mourning. Sun and Scarface stood beside the body as everyone took turns coming up to pay their last respects. The foals giving the body a final hug, while the mares rubbed their head against his. Beefcake stood by watching from a respectful distance, while also keeping his ears open for any uninvited guests to the impromptu fluffy funeral.
After everyone had said their goodbyes, Sun, Scarface and Fireball, the orange mare, moved the body using the blanket over to one of the opened garbage bags. As they moved the body off the blanket into the bag for “burial” it started to rain. Sun sighed as he turned to face the crowd of onlookers.
“Sky wawa am comin’. Get ebwewan into housie, Beefcake.”
“Aye aye, genewaw.” Beekcake escorted Emerald and her litter back to the garage. Sun, Fireball, and Scarface set about the task of burying the toughie’s body in the trash bag. It took only a minute to move the body off the blanket, but that was the easy part as it took them nearly 20 minutes for them to get the body inside the bag, and then another 5 minutes to move trash around to hide the body from view. All in all, it took half an hour for the entire process, and it was pouring by the time they finished.
Later, the garage was fully occupied by a herd of fluffies. Since it was raining, there was nothing to do except sleep. Emerald slept beside her litter of four foals, Beefcake slept on top of a garbage bin, mainly for his preference of being in high places, Scarface was asleep next to the doorway with Minty nestled in his fur, and Fireball slept on the opposite side from Scarface… or at least tried to sleep. The day had been long and eventful to her, her mind was still racing from when she saw the rats eat one of the toughies alive, who also happened to be her brother.
Unable to fall asleep, she got up and shook off the aching feeling in her legs. As she stepped into the light, she caught sight of Sun Tzu standing out in the rain, maintaining a silent watch to make sure no one could sneak up on them while they slept. His face was still and stern, unflinching as the rain pelted onto his face, not even the occasional thunder fazed him. He had been standing there for hours waiting to see if anything would try to come at them, so far nothing came.
Fireball stepped out but refused to go out and join him for fear of getting wet. So, she stood outside the doorway, but under dry cover, and tried to talk to him.
“Wah am yu duin’, smawtie?” Thunder roared from the distance which gave him a moment to think of what to say.
“Keepin’ watch.” He paused. “Can’t wet any munstahs catch us by supwise.”
Fireball decided to step out into the rain, emboldened by Sun’s determination to keep the herd safe, in exchange for his personal comfort. She didn’t like the feeling of her fur being wet, but she didn’t want Sun to she was afraid so she stood behind him and joined him on his stalwart vigil over the alleyway.
“Wah happen nao? Yu get speciaw fwiend?”
Sun looked down for a moment and shook his head. “Nu.”
Fireball didn’t understand. “Why nu get speciaw fwiend?”
Sun looked up. “I habe a hewd nao. Too many wespunsabiwities tu tink abou’ speciaw fwiends and famiwy nao.”
Fireball initially looked disappointed, but as she thought about it, she came to respect and even admire his dedication. She stepped closer to him and turned slightly to speak to him, but also keep an eye out for any passersby.
“Maybe get speciaw fwiend won day?”
He stood silent in thought for a few moments. “Maybe when hewd bigga and moa toughies to take cawe ob tings, maybe.”
She nodded in understanding and then turned to resume their watch. She then had an idea.
“Wah if yu habe a specaiw fwiend dat hewped yu wead da hewd?”
Sun faced her. She smiled as he thought her question through. As he turned away, he nodded and immediately looked back.
“Den I would hab a speciaw fwiend.”
Fireball’s face lit up as she nuzzled her face against his. “Den yu hab a special fwiend nao.” She backed away to get a clear look at him.
“Eye wiww hewp yu wead da hewd. An when da hewd iz safe, onwy when da hewd iz safe, we habe babbehs.”
Sun nodded and then smiled. He now felt like he wasn’t alone in his duties as leader of the herd. Fireball volunteering to take on some of his responsibilities lifted a major weight from his shoulders.
“Den yu twaining stawts nao. Dewe is a wot yu nee to knu, but eye wiww hewp yu.”
She nodded enthusiastically as the rain continued coming down. This would be the start of a new era for Sun and his new herd. Within the next year, the herd would almost quadruple in size and Sun would institute a chain of command with himself, Fireball, Beefcake, Scarface and the many unique and experienced fluffies that would join later. Their struggles wouldn’t stop just because of their greater numbers, but they would be better able to face them and come out standing.
In the meantime, Sun looked up and then back to Fireball. “Ouwa watch iz up. Time to wake Beefcake and ge’ some sweep. We’ww need to pwan oua next move when da sky wawa stops.”
The two then walked inside the garage to get some much-needed sleep. They would need it to start the next leg of their journey as it would take them from one side of the city to another and they would face many trials along the way.
But that’s a story for another time.