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A Frog in the Well

Moss slowly opening his eyes, shaking his head he quickly adjusted them as the light from the only window in his room shone down onto the bed where he was lying down. Today was special: it was his tenth birthday, but it was also the day of the Ceremony.

Gradually moving off his bed, he began to stretch his body as he normally did. He'd learned this set of stretches from an old man who lived next door. The old man often needed help because of his missing arm, for some reason that he wouldn't tell, he was only left with one arm. This of course made things difficult in his day to day life.

When he first moved in, he remembered his mum dragging him along with her to greet their new neighbour, that had been more than a year ago. Over time as he was often sent to help the old man, Moss found him to be strange but interesting with many stories. He said his name was Huojin, however Moss often addressed him simply as Gui. On some of his visits there he would learn about some of the creatures of moving metal objects and the food he described which made him drool thinking about it.

He'd told his mum once about the things Huojin had mentioned to him, but she had only said he did a good job by humouring him, she didn't believe him. His stories of 'machines' or his strange way of talking.

Moss believed him, Huojin never lied to him, but the world he described was too different to what he knew.

Getting dressed, Moss quickly went around the back, to the large bucket of water stored there to wash his face. Staring at the reflection of his face in the water, he could see dull black eyes looking back at him. A tuft of hair sprouted from his head like budding grass that sparsely covered a tiny section of his scalp. Clenching his hand, his four fingers stretched and grasped together. Dust brown skin that seemed to be almost like wet clay with ears slowly rounding out the head like small tulips stared back at him.

"Are you ready yet?" A loud voice broke him away from his day dream as he quickly moved back into the house.

"Yeah… what are we eating today mum? That smells good," glancing at her, Moss carefully looked at the plated food that was on top of the table.

"Is that…?" He hadn't had meat for a long time so he was surprised when he saw the moist, cooked stew in front of him. Over time he had gotten used to it, living on the outskirts of the wilderness meant it was rare for him to eat meat, especially when it was difficult to catch. It would make more sense to sell the carcass of a dead Spineboar or Cane Sparrow, which would bring in just enough money to keep them well fed for a month.

It had been difficult for his mum to raise him. Ever since he was four, he never saw his dad. He remembered his face but only vaguely, he had once asked his mum why dad had left but she had only shouted at him. It was only later that he realised that his mum was right, he hadn't left, he just couldn't be found.

One of the strange things about being born in a tribe living on the outskirts of the wilderness was that sometimes people went missing.

It was a tough life, even more so because being part of a tribe like theirs which had a long history. There were some people who captured them to serve as slaves because of their bloodline. The reason why so few people lived in the wilderness was not only because it was dangerous, it was also difficult. If they had another choice, Moss knew his mum would not have let him live the life he did now.

"What you dreaming for? It's your birthday, it's a special day." Grinning from head to head, Moss carefully looked at his birthday meal while sheepishly glancing at his mum.

"Do you think…" Before he could even finish he could see his mum nod. It was hard not know what your own son was like after all.

"You can bring a piece of what is leftover to Huojin next door but remember to save some for us, it wasn't easy to catch this Cane Sparrow."

She was right, Cane Sparrows were notorious for being agile and quick to judge situations, this was also why their meat was so lean. It was because of these characteristics that they made good pets and were often sold at a high price live rather than dead.

Sitting down at the table, carefully tearing a piece of meat from the plate Moss silently thanked his mum. He knew it hadn't been easy to make a living and survive in the wilderness. Though they were of the same tribe, strict rules were still kept. Households without a male head would not receive help nor contributions from the tribe.

This was another reason that Moss was looking forward to today. The official age to take part in the Ceremony was when a member of the tribe became ten. This was also a test to see if he could awaken his ability.

The reason why the tribe was different to others was not because of their appearances, after all, there were a lot of stranger creatures that he knew of. Though he learned this from others even he knew that somewhere in the tribes' history, their ancestor had somehow received a divine blessing, which had been passed down from generation to generation through the blood that flowed in each member of the tribe.

The Ceremony determined whether a member of the tribe could awaken this strange ability. Not everyone did but those who did often displayed enhanced strength or some additional abilities all depending on how they awakened.

Moss's father was one of the former but to this day he remained missing and unaccounted for. From what Moss knew, there were three different groups who awakened. But other than that, the secret was well kept and no one would tell him despite how he asked.

Quickly finishing his meal, Moss took a small piece of the leftover dish on a plate as he walked next door to greet the old man.

"Hey Gui, you'd love this, check it out" grinning to himself, Moss knew Huojin's situation was pretty much the same as theirs, as a stranger, it was clear he was unwanted in tribe. It was kindness alone that stopped them from steering the old man away.

Huojin had been found one day almost dying as he was being chased by a Crabbed Claw Tiger. He'd been out of his mind, with his missing arm that awkwardly stood out showing, a small stump evidence of it being a long time injury that he had suffered in the past.

Smiling back at him, Moss could see the toothy grin of the old man who he had taken as his friend. Growing up he'd had found it difficult making friends, especially when his dad had disappeared because he became singled out. He had also often got into fights over why his dad had disappeared with other children shouting that his dad was a coward. He hated it. But he knew it was hard to argue with them so he simply gave up.

"Thanks, happy birthday Moss. Here I got you something, go over to that box there, inside is something I made for you."

Surprised at the idea that even Huojin managed to get him a gift, Moss hesitated before carefully going to the box that he pointed out.

Looking inside Moss could see a strange contraception with ball shaped shapes attached to different positions on it. "What's this?" Taking out the strange gift, a short rope tied together to three ball shaped spheres could be seen.

"Its called a bolas."

"What's a bolas? Is it one of the strange things from that place you're from?"

Simply smiling, Huojin earnestly looked at Moss. "Hahaha you're right its from my home place Earth but I don't think many people would use this type of thing now."

Standing there Moss didn't know what to make of it. "So what is it used for?"

"Didn't you tell me you wanted to capture a live Cane Sparrow once for your mum, looks like you don't need it now but…" It was clear Huojin was making fun of him, when he further glanced at the plate of food he had brought over. There was no way he could catch one of those.

Awkwardly enduring the laughter, Moss patiently waited, he knew the old man was just trying to make him laugh despite everything.

"It is a throwing weapon made to capture animals by tangling their legs, well if you can aim and throw it fast enough. It took me a long time to make!"

Eyes shining bright Moss went over and quickly gave Huojin a hug. "Thank you."

"You're welcome, I hope you can catch a lot of Cane Sparrows in the future."