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Candy Apple Red

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“It seems like a lifetime ago,” He couldn't help a small chuckle that bounced off the cave walls as it left his dry lips, “Though I suppose it was.”

Kankri’s laughter fell into a sigh as he turned his head to the entrance of the cave and stared, unblinkingly, at the Alternian night sky. In another life he would have died today, by the hands of a heiress who just wanted to be herself and a doomed game. Rigged from the start, but not once in their favor. Now he was living a life of paranoia and hiding from other trolls. He wasn't sure what option he would have preferred.

It was odd having his memories back, being the on the mirror planet of his Beforus. The newly constructed planet was never quite what it had been in his former life. Humans now roamed Alternia as slaves to Her Imperial Condescension. If it was possible to hate one troll with all his being she’d be the top name on his list. What she put them all through was nothing short of absolute hell. But the empress was not the misguided, but benevolent, empress of his Beforus. Instead he was dealing with Karkat’s empress. And, oh , how his blood pumper wanted to shrivel into itself with fury at her very name. Nothing was quite the same on Alternia except the way some lowbloods were treated, like pets or accessories, a life just as good as death might have been. 

“Kankri?” A scratchy voice called to him quietly. His head turned back to the interior of the cave to look at his dancestor laying next to him. In the purplish green tint of Alternian moonlight he could make out the specks of candy red in Karkat’s eyes. It wouldn’t be long now until both of them wouldn’t be able to play themselves off as rust bloods. Already Kankri’s eyes were a glowing candy red, a ghostly glimmer in the shadows that his cloak provided. It hurt to send Karkat and Crabdad alone into towns to get the supplies they couldn't make or hunt.

“Yes Karkat?” He asked, much quieter than what his little dancestor could achieve with his own voice. Karkat had a voice for yelling and testifying on behalf of lowbloods, but it was too dangerous for them here, no matter how loud Karkat preached they would take one look at his blood and kill him where he stood. So his voice remained scratchy and almost soft, just so they’d live a little longer. Kankri wanted nothing more than to tear this world a new one for the injustice this planet placed on them. 

“Do you… Do you remember?” Karkat stumbled over his words in a way uncharacteristic of himself. To reassure him, Kankri brushed some of his matted hair out of his face with a smile. Streams were too dangerous to bathe in, but it was rare to come across a puddle with enough water to rinse the grime from their hair. He wore his hair in a short braid, Karkat wasn’t so lucky. His hair was an untamable mess and he was forced to cut it with his sickles whenever it became too long. They’d have to cut it again soon with the way it resembled Mituna’s hair. Frizz and all. 

“Yes, I do. Any chance that our companions might remember as well?” He answered. Gog he hoped they remembered...

“I don’t know but…” Karkat trailed off and bit harshly at his lips, sharp teeth leaving behind pinpricks of red, “The humans in our session… If they’re here on Alternia then we need to find them before they get killed by some idiot highblood.” 

Kankri nodded in understanding. This planet was cruel, a hard place for anyone to live, much less the humans who weren’t built for it. Finding them might help them find the others as well. 

“Then we had better get moving. Knowing our teammates they could very well have gotten themselves into some trouble already.” Kankri smiled to himself wryly. So much had changed since the game, an entire replacement in memory. His companions would no doubt be in shock, he knew how they referred to him as the ‘insufferable’, but the reason they had called him that had left him after he took in Karkat in this life. Now his words were reserved mostly for Karkat and the lowbloods they came across, hardly the long winded speeches they used to be. Briefly he wondered how much his friends had changed, would they be able to recognize each other at all?

Karkat helped him to his feet as he adjusted the hood of his cropped black cape to hide his features from view. When Karkat had been younger he’d nearly drowned in the fabric, now it stopped at the end of his grubscars, near what the humans had referred to as their belly button. They didn’t have the money or resource to get Karkat something more suitable, but Karkat hadn’t seemed to mind. In truth it stayed out of the way of his sickles when he fought others, made it harder for others to know where to hit to kill him. But still… Kankri wished now that he had paid more attention to Porrim’s sewing, he could have at the very least stitched Karkat’s sign into the fabric now that they had their memories back. 

Together they walked in relative silence, Crabdad followed faithfully, carrying both of their bags. Occasionally Crabdad would scree or clack his claws to scare off any unseen threats. But all remained relatively silent on their blind man’s journey. Kankri was oddly grateful for the time to adjust his memories to put them together. Up ahead he could make out the edges of a path, something they’d need to follow if they wanted any luck finding anyone they knew. Grabbing Karkat’s wrist he merely spared a warbling scree to Crabdad to follow before leading them towards it. Karkat, much to his surprise , followed silent and willingly. 

“What if they’re already dead?” Karkat spoke as they began to walk along a worn down dirt path. That explained why he hadn’t started ranting Kankri thought to himself as he squeezed his eyes shut in pursuit of calming words. None came, even after the silence had started to grow tense and uncomfortable. He didn't hold as much hope for the humans that had been stuck playing that game with them as he wished he did. Trolls often treated them like cattle, the conditions they all lived in made Kankri's bile sack churn with disgust. No one should have to live that way...

“Then we will avenge them. But , for now we will search for them.” Kankri finally breathed. The words tasted bitter on his tongue, but he didn't know what else to say. Both of them had made a pact not to lie to each other, after all, their blood made truth hard to come by. So he had to settle for a positive outlook. Though at the moment his words weren't very positive at all...

With the words hanging ominously in the air they continued to walk along the path, careful to pay close attention to every little detail. They didn’t want to get caught by highbloods, both of them were still injured from the last fight with an abnormally hostile blue blood. Kankri traced the handle of his own sickles, he had been lucky to spot any sort of opening. The blue blood had nearly cost Karkat his life. But that near fatal swipe they'd taken at Karkat had filled Kankri with the blinding fury he needed to end the fight.

Crabdad gave a hard scree at them and clacked his claws aggressively as he stared up ahead, taking Kankri away from his thoughts. Looking up ahead he couldn’t make out anyone, or hear them for that matter, but he knew better than to question Crabdad’s judgement. Dropping into a slight crouch Kankri unclipped his sickles from his belt and let the long chains drag softly through the dirt with a clinking hiss. Karkat, for his part, pulled his sickles from the holsters strapped to his legs and fell into a defensive position as they continued to creep forward warily. Neither troll could hear anything over the sound of Crabdad’s angry clacking but they didn’t dare tell him to be quiet. It was too risky now.

Breath hitching they watched a figure come into sight, the only thing they could make out was the vague outline of the person. Not another feature- couldn’t even tell if they were human or troll. Hair standing on edge he continued to creep closer at a snails pace. His throat seizing roughly with the need to let out a warning trill. The figure continued to grow steadily closer. 

Gritting his teeth Kankri tensed up, ready to take them out. Hoping he could do it in one blow so that Karkat could continue to rest his wound and not reopen the stitches. It was a lost hope, but he still clung to it desperately.