The next couple of days followed an unusual pattern for Jin. He would spot Ranka a couple of times a day and he would try to approach her to talk to her.
She had not spoken to him since the incident on the first day and we wanted to apologize for being too harsh with his words.
"Of course, only because Hitomi forced me to," he thought bitterly to himself. "It's not like I care about that wolf. Hitomi asked me to apologize after hearing what I said to her and that she was worried when she saw how she acted during our meeting."
Of course, whenever he did, she would turn and run away from him. He gave chase the first time that happened, but after the campus security tackled him because they thought he was a pervert about to attack a helpless young wolf, he decided to simply let her go when she ran. The first couple of times, he shrugged it off and let it go, going back to whatever he was doing at the time.
But after the fourth and the fifth rejection, he started to worry a little bit. Even when Ranka was angry at Jin in the past, she never was able to stay that way for more than a couple of days. This was a new record for her. "If she is doing this well at not talking to me, there must be a reason for this." He thought to himself.
Taking a short stroll through the campus. He watched as the other students were walking around and minding her own business. They were all talking amongst themselves, laughing, fighting and moving from class to class. We noticed as all of them were talking with and interacting with other students of their own kind. "No one is alone...." He thought as he saw a male deer encourage another one to go out and ask one of the doe's that were sitting next to the water fountain.
"But she won't talk to me!" the first one whined. "I can't beat any of the other males here, and I look too weak for her!"
"Bro don't worry," the second one whispered, barely loud enough for Jin to hear. "You fight me, I pretend to lose, and you go get her!"
"Y-You would do that?" The first one asked, sniffling and wiping away his tears.
"Anything for you bro! Now let's go train. You gotta look strong enough to beat me, otherwise, they will know that it was all fluff." The second one encouraged his friend as they both headed towards the school gym.
"Of course!" Jin came to a realization. "She couldn't do it on her own! Dogs can't stay away from their humans for that long. She must be motivated by someone to give me this silent treatment, probably for what I said to her."
But who was the animal that was motivating Ranka? Hitomi would be out, Miyubi as well. MeiMei could be selfish enough to do this, but unlikely that she had the patience or brainpower to think of this. Koala and the cat also were out, making it unlikely that any of the group members would do this.
But there were a few acquittances that they made over the years that also came to the school. Grabbing a sandwich out of his backpack, he took a bite and furiously chewed, thinking about the Ranka issue. "But why would she do that? Sometimes dogs ignore their humans for a short while to get their owner's attention. So, if she is looking for my attention, that would mean that the animal who is encouraging Ranka would be someone that wants to get my attention for her."
Swallowing, he looked around at the other students, thinking about all the possible species that had made it into the university that would fit the criteria. "Mika? No, she has accepted interspecies friendships a while back. That zebra? No, she went off to start her career in that stupid card game of hers. King is a possibility, but I don't see how he would benefit. Then there is that hyena-"
He stood up in shock as he realized what was going on. Dropping his sandwich onto the ground, he grabbed his backpack and ran toward the gym, sprinting as fast as he can. "Of course! If I am giving more attention and focusing on Ranka, I will spend less time with Hitomi, and that damned hyena would steal her!"
Careful sprinting to not run into any one of the students, he dashed across the campus to the gym. Looking at his watch, he slowed down to a brisk walk. He still had at least another ten minutes before Yena would leave the gym if she was sticking to her strict schedule today.
A minute later, he was in front of the doors of his workplace. Looking around, he decided to take a bit of time to catch his breath and sat down on a nearby bench.
He waited, focused on the doors and watching those who were coming out of those doors. A hyena popped out that he would have mistaken for Yena, were it not for the skirt that she wore and the neat hairstyle, clean cut that starkly contrasted with the messy tomboyish cut of Yena.
A few minutes passed and a second hyena came out, dressed in a tank top and pants, carrying a large black gym bag. "Found you," Jin muttered to himself as he recognized Yena.
As Yena roughly munched on her post-workout bone, she saw a human approaching her from her left side. Turning, she noticed that Jin was coming up to her. "Perfect." She thought to herself, for she was eager to talk to him and try to figure out his backstory.
As she opened her mouth and started to ask him why he hated animals, he grabbed her by her large ears and dragged her behind the gym.
"Hey! What are you doing?" she yelled out as Jin tossed her onto the ground. Tossing her stuff to the side, she jumped up and got into a fighting pose, her fists raised and waiting for Jin as he stood there with his arms folded. "I want you to answer a simple question." He growled while looking at her. Yena gulped, seeing that Jin was angrier than she can remember him being before.
"Are you conspiring with Ranka?" he asked, his eyes boring right into hers. "H-how does he know?" she thought to herself. "Ranka probably broke down and told him! I knew she wouldn't last." Her confusion and frustration were visible on her face, all but confirming Jin's suspicions.
"I knew it," Jin said coldly. Closing his eyes, he took a deep breath and sighed. "Tell me, was it because I was too harsh on her?" Yena nodded, relaxing her stance and picking up her bag. "Yes, she was hurt and wanted my help to teach you a lesson, so being a good friend that I am, I told her to stay away from you." Picking up the bone, she took a bite and tried to brush past Jin.
"That way," she continued, "maybe would be less of a cold-hearted human and give her more patience and attention." He grabbed her by the arm and made her stay back. "And if I did give her the attention," Jin said. "That would leave Hitomi to you, was that not your intention?"
"Damn it!" Yena thought to herself. Gulping, she turned and was about to deny it before she found his face almost touching hers. Looking at him, she knew that she was terrible when it came to lying.
"Yes." She admitted softly, looking down at the ground in shame. Her plan was done. Now in ruins, she thought that all her hard work had been tossed down the trash with that single word, the admittance of guilt.
"Thought so," Jin muttered. He was about to turn and leave when Yena stopped him. "Wait!" she said. "Please don't be mad at Ranka. She did have some doubts, but I made her keep on going since I thought that...." She faltered as Yena realized what she was about to say.
"That what?" Jin asked.
"Might as well get it out." Yena thought to herself. Taking a deep breath, she spoke rapidly to get the message over with. "The reason why she accepted my advice was that she wanted to be with you, I had to find out why you hate us and what she could do to understand you so that she could make you fall in love with her!"
The awkward silence that followed was only broken by the sound of the track team running on a nearby field. Jin stood there in shocked silence. Of course, he knew that Ranka loved him and had been trying desperately for years to make him her mate. "But to go as far as to try to understand me? That's impossible, animals and humans can't understand each other!"
Not expecting Jin to look so shocked, Yena took this opportunity to ask her question. "Jin," she began. He looked at her as she placed both of her hands on his shoulder and looked him in the eyes. "why do you hate us?"
"I don't." He said quickly, looking uncomfortable with the situation. "I am friends with you, aren't I. Ranka, MeiMei and the others are all my friends."
"Then why won't you consider dating Ranka? I know that you two do get along well most of the time, plus from the way you act, you do like her."
"I don't!" he said abruptly, pushing her away.
"Then why did you climb up the mountain to help her out? Why did you build those hot springs to help with her welcome party? Why, after all the times she jumped on you and licked you, do you still hang out with her? You even went down into the underground mazes to find her when she went missing. You were worried sick for her!" Yena pointed out, counting down the events with her fingers, one by one.
"How do you know about that stuff? You weren't even there for most of them!" Jin asked confused.
"Hitomi told me," Yena replied. "We hung out a few times and she told me about all the times that she saw how much you cared for her. It seems like you care for her more than a normal friend would." Placing a hand on her hip and looked at him in an accusatory manner. "Almost like you two have a history together. So, I will ask again: why do you hate us?"
Sighing in defeat, Jin gestured to a nearby bench for the pair to sit down at. They watched as they saw the track team race the 400-meter relay run. They noticed King in the crowd that was cheering for them and they finished up their practice.
After a minute, Jin resigned himself and began to tell Yena his story. "Back when I was younger, around 3 years old, I went to a daycare center that my folks had arranged for me to play and start going to meet new kids. They were also busy with their careers and wanted to focus on that. I was pretty sheltered until then, didn't have much contact with individuals outside my parents and the occasional cousin that came to visit."
"When I came to that daycare, I was excited! I had seen all the different types of animals that lived around us and now I wanted to make friends with them."
Smiling slightly, he looked up to face Yena. "On that first day, I met one animal in particular that caught my eye. A small wolf girl that came into the place with a stuffed animal."
Yena nodded, keeping that piece of information in her head for later.
"Anyways, I went over and I said hi, but she bit me. It hurt, but my dad told me that different animals have different ways of speaking through body language and got me a book on how different species communicate. That's why I studied the behaviors of different animals to figure out how to let them know that I wanted to simply be friends. So, after a couple of days, I went over and laid down and exposed my belly to her."
" It wasn't like that at all! I read that was a submission pose, to show that I wasn't a threat and just wanted to befriend her. She didn't bite me, but she was still a bit shy."
"Sounds good so far," Yena commented, surprised at how determined that little Jin was back then to make friends with animals. "Was this even the same guy in front of me?" she thought to herself. "How did he go from that wholesome happy little boy to the Jin I met?"
"Yeah, well it didn't go well." He spat bitterly. "Three bears came along and took her stuffed wolf, then when she tried to get I back, they shoved her down. I came up and tried to stop them, but they ended up beating me and I grazed my knee."
"Jin, defending an animal? Who was this boy you are talking about?" Yena asked incredulously. She was now intently focused on the story that Jin was telling her. Jin blushed and smiled while looking out at the track and field. King and his girlfriend were now embracing together as he was congratulating on another successful practice. He had bought her a patch of alfalfa grass that she loved. She smiled and gave him a little kiss on the cheek, causing him to almost lose his mane again.
"I don't know, he seems almost like a stranger, to be honest." He said wistfully. They both sat in silence for a minute, before Yena realized that the story was not complete. "So, the bears attacked you, but what happened between you and the girl? Surely after that, you would have been friends with her. Even if some of the animals were terrible to you, the one good one would make you see that we aren't all bad."
"Yeah, you would think that," Jin said as he got up and stretched his arms. "But after that, she tried to lick my wounds after the fight. At the time I didn't know that was how wolves helped heal, so I thought that she was simply another animal that was either going to bite me or hurt me in some way or another. I then realized at the time that animals and humans cannot understand each other and can't be friends."
"Heh." Yena gave out a little chuckle. "I never thought that you would be wrong."
"Hmm?" Jin asked quizzically.
"You always were acting like you were the smartest of us, even when you said things that I thought were wrong, they would usually turn out to be correct, in some form or another. But," Yena said as she got up and faced Jin. "I never thought that you would ever have an opinion that would be as dead wrong as that one. I mean, come one, admit it! You said that humans and animals can never be friends, and yet, here we are, having a little guy talk."
"Well, you're half right about that part." Jin remarked, unimpressed.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Yena yelled out as Jin turned around and started to walk away. "Hey! Get back here!" She ran up to catch him as he was about to enter the gym.
"I have work to do." He replied, pointing inside the building. "I'm on the clock in a few minutes, so I have to go."
"One last thing!" Yena quickly said as he pulled him back out onto the outside. "What will you do to Ranka?"
Jin sighed. "On the one hand, what she did was immature." He declared harshly. "On the other hand, she calls herself a pack leader and yet she acted like a petulant child when she wanted attention from me, in front of the rest of the group no less. She will need to learn a lesson to not do that again. And yet," he continued, lowering his voice to a softer tone. "she did want to try and understand me, right?"
Yena nodded in confirmation. "She did. She wanted to understand why you hated us so she could, um, figure out how she could make you like her."
"Ah, I see." He replied. "An animal? Try to understand a human? I guess it was possible, but I never thought of it that way."
"Trust me," Yena continued. "There were times when she did want to break, but I told her to go against her instincts and stick to the plan that I made."
"I understand why you did that," Jin said, causing Yena's face to be lit up in happiness.
"I'm not saying that I agree with it, or that it was right-" He quickly clarified.
"It wasn't," Yena said. Her face contorted and her cheeks puffed up a little, as she struggled to say what was on her mind. "Well, do you have something else to say?" Jin asked, eager not to be late for his shift. Yena's face grew redder and redder. "Don't say it!" her mind screamed at her, "You are a proud male, and they never ap-"
"I'm sorry!" she yelled out, breaking her train of thought. She inhaled and exhaled very quickly, unable to believe what she had just said. Neither could Jin. "Did she just apologize? Of all the arrogant animals that I know of, she was one that I would never expect to say those words."
"I only did it because I thought that it would be best for everyone if I helped you two get together!" Yena continued on her rant, more calms than her initial outburst.
"And Hitomi?" Jin pointed out.
"And her too! I'm sorry that I was selfish!" She dropped down on her knees and began to dry heave, the toll of such an apology weighing heavily on her. "Hey, you good?" Jin asked, dropping down on one knee and checking on Yena.
"Yeah! Yeah! I'm always good!" She immediately got up and patted herself on the chest proudly. "No reason to worry."
"Good," Jin said as he turned. He was about to enter the building when he stopped and turned back to face her. "Thank you." He spoke to Yena.
"Eh? For what?" The hyena asked.
"For being man enough to apologize." He simply said. "Of course! You can only expect the manliest things to come from me!" Yena proclaimed.
"Of course." Jin sarcastically agreed. "We have to talk after work, I have a plan for Ranka, and I need you in it."
"Oh okay! We talk after work?" Yena asked, nervously thinking about what Jin was going to think up of. "Sounds good. Cafeteria, our group table." Jin confirmed as he finally walked through the gym doors.
"Hope that Jin will go easy on Ranka." The hyena thought as she made her way back to her dorm. "Nah, it's fine. He would never be harsh on her after all that. Would he?"