Current Track: Blabb

Octo dreamt of pain.

He could only lie on the bed. The clock
showed half to 2 in the morning. The darkness was blinding, so he was thankful
for the gentle light from the night lamps. The television on the wall was
showing cartoons, yet in his head were repeating scenes of that dream. It felt…
he wanted to say that it felt surreal, but honestly, so many of his dreams
were. Instead, he would describe it as haunting.

It started innocently. He was running around
in the garden behind his house, chasing Giovanni. He was still little, he
remembered, and Giovanni still had his fur. They were playing tag, and even
Ferdinand joined in to become the referee. The sky was a gentle blue.

He leapt forward and caught Giovanni. “Ti ho preso!"

Unexpectedly, the leopard stopped running. He
didn't say anything, and Octo asked him. “Stai
Instead of answering him, the leopard began shaking, then he
screamed as if in pain.

Octo panicked and screamed for Ferdinand, but
then Giovanni ran away whilst crying. He ran after the leopard, and then they stopped
just in front of the fountain. He asked the crying leopard again. “Cos… cosa c'è che non va?" Giovanni
began growling, and when he turned to him, Octo felt his heart sink.

In front of him was Tom, and around him was
that alleyway.

People began coming into the alleyway. His
men, he noticed, cornered and attacked Tom. He could hear Tom growling and
fighting for his life whilst Octo could only watch in horror. Tom howled, but
it was incomplete as someone punched him.

“Tom! No! Stop!"

To his left, he could see Max screaming and
thrashing and begging for them to stop, yet his men held his hands and forced
the dog to watch. He wanted to scream for them to let the dog go, but no sound
came out.

“I can't believe you let this happen, Octo."
To his right he saw Kevin, staring at him with a face full of disappointment.
Arms crossed, he shook his head. “And I chose to trust you for this? We should
break up. I don't want to be with a killer."

He heard himself scream as Kevin walked away,
blending in with the people in the chaos.


To his horror, Tom emerged from the pile of
bodies in front of them. The wolf's hands and muzzle were bloody, just like
that day. He aimed his dagger at him. “You should fucking die!"

Tom rushed to him, and Octo could feel the
wolf stabbing him with a dagger. Then, he woke up with a jolt, pain all over
his body and ultimately his stomach where Tom stabbed him.

Scared, he turned the night lamps and
television on. Slowly, he managed to get his breathing and tears under control.
Even despite the lamps and television, the room still felt cold… almost as cold
as the snow on that day.

In the dim room, he closed his eyes. There
were so many things he did wrong, and he was afraid that this was the gravest
of them all. He wasn't even sure if Tom would forgive him, especially after
what his family had done for him.

Pulling the blanket over his body, he turned
the television off. The darkness was blinding, so he was thankful for the
gentle light from the night lamps.

The sight of IV lines going into his hand was
something he'd never thought he would experience.

Octo could only stare at the ceilings. For
some reason, they painted the ceilings entirely white with no lines on them. As
a result, they couldn't help distract his mind from his thoughts, which even
under sedation, was still too much.

He had been awake since earlier this
afternoon. The doctor and nurses came and went several times, checking on him
and providing relief from the silence. Now, as he lay down letting his memories
come back, he could only berate himself. His body was pretty much numb right
now, but he thought it was for the best. He feared looking at his injuries, so
he stayed under the blanket.

How was Tom?

He looked around. He was the only one in the
room. The clock on the wall showed that it was a few minutes past 20. Maybe it
was too late for anyone to visit.

It was fine, anyway. He felt fine. Exhausted,
perhaps, but fine. He touched his stomach where Tom landed his dagger. It was
covered by bandages. It hurt only a bit, the sedation working well, but he
feared it would take too long to recover.

He reached for a bottle of water on the tray
beside his berth, just within his reach. They were kind enough to provide water
bottles with built-in straws that he could easily drink. That done, he put it
back, his hand accidentally pressed the “help" button beside it.

Well, he wouldn't mind another check-up.
Might as well ask for his condition and Tom, now that his thoughts were coming
back into clarity.

The doctor came shortly after. The goat
smiled at him as he came inside, a clipboard in one hand and a tray of medical equipment
and water in the other. “Good evening, Mr Zoccarato. Are you feeling better?"

“Y-yes." He coughed a bit. His throat felt
coarse. “Thank you."

“Seems like the sedation is wearing off." The
goat smiled.

“Uh, h-how am I?"

“Well, you had injuries from the attack,
mainly just scratches, but there are some deeper injuries. You also experienced
stabbing in the stomach, which thankfully wasn't that deep and
life-threatening." He explained and refilled the bottle of water on the tray.
“You also seem to have recovered from the shock."

Octo could only nod. “Thank you. H-how about
the g-grey wolf?"

“Grey wolf?" The goat hummed a bit. “Oh, the
one around this tall with reddish eyes?"

“Yes, him."

“He's in room 307 next door with a dog
accompanying him ever since he was brought in. He's suffered more injuries, so
he might need more time to wake up."

“The dog w-with him, 's he a German

“Yes." The goat put a stethoscope on his
ears. “I will now do a quick check-up on you."

Octo took a deep breath and nodded, letting
the doctor perform a check-up. As the goat moved around, he couldn't help but
think about the operation. Now that it was a huge failure, he now needed to
execute part 2 of his plan. He wondered if Richard was okay. Also, did his
parents already know that he was injured? Probably not, since he left his phone
in his flat.

For now, though, he still needed to rest.

Oh, right, his parents needed to know this.
“D-Doc, can I use the p-phone? I need to call my parents."

The moment he told his parents that he was in
the hospital because of a serious injury, they immediately rushed to
Barrowisle. Now, right during sunrise, they were in his hospital room. As far
as he remembered, his parents were in Italy for business, so he felt very happy
and touched that his parents were willing to go to Barrowisle in the middle of
the night.

The list of injuries worried them, but after
he explained to them that he was fine and the doctor had it covered, they
calmed down. Still, Octo hadn't told them yet what exactly happened. He would,
but not now, not when his mind was still hazy. He was sure they suspected
something since they had been watching the television, though, and the news had
been almost a constant stream of coverage from that operation.

They spent the day in his room, watching over
him. At some point in the afternoon, John and Andy came to visit. He explained
to them what injuries he had, and in turn, they explained what had been
happening outside for the four days he'd been here. Octo noticed the furrowed
brows on his father's face as John explained, but he stayed silent. He did ask
them to go to his flat and take some things, including his phone. After that,
they left the room to check up on Tom before later heading off to his flat.

“Octaviano, what exactly happened?" His
father, who had been mostly silent when John and Andy were there, then asked

Octo took a deep sigh. Now that his mind was
coming into focus, it was time to tell them. He would speak of harsh truth.
This was the moment. He was going to voice his plan and they were going to
listen. He had strong reasons. They were going to listen.

If the sight of their son lying helplessly on
a hospital berth with tubes and cables around didn't convince them, then he
didn't know what would.

“Well." He started as he sat up, leaning on a
pillow. Giuseppe and Maria looked at him cautiously. Octo had heard from some
friends of the family that his parents looked strict—even from Nicholas—but it
was rarely, if ever, the case with him. Now was one of those moments, though.
Even as his father took a glass of water from the table, the younger panther
flinched a bit. He took another deep sigh and closed his eyes. “So, to put it
shortly, I've been involved in the operation in this city."

Giuseppe's eyes lit up and he smiled proudly
at his son. “Excellent! I take it everything has been going well?"

“To be honest, I wouldn't really think of
that since, well, we're in the hospital." Maria interjected, turning on the soundproof
barrier on the door. Octo appreciated that because even though they were
speaking in Italian, someone could still overhear.

“This has nothing to do with the operation.
Does it, Octaviano?"

He took a sip from his bottle of water. “I'm
afraid it does."

Everything seemed to turn quiet, even his
mother sitting on the sofa sounded so loud.

Octo gulped and continued. “Five days ago, we
launched Operation Red Wolf 2. I was involved in it as you wanted me to have
some first-hand experience. The objective was to assassinate Red Wolf."

His parents didn't seem to get the
displeasure in his voice as he said the objective.

“In short, it failed. Spectacularly." He put
his face in his hands as he heard the television. “Red Wolf got away. My friend
is badly injured. It was broadcast to the public." I almost killed my own brother, he wanted to add. “That was why I'm
here. I'm sure you've been watching the television and wondering what was with

Octo didn't look up. The television sounded
so clear in the silent room.

…what seems to
be a shooting incident in Walkirie. Police reported 10 injured and 4 deaths.
The crime scene is closed to the public and unavailable to anyone. People
reported shootings and shouts during snowfall. As of now, the investigation is
still ongoing…

“Is… is that…?"

“Yes, mom. I'm one of the ten injured, and so
is Tom, one of my friends whom John and Andy wanted to visit."

“Oh, oh dear…"

“A-are you sure, Octaviano?"

“Yes, dad." He looked up at his father and
lifted his patient's robe, showing the bandage on his midsection where Tom
landed the dagger. “This is from that day. I was there."

“W-what happened?"

He drank the water to hold himself back from
trembling. Emotion was about to overcome him again, but he held himself back
from crying. “I faced Red Wolf. He was strong. It wouldn't be necessary if they
managed to kill him." He put his face in his hands again. “And it gets worse;
Red Wolf is my friend Tom. I… almost killed my friend, dad."

“W-what?! What did he do?! Is he a threat?!"
His father stood up angrily. “Let's get to his room! I will finish him mys—"

“Giuseppe, calm down!"

“No, that's not even the worst part." Octo
slumped on the bed. “The worst part is that this is… this is just a big

He could feel his parents' surprised glare.
The younger panther looked up and said sadly. “This was just a huge misunderstanding.
They attacked Red Wolf because he quitted the operation and killed three of our
own. They pressured him to either re-join or not talk anything about this to
anyone. I only know that Red Wolf is Tom just five days ago, too, but I can
assure you that Tom has never been involved in anything suspicious. He was and
is a good person. I trust him with my life. This was just a baseless grudge
that Ludwig never let go, even when Tom already let it go all those years ago."

He drank his bottle empty and stared at it
with a grim smile. “I almost killed my friend, and in turn, he stabbed me in my
stomach. If they simply had let go of him years ago, then all of this wouldn't
have happened. I tried to give them some sense, but they did not listen." He
gulped and looked up. “And… it almost cost my and my friend's life."

“And that's why I don't want to do this,
Dad." The younger panther continued before emotions could drag him down again.
He looked up at his parents. They still looked shocked, but they were listening
intently to him. “I… don't want to do this… I… please allow me to build a
restaurant here instead…"

His parents stared at him, then Giuseppe
looked down and walked to him. His father gently hugged him tight, followed by his

Octo was glad he could not see his own face
because he began crying in his parents' hold.

“We're proud of you, Octaviano."

Sitting on the bed, Octo gave a sigh. His
parents stayed for the night for 3 days, and in those vulnerable moments, Octo
felt… reconnected with them, as if they were all reminded that they were still
family. While they had never been so out of reach, it was… quite rare to
connect with them like that. His father even put his phone down for an entire
evening, accompanying his mother holding his hand when he was having cramps.

«We will be
fixing this mess. Please wait for us.»

They left four days ago. Octo understood the
reason, but still, the room felt very loud in its silence. His friends visited,
of course, some even stayed for a night, even Max and Andy, but… well…

He didn't personally tell Kevin about this,
and frankly, he didn't know whether he should have or not. Even though they
didn't break up peacefully, he still thought of the wolf as a friend. John told
everyone in the group by sending a message, and Kevin replied to it, wishing
him a speedy recovery and all. He joined the conversations often, and Kevin
still also replied to his messages. In a way, it really felt like the wolf had
moved on.

But still…

He kind of wished for Kevin to go here and
visit, even for just a few minutes, but he knew the wolf could not. The wolf
was fighting his own battle, too.

Whether that was enough for his heart, he
didn't know. He also didn't know what made him feel like this, whether it was
the medications, the sedation, or the reverberating echo of his lonely heart
compounded in the white silence of the room. He could only hug the bolster to
fill the void in the meantime.

Max explained to him about Tom's condition,
too. While he was glad that Tom wasn't in a life-threatening situation, he
could tell by the unease in Max's voice that Tom was hiding something. He
blamed neither the wolf nor the dog; he
was the one to blame. When he was able to stand and walk, he would go to Tom
and talk. He sure would like to bring closure to the wolf. Whether the wolf
accepted it or not, it was up to him. Octo knew he himself would need closure
himself, too.

His phone rang, waking him up from his
thoughts. It was now 8 in the morning, which meant the doctor would come soon
and check up on him. If he were stable enough, he would be given clearance to
stand up and walk. He would very much like to wash his face.

One medical procedure later, Octo was
standing in front of the mirror in the bathroom. Even after washing his face,
he still looked miserable. He looked dehydrated even though he drank water
almost religiously. His fur was matted, showing his slumped shoulder with low
ears. There was a scar on his left whisker.

He washed his face again. The reflection
still looked miserable, so he put a smile on. It didn't fully work, but at
least he looked slightly less miserable now.

Well, now was the time. Walking out of the
bathroom, he took his phone on the nightstand. It had been a week and a day
since that incident, and they were really making headlines. It wasn't his
responsibility for now, though, so he only texted Max to help him walk to Tom's

The message was almost instantly read, and
soon Max came into his room. “Hey, uhh, Oct…" said the dog as he closed the
door, looking like he wanted to catch him from falling. “Are you sure you're
already allowed to walk?"

“Yeah, Max, it's fine. The doctor gave me the
clearance earlier this morning." He demonstrated that by walking several steps
towards the dog. “Just hold me in case I fall."

“Uh, alright." Max put his arm around the
panther's waist while Octo put his arm around the dog's shoulder. Max then
opened the door and gently guided him to walk outside.

The noise outside felt welcoming, a relief
from the silence inside. He wanted to look around, but Tom's room was just
beside his own. Max opened the door and guided him to come inside. “I'm
bringing Octo."

He looked up and saw Tom sitting on the bed,
some gifts on the sofas, and a vase of blooming flowers on the nightstand. The
wolf smiled brightly when he saw them coming, but Octo could tell that it was
forced. Still, he also faked civility and smiled at the wolf. “Hey, Tom. How're
you feeling?"

“A lot better now."

Max let him go, then pulled two chairs for
them to sit down. He sat down on one. “Nothing hurts?"


He locked eyes with Tom for a few moments,
then the wolf gave a faint nod. Getting the hint, Octo said to Max, “Max, would
you mind giving us some moments?"

The dog turned confused. “Um… you sure?"

“Yeah, Max, it's okay." Tom assured him. “Go
get some breakfast first, I can hear your stomach rumbling." He gave a chuckle.

“Oh… well, I'll go get some breakfast. Call
me if you need me."

When they were finally alone, the panther let
out a heavy sigh. He wanted to take the wolf's hand, but fearing it wouldn't be
welcome, he reeled himself. “Tom, are you okay?"

Tom didn't answer right away, but he finally
looked at the panther, making his worries go away. “Y-yeah. I'm fine." He
looked down again. Then, he looked up and continued, tone sharp. “Tell me,

This was it. He was going to tell his family
secret to the wolf. That could potentially be the start of his downfall. Yet,
when he glanced over the wolf and saw the bandages on his head, chest, and arm,
Tom had the right to know.

He gulped, then he started.

“I'm indeed a part of the mafia group who's
been chasing you." Even after that sentence, he could see Tom's fur bristling.
“But no, that operation wasn't approved by the higher-ups."

The wolf narrowed his eyes. “How did you know

“Because…" he paused to look for the right
words. “I am one of the higher-ups, or will be."

Hearing that, Tom began trembling. Octo at
first panicked, but the wolf simply took a deep breath to calm down before
continuing, though his voice sounded wrong. “You should've been dead that day."

Those words stabbed him right in the heart
and took his breath away.

The wolf kept staring at him, eyes narrowed
in malice, fur bristling, ears down. Octo understood the hate, even more so
when he continued, “Be glad I'm berth-bound right now. I'd end you myself if I
weren't, and I will not be quick."

Hearing that from someone close to him hurt
so, so much, yet he knew he was at fault. A stab wasn't enough. He made Tom
into what he was now. He gulped. “I know."

They went quiet for a while.


Octo looked up.

“Give me one reason not to go right for you
once I'm out of this fucking hospital."

His already low ears went flat. “Uh… well…"
He took a deep breath. “In short, that mafia operation, it's owned by my
family. But I really hate it. My dad wants me to continue it, but I don't want
to, and they still force me to." The panther took another deep breath. “So I
decided to investigate. My dad or I never gave the order to attack you. It's
all their doings. I'm not saying that I'm innocent because I'm not. But I…" he
trailed off and looked away. “I… hope you'd be willing to forgive me."

Tom didn't answer right away, but then he
sighed and looked away. “Luis is fucking weird, you know. The one who made our
life so miserable is right here in front of us, sitting so helplessly, yet he
keeps holding me back. It's gonna be so easy, y'know."

Octo… did not understand what he said. It
sounded like he was monologuing.

The wolf continued. “But well, guess Luis is
right. If you'd really wanted to hurt us, you'd have done so already. You had
ten thousand chances already." He finally looked at the panther, eyes fierce
despite the cables around him. “This doesn't mean you're out of my list,
panther. You hurt us again and we will make sure to give you a taste of your
own medicine."

Despite his confusion, Octo nodded. Who was
he really talking with? Was this the real Tom or something?

“And yeah, you know, your medicine gave me,
us, this body, two personalities. Three if you wanna count that maniacal
fuckwit. The one you know as Tom, he's Luis. Me, I'm Lain. Another one, you'd
better not know him."

He… simply nodded, taking the information in.
Despite the winded answer, he could tell that he was forgiven.

There were some things he wanted to ask. He
contemplated asking the wolf, but Tom gave a huge sigh and looked away. Still,
given that he pretty much gave out his family secret to Tom, he would at least
like to know why. “Tom."


“Please answer me honestly, Tom." He paused,
choosing his words carefully, but ended up asking it directly anyway. “Did you
kill everyone in the previous operation?"

Tom didn't even turn his head to him. There
was a moment of silence before the wolf finally spoke up. “I might, yes."

Octo's eyes went wide. So, it was true, then.
The document was true. He wanted to puke, in front of him was a criminal who
killed people, but at the same time, he didn't know how to feel. Those people,
they might or might not deserve their death. Richard might have killed more
people than Tom. He himself might have killed more people than either of them
just by being supported by his father.

They both had blood on their hands. No one
was fully innocent. If he was disgusted by Tom, he should also be disgusted by

…but how?

Unfortunately, the door then opened. Max came
inside and closed the door gently. “Oh, you're still here, Oct." said the dog
as he sat down on the sofa. In numbness, neither Octo nor Tom acknowledged the
dog. Fortunately, Max didn't notice the heavy suspense in the air, only
unwrapping and eating his sandwich in peace. He fiddled with his phone, then
spoke up again. “Oh yeah, Tom, Lucas and your workmates are gonna visit later."

That made the wolf sigh. Tom looked away from
the window and answered, “Alright. When are they gonna come?"

As if suddenly noticed something, Max turned
his head to Tom in surprise, ears straight and fur bristled. His eyes then
moved from Tom to Octo, then to Tom again before finally replying, “…during
lunch break."

Tom only nodded.

Given how tense Max seemed to become, Octo
felt like he was overstaying his welcome. So, he sighed and sat up. “I'm gonna
go back to my room. Thanks, Tom."

The wolf looked up at him, but his expression
was flat. “Yeah. And thanks too, I guess."

He didn't react, fearing that Max might
suspect something. Instead, he began standing up. Max saw that and immediately
moved over to help him. “C'mon, take it easy, Oct."

“Thanks, Max."

Leaning on the dog as he walked to the door,
Octo couldn't help but feel like there were many, many more things that he
didn't know. As Max opened the door, he peeked at the wolf, at Red Wolf, at his
brother on the berth, noticing the streaks of dried blood on his fluff…

Those streaks of blood, Octo might as well be
the one who painted them.