My name is Yuiyui, and I'm a Coco Panda. People call us monsters, but we're not all bad! Some of us are actually very nice. Just like my friend, Tamero. He and I have known each other since we were cubs. Our whole lives, he was the kind of guy who did everything on his own, so everyone in our pack thought of him as a strong, independent loner. But I thought it must get hard having to do everything alone. That's why I decided to follow him one day and make sure he was okay.
I hid behind a bush and watched him climb to the top of a big tree to get his dinner. After a while, he came back down, a nice big fruit in his paws. I breathed a sigh of relief. It seemed like he would have more than enough to eat tonight.
But just then, I took a better look at the fruit he had found and let out a small gasp. It was rotten! Inside, it was icky, mushy, and full of bugs! To make things worse, it was getting dark and he wouldn't have any time to look for more. All us Coco Pandas know that it's much too dangerous to wander around outside at night.
Tamero noticed how rotten his fruit was, too. He looked up at the setting sun, and with a short sigh, he picked up his fruit and started to head back to our camp for the night. I followed him back to our den, making sure to not be been. But then I heard his tummy grumbling. He must have been really hungry! I watched as he glanced at his fruit with a sour expression, then held his nose and prepared to take a bite.
'Tamero, stop!' I shouted, dashing out from my hiding place, 'You can't eat that fruit! It's rotten!'
I grabbed it out of his paw just in time. Though he was surprised at first, the expression on his face quickly turned to a frown.
'Hmph. What's your problem, Yuiyui? You can't tell me what to eat.'
I was taken aback by how rude he was being. I was only trying to help! I got so flustered, I ended up speaking my mind to him right there and then.
'Look, if you can't find any food yourself, that's okay! All you need to do is ask someone to share with you.'
'No way,' he scoffed, 'Asking for help is like admitting you're too weak to do it on your own.'
'Don't be silly!' I scolded him, 'It only makes sense for us to all help each other out.'
'You're the only one who thinks that, Yuiyui,' he grumbled, crossing his arms.
I couldn't understand why he was being so stubborn! Did he not trust the rest of us? Or was he just too proud to admit he was wrong?
'Well, let's find out, shall we?'
I called one of the other Coco Pandas from our pack over to us.
'Hullo there you two. Somethin' wrong?' he said in a leisurely drawl as he walked over to Tamero and I.
'We had trouble finding any good fruit today. Could we have some of yours?' I asked.
'Oh, is that all? No probl'm. Here ya go,' he said, handing us each a fresh piece of fruit.
I thanked him and waved goodbye as he left.
'See?' I turned to Tamero. 'It's really just that easy. There's nothing to be ashamed of. In return, we just need to help the others out when they need it.'
Tamero made a face like he wanted to object, but ended up taking the fruit all the same.
Feeling like I'd finally gotten through to him--at least a little bit--I went back to my bed, hoping that he'd learned to rely more on others.

By the time I'd woken up the next day, it was already past lunchtime. I was still a little worried about Tamero, so I decided to keep an eye on him again. I went and snuck behind a bush and peeped through the leaves. But what I saw made my heart jump right into my throat. Something was very wrong! Tamero was covered in cuts and bruises, and he was growling more fiercely than I'd ever heard him before.
'T-Tamero? What's wrong? Are you okay?' I asked timidly, coming out from my hiding place.
He didn't seem to hear me. He didn't even react to me at all. He just kept staring at the path leading out of the forest and growling. I looked in the direction he was facing and saw a human walking down the path. As soon as I did, I knew something bad was about to happen. I reached my paw out, trying to place it on Tamero's shoulder. Before I could get close enough, however, he leapt at the human, tore away the bag they were carrying, and ran off deep into the woods.

I was horrified. This wasn't like Tamero at all. I knew him better than anyone, and he'd absolutely never attack someone like that. There was only one explanation... He'd given into his instincts and become a mindless beast.

上巻【孤高のタメロウ】
私の名前はユイユイ。魔獣って呼ばれることもあるけど、そ
れは本能のままに暴れる野蛮なヤツのことよ。種族名であるコ
コパンダーって呼んで欲しいな。
私は今草むらに隠れつつ、あるココパンダーの様子を窺って
いる。一匹で晩御飯を探しているココパンダーがいるでしょ?
あれが私の幼馴染のタメロウ。群れの仲間たちからは何でも一
匹でこなせる凄いヤツだと思われているみたいだけど、本当は
ものすごく無理をした上で一匹孤独に生きているっていう事を、
私だけは知っている。そのためか、気が付くと私はタメロウが
無理をしていないか心配するようになっていた。
そうこうしている内にタメロウがようやく晩御飯となる木の
実を見つけた。よかった、と私は胸を撫で下ろしたのだが、よ
見ると彼が手に持っている木の実は腐っており、中身はスカ
スカの状態。他の木の実を探そうにも、もう日が沈みかけてい
た。これ以上出歩くのは危険だということはココパンダーの界
隈では常識である。それはタメロウも身に染みているようで、
彼は少し思案してから腐った木の実を持って寝床に帰って行っ
た。勿論私も彼の後を付けて行く。寝床に帰ったタメロウは自
分のお腹をさすり、この空腹には耐えかねると思ったのか、渋
い顔をしながら腐った木の実に口を付けた。
「ちょっとタメロウ!腐った木の実なんて食べないでよ」
それを見た私は、自分でも驚くような瞬発力でタメロウの前
に飛び出し、彼の手から腐った木の実を取り上げていた。
「ユイユイ……突然何なんだよ。いつも言ってることだけど、
俺が何を食べようと勝手だろ」
タメロウは迷惑そうな表情で反論する。……そんなに迷惑そ
うな顔をしなくたっていいじゃない。必死になっていた自分が
恥ずかしくなって、お説教じみた言葉が口を付いた。
「良い木の実が見つけられなかったんでしょ?
それなら、誰かに分けてもらえばいいじゃない」
「他人を頼るなんて、情けない事する訳が無いだろう」
「タメロウはいつもそう言うけど、
私は情けないなんて思わないよ?」
「そう思ってるのはユイユイくらいだから」
溜息混じりに話すタメロウ。プライドが高いのか、他のココ
パンダーを信用していないのか。
「もう、そんなこと言うなら見ててよね!」
私はそう言って、ココパンダーの仲間を呼んだ。程無くして
「どうしたのぉ」と言ってのっそりと近所のココパンダーが現
れる。
「少しご飯分けてもらえないかな?」
「勿論、いいよぉ」
そう言うと近所のココパンダーは大量の木の実を持ってきて、
恩を着せることもなく帰って行った。
「ほら、困ったときはお互い様なんだよ。
次は私達がさっきのココパンダーを手助けすれば
良いだけなんだから」
私はそう言って得意げに鼻を鳴らし、先程貰った木の実をタ
メロウの手の上に乗せる。彼は複雑な表情を浮かべつつも、言
い返すだけ無駄だと観念した様子だったので、満足した私は自
分の寝床に帰ったのだった。

次の日目が醒めると、もう昼過ぎだった。腹の虫がそう言っ
ている。何となく昨日のタメロウの様子が引っかかって、今日
もまた私は彼の様子を見に行くことにした。いつものようにの
んびりと歩き、彼の寝床までたどり着くと、気取られないよう
にそっと草むらをかき分ける。するとそこには――身体中に傷
を負い、低い唸り声を上げるタメロウが立っていた。
「タ……タメロウ?何があったの……?」
思わず私は草むらから身を乗り出した。しかし彼は私に気付
く様子もなく、森を抜けた先――人が行き交う街道を睨んでい
る。嫌な予感がした私がタメロウに駆け寄ろうとしたその時、
言葉とも付かない奇声を上げたタメロウは、身体の傷もいとわ
ず全速力で街道を往く人に襲い掛かり、荷物を奪って森の反対
方向に消えてしまった。
あんなのはタメロウじゃない。タメロウがあんな事をするは
ずがない。そう思いたくても、私が見慣れた彼の姿を見間違え
るはずが無かった。考えられる可能性はひとつ。
タメロウは野生に目覚めちゃったんだ……。

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