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Part 2 - Yuiyui's Stand

I sprang up suddenly, panicked and confused. After a moment or two, I realized I was in my bed. I slowly calmed myself and laid back down. It was all just a bad dream...right? It had seemed so real, though.
I looked around. My tummy was telling me it was still early--closer to breakfast time than lunch. I didn't think what had happened in my dream was real, but I was still worried about Tamero, so I went to check up on him, just in case.
However, I arrived at his bed to find it empty. Feeling a sinking sensation in the pit of my stomach, I called out to him.
'Tamero? Where are you?'
As if in reply, a fearsome howl echoed off in the distance. Tamero's bed was the farthest one out in our camp. Out of everyone, he was the most at risk of being attacked by outsiders. I immediately took off, running as fast as my legs could carry me in the direction the howl had come from.
Before long, I'd reached the forest on the edge of our camp. I spotted Tamero in the middle of a clearing. He was crouched low to the ground, holding a weapon he'd made out of an old gourd. I could tell from where I was that he was injured. His attention was focued entirely on his opponent--a Bracked Monkey. It must have been what made that howl I'd heard.
'Something's wrong with that monkey... He must have gone feral!' I gasped under my breath.
Even monsters who can normally control their instincts can be driven wild and lose their minds when they're especially hungry or hurt. Just like what happened in my dream. Sometimes, a strong blow to the head will bring them back to their senses, but often, they'll never return to their old selves. They leave their packs and vanish into the wilds.
I glanced at Tamero. He was already hurt pretty badly. I wondered if the Tamero from my dream was injured by this same Bracken Monkey. If the real Tamero was hurt more, he might turn feral, too! Before I realized it, I had stepped between him and the moneky.
'Don't worry, Tamero! I'll protect you!' I said.
'Yuiyui!' he gasped.
I was so relieved to hear him call my name, tears started running down my face. He hadn't gone feral. That part of my dream hadn't come true, at least.
'Hey!' Tamero exclaimed, 'This is no time to be crying! This guy's gone wild! We need to knock him out fast, or...'
His voice trailed off. A look of alarm spread across his face as he glanced behind me. I turned around just in time to see the Bracken Monkey launch a flying kick right at my head.
'Yuiyui! Look out!' Tamero gasped.
Right at the last second, I parried the monkey's kick and counterattacked, sending it flying straight into a thick tree trunk. The wind knocked it out, the monkey looked shocked and confused for a moment, before passing out.
'Wow, that really was a close one. I sure am glad I learned that move from the Creepy Sheep,' I said as I dusted myself off.
Tamero let out a deep siigh, and slumped down on the ground.
'I should've known you'd be okay,' he said, 'You're the strongest one in our whole pack, after all.'
'Well's a girl's gotta knock a good self-defenes move or two!' I giggled.
I realized then that I had Tamero's complete attention. I knew it could be my chance to finally get through to him.
'Why didn't you call for help as soon as that Bracken Monkey attacked you?' I asked, frowning.
'Hmph. Why should I call for help when it's something I could've handled myself?' he shrugged.
'But you weren't handling it! And even if you HAD won the fight, you're so injured, you might have ended up going feral, too!' I told him.
'Y-Yeah, well, so what if I had?' he scoffed, 'That's got nothin' to do with you...'
I couldn't believe that he'd have the nerve to say that to me! Didn't he realize how much I cared about him? I couldn't take it anymore. While I'm normally a very patient panda, he'd gone too far. I grabbed Tamero by the shoulders and looked him right in the eyes.
'Listen, Tamero. I know how hard you work. I agree with you that getting help from others all the time without trying for yourself is just being lazy. But you're not that kind of panda! Don't let your fear stop you from getting help when you need it. You can rely on everyone in the pack! You can rely on me! You might like the idea that you're some strong independent loner, but in reality, when you push everyone away, you're just being self-absorbed!'
I stopped to catch my breath and waited for Tamero to say something in response. He lowered his face. I couldn't telll what he was thinking. After a moment, he opened his mouth and began to speak.
'Yuiyui, I--'
I didn't hear anything past that. There was a 'fwip' sound and suddenly a sharp pain shot through the back of my head. I started to feel dizzy, but I sensed something moving around behind me.
I figured the moneky must have woken up and thrown a stone at me. I was quickly losing consciousness, but I knew if I passed out, Tamero would keep trying to fight on his own. He might end up turning feral...
'Please, Tamero...' I gasped, 'I don't want to lose you... I'd be so sad if I couldn't see you anymore...'
There was so much I wanted to tell him, but I just couldn't find the words. My head was swimming. It became harder and harder to think straight. As a panda who's very conscious about being ladylike, it's a little hard for me to admit this, but I knew all my self-defense training had made too rough for this to kill me. So why? Why was I...

And then it happened. My thoughts slipped away, and were replaced by pure instinct. I had become a mindless, feral Coco Panda.

中巻【ユイユイの教え】
はっとして飛び上がると、私は自分の寝床で横になっていた。
なんだ、悪い夢か……と簡単に割り切れないほど、今でも夢の
中で感じた悪い予感が私に纏わりついている。夢の中とは違っ
て、まだ朝だ。腹の虫がそう言っている。まさか夢と同じこと
が起きる訳が無いと自分を諫めながら、私は速足でタメロウの
寝床に向かった。しかし彼の寝床には誰の姿も無い。
「タメロウ!どこにいるの!」
私のその叫びに応じたのはタメロウの声ではなく、敵意に満
ちた何者かの咆哮だった。まさか敵襲?タメロウの寝床は私
達ココパンダーの集落の端に位置している。襲われる可能性が
一番高いのは、タメロウだ。私は焦燥感に駆られるまま咆哮が
聞こえた方角へと向かった。ココパンダーの集落の外れにある
森に辿り着くと、私は木々
の間隔が少し開けた場所でタメロウを見つけた。彼は、かすり
傷を負いながらも腰を低く落とし、大きい木の実を利用して作
った武器に力を込めている。タメロウの視線の先を追うと、そ
こには気が狂ったように咆哮を上げながら戦闘態勢をとるワラ
ビモンチが居た。
「あのワラビモンチ――野生化してるんだわ」
私達の世界では、激しい飢えや命の危機に瀕すると我を失い
野性に目覚めてしまう。強い衝撃を与えれば自分を取り戻すの
だが、野性に目覚めることは自然の摂理として受け入れられ、
二度と群れから干渉されなくなる事が常だった。きっと夢の中
で見たタメロウは、この野生のワラビモンチに襲われて重傷を
負い、野性に目覚めてしまったのね。このままではタメロウが
危ない、そう感じ取った私の身体は自然と動き、タメロウとワ
ラビモンチの間に割って入る。
「タメロウ、もう大丈夫だからね!」
「ユイユイ……!」
私の名前を呼ぶタメロウの瞳には、まだ理性が残っていた。
夢で見たタメロウの無感情な瞳を思い出してしまって、無事を
確認出来た安心感が湧き上り涙が出てしまう。
「泣いてる場合じゃないだろ!
こいつ、俺が散歩をしていたら突然襲い掛かってきたんだ。
もう完全に野生になってる……早く気絶させないと――」
タメロウが言葉を言い終えない内に、鬼気迫る表情で私の背
後に視線を向けた。釣られて私も後ろを振り返る。そこには野
性のワラビモンチが迫っており、力強い飛び蹴りが私の頭をめ
がけて放たれている所だった――
「ユイユイ、危ない!」
タメロウがそう叫んだ瞬間、野性のワラビモンチの身体は強
い力で弾き飛ばされ、きりもみ回転をしながら風を切り、近く
の木の幹に激しく腰を打ち付けた。ワラビモンチは力なくうな
垂れて沈黙する。そう、私がワラビモンチの飛び蹴りを紙一重
で躱し、一瞬の内に放った拳が野性のワラビモンチに会心の一
撃を与えたのだ。
「ふぅ、危なかった。
ヒツジンから教わった拳法が役に立ったわ」
そう言って私がタメロウの方に向き直ると、彼は強張った身
体から力を抜き、少し呆れたような顔をする。
「ユイユイはこのココパンダーの群れの中で最強だもんな……」
「護身用に鍛えてるだけなんだから!」
そんな可愛げのない女の子みたいに言うなんて心外よ。拗ね
た私は口を尖らせてお説教を始める。
「まず、野性のワラビモンチに襲われた時に、
どうしてすぐ仲間を呼ばなかったの!?」
「他人を頼る訳ないだろう、
だって自分一匹で何とかなりそうだったんだから」
「何とかってなによ!
無理をして勝ったとしても、その後タメロウが
野性に目覚めたりしたら、どうするのよ!?」
「そうなったとしてもユイユイには関係ないだろ。
その時はその時だ」
もう、本当にタメロウは分からず屋なんだから!私は本気
で彼の事を心配していたのに、関係ないだなんて言い草はあん
まりだった。久しぶりにカチンときた私は、タメロウの肩をが
っしりと掴んで言い聞かせるように言う。
「いい?タメロウがいつも頑張っている事を私は知ってる。
頑張らない内に他人の力をアテにしたなら、それは甘えだわ。
だけどタメロウは違うじゃない!
助けを求めて応えてくれる仲間が――私がいるのに、
独りで無茶をするなんて、
孤独に生きる自分に酔ってるだけだよ!」
まくし立てるようにして思っている事を吐き出した私は、タ
メロウの反応を待つ。彼は複雑な表情のまま固まっていた。
「……ユイユイ、俺は」
タメロウが重い口を開いた瞬間、スコン!という音が頭に
鳴り響いた。同時に彼の声が遠のいていく。疑問を感じるより
も早く、私の背後から発せられている殺気が全てを物語ってい
た。そう、先程気絶させた野生のワラビモンチが目を覚まし、
私の頭に石を投げたのだ。今私が倒れたらタメロウは独りで無
茶をして、今朝見た夢と同じことが起きてしまう。
「タメロウが無茶をして
居なくなっちゃったら……悲しいよ……」
最後に言葉を紡ごうとしても言いたいことがまとまらない。
日々女の子らしさを意識している私としては認めたくないけど、
護身術の鍛錬の賜物である筋肉のおかげで、かなり頑丈なのだ。
これくらいの怪我で死んだりはしない。
しかし、言葉にできないこの感覚は――
そこで私の理性は完全に途絶えた。後に残った本能に従うだ
けの私は、野性のココパンダーとなったのだった。

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