It started out as an ordinary day in Kernek. Akai had awoken before everyone else in the cave. He was an early riser. If you'd ask him why he'd say he couldn't help it. His brother San would tell you that Akai had always been that way, even when they still had their parents. Akai walked to the entrance of the cave and stepped outside. He took a deep breath of the hot, dry air and sighed. Every night he dreamed of the day he could give his friends and brother a better life, but everyday, he just didn't know how to do it.
Akai decided today would be a good day to go out to the marketplace early, by himself, to get some breakfast for the kids. He trotted back to where everyone was sleeping and found his brother.
Psst! San!" Akai whispered, shaking his brother's shoulder.
Huh? What?" San said, rubbing his eyes.
I'm going into town to swipe some breakfast. Be back soon." Akai said.
Be careful…" San said, slumping back into unconsciousness.
Akai slipped silently out of the cave, so as not to wake anyone, and made his way to town. It wasn't a very long distance, but there were sand dunes and pits that Akai needed to maneuver through to get there. That was part of what made their home in the cave so safe. Unless you knew it was there, and how to get there, it was almost impossible to find.
Akai strutted into town after his short trek. He walked down the sandy street, and into the marketplace. He began to look around to see what he could possibly get his hands on, spotting a cart of apples.
Perfect!" he said to himself."
He pondered for a moment, until an idea clicked in his brain. He began running down the street and bumped into the cart containing the apples, spilling several out onto the ground.
Watch where you're running, brat!" the merchant shouted.
Oops, sorry!" Akai said, scrambling down on the ground, picking up some apples. ''I'll pick them up, I promise!
You'd better," the merchant grumbled.
Akai reached down to pick up a few apples at a time and began wiping them off with his shirt. The merchant seemed content to know that at least his apples were being cleaned, and turned to make sure nothing else was going to crash into his precious cart. That's when Akai seized his opportunity. He stuffed a few apples down his pants, and quickly continued cleaning off the rest. He tossed the apples back on the cart.
Sorry again, sir!" he said.
Just stay away from my cart," the merchant sneered.
Will do!" Akai replied quickly as he waddled off.
When he was safely out of the marketplace, Akai took the apples out of his pants and put them in his pockets. He still had to carry two in his hands because his pockets weren't big enough.
I'd call that a successful morning," he said to the sky.
Making it safely back to the cave, he sauntered in, saying ''Did anyone order breakfast?
A cheer erupted from the small group of children as they all ran to tackle Akai.
Now, come on you guys!" he said, ''Get off, you're going to squish me to death!
They all piled off of Akai, giggling.
What did you bring us?" peeped one of the smallest.
Well," said Akai, reaching into his pockets. ''Who wants apples?
We do!" they all shouted in unison.
All right, all right," San said, pushing his way through to Akai. ''First we need to cut them up so there's enough to share with everybody. All of you go sit down. Akai and I will bring each of you a piece.
Okay!" all of the kids shouted as they ran back to play.
San leaned over to his brother. ''How much were you able to get?" he whispered.
Not as much as I'd have liked," he replied, ''But enough to feed them something.
Alright," San said, ''"Let's slice 'em up.
Akai pulled a small knife from a sheath on his belt.
I'll take care of cutting up the apples," Akai told his brother. "You go keep them company.
Alright," San replied. ''"Don't be too long." And he walked off.
Akai sat near the entrance of the cave with the apples on his lap. He picked one up, wiped it off, and began to cut.
Hmmm…" he though to himself, and he began to count the apples. Akai had only managed to snag five.
Not very many," he mumbled.
There was only enough for everyone to get a quarter of an apple each, not including Akai himself.
I guess I'll have to find myself food some place else," he thought as he finished his task and re-sheathed his knife. He picked up the slices and carried them back to where everyone was waiting.
Hey, San!" he called. ''"Can you help me with this?
Sure thing!" San said, running to Akai's aid.
He took half of the slices and began to pass them out. Akai finished with one left.
Here, San." He said, holding out his hand. "This one's for you.
Thanks Akai," San sad, "But what about you?
I ate before I got home," he replied.
Oh, okay…" San replied.
Everyone quickly finished their meals, if you could call it that. There wasn't much to go around. Akai turned to go toward the mouth of the cave, when he felt a tug at his pant leg. He looked down to see a little girl. It was Ellie, one of the newest to join the abandoned children.
Mister Akai," she said shyly, ''"I'm still hungry…
Akai bent down so he was at Ellie's eye level.
I'm sorry, but I don't have anything else I can give you," he said. ''But I promise I'll bring you something special for dinner tonight. Can you hold out 'til then?" he asked.
Alright! I'll try bestest," Ellie said. She wandered back towards to group, and she and some of the other children began to play together.
Akai continued on his way to the outside of the cave. His tired purple eyes squinted at the sunlight as he kicked the sand angrily.
Argh!" he huffed. ''Why can't I take better care of them?!
Akai always felt guilty when he couldn't provide his family with enough to eat.
It should be so simple!" he shouted.
Are you okay?
Akai jumped with fright.
Oh, it's you, San. Don't scare me like that!" Akai said.
Sorry," San laughed.
Akai's stomach rumbled.
You didn't eat, did you," San said.
Akai looked away from his brother. ''"…No.
You need to stop doing that!" San shouted. "You can't keep going without food forever!
I know," Akai retorted, "But there's not enough to go around! And they need it more than me.
You need food just as much as they do!" San pleaded. ''"What do you think would happen to them, if something happened to you?!
Alright, alright… I get it," Akai said. ''I'll just get more next time.
Easier said than done."
Hmph, I'm the best thief in Kernek!" Akai said, puffing out his chest.
Yeah, yeah. We know," San joked. ''Now how about you do something useful and send out some teams to get more food? And water. We're almost out.
Sure thing, bro! Send some of them out.