Chapter 0:

Under a Starry Sky, I Chose My Future

Fifty-Fifty Fox

His tail dragging behind him, ears alert, Xzeyko readied himself for whatever he might encounter on his way. He was ready to find his new future. He took one last look at his campsite, where he’d had to bury his family, and swore never to return.

He hadn’t been counting the days. Since the outbreak, he’d had only one priority—to survive. But now, barely able to stand, he knew he had to get out of this graveyard of a forest.

He didn’t even know how old he was anymore. There’d been at least three winters since he escaped into the woods. He knew he’d only been eleven when he arrived. Was he fourteen? Fifteen? It had been so long since he’d seen the outside world.

And on top of that, he felt sick. Not just sick of the forest, but sick to his stomach. Food and water weren’t very common anymore, with hundreds still hunting whatever was left to this day. There was no mercy—not for anyone.

Well, that’s not totally true, he thought to himself. There were some out there still willing to have mercy on others. It was the sole reason he was still alive. There’d been this girl named Taylor who’d swing by from time to time, offering food and stories in exchange for a place to stay. But Xzeyko hadn’t seen her in a long time. He hoped she wasn’t dead, but there was a resounding possibility.

And then there was that boy he never learned the name of. Taylor told Xzeyko all about him—it was from his group of survivors that the wretched beast of the woods had emerged, the wretched beast who’d turned him an orphan. He ignored the echoing cries in his subconscious.

He had met the boy in person once before, just like most everyone had. The woods weren’t very big once you got used to them. He was a few years older than Xzeyko, and a lot more skilled at survival. He didn’t talk much, but his actions made it clear he was only trying to help. After all, he’d distributed the stasis for the virus and kept everyone alive.

But Xzeyko knew that aside from those few, the woods were hostile. He couldn’t bear living here anymore, where an ally one day could be his enemy the next. He looked to the starry sky in hope of guidance.

Just another day’s all I need. Whoever’s out there, please have mercy on me.

But before he could leave for the city, he had to find that boy and properly thank him. Besides, out of anyone, he would probably have an idea of where to go for safety. As far as Xzeyko knew, the city was dangerous for half-humans.

He only hoped he’d still be alive to see the city lights.