At three weeks old, they are given their first adventure outside the burrow
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Lumi’s kits grew slowly, but she took great care of them, more than any other mother would have, simply because she would never have thought such a miracle could happen to her, her of all Nidorina. But though she gave them great care, her milk was just not as nutritious as the average, darker Nidorina. Also, spending the last week underground eating the grass and leaves she had taken down the week before had weakened her. She hated to do it, but when her food supply ran out, she left the burrow, carefully blocking the entrance behind her. She needed fresh grass.
The sunlight outside the warren dazzled her, and she had to blink several times to adjust her eyes to the outside world again. After sitting at the entrance to the warren for a few minutes, she could see many rabbits looking at her, still with the same disgusted looks on their faces as before.
A few turned to gossip with their friends, possibly about what colour her kits may have been, some were looking like they were itching to ask her, so they actually had something to gossip about. But none had the courage to actually come over to her, restraining themselves from being seen with the disgrace. They could wait until the kits, if they survived, came out from the burrow.
Five days after they had grown their fur, spatterings of darker fur began to grow on their tiny bodies. Jaa and Kukka, the two palest of the litter, had exactly the same markings, just a cluster of spots on their backs but nowhere else. Hamara had a big dark splotch right on his forehead, just where his horn would begin to grow. Aamu’s spots were the same colour as her mother’s, and almost the same pattern. Kuu never grew spots; his fur was already as dark as it could go.
The day after they opened their eyes, all of them the brightest red except Kuu’s, whose eyes were as dark as his mother’s. Maybe, just maybe, Lumi could gain a bit of recognition because of him. The mob she belonged to was very sensitive to colour, and a black Nidoran would undoubtedly be treated like royalty. What treatment the mother would receive was unknown, no pale Nidorina had ever given birth to a Nidoran much darker than the average colour.
When her kits were two weeks old, Lumi brought down some grass for her kits to eat. She chewed up some of the grass and placed it on the floor of the burrow. All five kits came over to sniff at it, but none seemed daring enough to eat it.
“Come on, my lovelies, Mummy eats it all the time,” Lumi urged.
Recognition dawned on Hamara’s face, and he bent his head down and nibbled tentatively at the chewn grass. His four siblings looked at him expectantly, and once he had swallowed the last bit, he smiled happily at them, squeaking that it was okay to eat. Aamu, Jaa and Kukka were eager to try the new stuff, but Kuu was still not sure. It just looked too strange to him. He hopped around Lumi and nudged at her stomach, hoping to get some ordinary milk, instead of this strange green mush.
Lumi smiled and pulled him around. Hamara squeaked encouragingly at him, his three sisters joined in, urging him to try some, insisting that it tasted better than it looked. Lumi chewed up some more and nosed it towards him. Silence fell among them as he took his first nibble of the grass, then cheers when he went for more. Lumi left to get some more grass for them to eat, as they were obviously still hungry.
When they had gotten used to the grass, she fed it to them fresh and green, and at three weeks old, she let them out of the burrow for the first time.
Most of the mob were feeding, others posted as lookouts, but the vast majority were there. Every day for the past two weeks, at least 25 pairs of eyes stared as Lumi exited her burrow, waiting for the day when they might catch sight of her kits, then there would be some actual facts to gossip about. Rumours were fun, but something that had actually happened was even better. Almost all the Nidos had decided that her kits would all be as pale as she had been. After all, how could she possibly have been able to mate with even a regular coloured Nidorino, let alone a darker one?
When Jaa’s tiny blue nose poked its way out of the burrow, the designated observers spread the word, and every head was focused on the hole. The bright mid-morning sunlight dazzled Jaa even more than it had Lumi, and she ducked her head back in to get used to this strange thing called light. She blinked a few times, and when the sky appeared blue instead of white, and her eyes had stopped aching, she carefully poked her head out again. Slowly, she crawled out of the hole and pressed herself against her mother, lifting her nose to the warm, mid spring breeze.
She could smell so much! The air was fresh and bright, alive with the smells of a hundred different grasses and flowers, more than fifty other Nidos and countless other new scents. Vastly different to the musty, dirty odour of the burrow. Why did Mummy bother to live in the burrow when the outside was so much more beautiful?
The breeze carried voices of other Nidos to Lumi’s ears. “That’d be right,” they said, “See? Didn’t I tell you? White as she is!” Lumi just smiled. Just you wait, she thought, just you wait.
Hamara was the next to exit the burrow. There were gasps at the sight of his darker than average colouration. From any other Nidorina, Hamara would be nothing special, but from Lumi, it was a different story.
“Must’ve come from her spots,” they reasoned. Oh really? Lumi taunted them silently.
Kukka poked his head out, then ducked back in just as Hamara and Jaa had, dazed by the sudden sunlight. He slowly poked his head out, just as a stronger breeze blew across the landscape. The amazing array of scents that had caught Jaa paralysed Kukka. He closed his eyes and lifted his nose into the wind. A petal brought down from the overhanging blossoms by the gust landed on the tip of his nose, and Lumi just had to giggle. That petal was the very reason he had been named Kukka.
“See? All the colouring from her spots has gone to just that one, the rest’ll be white as Seel!” Lumi giggled again.
Being pushed from behind by the anxious Aamu, Kukka was brought out of his trance and was rolled out of the warren, hopping over to his mother. Aamu only paused briefly at the sunlight, she just closed her eyes for a second then opened them again, bounding to her mother and her brothers and sister.
“Nothing special there, not that you’d ever expect it. Anyone can birth a Nidoran that colour.” But how many can birth a pitch black one?
But Kuu’s head didn’t appear at the opening. He was too intimidated by all the smells, the bright light, the strange voices, mocking his brothers and sisters. He couldn’t bare it.
“Yup, there you go, all pale as anything except for that one, but he just got all the colour from her spots. That’s it, all done. Nothing too interesting there, ‘cept maybe that darker one, but he’s not really anything special.” No! Wait! What about Kuu? Lumi cried out to them in her mind. She hopped into the burrow, her four kits trailing behind her.
“Come on, sweety,” Lumi urged, “it’s lovely and warm outside, and you’ll get some fresh air. It’s lovely outside, come on, for Mummy?”
Aamu squeezed around her brother and pushed him from behind in much the same fashion she had done with Kukka. Lumi shook her head, but left the burrow clear for her son. If this was the only way he’d come out, then so be it. She shrugged and ushered the other three out.
Kuu was still unwilling, struggling against his bigger sister.
“Kuu, don’t worry about all the other Nidos, nothing will hurt you, you’ll be glad when you’ve done it. I know it’s a big step, sweety, but you can’t live in the tunnels forever. Please?”
Kuu looked out of the burrow with big, scared eyes. All his family was watching him, coaxing him out. He sighed. The grass had been good, even though it looked horrible, maybe this was no different. He took a deep breath and plunged out into the sunlight, immediately gluing himself to Lumi, shivering violently. Lumi nuzzled him and whispered words of support to him.
Kuu’s exit was met with cries of shock and horror from the other poison pins. “I am not seeing this! He can’t be hers! It’s impossible! He’s, he’s” He’s black, yes, well done, Lumi thought, nuzzling her frightened baby.
The ancient Nido phrase began circulating around the mob, “The darker, the stronger, the lighter, the weaker. The darker, the stronger, the lighter, the weaker” Lumi may be pretty much white, but this new Nidoran was pitch black. It didn’t matter that his mother was the lowest female in the whole mob, he would rise to the top. Lumi had her place, and Kuu now had his.