Like all bear cub brothers, Nohku and Bai-ku loved to play fight. But even brothers sometimes forget it’s a game.
Nohku was out in the woods, looking for berries to eat and soft grass to nap on. It was tough getting away without his younger brother noticing, and even when he did, Bai-ku almost always found him. Today was no different. Nohku was eating the last of his blueberries, already thinking of sleep, when Bai-ku bounced off his back. Nohku turned to catch him, but his brother was already somewhere else. Again and again Bai-ku bounced off and about his brother. He was so quick Nohku got dizzy just looking for him. Poor Nohku just wanted to sleep and play later. But Bai-ku was relentless, and he was on Nohku like bees on honey, nipping shoulders and legs, hoping to trip Nohku on his back and win. Nohku was used to Bai-ku's tripping trick, though, and stood firm on all fours, enduring the small, quick, bites, waiting for his chance. He was getting sore where Bai-ku's small teeth had bit more than once, and after Bai-ku bit near his neck he started to growl. He swiped out strong at his brother, hoping to tumble him hard, but missed. Bai-ku jumped ready to bite as hard as he could towards his brother. Nohku had struck out too hard, and Bai-ku was going to make him pay for it. But Bai-ku missed, too.
"AHHH!" cried Nohku, his head in his paws.
Poor Bai-ku didn't know what went wrong, it all happened so fast. "I'm sorry!" he cried, sure that he made a mistake.
"You bit my eye!” Nohku cried, “I can't see anymore and it's ALL YOUR FAULT!"
Bai-ku rushed over to his brother. "I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I swear I didn't mean to!" he yelled, crying harder than his brother.
Nohku turned to walk away, trying to hide his face. But Bai-ku saw the tussled fur on his brother's cheek, and knew he had been lied to. "You made me think I bit your eye!" Bai-ku shouted. "It's just your fat stupid cheek that I bit!"
Nohku's face burned more than the bite. "Yeah, well..." He couldn't find a way out of his lie, and so he screamed "You're too small to hurt me anyways! You'll never be as big as me or Dad, that's why he asks me to only PRETEND play with you!" This last yell was a lie, too, but Bai-ku was too hurt to know it.
"You swiped at me too hard! That's the only reason I bit you hard like that!" Bai-ku left in tears.
All alone, Nohku felt like sinking. He realized that Bai-ku never meant to bite his face, but was too hurt and defensive to try and say sorry. Nohku knew Bai-ku was going to tell Mom and Dad everything, even the bite. Bai-ku was always telling them everything. Nohku knew he was in trouble. It was always his fault.
He sniffled through his tears as he walked to the willow, his head down the whole way. He found his favorite spot and sat down, thinking about what Mom was going to say.
Nohku heard Whimsy, the willow’s owl keeper, swoop down next to him. “What’s the matter?” cooed Whimsy. Nohku must have looked really worried for his friend to fly down. Whimsy almost never left the tree. Whimsy stretched his wing out to Nohku's wound. "He was mad, wasn't he?" Whimsy asked.
"How did you know?" Nohku asked, angry that Whimsy knew.
"Because you were, too," Whimsy said, smiling kindly. "You're just like your brother."
"What do you mean?" Nohku asked, now curious.
"You know when you look at the water under the moon, and see yourself, but a little different?" Whimsy asked.
"Well, yes," Nohku said, confused.
"What happens when you throw a rock in the water?"
"It shakes," Nohku said, looking down and thinking of his swipe, "and I get all blurry."
"And sometimes it splashes back," Whimsy added, gently touching Nohku's cheek. "But what happens if you let it sit for some time?"
"It gets back to normal!" Nohku said, feeling hopeful for the first time since the fight.
"Exactly." Whimsy flew off, and the rush of air from his wings felt like flowers on Nohku’s fur.
Nohku got up, ready to head home. On his way he found a bed of daffodils blonde in a hill’s shade. Nohku walked over, lay down, and slept.