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This page contains a fan fiction written by Bramblefire3118.
This page contains the opinions of the original author(s), and is not patrolled for factual accuracy.
Remember that this story is non-canon. It may contain false characters, plots, or locations.
Responses, comments & other feedback should be made on the comments section below.



The Soaring Wren Series: Return to the Clans
Preceded by:
The Departure
Finding Four Succeded by:
Returning Willows

Note: This is Book 3 in the second arc of a series. If you want to read the first book of the entire series, click here, or if you want to read the first book of this arc, click here.


Blurb

In book three of The Soaring Wren Series: Return to the Clans, the cats of WillowClan face their biggest journey yet.

The WillowClan cats have finally left their home to find a new place to live. Doubts are already known in the Clan. The direction of where they are going is unsure to most - none, it seems, except for two Clan apprentices - Hollypaw and Soarpaw.

The Clan is doubting the two apprentices' abilities - especially because they're only a moon into training. Can Hollypaw and Soarpaw prove them wrong, as the race to find the four other Clans begins?

Meanwhile, in CloudClan, Leafpaw knows that the WillowClan cats are coming. She is the only cat who can guess when they will arrive... and when they do, her Clan needs to be ready for their next challenge.

Allegiances


Prologue

The lands were unknown to the large group of cats. Leaving what was behind them was hard. But they had lost their home now - and they had to travel to find a new place to call home.

A dark gray she-cat was leading the group of cats. Her amber eyes blazed as she saw the group below. "Come on, let's move it," she called.

A brown-and-white she-cat bounded to the front, green eyes wide. "But Willow..." she protested. "We have to look out for some of our warriors. Some of them will struggle through it."

"We have to get moving," Willow insisted, her tail flicking wildly. "I am in charge here. Mossystar, leave me alone."

The brown-and-white cat - Mossystar - moved to the back of the group reluctantly, as the cats looked down. The living cats below them were trekking away, and were about to reach a patch of dense oak forest.

"Okay, so we're going through here," insisted the leader of that group, a dark tabby she-cat. "WillowClan, stay behind me."

"But -" A cat from below protested with the she-cat's words. A silver tom with a bushy tail poked his head out from behind a ginger she-cat, his blue eyes wide. "We don't know where we are going. Is it really safe?"

The dark tabby she-cat sighed. "While we travel, we have to take some risks, Wolfpaw," she meowed wearily.

"They are going the right way, though," whispered Mossystar, from her place near the front of the line. Up above, all the star-studded cats travelled on, following the Clan cats below in their pawsteps.

"They won't, soon enough." huffed Willow. "We need to send them a sign when they get out of there. Otherwise, they'll get lost, and Soaringstar's prophecy will never come true - when it is destined to be."

"That's right," mewed a pale ginger tom, who was also near the front. His amber eyes shone with pride and grief as he spoke: "Hollypaw and Soarpaw will lead their Clan to safety. It will take some hard work from both of them - I don't know how easily Wrenstar will be swayed by their words - but they can do it, I swear."

"Your daughters have the ability, Soaringstar," echoed a brown tabby she-cat, who brushed past Soaringstar's flank. "I believe in them... they're like the daughters that I didn't have." Her green eyes were shining with sadness. "If life had been different..."

There was silence after this, as the cats continued on. Only the thrumming of pawsteps could be heard. The next cat to speak was a bright ginger tom, whose legs were much longer than usual size:

"How long will this journey take?" he asked. "I have never asked a cat, in the WillowClan I lived in, and even since I died. Mossystar, how long did this journey take when you led the WillowClan of your time to the home we have just left behind?"

Mossystar sighed. "It took about a half-moon, Redleap," she meowed. "This WillowClan is luckier than the first group that had to leave. This group is travelling in newleaf, where prey is abundant and plentiful, and the weather is warm. When my WillowClan travelled, it was leaf-bare. Many cats lost their lives due to starvation, exhaustion, or dying of cold in the night. We barely survived that journey, and I feared that my Clan would die. But now..." Mossystar's voice trailed away.

"So much cats ended up in StarClan," Willow echoed, her burning amber eyes filled with grief. "They are scared of doing it again."

"They will make it," Redleap echoed. "WillowClan has the strength to do anything, and StarClan is the same. We must watch over the current WillowClan cats as they return to where they truly belong - the four other Clans."

"All we need to do," the brown tabby she-cat from before mewed, "is to keep on giving them guidance. When the next full moon rises in the sky, they will be there. All they have to do is to continue to show their strength."

Willow gave a small nod, and she flicked her tail for the cats behind her to move on. This move wouldn't be the worst WillowClan had seen. They would survive, and Willow knew that for sure.


Chapter One - Wrenstar

A plain, grassy landscape stretched out in front of Wrenstar, as she emerged from the tangle of forest. Stepping lightly on the grass, her Clanmates behind her, she led them on. Her journey was to get her Clanmates safe to their new home - wherever it was going to be.

"Why do we have to go all this way?" a cat whined. "It's so long... and we're nowhere near home..."

Wrenstar suppressed a sigh. The Clan was only two days into their journey, and already every cat was sick of it. Each pawstep became wearier than the one before, and Wrenstar was starting to doubt her Clan's strength.

What if we don't survive this journey? the dark tabby thought worriedly. What will WillowClan be, then? A Clan lost forever?

"It's all right, Littlepaw." Wrenstar heard Bramblefern soothing her daughter. "We'll be home - at our new home - before we know it."

"But we don't know where we're going," Littlepaw complained again. "And how long it's going to take."

Wrenstar couldn't help but admit that Littlepaw had a point. The pale brown she-cat had been the cat who had complained the most over the whole journey - which surprised Wrenstar, as Littlepaw was recently made an apprentice - but even that hadn't stopped her from moaning, bothering every cat she went past.

I wish I knew too, Littlepaw. How long until we reach our destination?

"Wrenstar, should we have a break? It's nearing sunhigh," a cat meowed. Wrenstar felt thick fur brushing against her flank, and she watched as the Clan deputy - Dewfrost - strode up to her. The dark gray tom looked confident, but his yellow eyes were weary. Wrenstar knew that even he was suffering.

"Of course, Dewfrost," Wrenstar mewed, thinking it was a good idea. Once she had spoken, she flicked her tail, stopping. A few cats - not noticing in time that Wrenstar had stopped - crashed into her.

"What's going on?" called Ripplepaw, the biggest of the Clan's apprentices. The dark gray tom was near the front, with Hollypaw - Wrenstar's daughter - beside him. The two cats' eyes were shining - not with delight, but annoyance.

"We're stopping for a bit," Wrenstar mewed, addressing all the cats. "Have a rest. Dewfrost will assign warriors and apprentices to hunt for us. Meadowcloud and Soarpaw can help attend to any injuries - if any - that were sustained while travelling."

"We're fine, Wrenstar, just tired," grunted Tangleleap. The light brown she-cat was the most senior of all the warriors, and she was the warrior that most cats respected, apart from Dewfrost and Wrenstar. "We'll hunt to keep our strength up."

Wrenstar nodded, respecting the older cats' words. Meanwhile, Dewfrost was calling names for cats to hunt:

"Addertalon, Sunpaw, Nightfleck, Branchpaw, and Hareswift, form one hunting patrol. Splashstrike, Littlepaw, Aspendusk, Newtfoot, and Ripplepaw will form a second, and Ambersun and Lightningsky can hunt with their apprentices. They can take Stormstrike with them as well."

"But I don't know how to hunt?" complained Littlepaw, when her name was called. "Do I have to?"

'Yes," hissed Splashstrike, Littlepaw's mentor. The blue-gray she-cat - usually quiet - had been easily irritated by her apprentice's behavior. "I'll teach you. Come on, we need to get this Clan fed."

Littlepaw started complaining as she was forced over to the hunting patrol by Splashstrike. Wrenstar watched, eyes narrowed. She didn't like the behavior of the young apprentice at the moment. Hopefully, after this, she would learn some patience.

Meanwhile, the cats who were staying behind started to relax in a small taste of freedom. Silverfern was busy tending to Fernkit and Riverkit, while Hollypaw and Tanglepaw were talking to one another. Wrenstar pricked her ears to listen to their conversation:

"Do you think you know where we're going?" Tanglepaw whispered, green eyes wide, to his denmate. Wrenstar barely heard his words: they were so silent.

For a while, Hollypaw was silent. Finally, she replied hazily: "We're returning to where we came before... there will be five once more..."

Tanglepaw's eyes immediately rounded. "Hollypaw, what's going on?" he mewed.

"We're finding four..." Hollypaw whispered, and then the black she-cat slumped to the ground.

At once, Wrenstar rose to her paws. Before she knew it, she was beside Meadowcloud, who was with Silverfern. The dark gray she-cat mewed: "What is it?" when Wrenstar approached.

"It's Hollypaw!" Wrenstar managed to gasp out. "She's fainted!"


Chapter Two - Leafpaw

Leafpaw gave a small sigh as she padded through CloudClan's territory. Streamreed has assigned her to hunt for yarrow and catmint, because the stocks of them were low. Secretly, Leafpaw was relieved: Shinestrike had started kitting at dawn, and in camp she had had enough of the ginger she-cat's yowls of pain.

Instantly, after she thought that, Leafpaw felt guilty. I'm a medicine cat. I should be taking care of all my Clanmates.

Shoving the thought to the back of the mind, the moon popped up. Last night, it had been just a slither in the sky. The night before that, it had been nothing... At once, Leafpaw felt herself flinch.

WillowClan! They've left!

The thought frightened her. What would the medicine cats do without WillowClan - for however long their journey took? What would the WillowClan medicine cats do? Out of them - both mentor and apprentice - Leafpaw thought she liked Soarpaw better, but it was hard to tell. They had never really met.

They will find a place for them, Leafpaw thought confidently. At this thought, she lifted her head higher. Yes, they will find a place.

Quietly, Leafpaw padded through the woodland. She felt her paws move - in almost a dreamlike way - towards the stock of catmint, which grew at an old, abandoned Twoleg garden, where the plant grew abundantly. Pine trees were visible at the edge of her vision - this was the Pine Row, where two straight lines of pine trees formed the border between CloudClan and LeafClan. The abandoned garden was at the territory's other edge - which lead to an abundant growth of willow trees beyond it.

At the thought of willows, Leafpaw shivered. One of the Clan elders, Clawfrost, told a story that the trees there got cut down many moons ago. They had stayed cut down for many moons after, and that was when the abandoned garden was made. But after that, the Twolegs came back, and planted more trees - willow trees - and abandoned the garden. Now, that territory was occupied by no Clan - just taken by cats who lived outside Clans and the warrior code.

At once, Leafpaw felt she had been hit by a blow to the head. WillowClan used to live with the other four Clans, right? So was the area with the willows... the area where they used to live?

"You are right, young Leafpaw. I wish the cats of the time hadn't made that decision."

At once, Leafpaw stopped with a halt, her eyes widening as she realized that she was at the garden already. The catmint was growing abundantly as it always was, its stems - however - still delicate. Leafpaw was about to lean down to bite the stalks off when she heard the voice again:

"All I could do was watch, as the fifth Clan was driven away. I wish I could have helped to let them stay - but I was helpless in StarClan."

Startled, Leafpaw turned. Stars dotted the cats' pelt, and she guessed that the cat had been in StarClan for moons on end. She could tell that the faded pelt was white, and that the tail was bushy. Star-studded blue eyes were intent on Leafpaw, so bright that she wanted to look away.

"Do you know who I am?" the white cat spoke again. The tom was still staring at Leafpaw, his eyes like ice.

Leafpaw shook her head. But I know that you've been in StarClan for a long time.

As if the StarClan cat could read Leafpaw's thoughts, he nodded. "Yes, I have been in StarClan for a long time," he purred, "but I wasn't the first to come there. My name is Cloudstar, and I was the founder of your Clan."

At once, Leafpaw took a step back, shocked. "You what?"

"Most cats do that when they find out." Cloudstar gave a small sweep of his tail. "I've seen it happen to all of us founders." He then turned back to Leafpaw. "Yes, WillowClan did live here, but when CloudClan, LeafClan, HollowClan and CurrentClan were founded, they didn't exist. A few moons after we came into the forest, however, their founder turned up, and asked for a place with us. Eventually we all accepted, and CurrentClan helped them to settle in. Their border was along here, as we see it now. But soon," Cloudstar's voice dropped to a whisper, "another Clan will get this role."

"Who?" Leafpaw asked, curious. With a jolt, she realized that WillowClan was going to be travelling back to where CloudClan, HollowClan, CurrentClan, and LeafClan lived. Which Clan was going to help WillowClan this time?

"All the answers can be found in the prophecy," Cloudstar mewed, his blue gaze sparkling. "I's not long until it will be fulfilled." And with that, Cloudstar was gone.

Leafpaw felt her body go numb. The prophecy rang in her ears, as if she had known it all her life. Bits of it stood out.

Find the leaf's sedge in the clouds...

At once, Leafpaw felt a surge of dread run through her. She knew which Clan it was. And now she knew why she had been told this.

She was part of the prophecy.


Chapter Three - Soarpaw

The forest was silent, many cats scents wreathing around. Soarpaw blinked open her eyes, expecting to see her Clanmates gathered around her. Instead, she saw the forest - like she would have done when she awoke - but there were no cats there.

Instead, a cream-furred she-cat sat in the clearing, green eyes wide as she stared at her. Shocked, Soarpaw rose shakily onto all four paws. What was this cat going here? Where were her Clanmates?

The cream-furred cat stepped closer to Soarpaw. "Do you know who I am?" she whispered. Her voice was quiet, yet had the sound of authority.

At once, it felt as if Soarpaw had been dragged into memories. For a moment, Soarpaw was whisked away from the forest: and then she felt as if she was falling. Eventually, she felt something under her paws, and she looked up.

Instantly, she recognized the WillowClan medicine den from the old camp. Leaf-bare wind blew into it, chilling Soarpaw to the bone. A cream she-cat - the same she-cat that had appeared in StarClan before - was sitting in a nest, coughing. An unmoving black-and-white body lay beside it, and still.

Two elderly cats entered the den. Soarpaw recognized one of them - Cinderdust - when she was still alive. The second cat was one that she didn't recognize - a brown tabby with a gray muzzle. She had the look of Bramblefern to her, and Wrenstar - could she possibly be related to her?

The two cats shot looks at the cream cat, who was coughing miserably. Then the two cats picked up the black-and-white cat's body and proceeded out of the den.

Soarpaw strained her ears, and heard noises outside. She wasn't bothered to listen. Eventually, a flecked dark she-cat ran in, and Soarpaw recognized her mentor, Meadowcloud, at once. She bent over the cream cat, and asked: "Do you want me to get Wrenfeather now? I haven't yet."

Wrenfeather. The name rang in Soarpaw's mind. My mother, before she was WillowClan leader. Soaringstar was still alive...

Before the cream cat could reply, Meadowcloud ducked out of the den. A few moments later, she didn't return - another cat entered. The slim dark brown shape was instantly recognizable - it was Wrenstar, as a young warrior, before she gave birth to her and Hollypaw.

"Wrenfeather, come," croaked the cream-furred cat, who was trying to lift her head to see the WillowClan warrior. In response, Wrenstar - Wrenfeather then - edged forward slowly.

"You are a great cat," continued the sick cat. She broke off to cough, and then she turned back to her. "I wish I could see your future."

Wrenfeather dipped her head. "Thank you," she whispered, and she lowered her head so that her nose touched the cats' flank ever so slightly. Then she straightened up, realizing what she was doing.

"You were a great kit - I just wish..." the cream-furred cat gasped, out of words, out of breath.

"Wish what?" Confusion was evident in Wrenfeather's tone.

"That you were..." The cream cat coughed weakly as she stuttered out the words. "One of my kits."

A reaction was evident from Wrenfeather, as she jumped in shock. Her eyes widened as she gasped: "What? You're my mother!"

"No, I'm not." Once again, the cream cat coughed as she laid her head down on the bedding. "And Sparrowsong... was never your father. Hareswift and Fennelcloud... were mine - but you aren't."

The next responses were silent, and Soarpaw felt herself falling again. Ground touched her paws once more, and she felt herself facing her once more. Now she knew who the she-cat was - now that she looked at it, she did have the look of Hareswift to her.

"You're Rosefall," Soarpaw whispered. "You're Hareswift and Fennelcloud's mother."

The cream she-cat nodded. "Indeed I am." Rosefall kept her green gaze intent on Soarpaw as she continued: "And you have inherited your father's looks, I see."

Soarpaw felt herself duck her head. "I never got to meet him in life."

Rosefall just nodded. "I know that, but that's not why I'm here," she mewed. "I'm here to talk about the prophecy that you have been given from StarClan."

"Hollypaw was peaking parts of it when she was delusional," Soarpaw remarked, remembering the events of the day she had just faced. "Why is that?"

"Hollypaw play a great part in the prophecy, although she doesn't realize it," Rosefall meowed. "I think that the cat from the four Clans knows that they're a part of it - and the third is still to be revealed."

"Who is it?" Soarpaw asked, brightening up slightly. "Rosefall, please..."

Rosefall only gave Soarpaw a sad look, and the cream-furred cat started to fade. Before she knew it, she was gone. The prophecy rang in her ears the once she had heard so many times over - A great doom is coming. Something that no cat can stop. The holly's thorn and the wing that soars must save the Clan of the willows from themselves falling. Follow the clouds, and you will find an oak, with clouds, currents, hollows, and leaves. Find the leaf's sedge in the clouds, and there will be five once more.

After listening to it over and over again, Soarpaw was sure she knew who the third cat was.

A wing that soars... Great StarClan, that's me!


Chapter Four - Hollypaw

Hollypaw opened her eyes to find herself slumped on the ground, many cats bending over her. For a split second, she wondered what was going on.

Great StarClan, what just happened?

As if he could hear what she was thinking, Tanglepaw replied. The gray-and-brown tom's eyes were wide as he mewed: "You just started speaking really weirdly... You started to talk about 'follow the clouds' and 'finding four once more'."

For some reason, Hollypaw could agree with Tanglepaw's words. "Yeah..." she mewed hazily. "That's the whole point, right? We have to follow the clouds, to find four."

At that moment, Tanglepaw turned to talk with Rockshine, shaking his head. Hollypaw managed to catch some of his words - Tanglepaw was saying: "What's up with her... she's going crazy."

I'm not going crazy! Hollypaw thought inside her head, as if she was going to explode. It's the truth! I just know it!

Stumbling onto all four paws, Hollypaw weakly shoved away from the cluster of cats, and stumbled to the other edge of the clearing, where she collapsed again. Behind her, she could make out Silverfern's kits, asking their mother what was up with her. Blocking their mewling out, she looked out onto the horizon.

No sun could be seen: it was high above Hollypaw's head, giving the area warmth where the sunlight spread. The horizon just gave off land - a wide plain without trees, making Hollypaw shiver. She didn't feel safe without the cover of trees over her head.

Dragging herself to her paws, Hollypaw turned as noises could be heard. A group of cats - Addertalon, Sunpaw, Nightfleck, Branchpaw, and Hareswift - were coming into the clearing, laden with prey - even Branchpaw, who had a mouse in his jaws. Their prey thudded on the ground, and they turned to stare at her - and at that moment Hollypaw realized that all the Clan's eyes were on her.

"What happened?" asked Addertalon, narrowing his amber eyes. The dark tabby scowled at no cat in particular as he scanned the clearing.

"She fainted," Rockshine replied gruffly, as he padded over to his son. "I don't know what will help her at the moment, but..."

"Food always helps." Meadowcloud interrupted the two toms' conversation with a flick of her tail. The dark gray she-cat's green eyes glittered with frustration. "Now stop blocking the way or you'll get no prey."

Hollypaw gave an impatient sigh, and staggered weakly over to the pile of prey. Snatching a vole - she wasn't feeling very hungry - she moved off to the side, and took a bite, letting its strong flavor engulf her.

A few more cats stared at her, and then some of the other cats helped themselves to prey. Addertalon brought a large rabbit over to Silverfern, and the two cats ate started to eat it together, feeding bits to their kits, who were asking for food. Lightningsky's patrol returned, laden with more prey. The cats of WillowClan - for once - were peaceful, despite what they were facing.

Finally, the final patrol returned - and it seemed to Hollypaw that Splashstrike was not at all impressed. The blue-gray she-cat was emotionally fragile, as all her family was dead - but her heart was less so for Littlepaw, who seemed to hate Splashstrike as much as Splashstrike hated her. Littlepaw trailed behind the patrol, nothing in her small jaws.

"Why isn't Littlepaw carrying anything?" Wrenstar asked. Hollypaw's mother had been staying out of the spotlight most of the time, but had still been interested in what her Clan had been doing. "Splashstrike?"

Splashstrike gave a weary sigh. "She refused to hunt! She refused to hunt for her Clan!"

At once, Wrenstar jumped to her paws, and stalked towards her younger sister. The whole Clan, including Hollypaw, was silent as Wrenstar stepped towards Littlepaw. As soon as she reached the apprentice, she mewed: "Are you saying that you are not loyal to your Clan?"

Littlepaw looked up at Wrenstar. "That's exactly what I'm saying!" she hissed.


Chapter Five - Soarpaw

Soarpaw stared, shocked by Littlepaw's words.

How can she say something like that? the ginger she-cat thought, shivering. Littlepaw was younger than she was, yet she was saying that she didn't want to be part of WillowClan anymore? That was impossible.

"I don't like her," Littlepaw continued to Wrenstar, her tail lashing. "I don't see any point staying. The willows are our home. Why are you giving up?" Littlepaw's amber gaze was dark as she stared at Wrenstar. "That's where we're destined to stay!"

A few cats stared to murmur after this, then Sunpaw spoke up. The ginger apprentice rose to his paws, his tail lashing. "Well, why else would StarClan send us away?" he challenged. "So that we would starve, and die? No, they want us to thrive. Littlepaw, why are you judging the will of StarClan?"

Soarpaw saw Littlepaw lashing her tail again. "StarClan isn't real," she growled.

What? How would Littlepaw know? Soarpaw thought, as she narrowed her eyes at the brown tabby. Or doesn't she believe in it? She was curious, she could admit that much - but Soarpaw knew, especially because she had seen cats like Rosefall and Fennelcloud in her dreams, that StarClan definitely existed.

"Good luck finding your home," Littlepaw finished with a flourish, before she turned and bolted away into the distance, leaving Sunpaw to stare in shock.

After this, the Clan was silent. Soarpaw didn't know how long the silence contained for, but once Littlepaw was out of vision, she heard Splashstrike sobbing once more, and she heard the movement of pawsteps that told her that Aspendusk had gone to comfort her again. She then turned, and saw Bramblefern nestling into Rockshine's side. She could overhear Bramblefern talking to her mate:

"It's just like our other litter..." the dark brown she-cat mewed slowly to Rockshine. "Oh, StarClan, does this mean that Branchpaw and Wolfpaw are going to leave us as well?" Bramblefern let out a wail, and then she heard Rockshine's voice as he tried to comfort her.

Littlepaw's caused more damage than she's realized, Soarpaw thought sadly, as she stared into the distance. Oh, why did you have to go?

For a moment, Soarpaw was plunged into dark visions. They'd only just started the journey, and they still had many days of travel to go. There was still a chance that cats could die, for cats to lose belief and leave them. However, Soarpaw knew that this was not all - they still had hope.

We need to believe we can do this, Soarpaw thought, shaking her head.

"WillowClan. We must discuss before we set off again." A voice tugged Soarpaw out of her thoughts, and she looked up see that Wrenstar was the cat that had called. A cluster of cats - mainly warriors - had started to crowd around the dark tabby leader, wanting to her what she had to say. Padding forward slowly, Soarpaw went to join the crowd - she needed to listen as well.

Wrenstar looked at her Clanmates, and then she spoke: "We still have a long way to go. We must get over what Littlepaw has done, and continue our journey to our new home. We have a journey to do, and we mustn't leave a cat behind."

"You'd better not," Splashstrike sobbed. The blue-gray she-cat had joined the meeting, leaning on Aspendusk's side. "I'm - I'm -" She broke off.

Soarpaw stared at Splashstrike, confused. What was the she-cat indicating. She took another look at the she-cat, and at the same time, she saw Meadowcloud brush by Splashstrike, sniff at her pelt, and then nod slowly. "I think you're right," she whispered. "Don't worry, we won't abandon you." The dark gray she-cat then padded towards Wrenstar. "We'd better eat up, and go. There's no time to waste here - we must continue this journey."

"You read my thoughts, Meadowcloud." Wrenstar dipped her head to the medicine cat. Then, turning to the rest of the Clan, she mewed: "Let's eat before we set off again."

At once, the cluster shattered as the cats went off to eat. Splashstrike sat down - shaking - and Aspendusk went along to get the she-cat some prey. Soarpaw eventally got a shrew off the pile, and near Hollypaw.

"I wasn't expecting what Littlepaw did," the black she-cat mewed quietly. "Not at all. But we need to follow the clouds, and we will find our home."

Soarpaw sighed once more. Not the prophecy, again... and how long will it be until Hollypaw finds out she's part of it? Oh, StarClan, save me...

Chapter Six - Hollypaw

Hollypaw felt dizzy as she opened her green eyes, to find herself not onto the barren, brown-grassed plain which she had rested her head on, but a leafy, willow-filled forest that smelled like home. At once, she jumped to her paws, and spun around as she took in her surroundings.

Where - where am I? the black apprentice asked herself, as she paced around this unfamiliar place. I don't think I've ever been here before... She shook her head slightly as she thought this, her eyes suddenly narrowed.

There surely had to be a reason for this.

Was she in StarClan, because she'd died? Hollypaw greatly shuddered at this, as she realized that the willows around her were - indeed - covered with a thick band of many stars, that made the clearing look brilliantly white. She felt frozen to the spot... what happened if she actually had died? She'd never had the chance to say goodbye, but at least she'd meet her father for the first time.

However, when she looked at herself and realized that there were no stars in her fur, Hollypaw relaxed, her shoulders sagging. Maybe she wasn't dead after all...

"Hollypaw."

At the sound of her voice, Hollypaw jumped, and turned in surprise. There, a cat was standing: a seemingly delicate brown tabby she-cat with amber eyes that she'd never seen before. Shaking, Hollypaw padded over, biting the inside of her mouth as she padded over nervously.

She was greeted as she approached, and the brown tabby that she had just encountered had now dipped her head to her. "Welcome, Hollypaw," she mewed softly. "I am one of your warrior ancestors in StarClan."

StarClan? Really? So I am there, then. Hollypaw affirmed her earlier guess with a nod, before turning back to the she-cat between looking at her paw, which was still black. "Why... why am I here? Am I dead?"

The brown tabby purred. "No, you're not," she mewed softly. "StarClan has come to you because they want you to receive a message. Follow me." She then turned her back on Hollypaw before turning into the mass of willows that stretched on beyond, and Hollypaw followed the she-cat as she turned into the mass of trees.

Hollypaw followed the she-cat until they reached another clearing. A pool of water marked the clearing's center, and as Hollypaw looked into it, she saw a reflection of herself: black fur, and green eyes staring back at her.

"Tell me, Hollypaw, what you see," the tabby told Hollypaw firmly, and in that exact same moment that she spoke, the pool changed - and no longer could Hollypaw see herself in the pool's reflection.

Instead, all that Hollypaw could now see was blackness, except for small silver speckles that looked like stars, and a large, full silver moon. Somehow, she was reminded of Nightfleck by this reflection - maybe that was why he had his name.

"I see the night," Hollypaw mewed confidently, as she looked back up. "There's stars in the sky, as well as a full moon."

"Good, good." The she-cat looked extremely pleased by Hollypaw's response, and she nodded. "Now, keep this vision in your mind... as I ask a lot of you for this next task that I am about to set you."

This next task? Hollypaw gulped nervously, expecting something really bad as she nodded stiffly, keeping the vision in her mind.

"You must tell Wrenstar this," she mewed firmly, and Hollypaw felt herself shudder as she heard her mother's name. "The moon that was in that image, that time is when your journey will cease. There the five will reunite."

She then winked softly at Hollypaw, and the black apprentice felt her fur lift. This makes no sense... she thought to herself calmly, biting her tongue as not to yowl at loud - but after a while, she just gave up.

"Tell me more!"

But all that the cat did was smile at Hollypaw before fading into blackness, and Hollypaw was - once again - left alone.


Chapter Seven - Wrenstar

My Clan will never give up.

Those were the words that had bolstered the dark tabby leader over and over again, as her Clan had made their way through unfamiliar territory. Now, Wrenstar lifted her head as dawn started to streak across the sky once more.

She looked up at the sky, and narrowed her eyes as she saw the moon, nearly half-full, sink down below the horizon. Tonight... surely, it will be the half-moon tonight.

It had been almost a quarter-moon of travelling, and Wrenstar knew that her entire Clan was exhausted - both physically, and emotionally. Her warriors seemed more irritable, her apprentices less eager, the kits less playful. It didn't seem right.

It didn't help that two days ago, there had been a fight with a fox: and Tangleleap, one of WillowClan's most trusted warriors, was killed in the skirmish. The Clan was still trying to cope with the death of the warrior, and it wasn't nice.

Wrenstar watched as a few cats started to stir in the dawn light. The leader saw Meadowcloud weaving through the cats, checking on some with doubtful glares. A smaller shape followed in behind the medicine cat, and Wrenstar knew that this was Soarpaw.

"Good morning, Wrenstar."

Wrenstar jumped, and turned to see her brother behind her. Dewfrost's fur was sleek and well-groomed, and his sun-yellow eyes were round as he looked at his leader. "You seem thoughtful," he remarked, tilting his head.

Wrenstar nodded sharply, not feeling in the mood to muck around. "Good morning to you, Dewfrost. Now, do you mind sending a few cats on hunting patrols to feed the Clan, before we move on?"

Dewfrost looked a little disappointed at her reaction, but he nodded anyway. "Certainally," the tom mewed, padding off to the group of warriors that were sleeping nearby.

Wrenstar watched silently as she saw her deputy move away. She could see that his paws were ever so slightly dragging on the dusty ground, billows of the substance rising up in his wake. Great StarClan... don't tell me the journey's getting to my deputy, too!

She couldn't believe her Clan's luck. Why did they, of anything, have to go through so much? It was painful, especially for Wrenstar, to see her cats struggling. She wanted to help... but she knew that this would continue until they'd finish their journey... however long it took.

It had better not be too much longer. The tabby leader looked down beside her, closing her eyes.

Before she opened her eyes again, she listened. A few moans from warriors told her that Dewfrost had slowly coaxed some to wake up, and that they were starting to rise for the big day ahead. Wrenstar, by now, knew that they'd had enough.

And she didn't want to hear it.

<*^*>

Eventually, all of the Clan woke up naturally or were coaxed awake, and they set off on yet another journey through unknown territory. At the sound of the uneven thrumming of paws on the dusty ground, Wrenstar sighed. It had been a sound that had slowly become quite annoying over the quarter-moon travelling.

The sun was slowly rising in the sky, and she was aware that they - WillowClan - almost needed to stop to have a break from walking. At the current point in time, however, she was leading her Clan through the supposedly endless dusty plain they'd been covering for a past three sunrises: however, Wrenstar swore she could see something in the distance, and she hoped it would be something different.

"Wrenstar!" A soft voice broke the silent thrumming, and she turned to see her black daughter bounding up from behind her. "I forgot to tell you something this morning," Holypaw breathed, her green eyes round.

Wrenstar wanted to sigh, but she held herself to not do that. She definitely did not have time to deal with an apprentice at this current moment. "What is it, Hollypaw?" she mewed wearily.

Hollypaw was not put off by Wrenstar's uneager response: in fact, she seemed as though she was bouncing on her paws. "I have news, Wrenstar!"

News? Why didn't she tell me this earlier then? Wrenstar narrowed her eyes. "If you had news, why didn't you tell me this morning before we left, Hollypaw?"

Hollypaw was not put off: she shook her head. "Oh, no, it's not urgent news."

This made Wrenstar even more suspicious. "Tell me your news, Hollypaw, I have no time for tricks," she snapped. As soon as she said those words, she immediately regretted them, and then she wondered whether the exhaustion from the journey was getting to her, too.

Hollypaw took a deep breath. "It's about the journey... when the night of the full moon arrives, the journey will finally cease."


Chapter Eight - Leafpaw

Leafpaw scoured the edges of the herb patch, her tail twitching slightly as she started to search for the latest herb that Streamreed has assigned her to find. Frustration was starting to get to her: she'd been searching for a while, and there was still no sign of it.

I swore I heard Streamreed say that the herb was around here... I don't know why it's not. Leafpaw flicked her tail crossly. Surely Streamreed wouldn't have made her find a herb that was impossible to find?

Starting to get annoyed, Leafpaw sat down on her haunches, deciding to give up for the meantime. Thoughts were starting to drift back from last night - the half-moon.

It hadn't been the same, especially as the WillowClan medicine cats didn't turn up to the meeting. There was no vision that let the medicine cats see their far-away counterparts: nothing said by starry ancestors that indicated that they were okay. Leafpaw was worried: and as she looked up towards the sky, she prayed that WillowClan was safe.

Nothing else eventful had happened. Not even her ancestors had said anything. However, Leafpaw wasn't going to let this put her off.

Starting to feel better about herself, she rose back onto her paws and started to look for the herb once more, going around the patch once more, to triple-check that she hadn't missed anything.

Softly treading around the herb patch, Leafpaw gently sniffed a herb. Another scent caught in the background, and she swore this was the herb that she was looking for. She looked up...

...And that was when the visions began.

Before she could move or do anything, her vision rapidly darkened. Leafpaw started to panic silently. What's happening...? This only happens at half-moon gatherings, not now...!

Then, in front of her, a scene formed.

The land before her was plain and grassy, and Leafpaw could see a group of cats in the distance. A fair deal of noise was coming from them, and she watched, round-eyed, as she saw a small figure break off from the group and spring off into the distance.

Then it changed, again, to a scene just outside of a forest. A pale she-cat was tussling with a fox, a few other cats helping out behind the scenes. They were tightly in combat.

"Be safe, Tangleleap!" one of the outsiders called from around the back. "We need you."

The she-cat - Tangleleap - didn't show any sign of hearing the call. Sinking her claws into the fox, they rolled over once, twice, three times, causing some cats to scarper off further to the side. They then rolled apart, and both fox and cat laid limp on the ground, breathing shallowly, to shocked cries from the spectators watching the incident.

No, don't let her die. Leafpaw felt herself shaking slightly as her vision darkened again. She braced herself to come back to the herb patch - but no. Another unfamiliar scene came in front of her eyes - apparently, these visions were not done with her yet.

The area around Leafpaw was tinted silver by the full moon. It seemed familiar, it seemed, as she sighted the dark shape up in the distance. Then, she realized, it was indeed familiar.

It's the Great Oak! Leafpaw thought, as she heard the thrumming of pawsteps. Nearby, a group of cats had pulled up near her, but it was too dark to see their pelts properly. Their leader's tail was raised in interest. "Is this the place?"

There were a few murmurs in response, but Leafpaw barely acknowledged them. In fact, they were getting quieter, her vision darkening at the same time. Is it over?

She was welcomed when it brightened up again, and she found herself outside the herb patch once more. Sniffing the air, she - finally - could scent the herb she was looking for properly. However, before she had time to move, she swore she felt a soft whisper in her ear:

"When the full moon rises, the return of the Clans beckons."


Chapter Nine - Soarpaw

It was as if Soarpaw was back on her paws, trying to scour through the unfamiliar territory with her Clan. The pale-furred she-cat was exhausted, but determination to find a home drove her on, as it did the rest of her Clan.

Part of her told Soarpaw that she'd been travelling for moons. In reality, however, it was more like a quarter-moon - a few days more than that, to precise. She was sick if the travelling, having for her Clan to drive their weary pawsteps through all of this.

They'd already lost Tangleleap. Soarpaw could only hope that she was the only cat that WillowClan would lose. The journey was tough enough, and death made it worse.

Looking up, the medicine cat apprentice expected to see her Clan in front of her - but they weren't there. Wildly, the young she-cat spun around in a circle, her breath quickening as she realized that she was alone. What?

She was trying so hard not to panic. The rest of the Clan was there a minute ago... where have they gone?

"Soarpaw! Soarpaw, we don't have time for this, get up."

Suddenly, Soarpaw was sucked out of her dream, and plunged back in reality. Blinking open her eyes, she peered up to see two apprentices peering up at her - both dark gray, both looking at her with unflinching gazes. "Meadowcloud says you have to get up," one of them mewed: the one that was on Soarpaw's left. "Sorry."

Rising onto her paws, the ginger cat stretched. "Thanks, Yellowpaw, for telling me," she mewed, causing the amber-eyed cat to nod in reply and turn to her brother.

"Ripplepaw, mind telling our medicine cat that her apprentice is coming?"

Yellowpaw's brother looked slightly miffed at his sister ordering him around. Ripplepaw's striped fur rose slightly at the order, but he obeyed regardless. "Yes, Yellowstar," he huffed as he padded off.

Quietly, Soarpaw watched as Ripplepaw padded off. Wow, he's got bees in his fur. Shrugging, the pale tabby licked down a tuft of fur on her shoulder, half-listening to Yellowpaw, who was apologizing about her brother.

"...he's just really annoyed that Wrenstar hasn't given him his warrior name yet, he really wants it," the dark-furred she-cat mewed, finishing her short speech before turning to the younger cat. "C'mon, Soarpaw, I think Meadowcloud'll be expecting you."

"Yeah, I'd better," Soarpaw muttered. "Where is she?"

Yellowpaw flicked her bushy tail. "She's floating around that rock on the other side of this small clearing," she mewed casually. In response, Soarpaw took a couple of steps in that direction, craning her head: she caught a glimpse of her mentor talking to Splashstrike, a concerned Aspendusk beside her.

"Cool, thanks" Soarpaw replied, heading over in that direction as she avoided a few warriors talking about stuff. Trying to avoid a few pine needles that were littered over the small clearing - they were in a pine clearing at the moment, and it wasn't fun - she made her way over to Meadowcloud, who was just finishing talking to the two cats.

"...just don't overexert yourself in the meantime, Splashstrike, and you'll be fine." After this, the medicine cat turned to Soarpaw, her eyes bright. "Good, you're here. We've got another long day ahead."

"Yes, Meadowcloud." Soarpaw tried to hide her weariness, but she knew from how she'd spoken that some of that had come through. She just wanted this to be over with.

Soarpaw was sick and tired of travelling, having to move all the time. She wanted all this to end.

All I want is for all of this... to be over.


Chapter Ten - Wrenstar

Wrenstar could not deny the fact that this was the hardest thing that she'd had to do in her lifetime.

Yeah, sure, her life had been far from perfect. Life had been like that since she was born, far away from where she was now. It had been tough enough finding the truth out about her parents, about her siblings; and also losing Soaringstar at a time when she needed him the most.

But this... this was one thing that never crossed her mind in the slightest. She'd never thought about leaving the willows... ever. She'd always been around the willows, until her Clan was forced to leave. She knew that her Clanmates had thought the same thing, too.

She'd seen a lot in the journey. However, Wrenstar knew that she wanted the journey to end.

That morning, she'd been the first of the cats to rise: every cat was even more exhausted than the days before, so they were resting. The sky was slowly coming alight with the new day, and seeing the colours made the dark tabby smile. A new day... maybe today will be the day?

It had been nearly a half-moon, she was sure of that. The moon, as it had ascended into the sky the night before, looked as though it was nearly full. The Gathering would need to take place soon, and Wrenstar knew that: the one thing that worried her about that, though, was finding a place to hold it.

I'm sure StarClan will let us hold the Gathering anywhere, if we're still travelling. They will understand. Wrenstar tried to comfort herself, but it wasn't helping. Sighing, she turned back, looking at her cats: Dewfrost had awoken and was appearing to organize some warriors for the new day. Wrenstar nodded to herself as she watched the dark gray deputy - she needed to get her cats moving as soon as possible. After all, the sooner they headed off, the sooner they'd reach their destination... right?

Knowing that she'd need to help out, Wrenstar rose onto her paws and padded back to her Clan, of which most were still sleeping. The dark tabby she-cat paused at the edge of the group, gaze sweeping over them. Her Clanmates looked exhausted - all of them, from the strongest warrior to the weakest elder. She just knew that they wanted the journey to be over too.

She then went and joined Dewfrost himself, as he sent out an early morning hunting patrol consisting of Finchsong, Yellowpaw, Hareswift, Ambersun, and Wolfpaw. The five cats departed slowly, Finchsong leading the way as the black, ginger, and white cat led them across the unfamiliar moor that they were currently navigating.

"The warriors are exhausted," Wrenstar remarked, as she joined her dark gray brother.

Dewfrost nodded. "Aren't we all, Wrenstar?" he mewed, a hint of a purr to his voice. His yellow eyes then darkened slightly. "Yeah, they are... they want this journey to be over with already. It takes them some encouragement to keep moving now." He sniffed slightly at this. "They were more eager at the beginning."

"Probably before they realized how hard travelling was," Wrenstar replied, shaking her dark head. "I thought the same thing... I never thought it would be like this at all..."

"No cat did." Dewfrost spoke softly to his sister, his eyes wide. "Every cat thought it would be easy." The gray cat paused, his expression hinting that he wasn't sure what to say next. "...Let's hope it will finish soon. I don't how much longer we can last... and I know that some cats won't be able to cope."

Wrenstar nodded in agreement. The sole elder, Smallspeck, hadn't taken the journey well. Neither, in the previous few days, had Splashstrike: Wrenstar knew that the warrior was fragile enough, but wasn't coping well. "Yeah."

She could only hope that Dewfrost was right. There was no way, Wrenstar knew, that they could find out how long this journey would be.

Oh StarClan, please let Dewfrost's words be true...


Chapter Eleven - Hollypaw

On yet another day of the journey, dusk was falling. As WillowClan climbed yet another rise - despite being one that didn't have a steep gradient - Hollypaw swore her legs were shaking because of how exhausted she was. This journey had taken a toll on her.

Once, she thought that it would be fun. It turned out to be the exact opposite. It's torturous, having to find a new home, the black apprentice thought, her eyes narrowing as she looked ahead. The sun was shining right in her eyes, making it hard to see. Man, I hope that I'll never have to do a journey like this again...

"We're going to push on for a little longer," a voice called from the front. Wrenstar, Hollypaw thought, making a groaning noise at the comment. Ugh, great, can't we stop now? She wasn't the only cat to disagree - she could hear Lightningsky and Nightfleck muttering about why they had to continue.

"I want to see if these... scents will help us," the dark tabby she-cat went on at the front, and immediately there were a few ears pricked in interest.

...Fair enough, I guess.

A few hours ago, the Clan had managed to pick up cat scents. Sure, they'd picked up a few of them as the journey went by - but they'd only a few cats at the time, or one alone. No, these scents had caught WillowClan's attention because it smelt like it was from many cats, like themselves. To add to that, there was not one, but two groups - at this point, they were following the two different scentlines, which were heading in the same direction.

Hollypaw was trying her best to ignore the scents. She really did not want to smell them right now. Frankly, she thought that they smelt disgusting.

All of a sudden, Hollypaw felt herself crash into something. In surprise, the apprentice leapt back, only to see a rather annoyed Ripplepaw looking at her. "Y'know, you might want to look where you're going," the gray apprentice mewed.

"S-sorry," Hollypaw stammered, feeling slightly embarrassed. She then paused, looking around - it appeared the whole Clan had stopped, for some reason. Being one of the smaller cats in the Clan because of her age, she craned her neck to try and se what was going on, but to no avail. "R-Ripplepaw, why have we stopped?"

Ripplepaw, meanwhile, had grown into a large cat - therefore, he could see over quite a few cats in the crowd. His tail flicked. "Pad over a few pawsteps to the left, Hollypaw, and looked in a forwardly-westerly direction." He sounded unsure of his words, and at this he ducked his head in embarrassment. "Bleh, I'm not a master for words... but yeah, it explains why."

Suddenly slightly curious, Hollypaw listened to her Clanmate's instructions. Moving a few steps to the left so that she was on the very edge of the group, she peered forward. In the distance, in the fading light, she swore she could see... something moving in the distance.

Could that be...?

A few of her other Clanmates voiced what Hollypaw was thinking. "Maybe that's the group in that territory," Newtfoot mewed, the black-speckled she-cat's eyes wide. "It could easily be something else, though."

"Well, I think it's that group," Ambersun added confidently from nearby. "I'm not sure what else it could be... it better not be predators, if it's not cats." The ginger warrior shuddered at the thought.

Hollypaw couldn't help but admit that the Clan was still nervous about predators - Tangleleap's death would have started this. However, in all honesty, she wished that her Cnamates wouldn't worry. If I was Wrenstar, I'd tell them to calm down. We won't let another cat be lost.

"We're going to follow the direction of the group," Wrenstar called from the front of the clowder again. "Come on: we do not have time to mess around." This was met with groans from cats, including Hollypaw herself. Can't we stop for the night!? her thoughts said, but in reality she knew that it could be a good idea.

What if it means -

As they started to move again, Hollypaw's gaze was caught by a round silver orb rising into the sky. As she did so, words echoed in her mind, words that she'd forgotten about for a while: When the night of the full moon arrives, the journey will finally cease. Breath catching as she thought it, she stared at the moon again as a wave of realization hit her.

Suddenly, she knew how long the journey had left... and it was less than what she'd thought it would be.


Chapter Twelve - Leafpaw

Leafpaw's heart thudded as she padded with her Clan, as they arrived at the Gathering. From looking over the crowd, she knew that CloudClan was the last to arrive: as she swore she could three small silhouettes milling around the foot of the Great Oak.

Pausing as she reached the bottom of the shallow dip that the Gathering was held, the white she-cat watched as some of her Clanmates drifted past her. Thornstar let his Clan to mingle with the others before he went to join Fernstar, Sharpstar and Rockstar at the Great Oak's foot; while Aspenroot, the deputy, trotted off as well, gray tabby fur bushed out for no reason. The warrior spread out in the area: Leafpaw could see Flashpelt and Sharpfrost starting up a conversation with two CurrentClan warriors.

"Leafpaw, stop dawdling, we need to meet up with the other medicine cats."

Jumping slightly, Leafpaw turned to see her mentor giving her a stern look. "We can't wait around all day," Streamreed mewed firmly, her amber eyes narrowed.

"Sorry, Streamreed." In apology, Leafpaw dipped her head, before joining the gray she-cat.

The medicine cats sat together in a group on the edge of the clearing, to the right of the Great Oak. First, they passed by the front of the Great Oak: as they passed, Leafpaw saw Sharpstar, HollowClan's leader, leaping up into the Great Oak. The Gathering must be starting soon, the medicine cat apprentice realized, before turning away from the leaders.

Soon after, they reached their fellow medicine cats. In greeting, Leafpaw waved her tail, while Streamreed exchanged some quick words with each of them. However, there was no time to do anything more than that: Rockstar had called the start of the Gathering, and now they were forced to be quiet.

"Welcome to this moon's Gathering," the gray leader mewed, casting a look at the full moon before continuing: "I will start. CurrentClan has had a prosperous moon - we've had lots of prey, and one of our queens has just given birth to three kits, which we are thankful for. We have no new warriors or apprentices, but we look forward to getting some new ones of these in the next moon. Other than that, we have nothing else to report."

There were a few murmurs at the announcement of new kits, but most cats stayed silent. After Rockstar came Fernstar - who also didn't have much to report, apart from two new apprentices - and then Sharpstar, who said had HollowClan had nothing to report at all.

What an uninteresting Gathering, Leafpaw thought, as Thornstar stepped forward to give his report.

"CloudClan hasn't had to deal with much this moon. We are pleased to report that Shinestrike has given birth to two tom-kits - Tallkit and Longkit - and that both her and the kits are doing well." A few murmurs of congratulations happened at this, like what happened with the CurrentClan queen's kits. "Apart from that, we have nothing else to report."

Thornstar stepped back, causing Fernstar to call into the crowd of cats: "Is that everything?" When every cat fell silent, not replying, she then sighed. "Well then, if that is so... the Gathering is -"

"Wait, wait!" A loud yowl came from the back of the crowd, and the crowd parted to see a LeafClan warrior, looking startled as he looked to his left. "Look over there, guys... we're not alone."

A few cats looked in the direction the cat was looking at, and a few hisses were heard. The leaders had started leaping off the Great Oak in a swift manner, parting the crowd as they went to see what was going.

Leafpaw dared herself to look at what had set the cats off, and she was surprised to see what it was. A large group of what appeared to be cats had appeared at the upper part of the dip - a large group, too. A dark-furred cat stood at its helm, looking prideful but exhausted at the same time.

"Who," Thornstar yowled, hissing from the bottom of the dip. "are you? Name yourself, and who this group is."

The cat at the head of the group seemed unusually calm, but the rest of the group seemed slightly tense. Her words were calm, collected, and Leafpaw couldn't deny that she was surprised at her reply.

"My name is Wrenstar," the cat mewed, "and this is my Clan, WillowClan... we're looking for a home."


The End.


Author's Note

...I'm not going to deny the fact that this book took me a long time to finish, haha... but it's finally done, after over two years as a work in progress. :P (but then again, Half and Half: The Dark Forest Returns took me slightly longer to write, hehe.) I think it was as a result of the difficult situation(s) WillowClan happened to be in throughout this book... so I was often unsure how to put it in words.

...I promise the next book (the last in the arc!) won't take as long, especially bc I have ideas for that one :D

So yeah, Returning Willows will be succeeding this, and yeah I'll try and make it good haha

Thanks for reading, and constructive criticism is appreciated c;

Until next time,

so look out down below

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