The scene they re-entered on wasn’t exactly pretty. Lots of mutes shouting and booing at each other, though no outright violence yet. Fitness Raccoon Carton was arguing with Scooter Skunk Loretta over which decade their attire came from, and the Glam Rock Hamster rep was wearing down his teeth on the table leg.
Nevertheless, Kipo cleared her throat and walked over to her place at the table. She climbed up, stood on the chair, and coughed louder, this time putting just a hint of a jaguar growl behind it. The bickering stopped and everyone turned to her. Her friends (assuming Scarlemagne counted as a friend now), quietly took their places while she passionately raised her arms.
“Everyone, please calm down! No one said building this city was going to be easy! In fact, it’s probably going to be really, really, really hard!”
Scarlemagne leaned towards Benson. “Is she about to make a speech?”
“She is one hundred percent about to make a speech,” Benson agreed.
“What we’re trying to do here has never been done before!” Kipo went on, gesturing dramatically at the walls around them. “Mutes from every walk of life coming together to live in one place? It sounds like it’s just setting up for everyone to argue with each other. But maybe we can overcome all that. Maybe what this place needs is a little bit of everything.”
“You keep saying every like it really important,” Molly muttered. “Make your point.”
“Right. Point making. See, I’m thinking rather than one giant city, we build a place with neighborhoods for each group. A cluster of homes away from your homes. Oh, also, I move to rename the city Aurumah.”
“Excuse me?” Scarlemagne asked, turning his full attention back to her when he’d been previously inspecting his fingernails.
“You can’t just give a thing a fancy-sounding name and go with it,” said Kipo. “It has to mean something! Aurum stands for All Us Royally United Mutes. But I want to add ‘And Humans,’ so that would make it Aurumah.”
“I did not just pick a fancy name at random. Furthermore…no one, and I repeat no one agreed we’re letting humans stay here.”
Good Billions raised a paw. “I do respect your clever acronym,” he allowed. “I would vote to accept this name without the humans part.”
“Yet,” Yumyan added on.
“‘Yet?” Bad Billions crossed his arms. “You think she’s going to bring humans in here and we’re going to agree to it?”
“I have serious doubts on that,” Yumyam allowed. “But she’s also Kipo. Weird things happen with her.”
“Oo, seconding!” Carton called out, once again raising both paws in the event it somehow gave her double the votes. “Weird stuff with Kipo is definitely a thing.”
Wolf, who had been especially quiet throughout this whole exchange, calmly raised her hand. “There’s something else we all have to think about. Dr. Emilia is still out there.”
“Who’s that?” asked the Hummingbomber rep.
For this, Scarlemagne chose to fill in the details. “She’s an unrelenting human villain,” he began, folding his hands as his voice lowered. “Her goal is the very antithesis of our own. She imprisoned me as a child, forcing me to generate exorbitant amounts of my puppet pheromones for use in her nefarious plots!”
Few of the mutes at the table seemed to understand a word Scarlemagne had just said, and the ones that did (namely the Newton Wolves) showed no particular sympathy.
“Also, she made my mom, aka the mega monkey, steal the scratching tree,” Kipo added on.
Yumyan and Molly raised their axes. “Emilia must be defeated!” Their battle cry spurned the other mutes at the table into heated talks once again, which only subsided when Kipo gave another growl–not really disguised as clearing her throat this time–and announced that given the long day, they should set up sleeping arrangements for everyone who wanted to spend the night in Scarlemagne’s palace. Any hesitancy was quickly dissipated when Benson volunteered to make pancakes for the evening meal.
Scarlemagne, for his part, exited the room with Kipo and Wolf beside him. He did not seem particularly happy.
“Well, that was a disaster,” he muttered.
Wolf offered no objections, but Kipo looked confused. “What are you talking about? I think it all went pretty well.”
“Are you serious?” Scarlemagne asked. “We just spent two hours in a meeting, and all we really agreed on was an acronym!”
“Actually, you’d be impressed with how long that can take,” Benson said.
“Oo, absolutely!” Kipo added, positive as ever. “I was on the debate team in school, and once, we spent a whole practice session deciding if we should wear black shirts or navy shirts. I’m pretty sure they were all the same shirts.”
“You’ve only really managed to convince me you have no business holding a leadership position of any kind.”
Before Kipo could come up with another overly optimistic sentiment to argue his point, Yumyam and Molly came up behind them. Wolf might have said they were trying to look stealthy, but since nothing Yumyan did was the least bit stealthy, it was hard to tell.
“Erm, not to bother you while you’re in your royal debate here or anything…” Yumyam began.
“…but we need to know what you want done with these guys,” Molly finished.
“Huh?” Kipo and her group paused as the two Timbercats revealed Asher, Dahlia, and Troy hiding in their tails. Wolf glanced between everyone’s awkward expressions and assumed the three humans had probably not asked before hitching a ride. Dahlia scratched the back of her nack while Troy and Dahlia did their best to brush the excessive cat hair off their clothes.
“We could tell the mutes we need…three more human representatives?” Benson offered weakly.
“Completely unnecessary.” Scarlemagne rolled his eyes and waved his hands. “Just let them stay with the other humans. It’ll all be fine.”
“Other humans? You mean you have more volunteers besides that woman we saw earlier?” Kipo asked.
“No, I mean the large group of former human nobles, combined with the large group of humans from your burrow. Those other humans.”
“Oh. My mom’s probably helped them all get to the forest by now,” Kipo said thoughtfully.
For a moment, Scarlemagne stared in silence at her. One could only wonder what was going through his mind as his eye twitched, his fists tightened and relaxed, and a low growl rose in his throat. “You let all the humans go?” he whispered.
If Kipo noticed the barely-concealed rage in his voice, she ignored it completely. “Well, yeah. What else was I supposed to do? I couldn’t keep them here, and I’m pretty sure you didn’t want them all flooding into the gramp foyer or whatever you call it.”
Scarlemagne gritted his teeth and tried to massage his forehead, though it looked more like he was about to rip his fur out. He continued in his furious whisper, “Did it occur to you, even for a moment, that a group of humans I’d been previously mind-controlling might, just possibly, be exactly the army Emilia needs to oppose us?”
Kipo’s eyes widened, and her already magenta face flushed with embarrassment. “Oops.”
“Hey!” Dave came running down the hall to join the group. Wolf felt only slightly guilty she hadn’t noticed he wasn’t with them earlier. The bug caught his breath before pointing down the hallway he’d just come running through. “You guys promised a large group of mutes a nice dinner, and if we don’t get it to them fast, we’re going to be the nice dinner. So let’s get to work here!” He turned to Scarlemagne. “Also, I don’t suppose you’ll give back Kipo’s anchor yet?”
“No,” Scarlemagne said flatly.
“Yeah, didn’t think so.”
The exchange seemed to confuse Dahlia, who nevertheless took the parts she did understand–namely that Scarlemagne had something of Kipo’s and wasn’t returning it–and marched up to him, her fist slightly raised, as if holding an ax she didn’t actually have. “Listen, you. If you mess with one person from our burrow, you mess with everyone from our burrow, and you’ve messed with a lot of our…burrow!” She thrust her hand forward, noted the lack of an ax in her possession, and jabbed an angry finger at Scarlemagne’s face instead.
“Okay, everyone needs to stay calm!” Kipo announced, stepping in between them. “Let’s deal with this one step at a time, okay? Scarlemagne–you, me, and Wolf will come up with a plan for Emilia. Dahlia and Asher, start getting some table settings out so it looks like we’re almost ready to eat, even though we definitely aren’t. Troy, Dave, and Benson–” She gave the three of them a very serious look. “I dub you…the Pancake-Making Trio. Now, let’s move it, people! Erm, and mutes. Mutes and people! Everyone, go do all the stuff I just said, okay?”
And, impressively, everyone did.