Chapter 31 : Afternoon
Jumping back and away from the now shimmering mantis, Mica tossed the empty bottle aside as a wide, excited smile spread across her face.
This glow coming from the mantis began to quickly build up on itself until the whole area was awash with the bright golden light.
The watching spectators were all forced to squint as the mantis began to slowly rise back up to her feet. Looking all the world like a being made out of pure light now, it was impossible for anyone to see any of the mantis’ details. But as they watched, mesmerized by the sight, waves of white light began to ripple across her body and as each one of these waves passed over her, new sections of her body began to appear as her missing pieces were seemingly recreated out of the light itself.
For her part, the mantis remained completely silent and still as her mangled body was rebuilt anew.
“…So, was this really the smart thing to do?” muttered Fiona.
“The smart thing to do? No, probably not.” responded Anton as his grin widened “Now was it the right thing to do? …Absolutely!”
As the light rippling across the mantis seemed to reach a crescendo, the glow that encased her began to break apart into silent little explosions that left a shimmering cloud of light particles floating in the air all around her. And as these sparkling lights faded away into nothing, the fully healed mantis finally came into view.
Standing motionless with her eyes shut, the mantis’ entire being now appeared clean and refreshed as all the grime and dirt, as well as every cut and bruise that had adorned her body merely moments ago, had all been erased away by the healing light of the potion.
Although this rejuvenated state made her an impressive sight in of itself, what stood out the most to the onlookers around her, were the parts of her that were new. Most noticeable of which, was her second pair of arms.
These new arms were far thinner and much more spindly than her original set. And they did not branch out from her shoulders in the more traditional way, but were instead mounted to the back of her hips. Circling forward around her waist, these arms were like the mantis’ legs in that they were made up of chitin encased sections. They both ended in five fingered, heavily segmented hands.
New hands also now existed at the ends of her traditional arms as well, just before the hinged portion that allowed her scythes to swing forward.
The small, strange nodes that had covered the lower portion of her broad forearms as well as some of the chitinous plates scattered about her body, had each been replaced with a sharpened, spike-like point, and this left her arms, and the more armored areas of her body, now sporting a formidable looking layer of protective spines.
The two odd bulges attached to the sides of the mantis’ head were no longer in their heavily damaged state. And rather than being the dark, ugly brownish color they were before, they were instead a bright, beautiful, fuchsia pink in color. In between these bulges, a pair of thin, wispy, insectoid antennae rose up out of the mantis’ now much brighter, lilac colored hair.
The last of the obvious changes, was a pair of long, subtle, cape-like structures which flowed down from the mantis’ shoulders and covered her back before trailing down her tail-like abdomen.
“Oh wow… She’s beautiful…” breathed Kianna “…She looks like a flower.”
“Yeah, a deadly flower.” mumbled Fiona.
“Yes… You’re both right.” nodded Anton.
Pleased with the sight of her new and improved opponent, Mica nodded her head in approval as she looked the mantis up and down.
“Well, you’re looking a Hell of a lot better now!” she exclaimed as she gleefully unsheathed her daggers “So you ready to get this started again?”
Without a sound, the mantis flicked her antennae forwards and proceeded to slowly wave them back and forth a few times before whisking them back over her head.
After another second of stillness, she opened her eyes and stared straight at Mica.
Smiling in anticipation, the kiochi lowered herself into a stance as she pointed both of her daggers at the mantis.
Seemingly unfazed by this challenge, the mantis shifted slightly to the side and dropped her gaze down to the side of her chest.
Blinking, Mica creased her brow in suspicion as a thin, sharpen piece of metal suddenly pierced through the mantis’ skin, just below her last rib. As the kiochi watched, a metal spike was slowly driven out of the side of the mantis, and as it finally exited completely, the wound it left behind was instantly closed up by the last flash of golden light from the potion.
Catching the piece of metal before it fell to the floor, the mantis held it in the palm of her hand as she silently examined it.
“What the Hell was that?” asked Fiona as her ears pointed themselves straight upwards “Did something just pop out of her!?”
“It looks like it.” nodded Anton.
“What is that thing?” questioned Kianna.
“Well, if I had to guess. I’d say it’s probably a mana displacer.” said Anton.
“What’s that?” asked Kianna “Is it like a manabinder?”
“Something like that, yes. Though it’s a little more permanent than a manabinder.” said Anton “You see, while a manabinder channels a beings mana back in on itself, a mana displacer sort of does the opposite. It displaces a beings mana and sends it flowing out into the environment around it. In this way a persons mana isn’t just cut off from them, but completely siphoned away. And unlike a manabinder, a mana displacer is not so easily burned out. Acting as a mere channel, mana can flow through one almost indefinitely. And in that way they’re more permanent than a manabinder.”
“…Oh. So, how did one of those things get inside the mantis?” asked Kianna “Did she eat it?”
“No. Someone either stabbed her with it, or it was implanted in her surgically.” said Anton.
“Ew! That’s gruesome…” grumbled Fiona.
Pointing her ears straight back, Kianna’s face twisted in anger as she turned and glared at Leopold.
“Don’t look at me.” said Leopold calmly as he kept his eyes on Mica and the mantis “I didn’t do that.”
“Well someone did!” growled Kianna.
“Yes… Someone clearly did not want that mantis to be able to use her mana.” said Leopold as a thin smile spread across his face “Looks like that issue has been fixed though.”
“Yes, it has.” nodded Anton “And now not only does that mantis have access to her mana again, but she has a potentially useful weapon as well…”
“Oh, fuck that! That’s gross!” exclaimed Fiona before placing her open hands on either side of her mouth and calling out loudly “Hey, Mica! Don’t let that bug stab you with that thing! It’ll take away your mana!”
Both Mica and the mantis turned to her in unison as she spoke.
“Hey! Stop that!” cried Nokko “You’re not allowed to help her!”
“Fuck you. I’ll do whatever I want.” sassed Fiona as she dismissively waved her pointed middle finger at the fuming kiochi.
“Oh really… Thanks for the heads up.” said Mica as she turned back to the mantis “Yeah, good luck sticking that thing in me!”
Shifting her gaze to her, the mantis stared at the kiochi for a moment before looking back down at the shard of metal in her hand. Without a sound, she turned to face away from everyone and rolling her arm back, she threw the mana displacer as hard as she could.
Mica’s eyes followed the metal shard as it sailed out over the open field and quickly disappeared from sight.
“…Uh? Okay?” she said as she brought her eyes back to the mantis “Did you not understand what that thing could do?”
Seemingly ignoring her, the mantis was now focused on staring at her new hand.
“…Yo! Hey! Don’t think that I don’t get that you’re happy to have hands again, I do!” said Mica as she readied her daggers “But we’ve got a fight to get back to. And if you don’t mind, I’d like to get started now.”
Turning only her head, the mantis looked over at the kiochi and gazed at her with her same blank stare.
“…C’mon then!” said Mica as she pointed her dagger straight at the mantis’ face “Show me what you can do!”
Mica blinked as the mantis’ form seemed to fade a bit as her outline became slightly distorted. The kiochi’s breath got caught in her throat as she registered that within a split seconds time, the mantis had fully crossed the distance between them, and was now standing right next to her.
“…You-!” was all Mica could say before the mantis slugged her right in the jaw.
Dazed and staggering, the kiochi went still for a moment as she collected herself. When she came back to her senses, she realized that the mantis was now standing back in the same exact spot she had been in before and was currently busy gazing at her hands as she slowly opened and closed them.
“Well then…” chuckled Anton “This isn’t looking good for Mica…”
“What the fuck just happened!?” cried Fiona as she pointed from the mantis to Mica and back “The bug was there, then there, then there again! Like instantly! …Did she just teleport!?”
“No. She’s not teleporting.” said Anton “It looks like she can blitz.”
“Blitz?” questioned Kianna.
“Yes. Functionally blitzing is like a soft form of teleportation, but mechanically the two abilities are completely different.” said Anton “When someone teleports what they’re doing is slipping out of reality and traveling through the Void before popping back into a different point in reality. This whole process can be preformed more or less instantaneously. Blitzing however, is what happens when someone infuses themselves with mana and splits themselves apart. Reduced to an immaterial mass, the two halves of this person can not only both move incredibly quickly, but can even exist in two different places at one time. This allows someone to launch one half of themselves forward and then either repeat the process to move forward again, or, alternatively, they could rubber-band themselves back to where they left the other half of their body. This process is so fast that it can be difficult to track with the naked eye.”
“…So, you’re saying that by splitting in half, that bug can move so fast that we can’t even see her?” questioned Fiona.
“Yes, exactly.” nodded Anton.
“…So, then the bug could just slice Mica’s head right off and Mica wouldn’t even know what happened!?” exclaimed Fiona.
“Well, the mantis would still have to pause for a moment to rematerialize.” said Anton “But this could happen fast enough to more or less be exactly what you’re talking about, yes.”
“…So is Mica’s fucked!?” asked Kianna.
“More than likely.” said Anton.
“Well this just got a lot more interesting.” chuckled Nokko.
“Fuck you, bitch! This isn’t over yet!” exclaimed Fiona as she pointed her finger at Nokko “You keep talking shit over there and I’m gonna shove your tail up your ass, spade first!”
“Heh, like to see you try that.” mocked Nokko.
“No you wouldn’t.” said Fiona.
“Enough! Save your squabbling for after the fight.” said Leopold “We need to pay attention here, we don’t want to miss this.”
Back on the battlefield, Mica had recomposed herself and now a bit more cautious of her opponent, was ready to continue the fight.
“Okay. Cool trick.” she mumbled “But I can do that too.”
Breaking into a run, Mica raced straight at the preoccupied mantis before disappearing from sight. An instant later she reappeared in the air right in front of her adversary and slammed down at her with both of her daggers. Apparently anticipating this, the mantis blocked her attack by catching and holding the kiochi’s wrists and the two now locked combatants found themselves pushing back against each other.
Grinning, Mica went to utilize her tail against the mantis but before she could do this the mantis reached up and grabbed the sides of her head with her newly regrown middle arms. The next instant found the mantis pulling downwards and slamming a surprised Mica’s head into her bent knee face first.
Dazed by the attack, Mica went to stagger back but before she could even take a step the mantis delivered four quick blows into her torso with her middle arms and then leaned back to stand on one leg and give the kiochi a swift kick right into her stomach with the other.
Bent in half as she was sent flying backwards, Mica tumbled and rolled as she made a hard landfall. She came to a stop in a crumbled heap as the mantis went back to casually examining the hands on her new limbs.
“Oh! …Ouch.” mumbled both of the dark elves as they watched Mica tentatively regain her feet.
Furious now, the kiochi immediately made another run right at the mantis, and at the last second before reaching her mark, she disappeared again and reappeared up in the air behind her seemingly oblivious opponent.
Everything seemed to be moving in slow motion as Mica’s gathered momentum allowed her to sail at speed straight at the back of the mantis’ head. The kiochi’s gleeful smile became strained though, as she watched the two large bulges on the sides of the mantis’ head shift a bit as a dark spot within each of their depths spun around and seemed to become focused on her. Memory coming into play here, Mica was immediately taken back to the time she had experienced a similar situation with Mokai, and her chest tighten as a realization came into her mind.
Those bulges were actually eyes, and she had just been spotted.
Making to teleport away, Mica’s response came too slow and before she could escape the mantis had turned around and grabbed her outstretched leg with all four of her hands.
“No!” cried Mica as the mantis yanked her forward over her shoulder and slammed the kiochi into the ground.
Bouncing off the ground with a pained grunt, Mica found herself suddenly flying through the air again as the mantis grabbed hold of her tail and began to swing her around by it. Letting go after a few spins the mantis flung the kiochi off to the side and went still as she watched Mica fall to roll head over heels through the tall grass.
Everything was quiet for a second before an angry scream echoed out over the open prairie.
Throwing bits of grass and debris off of herself, Mica got to her feet and brandished her daggers and bladed spade at the mantis.
“Bitch!” she hissed as her fury emanated out around her “I am gonna cut you to ribbons!”
Though her mouth never actually moved, the mantis smiled with her eyes as she raised the hands on her main arms and showed her opened palms to Mica.
Unsure of what was meant by this, Mica hesitated and then took a quick step back as a white glow began to form around the mantis’ hands.
“Uh oh.” mumbled Anton “This doesn’t look good…”
“What? What is she doing now!?” asked Kianna.
“She’s casting a spell…” said Anton as his face went grim.
As the glow around the mantis’ hands grew into a full on white light, she dropped her arms down and let her scythes swing forward to lock in place before wrapping a glowing hand around the base of each scythe. The glow quickly spread across both weapons before a blinding flash caused everyone to look away.
Blinking the lights from her eyes, Mica turned back to the mantis and immediately stopped short.
From one instant to the next the mantis’ scythes had doubled in length and taken on a metallic shine as they now appeared to be made of sharpened steel.
Taken aback, Mica stood completely frozen as the mantis began to twirl in a controlled series of attacks which effortlessly sliced away at the tall grass around her. With the sunlight glinting off of her now scimitar-like blades, the mantis finished her dance-like display by dropping into a stance in the center of the mowed circle she had just created and smugly brandishing said blades at Mica.
“…Okay. You know what! Fuck you!” said Mica as she pointed her raised middle finger at the mantis.
Without a sound, the mantis sprung forward.
“Crap!” cried Mica as she jumped back to try and evade the quickly advancing mantis.
“Did you know she could do that?” asked Anton as he turned to Leopold.
“I did not.” said Leopold as he watched a profanity shouting Mica frantically try to keep her distance by teleporting away from the blitzing mantis.
“Do you even know anything about this mantis at all?” asked Kianna as an increasingly frustrated Mica threw one of her daggers at the mantis.
“Can’t say that I do, actually.” said Leopold as he watched the mantis swipe the flying dagger away.
“Where did you even find her?” asked Fiona as the mantis finally caught up to the kiochi and with a single strike, knocked her other dagger out of her hand.
“I let an associate of mine know that I was in the market for a combatant that met certain criteria, and this mantis is what he provided me with.” said Leopold as Mica dodged the mantis’ blows and tried to reclaim her weapon by teleporting and sprinting over to where she had dropped her dagger, only to be chased away from it by the pursuing mantis.
“Hm. Interesting…” nodded Anton as he watched a now desperate Mica teleport straight up into the air.
“Ha! Bitch!” taunted Mica as she teleported upwards again and again “Let’s see if you can jump this high!”
Staring straight up at her, the mantis tucked her arms and scythes in tight against her torso, bent her knees and lowered herself down before springing straight upwards and launching herself at the kiochi.
Mica started laughing gleefully as despite her impressive leap, the mantis was obviously not going to make it high enough to reach her. Her laughing stopped short when the cape-like structures trailing down the mantis’ back split down their middle and shot out to her sides. The confused kiochi blinked as next, two massive, heavily veined, insectoid wings spread themselves out wide on either side of the mantis’ shoulders and then disappeared from sight as a loud, angry buzz filled the air.
“Oh, dammit to Hell!” cried Mica as her eyes widen in fear “This bitch can fly!?”
The spectators on the ground remained silent as they all tilted their heads back in unison and followed the two combatants as they rose higher and higher into the air.
Once Mica and the mantis were little more than two black dots in the sky, it became hard for anyone to determine exactly what was happening, but it appeared that Mica had attempted to escape the mantis by teleporting behind her, and this did not seem to work.
Having caught hold of Mica, the two dots had become one as they fell back towards the ground and as they got closer and closer it could be seen that the mantis was giving the kiochi quite the midair pummeling.
Diving down head first, the mantis waited till they were both just a few meters off from hitting the ground before she veered off to the side and gave Mica a resounding kick to send her flying in the opposite direction.
Avoiding a direct impact with the ground, Mica still tumbled through the dust and grass like a rag doll before finally coming to a stop. Laying face down with all her limbs askew, the kiochi groaned in misery as she stayed still for a long moment.
It was the buzzing sound of the approaching mantis’ wings which prompted Mica to finally lift her head. Looking upwards she found her opponent staring down at her with a faintly bemused look on her otherwise blank face.
Before the kiochi could even utter a single word, the mantis lifted her middle arms and tossed Mica’s weapons to her. The kiochi’s two daggers each made a distinct thunking sound as they were driven into the ground on either side of her head.
Spreading her wings back out wide, the mantis hopped backwards and sailed back about a half dozen meters before landing gracefully, folding her wings away and dropping herself down into a fighters stance.
Mica stared at her for a long moment before slowly getting to her feet and collecting her daggers.
“…So what’s this supposed to be now?” she mumbled as she eyed the mantis and took a tentative step forward “…Are you saying you’re not done humiliating me yet?”
The mantis simply remained silent and still.
“…Yeah. Okay.” said Mica as she fell into her own stance “I’m not done yet either!”
The two combatants stared each other down for a long moment before they both shot forward at the same time. A loud metallic clank rang out across the open prairie as Mica’s twin daggers met the mantis’ spell enhanced scythes. Sparks began to fly as they each unleashed a fury of fast paced blows and their slashing attacks clashed with one another.
Watching the fight intently, Anton blinked as he began to notice something telling about the mantis’ attacks. Though certainly impressive, they clearly weren’t as intense, nor as precise as they should have been. Several times now she had failed to take advantage of clear openings. And although she continued to parry and counter each of Mica’s slashes, she was also leading the kiochi on as well… In a strange way, it nearly seemed as though she were guiding her opponent on where and how to attack… Almost as if she was trying to teach the kiochi how to better fight with her…
Anton couldn’t help but to grin as at one point the mantis had a clear shot of Mica’s head. With one fell swoop she could have easily lopped the kiochi’s head clear off her shoulders but at the last second, the mantis folded her scythe back and instead punched Mica in the face. There was no question about it now, the mantis was purposely avoiding killing blows.
Turning to the side, Anton’s grin widened as he glanced at Leopold and found a look of irritation plastered across the kiogah’s face. He had clearly noticed what was happening as well.
“Well, well. Isn’t this a nice surprise.” chuckled Anton as he turned back to the fight.
“Huh? What’s a surprise?” asked Kianna as she and her sister both looked from the fight to Anton and back.
“Well, I don’t know this for sure yet…” said Anton “But it looks like Mica might have made a friend…”
Looking back and forth again, the two dark elves blinked in surprise as they both noticed that the kiochi, while certainly embroiled with her conflict, was not looking nearly as strained as she should have been, but was actually smiling as she fought.
The fight raged on for some time before it became clear that both contenders were starting to show signs of fatigue. This came to a head when Mica got a lucky strike in on the mantis with her tail. Aiming for her opponents face, the kiochi’s bladed spade sailed past the mantis’ tilted head and was just barely close enough to graze her cheek and leave a small, thin cut behind in its wake.
“Ha! Ha! Yes!” exclaimed Mica in between heaving breaths “I got you! I actually got you!”
The mantis said nothing as she rubbed at the tiny wound with a finger before bringing said digit out to the front of her face. She stared at her bloodied fingertip for a second before looking up at the kiochi and tightening her eyes in annoyance.
“…Ah, crap.” muttered Mica as the mantis blitzed into the space right in front of her.
The kiochi couldn’t even follow the movements of the mantis’ middle arms as a series of heavy blows were riddled across her head and body.
Dazed by the assault, Mica tried to take a staggering step back but instead ended up falling forward on to her knees. Shaking her head to clear her senses, she went to raise her arms but froze as the mantis rested the broad side of one of her scythes down on her shoulder.
Turning her head, Mica stared at the sharpened blade that was now poised and ready to slice her head clean off at the neck. Following the mantis’ arm back to its source, she slowly continued to tilt her head upwards until she could finally lock eyes with her adversary.
The mantis’ face was as emotionless as ever as she stared back at Mica. After a moment of stillness, she raised her other scythe and held it at the ready.
“No! Mica!” cried Kianna as she and Fiona both went to step forward.
The two dark elves both stopped short as Anton raised his hand and flared his aura.
“Wha, what are you doing!?” exclaimed Fiona as she felt the collar around her neck begin to tighten in an ominous warning “She’s gonna kill her!”
Anton’s face was stoic as he kept his eyes on what was happening out on the battlefield.
Swallowing a lump in her throat, Mica kept her eyes locked with the mantis’ alien-like orbs as she waited for the final blow to land.
Staring back at her, the mantis remained completely still as she seemed to be giving the kiochi a deep assessment.
“Mantis! End this already!” called Leopold.
Mica made a small sound as her father’s words echoed in her ears.
Turning her head, the mantis looked right at Leopold with her same blank expression.
“…You have clearly won this fight.” said Leopold as he stared back at her “Now end it.”
Slowly, the mantis turned back to Mica and gazed at her for another moment longer before lifting her scythe away from the kiochi’s shoulder.
Mica leaned back in uncertainty as the mantis took a step away from her and let her arms drop to hang at her sides.
“…Of all the ridiculous nonsense!” growled Leopold before he began to shout “Mica! Now’s your chance then! End her now!”
Blinking, Mica quickly registered that the mantis had indeed left herself completely open, but as the kiochi went to lift her daggers, she couldn’t help but to hesitate.
“…What are you waiting for!? …One of you end this already!” roared Leopold “End this now!”
Taking one deep breath after another, Mica tightened her grip on her daggers as she worked to will herself to attack. As she stared up at the waiting mantis though, she just couldn’t bring herself to do it, and so, with tears beginning to form in her eyes, she dropped her daggers to the ground.
“…I. …I can’t.” she said softly as she lowered her head “…I’m, sorry.”
“…Unbelievable!” shouted Leopold “Absolutely beyond belief!”
Gazing down at her forlorn opponent, the mantis watched her flinch at her father’s words. Turning to face Leopold, she stared at him as she continued to remain still.
“…End it. Now.” said Leopold as he glared at her “You will finished this!”
Tightening her eyes at him, the mantis took another step back from Mica as with a quick flash of light, her scythes returned to normal. Folding her weapons back into place along her arms, she turned away from everyone and leaped into the air. Blitzing forward to give herself more distance, she spread her wings back out as she made to fly away.
“…How dare you.” said Leopold as he took a metal, rune covered rod out of his pocket and aimed it at the departing mantis.
As the runes along the rod lit up, a blinding flash erupted out from the metal belt around the mantis’ waist and she reeled in midair as waves of blue colored bolts of electricity ran up and down her body. Going limp, she tumbled end over end through the air before hitting the ground with an audible thud.
Mica gasped as she watched her foe fall, and now staring at the point where she had landed, her heart sank as one of the downed mantis’ wings rose up from the ground and twitched wildly before flopping back over to the side and going still.
Everything was quiet and still for several long moments as everyone’s eyes stayed focused on where the mantis now lay.
“…This is over.” whispered Anton as he turned to the dark elves “Can you two go get Mica, please. While I watch them.”
Nodding silently, both Kianna and Fiona had pensive grimaces on their faces as they stepped past Anton and made their way to where Mica still sat staring.
Their eyes following the dark elves, the three shinoccubi remained where they stood as they watched the sisters help Mica to collect her daggers and get to her feet. Walking along on each side of the shorter woman, the dark elves kept a guarded eye on the three assassins as they led Mica back to where Anton was waiting.
“Well this has been a very disappointing day…” said Leopold as the three women came up to Anton.
“It hasn’t been without its high points.” said Ila as she nudged Leopold with her tail “Mica showed a lot of potential today. And I for one am excited to see her improve.”
“…Yes, perhaps you’re right about that, at least.” said Leopold.
Keeping her head lowered, Mica stepped behind Anton as she made an effort to avoid looking directly at her family members.
“Potential? What potential?” mocked Nokko “I don’t know what you guys were watching but I didn’t see any potential today. Just failure.”
Flinching at her sister’s words, Mica coiled her tail around herself as she wrapped her arms around her torso.
Incensed, Fiona and Kianna pointed their ears straight back as they both turned on the sneering kiochi.
“That’s enough, Nokko!” said Ila as she glared at her daughter “Your sister fought well today, and you should acknowledge that.”
“…Yeah, maybe.” mumbled Nokko as she folded her arms in defiance “She still lost though.”
“Indeed, she did…” sighed Leopold “There were no winners today…”
“No. That girl…” mumbled Mica from behind Anton “That girl won. She was the better fighter…”
“No. She didn’t.” said Leopold “That mantis may have been the more skilled combatant. But you’re still alive. So she did not win.”
“…Well I think she did.” grumbled Mica “And I think I would know, since I was the one who fought her…”
Annoyed, Leopold went to say something more but stopped short as Anton spoke first.
“I think, that this day has been long enough.” he said as he inclined his head to Leopold “We should probably all go our separate ways now.”
“…Agreed.” nodded Leopold as he eyed his daughter who had semi hidden herself behind her compatriots “Just one more order of business to finish first…”
Turning to the field, Leopold glared at the spot where the mantis had fallen and shook his head.
“What a waste of money…” he grumbled “Nokko. I’d like to put this day behind us. So go and end that miserable creature’s life, so we can be done here…”
“…Wait, she’s still alive?” questioned Nokko.
“Of course she is. That shock wasn’t nearly strong enough to actually kill her.” said Leopold “It was only meant to incapacitate her. She’ll still need to be dealt with.”
Though no one had noticed her, Mica had gone still and wide eyed as she listened to her father speak.
“Is that really necessary?” said Anton.
Turning his ire on him, Leopold narrowed his eyes as he spoke.
“That creature knew full well the choice she was making, Anton.” said Leopold “She knew exactly what was at stake.”
Anton stared at him for a moment before turning away with a grimace.
Turning away as well, Leopold nodded to Nokko and went to toss her the mantis’ control rod, but as Nokko reached out to catch the twirling rod, a second hand suddenly snatched it out from her grasp.
Having teleported in close, Mica dived through the air in between her father and sister and grabbed the rod before falling into a rolling somersault and bouncing back up to her feet.
“What!?” exclaimed both Nokko and Leopold in unison as they turned to Mica.
Spinning around to face everyone, Mica held the rod out in front of herself with both hands as her tail arced up over her head and she began to threateningly point her spade from one person to another.
“…Mica? What are you doing!?” questioned Leopold as he went to take a step forward “Give me that!”
Striking at the space in front of him with her tail, Mica took a step back before curving her tail over her head and pointing her spade straight down at the rod in her hands.
“Mica, no! Don’t do it! It’s booby trapped!” cried Ila as she made to jump at her daughter but was held back by Leopold.
“Mica!” exclaimed Fiona and Kianna as they too rushed over towards the kiochi.
Seeing everyone moving to advance against her, Mica raised her tail up high into the air before striking straight downwards and piercing her spade right through the center of the rod, splitting it in half with a single blow.
“No! Mica!” screamed Ila as a split second later the unleashed energy in the rod caused it to explode in Mica’s hands.
The wave of energy caused everyone to turn away and shield their eyes as it kicked up a cloud of dust and smoke.
Standing among the shinoccubi now, the two dark elves both went cold as the dust began to part and they could see what had become of Mica. Behind them, Ila began to cry out in despair.
The kiochi was still standing, though both of her arms, her tail and half of her head had been literally blown away to the point that now nothing but burnt flesh was left along the edges of what was left of her.
“…Mica. …No!” breathed Kianna.
As everyone watched, the ravaged kiochi took a staggering step back and began to dissolve into a cloud of shadowy smoke.
“…Wait, what!?” cried Nokko as everyone blinked in surprise at the dissipating shadow clone.
Hearing faint grunting sounds coming from far out behind them, the two dark elves pointed their ears straight upwards and whirled around to face the source.
Racing across the open field with a look of utter desperation marring her face, was Mica, the real Mica, and slung over her back was the limp form of the mantis.
The exhausted looking kiochi was carrying the mantis piggyback style and had wrapped her tail around the unconscious creature to help hold her in place as she ran as fast as she possibly could, straight towards Anton.
“…Mica?” questioned Ila and Leopold in unison.
“What is that idiot doing now?” grumbled Nokko as she made to move towards her sister.
“Fiona!” cried Kianna.
“Right!” exclaimed Fiona.
The three shinoccubi all stopped short as a large dome made of pink and neon green hexagonal plates suddenly winked into existence around them and trapped them all in place.
“Oh, c’mon! This again!?” snarled Nokko as she slammed her fist against the dome’s wall “Seriously!”
Turning on the dark elves, the kiochi paused as she found them both standing with their backs to the opposite wall of the dome and brandishing glowing light weapons. Kianna held a pink-colored light version of Leopold’s sword while Fiona sported a long, glowing green bullwhip in each hand.
The faces of the two dark elves were grim with determination as they stared down the shinoccubi.
Hesitating, Nokko went to step up to them but stopped short as her parents both crossed their tails in front of her. Turning to them, she found them both shaking their heads as they stared at a point beyond the dark elves themselves. Following their gaze, Nokko found herself looking through the space in between the dark elves and locking eyes with Anton as he stood tall behind them.
Although he was technically on the other side of the dome, Anton’s presence was still imposing as he was clearly poised and ready to back up the dark elves if need be.
Registering that this fight wouldn’t be easily won, Nokko grudgingly crossed her arms over her chest and went to stand next to her parents.
The situation seemingly under control for the moment, Anton turned his attention back to Mica.
Emboldened by the sight of the dark elves containing her family, Mica sported a gleeful smile as she pushed herself to run even faster to her goal. Her smile faded however, as she turned back to Anton.
His face expressionless and unreadable, Anton stood with his arms crossed and his jaw set as he silently stared at the approaching kiochi.
Suddenly unsure, Mica slowed her pace until coming to a complete stop about fifteen yards away from him. Seemingly studying one another for a long moment, the two beings remained motionless as they stared each other down.
Breathing hard from her trek across the field, the kiochi squared her shoulders, clenched her jaw and hoisted the mantis up higher onto her back as she stood tall and made her intentions clear.
The steeled resolve blazing in her eyes now, she held her ground as she faced Anton.
After another moment of stillness, Anton unfolded one of his arms and, without a word or a single change to his demeanor, he faced his open palm right at Mica.
Fearing a possible oncoming attack, Mica took a tentative half step back as she hesitated. Her eyes lit up in excitement however, when a portal suddenly opened up in front of her.
Crying out in relief, the kiochi tightened her hold on her companion and charged forward. Leaping into the air at the last second, she dived head first through the portal and disappeared with the mantis in tow.
With them both now safely beyond the reach of the watching shinoccubi, Anton dropped his arm to his side as he let the portal wink out of existence.
“…Alright, girls.” he said as he turned back to the dark elves “You can release them now.”
Dropping their dome away, the two dark elves stepped backwards until they were standing with Anton again before letting their weapons fade away as well.
With the two parties now positioned far apart from each other, a standoff ensued.
The three shinoccubi were silent and still for a long moment before Leopold and Ila gave each other a quick glance.
“Why did you do that?” questioned Leopold as he turned to face Anton.
“Why!? What do you mean why? Isn’t is obvious!” said Fiona as she folded her arms behind her head and gave the kiogah a sassy grin “Mica made a play to save her friend. You really think we weren’t gonna back her up on that?”
Leopold stared at her for a second before looking back at Anton.
A thin smile on his face, Anton shrugged.
Grimacing, Leopold shook his head.
“I expect to be compensated for my loss.” he said as he eyed the spot where the portal had been only a moment before.
“Fair enough.” nodded Anton “Feel free to roll this into my next bill then.”
“Very well, then I will hold no grudge over this.” said Leopold as Ila nodded in approval.
“What do you know about that mantis?” asked Anton.
“As I’ve said before. Nothing.” said Leopold.
“Nothing at all?” questioned Anton.
“No, nothing. I have no idea where she came from, or how she came to be in the state she was in. I don’t even know if she can even speak.” assured Leopold “And even if I was willing to give you the name of the person I got her from, you know as well as I do that information would lead you nowhere. As I doubt there’s any less than a dozen people with fake names between me and wherever she originally came from.”
Anton sighed as he nodded his head.
“If you really want to know more about her, then I suggest you ask her yourself.” said Leopold.
“Yeah, I suppose that’s the plan…” mumbled Anton “Hopefully she can tell me something…”
“I wish you luck.” said Leopold with a thin grin “Now, if you’ll excuse us. We’ll be going home now.”
“Hm, yes, well, it’s been an interesting afternoon.” smiled Anton “Enjoyable even.”
“Agreed, it really has been. Have a goodnight, Anton, Kianna, Fiona.” said Ila as she inclined her head to the two dark elves.
“Goodnight.” said Kianna with a soft smile.
“See ya later…” said Fiona as she sneered at Nokko, who glared right back at her.
“Till next time.” said Leopold as he pointed his tail to the side and used it to open a portal.
Grinning, Ila gave one last wave goodbye before following her husband and daughter through the portal and disappearing.
When the shinoccubis portal finally extinguished itself, Kianna and Fiona immediately turned to Anton.
“What the Hell was that little idiot thinking!?” cried Fiona “Please tell me you did not actually send Mica and that bug monster back to the house!?”
“…I did.” grinned Anton.
“Why!? Why did you send them there!?” exclaimed Fiona.
“Where else was I supposed to send them?” said Anton with a shrug.
“I… I don’t know! But not our home! We live there! And now we’ve got a fucking bug monster to deal with!” stated Fiona as she threw her hands in the air “What the Hell are we even gonna do with that thing!?”
Still grinning, Anton merely shrugged again.
“…Wait? Do you really not have a plan for this!?” asked Kianna.
“No, how could I? I had no idea this was going to happen.” said Anton as he turned to the side and opened another portal “At this point I have no clue what we’re going to do. But first things first, I think we just need to try to talk to that mantis. We can’t really make any plans before that.”
“And what happens if she can’t even talk!?” questioned Fiona “What are we gonna do then!?”
“…I don’t know?” said Anton as he shook his head “We’ll just have to figure something else out, I guess…”
“I can’t believe Mica actually saved that mantis like that… That was out of nowhere…” said Kianna as she stared at the portal “…What do you think we’re gonna find when we get home?”
“I have no idea…” said Anton.
“Maybe we’ll get lucky and Mica will have just killed that thing already…” mumbled Fiona.
“I doubt that.” said Anton as he shook his head “Honestly, I’d say it’s pretty clear that those two don’t actually want to kill each other… Or at least it really doesn’t seem like they do.”
“They might if they fight again though.” said Kianna “They might even be fighting again right now!”
“Hopefully not.” said Anton as he stepped up to the portal “But just in case, we better go check.”
“10 to 1 says they’re at each others throats…” mumbled Fiona as she followed Anton into the portal.
“Shut up, Fiona.” said Kianna as she quickly stepped into line behind them.
A moment later, the portal disappeared and the open field was left quiet once more.228 Views