Chapter 32 : Late Afternoon
Bursting through the portal and into the backyard at top speed, Mica frantically tried to gain her footing. But hitting the ground at a run proved to be too difficult for her, and before she could even manage a few steps, she began to tumble and fall. Landing on her shoulder, she rolled to the side as she and the mantis came to a crashing halt. Behind them the portal winked out of existence.
Lying on her back now, the kiochi began to laugh manically in between taking in one heaving breath after another.
“We, made it!” she cried as she raised her fists in triumph “We, fucking, made it!”
Glancing back to where the portal had just been. The kiochi couldn’t help but to smile. Her plan had been a spur of the moment thing and would have easily failed had it not been for Anton and the dark elves all stepping in to aid her.
“…Thanks, guys.” whispered Mica as she closed her eyes, plopped her head against the ground and smiled broadly.
After taking a quick moment to rest and catch her breath, Mica turned her head to the side and glanced at the mantis.
Lying in a heap on her side, and with her back facing the kiochi, the still unconscious mantis looked all but lifeless, save for the gentle rise and fall of her chest which signaled that she was indeed still breathing.
Rolling over onto her hands and knees, Mica made her way over to the mantis and tentatively maneuvered her onto her back before looking her over and confirming that she hadn’t been too banged up by her fall.
“H-hey…” she coaxed softly as she gave the mantis’ shoulders a gentle shake “Hey, wake up. I need to know your okay real quick… Then you can sleep more…”
Unable to get any response out of the mantis, Mica began to panic a bit. Lifting the mantis up into a sitting position, she started shouting at her while shaking her more fervently. Finally, her desperation at its limit, she gave the mantis a slap across the face and cried out in excitement when the two large eyes on either side of her head suddenly shifted themselves forward and focused their tiny black dots on her.
“Yes! You’re alive!” cried Mica as the mantis drowsily shook her head.
Blinking open her main eyes and looking up at Mica’s smiling face now only inches away from her own, the mantis panicked a bit and shoved the kiochi before scrabbling back and away from her.
“Hey! Hey! It’s okay! You’re okay! You’re safe now!” exclaimed Mica while she put her hands and tail up in the air as she tried to placate the mantis “We made it out! You’re safe! …I promise! You’re safe!”
Staring at the kiochi for a moment while her antennae waved around wildly and her large eyes seemed to be frantically scanning the area around them, the mantis blinked as she took on a look of confusion.
“It’s okay… This is where we live…” explained Mica as she indicated the house “It’s safe here…”
Turning to the house and giving it a quick look over, the mantis brought her eyes back to Mica and gave her a questioning look.
“I, well, no, we… We got you out of there.” said Mica as she slowly lowered her hands and tail and came to rest on her folded legs “They… They were gonna kill you. So we got you out…”
Blinking, the mantis eased forward a bit as she watched the kiochi’s face twist in anguish.
“I’m sorry!” growled Mica through her clenched teeth as she fought to hold back her tears “I’m sorry… For everything… For everything that they did to you… And for everything that happened… I swear, they’ll pay for what they did to you! I’m… I’m really sorry…”
Watching the kiochi turn to the side as she wiped away her tears, the mantis eased forward even more and mimicked Mica by coming to rest on her folded knees. Without a sound, she reached out and tentatively laid her hand on Mica’s shoulder before giving her a soft pat.
“…Heh. …Thanks.” said Mica as she smiled softly at the gesture and gave the now sitting up mantis another look over “So, anyway, how are you doing? You had a pretty bad fall… Does everything feel okay?”
Pulling her hand back, the mantis blinked before looking down at herself. Lifting her four arms, she started moving them up and down as she spread her wings back out and began to lightly buzz them.
“…Looks like everything’s still working.” mused Mica as she nodded her head “That’s good news.”
Still staring down at herself, the mantis bent in one of her middle arms and tentatively poked at the metal belt that was still wrapped around her waist. When nothing seemed to be happening, she carefully grabbed hold of the belt with all four of her hands. Her eyes went wide as she pulled on the belt and its lock immediately popped open and allowed it to fall away from her.
“Oh, huh. I guess when I destroyed that remote control thing, this part stopped working too.” mumbled Mica “That’s pretty convenient. Now you won’t have to worry about cutting that thing off of you.”
Holding the belt up in her now trembling hands, the mantis stared at it for a moment before looking back up at Mica and gesturing with the belt.
“Yeah, it’s like I said. You’re safe now.” said Mica as she looked from the belt up to the mantis’ eyes “And I guess you’re free now too.”
Dropping the belt, the mantis suddenly shot forward and frantically wrapped all four of her arms around the kiochi before pulling her into a tight hug.
Stunned by the unexpected embrace, Mica went rigid to the point that her tail even stood straight up into the air. Blinking, she relaxed a bit as she reached around the mantis and tentatively patted her on the back.
“Uh… Yeah. You’re welcome…” she said around a thin smile.
The mantis responded by tightening her hold and beginning to lightly shake.
Mica’s eyes went wide as from over her shoulder she heard a faint, barely audible sob ring out before being followed by a grateful sounding whimper. Going still for a moment, the kiochi’s chest swelled with emotion as she dropped all her inhibitions and wrapped her own arms around the mantis’ thin frame before hugging her back as tightly as she could.
“You’re safe now…” whispered Mica as heavy tears rolled down her cheeks “I promise… I promise you’re safe now…”
Unknown to the oblivious duo, it was at this moment that another portal opened up behind them.
As Anton, Fiona and Kianna all stepped through, they immediately stopped short as they each caught sight of the now embracing, former adversaries.
“…Huh. …Okay?” mumbled Fiona as she shook her head “Sure as Hell wasn’t expecting this…”
“No.” said Anton as he shook his heads as well “Can’t say that I was either…”
“Aw! You were right!” cooed Kianna as she clasped her hands together “They really are friends now!”
“Yeah, apparently.” chuckled Anton as he folded his arms over his chest and smiled softly.
Everything stayed quiet and still for a moment before Anton nodded to the dark elves and stepped forward. Approaching the still hugging pair, he dropped down in front of Mica and rested on his haunches as he gazed at her.
Staring back at him, the kiochi’s expression hardened as she quickly looped her tail around herself and the mantis in a protective manner and pointed her spade right at Anton’s head.
“She’s safe now!” growled Mica as she tightened her hold on the mantis “I promised her that she would be safe now! I promised her! …Okay!?”
Looking from the spade down to the kiochi’s clearly determined eyes, Anton nodded his head.
“I understand.” he said softly “She is safe here. You have my word.”
Mica remained still for a moment before lowering her spade and blinking the hardness from her eyes.
“Is she injured at all?” asked Anton.
“…No, I don’t think so?” answered Mica.
“Good, that’s good.” nodded Anton as he looked over what he could see of the mantis “Has she spoken to you?”
“…No. Not yet.” said Mica as a light grimace formed on her face “I don’t know if she even can?”
Anton nodded again before returning his gaze to Mica’s eyes.
“May I sit with you?” he asked in such a way that it was clear he was technically asking them both.
“…Yeah, that’s fine. I guess.” said Mica as the mantis shifted her head slightly to the side and looked back at Anton with one of her large, insectoid eyes.
“Thank you.” said Anton as he smiled softly and dropped down to sit cross-legged just to the side of Mica and the mantis.
With Mica’s arms still around her, the mantis shuffled to the side a bit until she could fully turn her head around and gaze at Anton.
“Hello there, I don’t think we’ve formally met yet. My name is Anton, Anton Faustus North.” said Anton as he inclined his head to the mantis “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Miss…?”
The mantis remained silent as she merely stared back at him.
“…Oh, yeah. Uh, hey? What is your name anyway?” asked Mica.
Looking back at her, the mantis tightened her eyes before dropping them to the ground.
“…Wait? Do you not have a name?” questioned Mica as her eyes tightened in sympathy.
Still staring at the ground, the mantis slowly shook her head as she lightly shrugged her shoulders.
“Hm. Well that’s alright. For the moment there’s more important things for us to focus on.” said Anton “Such as making sure that you’re okay. You’re not hurt anywhere, are you?”
Turning back to him, the mantis shook her head.
“That’s good.” nodded Anton “So, can you speak at all?”
The mantis merely remained silent.
“…Hm. Alright then.” hummed Anton as after a moment of stillness he grinned at Mica “Well, so what’s next, Mica?”
“…Uh? What do you mean?” questioned Mica.
“Well…” chuckled Anton “What’s the next step you want to take here? Or, more to the point, what is it that you’re planning to do, with your new friend?”
“Oh, um… I don’t know?” mumbled Mica as she looked at the mantis “…I guess I just want to make sure she’s going be okay? …Maybe take her back to wherever she belongs?”
“Alright. We can certainly do that.” nodded Anton as he turned back to the mantis “So long as you can tell us where it is you come from, of course?”
The mantis still remained silent but tilted her head slightly in a questioning manner.
“…He means, where do you live. Like where is your home?” explained Mica “…You look like you came from a tropical place. Like a jungle or something? Do you know which jungle your kind comes from?”
The mantis went still as her eyes seemed to become thoughtful.
“…If you can tell us where you come from, then I would be more than happy to help you get home.” said Anton.
After another moment of stillness, the mantis lowered her eyes back to the ground and slowly shook her head.
“Damn. I don’t think she even knows…” mumbled Mica as she creased her brow in thought “…Maybe if we look up mantises, we can figure out what kind she is and-.”
The kiochi stopped short as she was interrupted by a loud, deep groan that came echoing out of the mantis’ torso.
Easing herself away from the kiochi, the mantis had a pained grimace on her face as she clutched at her stomach with the hands on her middle arms.
“Mm, poor thing.” said Anton as he gave the mantis a sympathetic look.
“Wait? What’s wrong with her!?” cried Mica as she held onto the mantis’ shoulders and tried to look into her eyes “Is she hurt!?”
“No, she’s not hurt. She’s probably just hungry, starving even.” said Anton “I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a weremantis before, but if you have then I’m sure you’ve noticed how thin they usually are. Even with that being the case though… This poor girl has been terribly malnourished. Honestly, even for her kind, she’s all but emaciated. Poor things to the point where she’s nothing but skin and bones…”
Blinking, Mica quickly looked the mantis up and down as she fully took stock of her condition.
“…Skin and bones.” she repeated softly as her eyes went wide “Crap! Okay, hold on!”
Scrambling up to her feet, Mica went to bolt to the house but stopped short before turning back to the mantis.
“Stay! Okay!? Stay right here!” exclaimed the kiochi as she stood over the mantis and held out her open palms “I’ll be right back, okay!? …So just stay right here! …Stay!”
The mantis stared up at her for a moment before folding both pairs of her hands in her lap and going still.
“Good girl!” said Mica as she backed away while keeping her open palms facing the mantis “Okay! Stay right there!”
Hesitating for one last second, the kiochi whirled around and quickly ran towards the kitchen door.
“Don’t let Molly out!” called Anton “Keep her inside for now!”
Still running, Mica nodded and disappeared a moment before reaching the house as she teleported her way inside.
For her part, the mantis remained completely motionless as she stared at the spot where Mica had disappeared.
Unnerved by the eerily still creature, Fiona grimaced as she pointed her ears straight back.
“Uh, hey!” she called as she crossed her arms over her chest “Do you really think it’s a good idea to just leave that blitzing monster loose like this?”
“Oh, I don’t think there’s a problem. She seems to be pretty well behaved in my opinion.” chuckled Anton as he looked back at the dark elf “Why do you ask though? Does she make you nervous?”
“…I mean, I wouldn’t say nervous.” grumbled Fiona as she narrowed her eyes at the mantis “At the same time I wouldn’t mind seeing her go back into her box though…”
“Honestly, I doubt that box would even be able to hold her now.” said Anton as he smiled at the dark elf “Of course, if you feel like you’re brave enough to test that theory by trying to shove her back into it yourself… Then by all means, go for it.”
Although the mantis herself continued to sit still and stare directly at where Mica had disappeared into the house with the eyes on her face, one of the large insectoid eyes on the side of her head slowly shifted over until the black dot within it became focused right on Fiona.
“…Yeah, no, fuck that.” mumbled Fiona as she shook her head “She’s behaving herself, and if she’s just gonna sit there then I guess it’s fine…”
“Glad you think so.” chuckled Anton as he shook his head and turned back to the mantis.
Watching her for a moment, he sighed as he nodded his head.
“I’d like to take this moment to thank you…” he said as he followed her gaze to the house “For sparing Mica…”
The mantis’ face remained unchanged as her antennae lightly twitched in acknowledgment.
“…She’s something else, isn’t she?” said Anton as he grinned fondly “She’s young. And stubborn. And there have been plenty of times now that she’s done things without thinking… She’s made a lot of mistakes lately… But you know, I don’t believe that helping you was one of them… I think she did the right thing there…”
Though the eyes on her face remained fixated on where Mica had disappeared, the mantis’ large insectoid eyes shifted over and became focused on Anton.
“She has good qualities. And character. And a lot of strength. Both physically, and in spirit… There’s quite a bit of potential there… Sadly, I have to admit. When I first met her, I was blinded by my own preconceived notions of her kind, and I didn’t see that potential right away.” said Anton as he shifted his gaze back to the mantis “…But I think that maybe you did.”
The mantis remained silent as she merely stared back at him.
“She has a long way to go. And a lot of work ahead of her… And she’ll need help…” said Anton as he looked back at the house “But with enough time, and guidance… With the right people, giving her the directions she needs… I think she could become something great… And I’m not going to lie, more and more now, I’d like to see that happen…”
The mantis was still for several seconds before her large eyes silently followed his gaze back to the house.
A moment later, Mica suddenly reappeared with a large covered bowl and several water bottles cradled in her arms. Racing back to Anton and the mantis, she dropped down to her knees in front of them.
“Sorry! That took longer than it should have.” she said as she maneuvered the bowl onto her lap “I was waiting on the microwave and I got caught up with looking up mantises on my phone. Did you know that there’s more than 2000 different kinds of them!? And that means we’re going to have to go through all of them to figure out which kind she is…”
As she spoke, Mica let the water bottles tumble onto the ground next to her before snatching one back up and quickly opening it.
“That’s assuming she’s even a type of mantis that’s been documented already.” said Anton “She could very well be a species that hasn’t even been officially described yet.”
“Oh that would just be perfect…” mumbled Mica as she went to hand the opened water bottle to the mantis “Here ya go. Figured you’d probably be pretty thirsty by now.”
The mantis leaned back a bit as she stared down at the water bottle with all of her eyes.
“…Uh? Wait, do you not drink water?” questioned Mica as she blinked at the mantis and then turned to Anton “Do mantises drink water?”
“They do.” nodded Anton “She may not realize that you’re giving her water though. I’m pretty sure she’s feral, Mica. Or at least she was before ending up in whatever predicament that your Father found her in. So she may not know what a water bottle is.”
“Feral? Wait, what? …But she can talk? Or, kind of? She’s knows what we’re saying at least.” said Mica as she splashed a little water out into her palm.
“We assume she knows what we’re saying.” said Anton “Who knows how much she really understands though. Also, most feral people can still speak. It’s just that more often than not they choose not to.”
“Yeah, cause they’re usually freaks…” mumbled Mica as she held her hand out to the mantis “Here, see. It’s water, it’s good.”
Narrowing her eyes, the mantis flicked her antennae forward and dipped their tips in close to Mica’s offered hand. After apparently determining that the water, was water, and that it “smelled” right, the mantis immediately grabbed the bottle that Mica was still holding out to her and began to dump the water onto her own palm before frantically slurping it up.
“Wait! No, no, no! Not like that!” exclaimed Mica as she grabbed another water bottle “Look, like this.”
The mantis watched intently as the kiochi took a slow swig, before trying to emulate her. It took a few tries before she was finally able to take a drink without spilling any on herself, but once she got the hang of it, she quickly gulped down her entire bottle, which did lead to a bit of awkward coughing.
“Dammit. You need to slow down.” grumbled Mica as she opened another bottle for the blank-faced yet still clearly enthusiastic mantis “You’re gonna make yourself choke.”
Seemingly heeding her words, the mantis made an obvious effort to slow her pace as she finished the second bottle.
“Hm, nice to see she knows how to listen to advice.” said Anton as he looked over at the dark elves and grinned “I wish more people were like that.”
“Ha, ha, ha. I wonder who you could possibly be talking about…” mumbled Fiona as she and Kianna both moved closer and stood behind Anton.
“Who indeed.” smiled Anton.
Pulling the lid off the bowl in her lap, Mica was forced backwards as the mantis suddenly leaned in close and began to wave her antennae around wildly as she tried to figure out what was in the bowl.
“Will you chill.” said Mica as she planted her hand on the inquisitive mantis’ chest and gently pushed her back “You can have all of these, but you need to go slow when you eat them.”
Picking up a piece of the leftover grilled chicken on the bone, Mica held it up so the mantis’ probing antennae could quiver around it. The mantis’ alien-like eyes went wide as she “smelled” the chicken.
“Seriously. Go slow with these, there’s bones in them.” said Mica as she handed the mantis the first piece.
The mantis’s hands were trembling as she tentatively took the chicken and moved it to her mouth.
Everyone froze in surprise as the chitinous plates covering the mantis’ cheeks began to fold back over onto themselves, and her seemingly tiny mouth spread open so wide that it appeared as though her face had suddenly split itself in half.
Within the mantis’ mouth were several rows of sharp, shearing teeth which lined both her upper and lower jaws and right behind these were what looked to be crushing, chitinous plates clearly designed to grind down into paste anything that may be unlucky enough to be placed in between them.
Holding the piece of chicken in front her now open mouth, the mantis dropped her hand away as a pair of thick, black-colored, serrated mandibles suddenly shot out from the back of her mouth, clamped themselves onto the chicken, crushing it in the process, and pulled the hapless bit of poultry further into the depths of her maw.
Fixated by the unexpected sight, everyone could do nothing but stare in morbid fascination and listen to the sounds of crackling bones as the mantis commenced to utterly obliterate the chicken with the nightmarish machine of destruction that was her mouth.
Though it did seem like she had tried to chew slowly, it still wasn’t long before the pulverized piece of chicken, bones and all, had quickly disappeared down the mantis’ throat.
Clearly satisfied with her meal, the mantis turned to Mica and stared at her in an expectant manner.
Without a word, Mica slowly handed her another piece from the bowl.
“Holy, fuck…” breathed Fiona as she watched the mantis devour this piece in just as frightening a manner “Did you know she had teeth like that hidden in her head?”
“Yes.” grinned Anton.
“Oh wow… She looked so sweet before… When she was being good and sitting still… You would never know, she was really like this…” said Kianna as she grimaced at the sight of the chicken being shredded apart into nothing.
“Well, she’s still just as sweet as before.” chuckled Anton “You’re just seeing the part of her that is a bit more predatory now, that’s all.”
“Hell yeah!” smiled Mica as she handed the mantis a third piece of chicken “She’s badass!”
“Right, that’s enough creepy for me.” said Fiona as she took out her phone “We need to hurry up and figure out what kind of mantis she is, so we can send this “predator” back to whatever horrible jungle she belongs in.”
“Yeah…” sighed Mica as she pensively gazed at the mantis “I guess we do need to get on that…”
Staring back at the kiochi with the large eyes on her head, the mantis slowed her chewing down to a crawl before slowly looking over at Anton.
Meeting her eyes for a second, Anton said nothing as he watched the mantis look from him back to Mica. The mantis then gazed out across the yard and up at the house for a long moment before she finally returned her strange eyes back to him.
Staring at each other in silent conversation now, Anton began to slowly nod his head.
“I would be very grateful if you were willing to help her learn…” he said in a soft tone “You spared her life. And for that I do owe you my thanks… If it’s what you wish, I will help you find your way home… Though I do want you to know, that if you choose to, you are more than welcome to stay here with us for as long as you’d like…”
The mantis continued to stare at him while she slowly chewed away at her mouthful of chicken. Once she was finished, she shifted her gaze back to Mica.
The kiochi’s eyes were wide with uncertainty as she looked back and forth between the mantis and Anton.
“…What the fuck are you doing?” grumbled Fiona as she glared down at Anton.
“I’m potentially hiring a capable fighter to help train my kiochi.” said Anton “Mica is going to need all the instruction that she can get. And unfortunately, Mokai’s time is very limited. So we’ll need to explore other options as well, and I think that this could be an excellent opportunity for everyone involved.”
Fiona grimaced as Anton grinned up at her.
“Our new friend here is going to need a place to stay. And I think that room and board would be a small price to pay for Mica to have a readily available sparring partner, right here on site.” he said.
Turning back to them, Anton chuckled softly as he found Mica and the mantis both staring intently at each other.
Looking back and forth between them, Anton and the dark elves all jumped in surprise as a loud clang suddenly rang out across the yard.
With the spade at the end of her tail, Mica had struck at the mantis who had blocked the incoming blade with her scythe. Their natural weapons still locked, the kiochi and mantis stared coldly at each other for a moment before they both began to grin softly and ease their weapons back.
“Awesome.” said Mica as her tail coiled menacingly though the air before settling into the open space behind her.
The mantis’ thin grin never faltered as she folded her scythe away with an ominous snap.
“…Yeah, this is a terrible idea.” said Fiona as she shook her head “These two are gonna end up killing each other!”
Anton began to laugh as he nodded his head.
“Seriously! They are going to kill each other and we’re going to get caught in the middle of it!” said Fiona and she crossed her arms in protest.
“Nah, they won’t kill each other.” said Kianna around a bright smile “Just look at them. They’re friends! Besties even!”
“They literally just tried to stab each other!” exclaimed Fiona “Not even two seconds ago!”
“They were just playing.” said Kianna as she grinned teasingly at her sister “Just like best friends often do.”
“This is so crazy!” said Mica as she smiled excitedly and then became somber “…You know, if she’s gonna stay, then she’s gonna need a name.”
“True, she will definitely need a name…” nodded Anton “And honestly, I think you should be the one to do the honors there.”
“Me?” said Mica “Why me?”
“Well, when it comes to her, you’re easily the most involved.” explained Anton with a shrug “And it’s not like any of us know her as well as you do.”
“What are you talking about? I don’t know her…” muttered Mica as she handed the mantis the last piece of chicken from the bowl “And this is something important. I don’t think I know enough about her to make a choice like this…”
“Well now, that’s not true.” said Anton as he folded his arms over his chest “You know plenty about her.”
“No, I don’t!” exclaimed Mica “I don’t know anything about her!”
“Then why did you save her?” asked Anton.
Mica stopped short as she blinked at him.
“…If you don’t know anything about her.” said Anton in a soft tone “Then how did you know that she was worth saving?”
“…I, I don’t know? …I just did.” mumbled Mica “It’s not like I know her though… I just know she’s an amazing fighter. And I didn’t want to see her die like that…”
“So you didn’t save her because she spared you?” questioned Anton “You didn’t feel like you owed her for letting you live?”
“…No?” said Mica as she shook her head and looked at the mantis “I didn’t even think of that… We were supposed to fight to the death. So I don’t even know why she did that?”
The mantis remained silent as she merely stared right back at her.
Anton nodded slowly as he too gazed at the mantis.
“I think I know why she did it.” he said softly.
“You do? Why?” asked Mica as she turned to him.
Anton was quiet for a moment as he seemed to be putting his thoughts together.
“…I think we can safely say, that if we were to ask any of your family members, they would all agree that you lost today.” said Anton in the same soft tone “They would say, that your goal was to defeat your opponent, and take their life. That this was a test of your resolve, and that you failed this test…”
Mica grimaced as she dropped her eyes to the ground.
“But I don’t agree with that. I don’t think that you failed at all.” stated Anton as he shook his head “I think that in your own way, you did test your resolve… In fact, I think you tested far, far more than just that.”
Blinking, Mica looked back up at him.
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“You won that fight, Mica. It was over. All you had to do was make one single cut, and your opponent would have been nothing but a memory…” said Anton as he looked her in the eyes “But you didn’t do that… Did you?”
Keeping her eyes on his, Mica shook her head.
“No, you didn’t. You hesitated. You stayed your hand. And in the end, you chose a different path…” continued Anton “That was when you tested yourself, Mica… That was when you tested your resolve… And your character, your spirit, your sense of honor and your compassion… In that moment, all of these aspects of who you are, were all put to the test… And I think you passed that test, Mica. I think that was when you truly won…”
“…But after that I lost the fight though.” said Mica as she looked at the mantis “I got my ass whooped… I couldn’t even do anything…”
“Yes, but by then it didn’t matter. You had already shown us all, including this mantis, who you really are and what you can do.” said Anton “You impressed us, all of us.”
“Yeah, you really did. I guess…” mumbled Fiona as she looked away and folded her hands behind her head “That was pretty sweet when you chose to heal that thing…”
“It really was!” nodded Kianna “You knew that fight was messed up. You knew it wasn’t fair, so you fixed it. And that was pretty awesome… You looked so cool when you did it too!.”
Looking at the ground in slight embarrassment, Mica shrugged.
“Well it wasn’t all me. You’re the one who gave me the potion…” she mumbled as she eyed Anton.
“Yes, but you were the one who chose to use it.” said Anton “You showed us your true colors, Mica. And I’d be surprised if that wasn’t a factor on why this mantis decided not to kill you. It certainly wasn’t pity that spared your life. No, you convinced her that you were someone worth keeping alive… And she obviously convinced you of the same with her. Hence your little rescue mission.”
“…Heh, yeah. She did.” smiled Mica as she gleefully glared at the mantis “Don’t get it twisted though. This isn’t over yet. Now that I’ve got the chance, I’m not gonna stop until I can beat her. I’m gonna win this, for real.”
The mantis’ eyes tightened as the corners of her thin mouth rose into a slight smile.
“She’s still my first test, after all.” said Mica “And I have every intention of completing this test.”
“A worthy goal.” nodded Anton as he looked from the kiochi to the mantis and grinned.
“Yeah… In fact… I think I should honor that, with her name…” said Mica as her expression became thoughtful “She’s my test… So…”
The mantis blinked as Mica’s probing stare intensified.
“…Tessa.” whispered the kiochi as she nodded her head “Yeah, I think that fits.”
“Tessa…” repeated Anton with a nod “That’s a good one. I think it suits her perfectly.”
“Right! Okay then. From now on, your name is Tessa!” said Mica as she reached out and laid her hand on the mantis’ shoulder “…Do you like it?”
The mantis was completely still for a moment before she suddenly dove forward, and wrapped her arms back around Mica as she pulled the surprised kiochi into another tight hug.
“…Uh, yeah!” groaned Mica as she struggle to maintain her breath around being squeezed “I think she likes it!”
An affirmative shrill filled the air as the mantis opened her wings just enough to give them a quick buzz.
“Well good! Tessa it is then.” chuckled Anton.
“Yeah, good name and all. But don’t get too excited yet, Mica.” said Fiona as she crossed her arms over her chest “Cause just because you gave that thing a name doesn’t mean you’re gonna get to keep it in the house or anything.”
“What!?” cried Mica as she glared up at the dark elf “We can’t make her stay out in the yard! That’s messed up!”
“Who said she was even gonna be allowed in the yard?” said Fiona as she planted her hands on her hips and leaned over the sitting kiochi “Because I sure didn’t!”
“And what exactly makes you think that this is in any way up to you, Fiona?” said Anton as he arched an eyebrow at her “I certainly don’t remember ever giving you any authoritative power over the house?”
“Wait, seriously!?” cried Fiona “You’re not really gonna let her keep that thing in the house, are you!? You saw what that thing can do, she could kill us all!”
“Tessa is not a “thing”, Fiona. Do not call her that again.” said Anton as his expression hardened “And yes. I have every intention of having Tessa stay with us in the house. So I suggest that you get used to this idea.”
“…Oh! Oh, okay! I get it!” laughed Fiona “You’re going to enslave her too, and make her harmless! Right? …Right!?”
“Now why would I do that?” asked Anton “She hasn’t done anything to deserve that.”
“She… But she’s a fucking monster! She’s dangerous! Did you not just see her teeth!” cried Fiona “What if she tries to eat us while we sleep!”
“Don’t be ridiculous, she’s not going to do that.” said Anton as he turned to Mica and Tessa “We will need to make sure that she understands that she’s not allowed to eat Molly though.”
“Wait, what? You really think she’ll try to eat the dog?” questioned Mica.
“Possibly. It’s pretty likely that she is feral, so there’s a good chance that she’s not going to have any issues with killing and eating animals.” said Anton as he looked from Mica to the dark elves “And on that topic, just like with the water bottle earlier, there’s likely going to be things that she isn’t going to understand right away. So we’ll all have to be ready to help her learn as things go along. And I expect everyone to be patient with her, including you, Fiona.”
“Please tell me you’re joking. Please… Please!” exclaimed Fiona.
“Hm, she really is so skinny… We probably don’t have any clothes that will fit her right…” mused Kianna as she twitched her ears back and forth in a thoughtful manner “We’ll have to get some for her… Also, I wonder if she needs a special kind of toothbrush?”
“That… Is actually a good question?” said Anton “Probably going to be the first of many too…”
“Yeah. But don’t worry about it. Me and Mica will take care of taking care of her.” declared Kianna as she smiled down at Tessa “Which, first things first. We should probably give her a bath and find her something to wear. Then we need to focus on putting some meat on her bones… Poor thing is just so, so skinny…”
“Yeah, making sure she’s got a full belly is the first good idea I’ve heard all day…” mumbled Fiona “I wonder if bug spray would work on her?”
“Do you really want to risk pissing her off if it doesn’t?” asked Kianna “Or risk pissing off Mica and Master if it does?”
“…Hm, good point.” grumbled Fiona “Guess I’ll just have to poison them too…”
“How about you just don’t poison anybody instead.” said Anton as he got to his feet “Now c’mon, let’s go introduce Tessa to Molly. And then we can figure out where Tessa is going to sleep.”
“We should probably pull some more chicken out of the freezer too.” said Kianna as she watched Tessa gaze longingly at the empty bowl while Mica put the lid back on it.
“Good idea.” nodded Anton as he started towards the house.
Watching Mica take Tessa by the hand and lead her along after Anton and Kianna, Fiona sighed and shook her head.
“Fuck this…” she grumbled as she fell into step behind them “Well this is gonna be a long, shitty, sleepless week…”
Glancing at the back of Tessa’s head, Fiona couldn’t help but to frown as she found that the tiny black dots within the mantis’ large insectoid eyes were staring back at her with an almost subliminally smug and playful expression.
“Master?” whispered Kianna as she and Anton reached the kitchen door “Fiona does kinda have a point… Are you sure this is a good idea?”
Pausing with his hand on the doorknob, Anton’s expression became thoughtful.
“…As you live your life, Kianna, you’re going to encounter many different people. And if you pay enough attention to those people, you’ll eventually learn to recognize when someone has an agenda. When they want more than what they say they do. You’ll learn to recognize when someone has deceit in their eyes.” said Anton as he turned to the dark elf “And more importantly, you’ll learn to recognize when they don’t… You’ll learn to recognize who your allies are, and when your enemies, aren’t really the enemies that you thought they were…”
Kianna cocked one of her ears in a curious manner as Anton glanced back to where Mica and Tessa had stopped to wait for them to bring out Molly. He grinned as he watched the kiochi open the last bottle of water, and hand it to the eager mantis.
“You can always be fooled, of course. As this recognition can be little more than just a gut feeling… Or at least for people like me it is… I myself have been fooled many times, you see.” said Anton as he turned back to the door and opened it just a crack “Although, the last time I had this feeling about someone, it turned out to be right. That person wasn’t the enemy that I thought they were. In fact, they turned out to be someone who actually became very important to me.”
“…Oh? Who was that?” asked Kianna.
Bending over, Anton scooped up the excited little dog and lifted her up in his arms.
“…It was you.” he whispered softly as he gently filled Molly with his aura in an effort to calm her down a bit.
Kianna’s ears pointed themselves straight upwards as Anton stepped past her and made his way over to Mica and Tessa.
The mantis’ eyes widened in hungry excitement at the sight of Molly, and licking her lips, she reached out to the little dog.
Taking hold of her wrist, Mica calmly chastised her and Anton began to chuckle as the disappointed looking mantis was made to rub her hand on Molly’s head, and let the little dog smell and lick her clawed fingers.
Gazing silently at the sight, Kianna watched for a bit before taking out her phone and snapping a few quick pictures.
To say the very least, the last few weeks had been quite a hectic time for her. As her life, as well as the lives of those around her, had all seen one dramatic change after another, and it seemed likely that even more greater changes were still waiting for them all on the horizon…
Reflecting on this for a moment as she stared at the picture showcasing the group of people she now shared her life with, Kianna couldn’t help but to smile as her chest swelled with excitement.
More changes were certainly coming for them, but they would see them through, they would overcome them and they would continue to stand tall and strong against them.
They would face these changes head on… And they would do it together.
Satisfied with the cute photos she had taken, the dark elf didn’t slip her phone back into her pocket right away, but instead she began to look up books on weremantises and quickly added several of them to her online shopping cart.
Standing in his darkened living room, Leopold kept his eyes pointed upwards to the family portrait hanging on the wall in front of him. As he stood there contemplating, he suddenly felt the familiar sensation of a long, thin, sinuous tail wrapping itself around his hips and waist.
“What are you doing, sweetheart?” breathed Ila as she came up behind him and slipped her arms beneath his as she wrapped them around his chest.
Sighing through his nose, Leopold took his wife’s hands in his own as he looped his own tail around her.
“I just couldn’t sleep…” he whispered as he felt his wife gently press herself against his back.
Resting her chin on his shoulder and leaning the side of her head against her husbands, Ila gazed up at the portrait that Leopold was studying.
It was a professionally taken photo of their family, with her and Leopold seated in the center and their two daughters standing behind and on either side of them. They were all smiling as they stared forward.
“…That was a while ago now.” said Ila as she looked from one of her daughters to the other “They’ve both grown so much since then…”
“Yes, they have…” nodded Leopold as he spoke in a soft tone.
“…Our Mica has especially grown quite a bit. Just in the last week even.” mused Ila “She’s made some powerful allies as well…”
“Yes, she has.” agreed Leopold.
“…Leopold. …They didn’t know what she was going to do. And yet, they didn’t hesitate to stand behind her.” said Ila “They will fight for her, Leopold. We know this… We’ve seen this more than once now…”
Leopold said nothing as he continued to stare at the portrait.
“…It isn’t going to be easy to get past them.” said Ila.
“No, it won’t be…” sighed Leopold.
“And even when we do… Mica is learning to fight…” mused Ila as a thin, thoughtful smile spread across her face “You know, she did do well today. Better than I expected her to.”
Leopold remained silent as he nodded his head.
Laughing softly, Ila give him a squeeze as she began to whisper into his ear.
“Our daughter shows a lot of promise, Leopold. More than either of us ever thought she would.” she breathed around her smile “She could become quite skilled… Though… She isn’t like us… She is no killer…”
“No. She will kill, when she needs to…” said Leopold “I have no doubt about that…”
“…I agree. She will.” nodded Ila after a moment of thought “But she is still not like us. She is not a killer, Leopold.”
“No, she isn’t. She is not a killer… And she is no assassin… No… She is something else…” said Leopold as a thin but prideful smile slowly formed across his face “She is… A warrior…”
“…Yes! Oh, Leopold! She is! She really is!” smiled Ila as she tightened her hold on her husband “Oh, our little girl is a warrior! And she’s going to be a great warrior too! Just watch! And when she does kill… Oh, she will do it right, Leopold! And it will be glorious… Oh, Leopold, my Leopold… I want to see it… I want to see it so badly!”
“So do I.” nodded Leopold as his smile broadened with excitement “So do I…”
End of Guilty x Creatures : Book Two : The Assassin Arc.210 Views