Chapter 12: Changes and plannings

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“Let’s take them inside.”

John offered after a long drawn out pause he availed himself of to reorganize his scrambled thoughts.

It was unexpected, yes, considering that they had no desire to make them awaken this soon, but even he realized the dire conditions they found themselves entangled in. Especially after he saw what would have unfolded had they not intervened as soon as they heard the screams, and although Frank did his best, he was not keen on putting Sarah’s wellbeing on his hands. It was safer for them to have reliable means to defend themselves with.

Nodding to his older friend, Stephen scooped Frank’s heavy body up with surprising ease and nested him upon his shoulder before he trotted inside their gloomy shelter, followed by a cheerful Natasha who sported a rather disturbing grin on her face as she helped them drag Daphne along, her amethyst eyes glowing in glee and anticipation.

Carefully bracing their sleeping friends against the wall, they waited for what was to come as they propped a few goblins to the ground. The wind rushed across the foliage and underbrush, rustles noise seeped through the cave, faltering lights flashed amongst the billowing dark clouds, periodically rumbling. They were used to such apocalyptic weathers, living there for a week, they learned how to appreciate and bask in the dangerous beauty of nature.

Stephen noticed John shuffling restlessly, his fingers drumming on his thigh, “Are you still angry?” he queried after approaching the older man, the latter’s Encore Power was leaking, something he learned to perceive only after he grasped how to communicate and manipulate his own.

“Of course I am… I’m losing my composure, so unbefitting of me…”

“Hmm…” Stephen squinted his eyes, a smirk on his face, “You sure care about Sarah…” he leaned his back against a large rock, his legs stretched on the ground.

“She… she reminds me of someone I used to hold dear…” John responded subconsciously, his eyes staring in the distance, “Heh, I swear she’s her spitting image… but that’s far in the past, I was stupid and reckless, I thought I would have never regretted but…” he chuckled self-deprecatingly, “But her face still haunts me…” he finished with an emotional sigh, taking a quick glimpse at the younger man’s expression from the corner of his eyes, “If only I could turn back time…” he gazed up, memories flashing through his eyes as his lips curled upwards in a fond smile.

Stephen remained silent, not wanting to pry into John’s secrets without thereof consent.

“Do you think there’s a goblin settlement somewhere near here?” John suddenly inquired, the temperature of his tone dropping, “They’ve been frolicking around here recently…” his brow furrowed.

“I’m sure there is, the way they were armed and organized didn’t hint at them being stray goblins,” Stephen offered helpfully, “They should be perching either Nort-West or Nort-East from here.”

“How are you so sure?”

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“If we keep going North from here we’d meet up with those monsters, and albeit the goblins are not a particularly intelligent species, they should still be wary of such a strong leakage of Encore Power.” Stephen concluded, “North should be an off-limits place for them, which leaves us with West and East, we haven’t patrolled those places yet, so it’s hard to say, or South, but considering that they’ve been approaching us from North it’s highly unlikely, although not entirely impossible.” he mused aloud.

“I see… we should check those areas out.” John proposed, “And if we find them…” he narrowed his eyes, “We’ll kill them.”

“A goblin extermination, huh? I’m in.” Stephen cackled, his voice enshrouded in foretaste, “I hope we’ll gain something good out of killing them though.”

“Even if we don’t it wouldn’t matter, the important thing is to get rid of them, thoroughly.” John asserted in a firm voice, “When they wake up,” he hinted with his eyes towards their unconscious groupmates, “We’ll immediately depart, is that okay with you?”

“Sure thing mate.”

Stephen flashed him a grin as he noticed a giddy Natasha overlooking their sleeping comrades with a huge smile on her face, she sat cross-legged with her hands huddled together in the hollow of her lap, her back resting against the wall, her unblinking eyes fixed on the girls.

“Hey Evil Natasha, what are you up to?” he called out curiously, bolstering one knee up, whereupon he lazily rested his arm on.

“Evil?” the red-haired woman was confused as she arched up one eyebrow.

“Yup. You’re the evil side of Natasha, thus Evil Natasha, I know, it doesn’t make much sense, but who cares.” he ended with a shrug.

She burst in a fit of giggles, eyeing him up and down, “In my defense, I’m not evil, Steph, just a bit… unrestrained.” she drawled the last word with a cackle, “And you should pay attention to what’s about to happen, I’m pretty sure it’ll leave you… dumbstruck.” she winked at him before she resumed her previously endeavor.

Stephen glanced back at John, “They’re awakening? I thought it would have taken a few hours.” he wondered in a blasé timbre, not really caring of the timespan it took them to wake up, “Maybe it’s different for everyone?”

“It’s hard to say how much we’ve been out for, Stephen, our phones were already dead by then.” John analyzed, “We could have been unconscious for hours or only thirty minutes.” he stood up when he noticed Frank stirring awake, his eyes fluttering open, “Frank, how are you feeling?”

“Oh? Oh… Ah, hey John, I feel like I just had the most amazing sex of my life…” the potbellied man chuckled as he massaged his throbbing head, “Coupled with a post-hangover headache, huh.” he then twitched his nose, “Hey guys… is there some rabbit meat left? I’m starving.” he scrambled to his feet while licking his lips, “Hey…” his eyes suddenly perked up, “My wound! It’s healed! Look! Just look at me! haha!” he bounced around enthusiastically whilst pointing at his belly.

“Yes, Franky, you’re healed, congratulations.” Stephen dusted himself, “And here’s your meal.” he threw a goblin by its leg at a surprised Frank, “Bon appetit.”

“I have to eat… this?” Frank blinked, however, his stomach growled in happiness at the sight of trickling gore, “I mean… it doesn’t look that bad, does it?” he was split, one side of him wanted to quickly gobble the creature down while the other was appalled by what the former side was craving.

“Just go for it.” Natasha advised, not taking her eyes off of the girls, “Just leave a rib for me, ‘kay?”

“Uh huh.”

Frank dumbly nodded before he cautiously prodded the goblin, confirming it was dead. Crouching down, he felt a weird tingle on his canines. Wrinkling his nose, he propped the creature’s head up and sunk his growing teeth into its flesh, blood flowing down from the holes as he tore a chunk of meat off.

“Tasty?” Stephen asked in amusement.

The potbellied man grunted in approval. He kept munching more meat out of the corpse, meanwhile, his originally black eyes altered into deep crimson ones, “This is f****** good.” he uttered out after swallowing a slab of meat, licking the remains off of his smacking lips.

John peered over the other side, impatiently waiting for Sarah to open her eyes, which she did not long after with a sudden intake of air, her body violently jerking up.

“Sarah!” he scurried over, “Hey… are you alright?” he scanned her, breathing in relief when he didn’t spot anything abnormal, however, he did notice that her eyes were of the same color as Natasha’s, deep amethyst pools you could lose yourself in, “You…” he was at loss of words when he beheld the mischievous expression she was donning as she met his gaze.

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“Hey there.” she stretched her arms up, bulging her prominent chest out to his eyes, “I’m… more than fine, John, and… could you please be so kind as to bring me something to eat, please?” she stuck out her bottom lip, a few strands of blonde hair draping over her right eye, endowing her an innocent yet sexy look.

John stared dazedly at her before furiously shaking his up and down like a chicken pecking on grains, “Yes…” he quickly seized a goblin and brought it to her just as Natasha hustled closer and chided her with a playful smirk.

“Now Sarah, it’s not good to use your charm to boss people around.”

“Shush you, Evil Natasha, as if I forgot what happened before, you were literally lazing off whilst I was disposing of the goblins.” Stephen piped in with a snort, eliciting the red-haired Predator to wrinkle her nose disgruntledly at him, “And… holy hell, Sarah, did you go through puberty while you were asleep?” he laughed at the blond-haired girl, though on the inside he was vastly taken off by her sudden change, so reminiscent of Natasha.

Actually, it was so abrupt that John was left speechless, and albeit Frank was still indulging himself he periodically stole glimpses at her, utterly puzzled.

“Very funny, Stephen, and…” she looked down at the apparent food she had to eat, “Isn’t there something more… good-looking?” she curled her small nose in disgust at the goblin’s disfigured features, however, the smell it was emitting was appetizing so she didn’t particularly care, she complained just for the sake of doing it.

“Good-looking?” John dumbly parroted with a frown, “We ran out of rabbits but… I should be able to find some of them pretty quick.” just as he was about to bustle out of the cave Natasha stopped him with a giggle.

“She’s messing with you.”

“…” John looked exasperated and embarrassed.

Natasha wagged her head as she chastised the younger woman with a sigh, “Stop whining and eat.” she said, prompting Sarah to smile at John before she herself started mimicking Frank’s endeavor, albeit not as uncouth as him.

“Now I know why you said I would’ve been dumbstruck,” Stephen said after waltzing next to her, “She’s got the same attitude as you, will Daphne behave just the same?” he inquired.

“Oh, my dear Stephen,” she covered her mouth with the back of her hand to stifle an amused chuckle, “I’m not as evil as you entitled me as, and neither are they.” she pointed at Sarah and Daphne who was slowly standing up, “I don’t know how to properly explain it but…” she took on a cute thinking pose, her fingers tapping on her chin, “… it’s like you stop feeling shame over your actions, no, more like you don’t give a f***…” she grinned, “Stop squeezing your handsome little head over it,” she poked his cheek, “Just enjoy the freedom.”

She winked at him before – not forgetting to grab the last dead goblin – sauntering towards a confused Daphne, “How are you?” she locked her purple eyes with her’s, “Dinner is ready, I hope you’re hungry.”

“I feel funny…” Daphne muttered softly, taking a deep soothing breath, queerly surveying her surroundings, “They’re… eating those creatures?” she asked dumbfoundedly, and much to her rising surprise, the sight of blood wasn’t as loathsome as before, instead, it was appealing and inviting, as if the smell itself was beckoning to her with its sweet hand of temptation.

“Ah yes, don’t worry, you have your share too.” she hurled the content in her hand onto the ground, near her feet, “Dig in.”

Daphne seemed a bit reluctant but started eating nonetheless, her hunger was aching for what was in front of her, so, not managing to suppress her unspoken desire, she sunk her teeth into the dead creature’s neck, her eyes glowing in jubilation at the newfound taste that was coating her tongue, lighting up her tastebuds.

“Well… that’s peculiar… isn’t it?” Stephen observed with a simper after he quietly sat down next to John, “They’re behaving so out of character, is that because they’re females or something? Maybe being a Predator messed up their estrogens or some other chemical s*** I’m unaware of?” he threw his hands in the air, “Ah f*** it, I’m not smart enough for this s***…” he glimpsed at John who was still coming up with terms that Sarah was not as shy and withdrawn as before, “John?”

“Y-yes?” the older man stiffened and stuttered out.

“What’s up, worried about your little sweetheart?”

“She’s not my sweetheart, Stephen!”

“Your eyes are glued onto her ass, John…”

“…”

“Oh gosh, don’t make that face, I was kidding, although I wouldn’t have cared a damn whit if you had anything going on with her, age matters very little… moreover…” Stephen cackled after seeing his comrade’s rigid and embarrassed face, before he continued in a more subdued tone, “… nobody would ever find out.”

“Let’s not talk about this…” John ran a hand through his messy hair, “I’m just a bit put out… this place is indeed changing us, and I still don’t know if it’s for the better or the worse.” he leaned his back against the ragged wall, “But these powers are helping us survive.” he ended with a troubled sigh.

“They indeed are.” Stephen propped his chin up, bracing his elbow upon his other arm for leverage, “Either way, they have awakened, our survival ratio skyrocketed now that we can fight en group.” he scanned the entourage of women plus Frank, whilst narrowing his eyes, a pleasant smile etched on his face, “Let’s give them the time to absorb their changes and then…” he shifted his gaze to John, his crimson eyes lighting up, “… we’ll head out and have a good time hunting goblins.”

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