Chapter 16: New Friends, New Enemies

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They hurried themselves out, not even bothering to open the door, just blowing through it with a kick, courtesy of Stephen. Wooden splinters barreled out before unveiling the forms of Natasha and Stephen who had their faces stretched in seriousness as they hastened towards the source of their friend’s beckoning. Did Frank really find other humans? He had no reason to lie, so nobody questioned the veracity behind his words. Even so, the discovery of another bunch of humans may or may not uncloud their confusion regarding their situation, granted that they even knew anything.

“Frank, Daphne!”

Stephen halted his advance when he noticed the man in question standing in front of the threshold of a hut’s doorframe, Daphne not far behind him, her gaze lowered to the ground, “They’re inside?” he queried, not really needing confirmation for he could faintly make out the outline of a batch of people sprawled on the dirty floor, seemingly unconscious. He could recognize two females and one male, manhandled, their clothes in tatters.

“Do you think they were…” Natasha supplied, not finishing her sentence, there was no need to.

“Can’t say for sure…”

“Damn!” Frank clenched his fist, his face crumpled up in disgust, “Did you kill those babies, Stephen?” he asked, getting a nod of confirmation from the latter.

“Good…”

They were joined soon by John and Sarah who were patrolling nearby, their faces equally frowned in disgust once their eyesight fell upon the reason of the sudden commotion. Sarah shifted uncomfortably, the reminder of what had almost happened to her and Daphne, and likely had befallen on those unknown people didn’t sit well with her mind, but what could have she done?

“Let’s check them out.” John offered quietly as he sauntered inside. His words weren’t met with opposition for the rest of the group trailed after him right away, sans for Stephen who seemed to hesitate, “Aren’t you coming?” the older man raised an eyebrow, eliciting him to shrug and let himself be guided.

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It was needless to say that the smell inside wasn’t any more pleasant than the previous one, but they had somehow gotten used to it, so nobody made a fuss about it.

Frank wrinkled his nose, prodding the unconscious man with his foot, “Are they dead?” he scratched his head.

“You gotta check for a pulse, you idiot.” Daphne rolled her eyes at him before she crouched down, grabbing one of the females and turning her around. She carefully laid her index and middle finger on her neck, pressing slightly to the side of her windpipe, feeling a throb in response, “Well, this young woman seems to be alive, what about the others?”

“This one too.” John nodded after surveying the last female’s condition, “Frank?”

“Yes, it seems they’re all alive, albeit the young fella here is a bit injured.”

Stephen looked down, noticing patches of blood staining said man’s clothes. His eyes lit up dangerously for an instant before ebbing back to normal. Nobody noticed.

“I’m going out for a bit.”

“Stephen?” Natasha called out, mystified, “You okay?”

“Uh huh, just gotta make sure the rest of the huts are problem free.”

John butted in, “There’s no need.” he scruffed a hand through his hair, “All of them are mostly dormitories or something the like, whilst only one of them housed weapons and gears, not many of them seemed useful though, just worthless trinkets.”

“I see…” Stephen nodded, “What should we do with them?” he pointed at the unconscious humans, “They… uh?” he stopped mid-sentence, his eyes almost popping out of the stretched skin. He then leaked a loud cackle that floored his group fellows into silence, “I see… so they’re Predators too, huh?”

“Predators?” the implication behind that statement walloped them so hard they were seeing stars of confusion buzzing around them, “What are you talking about?”

“Look.” he pointed his forefinger at a woman who appeared to be in her mid-thirties, auburn hair bundled up in a ponytail whereas tresses of silky hair framed her average features. She had her elbows propped against the wooden floor, struggling to push her upper body up. And she was pretty much awake, “Hello there, I’m sorry that there was no prince to kiss you awake.” her amethyst pools peered into his crimson ones; hatred and anger about to spill out in the form of salty pearls of water.

John snapped his head back, an action that was shared by everyone else caught up in that storm of befuddlement.

“That’s…” Sarah furrowed her brow, “She has the same eyes as us…”

“Who are you?” the newly-awoken woman inquired, her eyes unblinking and fixed onto them, “Wait… your eyes…” realization dawned on her, “Predators…” she visibly paled, “So we weren’t the only ones…” her voice took on a shaky timbre, “No… no…” she clutched her hair as the ship of desperation sunk in, her eyelids quivering.

“Calm down…” John tried to placate her, but the woman didn’t pay him any heed, “Natasha, if you could…”

“Yes.”

“Don’t come near me!”

“We just want to help you.” Natasha raised her hands up, probing, “We are in the same situation as you… so please… ease off, we have no intention to hurt you.”

“…”

“Care to tell us your name?”

“Britney…” the auburn-haired woman replied in a soft tone, her vigilance still up but at least she had loosened up a bit, “Britney Ashmount.”

John breathed out, glad they had managed to avoid kindling up the stick that would have sparked a conflict; it wouldn’t have been to anyone’s benefit, “Miss Ashmount, my name’s John,” he introduced himself before hinting with his head at his groupmates, “This is Sarah, Frank, Natasha, and Stephen.” he pointed at each one respectively alongside their names, “And yes, we are indeed Predators.”

Britney broke down in sobs. She curled herself against the wall, her arms encased around her trembling frame, “What is going… what is going on… just what is going on…” her mumbles were becoming louder and louder before rupturing into a hysterical yell, “F**k! What the f**k is going on!”

Nobody spoke. A pregnant silence ensued in.

Frank was unnerved, it was thanks to a twitch against his leg that he noticed the injured young man slouched on the floor near him stirring awake. His eyes flickered open, the same crimson spheres they had already labeled as pertaining to male Predators only, it was irrefutable.

“Gah!”

“Damien… Damien, are you all right?” Britney scooted closer, her steps wobbly, “Here… be careful.” she held him up, her endeavor requiring a straining amount of effort she currently hadn’t at her disposal, “Can you help me, please?” she asked hopefully to no one in particular, just in a urgent need of a new pair of hands, no matter whose.

“Let me help you.” Frank offered, draping the now-named Damien’s dangling arm over his shoulder, “C’mon buddy, do not die on us.” he cackled, though his lame attempt to lighten up the tension went wasted.

“Weeell…” Stephen hummed, squatting down next to the last unconscious young woman who had been checked up by John priorly. He muttered, “You know, I applaud you for being cautious enough to feign unconsciousness, but this is not a movie, no wait, with the s**t that’s going on it might as well be one,” he threw his hands up in the air, “Whatever, what I’m trying to say is that there’s no need to be so alert around us, not that you shouldn’t, but we are swimming through the same s**t, and yes, I like to say ‘s**t’ a lot, deal with it.” he smirked when he noticed her cheeks spasming.

“So, won’t you float back to the land of the living?” he raised an eyebrow as he watched her before rolling his eyes when she kept her endeavor up, “You asked for it.” he slanted his lips closer to her ear. “S**t s**t s**t s**t s**t s**t.”

“Stop it! I got it!” she hissed, her body jerking upwards, and consequently drawing everyone’s attention onto her, “You’re so annoying!” she wrinkled her nose distastefully.

“Ohh…” Stephen beheld her with an amusing smile, “Interesting style you got there.” she just humphed in response. She had long charcoal-black hair that tumbled behind her back and over her shoulders like a starless cosmos waterfall. Her forehead was eclipsed by a fringe that almost topped her eyes, accompanied by a lone white chock of hair that slid over the side of her unnaturally blanched face. Her nose and ears were riddled with piercings and earrings, and one could even be found on the left side of her black bottom lip; the color almost wholly bleached. Her amethyst eyes were accentuated by a heavy dose of smudged dark make-up. Overall she was a pretty girl, he recognized.

And the fact that she was clad in black with a choker around her neck where spikes jutted out from added more to her already dangerous charm.

“Good, it seems that the goth girl here is awake,” Stephen chuckled, “Stephen here, how may I address you?”

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“Apolline.” she crossed her arms, “And don’t call me goth girl!”

“Uh huh, pardon,” he eyed her up and down, “Though you do dress up as one.”

“I know, duh. Just don’t call me that way, I don’t like it.”

Stephen shrugged, “As you wish, and…” he gave her a curious look, “… you do seem to be aware of our… race change, yet you don’t appear to be perturbed by it…”

“I dealt with that days ago, and weirdly enough it actually didn’t bother me that much, aside from the initial surprise, of course.”

“I see…”

Natasha clapped, veering the attention upon her, “Guys, we don’t have much time before the weather gets nasty, we should all go back…” she offered.

“Emh… is it a problem if I and Damien go back with you? W-we… our friends… they went…” Britney started tearing up, “… looking for food but they never came back.”

Stephen frowned, whispering soft enough for only Apolline to hear, “Do you know them?” he queried, eliciting her to shake her head in denial, “How have you gotten here?”

“The group I was with decided to part ways early on after a clash of words…” she elaborated, “I don’t know what happened to them, if they’re still alive or not, but after walking through the forest and taking shelter wherever I could for a few days I came across this settlement… I didn’t know goblins were living here…” she twiddled with her white chock of hair, “It was a good thing the clutter you guys caused shifted their gaze upon you… I was almost…” she nibbled her upper lip nervously, “I was almost…”

“It’s okay…” Stephen sighed, “They’re dead.”

Apolline nodded, but she was still a bit absentminded.

Meanwhile, Natasha faltered. She was feeling pity for Britney and her companion Damien, but she couldn’t trust them and let them all of a sudden blend in their group; Predators or not, she couldn’t make that decision on her own. She glanced back, silently pleading for help, but the rest of the group were in the same boat as her. John looked oddly thoughtful, his expression hardening as he shook his head at her.

“Please…” Britney lowered her head, her hair casting a shadow over her eyes, her hands trying to dig slits on the wood, “I just wanna go away from this place…” Natasha hustled closer to her, trying to appease her somehow.

Stephen took on a thinking pose, “Say… were they already here when you were kidnapped?” he inquired the goth Predator.

“No, they weren’t…”

“They weren’t…” he parroted, suddenly feeling that something was off, his eyes dazedly looking at Britney before he opened his mouth in disbelief as he made a dash for the weeping woman, his sword drawn out, the information box still hovering in front of his eyes.

[Analysis Complete!]


[Shapeshifter, Female, Age: 9 years, Rank: 2, Encore Power: 67]
- my thoughts:
I may edit this chapter again in the future, I'm not quite satisfied. fml...
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