Chapter 21: Awkward Conversations

“Do you know your way back?”

“Ah yeah, ya don’t have to worry about me. See ya soon then.”

Stephen followed Keilan’s movements as the dwarf trotted off in the undergrowth, his Lilliputian frame quaffed by the hefty multitude of thickets. They wound up deciding to mark their rendezvous point right where they had chanced upon every four thunderstorms; the wrecked tree a clear signal to track their way back there.

He looked up, an aggregation of roaring clouds convening together. Stephen had finally achieved Rank 2, yet his current amount of strength could have been considered meager in his enemies’ eyes, overall he still had a long road to tread on if he wanted to tower his way up the food chain. It was not going to be easy; that much was obvious. However, his racial predatorial method of ranking up seemed to be breakneck faster than the other creatures.

It hadn’t taken him long to reach there, barely a few days over a week. His progress was breathtaking, and he was fairly positive that if he squeezed himself up by training and hunting every day, Rank 4 was not that far-fetched at all.

He smiled, resolution and confidence flashing through his crimson eyes before he grabbed the remains of the Nether Eagle up and set off with a burst of Light Step, each footstep covering over 2 meters. The wind resistance his body was darting through fondled his black chocks up his forehead, all the while providing an inebriating sensation of freedom he never had the opulence to enjoy back on Earth.

Relictus was different, dangerous but different. No restraining laws, at least not yet. He was experiencing what his primogenitors went through during the earliest dawns of their existence.

Just as he made another leap, his eyes caught sight of a familiar fluffy creature with a curling horn on its head.

[Analysis Complete!]

[One-Horned Rabbit, Female, Age 3 years, Rank: 1, Encore Power: 15]

“Hello there, old friend.” he bounced to a halt, startling the daylights out of the poor creature who vainly tried to hop away, but Stephen’s hand shot out and leisurely snagged her up by the fur on her neck, slowly turning her around to eye-level, “You nettlesome and cute little son of a bitch used to give me a lot of problems, you know that?” the rabbit just wagged her whiskers in confusion, “Yeaaah…” he drawled with a smile, “Of course you wouldn’t.” and then he broke out in a fit of chuckles.

“Look at me, talking to a rabbit.” Stephen’s face lit up in amusement, “Weirdly enough I don’t feel the need to eat or hunt you down… your kind has already fulfilled its purpose to me.” he hummed in thought before propping it back down, “I wonder…” he started caressing the back of her ears, causing her to purr and lean in his touch whilst with the other hand he plucked out a tiny chunk of meat off the Eagle and offered it to the fluffy animal.

The creature sniffed around it, seemingly analyzing what kind of food she was being given before giving it a tentative lick. She froze, her small beady eyes stared into the distance, as if hellish memories resurfaced to the forefront of her brain.

“Oh s***… did I break it?”

The rabbit – with unforeseen abruptness – nibbled down the slab of meat offered with surprising quickness, her cheeks puffing up from the invading content.

“…” Stephen blinked, watching the small thing clucking in satisfaction, “You and I are gonna be best friends, I know it…” he couldn’t help the s***-eating grin that plastered across his face, “I shall name you Lady Fluffy, and Imma make sure you’ll be the most badass rabbit of Alazar.” he cackled, picking his newly acquired pet up onto his shoulder.

The rabbit shifted herself comfortably on her new resting place, her hind legs tucked in, almost blending in with her woolly frame as her eyes scanned her surroundings, eliciting another bark of laughter from Stephen who gently nudged her cheeks, “Is my Queen comfortable?” he mirthfully asked, the rabbit ostensibly humming in approval.

“Off we go then.” with a last amused look at the guest snugly perching on his shoulder, he ambled back to the cave.

“Gaah, I have to take a powerful s***…” Frank stretched out, his mouth fighting back the yawn that jeopardized to crease his drowsy features even more in a horrible mess, “F***… this gonna be nasty…” he sniffed, a hand propped on his belly as he sidled out.

“You know… there was no need to advertise it, Frank!” Sarah shouted irritably with a wrinkle of her nose, “Did you even hear me!?”

“Affirmative.” came Frank’s strained voice from outside.

“Well… then next time don’t do it, it’s gross!”

“You talk as if you girls never took a s*** before in your lives… I’m sure that instead of brown ooze you actually poop sparkling sunflowers. Next time lemme witness it so I can actually confirm my theory.”

“…” the blonde-haired Predator looked like to be on the verge of throwing a tantrum.

“It’s impossible to win an argument against Frank.” John chimed in, slightly diverted, “By the way, where has Stephen gone to?” his eyes leafed through the cave, “Hunting?”

“Yeah… that and training,” Natasha replied, one finger absentmindedly twiddling with a dangling tress of fiery red hair, “He should be back anytime soon… I suppose.” she thinned her lips into a line.

“What’s up with you?” Daphne piped in with a raised eyebrow, “You seem to be out of it…” she queried the older woman.

“What do you mean?”

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“Meh… I don’t know, you’re just not… umh… yourself today?”

Natasha heaved a deep frustrated sigh, “Nevermind that, just a bit stressed… with all that s*** that’s been thrown at us in such a short timespan, kinda hard not to feel bitter…”

“Hmm…” Daphne crooned, “There’s more to it, isn’t there?” her head tilted to the side in curiosity, her lips locked in a lopsided grin.

“Oh! Oh! We’re gossiping, aren’t we?” Sarah looked excited, her previous banter with Frank already crumpled up and tossed in the trash bin in the depths of her mind, “What’s got you all so riled up Nat?” she hustled closer.

“Nothing! I’m fine girls!” Natasha grunted out, stifling back the urge to rack her hair out, “It’s as I told you right now, JUST a bit stressed, there’s nothing more to it!”

Daphne sniffed around theatrically, “Can you smell that?”

“Smell what?”

“The smell of b*******…”

“F*** you!”

“Natasha, language!”

“Oh no! You’re not using my own lines against me!” Natasha gritted her teeth in mock-anger, yet the growing crinkle at the corner of her lips betrayed her performance, “You’re very bad…”

“You’re very bad…” Sarah parroted in a mildly seductive timbre whilst bobbing her eyebrows up and down for emphasis, prompting the others to roll their eyes with a burst of giggles.

John who was poised to the side, completely forgotten, had an uncomfortable and embarrassed expression etched on his usually stoic visage. He wanted to go out, but considering it was currently under Frank’s domain to discharge his bodily filth, he didn’t want to disturb the poor man in his endeavor to cleanse himself, hence he was forced to be stationed there and let their words flood in his ears unbridedly.

“Sooo… is it Stephen?” Sarah dropped the bomb with a smirk, “I can read it all over you…”

“That’s absurd… what makes you think it somehow involves him?”

“Uhh… I’ll be honest, I might have accidentally heard what you guys were on about before…”

“You eavesdropped…” Natasha confirmed.

The blonde-haired Predator quickly defended herself, waving her hands in the air as if to deny her indictments, “I haven’t! It’s you two who were fairly loud, I just had to jut out my ear and I could basically make out everything you guys were babbling about…”

“Oh? You’ve piqued my interest, can you go on? I was still out cold at that time.” Daphne closed in, her tone lowering to levels she thought John wouldn’t have managed to descry.

Sarah looked at Natasha, “Can I tell her?”

“Yeah, sure… you already know it anyway…”

“Good! You see, my dear Daphne… Stephen was ALL over Natasha this morning, and if it wasn’t because of some sick twist of fate, they would have kissed!”

“Really?” the dark-haired young woman was taken aback, “But you’re married, aren’t you?” she shifted her gaze upon a groaning Natasha.

“I know! And that’s what makes it worse!”

“She says so… but if she hadn’t stopped in time, I’m pretty sure she would have been more than pleased to have lunged her tongue inside Stephen’s mouth and showed him what a mature and experienced woman tasted like, aren’t I right Nat?” Sarah stuck out her own tongue and squirmed it about mid-air to add to her vivid summary.

“You’re. Off. Track!” Natasha’s eyebrow twitched in anger, however, the light pink coloration dusting her cheeks killed off any momentum she was building up to berate her younger friend, “The problem here is that I almost cheated on my husband!”

“Almost, you didn’t… and we’re not on Earth anymore, aren’t we? Do you still think your commitment to your fiancé still stands?” Daphne supplied, “I respect you for staying faithful to your man, Natasha, but let’s be serious… your liaison to whomever you WERE married to was cut off the moment you landed here.”

Sarah nodded furiously, “I agree with Daphne, the chances of we ever getting back are abysmal, unless there is a race developed enough in this place to start up an interstellar exploration. But even then, how long would it take?” she raised her hands up for dramatic flair, “Even if they have some kind of starship that can travel at the speed of light, it may still take thousands of years to get back on Earth. And let’s not talk about time differences.”

“Duh… I know, still… deep down I can’t shake off my 10 years of marriage… we had our ups and downs, but I led a fairly blissful life…” Natasha pursed her lips.

“Fair enough.” Sarah delivered her a sympathetic look, “It’s okay… but Stephen seems like a keeper, if you like him you should consider step up your game a notch before someone else snaps in and steals him.”

Only allowed on

“I… don’t know…”

Daphne’s lips curled upwards into a mischievous grin, “What about you Sarah? Any love experience you’d like to share with us?”

“Ugh… let’s not talk about this… high school was filled with idiots…”

“Um… were you bullied?”

“Hmm, not physically, more like serrated away… but relationships were far off my grip, hormonal teenagers who couldn’t keep their weiners inside their pants flocked everywhere. I thought my first love was different, but he wound up to be the same as the others… that’s why I’m into older guys, they tend to be at least a smidge more serious than their younger counterparts. Go figure…”

“That’s quite normal with teenagers, yes.” Natasha nodded before she decided to get a bit of retaliation in, “That’s why you’re into JOHN, aren’t you?” she didn’t bother to hold her tone below their pre-set up levels, instead intentionally raising it up so that the man in question could have clearly heard her.

“Shush you!” Sarah shot her a glare, getting a muffled chuckle in response, “You’re no better off than me!”

Daphne chastised them playfully, “This is funny and all but we’re making our only male company here rather fidgety… you okay, John?”

“Oh, yes… just… chilling…”

“Yes, also… it would be really appreciated if you could flush away whatever you heard here. This was supposed to be a girls’ talk. But in view of Frank despoiling the grassland outside, it would have been too cruel of us to usher you out.”


“Greetings my fellow Predators, I’m back… and I have a friend.” Stephen’s voice seeped in like a miracle to John’s ears, almost wringing him down to his knees to pray whatever Gods sitting on the clouds above for the timely intervention.

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