Disclaimer : I don't own Claymore
The mother hen and the happy family
Four figures were running across the land, moving at speeds no human could match, and as tirelessly as they had when they departed from their headquarters a week before. Through forests and dusty road, miles were swallowed with swiftness tinged with urgency, yet at last they were nearing their destination, finally granting themselves a short break.
The four blurs stopped, allowing any observer who might have been there to make out their identities. All of them were wearing similar leather outfits with light armor, meant for both protection and flexibility, and outlining their feminine figures. All of them carried a massive sword of their back (actually, one member of the quartet carried two, making her more noticeable). Perfectly maintained and looking sharp enough to cut stone, each blade was completely disproportioned compared to its owner slender build. However, the final common traits they shared explained it all.
Pale blond hair.
It was rarer to see these half-human warriors traveling together these days with the slow but steady drop in monsters for them to hunt (people had yet to connect it with the rumored fall of the Organization), so seeing them would have surprised anyone.
Their identities however would have made any prey of theirs contemplate suicide, as each of them was single-digit level (not that ranks mattered any more) and had survived against indescribable odds.
"You know, this reminds me of old times." A loud voice exclaimed, its owner happily pulling out an apple before biting into it. Helen grinned broadly as she looked at her long-time friends. Miria and Deneve were relaxing too, sitting on the forested ground with their backs against their swords. "Well, almost." Helen amended, remembering that the last member of her first Awakened hunt was absent. "All we need is Clare and the gang will be complete."
"Do I need to remind you why we're here?" Deneve asked in a flat tone, causing Helen to deflate a little.
"I know. I just wish we knew for sure." Helen turned to the last warrior. "How far are we?"
The one spoken to looked around and seemed to sniff the air a bit. No one could ever understand how she did it, but her uncanny ability to track anyone without sensing Yoki really made her worthy or her nickname, Bloodhound Miata.
It was just too similar to the extinct Abyssal Eaters for Helen's taste.
"One more hour at normal speed, I'd say." As she grew, Miata's relationship with Clarice had shifted from surrogate daughter to little sister. Now, instead of the childish warrior with monstrous power stood a fully grown confident young woman in her late teens. Still, Miata retained some of her older traits, such her supernatural instincts as well as a tendency to go into a battle frenzy, which had earned her another nickname, Miata the Berserker. The effect was enhanced by the way her long hair would always cover most of her face when she was in that state, much like when she was younger.
The youngest of the group had been the instigator of the current search. Upon returning from a hunt, Miata had somehow managed to catch Clare's scent. No one knew what the undisciplined warrior had become, only that she had left with Raki, so Miria had been happy when Miata reported her discovery. It did not last however when Miata mentioned that Clare's scent had changed.
Miria knew that Miata's senses could not be fooled. She would not mistake a different scent overlaying Clare's for an actual change, so if Miata claimed that the scent she had found was Clare's, but also that was different, it could only mean one thing.
Something had happened to Clare.
She also knew that changing something as intimate as a scent requires a deep modification of the body. Disease can change a person's smell. The special surgery that turns a human into a hybrid does too. Raki's scent had changed a little after the mutation he had gone through, though it had been recognizable enough for Priscilla to find him after he was taken by the Organization.
However, none of these possibilities could apply to Clare. Therefore Miria could only think of one thing that could trigger the change Miata had detected.
Even to this day, this single word brought chills down Miria's spine, especially when connected to someone she considered a friend. Still, she hoped she was wrong, after all there was no longer any reason to fight. Raki had managed (to everyone's amazement) to convince Clare that revenge would not bring her any form of closure – though Clare was forced to admit that Priscilla's help had been invaluable to save her friend. There were no major enemies left now that the Organization was gone, only the occasional request to kill a random Yoma or Awakened, and even these were getting rarer. Nonetheless…
There was always a chance.
This was why she had gathered Helen and Deneve, and now, here they were, tracking Clare in hopes to find a rational explanation for the unexpected change. And if there was none, if the worst had indeed happened, they would perform the final duty for Clare.
Miria had to admit that Clare had found a really secluded place to live. They were in a forested area surrounded by mountains, and no obvious way to get in unless you stumbled upon it. Without Miata to lead them, the chances of ever finding Clare were slim. Still, they had found a clue on their way in the form of a claymore planted into the ground at the side of a nearby lake. Miria, Helen and Deneve had recognized the symbol, a circle with a vertical bar in the middle.
Apparently, Clare had granted Ophelia a marked resting place despite the pain the crazed warrior had caused her.
Helen had been about to take a bite from another apple when something whistled through the air, impaling the fruit in her hand. She was so stunned by the arrow protruding from her snack that she did not notice the other one aimed at her head. Moving quickly, Deneve blocked the incoming projectile as Miata jumped at the bush it had come from. A blur shot out from its hiding place, dodging Miata only to be intercepted by another, faster blur, becoming visible in the middle of the group.
Raki grinned cheerfully at them despite the fact that Miria's blade was one inch from severing his neck.
"What the hell was that for?" Helen shouted, her arm already coiled for a drill sword until she recognized the man.
"Well, I didn't have a sword to swing at you for a greeting, so I had to improvise." His right hand came to rub the back of his head sheepishly.
"And what if I had not recognized you in time?" Miria asked with narrowed eyes.
"Aw, as if a mere human could ever get the drop on four warriors, including the infamous Phantom Miria?" he laughed.
"Mere human… right…" Helen grumbled, picking up her apple and looking like she was mourning it.
Despite the ten years that had passed, Raki had not aged a single day. His untamed hair was the same spiky brown, and his eyes still held the same warmth they did back then. He was wearing loose brown pants, a hunting knife hung from his belt, and his short-sleeved light yellow shirt showed part of the scarring on his left upper arm and the left side of his neck from where he had been infected by the Destroyer's parasites.
Dae had been extremely disappointed, as instead of creating a usable kind of warrior, the organisms had gone dormant after failing to take him over. The ultimate proof of that was that Raki's eyes had never gained the silver color of a hybrid. They now worked as a symbiote, drawing sustenance from their host and granting him abilities akin to a warrior's in return, including longevity. However, they were not a source of Yoki and therefore Raki could never Awaken, making him useless to the Organization.
Not that Dae's disappointment had saved him from Clare and Priscilla's fury. By the time those two had been done with him, there was not enough left of the man to fill a thimble.
That had been fun to watch.
Though Helen cheering them on might have been too much.
"How did you know we were here?" Deneve asked.
"Coincidence actually." Moving away from Miria, Raki went back to the bush he had been hiding in and picked up a dead deer as well as a discarded bow. Miria noticed it was upwind, so even Miata could not smell him. "I was done hunting and I was going back." he finished. "Now, I'm happy to see you, but may I ask what brings you here?"
"To be honest, we were looking for you and Clare." Miria admitted. " She is with you, right?"
Raki gave her a guarded look. "Why do get the feeling this is not quite a social call?"
The assembled women shared looks. Raki was not an enemy, but he was blindly devoted to Clare and no one doubted he would remain by her side even if she ever Awakened. On the other hand, the young man knew Clare better than anyone. If she was near her limit, he would notice. If she Awakened, he may be able to keep her stable like he had with Priscilla years ago.
"Fine." Miria sighed. "According to Miata, Clare's scent is different from what it was. This could mean she's nearing her limit," she downplayed her fears, not willing to openly state that the worst may already have happened, "so we came to assess the situation. Did you see any changes in Clare's behavior recently?"
"Well, she has mood swings at times and eats a lot more lately…" Raki started until he saw all four women tense. He gave them a puzzled look. "But it's not abnormal…" he couldn't finish as he was cut off by a frantic Helen.
"Kid! SHE MIGHT BE AWAKENING SOON!" God, only Raki could treat an Awakened as something mundane. Then again, this was the guy who had spent years traveling with two of the most dangerous beings ever.
Raki looked at the rowdy warrior whose eyes were leaking gold, then at the rest of the group. Then surprisingly, he smiled. "Okay then, why don't we go so you can judge by yourself?" Without waiting for them, he shouldered his dead prey and walked away.
Had they been able to see his face, they would have seen his smile turn into a wicked smirk of anticipation.
Clare had been enjoying a short afternoon nap when she sensed the sudden surge of Yoki. It only took her a second to recognize the energy signature. Blinking away the weariness that often plagued her lately, she allowed a small smile to grace her lips. 'Looks like we have company.' If Helen was here, Deneve and Miria were most likely with her too. Her smile soon mirrored Raki's. 'I wonder how they will react.' Oh yes, this could be fun.
Ever since they had begun their way back to Raki and Clare's home ("What? You thought we live in a cave or something?" Raki had joked), he had become far more evasive whenever they tried to probe him for answers. Miria just couldn't shake off the feeling that something was up, and she didn't know whether Raki's lack of concern was a good sign or a bad one. She no longer knew what to expect, and she hated it.
It was not like her first assignment to find a Yoma, or her first fight against an Awakened. No, the apprehension was slightly different. It felt more like she was going to be on the receiving end of a huge cosmic joke.
It reminded her of the time during their seven years in seclusion in the North, when Helen had sneaked on her while she had been bathing and snatched her clothes, causing her to go back to their camp stark naked. Three miles away. In sub-zero temperatures.
Miria had been… mildly upset that day.
While not chatty about Clare, Raki had provided some information about their current location. Clare had already known about the valley they were in, even before the couple had settled in, as she had told him that someone important to her used to live here. Whenever she talked about this person, Clare would subconsciously rub her right arm, a sad expression on her face. Raki told them there was another memorial in the mountains, and he thought Clare was talking about the warrior resting there, but he had always respected her wishes not to talk about it.
"How did you manage to build that?" Helen asked with slight amazement at the sight of the fairly spacious lodging they saw once their destination was reached. You could easily recognize that part of it was older, probably part of the original owner's home, but what had once been a small cabin fitting for one person had been expanded into a house that looked too big for just two people.
"Well, your swords can cut through an Awakened's hide, and trees are far less tough. And Clare's Windcutter is really useful to make planks." This got a collective blink at the thought of a highly destructive technique being used for mundane purposes.
"Next you'll tell us she also uses it to slice and dice the food?" Deneve deadpanned as they neared the door.
"Actually, I do." A familiar voice called from behind. All four warriors were almost afraid to turn around, as this mere action would yield the answers to the question that had been plaguing them since their departure.
Gathering their courage, they slowly moved to face their old friend. And when they did…
Deneve was frozen in place.
And Helen fainted.
Helen groaned like she had a hangover as she regained some awareness of her surroundings. She could hear voices talking near her, apparently discussing the events of the last few years : Claymores and a few trustworthy humans taking over the Organization's business, the creation of an orphanage to take care of children cast away by their villages if their relatives turned to be Yoma in disguise, and Rubel's guarantee that the continent no longer had any interest in the laboratory island.
Though no one knew if that man could ever be trusted.
Opening her eyes, she was met with a wooden ceiling. Her back was resting on the comfortable firmness of a very cozy couch. She apparently was in the living room of the house she had previously seen.
"Damn what hit me?" Helen asked no one in particular as she sat.
"You fainted." Clare's voice replied with barely restrained mirth. "Raki carried you inside."
Head audibly snapping to the direction of the voice, Helen saw Clare sitting in a chair next to a large table. "YOU…" Whatever she had been about to say died in her throat when she once again saw what had caused her to pass out.
It was not the perfectly content smile on Clare's face, or the laughter in her eyes – silver eyes Helen noted with relief – contrasting with the serious expression her friend used to show.
It was not the fact that she was wearing a simple light purple gown, which, while modest, showed a single inch of the wide, jagged blackish-purple scar ending under the base of her neck, completely unlike the battle uniforms from their fighting days.
It was not the fact that she had grown her hair out, allowing her blond tresses to reach down to mid-back.
No, it was (and Helen couldn't help but stare) the VERY large belly her friend sported, and which she was rubbing lovingly.
"W… What? Who? Where? When? How?" Helen sputtered brokenly, unable to organize her thoughts as her brain was basically stuck was the words 'does not compute' flashing over and over. The proof was right before her eyes, yet Helen could not believe what she was seeing.
"I would like to know as well." Miria said, having regained her legendary composure. The leader of the group was sitting in a chair while Deneve was leaning against the wall. Miata was kneeling on the floor next to Clare, her ear on her belly and an expression of wonder on her face as she listened to the heartbeat of the tiny life growing there. The last occupant of the room, Raki, was sitting next to Clare and tenderly holding her right hand, his own joy and pride clearly evident.
Clare rolled her eyes. "I think this is pretty obvious. But to answer your questions. What? I'm pregnant. Who? Can't you guess? When? About seven months ago. How? It involved ropes and honey if I remember right. Where?" Clare grinned at Helen. "On the couch you're sitting on."
Helen jumped from the couch like it was on fire. Deneve and Miria looked uncomfortable while the expecting parents laughed. "Just kidding Helen." Raki chuckled wiping his eyes, as the look on her face had been too priceless. "The time on the couch was before that."
Helen, who had been about to sit again, glared at him.
"Do you still want me to elaborate? I can give you more details if you want?" Clare grinned sinisterly at the warriors.
Miria coughed. "I think that's enough information." 'TOO MUCH INFORMATION!' her inner mind screamed at her.
'Ropes and honey… interesting mix.' Deneve filed the idea for later use, her inner pervert always ready to spice things up for her time with Galk.
In Rabona, a certain scarred guard captain sneezed loudly, interrupting his ponytailed friend's rant about a spiky-haired former Number Six always walking in when he and Helen were enjoying some 'private' time and ordering her to get her friend.
'Urgh… Why do I get the feeling Deneve just got a new idea?' Galk shuddered. 'Well, as long as it keeps her away from the whip and chains.'
There was a reason why Galk never talked about his time with Deneve. And it was the same one that always made Miria prefer not to get the dual-wielder first.
Unexpectedly, a voice was heard.
"I don't understand." Miata said. "How did you get pregnant?"
Apparently, Clarice had conveniently forgotten a few key points in Miata's education.
Miria coughed again. "Just ask Clarice when we get back."
Phantom Miria could command warriors, fight armies of Awakened and defy the Organization without fear or hesitation. But all her courage and experience meant nothing compared to the prospect of giving another warrior 'the Talk'.
Staff's orphanage for Yoma victims.
Galatea raised an eyebrow she felt Clarice freeze and mumble something that sounded like 'parental sense tingling'. Then without any warning, the brown-haired warrior stomped to her room. Shrugging it off, Galatea resumed playing hide and seek with the children.
She would not have been so calm had she heard Clarice muttering about suddenly wanting to kill Miria, or seen her pull her claymore from under her bed and begin to sharpen it.
Ignoring the abrupt chill running down her spine, Miria sighed in relief as the pieces came together, still unable to detach her eyes from Clare's form. Indeed, there was no wonder Clare's scent had been altered with the various changes in her body chemistry. The former warrior was literally glowing with the unique happiness of a future mother. At the same time, Miria could barely restrain the urge to ask Clare for the permission to do what Miata was doing.
It would ruin her image.
And while she wanted to be angry with herself for overreacting, she found herself relaxing and sharing the quiet happiness of the small family.
It was a good thing the Organization was gone, Miria thought idly, as they would have stopped at nothing to get their slimy hands on a new specimen.
A natural mix of human and Yoma heritage.
A child who would be born with Yoki flowing through him from birth, and would therefore be able to control it, as opposed to the artificial creations Yoma and hybrids were.
The possible achievement of their entire research.
They would have tried again and again to abduct the child, uncaring of the lives they would have destroyed, and the mere idea sickened Miria to the core. Wanting to distance herself from those thoughts, Miria pondered what could have made this possible. Was it Raki's mutation? Or were humans and Claymores more compatible than everyone thought? She would have to keep an eye on Helen and Deneve from now on.
"Clare?" Miria asked tentatively. "I hate to bring this up, trust me I do. And I would hate to ruin your happiness…"
"What is it Miria?" Clare asked with a tranquil smile.
"How can you be sure everything will be all right with your child? There are so many unknowns, it is already a miracle that you were able to conceive, but I am concerned about the birth." Miria finished.
The parents gave her a confused look.
"How do we know you will carry your child to term?" Miria finished lamely. "You both look so happy, I'd hate for you to suffer a cruel disillusion if anything… goes wrong."
Clare and Raki blinked as if the thought had never occurred to them. Miria braced herself for a barrage of protests as to why anything would go wrong. Helen and Deneve looked ready to flee if case Clare's temper got fired. Miata looked concerned.
The couple's shoulders began shaking, and Miria realized she should have been more tactful.
"BWAH! HA! HA!" Raki clutched his stomach, letting out a bellowing laugh as if he had just heard the most ridiculous joke ever, tears of mirth falling from his eyes. To add to the assembled warriors' confusion, Clare began giggling daintily.
"What's so funny?" Helen shouted. "Miria's concerned about you Forty Seven, you should at least listen to her!"
For some reason, Helen's protests only made their laughter double in intensity. Nearly five minutes later, they managed to get themselves under control, and were met with three scowls and a questioning stare.
"Sorry about that." Raki apologized. "We understand why you'd be concerned, heck we were too the first time but…"
"Let's say we have a feeling everything's going to be alright." Clare finished with a 'I know something you don't know' smile.
"A feeling?" Helen repeated. "Look, I'm going to be blunt, this kid, your kid is going to be the first natural hybrid…" She stopped as the knowing grins only grew wider. "Damn it! What the hell is so funny?" she yelled in frustration.
"It's as I said. We were worried the first time." Raki chimed cheerfully.
Miria suddenly paled as something clicked. "You don't mean…"
Whatever she was about to say was cut by the sound of the front door opening, followed by light footsteps. Seconds later, a little girl of about six years old came into the room. She had long brown hair that hung loosely down her back, and while rounded and childish, both Clare and Raki's traits were easily recognizable. Her most distinctive features were her silver eyes, identical to a Claymore's.
The girl looked at the assembled adults and turned to Clare. "Are they your friends Mommy?" she asked.
"Yes they are." Clare smiled at her before looking back at the shell-shocked group. "Meet our first born, Teresa."
The only answer was a triple thumping sound as this time, Deneve and Miria joined Helen in a dead faint.
'Okay. What happened?' Miria thought dazedly as her brain came back online after the unique event of forcefully shutting down due to shock. The last thing she remembered was her vision turning completely blue, and she could have sworn she saw the words 'Miria 1.0 Operating System has experienced a critical failure. Reboot required.'
What the hell is an operating system anyway?
Wait, just before that blue veil, she could now remember Clare introducing her to…
"I'm never going to live it down, ain't I?" Miria asked to no one.
"Don't worry, Helen and Deneve passed out too." Raki's voice made itself known.
"I suppose it's too much to ask for all of this to be a weird dream." Miria moaned, still refusing to open her eyes in a futile attempt to escape reality.
"If it's a dream, we're still in it. Sorry." Deneve's voice commented dryly.
Miria finally opened her eyes. Yes, she was still in Clare and Raki's home, and she was laying on the infamous couch Helen had occupied earlier.
The scene that greeted her was similar to what Helen had seen earlier. Only this time, Teresa was proudly showing Miata some drawings. Helen was nowhere in sight.
"I carried Helen to our room." Raki explained. "I mean, she fainted twice today, and this time she hit the ground pretty hard. Deneve recovered within two minutes, and I asked Miata to put you on the couch."
An earlier piece of information about where she was laying caused Miria to scowl.
"If it's any consolation, we did clean it up after that time." Clare supplied sheepishly.
"This is so comforting." The dazed leader muttered as she sat.
"But honestly Miria, you've got to chill out a little." Raki said gently. "All that worrying cannot be good for you."
"That what we keep telling her." Deneve informed. "But you know 'Mother Hen' Miria." she finished with a smile.
"Mother hen?" Raki laughed.
"That's how the younger warriors call her now. Or just Mom. She's always watching us. Always advising, and always worrying. Like a mother." Miata grinned.
"Shut up." Miria grumbled, still annoyed at her latest moniker. As if it wasn't bad enough, even Helen called her that sometimes, instead of the usual Big Sis.
"I think it's sweet." Clare's smile was just a little on the teasing side. "You were already like that back then."
"Don't worry, after today, I don't think anything can surprise me any more." Even as she said those words, Miria once again felt a chill down her spine. She didn't know why, but she had the feeling she had just put her foot, and her entire leg, in her mouth.
The feeling was reinforced what sounded like a stampede running toward them. Almost fearing to look, the intrepid former Number Six turned her head to the door, just in time to see a small blur passing through, followed by a larger blur. The first one ducked behind Raki, while the second one was revealed as a severely angry Helen who was glaring claymores as she scanned the room.
The glare may have been caused, and at the same time was ruined, by the large black circles painted around her eyes, the black ink covering the tip of her nose, and the stupid mustache and beard on her face.
Miria had to bite her lip to stop herself from laughing, instead letting out a muffled snort. The rest of the group, including Deneve and Miata, were not so successful.
"Where is he?" Helen snarled as she looked around.
"Who are you talking about?" Clare asked innocently.
"You know who I am talking about Forty Seven! Bring him out so I can wring his neck."
This got a tiny whimper from the form hiding behind Raki. "Alright Isley. What did you do?"
Ignoring the name just spoken, Helen pointed at her face. "Can't you guess? I woke up looking like THIS!"
"Little brother is in trouble." Teresa sang.
"Shut up nee-chan." a tiny voice replied.
Reaching behind him, Raki gently pushed the culprit out, allowing everyone to look at him. The child was about four years old, and definitely took after his father, with his light brown messy hair and eyes. His childish face, which was smudged with ink, was what Raki must have looked like as a kid.
"Isley, apologize now." Raki firmly ordered.
"Do I have to Daddy?"
"Yes you have. You should not play pranks on guests." Raki scolded.
Walking to the fuming Helen, Isley fearfully stopped three feet from her. "I'm sorry Miss Big Scary Lady."
"WHAT DID YOU CALL ME?" Helen roared, lunging at the child. Somehow, he managed to jump between her legs and ran outside as fast as his short legs could carry him, Helen once again hot on his tail.
"MOMMY!" Isley called. "THERE'S A MEAN SCARY LADY AFTER ME!"
"I'LL SHOW YOU SCARY BRAT!"
"Isley?" Deneve repeated questioningly.
Clare shrugged. "I got to choose our daughter's name. The least I could do was let Raki name his son."
"Still… couldn't you choose another name?" Miria asked doubtfully, not surprised that these two had another child. She kind of expected it after seeing Teresa.
"It helped me let go of the past." Clare explained. "I had to anyway."
"That's rich coming from you." Deneve snorted.
"Funny as it is, we have to stop Helen before things get out of control." Raki stated worriedly as he moved to the door.
"Come on Raki, you know Helen won't hurt him." Miria said soothingly, somewhat glad at the role reversal.
"I'm not worried about Isley getting hurt. I'm worried about Helen getting hurt."
At this, Miria, Deneve and Miata looked at him questioningly while Clare, understanding what he meant, suddenly went pale.
Helen cackled with glee as she gazed at her cornered prey. Isley was backed against a big tree, eyes wide with fear from the, in his young mind, evil monster.
"HELP! MOMMY!" the child cried out desperately.
"Forty seven won't save you kid." Helen grinned evilly despite the facial drawings. To be honest, she had no intention of harming the child, she just wanted to scare him a little to teach him a lesson. Just as she was reaching out to grab him, his look of fear was wiped away. At the same time, Helen found herself lifted off the ground, a wave of Yoki slamming into her mind.
Miria gasped in terror as she felt the unmistakable Yoki signature, but she did not want to believe it. Next to her, Deneve and Miata had similar expressions.
"It cannot be…" Deneve breathed.
"Stay here!" Miria commanded Raki, Clare and Teresa, motioning for the two other warriors to follow her, her face set in a mask of grim determination, the same one she had in Pieta.
Raki and Clare shared a look as the trio went out to confront the threat, their thoughts along the same line before they followed.
The scene that greeted them outside was one of the single worst situations Miria's mind could conjure.
She really wished she had been wrong on this one too, however it seems you can't lose them all. Outside, in all her seven feet tall, horned purple glory, stood the single most powerful creature ever seen on these lands, someone who had taken the Organization's numbers One and Two in their Awakened forms, and Riful of the West for appetizers. Said creature had then slaughtered the Destroyer for her main course, and finished the Organization for dessert.
What the hell was Priscilla doing here?
And the worst thing was, she was holding Helen up at arm's length, a thoroughly pissed off expression on her face. The former number Twenty Two was as pale as a sheet, the sweat on her face making the ink run.
Miria's greatest asset had always been her sharp, analytical mind. So while a tiny corner of her mind was basically stuck repeating 'ohshitohshitohshit' over and over, while despite the urge to curl into a fetal position and pray for a quick death, Miria did what she was the best at : analyze the situation and plan.
None of them were a match for Priscilla, even together. Clare was in no condition to fight, and if they freed her, Helen's sword was still inside the house. No, the only thing to do was escape, but first she needed a plan to save her frightened friend, or the chuckling parents, or the giggling boy on Priscilla's shoulder…
Pause and rewind.
Awakened Priscilla holding Helen? Check.
Chuckling Raki? Check.
Chuckling Clare? Check.
Giggling boy on Priscilla's shoulder? Check.
"She did not mean any harm, Priscilla. Put her down, will you?" Raki calmly asked the towering beast, stopping her attempts at making heads or tail of the sight. "Come on, you've scared her enough, and I'm sure she's sorry now." Raki gently insisted. "Right Helen?"
The warrior could only nod pitifully.
Much to Miria's surprise, Priscilla complied, unceremoniously dropping her captive on her butt. Barely a second later, Helen was up and hiding behind Clare. Priscilla did not look away from Helen, narrowing her golden eyes. Her voice was laced with barely restrained fury as she finally spoke.
"Don't ever pick on my child again."
'Damn you Helen! You just had to threaten her child… No wonder she's pissed… I mean which mother would let anyone threaten… her.… WAIT A MINUTE!' Miria's thoughts derailed as her overly stressed brain had finally caught up with the entire situation.
Miria had had a long day. Fretting over Clare's possible Awakening, then finding out the truth, more worrying about the future child, only to be confronted with the living proof that such a union was possible, had pushed her considerable mental resistance to its limit. And this was the final straw.
Miria's mind broke with an audible snap.
Scratch Clare being within twenty feet from Priscilla and not going berserk, what happened next would forever remain in Helen and Deneve's memories as a sign of the Apocalypse. Thunderclouds heralded the end of the world as they knew it, Heavens shook and Earth quaked as the legendary Phantom Miria, the epitome of the composed, level-headed leader…
"WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON HERE?"
… lost her cool and, for the first time anyone could ever remember, cursed out loud.
The ensuing silence was interrupted by the tiny voice of the boy on Priscilla's shoulder. "Mommy, what does fuck mean?"
Miria suddenly found herself pinned by three glares, one angry brown, one icy silver, and one baleful gold. The sheer fury these eyes contained made her want to use her legendary speed to run away.
"Something that we'd better not hear from you or your sister, unless you want to be in trouble. Very big trouble. Do I make myself clear?" Clare said in an utterly serious tone without moving her eyes from Miria. The answer was further enforced by the sharp nod from Priscilla.
Isley gulped nervously. "Yes mommy Clare."
"Yes Mom." Teresa repeated meekly.
Miria's answer was just as subdued. "Sorry Clare."
Fortunately for the leader, the exchange failed to capture the attention of the three remaining warriors who had yet to recover from the momentous event they had just witnessed.
"Did Miria just… curse?" Miata asked for confirmation.
"No way… this cannot be…" Deneve breathed, her own self-control badly shaken. "This is blasphemy… this is madness!"
"Madness? THIS! IS! PRISCILLA!" Helen screamed at the top of her lungs, pointing at the Awakened. "The most powerful Awakened ever! The scourge of the Organization! The Slayer of the Destroyer! Clare's nemesis, the one who killed T…" The last title she was going to say was cut by Priscilla's purple hand none too gently squeezing her shoulder.
"I would advise not to finish this sentence." She warned coldly. "Also, it is impolite to point."
"Yes Ma'am." Helen squawked.
Nodding, the one-horned creature gently put her son down and lumbered toward the house.
"Huh, where are you going?" Miata asked cautiously.
"I am going to put on some clothes." Priscilla informed as if it was obvious as she disappeared inside the house, having to tilt her head to pass through the door.
"Daddy doesn't like it when Mommy doesn't wear clothes." Isley chimed cheerfully before pulling his sister to play somewhere.
Helen managed to refrain from commenting on that one, if only to avoid Priscilla's wrath for giving the kids strange ideas.
Raki turned to Miria. "So, I guess we owe you an explanation, right?" he scratched his head embarrassedly.
Miria looked at the man in wonder, then at Clare who was smiling once again like nothing had happened. Oh yeah, pregnancy mood swings. Part of her was devoured with morbid curiosity, but at this point, the biggest part of her just didn't care anymore.
"No…I give up…" Miria interrupted with a long, heavy sigh. It was a sigh that spoke of pure defeat and complete exhaustion. "I don't want to know… I don't even want to imagine how you pulled that one. Just tell me…"
"Priscilla has not eaten human flesh in years." Clare stated. "Ever since she joined us actually."
"Then how can she be an adult?" Deneve asked. "You said last time she stopped eating, she shrunk down to a child."
"She does eat, but not human flesh. I'm not sure why she does not crave it anymore, but I've been wondering. Yoma and Awakened were human once, so what if their need for human flesh is more psychological than physical. As if they long for that part that was torn from them a long time ago, and this is their way regaining it." Raki pondered. At the bemused looks he got, he shrugged. "Hey, we've all seen humans eat to cope with some issues."
Miria's lips curled into a weary smile. "Yet another feat under your belt, ne, 'Miracle Raki'?"
"Don't call me that… Mom." Raki admonished, not liking the nickname Helen had given him as a joke after he successfully convinced Clare to forgive Priscilla.
No one had thought he could ever top that one.
"Right, changing our untamable little monster and big bad Prissy into housecats, getting them to get along, changing an Awakened's diet… and he refuses to call himself a miracle worker." Helen laughed. "What do you call it then?"
Raki and Clare looked at each other, then at Priscilla who was back in her human form, and dressed. The unlikely trio then smiled. "Family." they said together.
And somehow, this explained it all.
It had been a long, exhausting day, but Miria was glad to have stayed for the night. They had shared the family's dinner – Raki had clarified that the guts Priscilla was eating were the deer's he had killed earlier. Seeing Clare and Priscilla interact gave her some hindsight into the workings of the odd family. She could see some lingering awkwardness at times, like they were still getting used to each other, slowly letting go of their bitter past one day at a time, but both cared for Raki and the children equally. The opposite was true too, and even though they didn't have the same mother, Teresa and Isley were as close as real siblings.
The bonds uniting the unusual family were definitely uncommon, but she had a feeling it could and would work for a very long time. Though she was curious about how they had established the pecking order.
She didn't want to know.
Also, Helen attempting to out-eat Clare had been the funniest thing she could remember seeing in a long time. Of course, Helen throwing up was now slowing them down as they were traveled back home. Not that it mattered to Miria, with their quest finished, they had all the time.
"What's wrong? Morning sickness?" Deneve jibed at her friend.
"Very funny Deneve." Helen grumbled from the side of the road. "Damn, I can't believe Clare beat us to the punch again. First she gets herself a man, and now she's got a kid and a bun in the oven." Then Helen grinned. "And I can't believe their kids asked big sis if they could call her Grandma."
"Probably when Clare called her Mom too as a joke." Deneve grinned back, enjoying the angry red on Miria's face.
"Well, get used to it Miria-nee. 'Cause when I get back, I'm going to put a certain someone to work on a family too." Judging by the determined frown on Helen's face, her competitive nature was not going to let Clare be the only hybrid mother.
"And what will you do if it turns out to be impossible? After all, you realize Raki is a hybrid too." Deneve asked.
"Sid will get me pregnant… or he'll die trying." Helen spoke ominously.
Miata, who had not said anything since they had left Clare's family, suddenly broke her silence. "What do I have to do to have a child?"
The distant shout of an animal eerily reminded Miria of the sound of a sword being sharpened. She could already imagine Clarice out for her blood for giving her daughter/sister funny ideas. Then the idea of chibi-Helens running around and calling her Granny Miria made her think death might be an acceptable alternative.
Author note :
Originally, I was going to end it at introducing Clare's daughter, until I realized I never explained what happened to Priscilla. Implying her death did not satisfy me, and neither did her roaming around unchecked. From there, I told myself 'to hell with it!' and wrote the next part.
It worried me that I suddenly crossed the 'fun yet believable' line and pretty much traded it for something that was 'funnier yet unbelievable'; however I enjoyed writing the part involving Priscilla. It allowed me to bring a necessary touch of insanity in a fic that was light-hearted, but not truly funny.
That, and messing with Miria's head is just too much fun, and the only thing that could beat Clare being a mother was Priscilla being one too.
I was honestly wracking my brain on the release format, and if asked to, I might repost this fic as two separate chapters so the readers who didn't enjoy the second part can pretend it does not exist.
Thanks to Shiek927 for his proof reading and his support.