AN: Sorry this took so long to get out. I'm in the middle of a move, so things are kind of hectic at the moment. With that being said, I had fun with this chapter. I really, really did. Call me sick, call me twisted, call me whatever you want, but that will not change the fact that this has become my favorite chapter yet. Perhaps even my favorite one shot out of all of the one's I've ever written. I hope you guys like reading this as much as I liked writing it! Enjoy. :D
Disclaimer: I do not own Tales of the Abyss. Namco does.
Arietta's first was when she was seven.
A hiss of pain stole itself from her lips as one of her newest brothers nipped at her skin, grazing the flesh in a painfully friendly way to draw the slightest drips of blood. Growling a warning back at him, her own teeth closing around the back of his neck in warning, it was with a barking huff that she forced him to return his attention to their mother, their eyes focused and attentive as the liger queen led them through the forest.
It was her first hunt, the first she had been allowed to join her family on, and she was determined to not mess it up.
Coming to a halt as her mother paused, it was with a curious glance around her that Arietta found her siblings sniffing the air, their bodies tense as they searched for the faint scent they longed for. Sinking towards the ground so that she was level with one of her sisters, her nose quickly found the traces their mother had found first, telling a tale they all wished to hear. Someone, a prey of the male type, had passed through their forest alone not too long ago, weaving through the undergrowth with an uncanny ease that alluded most of the ones they hunted. It had been ages since she had smelt the mouthwatering smell, her only knowledge of it from the small blood stains she had licked from her mother's coat after she had returned with her siblings after a successful hunt, but even the passage of time had been unable to force it to fade from her mind.
It was meat, and as far as Arietta was concerned, she was hungry.
Forcing herself to rise back to her full height, wavering slightly as she supported herself on her back paws instead of all four, it was with a slight whine that she trotted towards her mother, nuzzling her face into the flowing mane that surrounded the ligers' head. Shivering slightly as the queen swiped at her side with her tongue, leaving a wet spot that the wind quickly chilled, it was with a growl of assent that Arietta was allowed to clamber onto her back, her body quickly encased in warmth as she sunk into the fur. Waiting until the rest of her children had reassembled behind her, it was only a moment longer before the liger queen was running, her own paws making no noise as they flew through the forests even despite the extra weight of her ugly, beautifully strange child.
Turning her head as the death cry of a bird monster faintly sounded through the forest, it was with a silent signal that the pack of ligers headed towards the sound, knowing full well what they would find: their next meal.
Burying herself deeper into her mother's voluminous coat, it was with a sigh that Arietta tightened her grip, the tips of her fingers digging into her palm as she struggled to stay on the leaping liger. Although part of her was thankful that her mother loved her enough to care so much for her, carrying her and taking care of her when another species would have left her to die long ago for her weakness, she couldn't help but despise her inability to be helpful to the pack, often forcing them to use valuable time to find fruits and nuts for her when they could have been tracking the latest creature they had decided to feast on. Without her, she knew well that Mother would have had such an easier time raising the newest of her brood, teaching them how to hunt and stalk as she had done with her older children, uninhibited by her uselessness. But whenever she had expressed these doubts, it had been her mother herself that had destroyed them, driving them away for the moment with the fact that she would be useful when she was older.
And finally, finally, she was old enough to help.
Their pace slowing as the smell of freshly spilt blood reached their noses, it was with a silent shrug of her shoulders that Mother expressed her desire for Arietta to slide from her back, allowing her bald cub only a single moment to catch her breath before nudging her back onto her back paws, forcing her to stand in the way of her unknown people. Although she didn't know why, Arietta knew well that there was a reason her mother was forcing her to move in such as strange way, though it had never crossed her mind to question it. Seeing that the rest of her pack were peering through a thick screen of bushes into a clearing beyond, it was with a rush of excitement that she joined them.
It was only because absolute silence during a hunt had been drilled into her over and over by her mother that Arietta was able to silence that gasp that found its way to her tongue.
The pray looked like her. Although it was obviously male and much older then herself, for his scent and the whiteness in his hair spoke of ages passed, the creature that stood before her was clearly of the same kind as her, though he was still just as strange to her as he was to her siblings. Covered in strange, brightly colored fur that Arietta decided must grow in with age, for she herself was only protected by the thickness of her forest-scarred skin, it was with a flourish that the male wiped his strange, shining tooth against the ground before returning it to its covering that hung from her waist. Watching as the creature surveyed the carnage that he had caused, an entire flock of birds killed when one or two would have well sated his hunger, it was with a twinge of curiosity that she watched him draw another tooth from his waist, though this time it was shorter and duller. Waiting until he had turned his back towards the pack, his body bent over a bird to strip the carcass of feathers and meat, it was with silent steps that she returned to her mother's side, her question clear in every move that she made.
What do we do now?
Bending her great head so that her muzzle was pressed close to her daughter's face, her hot breath quickly warming the cub's ear, it was with the softest of growls that the queen gave her answer.
"We kill it."
Releasing a howl that was quickly answered by her children, the liger queen quickly lept into the clearing, her tail whipping behind her as she landed upon her unexpecting prey. Waiting for the rest of her pack to follow behind her, their hungry teeth bared as they swarmed the area, it was with a silent nod that they fell upon the remains of the birds, each fighting for the scraps it deserved. Letting out a yelp as sharp teeth pierced her side, Arietta snarled as she fell on the sibling that, in its bloodrage, had attacked her. Leaping onto its back, the wild girl quickly forced the female into submission, her strange limbs giving her an advantage over her sister's wild thrashing. Hanging on, it was only moments before the liger's cries of rage became whimpers of pain, her feet sliding out from under her as Arietta bit the sensitive bit of skin over her spine, threatening death if the struggle continued. Releasing the youngling, it was with a sign that Arietta righted herself, ready to eat the spoils that awaited her, only to find that only bones remained.
Gritting her teeth, angry that she had allowed herself to be pulled from the first bits of meat she would have been allowed in months, it was only a calling huff from her mother that kept her from returning to the fray and finishing what she had started.
"Oh, for the sake of Lorelei, please, girl, help me!"
Leaping back with a hiss, it was with a shock of surprise that Arietta realized that the male was still alive, trapped instead of crushed beneath her mother's large paws. Although she couldn't understand the sounds that were coming from his muzzle, she could smell the stink of fear and hear the desperation in his voice, two things that she was well familiar with. Stalking slightly closer as her mother summoned her with a twist of her ears, it was with a mewl of confusion that Areitta found herself close enough to examine the creature's face, though she only gave it the most passing of glances as her mother spoke.
Even filled with fear, his eyes were the prettiest green that she had ever seen.
Her surprise holding her in place as her mother rose to her full height, only pausing long enough to use her sharp claws to cut away and steal the male's strange teeth, it was with a twist of her head that Arietta found herself in the center of a circle, her siblings closing the gaps so as to allow her prey no chance of escape. Even as she watched the male struggle to his feet and charge towards one of her brothers, it was with a detached growl that the sibling sent the male reeling back towards her, his pretty fur torn and slightly damp with blood that had been drawn by a slash of the liger's claws. The smell of his fear growing stronger as he took in the scratches, it was once more that he made those weird noises.
"Please, help me! Girl, let me live and you'll be rewarded handsomely. Call off your monsters and I swear, you will want for nothing. Please, in the name of Lorelei, save me!"
Looking at her mother, it was only with a tilt of her head that she received a confirming rumble of sound.
Baring her teeth in a silent snarl, her front paws curled into the claws that would give her the grip she needed, it was with the deadliest of growls that she sprang toward him, her fangs piercing the unprotected flesh of his neck with only the smallest of resistance.
For what seemed like an eternity, her prey just stood there, the shock and surprise clear within his eyes as she clamped her jaws tighter around her hold, sending a gush of blood into her mouth as she did so. Raising his arms as if he was either going to hold her closer or push her away, with was with a gurgled gasp that he allowed himself to sink to his knees, which in turn allowed Arietta to release the hold her paws had taken on his fur to hold herself up for a better position on the ground. Turning her head so that her teeth pulled free, it was with the slightest feeling of confusion that she realized that the fight her body had been expecting was not to come, for it seemed as if the male had accepted his fate. Sniffing slightly in derision, for only the weakest of the weak accepted death without a struggle, it was with a slight shrug that she twisted herself so that she was facing his back. Rearing up so that her front paws were clutching the fur on his back, it was with a sigh that she decided to finish it quickly.
Once again baring her teeth, it was only a moment's work to clamp them around the man's spine, her mouth automatically finding that same spot that she had threatened her sister with only moments before. Wrenching her head to the side, her teething tightening their hold as she did so, it was with a resounding crack that the male's body dropped from her mouth, the nonexistent battle finally over.
Licking her lips to clean them of the blood that had come to cover them during the battle, it was with a bow of her head towards her mother that Arietta backed away from the body, some of her siblings already starting forward to lick the rest of the grime that she had spilt down her torso from her skin. Pausing as her mother called out to her with a growl, it was with an answering whine that she turned back, her body crouched to the ground incase a punishment was coming. Never before had she been allowed to kill the meat they ate, so while she had done her best, she could never know if she had pleased her mother or not. However, instead of finding a cuffing paw or a threatening snarl, she was met with a pleased sniff and lick on the chin, cleaning away a dribble of blood that had already started to dry. Her mother's nose finding its way to the center of her back, it was with a small nudge that Arietta found herself back by the side of the body, its green eyes staring unseeingly at the sky above. Twisting her paw so that her claws her aligned, it was with the quickest of swipes that the liger queen ripped through the male's strange furs and the flesh beneath, exposing the tender meat below. Bending her head, the monster only waited long enough to growl one word to her daughter before beginning her meal, her eyes closing in pleasure as her teeth tore into the waiting meal.
For a single, terrifying moment, Arietta felt the urge to growl 'no.' Staring at the creature, the male that had pleaded with her in those strange, unintelligible words, something within her balked at the idea of devouring him, despite the fact that he was rightfully food, just as the birds had become meals for her siblings. Perhaps it was the fact that he was the first creature she had ever seen that even remotely resembled her, but for one reason or another, the idea of eating him made her stomach turn and her former hunger flee. Hesitating, it only took one more look at her mother to know that she had no choice in the matter.
"Eat, my daughter," her mother growled quietly, her amber eyes flashing, "or be eaten yourself."
Shrugging off the unease she had felt moments before, it was with relish that she sunk her teeth into the warm meat, her hunger renewing itself as the thought of food filled her mind and mouth. Happily swallowing her mouthful, it was with a quick movement that she leaned over to lick her mother's muzzle in gratitude, thanking her for sharing her meal with her. Returning to her portion of the meat, it was only after she had eaten her fill that she returned her gaze to the male's face, especially his eyes. Although they had already begun to cloud over with the gaze of death, they were still the prettiest of greens she had ever seen.
Perhaps, if her mother had no desire to eat them, she would let her keep them, as playthings, until they had become too rancid for her to carry on her tongue. And maybe, just maybe, if she asked nicely, Mother would let her have the next set as well.
Climbing onto her mother's back after the liger queen had finished bathing her, licking away the blood that had come to cover her from the fight and subsequent meal, it was with a happy smile as she gazed at the colored orbs within her hand that Arietta allowed herself to doze, her mother's movements lulling her into half dreams of the next time they would find a creature like her and the delicious taste of the meat they gave.
AN: I warned you. Remember, the ligers, the young ones anyway, eat humans. Arietta was raised by the liger queen. You make the connection. But only one more chapter left to go now! :D