Jump to content
Search In
  • More options...
Find results that contain...
Find results in...
Existing user? Sign In

Sign In



Sign Up

Catgirl King

💛 Gold Member
  • Posts

    40
  • Joined

  • Last visited

1 Follower

About Catgirl King

  • Rank
    Damp

Personal Information

  • My pronouns are..
    he/him

My Kinks

  • I'm into..
    Diapers

Recent Profile Visitors

The recent visitors block is disabled and is not being shown to other users.

Catgirl King's Achievements

  1. Catgirl King

    Baby Maker

    Very entertaining, really like the direction it's going on. Fantastic work!
  2. CHAPTER XI – The Girls are Graduating Naomi lay awake in the nurse’s office, staring up at the ceiling. Her neck was in a cast, as were her ankles, one leg and the opposing arm. The fall she’d taken protecting Noxolo’s BORS had given her several broken bones and a concussion, but she’d managed to preserve both of their lives. Unfortunately, it had also led to the nigh-total destruction of her training mech, something a group of rather pissed-off engineers and mechanics would be spending days correcting. Even so, luck was on her side: as Mieke’s BORS was still considered operational, she was the last one standing and so their team had won the exercise with honors. As such, they had the most pristine honor of all their years in training: the chance to choose the names of their Flowers and Blossom. Three Knights formed the most basic of formations, known as a Petal. Three Petals working in tandem formed a Flower, and at least two Flowers formed a Blossom. Each Blossom was unique, individual and semi-autonomous, functioning to a degree differently from other Blossoms within the larger organization of the Flowering Knights. Once she was out of medical, Naomi would help choose the names of their Flowers and Blossom with the rest of the winners, and they would join with the losers as one whole in service to the King. This was the way of the Flowering Knights. And after that…they would hold a ceremony in the presence of the King himself, where he would dub each and every one of them a Flowering Knight and accept their offer of servitude from then until the day they passed beyond into the embrace of the spirits that be. But, in that moment, that was the furthest thing from her mind. Naomi was frustrated at her lack of ability to move properly, being restricted to her bed for the next few days and having an itch she couldn’t properly scratch. Instructor Nobantu had been there when she’d woken up a few minutes ago. “You’re lucky, Naomi. Had your jump jets fired but a moment later you could have broken something all the King’s horses and all the King’s men couldn’t put back together again. You’ve also got good friends: she hasn’t left your side.” Mieke was curled up on a nearby chair, asleep from sheer exhaustion. The girl had refused to abandon Naomi’s bedside and had even bit an orderly that tried to forcibly remove her. No one else had challenged the small girl since, and she’d stuck by her friend nonstop. Naomi sighed. She felt a bit foolish for the stunt she’d pulled, only now beginning to realize how dangerous it had been. Any one of a number of variables could have gone differently, and if they had it would have resulted in her death, and potentially that of her comrade. It didn’t matter if they were in a combat trial against one another, they were still going to serve together. Even the rivalry and incessant spats with Palesa were only skin deep: every single Aspirant would fight together as a Flowering Knight one day and they knew it. She shifted uncomfortably. The ProtoMed bandages and casts would have her healed up in no time, but until then she was confined and restricted from moving, to ensure proper resolution. As she’d be bedridden that entire time she was, understandably, put in diapers by the medical staff. It’d be a long and uncomfortable several days; no sense worrying about it now. There was a knock at the door nearby, and it slowly opened up. Someone came around the corner. “Hey there, Naomi. Glad to see you’re awake.” “Hey, Imka,” Naomi whispered. Her voice was hoarse, and she was very thirsty. “You don’t sound so good. Anything I can get you?” “Water. Stand.” Imka understood, moving to the nearby table to retrieve her glass of water. She proffered it to Naomi at first before remembering that she was largely immobile. She looked to Naomi for confirmation and, receiving the closest thing to a nod the foxgirl could muster, Imka tipped it up to Naomi’s lips. Naomi greedily chugged it as fast as she could, exhaling heavily once it was empty. “Guh. Thanks.” Imka nodded back to her. “How you feeling?” “Like I fell off a cliff. Instructor Nobantu says we won. Got any good names picked for the ceremony?” The other girl didn’t respond at first. “Actually, I was thinking that might be something for you to offer. I talked it over with Annika and Lerato, and they think you should have the first say in it.” Naomi frowned. “Why? Everyone’s efforts won us the day, and we only did so for Mieke’s survival. She should carry that honor, not me.” Imka smiled at this. “Mieke forfeit that before we’d even had a chance to ask, and she threatened everyone a meeting with her teeth if they tried to take the honor from you.” She giggled. “Poor Zanele thought she was being serious and left a puddle on the floor. Mieke practically idolizes you, especially after that crazy stunt you pulled.” Unsure of how to respond to all that, Naomi did her best to smile. “Just looking out for a sister Knight.” At this, Imka grew cross. “…you need to be careful, Naomi.” Naomi sighed. “I was.” “You almost died!” “Noxolo could have died instead, and I was the last one that could hold myself accountable for it,” Naomi’s eyes narrowed, trying not to shiver at the thought of those adrenaline-fueled moments. “I took a chance and it worked. We’re Flowering Knights, and it’s almost official. Sooner or later one of us will take a chance and it won’t work – you may as well steel your nerves now.” Imka hissed. “Damn you…I know. Just, be careful.” Naomi raised a hand weakly, and Imka held her hand in response. “I will, Imka. I promise.” The next few hours were mostly uneventful. People came and went to pay their respects and congratulations, Mieke awoke and nearly broke more of Naomi’s body attempting to hug her, and at some exhaustive assurances finally allowed Naomi to be alone so the little sharkgirl could get some proper food and rest. It was nearly nighttime now, and while she wanted to fall asleep Naomi could hear someone approaching. It sounded like… “…damn me,” she muttered. The door opened and a familiar voice sounded off. “May I come in?” Naomi hesitated. “Yes, Noxolo.” The ace student approached. There was that usual cold, emotionless look in her eyes, but behind it Naomi caught the flicker of someone uncomfortably respectful, too. Noxolo stood there for a few moments before taking a deep breath. “I just wanted to stop by and thank you for protecting my life.” It sounded rehearsed and only partially sincere, but it was gratitude all the same. “I’m glad you made it out alive,” Naomi sighed. “The Knights will need you. We’ll need you. You’re an incredible pilot and warrior, and the King would be cheated by life, were you to be taken from us so soon.” Noxolo nodded back to her. Their exchange was formal and only partially genuine, but the girls had achieved the closest thing to making up that they were ready to do. After a few moments the ace turned about and walked away without another word. Once she was assuredly out of earshot, Naomi sighed heavily. She pressed her head back into her pillow, realizing that she had peed herself during that exchange, a warm sog now squishing against her as a reminder of how anxious she had been. She forced her eyes shut, the heat on her now-embarrassed cheeks her only comfort as she tried to drift off to sleep. By the end of that week, Naomi was freed and back on her own two feet. She felt a bit shaky at times, the traumatic aftereffects of her brush with death still on her mind, but otherwise the girl found the triumphant return to be refreshing. Mieke cried like a baby and refused to let her go for at least an hour after she walked again, and there were more than a few tears to be shared among the other girls. Even so, Naomi was undeterred, and fought back their fretting and fussing in equal measure. True to form, there was a unanimous decision among the seventeen other Aspirants – Naomi would have the honor of nomenclature. Both Flowers were hers and hers alone to name, and her word for the Blossom they formed would be a cut above the rest. Having had ample time to consider her options, her decision was swift: “Imka, Mieke – you and I are Alpha Petal, and with our deeds as witness we will be first among our sisters. Annika, your talent and leadership are an inspiration to Kholwa’s technical skill and Londiwe’s love of politics and science. As Delta Petal, you will join us.” Naomi paused to take a deep breath, realizing her decisions would affect them all for the rest of their lives. “Lerato: you are like an older sister to Epsilon Petal, and the shortcomings of both Zanele’s fear and Londiwe’s lack of alacrity are both easily overcome with you by their sides. You three shall join with us as equals, and so shall we become a Flower: Tigerlily. If any of you object, only your words now shall be heard.” There were no sounds of objection, and so it was to be. One more deep breath, and Naomi turned to the harder task at hand: “Palesa, you have led Beta Petal with distinction, and with the embodiment of a Knight in Noxolo and the humanity of Arno, you shall now lead the rest of your sisters. Gamma Petal – as triplets, you are difficult for the common man to distinguish, but we are all sisters here. With the wisdom of Nomalanga, the swordskills of Nomandla and the protection of Nomathalente, you shall find your place among your sisters. And this should only lead us to Duduzile, whose machines gift us prowess. It leads us to Nkazimulo, with the ferocity and endurance of the mightiest Molligmond. We are led to Khanyisile, the finder of patterns, information and life itself. The three Petals will form the Birds of Paradise, and their Flower will join with ours.” There was a cacophonous clatter as all eighteen of them snapped their heels together. “We serve!” Naomi felt pride brimming throughout her bosom as the anxiety finally dissipated. “Our Flowers will join in communio, and become one. We stand here today as a Blossom – communio, Onwaar!” They chanted the name of their Blossom in acceptance, each and every one. “Onwaar!” The ceremony was only days away. Every girl in Onwaar Blossom was terrified. None of them had ever actually met the King, and to be knighted and inducted into full service was something that they’d looked forward to their whole lives. The fact that it was now upon them was a lot to take in. The Aspirants fussed over their hair, the seams in their dresses, the motions of their nigh-ritualistic ceremony, practiced to a T – it was fair to say that they would be less-fearful of striding into war itself, rather than be knighted by the King. For ones raised from birth to view the King as all but a deity, anything less than perfection would be tantamount to sacrilege. And yet, when the day came, they stood before the massive and ornate double-doors that led to the King’s throne room. Carved from the finest timber in all the land and inlaid with glittering gold, none of them had ever passed beyond. Despite their apprehension, they kept straight faces forced into statuesque visage. In minutes, they would be Flowering Knights. With a hideous creaking sound, the door slowly opened up, grinding outwards at an agonizing pace. Assembled in six columns of three, the Aspirants waited patiently until the path was completely open before continuing silently, in perfect step with one another. The throne room was massive, easily enough to hold a hundred men comfortably with room to spare, five pillars on each side of the lengthy, carpeted path that led up to a grand set of stairs that rose to a glorious throne, upon which sat the King himself. He was aloof, as if amused by what was about to proceed, or perhaps he was just a reverent monarch. Naomi avoided eye contact, keeping herself ceremoniously monotonous as they marched forward. Finally, but a few yards away, they knelt down onto one knee and bowed their heads. “My King!” Instructor Thembeka announced. “The Aspirant Knights kneel before you as it please you.” The King stood up slowly, almost smirking to himself. He opened his arms wide as he strode down the steps in flowing robes. In her peripheral vision, Naomi realized he couldn’t have been much older than themselves. “Very good, Thembeka!” he announced, clapping his hands once. Yes, he sounded quite young, and any other man would have instantly earned her disrespect, but this was the King. He could all but do no wrong. “Ah, so many young, fresh faces this batch. The Flowering Knights have truly outdone themselves, certainly!” The King finally reached the bottom of the steps. “You have done well, Thembeka. Please pass on my gratitude to the others.” “I serve,” Thembeka replied humbly, bowing once. The King continued. “Now then!” he clapped his hands together once more. “I understand this will be the first time you young ladies have met with your King face to face, but I assure you it is not your last. I am Bed’Nego-” There was a light gasp that rose from someone in the group, and in her startled horror Naomi couldn’t pick out who it was. The King, much like the Nation, were left nameless for the most sacred of traditions. It may have been his right to share as he saw fit, but to openly go against it was unsettling, and Naomi felt a general discontent settle over her Blossom. Thembeka also did not approve, and vocally made her feelings know. “My King: I do not presume to question your judgement, but I will continue to advise you not to break such tradition, especially in front of my Aspirants.” At this, the King laughed, scoffing. “Your Aspirants?” “Yes, my King.” The Instructor’s voice was poised but firm. “I see. But, are the Flowering Knights not under my direct command, as King of the Nation?” That sly, seductive wordplay that only a woman could truly master slipped through Thembeka’s lips. “I have yet to hear you knight them.” Bed’Nego could contain his laughter no more, and his elation echoed throughout the hall. Naomi and the others refused to budge, barely daring to breathe and blink. At long last, the King’s manners returned. “Ah, the tongue of a Knight is both barbed but smooth, sweet yet bitter. Your wisdom is evident, Thembeka. Pray, forgive of me a moment of jeering – the politics of this country can be boring at times, and it is only in my Flowering Knights that I see the best of hopes for it.” Something in his tone didn’t sit right with Naomi. Her heart slammed in her chest, despite her willing for its cessation, and she wasn’t sure if it was nerves or instinct screaming at her that there was a mite amiss. It took all of her willpower and concentration just to hold it together. She barely noticed the rest of the ceremony going on, some exchanges of words and congratulations before she was aware of the King standing before her. “Your name and your pledge.” It was a simple request, and she blurted out her answer with practiced ease, training taking over and replacing the human aspect of her consciousness. “Naomi. I am yours to command, a guide through the maelstrom.” Naomi suddenly became aware of a warm wetness beneath her, something she hadn’t even realized had occurred. A silent prayer formed in her mind that no one had heard. The King mulled this over. “I accept your pledge, Naomi. Unto your people, so shall you now be known as the Vector.” To her sisters, she would always be Naomi, but to the people of the Nation she would be the Vector. The tradition took its next life, and Naomi accepted it with grace. The King moved on to the next Aspirant, naming her as well. Mieke the Ocean, Annika the Reaper, Noxolo the Sword, name by name did the members of Onwaar become whole. At long last, the King ascended the steps back to his throne, holding his arms aloft. “What are you?!” he bellowed with gusto. Naomi roared back. “Tigerlily!” Palesa followed suit. “Birds of Paradise!” “What are you all?!” the King asked once more. All eighteen of the now-Knights chanted back. “Onwaar!” The King turned around. “Rise, Onwaar! You are my Flowering Knights, and so shall you be until you pass into the embrace of the spirits that be.” The girls all rose, and despite the tremendous pride and joy coursing through her veins, something still rubbed Naomi the wrong way. She felt it in her ears, her tail, all the animalistic things that had gotten her to this point now told her to be careful. As her eyes rested on the King himself – his physical form obviously suited to the politics of government and not war – she felt the discomfort that only a bad feeling could bring. In the voice of her Samesmelting, the words of Unathi resonated: If your entire world were to be turned upside one day, what would happen to you? What would you do if everything you knew was taken from you? Celebration was hollow to Naomi, despite all the joy that entailed. She began to realize just how frayed her nerves were, especially after talking with her comrades – they too were still coming down from the anxiety of it all, but found solace in their unity and the chance to finally ‘begin’ the lives they had set out to live so many years ago. Naomi knew deep down that life was about to be a lot livelier, and she had a pretty good idea of where to start with it.
  3. CHAPTER X – The Girls are United Naomi’s eyes snapped open at the same time every morning. It took her a moment to realize she was still snuggled up with Mieke. The sharkgirl made an incoherent noise and adjusted, and Naomi felt something padded and soggy squish against her thigh. “Mieke, wake up. You’re wet.” Mieke made a whining noise as she woke up. “Ugh, and I was having such a good dream, too.” There was a sharp inhale before her voice dropped to the barest of whispers. “Naomi, look!” Imka was curled up in her own bed across from them, one thumb in her mouth and her other arm cradling Gepp. The Molligmond had grown quite a bit in the years since they’d adopted the critter, now the size of a child. Its tongue was still displaced from its mouth as always when it slept, but its form had taken a slimmer, more humanoid appearance. In a couple years it’d be fully grown, standing a full head and shoulders above a man. It took all of Naomi’s willpower to not giggle. She put one hand to her mouth, stifling laughter. “Alright, sharky; get changed and ready to roll. We’ve got a big day ahead of us.” “Delta Petal, proceeding as planned,” Annika’s voice came through the radio that seraing hot afternoon. “Be advised, sighting of dust trails confirmed ahead, battlegrid Foxtrot seven, Foxtrot eight. Moving to intercept.” Imka’s response was immediate and crisp. “Roger, Delta. Confirm Petal destruction, maintain contingency plan Rose.” There was a grunt of affirmation. “Understood.” The connection was terminated. Mieke sighed through the local channel. “They’re gonna trap us somewhere. I can smell it.” “I know,” Imka replied. “But there’s three Petals out there. We have plans to guide us to victory, so let’s use them.” Imka had poured over planning for days straight leading up to this, literally refusing to leave her bed. A tower of water bottles and pissy diapers had grown near her in that time, and Naomi had actually prepared an intervention with Mieke just in case their friend had finally lost it. However, at the final hour, Imka had proclaimed her triumph and revealed her laborious studies to the others. It had taken hours to explain her ideas and all of its contingencies to their group, Annika’s and Lerato’s, but everyone now understood how to deal with the other Aspirants in the most efficient way possible. The combat trial took place over 50km2 in the desert, far outside the reach of anything other than the Aspirants testing one another. It was a simple test – the last team standing was victorious. Their BORS were equipped with training gear and weaponry, designed to simulate hits and deactivate sections of the mech in response. It was relatively safe while allowing a Knight to learn the feel of real combat with an opponent. And of all opponents to face, whom was deadlier than a Flowering Knight and her BORS? Now it was a waiting game. Naomi’s hands rested on her thighs, doing her best to remain cool. Temperature-wise, it was quite warm in her cockpit, even just idling, and her heart intermittently fluttered as she anticipated every radio check from Delta and Epsilon Petals to be contact. Up to this point there’d been nothing, and now she had to await Annika’s group to intercept and hopefully make it out in one piece. Every BORS that went down was down for the duration of the exercise, and the loss of one Knight could inevitably lead to their defeat. Minutes passed, down and down they ticked. Finally, Annika’s deep voice came on again. “Confirmed sighting on Gamma Petal. Initiating contingency plan Mossie.” A plan named after a small bird that always attacked smaller prey from above before flying away and repeating. Hit and run: if Annika and her girls could down even just one foe the odds would be shifted in their favor. Mieke’s BORS shifted in its covered position. They were in low-power mode and covering a narrow pass that led back to Delta’s patrol route. If Zeta Petal tried a flanking attack they could be ambushed and taken down in one fell swoop. But the sharkgirl was impatient. “Come on, we should be hunting them down.” “We are,” Imka replied calmly. “Tch. This is the lamest means of hunting. You know what I meant. Imka wouldn’t budge on this. “I do, and you know that we’re at a supreme disadvantage in an open conflict. Noxolo is the best pilot of us all, and needs to be taken down from multiple angles, and to have that maneuvering room we need to whittle down their edges. We need to remove at least four of their Knights before we can make a push.” “But-” “Follow the plan, Mieke.” There was an uncomfortable whine. “Fine…” The radio crackled to life. It was Annika again. “This is Delta. Mossie success, disengaging now. Two stones from one bird.” They’d managed to take down nearly an entire Petal with no losses? That was a huge swing in their favor. It was now seven against nine, Naomi’s team’s favor. “Excellent!” Imka fought back the sounds of joy. “Fall back as planned, you-” There was a sudden scream of terror over the radio, followed by static. Lerato barked out a response immediately thereafter, fear rising in her voice. “Epsilon’s under fire! Zanele is down, we’re falling back, grid Echo six!” Imka swore. “Spirits be good! Annika, I need-” “On it,” the older girl responded. “High gear, ladies; your sisters need us!” A pair of ‘we serve’ responses sounded off from her Petal as Delta moved to cover Epsilon’s retreat. Mieke clicked her teeth. “Incoming, proximity sensor at four hundred meters tripped. Betcha it’s Zeta.” Naomi did the math. If Mieke’s knack for this sort of thing was correct, that meant- “Spirits preserve us,” she breathed. “Epsilon’s getting ambushed by Gamma. Palesa and Noxolo must have caught up.” “Damnation!” Imka swore again. “Annika, Lerato, I’m enacting contingency wedloop see toe – flood incoming at grid Delta two-three, Delta two-one.” There was a pause. “Understood,” Annika’s voice had become grim. Lerato was equally resigned to her fate. “See you on the other side.” Naomi hesitated, but risked a response on the team channel. “Maak jou dood tel.” Make your death count. Annika made that sort of dark laugh someone made when they knew they were about to lose. “On to triumph or to judgment day.” One by one, the members of Alpha Petal shut off their radio communications outside of their local Petal channel. This was the most desperate ploy in Imka’s machinations, and they were committing to it far earlier than she’d wanted. If this didn’t work, they’d be losing, and losing hard. “It’s just training. They’re not actually dying,” Imka muttered to herself. “Their ‘deaths’ will count for something.” “Keep it together, Imka,” Mieke answered back, her voice low and patient. “We all agreed to your plan. Don’t renege on us now. “Creating a strategic plan that calls for bait and sacrifice is a lot different from tactically ordering someone to commit to it.” Imka’s voice belied the tears in her eyes. “If this were real, I would have just signed the deaths of six Knights.” “And they would go willingly for King and Country both,” Naomi replied, forcing her voice to be steady even as her heart rose in her chest like a landmine ready to blow. “We all would. So, make their ‘deaths’ count.” “I serve,” Imka replied coldy. They waited, counting down the seconds. Naomi’s hands were on her control sticks and her legs twitched in anticipation. Covered in sand by the edge of a rock wall, she’d be hard to spot visually, and when powered to a minimal operational standard like this she’d be impossible to pick up on sensors except at ultra-close range. The seismic sensor picked up a contact, two hundred meters. The girl slowed her breathing, waiting for the right moment. One-hundred fifty meters. A trickle of warmth spread down below her crotch, crawling like an itch up her backside as her thighs spread wider to accommodate the absorbent padding protecting her chair from her. One-hundred. One chance to make this work. Finally, as the unwary members of Zeta Petal crossed the fifty-meter mark, Mieke barked out an ‘ah!’ of surprise on an open channel, bursting from her concealed position a few dozen meters behind the ambush site. The telltale sound of an OSH 30 chittering away belied her assault as Imka stepped out from her boulder above on a thin outcropping above. The position had been difficult to reach, but through a mix of clever positioning and unyielding trust in her gyroscope, Imka had been able to keep balanced in a prime firing position. Her 4cm GEPPs rained man-made lightning down into the Petal as Naomi burst up from the sands like a Flowering Knight of eld, powering up to full force as she did. The closest BORS was trying to make a run for it, and Naomi’s controls worked away as fast as could be, bringing her own OSH 30 autocannon up and letting loose a full-auto stream. Hundreds of simunition rounds streaked into her target, scoring its limbs and then side. The thing went limp, losing motive power and collapsing down to its knees in a submissive pose. A mark on Naomi’s HUD indicated it was removed from combat. “Spirits,” a voice huffed from over the radio. “This is Duduzile, Petal leader for Zeta. You got us good; that you, Alpha?” “Yes,” Imka replied flatly. All three targets in Zeta were down for the count, BORS’ deactivated and immobile: a textbook ambush completed successfully. The girl from Zeta laughed. “Well, can’t say you didn’t earn that one. Good luck with the others.” “Thank you,” Imka replied again. “I serve.” “I serve.” Zeta’s radio channel disconnected. In its place was a loud cheer from Mieke. “Woohoo! We did it!” Imka was less enthusiastic. “This is Alpha: flooding has begun.” There was a burst of static and the sounds of someone getting slammed around in their cockpit. “Lerato here: Epsilon’s down, fighting with Delta. We’re holding the line but we’re”- Lerato never got the chance to finish her transmission as a gutwrenching static took her voice’s place. Imka’s words trembled. “…Lerato?” Annika responded instead. “Epsilon Petal is lost. Kholwa and Londiwe are gone. I’m the only one left.” Naomi immediately felt herself peeing her pants again. In the time it had taken them to down the three members of Zeta Petal they’d lost four to Palesa’s batch? “Stick to the plan,” Imka cried. “I’m sorry!” Annika laughed maniacally. “So long as I stand, the plan is still in motion, girl. Make my death count.” Naomi slapped her radio off from longer range communications. She needed to focus, not let fear set in. “Come on, Alpha, let’s go!” Mieke was already running, sprinting as fast as her BORS could go. The last stage of the plan called for Alpha to rendezvous with the survivors so they could team up to take down the toughest foe: Beta Petal, maintaining Palesa the leader and Noxolo the ace. Those two alone were worth at least six Knights, and currently Naomi was part of four that had to challenge them. We can do this, a spectral voice echoed in Naomi’s thoughts. Her ears flicked, and she nodded to herself. She didn’t know if she believed the others, but she believed in that voice. A few minutes later they started coming across deactivated BORS units. It was subtle at first, tracing the trail of mechs folded on their knees in defeat. However, the signs of battle became worse and worse as they went on, with spare parts and scrap metal littering the trail of footsteps and glass where sand had been flash-hardened from jump jets firing off. Interestingly enough, they began to encounter casualties from the other side, too. Members of Gamma were downed, and at one point they even found a member from Beta – it was Arno. The thick-skulled girl was pretty amused by a turn of events, claiming that the last three of them had been taken down single-handed by someone she kept calling, ‘the Reaper’. Not having time to press for answers, Alpha continued unabated. The radio came to life a few minutes later as they approached the edge of a cliff. Someone grunted over it. “Come on, I’m right here. Come and get me!” It was Annika, and on the enhanced zoom of their BORS’ Alpha could see the girl near two mechs: Palesa and Noxolo. “Spirits be good,” Mieke breathed. “She’s been fighting five-to-one this whole time? She’s the Reaper!” But Annika’s BORS couldn’t move. Its legs were damaged, it was out of ammunition and it was apparent that it was unable to fight any further. Its right arm had been damaged and blasted into a sickle-shape, missing its hand. She must have been fighting with that in place of her autocannon. Palesa’s BORS planted its foot on Annika’s chest and kicked her mech onto its back, aiming into the center and firing a one-second burst into its chest. The indicator for Annika went red. Annika laughed on the radio. “Spirits be with you, Alpha. Flood the river.” It was an analogue, the final plan. Alpha Petal was pushing towards the battle-weary remainders like a dam burst open and flooding the river below. Imka screamed obscenities as Alpha charged. Palesa and Noxolo’s BORS’ heads turned to face the oncoming onslaught. The pair scattered, dodging fire and returning their own. “Mieke, you and me on Noxolo!” Imka snapped. “Naomi, take down Palesa!” “With pleasure,” Naomi gunned her engine, bouncing around her cockpit with masochistic glee. Her weapon went up and she let loose on full-auto again. Her breasts jiggled with the intense motion and now-recoil of her mech and its weapon, gritting her teeth in sensory overload. Connected with the sensors of her BORS, combined with the heat and motion of her cockpit, it brought a strong reaction to this feeling of combat: Naomi relished the feeling. Palesa was on the backfoot, firing in short bursts that went wide. Naomi was closing to effective range and never letting loose. She was dimly aware of the ammo counter for her autocannon dropping, but she didn’t care. The rush of battle washed over her like a warm bath, and she panted in ecstasy. “Spirits damn you, Naomi!” Palesa hissed on an open channel. “Just don’t know when to give up, do you?” “A Knight never surrenders!” Naomi barked. “Come: let’s be about it!” Palesa cackled with anticipation. “I thought you’d never ask.” The two rivals danced about, accelerating and twisting and turning with blistering speed. OSH guns roared with their salvos, hundreds of 30mm simunition shells whizzing by and slicing into their targets by sheer volume of fire alone. They were fast, evenly matched and masters of their craft. But in the end, Naomi was faster. Her BORS roared up on wings of fire, jump jets burning hard as sweat poured down her sides. As Palesa’s BORS jumped up to meet it Naomi inverted her jump kit, suddenly rocketing down. The move caught them both a bit off guard and ended up with the headpiece for Palesa’s mech caught between Naomi’s mech’s ‘crotch’ and thighs, bringing them both slamming down to the Earth. Naomi panted from the exertion, catching her breath. “You alright, Palesa?” The indicator for the girl’s BORS was red, indicating removal from combat. “If you ever do that to me in real life I’m going to wedgie your training pants so far up your butt they’ll need surgery to bring you back to normal,” was all the girl replied. “Get your butt out of my face.” Under different circumstances Naomi would have laughed. However, in a case like this there was still one very big problem on her hands. As she brought her mech back up to full height and turned, she was met with a sickening sight. Imka’s mech had been rendered headless and the rest of the battered structure had been tossed aside, sparks flickering from broken or severed limbs. The pilot inside would be more than fine, but to see her comrade’s fighting machine so violently rendered inoperable challenged the courage of the strongest. Mieke, on the other hand, was still operational, by technical definitions. The sharkgirl’s BORS had had its knees broken or severed, and she was crawling forward towards Naomi by hand, slowly and painfully. The radio came to life. “Naomi,” she whispered. “You shouldn't be ashamed of being different.” “What?” Naomi mumbled. She watched in horror as Noxolo’s BORS stomped towards Mieke’s. In her heart, Naomi knew it would come down to the two of them, and just like at the wrestling match before, she could put up a good fight, but she would never be more powerful than Noxolo. The girl was more skilled and more talented in every way: it wasn’t possible. But Mieke kept talking. “You're special because you're you, and you better not want to change that because you'll always be you. Know what I'm sayin'?" Naomi froze in time. A memory triggered – Mieke wasn’t just talking for sake of talking, she was repeating a conversation they’d had years ago. In the library, when Naomi had pursued knowledge of Samesmelting and Mieke had inadvertently snuck up on her. It all clicked! That was the secret – Noxolo was only human, but Naomi was more. “Be quiet,” Noxolo snapped, smashing one armored boot into Mieke’s left shoulder. The mechanical limb came loose from the mech at the joint, sparks flying. Naomi grit her teeth and roared, hearing both her own voice and the mysterious voice of whatever spirit cursed her with the fluffy ears and tail. “Witness me, sisters!” Raising her OSH 30, Naomi discarded it to the side. “Oh?” Noxolo responded, dropping her own weapon barrel-first into the soft sand below. “Let’s settle this like proper Knights, fox-ears.” The BORS pulled a rather sizeable dagger from its forearm. Naomi tabbed the control for her own backup weapon, and her left forearm revealed a hidden compartment, ejecting a knife forward and into her mech’s hand. This was about more than the test now. Gritting her teeth, Naomi gunned her BORS forward, picking up speed until she was sprinting like a monster across the desert. Imka. Mieke. Annika. Kholwa. Londiwe. Lerato. Zanele. Amahle. Every one of you fought your hardest to see us victorious. Now it is up to me. Naomi’s thoughts were simple, and she ‘heard’ the thoughts of something in her head. You will succeed, Naomi. She screamed a battlecry, raising her knife just in time to clash with Noxolo. Sparks flew as the ProtoSteel blades met with force. The jumble rumbled through her cockpit as she pulled back and struck again, meeting her opponent’s weapon once more. Naomi kept her mech’s feet moving, forgetting that she was piloting and falling into the trance-like state of acting as one with her war machine. It was an elaborate dance, were one to view it from a distance: two metal monsters locked in a vicious duel, their steps shaking the Earth, their blows ringing ears and intended to gut the opponent. It was apparent that Noxolo’s BORS had been badly damaged. Annika had done nothing short of a miracle, holding out as long as she had and whittling it down to just the two. Imka and Mieke had done a number on Noxolo, but unfortunately it just wasn’t enough. However, everyone had put Naomi in a position to settle this once and for all. Naomi screamed another warcry, putting everything she had into this fight. She forgot the sweat, the heat, the cold and clammy wetness around her waist, her fears and frustrations all. Nothing mattered but defeating Noxolo. As they struck hand-to-hand once more they locked, each one trying to force the other down for a killshot. Somehow, Naomi was unable to push Noxolo down. They were deadlocked. There was a gunshot, and Noxolo’s BORS stumbled. It was Mieke – she must have crawled to Annika’s rifle and fired it prone, striking the back of her foe. It was a moment and it was all Naomi needed. She pushed Noxolo back and prepared to stab, baiting Noxolo’s counterstroke. The ace Aspirant slashed downwards into Naomi’s shoulder, severing her left arm but jackknifing at the same time. In a moment of inspiration, Naomi had twisted her mech’s hand, letting the blow snap on her own blade and knock it loose. As it spun up and over, Noxolo’s dagger swung away, deflected from the unexpected force. Naomi’s knife approached her right hand and she grabbed it expertly, stepping in and reaching around behind Noxolo. If her blade could make it into whatever hole Mieke had just put into its back she could damage the power system and take the BORS down for good. Instinct worked – Naomi had no means of seeing or using her sensors to figure it out in such a short time. The only way this would succeed was with a measure of luck and her own intuition, and as her knife swung around and in she felt it go into something mechanical. Without warning, Noxolo’s BORS pushed away and out, escaping Naomi’s grasp. As its jump jets roared and the mech ascended they suddenly cut out, twisting the BORS and pushing it towards the edge of the cliff. Everything slowed down as an adrenaline spike unlike anything Naomi had ever felt before kicked in. Noxolo’s BORS had taken a hit to its reactor and, now without power, it wouldn’t stand a chance if it fell a few hundred meters down a canyon. Noxolo was a dead-woman-walking. Naomi felt herself scream something, but couldn’t hear. She was dimly aware of herself gunning the BORS as fast as it could run, chasing after the BORS of her comrade. She would never be fast enough to reach it, and while she was aware of that she knew in her heart what she had to do. As Noxolo’s BORS careened off the edge and began plummeting to its certain doom, Naomi pushed her one-armed BORS over after it, diving like one would dive into the water after it. She tabbed her jump jets, launching herself down after the powerless Noxolo. Reaching it, she wrapped her remaining arm clumsily around its waist and rotated, putting her back to the ground. Her jump kit adjusted to the ground and fired at full burn: it wouldn’t be enough to stop them, but at the very least it’d slow them down enough that the softened landing of Naomi’s own BORS would preserve Noxolo’s life. Naomi’s perception was still all over the place, overreacting and distorted from her own adrenaline. She couldn’t properly hear or feel, acting purely on instinct and training. She exhaled, shutting her eyes as the ground approached.
  4. CHAPTER IX – The Girls Are Conflicted Naomi, Imka and Mieke walked through the streets. They had the day to themselves, and tomorrow they’d be pitted against their fellow Aspirants in one final test of their BORS-piloting capabilities. After that it’d only be a few small combat tests and they’d be fully inducted as official Flowering Knights. Mieke hadn’t shut up about it for night seven hours now, and Imka’s patience and continually fraying nerves had almost had enough. Naomi let the two of them jabber back and forth without much response. Her mind strayed to their recent involvement with the strange criminals from Bleej’pt. She’d never been to that country, being as it stood on the other side of the continent Dega, but stories and information still came through. Bleej’pt had been controlled by foreign powers until just under a century ago, and thereafter came into its right as its own nation. A naturally agrarian society with surprisingly strong advancements in medicine and science, it was renowned for its utopian idealism. In reality, the religio-communistic indoctrination of its citizenry was a case of scorn from the Nation, which prided itself on blending many ethnicities, races, backgrounds and beliefs. Then again, Bleej’pt was not a military powerhouse like the Nation was, and so most citizens brushed it off. Nobantu had warned her students of many encounters in the past with foreign agents and their subversive activities: a shadow war, so to speak, that the Flowering Knights must be vigilantly on guard for. “Naomi!” Imka snapped. “Stop spacing.” The girl startled. “Sorry! What’d you say?” Imka sighed loudly. “Come on, get your head out of the clouds. Mieke and I were just wondering what happened to those people we apprehended.” “Oh…actually, I am as well.” Naomi frowned. “I’m sure the Knights are taking care of it.” “Well yeah, of course they are!” Mieke chimed in, a jovial pep to her step. Somehow, it was impossible to stay anything but cheery when she was present, antics notwithstanding. “But it makes me curious about-” The girl stopped dead in her tracks and her eyes lost focus. She started sniffing the air, causing Naomi and Imka to stop a few feet ahead and look back. “Mieke?” “I smell…” the whispered. “Blood.” Naomi exchanged a glance with Imka. Mieke’s Samesmelting gave her a few sharklike features, one of which included a keen sense of smell (especially when it involved blood and meat), something that only got stronger with age. Along with that came an increasingly severe taste for meat, and the girl’s continual distraction with such did worry them from time to time. “Come on, there’s a vendor up the road, I think. Let’s go get you a kebab.” Imka waved her forward. But Mieke adamantly shook her head. “Nono, it’s fresh blood.” The girl’s eyes returned to normal. “Someone’s nearby.” It was at that moment Naomi realized they were across the way from where they’d taken the Bleej’ptian spies prisoner. She felt her ears perk up as her tail floofed of its own volition. “Let’s do this,” she hissed, motioning them into the alley. The girls followed Naomi’s lead as the skittered into the confined line and moved towards the inside courtyard. As they reached the edge of the building they stacked up, Naomi in the lead. She peered around ever so slightly, relying mostly on her ears to determine what happened. There was a light scuffling, someone pacing about and dusting the surface, probably crouched down, facing away. She peeked further. It was a man, wearing a heavy cloak and with long brown hair. He was only a bit older than the girls present, probably in his mid to late twenties. He also didn’t appear to have noticed them. Naomi motioned down with her hand, and her friends nodded in response. The girls waited patiently for several minutes, observing. It became apparent that the man was searching for something, and he was willing to take unreasonable detail in doing so. Naomi bit her lip at one point, a stray thought belying her belief this one was a bit cute. But she struck the thought down – the longer she watched, the more she realized he was investigating for clues, probably in conjunction with the spies the girls had captured. Was he perhaps one of them, or another servant of the King? Either way, she’d need to confront to get any answers. Waving her friends forward, Naomi deftly walked around the corner, her footsteps practiced and silent. “What could interest you so in a place like this?” The man’s head snapped around to look over his shoulder, a wary look in his eyes. He cocked an eyebrow at seeing the three of them. “Aspirants. The Spirits are fortunate this day.” Imka crossed her arms and tapped her foot. “Name.” But the man shook his head. “I am not one of your ilk, but I am also no foe. My name is Unathi, I’m sure you haven’t heard of me.” “Of course not,” Mieke sighed. “Should we?” A sad look crossed Unathi’s face. “Yes…but no. What can I do for you, ladies?” “Mind the tongue and mind your eyes,” Imka snapped. “What are you doing here?” Unathi stood and held his arms aloft sheepishly. “Surely it’s no crime for a citizen to stand in a back alley somewhere?” Naomi’s fingers brushed the hilt of her knife. “Flowering Knights serve the King directly – we are above the law. If we deem your life forfeit, it is so. Are we clear?” “I am aware,” Unathi replied. He was surprisingly cool about all this: Naomi couldn’t hear the usual acceleration of someone’s heartbeat at dealing with a Knight. Whoever this mysterious interlocutor was, he wasn’t normal. Hopefully Imka and Mieke had picked up on that. But the man continued, oddly compliant. “Then what must I do to prove my innocence?” “Yeeaaahhhhhh, guilty,” Mieke shuffled her feet. “What’d you cut yourself on?” Unathi looked her up and down. “…you could smell that?” He removed his left hand from under his cloak, a freshly bandaged cut visible on his palm. “Was looking for any evidence left by those fools from the north and got careless with an exceptionally sharp rock nearby.” “How do you know about that?” Naomi drew her knife as Unathi’s hands went up submissively. “Easy, girl. I mean you no harm. Just interested in what they’re doing to my country.” Imka rolled her eyes. “Ah, so you’re a patriot now? Who do you work for?” “The people,” Unathi blurted out without a second thought, and the girls exchanged glances again. “I…I serve the people.” He was hiding something, but applying force to exert that probably wasn’t ideal, so Imka tried with words again. “Who are you who are so wise in the ways of the Nation?” Unathi hesitated visibly, keeping his hands up. “If I told you you’d have to kill me. I don’t really want to pass into the embrace of the spirits that be just yet, so let’s say I’m someone that may be very important to the Nation one day. Will that suffice?” “For the moment. Why are you interested in the incident?” The man hesitated again. “Bleej’pt and their Holy See are waging a covert war against the entire continent of Dega. They would see every country ‘liberated’ in their self-righteous subjugation. I would see the Nation stand tall and proud and fight back their vile tyranny.” Mieke shook her head. “You smell like you haven’t taken a shower in days, but you don’t smell like a liar.” Imka was not convinced. “What do you think the Flowering Knights exist for? The armies? The King has numerous official options to deal with these threats already. Your ‘help’ only endangers you and muddles our efforts.” “And what if,” Unathi countered. “The King knows his efforts will fail?” In spite of herself, Naomi had crossed the distance between them in an instant and was on him, pinning him to the ground and with her blade rested on his neck. “Speak lightly, fool, or speak no more.” Her voice suddenly hissed a deep reprimand of its own. “Hear his words, but do not listen.” Come on, not now… “Your Samesmelting,” Unathi whispered, gulping. “It speaks.” “What do you know?!” Naomi demanded, glad to hear her normal voice return. Unathi flicked a glance over to Imka and Mieke. “I guess it was worth a try. Alright, I promise to tell you what I know, just please stop sitting on me. It’s weird.” Naomi didn’t buy it. She knew her limits, and despite her tremendous physicality, she was still smaller than Unathi. Her advantages had to come from playing smart, not sheer muscle mass. The women of the Flowering Knights never took their absurd regimen for granted: brutal years under the leadership of their teachers had assured them that. But Unathi continued, staring her dead in the eyes. “I know what you wear under those uniforms.” Naomi felt her face turn crimson in an instant. She doubled down, pushing the knife as close to his throat without hurting him as she could. “Talk, now.” “Okay!” he conceded. “I’m working independently, but I used to know people in the royal family and the courts. I’m observant and well-trained, and I’m looking for information that will prove the corruption rampant in our political system.” “You think someone is betraying the King and Nation for, what, another country?” Imka approached, kneeling down on her haunches to get a closer look. “Corruption? Treason?” “All,” Unathi nodded, realizing the mistake when a knife lay at his throat. “Bleej’ptian spies are ramping up their subversive efforts and I know they have support from within the government.” “Who do you suspect and what’s your evidence?” Unathi got a grim look. “My evidence is that there’s more and more of these incidents cropping up by the month, and that power corrupts. I don’t have any suspects – spirits, for all I know the King himself is complicit.” “Take the King’s name in vain again and I’ll end you!” Naomi snapped. “Level with me,” Unathi sighed, shutting his eyes. “If your entire world were to be turned upside one day, what would happen to you? What would you do if everything you knew was taken from you?” Naomi didn’t hesitate. “I’d fight to bring it back.” Unathi’s eyes opened. “So am I.” The girls didn’t respond. Naomi couldn’t bring herself to trust him, but she knew a lie when she heard one. Her ears didn’t betray the small things like heartbeat, breathing, body language – when people told a lie she knew it, she could hear a disingenuous assertion a mile away. This man wasn’t: at the very least, he believed what he said. She took the knife off his neck and returned it to its sheathe. “Alright.” “Naomi!” Imka hissed, but an upheld hand silenced the girl. “He’s out of line, but he’s right. If there’s a hidden foe that threatens our King then we must face it. If this miserable wretch is our way to do so, then so be it.” “I know, but-” “But nothing, Imka.” Naomi stood up, still standing over Unathi. She folded her arms. “We have all pushed ourselves to the edge of what it means to be a person, for sake of our service. We go sleepless, tired, sore and bleeding beyond reason, and for what? For our King! We piss our panties and gird our rear ends in diapers to keep going, on and on and on, longer and farther, humiliating ourselves until the word loses all meaning. We are Flowering Knights, and there is no length to which we will not reach for our duty. None!” She pointed down. “And yet now you hesitate when this insufferable boy ruffles our skirts?” Imka looked away, biting her cheek in fury. She didn’t want to say it, but it was obvious she knew that Naomi was right. “Spirits damn you, Naomi…fine!” “Damn me they will, but I will not forsake myself for fear of humility.” Naomi reached down, proffering a hand to Unathi. “On your feet, wretch. Like it or not, you’ve made three new friends – and you’d better keep us close.” Unathi didn’t take the hand at first. He looked suspicious, but after a few seconds relented, reaching up and taking her hand. His feel was rough, a sharp contrast to the soft hand she offered. Even so, she felt a kinship between them: he was strong, stronger than his thin form belied, and with that same energy of someone pushing very hard for something they believed in. “Okay,” he finally said. “When will I hear from you all?” Naomi let go and motioned for her friends to follow. “Soon.” That night, Naomi laid awake for what felt like hours. She couldn’t sleep, between the knowledge that tomorrow would be her grandest combat trial to date or the strange meeting with Unathi. She wondered what he meant, about worlds being turned upside down and fighting to bring it back. How did he know so much, not just about the Flowering Knights and their creative ways, but also about the world and what they were doing? Was he more connected than he let on? Her thoughts were interrupted by a shuffling nearby. She sighed. “What’s up, Mieke?” “Can’t sleep,” the girl whined. Naomi rolled over and patted her bed. “Come on, up you go.” Mieke slipped in and snuggled up to Naomi. The girl was small, like a younger sister, and she had a habit of curling up when trying to sleep. Deep down, it wasn’t hard to realize that Mieke had plenty of fears on her mind. It wasn’t for a few minutes before she spoke. “We’ll win tomorrow…won’t we?” Naomi didn’t want to respond, but the voice inside her spoke in its distorted way. “You will.” The was a content noise from the sharkgirl, and that was good enough for Naomi.
  5. Glad to hear you're enjoying! I thought I'd try to focus on a sci-fi story first and omo/omu stuff second, for a change of pace. Long as it's working and fun to read, I'm content with it. Honestly, I've never consumed any Blazblue media beyond a Death Battle video back in the day, so if there's a resemblance it was unintentional. Glad to hear there's one if so! If someone else thought it was a good idea I'll take it, haha. I'd be interested to pursue your own story when I get some time. Is it posted here? If not, any chance you can send me a link? I'd be quite interested if it's up for viewing!
  6. Possibly: still hit a bit of a dead end in terms of creativity for it, and I kind of wanted to move on to other projects. That being said, I wouldn't mind digging this out of its purgatory at some point and continuing onwards. Regardless, glad to hear it has been enjoyed! ^_^
  7. CHAPTER VIII - The Girls Are Preparing Simulator training took perhaps a month before they were allowed to step into a real cockpit. Nolwandle had chortled at this, the Aspirants lined up in a row across from a series of ten-meter-tall machines hunkered down on their haunches. “This isn’t a game anymore, and if you screw up you’re going to feel it. All of you will screw up sooner or later, and as long as you’ve got motive power I expect you to get back on your mechanical feet!” This was one of the lightest BORS around, a Broekie-class. It was possible to clamber up one of the legs and reach the cockpit. Once seated inside, Naomi leaned back and allowed the five-point harness to actuate. Immediately afterwards, the seat retracted into the mech and the fore-end closed. Encapsulated in all but darkness, she flicked a few switches and keyed the startup sequence. The BORS’ Automated Spotting System came online. “Welcome, Aspirant,” the ASS droned. “Training BORS systems online, power supply ready.” There was a light whining all around her, vibrations of the reactor coming to life. With a light exhale, Naomi shut her eyes and tried to focus. Her heart felt like it was going to bust out of her chest, anxiety rising in her entire body. She shivered, nerves out of control. “Keep it together,” the foxgirl breathed. “Alpha Petal needs you.” Alpha Petal was the official name of her group, containing Imka and Mieke. They were being paired with Delta Petal, led by Annika, and Epsilon Petal headed by Lerato. This was a simple set of exercises in an actual BORS, practicing formations and combat drills, and in one week they’d be engaging in competition amongst themselves. The divvying of teams meant that Naomi would be facing off against Beta Petal, involving both Palesa and Noxolo, her two toughest rivals. Imka’s voice on the radio snapped her back to reality. “Alpha Petal, sound off.” The girls had voted for their own leadership, and when both Naomi and Mieke had voted, Imka had reluctantly been forced into charge. A sing-song voice immediately replied. “Mieke on the mic, ready to roll!” There was a light grumbling sound followed by a familiar ghwe. “Mieke, that better not be who I think it is…” Imka’s voice trailed off. “What?” the girl responded. “GePP gets lonely, and I didn’t want him to chew on-” “We’re about to pilot the Nation’s most prized war machines in live training!” Imka was stressed beyond words. “And you brought a gremlin that wants to chew on everything he sees?” Mieke huffed irritably. “He gets lonely and lacks empathy, and turns to crime as a means of coping. He’s a little-wittle momma’s boy, aren’t’cha?” There was the sound of her hugging the beast, and it made contented coo in response. “He’s fine as long as I’m here. Besides, he likes the ASS! It’s a lullaby, puts him right to sleep.” “This is Naomi, all systems nominal,” Naomi did her best not to laugh over the radio. “Make sure you clean up the drool once you’re done.” “Ha! If I don’t have to help clean your puddles again, you’ve got yerself a deal.” Mieke was clearly giggling to herself, but Naomi couldn’t fault her. It was funny, no sense in getting butthurt about it. Imka sighed. “Alright, Alpha Petal active and ready to deploy. Alpha, rise.” Naomi moved her controls and felt a rumble as the BORS rose to full height. Its ProtoScreen displayed the outside, giving her a view of the world before her. She raised her hands, looking down to them and rolling the mech’s wrists, testing the joints and reactions. It was remarkably close to the simulators, but there was something different about doing it for real. A deeper voice spoke across the radio. “Delta-1, this is Annika. How you girls holding up?” Annika was the eldest of the Aspirants, and something of a de facto mom to the others. She was certainly talented, perhaps one of the best, but she focused her efforts into helping others instead of making a name for herself. To have her on their side was calming. “We’re running checks now,” Imka replied coolly, putting on a brave voice. “ETA deployment, one minute.” There was an umu sound of affirmation. “Sounds good. Be advised, Lerato and Epsilon are struggling to get actuation. Stand by, confirm.” “Alpha confirm. Standing by.” The line buzzed, indicating disconnection, and Imka sighed heavily. “Sincerely, spirits damn both of you for making me lead.” Mieke sounded offended. “You’re the most levelheaded and you’ve got a better grasp of tactics and strategy. Would you follow me into battle?” “No,” Imka replied without hesitation. “Would you follow Naomi?” “…yes.” “Well, there ya go.” Mieke clapped once. “You’re outvoted. Democracy in action – there’s a reason we have a King make the decisions.” Mieke was surprisingly profound when she wanted to be, which wasn’t very often. Naomi found herself nodding in agreement. “We all have a service to uphold, Imka: yours is in command of Alpha Petal.” Imka didn’t reply, and an uneasy silence descended on the group. Finally, she broke it. “I wet myself when Annika asked a simple question. How can I lead you all if I can’t even have the courage to speak with my superior?” There was no response this time, so Naomi felt the need to speak up. “Imka, that doesn’t matter. We’re going to be Knights – our entire purpose is to serve the King. You are doing that and you’ll continue doing it, and you’re already doing a fine job. If that has some uh…” she wasn’t sure of how to put it lightly, and suddenly felt foolish. “…damp side effects, no one in history will care. The Knights of old probably did the same thing, but no one reads about that. They read about their deeds, their strength of character and conviction, and how they’ve kept the Nation alive for millennia. Don’t worry if you need to wear diapers to do it: be proud that you do it.” Mieke snorted. Naomi was about to admonish her when the sharkgirl interrupted. “That’s our Petal’s motto from now on. Don’t worry if you need to wear diapers to do it: be proud that you do it.” “Spirits damn me,” Naomi whimpered. “Don’t do this to me, Mieke.” Alas, Imka, now free from the shackles of doubt and teasing, was all too willing to use the authority she’d up to that moment dreaded. For better or worse, Alpha Petal had made its first point of lore. It was nearly twenty minutes late by the time the nine girls had finished their checks and taken a short jog out to the nearby canyons. In the searing desert heat their BORS were capable of keeping cool, but Naomi chose to keep her cabin temperature as close to standard as possible. She didn’t want to get used to air-conditioned environments, keeping acclimated to the heat of her home. For years the girl had walked, run and tread these sands and beyond, becoming familiar with their soft feel and burning temperature. Even so, to stride the desert in a metal machine was a feeling of power unlike any other. A BORS jostled up and down and side to side, even when walking slowly. It was a rough ride now matter how you sliced it, and Naomi was silently grateful past-her had had the forethought to sport a diaper this day. The constant tumbling was already giving her bladder a tough time, and sooner or later it’d be curtains for her own dryness. This way at least, she could focus on the task at hand – she was here to learn how to pilot the gift of her King, not plan a trip to the bathroom. A short callout on the radio from Imka grabbed her attention. “Approaching firing range, ETA two minutes. Alpha 1, pushing far.” Annika responded immediately thereafter. “Delta 1, pushing short.” There was a brief moment of silence before Lerato’s soothing voice blessed their ears. “Epsilon 1, pushing center.” Three Knights made a Petal, and three Petals made a Flower. That was the standard demarcation for Flowering Knights, dating back centuries at the very least. Until they passed a combat test in their BORS, they would not be considered Flowering Knights and would not yet have earned the right to name their Flower. Before they could even consider that, they all needed to get some time on a live firing range with BORS-scale weaponry. There were three sections, and each Petal would take one. It took a couple minutes for everyone to get into position, Epsilon taking noticeably longer. It occurred to Naomi that was probably the reason Annika had placed Delta at the edge, to provide a sense of security to their comrades. Everyone was used to the OMU-39 rifles they’d used in small arms training, but a BORS was on an entirely different level. These carried 0-Shiri autocannons, Grand Electromagnetic Positron Projectors and racks of missiles, among other things. A BORS could be modified to support any combat role desired by its Knight, and it was undisputed that these were the rules of the battlefield. Nolwandle’s words echoed. “It is the Knight that is the true warrior: a BORS is but a weapon she wields. Without her, the machine is no more dangerous that a heavy rock!” “We’re the true warriors,” Naomi muttered, keying her radio. “This is Alpha 2, clear range.” There was a pause, and no response from her comrades. Her BORS’ ASS responded in its robotic voice: “Range clear, firing to commence at will.” Naomi hefted her weapon. Each BORS was equipped with at least one built-in weapon, and generally designed to carry a weapon in its four-fingered hands. To start, Naomi had chosen a relatively low-caliber weapon they’d used in the simulators, an OSH 30 autocannon. Rapid-fire and strong enough to chew through infantry and armor alike, it was a common choice. She’d seen Knights take them akimbo, but after a bit of a rough patch in the simulators she was content to start off with just the one. She tabbed the autoreload control and her BORS reached for the pouch on its side and dutifully stuck it into the OSH 30. An ammo counter on her ProtoScreen ticket up and a corresponding bar filled. Naomi looked into the screen, flicking the control for zoom imaging to actuate, letting the BORS’ sensors see for her. Starting targets were set up at 200 meters, and she let the automated systems bring it up to a firing position. Subconsciously, she tapped her foot pedals to move the machine’s feet to an asymmetric position, wider and more stabilized. During simulation training she’d missed that and been knocked on her ass from the recoil of a cannon, and while this weapon wasn’t strong enough to do so the lesson stuck. The two square reticules fought with the machine’s physical movements until it got a lock. A rapid-fire series of beeps told her she was locked, and Naomi squeezed the trigger control. The OSH 30 bucked wildly, bouncing the targeting lock around as the BORS fought to keep steady. Tracer rounds streaked across the range like beautiful lines connecting her to her target, and she felt a connection to her machine. She, a living, breathing being, at the helm of a mighty metal beast that served her every command. Paired together, they were united like a storm of fire and steel that would serve the King above and beyond their call. By the time she had put her sixteen-hundred rounds downrange she was panting and fighting a funny feeling in her breasts. There was a low whistle over the radio. “Spirits that be, is that you, Naomi?” It sounded like Annika. “You handled that recoil like a champ.” Naomi looked over, keeping her barrel pointed downrange. She didn’t actually need to turn her BORS, given its 3D ProtoVision, but out of habit she did so anyways. There were a couple of BORS still shooting in short, controlled bursts, but a couple in Epsilon Petal had stopped to rubberneck and admire. Suddenly wondering if she’d actually hit anything, Naomi thumbed her mic off. “Accuracy metric,” she huffed, breathing a lot harder than she would have expected. The ASS responded a pair of seconds later. “89.7% rounds on target confirmed.” That was above average, especially for the continuous fire she’d just put in. Noticing the heat rising from her weapon’s barrel and the higher temperature in her cabin as the BORS siphoned heat away from the OSH 30, she flicked her mic back on and heard herself laugh sheepishly. “Uhm, thank you, Annika.” Her face flushed and she crossed her legs in embarrassment. No one could see inside the cockpit but she still felt oddly exposed in that moment. But Annika just laughed it off dismissively. “Gonna have to show the rest of us how you do it. With skills like that, our Flower is sure to win the competition.” Naomi nodded, then realized no one could see that. “Yeah!” she replied joyfully, turning her mic off again and slumping back into her chair. She panted for a few moments more before shaking her head and selecting the control to reload. Hours passed, Naomi practicing with everything she could get her hands on. True to what Annika had said, she seemed naturally gifted at handling the recoil and heat of the BORS and their weapons. Most of the girls had to slow down, take short breaks or steady themselves in constant intervals, in alignment with their training. Even so, Naomi found it actually easier than the simulators, having real-world control over her things. She wasn’t necessarily a better pilot or shooter than the others, but she was rapidly proving to be the best at maintaining uptime with her weapons and heat. Speaking of, the heat of the afternoon – combined with the BORS’ natural tendencies – was taking its toll on the students. “Hoh, man,” Mieke whined. “I didn’t realize it’d be a sauna in here. When do we get aquatic assault training?” Imka sighed, more to deal with her own uncomfortable temperature than out of annoyance. “The week after our combat versus test.” “Fuuuuuuuu-” Mieke cut her microphone off prematurely, trying to find some form of humor. No one laughed. Naomi shook her head again, flicking bits of sweat off her head. Despite cooling and extensive hydration it was clammy and hot inside, and Naomi had rapidly discarded her usual exercise garb until she was down to her workout bra and her diaper. Caring for what she looked like had evaporated along with her comfort, and now she just wanted to cool down. Sighing again, Naomi peed for what was at least the third time. Her padding expanded to accommodate this, warm wetness flowing up the front now where it was still dry. It was unavoidable, pounding back water constantly throughout the day just to stay hydrated, and the alternative of having a dry mouth was an easy decision to make. Naomi had mixed feelings. She was thoroughly enjoying everything about this, but she felt a bit guilty in doing so. The torrid heat of her cockpit, the snug constraints of her chair and harness, the minimal clothing, the jiggle and jitter as recoil connected her weapon to the mech, and though she dared not admit it she was starting to enjoy the wet padding that wrapped around her waist, too. It was a small point of comfort in an otherwise discomforting scenario. A younger Naomi would have felt embarrassment about such conflicting feelings, but instead her own words echoed in her mind. Don’t worry if you need to wear diapers to do it: be proud that you do it.
  8. CHAPTER VII – The Girls Are Piloting Today was going to be very different. Nolwandle had gathered them in a chamber they'd never visited before, filled with rows of what looked like park rides - self-contained pods with rotational XYZ capabilities. "Listen up, Aspirants! Today is going to be a very special moment in your training, as you will learn the fundamentals of piloting our nation's grandest war machines: the BORS." A wave of excitement passed through the girls present. The BORS was a bipedal mechanized robotic system controlled by a human pilot. While these were common enough in the standard military, the Flowering Knights also had access to them, and generally more advanced units. It was a symbolic and technical achievement of the Nation that had provided a keen edge over its neighbors for centuries and more, and the honor of piloting one was beyond the fulfillment of a dream. "But!" Nolwandle continued. "You young girls are woefully unprepared for this. It's not as simple as slapping a combat exoskeleton on your limbs and telling you to jump! You must learn to become one with it, and to learn the weight and power of a BORS. Before we even think of letting you learn the controls and, spirits willing, take one for a spin, you need to adjust to the experience." At this, the instructor indicated the pods behind her. "These are introductory simulators, and will provide visual, physical and sensory input to you that mimics the experience. It will help focus your mind and allow you to better understand what you will experience here. Understood?" "We serve!" they shouted back. Naomi felt her heart all aflutter again. Every child had grown up on stories and protovids of the BORS, seeing them stride across the land - metal gods whose footsteps thundered the Earth itself, their GEPPs firing bolts of man-made lightning to the edge of eyesight itself as enemy fire stopped dead in its tracks against their ProtoMail armor. To be a BORS pilot was to be a symbol, an ideal that couldn't be stopped. Nolwandle motioned down the way. "All trainers are the same. Hop in and get comfortable, and don't worry if you can't hold on to your stomach. They clean easy. Imka whispered as she passed Naomi. "She's joking, right?" The foxgirl didn't have a good response, so she shrugged. Clambering into the tight space, Naomi sat down at the seat and buckled into the five-point harness. It autoadjusted to tighten her into place, making it difficult to move around. There were a dizzying array of controls, a pair of sticks, pedals, buttons and switches all around her. The instructor's voice came through speakers all around her as the pod's door hissed shut, almost entirely darkening the interior. "The controls are disabled for now, so don't worry about familiarizing yourself. For now, just get used to the feel of being in a rumble seat and feeling what the system throws at you. Try to keep your eyes open." There was a bright light as a screen in front of her came to life, and once her eyes adjusted Naomi realized it was not a recording, but a generated display of an open area. It was an expansive, sandy desert, stretching for kilometers in every direction. She breathed a weow of amazement, looking everything over. She absentmindedly tried to move the joysticks before remembering that this would do nothing. Nolwandle's voice came back. "This simulation is generated live, not pre-recorded. Your pod will simulate the motions involved with piloting such a war machine in real-time, in accordance with the path taken. But first, let's get you used to your surroundings and depth perception." The pod pitched forward, slowly, but it still turned Naomi's insides upside down. The screen looked down until she could see the legs of her BORS, planted firmly into the sand. The machine's hands appeared from the side, rotating and flexing its four-fingers before one clenched into a fist. There was a slight vibration from the action before it opened again and the machine returned to looking ahead. Despite her brain telling her she was just in a simulator, Naomi couldn't help but feel the signals from her eyes insisting she was ten meters in the air, inside the belly of a metal beast. "Good." Nolwandle made what sounded like a chuckle, but through the distorted radio effect it wasn't entirely discernible. "A slow walk to get things moving." There was a lurch as the simulator moved, and Naomi inhaled sharply. In time with the footsteps of her virtualized BORS, right foot, left foot, right again. It took a few 'steps' before Naomi got into the feel of things. It was fun! The movement definitely threw her off and first but with each movement she felt more in sync with the weapon, and a great big smile crossed her face. "Woohoo!" she cheered, raising her hands in joy. This went on for perhaps half a minute before a new directive began. "You're going to start accelerating into a run and then a sprint. Hang on to your bladders, girls." Everything leaned in and the bouncing became more frequent. The feedback sound of dull thudding as the theoretical mecha charged across the desert rocked Naomi about, and she began to understand the necessity of the harness and seat. It limited the amount of vibration she could experience and kept her stabilized in the- "Watch your balance," Nolwandle warned. Naomi watched as something changed and she stopped rocking, watching herself fall towards the desert. Instinctively, she braced her arms across her face as she hit the dirt, snapping backwards and getting pushed back into her chair by the force. It was chaotic and she was rocked around like a plush toy getting tossed around. When she finally ground to a halt, Naomi found herself panting and with her heart pounding like crazy. There was a clapping sound through the radio as their instructor approved verbally. "Congratulations, you survived. Back on your feet, Aspirants." And so it continued, everything swinging around as the bipedal mech stood back up and moved forward. This persisted through a series of maneuvers, changing from hops and skips to bounding across the deserts sands on jump jets. Finally, Naomi arrived at a virtual firing range. "Your BORS can output a tremendous amount of firepower, but you must guide it to do so. Automated systems can only do so much, and it is the Knight that makes a BOS special!" Nolwandle's voice paused for a moment as a targeting reticule brought up and found a virtual tank, a small popup claiming it to be over half a kilometer away. "Any BORS will heat up as its systems are utilized, and you can overheat or even force an automated shutdown if you push it too hard. Observe." There was the sound of a capacitor charging and suddenly a streak of lightning lanced out from across the screen. It streaked towards the tank and slagged it into two parts separated by a molten puddle, and with the recoil Naomi also felt the cockpit jump a few degrees in temperature. If that was only one shot from a GEPP, prolonged combat could become..searing. It slowly cooled back down to a reasonable temperature, and the simulator shifted as it turned towards what looked like a cliff. "Finally, your BORS is durable and resilient, and will always work to protect its Knight without fail. Trust it." The BORS simulator ran towards the cliff, and for a moment Naomi thought it was going to flop over the edge. At the last moment it tensed and sprang forward, leaping towards the other side. She felt weightless and powerful, and it was a miraculous few moments before the realization caught on that they weren't going to make it. She crashed into the side of the rock wall, tumbling backwards and spinning through the air. Naomi's sense of up and down were lost in the chaos as everything rotated and jumbled. The voice from an Automated Spotting System droned a warning, accompanied by a pair of two beeps. "Four-hundred meters." Four-hundred meters...to impact? Naomi inhaled violently, desperately struggling at the controls. Whatever survival instinct lay dormant within overrode her knowledge that this wasn't real, and she struggled to take control of the situation. Unsurprisingly, this did nothing, and she was soon faced with the view of the ground rapidly approaching as she fell horizontally. Naomi screamed but couldn't take her eyes off of the horror. Without warning everything shifted again and her BORS' legs righted and kicked out, and the telltale sound of jump jets thundered behind her. Her velocity slowed as the machine slammed into the ground, its false joints compressing to absorb force as Naomi was slammed down and back into her chair and restraints. Her teeth rattle and she felt her bladder leak from the force. She sat there for what seemed like minutes, panting and willing her beating heart to calm itself. Pushed up against her by the harness, she was distinctly aware of the fact that she had wet herself, even if only a bit. Swallowing her fear and pride both, Naomi leaned forward a bit. The BORS began to stand up to full height again before looking up, and Naomi stared into the screen, realizing how far she had fallen. If that really was a simulated fall and accurate to the force...a wave of confidence in the system washed over her and the terror was gradually replaced with elation. Everything went dark inside the simulator, and a few moments later the door hissed open. Nolwandle's voice sounded off again, "Alright, girls, out of your seat and onto your feet." Dutifully, Naomi undid her harness and slid out. "Oogh," she whimpered, rubbing her backside. She hadn't realized how sore her butt had gotten, whatwith the pilot's seat and jarring acceleration of the pod. Her balance was off and she stumbled a bit, but she slowly got her sense of equilibrium back. The other Aspirants were, likewise, a bit shaken. Most were shuffling about and generally looking disoriented, and a couple were showing the signs of having recently vomited. Embarrassment was prevalent all around, but with it a hidden sense of wonder and joy at what they'd just experienced. Imka was more than shook. There was a massive dark spot on her pants that streaked down where the poor girl had pissed herself, and her face was pale. She took shallow breaths, finding something to lean against as she tried not to pass out. Naomi hobbled her way over. "You alright?" The girl did her best to provide a nod of affirmation. "That was...a lot faster than I expected." There was a flabby sound swishing nearby. "Ooohh, dat was the bestest! Woot!" It was Mieke, her tail flopping back and forth and blistering speed. Nolwandle laughed heartily. "That was your first taste of what awaits you all. The BORS will be a sword and shield for you to wield against the King's foes. Learning to master it is important, but you must master yourself - a weapon is only as effective as the warrior that grasps it. You can have five minutes to center yourselves and then you're getting a rundown on control and handling of these machines." The girls huffed a haggard and disunified response. "We serve." The written lessons were significantly more boring. There was a brief overview of the BORS as a unit, the three classes and some of the different types involved, functionality and limitations, and more. It was hours of this before they were able to find their way back to the simulators and climb aboard for a practical lesson. "Three-Aspirant teams," Nolwandle had chortled. "You can figure out how you set that up." It was a no-brainer, and as the door shut beside her Naomi finished buckling herself into the harness. She adjusted the crotch strap, hoping to prevent a soreness in her glutes that had given her afternoon a rough edge. "Alright," she exhaled. "First things first; power." She flicked a switch and keyed the startup for the system. There was a simulated whining sound that increased in tone as the virtual BORS powered up. When it reached a certain pitch, she tapped the button for setting it in. There was a clunking sound and the pod lurched about. Naomi frowned. It'd been keyed too early but still caught on. Nolwandle insisted that learning how to perform manual startup was critical; all modern BORS units were equipped with automated startup, but it was still a skill they would value. She tapped the panel for radio communication. "This is Naomi. Startup complete." There was a furious tapping on the other side. Mieke's voice came through, "Third try's a charm for me..." "I'm online," Imka sounded calm. "Let me know once you're up." Spirits be good, that was fast. Imka must have been in her element - this was mainly a technical exercise, not physical, so her capabilities would excel. Then again, when speed and maneuver came into play she'd suffer, much like the initial simulation had revealed... Mieke must have been thinking the same thing, and a smug jab came through the radio. "Just remember, if you it's too cold in your cockpit you can fire all your weapons or wet your pants again. Whichever's easiest." "...you're lucky I can't reach you from here," Imka hissed. "Chill," Mieke laughed. "It's a three-way channel, we're the only ones here." Naomi shook her head and kept at it with her startup routine. She slipped up a couple of times throughout, but after a couple minutes she had it completed, and her simulated viewscreen came online. She was in the desert again, but this time in a triangular formation with two other BORS. Popups on the screen acted like the real-world HUD, and indicated one as Imka and the other as Mieke. "Whoa," she breathed. "This is a bit trippy." Nolwandle's voice interrupted her thoughts. "Alright, check, let's see how the three of you are doing...well look at that, all powered up and ready. Excellent. Go ahead and get a feel for the controls, take a short walk and await further instructions." "We serve," they replied. Imka waited a few moments before speaking up: "Okay, we're still Broekie-class - scouts, light and fast. Careful about your speed unless you want to wipe out again." Mieke giggled, but otherwise didn't respond. Naomi played at her controls, using the joysticks to move her BORS' arms about. Simple practice, moving them together and then separately, trying increasingly difficult motions. Once that was down she practiced the controls with her rudder pedals, adjusting her legs. Good. "Alright, I think I'm ready," Naomi nodded. Mieke made a high-pitched squeal as her BORS fell flat on its face. "Told you not to go too quick," Imka sighed. "Honestly, when will you listen?" "Owie," Mieke whined. "That hurt." Pushing her BORS up to the vicinity, Naomi outstretched the mechanical hand. "Come on, up on your feet." "Thanks," the girl responded, taking the hand and rising up to her knees. "Alright, miss knows-it-all, call it." Imka suppressed a laugh of her own. "Follow me." The bookworm really did know her stuff, and within the hour the girls were bounding across virtual deserts and balancing multi-ton machines on their own feet. To be a Knight was to have power, but to have a BORS was to be power.
  9. CHAPTER VI – The Girls Are Wrestling Several days had passed since the incident with the strange thugs. Naomi and the others had been interrogated by their instructors but, having found no fault, ordered them to leave the matter in the hands of official Flowering Knights. There was little in the realm of congratulations, though Thembeka did beam at the fruits of her labors showcasing such promise in a real-life application. The three strange criminals had been immediately seized under the jurisdiction of the Knights and were taken somewhere secretive. Naomi didn't know where, only that they were somewhere on-site. It was out of her hands and something she no longer had any business to involve in, but it still piqued her curiosity a bit too hard. Namely, it had been on her mind for a quarter of a second too long and she'd now caught the ire of Thembeka for the delayed response. "Naomi! I know those ears of yours aren't for show. Call it!" "Imka!" Naomi blurted out, mentally wincing. They were choosing groups for a wrestling tournament, and she'd talked it over with her friends. The plan was to pick Mieke first and then Imka, but having let her curiosity get the better of her the foxlike girl had now just gone backwards. Imka, while a technical genius, was lacking in physical fitness compared to her peers. She was by no means a pushover, but picking her first was a bold maneuver. Perhaps a bit too bold. There were multiple stares, and Thembeka cocked an eyebrow. "Imka, you're with Naomi. Palesa, call it." There was a microsecond delay, something Naomi realized was intentional, as the smug student answered with haughty derision. "Noxolo." That got everyone's attention. Noxolo approached dutifully, her body language impossible to read. Over the years, no one in the entire class had instilled shock and awe in their comrades like Noxolo. She was tall, lithe and moved with the force of a hurricane. The girl was quiet and terse but more than made up for it in skill and action. As far as anyone was concerned, that was the end of the competition right there. No one else had called for her to be on their team up to that point because, despite the fact that Noxolo wasn't a leader, she'd only follow someone that proved their worth. For reasons unclear, she'd decided that Palesa was one such person. The only other that'd be worthy in the ace's eyes was Annika. That wasn't the type of person Annika was, however, and she'd instead chosen a student that would benefit from her guidance. A selfless act, but it would all but ensure a loss. Naomi grit her teeth. She knew it would be an impossible challenge, but she wanted to try anyways. Loyalty to her comrades - nay, her friends - was more important than this competition. They would win together or lose together, and that was the end of its concern to her. Imka whispered, very quietly. Being the only one with improved hearing, Naomi would be the only one to hear. "You're shooting yourself in the foot...but thank you for sticking up for me." She nodded once. When the time came to make another choice, she answered immediately. "Mieke." The matches themselves were short. The Aspirants had been trained to be quick and aggressive, and it usually took no more than a few seconds for someone to make a mistake that got them pinned. Thembeka forced the warriors to bow to one another, shake hands or salute one another at the end of every match and end with an, “I serve!” to enforce respect both from and to their peers. This was as much about building a team as it was building individuals. Minutes turned to hours, and by the end it was down to Palesa’s team and Naomi’s team. Imka had been handily defeated by Palesa – while the latter’s attitude left much to be desired, her capabilities did not, and Imka was forced to concede a loss. Conversely, the current round between Mieke and Arno was going in a very different direction. Arno was the perfect subordinate, willing to put herself through anything and highly reactive to input. Unfortunately, that meant she was on a poor footing when not micromanaged by Palesa’s tactical input. Mieke, on the other hand, was a natural predator, and after a few seconds of circling she went in for the kill. There was a brief scuffle and rolling as they thrashed, but within moments it had come to a halt and Mieke was victorious, a perfect arm-bar on the other girl. “Two-zero, favor Mieke,” Thembeka made an X sign with her arms. “Contestants, end.” Mieke bowed her head. “I serve.” Arno returned the bow, seemingly unbothered at her loss. “I serve,” the girl answered in kind. She wasn’t a bad one, just…not good at thinking for herself. Small wonder Palesa’s charm had drawn her in. Naomi was excited. It was her against Noxolo; the biggest test ever. She’d watched Noxolo’s earlier two matches, and the girl had effortlessly taken down both of her opponents two-zero, no losses to her name. Naomi had hoped to determine a weakness in Noxolo but couldn’t figure it out – the losses had come too quickly. There was a rush of excitement as she prepared to step into the ring, her heart fluttering as anticipation rose through her chest. She felt a tiny burst of warmth leak beneath, but she forced it stopped before it got any farther. Training pants or no, she was about to have a concerted effort with a monumental opponent, and she didn’t want to show any leaks with the asymmetric movement that was about to commence. “Aspirants, to your sides,” Thembeka ordered. The fighting circle was only a few meters in diameter, and any movement outside of resulting in a pin would stop the round. Best of three but with no time limit meant exhausting yourself early would ensure a loss. This late into the day, everyone was tired, but neither of the girls wanted to be the one that missed out on victory. Naomi bent over and touched her hands to the mat, one in a fist and one open. The last bit of stretching helped focus her mind and body, syncing them. Her fluffy tail straightened out on its own, to ensure balance. Her eyes narrowed at her opponent’s nose as Noxolo adopted a more upright stance, like an imposing bear. She was much taller than Naomi and likely a lot stronger, just as quick and probably more skilled. Self-motivated, analytical, determined, there was really no end to the praise one could flick at Noxolo. She wasn’t going to win this. But I’m damn well going to go down swinging, Naomi thought. She wasn’t a defeatist, but she was practical; barring a mistake or a stroke of luck, this was not in her favor. Even so, she held on to the hope of what-if. Stranger things had happened to unluckier people, after all. “Begin!” Thembeka’s voice sounded muffled, and Naomi immediately lunged. Her plan banked on this: she had to put herself in a bad position if she wanted to put Noxolo in a worse one. It was brief. There was a brief flurry of hands and footwork before Naomi was swept off her feet like a weightless pillow and slammed to the ground. The force rocked into her teeth and she felt another leak escape. She managed to stop the flow, but she was pinned helplessly by her opponent like a vice. Allowing herself a blink, she heard the instructor’s call. “Disengage. One-zero, Noxolo.” The other girl immediately let go and moved back to her side. Wiping sweat off her face, Naomi got back to her feet. She’d seen enough and heard the movements she couldn’t – Noxolo did have a weakness, and she’d just baited it out. There was a snicker and low whisper from the gathered crowd nearby. “Naomi doesn’t stand a chance.” It was Palesa, whispering to someone. “Watch this.” That’s right. Eyes on me. Naomi got back to her position and settled into her stance. As Thembeka inhaled to call the start the girl shifted her eyes directly into Noxolo’s. It took a heartbeat for that to register, but she saw the flicker over her opponent for just the briefest of moments. No one else would have noticed unless they’d been looking for it, but to Naomi it was as plain as the sun on a summer day. Noxolo had just hesitated. “Begin!” the instructor called again, and as Naomi took a long step forward she watched Noxolo jump to counter again, opposite side. Naomi forced herself to grind to a halt and Noxolo froze, blinking twice in rapid succession. The atmosphere in the room changed, as if people had suddenly lost belief this would be a fast victory for the reigning champion. The girls waited a few seconds before rushing in at one another simultaneously. Their hands met in a clash and immediately Noxolo went for the ankles, just like she had before. Now knowing the exact method the uncertain girl would rely on, Naomi hopped up and pushed her legs through and past her arms. Countless years of stretching were about to pay off, and with her thighs firmly around Noxolo’s neck she spun her entire body, squeezing tight and hoping to the spirits that were that she wouldn’t lose grip. The world spun but Naomi soon found the ground with her hands, shoving her palms down and twisting again. Two different forces opposed one another and with a jarring tumble Noxolo went down. Naomi immediately felt herself instinctively reach out to hook and loop the girl’s arms at the shoulders, preventing any further- “Disengage. One-one, tie.” Thembeka sounded smug. Naomi immediately let all her limbs go. She suddenly registered the sweeping gasps that had spread like a wildfire through everyone present. This was an act of the impossible – challenging the champion for their throne. Noxolo’s face betrayed no emotion, but even so Naomi could hear the subtle shift in the girl’s breathing and movements as she returned to her side. That had struck a nerve. I can do this, she told herself. I’ve lost the element of surprise but I can still do this. Prepping once more, she met eye contact with Noxolo. The uncertainty was gone, and instead a boiling focus had entered it. Whatever it was that drove the girl, she made it clear through looks alone that she would not allow this to end so long as she could draw breath. Naomi realized that she no longer felt uncertain or anxious about this, and a warm feeling embraced her like a hug. She was punching above her weight class now, challenging the best of the best and making them struggle. Naomi wasn’t the apex of her fellow Aspirants, but she was damn well the most audacious. That was enough for a girl like her. Thembeka had barely finished barking, “Begin!” before the two of them were rushing together to clash in the center. Naomi exerted all her might against Noxolo, and within a second she knew she would be overpowered. Thinking quickly, she jumped up and gently planted her feet on Noxolo’s abdomen. It took an extra moment and the girl quickly stabilized her position, but it had been necessary – there were explicitly to be no strikes or brawling actions here, and any infractions would be met with dire consequences. This was about subduing an opponent, not beating them. Naomi’s weight wasn’t enough to flip, so she moved up. She didn’t really feel Noxolo’s movement to adjust but she heard it. Despite the hell she got for her ears, they were really doing her wonders now. Letting her feet slip, she fell down and landed on her butt, tipping backwards and bowling Noxolo over her. As her hands went up something came down and pinned her shoulder – the girl had adjusted mid-throw and seized Naomi, immediately clambering over and putting her in a headlock. Naomi had no choice but to flip backwards and wrap her legs back around Noxolo, hoping to slip the move or risk losing. They rolled and tumbled, over and over again, easily thrice as long as everyone else’s rounds. A rhythm settled in, Noxolo’s reach and strength versus Naomi’s reactions and flexibility. They were tit for tat, unable to bring the other down. It was a deadlock. But eventually, someone had to make a mistake, and Naomi was the less-skilled of the two. In a painful shunt she found herself with her left arm behind her back and she was down to her knees. Pain shot up the limb. Naomi winced. “Two-zero,” Thembeka announced. “Nox-” “Not yet!” Naomi interrupted. It was more of a whimper, but she refused to back down. Noxolo leaned in and increased the pressure. “Tap out.” “Not yet,” Naomi hissed, sucking air through her teeth. She winced, squinting through watery eyes at the shocked expressions of everyone around her. She planted one foot down and started to stand up, pushing through the torturous feeling of risking a dislocated shoulder. “Disengage now!” Thembeka roared, her voice echoing throughout the chamber. Noxolo immediately let go and Naomi collapsed to her knees, rubbing her left arm. The instructor sighed loudly in annoyance. “Two-zero, Noxolo. Contestants, end.” Noxolo made an X with her forearms and fists. “I serve.” Naomi panted, her tail tucked downwards and her ears drooping. She managed to make a fist and extend it out. “I serve.” It was hours later and Naomi still felt sick to her stomach. She’d found her way to the library for some alone-time, and the quiet was welcome. The whispers and exclamations at her match with Noxolo had ruffled quite a few feathers, and despite her victory the girl was very obviously put off by the struggle. A couple of the girls had snuck approving looks at Naomi for her efforts, but in the end she was still forced to concede a loss. The loss was not upsetting – the fact she had come so very close to doing the supposed impossible but fallen just barely short was. “Damnation…” she felt the tears welling up as she buried her face in her knees. “I was so close. I’m sorry, Imka…Mieke. I couldn’t do it.” Her tail was curled up around her thighs and she felt the familiar sensation of peeing her pants, but she didn’t care. None of it mattered; in the end she still did not measure up. The recent efforts and success against Maye and her spies was forgotten, the challenge of scaling the mountains and returning safely far from her mind, in that moment it was just her own inability to do something more, and that hurt. She’d enjoyed everything about the day. The push, the struggle, the training and teamwork. It was glorious and wonderful, but she’d gotten too hopeful and believed that anything would be possible. It took hours of meditation and reflection to calm herself down enough to remember that you could try your best and still fail, and that was okay. Naomi bobbed her head up and down to herself, trying to persuade herself to relax about it. “Ohgey,” she blubbered, wiping tears off her cheeks and out of her eyes. There was a light creaking from nearby, and when she slowly turned a tiny creature in a ridiculous violet dress met her. “Ghwe?” GePP huffed, looking inquisitive. Naomi felt herself fight a smile. Mieke was right, this little monster was pretty cute, and the dress-up she played with him didn’t help. More than that, Molligmonds were intelligent, and it probably knew Naomi was upset and wanted to help her. “Yeah,” she nodded, holding out her hand. GePP made an incoherent noise and approached, sniffing at her hand before brushing his head against it. His skin was rough like sandpaper, but not too coarse. Still a young thing, it would be awhile before that happened. She felt herself look up at the door. If GePP was here, than his owner had to be nearby… “Come on out, girls, I know you’re there.” Nothing happened. A few seconds later, Mieke innocently peeked in through the door. “Hey, Naomi. Feeling better?” “Mieke!” Imka hissed. The girl had probably constructed a more elaborate way of asking whether their friend was alright or not, but per usual plans were fragile and subject to chaos. Even so, the antics forced Naomi to giggle. It was a weird sound, still recovering from hours of on-again-off-again crying. “Thanks you two. I-I’m fine, I think.” She pet GePP harder, trying to distract herself. The creature swayed with the motion, tongue hanging out and purring at the attention. Mieke nodded, her flabby tail swishing back and forth a few times. It wasn’t normal for her to look concerned, but even past the naiveté she was well-attuned to the feelings of people around her. She immediately hugged Naomi when she got close, and Naomi returned the favor. Even if the day had been stress and a lot to deal with it had still taught her something about herself and others, and it had been a good lesson on several fronts. Besides, she had good friends and a noble purpose; what more could a girl ask for?
  10. CHAPTER V – The Girls Are Shopping Naomi's eyes opened slowly. It was the weekend and they'd been given the task of finding their way through 'normal' culture in the nation, reporting back on their experience later. It was the equivalent of a vacation, and having promised Mieke an ice cream not long before, Naomi had made plans with her and Imka to take a trip out on the town for some shopping. As she sat up in bed and shook her head, she felt below her sheets. Scratching along her bare thighs, she came to the front of her training pants and felt a bit. Still groggy, she wasn't certain if it was just sweat or- nope, she'd peed the bed again. Naomi sighed, feeling the need to go again, and instead of fighting it let it go instead. Her attuned ears picked up the trickling sound right away, almost therapeutic as she felt the warmth splash down below, her garment protecting her bed like a dutiful maid protects her master from his own uncleanly habits. She tried to meditate in the process, wrapping up the most morning actions she could. Her friends would be ready soon and she needed to get going. Turning her head, it was immediately apparent that Imka was still asleep. A soft sound indicated the girl's thumb was in her mouth, a habit she'd picked up a few years back. Naomi figured she'd wake the girl up in a bit, and turned instead to see if Mieke was up. Naomi was greeted with the sight of her curled up next to GePP, hugging the little monster tight. GePP's eyes were closed and his tongue was flopped out to the side lazily, drooling on the bed. True to her word, Mieke had insisted on taking the critter with her all the way down the mountain and fought a very heavy argument against their instructors on the benefits of keeping such a pet, insisting it would grow up to be a fine tool, weapon and companion when fighting for the King. They'd eventually conceded, and now the little beast followed her around everywhere, assuming she didn't drag it there. Sighing again, Naomi swung her feet out and stood up, sporting only a T-shirt and her soggy bottoms be damned. She'd long since ceased caring if anyone saw her in padded panties, wet or not. True to form, there was only her duty to her King, his people and her own comrades. Modesty had long since departed the Aspirant's mind. "Mieke," she whispered. "Time to get up, that ice cream I promised you isn't gonna-" she paused as she rolled the sheets off and saw what was underneath. Naomi felt her mental process grind to a halt. "-lick itself." Underneath, Mieke was wrapped in a diaper much like she'd worn up the mountain. It wasn't necessary by any stretch; Mieke was an exemplary student and was one of the dryest students around, so presumably her laziness had gotten the better of her. Conversely, her pet was also swaddled in the same garb. It looked more than a little ridiculous, the two diapered pals snuggled up together. "Mieke..." she tried again. "Why is the Molligmond diapered?" One of the girl's eyes opened. "Mornin', Naomi," she yawned, patting GePP on the side. "Is it morning already?" When Naomi didn't respond, Mieke put two and two together. "He's cute, I couldn't help it. Look at him, look at how cute he is!" "But he's a Molligmond. Their digestive system is one-hundred percent efficient. They have no need for a bathroom of any kind." Mieke pouted. "I know that, but he's my cutie-lil-patootie, isn't you?" She rubbed her face on Gepp's 'neck', and the beast made a contented blgha sound. "I abdicate," Naomi shook her head. "I'm gonna go shower, get Imka up for me and we'll head out in five." "Can we make it ten?" "...we'll head out in ten. Deal." The streets were filled with people milling about, everyone focused on their own lives. Many talked with ProtoTech phones or tablets, conversing with others around the Nation or simply browsing the many faculties it contained. It was a beautiful thing to witness - the training facility for Aspirants was limited in the scope of who it contained, and the true humanitarian blend of what the Nation comprised wasn't on full display. In some ways, that limited what the Aspirants could experience. In some ways that was good, but in others it was detrimental. To that end, it was common for regular 'tests' like this to be assigned to the girls, that they could better experience the world and what lay within. A Flowering Knight that couldn't function in society would be a poor excuse of a warrior. Mieke stretched out and made high-pitched noise somewhere deep in her throat. "Ah, feels good to be out on the town for once. Too bad I couldn't take GePP with us." "Your precious baby will be fine with the instructors for a day," Imka sighed. "Honestly, you fawn over him like a fresh mother over her firstborn." "Pfsh. You're just jealous," Mieke pouted, but otherwise didn't continue the conversation. Ideally they'd spend most of the day in the mall. There were many shops to peruse and even with an Aspirant's pay they'd be capable of acquiring a good bit of materiel if they so desired. As long as they could fit it in their own footlocker back at the barracks, they could get their hands on it and have it delivered directly. The first order of business was getting an ice cream cone for Mieke. Lucky for them, a familiar face and snack stand met them as they entered. "By the spirits that be, if it isn't my favorite granddaughters!" He was an older man that ran the stand, flowing gray hair and a matching mustache and beard to go with. Mieke squealed with joy and bolted for him. "Grandpa Mandla!" The girl slowed up as she approached and gave him a great big hug. Mandla wasn't actually anyone's grandfather, but he was a sweet old man just living a simple life selling treats to people. Supposedly, Mandla had been doing it for so long even the instructors of their current instructors had paid him visits, extending back several generations of Flowering Knights. Mandla patted the girl on the head. "Ohhhh, been a bit there, Mieke! How's the adorable sharkgirl doing today? What brings you by?" She pointed back to her friends as they approached. "Someone owes me an ice cream. If you can guess I'll pay you double." The old man stroked his beard. "Hmm...oh, it's gotta be Imka, right? She made a bad bet with you and lost?" It was a sarcastic response - Mandla was wise enough to know everyone well enough to know that Imka didn't make bets unless she was 110% sure she would win, but Naomi was always willing to take a challenge she knew she couldn't win. Mieke vigorously shook her head no. "D'awww, not this time, grandpa." Mandla pretended to be surprised, snapping his fingers and stamping his foot once. "Aww, spirits! Guess you got me again." He pinched Mieke on the cheek once and smiled again. "Double-decker vanilla/chocolate with hazelnuts on top?" The girl bounced up and down, clapping her hands. "Pretty please!" As Mandla set about getting this, Imka shook her head in disdain. "Mieke, you could at least pretend to act your age." "Not this again," Mieke rolled her eyes. "Come on, we're off-duty. Enjoy the wonders of the Nation and have a good time with its people." Imka was about to respond when Naomi put a hand on her oldest friend's shoulder. "We're learning about the people of our country and how they live their lives. That's as much a study as anything. Let her have some fun, and let's try and find a bit ourselves." "I...ugh, you're right. Sorry, Naomi." Imka furrowed her brow. "Actually, I'm sorry, Mieke." "Hmm...well, I already got an ice cream out of this so I'll let you off the hook this time." Mieke pretended to be serious. "So the least you can do is be grateful!" That put a smile on Imka's face as Mandla passed off the cone. "Sweetness frozen and with ice woven: there you go, kid." He patted Mieke on the head again. "Anything for the two of you?" Naomi smiled. "Not this time, grandpa. Just returning a favor." "A favor?" Mandla raised an eyebrow. "Normally you're owing people for biting off more than you can chew. Mind if an old geezer asks what a young lady like you is doing trading favors for?" "No of course not." Naomi thought better of it. "Actually, I'd rather not say. Kind of personal." Mandla put his hands behind his head and let his fingers stick up over the back like a set of ears. When Naomi nodded, he stopped. "Not gonna tell you your business, but you shouldn't worry about the fluff, fox-ears. The spirits work in mysterious ways, but always for the better. It's people that twist it for poor. Let the good things roll." Naomi nodded. "Yeah, I know. It's just...something I don't understand. Something I can't fight, and that worries me..." She felt a rough palm work its way onto her head and ruffle her hair. "You can't fight everything, kid. Learn to roll with the punches and take an L here or there." Mandla sighed. "Sooner or later you'll have to fight the ultimate battle that you'll never win; the one opponent that no man can defeat - old age." The girl nodded once more. "Yeah. Sorry, grandpa, just learning to cope with Samesmelting still. A lot I don't know, probably never will, just...yeah." "Ha!" Mandla was bombastic again. "You're young, you've got time to decide your own ways. Hold on to what if and live and learn!" The ruffled her ears again before leaning in and lowering his voice. "Plenty of years to stop peeing your pants." Their faces flushed. He wasn't being rude or inconsiderate, but a jovial geezer was entitled to have his fun at the expense of younger generations. Being privy to secrets in the Flowering Knights made him special, but he'd only misuse it to have some good-natured fun. No malice in this old man, perhaps that was why his antics and presence was tolerated in the most powerful organization in the land, second only to the king himself. "Grandpa..." Imka whined, but he laughed this off. "Just pulling your leg, Inky. You girls are really something, I'm honored I've had a chance to watch you grow. You'll make fine Knights, all of you." With a thumbs up he returned to his stand. "Alright, I'll get out of your hair now. Go have a good time, you know where to find me if you need a treat or some ribbing." "Okay, bye!" they bade farewell and were off. "Jeez," Imka buried her face in her hands as they walked. "I hope no one heard that." "No one heard it," Naomi put an arm around her friend's shoulders. "And if they did, they'd know to keep their mouths shut." It was true - no sane person would dare openly mock the Flowering Knights, not even an Aspirant. While the truth about their insanely harsh training regimen was secretive to all but a few, the mere mention of this would shut down any citizen in a heartbeat. These were the most respected women in the land; to abuse one verbally was to beg for trouble beyond words. Mieke giggled. "Come on, lighten up, Inky. You-" "Don't call me that." "-you know grandpa's good for it and he'd never do anything to hurt us. Enjoy a joke for what it is. Besides, he's not wrong, you know." Mieke shrugged. "I don't know why you've got your panties in a bunch about wetting yourself in training. It happens to everyone, no exceptions. You can only push a body so hard before the body starts struggling." Imka sighed irritably. "I know, Mieke. It's still embarrassing and I don't want to broadcast it to the whole world." The shark-girl started to say something, but thought better of it. After a few moments she struck up a new topic. "Hmm. What should we look at first, do you think- ohmygosh that would look so cute on GePP!" She immediately took a turn into a store nearby, sporting a few different batches of clothing. "Oh, Mieke, what will we do with you?" Imka grabbed Naomi's hand. "Come on, let's see what trouble she's getting into now." It didn't take long for the immature one of the group to find a sufficiently girly dress that would potentially fit her new pet. Mieke was beyond insistent on purchasing it, and ensured the clerk would have it delivered properly. A simple scan of her ID card and a retina scan to confirm would ensure it was shipped to the correct location and all purchasing info would be provided along with. She was close to purchasing another three when Naomi and Imka finally dragged her out and onwards with their weekend. Empowered by the good time being had, it was not long before the hours passed by in a heartbeat. Window shopping, a few trinkets here and there, singing and dancing by a street musician and nabbing a lunch from a nearby restaurant made for quite the afternoon. Come the falling of the sun, the three girls were filled with high spirits, satisfaction and cheer as they walked back towards their home. Naomi slowed up as Imka and Mieke kept moving, conversing about the finer points both for and against pants, respectively. Her ears twitched, trying to filter something out amidst the cacophony of the city. There was something happening nearby and she could almost hear it... "Naomi?" someone asked, but she wasn't certain who. She didn't even realize her eyes were shut, but she kept them that way, the better to focus. After a few more seconds, she picked it out and its location. "Alleyway to the left, there's an altercation." Imka and Mieke exchanged glances. There was notoriously low crime at street level in the Nation, but it still happened. The police did a good job of keeping tabs on things but at this moment in time the only people within reach were the three of them. The police might take a minute or two to arrive - far too long. "Let's go," Naomi snarled, trotting off into the alleyway without waiting for a response. She heard the exasperated acknowledgements from behind her. It was only a couple dozen meters before a corner doglegged to the right. Naomi slowed up and tiptoed as quickly as she could without making a sound. Her ears barely detected Imka and Mieke doing the same thing. She listened closely to what was happening around the corner. A female voice spoke: "Khufu! This is the 4th time this month you've screwed up. What are we supposed to do with this, this is pittance!" A male responded. "It's not my fault, Midge! If your sister wasn't such a lazy flirt we might have broke even, so I don't-" There was the sound of a slap. "Don't talk about Maye like that!" A new voice, also female, cut in. "Thank you, Midge, but I can handle this boy." Another pause and the sound of a few footsteps. "If that's what passes for an excuse, you should really start practicing - if you keep failing me, I will fail. If I fail, my boss hears about it and will want to know why. When he finds out its you...well, let's just say that the work ethic of my sister will be the least of your worries. Understood?' There was a meek whimper before she continued. "Good. Midge, give me your knife. I think you both need a more physical reminder of your failures." Naomi looked back at her friends. "Burglars? Organized crime? We gotta stop 'em and notify the police." "This will get us in a lot of trouble," Imka cautioned. As if compelled by an outside force, Naomi narrowed her eyes and nodded. "Then I'll get us out of it, too." She motioned for Imka and Mieke to move out into view before pointing to herself and then upwards, where an old-fashioned fire escape was positioned. The two nodded and moved. "Heyyyy," Mieke asked as cutesy as she could muster. "Excuse me, but can you show me where the school is?" Gritting her teeth, Naomi leapt up and reached out with her hands, feeling the coldness of ProtoSteel as a reward. She pulled, lifting herself up and vaulting the railing. The stairs would clatter and be too loud, so she settled for shifting to the side, repeating the same process until she had ascended to the rooftop. She skittered over and around, seeking to get both above and behind the people in question. Below, Mieke and Imka were pretending to be innocent schoolgirls that had lost their way, but the mysterious people weren't buying it. One of the women had a dagger with a wavy blade, probably the leader, if the previous conversation was to be believed. "Enough!" the leader, Maye, snapped. "Youth is no excuse to offend the servants of the Holy See. Midge, Khufu, seize them." Naomi felt her gaze narrow, even though her eyes wanted to widen in surprise. The Holy See? Were these not a street gang, but religious zealots instead? If so, then she had just pulled her friends into potentially life-threatening situation. "So let's pull them out," Naomi whispered to herself. She was dimly aware of something in her tone being different, same as when she'd challenged Palesa. Whatever 'The Voice' was, she would have to deal with it for now. As the two zealots started moving towards the girls, Naomi waited a few moments more. She was maybe eight to ten meters above her target and her friends were about to engage in melee. There was a slight hesitance in the people below her - Khufu and Midge, if memory served - and that's when it clicked. Naomi and the others were not the prey here. They were the predators, and this was the perfect opportunity to show their first real hunt. All their training would manifest in this night. She moved to a lower position, carefully treading the ProtoSteel stairs down until she was maybe five meters above the leader. Sensing a critical moment just seconds before her friends were about to throw their first punches, Naomi leapt. She felt everything in her body settle naturally, like she'd done this before, and all feeling of fear or anticipation seemed to drain away. In its place was a calm she'd never felt before. The wind rustled as her feet found their way to Maye's shoulders and stamped the woman into the ground, throwing Naomi forward. She tucked and rolled, feeling her shoulder scrape the gravelly alleyway as she was rising to her feet and spinning to face her foe. Behind her now, a woman - Midge - yelped in surprise, and the sound of a scuffle confirmed that Imka was getting to work. Naomi focused instead on her own foe, and as the woman slowly started getting to her feet she rushed over and slid low, tumbling onto Maya. The two of them rolled for a bit, struggling for a few moments until Naomi had her foe sufficiently pinned with an arm behind her back. Recalling a moment in training she reached out to Maya's neck and found a pair of points, pushing them in simultaneously. Maya almost immediately passed out - Naomi only had a few seconds to work, thinking quickly and yoinking the shoelaces off her incapacitated opponent and using it like a makeshift pair of handcuffs, binding the woman's wrists and then ankles. As she was finishing this up Maya came to. "-whah?" she mumbled, groggy and disoriented. Naomi looked up to her friends. Imka was working deftly on a similar solution to her own target and Mieke had backed Khufu into a corner. "W-what are you doing?" the man stammered, eyes wide with terror. "Are you some kind of demon? I didn't see anything, do whatever you want to these bitches, just leave me alone! Please!" A low growl escaped Mieke's throat. "...your weakness is sickening, and the smell is insulting. Have you no sense of duty to your comrades?" She lowered her center of gravity. "You're a disgrace to all warriors everywhere." Khufu stepped in and swung wildly, screaming something unintelligible and frightened. Mieke easily ducked this, sidestepped and jabbed him in the side. It must have been a kidney-shot, and Naomi watched a darkness spread out from the front of the man's pants and down his legs. He sucked air through his teeth before comically flopping over, unconscious. "No," Maya gasped. "You can't do this to us! The Holy See-" Imka stepped up to the plate. "You're from Bleej'pt? What do you want with the Nation?" Maya's eyes widened in terror but went silent. Naomi felt herself returning to normal. All at once an inordinate deluge of stress and anxiety piled up. She felt like she wanted to throw up, squinting and forcing herself to focus. The rush of adrenaline slowly subsided and she took a few controlled breaths. Her legs shook with excitement and she felt a small dribble leak into her training pants. Her heart started beating faster as she realized the implications - the Holy See of Bleej'pt was rumored to be supporting subversive activities all across the continent of Dega, including the Nation, and now she and her friends had proof! Well, they may have. "Alright. Maybe you'll answer to the police-" Imka started, but Naomi put a hand on her shoulder. She shook her head no. Naomi was almost surprised at how calm her voice was, considering the obvious signs of overexcitement her body was displaying. "Call Thembeka and the others. This might be a job for the Flowering Knights." Imka took a few moments to get the idea, but nodded. As the girl pulled out her ProtoTablet to contact their instructors, Naomi excused herself. The rush wouldn't abade, and soon she felt a stream of warmth begin to flood by her crotch. Not even a full Flowering Knight yet and the three of them may have just served and protected both King and country! It was like a movie or book, but in real life, and that kind of realization was more than her bladder could handle. She felt no shame here, only contentment. Her and her friends had just conquered their first real-life challenge - taking down three targets in close combat was far more honorable than making it to the bathroom on time.
  11. Late to the party, but in my limited experiences with addiction the thing that helped the most was finding an "alternative" to counterbalance (or replace) the addiction. I've heard people have quit smoking by snacking on jellybeans when they felt the need, I quit a major sodapop addiction by replacing it cold-turkey with healthier drinks (i.e., forcing myself to instead drink lots and lots of water), etc. Ultimately, in the long term you need to find a healthier or at least superior alternative. Exercise is a common coping method IME, music, writing, art, etc. - anything that you can devote energy and focus into will help. Might take time (weeks or even months) to build it up as a replacement habit, but it seems to do the trick.
  12. CHAPTER IV - The Girls Are Hiking "Naomi, hurry up!" Imka called out from above in a singsong voice. "The way's clear and secure. After all our hard work we don't want to fall behind." There was a snort from below, where Mieke was scaling the cliff face beneath the fox-eared Aspirant. "She said 'behind'." "Focus up, Mieke," Naomi whispered between breaths. "We've got a good lead: don’t squander it." Mieke suppressed another derisive laugh. "The only lead I've got is your behind. I can't climb over or around you, y'know." It took all of Naomi's willpower to stop a biting retort. They'd been scaling Mount Soog since the morning, and now under the blazing heat of the afternoon sun it was a struggle just to breathe, much less head on high. They were all drenched in sweat and panting like dogs, and Naomi needed the energy from sarcasm instead to keep climbing. "Almost there," she mumbled. She'd been in the lead for most of their ascent, but the three-girl team had to switch roles every so often by order of Instructor Thembeka. One scouted a path, one carried gear and one functions as the anchor in case anyone falls. Carrying eighty pounds of camping equipment and supplies up a vertical rock wall was a daunting task, and one wrong move could be dangerous. This last stop would put them up high enough they could establish a camp, survive the night and climb back down the day after. That would complete this test. Wanting to be the first ones up and while there was plenty of daylight, the girls had formed a strict pact: they would never stop until they reached their destination; they could move slowly but they would never cease. That left exactly zero time for potty breaks, and given they’d be mountain climbing as a team for the better part of a day, only one option remained. Panties would never suffice, and the padded trainers they normally relied on wouldn’t last under the prolonged journey, so they were all sporting the puffy indication of full-on diapers. Ironically, the increased bulk forced Naomi's legs away from one another, and in so doing made it easier to keep her limbs dispersed for gripping. She was silently grateful to the spirits that be for her friends' willingness to go along with the plan. It was less embarrassing knowing she wasn't the only one with an obvious poofiness around her waist. After a few more minutes she made it to the top, sliding the backpack with their gear off and helping pull Mieke up. The girl flopped onto her chest, her fish tail outstretched. "Hoh man. I never wanna do that again," she whined. "Someone pour my canteen on my lil' head and be done with it." Imka folded her arms crossly. "We have limited rations. You'll be thirsty all night if we do that." Mieke opened one eye in the bookworm's direction. "Have Naomi scout out some natural water. She's got a good ear for that sort of thing." Suddenly, Naomi did indeed hear the faint sound of running of water. Her ears perked up and Imka looked over to her. "Naomi? Do you hear something?" It clicked a moment later. Naomi sighed loudly, "Yeah. Mieke's peeing." Imka's face went crimson as Mieke burst out laughing. "Spirits above and below, you shoulda seen the look on your facey-wacey!" The immature girl started rolling over, crunched in half she was laughing so hard, and Naomi heard the unmistakable sound of her peeing only harder now that the punchline had been made. "Act your age!" Imka snapped. "This is unbecoming of an Aspirant Knight!" "Lighten up, Imka. I can smell you from over here, you're wetter than I am." Mieke made a light sniffing sound. "Samesmelting, remember?" "That's none of your business!" Imka crossed her legs and pushed her blouse lower, as if that would help. "Besides, we had to make good time and-" Mieke's face soured. "Imka. Joke." The girl stopped in her tracks. "...right. Sorry." Now it was Naomi's turn to fold her arms. Imka was smart; book-smart, learned and cultured in a way no one else seemed to match, but she was at a loss when it came to dealing with people. Mieke was almost the complete opposite, relying on instincts and streetsmarts to handle herself - having both in the same team seemed like a mistake, but none of them wanted to challenge Thembeka's choice, so here they were. "Above and below, what we gonna do with ya?" Mieke got to her feet. Despite being the same age, her shorter appearance and immature mannerisms led everyone to believe she was far younger than expected. "A Knight's gotta be flexible as much as she is sturdy. Know when to be serious and when not to, that's all I'm sayin'. Can we call a truce on that, Imka?" The other girls pursed her lips before putting a hand out to shake. "Right." "Awright!" Mieke awkwardly sideways high-fived Imka's outstretched hand. "Deal! Now let's get changed into something a little less stinky." "Way to ruin a moment," Imka frowned, but obviously worked hard to conceal a grin. "Let's get to it, can have camp up and finished and make up a good meal before sundown." Naomi smiled to herself. "I'll scout the area first. Be back in fifteen or less." She trotted away to get a better idea of where they'd stopped. It was a small patch of grass and trees against the next cliff face. There was plenty of room for setting up their tent, starting a campfire and keeping a decent campsite running throughout the night but not enough for other groups of Aspirant Knights. Interestingly enough, past the trees and through a small clearing there lay a small passageway into a cave of some kind, but it was a bit too dark for her to check on her own. She snooped about the area for a couple minutes more before doubling back to her friends and informing them of their relative safety. "Aww," Mieke pouted. "Was hoping we could find some wildlife around here." Naomi exchanged glances with Imka. On one hand, the Samesmelting girl may just have wanted to enjoy nature and look at something cute. On the other hand, her sharklike features gave her a taste for meat, and instinct for the hunt may have been kicking in. Imka tried to laugh it off. "There's bound to be stuff around here somewhere. Maybe we can take a look around tonight?" It was a lively time as they assembled the tent, collected firewood and prepped for dinner. They'd come with several combat rations, simple packages that could self-cook into a nutritious meal all on their own. Even so, Mieke had insisted on taking several refrigerated bowls along with them. 'Fresh meat grilled over an open fire is the first banquet of mankind!' Mieke had proclaimed to them prior to departure. 'It would be criminal of us to not rejoice in the ways of our ancestors, don't'cha think?" Naomi finished moving the last fallen log into position beside the now purring campfire and sat down. Despite the rough construction, her choice in undergarments made it a soft throne, and she sighed in contentment. Picking up a chosen stick she withdrew her hunting knife from its sheath and began to whittle away. After a few minutes of careful work she had a well-pointed apparatus for grilling her meal. "That'll do nicely!" she beamed at her handiwork. "One slab of pork, here I come!" There was an ooohhh sound from nearby. Mieke looked over from her own whittling, mouth agape. "It'll do more than nicely, Floofy-Ears." Her own stick was a bit more chaotic at the tip, and not honed enough, but with sufficient force it would still do. Conversely, Imka had overdone hers in the pursuit of perfection. Maybe that was part of the point of this trip - three people, all with different approaches to the same end balancing their own strengths and weaknesses against each other. "...Naomi?" Imka's voice cut her thoughts off. "You're spacing out." "Ehee, sorry about that." Naomi scratched the back of her head sheepishly. "Just thinking about this exercise is all. Why we were chosen to be together as a team, that sort of thing." Imka nodded. "Fire seems warmed up enough. Grilling and chilling?" The girls set about cooking their meal with fervor, regaling some of their misadventures since joining the Flowering Knights and becoming Aspirants. Inevitably, Imka strayed to discussing the history and culture of their nation, and how it had been formed. "No other nation on the entire continent of Dega works like ours," Imka droned on between bites of savory meat. "The King is the highest authority in all the land, and immediately under him are his protectors - the Flowering Knights. Their word, in service to him, is above all law and order. Assumed to be a failure as a system, it instead became the greatest check-and-balance in all of history, and no other system of government has ever come close to replicating it." Naomi started spacing out again. Imka was well-versed in these things, so perhaps she knew more. "Hey, Imka..." she started. "Weird question, but have you ever read up on Samesmelting, and theories on how that relates to the nation and the Flowering Knights?" Imka bobbed her head once in affirmation. "I've read more than a few books on this, yeah. Was there one in particular?" "Well," Naomi flicked a glance at Mieke, who returned the stare. "The other day I was going through the library and came across one. It had some...radical ideas that I'd never really heard of before." "Ahhhh," Imka seemed to immediately understand. "You must have read DIAPERS, by Sterksleg." Naomi nearly choked. "I'm sorry?" "Detailed and Integrated Analysis of Persons Exhibiting Reclaiming by Spirits," Imka replied matter-of-factly. "If you make it an acronym it spells 'diapers'. It was written by a man by the name of Sterksleg, many decades ago." Mieke pondered this. "Sterksleg...I've never heard of him before." Imka nodded. "He's an unknown. There's next to no history about him, and he only wrote this one book. He had no notable credentials nor information to his name, so his theories and ideas were largely criticized and lost in a sea of poor reviews. That being said, he's one of the most controversial authors if you spend time on the Protonet. Seems like everyone that's read the book has a different opinion." Naomi crossed her legs patiently. "Okay, so what about DIAPERS? Th-the book, I mean." "Sterksleg suggests that Samesmelting was a primordial force harnessed by ancient peoples to create the first Flowering Knights. An unknown event lost this group to time, but it was reformed about five centuries ago. Supposedly, the ancient Knights traded a part of their souls in exchange for the power granted by spirits of the wild. He noted a historical trend that ancient Samesmelting individuals - whom he called MuTzus - took on the characteristics of their familiars in certain ways." Mieke bounced up and down a few times. "Like my tail!" "Kind of," Imka continued. "But that, your other features and disposition are only part of it. You also smell blood from miles away and have a distinct craving for meat." "No," Mieke tried innocently, but looking down at her roasted porkchop, nodded in defeat. "Yeah." Imka smiled. "It's nothing to be ashamed of. The point of this is that MuTzus walk the line between man and monster, at least Sterksleg thought so. While most nations thought it was a curse, ours found it a blessing. That being said, he also believe there was a very specific relation between blessing and cursing, and that they countered one another in equal measure. That was how the world maintained itself in balance." Naomi frowned. "That makes a certain kind of sense, sure." "But there's more. Sterksleg found one particular common denominator, and he thought it relational. Archaeological studies found several pieces of evidence from millennia ago that seemed to poke fun at the MuTzus, proclaiming them the mightiest of heroes while at the same time failing at the most basic of human tasks. Namely, this seems to involve-" Mieke gasped loudly mid-bite. "Phoddie trhainighng!" Imka looked cross. "Yes, Mieke. MuTzus had a tendency to be poor at using the toilet, and this may have been assumed a tradeoff for their animal-like features. "That...may be on to something." Naomi suddenly felt like they were stumbling onto something big, a massive secret thousands of years in the making. "Think about it - what was one of the first things they told us when we joined the Flowering Knights?" The other girls answered in unison. "We serve the King first. All else is secondary. Including-" they froze. "Say it," Naomi urged, not wanting to do it herself. "Including...potty training." Mieke and Imka looked at one another. "What if that was something important back in the day? Like, they push us and train us so hard we're not allowed to go pee: is that in the spirit of Samesmelting, to go beyond human limitations? Maybe it's not just harsh or intended to wean us of civilian qualms, but an important facet of our Aspirations!" Imka looked like she'd just been told the dumbest thing imaginable. "Naomi, I love you to death, but are your fox-ears even listening to yourself right now?" "I'm serious, Imka!" Naomi tore the last of her meat from her stick and gulped it down in one bite. "Our teachers aren't fools and they aren't sadists. Mostly. There must be a reason that maybe even they don't understand." "So like, you think they're perpetuating something on tradition?" Mieke kicked her feet out and relaxed. "That seems hard to believe, but I get where you're coming from." Imka didn't seem convinced. "It defies reason. Sure, there's potential benefits, but that seems like an extreme stance to take. Why go to such lengths just to preserve a potential ancient way? The benefits certainly don't stack up nearly high enough to justify it." Mieke's irises bugged out. "Or maybe...maybe it's a way to hide it. If everyone pees their pants, no one does. Right?" This earned the girl a set of incredulous looks, and the conversation soon passed, the three of them left with their questions and an uncomfortable lack of answers. Naomi couldn't fall back asleep. Her wrist-chronometer insisted it was two in the morning, and even without Mieke snoring like usual she still found it hard to stop being awake. She stared up into the starry sky, the warm blackness and pinpricks of light pushing her mind to wonder and wander evermore. After what felt like an eternity she finally slipped out of her sleeping bag and slipped on her sandals. As she began to exit the tent Mieke stirred groggily. "Sorry, Mieke. Couldn't fall back asleep, gonna stargaze for a few. I'll be right back." "Mkay," the girl responded before collapsing back into her pillow. Breathing a sigh of relief, Naomi walked out and down the pathway towards the edge of the cliff. She'd scouted it out earlier that day and catalogued it for future reference, and it was about to serve her well. After a short walk she sat down near the edge, sitting down and tucking her knees close to her chest. Her pajamas would be enough to keep the nighttime wind at bay, and she'd long since acclimated to the weather. Even for an Aspirant Knight, this would prove little challenge. Her thoughts strayed again to the conversation earlier about Sterksleg and MuTzus, the Samesmelting and more. She'd been left with so many questions about the mysterious voice within her, wondering if it was really her and some unknown power finally unleashing, or whether there really was the spirit of a beast that needed to be tamed, lest it break free. "Who are you...who am I?" she breathed. Looking up to the sky again, the slight rustling of wind bristled across her body, and she closed her eyes, taking a deep breath and sighing slowly. She focused and let the energy of sight be naught, focusing on sounds and feeling. Her perception of the world changed as memory filled in the blanks. The girl meditated for some time, letting nature pervade her senses until she felt an internal sense of equilibrium once more. Exhaling in content, she stood back up and made her way back to the tent. Peering inside, Mieke had cuddled up next to Imka and was now using her like a pillow, a smile etched into her face. Allowing herself a warm smile of her own, Naomi slipped back into her own sleeping bag and soon found herself asleep- -Naomi woke up, wide-eyed. Her left arm slipped up and she checked the time - 0500 hours, almost to the dot. She pushed on Mieke. "Wake up! Did you hear that?" "Huehh," the girl whined, slowly coming to her senses. "Naomi what time is it? It's too early to change-" "Ssshh!" Naomi clamped on hand on her friend's mouth, feeling one of her ears twitch. "Listen." Mieke stopped, but otherwise didn't react. She slipped Naomi's hand off and whispered. "I can't hear as well as you, ya dingo. What's up?" "Voices," Naomi hissed. She put a hand over Imka's mouth, which didn't wake her, and then poked her in the tummy, which did. The girl made a muffled eep, but calmed down once she realized she was still in good company. "Imka, I hear someone nearby. Both of you get your shoes on, we're investigating." "Why?" Imka asked. "It's probably just another group of Aspirants." "Exactly - do you want them to sneak up on us and pull a prank?" Naomi cursed herself, realizing she should have strung wires around their camp to warn them ahead of time. She was worried someone might get up and forget or sleepwalk, and doing so next to a cliff could be potentially deadly. Now they were potentially on the receiving end of something they wouldn't be able to live down for years, if they were lucky. The girls moved quickly, despite their tiredness, and within a few seconds they were skittering further into the mountain. Naomi led the way, listening hard. She had a flashlight in one hand and her other kept close feel to her knife. She had no intention of fighting a fellow Aspirant, but they were in the wild and having that literally on-hand made her feel better. Slight echoes guided the group towards the cave entrance they'd encountered earlier. "Oh spirits, no, nope," Imka shuddered. "Not going into a dark cave in the middle of the night." "Why not?" Mieke's voice was low but without fear. "We have flashlights." "If we get lost it could be days before we're found. You know how much trouble we'll be in?" Imka shook her head. "Not happening - I'll keep watch before I do this." Mieke looked over at Naomi. A sardonic look crossed the younger girl's face before she turned back to Imka. "Ya know, Imka, I always took ya for the voice of reason in a group, but not the baby." "Baby?" the girl looked offended. "What's that supposed to mean?" "You're an Aspirant Knight but you're gonna stand there and be a peepeepants over some dark cave?" Mieke rolled her eyes in exaggeration. "Get real, girl - I thought you wore the diapers for peace of mind, not because you're a scaredy waredy lil' thing." Imka pressed her lips together. "Nice try, but I won't fall for such an obvious bait." She fell for the bait. Sandwiched between Naomi in the front and Mieke in the rear, Imka looked around spastically as they carefully made their way further into the cave. "This is a bad idea..." "It's fine," Naomi said through gritted teeth. Her eyes were focused and her ears on high alert, and hearing her friend being unnerved was distracting. Imka took the hint and they proceeded in relative silence for a bit longer. All at once, Naomi held up her hand to make them stop. She listened hard for a few moments more. "Someone's coming," she hissed. "Lights." They all shut their flashlights off and tucked away to the sides. Naomi focused hard to calm her beating heart and quiet her breathing. She felt an adrenaline rush, her chest tightening in anticipation. Footsteps sounded far down the way. Flicking a glance over to her teammates, Imka gulped down her fear but otherwise remained tensed and ready. Mieke looked fairly relaxed but her eyes got that predatory look in them. For a brief moment, Naomi worried the girl might do something drastic, urged on by her Samesmelting, but decided to ignore it for now. She couldn't waste time worrying about what Mieke may or may not do. A voice sounded faintly in the distance. Naomi's ears twitched as they picked it up. She breathed a sigh of relief. "I'd recognize that voice anywhere. It's Palesa." Imka looked like she was silently cursing something violent. "Of course it'd be her." Palesa was a bit of a bully, sure, but they were in the field now - the girl could be counted on to focus. Her service came first, but immediately thereafter was abusing anyone she deemed unfit or deserving. "This is the perfect chance to get back at her," Mieke offered, but Naomi shook her head. "She's not looking for trouble. Her voice...she's inquisitive, concerned. She's looking for something and afraid, just like us." That shut them up. In the distance as the footsteps approached, Naomi called out softly. "Palesa, it's Naomi and the others." There was a stiff gasp followed by the sound of more footsteps. A light shone nearby. "Naomi? Spirits be good, you gave me a heart attack." The girl shined her light over each member, as if to confirm they were all present. "What are you all doing here?" "Our camp's up the mountain a ways," Imka replied hesitantly. "We - err, Naomi - heard something, so we came to investigate." Palesa frowned. "...someone was messing around near our campsite. We're a bit down from here, but I wanted to check the area, thought one of the instructors was messing around." Imka folded her arms. "What makes you so sure it wasn't us?" "Because you're a bunch of goodie-two-shoes and you wouldn't bother," Palesa answered with haughty derision. Imka took this as an insult, but her inquisitive nature got the better of her. "Then...the instructors?" The local bully bit her lip. "I don't know, but I've been looking for half an hour. No tracks and no sight of anyone. I guess if you haven't run in to them either, it's clear for now." Mieke put her hands on her hips. "All part of my master plan to lull you into a false sense of security - the real fun begins now!" "Grow up, Mieke," Palesa retorted. The girl feigned shock. "Bwuh? You can't be upset with me; I'm adorable!" Palesa visibly fought back a smirk. She shook her head to hide it. "Alright, I'm outta here. See you back at-" Mieke started sniffing audibly, and with high frequency. Her pupils dilated heavily, and everyone took notice. Naomi heard something skittering nearby, very faintly. She hadn't even noticed, having been so focused on their current situation. "Something's close," Mieke whispered. "Fauna. Not human." An animal, then. The girls immediately formed a double back-to-back formation on habit, flashlights on and searching about. After a few moments, Naomi and Mieke both identified the location: "That way." It was from the same direction as where Palesa had come from. The girls moved into a long abreast line, focusing their flashlights to paint as wide an area as possible. The sound came closer and closer, and Naomi's heart pounded high in her chest again. She felt a twinge in her bladder. Please not in front of Palesa... A small, round shadow leapt out in front of them with a graaaggghhh sound. Palesa screamed and collapsed, and for a moment Naomi thought she'd been hit with something - a snake had spit venom, or a one of those mammals with the launchable spines whose name escaped her at moment, or- -Naomi ground to a halt midstep, her knife raised for a strike. The thing that had been shadowing them was maybe two feet tall at best, with a short and rounded body and stumpy limbs. It's mouth was agape and large, filled with razor-sharp teeth. It growled again, but now having realized it was only an anklebiter, the fear of this thing had gone away. Mieke squealed in girlish delight. "He's so cuuuttttteee-" the girl rushed forward and dropped to her knees, hugging it. The thing made a ghwe sound in surprise, but didn't fight back against the human accosting it. Then again, perhaps Mieke's vice-grip gave it no chance to do so. "By the spirits that be," Imka approached hesitantly, bending down a bit to get a better look. "I think that's a baby Molligmond. I've never seen one in the wild before." Molligmonds were a type of bipedal lizard native to the nation. They had a voracious appetite and could grow up to seven feet or more in height. They were renowned for their speed and strength, and were quite intelligent as well. Some people kept them as exotic pets, but they were rare to find and harder to catch or tame. By decree of the King himself, it was expressly forbidden to kill one outside of self-defense, and unless reported to the authorities it carried the most severe of penalties. "Can we keep him?" Mieke's voice was muffle, her face buried against the stout creature. It struggled slightly but didn't attack or give any indication of fear. Part of Naomi wondered if that was a result of Mieke's Samesmelting, the similarity between a shark and a Molligmond perhaps giving it a feeling of belonging. Palesa huffed irritably from below. "Get your butt out of my face," she growled, pushing Imka forward. The girl yipped in surprise but, at being pushed into proximity of the Molligmond, cautiously reached out to pat it on the head. The thing seemed to purr at this, relaxing slightly. Naomi looked down at her rival, noticing immediately the girl sat in a puddle or her own piss. She must have startled when the creature jumped out and tripped over herself. She was a moment away from making fun of Palesa when it occurred to her that no good would come of it. Annoying or not, she was still a comrade and fellow Aspirant Knight, and she needed to bear that in mind. Mentally preparing herself, she lowered a hand to help Palesa up. The girl slapped the hand out of the way, struggling upwards. Naomi immediately brought it back, seized her by the wrist and yanked her up roughly to her feet. Palesa stumbled but caught herself. "...thanks." Naomi nodded once. "Don't mention it." Palesa looked down at her soaked pants. "No, you don't mention it." Unable to help herself, Naomi chuckled. "Right. Our little secret." The two of them stood side-by-side and watched their comrades fawn over their new pet. "What'll we name him? What'do we name 'im?" Mieke couldn't contain her excitement. Imka thought about this. "What about...Gepp?" "Like the cannon?" Mieke asked. "What kinda dumb name is that?" "Erm, yeah, like the cannon!" Imka straightened up and adjusted her glasses. "Named after the acronym for the Grand Electromagnetic Positron Projector. The most powerful mounted weapon manufactured by our nation, and a fitting name for the most powerful creature in our catalog of local fauna." They thought this over a for a few moments. Palesa shook her head and grabbed her flashlight, excusing herself as politely as she could. "I'm out. See you all tomorrow." Naomi waved halfheartedly. "Gepp works, I suppose. What do you think, little guy?" Gepp made a half-bark-half-growl sound. "He's probably hungry. He can have my snacks for the return trip!" Mieke hugged him again. "Gepp. You so cute!" Imka snickered to herself. "And now my revenge is complete." When she got a pair of raised eyebrows, she clarified. "Gepp can also be an abbreviation from an old dialect. Loosely, it translates to, 'One whom makes a girl pee in her panties'." The girlish giggling echoed all throughout the caves, but mercifully never reached earshot of the butt of its joke.
  13. CHAPTER III - The Girls Are Investigating Post-dinner, Naomi moved through the facility as fast as her legs would carry her without breaking into a run or spilling her cup of cold milk. The lesson about Nhanganghanga long over, she'd had a chance to calm down, get something delicious down her throat and switch over to some dry clothes. Forgoing common sense, she'd grabbed the first thing she could locate out of the shower and was only now considering the implications of traversing without something padded to keep her safe. Then again, it was just a quick run to the library for the night to look into the nature of Samesmelting, but if she got stuck longer than usual... ...no, that wasn't a good way to think about it. "Motivation and confidence is the key to success!" Naomi told herself aloud, echoing the words of their combat instructor. The gritty phrase gave her a brief stint down memory lane. Several years prior... "Aspirant Knights!" the woman before them snapped. She was sturdy, less muscularly-pronounced than Thembeka but still obviously one tough bitch, and with a flapping tail reminiscent of an orca's behind her. The aspirants were formed in one wide row before this new teacher, and Naomi felt a bit of relief that at least one teacher bore the mark of Samesmelting. "My name is Nolwandle, and I will be your combat instructor! Today you will take your first steps into the world of battlefield combat. Right now you are little girls lost in the woods, but by the time I'm finished you'll be a pack of she-wolves roaming the forests and hunting down the enemies of the King. Is that clear?" "We serve!" the reply shouted back in perfect unison. Nolwandle nodded once. "Damn right you do! Now, let's set some ground rules here. First and foremost, your arms and armor are tools gifted to the Flowering Knights for service to the King himself, and you will treat them with respect and safety at all times. Weapons downrange, finger off the trigger until you're ready to fire and never point anything at anything you are not intending to destroy. Second! If you have any questions, raise your damn hand and wait for me to call upon you. I will always answer. Clear?" "Clear!" the students replied again. A few uncertain glances exchanged - everyone up to this point had been tough as nails and as short as possible with them, but Nolwandle seemed a lot calmer by comparison. Maybe that would change... The lesson was very quick and very hands-on. Thembeka was focused on pushing the physical limits of her students, Nobantu lamented the disregard newer generations supposedly had for their history, but now Nolwandle was intent only on ensuring they all not only knew how to handle their equipment, but how to maintain it and respect its capabilities (and dangers). "It is Flowering Knight tradition to start you off with combat exercises - fighting with blade and bow, disassembly and maintenance of your wargear, rappelling, all that stuff." The instructor inhaled sharply. "But I get to make that call. Today we're starting off on the firing the range - you damn girls need to learn what a gun sounds like, feels like and smells like. Learn how to shoot and get used to recoil. If you don't have a black and blue shoulder by the end of today I have failed you as a teacher." Waving them forward, Nolwandle led the girls out to the range. It was an open area with a long firing line before moving out to what Naomi guessed would be one-hundred meters. There were multiple targets downrange, and she noticed none of these were holographic. Everything was a physical target, white rectangles with orange circles one after the other. The girl raised her hand, and even without looking behind her Nolwandle answered. "Yes, Naomi?" Naomi startled at this, but continued anyways. "Yes, Miss Nolwandle. Why are all the targets painted? Wouldn't it be easier to use holograms?" The teacher ground to halt and spun on her heels. Her hands went to her hips. "You are correct, Aspirant Knight. However, there is a reason I don't want you all too wrapped up in technology. Who knows why?" There were several moments of silence before an answer came through. "Wouldn't it be because-" "Raise your damn hand!" Nolwandle snapped. There was a light eep before Palesa continued. "Sorry. Is it because you don't like high-tech solutions?" Nolwandle looked like she was biting her cheek. "Close enough. To answer your question, no, I am just fine with the technological marvels of our grand nation. However, I think it's a fault in logic to train you the easy way if your duties will require you learn the hard way." She indicated downrange with one hand. "If you train in simulators against holograms using rifles with fancy attachments and optics, you'll struggle to fight anything with substance in the field and the elements with iron sights and a run-of-the-mill weapon. Laying in the dirt under the sun focuses you better than protocrete floors and temperature-modulated environments. It's not the same, and if that's all you're used to you'll be a poor excuse of a Knight." The instructor pulled a rather large knife out of a sheath by her belt and pointed it at the students. "Arms and armor are tools, and only as useful as the person wielding them. You must be a weapon to surpass those you wield, or you're no better than the infantry that serve the country." Her hand moved fast, and the knife twirled around before Nolwandle suddenly launched it forward and past all of the Aspirants, where it landed bull's-eye up to the tang in a spare target at the start of the firing line. They all turned, wide-eyed, to see the work of a Flowering Knight in action. It was a perfect throw thirty meters away. One of the girls couldn't help herself and clapped a few times. Nolwandle beamed: "Don't get used to the comforts of technology. The more crutches you have, the more it hurts when they're kicked out from under you." The Aspirants were lined up in single file down the firing range. Today they were running the basics of marksmanship with the standard weapon of the King's armies, the OMU-29 bullpup rifle. A brief rundown on handling, loading and aiming took place and then the girls were commanded to commence firing. Naomi sat at the table and braced her elbows against the table, looking out as far as she could. One-hundred meters didn't seem that far, but squinting at the tiny little orange dot that far away made it seem like a mile. "Okay," she breathed. "Line up the front sight post with the rear sights." She did so and pulled the trigger when it matched up. The weapon barked and kicked back against her shoulder, causing her to yip in surprise. Her eyes widened. "Miss," an automated spotting scope reported from next to her. "Short." Short? How had she hit low, it'd been lined up perfectly? Had she jumped in anticipation of the gun's kick? Frowning, Naomi looked over the weapon system before realizing that she hadn't adjusted her iron sights. They were zeroed for point blank, not a hundred meters. Sliding the adjustment into place she steadied again. Her heart beat in her chest in anticipation and she felt excitement flush through her body. It was a strange feeling, the realization that it was about to go off and push back against her. She death-gripped it before remembering that was incorrect, and she let out a deep breath as her fingers relaxed. "You can do this," she told herself aloud, shouldering the OMU-29 once more and lining up a shot. When it was there Naomi paused her breathing and squeezed the trigger, slower this time. There was a dull pampf as the weapon discharged. The OMU series didn't use powder charges like contemporary firearms. Instead, the King's scientists had long since harnessed the secret of gravitic propulsion, using mass as a force of propulsion. There was no smell of gunpowder or flash of fire out the barrel, but the recoil did jar Naomi's shoulder . She whimpered once, lightly, but pressed her lips together tight to keep her dignity. The spotting system spoke once more. "Hit, orange ring two. Six points." Six points - bull's-eye was ten. Not bad for her second shot. A broad smile forced its way onto her face and she went at it with everything she had, shooting again and again and again until, about two magazines later, she finally got a bull's-eye. "Woohoo!" she cheered, flicking her weapon's safety on and standing up. Naomi pumped both her fists in victorious joy. "Got it!" The spotting computer spoke. "Perfect strike. Ten points." Nolwandle nodded. "Well done. That is what I expect out of all you Aspirant Knights! The army has their fancy tools from day one, but that makes them weak! Already, you are outdoing soldiers twice your age in this simple act: start hard and finish strong. Now, continue!" "We serve!" they all shouted back, and Naomi sat down to load a new magazine, delighted in this new art venture. She was busy mid-change when a girl to her left raised her hand. "Name," Nolwandle called, approaching. "Arno," the girl replied. "Instructor, my weapon's jammed-" she started, turning to face the older woman. As she did her weapon's barrel swung inadvertently with her, and was about to face into the Flowering Knight. Nolwandle reacted with blistering speed, lunging forward and pushing the gun barrel out of the way. In surprise Arno must had squeezed her hand because it fired, a sign the safety hadn't been engaged. The OMU spat a short burst of automatic fire, pampfpampfpampfing away before Nolwandle was able to use her free hand to smack Arno's arm out of the way. Silence immediately followed. Arno looked horrified and took an uncertain step back. She started to speak but her words died as the glower of Nolwandle approached. The instructor looked up and down the firing line, looking for any sign of injuries. There were none, but while a wide-eyed Naomi gazed about she noticed a girl that had been approaching the instructor must have been right in the line of fire, and the shells had flown directly past her head. She was physically unharmed but frozen in place with fear, and a wet patch was slowly forming at the front of her dress. The girl shivered, her life only just now ceasing to flash before her eyes. Nolwandle made a short whistle. "Noxolo, help this young Aspirant get changed and back into the firing line." "I serve," someone nearby replied and stood up and approached the terrified girl nearby. "Let's get back to-" "Here is fine, Aspirant." Nolwandle didn't even look behind her to verify. "There's no room for modesty on the battlefield. Strip and change here, calm your sister Knight and both of you get back into the firing line. You are not finished with me yet, nor I with you." Noxolo hesitated. "Understood." "What Aspirant Knight Arno here has just demonstrated," Nolwandle bellowed for all to hear. "Is the importance of good trigger discipline. Excellent lesson, Aspirant! Now why don't you-" Nolwandle, in one pair of motions, removed the magazine and cleared the weapon of any ammunition before shoving it back into her student's hands. "-run some laps up and down the line with this little tool above your head and help me beat a mantra into the rest of these students? Think you can help me talk some trigger discipline into your peers, now that they know what not to damn do?!" "Y-yes ma'am," Arno nodded. "How long should I do it?" "Until your pants are wet, either with sweat or your own piss!" Nolwandle snapped. "Now run!" "I serve!" Arno yelped, raising the now-harmless weapon above her head and jogging up and down the line. "Finger off the trigger! Know your target! Aim only at your target! All firearms are loaded!" And then it repeated, without end, for the next four hours. Not a single other student made the same mistake that day. In the present day... Naomi allowed herself a smile. That had been a fun day, minus Arno's lapse in judgment. She wasn't a bad girl, and she was earnest but definitely not the brightest around. True to form, she'd run up and down the firing line and chanted nonstop for all of it, and by the end her pants were indeed wet, with both piss and sweat. As additional punishment, Nolwandle forced her to wear diapers on the firing line for three months, and without anything to cover them, to ensure there were no further accidents from the trainee in question. The combat instructor was definitely the gentlest, but the moment her sacred rules were tested she was unequivocally the most severe. Finally, the trip down memory lane was ended, and with it the trip down the lane to the library. Naomi entered, peering about; unsurprisingly, there was no one else present, not at this hour. The Aspirant Knights were on their own for the duration of the night, but Naomi needed answers, not rest. The Samesmelting was a largely unknown area of study. While theories and studies had been conducted, for the most part it was simply allowed to exist as what it was, and most citizens simply accepted it as the work of the spirits that be. People blessed with the Samesmelting bore the mark of an animal and carried benefits of its characteristics through their lives, but to what extent? What were its limits, and what effects was it capable of? Finding a book - a physical book, something she could put her hands on and focus with - about the Samesmelting, Naomi found a chair and table and got to work. "A Disputed Understanding on the Phenomenon of Spirit Animal Melding and the Human Body," Naomi read the title aloud. "Sounds exhilarating." It was not. She'd only made it a few chapters in before shutting the book. This was exhaustively detailed, and a subliminal audiobook would be far more practical to use, something she could intake while asleep. Closing it up and making a mental note for future reference, Naomi looked through for something else. "Detailed and Integrated Analysis of Persons Exhibiting Reclaiming by Spirits." Naomi read through the title several times, wondering if there was any meaning to its name, but couldn't connect the dots at that moment. Taking a seat and downing the last of her milk, she started the new book. It drew the girl in quite rapidly. Naomi was soon mixed up in the tales told. According to this author, the Samesmelting could be traced back to ancient times. Supposedly, those peoples championed the existence of Samesmelting as proof that the spirits that be watched over them, and protected these individuals from the jealousy and avarice of their neighbors. Providing assistance and guidance, these half-man-half-fauna hybrids would protect the humans of this nation with their wisdom, instincts and actions. They were a primordial force, and some historians went so far as to claim these were the first to become Flowering Knights. The tradition was lost after an unknown event in history, but in the last millennium the tradition had been reforged into the Flowering Knights everyone knew of today. "So the Samesmelting and Flowering Nights have an interlinked history?" Naomi mumbled. She'd never heard that before, and it didn't entirely line up. The Knights did not distinguish between their candidates - human or hybrid, it mattered not - asserting only that they must be female. Her curiosity piqued, Naomi now added another mental note to look even further into the ancient history of the Knights, but focused for now on her original note. Samesmelting was not fully understood, but there was a noted mark in it - a historical trend, the author wrote, relating to this. Individuals with this unique ability seemed to exhibit an almost primordial well of intelligence and physical prowess, capable of far exceeding the limitations of mankind. However, this was stated to exist in a state of exchange. In return for ultimate power, one's soul was the price paid. A shiver ran down Naomi's spine and she had to look around the library for a few moments. Her heart beat heavily in her chest and she gulped down her fear. Her ears flicked about, detecting nothing, so she peered back into the book, cautiously, like it might come to life and bite at her at any moment. The author posited a theory that Samesmelting was not bound by physical laws in the same way as the humanity was, and existed on a quasi-magical plane of reality within our own. In this way it could exist without breaking anything, instead 'bending' the rules of existence. The only notable trend the book claimed was a single strand relating to Samesmelting - namely, an ancient carving in cave wall dating back thousands of years. In it, there was what was assumed to be a joke by people of times long since passed. "The mightiest man and the bravest beast combined, their spirits that be forever intertwined," Naomi read, her voice quaking. "Through trial and tribulation they with ease could tread, but for the most basic of needs they lack instead. A mark of shame to one day be no longer pained, our greatest triumphs struggle to become house-trained." Naomi frowned, reading it through silently three more times before getting an idea of what it meant. The next paragraph stated that this was written in a worn down script not used in countless generations, and there was likely a tremendous amount of error in its translation. "Am I..." Naomi shivered. "...doomed?" Her own voice answered and she felt her mouth move. "We are alive and we are well." Naomi nearly jumped out of her skin. She hadn't said that, and it sounded just like earlier with her experience against Palesa. Her arms trembled. Was this something about the Samesmelting that- "Whatcha readin'?" a lighthearted voice asked curiously from behind her. Naomi screamed and fell out of her chair in a heap, and whomever had snuck up behind her likewise let out a high-pitched squeal, collapsing to the ground with a light thud. Naomi struggled up and onto her butt and scooted backwards from the danger. There was a trickling sound and she felt something warm start to puddle underneathkl her, spreading out into her thighs and soaking into her pants. "Oh, praise the spirits that be," Naomi sighed explosively. "It's just you, Mieke." The other girl took a deep breath. "Above and below, you scared da spirits outta mwee, Naomi. What da heck was that about?" Mieke was one of the few other Samesmelting-blessed individuals in the batch. With razor sharp teeth, rough skin, a keen nose and a hydrodynamic tail, Mieke was naturally adapted to the water and everything in it. The girl had a heart of gold and a head of bone, and while she easily made friends with everyone her predilection for foolish antics had a habit of ruining her appearance, and the presence of additional teeth gave her a slight lisp. Regardless, the girl had found a place in the hearts and minds of everyone around, students and teachers alike. Suddenly feeling a bit foolish, Naomi sighed. She'd have to clean up before she left now and she'd made quite a poor showing in front of one of the few people she could consider a friend. "I'm sorry, didn't mean that. Just...got a little too into a book here." Mieke seemed completely invested in this story. "Oooh? Whatzit? A ghost story?" Naomi shook her head no and chuckled. "Nah. Trying to learn more about the floofy ears everyone adores so much." Mieke gasped. "Oi, I know sarcasm when I hear it. You should be proud of 'em, they're fluffy and cute!" That forced a smile. "Thanks, Mieke." "I'm bein' serious!" Mieke, on her butt with her legs folded at her sides, hopped herself forward a bit. "You shouldn't be ashamed of being different. You're special because you're you, and you better not want to change that because you'll always be you, know what I'm sayin'?" At this, Naomi couldn't help but bust out laughing. Mieke's circular logic was like listening to a child - it was overly simplistic and missing a lot of facts, but at its core it made a certain kind of sense that couldn't be argued with. "Thank you." "Yupyup!" the girl bounded up and down. "So, whaddya say we take a look at this spooky book of yours?" "Can you help me clean up first? I'd owe you one." Mieke thought this over. "Hmm...can I trade it in for an ice cream?" That was a small price to pay. "You have yourself a deal. I'm going out on the town with Imka this weekend, how's that grab you?" The little shark-girl cheered. "I'll grab the towels and spray bottle!" Naomi sheepishly scratched the back of her head. "Not so loud, please..."
  14. CHAPTER II - The Girls Are Studying Naomi's eyes struggled to focus. Her bladder was screaming at her to do something, but she knew that disrupting a reading session would earn her a sharp thwack on the hands from instructor Nobantu. The woman had, with age, become more and more inclined to reliance on a switch to get her intentions across, rather than words. In a strange way, she was likelier to enforce her will on her students with action than even the powerhouse that was Thembeka. The girl let a silent prayer to the spirits that be pass her mind, grateful that she'd had the foresight to wear something padded today. Despite the proud crowing of Palesa that it was unbecoming of the students to use the crutch of diapers to get through their harrowing trials day after day, Naomi had fallen into that trap a few too many times to listen on this occasion. Maybe if they were on a physical day - Nobantu was typically harsher about the failings of their bodily functions than Thembeka. It's a little weird to long for the physical torture of the field than to enjoy a day inside, she thought to herself. It wasn't that she found history to be an unnecessary or boring subject, but it was far more complicated than giving 110% of your effort. Today, Nobantu had tasked them with reviewing an important event in their country's history - the Battle of Nhanganghanga. Centuries prior, the nation of Tiff'zhung had declared war and marched upon their lands, intending to conquer and subjugate all the people. While initially successful, this came to a demoralizing head at the plateau of Nhanganghanga. The Tiff'zhungiz warriors had mistakenly believed the open deserts would serve them well; long sightlines and wide, open areas with which to spot danger approaching for miles in all directions. By nightfall, when they'd made camp, they were proven wrong. A detachment of Flowering Knights had anticipated this and concealed themselves amidst the desert sands. Once their prey was sufficiently lulled into a false sense of security they rose up like the dead made living. Terrified, the Tiff'zhungiz had tried to escape in a colossal panic, only to be massacred by the Knights in a vicious series of hit-and-run attacks that stretched on for hours, all the way back to the border. The King at that time had actually had to intervene and demand the Knights stand down, as they'd nearly counter-invaded their neighbor in the process, and likely would have lain waste to the land if left unchecked. "Five hundred years of peace and counting!" Nobantu had snapped at them earlier that day. "That is what your ancestors gave us all, and I expect you all to know of their efforts by heart come sundown!" That was seven hours ago. In that time, Naomi and the others had poured over datasheets and recordings, retellings of the story and more. They'd been given sufficient water, but food was denied. Granted, they'd feast like royalty later, but for now they had to make do. Naomi felt a sharp pang down below and inhaled explosively, her thighs squishing together. She'd almost leaked, but managed to hold on for now. "Gotta go?" Imka leaned over and whispered. Naomi bobbed her head up and down. "I'm fine. Nothing a Knight cannot handle and persevere in the face of." The other girl shook her head. "Your stubbornness is admirable, but your logic is questionable." Naomi couldn't really argue with that, but something about the action of perseverance like that struck her as important, even in seemingly minor things. Also, she didn't know when she'd be allowed to change, and being soggy for hours on end could be uncomfortable. Better to squirm. She tapped away at the holographic screen before her, bringing up another article. She'd read through no less than four books by this point and wanted a different angle. Scrolling down the list, she read through the response from the Tiff'zhung. Apparently the survivors had insisted to their leadership that they'd been attacked by evil spirits, and been in such great terror that the Flowering Knights had actually made it into the mythos of Tiff'zhung as, loosely translating, 'The Petals of Death'. Over half a millennium later and the people were still in such fear they had shut down all military operations and never set foot outside of their own borders. Merchant trade had only recently begun a few decades prior, but was heavily regulated, limited in scope and subject to immense scrutiny by unlucky conscripts. According to the article, this was considered the worst vocation in the entire country, and citizens would go so far as to medically damage themselves to invalidate their own draft. Imka was hovering over Naomi's shoulder, reading this. "That's crazy...what did the Knights do to them to leave such a lasting impression?" "Think about it," Naomi looked behind her. "You enter a foreign country, fight its people and just when you think you're going to rest for the day the sands themselves spit up foreboding figures that lithely flow into your ranks and make a mockery of your invasion." The other girl didn't look convinced, so Naomi continued. "It's about mobile warfare, and demoralization. The Knights exploited the Tiff'zhungiz at a vulnerable moment, applied maximum force to the focal point and ran riot through the ranks. Once there, they destroyed-" Naomi winced again as she felt a small dribble leak into her padding. "-they destroyed communication equipment so the warriors couldn't contact high command, they sabotaged their transport vehicles and took out their local command structure. Lacking material and leadership, the rank and file let their fear get the better of them, and so history happened." "Ohhhhhhh," Imka started bobbing her head up and down. "I didn't think about it that way." Naomi forced a smile. Her legs were trying desperately to dance in her seat, but she didn't want to make an awkward situation in front of her dearest friend. She was at peace with wetting herself, but for a young woman to piss her pants in front of someone close, even under the strict circumstances of the Flowering Knights, still reddened her face quite heavily. And that's when the worst voice around sounded off. "Hey, Naomi!" It was Palesa, the local pighead. Knowing the futility of ignoring this problem, Naomi sighed. "Here." Palesa strolled up, one hand on her hip and the other pointing. "Don't screw around, we're supposed to be studying." "Oh, that's my bad," Imka shook her hands apologetically. "I wasn't understanding something and Naomi was just trying to explain it better." Trying to be a teacher's pet will learn you nothing, Naomi thought. Still, she needed to do this if she wanted to keep any of the respect she'd fought for years to earn in this group. "I'll speak for myself." Her tone was polite yet firm, and directed at Imka. She looked a bit surprised at this, but got the message. Bowing apologetically, she removed herself from the conversation. Down to you and me, Naomi thought as she took a breath and mulled over her words. "The Flowering Knights need to rely on one another as much as they have to rely on themselves. A sister Knight-in-Training benefitted from my assistance, as I do hers. We are fulfilling our duties this day and working evermore towards our oath. Does that satisfy you?" It was a trick question to end with, and Palesa took the bait. The girl's lips pursed with disdain and her tongue clucked disapprovingly. "Spare me the platitudes, Naomi. Even for us you're an embarrassingly vulnerable specimen." That hit a nerve and Naomi found herself biting the bait before she could stop herself. "And what's that supposed to mean?" "Isn't it obvious? For all your physical fitness and exemplary performance, you have more accidents than any girl here. Always have. You go through more pads and diapers than several of us put together, and that's saying something. For someone intent on becoming one of the most powerful women in the nation, you're never going to inspire any young girls out there." Naomi was about to respond when Imka blurted out, "That's not true! Naomi's a role model for plenty of us here! She has no fear, she's forged to fight and she always keeps coming for more! There's not an aspirant here that puts in more effort, and everyone knows it." Palesa's sneer turned into a sour glare that could have melted a protosteel armored plate, and the girl turned around to face down Imka. "You don't want to die on this hill, Imka. Stay out of it or you're next." Imka bit her lip. The girl wanted to say more but Naomi shot her a look for a brief moment first. She wanted to extend her gratitude at Imka's bravery, standing up for Naomi like that, but she didn't want her friend to suffer for it. It wasn't just dishing it out that Naomi was good at - she could take it, too. Taking the hint, Imka backed down, and Palesa immediately whirled about back to Naomi. "Where was I? Oh, right, little miss pissypanties here. There's only a few years to go before we're ready to be inducted as Knights - by the King. I sincerely hope you don't embarrass the rest of your sister Knights when that happens." That stung. In the years since their induction, the King was revered as everything but a deity, and as the most powerful person in the land his word was law. His life was their sacred charge, and to imply that a Knight would do anything less than serve him above and beyond their capabilities was an insult of the highest order. Knights had been known to flog civilians that so much as hinted at this. "Watch your tone, sister Knight," Naomi hissed. "Or I'll do more than embarrass you." Palesa snorted. "Get real. You may be a powerhouse, but I'm power play, and I've got a far better mind than you. So you stick to the muscle-headed action-" she paused at this to pushed her heel forward and into Naomi's gut, lightly enough to apply pressure but slow enough to avoid hurting her comrade. "-and leave the decision-making to your betters." Wincing in one eye, Naomi felt a warm rush into her padded underclothes, a hot gushing as her weary bladder muscles could no longer stem the tide. Her face heated up along with her panties as an anger began to boil in her veins. She forced her eyes into a glare as she looked up to Palesa. There was a rustle of wind that made Naomi's hair stand on end. "The greatest death is laughter," she felt herself say. It didn't seem like her voice, or at least her intentions, but she heard it all the same. She was dimly aware of more and more teammates turning to stare, confused and frightened about the sudden shift in tone and response, but the approach of footsteps sent them scurrying back to their seats. "You had better be hard at work in there!" Nobantu's irritable voice snapped from down the hall. By the time the harsh teacher poked her head in the doorway, everyone was seated and focused on their material. Frowning, the instructor backed off, and a collective sigh of relief spread through the classroom. Naomi's brow furrowed for the next three hours, trapped in the confines of her soggy shame. She wasn't entirely certain what had happened with her voice this day, but she had to get an answer. But before that, she needed this class session to end and then she needed something dry to change into.
  15. Just played through up to this point - very satisfying, the quality is quite high. Thoroughly enjoyed, checking out the Patreon now for more.
×
×
  • Create New...