There was water somewhere, splattering onto the ground with a plop.
Suddenly, she realized she was awake. Though her eyes remained closed, she knew it was time.
Time for what?
A cord snapped and messily dropped her onto the cold ground. Instinctually she adjusted her body to land crouched on her feet and hands. She felt so powerful.
Blinking, she raised her head to face an enormous insect standing on two legs. The Queen. And then a voice rung in her head.
“ You are the first royal guard to emerge. Your name shall be Neferpitou. ” Her? The newly named ant thought to herself.
But her mouth moved on its own. “As you wish my Queen.” Her head dipping back down, as her body adjusted to a half-kneeling position. Later she would realize it was her instincts.
“ Mmm excellent. You are free to do as you like. I must continue preparing for my King. ” With no further words, the Queen turned and walked away toward a tunnel opening.
This left the newly dubbed Neferpitou alone in her hatching chamber, alone with her own thoughts. Wha- how did I know all that?
But it was in that moment that she suddenly recalled everything.
She was once a human girl. She was not extraordinary and had little going for her. That girl was most likely dead, considering she was now a Chimera Ant, yet the girl could not remember the circumstances of her death.
The girl was now a royal guard, extremely powerful from birth, born with only the purpose of serving the Chimera Ant Queen and eventually the King.
In that instant, she realized all this information, she came to the conclusion that she wanted to live her own life and that she had no real interest or loyalty to the Chimera Ant colony she was born into.
Once that instant of time was over, Neferpitou processed all of it and was momentarily lost on how to proceed.
But it was then that something flared.
If she had to describe it, it was like a corner of her mind was a still pool of water and a small pebble had been dropped into it, causing a small ripple. But it was enough to catch her attention, though she did not understand what this power was.
And for some reason, she was drawn to the source.
Standing up from her position on the ground, Neferpitou scowled at the reminder that she had been bowing in submission to the Queen. Who was weaker than her.
And the queen wasn’t the only one out of her place.
Neferpitou turned and walked to the other tunnel entrance opposite, to that of the queen’s chambers.
However, she realized that she had no idea where she was going.
But suddenly, her mind could see the entire nest. Pathways and tunnels lit up in a mental diagram. There were hundreds of other living creatures scurrying or lounging around everywhere.
She could see everything clearly and could also calculate the quickest path to the source she was after.
Marching down the path she plotted for herself, Neferpitou felt so full of energy and almost wanted to laugh from the sheer power that seemed to fill her. It was like nothing she ever experienced.
She only passed some simple-minded worker ants, all of which actually resembled giant bugs unlike herself.
Neferpitou finally reached the chamber containing the source she sought.
It was a large chamber with a high ceiling, with two enormous piles resting on opposite sides of the improv room. One was a pit full of human bodies and the other being skeletons.
There were voices speaking.
“Then it’s true only some can identify this power.”
“Meaning it’s a talent.”
And a tall figure caught her attention. It was a large white humanoid creature with long green hair. White rabbit ears peaked out from the curtain of hair.
Disgust surged in Neferpitou, this lower grunt ant believed that he could rise from the position he was born into. Her instincts fueled her need to put him in his place, and made her naturally dislike the ant in front of her. But somehow her face morphed into a serene smile. Perhaps it was because she already knew that the this ant was far below her, regardless of actual physical strength.
She stepped towards the source of the flare and the smaller penguin-like ant.
The tall rabbit ant’s ears drooped and Neferpitou could see the sweat starting to glisten on him.
He was afraid. Of her?
But a part of her was pleased at the reaction.
As she was within a meter of them, she stopped.
The long eared ant turned around hastily, with a choking sound and sweat dripping down his face.
She realized that she should say something.
“Interesting conversation. Would you mind if I added some input?” Her voice was much more confident sounding than she expected.
The panicked and terrified look the rabbit ant was amusing to a part of her.
She continued walking toward him and as she did, he gradually lowered himself to a kneeling position- as it should be - until she was right in front of him.
Curious, she rested her hand onto his bent head.
All of the bravado from prior seemed to evaporate with her action. He actually thought he was strong?
Satisfied with the submission from the lower ant, Neferpitou allowed herself to widen her smile. She lifted her hand off.
“You can relax.”
But that was when Neferpitou smelled something different from all the oversized insects. She smelt something meaty and earthy and a bit salty, and it was coming from the pile of skulls.
In that moment, Neferpitou realized four things.
First, there was an alive creature under the skull pile, a human with the same aura energy that radiated from the rabbit ant.
Second, the scent of what she identified as a powerful paralytic was in his body that left him defenseless, which made his situation all the more dire.
Third, he was meant to be food for the queen, but she felt sympathetic for him and wanted to save him from such a fate.
Fourth, she was going to have to divert the two ants away in order to even have a chance at saving him inconspicuously. So she immediately got to it.
“You said that fighting rare humans caused him to gain this light energy. Well then it is simply a matter of making him fight other soldiers for them to gain this power. Why don’t you go do that?”
“-right!” The white rabbit choked out. The penguin ant was still paralyzed in fear. Internally sighing, she turned to him, “Gather all the squadron captains and have them fight him.”
“-ah, you can’t summon them?” It looked like the penguin had not meant to say that out loud, and began sweating after the words left his beak.
“I do not possess the telepathy ability.” Neferpitou admitted, wanting to hurry the two along.
But she had forgotten something, “Tell them that this is on the orders of royal guard Neferpitou.”
In that instant spanning less than a second, she came to understand that she was not the girl, and she was not Neferpitou. She was something entirely different, so she was Pitou.
“Right away!” With that, the penguin ant hurried out of the room followed by the rabbit ant.
Finally! Pitou quickly went to the pile of skulls, sending a cursory glance around the chamber. As she thought, there were no other ants that would see what she was about to do.
With both her mental radar and her sense of smell, she found the exact location effortlessly. And there he was barely visible under the human bones, the hunter’s expression was clear and even more terrified than the two ants’ faces.
But Pitou would worry about that after she got him out of here.
In an instant, she calculated the path she needed to take to get out. She removed the outermost skulls covering him, ignoring the utter horror on his face and choked sounds.
“Don’t make any sounds.” Pitou could only hope that he would listen.
Dragging his limp body out, she lifted him under her arm and dashed off, toward an exit.
She also could only hope that this didn’t damage his frail human body too badly. It wasn’t like her body was built for being gentle, and regardless Pitou did not have the time to figure out how to control her strength yet.
Pitou ran fast enough that she was a blur to the few drone ants that she passed, the human being indiscernible to their eyes.
And then she found herself at an opening after a mere thirty seconds of running. Then again, the food area must be close to an entrance for shipping convenience.
Scanning the outside world for the first time as Pitou, she remembered that she should probably make some distance between her and the nest.
Pitou could feel her legs swell in preparation for a leap. She hastily shifted the human to being cradled by both of her arms.
Wind blasted her hair all over her face and she was almost airborne.
But she landed quite a distance away, her legs instinctively bracing for landing and dirt flew in her wake.
Pitou would have tripped in the process if not for her instinctive reactions.
She gleefully cackled, enjoying the the power coursing through her.
The sound of a gasping breathing drew her attention back to her passenger. He was still pretty freaked out (not that she blamed him) and practically hyperventilating.
“Urgh sorry about that. But it’s okay, you’re safe. I’m not going to hurt you.”
The hunter didn’t answer but Pitou knew he didn’t believe her.
Pitou also had no idea what to do from here. She could run him to the border, but she didn’t trust the shady NGL government of this land to take care of a completely paralyzed hunter who knew too much.
She had no idea of what to do, and wanted to slam her head in frustration, but she needed to figure out something.
At that moment, Pitou sensed another human. Stretching her senses’ range, they were in a small cluster of buildings nearby.
Just what I needed! She could get this human to help him, hopefully they would be trustworthy.
She started toward the village, bracing the human against her chest.
Skidding to a halt, Pitou surveyed the desolate village. All the wooden buildings were abandoned, traces of struggle evident everywhere. But only one being left in the vicinity.
Stepping carefully, she came to the building that the human was in. The door was partially ajar.
Gently pushing it open, Pitou finally saw the human she had sensed.
A girl had her back braced against the wall away from the windows. She had minty hair that smelled like bee pheromones and seemed asleep. Only problem was the splatter of blood drenching her abdomen area in shades of deep red, almost black.
The sight of the blood leaking from the human shocked Pitou.
Was the human dead already?
No that can’t be, her breathing is shallow but I can still hear it.
Rushing over to the prone girl, Pitou laid the male on the ground away from the blood.
Looking at the girl, she noticed there was a slight rise and fall of her chest, confirming that she was still breathing. Pitou carefully lifted the sweater to examine the wound.
There were white strips of cloth messily wrapped around the source of the leaking blood. But the strips were already falling off and Pitou could see that there was a hole on her side. A bullet wound?
The mint-haired girl would be dead soon if her wounds weren’t addressed.
But even Pitou had no idea how to treat such a serious wound.
Gritting her teeth in frustration, Pitou seethed at nothing in particular.
Damn it! She’s still alive, but I don’t know how to help!
She had to do something! She had to-
A switch flicked on. And suddenly her hands were glowing.
No that was wrong. Her entire body was emitting white light. And a shape above her was forming from that light.
It was a large, chibi-like orange feline with closed eyes and wearing medical clothes and accessories. It too was surrounded by the white energy she could see.
Before she could fully process this development, the conjured cat floated to the wounded human. Placing its front paws on the area of the life-threatening wound, the orange cat’s paws glowed with more energy.
Pitou could only stare dumbfounded at the sight.
It may have been seconds or minutes, but after what felt like hours, the cat stopped glowing and lifted its paws away, revealing woundless skin. There was still blood caking the area, but the wound had disappeared completely.
The girl began to stir, mumbling hoarsely. Pitou couldn’t help but sigh out in relief.
The gore hadn’t really bothered her, which was surprising since she could recall being aversive to gore before.
She then noticed that the other human hadn’t moved from the floor she had laid him on. But she remembered that he was currently paralyzed from a poison most likely from one of the other chimera ants.
Maybe I could try healing that?
Surprisingly as if listening to her thoughts, the floating medical cat moved to the downed hunter and its paws began glowing again.
After only a few moments, the glowing stopped and the cat faded out of existence, with no trace that it was ever there.
Pitou could see the miniscule flexing and moving of the hunter’s muscles as he regained the ability to move them.
“Well that was better than I expected.” Pitou couldn't help but laugh with the statement.
“What are you?’
The voice caught Pitou off guard, and she turned to see the mint-haired girl trying to stand up, her limbs shaking with effort. She wasn’t screaming in fear, so that was a good sign.
Or maybe she just didn’t realize Pitou was a chimera ant. That was most likely the case.
Regardless, Pitou responded, “Well I’m technically your savior, but the real answer would probably freak you out ~nya.”
Where did that come from? Pitou was a little startled by the instinctual suffix she spoke.
The mint-haired girl must have just noticed the other human because her face morphed into that of concern and surprise, “Pokkle!”
Oh that’s his name. Pitou idly noted, as the beekeeper stumbled over to him before Pitou could even react.
“Ponzu?” Pokkle strained out, struggling to push his face off the ground.
And there’s another name. Gee I’m learning so many names today.
“Yes! I’m so sorry I left you! I had to- they wouldn’t kill you right away- but I didn’t want to-argh!” She stuttered out, her expression being very distraught, only lacking tears.
“Ponzu...it’s okay-I don’t … blame you-...-for that..” He grumbled, now able to sit upright.
Pitou suddenly felt like she was intruding on something.
But that was when Pokkle turned to her. “You’re a Chimera Ant.” Ponzu gasped. “But you helped us...so thank you.”
How was she supposed to respond?
“Don’t thank me, you’re still in danger by being in this land. And I can’t stay here much longer ~nya.” After all, straying too long from the nest would only endanger the humans if she stayed with them, s Pitou was allowing her instincts to guide her for now.
“Wait a minute, my wound is gone!” Ponzu had lifted her sweater and was touching where the wound once was.
“They healed you with some sort of nen.” Pokkle mumurred. “As they did for me too. In fact, they saved my life. I was barely hanging on when they got me out of that nightmarish place.”
Both humans seemed baffled at that knowledge, but Pitou couldn’t dwell any longer.
“Sorry but I have to go, you should be fine here, this sectors considered cleared by the soldier ants. The way to the border is clear of ants, so you can escape ~nya.” Pitou stood up and started to the door.
Before leaving the doorframe, she glanced back at the two humans, and saw confusion in their eyes before she dashed out of the village and back towards the nest.