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The guardian's protector

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“Uuuuu, Mumei look! Mumei look!”

Fauna exclaimed excitedly as she pulled the owl girl by the arm. The girl in question had a mystified look on her face, excited as well but in the dark about what’s going on. Fauna pointed upwards towards a branch. She gestured for it come closer and the whole tree bent and lowered its own branch so that it was at eye-level with the two girls. From here, they could clearly see a bird’s nest resting on it. In it were three eggs, cracks forming at their tops.

When the eggs started to move a little, Fauna squealed in delight. “They’re coming! They’re coming!”

The top of one of the shells broke open and out emerged a tiny beak. It kept pecking it’s way out of the shell, until it toppled over and the baby chick wiggled it’s way out of there. It’s eyes were closed and it’s feathers were matted. The first noises it made were high pitched squawks that rung out far.

“Aren’t they cute, Mumei?” Fauna loved them nonetheless.

Mumei thought carefully about what she said next. The sight she was seeing was pretty cursed but it was also one of Fauna’s work and she didn’t want to offend her. She said innocently, “It’s cute in a terrifying kind of way.”

“Terrifying? No…” She scooped up the little thing with both of her hands and brought it near her face, “this is the beauty of life.”

“Well life is terrifying.” Mumei said in the same tone.

Fauna giggled lightly, “Well that is true. Life can be terrifying sometimes, but we all have to do it.”

She gently placed the newly born back into it’s nest. From the side, a small blue jay landed by the edge of the nest. It chirped heartily at it’s kin. It placed it’s own beak into it’s baby in order to feed it.

“Ew.” Mumei expressed her disgust.

Fauna simply giggled again, “Why what’s wrong, Mumei? This is how birds feed their children.”

“So if I ever have kids I have to do that!?”

“Ewww, nooo.” Earning a slight laugh from the owl girl. Fauna shook her head, “I don’t think us concepts can even have children.”

“Oh that’s a bummer.”

She flicked her finger and allowed the tree to revert back to it’s original spot. It creaked after shifting it’s entire weight upwards. They stood there for a while, watching the mother bird tend to it’s children.

“What is it like to have a mother?” Mumei asked pitifully.

Fauna opened her mouth to answer but she couldn’t think of what to say. The closest thing they had to a parent is Omega, but they were too cold and distant towards them to feel any intimacy for. Fauna only ever saw them as some sort of oppressing force in their lives. She did ponder that question sometimes, all of her creations had parents. She envied them in that sense. The feeling of being loved unconditionally. With that thought, she figured out what to say.

“I guess it’s like the feeling you have when you’re with me.” She explained cheerfully.

“But you’re not my mother.” Mumei looked confused.

The Kirin gave her a gentle smile. “No. But I hope you feel like you have one.”

She truly meant that. Her first years on earth were confusing and disorientating to say the least. It took a long while before she could she was comfortable in her place in the world. She hopes that by being there for Mumei, she could help her find her own place.

“all you’re doing is keeping Mumei locked in just because you can’t accept that she could have a life of her own!” Kronii’s scathing remarks echoed through her mind once again.

I’m doing this because I want to protect her.’ She had to convince herself, this internal argument happening over and over again.

They walked through the magnificent landscape Fauna has crafter. Talking about nothing in particular, the various animals that caught Mumei’s eyes, fun facts they found out about certain plants, laughing about stories of Fauna’s favorite pets out of many. It was peaceful. Just as Fauna liked it.

Though that peace was short-lived. As they strolled through the area, Fauna suddenly started coughing profusely.

“Fauna!” Mumei worriedly exclaimed, this not being the first time she doubled over coughing like this. “What’s wrong!?”

Between her rugged breaths, Fauna tried reassuring her but her voice was still husky, “Nothing Mumei, I’m fine. Thanks for asking.”

But that was a lie. This was starting to become more frequent and Fauna feared what that meant. Nature itself was hurting. She suspected it’s due to human behavior that the environment of the world is being damaged as a whole. With all the expansion humanity has been doing, it was a fair assumption. Since she is tied to this concept, she feels every piece of the damage inflicted. It hurts but she couldn’t tell this to Mumei, her only companion. It would only break her heart to hear that she was the one hurting her, in an abstract sort of way. But she knows that somehow she’ll take it as her fault.

The only way to remedy this is to go into a hibernation phase where she becomes one with the earth itself. Then she could heal nature manually. This has happened before and she never minded then. But now things were different. She had Mumei to take care of now. This process could take years, decades, worst case scenario a century. She had to leave her alone and that thought terrified her. For now, she’s just bearing with the pain.

Mumei nodded silently, but her concern was still visible.

They came to a stop on a small clearing with a fallen tree to act as a bench for them. They sat down and Mumei pulled out her notebook. She diligently started sketching on it, catching Fauna’s interest.

“What are you drawing, Mumei?” she asked curiously. She really did love her drawings, each portrait of an animal being a masterpiece that never fails to take her breath away.

When she leaned in to sneak a peek, Mumei turned the book to the side to block her view. “It’s a secret!” she teased.

Fauna pouted, she really didn’t like secrets. As Mumei scribbled her pencil inside the book, Fauna tried to imagine what she could possibly be sketching. She knows that Mumei needed a reference to be close by because she couldn’t visualize images in her mind. But looking around showed that there were no animals anywhere around them. Realizing this, Fauna’s curiosity peaked.

As a ploy to see it, she called on some small canaries to mess with her a bit. One landed on her shoulder and nuzzled itself on the girl’s cheek, causing her to turn and laugh at it’s direction. Using this opportunity, Fauna snuck in a glance and saw-

“Kronii?” She breathed out, being caught off guard.

Mumei squeaked and slammed the book shut. A heavy blush forming in her cheeks. There was no mistaking it. The sharp jawline, short hair and signatures bangs could not be mistaken with anyone else. Just lie every other of Mumei’s drawings, it’s truly beautiful. But there was a certain added tenderness to this portrait.

“I’m sorry! I know you have a problem with her but – but!” The flustered girl tried to explain herself.

Fauna smiled deeply, “That was a really beautiful drawing, Mumei.”

That seemed to calm the panicked girl a little, she said in a meek voice, “Oooh, thank you.”

She was being truthful, being glad that Mumei could make such a beautiful drawing, but a part deep within her still felt a bit of a sting seeing Kronii in her journal. She hasn’t even seen her for a long time yet she is still in her mind. What did she give Mumei that she can’t provide?

“Do you…” Mumei muttered, “Do you still have a problem with Kronii?”

A bead of sweat dropped from her brow. There was too much history between them to dump on the girl. Even now she’s still trying to decide whether or not she still resented the warden. But the lingering feelings are still there, the good and the bad. Though right now, she needed to give her a straight answer.

“No, no. Mumei.” Fauna explained calmly, “I’m just surprised you can still remember her so vividly.”

“Yeah…” Mumei said sheepishly.

It was truly an accomplishment. The owl girl’s memory was still very poor. There were times where Fauna would catch her forgetting things that happened minutes prior. She was slightly concerned by it but she loved her regardless. Her being able to draw something without a reference right in front of her was a feat that needed to be celebrated.

But… there had to be a reason why she could so vividly remember her.

After a minute of silence, Mumei muttered under her breath again. “I miss her.”

A lump formed in Fauna’s throat. She said in a somber tone, “Wow, that day must have been really special to you.”

She simply nodded her head. “It really was.”

Another a minute of silence passed between them. Not tense but calm and contemplative. Mumei’s head hung low, clearly in deep thought. She was the first to speak up. “It’s funny. I so often forget all the experience’s I had if I don’t write them down in my journal. So many days I’ve lost track of when I was alone. I don’t even know why, but when I’m with Kronii, I can recall every single moment.”

She looked down at her drawing. It showed Kronii smiling and Mumei smiled back. “Her face is the one thing I’m sure I would never forget.”

A sinking feeling appeared in Fauna’s chest. Deep regret started to settle in.

‘Mumei really cares about Kronii, huh?’ she wondered to herself.

“Do you-“ Mumei stuttered, “do you want me to stop?”

“Stop? No, no, no. Continue on.”

With the allowance, Mumei continued to scribble on her notebook. Refining it until she felt that if Kronii saw it, she would be satisfied in her image. Which considering Kronii’s ego, Mumei needed a lot of time on this piece. A soft yawn escaped Mumei’s mouth.

“Are you tired, Mumei?” In which she responded with a hearty nod.

Fauna gestured for her to rest on her lap and she happily obliged. A notion the two have grown comfortable with in the time they have spent with each other. Before long, Mumei was snoring sweetly while Fauna patted her head gently, humming a soft tune. As she was doing so, she realized that Mumei left her notebook lying by her lap.

Curiosity got the better of Fauna, and she took it and flipped through its pages.

The pages of the notebook were in a sort of yellowish paper, each page populated with immaculate doodles of the various findings Mumei has found across her travels. They were all equally interesting but Fauna was only concerned about the more recent happenings in her life. She looked at the date conveniently placed on the corner of each page, until she found what she was looking for. The date of the first council meeting she has been apart of.

Woah! Today was crazy! I was just going about to another town when this guy lady person showed up right in front of me and said ‘come with me, guardian of civilization’ or something like that I forgot. But then a huge triangle appeared behind him her them and they told me to go through it. It was probably a mistake but I went through anyway. Then I was transported to this huge building in the middle of space.. yes SPACE and met four of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen!

Fauna had to take a second to stop herself from blushing profusely before she continued reading.

They were called the council and they’re concepts like me. I was really scared but the smallest one calmed me down and gave me some flowers! Her name is Bae, couldn’t remember her full name, she was also a rat and the leader of the group … apparently. Also she was chaos, but I don’t get how you can be a leader but also be chaos so I doubt that. Next one I met is Fauna. She was pretty, really pretty. Her voice is so calming and nice.”

Again, Fauna had to take a second to recover.

She was nature and I could really tell! She said she is going to love me forever but I kind of doubt that too. I mean what is love anyway? Doesn’t it have to be with someone you have met for a long time? I still don’t get it.

While Fauna was reading, she couldn’t help but crack a smile, ‘Oh Mumei, you still have so much to learn.’ She thought to herself.

Next one was Sana. She was so nice! She was space and I think I saw stars in her eyes. I didn’t even know that was possible! I want to get to know her better too! There was one more in the back and her name is Kronii. I couldn’t even look her in the eyes because of how beautiful she was. My heart felt funny looking at her. Though she was a little scary. She said that I shouldn’t have been part of the council because I was unworthy compared to the rest of them. I guess she’s right.”

Fauna grimaced a little, of course that little blowup by Kronii was internalized by Mumei as her being worthless. Again, Kronii’s impulsiveness has hurt someone.

Though she was so confident in herself. I wish I was like that.”

Fauna pat the sleeping girl’s head. ‘One day, Mumei. One day.” She whispered.

She kept on reading along the events of their first meeting. Feeling a sort of nostalgia recalling the various conversations that they had. It wasn’t very long ago, but she did truly cherish the moments where all of them were together. The journal kept going past the meeting, over her daily journey through civilization. Thankfully she was only going through a small rural town that day, less likely for her to get hurt. It was a little fascinating to see the little discoveries she was making and all of the illustrations detailing it.

Then she flipped the page and another time, a familiar name unexpectedly popped up in Mumei’s encounter.

“I can’t believe what just happened! So I was just minding my own business, picking some berries when a farmer started chasing me! I really thought I was going to die when Kronii saved me! Apparently, I was stealing or something. Whoops. I met with Kronii and she was really nice actually! Hilarious too! She told me that I shouldn’t apologize for my existence and I’m just as important as everyone else on the council. That was nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me. We talked for a while and I think we became friends. I want to see her again.”

Fauna was shocked. Kronii said that? Even when they spent time together, Kronii always seemed cold to her. She never expected her to be so candid. Maybe she did change. Maybe she really did care about Mumei.

Knocking her out of her contemplative state, she started to cough heavily again. Her heaves were harsh and painful, searing her throat. She could feel herself getting weaker. Sooner or later, she had to go into hibernation or else either the earth starts to wither away or her body gives out entirely.

And again, the creeping fear starts to settle in. The fear of Mumei being alone. Even if she stayed here, Omega will come for her eventually. She took a second to consider her options but her mind could only think of one name.

Kronii.’

She was reluctant to call upon her for help, but she had no other choice. If there was anyone willing to stand up against Omega, it would be her. Besides, she started to have hope that maybe Kronii did change for the better. And even so Mumei cared for her, and that was enough.

Other than that, she could reinforce her garden. Build fortresses out of the thickest bark she could conjure. Set her strongest creations to stand guard. Make it so that nothing could get in or get out. Then Mumei would be safe.

But would she want that though?

Fauna brought her head down low and sighed deeply. Even just scanning through her journal showed how enthusiastic she was to go through civilization. Maybe that was her true passion. Not something she begrudgingly does out of obligation but something she genuinely wanted to do. It made Fauna reconsider everything she’s done. What if she was actually harming her this entire time?

Taking her eyes off the ground, she looked up to see another bird’s nest, with the mother taking care of her young. The fledging bird raised its wings, presumably for its first flight with the mother standing by. Just as it jumped off of the branch, it plummeted straight to the ground. Fauna was tempted to run there and pick it up from the ground, but she sensed the mother’s feelings. It wasn’t worried at all. The little bird quickly got back on it’s two feet and started to navigate its way back to it’s nest. Ready to fall again.

Watching this simple act of nature made Fauna think. Why was the mother so willing to let her child fall like that? The answer was pretty obvious to her. One day, the child had to leave it’s nest, grow up and start a life of their own to continue the species. It was a basic aspect of nature. But more so, she was the confused how the mother could not feel any pain seeing their own child get hurt.

Realizing this, she had a small laugh. Look at her, mother nature itself, baffled by her creations. Maybe she didn’t understand living beings that well after all. She looked at the little bird currently resting on her lap, snoring gently. She was starting to wonder if she was really doing the best for Mumei.

The only one who decides what’s best for Mumei. Is Mumei.

Yes. That was the conclusion Fauna decided upon. Not her. Not Kronii. Not even the gods. She needed to let Mumei decide for herself what she wanted in life. If she wanted to stay here, then let her stay. If she wanted to leave, then let her leave. As long as it’s her choice, she’ll be happy.

She took one look back at the sleeping girl and planted a kiss on the top of her head. Even in her sleep, this caused her to smile. Fauna couldn’t help but laugh softly. She’ll confront her about this later. But for now, she was with her. And that was she all wanted. No matter what the future holds, for now, she was happy.