Today was overcast. The dark clouds bearing down on them had not come to drop water, but dust, in the aftermath of the cataclysmic event. News of Kulji City’s fate weighed heavily on the minds of Ulbia and Tass Ji, who lived just over the pass in a rural town. A meteor crashed into the outskirts of Kulji City, taking many lives and destroying many structures. The Ji siblings knew they had to pause their lives and find some way to help the displaced.
That was how they discovered the Animal Human girl lying ashore, unconscious. Even in her sleep, the Blessed one wore a wide grin.
“So what do we do with her?” asked Tass.
Ulbia bonked her brother’s head ad scolded him, “Why is that a question!?”
“Because they hate us, right? If we help her then the other Annies might accuse her of being tainted by humans.”
Ulbia ignored him and climbed down the fallen bridge that once carried people across the great Okor River that the Animal Human washed up from. Tass followed.
After they helped carry her up the shore and into the grass by the riverside path, they confirmed that she really was only sleeping, her soft breaths almost synchronized with the waves.
“So they got the Annies, too,” said Tass. “The meteor, it was not aimed at cursed humans by the spirits.”
Ulbia asked, “Does that mean that nature does not discriminate?”
Tass shook his head and responded, “Devoting your life to nature and receiving its blessing by it is not even enough. How cruel is the world?” He looked around to the remains of the city on the other side of the river. “Should we look for more people? Or at least find food for her?”
The Animal Human girl stirred, curled up tightly. With her bright, glowing pink eyes, she looked around, inspecting the city rubble herself. At first her smile gradually faded, but it returned in full force when she found the Ji siblings sitting beside her. After inspecting her damp dress, she concluded, “You two helped me!”
Tass responded, “Not much, we only--!”
“Thank you!” She leaned over to hug him from the side.
Ulbia said, “I am Ulbia, and this is my brother, Tass. Forgive me if this is rude to ask--we have never spoken with an Annie before. Is it okay to ask you--”
“Hikaru!” the Annie blurted. “I am Hikaru and I am blessed by the Orchid Mantis.”
She stood, losing her balance and tripping on her feet for a moment before dashing away to the collapsed bridge. The Ji siblings could only stare at the strange girl as she dropped to her knees before the bridge and hugged the rubble.
“Is she… Are all Annies like that?” Tass wondered aloud. “So… happy?”
In time, Hikaru returned to her feet and ran back toward the Ji siblings. “Mr. Bridge protected me!” she told them, a finger pointed at the remains of the structure. “When it fell apart, that was when it stood in the way of the big boulder. It went down to help me, and maybe we can even put it back together someday.”
Ulbia spotted the rocky surface of what had to be that boulder, large enough to reach into the air even from the river’s lowest point.
“Bridges may not come from ,” Hikaru went on, “but they are still magical. They allow people to meet each other and travel to new places.”
“After what happened though,” Ulbia uttered.
Hikaru held a hand out to each Ulbia and Tass to get them on their feet as she said, “Nature did this to Kulji City, yes. The spirits must really want humans and Annies to help each other and live together. I only wonder how many signs we missed until now…” She indicated the city. “Shall we look for people we can help?”
Ulbia and Tass turned to each other. Neither could comprehend Hikaru’s positivity. Like her eyes and her name, her heart shone bright in the darkest of times. Ulbia struggled to undrestand why an Orchid Mantis, of all spirits, chose to bless her. Was her personality a trap to lure them into trusting her so she could someday strike back?
No. Not even Annies knew how the spirits decided to whom to give their blessings. Orchid Mantises were known to pick bright-colored flowers, mimicking their petals to blend in with their attractive beauty. Ulbia wondered if instead the mantis spirit chose her because of her radiant kindness that would bring people together.
I adopted the Orchid Mantis from the October 2016 but between technology and time constraints I haven't managed to make a drawing of her. However, I am a writer, not much of an artist, so I figured I would give her a short introductory story instead. Here is Yamio's art of Orchid Mantis: (in the middle)
See more on Yamio's closed species, Annies, here
. Read about the lore here