"Mindy…!" Mandy gasped. "No… this…"
"It's fine. I'll take full responsibility for it." Remian told her, stepping forward. He crouched down and put both arms around Mindy. He hugged her tightly. "Let go, Mindy. Let it go."
"Isabelle… Jamie… Siti… Juni… Loh… Karen…" Mindy didn't let go of the knife. She shivered uncontrollably. "Gary… Tamera… everyone… everyone…!"
"Let go." Remian pulled at her hands, trying to wrest them from the knife.
Then, Mindy froze. Her shaking stopped. She stared at her hands, at the knife. "I… I killed…"
"Let go." Remian tugged her away. Her hands were still stuck on the knife; the knife came away from the body; Simmons' corpse tilted over and collapsed in a heap on the floor.
"I killed him…!" Mindy whispered, her voice suddenly turning to horror. She dropped the knife. "I killed him!"
"No! He's still alive!" George was there suddenly. He grabbed the knife, and stabbed it into Simmons' body viciously. "There! NOW he's dead! See? You didn't kill him! It was me! I did it!"
Again and again, he stabbed the corpse. "Mindy didn't kill anyone! I did it! I'm the one who killed Simmons! Mindy is innocent! It was me!!"
Tim pounced. He laid his hands on the knife and rammed it in deep. "You didn't stab deep enough. He was still alive. I'M the one who killed Simmons!"
Jane and Kavitha piled on. "No! I did it!" "No, it's me!"
"What are you all talking about?" Remian barked. "When we came back, we found the Guild Hall and the kitchen burned to the ground, with this body already burned inside it… He set the fire, and the Wilds cornered him inside, and so… he…"
"No need for that." Mandy said, pulling the four of them off the body one by one. "There was no fire, and children couldn't possibly have killed Simmons. It was me. He wanted to **** me, and it was self-defense…"
CHOMP! The moment Mandy got the children clear of the body, Carrie went ahead and took a bite. [Bleurgh! It tastes bad!]
But she went on chomping. She even crunched the skull in between her teeth and swallowed.
Then, she sat down, waved her tail and innocently asked, [Did something happen?]
Remian sighed. [You could have done that earlier, saved Mindy some trauma.]
[I wasn't sure if he was a friend or foe. Even bad people might be friends, you never know.] Carrie pointed out. [Like Buff.]
[I'm not bad!] Buff protested. [Wait! No! I mean… I'm not your friend! But I'm bad! I'm totally badass!]
[Whatever.] Carrie sniffed. With both her nose and her tail high in the air, she daintily marched out of the Guild Hall looking proud of herself. [If anyone asks, there was a Beast Wave last night. Simmons was eaten by a Wild.]
That… was actually true.
But as the others slowly cleared out, three figures remained; Remian, Mandy and Mindy. Remian stayed where he was, with Mindy. She had started shaking again.
At length, he spoke softly. "This is the Frontier. It's kill, or be killed. You do what you have to in order to protect those who are important to you. That's all it is."
But Mindy shook her head. "That's… not… I was angry… so sad and so angry…"
"You wanted to avenge your friends. What would have happened if Simmons was allowed to go free?" Remian asked. "He would have sold more and more of your friends into slavery. And your sister…"
Mindy stiffened. She stopped shaking completely.
"You have to be strong. You can't just rely on the Ravens gang to protect you. You have to become strong enough to stand on your own. This is the Frontier. You understand?" Remian said softly. "It is the same for me, and Mandy, and everyone else. We must become stronger to survive."
"Why did you come here?" Mindy asked, out of the blue. "If this is such a terrible place, why did you come here? Why did you leave your nice safe home and come all the way to this crazy dangerous Frontier?"
"Because I needed room to grow." Remian told her. "This place is dangerous, but it is also rich with opportunities… if we only had the strength to grasp them."
"But it's full of bad people! Cruel Rose, and Simmons, and… and me…"
"You're nowhere near as bad as Rose and Simmons." Remian snorted. "If everyone here were like you, Frontier Town would be a much nicer place. You and your friends are some of the best people in town and that's the truth."
"Better than you?"
"I'm not IN town." Remian rubbed her head. "Nobody is better than me. I'm the bestest there is!"
"Liar! There's no bestest anywhere!" Mindy pouted.
"Really? Why don't you ask your sister?" Remian turned to her.
"Mandy? Is Remian the bestest there is?" Mindy asked cheekily.
"What are you saying?" Mandy snorted. "I'M the bestest there is!"
That began a whole new argument in a much lighter mood. There was no more talk of killing that day.
But that night, after a day of skinning, cleaning, and smoking carcasses from the Beast Wave, George found Mindy shivering by herself in that same corner of the Guild Hall.
Quietly, he sat down next to her. He didn't say anything for a long time.
"What?" Mindy asked, at last.
Slowly, George replied. "The first time I killed a man, it was in the Raven Tavern kitchen. He had slipped in when Kage was out front dealing with a fight between two Masked Ravens. I don't know who he was or where he was from, but he saw me and he rushed at me with a knife. I ducked, and tried to ward him off… and I was actually also holding a knife at the time. He ran right into it. When Mandy found me, I was still there with him, my hand and the knife all stuck in his guts. I couldn't eat or sleep for days."
Mindy blinked. "When was that?"
"Last year." George answered. "That was the time when I shifted to gardening and never went back to kitchen duty."
Mindy was astounded. "I never knew."
"Mandy said she was the one who did it." George shook his head. "It wasn't."
There was another long silence.
Then, "She's always been protecting us." Mindy said softly. "But who's going to protect her?"
"Remian." George answered very shortly.
"Well, I'm going to do it anyway." Mindy said, drawing herself together. "I'll protect her too."
"Count me in." George added simply.
They spoke no more.
That night, a gang war broke out in Frontier Town.
Closing their establishments early, the Blood Claw gang made an all-out attack on the Secret Waves Gang. They first demanded surrender, then sought to drive the Secret Waves gang from the East side, intending to claim that entire area as their own territory.
The fighting went on for hours.
As a result… by morning, the few straggling survivors of the Blood Claw gang ran away from the east side with their tails between their legs. They tried to run home, only to find that their gambling den had already been taken over by the Burning Steel. Wounded and weak, they stood no chance of taking it back.
That was the end of the Blood Claw gang. In a single night, they sought to take down the 'weakest' gang's territory for their own and found their own demise.
With that, the balance of power shifted, and the Burning Steel became more powerful than ever. At the same time, people began to look at the Secret Waves Gang with a great deal more respect.
That was when the Cruel Rose Gang once again turned their eyes upon the Circling Ravens taking up half the north side. They were going to make a drastic move, soon.
This time, Simmons would not be there to talk them out of it.
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