Two Paths

By tercio

> they're pressing you hard, maybe too hard

> you barely block a vicious swing at your knee, overbalance, and start to tumble

> the one on your right immediately capitalizes and pounces with a growl

> one chance

> you let yourself fall, grab the leaping monster, and use your combined momentum to throw her

> disaster is averted as your two foes crash into each other and go down in a tangle of limbs

> you kip up to the sound of hands clapping and hooves stomping

> "Oh! Wonderful!" the pure white Unicorn beams at you

> "Snatched victory from the jaws of defeat." the jet black bicorn laughs

> you can't help but bask in their praise

> it might be selfish, but what red blooded human male wouldn't enjoy being praised by two such beauties?

> the moment ends as the two defeated monsters at your feet start to untangle themselves

> "No fair! You cheated!" the heckpup whines

> she gives you an accusatory look but her eyes tell the tale of a frustration beyond that caused by losing the match

> the salamander doesn't say anything

> but her eyes betray something very much akin to the heckpup's confused emotions

> puberty is starting to hit those two hard

> they're obviously beginning to see you as something more than the fun "big brother" who lives nearby

> the horned centaur twins rush forward to help their half sisters up and see to their boo boos

> despite being polar opposites in appearance, both love and dote on their sisters

> soon the beaten monstergirls are being smothered with affection

> whatever inchoate feelings the little ones might have been experiencing are quickly forgotten in favor of irritated claims that they're fine and don't need any help, that they aren't babies anymore

> Athena the Unicorn seems oblivious and utterly content to fuss over her beloved little sisters

> you could almost believe you imagined nonexistent romantic intent in a completely innocent exchange

> if it weren't for the smugly knowing look Hera the Bicorn gives you

> embarrassed and uncomfortable you make your excuses and flee to the boys' showers


---


> "Mama! Mama! Look! I aced it!"

> "Me too! Me too!"

> it's a heartwarming kind of chaos when the kids of a bicorn household come home from school

> you must have seen it thousands of times since your parents arranged for the centaur twins to escort you all those years ago

> but it still makes you smile

> today you find yourself sitting with the girls' older Lich sister as you wait for your parents to pick you up

> you don't see Phyrra as much now that she's started her advanced studies at the Rhetor Arcanum

> the two of you watch in bemusement as the the twins, their mother, Phyrra's mother, and the mothers of the two little ones struggle to wrangle the hyperactive heckpup and salamander

> "It has been some time since we've all been together, hasn't it?" Phyrra comments

> her tone seems dispassionate but you've been around undead long enough to pick up the subtle emotional cues

> "To be honest, I've missed you enormously. Enough that I've done some thinking."

> you're not sure you've ever seen her this serious before

> "Hera and I have discussed things."

> the preteen heckpup is growling and play biting her mom

> "We think it would be proper to wait a few years until the little ones are of age and can decide if they want to join in."

> the salamander has stopped running around and is having great fun acting very much more grown up than her heckpup sister

> "Some of my happiest memories are of you helping me with my experiments. I think Hera has loved you since you were the little boy she needed to protect. And the little ones already love you. I'm certain that in time they'll come to love you."

> "You've... you've become someone very important to us."

> you expected this eventually

> Hera has never made any effort to hide her desires

> you even suspected that she wanted her beloved half sisters to join her harem

> but now that it's real, now that it's actually happening... you don't know what to say

> you say nothing for a time, just watch the others

> Athena has swooped in and grabbed the heckpup with her special 'huggle snuggle' attack

> it's super embarrassing

> it won't be long before she's begging do homework to escape

> Phyrra follows your gaze and answers the unspoken question, "We haven't discussed it with Athena."

> "She'd be welcome to join if she wanted to." the guilt in Phyrra's voice is obvious, "Even if she... didn't... she'll be fine. A unicorn can write her own ticket in the wilderness zone, the Fae court, anywhere really."

> while that's factually correct it sounds like she's trying to convince herself of something

> Phyrra gently touches your forearm, "Please just think about it? We'll always be here for you."

> you still don't know what to say

> the two of you sit in silence until your parents show up to drive you home


---


> "Thanks so much for helping me today!"

> Athena's packsaddle is already starting to fill up with valuable herbs

> the wilderness zone is a cornucopia for those with the right knowledge

> Athena, like any self respecting unicorn, is a font of such wisdom

> you may not be quite so well versed in herb lore but you have your own tricks

> mostly you can easily bend over to harvest plants

> Whatever, you'll take it. Team hominid for the win baby.

> the work is hot but rewarding

> and it's great to see Athena happy

> especially if you're going to do what you're seriously thinking about doing

> she'd be the only one left out...

> apparently oblivious to your internal brooding Athena calls you over

> "Oh! I'll never fit in there! Could you please take one of those jewel leafs? Just a small leaf, I don't want to kill the plant."

> you gladly oblige

> it's a bit of a tight fit, but you can just barely-

> without warning vines explode into motion

> before you know what's happening you're tightly bound, upright but completely helpless


> you hear Athena giggle

> the charming, girlish sound is completely at odds with the situation

> but the look she gives you, although devoid of any threat, is somehow appropriately terrifying

> "I really hate to do this, but they forced my hand."

> she laughs musically

> "It's ironic you know. Everyone always thinks that good is weak. And stupid."

> Athena contemplates a living flower without touching it and smiles beatifically

> "Even my silly sisters think I'm a moron. They think I don't notice anything."

> the tiny whisper of anger in her voice is made all the more terrifying for how alien it is

> you've never once seen her angry

> "I love them, but just between you and me they think too much with their lady bits. Too short term."

> she strikes a comically theatrical pose

> "Little do they know. Lo these many year I have crafted you, molded you."

> she starts striding towards you slowly yet purposefully

> "You've trained for years against a salamander. No slut could take you by force."

> "You've stood firm against the untamable spirit of a hellhound. No slut could tempt you."

> "You've endured the eldritch might of a Lich's magic. No slut could mystically warp your will."

> Dear God. Her mana is flaring so strongly you can SEE it.

> It looks like she's bringing a raging inferno of pure white flames with her as she walks towards you.

> "I'm always the good girl. Always the one to help. Always the one to volunteer. Always the one to turn the other cheek."

> "Always the one to share."

> if her mana were real flames you'd be dead by now

> "I would do anything for my sisters. Anything. Anything except one thing."

> she childishly stamps her hoof

> it would be hilarious if you weren't distracted by the overwhelming pressure of her mana

> "I want my husband to be MY HUSBAND. Is that really so much to ask? Is that really so selfish?!"

> she's yelling in anger now

> "Do I really have to change? Do I really have to give up what I am? WHO I am?"

> her face suddenly falls as she gently takes your chin in her hand

> you can't avert your eyes as she stares into your soul

> "Can't I have one thing for myself?"

> you can see the desperation in her eyes

> that was a plea, not a demand


> and with that the terrifying avatar of light is gone

> no longer an irresistible furnace of pure white mana

> all that stands before you is a humble unicorn girl

> with that same, familiar smile

> but now, for the first time, you can see the sadness hiding behind it

> the fear

> that beautiful, gentle smile seems especially empty as Athena carefully removes the vines binding you

> she moves them with the utmost care, making sure each one is securely hung and rooted before moving on the next

> she doesn't want to hurt the plants she urged to grow so she could use them as a weapon

> just like before you don't know what to say

> you just hang there dumbly as she releases you

> finally free of the vines you watch as she turns her back to you and pretends to be looking at a plant

> you get the impression she's afraid to look at you

> the quiet is filled with the sounds of the forest

> she doesn't turn around as she speaks "I... I just wanted you to know how I felt."

> you would give anything to know what to say right now

> "Whatever you decide to do, I'll... I'll understand."

> with that she disappears into the forest leaving you alone with your thoughts


---


> you think about things for a long time after that

> the happy chaos of the bicorn household

> the twins Athena and Hera working together to take care of their younger sisters

> Phyrra's barely perceptible smile

> the younger sisters boiling over with excitement when they see you

> the quiet desperation behind Athena's placid exterior

> Hera's smug grin

> trim, hard muscles shifting underneath Phyrra's cold skin

> the enticing jiggle of the centaurs' large breasts

> the fury of pure white mana unbound


> finally you reach your decision

> you know what you need to do


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