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CHAPTER TWO <--Chapter One Back

<p>A week later, Manny was less rich than when he arrived, alone, and sad. All seemed really a failure, but at least he never met Gaze again. Grodon was still looking for a job for him, but it seemed hard to find.

"Manny! Hey, Manny!" a voice behind him called. Grodon was running to him with a smile on his face. IronHeart seemed a bit upset indeed.

"Hi Grodon. What’s happened?" Manny asked curiously.

"Two beautiful news for you friend." Grodon said happily. "There’s a magician who’s looking for an assistant. So I told him about you."

"Howard...?"

"What?" Grodon raised an eyebrow. "Howard isn’t a magician anymore, I told you. This one’s called Ahzi and is a grasshopper retired from his colony. He’s going in Asia. Actually he lives around the Old Boot Shelter. Just on this way"

"Well, so let’s go, shall we?" Manny asked.

"Ehm... sorry Manny. I’ll not come with you." Grodon said.

"What?! And why?" by now Manny saw Grodon as a sort of best friend.

"IronHeart and me just mated today." Grodon explained.

"What... are you saying?!" Manny’s eyes opened wide. "But... but you know that all females... after marriage... they kill us..."

IronHeart laughed.

"I am not that style of mantis, Manny!" she laughed.

"We spoke about this. We decided we had to accept it but IronHeart promised me to don’t kill me." Grodon replied, then he sighed. "However I don’t want to leave my home right now. Good luck, Manny."

Manny looked at Grodon, he seemed more brother than his sister truely was.

"I’ll miss you Grodon." he said. "You’ve been my only friend in the city."

"Maybe a day you’ll return." Grodon said with a tired smile. "Good luck, my friend."

Manny squeezed his hand.

"Good luck to you too." he replied before turning and going encounter his destiny.

As he walked near the cafe, he suddenly remembered there was another people he wanted to see before leaving. He entered and saw Howard, and Gypsy, still sat at the same table. He was too shy to greet them: for him was enough to see Gypsy once again. He walked to the barman and ordered a drink, thinking to his next life as magician. The moment later, an hand fell on his shoulder.

"Manny?"

He turned surprised and saw Gypsy in front of him.

"G.... G... Gypsy... hello..." he said blushing.

"I saw you entering. Do you want to sit with us?" she asked pointing her father’s table.

"T... thanks Gypsy... I would be flattered but... I can’t." Manny nodded.

"You can’t? And why?"

"I’ve to go. A new job is waiting for me."

"What job?" Gypsy asked.

"I’ll be the assistant of a magician in his trip in Asia."

"Asia?!" Gypsy’s eyes opened wide. "But it’s far..."

"I know... but it’s the only work Grodon found for me." Manny nodded sadly. "I... I just wanted... to tell you goodbye... maybe... maybe a day I’ll return." he said before flying away. Gypsy sighed looking him going away.

"I’ll wait forever for you... dear friend..." she whispered.

As he left the bar, Manny walked until when he found the Old Boot Shelter. He immediately recognized it: a very big, derelict and somehow spooky shelter, once high and straight but now limp. There were several bugs around, everyone was old and with sad, shining eyes. As he walked towards, he could feel they were gazing at him with a bit of sadness: he wondered how did they families sent them in such a sad place. But obiouvsly it could be a safe place just in case of rain, ice, or storm, ‘cause he noticed many of the old bugs hadn’t anymore their wings. It was all so heartbreaking, so difficult to bear. Manny was upset by all these almost crying eyes. He missed his far family, and wasn’t in the city from long time: how much did the old bugs here miss their own relatives?

While walking in the shelter, he immediately noticed a very old-aged grasshopper, that was bringing some bags at the door. Bags seemed to be heavy and the grasshopper seemed in troubles: listening to his heart only, Manny walked to him and helped him raising a particular big bag on a pile of others.

The grasshopper raised his eyes on the young mantis, with coldness

"Thanks." he barely grumbled.

"Nothing to worry ‘bout." Manny assured him with a nodd. Then, they heard a voice shouting firmly:

"Ahzi the Only! Where’s Ahzi the Only? Did he already left?"

It was a fat bee female, with large glasses, a walking-stick and twisted feelers. She was holding a beret and looked around with somehow nervous eyes. Manny believed she was someone with a strong and decided character, that could have been a warrioress for the Army, instead than a nurse, as she was defined by the Red-Cross’s band on her arm

The old grasshopper raised his eyes as she spoke

"I’m not gone. I’m here" he grumbled.

"Oh my! You were almost forgetting this" the nurse said acidly, throwing to him the beret "I know you’ve already gathered your bargains but please try to don’t forget your pieces in the Shelter!"

"Yessir" sarcastically the grasshopper replied

"Ahzi? Are... are you Ahzi?" Manny asked. Observing him better, he noticed the grasshopper was rather... strange. He has icy eyes with a strange sad light a bit different from every other he saw. As if there was something, in his eyes, he couldn’t understand.

"Yes. I’m." Ahzi replied briefly.

"I heard you’re looking for an assistant." Manny said, slyly looking at the old grasshopper "I want that job. My name’s Manny"

"Oh yeah?" the old one didn’t seem so interested "Well. I warn you now, I can’t pay very much. I’m not rich. I’m rich only of memories."

"It doesn’t matter." Manny replied nodding "I just need enough to survive."

The old grasshopper looked at him with his icy eyes

"Why would you want this job?" he asked a bit diffident "This is not so easy as it can seem. And we’ll have to go in Asia, and..."

"A job as another." Manny replied. As he told this, the icy eyes seemed even more sad

"No... it isn’t. Not always." Ahzi replied. Then he quickly changed subject "Have you already greet your family?"

"I’ve not a family. Not anymore. I left my mother in the country time ago when I came in the city." Manny explained.

"Oh, yes. And your father?"

"My..." Manny stopped. "He’s dead." he brutally replied. "I’m a mantis and..."

"Oh, yeah." Ahzi grinned "Now it’s clear. Yes, the green family’s killer. Now I understand."

"We are not as you say!" Manny shouted, now angry "It’s something used to do in our species and you can’t blame me for this, old one! And then, what would be clear?"

"The reason why you’re a stupid kamikaze who’s saying goodbye to his life" Ahzi replied

"You are alive at your age! I’ll too!" Manny growled.

"Huh! Don’t bet about this, young one!" Ahzi grinned. Then, he asked: "Is the sky already bright?"

"But don’t you see it by yourself..." Manny started growling. Before he suddenly realized what was the secret hidden behind those sad eyes "You’re blind" he said as he blushed

"I don’t see." the old one corrected him with a growl. "Forever Darkness."

"How did it happened?" Manny gasped

"Surely it’s not matter for you!" Ahzi replied. "Courage, on your foot young citizen! We’ve a long fly ahead of us! And I’ll need someone to tell me where to fly."

The two of them flewn up saying goodbye to the Old Boot Center

"Here! To you!" Ahzi said as he threw Manny a old, almost cracked compass "Where’s south? Tell me" he ordered

"At your left." Manny replied as they flewn toward. Then, he saw Ahzi’s wings... if they could be called wings. One in fact was half-substituted by a wood piece, while the other was full of holes, and all derelict "For Heaven’s Goodness, but what’s happened to you?!" he gasped.

"What?" Ahzi replied a bit confused

"Your... your wings..." Manny said

"Oh, yes..." Ahzi nodded "It’s only the result of some... incidents. I’ve been lucky"

"Lucky?!" Manny couldn’t believe to his ears "Do you call it "lucky"???"

"I warned you" Ahzi replied. Then he shouted "And stop looking at me as if I was a zoo’s exposed animal!"

"Wha..?!!" Manny exclaimed "How do you know..."

"I don’t see. But this doesn’t mean I’m blind." Ahzi replied "Try to understand this if you still want to work for me, arrogant one!"

Manny was a bit puzzled and angry at Ahzi’s words against him. But probably, he reflected, the old grasshopper was so rude ‘cause of the adventures he surely lived. He still wondered how could happen that he lost his wings and his sight

"You still can head back." Ahzi muttered without looking at Manny.

"I’ll not." stubbornly Manty answered. Ahzi laughed briefly

"You speak just as me when I had your age. Who knows, young citizen, maybe you’ll be luckier than me..." he said. Then he added, in a hiss "It’ll be better... for YOU."

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