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55 Chapter Fifty Five - Pranks and Clean Up Duties

    The snowstorm lasted three nights and two days, effectively trapping them within the small mansion.  Were it not for the fact that the property was fairly large and spacious, tension caused by numerous personalities in close quarters could have been higher.  As it was a few spats did break out.

    One such happened due to a misunderstanding, simply a bit of a mistake over bathing schedules.  Despite the number of bathrooms in a property this large, there was still limited water resources.  At this time, Nathan and Tyler could fill up one bath every day without effecting the necessary supplies of water for drinking, watering the plants within the property and cleaning dishes and other things.  So the property occupants could only bathe once every four days and couldn't guarantee they would get to bathe first that day.

    On this day, it was the women who had the chance to soak in the water.  As usual Brooke had cajoled Autumn and Monika into allowing her to bathe before them; likely she would have fought to be able to wash before the child, Lucy, as well, however the two women never gave her this chance.  "What if she pees in the water?" Brooke had complained at first.  Her complaint had been ignored.

    Brooke's stomach was swelling decently, but it was not so large to cause her much discomfort beyond vanity.  She looked unappeased at herself in the bathroom's full length mirror, witnessing her disappearing waistline.  At this rate, she felt, even Autumn would look more appealing than herself, at least the woman still could claim as having curves!  She looked like she had an expanding balloon in her tummy!  Oh my god!  Is that a stretch mark?!  With a pout, she slipped into the lukewarm water, it having cooled while she examined her changing body.  It did not stop her from sinking down into it, the air in the property was not that warm after all.

    She was in the middle of washing her hair when the door began to open; Jonah did not like her locking it, always worried for herself and the baby.  Thus she spun upon her side, ready to appease the overly concerned man or curse the other women for rushing her.  Who knew that Jimmy would saunter in nonchalantly, thinking that it was his groups turn to bathe?!  Actually, that had been a joke of Arthur and Cole's but the men never thought of the consequences of their actions.  A scream ripped through the mansion, followed by screeches and swearing.

    Nathan, who had been watering the plants in the eastern sunroom, fell to his knees, clutching his ears and trembling.  It took a while for Ren Zexian to coax him from his panicked state, even as it took Jonah and Autumn to calm Brooke.  Arthur and Cole were punished to clean and mop the bathroom after the women had finished as well as found themselves stuck on this chore for the next week.  Jimmy had already suffered a wicked slap to the face, a red mark branded there for the entire day, as well as a bit of frostbite as Brooke had accidentally activated her abilities on him.  Jonah considered that enough of a punishment, considering he hadn't meant to peep on his woman.  Brooke was unreconciled and threw several jabs at the poor man over the next few days.

    On the third morning, they woke up to see sunshine weakly overcoming the steely grey sky, the cloud cover thinning enough to let the rays peer through.  Nathan rushed to the backdoor of the kitchen, as Autumn was chasing out a couple of men with sticky fingers from  picking at food before it was cooked.  His wellington boots were already on his feet and his coat zipped up to his neck.  He hadn't put his gloves on yet, but was still fiddling with the lock ready to escape the house.

    "Wait," Autumn coaxed him.  She was one of the people here that Nathan found most tolerable, with the exception of Ren Zexian and little Lucy.  The food she made was tasty and she always remembered not to make his food spicy, as he found this sort of flavouring too overwhelming to eat.  She also harvested vegetables and fruit from the garden with care, not harming the plants as she did so.  "Wait for Ren to come and help you.  The snow looks awfully deep."

    He didn't understand her concern, but waiting for Ren Zexian to leave the house beside him was a suggestion he liked, so he remained at the door, shuffling from foot to foot as until Ren Zexian appeared.  And then, before the Cultivator could even take a breath to greet Autumn and Dexter, who was sitting chatting lightly to the woman by that time, he was grabbed by the hand and pulled towards the door.

    "Oi, oi!  Let Ren get a coat on Nathan!"  Dexter chuckled, softly and quickly grabbed a random coat from the hallway closet, tossing it to the older man.  As it happened, it wasn't too big on the slender man.

    The snow was as thick as Autumn feared, thigh deep, something that had not been seen in this part of the country since records began, if ever.  Having a root of fire, Ren Zexian naturally had a high body temperature and could manipulate the air around him to reflect this as well.  As the man approached the plains of white, the snow began to hiss and steam, melting before them.  A little of the water spilled into the kitchen, for which Ren Zexian apologised and Autumn rebuffed him, saying that it could not be helped.

    The two men stepped into the Siberian landscape, heavy snow coating the ground and causing the boughs of some trees to bend.  A layer of ice had formed beneath the cold, white blanket, however with each step Ren Zexian took, it cracked and evaporated, allowing Nathan to follow him safely.  Slowly, the pair made their way to the greenhouse.

    After a breakfast of toast and jam, tiny apple pastries, (using the last of the normal apples that had wrinkled slightly due to age) and toasted chestnuts, Autumn set aside a portion for Ren Zexian and Nathan, who had yet to return.  It was Harry that had pointed out their absence to everyone else.

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    "Yeah, they went out earlier," Dexter mentioned as he tossed his plate into the bubbly water in the sink and gave it a rinse.  "Probably to check out the plants in the greenhouse."

    "Speaking of checking things out," Harry mentioned, noticing the apple peel in the scraps bucket.  "We should probably look in on the sheep."  Dexter nodded in agreement, but they did not have Ren Zexian to make a path for them in the snow and had to rely on shovels.  At least until Chang Min noticed them.

    "Why not have Tyler or the girl Brooke melt the snow for you?" He asked them.  The two men, coated in rapidly cooling sweat, glanced at each other and laughed in self ridicule.  Tyler was then roped in to lead the way, however Chang Min also accompanied them after the former complained about it.

    "Who knows what's lurking beneath that lot?" He'd pointed out in wide gesture.  "I'm no Ren, I can't detect zombies on radar!"

    "But the wall..."

    "Stops zombies from getting through it, but what about over it or under it?"  Indeed, after Tyler melted an amount of snow from the white surface down toward the hidden ground, there was a frozen corpse.  It appeared to be a duck or wading bird of some sort, but it's half feathered wings and patchy skull indicated that it had likely zombified at some point.  How it came to be here and become buried, they did not know, nor did they care.  Chang Min severed its head with a flick of his sword before anyone formed these questions, just in case a defrosted undead was a revived undead.

    The three sheep happened to be fine, hungry but fine, so while they tucked aggressively into the fruit and vegetable scraps as well as a warm watery rice porridge, Tyler cleared their fenced area, melting and partially evaporating the snow, in order that they could continue to graze on whatever grass lie beneath.
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