Amber groaned softly to herself when her feet began to sting and itch after walking for so long. She abruptly crashed into Xeann’s arm when it suddenly stuck out in front of her before they could go through the narrow tunnel across the next room, yelping as she hit her nose when she did so. With a pained whine, she staggered back in surprise and looked up at her confusedly, rubbing her nose sorely. Amber hated it when something caught her off guard and caused her unnecessary pain. She found it incredibly annoying. Her amber eyes silently asked Xeann why they had suddenly stopped. Xeann looked at her and raised an eyebrow with a mischievous smirk.
‘Life lesson for you, young lady, look where you’re going before you run off,’ she said sternly with the cheeky wag of her finger and a sly smile before getting a curved blade out. Amber sighed sleepily as she sat down with a tired groan and rubbed her sore feet tenderly. She had lost count to how many floors they had ascended but Xeann sounded pretty sure that they were at least past the twenty-third floor by now, which sounded like a very big number to her. No, Amber had never been good at any academic subjects, especially numbers and maths. Amber watched as Xeann stepped back, her curved blade braced into a throwing position. Her blood red eyes narrowed as she drew her arm back and lunged it forward to send her blade hurtling through the corridor in front of them. Amber yelped in shock as several lasers were thrown around the corridor and hitting the hidden guns that were opposite to them. The curved blade turned like a boomerang and went back towards Xeann rapidly, threatening to behead her. Xeann quickly moved her head to the side so it wouldn’t decapitate her. She hissed in annoyed pain as it nicked a bit of blood from her neck, leaving a clean thin cut along her pale skin. Amber stared on through the smoke of trashed guns with wide amber eyes and a slack jaw. She opened and closed her mouth, speechless and frozen in silent admiration.
‘Wow,’ she managed to mutter.
‘Not wow,’ Xeann corrected her irritably as she placed a hand on her cut and rubbing it tenderly ‘No, not wow at all. I cut myself after that stupid stunt. That is really far from wow or any other exclamation. That’s pathetic and very unimpressive, it always does that, stupid blade. I never will know why it always tries to aim for my head instead of coming back to my hand. Now that would have been a brilliant wow for me if I could catch it and struck a cool pose.’ Amber just stared on in awe, her jaw slack, simply amazed at her modesty as well as her skills.
‘Wow,’ she repeated softly ‘I don’t care what you thought about that, but I found it brilliant…’ Even her father or her mother wouldn’t have been able to do that. But then again, her father never really showed her how to avoid getting hurt while going down a corridor that had hidden guns and lasers and he didn’t wield cool curved blades like Xeann did. Her mother wouldn’t have been able to do this kind of thing either, she was far too nice, loving, kind and innocent to be in dangerous situations like this, at least that’s what Amber hoped. She has never wielded any kind of blade in her life, just the one electric powered whip. Xeann looked down and raised an eyebrow amusedly before helping her up to her feet and retrieving her blade.
‘Come on, you little rugged brawler,’ she said pleasantly with a sweet smile before walking down the gun-free corridor ‘The Queen won’t stay in the same place forever, you know.’ Her boots clicked on the marble floor loudly and her walk was relaxed, steady and calm, as if this whole taking down the tower was just a simple saunter in the park, there was no need to worry about anything. She waved a hand dismissively to wave away the smoke that was starting to fill the room and coughed lightly as it filled her nose. Amber glanced up at her curiously as she tried to keep up her pace.
‘But how on Ethylias did you know that it was lined up with deadly hidden guns and lasers?’ she asked with a confused and curious frown ‘Are you like a psychic vampire with super powers as well as a seemingly invincible in battle one with super strength? Either or is alright for me.’ Xeann laughed loudly at her befuddled expression, her voice echoing off the walls. Amber tilted her head in confusion with a frown as she caught her breath after her short laugh. Xeann wiped a couple of tears away from her eyes and sighed dreamily.
‘My dear, dear Amber,’ Xeann simpered, covering her mouth with one hand and patted Amber’s head fondly ‘You need to be more observant in this kind of situation. So far, all the floors we’ve been on were more or less the same design and size. Seeing a corridor go down one of those floors seemed suspicious so it was just a little test to see if it was safe. It’s better to be safe than sorry anyway. My parents raised me to be sharp-eyed so this kind of thing is easy for me.’ Amber blinked blankly and tilted her head to the side with an even more confused frown. Xeann looked down at her and blinked in surprise. ‘What’s the matter?’
‘I was trained to only fight things head on and get the job finished no matter what obstacle there may be,’ Amber shrugged dismissively with an unconcerned face ‘But even if I do fight against someone, I tend to avoid battles, especially unnecessary ones. I hate mess, especially if blood is involved. Being tactical is hard work though… Hmm…I’m not sure which is worse actually. Being messy or being tactical…’ Xeann laughed loudly and cooed at Amber’s bewildered frown and patted her head fondly. Amber looked up at her with a frown as she cooed and pinched her cheek painfully.
‘All you Enhanced creatures,’ she said and shook her head with a disappointed sigh ‘It turns out that you really do have more brawn than brain in battle. I really hoped it wasn’t true when I met you.’ Amber scowled and batted her hand away.
‘I see now why Vienna dislikes you so much,’ she muttered when they reached the stairs and began ascending to the next floor ‘You mock everyone too much.’
‘Oi, I do not!’ Amber ducked when Xeann tried to clip her around the ear ‘Come back here, young lady!’ Amber giggled and ran up the stairs to get away from the annoyed vampire. She paused when she was hit into a thick wall of humid air. She shook her head after rushing into a different climate too fast as Xeann caught up with her and looked around curiously. ‘This room looks like a marsh of sorts,’ she murmured observably, noting the exotic plants, the warm mist and the wetland spread across the room. Mist was visible in the air as vines crawled up the side of the walls. Amber looked up and tilted her head to the side curiously and she stepped back warily when she heard a low hiss.
‘It has snakes,’ she murmured, looking around suspiciously and looked up at Xeann who looked in the direction of the hiss with a sparkle in her eye. Xeann squealed suddenly and jumped happily.
‘I absolutely love snakes!’ she muttered excitedly as Amber raised an eyebrow at her behaviour ‘Oh, how can anyone not love them for their lovely scaly bodies and the way they embrace you around your neck and arms when you pick them up to cuddle them? And the way they hiss at you when you see them is so cute too! I wish I can have an adorable hiss like them… And who could possibly not adore their charming little black and pink forked tongues? Oh, I could just give them a kiss whenever I see those pretty tongues poke out of their mouths!’ Amber scowled at her behaviour. She was starting to act like her mother when she had just bought cute little dresses to dress her and Jasper up in when they were little children. Yes, poor Jasper was one of Crystal’s dressing up victims. Amber was delighted when she discovered the perfect blackmail for her little brother. Not that she would ever blackmail her dear little brother…
‘Anything else you’d like to compliment the little devils on?’ she asked dryly with a raised eyebrow ‘Because I have enough reasons to insult them.’ Xeann hummed thoughtfully, placing a finger on her chin.
‘Well, their skins are good in medicine after they’ve shed them,’ she said ‘That helped me persevere through my silver poisoning. I can’t really thank snakes enough apart from love them with all my deceased heart.’ She sighed dreamily while Amber scowled distastefully.
‘I really hate them, especially the cobras in the desert,’ she muttered and patted her several snake bite marks on her arms guardedly ‘They never liked me either when they saw me, they always loved to pump my body full of their stupid lethal poison that I need to pump out afterwards. Their poison tastes really bitter so it’s hard to swallow it after you suck it out of a wound.’ Xeann scoffed and giggled softly.
‘If you know how to handle them properly, you’d adore them,’ she said ‘I have a massive tank with approximately two hundred and fifty three snakes, all different breeds, back at home. I need to expand it into a whole room soon…’
‘Two hundred and fifty three snakes?!’ Amber exclaimed loudly, not really knowing how big that number was ‘How on Ethylias can you look after all of them and where did you get them from?!’ Xeann simpered.
‘I originally got ten on my tenth birthday from my parents, five different breeds and I decided to let them breed among each other and hey presto!’ She giggled and sighed contemplatively. ‘Oh, my little babies must be missing me, the poor dears,’ she sighed wistfully ‘I hope Crystal is helping my children to feed them regularly, to clean them out properly, to wash their scales at the right temperature and to keep a regular check on their eggs… Speaking of which, I wonder if any of them have hatched after I left. Oh my poor, poor babies must be missing so much…’ Amber was going to question about which babies she was talking about until the room suddenly rumbled and large ripples formed among the watery dank marsh. Xeann blinked and stepped back as there was a loud angry hiss, bracing herself for a battle. Amber gasped as something suddenly shot out of the murky water, spraying ice cold liquid everywhere. Amber looked up as the creature turned its attention on them, its bright yellow eyes gleaming through the light mist. Amber scowled at it in contempt.
‘Great,’ she muttered sarcastically ‘That’s just really great… It’d better not be poisonous or I’ll have a hard time sucking out the poison.’ It was a giant black snake which looked about thirty feet long but the rest of its body was submerged in the water so it was hard to tell its exact size. Xeann gasped and stared at it in wonder.
‘A Titanoboa! I never thought I’d be able to see on in real life!’ she gasped in awe with an excited squeal then frowned curiously ‘But I thought you guys went extinct completely last century… If you didn’t, then I demand to know where I can buy a baby one…’ Amber gaped at her.
‘But I thought Titanoboas went extinct about fifty eight million years ago,’ she said in a puzzled tone. Xeann turned to her and her frown deepened.
‘You don’t know the ninth category, do you?’ she said as she furrowed her brow.
‘There’s a ninth category on Ethylias?!’ Amber exclaimed ‘I thought there was only eight since the beginning of time!’ Xeann suddenly grabbed her and jumped away from their spot when the Titanoboa aimed to strike them. The room shook when it collided into the metal wall, leaving a nasty dent. Amber gaped as Xeann landed far away from their original spot and they crouched down in the long grass.
‘Yes, there’s a ninth category, quite rarely known about actually,’ Xeann whispered to her ‘It was created about a couple of centuries ago, maybe a bit earlier, since people began to get interested in science and the history of Ethylias and conducted experiments to explore the mysteries Ethylias has left behind.’ Amber blinked and leaned in as Xeann kept an eye on the Titanoboa. ‘It’s called the Forbidden and Unknown category,’ she continued in a hushed tone ‘It’s a separate category for creatures such as those who don’t live on Ethylias, which are known as the Unknown, and extinct creatures that were created in a science lab like dinosaurs, or mechanical creations such as robots or even real life creatures that have been mixed together to create another, which are known as the Forbidden.’
‘But why are they forbidden?’ Amber asked with a confused frown.
‘There’s a reason why Ethylias chose to make certain species extinct and most of the population decided that it was best to leave them to be extinct,’ Xeann explained and gazed at the Titanoboa wistfully ‘Although I really want to take it home with me, it has to be extinct because that was Ethylias’s decision fifty eight million years ago.’ Xeann sighed and shook her head sadly. ‘Also, science shouldn’t be tampered with, no matter what the situation is. Creatures that haven’t existed before come out of those science labs and they themselves are forbidden to exist because Ethylias did not create them for a very important reason.’ Amber paused for a moment and bit her lip.
‘I’ve heard about one story,’ she murmured grimly ‘There was this young girl who came across one of those man-made creatures and got injured because it wasn’t stable mentally. They managed to save her in the end…’
‘And shortly after, the young girl had her privileges taken away from her when she got back because she tried to run away,’ Xeann growled softly, startling Amber ‘Yes, she was one of my many daughters. Jade, always loved to look for adventure but when I set her a couple of limits because she was thirteen at the time, she got moody and tried to run away. I guess those kinds of creatures are good for something in the end…’ Amber watched as the Titanoboa looked around, its tongue flickering out to try of its mouth and sense them.
‘You said the last of the Titanoboas died last century?’ she whispered. Xeann frowned and nodded.
‘I remember my parents saying they got engaged on the day they announced it,’ she said ‘I guess the Queen, however old she might be, must have found one before that day and had hidden it away from the world so it looked like they had gone extinct. I must say, she has a good eye for picking her pets, apart from her little guard dog who’s an idiot…’ She glanced around the room and spotted a door. ‘Right, Amber, I need you to make a dash for it as I tackle it down and get it away from your scent.’ Amber hesitated and looked up at her.
‘Without you to help me when I need you?’ she asked in horror with a mortified expression ‘But I can’t go on my own! I’ll get killed without you there to help me!’ Xeann grabbed her suddenly and dived into the water as the Titanoboa lunged for them and crashed into the long grass. Amber spluttered and coughed as she surfaced, immediately splashing about in a panic. Xeann grabbed her by the scruff of her top and hauled her next to the door and patted Amber’s back as she spluttered and shook her head out. ‘Sorry, I can’t swim very well,’ she muttered and looked up at her ‘But do you see what I mean here?! You’ve just saved me on two occasions in the past five seconds!’ Xeann smiled sympathetically as she patted Amber on the shoulder.
‘Amber, you’ve survived by yourself for roughly three and a half months since your family got taken away from you and you were seriously injured and ill,’ she said sincerely ‘I can guarantee that you will be able to take down anything that’s ahead of you. You just need some more confidence in yourself and your abilities. Look, I wouldn’t let you go ahead on your own if I thought it was too dangerous for you.’ Amber sighed and hunched her shoulders.
‘No buts, young lady,’ Xeann scolded with a tut and wagged her finger sternly ‘Look, I know you can reach the Queen and find your father, Amber, there’s something about you which makes me feel that sure.’ Amber pulled a pleading face and glanced at the Titanoboa warily.
‘What if you get hurt, injured or worse?’ she asked. Xeann scoffed.
‘Snakes, no matter how big, can never hurt me,’ she assured her with a confident grin and helped Amber up ‘I have a very special way with them. Now go, I’ll catch you up sooner or later. Don’t you dare wait for me, OK? The Queen might want to leave the tower if we get too close to her and you need to get to her as soon as possible, don’t you?’ Amber hesitated before hugging her.
‘Please survive,’ she whispered softly with pleading eyes. Xeann cooed adoringly and hugged her back before kicking the metal doors open, throwing her into the next room which had a spiral staircase and closed the doors while jumping and landing on top of the Titanoboa after it crashed when it lunged for the girls again. She took off her heavy cloak and cast it aside, grabbing her curved blades and pulling them out of their sheaths, ready for battle. She sighed mournfully.
‘Please forgive me, you beautiful, beautiful creature,’ she murmured with a pained expression ‘But there was a reason why your species died out and I must comply with Ethylias’s wishes.’ She dug the blades into the body, making the giant snake hiss in pain and snapped its head up to send her flying across the dank room. Xeann cartwheeled through the air and landed in a muddy marshy area, near the window which showed the continuous battle between the fighters and the clay dolls and let in a little bit of natural moonlight. She groaned and raised her head, her eyes widening when she saw a cluster of half a dozen eggs, half her body size, in front of her. ‘Wait…’ she tilted her head to the side with a confused frown ‘There’s two of you?’ She felt the room rumble and something burst the surface behind the cluster of eggs. The Titanoboa flickered its black tongue at her and hissed menacingly. Xeann stared up thoughtfully, not intimidated by its protective glare. ‘Oh,’ she said and smiled softly ‘There’s two of you.’
With a lopsided grin, she rolled away from the nest as Mama Titanoboa lunged for her immediately after her blunt statement. Xeann ran over into the long grass and dived into the water. She swam down and judged that there was about twenty five metres of water below her, enough room for both Titanoboas to swim about in. There seemed to be enough room for some children too. Xeann felt disturbance above her and dove deeper to avoid getting snapped up by Mama Titanoboa. Xeann began to swim her way to the surface again as Mama Titanoboa sunk deeper into the water. She gasped as soon as she broke the surface and crawled out onto some marsh, coughing hoarsely as she lay down for a moment to catch her breath. She heard a menacing hiss behind her and turned to see Papa Titanoboa behind her, flicking his large black tongue at her threateningly. It was then Xeann realised in horror her lack of grip in her hands. Glancing at her bare hands in despair, Xeann groaned and sagged her shoulders.
‘Great,’ she muttered as she stood up and removed her bodice ‘It’s a good thing that they don’t rust easily or I’ll be completely unarmed.’ Underneath the leather clothing, the vampire wore a corset and underneath that she wore a black bra, covering and supporting her weighted breasts. She cast both corset and bodice aside, stretching her pale voluptuous figure with a strained grunt. She kicked off her high heel boots, pouting briefly as they sunk into the mud then turned to Papa Titanoboa, stretching her arms out above her head. ‘Hey, your wife’s getting jealous,’ she giggled and pointed behind him when Mama Titanoboa came out of the water. With a grin, Xeann lunged for Papa Titanoboa, clinging onto his neck. She clung to him as he swung her around angrily, hissing and splashing his body about to shake her off. There was another hiss and Xeann took her cue to slip off Papa Titanoboa while Mama Titanoboa lunged to try and catch her. There was a collision between the large snakes as Xeann entered the water and began swimming down to where her blades lay where they were dropped underwater.
She began letting out a stream of air bubbles steadily as pressure began to get to her and she began to countdown the potential last seconds of her life. Xeann had never liked diving this deep, she loved swimming underwater but not when it was a matter of life or death. Or in her case, stay on Ethylias to continue life or go to Hell like any other creature that was damned by God. Xeann heard loud splashes above her and didn’t dare to look up to see how far the Titanoboas were behind her. She didn’t have time for any distractions, she had to grab her blades and fight them to her dying…uh…until she’s no longer able to walk on Ethylias anymore. Xeann’s vision began to blur as she persevered towards her goal. She thrust her arms forward as she ran out of breath and grabbed the handles of her blades. She winced in pain as one of the Titanoboas thrust themselves forward and one of their fangs scraped itself against her thigh. Blood began to seep out of her scrape and Xeann began to feel dizzy and light-headed from lack of air. She floated up slightly and aimed to stab one of the Titanoboa’s eyes in a last attempt to fight. If Xeann was going to pass on to the next life, she was going to pass on fighting. She hit its head somewhere which made it suddenly lurch upwards, sending her spiralling up towards the surface.
Xeann would have screamed in pain if she hadn’t been out of air as she painfully felt her ears go pop from the change of pressure and her lungs sing as air filled them once she surfaced and crashed into one of the walls. Pain exploded throughout her whole body as she fell onto the softy marshy land. Xeann gasped and lay for a while, closing her eyes as she sighed.
‘That was too close,’ she murmured and rolled over to hide in the long grass beside her when the Titanoboas rose from the water ‘Too close for my sanity…’ She breathed quietly and regained her energy as the Titanoboas began to search for her. She closed her eyes and pushed herself more into the marsh to try and camouflage herself. ‘Good luck wherever you are, Amber.’