Amber and Sheela entered the bedroom to see Lavender placing Florence down on the large bed and spreading her legs, giving her instructions to help the birth. Florence breathed in and out harshly as her face broke out in a frenzied sweat. Amber stared at her, confused on what she should do. Should they attack now when the sisters were vulnerable and off their guard? Should they help with the birth, Florence was only sixteen after all… Amber looked up at Sheela who was just staring at Lavender who was bustling about. Amber looked around the room, there didn’t seem to be any obvious threats to get them during the birth. Amber took another look at Sheela and Sheela shook her head.
‘No, no, no, you’re doing it wrong!’ she suddenly snapped as she rushed over to stand next to Lavender ‘I’ll do the protection spell, you and Amber just get those towels and a bowl of warm water ready!’ Lavender stepped back, blinking in alarm. She looked at Florence and Florence just nodded.
‘Just get this baby out safe and healthy!’ she said quickly. Sheela nodded and a blue dome encircled the baby bump, soothing and relaxing the muscles. Florence took deep breaths as Lavender threw towels into Amber’s arms and began filling a small bathtub of water to bathe the baby in.
‘Amber, I need you!’ Sheela called as she reached over to between Florence’s legs ‘She’s giving birth quicker than I expected, support the head!’ Amber dumped the towels on the bed and rushed over to support the tiny head coming out of Florence. She blinked as she cradled the small head in her hands and stared thoughtfully at it.
‘It’s…soft…’ she whispered as she ran her thumbs gently over the bloody head as Florence screamed while pushing again more. Amber gently helped the baby come out and heard the baby cry as it took its first gulp of air. Lavender held Florence’s hand and squeezed it tightly as Florence screamed and pushed whenever Sheela commanded her. Amber gently cradled the baby, staring at it blankly, feeling unsure on what she was doing.
‘We’re nearly there now, just push with all your might!’ Sheela said when Amber carried most of the baby in her hands. Florence gasped and breathed, sweat covering her whole body and let out another scream as she gave one final push. Amber’s eyes widened in a panic as the baby popped out completely in her hands, blood everywhere and the baby began to cry. Sheela swooped down, cutting the umbilical cord and Lavender took the baby out of Amber’s hands once she saw the cord being cut.
‘Congratulations,’ she smiled while washing the baby as Sheela dipped Amber’s hands into a separate bowl to cleanse them ‘It’s a baby girl.’ Amber watched as Florence sighed in relief and smiled warmly.
‘Did I hear that it’s a girl?’ a man with short blue hair and bright blue eyes popped his head into the room with a charismatic grin. Amber jumped with wide eyes as she recognized it to be the man that she had seen in the tower in the wasteland. He swooped down towards Lavender and grinned wider, if possible, as he saw the little baby girl. ‘Well isn’t she cute?’ he crooned and stroked her head that had a thin layer of blue hair.
‘Yes, but all pleasantries aside, Nightmare,’ Lavender said once she handed the baby to Florence to wean ‘What do we do about the intruders?’
‘Intruders, eh?’ Nightmare whirled around and clasped his clawed hands together. ‘Well isn’t this a nice surprise?’ he said and bent down to Amber ‘You must be Amber, very nice to meet you.’ He extended a hand out to her but Sheela got in between them with a fiery glare directed towards Nightmare.
‘Don’t touch her, you demon,’ she said coolly and Nightmare mocked fear, his hands waving in the air.
‘Ooo! What are you going to do, dearie? Leave me at the altar?’ Sheela fumed as Nightmare cackled loudly and swung a punch at him. Nightmare caught the punch with a confident smirk and ran a thumb over her knuckles thoughtfully. ‘My, this little dearie has fire,’ he purred ‘Does this little dearie want to be a host for an experiment?’
‘Nightmare,’ Lavender hissed at him ‘That’s enough, this is a temporary ceasefire.’ Nightmare hummed in disappointment and stepped back from Sheela, hands behind his back.
‘Spoilsport,’ he muttered and reversed to bend down and watch Florence with her baby. Amber clung onto Sheela like a child clinging onto its mother as she watched the way Florence cradled the new-born, despite how tired and exhausted she looked.
‘I shall ask this now,’ Florence said with a surprisingly clear voice as she looked up to the girls ‘Sheela and Amber, I would be honoured to have you two in my court.’ Amber’s lips lifted to bear her yellowed teeth.
‘No,’ she sneered. Florence blinked as surprise as Sheela shook her head to deny the offer as well and giggled.
‘Amber, that was the exact response your father gave me when I offered him a place,’ she said with a tired smile.
‘What did you do to him?’ Amber demanded as she stepped out from behind Sheela.
‘Oh, just a simple curse,’ Florence said dismissively as she handed her baby over to Lavender to wrap up in a blanket ‘He’s fine, I’m sure.’
‘Well if he’s fine then why didn’t he return home?!’ Amber raised her voice.
‘Maybe you just didn’t see him,’ Florence smirked confidently.
‘And my sisters?’ Sheela stepped forward ‘You have taken hostage of two of my sisters and I request for their freedom.’
‘Sisters?’ Florence frowned for a second while staring at Sheela then raised her eyebrows ‘Oh, your sisters, Iris and Cecilia?’
‘Yes, them,’ Sheela nodded and Florence smirked.
‘My dear girl, they aren’t hostages,’ Florence said as Nightmare helped her up to her feet as Lavender left the room with the slumbering baby ‘They came to me at their own free will, requesting to be part of my court.’
‘I highly doubt that,’ Sheela spat venomously.
‘Oh, believe what you wish,’ Florence smirked as Nightmare carried her out ‘If you really wish to see them again then look for them around Relevein Town. I believe you might also find someone else there for you, Amber.’ Amber was about to chase after her when the tower suddenly shook. Rubble began falling from the ceiling as Sheela lost her footing. The floor suddenly split open beneath the girls, sending them down into the darkness.
Xeann and Siegfried came out of Siegfried’s hut when they heard loud rumbles and residents mumbling and exclaiming. Xeann gasped in shock as the bottom of a floating island made itself visible from the Nightmare Blanket that was blinking from sky blue to dark blue to purple and then to red. Everyone watched in awe, shock and horror as it descended down and landed right outside the village with a loud crash. Xeann immediately ran over to the ruins, shifting rubble as fast as she could, despite the strain it caused on her arms. The instant she saw silver hair with blue highlights, she yanked poor Amber out and hugged her tightly.
‘Oh, thank goodness you’re alright!’ she gasped as Amber blinked blearily and shook from the shock of falling from such a height ‘Siegfried! Siegfried, take Amber!’ Siegfried took Amber from Xeann and led her inside his hut to give her something for her shock. Xeann and the scavengers kept on shifting the rubble, Xeann more quickly and more clumsily due to her panic until something from underneath moved. Xeann slowly reached down to push some more rubble away and gasped when a large braid made out of wired mesh with a diamond tip shot out.
‘Run!’ screamed a villager as the scavengers ran off while the Diamond Bruiser pulled itself from out of the rubble, ready to kill. Xeann watched with her blood red eyes wide with shock and recognition. Her face went grim as the Diamond Bruiser faced her with her fists ready to punch and break any bone in her body. Xeann slowly stood up so that her face was level with the Diamond Bruiser’s, not deterred by the threatening aura the Human Weapon gave off.
‘You wouldn’t hurt me, would you?’ she asked softly, her eyes brimming with tears ‘Would you, Zenna?’ The Diamond Bruiser stiffened then relaxed, her fists falling to her sides.
‘Xeann…?’ Her voice croaked then faded away and Xeann caught her as she fell forward when she shut down. Xeann held back the tears while hugging Zenna carefully, avoiding getting hurt.
‘Nan!’ Xeann lifted her head up sharply as she heard a familiar voice and lay Zenna down carefully, scrambling over to the place where she had been.
‘Vienna?’ she said as she saw Vienna’s face amongst the rubble ‘Vienna! Vienna, are you alright? Oh thank God, your mother would kill me if she discovered that I let you kill yourself behind my back!’
‘Nan,’ Vienna said urgently as Xeann began digging her out ‘Nan, Sarah got her jaw broken! She needs help!’
‘WHAT?!’ Xeann and Vienna jumped as rubble shifted somewhere else and Sheela burst from the mess. She immediately ran up to them and yanked Sarah’s hand that was sticking out from the pile of junk limply and began checking the damage with wide eyes. She tried to use her healing powers but the fall had drained her, not to mention how much energy she had used up to help the Queen give birth. Xeann gave her a sympathetic look and picked Sarah up gently.
‘I’ll make sure she’s alright,’ she said as Vienna scrambled out of the pile of rubble ‘Siegfried! Siegfried, Sarah needs help!’
‘I am not ssssssssssurprisssssssssed,’ came Siegfried’s amused hiss but Sheela paid no attention to it, shifting away more rubble to try and find Saphira. Vienna turned into her tame wolf form and began digging through the rubble frantically, desperately sniffing out Saphira’s scent. Sheela snapped her head up at the sound of rubble shifting and Vienna barked happily when a pale hand arose from the mess and began pushing itself out. Sheela grabbed it and pulled Saphira out of the rubble. A rather soggy and bruised Saphira swayed groggily and Sheela supported her as Vienna licked her hand happily, relieved that she was saved.
‘My head hurts,’ she groaned and Sheela smiled sympathetically.
‘I am not surprised,’ she murmured and helped Saphira into Siegfried’s hut. As soon as Saphira was on a bed with a small bag of ice on her head, Sheela rushed over to Sarah’s bed, watching as Siegfried poured medicine on Sarah’s jaw. She gripped the sheets fearfully as Sarah slowly drifted off to a comatose state. Siegfried looked up to her and reached out to hold her hand. Sheela didn’t notice her hand being enveloped by his scaly hand, just concerned about her sister. She didn’t look very fine, she was panicking over her sister and she was just so drained from using her powers to help the Queen give birth. Siegfried smiled at her warmly.
‘Ssssshe’ll be fine,’ he reassured her ‘I guarantee it.’ Sheela looked up at him uncertainly and hung her head, her shoulder shaking as she sobbed. Siegfried smiled sympathetically and brought Sheela into a tight hug. He paused and slowly nosed her hair, combing it gently with his fingers. He then caught Xeann’s look and raised an eyebrow. ‘What?’ Xeann rolled her eyes and checked in on Amber, holding her hand.
‘Hey, are you alright?’ she asked and yelped when Amber tackled her into big hug.
‘Where were you?!’ Amber shrieked ‘You’ve been gone for ages, we thought you were dead!’
‘I’m sorry, Amber, I really am,’ Xeann hugged her back tightly ‘I got caught up in something personal and…and I engaged the demons in a fight.’
‘You actually battled them?’ Amber gasped ‘And you’re still alive?’ Xeann chuckled and looked down.
‘Well, they let me off easily, it turns out that I’m not too much of a threat to them,’ Xeann sighed and got up ‘Will you excuse me?’ Amber watched as Xeann rose to her feet and left Siegfried’s hut, blinking curiously before curling up on her bed to get some rest.
Xeann had been gone for some time and Vienna decided to go out and look for her. It began raining lightly as she padded through the streets in her tame wolf form, sniffing out for her grandmother’s scent. She paused as she saw the Mother Vampire by the rubble pile of the tower, most of the rubble had been spread out by the scavengers. Her eyes widened when she saw Xeann cradle the Diamond Bruiser in her arms.
‘Nan, watch out!’ she shouted, turning into human form and running to her.
‘She’s shut down now, there’s no need to worry,’ Xeann said calmly as her granddaughter grabbed her shoulder fearfully. Vienna took a good look at the Diamond Bruiser and sighed in relief when she realised that the Diamond Bruiser wasn’t moving. She came a bit closer and ran her finger down the wired mesh curiously.
‘How did you manage to shut her down?’ Vienna frowned ‘I didn’t hear you call any names at her…’ Xeann’s bottom lip wobbled as she carefully hugged the Diamond Bruiser so that her head was on the shoulder.
‘When I was at boarding school, I met this very bright and intelligent student studying science,’ she said ‘Her name was Zenna, her whole family pursued the science career so she was a natural in every science lesson we had. We became the best of friends and were practically inseparable. She was my first love.’
‘Wait, you’re gay?’ Vienna frowned and stepped away ‘Eww…’
‘Don’t judge me for my sexuality, young lady,’ Xeann snapped at her ‘And it was a girls only boarding school, lesbian relationships aren’t that uncommon. We went out for two years.’
‘And what does this have to do with…this?’ Vienna gestured to the limp Diamond Bruiser.
‘Zenna’s father was one of the heads of the Human Weapon project,’ Xeann began to choke up ‘Zenna naturally wanted to be one of them because she loved science more than me apparently!’ Vienna grimaced sympathetically as Xeann gripped the Diamond Bruiser tighter to her. ‘I was raped when I was sixteen, Vienna and I went to boarding school pregnant. We were going to raise the child once we left school and I would turn her into a vampire so we could spend an extended lifetime together. We had so many plans for the future and she wanted to throw it away so the world could advance in science and the war with Aurallion would end!’
‘Wait…so that’s Zenna?’ Vienna pointed to the limp body with wide eyes. Xeann sniffed and nodded.
‘I went with her to her home for the conversion,’ she croaked ‘I saw the whole operation happen before my eyes. For God’s sake, she was only seventeen! And this whole project was so inhumane, how could her parents just stand there and watch their daughter getting turned into a monster?!’
‘Nan, is this why you’re so against science and the Ninth Category?’ Vienna cautiously asked. Xeann nodded and let the tears fall onto Zenna’s chest.
It was Xeann’s nineteenth birthday when the conversion occurred. She stood behind a glass window, watching as saws and drills were used on Zenna’s comatose body. It took three security guards to restrain her whenever she tried to run out and stop the operation. It hurt. It hurt bad. Watching her first love lying there while men in white coats circled her body and ripped her skin off to put wired mesh in place and shave her beautiful long silver hair off to insert metal fibres into her brain. Zenna’s parents stood in the same room, a look of pride spreading across their faces. Xeann couldn’t understand why they would let their youngest daughter go through such an operation. Was science really more important than family to them? Clearly, everyone in the family didn’t care much for relationships, Zenna even confessed that she didn’t even care that much about her. Xeann remembered how much she had cried while watching the operation. She didn’t want to watch but at the same time she did. It took five hours to complete Zenna’s conversion and the next day they took her out for a test run.
Xeann watched glumly as Zenna rose from the bed and stood up, facing her father that had switched her on. The middle-aged scientist smiled in satisfaction and turned to her.
‘You must be wondering if you’ll see our daughter again soon, hm?’ he said as if he could read her thoughts ‘Well, I took the liberty to look through your background and I see that you live in Renita City?’ Xeann nodded with a grimace.
‘I am planning on moving to a quieter area when I’m free from my parents,’ she murmured.
‘Yes, well I shall propose an idea. The spring holidays are approaching and the war might be still going on in Aurallion by then. Considering that Renita City is on Aurallion’s doorstep and you had a special attachment to my daughter, you may have her as a late birthday present to protect you and your family.’
Xeann honestly couldn’t speak for the next five minutes. Her heart was racing at the idea that she would be able to have that future with Zenna but at the same time, would it be right? Zenna’s only purpose was to kill like the other Human Weapons at her command. Xeann didn’t like having that much power in her hands. Seeing Zenna like this made Xeann’s heart break. Xeann watched as Zenna stood still like a statue, staring ahead blankly.
‘Zenna?’ Xeann held her breath as Zenna turned to her.
‘Xeann…!’ Xeann stumbled as she heard Zenna’s voice through the mask and Zenna shut down, falling on top of her. Xeann slowly brought her arms around the metal body and cried out in agony.
‘I can’t!’ she cried ‘You took away my girlfriend and turned her into a monster and now you want me to have her so I can have the pain of seeing her like this?!’ She pushed Zenna back so she fell onto the bed and slapped her father. ‘You’re all monsters!’ she shouted and stormed off to leave the godforsaken labs to go back to school where she could grieve more ‘How could you even think of doing this to other people?!’ She never saw Zenna again. All she heard was that she was put into the frontline of the army and killed over two hundred soldiers, mortally injuring a few more hundred. Then she was sealed away with the other weapons but their locations were kept secret.
‘Vienna, I’m going to go and bury Zenna,’ Xeann announced as she picked Zenna up and stood ‘I’ll be back by morning, I promise.’
Vienna watched as Xeann stood and carried Zenna up the mountains up ahead. She whimpered sympathetically and turned back to go back to Siegfried’s hut. Xeann ascended to the highest empty cave that she could reach and lay Zenna inside. She sat next to her with sad eyes and sighed.