Ok. First of all I want to apologize for taking so long to update. I wasn't occupied or have writer's block, just feeling lazy. That's why I'm apologizing. I know how agonizing it is to wait for a story you like to be update. Thank you all for your continued support. Enjoy.
Quod Factum Est
Surrounded by four heavily cracked walls, sheltered by an open roof and comforted by rough ground; a normal person would never be able to relax under such conditions. Clare on the other hand was comfortable leaning against her claymore, which she had stabbed into the ground. Her eyes were closed as she tried to slumber. But sleep wouldn't come.
She had too many images flashing in the back of her head. The expressions of her friends were still clear in her mind. Miria's shocked look, Cynthia's unsure expression, Deneve's hardened face, Uma's worried guise and Tabitha's frightened appearance. These images had continuously haunted her for the past five days, effectively thwarting all her attempts to escape the conscious world. She did not care much for sleep though. Something told her that the images would haunt her even in her dreams. The ones she could particularly not forget were Helen and Jean's expressions.
Helen had been in so much pain when she had confronted her. Anger and hatred had been at the forefront of her mind as she had tried to Awaken, clearly with the intention to kill her. It hurt to have such intense negative feelings directed at her from someone she had once called a friend. Seven years ago she had mourned for her, she had mourned for all of them. And now when she discovered that they were still alive she learned that they wanted to kill her. Some of them had even made it their life's mission to do so.
Her face was the one that tormented her most of all. No matter how hard she tried she couldn't forget that determined face. She could not rid herself of the image of Jean's pained expression while she crushed her ribs underfoot and she would never forget her hopeful and determined visage fall into disheartenment as she lost all hope after hearing that Clare had willingly Awakened. These were the thoughts that had been bothering her since she left Rabona.
"Clare," Riful's childlike voice came from behind her. Not a moment later she felt the Abyssal One's small arms wrap around her. Riful put her mouth near her ear and spoke in a soothing voice. "It saddens me to see you like this. You need to eat something."
"Leave me alone Riful," she replied silently, reacting to the childlike Awakened Being.
Riful predictably stayed where she was, hugging her from behind. Of course she had expected her words not to work on her. Riful had been doing this since the days when she had been out of control and every part of her body had been a weapon. Not that she wanted her to leave anyway. Riful was her only friend now, even if their friendship was doomed to end in one of them plotting to off the other. Clare would never admit it but the Abyssal Creature had calming effect on her. And even though Riful only wanted her to meet her own ends right now was when she needed to be wanted by someone, someone who would not look at her with fear and repulsion.
"I'm a monster," she whispered silently to no one in particular.
For the past seven years she had been fine with being an Awakened Being, she had revelled in it. Letting go of her humanity was what had made her as strong as she was now. Humanity had not offered power. Humanity had not offered vengeance. As far back as she remembered humanity had brought her only pain, suffering and loss. The one good thing that had ever come in her life had been snatched away because she had been a human, too weak to defend it. That was why she had given it up. Becoming a monster had given her what she had always desired, the power to get revenge.
Clare had been fine with it until she saw her friends' reactions when they saw her.
"They hate me Riful." She spoke softly. "My friends fear me and hate me. They don't like me anymore because I'm a monster."
"Yes you are. We're all monsters Clare," Riful responded after a moment of silence. "Yoma, Awakened Beings, Claymores. All of us are monsters with a lot in common. Some would try to deny it but the truth is there is not much difference. The humans certainly don't think so, and they are the most monstrous of us all."
"But my friends believe I'm a monster," she said weakly. "They are terrified of me."
After seven years believing they had died in the North she had met them and they had been afraid of her, showing open hostility with the intent to cut her down. It seriously tore her heart apart.
"As they should be," Riful continued to whisper in her ear. "You have become an existence way beyond them. Every living creature fears those stronger than itself. That's how it survives. Their reaction should have been expected."
"If you really wanted your friends to be with you why didn't you let them Awaken?" the Abyssal One interrupted her. There was a hint of annoyance in her voice.
Of course Riful had been upset that she had suppressed Helen's Yoki when she had nearly gone over the limit and the fact that she had left and not tried to Awaken the others. Riful wanted more Awakened Beings to destroy Isley and Priscilla but Clare would never allow her friends, whether they liked her or not, to have the rest of their lives decided for them. She had chosen to Awaken on her own, if they were going to Awaken as well it should be their own choice. If not it would not be the same. From what Clare had witnessed in her seven years as an Awakened Being the Warriors that had Awakened freely were saner than those who had Awakened by accident or were forced to Awaken. If her friends were forcefully Awakened they would not be the same people anymore.
Riful stayed with her and hugged her until her pity party was over, which was couple more hours. After that she got up, thanked the childlike Awakened Being for comforting her and decided to go out for a meal. She was incredibly hungry and she did not want to lose control and go into a feeding frenzy. Her claymore of course came with her. It was an extension of herself, she would never let it go.
It was night when she left the ruined castle, not that she did not know beforehand. The open roof had exposed all. Outside the old broken down castle was an endless forest, stretching out as far as the eye could see. Beyond that she could smell a stream and humans residing somewhere close by. This was to be her destination.
Awakened Beings could go months, and in some cases years, without food. However, those who go so long without food either have very little Yoki, are in active or have great control over their beastly nature. She obviously did not have small amounts of Yoki and was quite involved in the happenings of Lautrec. Although she had not gone feral in seven years she could constantly feel the beast near, just below the surface waiting for her to let down her guard before it takes over and she goes on a killing spree. To satisfy her horrid nature she had to satisfy all her cravings. She needed constant feedings, more so than the glutton Dauf.
How would her friends react if they knew about this? Despite the fact that she went out of her way to only eat humans she considered scum she was loath to admit she had killed just as many innocents. How would Helen feel if she knew? How would Jean feel? Would they hate her?
She was brought out of her thoughts when she felt a presence behind her. Usually her hand would immediately fly to the handle of her claymore, but this time she had no need to. The person behind her had no Yoki or could hide it very well and there was no malicious intent. It was a familiar presence that she had not sensed in seven years, one that she considered synonymous with annoyance.
"It has been a long time Number 47."
It was a sly voice belonging to the shadiest looking character she had ever seen. He was a bald and thin middle aged looking man who wore black clothes and a black hat. He wore his trademark crooked smile that had unnerved her the first time she met him, and irritated him as she got to know him better. The way he smiled, the way he talked, it had always felt like he was mocking her. She had always felt like he was laughing at her, like he knew something she did not and was enjoying keeping her in the dark. It seems to him everything was a joke, except for getting rid of Awakened Beings. She was certain he wanted the Awakened Beings destroyed, especially the Creatures of the Abyss. He had all but said so when he had told her to go after Luciela.
"You are brave to show your face in front of me," she said calmly. "What do you want?"
Rubel's smile remained plastered on his face. "Don't mind me Clare. I just came to see for myself if the rumours are true. Some of our Warriors were quite shaken after they met you."
"Is that so?" she replied. She had no interest in the Organisation. She cared not for their puppet Warriors and would pay no heed to them as long as they stayed out of her way. That said... "How did you find me?"
To this he uttered a soft laugh. "I always knew how to find you. You are like an open book to me Clare. The only reason I did not make contact with you in the last seven years was because I truly thought you had died. Once I learned otherwise though it was child's place to find out where you were."
That did not surprise her. She had always felt Rubel could track her down any time he wanted and the only reason he had not contacted her for so long back then was because it was not ideal for him. He would always find her when he had an assignment he felt suited her no matter where she was. Like the time he told her to return to the Organisation after it lost its top five Warriors, or the time he assigned her to the Awakened Being Extermination Squad in the North. She had long suspected that he had his own agenda, one that was different from the Organisation.
"I thought you handlers were a cowardly bunch but t seems you're much braver than I thought," she responded to him. "Either that or you're just plain stupid, to approach an Awakened Being."
He merely smiled at that. "You and I go way back. Even if you were to kill me I was sure you would first listen to what I have to say. That would be enough for me."
"And what is it you want to tell me?"
"The Organisation has decided you are a threat. Soon they will send Number 1 Alicia and Number 2 Beth to collect your head."
"Is that so?"
Such news did not frighten her. Alicia and Beth were little more than nuisances. If they attacked she would swat them like the flies they were, although Riful would likely stop her and take them in. She was always looking to bolster the ranks of her army. Two Abyssal level minions would be a welcome change for her.
"And what of it?"
"I want you to destroy them," Rubel requested.
As she though, Rubel was a traitor to the Organisation, otherwise he would never request she kill their strongest weapon. "How would that serve you."
"You needn't know how," he said, still keeping his smile. "Just promise me you will destroy the Black Ones and I will let you eat me."
"And what makes you think I won't go back on my word?"
To this he laughed. "Because I know you Clare. As intimately as I know myself. Perhaps even more so. You are rare breed of naiveté, you always keep you word."
Does he really expect me to listen to him after he called me naive? she wondered. She never considered his proposal in the first place. But him insulting her by calling her naive just made her less eager to fulfil his wish.
"I do not dance to anyone's strings," she said. "If Alicia and Beth attack me I will handle them, but I will not go out of my way to do it. As for eating you..." She swiped her hand in the air. A second after it returned to her side and a small cut opened on his cheek. Blood trickled out of it. "...no thank you. You smell like you'd give me indigestion for weeks." She turned her back on him and began walking towards the village. She had humoured the sly traitor long enough. "As much as it would please me to kill you, having your foul blood on my sword and clothes just won't do. Go find someone else. Your Organisation squabbles don't interest me."
It took her half an hour to cross the stream and reach the village. It seems the dwellers of that town were terribly scared of Yoma because it seems all the houses had been completely barricaded. It didn't matter though, Yoma inhabit the skins of loved ones and imitated their habits. She could sense a one in one of the dozen houses nearby. She decided that it would be her destination.
Without subtlety she kicked the door down. The living room was empty but she could hear sounds coming from a single room. She followed the sounds to the room and found a young couple in the throes of passion. They did not acknowledge her presence. Without hesitating she walked forward, touched the handle of her sword and grabbed the women to pull her away.
The woman looked confused at first but when she regained her perception she screamed when she saw what had become of the young man. He had been sliced into a countless pieces. His purple blood sprayed everywhere. Of course human eyes were unable to distinguish between human and Yoma blood, which is why the woman started screaming Yoma while looking at her. She covered her mouth and dragged her out of the room. The woman tried to struggle, terror in her eyes, but it was a hopeless struggle.
"I'm sorry," she whispered to the woman. She did not give her a chance to register what had been said before she snapped her neck.
Although Clare did not think of her as scum she felt no remorse for killing the woman. She would have preferred to kill a bandit or some other kind of low-life but she was too hungry to strain herself to search. When she had burst into the house she was hoping the Yoma had already killed the other person but unfortunately it was not so. It was unfortunate but such is life. The Yoma would have probably eaten her after they finished copulating.
Clare sank to her knees, laid the woman down on her back and tore her chest open. Blood came out and sprayed her entire front. She couldn't care less though. Her hands were already moving into the woman's torso, separating her ribcage and grabbing a handful of lung. She brought the flesh to her mouth and chewed.
Tears slid down her cheeks the moment she took a bite. It was something that confused her. Every time she fed she always shed tears. Whatever the reason was she could not tell. Was her soul crying for what she had become? Or was it her beast crying because of how delicious she found the food? What would Miria, Deneve, Helen and Jean think if they saw her like this? Surely they hate her.
These were the thoughts that plagued Clare as she ate and teared. When she was done she walked out of the house to find humans with torches and pitchforks. It seems they had heard the woman's scream.
"Yoma!" the old man in front shouted. "Monster! Demon! You think we are nothing but food. We will show you!"
His words seemed to rouse the rest of the mob and they rushed towards her with their pitchforks raised. They however came to a halt when they saw the ground crack beneath her feet. Some lost their footing and fell down, some impaled themselves on the garden tools. She could smelled skin burning and heard more than a few pained screams. There would probably be a few casualties, but she did not stay behind find out.
In the blink of an eye she had left the village behind and arrived at the stream. Her clothes were dripping with blood. Riful will not be happy, she thought as she looked at her reflection. Another pair of clothes was ruined. Riful would definitely complain about how she could have avoided the blood or undressed before she ate. It was too late for that now. She undressed and washed the blood and tears away. When she was done she stood up and turned to Riful, who she had felt approaching since a while back.
"I knew something like this would happen," Riful said, her eyes cast on the bloodied clothes. She threw a pale blue dress at Clare. There was an adorable smile on her face. "I would be upset if I was not happy to see you out of your depressed state. Wear that. Since you've recovered it's about time we head out."
Clare took the dress and thanked her.
Her friends probably hated her now but it didn't matter. She had Awakened not only for their sake but for her own. She could never go back to the days when she hunted Awakened Beings with them. She would never be the person they knew from back then. The past was behind her and she could not change it. All she could was look to the future... to the day she would kill that bitch Priscilla.
The rising sun proclaimed the birth of a new day. It was time to wake up. Today was the day she would go to town. The cold season was almost upon them, so she had to go into town to get rid of her millet. All nearby farms were contemplating the same thing so she had to hurry in order to sell hers first. She got dressed and called to the person still in bed.
"I'm heading off Lucy," she said loudly.
"Okay. Good luck." The voice of the person still in bed sounded sleepy and uninterested.
She went outside the cottage and drank from a barrel she had placed outside to catch rain water. Spotting her reflection in the water, she shifted her shoulder length spiky auburn hair to cover the left side of her face. When she looked in the water again she found she was satisfied with the results. Next she went to the store room and emptied it, loading all the grain into the cart. She attached the horse to the carriage and she was ready to go to town.
The journey was town was full of full of bumps and rocks but she made it within an hour. Even though it was still early it seems many people had decided to come to town today because she found herself standing in a long line and she was not happy to see that she was not the only one hauling grain around. It seems she would have to compete to get her grain sold.
She stood in the line for twenty minutes before she found herself at the city gate. One of the guards knew her and decided to talk to her.
"Ella, quite rare of you to grace us with your presence," he greeted her. "What brings you to Le Rȇve?"
"I came to rid myself of extra baggage," she replied. She pointed past the gate. "How goes the situation in there?"
The guard looked at bags of grain in the cart and shook his head. "You'll have a tough time selling that grain. About a dozen others have already entered."
"Is that so?" Ella was not worried though. Around this time of the year there were always buyers. If not they would be starving over the winter. "I'm sure I'll go with an empty cart home."
"Whatever you say," the guard responded before he let her through. "Say hi to Lucy for me."
She entered the city and headed straight for the market place. Just like the guard had told her there were other farmers there trying to get sell their excess grain and make a little gold for the winter. She recognised a few of them. There was the young woman Yolanda and her two year-old son who clung to her skirts, the two teenage girls Marie and Laurel, the old woman Bertha and her pre-teen grandson Melvin and a middle-aged man named Ronald. At one time or another she had dined at their respective homes so she was on good terms with all of them.
"I guess we all woke up with the same idea," she said as she approached them.
"It seems so," old Bertha replied. "Yesterday's hailstorm was a reminder that winter is near and we need money for food."
"But you all have enough food for the winter," Ella said. All the farmers had enough food and unlike the people who lived in townships they did not pay tax.
"Millet is the only food we have and I don't feel like eating it all winter," Bertha said with a sneer. "I want a variety of foods. Wheat, potato, rice and meat, especially meat. These teeth of mine might be old but they can still chew meat properly."
Almost everyone chuckled at that. Ella had to agree though. There was nothing better than meat. Everything else tasted disgusting.
She turned to one of the teenage girls. "Laurel, I heard the news. Congratulations. When is the wedding?"
Laurel blushed while her younger sister answered for. "It's set for spring, as soon as the first flowers bloom. The whole family's excited. I'm so jealous. Andrew is just so handsome!"
"Is that so," Ella said. "I'll be there."
"Sure." This time it was Laurel who answered. "We'll be glad to have you there."
And so they set up their market stalls, hoping passers-by would stop and buy their grains. Many of them passed by while with few taking interest and fewer still buying the grain. By midday they all still had plenty of grain. No one was worried though. Ella suspected that that like her they would probably be here all day and if they didn't sell all the grain by the end of the day there would still be tomorrow.
"Ella," Ronald spoke up. "You and your sister should consider getting marrying. These days it's dangerous for the two young ladies to live alone. Don't you fear Yoma attacking your cottage?"
"Lucy and I can manage," she told him with a smile. "Besides, this area is quite safe. It's been years since a Yoma killed anyone in this area."
"But Yoma attacks everywhere are increasing," Ronald said. Everyone was now listening to him intently. "Have you heard of what happened in Rabona a week ago?"
"No." It was Yolanda who answered. "What happened? There's no way they could have been attacked by a Yoma."
Rabona, the Holy City was at the centre of the world, in the middle of the four lands. It was the richest and most guarded city on the entire continent. There was no way a Yoma could slip into the city and cause havoc. That very notion was inconceivable. Or so most the common people thought. Ella knew the truth. She had heard the rumours, but she kept quiet, allowing Ronald to tell what he knew."
"Rabona was attacked by a giant Yoma," he told everyone. "They said it stood higher than the cathedral itself. It destroyed a big part of the city."
"Really?" Marie said in disbelief. "How did they kill it?"
The man's face became grim. "They didn't. Silver-Eyed Witches chased it off. Apparently they were all severely injured."
Ella looked around and saw that everyone who had heard Ronald was now worried. She guessed it was because a Yoma had managed to infiltrate the Holy City. If something like that was possible than what about Le Rȇve? It was nowhere near as guarded as Rabona. How much longer would it remain peaceful before they were infiltrated? Perhaps it had already begun. If a Yoma like the one that invaded Rabona appeared their whole town would be levelled.
"These are dangerous days indeed," Bertha said in an almost whisper. "I heard Harold sent his wife and children to their family in Sutafu. A thoughtful man that one. There's nowhere in the world safer than the Eastern Lands, the base of the Claymores."
"Ella, everyone of us here has heard the story of how you were scarred by a Yoma," Ronald continued. "I don't want it to happen to you again. That's why I urge you or your sister to get married. In this day and age you need a man to look after you."
Ella remained silent. She had nothing to say. Men always assumed women were no good without them. She and Lucy were fairing quite well and had no need for men to protect them. However, Ronald being a man would not understand so she let him talk on. There was no reason to waste words on someone who would not hear them.
"My son Nathaniel is quite enamoured with your sister," he continued. "Perhaps you could convince her to marry him."
Of course every hot-blooded male was interested in Lucy. She was the prettier sister and unlike Ella she did not have a hideous scar she had to cover up with her hair. However-
"That is a terrible idea," Ella told him. "Apart from myself, Lucy does not do well around other people. If she were to marry your son it would turn out disastrously."
"Is that so?" Ronald said, eyes filled with doubt. "You should still try to convince her though. I'm sure my son will take good care of the both of you."
The day went on and more people stopped by and bought their grain. Bertha and Yolanda were sold out first, probably because one was old and the other had a toddler clinging to her. Ella followed after. The girls only remained with one bag while Ronald still had half a dozen bags. Serves him right for talking down on her like he did.
She earned enough gold and silver to fill her pouch and she was quite happy about it. She packed up and escorted the girls to their parents' farm. When they had exited the city the moon had already been up. Bertha and Yolanda had left long ago and Ella was reluctant to let the girls go off on their own in the dead of night. When they got to the girls' farm their parents thanked her for looking out for them and invited her for dinner, but she declined. Lucy was probably getting impatient waiting for her.
She rode her cart about halfway from the girl's farm to her cottage when she encountered a man who seemed to be on his way home. She recognised him immediately and stopped by him.
"Evening Harold," she greeted him. "What are you doing at out at this time of night?"
"Ah Ella," he greeted back. "I was visiting the town. Since I sent my nagging wife away I thought it was about time I celebrated with a drink."
Ella chuckled. "Married life must be quite a burden."
"You have no idea," he said light heartedly.
"Your farm is a long way," Ella said. "Let me give you a lift."
He's eyes sparkled at this. Not a moment later he was seated in the cart with her and Ella drove the cart to his house. The place had a dead and silent feeling. It seems Harold was not big on house maintenance.
"Thanks for the ride," he said with a smile. He was a handsome man that could sweep many a woman off their feet. His hand slid over her thigh. "Would you like to come in? I would appreciate the company of a woman as beautiful as yourself."
Ella felt her stomach tightened and she smiled back at him. It had been a while.
She followed him into the house. It had an eerie feel and everything was a mess. Harold was really a hopeless case without his wife. The man ignored the mess and led her to his bedroom. Just as she entered he pushed her against the wall and was about to attack her when her interrupted him.
"Would you mind if I undressed first?" she asked. "I'd rather not ruin my dress and have to explain what I was doing to my sister."
"Okay," Harold said. "I guess I'll be patient a little longer."
He retreated and watched her undress while licking his lips. Ella saw an intense hunger in his eyes while he looked on. The moment she had finished undressing he pushed her against the wall and began to nibble at neck. It was a little too hard. She felt his teeth about to break her skin and pushed him off.
"Easy there," she said jokingly. "Don't leave a mark on my skin. I don't want to explain to my sister."
"Who cares," he growled, forcing himself back on her. "It has been a while. I'm so hungry."
It seems he was too far gone. He had lost all reason. Before her eyes he began to grow, tearing his clothes in the process, until his head and torso broke through the roof of the farmhouse. He stood over three metres tall, a Yoma.
"Raaaah! I shall eat you tonight and then go to your sweet sister tomorrow!" the Yoma exclaimed, his arm reaching for her.
Ella was unfazed. She waited until the creature's arm was within reach before she grabbed it and yanked on it. The entire arm came free off its socket, causing the monster to scream. Ella didn't hesitate though. She used the creature's dismembered limb to smack it in the chest and send it flying, crashing through the entire house and landing outside on its back. She approached it slowly as it stood up. It had a pain filled expression with bewilderment and fear.
"You monster!" it exclaimed. "How can you be so strong? I can't sense any Yoki from you. Just what are you?"
Ella did not reply. She dropped the dismembered limb and grabbed his other one and repeated the process. The Yoma screamed in agony. Ella did not let it rest before she pulled a leg off.
"No! Please!" it begged tearfully. "I'm sorry I tried to eat you! Please spare me!"
Ella did not listen. She pulled the remaining limb from the creature before she silenced it by ripping off its head.
What a fool, she thought as she looked down at the dead creature. Yoma thought themselves smart but it couldn't be further from the truth. The lie about Harold sending his wife and children away was a smart one, she would have to give him credit for that. What was not smart was hiding the half-eaten bodies under the floorboards. Seriously, even a human would have smelled the rotting flesh the moment they stepped into the house. With a sigh Ella knelt and began to eat the Yoma.
From time to time her sister would ask her why she would eat something so disgusting. Ella never had a good sense of taste or an interest in food. To her food was nothing more than nourishment. She ate to fill her belly and nothing more. What she ate was just a matter of preference. She preferred not to eat humans. For the past seven years all she had eaten was Yoma.
After she was done she dug up the bodies of from the floor boards and gave them a proper burial. If she had sensed the Yoma earlier this would be have been avoided. However, she had missed it and a family had paid with their lives for it. There was nothing she could do to change it. Burying them was the only thing she could do. She would have for prayed for them but she had no knowledge of gods or religion.
When she was done she grabbed her clothes and knocked the still burning lamp over. By the time she got into her cart the farmhouse was ablaze. Without stopping, she drove the cart straight home. When she pulled up at her cottage she found Lucy standing outside, waiting for her. It seems she had been standing there for a while.
"Sorry I kept you waiting," Ella said to her. "I was derailed a few times on my way home."
"Don't worry about it," Lucy said. "I've haven't been waiting for that long."
"I'm glad," Ella stated.
She wrapped her arms around and pecked her on the lips. When she untangled them she found her sisters beautiful azure eyes staring back at her. A smile graced her pretty face and she couldn't help but return it. She was the most important person in her life.
"I love you so much," she whispered. "Luciela."
-to be continued-