Chapter Six: The Super Wolf and the Warrior
Bella was walking through a meadow a few days later, trying to let her mind wander away from Max and his situation. She didn't like the helpless feeling she had when he talked about his mom and dad and sisters.
A twig snapped. Bella's vampire instincts kicked in as she whirled around, looking for the source of the noise. There appeared to be nothing there, but her vampire senses were going into overdrive, the way they usually did when John or one of his cronies would try to pull a sneak attack on her.
She sniffed. The scent was definitely not a vampire. It was a mixture of the smell Max gave off and the scent of a dog, or whatever it was Max was so fascinated with. She walked on, but kept herself alert.
She sensed scrambling behind her. She squared her shoulders and pretended not to notice anything. It was better if whoever was stalking her thought she was unaware of them so she could catch them by surprise at the last moment.
Then came the running. The pad, pad, pad of feet through the grass and flowers. Bella couldn't fight her curiosity and decided to turn around earlier than she planned. She needed to see what this strange creature looked like before she did anything.
She was sure her mind was playing tricks on her. This creature had to be a figment of some crazy dream. Barreling towards her was something she didn't know even existed, let alone lived in the same world she did.
It looked to be a wolf – a white one, with large, sharp ears and long, wiry whiskers. But as it drew closer, Bella could see that this thing was also a human. At least the face part was. Its hair was a dark brown, as were its eyes, and its mouth was curled in a snarl.
It came closer still. She could now tell that it was wearing a suit of sorts, which explained why it smelled like a dog-wolf-thing. It was actually a human, like Max.
She figured that she should start running, but for some reason, she didn't want to give chase to this thing. She was interested in what it was, and wanted to ask it questions. So she stayed put.
When it finally realized she wasn't running away, it stopped, but continued to growl. It hunched over, like vampires did when they were being defensive.
"Are you the one they call Bella the Vampire?"
Bella nodded. "Yes. That's me," she said politely.
It wasn't having an effect on the creature. It didn't move an inch. "I've been informed that you've been helping Max with his…family problems."
"I've been trying," Bella explained, saddened by the mention of the subject. "But every time I try to tell him what I think he should do, he doesn't hear me. It's like there's some sort of whooshing in his ears."
The creature's growl deepened. "That's because there is a whooshing in his ears! He cannot take advice from anyone in his Brain other than his Conscience."
"Oh…what's a Conscience?"
The creature shook its head. "It's the voice that tells Max what's good and bad, you ridiculous girl! It guides him in the right direction! That's why he doesn't hear you when you talk about that stuff. You're not his Conscience."
"Oh. That makes sense." Bella frowned. "Well, then…who is his Conscience?"
The creature straightened itself proudly. "I am."
Bella stared at the thing. It looked no older than Max himself. This thing kind of looked like Max, too, now that she thought of it…
"You? But…you're so young."
"What's that got to do with anything?" the thing asked angrily. "I was made from Max's image. I know what's best for him."
Bella nodded, understanding. "That's really neat."
The thing didn't seem satisfied. If anything, it seemed to be angrier than before.
"It's my job, and my job alone. What I don't get is why you, a Character of sorts, would try to steal it."
"What?" Bella took a step backward. "Why would I do that?"
"You've been trying to tell Max what to do for a while now," the thing said. "And that's supposed to be my task. If I were you, I'd back off pretty fast."
A shock of fear went through her. "Why?"
"I'm half-wolf," he said, his voice growing into a growl. "And when I'm angry…you don't wanna stick around." He crouched lower, his teeth bared.
Bella didn't know what to do. Her vampire instincts were telling her to fight back, to teach this little twerp a lesson. The regular part of her was screaming at her to hightail it out, or otherwise she'd be in some deep water. Her feet refused to move, grounding her where she was.
"What part of leaving don't you understand?" the boy-wolf-thing asked her. "I don't want to hurt you. That's why you'd better get out of here. When I get angry, I'm not always able to control my outbursts."
Feet. Move. Now.
She closed her eyes, waiting for the imminent pain.
"Unhand that lady, foul beast!" came a cry from the other side of the meadow.
Bella turned to see a boy with black hair standing with a sharp object in his hand. He ran toward them, looking ready to take on anything. She found herself unable to look away.
The boy slowed when he reached them. "Max! What are you doing here?" he asked, putting the sharp thing in his belt.
The wolf stood up and faced the boy, clearly annoyed. "Trying to take care of things, Chris," he said, trying to maintain his composure. "I finally found out who was stealing my job." He pointed at Bella.
The boy frowned. "This is the 'horrible monster' you were talking about?"
Bella's eyes widened. Is that what this "Max" had called her?
"Yes." Max stamped his foot. "And I was almost ready to tear her to shreds when you showed up and ruined everything!" he whined.
The boy rolled his eyes. "Max, you're only, what, three?"
"And-a-half!" he added. "Believe me, I was ready to do some hard-core fighting."
"This from Mr. Dramatics?" The wolf-boy deepened his voice, imitating his friend. "'Unhand that lady, foul beast!' Where did that come from?"
"Touché." The boy suddenly turned his piercing blue eyes on her, and her breath caught in her throat. "Sorry if he was giving you trouble. Max can overact sometimes."
"Hey! So do you!"
"I'm well aware of that." The boy stuck out his hand. "I'm Christian. I'm a Warrior."
Bella took his hand, feeling a tingle up her arm. "Warrior?" The word was strange to her. It sounded dangerous and exciting at the same time.
"Yes. We train for battle, in case there is any need for it." His eyebrows knitted together. "And you must be a vampire, am I right?"
She nodded, unable to say anything. Her heart was going faster than it usually did, but she didn't know why.
"Well, it's custom that Warriors and Vampires hate each other. Surely you know that."
"Right." She didn't know that. She was disappointed. This boy seemed very interesting.
"But you're nothing like what the other Warriors say about the Vampires," Chris said quickly. "I've never seen one up close before. The others tell me they're vicious and merciless."
Bella was about to defend her kind when Chris looked at her. Really looked at her.
She felt a warm feeling in her face. "Thank you."
Chris turned to the wolf. "Max?"
"I think you have something to say to…?"
"Bella," Bella said.
The thing called Max came forward and hung his head. "Sorry I was mean," he said in monotone, clearly not the least bit sorry.
Chris ruffled Max's ears. "That wasn't so hard, was it?"
Max growled and said nothing.
"Okay, then." Chris suddenly became uncomfortable. "I'll just…um…leave, then."
"Really?" Bella asked, a bit disappointed.
"I was training when I got a message that someone was in trouble." He gave a pointed look at Max. "My little friend sets off our alarms very easily."
"Well, that's how we know when someone needs our help. That's the other thing we do. We rescue those in need."
"That's…" Bella wanted to say a hundred great things right then. But she never said a single one.
"Bella!" Mahree and Dan came running up to her.
"Hi, guys," she said.
"Is everything okay?" Mahree asked, concerned. She took notice of Max and Chris for the first time, and immediately went into vampire mode. "Are you sure you're alright?"
"I'm fine…" Bella assured her friend.
"What are you doing here?" Dan inquired Chris. Bella saw that Dan was also looking very defensive.
"I'm on duty," Chris informed them coldly. "I was sent to save your friend Bella from…Max." He gestured to the boy in the wolf suit, who was now content chasing a butterfly.
Mahree and Dan exchanged looks before looking at Bella. "You're sure he didn't try anything funny?" they asked.
"No, of course not," Bella said. "Why would he?"
"Vampire and Warriors don't really get along," Dan explained.
"I figured…" Bella said flatly. "But why?"
"A sense of pride," Mahree told her. "We're both very powerful species of Characters."
"You mean…you guys fight just because each group thinks it's stronger than the other?"
Dan nodded. "Something like that."
"Well…what's wrong with Max?"
"Guilty by association," Dan said.
"It's ridiculous, really," Chris admitted. "I really don't like the rules, but…"
"You Warriors think you can bend the rules, do you?" Mahree sneered. "If you think you're so tough, why don't I just go and let Matthew know you were bothering us…?"
Chris got the message. "I was just leaving, anyway. Come on, Max." He looked right at Bella. "I'm glad you're safe now."
Max waved begrudgingly before trailing after him.
"Let's go, Bella," Dan said. "You shouldn't be out by yourself around here."
Bella hardly heard him. Mahree noticed her friend seemed a bit spacey.
"She's probably still shocked. Just give her a little time to calm down."
In truth, she was shocked. But not because of the reasons Mahree thought.
Those words would ring in her head for a very long time:
"I'm glad you're safe now."
Bella didn't know it yet, but what had happened in the meadow was going to spark a chain of events that would change everything.