“That… you and Arianna…”
Kaiya hesitated as she tried to ask what had been bothering her all this time.
He was lying against the great tree with Kaiya nestling against him. Her head was resting on his chest and she was hugging onto a snow-white rabbit in her arms.
“Me and Arianna?” He asked back curiously, pretending not to have understood her meaning.
Sure enough, Kaiya didn’t ask about it again. All the courage she had mustered up to ask him about it, drained away.
Shazan chuckled when he found her sulking in despair.
The lustrous green leaves on the tree were fluttering mesmerizingly. The sky was covered in clouds, so not much light peered through that green cage of leaves. However, it was a beautiful day, and every color was more vibrant at the time.
He gently planted a kiss on Kaiya’s head and then planted another kiss on Karen’s head. He wrapped his arms around them tightly before taking a deep breath of fresh air.
“It was 7:02 pm, Wednesday, 14th of February, 2007. Her cries brightened the entire room, and I couldn’t stop myself from barging inside after my Father. Mother was lying on the bed, hugging the baby girl wrapped in bright red towels. No matter how much she tried to make her stop crying, she couldn’t. The baby girl hadn’t opened her eyes yet, and that had alarmed everyone in the room. Her cries roused an ache in my heart that suffocated me. I don’t what know happened at that moment, but it was only after Marilyn had worriedly asked me what was wrong that I realized the wetness on my cheeks. I was crying, and for most people in the room, my parents included, it was the first time they had seen me cry. By now, everyone in the room had tried to hold the little girl in their arms, but she hadn’t quietened down. She refused to even feed on Mother’s breast and kept crying. And to add in the troubles, our little Karen started bawling as well, as she hugged my hand.” He tickled on Karen’s soft tummy as he recalled the scene.
“Hmph…” Karen wrinkled her browed and embarrassingly hid her face in his chest.
“It was then that I couldn’t bear it anymore, and I hastily snatched away the baby from Lyla’s arms. It was for the first time in my life that I had felt so content. And miraculously, her misty eyes opened. She looked at my face, and her cries stopped.” His heart thumped hard as the memory was as bright as ever. “And that was not the end of the miracle, the newborn baby girl had smiled as her soulful eyes stared at me, and another cry escaped her beautiful mouth, but this time, it was a delightful cry. That is one of my most precious memories.”
Kaiya let go of the rabbit she was holding in her arms. She was immersed in the memory he was narrating, and there was jealousy sparking in her confused eyes.
“Arianna is the person I love the most in my life, Kaiya. I have never loved anyone more than her, and I am incapable of loving anyone more than her.” He smiled at her and told her the bitter truth that all the women in his life knew. “But that’s not what you want to ask, right?”
“Isn’t that wrong? She is your sister…” Kaiya whispered under her breath.
Karen giggled when she heard the words. To her, who was born as a Zeros and raised by Azeros, incest was normal.
Kaiya was different. She was human.
“Hmm… And may I ask my little bride why she thinks that it is wrong?”
“That… your children might have defects, and the genes would become recessive, causing the immunity to fall and making your legacy susceptible to hereditary diseases. Also, isn’t it… immoral?”
Her words made Karen smile at her gently with an amused expression.
“Silly girl… We are not human.” Karen told her. “Your answer only applies to humans, not us.”
Kaiya confusedly looked at them, and she turned to look at Karen to explain things to her.
“Our genes are different, stronger, and mystical. Our Blood groups are different from humans, and so are our lifespans. An average Zeros lives for over a hundred years, a stronger one could even live for two centuries, and there are people in the world who have lived for several centuries and still do not look to be more than 40-years-old.” She giggled when she saw the surprised look on Kaiya’s face. “With my current strength, even if I do not get any stronger, I should be able to live for over two centuries without aging more than a twenty-year-old human. This is how different our genes are when compared to humans. Besides, incest is the key to making our bloodlines stronger. Almost all of the Azeros practice Incest in one form or another.”
Kaiya couldn’t bring herself to say anything. What Karen had just revealed to her had made her heart palpitate in fear. She was not sure what was reality.
Her mind was no longer on the subject that she wanted the answers for. It was somewhere else now.
Fear took root in her heart. She was not a Zeros but a human, and that meant that she would die before them, centuries earlier than them.
Shazan frowned when he heard Karen’s words. She had revealed a piece of information that she didn’t have to. She wasn’t the kind of person who would carelessly say some words.
He looked at Kaiya. Her face was pale, and her lips were quivering. It was as if she had something to say, but she didn’t have the words to say it.
“Scared?” Karen whispered near her ear.
Kaiya involuntarily nodded.
“Don’t be.” Shazan stroked her head and sighed. “You don’t need to worry about your lifespan. You can stay by my side for as long as you wish to.”
His words showered peace on her restless heart. And life returned to her eyes that curiously looked at him.
Karen laughed lightly and planted a kiss on her cheek.
“He keeps his promises. Always.” She told Kaiya.
Kaiya obediently nodded her head and then lowered it as she nestled it on his chest. She didn’t know how it would be possible for her, but she chose to believe in him.
“How is Incest the key to making Bloodlines stronger?” She asked in a whisper.
“All Azeros Families have special powers. The strength of a person’s bloodline depends on how strong he is. A stronger Zeros would have a higher chance of having his child inherit the powers since birth. That is also the difference between the Immemorial Families and the Modern Families. However, when a new Bloodline is discovered, the chances of it passing down to the next generation are extremely low. Every decade dozens of new Bloodlines emerge, and with next-generation, they vanish. Only a few manage to survive and preserve the Powers. And once there are at least a dozen members of the same Bloodline, they can then be considered a Modern Family. Now another difference between the Modern Family and an Immemorial Family is that all the children born in the Immemorial Families are bound to become Azeros, whereas, most of the children in the Modern Families may never manage to have those powers. It was observed that the probability of having more Azeros in the family rises if siblings are married to each other, and the chances are even higher if both the parents are Azeros.” She stopped and made sure Kaiya understood what she had said before continuing further.
“Every Immemorial Family was once a Modern Family. Later, it was observed that there were many more advantages than just the increase in numbers of Azeros in the family. Incest made the bloodlines purer, and each generation was born stronger than what their parents had been at the same age. But the key lies in another fact. If a Zeros marries a Zeros of another family, the stronger Bloodline devours the weaker Bloodline. The child would inherit the Powers of the purer Bloodline. Hybrids are still a rarity. In the last century, be it the Immemorial Families or the Modern Families, the total number of Hybrids born was three. That’s how rare they are, and so they have become a taboo amongst the Immemorial Bloodlines.”
“So it doesn’t matter if one parent is stronger than the other, but what matters is the purity of their bloodline that determines the identity of their child?” Kaiya asked to make sure she got things right.
“Mostly,” Karen nodded. “If a person becomes stronger in life, his Blood becomes stronger. However, the cases of children inheriting the genes of the Stronger parent when they didn’t have the purer Ancestory are rare as well. For example, Keira is from a secret Immemorial Family. Their Bloodline is quite pure but not as Pure as the Silverstein Bloodline. The only way Roselyn could have inherited her mother’s Powers would have been if Keira was stronger than Shazan by a great margin. But she wasn’t. And even if her Family’s Bloodline had been just as pure as that of Silverstein Bloodline, Roselyn would still inherit the Silverstein Bloodline and not become a Hybrid. That is because Shazan is several times stronger than Keira. The Blood in his veins is many times purer and his strength is many times greater than any Silverstein in history.” Karen explained to her.
“And if one parent is a human?” Kaiya asked anxiously.
“If it is a weak Zeros, the Powers are likely to vanish in the next generation. If it is someone from Modern Family, there are a few chances of his children inheriting his or her Powers. Only people from immemorial families have the certainty of their children being Azeros. But they might not be Azeros since birth, they could awaken their powers over the years.”
Kaiya stayed silent after hearing those words.
“What is it?” Karen asked.
“If Arianna gives birth to a child, that child will be stronger than Roselyn?” She asked hesitantly.
“Technically, yes.” Karen nodded. “The child will have more potential than Roselyn, but all would depend on how well the child would utilize that potential.”
Kaiya nodded understandingly.
“Silverstein family is an Immemorial Family?” She looked at Shazan and asked.
“No, and yes.” Shazan sighed and answered her. “Silverstein Family was once an Immemorial Clan. There were a dozen of branches of the Main-Family. And at the peak, the population of the Clan was a little over Nine Thousand. Yes, there were over Nine Thousand Azeros in the Silverstein Clan at one time. But… now there’s just me, Arianna, Lyla, Asaya, and Roselyn left in the Main-Family, and we only have two Branches. The total population is less than 300 now.”
There was no sadness in his voice, but there was helplessness.
“Civil Wars happened… And then there was a war against an alliance of Powerful Clans.” He answered grimly. “Siblings were being married to each other, daughters were being married to fathers, and widowed mothers were married to sons. We didn’t have the biological issues, but over time, the other two major issues broke out; Social and Familial. The Silverstein Empire managed to deal with the Social problems and suppressed the other Clans and Families, but it could not deal with the familial issues. Be it the Main-Family or the branch families, the Bloodlines were pure and powerful. With powers came ambitions. Several Schools of Thought emerged in the Silverstein Empire. Some wanted to rule the world, some wanted to live in peace and understand the truth of the world, some wanted to form our secret organization and control the world from shadows, and some just wanted to seek pleasure and fun in life. Brothers were fighting each other over their sisters. Sons fought with fathers over their mothers and sisters. It was chaos. The first civil war broke out between the ones who wanted to rule the world and the Main-Family. That School of Thought perished. No one was spared. Be it children or elderly, whoever conformed to the beliefs of that school of thought, they were killed.” He shook his head and sighed. “And do you know that the leaders of that School of Thought were from the Main-Family? Similarly, the leaders of the other Schools of Thought were from the Main-Family as well. After the first civil war, there were decades of silence, but then a war broke out that changed the fate of the Silverstein Empire.”
The grimness in his eyes sparkled, and his brows were furrowed.
“The Clan was not just a danger to the Family, but the entire world as well. The Leader of the Clan assembled all the loyal Elders, and then, over the next few nights, as the branch families and schools were fighting each other, the Elders started to wipe out the Bloodline. Children less than 7 years were spared, but everyone over the age of 7 was killed. One after another branch family was annihilated, and in the end, only two remained. They begged for mercy and were spared by the Clan Leader. All Schools of Thought were crushed. The once a mighty Immemorial Clan could no longer be considered a Clan. Thousands were killed. The Clan leader then announced a ban on siblings marrying each other and all other kinds of incest. The Main family members were from then on required to marry their first Cousins, and as for the remaining two Branch families and the orphans of the war, Silverstein Family signed a blood contract with two of its close allies, the Blood Clan and the Moon Clan. All the unmarried girls and orphan girls were taken away by the Main-Family. They were made sterile, and were betrothed to the princes in the Main-Family. The male children were then married to the females of the Moon and Blood Clans. And so were the children that they gave birth to. Over time, the population of the two branches fell, and their Powers showed mutations. They did not have as powerful Spirit as that of the Main-Family. However, their physical strengths and capabilities became stronger than those of the Main-Family. Similarly, the Moon Clan and Blood Clan gained new branches where they had higher Spirit, but lesser physical Strength. Those branch families now are not required to marry other clans. They marry first cousins or someone from within their branch. Moon Clan and Blood clan still practice Incest, and they must marry siblings. Unlike the Silverstein Clan, they both managed to survive all the turmoils of age. And a few decades ago, Silverstein Family, Blood Clan, and Moon Clan fought a War against an Alliance of other Powerful Clans. We won the war, but the price was that only a few Silverstein remained in the Main-Family.”
There were tears in Kaiya’s eyes. Her innocent heart and mind could not understand why the world had to be so cruel.
Shazan gently patted her head and planted a kiss on it.
“The world is not a good place, Kaiya.” He whispered. “Brothers turn against brothers for Power and Women, Fathers kill their children if their Power is threatened. Mothers are forced to take sides, and sisters are not any different. Over time, all familial bonds pale, and with them, our values fade away. And in the outside world, you would rarely find a sincere ally. The rest are all enemies.”
“You are not scared that things would turn out the same way again?” She asked tearfully.
“No. I am not scared. I did not pursue Power to see another Civil War. I became Powerful to ensure that I can deal with all tests of time.” He answered her resolutely. “And if anyone dares to harm my family, I will make them pay.”
Kaiya hugged him tightly and buried her face in his neck. Karen wrapped her arms around the two of them, and they remained like that for a while.
“Shazan… what did you do with the people who tried to harm Arianna?” Kaiya asked in a trembling voice.
Silence answered her.
“Tell me…” She asked again in a low voice.
“The Family was destroyed. First, I made them lose all their reputation, and then when they were despairing, I sent them away forever. The mother of that boy was being controlled by my late brother. I ordered her to be killed. She is dead. The father of that boy was made prey for a Lycan Clan. He was hunted by them and torn to shreds. The boy was sent to a Prince with wild sexuality and has become his new toy. And as for his little sister… Asaya had asked me to spare her, and so I spared her and turned her into my slave.” He answered her unemotionally.
His words thundered on her innocence. She was no longer sure if she was in the arms of a monster or a Prince of her dreams.
The Green Woods and its tall old trees were silent, the wind had stopped blowing, and the little rabbits had all gone and hid in the trunks of those trees. The first droplets fell, and Sin neighed before trotting towards where Shazan was. The other horse followed behind him.
There was a butterfly dancing around the three of them, it appeared out of nowhere. It was a strange butterfly. Its wings were made of red light, and as it fluttered its wings, it left behind a fading hue of red light. It brought warmth with it. And little Kaiya’s mood was suddenly soothed. She curiously opened her eyes and looked at the creature of light that was now nestled on Shazan’s Heart. Its wings flapped twice before it burst in atoms of light and disappeared.
“Ah!” Kaiya was finally out of her trance. Her heart was saddened once more, she thought that the butterfly had died.
“Let’s go… Renesme has sent a message. Asaya and Helen have arrived at the Palace.” Shazan told them and helped them stand on their feet.
“Sin!” He called out to the Horse and smiled. “Go back to your friends. I will come to see you again in a few days.”
The horse lowered its head but then neighed in prance before running off with the other horse.
The little girl looked at the departing horses in confusion.
There were specks of lightning in the sky, and then the drizzle got stronger.
“How are we going…” Before she could finish her question, her man had carried her in a princess-carry.
“Up for another race?” Shazan chuckled and planted a kiss on her cheek.
“Thanks for the headstart!” Karen shouted before vanishing from the woods.
“Close your eyes if you get scared…” He gently told the girl in his arms before bursting in an insane speed towards the direction of the Palace.
The little girl had not closed her eyes, and she had not looked around them. Her eyes were fixed on his devilishly charming face, and the whistling winds around them made her heart palpitate in fear and excitement.
♛ Author’s Note:
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