Chapter 13:

From Ice to Gold

Adventures of Zeleon

The blood delivery went without a hitch while Charlotte and Leon were talking. The second in command of the vampire forces, Cynric Everage, who was in all black armor, with dark long hair and a defined beard, greeted the pair upon their return, kneeling before Charlotte.

"My Queen, the delivery is finished. The product is undamaged with more units than previously expected today."

"Ah! Hanyu must want to request something today. He usually is especially nice when he is, but bringing an unexpected but pleasant surprise in Leon as well, I'll listen to him."

As she walked off to Hanyu who was roughly 15 feet away, Cynric stood at an intimidating 6'4 over Leon as he sniffed near him. Leon was unnerved by his actions as his face never wavered from its seriousness. "I'm not feeling overly comfortable with how much I'm getting checked out as food!"

"Milady has a serious interest in you, and our second in command seems to be as well. Her scent is almost as strong as yours."

Leon was surprised with the calmness in his voice, as intimidating as he looked, he was very calm and soft spoken. Somehow it allowed Leon to relax a bit as he processed what he just said. "You still call Courtney your second in command? Despite being gone...25 plus years?"

"She'll always be the true second in command. She's far stronger than me, and the only who's ever been on par with our leader. To consider her anything less is an insult to her tenacious reputation."

"I see. But me a favor and not sniff me like that, I know I'm not in danger, at least right now, but it's still unnerving for me."

Cynric laughed at him. "My apologies, an Earth human wouldn't be used to vampire customs. I promise to hone it back next time."

"Much appreciated."

The Vampire Queen pulled Hanyu off to the side to speak with him. The elder man spoke in a nervous shake, not knowing how things would pan out with his request. "C-could you turn my daughter into a vampire…?"

Charlotte was taken aback by his request. "Wait, why? Did something happen? I know you. I know you despise our state of being, So…"

"She was attacked by a neuro glowworm!" His voice carried, getting everyone's attention in the village. "Her body is glowing from it's toxins, and is already mostly immobile!"

A strange thing happened at that moment. Leon wouldn't be able to realize it, not knowing her, but everyone else did. Charlotte looked to him sorrowfully before quickly scanning, noticing they've become a spectacle. She turned back to him, ignoring that all eyes were on them.

"Is she okay with this? If so, I don't mind welcoming her aboard for you, we've never been on the best terms, but as a business partner you've never let me down. As strained as your feelings are towards me, you and your crew are ones I plan to spare. So, if you wish to have your daughter saved, and she's in agreement, tell me where she is, and I'll turn her right now, no questions asked."

Hanyu broke into tears, her calm words made him so happy and sad at the same time, not even he himself could really describe the feeling. Through his tearful, messy voice he spoke. "She's in my home village of Shazarma...and she's fine with it. I..I was the one who was afraid but….she's only 27 I can't let my only daughter die now…."

In a moment Charlotte was gone. Leon was in shock, along with Lynn and the rest of Hanyu's crew and even the vampires were taken aback amongst the complete silence only broken by Hanyu's crying. Cynric broke it however. "Come on, back to your lives everyone!" His voice boomed, and everyone listened immediately, moving around once again.

Leon went to Hanyu and brought him back to the carriage as the crew all gave him a judgmental look. It spurned Leon to speak out. "If my mother had a similar decision to make she'd do it too. A parent of an only child isn't afraid to push back the will of a god to protect their child. You haven't said anything, but a look is more honest than any words."

Of them only Lynn spoke, or rather were waiting for her to speak. "You only say that because you just adore vampires, Earth human. Her and Courtney have you tricked into thinking they're not completely rotten, they feed on us. You think the Vampire Queen will actually spare us? Please, think in realistic terms…."

At the snap of a finger, Charlotte was back sitting between Leon and Hanyu as if she were listening to the whole conversation.

"Hanyu, your daughter is safe. She'll have some pains as her body shifts but I've put her under Cynric's care. As for you all, as a widow and a mother who lost both her children I understand Hanyu's tough decision. As a widowed husband and single father, his daughter is his world, as a vampire or not she's his little girl. Even if he were a passerby, I likely would've listened, my heart is cold to the human race, but I'm not cold to the true love of a parent. Even Leon has you all beat, and he's not even an adult, technically."

Hanyu regained his composure as he hugged Charlotte, thanking her profusely. She was awkward about it but she returned his hug back before he hopped to his feet to see his daughter as the others followed suit, save for Leon who was a bit too frustrated to go with.

"Thank you."

Charlotte looked to Leon and spoke, snapping him out of his own feelings. "For…?"

"You defended him when he couldn't defend himself. Then again, you read the situation fairly well for your youth. Are you a public speaker or something of that nature at home?"

Leon laughed at her words, the sound of them almost seemed like a joke to him. "I'm not anything, I'm only somebody due to a tragedy out of my control, and the aggression I have for those who still mess with me over it. Anyone who chose to get a normal sentence out of me is a rarity."

Charlotte smiled as she leaned back looking up at the orange evening sky. "Some of us are better than others, it's a simple fact, seeing the background of a person over the person themselves is what we should all strive for. Humans expect this but rarely return it, making them a special kind of condescending scum of the universe. But, I'm a bad judge, my faith has been tried too many times, and just when I think I can trust, it all disintegrates."

"Why do I respect her? She's supposed to be my future enemy but….talks like this aren't helping me AT ALL. She lost her entire family, humans made her lose trust, she called me her prey but at the same time, has been incredibly nice to me? Does she have a selfish goal in mind or does she respect the person I am? Damn it Serena, you better answer every question or I'll be pissed."

They sat and watched the clouds move in silence, until Charlotte broke it with a sudden question. "Do you have a girlfriend Leon?"

Leon almost hopped to his feet as he sat up with a panicked retort. "Where did that question come from?!"

Charlotte sat up with him, with a casual stare. "It's just a question, and one out of curiosity."

Leon returned her gaze with a blank stare. "To answer your question, no I do not. To put it in perspective, I am to Earth humans what you are to Zelonian humans."

"I see. really are a social failure aren't you?"

"What the hell? Why is she talking like this towards me all of a sudden?"

Leon sank down a bit, becoming smaller in the process. "I feel personally attacked."

Charlotte laughed at him, it seemed she tried to lighten the mood by poking fun, but pushed Leon into a corner in the process. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I needed a light hearted tease to get the heaviness of today off me."

She hopped off the carriage as Hanyu and his group returned, with him being in incredibly high spirits. At that moment it dawned on Leon that he'd been holding all of that information all day to focus on safe travel.

"Thank you again, Charlotte. really surprised me today." He held out his hand to her and she took it almost immediately as she looked him in the eye.

"It's not a problem, just don't let my generosity get outed. If you do, I'll make you beg for your life while I make you a footrest."

He laughed. "I promise. I promise."

"Good, now be off, I'll look after your daughter well and you're free to visit whenever you feel." They shared genuine smiles before he took her words, as they piled in and got to leaving.

Charlotte yelled one last thing to Leon before they were out of reach. "Leon! Tell my daughter I said I want to meet! It's been too long!" Leon gave a thumbs up sign, knowing that she'd likely be hesitant to come. But, he planned to pass it along anyway.

By the time they reached Zelenia night had fallen, Leon quietly made his way away from Lynn and the crew and up to the castle. He was ushered in by security at the gates and the butler at the door, Serena sat patiently in one of the many living areas spread throughout the castle.

The first words out of Leon's mouth were hostile but justified in his mind. "I hate you."

She quieted a chuckle under her breath, but so obviously covered her mouth as she did. "I take it you met Charlotte?"

"Yes, I did. Very unexpectedly so I might add, with Courtney's scent all over me. You knew all along, and yet you chose not to tell me, and also not tell me about the Crimson Knight, and it's cult following, that we were attacked by." Leon was seething beneath the surface but his outward words were fairly calm.

"You were attacked by them? That's odd, I always thought of them as a disorganized group. But an attack like that….I'll have to look into it. I never saw them as a threat or worth mentioning, personally. But, they're on my radar now. As for the Knight himself I was going to wait on that, it seems Charlotte beat me to it." Serena sighed heavily as now she had more on her mind. "How'd she react to you, and did Hanyu's daughter get turned?"

"Woww. You really knew everything and didn't tell me, how rude!"

"Experiences must be authentic for growth, if I told you, you could mentally prepare for it."

Leon finally decided to sit in a chair and relax with a heavy sigh. "Hanyu's daughter is safe and sound, Charlotte agreed to turn her. As for me, well...she took to me very easily, despite calling me her prey. Why'd you want us to meet anyways?"

"Early connections are never a bad thing, I had a feeling Charlotte would take to your burning spirit and your kinship with Courtney would only enforce that belief."

Leon sighed as he leaned back into the chair lazily. "You made it harder on me. If it comes to what I think it will, I don't know if I could do it. She's not a bad person, she just has her own thoughts on how humans should be dealt with, and not all of them are unjustified."

Serena smiled as she hopped to her feet, looking down at Leon seriously despite her gentle expression. "Welcome to adulthood, people who aren't necessarily bad will have a different opinion, and oppose you. Your judgment will have to be absolute, whether you side with them or become their foe, is up to you. No one is your keeper after you're a Guardian, it's your choice. Charlotte will be your first true test, and I trust that you'll make the right decision. Now, get some rest, tomorrow is a new day and we need to remain diligent with your development."

Serena walked off as Leon was left in a fog on his own, all these fresh thoughts swirling in his head after his conversation with the Queen. "Charlotte, I hope you make this easy on me. If not...I might hesitate, and cause myself or someone else to die." Leon sighed. "My resolve isn't built for this, not yet, not now...and Serena and all her grand wisdom, realized it before I did. I..I have to be better, there's no way around it."