1 Leave... and live

"Why must we see our ancestral crown today?" The girl's curious black eyes looked around the forest which looked entirely different from their home.

Her parents told her that they need to see it today because of the moon but the moon appears every day. So, why today? She was confused.

''Because today is a full blue moon day which occurs only once in centuries,'' her father patted her head. He glanced at the gradually darkening sky, ''And our ancestral crown will appear only when today's moonlight reaches that cave. It is auspicious for our entire clan and also a form of respect for our ancestors if we see it. And if fate permits, then the crown will choose an owner for itself.''

''It will?" She arched her neck to look at her father.

''Of course,'' The man smiled at his daughter, his black eyes sparkled the same as the little girl, ''And its destined bearer can be you too.''

''Me?'' The girl giggled in excitement and a few round white crystals dropped from the bag hung near her waist.

Her mother looked at the father-daughter duo helplessly. They looked and acted too much like each other. She glanced at the crystals that fell on the ground, ''Claire, your sister won't be happy if she saw this. Save some for her to play with.''

Claire pouted, ''I am the older one, am I not?" she picked up the crystals anyway before putting them in her pouch.

Her parents chuckled, knowing it very well that their older daughter doted the most on her sister even though she pretended to be strict at times.

The forest started just on the border of the sea and Claire could not remember how far they walked inside, ''Mother, father, where is my little one?" The nine-year-old girl asked.

Her mother laughed, ''Your sister hates being called that but you still insist on it,'' she shook her head helplessly and glanced at the pearls around her wrist, ''Hmm, your sister is not in the sea anymore. Your Aunt and her must be on their way.''

''AHHH!"

Claire shrieked all of a sudden and her parents turned to look at her in panic.

''What happened?!" They asked in unison.

The girl pointed her finger in the distance, ''W-What's that?" She has never seen something like that before.

Her parents followed her gaze, only to see a row of black cars passing by from that place.

Her father let out a breath he did not know he was holding.

''They are called cars,'' her mother explained.

''Cars?"

''Like the royal carriages you princesses use back in our Kingdom?"

''I still don't like them,'' Claire mumbled. She never liked royal carriages.

Her mother laughed, ''These are the carriages for the humans.''

The blinding lights of the cars disappeared gradually, ''What if they hurt us?'' Those black cars did look scary to her.

''Nothing will happen. Humans are kind and there is no reason for them to harm us,'' her mother explained.

''Moreover, they don't even know about our existence,'' her father added.

''Darling, we are here,'' her father announced as they stopped in front of what looked like a cave.

Claire looked at the cave. There was no entry or exit in it. How were they going to go inside?

Her parents walked towards the cave and pressed their hands on the rock which had molds on it. It looked like no one had come to this place for ages.

Claire was worried when she saw the sweat droplets glistening on her parents' faces under the moonlight. The moon was still partially hidden behind the clouds.

Before this, she had never seen her parents appearing so weak no matter how tough of a work they did. Apart from their noble bloodline, their ultimate power was what made them the King and Queen of the Delaney clan, the most honored clan of Sirens that every other clan submitted to.

Then, how were they sweating so hard just by moving a rock?

Claire tugged at her father's sleeves

Her father paused, ''It happens when we step out of the water, darling. Until and Unless a siren or a triton is adapted to living and using their powers on the land, our powers will decline,'' he explained to her before looking at his wife as he nodded.

They closed their eyes and applied more pressure on the rock.

'Boom'

With one loud crash, the huge rock shattered, turning into dust.

Claire smiled. Even with their declining powers, her parents were the strongest.

As they stepped inside, Claire couldn't see anything properly because of the dark but inside the huge cave, only one spot had rays of moonlight infiltrating in. It was the heart of the cave.

They walked forward and stood at the spot before looking upwards. There was a huge hollow in the cave from where they could see the moon.

As if on cue, the moon slowly moved out of the clouds.

The blue moon.

But it was not blue.

To Claire, it looked like just some ordinary moon until she saw the sheen of blue around it.

As soon as the rays of the full moon invaded the cave, the ground started shaking. Her parents grabbed her hand to support her body.

Soon, she saw some vines sprouting from the ground.

Claire gasped.

Sitting atop the tree trunk was a beautiful crystal crown that had small blue gemstones embedded in it. It looked so… enchanting.

And Claire could hear soft music in the surroundings. The music was deep and melodious. Her eyes closed on instinct.

Most of the sirens in their clans were blessed with magical voices and their voices had independent music in them. But she has never heard something so pleasant. It made her want to cry and smile at the same time.

Her parents were looking at the crown with tears and worship apparent in their eyes.

''Darling,'' her father looked at her hopefully, ''Touch the crown and sing something. The blue gemstones will start sparkling if the crown accepts you as its new owner. Then, we can take it back to our kingdom with us.''

''Won't you try it?" Claire looked at both of them.

''You can start,'' her mother said, ''Your sister could have tried it too. A pity that she refuses to speak a word, let alone sing,'' she frowned.

Claire watched as her father held her mother's hand, ''She is a bit temperamental but she is still young. We can stop worrying about her. When the time comes, she will speak,'' he comforted her.

''She is already 7,'' her mother sighed disappointedly before looking at her, ''Start.''

''But what if I fail?" Their hopeful gazes made her anxious, ''Can we just pick it up and take it with us?"

''Claire!" Her mother snarled and Claire flinched, ''Never say such things again. It will only do good to us if the ancestral crown comes with us willingly. If we forcefully remove it from its position, then it will be the bane of our existence, not a blessing. Do you understand?!"

Looking at Claire's scared countenance, her father gently explained, ''We sirens and tritons have always been known as evil creatures because of the sins that have been running down our generations, in our blood. At one point, we all have been fierce, violent, cruel, and manipulative but now that our clans are walking down the path of redemption, we should not do anything that might make this path difficult,'' he paused for a moment and came to his knees.

Looking at the girl's confused face, he explained, ''No matter how much we have changed, the line between good and evil is very thin. All it will take is a little push to tumble over. So my dear Princess,'' he tapped her nose, ''Do you know what to do?"

Claire nodded, ''We can't forcefully take it,'' she said in a soft voice and walked closer to it. She placed her tiny palms on the crown. Her lips parted.

Hear my voice-

'Bang'

'Bang'

Claire's eyes snapped open.

She turned around and her eyes widened as she watched some strange creatures coming their way. They looked like them but the clothes they were wearing were different and weird.

''Father,'' Claire was about to ask her father about it but her eyes widened suddenly. Her father was still kneeling like earlier but there was blood all over his knees, ''Father! Mother!" Her mother was wounded too.

Claire shivered.

The King opened his eyes, ''Humans…'' he whispered.

Claire heard him loud and clear.

She turned to look at the people who had entered the cave. They were humans...?

They had some strange black-colored weapon in their hands with which they attacked her parents.

There were five of them, all clad in black dresses and their faces were covered. The person in front of them had nothing covering his face, he looked kind, ''Let us leave,'' Claire cried.

''Princess, leave!'' her father shouted but by that time, she was grabbed by the man she thought was kind.

''This one here would also be precious,'' he said.

The others made their way towards her parents.

''Leave her!'' her father shouted, his eyes reddened.

Veins popped on his neck as he stood up and held her mother in his arms.

Her mother had already lost consciousness.

''I said leave her!'' Her father snarled and in the next moment, there was a burst of power that tumbled over the huge rocks in the cave.

The humans were stunned. While they protected themselves, no rock touched her.

Claire was safe... and shocked.

This was the first time she ever saw such a vicious expression on her father's face. She has always seen his gentle side.

She walked towards him, her footsteps staggering.

'Thump'

He fell to the ground, blood trailed from the corner of his mouth. He placed her mother's head on his lap, his vicious eyes regained focus and he looked at her gently with that pair of black eyes that resembled hers.

He reached his hand towards her.

But just as she stepped towards him, he pushed her away.

She landed on the ground on her back with a 'thud'.

A wince escaped her mouth.

In the next moment, a huge boulder fell on the place where she was standing earlier, creating a barrier between her and her parents.

The ground was still shaking and she quietly gazed at the man who was looking at her, teary-eyed.

''We… a-always…'' blood splattered out of his mouth, ''..always love our princesses,'' he whispered.

''Father,'' Claire bit her bottom lips, her eyes reddened.

''Leave,'' he commanded.

And her legs moved on their own. He was saying this as a King, not as a father.

Despite the tears rolling down her cheeks, Claire turned around and started running.

''And live…''

She heard him whisper.

Her footsteps halted for a moment but she did not turn around.

Not until she was out of the cave.

As the ground started shaking and the power of her father's attack faded, those humans started running towards them.

''Grab them. Don't let them die.''

''Peel his skin. Here's the peeler.''

''And what about the woman?"

''Wake her up with fire. Burn her feet. Make her cry. A siren's tears are precious. I will go catch the child!"

Claire stiffened when she felt a hand on her shoulder.

''AHHH!" Heart-wrenching screams resounded in the cave and the blue moon was the sole witness of how the happy occasion of the siren clan left nothing but mournful sobs reverberating in the distance.

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