“No. You’re confused,” Kira countered. “I’m not– I’m not… we haven’t had... ”
Nebula’s face fell with pity, and Kira’s own expression drowned under tears. As tempting as denial was, the stack of facts was heavy and found a physical manifestation in her lower abdomen. It all made sense now– the fatigue, the dizziness, the nausea. In her desperation to get rid of her extra weight, she nearly de-rooted the seedling in her womb.
Fear and sadness combined and created their own offspring– horror.
She didn’t know what to say. This had to be scientifically impossible. Did Terra have a twin that developed significantly slower? Or did Vrox’s sperm somehow survive inside her for a long time? Did she have a double uterus?
A sob erupted from her lips. She was confused and relieved. For weeks, she had been pushing herself to the edge. If Vrox hadn’t stopped her before she rolled down those steps, she would have miscarried.
She clutched on Vrox’s shoulders and cried into his chest. His hands were stiff on her hips, but Kira saw the franticness in his expression even through her teary vision.
“I’m sorry,” she pleaded. “I didn’t know.” She had been too stupid to see what was staring her right in the face. Too ignorant to see the obvious. “I didn’t know.”
Vrox began to bounce her on his knee. “It is alright. Calm down.”
Her guilt ran so deep that she was far past reasoning. This was the biggest mistake of her life. A part of Vrox likely blamed her as well. Children on Ezron were precious, and Kira nearly let her ignorance devour her pregnancy. He wouldn’t use this against her, though. Vrox was no bully.
She remained on his bouncing leg until Terra started a tantrum. She wasn’t hungry, since she was recently fed. Maybe she could sense the dread in the air.
Vrox stopped bouncing her. “Terra…”
“I know. I’ll get her.”
She slipped off his lap. Her knees were trembling as she walked to Nebula. When Terra was in her arms, lying close to her developing sibling, Kira faced Vrox. He was already heading out of the room.
She took a step forward, her stomach heavy not only because of the life inside of it. She was a nerve-wrecked, guilty, sad mess.
He stopped, his cape draping around him but unable to cover his clenched fists.
“I didn’t know,” she repeated, desperate for his forgiveness.
“I believe you,” he replied, and continued walking out.
Fearing that she would collapse, Kira slumped into a chair and rocked Terra in her arms. She eventually fell asleep. For hours, Kira stared at the baby that was curled against the bump of her stomach.
– • –
Kira is a liar.
Bodies clashed as Vrox threw all he had at Ak. The older Ezronian stood his ground, fighting just as viciously.
A liar. She lied.
The men jumped away and circled each other in search of weakness. They had been training for hours, only taking brief breaks before diving back into the blood thirst. Ak could tell that Vrox wasn’t in the right head, but he was busy fighting his own demons. Both of them needed to take out the anger somewhere.
A punch to the gut made Vrox stumble backward, but it was only a slap to the surface. Vrox’s current of emotions wouldn’t let him stop. He charged forward again and again, desperate to drown his brother in the ocean.
Liar. She is a liar.
Weeks ago, she told him he was a good father. It wasn’t true, though. He failed his unborn child. If he was truly a good male to Kira and a good father, then he would have noticed her changes earlier. He knew her body like no one else. He slept beside her, and fantasized about her for hours a day. How could he be so blind? How could he let her drive herself to such a dangerous extent?
He should have noticed that she was still pregnant. He should have asked her to be more careful.
But he didn’t, because he was a poor excuse of a male.
Lies. Lies. Lies.
“Be careful, boys.”
Wo’ton was the only man that dared to call his Commander a boy. Vrox didn’t mind. He knew that the elder considered him a grandson.
Vrox lunged for Ak to land one final hit. Before he could connect his fist, he felt an explosion of pain in his temple. His mysterious illness made a comeback.
He fell to his knees and gripped his pounding head.
“Are you alright?” Ni’ev asked, leaning down to get a closer look at him.
Vrox tried to stand, but another spasm of pain sent back down. This time, he wasn’t able to stay awake. The headache was like nothing he had seen before.
When he regained consciousness, he jerked up.
“Stop. Take it slow,” Kira said, pressing her palms flat on his chest. She was kneeling beside the bed. Her cheeks still wet with tears and her eyes bloodshot.
Vrox’s nostrils flared. He hooked an arm under her armpit and tugged her up. “How many times must I tell you not to kneel while you are pregnant?”
A clearing of a throat made him look to the left. Wo’ton and Ni’ev were standing there.
“How many hours have I been unconscious for?”
Vrox frowned. Two hours? He slept soundly through them, and that was unheard of. He was a light sleeper, even more so since he met Kira. His paranoia demanded nothing less.
“What is happening to you?” Wo’ton asked.
“I do not know,” he replied. “It has been happening for months now. These headaches are painful, but today’s was the most terrible of them all.”
“Headaches? Why have I only heard about your condition now?”
“His scaling pattern changed once,” Kira added, dragging a hand across his back. Vrox was quick to throw a blanket over his lap.
“Impossible,” Wo’ton replied. “Scaling patterns are set for life. They do not change. They never…” the older man’s expression twisted with disbelief.
Seeing his change in demeanor, Kira pushed, “Do you know what this is? Do you know how to fix it?”
“Well, there is a possibility. I heard of it when I was very young, perhaps Vrox’s age. It is only folklore.”
“Tell us,” Ni’ev pressed.
“I… hmm. Ezron’s first commander was rumored to have been different.”
“Yes. Stronger, horned. I believe there were only three other males throughout history that developed the same condition.”
Vrox threw the man an incredulous look. “Horned? You are telling me that my headaches are caused by horns that are growing out of my scull?”
“That is the tale. Think of it as a second Scaling.”
Kira’s eyes widened. She once wondered why the title had “crowned” in it since Ezronians didn’t create crows or head jewelry. She finally had the answer. “Crowned” wasn’t referring to crowns.
Ni’ev shook his head and sighed. “This is not good news at all.”
“What?” Kira asked, her fingers dipping into Vrox desperately. “Why not?”
“I have also heard of this. I am not sure I handn’t think of it. Anyways, Vrox’s condition will affect the child.”
Seeing their confusion, he added, “the child is weak. Vrox must spill his seed inside of you repeatedly throughout your pregnancy. You must try at least once per day.”
“Huh?” Kira blurted.
Once per day? Was this man trying to kill her?
“I will give you time to talk about this,” Ni’ev said. He turned around and left with Wo’ton behind him.
“Ni’ev,” Wo’ton called out. “Why did you fabricate that lie? I have never heard of a Scaling weakening a Commander’s child.”
Ni’ev grinned. “Because those two have been distant. Constant matings will fix whatever has broke between them.”