Before the Warrior

Chapter Twelve:

"I'm a soldier, a wounded soul,

I must give up the fight.

There's nothing more for me.

Lead me away or leave me lying here…"

A few months later…

The rain made a small crackling sound as it hit the ground. It was only a light shower now, but the thick clouds over the emptiness promised more to come. The bad weather didn't stop one rag doll from walking across the vast wasteland all alone.

After a while she reached the place she was headed to; the remains of the beast's lair. The old factory had been destroyed in a huge explosion in order to kill an enemy even more deadly than the beast.

She scowled at the thought. It was better not to think of the death machine now. She wanted to focus on her old feud with the great cat, and so she searched the wreckage for any remains of the monster.

She stopped when she found a long, metal object. She recognized it as once being one of the beast's many razor sharp claws. Her eyes narrowed as she slowly sunk into a fit of rage. She picked up the claw and, using all her strength, threw it across the factory room as hard as she could. Then she remembered the day when she had reigned victorious…or so it had seemed.

She had surprised the creature in its own den, sneaking up from behind and binding its teeth so that it couldn't bite her. It tried to shake her off, but she instead leaped up into the air. She had finally found the beast's weak spot. So she sent her spear slicing right through the many cables the beast had for a neck, killing it instantly. It was a good thing she had killed it too, for the beast had cornered Two, Five, and the newcomer Nine.

Yes, for that one brief moment, she was the brave heroine, but that moment ended too soon.

She remembered Two, almost immediately after her victory, putting his body between Nine and the activated talisman that instantly devoured his aged soul.

She remembered the noises of Eight's struggles as the Machine consumed him, while she waited for her own horrible fate.

She remembered how Five fell to the machine and she instantly shielded the twins from the sight. She could not bare to watch Six perish after that.

One's death had been from a distance, and though the pain emerged later on, at the time she had been focused on Nine. Out of grief and fear of losing both of them, she winced at that memory.

She huffed once more in anger, then fell to her knees and silently wept. Crying brought her into the darkness, falling into her failure and grief. If she had only done something, then weak Two would have lived. Who knew what else might have changed if she had made a different choice?

"I'm sorry, Two," she whimpered, "–I'm sorry to all of you."

She sat there, sobbing with no tears to show, for a long time. She was so wrapped up in her sorrow that she didn't hear the footsteps of another of her kind behind her. She heard nothing until a familiar voice said her name.

Seven?"

She sat up with a start at hearing that. "Nine! Wh-what are you doing here?" she asked.

The burlap doll scratched at the stitching on the back of his head as he thought of how to voice his concern for his friend without upsetting her. "Well, it's getting dark, and the rain is coming in, so I followed you to make sure that you were alright. You left construction early."

Seven looked to the ground. Now she was putting La Vita Nuova behind. She should have stayed to work on the boat that would take her band of survivors out of the emptiness, especially as it was her plan in the first place, but she had been so drawn to the factory that she had no choice.

"I'm sorry," she said, near silent. "I just needed to be alone and… think, I guess."

Nine didn't quite understand why Seven had left their group without notice, but he could tell by her tone that it was for a serious reason. "Are you sure you're alright?" he asked carefully.

Seven nodded.

"All right," he replied and began to walk away. He really didn't want to leave the warrior doll behind, but he knew that if he pressed the issue further, she would probably get angry. He intuitively added, "I miss them too."

Seven shook her head, trying to hold back her pain around the young male. "You don't understand how much I miss them, Nine." She pounded a fist against the ground. "I had a job to do."

"What do you mean?" Nine asked, taking a step back toward her.

"He said so," she murmured, "–the scientist. He-he told me to find them, and that I had a job to do. I was supposed to free them all…and all I did was watch them die, one by one."

"Seven…" Nine started, the realization of her sorrow hitting him.

Seven let a silent sob escape, not caring that she was showing her weakness. "I'd rather have died than…"

Nine interrupted her. "But you didn't know how to stop the machine. None of us would have been able to destroy it alone. Seven, what you did with the beast was the greatest thing anyone of us accomplished. You took down a monster easily ten times your size…solo!"

"But what was it all for now that they're all dead?" she asked, angrily. "Tell me that, wise leader."

Nine opened his mouth to speak, but couldn't say anything. There was no point in arguing any longer. Seven was wallowing in misery, and misery that he had partially caused. He had opened the red eye of death. No matter how the faces of the family he had barely known haunted him, they would never come back. And worse, his mistake hurt his family that was still living even more.

"Their fate was never in your hands," he said simply, looking to his feet as he left.

And though Nine's words didn't console Seven's dark thoughts, she knew that they were true. Two was on the verge of death when she had tried to destroy the beast. Any of the younger dolls could have fallen to some tragic fate in the emptiness even with newfound freedom. She supposed that the coven could have chosen to waste away in that cathedral even after she killed the danger at hand. It was Nine's arrival that had brought them together to fight their great enemy.

In the end, Nine had saved all that there was to save, and he didn't even know it.

But why did I even bother if I couldn't do anything? she thought, looking up at the great sky for some kind of answer as a raindrop hit her on the head. That drop on the head made her remember why she had left the coven, and why she had risked her life for such a hollow feeling.

She remembered pleading to the others to try to find the twins, only to be turned away.

She remembered the joy of finding the twins again after believing the worst.

She remembered looking over the emptiness in the library, imagining herself and the twins as birds…the bird that flew away.

She remembered how stunned she was when Nine had risked his life to save her from the seamstress beast, as it was the most courageous thing she had ever seen.

She remembered the moment when the souls were free. She had even said, "They're free now."

The fight for her family's freedom was the reason she had left. In a sad way, One, Two, Five, Six and Eight were free now. Death had saved them from a life of misery and fear. She knew that she would probably always wonder if there could have been some other way, but there was some peace in their passing that way. Three, Four, Nine and her were free as well, but only heaven knew what awaited them in the future.

Seven smiled as the rain washed the dust off her canvas skin. Though the wounds in her heart were not fully healed (nor would they ever fully be healed), she felt better. She would find Nine and thank him for his words. The kind, brave fellow deserved that from her.

The warrior returned to her tiny coven with relief in her soul and rain soaking through her shoulders. She knew that she still had a job to do.

"From on high, somewhere in the distance,

There's a voice that calls, 'Remember who you are.

'If you lose yourself, your courage soon will follow,

'So be strong tonight. Remember who you are…'"

-Bryan Adams.

The End.


Author's Note: Ooh, the story I have to tell for this ending! Technically, the ending was the first scene I thought of. When I had just started out in this fandom, I thought of Seven sitting alone in the rain and thinking over the deaths of her comrades. Originally, Nine had comforted her, whereas in this version she must overcome a moment of grief on her own. There was another reason that I knew the ending would be this way early on in the writing process, however. In October 2010, not even two months after chapter one was posted to this site, my father died. At the time I was not really dealing with the grief, but it did give me plenty of moments to reflect on his passing and my family's new life–just as Seven has here. I even remember a day where I sat in my car, listening to the song I quoted here, and just watched the rain fall on the windshield, waiting. When this story was finished in the following summer, I began to feel the full emotions of my grief and guilt, and thus I feel that my connection to my personal tragedy and Seven's character was complete.

Beyond the love-letter I have essentially written to Seven's character and this chapter, I tried to focus how Two's death had affected Seven (if it isn't obvious, he's supposed to represent a father-figure to Seven) in this revision. I also wanted to introduce more of Nine and Seven's budding friendship, if not stronger than that, in this revision as well. Hopefully that came across well enough.

Thank you for reading this fanfiction, whether you enjoyed my bits of commentary or not. The fact that you've read through one of my longest and most emotional pieces of work is a huge support for me creatively. If you like 9 fanfiction, I would highly recommend the writers I thanked in the beginning note.

*S. Snowflake