- “Oi Oi, slow down before you hurt yourself!”
- Valeria called out after the group of young girls as they ran of giggling, before sighing and smiling to herself. Well, she thought, I can always just heal them if they get grazes. Turning around, she began walking back to the small school that she and the sisters were living in.
- She remembered a year back, when she’s first woken in this world. It’d been a drab and boring place, and at first she regretted ever coming. She wandered through the city she was in, somewhere in what was once China, though she couldn’t be sure of the cities name itself. It didn’t take long however, for Valeria to encounter other life. She’d seen a few creatures stalking about, but they seemed to know better then to attack her, so when she heard the sounds of roaring and screaming, her curiosity was peaked.
- The sight she’d seen once she arrived? A great wolf like being prowled in front of a group of girls, very young girls at that. Not only that, but may of them were damaged, missing limbs, skin or muscle or otherwise deformed. A few of them stood at the front, shoving sticks at the beast and trying to seem brave.
- The event…it stirred a feeling in her. Was it pity? Or maybe loneliness? It didn’t matter. The solution was simple enough. Looking at that wolf-like beast filled her with rage and so she’d crushed it into a bloody marble and walked over to the girls. After she saved them, they’d run over to her and leapt at her crying in relief. She’d been surprised for sure, people rarely reacted that way when confronted with violence. At the sight of them all clinging to her though, she did feel a warm feeling in her stomach and looked away, covering her small smile.
- Eventually, they’d calmed down and she’d managed to get some fragmented explanations from the more collected ones. She’d taken them with her after that, all thirty of them, and cleared a space in the midst of the city, a few miles across with ease. She’d thought of her usual actions, the ones she’d have taken against any other group, but found herself feeling…cold at those thoughts. Shoving them aside, she pushed out with her will and raised barriers around the huge clearing. It took a brief effort to fill the area with grass and seeds, but also to create a large enough house in the centre, a trick she took from Yamato all those years ago.
- It’d been difficult at first, to live with others. Her fault more then theirs, something she’d grown to be able to admit to herself. There were never any shortages of supplies, she could simply create it out of thin air and any of the monsters that prowled the city were easily taken care of by the Tier 2 familiars she’d posted around the walls. In a way, it was a paradise for the girls, certainly so compared to their previous lives.
- Stepping inside, she looked around the spacious and open room. It was a library, full of enough books to keep the children entertained and it seemed that not all the kids had gone out to play. There were a few scattered about the room, reading quietly or napping in some cases. Turning away to hide her smile, she laughed under her breath. All this sweetness will make my teeth rot, she thought, walking towards the kitchen.
- Cooking was something she hadn’t expected to be doing again, not normal food at least. Slipping on the apron, she set to work on preparing the food for the thirty odd girls in the sanctuary. Valeria felt a tug at her sleeve and looked down. One of the sisters, Bethany, was at her side and looking up at her hopefully.
- “Miss! Can I help you cook?” The girl had a big smile on her face, too bloody cute to deny.
- Sighing, Valeria realised that the kitchen would probably end up mess again. ‘I suppose it’s not really a trouble to clean’. Handing down a bowl full of meat, she gave her directions “Could you make this meat nice and mashed up for me?”
- Bethany nodded, before enthusiastically shoving her hands in. As expected she was already making a mess, but the noise soon drew other girls there, each one clamouring for a part in it. “H-hey come on! Give me some room here girls, I’ll let you all have a go okay?”
- They calmed down, only a little really, as she found a task for each of the half a dozen young ones in the room. It was noisy as ever, and more than a little messy, but it felt warm. Working side by side with them and watching over their work, making sure everyone was safe was nice. She looked over, seeing Hannah, the sister now in charge of chopping the carrots, doing so far too recklessly for her liking, and put a hand on her shoulder. Guiding the girl’s hands along, she spoke “There’s no need to hurry Hannah, we have plenty of time to make dinner.” The shy girl blushed slightly, but resumed at a steadier pace. Valeria herself flitted about, correcting any mistakes and taking care of some of the more dangerous pieces herself, but the girl’s soon finished their tasks.
- Sending them out of the kitchen, Valeria packed their dinner into the oven. It hardly needed to be done that way, she could’ve snapped her finger and made the whole meal in an instant, but she’d gained a weird appreciation of using mundane methods. The novelty of it lasted a few days, she would’ve stopped entirely if it weren’t for young Bethany having wished to help her cook all those months ago. She couldn't say she regretted it, as crowded and messy as the place got, it was fun to watch them play together.
- ---later, dinnertime----
- Crowded and messy huh? Haha, she must have forgotten about dinner itself. To call it chaotic was an understatement. There was yelling and laughing filling the dining room, as she and her thirty girls were lined along the long bench, her in the middle of one side of the group.
- The room was filled with laughter and chatter, along with a rather disturbing amount of food flying about. Valeria herself was seated between Sally and Leah, two kids that had gotten rather a reputation for how energetic they could be. Sitting between them, she could certainly feel that energy or rather the bits of food that spilt all over the place, including on her cute little apron. Well, she could hardly complain, she thought, as she started to scarf down the food even faster then her neighbours, it was some damn good food and she couldn’t let herself get outpaced by a kid!
- Finishing up with a happy smile and a slam of her bowl, she glanced around the table, seeing quite a few of the girls with empty bowls too. Across from the table however, a very pale girl sat in front of a mostly full bowl. Emma, the quiet girls name, idly pushed the food on her plate around, barely having taken a bite.
- “You don’t like it? I can make something else for you if you want?”
- Emma’s head shot up, surprised at the question. Fidgeting nervously, she mumbled a quick answer “I…I’m not feeling hungry tonight.” She quietly stood up, leaving the dining room, though the rest of the children were busy enough to not notice.
- Frowning after her, Valeria made a mental note to seek out the girl later to talk. But she couldn’t just leave the rest of the kids to run amok here in the dining room. “OIII! Time’s up everyone, you all gotta get ready for bed now.”
- Grinning as she heard groans resound from around the table, she spoke up once more “Or…you can stick around and help me clean up the house?”
- They certainly cleared quickly after that, running off to the bathrooms to get ready. Chuckling after them, she began to collect the dishes, the large number floating behind her as she walked off to the kitchen. At the very least, the girls could manage to brush their teeth without her supervision, so she started the usual clean up. Hearing the clattering as they pushed around, she finished up.
- It took a few minutes to herd the kids into bed, and more then a little tussling for the more energetic ones. Making sure they were each tucked in, she left the room, flipping the light switch on the way. She waited a few minutes, watching unseen from behind the doorway as the girls slowly drifted to sleep. About ten minutes passed before she left, having made sure they were sleeping soundly.
- Valeria was in the library, clearing up the room and replacing some of the older books with new ones. She’d long since stopped needing sleep, and only indulged in it every so often, so she did this manually to pass the time at night. The lights were dim enough to make sure no one would be woken anyway.
- Today had been rather mundane, much like the last few months really. She found she didn’t really mind that fact and had been enjoying these peaceful days. She often forgot the state of the rest of this world, safe within this sanctuary with the girls and a few of her more human familiars.
- At the start, she’d gone out every few weeks to relieve some stress, leaving a few familiars in charge. As time passed though, she could feel herself begin to worry on those trips. “Were the girls okay? Were they happy?”
- Her few ‘vacations’ had petered off soon enough, as she stayed closer and closer to home…
- Valeria paused in her work, her eyes wide. H-home? Well, by definition it was, but this felt like something more then that. Even in the great palaces she’d build in other worlds, it was only ever just a place to laze about.
- What was different about this place? Was it something about the school? It was certainly open and welcoming, she’d made it that way. She’d enjoyed her time here, laying and teaching the gir-
- Ah. That was it.
- She smiled to herself as she found the answer. It was obvious, really, in hindsight. It wasn’t the school or the sanctuary that she felt at peace with, it was when she was around the thirty young girls who she protected. Perhaps it was the feeling of them relying on her or the idea of being a saviour, but Valeria found she cared little for whatever reason she had at the start now.
- It felt good to be with them, to have them look to her for help.
- Haha, she was going soft wasn’t she?
- Hearing the scuff of bare feet against the floor, Valeria turned her head. It was Emma, who looked more then a little nervous about being there.
- “What’s up Emma?” Valeria asked her.
- Emma fidgeted, toeing the ground nervously. “I…I uhm, I wanted to talk with you miss.”
- Blinking, Valeria waved her towards one of the beanbags that littered the floor, settling down on one herself. “Have a seat, I welcome all comers y’know?” She put on a warm smile, trying to put the young girl at ease.
- As Emma sat down next to her, Valeria waited for a while, as the girl hugged her knees to her chest and buried her face in them.
- She mumbled quietly into her legs “...I’m sorry for not eating all the dinner you made.”
- “Don’t worry, I don’t mind. Are you still hungry? I could make something for you now if you are.” She asked, wondering if that was why she’d gotten out of bed.
- Emma shook her head and fell silent once more. They sat there, side by side for a while before she spoke again. “…why?”
- “Hmm?” Valeria turned her head to the side, giving a Emma a questioning gaze.
- “Why do you make food for us? We don’t need to eat….so why?” Emma’s shoulders shook slightly as she asked.
- “Mm, you don’t need to eat, but you still feel hungry don’t you?” Valeria slid a bit closer and smiled at Emma “I don’t want you or any of your sisters to have to go hungry again. It’s as simple as that.”
- The shaking worsened and faint wet drips could be heard, as Valeria realised Emma had begun crying. “You…you’re so nice to us,
- all of us.” She turned her head up, revealing her tear streaked cheeks and red eyes. “Why?! Why do you like us so much? We’ve
- never done anything for you. We’re just Dolls!”
- Looking down, unable to meet Valeria’s eyes as the tears poured down her face. Suddenly, she was enveloped in a soft embrace. Pausing in shock, she looked up into Valeria’s face, seeing the warm smile on her face.
- “I told you didn’t I? Because I want to. I want to protect each and everyone of you. I want you to be happy, to be safe, to be able to play with your friends and not have to worry about finding shelter or hiding from monsters.” She lifted an arm from the embrace, caressing Emma’s face. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a doll or not. You could be the greatest of heroes or the worst of villains and I wouldn’t think of you any different. You already give me more then I can return. Seeing you and the others laughing and free fills me to the brim with joy.”
- Leaning down till they were at eye level with each other, Valeria spoke one last time “No matter who you think you are or who you will become, I’ll always be here for you and everyone else. Never doubt that Emma.”
- Emma stared blankly at her for a moment, her eyes overflowing once more with tears, before she leapt at her, clinging tighter then ever before. “I’m sorry! I’m sorry for doubting you Mama, I wanna stay with you, I do!”
- Valeria paused in shock, just briefly, as Emma called her Mama. But it took only a second for to comprehend, for her to accept it
- freely and let a big grin split her face. “Yeah, you can stay as long as you want.” She returned Emma’s embrace, feeling more happy then she had in a very long time.
- They stayed like that for a while, curled up together on the beanbag, before Valeria realised the little girl had fallen asleep. Smiling, she lowered her head as well, resting it against Emma’s as she let herself drift off to sleep.
- Mama? Yes. She loved that word.
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