Entering the Palace with Spikes drove my nerves to the edge. Despite the décor, refinery, and architecture, I was anxious, driven by the fact that I might be spotted or captured by someone of the King’s Guard. Spikes led me through the halls and halls of richness. I found it surprisingly strange on how Spikes easily guided me through the Palace.
Then Spikes stopped. We stood in front of a grand door of eight feet high and five feet wide. Floral designs were carved into the doorframe…similar to the designs I saw on Cassian’s door. Spikes turned to me.
“Well, this is it,” he said, “You’re on your own, kinda. From this point, if you need anything, just say my name. Now go to the Princess, she’s waiting.”
“Whatever you idiot.”
I glanced at the door. Spikes nodded and disappeared.
“Well, here I go.”
I placed my hand on the doorknob and opened the door.
Elder Soleil looked up. He sat in the lobby of the hospice. He and his brother stayed behind to retrieve Nicholai’s belongings while Natasha took Nicholai home. Elder Soleil had gone to the lobby, for it was empty, and he needed the silence. So, when the Elder heard his name, he knew that it was only his younger brother Pierre. The Elder sighed.
“What is it?”
Pierre sat beside his brother on the loveseat couch in the lobby. Pierre placed a tensed hand on his brother’s shoulder.
“Did you hear what I had said to Vladimir?” he asked.
Elder Soleil laced his fingers together.
“Yes, and you were rather harsh,” replied Ivan, “Dante isn’t a human—”
“—Nor is she a vampire. Listen to me, Ivan, what I had to say to Vlad may have killed our relationship as a father and son, but it was, in the end, for the better. Was it not the same thing Father said to you?”
Elder Soleil scoffed.
“That and some other things,” he added.
Pierre sighed as he gazed into the empty space of the lobby.
“I remembered that day as if it was yesterday—”
Soleil scoffed again.
“You’d told Father that you loved a woman he didn’t approve and wished to marry her,” Pierre continued. His older brother became silent as he began to brood over the memories from millennias ago. ”You’d declared that you would have given up everything for her. Father was so angry to a point that he couldn’t be angry. It was hilarious in my opinion.”
Elder Soleil pushed his brother. “Whatever…”
“You were foolish, Older Brother.” Pierre leaned back on the couch, placing his hands behind his head. “Honestly, waiting five decades to confess? Ivan, you’ve set a record for yourself. And wasn’t Gabriel Rowle in love with this girl as well?”
Ivan growled. Pierre cracked a small smile.
“Oh…. So, that’s why you waited the decades. You and Gabriel were battling it out for her.”
Elder Soleil made a face at his brother and quickly turned away. He didn’t want Pierre to see his burning face. Love was always a touchy subject for Ivan— ever since he fell in love. Elder Soleil could never believe that he was capable of falling in love. So the day he did, he finally understood warmth and happiness. Ivan accepted this so-called emotion of love…Unfortunately, Ivan also had to accept jealousy, despair, longing, and pain, especially when the woman he loved for fifty years rejected him for another man, Gabriel Rowle no less. Elder Soleil shifted in his seat.
“I just hope…”
Pierre looked at his older brother.
“…That Vladimir doesn’t meet the same fate as I did.”
“And if he does?” asked Pierre. Ivan sighed and then he stood.
“I have to go.” Ivan stretched out his back. “There is a Council meeting at the Palace after Lilth’s birthday party. I must go.”
Ivan turned to his little brother and kissed his forehead.
“Godspeed.” Ivan began to make his way to the exit.
I entered Princess Lilth’s room. An intoxicating and suffocating fragrance entered my nose. I gagged as I tried to steady my breathing. The odor had to be a strong perfume. I gazed around. One work: Pink. I cringed at the sight. Everything around me was nothing but pink, pink wallpaper, pink carpets, pink couch, pink coffee table, pink, pink, PINK! I almost dropped my bag and bolted. Hell, it was hell! Someone just please drag me into darkness! I glanced around, hoping find someone to calm me down from my anxiety attack.
“My Lord, do you need assistance with your belongings?”
I jumped— five feet into the air. I turned and faced a very old butler with more lines and wrinkles than a bulldog. He bowed low.
“My Lord, the Princess is at the moment with His Majesty.” I twitched. “She has told me to inform her Knights to explore the Palace. There of the other Knight has come and gone. My Lord, leave your belongings to me. I will have a room for you and when the Princess is ready, she will send me to fetch you.
“Uh… Sure…” I hesitantly gave my duffel bag to the old butler. He smiled and turned to leave.” God, what was I going to do? I glanced at the butler’s back. “Uh, wait!”
The butler stopped and faced me. “Yes, My Lord?”
“Uh.” I paused. “Uh, where is the Palace training grounds?”
In an awkward silence, the old butler led through the halls of the Palace, which were thankfully full of colors other than pink. I tried to create a diagram of the Palace by marking strange objects and such as I walked after the butler. Finally, we came to a halt in front of two wooden doors. The butler stepped aside and bowed.
“The training halls, My Lord.”
I nodded. “Thank you.”
The old butler left as I placed my hand on the large latch on the door. I pulled, and the door opened. A burst of cold, crisp air whipped my face. I shook away the sharp pain and refocused.
“Oh lookie here boys, we had a scrawny weakling.”
A roar of laughter erupted. Despite being a sea of bodies, I glared into the crowed. Then my eyes went wide. Holy shi— Before me stood an open space of dirt, and in this courtyard of dirt were filled with men as brawly and husky as Damien. Many of these men had armor. Many of these men had scars. Many of these men had weapons. All these men were vampires.
My eyes passed over the bulky men and froze on a man who had to be in his late twenties. The vampire had a striking face and built body, but it was his shock of red hair on his head that caught my attention. I stared at him; he reminded me of the leader of the King’s Guard. The vampire pointed at me with his sword and smirked.
“Well, to whom do I owe my presence to?”
I remained silent. Reddy raised a brow and smirked again. Suddenly, I saw the flash of his arm moving as if he threw something— HOLY! Heading straight towards me was a small dagger. Immediately, I ducked as the blade imbedded itself in the door behind me. The courtyard burst into rioting laughter.
“Well?” Reddy repeated. Oh, I knew he was provoking me. I saw it in his green eyes. Whatever, I play his game. I sneered and put on the same arrogant attitude as the vampire before me.
“My name is Dante Nakage.”
Reddy blinked and burst into laughter. The men around him joined in. Reddy paused. His stupid intimidation didn’t faze me.
“You must be one of Lilth’s Knight,” proclaimed Reddy, “Do you want to fight? I—”
A sudden yelp interrupted him. Reddy snarled as he spun around. I held my breath. There was a crowd of rioting men behind Reddy and within this crowd of brawly men stood a lanky boy clad in a cowl. This body appeared beaten up. His dark cowl was tattered. He laid limply in the arms of two other vampires. Looking at the poor boy, something in my snapped. I wasn’t sure what it was, maybe it was jus like the night I met Spikes and Simon, but it whatever it was, I become angry.
I yanked the dagger off the door and threw it at one of the men holding the boy. The dagger dug itself into one of the men’s forearm. The vampire screamed in pain and released the boy. The rioting men instantly became silent as they faced me. The boy fell to the ground. All the eyes in the courtyard focused on me. I didn’t care.
Reddy approached me. He wore a mask of excitement and controlled angry.
“It seems you have a warrior’s spirit.”
I snarled. Reddy sneered.
“Fine. Let’s fight.” Reddy pointed to a rack of weapons to the left of him. “Choose your weapon and start.”
I rolled my eyes as I made my way to the weapons. Men beside the rack mocked and snarled at me. I ignored them as I studied the weapons; there were bows, arrows, swords, maces, whips, ninja stars— a whole array of weapons, but my hand shot up involuntarily and took the first weapon it touched. I glanced down. I held the hilt of a small dagger about the length of half of my forearm. The mean around me threw back their heads in laughter. I studied the dagger.
“Hm.” I twirled the blade in my hands. “The same length and weight…it’s good enough…”
“My Lord Nakage, are you ready?”
I gripped the hilt of the dagger tightly as I faced Reddy.
“Sure,” I answered, “but first tell me your name.”
“My name is Kyrian von Wolfgang.”
Reddy— Kyrian readied his sword.
“Ready to lose?”
I stood before him with the dagger.
“Like hell I’ll lose.”
Kyrian chuckled dryly. I smiled. Hell, I got myself into another fight. Let’s hope I survive this one.
Kyrian and I stood three feet away form each other as a referee came to our sides.
“The battle between Captain Kyrian and Lord Nakage shall begin! Whoever surrenders or lost consciousness is the loser! As for the rules, anything goes! Now, begin!”
Kyrian began to circle around me as I stayed in my fight stance. Men around gathered and chanted for Kyrian.
“C’mon you knave! Move!”
“Captain, just take ‘im out in one blow!”
“Destroy the weakling!”
I blocked out the annoying remarks and refocused on Kyrian. He now shuffled side to side, mocking me by throwing his sword from hand to hand. Arrogant bastard. Kyrian faked a forward attack; I didn’t budge. Finally, after multiple attempts to provoke me, Kyrian came at me with his sword. Silly attack. As the sword tip inched closer, I ducked. Kyrian stumbled, but soon regained his balance. I took the quick advantage and swung my leg and swept that arrogant bastard off his feet and onto his ass. I stood up as his men walloped in laughter. I looked down at the red-haired vampire.
“So, how’s the view from down there?”
Kyrian snarled and popped back up with sword in his hand. The instant his feet touched the dirt floor, he began to swing his sword at vampiric speed. I did my best to dodge and defend, but Kyrian was too quick. He’d managed to cut both of my forearms and of hands. I jumped back to dodge Kyrian’s final slash. He smirked.
”Are you running now?”
I shot the bastard the deadliest glare.
“Captain!” A solider from the crowd tossed Kyrian another sword. Fuck. Kyrian grinned widely as he swung the swords in the air.
“Oh, you better surrender now, Nakage,” declared Kyrian.
“Never.” I spat.
Kyrian smirked again and lunged at me. With his twin swords, he crossed them over to form giant scissors. He chopped the scissors forward, almost cutting off my head! I bent over backwards and back flipped to safety. Kyrian charged again. All I could do was dodge. He came once more, and again, I only dodged. All the while I was running for my life, I began to notice a pattern in Kyrian’s attacks: they came at me in a repeated rhythm.
An epiphany struck me. I stopped dodging and stood my ground with the dagger. Kyrian saw this as an opportunity to attack. He came, and I waited. At the perfect moment, I swung my dagger and knocked one of the swords out of Kyrian’s hands. I joyously celebrated by Spartan kicking Kyrian in the stomach, making him fall back on his ass, as Kyrian was still astounded of the event.
The courtyard of brawly soldiers grew silent, and tensed, perhaps, due to the near defeat of their beloved captain. Kyrian glared at me; his green eyes wild with murder. I stood strong. Then our battle of the blades began.
Despite being a girl, I’d managed to parry many of Kyrian’s sword thrusts and to attack, nicking much of Kyrian’s left arm. Take that, you arrogant bastard! My attacks only provoked Kyrian to fight. We shuffled, attacked, and battled, but we were evenly matched. Though, I had to say my skills with sword were dull, but enough to keep me alive. I have to thank Maurice for teaching me everything I knew.
“Oh, FUCK this!” Kyrian dropped his sword. It clanged loudly as it struck the ground. He then came to me and slammed his bony fist into my face. I collapsed onto one knee as I clutched my face. The soldiers around us burst into a new fervor of cheers. Kyrian spat on me. “How do you like the taste of dirt?”
I staggered to my feet and felt my lips. Blood. I coughed as more blood rimmed my lips. Kyrian hopped from one foot to the other like a boxer.
“Ho, ho! It’s bloodsport now!” He exclaimed. His men roared with cheers again.
I grimaced. Bastard. I wiped my lips of blood. I needed to clear my head. I took a breath, dropped the dagger, and held up my fists. Kyrian rose an eyebrow.
“Oh? You want more?”
I said nothing but continued to intensely glare at Kyrian. He smirked and disappeared. Shit! He’s moving at vampiric speed! My eyes darted back and forth. Where—will—he—be? As if I sensed it, I dove to my right and somersaulted to safety. There was a deafening boom. Once I stood, was a crater with Kyrian’s foot in the center. My eyes went wide. Holy shit! That’s—
Kyrian’s gaze met my gaze. Fear rose in my throat. I almost screamed, but I held the terrors within. Fuck! I need to beat this guy or I’m dead! Slowly, the red-haired vampire sauntered towards me. I stayed frozen stiff. Kyrian stood an inch away from me. He sneered.
“You scared you pathetic weakling?”
Kyrian reeled back his fist.
“I win, Nakage.”
The bastard of a vampire brought down his fist— the fear in me turned into instincts. I became aware of the courtyard, of Kyrian, of the threat Kyrian posed. My body moved. I caught Kyrian’s punch. It took two hands, but, nonetheless, I stopped his attack.
I felt Kyrian losing focus. It was my turn to act. I dropped my guard, letting rest of the Kyrian’s momentum to drive him forward towards me. With this, I slightly ducked and plunged my foot straight into Kyrian’s stomach, propelling him into a group of soldiers. Not a second later I was back in my fighting stance. Kyrian growled as he stood from the scattered men behind him. He shot a glare at me.
“You’re dead,” he snarled.
Kyrian charged in an animalistic manner as Alec did back at Antony’s castle. I jumped to safety. Fear rose in my chest again. Fucking hell! Kyrian charged again and this time, he clawed a piece of my left shoulder. I didn’t scream or shout, but it was more than a flesh wound. I tore off the jacket I wore and quickly tied it over my wound. I gazed at Kyrian who was ready to pounce.
“Enough of this.”
Confusion crossed both Kyrian’s and my faces. Who said th—? Suddenly, Vladimir— no, Elder Soleil— materialized in-between us. I held my breath.
“Kyrian, you and your men are making a ruckus. The Council frowns upon this,” said Soleil in a calm voice, “Have you anything better to do than to pick on others?”
Kyrian grimaced. “Whatever…” He turned the other way. “I was having fun…”
A moment later, Kyrian left the courtyard. Some men trailed after him; the rest of the soldiers who stayed gave me glares full of hatred and murder. I tried to ignore the eyes pouring at me as Elder Soleil turned to me; disgust was written all over his face. Soleil then grabbed a fist full of my shirt and pulled me close. The jacket that I tied to my wound slipped off my shoulder and fell to the ground.
“What the fuck are you trying to do?” Soleil growled in a hush.
“Hey, he started it!” I rebuked. Soleil fretted and released me. He gazed around to see anyone was in earshot and sighed.
“What are you doing here?” He asked, “Aren’t you supposed to be in Pendragon right now?”
“Well…” I inhaled deeply. “That was the plan until Lilth made me her Knight.”
Soleil stared at me incredulously. He shook his head.
“I’m not going to ask.” Soleil dropped his gaze to the ground. “Eh? Who’s that cretin on the floor?”
I followed the Elder’s line of view, and my eyes fell on the boy clad in the cowl.
“Oh hell!” I knelt beside the boy and shook the poor guy. Damn. He was thin. “Yo! Hey! Hey, you okay?”
The boy stirred and sat up. His hood fell to his shoulders as he rubbed his eyes. I looked at the boy; well, he wasn’t a boy. He appeared to be in his late teens or early twenties. He had an oval face that slightly squared off at his ears. He had thin lips, a straight nose, and eyes of auburn hidden behind half moon glasses. His dirty brown hair obscured his eyes. I cocked my head. He looked familiar…
“Dante, what happened to your shoulder?” asked Soleil.
The boy’s eyes met my eyes. His light brown eyes sparkled.
“Hm?” I slightly turned to Soleil.
“Your left shoulder?”
“Oh…” I glanced at my shoulder and frowned. The very top of my shoulder was shredded to pieces. I bled profusely, but I was okay. Fortunately, my Mark remained unscathed.
“That Mark…” The boy traced my Mark with his fingers. “You—”
Suddenly, the boy pulled up the sleeve on his cowl. I gasped. On his inner right forearm was the Shadow Killer Mark. I knew only one person who had the Mark in that exact spot. It could be! The tears welded in my eyes. He was supposed to be dead. I choked back the tears. I stared at the boy’s face and now understood why he looked so familiar to me. I tried to talk, but my voice didn’t come. The hot tears fell from my eyes. The boy cupped my face with his hands. That face, those eyes, and those glasses, it was him!
“Oh, Dante… You’re alive.”
I nodded and nodded. The tears didn’t stop.
“Oh… Dante… you’re…”
The boy shuddered and dropped his head. He too started to cry. I embraced him tightly. I held so tight that I didn’t want to left go. I sniffled.
“Simon… I knew you were alive.”
My arms held dearly onto the boy I first loved—the boy I still loved. Simon and I remained in each other’s embrace for a long while. He was alive. Simon was alive. My Simon was—
“I hate to interrupt such a precious moment, but Dante, who is the boy?”
I frowned. I had forgotten that Elder Soleil stood right beside us. Reluctantly, I slipped out of Simon’s arms and faced Soleil; annoyance was plastered on my face.
“This is Simon,” I gestured, “He was the Shadow Killer’s technical advisor and Spikes’s right hand man.”
Soleil glanced at Simon’s Mark and fell silent. I said nothing as well. I didn’t want to tell Simon that the man who stood in front of him was the man who ordered our deaths that night two years ago. Simon looked at Soleil; confusion appeared in Simon’s expression. I knew what he was thinking.
“Oh, no, no, no, NO,” I said, shaking my head. “This man is not Spikes. The only reason why he resembles Spikes is because he is Spikes’s uncle.”
Simon blinked as his mind slowly registered what I’d explained. Soleil sighed.
“Whatever.” Soleil glanced around. Many blood-red eyes glared at us. “We need to get out of here or these soldiers will tear you into pieces.”
Elder Soleil led Simon and I out the training yard through the ‘supposed’ front gate. Apparently, the doors I entered through were simply the side doors. Through the front gate, we briskly headed for a greenhouse—the size of a two-story home. Soleil opened the door to the back and shoved Simon and I in as he the door quietly shut behind him.
“You two stay here,” he rasped, “I have to attend a Council meeting. Hopefully, it won’t be long. Hardly anyone comes to this place, but if there is the off chance that someone comes, hide. Stay here until I come for you.”
Simon and I nodded. Then the Elder left, leaving Simon and I in atmosphere of happiness, confusion, and as well as a bunch of other emotions. We glanced at each other.
“How it is—”
We both fell silent. I knew that the both of us had so many questions for one another. The matter at hand was how much time did we have now? I looked longingly at Simon. I didn’t’ want to lose him again. No, no—
I looked at Simon who had a semi-somber expression on his face.
“What happened that night?” He asked.
That night? I perked. Oh… the night of the supposed end of the Shadow Killers. I inhaled deeply.
“Well…” I first told Simon of my account. Simon listened with his eyes closed. He nodded every so often to show that he listened. Then I told him the truth, or of what Maurice, Beat, and Spikes told me. I held back the tears as I continued with what was currently happening to me.
I didn’t mention to Simon that I fell in love with the vampire I was to serve, Alec, or the fact that my father was Crowned Prince to the vampire race, or the most dire fact: that I was a dhampir. I thought it was best to leave those out for now. So, I simply explained to Simon the basics: my family couldn’t repay a debt and now I was a vampire’s servant and being that servant has reunited me with loved ones, introduced new people to me, and caused me hell that others wouldn’t go through in a hundred of years. When I finished, Simon abruptly pulled me close.
“Oh Dante,” he murmured, “I’m sorry that I wasn’t there. Please, forgive me!”
I placed my chin on Simon’s shoulder. “What is done is done… Now tell me your side of the story.”
Simon slowly let go of me and turned away.
“What is it?” I asked, a bit worried that I somehow offended him.
“It’s nothing… It was that… that night was just a blur.” Simon explained.
Simon gazed at the forest of color before us. Thus, his tale started…
“That night two years ago, I was running late because I had a deal with Tripp.”
I blinked. Tripp. He was the 25-year-old who was the master of trades. He was the one person that the Shadow Killers went to for their gear; usually it had involved illegal gear only, which we hardly had.
“The deal was the best deal ever. A military based computer the size of a four by six note card for eight functioning I-Pods. Holy shit, that was a deal! Somehow, I managed to get the eight I-Pods, all 30-gigabytes, and ran my ass to Tripp. Twelve others showed up before me but Tripp denied all of them. So when it came to me, the bastard actually traded the I-Pods I had for the computer. It was a hell of a victory!
First, I started to delete all the information on the computer. It was useless to me. Then I saw the time. When I saw how late I was running, I started sprinting back to Base. On the way back, mind I used the short cuts and all, including the dark alley way a block away from Base, a man stopped me.”
Simon paused as I growled. I knew who the man was. It was that bastard Di-eh. Simon smiled weakly.
“Yeah, it was that guy you said…. Di-eh? Yeah, it was him. I knew at one that I was in danger. His eyes were glowing fucking red and for a grown man of his beauty to be wandering in the alleys was suspicious enough. So, I hid the computer, thinking that it was that he wanted, and attacked him.”
Simon sighed. He ran a hand through his tousled hair.
“After I charged the guy, I don’t remember much. I do remember the feeling of being suffocated. Well, one moment I was attacking the guy and the next moment I was laying of the floor of the Base, covered in my blood.”
Simon grew silent as his eyes fell on me. I tried to push back the memories of that night. Simon placed a comforting arm around my neck.
“All the while, the world is spinning. I knew that the Shadow Killers were in trouble and I did what I could. Crawling, I made my way to my laptop. There, I began transferring data from my laptop to my new computer in my pocket. The process took only three minutes, but hell, those were the longest three minutes of my life. Thereafter, taking the old laptop, I crawled to the side exit near the river. Once my body made it out, I tumbled onto the marshy banks of the river and threw my old laptop into the waters. I collapsed onto my back; breathing became hard; my vision dimmed; I knew I was dying.
I stayed on the riverbanks for God’s know how long. Then I heard the crackling of fire above me. I watched as my—our home was diminished to ashes. Frustrated with myself, I tried to get up, but I was far too weak from the lack of blood. My head swam in nausea… Some time later, a shadow appeared before me. It asked ‘do you want to live? And if so, what for?’ My throat was dry, but I answered, ‘Yes, for the ones I loved and couldn’t protect.’
With that, I faded into oblivion to only wake up in a small cottage. I searched for the person who saved me and found him sitting at the dining table. Hell, this guy was no ordinary person. He had blonde hair as if spun from gold with an angelic face, shoulders of his were broad, and he had a chest built like steel. My savior was not human as far as I could see.
‘So, you live the night,’ he proclaimed in a smooth voice. I shifted on the feather bed, and pain instantly shot up in my entire being. ‘Heh, you better not move that wound of yours still hasn’t closed.’
My savior stood up.
‘You hungry?’ He tossed me a cereal bar. I stared at it. ‘What?’
‘Uh… nothing.’ I tore open the package and ate the bar. I mean what kind of meal was that to give to an injured person. Surprisingly, it didn’t hurt to eat it, and it was delicious. After I finished, my savior faced me.
‘My name is K, nothing more and nothing less. My past is my past, so don’t ask questions. Do as I saw or you’ll die. My room is my room, not yours. You many go and leave. Bathroom is the first door on the left as well as your room. If you’re hungry, there’s food in the cupboards.’
I stared at K. Wow, that was way to lay down the rules, I thought. I glanced at my body; it was bandaged. Beside me was a small table where old bandages, gauze, and ointment lay. I glanced at K.
‘No need,’ K replied, ‘Just helping.’
K reached for a quiver and bow.
‘I’m gonna go hunting. I’ll be back at dinner. Just get some rest.’
With that K left, leaving me in a stupor. While K was gone, I decided to explore the small yet comfy cottage. Not to my surprise everything that K informed me about was in its rightful place. For the rest of the day, I stayed in bed and rested.
K came after sundown with a bag of rabbits, turtles, and foxes. I watched K’s back as he prepared dinner.
‘Here.’ K handed me a bowl of stew. ‘Eat up and regain your strength….uh…’
K raised his own bowl of stew as if to toast. ‘Simon.’ He took a sip. ‘So, if you don’t mind me asking, what were you doing at the river?’
I froze. The events of yesterday night flashed in my mind. I set down my bowl on my lap.
‘I’d lost my friends in a fire,’ I explained. I knew my story wasn’t all truth, but I’d rather had K only know the short details than the long ones. ‘I escaped by going to the river.’
K had an amused expression on his face.
‘That doesn’t explain the gaping hole in your stomach.’
I fretted. ‘That I can’t explain myself since I don’t remember.’
K remained amused. He drank the rest of his dinner, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. His gaze met mine.
‘So, where are we?’ I asked.
‘In the mountain forest between Millefoire and Belia.’
‘Millefoire and Belia?’ I stared in confusion at K. My confusion didn’t faze him for a few moments.
‘Oh yeah,’ he said as a sudden realization.
‘Oh yeah what?’
‘You’re human,’ K put simply.
‘What’s that supposed to mean?’ I took his comment as an offense. ‘Are you not human?’
My eyes went wide. K looked at me and shrugged his shoulders.
‘I’m not human. I’m a vampire.’”
Simon sharply inhaled before continuing his tale.
“’What?’ I stared at K in disbelief. ‘You’re kidding.’
‘No, I’m not,’ K said, ‘If you don’t believe me, then don’t.’
‘I—’ The words sputtered as the disbelief became reality. I stared at K, studying him: his perfect body, angelic face, and his alluring aura. Holy shit— ‘…You…are…’
K smiled, his fangs protruding his lips.
‘Holy shit!’ I jumped.
K chuckled. ‘Well, now that’s settled. Where are you from?’
‘Uh…’ My mind tried to respond, but it was still processing the fact that I sat in the house of a vampire. ‘Uh, here?’
‘Here in Belia?’
‘What is the hell is Belia?’ Heh, my curious side got the better of me. ‘What’s Millefoire?’
K sighed. From his back pocket, he produced a wrinkled parcel, which turned out to be a map. He spread the map on my lap. The map had to be old since it was yellowed and dog-eared. Much of the link on it was faded. It was an old and simple map, but it was a map no less. I glanced at K.
‘This is where we are.’ K pointed to a ranger of mountains and forests. ‘This is Belia.’ K’s finger traveled north and landed on a white space. ‘This is the snowy kingdom of Millefoire.’
‘There’s a snow kingdom near here?’
‘Yes, well it’s actually a day and a half travel by train, but you’ll be surprised. Just over the mountains, the temperature drops and it starts snowing. Now.’ K’s finger retraced its path and fell on a gray spot. ‘This is Karnack, or human territory. You’re home, correct?’
I nodded. ‘I think so.’
‘Then east of Karnack and over the mountains is Rowena. Past Rowena is Arcadia. Further northwest is Eleasia and the ruins of Istanbul. If you keep going northwest, you’re back in Millefoire.’
I blinked, trying to retain and understand what K had said.
‘So, it’s a circle of these…’
‘Kingdoms in a sense,’ continued K, ‘Karnack and Arcadia belong to humans. While Millefoire, Eleasia, and Rowena belong to vampires.’
‘What about Belia and Istanbul?’
‘Istanbul used to be human territory. Vampires took over it about five years or so. As for Belia, it’s a beautiful country land that has fortunately avoided the freed hands of both humans and vampires.’
I glanced up at K.
‘Why are you telling me this?’
‘Honestly, I don’t know. Call if whatever you like, but I believe it’s the effects of solitude and immortality.’
A silence befell us.
‘So what’s it like?’
‘What’s it like being a vampire?’
K thought for a moment.
I knew K was being serious, but I couldn’t help but smile.”
“Despite being a vampire, K hunted everyday. He said it kept hime same through his stay at Belia. He was right. Being holed up and a long drove a person insane. Less than two days, I began scouting the area around the cottage. Just as K had said, it was a mountainous forests and I saw nothing but green.”
“I think being in that type of area ignited my interest in herbs and medicine K had his hunting. I started my herb collection. Many herbs around the cottage were very beneficial towards a person’s health. Some herbs were poisonous. Some herbs cured itches, aches, and pains.”
“’Well, look at you,’ K said to me one day. K had come to fetch me for dinner. At the time, I was in the forest searching for herbs that healed cuts. It was always like this: I went herb picking and K came to me whenever it was dinnertime. It was like that for the six months I stayed with K.
I smirked as I turned from my picking.
‘Yea, yea, mock me, but watch. One of these days you’ll be in danger or dying and only my herbs will save you.’
I smiled. That day never came. Two days later, K disappeared. I searched for him, but it was futile. It was as it we never met…”
Simon fell silent.
“What happened to K, I don’t know…” Simon gazed at me with his deep eyes. He brushed my hair out of my face. He then glanced at my cut-up arms. Simon smiled. “But I grew sick of staying along in that cottage. So I decided to travel to town of Belia.”
Simon tucked her arm in his cowl and produced a small of a green lotion. He opened the bottle and began applying the lotion to my arms.
“I gathered what I could and took it to town where I started my medical practice.”
Simon capped and replaced the bottled in his cowl. He then began bandaging my arms.
“I stayed at Belia for the next five months. Thereafter, I traveled from Belia to a small portion of Karnack to Rowena. From Rowena, I went to a small village beside Arcadia. Then I went to Eleasia I went, though the stay wasn’t as welcoming as the others weren’t. Finally, I went to Millefoire where the Leader of the King’s Guard hired me as a temporary doctor for the Guard. Apparently, my reputation had preceded me when I was in Eleasia. And I’ve in Millefoire for three months now… Dante?”
Tears formed in my eyes. Simon gripped my shoulders. A worried expression appeared on his face.
“Dante, what’s wrong?”
“Yes,” I replied with a cracked voice. I wiped away the tears. “Yeah… I’m just…. So happy…”
I choked back the tears.
“Oh, Dante…” Simon embraced me in a tight hug. I placed my arms around his neck. The warmth from his body pervaded to mine. I sighed. I want to be his arms forever. A burst of tepid air blew on our faces. “Dante…”
“Promise me you won’t leave my side.”
I looked up at Simon. His auburn eyes burned with a sweet passion. I smiled.
Simon abruptly pushed me away.
Simon had a grave stricken face.
“Go hide!” He muttered.
Just when I was about to ask why, I heard the distance footsteps approaching—fast.
“Shit!” cursed Simon. We searched around us, but we saw nothing but bountiful flowers ranging in hues of gold to sapphire, the groves that wound in spirals and the earthly soil that spurn these beautiful plants. “Shit!” There was nowhere to hide. The footsteps were just an inch away. “Hurry get on your knee and bow your head!”
I did, and at the moment an obnoxious voice ranging in the greenhouse.
“Oh, what a surprise! Who do we have here?”
I almost gagged. Lilth. I heard her step closer.
“You with the bandages, rise.”
I did, ever so slowly. Lilth came up to me. Our noses were an inch away. She wore a pink dress… I gagged and tried to cough it off, but I utterly failed. Lilth scrunched up her face.
“Ew…” She then stared at me and stared into my eyes. I tried to look down, but Lilth would follow my line of vision. “Hm…. Are you him?”
“Don’t ‘what’ me. Are you him— the Mask Marauder?”
“Uh…” I hesitated. If answered yes, what would happen? And if I said no? Break her heart? I glanced at Lilth. “I am…”
Lilth leaned in closer. For an ‘eight’ years old, she had some cleavage, and she was close to pressing her cleavage against me.
Lilth turned around. Standing behind her was the elderly butler. The butler bowed low.
“Your Highness, I must apologize,” proclaimed the butler, “All of your Knights have arrived.”
Lilth made a face. She turned to me.
“Well, I guess we’ll wait till later to find out,” she said, “Right now, I need to greet my Knights… hopefully that includes you.” Lilth’s eyes fell on Simon. “And who is this knave?”
I stood in front of Simon protectively, yet tried to appear as if I was presenting him.
“This is Simon, my servant. Please, I hope you don’t mind that I’ve brought him here. I could not leave him home.” I faked a smile. “He is lost without me.”
“Home?” Lilth repeated. She twiddled with a strand of her hair. “Where is your home?”
My fake smile widened. “Karnack.”
Lilth made another face. “Ew. You live in that human infested rat hole?”
My smile twitched.
“Humans are rather interesting beings,” I said, “I enjoy their company.”
Lilth scoffed. “Whatever floats your boat.”
I blinked. Well, that’s something you don’t hear from a princess. As if reading my mind, Lilth regained her composure.
“Well,” she stated with a sharp inhale, “It is time we leave for my room.”
The Princess turned to leave.
“Well come follow me.”
Lilth rounded the corner as I faced Simon. We both had the same expression and probably thought the same thing: Lilth was downright bitch.
Hell… It was the elderly butler.
“Please come this way.”
I faced Simon.
“Do we have any choice?” I asked.
Simon shrugged. “I guess not, and by the way, what was with ‘he is lost with out me?’”
I chuckled. “Only excuse that came to my mind.”
Simon rolled his eyes. “Whatever.”
I stared at Simon’s smile. I frowned, as the world began to spin. I staggered a few steps before collapsing onto my knees. Simon rushed to my side.
I doubled over. The world spun faster and faster.
I pressed my temples little did that helped. I toppled over in less of a second and the world grew black.
“Are you sure he’ll be all right?”
“I assure you, Your Highness.”
“What happened to him?”
“Well, he— Oh look, he’s waking up.”
I stirred. Then I remembered Simon and jolted up with my eyes probably popping out of my head. Both Lilth and Simon jumped back. Apparently, the two hovered over me as I rested. I put a hand on my head.
“W-what happened?” I asked.
“You fainted, My Lord,” explained Simon. I grimaced. I wish he wouldn’t call me ‘Lord’. Simon read my expression and smiled weakly. “We— Lilth had you brought to the room provided by her and I immediately began checking for any anomalies. “
I raised an amused brow.
“And what did you find?”
Simon twitched, but answered me.
“My Lord, for some reason, your body is lacking blood. With the lack of blood, you couldn’t function and fainted.”
“Oh…” My gaze dropped to my hands… my extremely pale hands. I fainted because of the lack of blood. My hands turned into hard fists. “I see…”
I glanced up, and my eyes met Lilth. She actually had a worried expression on her face.
“Is that what you need? Blood?” She pleaded in a slightly panicked voice. “If you do, I could go and get some,”
“That will be a pleasure,” I murmured, “Please do.”
Lilth jumped in her spot.
“Of course!” She exclaimed. She then disappeared into a corridor. I sighed. Finally, she was gone. I gazed about me. I was in a room, the size of Alec’s room back at the Estate, with furnishings from the 17th century along with French paintings. It was an old classy room I would have appreciated, but I was inexplicably tired. I glanced at Simon. Just like Lilth, he also wore a worried expression.
“Dante…” Simon sat on the silk covers of the bed. “Tell me, are you—”
“Here you go!”
Simon instantly stood up and bowed as Lilth reentered with a bowl her hand. The strong scent from the blood in the bowl flowed through my nose in a matter of seconds. I covered my mouth to stop the bile reaching my throat. Lilth set the bowl on the lap as she sat beside me.
“Here.” She offered the bowl to me. I took it hesitantly. I stared at the red liquid brimming the bowl. Hell, it was a lot of blood. “Well, drink up. This high class blood, and it is fresh too.”
My eyes went wide for a moment. I would have thrown the bowl on the floor just for the mere fact that it was human and ‘fresh’. But the vampire side of me ached for the blood as I held it in my hands. I swallowed hard and gripped the bowl very tightly. I gave Lilth a small smile.
Still conflicting myself, I brought the bowl to my lips. The scent of blood became sweet and irresistible. I tried to hold my breath as I let the blood enter my mouth. I felt disgusted as the tepid, thick liquid swished in my mouth and down my throat. I took only two sips before I grew nauseated. I groaned and gave the bowl back to Lilth.
I put my hands up to Lilth from approaching me.
“I think… I’m going to hurl…”
The bile reached my throat. I lurched forward. Lilth squeaked in alarm. Simon pushed her aside and rubbed my back, but hell the bile was going to spew. Simon turned to Lilth.
“Your Highness, please me a basin.”
Lilth nodded, disappeared in the corridor, and returned with the basin. Simon took it from her.
“Thank you, now please go to the sickbay in the West Tower and find a blue box. In there is a bottle labeled ‘pain easer’. Please, bring that bottle to me as soon as possible.”
Lilth nodded and disappeared again. Simon returned to me as he held the basin in front of me. The moment I saw the basin. I hurled. It was then I realized that I threw up the blood I drank. I sighed in content. At least, it was out of my system. I glanced at Simon. He didn’t look too happy. Simon took the basin and placed it on the floor.
“Dante.” He looked straight at me; his auburn eyes pierced my soul. “Are you a dhampir?”
My heart stopped. Shit. I opened my mouth to explain, but couldn’t. Looking at Simon, all I could say was,
Simon gave me a warm smiled and patted my head.
“No need,” he replied, “I was just curious.”
“How did you figure it out?” I asked.
“I’ve seen many dhampirs in Belia,” Simon explained, “Dhampirs are prone to eat red meat, to faint, and to have keener senses around the time of their Transformation…. Wait, Dante, are you Transforming?”
I bit the insides of my cheeks.
Simon stood up. Disbelief was written all over his face.
“Holy hell…” Simon thought for a moment. “That’s right your birthday is December 12th, eleven days from now.”
My grimaced deepened. Then I realized something.
Simon slightly jumped. “What?”
“Your birthday is in two days!”
Simon chuckled softly as he sat back down.
“I haven’t celebrated my birthday since…” Simon fell silent and his gaze dropped. I reached for his hand and squeezed it.
“Happy birthday,” I said, “For now and then.”
Simon smiled. He then kissed my forehead, which just sent heat flaring in my cheeks.
We held each other’s hands. The moment couldn’t be any perfect than this. It was just Simon and I, finally together. We were both alive and happy. Nothing could ruin this moment. Nothing but the shrill screams of Lilth.
Simon and I bolted from the bedroom into the corridor. Lilth screamed again. Simon and I ran faster. We raced towards the West Tower, which Simon knew exactly where it was. He stopped at a white door. It must have been the sickbay. We entered to fine Lilth sprawled on the floor.
“Lilth!” I rushed to her side. She appeared to be fine despite being unconscious. Simon searched around for any dangers. When he deemed the dangers gone, he came to Lilth’s side.
I glanced around the sickbay room. A few tables and cots were flipped on its sides, but otherwise nothing else seemed to be out of its place. My attention refocused on Lilth. She was still unconscious, so I shook her.
“Lilth. Your Highness, please wake up. Lilth.”
Lilth groaned. She then opened her eyes to only grab my shirt and yelp in fear.
“It’s all right, whatever was here is gone,” I cooed.
Lilth shook her head. Her eyes were full of fear.
“They’re not gone. They’re not gone,” she murmured. Her grip on my shirt tightened. “They’re not gone. They’re not gone. They’re not…”
“Dante, look at this.”
I glanced up. Simon held a piece of rolled parcel. He unrolled it. I began to read the message. As I did, the feelings I once felt at Arcadia returned. The fear. The pain. The anger. Everything. The message read:
Whoever finds this message shall relay to the King that this is a verbal warning. We have stationed ourselves around Millefoire’s fortress. There is no way any being can escape without a battle. If the King does not answer our call, we will wage war on the Millefoire kingdom. You have three days, vampires. Judgment day is here.
Si vis pacem, para bellum.
My jaw hardened. A verbal warning… si vis pacem, para bellum….
“Dante.” It was Simon. “What does this all mean?”
I swallowed hard.
“Si vis pacem, para bellum…. It is Latin…. Latin for ‘if you wish peace, prepare for war.’”
Simon’s eyes grew wide. I stared at him.
“Simon, the Reapers are here.”
Lilth’s condition didn’t get better. Simon and I thought if we’d brought Lilth back to her room, she would be fine, but hell that was a bad idea. We were running back hoping Lilth wouldn’t faint. Simon carried her while I led him through the halls of the Palace, and hell, it was difficult to retrace our steps back. In the end, we found Lilth’s room because the old butler stood outside of her door. The butler bowed.
“No time for that!” I exclaimed. I used the doorframe to rest. “Simon, get Lilth on her bed, oh shit! She’s unconscious!”
“My Lord?” The butler’s old eyes went wide as he witnessed Simon carrying the ill Lilth. Instantly, the old butler turned mother hawk eyed. “What has happened to the Princess?”
“Not—so— sure,” I panted. I took out the rolled parcel from my pocket. I handed to the butler. “Take this— to the King. Immediately!”
The butler stared at the parcel. He then nodded.
“Yes, My Lord.”
With that, the old butler vanished, literally into thin smoke. I raced after Simon to only to be stopped in the middle of Lilth’s pink bedroom. Apparently, the rest of her Knights had arrived. All of them were alarmed at the sight of Lilth in the arms of a human. Shit. Two vampires near Simon made a move towards him.
In a flash, I stood in front of Simon, held out my arms in a protective manner, and growled at the two vampires and any others who tried to approach him.
“What is the meaning of this?” growled a blonde-haired vampire.
I intensified my growl. I gazed over the nine other Knights. If I had to describe each one, I could go one. To keep it short, each Knight wore a different color. The blonde vampire before us wore a regal outfit of green. It matched his emerald eyes. The blonde snarled. I slightly recoiled into Simon.
“What is the meaning of this?” the vampire repeated.
“Damn it…” I whispered under my breath. “Hell Spikes, where the hell are you?”
The Knights closed in on us. I held up my hand.
“Do you not care for the welfare of the Princess?” I demanded in a deep voice. “She has collapsed and needs immediate medical attention, and as of right now, my human servant is the only one who can cure her ailments. Now, please, make way.”
The blond vampire glared at me. Our eyes battled, determining whose eyes burned with the stronger fortitude. After a few silent and tensed seconds, the blonde let out a held breath and made way for us. Ha, I actually won!
“Dante, carry her while I get my tools ready.”
Simon handed Lilth over to me as he went to retrieve a table. Despite how much I wanted to decline his offer, I took the poor girl. Lilth trembled and was a pale as a ghost; well, she was paler than usual. Damn… seeing her like this reminded me that she was only ‘eight’. She looked up at me. Her eyes were as wide as saucers and bleary with tears. She clung onto me as if her dear life depended on it.
“Dante.” Simon stood behind me with the table in on hand and a bowl of water in the other. “Place her on the bed.”
I did. Lilth struggled since she didn’t want to be let down. I cooed her and assured her that I wouldn’t leave her side. Simon set up his little medical station beside the bed as Lilth laid back, still trembling. The blonde vampire came up to us.
“You haven’t answered my question,” he proclaimed.
I scoffed. I turned to Simon.
“Please, take care of her,” I muttered. He nodded as I turned to face the Knights. I walked to the center of the room. The Knights formed a circle around me. “Well…” I cleared my throat. “It seems the Reapers may have infiltrated the Palace.”
Some of the Knights before me gasped. Some of the Knights snarled with their faces scrunching up. My eyes darted everywhere.
“How are you sure?” asked a navy-clad vampire with dark hair. “Are you sure the Reapers are here?”
“They left a message, which I’d given to the butler,” I explained, “Even if they didn’t sign it, I know it is the Reapers. The King—” I paused as the word ‘king’ got stuck in my throat. “The King needs to be informed immediately since the Reapers have only given us a three day grace period for us to decide whether if we want to go with them.”
A ripple of hisses and snarls resonated in the room. The blonde vampire took a step forward.
“Was there anything else?”
“ They said si vis pacem, para bellum,” I replied.
The blonde vampire snarled. “Those bastards… The Reapers are a bunch of hypocrites, spouting preaches of peace and nonviolence.”
“That can’t be, Reapers usually don’t attack unless having a legitimate reason for the attack,” rebuked a vampire in a red formal wear. “In the past—”
“That’s the past!” hissed the vampire in navy, “Humans are always humans no matter how much time has passed. Those bastards always play their games of war. Well, if they want war, let’s give them war!”
Some of the Knights erupted in cheers while a few remained skeptical and tensed. I narrowed my eyes.
“‘No one thinks of how much blood it costs,’” I said softly. The Knights fell silent as they focused on me. “No one thinks of how much pain it causes. No one thinks of the consequences.”
“What’s your point?” The navy-clad vampire approached me. He gripped a fist full of my shirt. “That we should let the humans have their the way with us? That we should be idle as those monsters attack us? I think not. I’ll destroy every last one of them.”
“You are missing my point,” I murmured as I freed myself from the vampire. “You focus your anger on the entire population of humans without considering the fact that your anger should be directed to a single group of humans and that is the Reapers.”
The navy-clad vampire took a step back, realizing his mistake.
“’Greed, envy, and pride set fire in the hearts of all,’” I continued, “Vampires are just like humans and vice versa. We both feel greed, anger, and pain. But if we let those abstracts cloud our minds, then we’re screwed. Right now, you’re angry as many of us here, but venting your rage on the whole population of humans is stupid.”
“What—” The vampire took a step forward.
“See that’s what I mean.” I took a step back. “If your emotions drive you, you’ll surely make a mistake. For example, by placing your anger on the entire population of humans, you’ve forgotten the numerous of innocent human lives. If you ‘destroy’ these innocent humans as you intend to, you are nothing but a monster in the eyes of humans. Now, it can be the same if it was the humans destroying vampires. And it is imperative that we vampires maintain leveled heads so we keep the number of fatalities to a minimum. Therefore, we should just focus on the Reapers; they’re the real threat.”
The Knights stared at me as if I just stated the Divine Comedy from memory. Hell, I didn’t know what I was saying. The words abruptly flowed out of me, and I think I just saved a big portion of the human race. With a sigh, I made my way back to Lilth’s side. The blonde vampire grabbed my arm.
“You sure know a lot for someone as young as you. Just who are you? Are you a military tactical advisor?”
I pulled my arm from him.
“That is for me to know, and for you to figure out.”
The blonde smiled widely.
“So, it seems the games have gotten interesting.”
I thought nothing of the vampire’s words, but hell, I wish I did.
There wasn’t much Simon could do for Lilth. All he could do was dab her forehead from time to time with a warm cloth. She appeared no better than before. She still looked pale. She still sweated in beads. She still trembled. After fifteen minutes, the butler returned alongside with Lilth’s mother, father, and brother. Simon and I made way for the family. The Knights had long disappeared; they all returned home to prepare for the worst.
Lilth’s mother, Lucinda, took her daughter’s hand and held it close to her bosom. Lilth’s father, Jean Jacques, stood by his daughter’s side, stroking her hair. Lilth’s brother, Seth, stood quietly against the wall.
“My dear angel, please don’t worry, we’re here,” cooed Lucinda, “We are here for you.”
Lilth cringed in pain. Her mother burrowed her brow. Watching her child in pain was painful itself. My throat grew dry. I wondered would my parents be like this if they saw me in pain. I wondered what their reactions would be for my life in the past week or so. I gritted my teeth.
“Please…” I felt a cold hand on my arm. I snapped from my thoughts to see it was my aunt—Lucinda’s hand. “Is there anything you can do…?”
I gazed at her dark eyes, the dark eyes I had forgotten in the past two years. Lucinda had the same eyes as Dad. I cleared my throat.
“I’m sorry, I cannot.”
Lucinda’s hand dropped. She was lost her shred of hope. I kept myself from saying ‘everything is going to be alright’. I knew it in hell with the Reapers at Millefoire’s threshold that there was a slim chance of survival. For the rest of the day and into the evening, Simon and I stayed in Lilth’s room along with Lucinda and Seth as Jean Jacques attended a meeting about the Reapers. I felt the stares from Lucinda as I sat on a divan across from Simon. We only stayed because Lucinda asked too; otherwise, Simon and I would have left the first second we could. Around nine, there was a knock at the door. A servant girl entered and bowed.
“Forgive Milord and Milady, you have a visitor.”
“Please, send them in,” replied Lucinda.
The girl curtsied. “Right away, Milord.”
The servant girl disappeared and returned.
“Presenting Viceroy Antony Marcus.”
Now, it was difficult to keep myself from looking disgusted or angered as Cassian’s brother walked in. He wore the traditional militant uniform of navy. He strode to Lucinda, chest out and chin high. He completely ignored me. Lucinda stood up and embraced her cousin.
“Dear Antony, it’s been so long. I hope your brother is doing better,” Lucinda said. Her voice was so soft and quiet.
Antony bowed his head. “Yes he is, but I wish I can say the same for Lilth.”
Lucinda cast a hopeful but worried glanced at Lilth.
“Yes, I hope she can make a quick and full recovery…. Antony…”
“Is there Reapers around Millefoire?“
Antony coughed. He glanced at me. His lips twitched before he answered, “Yes, my dear cousin. The humans are around the wall. They do not make a move, but I felt their murderous intentions as I entered.”
Lucinda shuddered as she fell in her place beside Lilth.
“What are we going to do?”
Antony placed an assuring hand on Lucinda’s shoulder.
“Jean and I will figure something out. After all, we saved Rowena in the past.”
Lucinda gave a hopeful smile to Antony.
“…. Mommy… Mommy….”
Answering to her call, Lucinda turned to Lilth and began soothing her to sleep. Antony cleared his throat and bowed. He then turned and headed for the exit. He stopped before the door and cast a death glare at me. Hell, it was a signal for me to leave after him. Antony left the room. A moment later, I stood up and trailed after him. I gestured Simon to follow.
We met Antony in the second corridor from Lilth’s room. Antony didn’t look too happy to see me. He slammed his fist against the wall.
“Do I even want to know why the fuck you are here?” He snapped.
I jumped. I didn’t expect someone of his class level to use profanity. I tried to be strong as I answered Antony.
“I became one of Lilth’s Knights this morning,” I said.
Antony’s face scrunched into a snarl. His eyes met fell on Simon.
“Who’s this human?” I fretted. Again, I understood what Antony’d said, but his words with partially obscured by the hiss of whatever language he spoke.
“This is Simon,” I put simply, “An old friend. So…”
My voice trailed off, and by the expression of hatred and anger, Antony knew that I wanted to talk about the Reapers.
“Yes, as we speak, the King and the Leader of the Reapers are negotiating,” explained Antony, “The Generals, Viceroys, King’s Guard, and Council are in the Council’s meeting room, discussing the possible tactics to avoid war.”
“Why aren’t you there?” I blurted.
For a second or it was an illusion, I saw Antony’s face softened. He then sneered.
“What kind of brother would I be if my little brother wasn’t my first priority?”
I smiled weakly. “Oh… How is Cassian?”
Suddenly, the air became suffocating. I doubled over.
“Dante!” Simon came to my side. It seems Simon didn’t feel the pressure. Was someone coming? I sure knew Antony felt it because he had a pained expression on his face. He sniffed the air, and his ocher eyes went wide.
“Get down!” He barked.
“What?” I was confused. “What—”
“Get down on one knee or you’ll die!”
I did what Antony said at once. He followed suit.
“Human, pretend to grovel!”
“Just do it!” Antony ordered in a hush.
Simon fell prostrate. I glanced at Antony who held his head down.
“Antony, what is—”
He hushed me. Just when I was going to give him a piece of my mind, a soft murmur of voices and footsteps entered my ears. Immediately, I bowed my head. Antony inched closer and closer to me as the voices and footsteps grew louder. Antony squeezed my arm.
“Whatever you do, do not, I repeat, NOT, leave my side.”
I nodded to the best of my ability. Finally, the voices and footsteps were just at the end of the corridor. A strident laughter resonated as the footsteps halted before us.
“Oh, Your Majesty is an excellent host!”
I gasped. Hell had frozen over. It was that bastard. It took all of my self-control and Antony to hold me back from attacking Stephen. He was right there! He was right in front of me, and I could nothing! The King of vampires was also there. If I were to attack Stephen, my actions would ignite not only a war but also my grandfather’s lust for me. I gritted my teeth. All I could do was sit back and listen. I slightly gazed up, making sure my hair obscured my face. There were twelve pairs of shoes in front of us, meaning there were six bodies other than us in the room. Four of the six men wore brown shoes while the other two wore white and black. The pair of white, polished shoes faced us.
“My, my, who are these gentlemen?” Stephen asked in a charming tone.
Someone cleared his throat.
“I believe that is the Viceroy Antony Marcus of Eleasia,” proclaimed a deep and rich voice. He probably was the man with the profoundly black shoes. This man with the deep and rice voice was the King of Vampires. “My nephew as well… How is your brother, Viceroy Antony?”
Antony slightly bowed his head before answering.
“He is fine, My Lord.”
“And Lilth?” continued the King.
“She is still in the throes of pain.”
“Again, Your Majesty, I apologize for the actions of my rather impatient men,” Stephen said. His fake words pierced me like a knife. I couldn’t take it anymore. “If there is anything I could do for the Princess’s health, then I would gladly do so.”
That lying bastard! There was a pause.
“Hm. The King paused again. “Two nights and three nights from now is the Annual Winter Concert. It is a single concert where musicians showcase their talent. If you, or any of your men, would like to attend, please so kindly contact me and I will gladly allow you to attend.”
“Oh, that sounds interesting indeed.”
“But I implore you that you leave your weapons at the Gates.”
“…But of course.” Stephen fell silent. His feet moved and it appeared that he bowed. “A concert in two days and three nights? I would love to attend… Well, it is growing late, Your Majesty. I am sorry that our meeting did not last long.”
The King remained silent. Stephen and two brown-shoed men took a step back.
“Until the concert then.”
With that, Stephen and whoever were with him left. I breathed in shallow breaths. The King faced us.
“Yes, My Lord?”
“Beware of that human.”
“Yes, My Lord.”
The King inhaled sharply and turned to the men behind him.
“Charon, see to that that the preparations for the concert are flawless.”
One pair of brown shoes clinked together. “Yes, My Lord.”
These pair of shoes then left the corridor.
“Styx, please accompany to the Princess’s room.”
My heart stopped. Styx? It couldn’t be…
The other pair of shoes clinked together. “Yes, My Lord.”
A moment later, the King and the other man left. Once their footsteps disappeared, Antony let out a relieved sigh.
“That was a close one,” he said.
Simon lifted up his head.
“Holy shit, was that who I think it was?” he asked.
“That, was the King and…”
“Stephen.” I finished in a quiet voice.
“Stephen… that bastard… who killed….”
I began tremble, not out of fear, but out of frustration and my inability to do anything, now and then. I punched the ground as the tears flowed from my eyes. Again, I was a sitting duck. I let the opportunity slipped as I watched that bastard walk away. I was furious at myself. I slammed the floor again. I was just damn furious.
Antony led us back to the greenhouse, which Elder Soleil first left Simon and I. He then left to attend the meeting. By this point, I calmed down, but I was still angry with myself because I did nothing. Simon told me to not get worked up, but hell, I couldn’t help it.
“Dante, it’s not your fault,” Simon said for the millionth time. “That kid…”
“Eniar’s death wasn’t your fault.” I glanced up at Simon. “Please, stop blaming yourself. I know how it feels to be useless and incapable of myself.”
I turned around at the sound of my name. I smiled when I saw Spikes heading my way.
“Please, I’m so sorry! You gotta believe me.” Spikes’s face was ridiculously funny. “My uncle, damn him despite the love I have for him, once again used me as a double for the Council meeting again. I saw you battle with Kyrian from the roof of the stable. When you left, I was on my way to follow you when I bumped into my uncle. He quickly pushed me into a room, which I later found out was the Council Meeting room. I’d managed to slip out when General Jacques entered. God, those old people talk nothing but—”
Spikes looked up. He finally saw Simon. Spikes’s jaw dropped.
“It-it c-can’t be.”
Simon smiled. Spikes took a step backwards.
“Holy, is it really you?”
Simon opened his arms. “It’s me, Spikes, the one and only Simon.”
A goofy smile appeared on Spikes’s face as he raced over to Simon. Spikes took Simon in his arms and swung him about.
“Oh my god, it’s really you! You’re alive! You’re alive!”
I began to laugh as I watched the ridiculous scene unfold before me. After four revolutions, Spikes set the dizzy Simon on his feet. The two had the stupidest but happiest smiles on their faces.
“I-I am serious lost for words,” Spikes panted.
“Me too,” agreed Simon.
Then Spikes appeared to have an epiphany. He took both Simon’s and my hand.
“Let’s go. Ninja and Beat should also be sharing this moment with us.”
Simon appeared as if he was going to cry.
“Ninja and Beat are alive too?” He asked.
I nodded. “And they’re waiting for us, aren’t they?”
Spikes eagerly nodded.
“Then what are we waiting for?” Simon grinned. “Let’s go.”
Getting back to Pendragon was more difficult than expected. Spikes, Simon, and I had to leave without being spotted. If we were, we had so little excuses to make up. First, Simon had to make up an excuse to leave his command as the temporary doctor for the King’s Guard. We had to find the Leader of the Guard, or Kyrian. Unfortunately, we found Kyrian, but he surprisingly consented to Simon’s absence rather quickly. The next part was finding the exit of the Palace. We couldn’t exit the front door. Lilth’s room was apparently near there, so I feared meeting up with the King… or that man named Styx again.
Honestly, I just wanted to get out of the Palace. It was so suffocating being in that building full of lavishing luxuries. It made me slightly sick. The fact that I almost blown my cover and that I made contact with Styx doesn’t settle both my mind and stomach all too well. After many attempts, we found a side exit that led to a direct path to Pendragon.
We raced each other to Pendragon and then to Spikes’s room. It was probably the most exhilarating thing I’ve done in two years. Spikes was the first to burst into his room, followed by Simon and me.
“HELL!” Beat jumped from his place on the divan.
“Where’s the fire?” Maurice asked as he entered from the other room.
Spikes didn’t have to explain as Beat and Maurice’s eyes fell on Simon. Maurice’s eyes grew wide as Beat jumped from the divan towards Simon. No explanations were needed for this moment. They too had recognized who it was at first glance.
“SIMON! YOU’RE ALIVE!“ Beat landed right in front of Simon and hugged him, picking Simon off his feet. “SIMON, YOU’RE ALIVE!”
“Holy hell…” Maurice came to Simon’s side once Beat set him down. “Is it really you?”
“Of course Ninja, who else would know you like to sing pop music on the roof?”
Maurice’s face went red.
“Simon, damn it!” Maurice exclaimed in a high pitch voice. Though he was embarrassed, Ninja was happy like the rest of us.
“God, what the hell is all this ruckus?”
Alec wiped his hands as he entered the antechamber. He looked at the scene before him and blinked. I peered over Spikes’s shoulder.
“Dante? What are you—”
Alec stopped when he saw Simon, clobbered by Beat and Maurice. A horrified expression appeared on his face.
“Alec?” I went to him. “What’s the matter?”
He didn’t answer nor did his expression change. He looked delusional.
“It-it can’t be,” he muttered.
He pointed at Simon.