“No matter what, you can’t trust vampires. Stay far away from them.”
~ Alecx Harris
I began to feel defeated after seven long minutes. No matter how I tried, I couldn’t prove Zach wrong; I couldn’t lay a single finger on him. I bounced off a wall to surprise him, but even so, he was faster. He didn’t even need to predict my movements; all he had to do was react.
“You’re getting faster. Good work. Three minutes left,” Zach announced. I paused our superspeed tagging and stood in the center of the room. I was exhausted. He too slowed down in the corner of the room, but he didn’t stop moving his feet.
“Too tired?” he asked, making my blood boil.
I wiped my brow and gritted, “Not even a little.”
The moment I pushed off my feet, Zach spun away as if driving past someone in a basketball match.
“Surprise attacks are encouraged,” he commented, which only furthered my frustration. He was treating me as if teaching a newborn baby how to crawl.
I desperately reached out, hoping even to graze his shoulder, but to no avail. I was building up quite a sweat, and he was barely trying.
Gosh, darn it! I wish I could go faster! Faster than him. Even for just a minute!
If I knew this would happen later in life, I would’ve taken the game tag more seriously.
Suddenly, Zach zoomed in in my vision much quicker, surprising both me and him. My shoulder bumped into the wall due to the unprecedented speed. I grunted in slight pain and glanced at him behind strands of loose hair.
He stood relatively far from me with the same expression on his face, but when he pulled his hands out of his pockets, I knew he was taking this game a bit more seriously.
I let out a slow, shallow breath. I focused my eyes on Zach.
When I pushed off of my right leg and glided toward him again, I was only a few inches away from his arm before he evaded in the nick of time. My fingers crashed into the mirror he was standing in front, but I couldn’t feel the pain of the impact at all.
For once, I felt like the predator.
My blood began to boil in a whole other way as I whirled around. My hair was a mess, but I couldn’t care less. The only thing I could think of was what I could do to corner my prey. I was no match for Zach’s reaction time, so I’d have to outrun him.
He had an analytical look plastered on his features, and he was on high alert. Pride swelled within me that I could get him this rattled.
For the next two minutes, all that was happening in the room was two shadowy figures zipping around at high speed. Many times I nearly succeeded in cornering him, but I wasn’t agile enough. Instead, I smashed into the walls. My adrenaline overran the pain.
I completely didn’t hear the beeping from Zach’s stopwatch, indicating that time was up, and the game was over. He got momentarily distracted, and I didn’t let that slip. I couldn’t control my pace and crashed into him directly.
“Gotcha!” I beamed happily at my accomplishment. I no longer felt so useless. I finally beat Zach at his own game!
“Yes, princess.” He chuckled deeply. The rumbling in his chest shook me awake. I realized my arms were supporting my body, which was hovering above his. He watched with a perpetual smirk while my face grew warm. I flipped off right away.
“Did I win?” I asked after clearing my throat as I sat crossed-legged on the floor. He sat up and slipped out his stopwatch. Hesitation crossed his features for a brief second before he said, “Yeah. You still had ten seconds left. You got lucky.”
“Yes!” I pumped my fists in the air. Then, my body gave out, and I fell on the floor. I couldn’t move my arms or legs; that was how worn out I was from ten short minutes.
Zach kept quiet. When it got too silent, I lifted my head to find him already staring at me.
He must be thinking how flimsy I am. I pushed up into a sitting position and said bashfully, “I’ve never really worked out before, so I have awful stamina.”
“I believe I understand you a bit better now,” Zach blurted out.
“Mm. You’re a moron.”
He hopped up and sped over to get my jacket and tossed it to me. He then went to the door and unlocked it. “Let’s get you back home. Don’t you have to review or something?”
My limbs felt weak again, and I cried, “No... I don’t want my history test.”
“I will pretend like I know what that is. Come on. Get up.”
“It’s not like I don’t want to get up,” I muttered and frowned. My legs felt like jelly. Zach saw that I wasn’t messing around and sighed loudly. I held in a startled yelp when he marched over and scooped me up effortlessly.
“I can always annoy the shit out of Roman and get him to teleport you back,” Zach suggested, and I instantly refused. I heard how busy he’d been the past couple of days. I didn’t want to trouble him and dig my own grave.
Once in the elevator, I could gradually feel my legs again. Zach put me down. My legs still wobbled slightly, but I was good to walk. It was when my left foot already stepped out of the elevator that I remembered.
I spun back into the elevator and allowed the doors to slide closed, then pointed out. “You owe me a story! I almost forgot.”
“I was hoping you’d forget,” he muttered, running his hand through his hair in slight annoyance, then faced me. “It’s too late today. I’ll tell you the next time you swing by.”
I contemplated my options for a few seconds. Hailee wasn’t going to recover anytime soon, and Roman had such a high pile of workload since his abilities were convenient. I couldn’t see myself going back to the base anytime soon. I wouldn’t be able to find the entrance on my own without someone’s help. This could drag on for longer than necessary.
“How about we arrange a time?” I asked. I was about to ask if he liked coffee before I stopped myself.
Zach and I had a staring contest for the next five seconds. His shoulders rose and fell as he understood why I thought it was necessary. “Fine. When?”
“Can you give me your number?” I blurted before the sentence passed through my brain. I quickly added, “In case there might be a change of plans.”
He moved his jaw and averted his gaze as he muttered, “There’s no need for that.”
I blinked in confusion. “Are you sure?”
He interrupted me hastily, “Get a clue, woman! I don’t use a phone. You human technology is confusing, I mean, it’s inconvenient!”
In the midst of my dumbstruck self, Zach jammed a button, and the elevator doors opened. He shoved me out and grumbled, “Tomorrow night at eight. Right here. I won’t wait for an extra minute.”
I could’ve sworn that there was the faintest pink hue on his cheekbones. I held in my laughter as best as I could. Zach was a century old, after all. Only Hailee had to be a wiz with technology because of her position.
If my legs weren’t still trembling, I might’ve skipped back home that day.
I clicked open my phone to find two texts from Arthur an hour ago asking about my whereabouts. He did this often. He must be at my house now. I responded saying I was heading back from the library.
“What’s up, Arthur?” I called out while I closed the door behind me.
“Hazel, there you are. Come on over,” Arthur replied from the living room.
Before I hung up my jacket, I was pleasantly surprised. Arthur, Alecx, and Jaxson sat on the long sofa, and Kaydence sat on the smaller couch situated in the corner beside the sofa.
Tons of questions ran through my mind as I glanced at each of them in bewilderment. The atmosphere was strangely tense. Alecx just left a week ago, why are he and Jaxson back? What’s Kaydence doing here?
I walked over to these four pairs of watching eyes. Kaydence tugged the corners of her mouth upwards in a greeting smile; however, she didn’t seem excited.
I mirrored the greeting as I sat down on the beanbag, which was the only seat available, across from the three males. I looked at Alecx, but his gaze was averted.
“Why so serious?” I asked. The last time Arthur had that kind of solemn expression on, he explained to me how I was born.
“There’s something crucial I need to tell you,” Arthur started. “I thought I could keep this from you forever, but it’s gotten too dangerous to keep a secret.”
“Arthur, you’re scaring me.”
He didn’t waste another moment. “Vampires are real, Hazel. I thought you could keep your stance of rejecting the supernatural for the rest of your life, but cases of attacks have gotten more frequent. I’m saying this so you can understand why you need to be safe.”
I was sure my expression didn’t change much even though I tried to appear surprised. The past two weeks had been more than too real for me. The room fell silent for a second. Luckily, Arthur took my unfazed reaction as disbelief.
“I’m sorry I’ve kept this from you for your whole life, Hazy,” Arthur said again, looking straight into my eyes. “I’m one of the only two existing Chief vampire hunters. Jaxson used to be my apprentice, and I’m currently training Alecx. He will be a licensed hunter in three more weeks.”
Precisely the amount of time that I had left as a human.
This time, I couldn’t mask my utter shock. Alecx could end up being my enemy? He could end up killing me? Right then, I could already picture Alecx wielding a weapon with all of his usual sunshine gone.
To prevent tears from falling out of my stinging eyes, I turned my head sideways, only to meet Kaydence’s worried gaze. I croaked out, “What are you doing here?”
Arthur answered instead, “I was tailing a vampire on Friday night when I ran into her. She said she found that person very suspicious, and he seemed unusual. The person was the exact vampire I was tailing. I had to reveal my identity to convince her not to call the police. We ran a few tests yesterday, and I believe that Kaydence is extraordinarily gifted with an ability to tell vampires and humans apart by sense.”
The information went in one ear and flew out the other. All of my loved ones were either vampire hunters or on their way to becoming one. How ironic was that? I was doomed to be killed by the people I cared about the most. Before I knew it, I hugged my legs in front of my chest and allowed my hair to flow around my knees.
“Are you alright, Hazel? I’m sorry for suddenly springing all of this on you,” Alecx finally spoke in a concerned tone.
“Recently, I found that you seem a bit different,” Kaydence murmured after Alecx’s example. She wasn’t making eye contact.
My heart immediately began to pound in fear. What a frightening ability. Kaydence could even pick up the subtle changes I was experiencing just by the time I spent with her the past week.
But there was no proof. I showed up in cameras, and conventional weapons still harmed me. Even if I were suspected, nothing could be done. A mere hunch of Kaydence’s couldn’t be sufficient evidence.
Arthur nodded. “That’s why I became doubtful whether you’re in a safe environment. There might be a vampire in your school.”
Part of me was relieved that suspicion was driven away from me, but the other part thought of Hailee. I unconsciously showed panic on my face, which made them assume I was afraid.
“Don’t be scared, Hazy,” Arthur reassured in a soothing voice. “I’ve already excused you from school until we find this vampire.”
He went on about things regarding my studies. I tuned him out after the first two words.
I need to warn Hailee. Wait, why should I? I thought I wanted to be free from the vampires. I thought the only reason why I haven’t ratted them out yet is that I’d put my family in danger? What’s my concern now that I know Arthur is capable of killing them?
I felt a reassuring hand on my arm and turned my head to see Kaydence. She squeezed beside me onto the beanbag. “I had the same reaction as you, and this is coming from someone who’s believed in the existence of vampires. You’re already pretty strong, fam.”
Her words weren’t comforting in the least. I felt caught between these two worlds. I was no longer human, but I’d hate to call myself a vampire, too.
Jaxson, who had stayed silent this whole time, stood up and walked over. Then, he crouched down in front of me. “Why don’t you sleep on it? It’s getting late; I’ll carry you up.”
I leaned forward onto Jaxson’s broad back. He carried me around a lot as a kid. He let me down when we got to my room, and I tucked myself in. Arthur pulled a chair beside my bed. Alecx, Kaydence, and Jaxson showed themselves out.
“The moment I heard Kaydence’s description of how the vampire felt suspicious, I knew she had the gift,” Arthur said with a small smile. “The same gift your father had. He was the strongest vampire hunter the world had ever seen.”
I couldn’t react. It was all happening so fast. I wormed further into my blankets, genuinely hoping that I could fall asleep and forget this mess, even for just a few hours.
I heard the stress in Arthur’s voice as he added, “Too bad he met his match on the battlefield. Damned vampires. I’m sorry that I kept this from you for so long. Your parents, they didn’t die in a car crash.”
I squeezed my eyes shut and avoided his eyes. He rose and bid me goodnight before turning off the lights and leaving the house. The instant my bedroom door snapped shut, I freaked out.
I abruptly sat up in bed. I had already established the fact that my mother was a powerful vampire, which meant my father, a mighty vampire hunter, fell in love with someone he was supposed to exterminate.
How in the world did their story go down?
My father must’ve achieved tons of killings to be deemed the strongest hunter the world had ever seen; he couldn’t have dropped his weapon in sympathy for one vampire.
I understood Arthur’s distress. He lost his best buddy in that incident. I imagined the same situation happening to Kaydence or Alecx and goosebumps formed on my arms.
I removed my hands from my face and laid back down, nearly glaring a hole through the ceiling.
As I did recall, Zach told me that vampire hunters killed my parents, but now, Arthur, the person I trusted most in the world, said that they died in a vampire attack.
In a regular situation, it would be easy to believe Arthur over Zach. However, the tricky part was, Arthur clearly didn’t know that my mom was a Pureblood who could probably fend for herself during an attack from the same species. It would make sense if vampire hunters were the ones to annihilate her. But then again, it could be a ferocious vampire or a large group.
A large group? Could it be?
A text tone interrupted my assumptions, and I grabbed my phone faster than I ever had as if finally receiving an excuse to escape reality for a few minutes. It was a text from Kaydence.
‘Hey, you slept yet?’
‘Now that I proved to you that vampires exist, I don’t even have the heart to say I told you so.’
That lone sentence brought a small smile to my face, and I realized how tense my muscles were. I replied a grinning emoji. Then, I sent ‘Yeah, it was a shocker, but I’m fine now.’
She was typing for a while. It seemed like she kept typing and deleting, then retyping it all. I patiently waited while I scrolled through our old silly texts.
‘I’m sorry you had to relive all of your worst memories.’
I didn’t expect that. Kaydence was a free-spirit and rarely serious. I wondered what she was thinking after all this. I hesitated for a minute before sending ‘Don’t be sorry. This isn’t easy on any of us.’
For once, I felt like I couldn’t pour out my emotions to my best friend. I was stressed, but how could I explain it to her? I also didn’t want to give her extra stuff to worry about when she had a critical music exam coming up. Finding out that she was a gifted vampire hunter was enough.
‘Anyway, Jaxson’s right. You need tons of sleep tonight. Get some rest. It’s not like we need to go to school tomorrow.’
A fuzzy feeling coursed through me at the reminder of those who genuinely cared for me. I wasn’t alone, after all. Even if there wouldn’t be words, emotional support was enough. With that thought, I replied, ‘You, too. Goodnight.’
After plugging in my phone to charge for the night, I snuggled comfortably into my bed and folded my arm behind my head. I stretched out the other palm. The scar that the glass made a couple of days ago had vanished completely.
After I talk to Zach tomorrow, I’ll get him to take me to Harvick. I need answers, no matter what.
My eyelids dropped naturally, and I fell into a deep sleep for the first time in weeks.