Blood on Roses

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Once More

“I no longer feared the monster that I fell in love with.”
~ Hazel Dawson

TWENTY-THREE

The first thing I felt was my sore shoulders.

My eyes flew open. I was in my room, lying on my bed in solitude.

“It doesn’t feel like a dream,” I mumbled, sat up, and winced. I was peculiarly exhausted. I felt like I passed out after running three marathons in a row. I rubbed the areas on my body where the arrows penetrated my skin, but no wounds whatsoever remained.

“How did I get out of there?” I wondered and recalled what happened the previous day.

Hailee went missing, I got surrounded by hunters, and Zach... died?

Did someone save me right when I passed out? Hundreds of arrows raining down on me was the last thing I could recall.

I rubbed the back of my head to soothe the aching. When I lowered it, I caught a glimpse of my watch. It was 7:00 AM. Whatever happened in the vampire world stayed on my vampire side. As a human teenager, I still needed to go to school.

I took a different route to school to avoid those primary schoolers that I encountered yesterday. I arrived at school without a hitch and plenty early.

I greeted Ms. Ashworth on my way to my seat. I rolled my shoulders, and they cracked. Ouch. I should go back to the base today to find out what happened.

Just the memory of the previous day made me shudder. I prayed that Hailee and Zach escaped alive.

I then glanced up at the board and squinted in confusion when I saw what Ms. Ashworth was writing. They were test instructions.

“Uh... Ms. Ashworth, didn’t we just have a test?” I asked, and she smiled back.

“Of course, that’s just how school life is, isn’t it?”

“But, we just had one yesterday.”

Her grin widened. “Very funny, Hazel. Yesterday was Sunday. I hope you studied.”

What?

Slowly, I turned on my phone and checked the date.

It was Monday, April 14th. The same day as my large-scale mission, which was supposed to have already happened.

I denied the first thought that came into my head: a dream. No dream could be so chronological, detailed, and vivid. I could recall every last second of what happened.

Just like that, I redid my English test. All of my teachers taught the exact same class, and Sophi showed me selfies identical to the ones before.

During lunch, I waited by the staircase for the student and his food. I only had to wait a few seconds before his rapid footsteps dashed up the stairs; his lunch container was open with the same soup that was spilled on me.

By the time I drove home, I finally accepted the fact that dawned on me long ago: I was reliving the same day.

I read enough fiction novels to know how this worked. The person who activated the time capsule, which in this case was me, should be the only one aware of the turned back time, which meant that the mission hadn’t happened yet, and everyone was still alive.

My grip tightened on the steering wheel. I’m changing this future. No one’s going to die on my watch.

When I got to calm down on my living room couch, I put more thought into my time jump. How did it happen?

I could think of two reasons. One, my vampire ability indeed was far more than mere intangibility. Two, someone sent me back.

The former was more likely, considering the fact that time travel was still beyond human technology, and someone would’ve told me about a vampire with such an omnipotent ability.

Then, what the hell even is my power?

I decided to put that aside for now. My top priority was to inform everyone of the impending disaster.

After showering and changing, I arrived at the headquarters a couple of hours earlier than I did last time. I headed straight to the lobby, where a crowd had already formed, but not everything was the same.

Many vampires surrounded Harvick, confirming mission details. I couldn’t get anywhere close. I waited impatiently for a few minutes. I was so focused on what I should tell Harvick that I didn’t notice the glances from the other vampires.

Just then, I spotted Zach. I didn’t see him here last time, but there he was. He leaned against the door frame of the TV room with his eyes closed. His brows furrowed slightly. He seemed uneasy.

Suddenly, an image of Zach’s reassuring smile flashed through my mind, and I couldn’t take it anymore. I would never let that smile of his fade away. It was my turn to protect him.

I futilely attempted to push through the crowd. Anxiety washed over my system when I only moved further away from Harvick as a result of the unfriendly shoves.

Before I knew it, I yelled across the room, “Harvick, I need to talk to you!”

My voice was drowned out. Frustrated, I hollered, “I wish all of you would just shut up for a second!”

The entire lobby snapped silent. “Harvick, we can’t go on this mission, not today,” I firmly stated, catching the whole room’s attention. “I already lived this day. The hunters know we’re going tonight, and they’ve prepared reinforcements. We won’t be able to make it like this.”

Someone questioned me right away, “What do you mean you already lived this day?”

I turned to the source of the voice and saw Celia. Her purple cornrows were tied into two low pigtails. Her eyes burned with rage as she crossed her arms.

I thought the answer was obvious. “Time travel. I’m reliving this day.”

Celia laughed mockingly. “Or are you just seeking attention? Don’t you already get enough of that as a hybrid?”

The others snickered in response while I stood dumbfounded. When I met Celia before, I noted that she was somewhat conceited, but I didn’t know she held prejudice against me.

“Silence, Celia.” Harvick’s voice boomed through the room, relieving me. She huffed and went out of my sight.

Thank goodness he understands. Just as I opened my mouth to elaborate my point, Harvick’s posture changed, and he beckoned me over. The waves of vampires backed off and made a path down the middle.

“So, what exactly is this ability of yours?” he asked quizzically. Reading him proved to be very difficult, as I couldn’t see his face.

His question caught me by the throat. As I struggled to search for the right words to describe what I have experienced so far, he shook his head. Sighing, Harvick patted my shoulder. “Hazel, I know it’s frustrating for you not to have an ideal powerful ability, but that doesn’t mean you can hinder this mission. It’s an important one.”

His words took a second to sink in. My face burned in humiliation, and I blinked several times in disbelief. “You don’t believe me?”

Harvick lowered his hooded head. I spun around. Most people stared at me like I was crazy. My legs began shaking as I scanned the mass. I never enjoyed being the center of attention. I found Roman, eyes averted, and Hailee, hesitating to speak.

“If that’s how it is.” I allowed my frills to cover my face, then zoomed down the way in the center and up the stairs.

My entire being boiled in rage, but I tried to look at it from the others’ point of view. Okay, it came out of nowhere. I needed to word my phrases better. I messed up.

No matter, I can still do it. I’d keep an eye on Hailee so she wouldn’t run off on her own again. As long as Hailee could still contact everyone and inform Team One to operate the moonroof, all of us could get out on time.

But how could I drag Zach with me to the entrance of that large room so we wouldn’t get hit by arrows?

Feeling nauseous, I sat down crossed-legged on the second floor.

I threw my head back and hit it against the wall, shutting my eyes. I went over the map of the branch base over and over again in my mind and once more drew out what I could do.

Through my eyelids, I saw the sudden flash of a dim light. I opened my eyes to see Roman standing before me. He squatted down and tilted his head, his expression as placid as ever.

“I finally found you,” he mumbled. “Um... how are you holding up?”

“Who sent you?” I asked straightforwardly. There was no way Roman would look for me on his own accord, and Ashton couldn’t remotely control Roman’s teleportation.

A light blush dusted his faintly hollow cheeks. He altered his center of gravity backward and shifted his position to mirror mine—a sign of respect.

“He said he’d murder me if I told you, but Zachary asked me to check up on you.”

That sent a warm and fuzzy feeling through my system, but I shook my head to get rid of those thoughts.

“Um,” Roman awkwardly started again. “Is what you said back there true?”

I fell silent and took some time to remember all of the last things I said or thought before everything went my way. Once I realized a pattern, it suddenly came to me.

“Yes,” I confidently answered. “I possess the power to grant my own wishes.”

Depending on the wish, my stamina would drown. If I ever made too many at once or a severe one that drained all of my energy, I’d face death. If I requested something ambiguous, as I did with wishing there was a way to fix things, my power would spiral out of control and do something random that could’ve ended up killing me.

Roman’s dark brown eyes widened a fraction in disbelief.

“Here,” I said, pointing at him. “I wish you could float for three seconds.”

It was funny to see the usually cold and composed Roman flail about in a panic in mid-air.

“I believe you,” Roman muttered. I briefly explained to him exactly what happened before I jumped back in time. I was surprised at how seriously he took me.

“After the mission begins for five minutes, come to the furthest room in the southwest wing,” I specifically informed since Roman required detailed knowledge of the area to teleport to the right place. “If all goes according to plan, Hailee and Zach will be with me. Let’s hope that we can all make it out alive.”

Roman nodded firmly. My heavy heart finally relieved a little. With Roman’s help, evacuating Zach would be easy.

My eyes sparkled with hope.

A couple of hours later, I followed Hailee again and sprung into the portal, ignoring the burning stares on the back of my head. I prepared myself before landing on the metal roof of the base.

Everything went just the way it did last time, except I stayed beside Hailee instead of in front. My gaze bounced back and forth between her and Zach so I wouldn’t lose sight of either of them.

Already knowing that the missing members weren’t in these halls, I didn’t bother checking the cells on my side.

This time, probably because I was more focused on her than the mission, I heard Hailee’s gasp. I halted my sprinting. She stared, wide-eyed, into one of the branch tunnels that we ran past.

“Hailee!” I yelled when she suddenly zipped straight into that tunnel. I was a second too late to grab her arm. I peered into the dark tunnel. Nothing was there.

My nerves twisted up into a knot once again. I wasn’t careful enough.

My first thought was to wish Hailee back, but I instantly knew that I couldn’t do that. To control another, I’d have to give up way too much energy. Adding to all the previous wishes I made today, I would lose consciousness here. That can’t happen.

I contemplated my options, fast. I didn’t know what caught Hailee’s attention so much that she had to run off, but I knew for sure that Zach would be in grave danger if I left him alone.

I speedily caught up with Zach. He moved with celerity and arrived at the grand final room far sooner than I expected.

I screwed up. Before, I imagined that even if we came early, I’d have Hailee tell Roman to come. But now, I wasn’t confident whether or not Roman’s timing would be right.

“There they all are,” Zach said aloud, and I followed his gaze. Indeed, all of the balcony cells held members of The Ones that we’d been seeking.

My fingers grew colder than ever. This situation just complicated things. How could I ensure their rescue while keeping Zach and myself alive?

“Hurry up. We don’t have all the time in the world,” Zach said without glancing at me, then proceeded to skillfully run up the walls.

Following his example, I then realized that the arrows hadn’t activated yet. That was our chance to escape. We only had two minutes.

The last cell door had a specialized locking system. Bars didn’t enclose the small prison space. A thick silver brick wall did, most likely because the imprisoned was a Pureblood.

We informed the freed vampires to go to the moonroof hall and forcefully break it. Now that Hailee was entirely out of touch, it was the best thing we could do.

The familiar taunting machinery sound finally echoed in my ears.

Beside the stubborn brick wall was one of the emptied normal cells. Right as the sharp arrows sliced through the air, I grabbed Zach’s arm and pulled him with me into that empty chamber.

The arrows stuck to the floor and balcony ground but none hurt us. I smiled victoriously.

“I’m impressed with your reaction time.” I turned to Zach’s remark. “Or did you actually already experience this day?”

“I’ll tell you once we’re out of this hellhole. We’ve got to move. These things fire a second round within a certain time, right?”

He hid his surprise well. “Yes, forty seconds. How’d you know?”

“You told me.” I grinned mysteriously.

I zipped past him and stood before the specialized cell room. Zach watched as I pointed at the brick door. “I wish this door would open.”

Right after, a searing pain shot through my head. I already made an incredibly draining time-traveling wish, followed by three small wishes today. Perhaps I had a limit.

“Whoa.” Zach’s whisper snapped me back to reality. I squeezed my eyes hard to focus my vision. A worn out man tightly clasped his shoulder with one hand and squinted to get used to the light.

Zach and I nodded at each other. We helped the man out while carefully avoiding the explosive arrows on the ground.

“Hazel! Zachary!” I looked up to the source of the voice and found Roman, standing by the entrance without touching any arrows, calling out to us.

With a dim glow, Roman reappeared, balancing on the balcony railing. He briskly grasped my wrist. I could not describe how much relief I felt when our surroundings switched to that of the branch base rooftop. Right above us was the portal where we came from.

Except the portal was closed.

That wasn’t a big problem for the four of us since Roman’s teleportation knew no limits, but that wouldn’t be efficient with all of the vampires that were here today.

Besides, Hailee was still missing.

“Roman, go inform the others that the mission succeeded and find out why Akechi closed the portal. Hazel and I will go back and look for Hailee. If you find Vivian, tell her to locate Hailee,” Zach ordered, his voice full of authority. I involuntarily admired his side profile as he gave instructions.

Without any hesitation whatsoever, Roman brought us back to the main hall, then vanished again with the rescued Pureblood, probably to take him back to the base.

“How did you know Hailee was missing?” I inquired while Zach and I raced down the corridor.

“You underestimate how insightful I am.”

I scoffed. It was amazing that we were working together for the first time. I wasn’t a burden; I helped out.

I halted and pulled on his sleeve when we arrived at the designated tunnel entrance. I pointed to it, and he nodded back at me. We soundlessly sped through the tunnel. It led to a spacious room with black and white chessboard-like brick floorboards.

We smelled it at the same time; this room reeked of blood.

“It’s Hailee’s,” Zach concluded with his sensitive senses.

I swallowed. Apparently, she was injured. We ventured further, and the stench got worse. The whole space was so eerily silent. One could hear a paperclip drop on the tiles. Just then, my foot hit something. I looked down to see a piece of cement.

“Over there. The tiles are all destroyed,” said Zach, nodding to my right. The floor looked like someone tore it up in chunks. It was getting harder to calm the unease in my stomach.

As I looked further, at last, a body came into sight.

Her strawberry blonde hair spread out like a fan around her head. Her skin pallor and lifeless, Hailee laid in a pool of her own blood. Her body was completely lacerated by what appeared to be deep blade slashes. Before any of those wounds got a chance to heal, her life had slipped away.

I covered my nose and mouth. I’m going to throw up. I’m going to throw up. I squeezed my eyes shut, not evening realizing when tears fell.

“Come back to life! I wish Hailee would come back to life! She isn’t dead!” I screamed. Nothing happened. I stuffed my hands into my hair. “Why aren’t you listening?!”

I momentarily suffocated. My organs felt like a witch’s long nails grazed and scratched them, bleeding them out. I couldn’t breathe; my legs gave out.

Zach caught me and scooped me up. His calm eyes that belonged to someone who had seen and caused way too many deaths didn’t waver. His tranquility angered me.

“Just because I don’t show it on my face, doesn’t mean I’m not feeling it.” Zach briefly closed his eyes and frowned.

Hailee hadn’t been dead for too long. As Zach spoke, her body began to disintegrate. She would cease to exist in no more than minutes. Vampires always gently and silently left the world like that.

“I’ll kill the culprit,” I chanted as if in a trance. “Kill him. Kill him. Kill him.”

“If you’re in this much pain, I’d rather you not remember seeing Hailee like this at all.” Zach gritted.

I glared at him. “Don’t you dare mess with my memories.”

He averted his eyes. I told him to put me down, and he complied.

“I still don’t understand you,” he mumbled. “You’re acting like nothing happened.”

I bit my lip when I knew that Zach was talking about Sunday morning. He completely broke my heart and uttered words I’d never want to hear again.

“Let’s just say, the last time I lived this day, you died for me,” I stated in a daze. I never imagined that someone would die for me, and I most definitely didn’t want that, but when Zach’s actions once again contradicted his words, a ray of hope shone in my heart.

“Let’s search the room,” he announced as if to escape, then sped off. I went around the opposite way while drying my tears.

We went around the whole room, seeing nothing. Just as we came around to meet up again at the end of each of our semi-circles, Zach suddenly roared, “Hazel, duck!”

Before I could react, he darted over and shoved me to the ground. A powerful gust of wind, almost as sharp as a saw, swished right above our heads.

Zach got up to his feet immediately and growled at the distant figure. He lowered his center of gravity, and his vampire eyes focused intensely on the silhouette. I shakily stood up, but even with night vision, I couldn’t see the person on the other side of the room.

This person was undoubtedly a vampire hunter, and he knew vampires well enough to know the blind spots of a vampire’s night vision.

“I genuinely hoped I wouldn’t see your disgusting face ever again.”

I almost didn’t recognize Zach by his icy tone. Real disgust was evident in his voice. In comparison, the tone he used to tell me off yesterday was practically that of a strict teacher.

“Then try to kill me the way I killed her,” the hollow voice mocked. “I know your ability through and through, Zachary, you can’t defeat me.”

Zach’s glare intensified. “And to think that she thought you loved her. Shitbags like you are the reason why people have fucking trust issues.”

It suddenly clicked in my head. Standing before us wasn’t just any vampire hunter; he was the traitorous former member of The Ones. I could’ve sworn the figure flinched when Zach unleashed his infamous profanities.

My fists trembled in rage when I thought about this traitor’s past with Hailee, and what he did to her now.

Just then, Zach’s posture stiffened. He whipped around and locked his black and red irises with mine. My body began zipping to the exit.

What the hell are you doing, Zach?! I inwardly yelled.

As I neared the exit, a tornado began forming within the entire room. I had no idea what was happening. I couldn’t see anything.

He must possess the ability to control wind, I deduced. I was surprised that even in such forceful wind, Zach still didn’t snap the constraint he had on me.

My body was mine to use again once I was out of the tunnel. I turned to the entrance and was instantly hurled back by an intense blast of wind. My back hit the opposite wall. I could only imagine how extreme the wind speed was inside.

I managed to roll away from the area directly facing the tunnel. The wind chills threatened to immobilize me even as I stood away from it. There was no way I could get back in there and still be helpful to Zach.

Why did this have to happen again? I fell back when another powerful one hit. My knuckles grew white from how hard I dug my nails into my palms.

An image of Hailee’s still, bloody body flashed in my mind, and my legs wouldn’t stop shaking.

“That’s the last of them.” I barely heard the all-too-familiar gruff voice behind me. “Alright, vampire, we’ve already captured all of your accomplices. I suggest you surrender so you won’t have to suffer.”

Bright lights shone on me. More of them approached me from the front.

A gun clicked directly behind me. “We have you surrounded.”

I raised my hands and slowly got up. “How have you been, Jaxson?”

I steadily rotated and faced him. He unconsciously lowered his gun in surprise.

“What the? Hazel?”

I smiled wryly. “You never call, big bro.”

As the group of hunters behind Jaxson began murmuring amongst each other in shock, I closed my eyes.

I wish I can live this day again. Just one more time. I’ll make things right.

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