“I thought I wasn’t strong enough to withstand the storm of love. That day, I realized that I became the storm as soon as I fell in love.”
~ Zachary Nolan
“We’d have to get you a customized weapon as soon as possible,” Arthur ranted on. I trailed behind him as he led us down the hall. He seemed rather happy. Alecx also walked beside me with a spring in his step. They must’ve liked what I said back in the ring.
Behind us, Henrietta and Kaydence followed. They kept muttering under their breath. I didn’t bother to listen in.
“Meanwhile, you can check out these weapons to get inspiration.” Arthur pushed open a set of double doors that led to what appeared to be an armaments room.
“What do you mean?” I asked, surveying the room. Swords and axes were either hung up on the wall or displayed in a showcase. None of them caught my eye.
“We get to design our own weapons,” Arthur explained as he spun out his scythe. “For example, I requested a hidden blade to be placed at the edge of my sickle. If a vampire snuck up on me, I’d be able to react in time, which makes up for my weakness of having a large weapon. Also, I wanted dark purple while Alecx preferred bright green.”
As I passed the racks, Arthur acted as a tour guide. The other three stayed by the door.
“All of these were weapons wielded by former Chiefs. They’re the best of the best. Feel free to take any of these designs into your own weapon.”
I saw much weaponry in all shapes and forms. A metal name tag was embedded below a display box or beside a racked sword.
I kept Zach in mind as I scanned through the weapons. It didn’t take an extra glance to know that none of these would even land a scratch on him. They were too thick and heavy to be considered agile. For someone as fast as Zach, I’d need a flexible weapon.
A bow and arrow? No, the loading time would be the time of my death.
Sickle and chain? Even worse. For a beginner like me, controlling such a whip-like weapon would require much practice time that I didn’t have.
At last, I came to a halt at the center of the room. Unlike the others, this spear rested in royal red velvets and a beautiful display case with golden rims. It laid in the center. This one gave off a superior aura compared to the rest. But that wasn’t why it intrigued me.
The rubies embedded in the spearhead and bar seemed to glow in response to my interest.
Arthur noticed my prolonged staring at the spear, and his expression softened. “This belonged to your father.”
It was surprising to know, but it still wasn’t the reason why it fascinated me. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but I felt compelled to reach out.
“Can I use this?” I asked, my eyes never leaving the ruby in the dead center that was glimmering at me.
“Use it?” Arthur repeated. “I don’t think so. It’s stayed untouched for years. Besides, it’s made entirely out of materials that’ll burn a vampire.”
“If you like its design, our scientists can replicate it,” Henrietta said from the entrance. I paid scant attention to her.
I was impatient, and I didn’t want to ask twice. I placed the tips of my fingers on the glass and wished for it to shatter into pieces. As if an explosion, the pieces flew outward in every direction. I was closest to the case, and the shards would’ve cut me had I still been human. Arthur reacted quickly, and his long coat prevented any injury.
“What did you do?!” Henrietta and Arthur shouted at the same time.
Left with only the structure of the display case, I reached down for the spear that practically gleamed at me. I wrapped my fingers around the weapon. It was quite heavy, and I would’ve had trouble wielding it without a vampire’s strength.
The spearhead was a thin and sharp octahedron surrounded by four claw-like tips. Embedded in the middle of each claw were shining rubies in the shape of diamonds. Hooks stuck out at the roots of two of those claws. Right below the spearhead, two crescent blades were on opposing ends of the metal bit. The spearheads and blades were all a polished silver. The red jewels glimmered and stood out. The weapon concluded with a small red diamond leading to three larger ones and finished with a silver dagger. The entire spear was half a head taller than me.
I then realized that the handle of the weapon didn’t burn me in the least.
“It’s a miracle,” Arthur murmured while I swung it around more.
I couldn’t believe how freely I wielded it. Even as I fumbled it around my arms and transferred it over to my other hand, I looked like one of those pro pen-spinners, except with a six-foot-long spear.
“How could this be?” Henrietta mumbled in awe as I put an end to showing off. I twirled the head up and stood the spear beside me on its point.
“I guess you can keep it, then. Try spinning it into a key,” Arthur instructed.
I rotated the spear from the middle, keeping that in mind, and it instantly shrunk into an elegant latchkey with a rose as the bow, and a tiny chain ran down the shank. There were no wards. The square-shaped bit was a silvery blank. The whole key was blandly composed of one color.
“Welcome to the team,” said Arthur. I could almost see his eyes watering. He had raised me as his own daughter, and he’d always been worried sick that I might live the same fate as my father if I couldn’t protect myself. Now that I was both a strong vampire and armed with the best weapon, I guess he could finally feel some sense of relief.
A man suddenly rushed to the door and said urgently, “Chief King, Chief Carrington! We need you on the east side of town. A vampire attack is taking place.”
“Take care,” Arthur said before he and Henrietta immediately switched to a mode of full alert and sped out of the room.
I stuffed the key into the front pocket of my shorts. Kaydence and Alecx glanced at each other while I fixed my clothes. I could tell awkwardness was descending upon us, but luckily, I couldn’t feel it.
“So,” Alecx began. “Should we grab a bite to eat?”
He realized it right after he said it. I chuckled a little at his mistake. “Sure. I’ll watch you guys eat. You haven’t had breakfast, after all.”
The thought of two strips of bacon and a sunny-side-up egg made me hungry in the vampire way.
“Come on.” I nodded my head toward the door when Kaydence didn’t budge. She seemed to return to her senses and followed as Alecx led the way to the cafeteria. It was practically empty at this time.
Kaydence and Alecx briefly chatted about things that I didn’t know about. The topic soon shifted to the recent movements of The Ones. Even if I couldn’t feel it, my mind was uncomfortable with the conversation.
“If only we could find their hideout, everything else is ready,” Kaydence said, spinning her spoon in a bowl of cereal.
“I heard they had a lot of Purebloods. We still need to be mindful of dangerous powers.” Alecx mirrored her and spun his fork on one of its tips.
Huh. I never noticed how good these two looked together.
“Have you heard of The Ones, Hazel?” Alecx suddenly included me in the conversation.
I blinked twice, then shook my head. “I heard the name a few times on the news, that’s all. By the way, that looks good.” I pointed to Alecx’s meal to change the subject.
“Really? They’re only pancakes and syrup.” His expression grew slightly grim. “But I guess something simple like this would taste like paper and glue to you, wouldn’t it?”
I didn’t want him to indulge in further details and eventually bring up Zach, so I quickly said, “It makes me hungry.”
That alarmed them both. Kaydence remained silent while Alecx stuttered, “We have a blood bank. If you request it as Grant does, I’m sure…”
“No, I don’t want that. I’ve never had blood before, and I want to keep it that way.”
That statement widened their eyes further. Kaydence sounded baffled as she asked, “Then, how do you survive the hunger?”
I reached my hand out and wished for my backpack. I had previously filled it with many of the condiment packets. When I curled my fingers in a gripping motion, my bag appeared in my hand. I brought it to my lap, unzipped the largest pocket, and snatched a packet in between my index and middle finger.
“Watch,” I said, then demonstrated using Alecx’s glass of ice water. The clear liquid stirred into a lovely shade of pink, resembling pink lemonade.
“This becomes drinkable,” I said, raising the glass and bringing it to my lips. I could feel my rumbling stomach subsiding temporarily. “Of course, it’s not a long-term solution, but it’s what I’m sticking with for now.”
“Wow,” they whispered simultaneously. Kaydence shuffled through her purse, then fished out my phone and slid it across the table to me.
“You’ve gotten quite a few texts and missed calls,” she said with guilt written all over her face. “I’m sorry I’ve been such an ass. Once I got suspicious that you’ve turned, I instantly thought of the vampires that I’ve seen. They tore people apart, sucked them dry, or just left them there to bleed to death. I thought a vampire’s venom would completely change you into a different being with an altered mindset. I... I’m so sorry.”
I couldn’t even recall how I felt when Kaydence conducted my capture, so it didn’t take me more than a few seconds to forgive her. I grabbed my phone, and without looking at the texts or missed calls, I powered it off. I didn’t want anyone to track it down.
I said, “There’s a good and bad side to everything. Humanity undoubtedly has an ugly side, too, but that doesn’t mean you can assume everyone you meet is a bad person, right? The same goes for vampires. You just haven’t met any good ones.”
“You have?” Alecx asked. “Is that where you got those packets?”
I lowered my gaze to the ground across from me. I couldn’t think up a lie in time, and Alecx set a notebook on the table. I recognized it as my diary.
“I’m sorry. I read it.”
Kaydence instantly showed a panicked face while I remained calm. Before the shut-down of my emotions, I would’ve felt mortified that Alecx read my diary. It was where I poured out all of my feelings since I was thirteen years old.
“It’s fine,” I said before I knew it. “It was necessary to get a lead on where I was.”
Alecx wouldn’t make eye contact, and the tips of his ears grew red.
I wondered what he was thinking. Sadly, I was in too weak of a state to wish for his thoughts.
“Did you want to say something about the diary?” I finally asked.
“Yeah.” He tensely drummed his fingers on the table. “The last entry was April 6th. We also found this note crumpled up at the leg of your desk.”
He showed me a piece of faded yellow paper sealed in a plastic bag. I didn’t recognize it until I read the sentence written on it.
“Secrets are meant to be kept; I hope you keep mine.”
I would recognize that elegant cursive till the day I die.
“With this note and your last diary entry, although vague, it wasn’t hard to conclude that you first met Dracul while aware that he was a wanted vampire. Vampires have a certain charm that make them appear attractive and alluring. People fall victim to it; it’s a common occurrence.”
I wasn’t sure what Alecx was getting at until he said that. I sighed a little and closed my eyes. He, like Arthur, believed that I was emotionally attached to Zach and when the time came, I might not be able to kill him.
I made myself sound impatient as I told him, “For the last time, I don’t like him that way. Rest assured.”
I noticed Kaydence looking down, so I glanced at my hands. My right hand rested on my left wrist. I briskly rose my right hand to prop up my head. Apparently, I had a habit of holding my wrist with my other hand when I tried to hide something. Only Kaydence would notice something so small.
I wasn’t lying, though. I already erased my feelings for Zach.
Alecx seemed startled at my tone, but he nodded. I was sure he still had tons of questions, but I gave him no chances to ask. I wanted to drive Zach out of my mind as soon as possible.
A week passed. It was May 1st. I’d been focusing mostly on training and how to wield my new weapon to its full potential.
It was hard to believe that just two months ago, I was a regular seventeen-year-old girl anticipating her eighteenth birthday and graduation.
Two days ago, Jaxson traveled back from Malaysia. His initial reaction to seeing me as a vampire was no different from Arthur’s. He even refused to believe it until I displayed vampiristic traits.
Henrietta calmed down this past week. She was quite impressed that I passed the trials without a hitch even though she complicated them. She was still pretty much cold, but I think that was just her personality.
Hailee had been faithful to her words and telecommunicated with me every day. I always assured her that I was okay and needed time to myself.
I learned mostly from Grant. He could understand my situation the best and knew what my weak points were because they were the same as his. Practicing with him gave me more experience in fighting a vampire. The knowledge that he murdered Hailee didn’t bother me when I couldn’t feel anger or sorrow.
Zach was commonly known as Dracul after Grant left The Ones. Grant wasn’t surprised when he learned Dracul’s true identity, though.
“Zach belongs in an organization called The Ones. Has he ever talked to you about it?” Grant asked while shifting my grip on the spear so I’d hold it lower.
“He wouldn’t tell me anything that important.” The lie rolled off my tongue.
“I see. Well, now that his identity is confirmed, things should be easy. We both know his power inside out. I’m sure that with your physical capabilities and my ability, we can––”
“Grant,” I interrupted. “Dracul is mine. Mine alone. I won’t need your help.”
He paused, then smiled. “Of course.”
Later that day, I enjoyed a glass of water containing the condiment in the break room by myself. Grant and I were the only ones who didn’t need sleep. We kept training until he was called to duty. I chatted with Hailee to relieve my boredom.
“Oh, I forgot to tell you. I reached this girl called Ashlynne a few days ago as you asked. Zach still ignores me, but I got Vivian to track him down. Can you believe he went to Australia? Ugh. Anyways, I’m keeping Ashlynne updated, and she flew there yesterday. What exactly is her relationship with Zach? I’m really confused right now. If it’s a past girlfriend, she is one hell of a persistent ex!”
I laughed in my head in response, then informed her, “Ashlynne Nolan is Zach’s older sister. She just hasn’t seen him in decades. I encouraged her to talk to him.”
“How did you befriend his sister?”
“We mutually enjoy strolling in the night.”
“So, mutually weird?”
“You reminded me of why I hated you all through high school.”
“But you love me now, right? I’m annoying but lovable, right?”
“Yes. Minus the lovable part.”
A small smile graced my lips.
“You know,” Hailee began again. “I’ve noted your changes ever since you turned. You’ve gotten bolder. More assertive. You stood up for yourself. I like you better when you’re not a pushover like you were as a human.”
“Pushover?” I repeated in disbelief. I knew I was shy around most people, but I didn’t consider myself a doormat.
“In freshman year, did you not even realize that your little belongings kept disappearing because your classmates stole them? They’d laugh when you panic and try to find them.”
“I did realize. I just thought I might risk getting myself suspended if I fought back.”
“But that thought stopped occurring to you, didn’t it? You harmed no bitch but took no shit. If someone decides that they can get in the habit of disrespecting you, you need to shut them down the first time that happens. If you continually tolerate that kind of behavior, it’ll only escalate.”
“Was it that serious? The bullying eventually stopped.”
“Clueless child. You often had bruises on your hands and arms, right? Kaydence told everyone that that was because you practiced martial arts. She showed them a picture of you sparring with your teacher. That’s how the bullies scurried off.”
I was speechless. Kaydence never told me this. No wonder that one time she asked me to bring her to my self-defense class. If Hailee didn’t tell me, I would’ve never known what happened.
“A great friend is a priceless asset, eh?”
I didn’t know what to feel.“Yeah.”
“Alright, lost child. I’ll be on a mission later. I won’t contact you for the night. Take care and don’t get yourself killed.”
“Thanks. Good luck.”
Don’t get yourself killed, either, I mentally added.
I had been keeping an eye on the hunters, especially ones that were powerful enough to fight a Pureblood. I even checked the list of Chiefs that retired the past twenty years. There was only one, and she was hospitalized at the other side of the globe, so I crossed her off the list.
Several Specialists and Elitists seemed strong, but I’d seen videos of my father fighting. I hadn’t seen anyone move like he did while he fought and wielded his spear like it was a part of his body. Not even Arthur or Henrietta matched up to that level of raw skill and talent.
For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out who murdered him and my mother.
Devyn Dawson was known to be an undefeatable legend. The only possible explanation that I could think of would be an ambush. The one thing that was fast enough to be capable of such a murder would be a gun, but I read the reports, and forensic tests had long confirmed that there were no such wounds on his body.
There were signs of battle there and tears in his jacket. His weapon was spun out, so he was at the very least aware that he was in danger.
Then, what happened to mom? Her body burned away before it could be discovered. She had the power to revive anyone who died within 24 hours, so the perpetrator must’ve killed her first.
The location of their death was in the middle of a snowy mountain. The report read that a pair of footprints belonging to a female walked beside dad’s. The third row of prints that followed was Henrietta’s when she was sent to investigate father’s whereabouts. The only possible woman that traveled with dad would be my mom, which meant that she must’ve been with him when they were attacked.
Dad wouldn’t remain oblivious if mom died first, so they must’ve been killed together. What kind of vampire hunter ambush could end the life of a Pureblood and a Chief at the same time?
Was Harvick wrong? Was the incident a massive vampire attack after all? What else could’ve caused all of those messy footprints and dad’s lacerated body?
Nothing made sense.
I chugged down the remainder of my drink, then washed the glass and set it back in the cupboard. My backpack was filled with nothing but my laptop and the condiments. I left it in the corner of the breakroom. I headed to the combat-training floor to visit Kaydence and Alecx.
It wouldn’t matter if the killer or killers were vampires or humans. I’d put them through triple times the suffering they forced my parents and me to endure.