Blood on Roses

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Epiphany

“All I heard was silence, but I could see the storm in his eyes.”
~ Hazel Dawson

THIRTY-TWO

I stood in the small foyer and watched Alecx and Kaydence spar. Alecx evidently had a better physique, but Kaydence’s agility worked to her advantage, as well.

Once Kaydence tried to land a kick on his side, Alecx grabbed her leg and pulled her off balance. She fell onto the mat, and I walked over.

“Working hard, I see?” I greeted, helping Kaydence off the mat with one arm.

“Just the usual.” Kaydence grinned, but she winced when she rose her arm. She faced Alecx. “Could you get us two bottles of water?”

“Sure,” Alecx responded, swiping a towel on his way out.

Immediately after he left, Kaydence grabbed my arm to pull me closer. I missed the familiar feeling of her gossipy side.

“Did your feelings for him die out?”

“Yeah,” I replied without hesitation.

“What?” she exclaimed. “But it lasted for six years!”

“I don’t know, either. The feeling just gradually faded away.”

Kaydence grimaced. “I could be speculating, but is it because of Dracul?” She spoke with hesitance and said Zach’s code name like it was taboo.

I sighed, genuinely exasperated. Here I was, trying my best to shift Zach’s image in my mind to that of an enemy, but people around me kept insisting that I had strings attached.

“No, it’s not. Please stop saying that,” I said, not forgetting to change the subject. “Besides, you saw Alecx’s reaction when he found out about it from my diary. I doubt he ever thought of me romantically.”

Kaydence had no words.

“I’m sure I’ll always be important to him, as he is to me, but just as friends,” I stated.

“Friend-zoned,” a random student overheard and commented.

I turned around to find Alecx rigidly standing little ways further from Kaydence and me with two bottles of water in his hands. The old me would’ve felt incredibly awkward if Alecx overheard a conversation like that, but the heartless me merely walked over to him. I took one of the bottles and tossed it to Kaydence.

“I’ll be training in the ring if you need me,” I dropped before leaving the room. I wasn’t sure when I’d face Zach again, but when I did, I’d like to be ready.

I headed down to the dungeon. When I felt no empathy, it was more than easy to walk past tens of mistreated vampires. Some of them glared at me in anger; some simply stared blankly into nothingness. I noted that none of them had resorted to begging or losing their dignity.

I stopped in my tracks when a vampire shouted some rather colorful profanities at me. When I faced her, she grew even more furious and attempted to charge at me, but of course, the bars scorched her skin and kept our distance. She screamed and fell back.

“Why would you ask to be turned if you’d turn against vampires?” She whimpered. She had unquestionably seen some shit that any average person would’ve gone their entire lives not seen.

“How do you know if I wanted to be turned?” I asked instead.

“Are you dumb?” She scowled. “Humans can’t be turned unless given consent.”

My eyes widened a fraction. I had never heard of that before. Grant’s public story was that he was turned against his will. If she weren’t lying, then his story didn’t make sense. He must’ve at some point wanted to be a vampire.

I really couldn’t care less, though.

“What if I was born a vampire, and I dislike the actions of my fellow species?” I asked, now fully facing her.

She rolled her magenta-colored eyes. “Then you’re no different from a psychopath with extreme ideals who considers herself an incarnation of justice. It’s simply ignorant to group an entire species as deranged creatures. Humans are just afraid of a species that’s stronger than them.”

I couldn’t deny that I was amused. “If you were human, and you knew that there were vampires out there that could kill you with a bite, wouldn’t you be afraid?”

“If I were human, other humans could also kill me,” she replied. “But that doesn’t mean it’s right to jail everybody.”

I inhaled deeply. It took me a few seconds, but I identified her as a Pureblood. Strange. Purebloods were supposed to be in maximum security cages on a lower floor that had solid silver walls as cage doors instead of flimsy bars.

“Is your ability along the lines of hiding your blood?” I inquired.

She frowned. “I can temporarily change my blood level to that of a human’s if I want to. Too bad a hunter caught me with vampire eyes.”

I assumed that she disguised herself as an ordinary or Elite vampire so her blood wouldn’t be extracted and used for weapons.

I stepped closer to her. “My name is Hazel. What’s yours?”

Her temper shot up. “Don’t talk to me as if meeting a friend! You disgust me!”

I didn’t want to repeat myself, so I wished for her name. “Imani, is it? I’ll give you a chance to fight and kill me. What do you say?”

Imani calmed down as she carefully considered my proposal. She was a bright girl. I was sure she was trying to figure out my ability and our power differences. Even if Imani wasn’t as powerful or fast as Zach, fighting a Pureblood would be good practice.

“You give off a weird scent,” she mumbled. “But one thing’s for sure; you’re not a Pureblood. It took two Specialists and an Elitist to seize me, you know. Do you honestly believe you can take me on?”

“That’s for me to decide.” I smiled. I wished for her to lose consciousness for five minutes, then for her cell door to open.

Five minutes later, Imani woke up on the opposite side of the fighting ground in the ring. She jumped and immediately got up to her feet.

I blinked my eyes red and spun out my spear. However, this time, I felt the usually surging power shrivel. Was it because I was fighting a Pureblood? A weapon wasn’t supposed to have a mind of its own.

I gripped it tighter. The rubies lit up in response to my silent command.

“Hazel!” Alecx yelled from the bleachers, making me take my gaze off of my opponent. “You’re not allowed to take a vampire like that!”

At the same time as I heard the sound of his last word, I felt a powerful slam on the side of my head. My spear flew out of my hands, and I crashed right into the bounds of the ring. The newly-repaired walls had a massive dent and cracks in it again.

Imani tried to pick up my weapon, but it burned her hand. She threw it to the opposite side of the area, then refocused her attention on me.

I hopped to my feet and brushed some debris off my shoulders. Imani didn’t directly charge at me. The throbbing in my cheek soon subsided.

She apparently had impressive analytical skills and tactical plans. She began closing in slowly, making sure I couldn’t make a beeline for my weapon. She believed from the start that the spear would be my greatest asset.

She must’ve thought that I had an ability as useless as hers, then.

“I’m coming down right now!” Alecx exclaimed and dashed for the stairs.

“Don’t you dare!” I hollered, louder than I expected. My outburst stopped Alecx in his tracks and deepened Imani’s frown.

I almost felt pity for myself when I briefly flashed back on how much I’d changed in these short few months.

“I’d love to have a fair match,” I said. “But unfortunately, I need to practice using this weapon on a Pureblood vampire.”

I wish my spear would come to me. It instantly zipped across the room, right past Imani’s shoulder, and into my outstretched palm.

I didn’t give Imani time to be shocked and made a strike. She twisted her torso just in time to avoid a stab that would’ve ended up in her stomach.

I grabbed my spear by the near end and swished it across. She leaped up and dodged it. She came at me from the air. I got a grip with my other hand and swiped the spearhead up.

She crossed her arms in front of her face, directing the tip of the blade to only drag along her arm. She kicked off the spearhead and back-flipped a few meters away from me.

I’m not as fast as I’d like to be with this, I bitterly thought. I wanted to avoid a heavy weapon from the start, but I couldn’t ignore the special connection I felt with this spear.

I heard Alecx’s footsteps rushedly exit the stadium, probably going to get help.

Suddenly, Imani lunged for my left side. I hurriedly dropped the spearhead down and supported the center of the weapon with my left upper arm. I shifted my body and positioned my right hand behind my back and grabbed the end of the spear to enforce strength.

Once she couldn’t get close to me, Imani shifted her weight to the left, her hand aiming for my right side.

I rolled my spear across my back from my previous position and pierced her with the sharp end tip. She jumped back and held her bleeding side.

I was glad I just had a glass of condiment water before this.

I repositioned my spear. One of the moon blades faced down. I pushed off my legs. The spearhead nearly grazed the caged ceiling as I swung down the edge like an axe. She wouldn’t be able to shift her balance in time to dodge this one.

As a natural reflex, Imani attempted to block my strike by holding up her arm across her face.

My crescent blade sliced a clean cut down the middle of her forearm. She let out a shrill shriek. At the same time, many footsteps filed into the stadium but froze in place.

I wasted no time and spun in the air, then bashed the side of her head with the bottom of a claw. If I had used more strength, I could’ve batted her head off.

Blood oozed out of her severed limb relentlessly. She couldn’t stop screaming from the excruciating pain. It was more agonizing than anything she’d ever felt before.

She rolled up on the ground and tears began pouring out of her eyes like rain.

Vampires possessed the vertebrate embryo that could regenerate damaged or amputated limbs, but it consumed time and energy. It would probably take a while for a severed arm to grow back.

I pointed the tip of the spear down and held it, so it ran up my arm. I towered over her. She was even slower than I expected. This was a waste of time.

A life? Waste of time?

The remaining moral side of my brain promptly clicked and stopped me from killing her then and there. I suddenly realized that I was living up to the brutal name of a vampire. Without remorse or guilt holding me back, my body brought me to extreme cruelty before I realized it.

I don’t want to be like this.

Something wavered within me. It got stronger as Imani’s screams resonated within the stadium.

“Finish it!” A louder yell knocked me out of my trance, and my breathing spontaneously returned to normal.

I recognized the voice to be Travis’; the Associate that I had a sword fight against. Multiple other voices chimed in to encourage me.

This was the ugly side of humanity.

Imani sobbed. “Please, just kill me. I’d rather die than spend another minute in that dungeon. I have nothing left, anyway.”

Her watery eyes begged me through her disarrayed strands of hair. She had a bleeding wound in her side, and her arm was becoming a bloody mess.

I couldn’t tune out her pleas nor the roaring of my speculators.

What have I done?

I slid the tip of my spear across the ground and held it in an attacking position.

“If this is what fate awaits me as a vampire, I’d rather be born as a human in my next life,” Imani choked out weakly between shallow breaths.

“No, don’t choose either. Stay clueless and away from all this mindless conflict.”

She used her last remaining strength to turn herself over and lay on her back. I clasped my hands over the spear and pointed the sharp tip to the middle of her chest.

By this time, she had already laid in an augmenting pool of her blood. She closed her eyes, releasing the final droplets of tears from them.

If I didn’t kill her now, the hunters would find out that she was a Pureblood. They’d keep her alive by any means and draw blood from her every day.

That, to her, was far worse than death.

I put full force and made the end as quick as possible. Her blood splashed onto my weapon and furthered the pool around her. My spear absorbed it, as all anti-vampire material did.

“I’m sorry,” I whispered. “None of this should’ve happened.”

I never got a reply. Imani drew her last breath in this world the moment I penetrated her chest.


For the next two entire days, I locked myself in the break room, only ever getting up to take my drink so I wouldn’t go savage.

I had wished to enforce the seal on my emotions to keep them in check, but my insides wouldn’t stop churning in what I knew was deep regret. I couldn’t feel it, but it tormented me nonetheless.

I deserved it.

Didn’t I, at the very beginning, vow that I would never stoop to a murderer’s level?

“Hazel? Are you feeling better?” Hailee invaded my mind just before it could branch into crazy thoughts.

I curled up into a ball in the corner of the room.

“No,” I kept my reply simple, unembellished.

“Do you want to talk about it? I can’t help if I don’t know why you’re upset.”

“No, thanks.”

“Okay,” she hummed, then paused for a while. She hesitantly began, “Zach wants to talk to you.”

“Tell him I say fuck off.”

“This is worse than I thought! What kind of fight did you have? Nevermind, I won’t pry. I just heard that he had a long conversation with Ashlynne and a lot of things came to light.”

“Sorry, I’m not in the condition to listen to anything he has to say.”

Hailee stayed quiet for a bit longer.

She hadn’t disconnected the telepathy, so I requested, “Could you leave me alone for a bit? You’ve been nothing but considerate. Thank you, but I need time.”

“Are you crying? Crying alone is dangerous.”

“I’m not. Don’t worry. I’ll get over it soon enough.”

I could tell she wanted to insist, but at the same time, she heard the gravity in my tone. I was about to say it more emphatically, but she snapped the connection without another word.

My stomach grumbled, and I groggily got up.

As I mixed the condiment into the water, I heard soft knocking on the door. My hands froze for a split second. I set the mixing spoon into the sink and the glass on the counter. I opened the door.

Kaydence enveloped me in her arms right away. Alecx and Arthur breathed in relief to see that I was alright. I had been ignoring them for the past two days.

I switched on the lights, and the four of us sat around the snack table while I drank.

None of them mentioned the killing of Imani. Arthur started off with a light-hearted talk that I paid scant attention to. He soon realized that I wasn’t interested. He and Alecx exchanged glances.

“We located Dracul a day ago,” Arthur finally broke the news. “He was spotted around your school, perhaps looking for you.”

I downed my glass. I didn’t think I was ready to face him, much less fight him. It didn’t seem like anyone from The Ones suspected that my disappearance was related to the hunters, yet.

I opened my mouth, but a loud voice erupted from Arthur’s walkie-talkie.

“Chief Carrington,” Jaxson spoke. “A teen girl has been found to be a victim of a vampire bite.”

Arthur immediately asked for the girl’s condition.

“Fortunately, she is alive. She’s currently unconscious in the medical wing of the Headquarters building. Her student ID card reads Sophi Cheng. We have contacted her parents.”

I stood up at vampire speed, knocking over the table. My face was undeniably blank, but my eyes screamed bloody murder when I heard Sophi’s name. I could only hope that someone else had the same name.

A few minutes later, the four of us were in a car to the Headquarters building. It was the one that Arthur brought me to a month ago. We were stuck in a traffic jam, and I almost leaped out of the window and hopped from car to car had Kaydence not stopped me.

The speed of a human’s power walk was too slow for me, but I couldn’t charge ahead as I didn’t know where the medical wing was.

We burst into a room with three beds on each side of the chamber. Sophi laid in the one closest to the door. It was undoubtedly my eccentric friend.

She was unconscious due to blood loss, but her condition was stable. A fabric bandage patch covered the side of her neck. I listened in while the medic spoke with Arthur in a hushed voice.

“The attack took place this morning, and the fang marks roughly match those of Dracul’s. The DNA test is still underway.”

My fingers clutched the bedsheets so tightly my knuckles faded to a shade paler than the sheets. No emotions bubbled within me, but any reasonable person would be enraged.

He hurt me. He bit my friend.

I was going to hurt him.

I made up my mind at once. No more tolerating.

“Where is he?” I asked quietly.

Everyone in the room looked at me with mild surprise. The only thing I could focus on was Sophi’s face, which was usually expressive and beaming with smiles.

Before anyone could say anything, Arthur’s walkie-talkie blasted again.

“Chief Carrington! We found Dracul at the picnic area in Union Park. Chief King is currently engaging the enemy. Associate Johnston is also there, and Elitist Grant is on his way. Please send help immediately!”

As soon as I heard the location, I was already out of the building.

My hand clutched the outline of the weapon key in my pocket. I ran along roofs, poles, trees, and anything else I could step on, not caring about the gasps below.

I landed in the central open-area in the park. It was strange that Zach and I met here, argued here, and would soon fight here.

I strained my ears. A higher frequency of noise was coming from my left side.

Once I rushed in that direction, it didn’t take long for a few people to come into view. Henrietta and Travis teamed up, attacking Zach over and over again from multiple angles, but his defense and offense were impeccable. Henrietta had trouble landing any strikes with her spiked mace club.

Zach defended against both that and Travis’ swordsmanship without even using his ability; however, he appeared anxious. His usual languid demeanor was nowhere to be felt.

He kept attempting to close in on Henrietta, perhaps to land an attack, but Henrietta was also an excellent fighter.

My vision swirled scarlet as I drew closer and closer. I reached for my key.

Let’s do this.

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