Blood on Roses

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Anagnorisis

“I will continue to fearlessly love in a blood-drenched world.”
~ Hazel Dawson

THIRTY-FOUR

Exactly what happened twelve years ago?

Zach laced his fingers through mine and transferred images of his memory to me. It was like watching a shaky phone-filmed movie. Since he collected memories from several people’s points of view, the screen often went black for a split second due to the individual’s blinking.

Everything transitioned into my brain as if they were my own memories. It only took a few seconds to review it, but as I did, it felt like I was there.

I could almost reach the hands of my parents and take them away from death.

I was six. My parents had told me they were going on a ski trip and that I was too young to go with them. They left me under Arthur’s care for the next few days. I always loved Arthur like a real uncle, so I didn’t mind.

My young mind just didn’t expect that that was the last time I’d ever see my parents.

From there, the flashbacks stemmed from my memories to others’.

A driver nodded at mom and dad as they climbed into a car. The view of the next half hour was focused on the road, which gradually covered in snow as they traveled. I could hear my parents’ conversation.

Apparently, there were reports of vampire group attacks in a town near these mountains. Devyn wasn’t assigned this investigation, but he was concerned, and since the location wasn’t too far, he decided to take it up. Mihaela requested to go with him. It was the first time she asked to participate in his job. And the last time.

Perhaps fate wanted them to die together.

After dropping off the couple, the driver waited by the foot of the mountain. His memory scenes ended there, as he never got to see anything more.

The next person was the town mayor. And she literally couldn’t take her eyes off of my dad’s face.

Mom quickly got annoyed, and she straightforwardly told her, “Please stop ogling at my husband. He was claimed a long time ago.”

“Ah, I’m sorry!” She darted her eyes around the snow, panicking. Even from the shaky views, I could tell that dad was trying very hard not to laugh.

I understood how their love formed a bit better.

“Ma’am, when were the vampires last sighted?” He cleared his throat and asked in a professional tone of voice.

After a short exchange of information, the couple headed further up the snowy mountain. By examining the damage that had been done, an estimated number of at most five vampires was calculated.

It was nothing a renowned Chief and Pureblood couldn’t handle.

The mayor watched as they threaded through the thickening snow. She followed them for a bit to make sure that they didn’t slip on the way up. But before she could watch them go up further, someone called her, and she left to help. If she had just stayed for a few minutes longer, she could’ve witnessed the killer follow the couple up the mountain.

The next perspective was that of a speedy vampire weaving through the woods. Two others were in front of him, and around a dozen more followed behind. I didn’t recognize any of them.

The first three of the group were undeniably fast, but Devyn had sensed their presence seconds before they could get anywhere close to him.

With the spear that I’d become so familiar with, he fought the vampires off without too much effort.

“Found them,” he commented.

He wielded his weapon with such immaculate fluidity, accuracy, and strength. He wasn’t renowned just for having the gift; he was quite possibly the best fighter humanity had ever seen.

I noted that he didn’t exterminate any of the vampires, however.

Suddenly, a few more vampires sprung up from the other side. Mihaela’s orbs shone blood red. Her skills weren’t worse than his at all. They matched each other’s pace perfectly.

I saw most of the fight through one attacking vampire’s eyes. A while later, though, Devyn’s spear punctured his lower rib cage. He limped and hid back into the darkness of the dense trees. He made a signal, and dozens of vampires popped out from their hiding spots.

This group of vampires had planned the ambush.

It was as I briefly suspected: vampires played a role in the death of my parents.

The wounded vampire sped away. His perspective ended there, as he never saw or did anything more.

It was a miracle that Zach found all these people and read their memories of that day.

The scene shifted to a vampire that was struggling to fight against Mihaela. Unlike dad, mom was less merciful to her attackers. She landed powerful kicks and punches. I watched, proud to be their daughter. They looked amazing together.

I then wondered why the battle had dragged on for so long until I abruptly realized that Devyn was getting further and further away from this vampire’s view. I soon couldn’t even see him in the picture.

These vampires distracted Mihaela and led her farther and farther from Devyn.

My hands trembled. Why didn’t she see through that simple tactic? Why didn’t he notice in time that she was missing?

Eventually, the vampire that I borrowed memories from received a kick square in the stomach. He crashed into a log and lost consciousness. Before his eyes closed, I saw mom’s ears pick up. With a panicked expression, she turned around and darted away at full speed.

The next perspective was shakier than all the others. This part of the memory switched between several eyes as the townspeople ran up the snowy mountain. Before anything else appeared, many gasped when they saw the snow.

Dyed in red.

“This is Associate King.” Henrietta came into view. Sweat trickled down her forehead, and her voice quivered as she reported her location. “Chief Dawson has sustained horrible injuries from an unexpected large-scale vampire attack. Please send help right away.”

Some people screamed. I tried hard to focus on the scene of death while the perspective jumped from person to person. Everybody panicked and ran in all directions.

Individuals who claimed to be doctors rushed up and attempted to stop the bleeding. The perspective switched to one of the helpers.

Devyn was far too weak to move in the slightest, much less speak. He appeared to be flowing in and out of consciousness. His half-lidded eyes seemed to have a hundred words to say.

Mihaela was nowhere to be seen.

What happened before this? Did nobody see the killer?

I went over the memories from the top again. I didn’t miss any details, but I still couldn’t find anyone suspicious.

Seeing my mother whip around and sprint back crushed me. To this day, no one knew what had happened to her. Even if a blade pierced her chest, a vampire’s body wouldn’t have decayed and vanished as quickly as hers did. Someone must’ve sped up the process somehow.

I was almost sure that the group of miscreant vampires had done it all when I took a better look at my father at his last breaths and noticed a small detail.

I doubted anyone else noticed it. While Henrietta paced around with nothing but worry plastered on her features, Devyn’s eyes never stopped following her. Immense hatred emanated from his stare.

I replayed the crime scene before the other hunters arrived. I scrutinized Henrietta.

Her eyes darted around. Sweat beads formed on her forehead numerous times and each time, she wiped it off. Her hair was long back then; she brushed it every few seconds.

Her anxious state started to look less like concern for him. She glanced back at him a few times.

As if thinking “how is he still not dead yet?”

My eyes shot open in realization. Zach returned the same look. There was only one way to know for sure.

“Protect me,” Zach whispered. Then, he let go of my hand and instantly vanished from my view.

Although ambiguous, he didn’t need to tell me twice. I speedily followed. All Zach required was a brief tap on Henrietta’s shoulder. That was what he had been trying to do this entire time. But I, like the clueless idiot I was, insisted on interfering.

However, Henrietta was fast. She drew her mace club and blocked right before Zach could get close enough. Zach focused on getting closer. He disregarded Henrietta’s nearing weapon completely.

That was how much he trusted me.

I gained all sorts of reactions from others when I solidly blocked Henrietta’s mace club. She wasn’t caught off-guard, but the extra second that I bought was enough. Zach and I stepped back. We put several meters in between us and Henrietta, who still held a relatively calm expression.

Zach’s actions were so swift that she didn’t feel the touch on her shoulder.

“What do you think you’re doing, vampire?!” Travis yelled. “You’re siding with the monsters, after all, aren’t you?!”

Ignoring Travis’ outburst, Zach took my hand. The pieces of that crucial day of death finally all came together with Henrietta’s memories.

I stared straight at Henrietta as I stated in a booming voice, “You are the one who has sided with a monster.”

Just then, Kaydence dashed out of the crowd in my way. I could feel Zach grow hostile. She probably thought that I was confused again, and that I wouldn’t hurt her.

I wished for Kaydence to stop in her tracks. It didn’t work. I repeated it twice. Thrice. It confirmed my theory. My father was indeed stabbed in the back, but my mother couldn’t heal him.

Vampire abilities didn’t work on humans with the gift.

As Kaydence drew nearer, I turned back to Henrietta and asked, “So, what’s your excuse for murdering my parents?”

Kaydence froze in place. Arthur and Alecx, who were about to spin their keys, also stopped.

I raised my spear and examined it. The rubies gleamed in a way that comforted me. I would never know how my parents formed such an unbreakable bond, but now that I understood the whole process of the unfortunate day of their demise, I finally recognized my tie to this weapon.

Unfazed, Henrietta sneered, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. You weren’t there. Your emotions will bring you to accuse the person who first saw the death.”

Her calm statement only further enraged me. But before I could point out her blatant lies, I had to announce something.

“I hid this from all of you, but,” I began. I especially made sure I was getting across to Arthur. “My mother was a vampire. A Pureblood vampire.”

Arthur’s reaction was everything I expected. From utter disbelief to confusion. Even a dash of betrayal. A million questions and recollections probably ran through his head.

My weakened stamina and growing hunger began to mess with my mind. My legs felt weak when I saw the reaction of the people closest to me. I felt cold sweat and suddenly forgot what I wanted to say next.

Just then, a large hand pressed on my back. It wasn’t physically warm in the least, but the action was enough to fuel my courage. I didn’t need to look at Zach to feel his encouraging gaze.

“I am what you would call a hybrid. I was bound to turn into a vampire by the age of eighteen. And this,” I gripped the spear. “This was made using the blood of my grandfather. His ability was shapeshifting.”

“That’s a whole new level of fucked up,” Zach commented in a mumble.

“That’s why you rejected me so emphatically.” I shifted my gaze back to Henrietta, whose expression was far graver than before. “You were afraid that I’d take revenge once I found out the truth, weren’t you?”

She lost it. “Of course not! I’ve single-handedly taken down Purebloods. Why would I be afraid of you? Your mother was strong, but that...”

She caught herself, but it was too late. The people around her slowly backed away as the realization sunk in. Kaydence had gotten exceptionally pale in the face.

“How could you…?! Devyn was your mentor!” Arthur hollered.

Murmuring began to rise amongst the others, causing Henrietta to shake her head left and right. “No! Why are you all focused on that? Think about it. He fell in love with a vampire!”

I let out a shaky breath. My parents’ lives ended in the hands of someone like this. If Zach hadn’t been emotionally supporting me, I might’ve burst into tears.

“It was the vampires who killed them!” Henrietta insisted. “I just witnessed some of it!”

Zach scoffed. My fist shook in boiling rage.

“Fine. Since your memory is so terrible, allow me to recite to you exactly what went down that day.” I walked closer to her.

Henrietta had initially been appointed by the committee to find Devyn. She was his only pupil. The council told the public that he had been on a mission for longer than expected, and no one could reach him, so they sent Henrietta to check up on her mentor.

Arthur nodded as I said that piece of information.

But in reality, Devyn had been neglecting his duties. He refused to participate in raids that destroyed the homes of vampires. The committee began to lose their patience with him. Henrietta was sent to restrain and question him. They thought that he might let down his guard and listen if his student was speaking to him.

Henrietta followed his tracks. She examined the other pair of footsteps that unmistakably belonged to a female. As she neared the scene of death, she saw a vampire leap above her from a tree to another. The band of vampires was too focused on their target to notice her.

Thinking that Devyn might be in danger, Henrietta quickened her pace. But when she arrived, she paused. She hid behind a tree. Her mentor was fighting alongside a vampire.

“Are you alright?” dad asked mom from time to time.

“Yup,” she always responded.

They trusted each other completely to cover the other’s blind spots. Not even the large group of vampires could land lethal damage on them. I took a moment to appreciate that image. They stood back-to-back, him wielding his spear in fluid motions, and her landing agile strikes everywhere. With her shining black hair and vibrant red eyes, my mother was truly beautiful.

“Careful, don’t kill any of them,” Devyn instructed, which made Henrietta jump out of her skin.

Devyn had always been Henrietta’s mentor, her hero. She held great admiration for his skills and judgment. When did her teacher get so brainwashed that he would spare the life of a filthy vampire?

Mihaela giggled. “Don’t worry. Even if I accidentally kill someone, I can just revive them.”

A brief smile tugged at his lips at her comment.

Henrietta’s eyes darted between the two. She probably eventually figured out their relationship.

As Zach had explained to me a while ago, he could only see an individual’s memories as they saw it. There was no way for him to know their thoughts or feelings. But Henrietta was obviously not pleased.

After dad kicked back one of the leaders, that vampire signaled some ten more to emerge from their hiding spots at once. He quickly got occupied with fighting that he didn’t notice mom trail further and further away from him. She, too, got caught up in the moment of battle.

Just then, Henrietta’s earpiece rang. She was far enough that it wouldn’t pick up the sounds of battle.

“Associate King, have you located Chief Dawson yet?”

Henrietta hesitated for a moment. At this point, she was supposed to report yes and request for backup. Dad was fighting a large group of vampires, and he already sustained a few small injuries.

Before she knew it, she lied, “No, I apologize. I’ll pick up the pace.”

“Alright. Contact me immediately when you do.”

Then, Henrietta averted her gaze. She grabbed her key out of her pocket. It had several spikes along the rim. She glanced back up. At that point, mom had gotten out of view.

“Mihaela, you still doing okay?” Devyn asked, but received no reply. He glanced around.

“Mihaela?!” he called out a bit louder. His temporary distraction gave a stealthy vampire an opening. Henrietta squeezed her eyes shut, so I couldn’t see what happened, but when she looked again, the vampire who attacked laid soundlessly on the ground, but Devyn had a massive gash in his abdomen.

Henrietta raised her hand to her earpiece, but she didn’t press down on it.

It got a lot more challenging for Devyn to fight with a bleeding abdomen. He received more wounds and gradually fell to a slight disadvantage.

I had no idea what emotional turmoil took place in Henrietta’s head with her next decision.

She spun out her mace club and charged up to him while pretending to have just arrived. He was relieved to see her. She assisted him in fighting off the remaining few vampires.

“Are you alright, Chief Dawson?” Henrietta asked urgently.

“Yes, I’m fine,” Devyn said, though his gaze wandered elsewhere, searching for Mihaela.

Henrietta thought for a moment. “Shall I call for reinforcements?”

“Oh, yes. You do that. I’ll take a look around for any remaining ones.”

He stepped in the direction of messy footsteps.

I couldn’t comprehend Henrietta’s thought process, but something urged her to take out her knife and plunge it right into his upper back. She shifted the angle of the stab in a way that made it look like a vampire had clawed into his flesh.

Her hand visibly shook as Devyn fell to his knees. He let down his guard around someone he trusted. Someone whom he thought was an ally. The knife absorbed all the blood, erasing any evidence that was present.

She mocked, “Look around? For your little vampire girlfriend?”

I snapped back to reality for a moment. Henrietta didn’t deny anything I said. I briefly mentally noted that Henrietta’s decision to kill came very suddenly. She was in her early twenties, and she murdered her teacher because he did something that she disagreed with?

She was plain insane.

“Then, what happened to your mother?” Alecx hesitantly asked.

I gulped and continued.

Dad’s cry in pain finally attracted mom’s attention just as she defeated the last enemy. She then realized how far out she got drawn. She rushed back. She immediately sped to Devyn’s side. She kneeled and lifted his head onto her lap so that he wouldn’t be cold in the snow. However, she was naturally cold-blooded. She couldn’t warm him up.

A soft glow of green emanated from her hands, but as soon as they got close to him, the light disappeared.

“No, no,” she choked out. “How does a wound like that close?”

“Mihaela, watch out,” dad whispered, then winced. The pool of blood only augmented as more time passed.

Henrietta slowly spun her key, unleashing her mace club.

Mihaela eventually noticed Henrietta. Her irises swirled a shade of red that screamed bloody murder. After gently letting Devyn’s head down, she got up. The small blizzard didn’t bother Mihaela, but it was beginning to get to Henrietta.

Against such intense pressure from a powerful Pureblood, I could tell that Henrietta wasn’t entirely confident.

Mihaela lunged at Henrietta. Her claws aimed for her throat. She was way faster than when battling the other vampires from before. Just as Henrietta dreaded that she wouldn’t be able to block in time, speedy figures darted out from the side and crashed into Mihaela right when she was a hair away from grabbing Henrietta’s throat.

Stunned, Henrietta blinked twice before turning her head. Two vampires had burst out from the left and tackled Mihaela down. Henrietta didn’t have time to consider the situation. As Mihaela struggled to shove the two others off of her, Henrietta swung her mace club. Mihaela rose her arm to block it so at least it wouldn’t puncture her head.

I quickly skipped past the gory scenes of Henrietta trying to land a fatal attack.

Strangely, the two vampires who collided into Mihaela were like mindless dolls. They didn’t move and only acted as weights.

Suddenly, the vampires grabbed either of Mihaela’s arms and pinned them down. They bit down on her wrists as her struggling was futile.

Henrietta backed away several times. She seemed terrified.

Mom screeched and thrashed to escape, but blood was draining away from her like a whirlpool.

In the corner of Henrietta’s eyes, she saw Devyn desperately try to sit up and reach for his spear. Without a second thought, she used the heel of her boot and kicked the weapon away from him.

He shot a chilling glare at her, but not for long. He coughed out blood. It dyed the snow a deeper shade of red.

Watching this, yet not having any power to alter this cruel reality squeezed my heart most painfully. Though, I was sure it was nothing compared to what my parents went through.

Mihaela tried to heal herself, but her hands were pinned down tightly. As she grew weaker, it only became more difficult for her to break free.

She lost consciousness, fast.

“You did nothing to help them!” I screamed at Henrietta, who flinched at my voice.

My father died surrounded in coldness. Both of them had to watch the other die while not having the power to do anything about it.

I didn’t need to reminisce any further for everyone to understand. Even Henrietta seemed slightly shocked at her own memories.

“How could you possibly get to know all of that?” she asked distantly.

It was an indirect stamp that she didn’t deny anything I said.

“Part of Zach’s ability is reading and transferring memories,” I explained, sounding proud.

“How long are you going to keep talking?” Zach asked, instead. His eyes held so much affection to them as he gave me a small smile. “What do you know, I’m fulfilling my promise to watch you kick the ass of your target of vengeance. I don’t ever need to stick a needle in my eye now, do I?”

I cracked a grin and wiped my face with the back of my hand. He knew I needed some comedic relief after such heavy knowledge of history.

“Nope, your eyes are safe.”

I then faced Henrietta again with a solemn expression. My cardigan and hair fluttered as I neared her. I rose the same spear my father had used and pointed it at her throat.

“Yours, however.” I scowled. “I make no promises.”

I quickened my pace and caught her off guard.

“You’ll pay for what you did, Henrietta King.”

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