Blood on Roses

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Paradox

“If you are capable of accepting this fate and giving up everything to me, I will take you with me to eternal life. Whether that life be a dream or a nightmare is entirely up to you. All you have to do is take my hand.”
~ Zachary Nolan

THIRTY-FIVE

In the blink of an eye, Henrietta and I engaged in a fierce battle. Although she appeared visibly distraught, she still managed to defend against my attacks.

I almost kicked myself in frustration. I was slow. I wasted too much energy. On top of that, the growling in my stomach was becoming unbearable.

Our strikes gradually dug dents into the grass. The surrounding vampire hunters had no idea what to do. No one stepped in to help Henrietta due to the new knowledge that she murdered an esteemed hunter, but at the same time, no one could defy a Chief in the blink of an eye.

I attempted to pierce her from multiple angles in mid-air. She parried the blows with her much sturdier mace club. She knocked my spear up, creating an opening.

My eyes narrowed in alert. The scattered red jewels on the spear flashed as the weapon briskly morphed into a shield with the rubies embedded around the edge. I obstructed her thrash in the nick of time.

My weapon was responding more eagerly than ever before. It almost seemed to roar to life as I frequently switched between a sword and shield to gain an advantage. It must’ve been torture for my grandfather to wait twelve years while knowing that Henrietta walked free this entire time.

All of a sudden, she grabbed the top handlebar of the spear, attempting to immobilize me. The weapon reacted on its own and generated sharp spikes right where she held it. She cried out in pain as the thin spikes penetrated her palm.

My fangs brushed against my bottom lip at the same time as my stomach twisted harder in pain.

Human blood smelled heavenly.

If the blood of other vampires drove me to the brink of insanity, the blood of a human instantly dilated my pupils. I gulped, hard.

The distracting scent further hindered my movements and clouded my judgment, but I was still good enough to hold her off. Then, I noticed that Henrietta bit down. She ate the power-up pill that every hunter kept at the back of their teeth.

I had never seen the effects of that pill. I didn’t know what to expect. Halos appeared in my vision for a second. When I blinked them away, Henrietta was right in front of me and swung her mace club at full force. I couldn’t react in time and received a mighty bash to the side of my head.

I flew across the field and straight into a tree. Blood dripped down my face. My head throbbed, and I blacked out for a good two seconds.

So many people called out my name in worry. Zach sped over immediately. He kneeled on one knee and checked my injury.

“That’s it. You’re not fighting her alone.” He stood up, and the red rings around his pupils gleamed in hostility.

I used the remainder of my strength to reach up and tug at the bottom of his shirt. I wobbled to get to my feet. I wished for my injuries to heal, but the process slowed down to almost the healing speed of a human.

Zach promptly inhaled, and he frowned straightaway. “You haven’t had a drink, yet?”

Shaking my head only made me dizzier. I blinked hard to focus on Henrietta again. She stood at the far side of the field, closely watching my every movement.

Zach’s eyes darted around in a way that I knew he was thinking. Before I could bend down to pick up my spear, he grabbed my arm. His actions appeared rough, but his hold on me was tender.

“Did you survive off of those sugar packets?”

He got it in one.

“Yeah,” I mumbled. “Hailee told me it made regular things edible, so I thought...”

I trailed off. Zach was absolutely furious.

“Tell me, would a human survive off just vitamin pills? No, I don’t think so. What made you think the sugar shits could support your body? I thought you got slower and slower as you fought me, but what the fuck? You’re not three years old; you should fucking know that you need food to live!”

Zach’s sentences gradually got more entrenched in profanities as he got worked up. My shoulders relaxed as I felt his caring nature deep under those rough covers. I was glad he was much more honest with me, but now wasn’t the time for sentiments.

He sensed it before I could.

The millisecond I noticed the bullet, Zach crashed into me, using his back to shield me from it and led me behind a larger tree. The shell plunged straight through his arm.

This instantly brought back unwanted memories of the time he sustained several arrows in his torso to shield me. I didn’t understand why he always used his body as a shield. He may heal fast, but he still felt pain!

“You didn’t have to do that!” I exclaimed.

“Of course I did. I’d do anything to protect my girl.”

“I,” I stuttered stubbornly. “I don’t need protection.”

His lips curved into an attractive smirk. “You don’t deny that you’re my girl?”

I gasped again. My back pressed up against the tree bark in nervousness. Zach seemed to enjoy watching me struggle to form a comeback.

“Now’s not the time for that!” I said, embarrassed, and put up my forearms against his chest.

I glanced at his arm. “That bullet....”

“It was aiming directly at your heart.”

I bitterly pressed a hand to my chest. “You mean the one that doesn’t exist anymore?”

“You’re right.” He bit the inside of his bottom lip, cutting it open.

“I stole it,” Zach whispered, then took my breath away.

I melted under the kiss until I realized that I unconsciously swallowed. My eyes shot wide open. Zach cut his bottom lip to transfer his blood to me.

When offered the blood of a powerful Pureblood, my mind was no match for my instincts.

My eyelids fell, and I wrapped my arms around his back. Kissing hungrily had never been more descriptive. My headache and hunger soon disappeared without a trace. I swallowed one last time and licked my lips as Zach pulled away from me.

Newfound power surged through me. The instant I drank Zach’s blood, I was on my way to finally achieve the level of a Pureblood.

There was a reason why all vampires wanted a taste of a Pureblood’s rare blood. I would never be enticed by any vampire’s blood ever again after I drank pure blood. It was on another level in its entirety. Almost addictive.

My eyes slowly fluttered open.

Zach broke out into a small smirk. “You finally look alive.”

“Strange, since we’re dead.” I grinned back.

He gave me a quick peck on the lips. “I’ll deal with that attitude of yours later. Right now, you have an unfinished ass to kick.”

I was acutely aware of my bright crimson irises as I nodded.

A frighteningly changed temperament surrounded me as I revealed myself. I bent down and picked up my spear as I strode toward Henrietta. She gripped a gun tightly in her hands.

I held up a hand above my heart. It was time to test the treasure that my mother left me.

I wished for all of my and Zach’s injuries to heal. A request that used to take a quarter of my stamina was now equivalent to doing one jumping jack.

Henrietta fired. But everything else felt like slow motion in comparison to my speed and reaction time. I waved my weapon and swatted the bullet away as if it were a fly. She realized right then that a pistol wouldn’t do her any good. She clipped it back into her belt and spun her key.

Dragging the hook on the claw of the spear, I drew a line on my palm. I ran that hand down the weapon, fueling it. The dents previously created on the spearhead ameliorated in a split second.

“Monster...,” Henrietta whispered, then spat, “You’re a monster!”

“And you were the first-hand cause of this monster’s growth!”

This time, I struck the mace club out of her hand. It flew to the other side of the field. Some hunters around fished their weapons, but they were still reluctant to join the fight.

“Associate Johnston, toss me your gun!” Henrietta ordered.

Travis, who was always loyal to Henrietta, hesitated. His hand paused on his gun holder.

I wasn’t going to wait for them.

Without a weapon, there was no way for Henrietta to parry my strike, enhancement pill or not. And there was even less of a chance that she could outrun me.

I took a millisecond to aim as I leaped and swung my crescent blade down like an axe. She couldn’t dodge this. I was sure I could split her skull open with this strike.

As the tip of the blade was inches away from Henrietta’s head, an invisible force hammered my spear, tilting the course of the strike. I missed Henrietta by a hair. I glared in the direction of the interferer.

“That’s enough,” Grant said, retracting his outstretched palm. He compressed nearby air into a chunk and knocked the spearhead to the side. Henrietta jumped back a couple of meters away from me.

If it were possible to radiate malice, I was doing it.

Henrietta made a trip around to Travis and collected his gun. I couldn’t pursue her because Grant stood in my way.

As much as I’d like to break past him, his aerokinesis was no joke.

“Even after all the talking, you still choose to side with her,” I mumbled, just audible enough for him to hear.

Grant shook his head. “I’m helping humanity, Hazel, not Henrietta alone. I’m still inherently human. I never wanted to be a vampire.”

“Well, you must’ve at some point. Humans can’t be turned without consent,” I stated. “Do you want me to announce that to the world and expose your cover-up story?”

He flinched. “I was dying of a disease. I was desperate.”

“I can’t believe you could know the pasts of vampires like Hailee and Roman and still choose to slaughter.”

He visibly shuddered when I mentioned Hailee’s name. He stuttered for a moment before continuing, “Many humans also had their families killed by vampires. Haven’t you seen the brutal policies of The Ones? Harvick would do anything to get what he wants.”

This time, I projected my voice so everyone around could hear. “I think we can agree that both sides have done horrible things. Have you ever considered that humans and vampires can coexist instead of ridding the entire world of vampires?”

“That’s impossible,” Grant said, then realized why I asked. I was living proof that the two species could get along.

He rephrased his statement, “Why would humans want that?”

Before I could answer, a gigantic boulder smashed into Grant, forcefully knocking the air out of him. His head bled as he struggled to push the rock off of him.

“Sorry that took me so long.” Zach dusted his hands. “I had to look for the park entrance.”

I almost laughed when I realized that Zach had traveled all the way to the entry of the park and carried the park sign here, then chucked it at Grant with full force.

“This is exactly what I’m talking about! How much easier would everything be with the strength and speed of a vampire?”

Zach blinked. “Say what now?”

The brief light-hearted mood was interrupted by gunfire. Henrietta fired two shots, and one of them grazed my shoulder. Zach instantly became alarmed. I waved, telling him that I was alright. He respected my request and stayed out of my battle.

I was going to take advantage of my newfound power and wish Henrietta dead, but Grant’s outburst reminded me of something.

I wished for an invisible barrier to shield me for one minute, then dropped my weapon on the ground. Henrietta was visibly unnerved by my actions. She fired densely, but that couldn’t stop me any longer.

Eventually, she ran out of bullets. As she stepped back, Arthur stopped her. He pointed the dull side of his scythe at her back. It was relieving to see him take my side.

Henrietta’s features twisted in spite. Her usually neat paperboy cut was now a sweaty mess. I came to a halt right in front of her. She was now defenseless. If I wanted to, all I had to do was plunge my hand into her stomach to take her life.

I could tell that no one knew what I was planning.

“Why do humans and vampires insist on torturing each other?” The question flowed out of my mouth as the barrier around me faltered.

“What?” Henrietta asked.

“You murdered my parents because you blindly believed that all vampires were evil. Zach gave you that belief by desiccating your entire family when you were only twelve years old, but he only did that because your grandfather took everything from him. And whatever happened to your grandfather? It’s all a loop. Why don’t we end this here? End it all. I don’t have to kill you, and you don’t have to exterminate me.” I spared a glance at Kaydence, who looked like she was about to faint any minute.

I thought I was reasonable in my approach, but Henrietta only appeared more agitated. “Don’t talk to me in that condescending tone, vampire. You turned out exactly like your father. The last couple of years of his life, he wouldn’t shut up about peace between vampires and humans. He had talent like no one else, but he chose to waste it!”

My eyes narrowed. “Is that why you approached Kaydence in the beginning? So you could monitor her and ‘keep her in check’ in case she went on the same path?”

“So what if I was?” Henrietta shamelessly admitted.

I inhaled deeply. “I take back what I said. I will achieve coexistence one day, but before that, you need to die.”

It was only appropriate to use my dad’s spear to execute vengeance for him and my mom.

I wished for it to fly to me. I reached out my palm behind my back. Without needing to look back, the weapon came to me, and I wrapped my fingers around it.

“I’d like to see you try!” Henrietta yelled and revealed a dagger she had up her sleeve.

I couldn’t bring the spear around in time. She closed the distance between us and stabbed me right near my ascending aorta. That would’ve made any human bleed out in mere minutes.

At first, it felt like a strong punch. For a second, I panicked. I stared at her dead in the eyes and said aloud, “I wish you’d just kill yourself.”

When I realized what I wished for, it was too late. Henrietta pulled the knife out of my chest and stabbed it into her throat.

My eyes widened as her blood splashed onto my face. Her limp body fell to my feet. Her blood rapidly diffused into the green grass.

Talk about anticlimactic. This wasn’t how I imagined it to end.

I took several steps back. My cardigan loosely dangled off my shoulders, and I stepped on it. I tripped and fell on my bottom, ripping the thin garment. I wasn’t the only one caught in a daze.

The death of Henrietta knocked some people to their senses. Travis suddenly yelled and aimed his sword at me. I was too shaken to respond.

In an instant, I levitated off the ground and Travis abruptly froze in place.

I turned my head to the opposite side and broke out into a smile when I saw the familiar figures of Hailee, Ashlynne, Roman, Kassandra, France, and even Harvick. They all covered their faces for obvious reasons, but I recognized them at a glance. Ashlynne used her ability to freeze Travis with a mere glance.

Telekinesis brought me over to them. I landed in Zach’s arms, who had his gaze fixed on Travis. Once he could move again, he let out a battle cry, then proceeded to hit the boulder that Zach threw on Grant earlier. Under Zach’s power, Travis hallucinated that that boulder was me.

Zach let me down after I healed my stab wound and wiped my face.

“I’m not sure if I should hug you because you’re okay or slap you for betraying us for even a second,” Hailee rambled as soon as she got close enough. “On second thought, I just got this white shirt three days ago, and blood is a bitch to wash. The hug and slap can wait.”

“Yeah, your slap could’ve brought me back to my senses.” I laughed. “How’d you guys know we were here?”

“Hailee contacted me while you were busy trying to kill me,” Zach explained. He wasn’t bothered in the least that I inflicted so many cuts on him just earlier.

I noticed that Ashlynne had a furball in her arms. It wasn’t a few seconds later that I realized that she was holding the husky puppy, Alaska, that we saved a while back.

While I busied myself with chatting, Zach never strayed his gaze away from monitoring the hunters. There were some dozens of vampire hunters gathered here because this was supposed to be a grand capture.

Roman and France shot me a half smile. France had spent the majority of the past month or two to investigate my past. It must’ve been painful for him to learn the truth, too.

Roman told me that Ashton was gone forever. After they had a long internal conversation that appeared utterly insane to everyone else, Ashton reached a point where he no longer needed to worry about his little brother, and Roman came to terms with his past mistakes. Roman now possessed both abilities.

Harvick merely stood silently at the side, watching me beam like the teenager that I was. I supposed he felt like he accomplished something that comforted his sister. At the very least, I now knew the truth, and I was powerful enough to defend myself against anything.

I felt like a huge burden had lifted from my shoulders. I was more aware than ever that, at last, everything was over.

I faced all of the vampire hunters who gathered. They murmured amongst themselves; nobody knew exactly what to do. None of them were corrupted or immoral. They only believed that they were executing justice for mankind by exterminating all vampires.

Coexistence was still a long way, but right now, these vampire hunters and vampires weren’t trying to rip each other apart. That was a baby step in the right direction.

The clouds gradually cleared as I sincerely felt serenity.

Soon, ambulances arrived. Arthur immediately reported to the higher-ups. Kaydence and Alecx stood side-by-side. They wanted to run over, but at the same time, I was surrounded by a bunch of vampires with quirky masks as disguises.

Just as I wanted to introduce them all to break the ice, Hailee discarded her mask and beamed. “Oh, my gosh, Kaydence! I haven’t seen you in forever!”

That worked, too.

Seeing someone familiar eased Kaydence’s nerves a bit, and she slowly walked over. Alecx followed behind her.

Another baby step toward coexistence.

Though I was sure Hailee would only be more popular in school as a vampire queen.

Hailee went straight in for a hug. Kaydence was surprised, but she returned it. Hailee and Kaydence were both naturally preppy and gregarious people. France smoothly transitioned in and introduced himself. A conversation boomed soon enough.

It probably wasn’t a good idea to let Alecx and Zach be within five meters of each other, though.

Zach was a bit taller than Alecx, and I could see that he was enjoying that height advantage.

I had to physically put myself in front of Zach so he wouldn’t pick a fight. I laughed awkwardly and said, “Let’s all get something to eat, yeah?”

Crap.

“Are you trying to mock us?” Hailee turned to me and pretended to be offended. “What do you expect us to order? Blood soup?”

It’d take me a while longer to get used to a vampire’s taste buds.

“I am hungry, though,” said Zach.

“I can go back real quick to grab some juice boxes,” Roman replied.

“I don’t like blood in a box.”

“It tastes the same, Zach,” Hailee pointed out.

France pitched in, “The juice boxes we have are a whole lot better than what I got in prison all those years. You need to appreciate your resources.”

Zach shuddered when France mentioned the blood he got during the time he was imprisoned. He sighed. “Roman. Go.”

Kaydence and Alecx had no idea how to react to that entire conversation. I never imagined my vampire and human friends would chat as one big group. The grin on my face only got wider and wider.

Now there was just one problem.

The sun was freaking scorching me. I needed to get out of it.

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