Kings, Knights, and Pawns
Tarje sat back causally in an antique leather chair, his legs rested atop a large wooden desk. He clearly had no care for whose documents he was crushing underneath his feet. Behind him, sitting in a slightly less fancy chair, was Natsumi, her eyes were firmly locked to the large, heavy book in her lap, which was so worn that the spine was barely holding the pages together. On top of left side of the book was her phone that displayed the picture of Aaron’s tattoo. At her feet were several stacks of books, all clearly read. The blonde-haired boy looked to her after minutes of bored silence. “Find anything?” She shook her head and sighed. “This would be easier if I knew what I was looking for. Going off of the fact that Alex recognized it isn’t enough information. I don’t even know what era to search for. Maybe the last century?” “Knowing Alex, if he can’t remember it, it’s probably from at least the last millennium.” Natsumi raised her eyes in disbelief, “you sure?” Tarje shrugged. “What can I say? He has an almost perfect memory of the last couple centuries, so it can’t be from anything too recent.” The blue-haired girl nodded and flipped a couple sections back in the book to the table of contents. The top of the page read The History of Archaic Symbols. She traced her finger down the block of text until she found the 10th century and beyond. Natsumi folded the papyrus pages to the desired chapter and began skimming for anything from the tattoo that matched up. “Why would a kid have a tattoo of a 10th century symbol anyway? How did he even find this design? I can’t even find it.” “He probably just found it on the internet somewhere.”
The blonde heard quiet groaning from behind him. He turned to face the noise. In front of him, on the other side of the desk, was the redhead sophomore from earlier. His deep, lavender eyes, opened and raised to meet the crystal orbs that stared back at him. The boy quickly formed a glare as he felt the hot, burning sensation wrap around his wrists. He looked down to see he was chained to the chair. “Morning, sunshine.” Tarje greeted with a slightly sinister smile. Before Rai responded, he looked around the room. It was a rather large office. To the right of him was 4 or 5 rows of bookshelves, which were built into the wall. The shelves were practically overflowing with books of every size. To the left of him was a brick fireplace. The walls in between were barren except for the one he was facing, which held a curtained window.
“Where are we?” Tarje sat up in his chair, placing his clasped hands on the desk. “The counselor’s office. Fortunately, Mr. Kaito isn’t here today.” He gestured to the plaque on the edge of the table, which displayed the title Itsuki Kaito, Locus Lunae Guidance Counselor. “So, we got plenty of time to chat in peace.” “I’m not talking to a traitor.” Rai said dryly. “You’re the one that attacked us.” Both boys turned to Natsumi in the corner. The redhead sighed. “I don’t expect someone like you to understand what my people have gone through.” “It’s pretty simple actually. Your clan wanted protection and stability, that only a large faction like the Tepes family could provide. So, they raided your land, and, because they found your family useful, offered them a place with the rest of the kingdom. And now you’re butthurt about it.” The girl said, not taking her eyes off her book.
The lavender eyes of the vampire lit up and he pulled against the chains around his arms. “You bitch, I’m trying to get retribution for my family’s murder,” he growled between clenched teeth. Tarje waved away the boy’s anger. “Alright, we’re getting off topic.” He looked at him with a professional level of detachment. “It’s a pretty big coincidence that you and your sister show yourselves a day after Celeste attacked Alex.” The boy waited for a response, but got nothing. Tarje leaned closer to him, his crystal eyes lowered until they were slits. “What are you guys planning? Did Celeste put you up to this?” Rai Tanaka remained silent. “Are you really dense enough to think you could overpower two exemplars?” The boy’s eyes lowered as he thought to himself. “Unless they were after Aaron for some reason.” “Doubt it.” He turned to Natsumi. “He just turned last night, they wouldn’t had enough time to come up with a plan that involved him. Besides, I don’t think anyone in their right mind would try to provoke a paragon, even in his fledgling form. Which is probably why they came after us instead of trying to fight Alex.”
The blonde-haired boy sighed and sat back in his chair. “We’re not getting anywhere.” “Giving up so soon?” Tarje glared at Rai’s mischievous grin. The water in the mug next to him condensed and climbed up the glass side. His partner looked up as drops of liquid floated up in the air and froze into sharp points, facing their prisoner. “Tarje, Alex specifically told us not to hurt him.” The boy sighed. “This would be so much easier if we just tortured him.” He mumbled as the water drops fell back in his glass. “Calm down, grandpa. This isn’t the 14th century, you can’t get away with that anymore.” The blonde glared back back at his blue-haired counterpart, who simply smiled before flipping the page of the ancient book she was reading. “You know, for a mutt, she’s much smarter than you, Nystrom.”
A sudden gasp of pain escaped the redhead’s form as Natsumi’s crystalized hand pierced through his upper arm. Warm blood spewed from the wound as she ripped her fingertips out of his flesh. “I thought you said not to hurt him.” Her glowing scowl was directed towards Tarje. “This isn’t torture, it’s payback.”
That moment, she felt her pocket vibrate. Wiping the blood from her hand, Natsumi retrieved her phone. The girl looked at the text notification on her lock screen. It was from Alex. ′Something important came up. Can you take care of Aaron?′ She quickly responded to him. ′He’s still asleep?′ Her text mirrored the concern in her chocolate brown eyes. ′Yeah. His wound hasn’t healed much either.′ Natsumi looked up to Tarje, who was waiting patiently for her briefing. “Any word from Alex?” He asked. “He wants us to babysit his fledgling while he handles something. He didn’t say what.” The blonde-haired boy sighed, “of course he does.” He stood from the mint tinted leather chair and walked over to Rai. Gripping the top of the wooden chair, he dragged it backwards to the exit. “Hey! Where are you taking me?!” Natsumi smiled at him as she opened the door for Tarje. “The detention hall. Have fun dealing with the principal.” Rai glared his indigo eyes at her as he was dragged out of the room.
Alexandru Tepes sat peacefully in the silence of the Locus Solis Lecture Hall. He held a light novel in his hands. Beside him on the wooden bench, laid Aaron. His eyes were closed and his unconscious form was still. The scratches that covered his body were gone, but the gash in his leg still remained. Alex had wrapped his tie around the wounded area to stop the bleeding, but all it seemed to be doing was staining fabric red. Alex sighed, it had been nearly 20 minutes since Aaron passed out and he was beginning to suspect that something was wrong. Surveying his body and listening to his low-beating heart, however, revealed nothing unusual. Did his ability really take this much energy from him? Or, maybe the silver paint was still flowing through his veins.
The dark-haired boy lowered the book from his face. As he did so, his reddish orbs locked with a cluster of sapphire blue eyes, that all glared at him in unison. A group of classmates stared at him from outside the window, all with various colored uniforms and shades of hair, but all with eyes of the same eerie hue. Alex’s eyes lowered to suspicious slits. What did the seraphs want? Glancing down at the fledgling next to him, he pulled out his phone and contacted Natsumi. She told her to oversee Aaron as he stood. A sigh escaped his mouth before he walked towards the window.
A few minutes later, and Sasaco Hara, the first year professor, appeared from her classroom. She turned to lock the door, before she strolled down the large, empty hallway. Because of how vacant the passageway was, it wasn’t long until she saw her student asleep on a bench. She smiled at the scene. “I guess you really were tired.” However, her smile quickly faded as she walked closer. Mrs. Hara scanned Aaron’s tattered, dust covered uniform that was slashed in several places. The most concerning sight to her was his left leg, which was wrapped with a tie and was being slowly dyed in red. Sasaco crouched to get better look at the wound. She sighed. “First day and you’re already getting into trouble, huh Aaron. You just love making your mom worry about you. Better not tell her about this.” Sasaco looked both ways down the hallway, making sure the coast was clear. Using her teeth, she ripped a small piece of skin from her finger. Her copper eyes flashed a pure blue as a drop of blood splashed against the surface of Aaron’s skin. The healing was almost immediate. The tear in the boy’s thigh closed and the bruised skin around the wound lightened. Sasaco then snapped her fingers and the rips in his uniform fixed themselves.
Mrs. Hara sat next to the boy and waited for him to awaken. She smiled as she felt him come out of his state of slumber. However, shock stretched across her face as Aaron opened his eyes. A strong scarlet flashed in her vision, before they faded back to their original color. “Oh, I see. So, that’s why they’re hanging around you.” She whispered to herself as the raven-haired boy fully regained his consciousness. “Mrs. Hara?” Mrs. Sasaco Hara gave him a bright grin. “Evening, Aaron.” Aaron Van Roosen swung his legs over the ledge of the bench. “You know my name?” “I am your teacher.” He nodded. His professor noticed that his movements were much slower than she saw previously and his blue vision was glazed over. “I guess you’re right.” He took a minute to rub his tired eyes and look around the corridor. “Do you know where Natsumi and Tarje went?” Mrs. Hara shook her head. “I’m sorry, I don’t. They may be at their dorm. It has been nearly an hour since school was let out for the day.” “Yeah, maybe.” Aaron’s personality seemed to return to his voice. “I should find them.” He stood and began to walk away. However, Sasaco grabbed his wrist before he got too far. The boy turned to his teacher, his eyes returned to the brightness she was used to. “Aaron, those juniors that you’ve been hanging out with...be careful around them. I don’t want you to get hurt.” He knew exactly what she meant, he’d seen what they could do, but he had to act like ignorant freshman he appeared to be. The boy looked down at her with eyes of fake confusion. “Um...thanks.”
As Aaron looked down the hallway, he said a tall, blue-haired girl and a shorter blonde-haired boy walked side by side towards him. The raven-haired boy felt an intense stare against his back. He glanced back at Mrs. Hara, who held her worried gaze. “Come on man, I want to go home already.” The British boy’s vision faced Tarje. “Ok, ok.” He gave one last look at his teacher before he followed Natsumi and Tarje out of the building.
Aaron waited until they were out of the woman’s field of vision before he glared at his vampire handlers. “What the hell, guys?” Natsumi looked back at him with confusion. “What?” “Why did you leave me unconscious in the middle of the hallway? Alone! Especially after those two crazies tried to kill us!” His tone was that of anger, but his pitch was soft so no one could hear. “And you still haven’t told me anything. Like what the hell were you guys talking about during that fight. Paragon? Exemplars? Factions? What does any of that mean?”
Natsumi came to a halt. She kneeled, unzipped her backpack, and shuffled her hand through the inside. Tarje crossed his arms as he stood above. “Seriously? We’re doing this now? Here?” The blue-haired girl shrugged as she pulled a large piece of rolled-up yellowish paper out of her bag. “Why not? We can’t keep him in the dark forever.” “Pretty sure we can.” The blond muttered to himself. Nat rolled out the rectangular cut of papyrus out on the floor, revealing a map of the ancient world. This map was much different than anything Aaron had ever seen. Crouching next to the girl, he saw that the only colors that bled into the surface of the paper was country names that Natsumi had seemingly circled herself. Everything else about the map was grey. She turned to the confused, raven-haired boy. “This is a map of 9th century, roughly. Back then, the vampire kingdom was fractured into 16 warring nations. The Tepes clang controlled much of Europe, including Romina. Tarje’s family, The Nystroms, occupied Norway, Sweden, and Finland. The Tanaka clan ruled over Japan and Korea, etc. These families competed over resources, killing each other, destroying property...other things. That was, until the Tepes family unified us as one nation, or faction.” Natsumi paused to see if Aaron was paying attention. He nodded, not taking his eyes off the map. “Though, ‘unifying’ is not the most accurate term. Rai was right when he described the overthrow of his clan. The siege the Tepes’ took part in was not the most...peaceful time in our history. Trust me, that war was not something you would ever want to see.” His tone drop for the last of his thought to a pitch only slightly above a whisper. “Wait, does that mean you’re thousands of years old?” Aaron asked in a somewhat amused way. The blond-haired boy didn’t seem to get the joke as his serious eyes refused to relax. “Yeah.” He said, nonchalantly. The freshman’s mouth hung open and shocked appeared yet again in his azure orbs. He turned to Natsumi. She smiled, “he’s telling the truth. Both him and Alex are old as hell.” “Are you-” “Oh, no. I’m not a pureblood. I’m only like...” She paused to count. “84, I think.” Aaron sat in silence for minute in order to process everything he was hearing. In the meantime, Natsumi was giggling at how confused he looked. Tarje sighed, annoyed at how much time they were wasting on this. “Aaron, don’t you have a girlfriend to get to?” That shook the boy out of his thoughts. “How do you know that?” The confusion in his eyes vanished and a glare appeared instead. “Oh, wait. That’s right. You were stalking me.” “Let’s not have this conversation again.” Natsumi said as she got to her feet. Aaron followed her movements. “We’re just here to look out for you. Nothing more, nothing less.” Her and Tarje picked up their pace to an active stroll towards the exit. “Now, come on. I’m sure Emi is waiting for you.” The raven-haired boy sighed when he realized that she only answered one of his questions as he ran to catch up with them.
Aaron walked behind Natsumi and Tarje. Though, close enough to hide under the girl’s giant black umbrella. They roamed about the courtyard in peaceful silence, until his blue eyes locked with the scene of a slender girl with a pigtail of brownish hair and beautiful hazel eyes. She sat under an unusually large Japanese maple. She wasn’t alone. Emi smiled and laughed with another girl of the same age with short blonde hair and large, square glasses. Emilia’s grin turned to the boy as the three approached. “Hello, stranger.” She stood and wrapped her arms around his body. Aaron reciprocated the hug, before she pulled away. “How was your day? Hope it wasn’t too much torture without me.” He laughed as the events of the day flashed through his mind. “It was pretty boring. I missed you.” Emi smiled. “Good.” “Oh, who’s the cutie, Em?” They both looked to the girl she was talking to earlier. “This must be your boyfriend you were talking about.” “Yep.” The blonde girl jumped up. She was even smaller than Emi, and that was saying something. “My name is Yoko Okada, first year student.” “Yeah, I can tell.” The boy said with a smile as he scanned her blue blazer. “Aaron Van Roosen.” He offered his hand to her and she gladly took it. “Hey, Aaron?” He glanced to Emi, who looked behind them. “Who are they? Your friends?” His azure eyes followed her vision to the tall, blue-haired girl with chocolate brown eyes, and a shorter boy with blonde hair and light blue eyes. “Oh,” he said, a little embarrassed to admit that he’d completely forgot they were there. “Emilia, this is Natsumi Kobayashi and Tarje Nystrom.” Nat smiled and bow respectfully. Tarje followed her lead. Though, he still held his signature frown.“We’re his classmates. Nice to meet you.” Emi nodded and bowed back. “Emilia Riou, I’m Aaron’s girlfriend, but I’m sure you already knew that.”
“Anyway, Aaron, your mom-” Em was cut short as her pocket began to vibrate. “Hold on.” She pulled her phone out and looked at the contact. Her phone screen displayed the name Adeline Van Roosen. “Speaking of which, your mom’s calling me. She has been for the last 20 minutes.” “Oh no.” Aaron whispered to himself as he grabbed her phone from her hand. He watched it ring for a moment, before looking at her. “You think she’d be mad if we just don’t answer.” His girlfriend glared her multicolored eyes at him. “Knowing your mom, she’ll get on a flight right now just to kick your ass if you don’t pick up.” “Do I really have to?” Emi’s glare deepened. “Answer the damn phone.” The raven-haired boy sighed. “Fine.” He put her phone to his ear. “Allô, maman. C’est moi.” He answered in French and immediately held the phone away from his ear as a barrage of angered words came through the speaker. The woman on the other end was so loud that even Yoko could hear, despite being several feet away. “Calme-toi! Laissez-moi vous expliquer!” Aaron’s plead seemed to only anger her mother more as the assault continued. Emilia began to laugh and he turned to glare at her. “Do you speak French?” Tarje asked. She shook her head. “No, but I can tell by her tone that he’s in trouble.” The raven sighed. “Shut up, Emi.” As the mom heard that name, she stopped her onslaught. “Is Emi there? Aaron, put me on speaker.” Adeline suddenly switched from French to English. Though, she still held her deep accent. He obeyed and her voice became louder. “Hello, Emilia.” The girl smiled at the voice. “Hi, mom.” She waved, even though the woman couldn’t see her. “How was your first day? I hope my son hasn’t given you as much trouble as he has for me.” Emi giggled. “No, ma’am. He’s been good.” She patted his dark hair down with her hand. “That’s good. Aaron, you better have a damn good excuse for ignoring my calls.” Aaron sighed, bracing himself for more screaming. “I lost my phone...” The angered glare turned to Natsumi and Tarje, like they had anything to do with it. “What?!” The boy flinched as the screeched came in contact with his sensitive ears. “You’ve been there for two days and you’ve already lost your phone?” “Yeah...” His voice was barely a whisper. Adeline sighed and there was a sudden, high pitched giggle could he heard from the phone. “Ha, big brother’s in trouble.” The voice of the little girl said in a mocking tone. “Shut it, you little brat.” “Don’t talk to your sister that way. Apologize.” Aaron exhaled a long, annoyed breath. “Sorry, Aubrie.” Aubrie giggled again. “You better be careful what you say about me, Aaron, or your precious manga might mysteriously disappear.” Angered flashed in his eyes as he gripped the phone in his hand. “I swear, if you go into my room, you will regret it.” The blue-haired girl glanced at her partner with concern. Luckily, they were the only ones that seemed to noticed anything. “Ok, that’s enough.” Emilia said with a smile as she retrieved her phone from Aaron. “I think we should end this conversation before Aubrie and Aaron start fighting over the phone.” “That’s a good idea.” Adeline replied. “I wish you good luck with your shop, Adeline.” “Thank you. I’ll make sure to save you some roses for you guys when you get back. Talk to you soon.” “Bye!” Emilia said as she ended the call and slipped the phone back in her pocket.
“That reminded me of my sister and I,” they all turned to Yoko, who sat back on the bench with her textbook in her hands. She smiled. “We used to fight like that all the time.” “Aaron and Aubrie have more than just a sibling rivalry. You guys try to kill each other every chance you get.” Emi responded, looking to Aaron. “That’s more Aubrie. I swear she’s a demon or something.” She smiled as she plopped down next to the blonde girl. “Well, that was a nice chat, but Yoko and I have to study for a test tomorrow.” “Seriously? You guys have a test on the second day of school?” The girls shared a look of little enthusiasm. “Yeah...” “Mr. Sato is such a strict teacher. He wouldn’t even let us talk during class.” They both responded with their heads down. “Our first grade is a math test on things we haven’t even talked about yet.” Emilia’s eyes swirled with stress. Aaron bent down and pecked her on the lips. He smiled, “you’ll do fine. You’re the smartest person I know.” He intertwined his fingers with her long hair. “We’re gonna walk around, alright?” “Ok, see you tonight.” Aaron strolled away, under Nat’s umbrella, towards the large garden in the middle of the campus.
Natsumi and Tarje followed the boy through the courtyard for several minutes, before the girl asked, “where are we going?” “Away from Em, enough so they don’t hear us.” They walked in silence for a few more steps before Aaron stopped and turned on his heels to face the two. “What exactly are we talking about?” “You still haven’t answered all of my questions.” He looked between them, but their eyes both dropped to the ground. “Is there a problem?” “You’re the one that doesn’t want anything to do with us, so why are you even asking?” Tarje’s serious eyes locked with Aaron’s. The raven-haired boy sighed. “It would be easier to handle this if you would tell me what’s going on.” “What do you want to know?” Natsumi asked and the blonde glared up at her. “Don’t waste your knowledge on him. He doesn’t respect any of this.” “What’s your problem with me, anyway?” Tarje took a step closer to Aaron and grabbed a handful of his uniform. “My problem is that you still refuse to accept reality. Your life as a human is over. Alex didn’t have to waste his blood on you, but he did. He gave you a new life, and yet you ignore it. You pretend nothing has changed, but you’re wrong. Everything has changed. You give Alex no respect. He is not your friend, he is your master. You should be worshipping at his feet.” The boy pushed Aaron to the ground. He hissed as his body was washed in the heat of the sun. He looked up to see the blonde’s crimson eyes. “He gave you the greatest gift anyone could ever give. He made you a paragon. The fact that you would refuse such a legacy disgusts me.” Without another word, Tarje walked out from under the protection of the umbrella and passed Aaron on the sidewalk. He headed towards the Night Dorm, ignoring the light that ignited his veins.
The raven-haired boy was blinded by the intense light in his eyes. He attempted to shield the brightness with his arm, when it was suddenly blackened out. When his orbs adjusted to the new light, Aaron looked up to Natsumi’s outstretched hand. He accepted the help and was lifted off the ground with little effort. “What was that about?” “You’ll have to forgive Tarje. He was born into a noble vampire family. He’s never had to adapt to such a change in lifestyle. He doesn’t understand what you’re going through.” “And you do?” She smiled. “Of course, I wasn’t always like this. And back in the 30′s, it was a lot harder to accept...” Curiosity returned to those azure orbs. “Who turned you?” Her brownish eyes drifted again. “I’d rather not talk about it.”
“Natsumi?” “Hm?” Aaron was silent for a second as he thought of how to phrase his question. “Tarje called me a paragon...I heard Rai say the same thing when referring to Alex...” He trailed off. He felt uncomfortable asking more. The girl sighed. “If you don’t want to accept what you are, than I don’t think you want to know. It’ll give you even more responsibility than you already have...and it’ll make you a target.” “Then...do you mind telling me what an exemplar is? That’s what Rai and Hanako called you.” “Think of it like a royal advisor who’s been knighted. We provide protection, wisdom, and guidance to the throne.” “Throne? Is Alex some kind of royalty?” Natsumi smiled. “I told you, you don’t want to know. In your case, ignorance is bliss. However, if you want to get a better understanding of who you now are, you should tag along to tonight’s class.” Tarje’s murderous glare passed through Aaron’s mind. “I don’t think I should.” “Come on, you won’t get hurt. That’s what I’m here for.” Her smile turned to a sour frown. “And Tarje, but he’s being an idiot, as usual.” Aaron Van Roosen shrugged. “Sure, why not?” “Excellent,” she turned on her heels to the direction to her dorm. “Meet us in our room at 10:30 pm. The number is 104. We’ll let you in.” Natsumi waved as she walked away, returning Aaron to the glaring sunlight.