The Neophyte

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The Funeral

HEIDI

Nurse Hilda chatted away as I pried my eyes open. Besides me, she was alone in the room, Wynona’s room. I was in Wynona’s bed—exactly where I was before the mess happened.

It was half past nine in the morning. Nurse Hilda went on about some kid’s parents whom she had to explain to how their daughter broke a collarbone during spellcasting training.

“They don’t know how hard we work, you know? Day in, day out. But here, I am at peace because you don’t argue back to me,” then she paused. “You’re awake, aren’t ya?”

A weak smile crept on my face, “For the last five minutes.”

“Oh, bless you my dear,” Nurse Hilda said, her eyes watery. “I shall call the Sages, they would be so thrilled.”

She sat me up and handed me a cup of water. I was parched. “How long was I out?”

“A week and a half. We couldn’t tell if you’d even wake, to be honest with ya. Mr Embers insists that I stay with you, make sure you’re all right. Bless you, you are indeed. No bruises—none of that at all.”

“Thank you, Hilda, for nursing me back to health.”

She shrugged her thick shoulders, “To tell you the truth, love, I only did as instructed. Mr White did most of the deep healing—says you have been through much. You were pale and almost lifeless when they brought you in.”

Three raps at the door—the Sages had arrived.

“How are you feeling?” Wynona asked, her violet eyes round and worried.

“She’s fine, she just needs to exercise her legs. Do bring her out for some fresh air,” Nurse Hilda said before leaving the room.

Jessie and Wynona helped me up and put on my shoes for me. Wynona linked arms and we made our way to the Gardens.

“Is my hair okay?” I asked, suddenly becoming self-conscious the moment we stepped outside.

“You look great, Heidi,” Wynona smiled. Jessie walked beside us.

The past few days had been a blur. All I remembered was chaos at the Lucky Orphan orphanage…

…and Vicky. My heart sank and I felt my eyes water.

“Tell us if you’re hurting,” Jessie said as we sat ourselves on a bench.

“I’m fine,” I choked. Wynona eyed me warily. I looked up and caught her gaze, “Where’s Lord Voltaire? Is he okay?”

“Vampires heal rapidly,” she replied. “He is rebuilding the Lair with the help of Tristan and some other Spellcasters.”

“Now that you are up and about,” Jessie spoke, his ocean-blue eyes deep and calm, “they will be preparing for Vicky’s funeral. It will be held tonight.”

I felt Wynona’s hand pat my shoulder. “I’ll be okay. I want to say goodbye to her one last time.”

* * *

I stepped out of the shower but it wasn’t enough to scrub off the emptiness.

After my grandma passed, Vicky took me in like I was her sister. Like I was family. Now that she was gone, I had nothing. I belonged to no one.

I borrowed Wynona’s blow dryer and dried my hair. I curled it—since I had time—and put on my long black dress. It belonged to my mother. I put on a pair if Wynona’s heels that she lent me and—

—I stopped. I took them off and slipped out of my dress. I sat on the bed and shut my eyes. I realigned my energies to calm myself. To feel better, I needed to be myself. Vicky wouldn’t care about what dress I wore. She raised me to kick evil butts.

I slid on my skinny jeans and a Metallica shirt. I wriggled into my lucky leather jacket and laced up my combat boots. I put on my red beanie and maroon lipstick. There’s the girl that Vicky raised.

I headed to the opened portal to the Underworld. I hadn’t been there since the attack. I stepped through it. I remembered when the Lair was filled with joy and Vampires fraternising with each other. I remembered the way Lord Voltaire lit up when his eyes fell on Vicky. I remembered when he sat her on his right, as his lover and elite soldier, as his girlfriend and protector. I remembered when he protected me out of his love for Vicky.

“She was my bravest soldier,” Lord Voltaire stood by my shoulder and lowered his voice to me. I turned. His blond hair tied into a low ponytail, he stood tall and regal. He looked fresh and rested, a calm smile stretched across his face. But his red eyes—they seemed to hold a lot of wisdom and witnessed many events throughout his lifetime. Even the grievances.

“She was,” I returned a smile. “You look well-rested.”

“So do you,” he replied. “And sad.”

I nodded. “How are you holding up?”

“Barely,” he smiled, almost a laugh, “but I must hold myself together for my Vampires. They deserve a strong King.”

“I believe they already know that.”

Lord Voltaire held out his arm and nodded to the seating area, “Come, we shall join the others.”

Vampires rarely held funerals, and when they did, they were grand, depending on the rank. For Vicky, she was given the honorary salute of an elite Vampire soldier who died at battle.

Lord Voltaire and I sat in the front row while the three Sages were seated elsewhere. Different Vampires came forward and took turns speaking about how fond they were of Vicky. Voltaire and I did not—we sat together, holding the bond of our shared love towards her in silence and grief.

During the burial, the other elite Vampires carried her coffin with Lord Voltaire at the helm. Tristan was among them as well.

* * *

Many Spellcasters mourned the loss of Vicky. They knew her well, though not as well as I did.

But most of them decided to also celebrate the fact that Synto was defeated. They decided to throw a party in our honour and everyone was invited.

I sat in the corner of the training hall where the party held. I swirled the soda in my plastic cup as I watched other Spellcasters play different party games with Jessie and Wynona. Lord Voltaire joined me as we watched the others enjoy themselves. Tristan was nowhere to be seen.

“Why don’t you both join us?” Jessie invited as he made his way to us.

I was avoiding as much physical contact as I could help it. “I’m trying not to go crazy, still recovering.”

Lord Voltaire held up his hand and rejected politely. Then he lowered his voice. “My dear Jessie, don’t you think that it might be a bad idea to throw this party?”

“Oh the trainees want it, I think they just need an excuse to let off some steam.”

“I understand. But I overheard from some of these students that they think Synto is defeated? Dead?” Lord Voltaire’s face was grim. I shuddered at the name.

Jessie’s smile diminished quickly. “Are you saying—“

“Synto cannot die, my good friend. It is a spirit being made to torment the living.” Then he turned to me, “You need to be protected at all times, Heidi. Now more than ever.”

I blinked. What was I supposed to say to that?

“She will be taken care of,” Jessie responded for me.

“Yeah,” I cleared my throat. “I’m just going to be at The Gardens, gonna stretch my legs.” I left them and headed out of the training hall.

Out in The Gardens, I felt the cool breeze surround me. From the corner of my eye, I caught a familiar silhouette approaching me. He stopped before I turned.

“Avoiding the crowd?” Tristan asked. There was a slight curl on his lips.

It was the first time that I had seen him since the orphanage. That felt like a lifetime ago.

“That makes the two of us,” he continued. “Let’s sit over there, it’s quieter.”

We sat on a bench and listened to the peacefulness of the night. The stars shimmered above us, dancing in eternal dusk. Like endless suns.

“I didn’t get a chance to thank you. You saved my life,” Tristan spoke, his ruby eyes glistening under the starlight. “I think I owe you.”

“You think?” I raised my eyebrows and laughed.

He chuckled. “I do owe you. But there is another thing that has been on my mind for a while.”

His eyes grew a little sad. His dark hair reflected blue and white lights from the lamps around us. His red coat sharp and crisp while his ruby on his cuff released a soft pulsating glow. My heart began to race.

When he spoke, his voice was low and velvety. “It drove me mad to think of what Synto did to you. I did not realise my feelings for you until I was deep into it.”

“Oh,” was all that came out of my damn mouth.

I realised that I had never materialised any sort of feelings towards a man. I grew up with my grandmother and my orphanage was all female. All my life, I was taught to fight and defend against djinns and other evil things. I was taught by a female Vampire. I lacked the experience of being around men that I never paid attention to that part of me.

It would be great to be loved. Vicky replaced my grandmother and I thought I was full. Then I lost Vicky and now that love could take the form of a new love. But to what extent was this new love? It would not be the same as my grandmother or Vicky. Tristan’s love would be...different.

“Bear with me,” he grinned sheepishly, “this is my first time.”

I could not stifle a smile. “Me too.”

He leaned in, his eyes darted back and forth, waiting. A permission. I nodded and let him hold and kiss me on the bench of the Gardens, underneath the ember dots of the Magic realm.

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