Seeking the Truth
“Your mother was a lovely lady. Your father was never interested in romance, so I was stunned when he told me he was engaged,” said Arthur. I stood behind him while he shuffled through the archive computer at the hunters’ headquarters.
I had just informed him of my revelation about my mom and Zach’s observation that a few seemingly important vamps never surfaced again. I first asked Arthur what he knew about my mom, which was very little.
“They hid the whole vampire thing so well,” I noted.
“Quite! In retrospect, there were many signs. When Devyn first introduced us, she said she was very camera shy and never took photos.”
I almost laughed. “And as a vampire hunter, that didn’t sound suspicious to you?”
He glanced back at me, smiling wryly. “I trusted Devyn. I was delighted that he found someone.”
The air between us grew dreary for a moment. I patted Arthur’s shoulder. “We’re on the road to make sure people like my dad wouldn’t be persecuted by their deranged pupils.”
“Oddly specific.” He finally chuckled. “Devyn also didn’t tell anyone else about their marriage. He said it was because he didn’t want her or you roped in the media. Looking back, it was to protect you from people like Henrietta.”
“Oh, here’s the Ceallakánn file.”
Harvick told me that our vampire family name was Ceallakánn, which sounded dope as hell.
Arthur squinted through his reading glasses. “It happened almost a century ago. Hunters weren’t good at filing back then. They were mostly people who had nothing to do except train to fight monsters.”
I leaned in and read the dismal amount of information on the page. “Someone anonymously tipped them?”
“So it seems. Someone called and just gave the locations of all the houses,” Arthur said, staring at the screen. “That date… why does it look important? Oh, those tips were given exactly a year after we invented the anti-vampire smoke bomb.”
“The one that weakens a vampire’s senses?”
“Yup. People were probably really eager to use the smoke on the field.”
We both dismissed that minor detail. I kept reading, went past the death number, went past the captured number, went past the dead captured number, and arrived at a small note at the end of the page.
“‘300 personnel were deployed to take down all the estates at once: 15 Chiefs, 100 Specialists, 185 Elitists. Of these, 6 Chiefs, 59 Specialists, 114 Elitists gave their lives.’ Oh my God,” Arthur read. “Even with the smoke, they took out more than half of the force.”
I felt a strange sense of pride before I mentally slapped myself. Lots of people died here; hunters and vampires alike. I lost my grandparents.
“Still, we didn’t find any clues,” I spoke, sighing.
Arthur turned to me in his chair. “Not here, but I’ll take a squad to the crime scene. If the attacker drew Devyn and Mihaela to that mountain, it could mean they were nearby. We’ll go sweep the area.”
I nodded. “Good idea. I’ll talk to more people and see what I can find.”
Next, I sat on the couch in Harvick’s office. Lost was everything in the Ceallakánn libraries after the manors burnt down, so I couldn’t do any research there. But Harvick still had his brain.
“I don’t think our family had any enemies,” he said. “We lost contact with the other families centuries ago, but we were a kind bunch. We never banished any Elites and even saved many turnees.”
“What do you mean ‘banish’?” I questioned.
“I’m not entirely certain of the reason. I just know that when a Pureblood births a ‘subpar,’ the child is deemed an ‘Elite’ and exiled from the family. And any child born from a Pureblood and an Elite is also immediately banished.”
My eyes almost popped out of their sockets. “That’s so cruel! Why is that a rule?”
“Only the old vampires know the reason. Lots of origin stories get lost as years go by, you know. I’m only five hundred something years old.”
“Right, you’re so young. My bad.”
Harvick paused. “Speaking of age, a while back, I met a two-thousand-year-old vampire. He only spoke the oldest vampiric language. He said a long, long time ago, vampire progenitors created Pureblood families. But they didn’t anticipate that humans would fight and even influence vampires.”
“Influence?” I inquired.
“Maybe cultural components? The vampiric languages are going extinct, and we all changed our names to fit into human society.”
“Okay,” I hummed. “What became of these progenitors?”
“Interestingly, no one knows. They all vanished off the face of this planet. By my grandparents’ generation, only scant people knew the progenitors’ story. And that was a thousand years ago. Young vampires like Zachary and Hailee must have no idea at all about our origin.”
The unit of these stories wasn’t even “years.” It was “thousand years.” My curiosity then peaked. “You guys changed your names? Everyone did? What’s your actual name?”
“That sounds hella cool.”
“Right, uh, do you think the progenitors would be helpful? If we could find them somehow.”
Harvick frowned. “I don’t know. I could probably ask the Purebloods in the organization. Some of their families must’ve maintained better inter-family relations than ours. We could try to locate a Pureblood household and find a history book in their library.”
“Great! Thanks for your help.”
“Of course. We’re searching for my sister,” he said, eyes fixed on the ground. His face remained rather stoic, but his entire being seemed to tremble in hope. It gave me fuel to investigate harder.
~ ~ ~
“I’m stopping you from investigating harder.”
“What?! Zach, it’s been three days, and we still have nothing!”
“You mean, it’s only been three days,” said Zach. “You’re stressing the hell out. Trust Harv and trust Carrington. Take a break. Didn’t your friends ask you to hang today?”
“Yeah, but I can’t very well have fun while my mom might be locked up somewhere.”
Zach gently tucked my hair behind my ear. “I know. I’m not asking you to act happy at a time like this, but taking a breather can’t be bad. You need a break. Go outside of the box to think outside of the box.”
I let out a long breath. Arthur was searching the snow mountain with an elite squad as we speak, and Harvick was gathering a meeting with every Pureblood in The Ones. Before they found anything, there wasn’t much I could do to help. I should relax my brain before I become overstressed enough that my ability breaks. “Alright. I’ll call Kaydence.”
I kissed Zach goodbye before heading out the door and meeting Sophi and Kaydence at Main Street. Sophi wanted to try a dessert shop that just opened. I joined them in the long line.
“Do you wanna bring some cakes back for your boyfriend, Dawson?” Sophi asked. “Or is he not a fan?”
“It’s okay. He’s not much of a foodie at all.”
“Aww, too bad. Look at how big this place is. They sell desserts from all over the world.” Sophi proceeded to show us pictures from her phone. The store had been advertising itself online for weeks before the opening.
“‘Every song played in-store is dessert-themed’?” Kaydence exclaimed. “Quirky! This line’s worth it.”
Just then, Sophi’s gaze flickered upward. Stars almost shot out of her eyes as she whisper-shouted, “Fish! Fish! Nine o’clock! Nine o’ fish!”
Kaydence not-so-subtly pretended to bunch her fluffy hair into a ponytail and glanced behind her. “Oh, no,” she whispered.
“Oh, yes!” Sophi almost squealed. “Dawson, look!”
“What am I looking at?” I peered into the direction toward which Sophi nodded. Fish was the word Sophi used when she saw a hot guy. But after being around vampires all the time, I honestly couldn’t imagine I’d be surprised by attractive faces anymore.
My gaze wandered for a bit until it settled on one man striding down the sidewalk. Frozen in place, I could only stare as he raised his pocket watch to check the time. His entire being seemed to carry the wind with him. Parts of his asymmetrical, side-swept hair rested on his straight forehead. His dark, full brows framed his thick lashes and contrasted his caramel eyes. The sideburns that connected to his thin beard showed off his prominent jawline. With a Duchess nose and cupid bow lips, this man’s entire face seemed to be carefully crafted by God’s hand.
But the beauty didn’t stop at his face. He wore a casual navy blazer over a grey button-up shirt, and he took long strides in matching trousers. His white skateboard shoes coined his style as smart casual yet his demeanour as unapproachable.
This guy had to be a vampire, right?
I glanced at Kaydence as he walked by us. We shared the same knitted eyebrows and look of confusion. The man didn’t smell like a vampire to me, and it seemed Kaydence didn’t sense him to be a vampire, either. I turned my head toward the man who dominated the street like nobody’s business. I quickly thought I wish I knew whether or not that man is human.
No answer popped into my head. My ability didn’t work. That had to mean…
“A gifted human?” Kaydence questioned.
After dessert, Kaydence and I made an excuse about needing to catch up on school work. We took my car to the hunters’ HQ. Just as I exited the freeway, my phone rang. Arthur was calling. Kaydence accepted the call and turned on the speaker.
“Hazy, we found a cave deep in the mountains, but some gigantic boulder’s sealed the entrance. Can you move it? We don’t know what’s in the cave, so dynamite might cause too much damage.”
“Got it. Send me your location. I’ll be right there.”
I turned the car around and dropped by Kaydence’s house for her to grab a coat. Half an hour later, we met Arthur’s team at the cave. Among coats, winter gloves, and boots, I wore a thin sweater and a pair of sneakers. When I arrived, a woman turned my way and removed her field goggles. She introduced, “Aurelya DiLuca; Specialist.”
“Hazel Dawson,” I returned. “What’s happening?”
Kaydence updated Arthur on the gifted human we saw today while I conversed with Aurelya. “Whoever blocked the cave with this rock is pretty smart. The shape of it makes it impossible to roll,” she said. Following her gestures, I noticed that the boulder seemed to have a flat bottom, sitting it unmovingly on the earth. It also perfectly moulded together with every gap and line of the cave entrance, like this rock was explicitly designed for the cave hole. Or rather, was this solid rock mountain carved open and then sealed again?
“It took two days to find this cave. It was covered by dirt and snow. In the middle of the mountains, anyone would’ve mistaken this place as another hill.”
I nodded slowly. This was the first real clue we had. “Okay, let me try moving it. Do you guys mind standing back a little?”
Aurelya opened and closed her mouth as if hesitating to question me. Nonetheless, she asked her comrades to leave me space. I turned my attention to the boulder. If I wished for it to disappear, it might reappear elsewhere: above a house, a person, a kindergarten. So, I could either slide it aside, tip it over, or lift it away from the entrance. Whichever one is easier in real life should be easier for me to wish for.
Sliding it seemed difficult due to friction from the rocks and mud on the ground. Tilting was probably the easiest. I lightly pressed my fingertips against it. I wish this boulder would tilt over on its side and land softly on the ground.
Right then, the oddly-shaped rock rotated on its right side edge. The earth rumbled as debris and pebbles rose while the rock slowly moved off its flat bottom and dove into the snow on its side. Upon settling that, I focused on the cave entrance.
“Arthur?” I called out. Even though I could see, the pure darkness in the cave sent a wave of uneasiness in my stomach.
“Half of the squad, come with me. The rest stay on guard outside,” Arthur commanded, then pulled down his night vision goggles. He nodded at me. “Let’s go.”