“I was to die knowing everything yet unable to save anything.”
~ Hazel Dawson
We stepped into the cave. I insisted not to use the massive shotlight that the hunters brought. If vampires staked out this place, everything should be functional without light. I had to see every trail the same way as they did.
First, I noted that the cave was skillfully cleaned up. There were no creepy crawlies or eerie echoes.
Second, I scrunched up my nose. “I think I smell a bit of blood. Dried blood. Over there by the ground.”
After Arthur told his team to take samples, I faced a stone wall. But I refused to believe that such a promising lead only gave us a blood sample.
“Blood looks way older than two years, Chief,” someone said. “I don’t think we can trace DNA with this.”
Just as I thought we ran into another dead end, I suddenly remembered my useful ability. I turned to the dried blood. I wish I knew whose blood this is and how old it is.
I almost screamed. “My mother’s blood! That’s my mother’s blood. It’s about ten years old.”
One of the hunters was about to question me before Arthur stopped him. Only my closest ones knew my power, and Arthur was one of them.
“Are there any other clues in here?” he asked. I repeated the wish in my head. What popped up in my brain led me to the far corner of the cave. Concealed behind scattered stalagmites was one drip of dried blood to which I made the same wish as before.
“This blood belongs to… Nœrlaide? It’s also about ten years old.” I turned back to Arthur. “Who’s Nœrlaide?”
While Arthur’s brows furrowed, Aurelya spoke up, “That sounds like a Pureblood family name. The extermination happened, like, a century ago.”
“Oh, then it looks like one of them was involved in this,” I muttered.
Aurelya tilted her head. “That’s plausible. Might be a fish that escaped the net.”
I ignored the indifference in her tone. I wish I knew who this Nœrlaide is. The answer had me nearly screaming again. It was a progenitor; Nœrlaide is the name of the second progenitor. I couldn’t find the first name, but this was one baby step in the direction of truth.
“Ow!” I yelped. A sharp, stabbing feeling in my right temple interrupted my thoughts. I checked in with myself and found that I’d used up eighty percent of my energy, but how could that be? I should’ve felt gradual exhaustion from all these small wishes. Unless the pain came from my wishing to know Nœrlaide’s identity? Was it this physically draining to learn about a progenitor?
“Hazy, are you okay?” Arthur appeared in my blurry vision. “What happened?”
“I’m alright now. I think I just overexerted myself somehow,” I said. I wasn’t sure if it was the brightest idea to let these many hunters know that a vampire progenitor was still alive. I had to share and investigate this lead with Harvick and Zach.
“My squad and I will stay here and keep sweeping the area. We’ll analyze the rocks and soils. We’ll definitely find more traces. Go home with Kaydence,” Arthur instructed. I then spotted several machines pushed into the entrance of the cave. It seemed Arthur ordered technical equipment while I relied on wishes and instincts.
I nodded. “Okay, thanks. Let me know immediately if you find even a hair.”
As I drove Kaydence home, I started, “I know you’re worried, but you just got back on track with your life, and you’re no longer involved in the world of vamp––”
“No, I will help.” Kaydence chuckled. “Don’t think I’ll be too useful, though. I can only help the vampire hunters with quick identification.” She then turned her head to me. “Hazel, we’re looking for your missing mother. You can ask anything of me, you know that, right?”
I smiled. “Yeah, I know.”
We pulled up to Kaydence’s house. I saw her mom’s silhouette in the curtained living room window, teaching a student the piano. Strings of elegant sounds seeped through the blockings. For a moment, Kaydence and I sat in the car, motionless.
“Always sounds amazing when your mom plays.”
“Yeah,” Kaydence hummed. “She’s as melancholy as her music, though.”
“She hasn’t moved on?”
“Nope. And it doesn’t help that we haven’t heard from my brother since the divorce.”
Just then, the tones of the piano ended. It was the student’s turn. At the sound of the entry-level playing, I snapped out of my trance.
Kaydence already stepped out of the car. “Bye! Call me anytime you need!”
I waved back at her, then headed to The Ones’ mansion of a base. Luckily, I found Zach and Hailee in Harvick’s office. Josephine and an unfamiliar vampire also sat on the couch.
“Hi, I’m Marella Bogdån,” she introduced first. Her short black hair curtained her small face and shone like sparkly silk. Once she blinked her huge ocean eyes, I thought she was way too cute to be real.
“Hazel Dawson,” I returned. “What’s happening?”
With his cloak on, Harvick sat in his chair and gestured. “I held a meeting with all the Purebloods. Only Marella and Hailee might have connections to other Pureblood households.”
Marella beamed. “I ran away from my house because my dad was hyper-abusive, so I don’t know if they were killed. If they were, we kept in touch with lots of other families. If they didn’t move or weren’t killed, I still remember where they lived.”
Lots of dark information dropped with a smile. Cool.
“The Gersełnas were friendly as shit, and there were a lot of us,” said Hailee. “I don’t know where anybody resides, but I know they existed. I could try to find them.”
“Did you say ‘Gersełna’?” I inquired.
“Yup, it’s my family name. I changed it to ‘Greene’ because of school and stuff.”
“So you have a dope vampire name, too?”
“Nah, it’s still just ‘Hailee.’ I think my mom invented that name.” Hailee giggled.
“Enough chit chat,” Josephine interrupted. “My father, Pureblood, was a Reįglii. My mother was an Elite from God knows where. But I was kicked out of the house two centuries ago. I don’t have a clue where any households are. I’ll be the organizer on this team, and I’m ready to help if you ever need an invisible woman on the job.”
I gave a small nod. “Good, these ancient names are starting to stick. Marella’s a Bogdån. Hailee’s a Gersełna. Josephine’s a Reįglii.”
“No!” Josephine quickly objected. “Pureblood family names are inherited only by Purebloods. I have no right to the Reįglii family name.”
In her outburst, I saw traces of pure distress and anxiety on Josephine’s face. For her whole life, the discrimination system against Elites must’ve been entrenched in her brain. But I knew nothing of her experiences. I couldn’t insensitively protest her beliefs. I guess that meant I also had no right to the Ceallakánn name, not that it mattered to me.
“Alright. So then, Harvick is a Ceallakánn.” I looked at Zach, who’d been silent for a while. “What about you?”
“I don’t see the point of the name-memorizing,” Josephine interrupted. She pushed up her glasses. “We’ll start right away with Marella’s investigation. If we’re lucky, we can immediately find a Bogdån household.”
The next thing I knew, Marella, Hailee, Josephine, Zach, and I flew through the northern woods at vampire speed. I caught up with Zach and asked, “What’s on your mind?”
“Thought about my family. Back then, we cut ties with other families, thinking it’d keep us hidden and safe. That obviously didn’t work.”
How open he became to me still astounded me sometimes. I prepared to pry at least three times, but it wasn’t needed. A grey cloud loomed over my heart. “I don’t know what to say. No words can comfort someone who lost their loved ones.”
“It was so long ago. I can’t keep moping,” Zach muttered. He exhaled, then his tone returned to normal. “Where were you for so long?”
“Oh yeah, let me update you.” I told him about the gifted human I encountered, then Arthur’s finding of that suspicious cave. And that my mother’s dried blood splashed on a cave wall.
“Your parents were ambushed twelve years ago. The blood being ten years old means she really was abducted,” Zach concluded. “Good job. That’s a solid one.”
“The cave was cleaned up well. The perpetrators hid their tracks before leaving, but I did find some other blood at the back. My ability tells me it belongs to a Nœrlaide. Arthur said it’s another Pureblood family name.” I glanced at my side, only then realizing that Zach wasn’t there. I braked and turned back. He stood, rigid, several feet behind. Sensing my cease of movement, everyone in front of us also halted.
“Zach? What’s wrong?” I asked, zipping back to him.
“Are you sure it’s a Nœrlaide?”
“Yes, my head told me so. And it turns out it wasn’t just any Nœrlaide; it was the progenitor. I kinda died after wishing for that information, so I couldn’t dig anything more.” I peered at Zach’s face. “You good?”
A fraction of a smile curved on his lips. “I’m a Nœrlaide, Hazel. You found my progenitor.”
For a second, I felt double his joy. He and Ashlynne weren’t the sole bloodline of their family. A second later, that joy diminished. Whether his progenitor was an accessory to or mastermind of the crime or a victim was a fifty-fifty chance. What if Zach’s direct ancestor kidnapped my mom?
Zach embraced me tightly. He couldn’t conceal the smile tugging at his lips. “Ashlynne and I might have family, after all.” His smile dropped as he thought of the other possibility. “Or a Nœrlaide abducted your mother.”
“Hey, what are you guys doing? Hurry up!” Hailee yelled.
“It has nothing to do with you, even if your ancestor did do it,” I said as we started moving again. “By the way, who’s Marella? I’ve never seen her before.”
“Yeah, she’s not good at fighting. Her blood turned Grant and Kassandra,” Zach informed. “Her ability is water manipulation, so we thought any human turned from her blood would also procure a half-offensive, stable ability.”
“Turns out Grant got aerokinesis that’s highly offensive.”
“And Kassandra got a sonic scream that’s highly unstable.” Zach shook his head. “I don’t know how vampire blood works.”
As we chatted, the three vamps in front of us came to a standstill. I pulled up beside Hailee and glanced around. The five of us stared at the half-burnt foundation of what used to be a mid-sized manor.
“Well, dead end here,” Marella commented. “Let’s keep moving to find my old relatives.”
When we hit dead end after dead end, I began to grow worried. I checked with myself again, and it seemed I’d recovered to about half of my energy. I made a series of wishes as we sprinted toward other households.
Where is my mother? Who abducted her? Where is the Nœrlaide progenitor? Did he have accomplices? Is my mother alive?
To all those questions, only one received an answer. That my mother was alive. I briskly wiped away the tears that gathered in my eyes. For some reason, my ability couldn’t give me any other answers, but the simple fact that she was still alive was enough. It was everything.
“This is a waste of time,” Josephine mumbled when we hit a fourth destroyed manor. “Let’s split up and look for Hailee’s leads, too. Zach, go with Marella. Hazel, come with Hailee and me.”
“I’ll teleport us around,” I suggested, growing jumpier the more dead ends we hit.
Josephine glanced at Hailee, who said, “Teleport us to Frost Lake. I lived near there, and I’ll have to snoop around to find other houses.”
I didn’t know where that was, but my teleportation functioned differently from Roman’s. All I needed was the name of the place. “Where is Roman, by the way?”
“Dead asleep,” Josephine replied. “For the next three hours, no less.”
It seemed that ever since Ashton disappeared, Roman had to sleep more. I quickly computed the wish in my head, and in a split second, we arrived on the shore of the lake. I checked my phone map real quick while Hailee refamiliarized herself with the surroundings.
“Oh, wow. We’re a hundred and thirty miles away from where we were. You seriously planned on running the entire way?”
Hailee chuckled. “Yeah, I keep forgetting you can do everything now. Wait, can you wish to see where the Pureblood houses are?”
Silently making that wish, I found nothing within a five-mile radius. I widened the range until I knocked at something. “I found one. One house further north. Let’s go.”
After teleporting us to the house, my legs felt like jelly, and my knees crashed onto the ground. Wishing for information about the Nœrlaide progenitor wore me out a lot, plus teleporting three people twice, plus a vast search. My body clung onto the remaining one percent to stay conscious.
Hailee quickly dashed to my side and fished a juice box out of her bag. I realized I hadn’t drunk anything for three days. After downing the whole box, I was at five percent. I slowly stood up and ignored the black shimmers in my vision. “Thanks, Hailee.”
Josephine had already knocked on the door. After a few seconds of listening to rustling tree leaves and echoing bird screeches, we heard some quiet footsteps stepping closer.
One of the double oak doors cranked open, and a man poked his head out the gap. “Um, who are you?”
Even with my body barely functioning, I could identify the scent of a Pureblood suffusing out of the door. This was it. We found a surviving family. I was a step closer to finding out what happened to my mother.