The Dark Empress

Chapter 1: Betrayal

I jumped and glided from one rooftop to another—trying to evade my pursuers. The cold autumn air sliced through my face and neck but I didn’t feel the cold. My silky past shoulder dark hair was pushed away from my face. The city lights were brightly lit like twinkling gemstones on the velvety dark night.

They wanted me dead. Well, that was a little ironic because I was already dead—before I became immortal.

“Saber, this way!” I heard Creep’s voice speaking in my mind, through telepathy.

My familiar, Creep, led the way quickly for me to escape in one piece. I followed him as fast as I could. His cat silhouette form was my guide to not lose sight of him. I looked over my shoulder as I ran, glided, and jumped.

Damn! There were at least five of them who came into my line of vision. They were very persistent indeed! It wasn’t enough that I had already terminated at least ten of them before and during my escape. And here they are! I gritted my teeth in anger. I felt my fangs puncture my soft red lips and I licked my own blood.

As I ran and leaped, I could still remember what transpired a little while ago in the luxurious hotel room. In fact, it replayed in my head many times over. I still could not believe it. And I did not even wish to believe it. But this became my reality now. There was no escapes from it.

“Good that you showed up tonight, dearest Saber.” Dena smiled. Her white and even teeth seemed to sparkle even though the hotel room was quite dim. They contrasted her smooth and olive skin. Her straight hair was as black as raven feathers and reached up to her waist. She wore a long, silk gown of burgundy color, which made her appear mysterious and attractive at the same time. She paired it with burgundy cigarette high-heeled shoes. Those, I could easily notice, as she slowly paced before me. It felt like she was an adept predator, watching her prey in that very moment.

“I cannot say no to you, can I?” was my reply. My sherry brown eyes explored the quiet room. It was only us inside it as I left Creep outside the door. However, I could also feel my fellow vampires’ presence. Aside from smelling each of their unique scents, I could feel the air galvanize—the one sign that any undead party was around.

Dena laughed. “That’s one of the privileges that a maker can have, my dearest Saber. But, of course, it doesn’t mean that you’re my slave, does it?

I swallowed hard and blinked. I had no idea why she wanted to meet me in one of New York City’s grandest hotels. And to think that I traveled at least five states just to get here at devil’s hour, which is at three in the morning, I should have thought that something very important was going to happen—or that something was going on besides my own pretty wide knowledge.

“I don’t think I understand your point, Dena.” I slowly shook my dark head in confusion.

“Everything is now in chaos, Saber. And I shall want your complete loyalty to me.” Dena poured some red wine from the decanter into a tall wine glass, as if she had all the time in the world. I could smell the sourness and bitterness of the red liquid, as it mixed together with Dena’s floral perfume.

I watched and listened to her keenly. But because of those words, my brain seemed to light up with an idea. I supposed I already know what is going to happen next. All my instincts and reflexes seemed to tingle with anticipation. At the back of my mind, something would happen whether or not we finished up this dragging and boring conversation.

She drank from the glass lazily. I shifted my weight from one foot to another as I stood there, not moving from my place, opposite to the tightly closed door. I began to get conscious of my own attire at the moment. I wore a pair of black high-heeled boots, black leather pants, and coat. These were totally the “antonym” of my maker’s sexy and very womanly outfit.

“Dena, I have nobody as my team besides Creep. You know that. What more than loyalty can I give you? You are my maker,” I pointed out quickly with a slight movement of my slender hand.

In a fraction of a second, Dena was standing close to me, in a vampire speed. Her face was so close to mine that I could very well smell the wine and the things it was made up of, combined with my maker’s own unique scent. My throat somewhat constricted and it was a bit hard to swallow.

I wasn’t afraid of her. Sure, she had more powers than I do but it didn’t mean she is completely out of my league as a vampire. I am confident of my own skills and talents when it comes to combat. And, in Dena’s clan and lineage, I am known to be the best, and yet, the weakest at the same time. It is a fact I don’t intend to linger on at the moment.

“I want your word, Saber!” she hissed, white fangs bared. Her reddish brown eyes turned red.

I swallowed again. “I’m loyal to you, Dena. Loyal to you as you are to the Dark Empress!” I gritted my teeth as I spoke the words.

Dena screamed with rage and hit my face with the glass she was holding. I bounced to the wall side first, leaving a hole there as I slid down to the cold, tiled floor. I stood up with the vampire agility and looked at my angry maker, which made me even more confused.

‘Have I said something wrong?’ my innocent mind wondered.

Once again, in a fraction of a second, she was right in front of me. Her eyes blazed red with anger that I hadn’t known or seen before.

“I’m loyal to the Dark Empress you say?” She was clearly pissed!

“Of course! Ever since you turned me, you made me swear that I should be loyal to you and to the Dark Empress. Even though I never met her, you made me promise, Dena,” I reminded her almost jerkily.

The pieces of broken glass in my face fell on their own volition as my skin readily healed like it was never hit and wounded.

Dena’s red eyes now bored into mine.

“I’m no longer the Dark Empress’ fan, Saber. You should get it by now. And you have to follow me as your maker.

Now, she made it clear to me. My beautifully arched brows knitted as she hissed those words at me.

“Do you mean… that… that I should… I should betray the Dark Empress?” I almost choked as I asked her. My sharp fangs stood out and my eyes turned darker.

Dena’s fangs were bared as well and she laughed at my reaction.

“My dearest Saber. Surely you wouldn’t dare go against me, would you? After all, I’m your maker,” she declared while reminding me of that fact. Her voice was alluring.

I straightened my back. I refused to be terrorized by her or whatsoever. After all, I am a free vampire. Even though I belonged to her clan and lineage, she had no absolute power over me if I had to go on my own—without her protection as well as her clan and lineage. Just that, there are consequences if I would do that—if I wished to separate from her. But maybe, I would still do so.

“Just because the Dark Empress can’t be located at this moment and that her position is now unstable in the Dark World, you have to betray her and change sides?” I reasoned out.

Dena could only look at me with hatred and anger. Her fangs were still bared and her hands clenched into tight fists, looking at me like she wanted to strike me again.

“Not me, Dena. I have already sworn my loyalty to the Dark Empress. You taught me to be loyal and that I’d be—until the end. I’ll never… ever… betray the Dark Empress. So… you might consider me banished from your clan and lineage from this night onward.” With that as my parting words, I calmly turned my back on her.

“Saber!” Dena shouted with a warning tone. “Don’t you dare turn your back and leave me!

“And if I dare, Dena?” It wasn’t a provocation but it was just honesty on my part.

Suddenly, half a dozen of my fellow vampires came out from nowhere like a swarm of spiders. There went my answer. Two of them aggressively charged at me in a split second, before a human could even blink. But I was quicker than they were. The silver ring that protruded two inches in the shape of the Eiffel Tower was my only weapon at this time. I had no choice but to use it at my advantage.

I sliced the throat of my attackers with my pointed and sharp ring. Darker than fresh blood oozed from their wounded necks. With a roundhouse and a jump back kick, I cut off their heads. That was one of the surest ways of killing the undead like myself. The rest of them swarmed at me like insects while Dena watched, hoping for me to go down. It was crystal clear.

I managed to hit all of them either right in the face, in the balls, or in the midsection. I used my ring to punch the others in the eye. Distracted to heal their wounds, I executed them and I crashed the door with a side kick. Creep in his cat form was already on alert mode, but he already knew better not to help me in there. His tail went up and he ran like hell. So, I followed him while Dena hoarsely screamed my name…

Back to present after that short reminiscing, I am just grateful that Creep is here with me. He saved me countless of times—since we’ve been together for ten decades or so. I met him during one of my various visits in the east. It was in the Philippines. Creep is one of the legendary sigbin species—the so-called pet of the local witches and Filipinos’ own mythological version of vampires that are known as aswang. He can take just any form he wishes. But his favorite is being a cat because he’d always look adorable—he once said it anyways.

Two of the five strong vampires, Bacan and Ornace, began to outrun me after minutes of chasing. And it seemed I couldn’t recognize them now.

I swore. This couldn’t be happening!

Bacan was a blond Viking with a good build, long hair and handsome bearded face. Meanwhile, Ornace was a middle-aged French monk in the past, tall, dark haired, average-looking and slim. They were like my real big brothers even though they were only turned many centuries after me. We did bond a lot of times in the past. However, now, they seemed to have forgotten about it. With their skills combined, I couldn’t tell if I would be able to save myself or them.

“Creep, I think you need to distract at least one of them. Better yet, keep one busy,” I said to my familiar telepathically.

I saw Creep double back to follow my request. I suddenly stopped in my tracks. In the corner of my eye, I noticed Creep turn into his original form as a sigbin. His face was like that of a rabbit but with larger pointy ears, flashing red eyes, and long tail like a whip with a sharp tip like a needle. His head was now in between his hind legs as he ran backward—so fast—with unbelievable speed.

I noticed that my “friends” already surrounded me when they were caught off guard by Creep’s real form.

“I know, right? Creep’s quite amazing, huh? That’s why I named him Creep if you happened to wonder,” I said sarcastically and proudly with an evil smirk on my lips. I looked at the still surprised faces of Ornace and Bacan.

The stupids. They had always thought that Creep was just a black cat.

With that, I quickly executed at least two of my enemies, leaving the three of them. The other one I wasn’t familiar with started to strike me at the same time as Bacan did, while Ornace was busy parrying and avoiding Creep’s whip-like tail.

The unfamiliar black vampire was able to evade my double kick but was so unfortunate when he was hit accidentally by Creep’s sharp tail that contained a strange poison that I wasn’t aware of until then. The victim just turned into a mist and was gone in a second.

All of us were quite taken aback because of it—even Creep himself, who didn’t usually prefer his real form. Our eyes zeroed in on him.

“That was quite… uh… awk-some?” I said to Creep aloud. An eyebrow was arched. Yeah, it was both awkward and awesome.

“Damn if I knew that I have the anti-vamp serum right in my tail!” he replied in my mind sheepishly.

I shrugged at it and turned to Bacan. My ring already dropped the last blood it gathered from the beginning of my fight tonight.

“Surely you don’t want to do this, do you, Bacan? Ornace?” I turned to the other vampire who told me once that I could lean on him when one day I become wary of our undead life. Okay, so much for going down memory lane.

I saw Bacan’s hands turn into tight fists. His fangs were bared and so did Ornace’s. Creep continued to lash out at the latter while I stood there staring at Bacan. I never wanted to fight with any of these two. I had been with them for almost their entire undead years! They were indeed like my older brothers by blood.

“Saber, I… we just have our orders from our maker. It’s not really personal.” Bacan shook his blond head but I knew there was a hint of reluctance on his part.

I laughed bitterly and shook my head. “That’s it, huh? After all that we went through together like blood brothers and sister?” I glanced at Ornace who speedily rolled down and jumped up just to avoid Creep’s deathly whip-like tail.

Bacan couldn’t speak. His fangs were nowhere to be seen now. I could see somehow that there was regret reflected in his red eyes but it was gone after a second. The cold autumn air seemed to thicken. But we were oblivious of it.

“If you let me go tonight, I promise to spare your life… your lives,” I said, looking at Ornace, who was still being kept busy by Creep. Then, I commanded my familiar to stop his attacks on the ex-monk.

I heard Bacan chuckle. “My Lady Saber. I know you’d say something like that just so you can escape from our grasp. But I’m not weak as you are.” He shook his head before he stretched his neck from one side to the other to get ready for another round of our unfinished encounter.

I looked at him like it was my first time seeing him. Then, I knew it wasn’t the Bacan I’d known for so long. He was… different. It was like a dream—or rather, a nightmare. He was just standing there clad in his blue jeans and black sweatshirt for a moment when my sight seemed to waver and he changed into someone else.

‘This can’t be!’ I thought wildly. Bacan couldn’t be a shapeshifter and a delusionist at the same time! He was just a Viking vamp for heaven’s sake!

My throat went dry. I shouted Creep’s name in my mind. But when I glanced at Ornace, he was already holding a flame in his hands. A fire user? I couldn’t believe it! I was truly baffled! Just when did these vampires have such powerful abilities? And just when, where, and how did they acquire these?

I was confused at that moment and it was too late when I noticed that Bacan was already charging from behind me. I couldn’t even process how he got there.

I was hit in the temple by his hard punch that I thought my skull cracked open and my brain—well, my undead brain at that—was going to be scattered on the rooftop. I was shocked. Frozen for a moment. Even though I struggled to stay awake, it was like the darkness was already prepared to consume me. And the last thing I heard was Creep’s scream in my head, calling out my name as I dropped on the rough floor of the rooftop building.

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