I was shocked! Or perhaps it was an understatement. I couldn’t believe my ears. Was I wrong to hear it? I looked at her with questioning eyes. If she admired my loyalty, then why couldn’t I protect her?
“I don’t want to drag you to anything that can endanger your life more than it already is, Saber. I appreciate very much your thoughts for my safety.” She gestured her bodyguards and my eyes followed her movement. “I have them. I can’t ask anything more because they serve me well all these centuries.”
I swallowed. I was rejected. It hurt a little bit. Or more than a bit. But I blinked fast to process this whole thing. I looked at the ninjas and Medjays that surrounded us. Maybe she was right. I wasn’t needed. Who was I kidding? I must have been so full of myself that only I can protect her. Now I felt like a fool running around like this.
“But they’re not immortal.” It was out before I realized.
She laughed. “They’re like us, Saber, I assure you. You don’t hear any heartbeat, do you?”
“But I don’t feel that they’re turned, either.” I shifted my glance to her with wonder and confusion. “Aren’t Medjays and ninjas turned into vampires so they can protect you and the elders?”
“Is that what you were taught, Saber?” She eyed me knowingly.
I shrugged. Well, no one really informed me of anything. I only learned things in my own time, my own way, and through some hearsays in the Dark World, which seemed to be wrong after all. What I learned from Dena was how to be charming to be able to get my food and how to hypnotize people afterward. She did guide me on how to live as we are like a mother. But that was all.
I learned to fight in time because of some enemies that Dena had, which was a natural thing for me to do to be able to survive even though I hated what I’ve become. I did hate and love my maker all these years. But I wasn’t aware of everything that was going on in the Dark World, because according to her, it would protect and shield me from politics. And yet, that was not also the reason why I didn’t like politics—not only did she want me to stay away from it but I also valued my own freedom, thus away from all of it.
But because of this, I seemed to just discover the conspiracy theory. I just learned to know about things that were opposite to what I’ve always believed in. And now, I wanted to be free from all those things that blinded me, just like the wrong idea of being shielded by Dena. But I never knew why she did all this to me. If only she didn’t ask me that night, then I would still be under her protective wings and not in danger. However, if it weren’t for that night, I wouldn’t even get to meet Haunter and the others… and I won’t ever get to meet the unknown Dark Empress.
“A special spell is cast to every one of them so they are going to be loyal to whomever they serve. And that also explains why none of us can hear their heartbeats and why they’re ageless and formidable like us immortals,” she revealed.
I looked at her still in confusion. “H-how is that possible?”
“It’s possible with a very strong sage, Saber. And as you well know, there’s nothing impossible on this Earth.” She then gave me a meaningful smile.
I was awed with what I’ve just learned. Nobody said anything about this. Perhaps it was a secret and only the Dark Empress and The Six Elders knew about this. It was like I just re-learned the things in the Dark World like I was first turned. After all, it seemed to be the only thing that made sense right now. Now, I felt wronged.
Was Dena playing me all this time? Was she manipulating me even though I believed that I was free? It seemed that my blood was boiling with rage! How dare she do this to me! After two thousand years, I was this blind and deaf because of her? How could she do this to me? I was so pissed off! I wanted to blow off steam.
The Dark Empress took my balled fists. “I hope that this is not our first and last meeting though. And I hope that you’ll be happy with your wolf,” she added.
My heart seemed to skip a beat when I thought of Haunter. I slowly smiled at her.
“Thank you. But…”
“Don’t worry. I’ll send some of my people to watch your back.” She winked at me like we were some old friends.
“It’s not necessary. I know that you need them more than I do. Besides, you’re the Dark Empress. But I do really want to serve you. I know how Dena thinks—”
“I’m sure you do. So, you’ll stay alive,” she cut me off.
I swallowed again. There was no convincing her that my services were also of use to her. Besides, she strongly thought that she’d drag me to doomsday if I was beside her. Still, I thought it was my purpose to keep her from harm’s way. And I made my decision.
I nodded at her in respect. A few moments later, Semele accompanied me back to the room where Haunter and the others waited for me, while Natassa and the rest stayed behind with the Dark Empress. I was very sure they had something rather very important to discuss without me present in the room. But I knew they wouldn’t also discuss it as long as I was around and should be away from this place or I’d hear it.
“Have you picked up her scent?” I asked Creep in my mind.
“Yes and I got a quick look at her, too,” he told me and my eyes rounded. I wondered how he did it even in this kind of situation. Well, I knew that he had that capability but still I wondered since he had some company in the room.
After a bit later, we were back in the limousine and back to our hotel. Semele went back to the mansion right afterward.
I sighed when I entered our hotel room. “I don’t know what to do anymore,” I said and lazily sat down in the bed. I felt depressed suddenly. I had no idea I’d feel this way. Useless. Thrown aside.
“I know you do,” Creep said and gave me his kind of evil smile.
I snorted. Haunter though looked serious and he stood in front of me. I pulled him to sit down next to me while Crina and Ji-Yun looked on quietly.
“So, Creep showed us how she looks like,” Haunter said.
I turned to Creep who just shrugged. Then I smiled at my wolf boyfriend. “Well, it was kind of unnerving at first. I didn’t have any idea.”
Haunter’s hand came up to caress my smooth cheek and looked deep into my eyes. “No one expected it but are you happy now that you met her? It’s our goal for coming here, right?”
I smiled again. “Yes. But she said she doesn’t want my services or protection. She doesn’t want me to get involved in politics just like what Dena taught me.” Then I sighed. “But how can I let her go just like that? I know that Dena is plotting something. If I’m close to the Dark Empress, it’d be much more better to intercept it right away. You understand?”
He tipped his head on one side and was thoughtful for a second. “I think so, too. However, she doesn’t want you near her. By that, you can just stay behind and not next to her,” he suggested philosophically.
I raised an eyebrow. “Meaning?”
“There’s no doubt that you can protect her when it comes to Dena, Saber. You know your maker well. However, the Dark Empress doubts that she can protect you when you’re near her. That’s what I think,” he explained.
I reflected on it for a moment. Haunter was not only a good fighter or a good lover but he was also intelligent, which I also loved and admired about him ever since he saved me on the rooftop that night in New York.
“So, you can just tail her wherever she goes and not go near her. You want to protect her, right? So, you can do that without her knowing that kind of plan,” he added.
It made sense, of course. By that, my sense of purpose would still be there. Besides, I thought that Dena would be having a hard time making that plot against the Dark Empress if she’d learn that I was just nearby and ready to protect the reigning regime. And there was no doubt that she knew already through Ornace that I have already aligned myself with the dogs. I mused happily. Dena wasn’t fond of the werewolves and other creatures aside from vampires. She always thought that our kind was on the top of the food chain. Whether she was right or not, I didn’t care. I only wished to be of service for the good of all, including the humans who are unaware of our existence and impending war. And the Dark Empress wished to keep the humans shielded from any of the conflicts by continuing to exist without their knowledge, and by that, she had to win any battle that could threaten her power and reign. That was where I come in. I would help her keep the secret of our existence by supporting her in every battle that may come her way.
I heard a sudden sound. Ji-Yun punched her palm. “Okay, let’s get to work!” she said energetically and looked at Creep.
I laughed at my familiar. He scratched his head. “Crina asked me to go to a morgue after this. Will just teach you starting tomorrow, okay?” he said apologetically to the teenage girl.
She pouted. “But I want to get started right away! I don’t want to be the weakest link of this group!” she whined.
“Hey!” I got up and embraced her. “Don’t say that. You’re not going to be the weakest link.”
“Right. Let’s ask Zurko and Ataru to teach you how to fight.” Haunter suggested as he also got up from the bed to face Ji-Yun. “Creep here has to help Crina, you see.”
The Asian with Korean blood looked up at Haunter with doubting eyes. “Zurko? Ataru? How could you? I would prefer Vesh or someone else!” Then she blushed.
I raised an eyebrow and looked at her teasingly. “Hmm… that reminds me of Zurko being especially caring for you. I think he’d be more of a good choice.”
“What? Aren’t you even listening?” she exclaimed. She stepped back away from me with a scowling face.
Haunter and I were chuckling at her expense, while Creep shook his head and guided Crina out of the room.
“Okay. I’ll talk to Vesh right now.” Haunter cut it out and took his cellphone to call his second-in-command, his beta.
“It’s supposed to be you,” Ji-Yun harrumphed and crossed her arms, sending me a sharp look.
I put my hand on her small shoulder. “I’m sorry. I can’t do it after all these things happening around us. And I think it’s better that you stay with Vesh and the others for the meantime until you think that you’re not weak anymore.”
“You don’t want me around, do you?” she accused me. She looked like she was going to cry anytime.
I embraced her gently and stroked her smooth dark hair. Her sweet smell assailed my nostrils.
“I do. That’s why I need you to be strong as you’re saying you’re weak. But you know what? You don’t even need to learn how to fight. I can fight for you.”
“But I wanna fight, too, and not just hide or run away every time we’re in trouble!” she insisted and her voice cracked into a sob.
“Shh… I know. And that’s why I’m suggesting that you stay with Vesh for the meantime. For the meantime. You got it?” I cupped her face and looked deep into her teary eyes.
She swallowed and nodded. I wiped away her tears and hugged her again.
“You shouldn’t think that you’re helpless. Remember that Zurko and Haunter said that you’re special? Who knows what power you hold? Maybe more powerful than the users, right?” I reminded her.
She gave me a weak smile, still teary eyed. “I don’t think I’m special though. And I just wanna help you and fight for you.”
“I know and I love you, too,” I teased her to lighten up her mood. And it worked.
“You do?” she asked with twinkling eyes.
“Yeah,” I said and I realized that I told her the truth. In the short time that we’ve been together, I cared for this kid and I promised myself that I would protect her as well no matter what.
“He’ll come to pick up Ji-Yun with Zurko and Ataru.” Haunter sniggered. He was also obviously teasing the teen.
Ji-Yun frowned at him. “Meanie!”
“Just remember who asked for help, alright?” Haunter said heartlessly.
The kid pouted and gave him dagger looks. “Fine!” she replied grudgingly.
Half an hour later, the three arrived but Zurko did not come in. He just waited outside. I stepped out to talk to him with my arms crossed, sizing him up. He looked at me with that mocking grin.
“The fox wants to learn how to fight?” An eyebrow was raised.
He gave me a wry face. “Not really. I think it’s in her, you know… wanna fight and all. It’s in her system, in her blood, in her gut, in her instinct.”
I frowned. “What do you know that I don’t know about Ji-Yun?”
He snorted. “Everything?”
“Hey! Don’t play know-it-all to me.” I sternly warned him. “Just tell me what you know about her. And how do you know that she’s special?”
“I’m a blood user, remember? So I just know something that others don’t,” Zurko pointed out. His brows furrowed.
I also knitted my brows together in a thoughtful manner. “So, you really don’t know what she is. You just know that she’s special, huh?”
He shrugged. “I only know she’s a foxy one.”
“Hey, quit saying that about her!” I snapped. “I really thought you liked her.”
He got quiet then. I looked at him, trying to understand how he was feeling about Ji-Yun. Of course, I didn’t want to see her hurt because of this young man—young user at that. He might just want to play with her or something, which I didn’t want to happen and I won’t let it happen.
“Let me be clear, Zurko. I admire your power and charisma but I don’t want you to use that against Ji-Yun. If ever I see her hurt because of you—”
“Hey, that’s not my intention, alright?” he quickly cut off even before I could deliver my threat to him. I could read that he was serious. Just that he was playful at times when it comes to Ji-Yun. But deep inside, I could see that he cared about her. It was a bit complicated though.
I nodded. “I got it. I understand. So quit playing around!” I slapped his arm hard enough to let him know that I was really serious.
He winced. “Alright. Alright! I feel you!” he said begrudgingly.
The others came out after they talked about some arrangements involving Ji-Yun. I knew that Vesh will take care of the kid. He nodded and placed a guiding hand on Ji-Yun’s back. She looked up at me and embraced me.
“Vesh is going to teach you and will take care of you, okay?” I whispered to her and kissed her forehead.
“I promise I’ll be good and I’ll be stronger,” she vowed.
The four of them walked away after some moments of saying our goodbyes. Haunter’s arm came on my shoulder and he urged me back in the room. He used his foot to close the door and he turned me to face him.
He cupped my face as he looked deep into my eyes. Oh, how I could drown into those blue eyes of his! I felt warm everywhere and my heart just melted away. His hair was like flames dancing against the lights in the room. And my body was aching to touch him everywhere.
“I love you!” he said with all his heart that it seemed to come out from his eyes.
I was like a high school girl with my first love. I was about to answer him that I felt the same way when the door burst open.
“They’re here!” Creep announced breathlessly.