One tiny step later, I’m back at school and stuck in another boring lecture. Well, the content is interesting enough, but the lecturer could make the most exciting boxing match sound dull with his monotonous voice. How ironic that a professor lecturing on the art of curves would have so little of them in his speech.
The fact that I’m here is a little mystifying. I would have thought Ms Pink would keep me under lock and key after all the attempts made to either kill or kidnap me. But Ms Pink’s train of thought is lost to me. So here I am, under her insistence that my daily life is not to be disrupted by the intrusion of supernatural.
On that note, I realize that there’s a loophole in Ms Pink’s plan. Because I might have promised to attend my classes, but I didn’t promise to stop my mind from wandering out—to Ms Pink.
Ms Pink? Where are you?
There is no reply. So I try again.
Does your wound still hurt? Ms Pink!
Ms Pink’s reply is stern and commanding but it makes me smile. Classic Ms Pink.
My phone buzzes, drawing me out of my thoughts and I check it. It’s a text from Max.
Ice cream later?
For some reason, ice cream no longer entices me. Or rather, it no longer makes me say yes as quickly. Not with Ms Pink injured and resting.
I can’t. Got stuff to do.
That stuff can wait.
It can’t. We’ll do ice cream next time ok.
I guess 😦
Max ambushes me as I walk out of the lecture theatre.
“Max! What are you doing here?”
“I was just passing by so I thought I’d chance it.”
“Max, I’m in no mood for ice cream and I mean it.”
“You don’t look too good today. Are you alright?”
“I’m feeling a little under the weather.”
Max puts his arm around me. “I could bring you to the doctor’s.”
“I just need some rest, is all.”
“Okay, if you say so.”
“Call me if you need anything, okay?”
The first thing I do once Max leaves is send an e-mail. Frankly, I don’t quite understand Ms Pink’s preference for e-mails when we have things like text messaging. With a whole range of messaging apps, Ms Pink could have her pick, but she prefers good ol’ e-mails. I have a sneaking suspicion it’s her ‘age’ showing. Something to do with being stuck in a time when an older style of communication—letters—existed.
Anyhow, it’s a debate for another day so I whip out my phone and type out an e-mail.
Dear Ms Pink,
Has your scratch gotten better? I would like to see you.
Ever-as-efficient Ms Pink replies in a matter of seconds.
Subject: RE: Scratch
My scratch has gotten much better. Mimea is effective as usual. Why do you want to see me?
Ms Pink really isn’t very bright, is she.
Dear Ms Pink,
I want to see you because I’m worried about you.
Ms Pink must have typed with her super vampire speed because it doesn’t even take her a second to reply.
Subject: RE: Scratch
Come to PINK. Executive Secretary Seo will meet you at the lobby and bring you up to me.
I have many bones to pick about Ms Pink’s workaholism especially when she’s still hurt, but first, I’ve got to get to PINK.
The great big rocks of pink look as impressive as I first saw them weeks ago but this time, I’m not as uncertain about myself. Seo is waiting for me at the lobby when I arrive and the receptionist eyes me with curiosity. Who is this girl who is getting such special treatment from Ms Pink’s most trusted right and left hand woman, she must be wondering.
“Is Ms Pink really feeling better today?” I ask Seo as soon as we are in the safety of the elevator.
Seo looks as solemn as ever as she replies, “Ms Pink is very strong. A scratch will not bother her.”
You’re saying that because you weren’t there when Ms Pink groaned in pain. You weren’t there when she reacted to the ‘scratch’. And why are you and Ms Pink calling it a scratch when it’s a severe injury akin to being mauled by a lion or tiger?
If I say it’s a scratch, it’s a scratch.
Ms Pink, you scared me. Please give me a warning before you do that in future.
I jump from the shock and Seo looks at me as though I’ve lost my mind. Ms Pink!
Are you raising your voice at me?
No, of course not. But you scared me, Ms Pink.
Stupid human. Hurry up and get here.
I can’t help but smile when Ms Pink says that. It sounds like she misses me. Does she?
Ms Pink doesn’t look at me when I enter her office. Seo takes a few files from her table and exits with them, leaving us alone. Ms Pink doesn’t even look at me then. I stand, awkward, by the door, unsure of what I should do, so I clear my throat. “Ms Pink.”
“Why do you say my name.”
“I’m here to see you.”
“Sit and wait.”
“On the couch?”
It seems weird that we would speak to each other like this. After . . . everything. But Ms Pink is staring intently at some papers in her hand so I decide to wait patiently. I sit by as Ms Pink makes several phone calls and types at vampire-rapid speed. She doesn’t look happy. I wonder why. What’s wrong?
“Seo, I need to speak with you,” says Ms Pink into the intercom.
Seo appears immediately and places two files on Ms Pink’s table. Ms Pink speaks and Seo listens before leaving again. But Ms Pink still doesn’t look at me.
It’s a good thirty minutes before Ms Pink finally looks up and turns to me. “Come to me.”
Feeling unexpectedly nervous, I walk to her and stand by her desk.
I take another step forward.
Ms Pink slides away from her desk on her swivel chair. “Give me your hand.”
My hand stretches out. Ms Pink grabs it and without any warning whatsoever, she tugs and flips me onto her lap with my butt sticking up in the air.
“Ms Pink!” I shriek.
Her palm lands on my butt twice in quick succession. “This is for being distracted during your class.” Two more spanks are thrown my way. “This is for distracting me while I’m working.” Another two. But Ms Pink doesn’t say anything after that.
I decide to risk it. “What were the last two for?”
Ms Pink doesn’t answer my question. Instead, she gives me two more spanks.
For reasons I don’t quite understand, I ask again, “What did I do?”
That earns me two more, one on each side. Ms Pink rests her palm on one and rubs me, moving her palm across my butt cheek, squeezing it a little. And my breathing gets messed up. Ms Pink pulls me back up and props me on her lap, sitting sideways. She holds my waist, sticks her nose into my hair and inhales.
“What are you doing now?”
“Stupid human, you’re asking too many questions.”
I’m trying my best not to squirm but the feeling of Ms Pink’s nose teasing up and down my neck makes it difficult. Heat pools between my legs again and I can’t stop it from fanning out to other parts of my body. Why am I constantly pushed to this state each and every time I see Ms Pink? This isn’t normal. What am I thinking? Of course this isn’t normal. I’m in the arms of a princess vampire!
“There’s a strange scent on you,” says Ms Pink suddenly. “Who did you come in contact with?”
“Huh? I didn’t come with contact with anyone. Just Sunny in the morning. Oh, and Max after class.”
“Max.” Ms Pink’s eyes narrow. “What did he want.”
“He waited for me after class. He, er, offered to bring me to see a doctor.”
Ms Pink looks me up and down. “Are you sick?”
I shake my head. “I’m just a little tired.”
Ms Pink doesn’t look happy. “Why are you tired?”
“I was worried about you so I didn’t sleep well.”
“You need enough sleep to learn well in class.”
“Why are you so insistent on it?”
“Education is important.”
This isn’t the sort of conversation I ever pictured us having, especially not while I sitting on Ms Pink’s lap but this isn’t going to stop me from diving straight in. “It’s human to be tired sometimes. It’s human to be worried for someone I care about and it’s definitely human to lose concentration when something isn’t interesting enough.”
“They’re not excuses. They’re reasons. Have you been a vampire for so long that you’ve forgotten what it is like to be human?”
The air around us freezes in that moment and the hairs behind my neck stand. At once, I know that I’ve crossed a line. That I’ve gone too far. And true enough, Ms Pink’s frown deepens. Her jaw clenches. Her eyes turn into a dark shade of pink. She hauls me off her lap and I stand still, head bowed.
Ms Pink’s voice bears so much command that I drop to my knees without a second thought.
The force of her words pushes my knees in opposite directions. Not knowing where else to place my hands, I lay them on my thighs, palm down. Her chair rolls away from me and I hear the click of her heels on the pink marble floor. As I kneel with my head bowed, a long line on the floor catches my eye and I stare at it as Ms Pink’s neon pink stiletto heels pass me by. The line extends the diagonal length of Ms Pink’s office which means the floor is tiled by entire lengths of marble. Such understated extravagance. This is the Ms Pink I know.
“Hands behind. Hold your elbows.”
Ms Pink’s instructions render me in an uncomfortable position but at the same time, my curiosity is sparked. What is Ms Pink going to do to me? Is she going to punish me for being rude to her? Right here? In her office?
Some kind of strap secures my wrists to my arms and holds them in place. Oh no.
“M-Ms Pink, I’m sorry.”
The heels click back in front of me and stop. “What are you sorry for?”
“I’m sorry I was rude to you, Ms Pink.”
“You have forgotten who owns you.”
“Defiance is a sign of forgetting.”
“I wasn’t defying you.”
“It appears our definitions of ‘defiance’ differ.”
“It’s not defiance if I’m only trying to explain my side of the story.”
A finger lifts my chin and Ms Pink’s blazing pink eyes appear before me. “You don’t explain. You obey.”
This is frustrating. “That’s not how things should be.”
Ms Pink shakes her head. “I have been too soft on you.”
“What do you mean?”
The pink eyes disappear. Ms Pink returns to her swivel chair and crosses her legs. My eyes follow the line of her shin up to her eyes. They are unreadable—a shade of pink so light, it’s barely there. “I do not tolerate disobedience. Previous claims did not have the freedom I have given you, the chances.”
“That’s not true. Helene said you treated one of your claims very well. She said you fed your claim grapes like a slave.”
Ms Pink’s eyes gain a shade of pink at the mention of this particular ex-claim. “That is a mistake I’ll never make again.”
A ball of fury surges from my guts. “It’s not a mistake.”
Ms Pink leans forward, her eyes hard and flashing mean pink. “Don’t talk about it as if you know better.”
“How can treating someone well ever be a mistake?”
“Stupid human. You speak like a child who has never seen the world.”
Well, that’s true to a certain extent. “It’s not about how much I’ve seen. It’s about how much I want to believe.”
“You are not only stupid. You are delusional too. You want to believe?” Ms Pink scoffs. “You have not seen the baseness of human nature and you want to believe?”
That’s not true at all. “I’ve seen the uglier side of humans, okay? I live among them. I am one. We can be mean and selfish and irresponsible and sometimes utterly heartless but we have our good side too. We are not worthless. Take Sunny for example. There are days when I wish she isn’t living with me. I’m sure it’s the same for her. But she’s helped me countless times to get out of trouble. And she takes good care of me. And I do my best to help her when she needs me too.”
Ms Pink chuckles under her breath and shakes her head. “The things you talk about are child’s play. You haven’t the slightest idea what a human can do to another human. How much pain they can inflict on another. How long their torture can last. So long that the days turn into nights and nights turn into days. That every passing second is the longest second you have ever had to live through. Endless seconds. Endless, no matter how hard you pray. Until you realise it is all in vain. When you finally learn that hope is but an expense that depletes whatever little you have left.”
I am stunned speechless. This is the longest Ms Pink has ever spoken. The angriest too. She’s not yelling. In fact, her voice is low and calm. But the undercurrent is so strong that it boils my blood like a wild raging fire and I am trembling for it. Then I realize. I am angry too. Her anger is spilling over into my mind and I can feel the deep roots of the hatred she bears, stretching deep into the ground, so deep that the strongest winds could never uproot this tree of hate. It frightens me. And saddens me. Because I know who she is talking about. She has talked about him before.
Who is this man who has done this to Ms Pink? Who is this man who has destroyed the humanity in her? And who is the claim who managed to turn her into a puddle of romantic love? Or was it something else? I need to know this.
“Did you love that claim?” I ask, my voice soft and low, my eyes unwavering.
Ms Pink stares back at me and I can swear her lips are trembling. “No.”
“But you stopped talking to Helene for a hundred years because of that claim.”
Ms Pink laughs suddenly. “The point was never the claim.”
“What’s the point then?”
My jaw drops. Who is this Ms Pink sitting before me? Is she really a power hungry monster? “That’s all?”
“Mana thinks I stopped talking to her because she refused to resurrect my claim. She refuses to believe any reason other than that. She is stubborn.”
“What is the real reason then? What sort of power do you want?”
Ms Pink bends and picks me up. She arranges me over her lap so that I am straddling her. “You. You are the power I have been waiting for.”
“M-Me?” I laugh even as the urge to up and run makes a splashing entrance in my mind. “But what power do I have that you don’t?”
Ms Pink locks her arms around my waist and smiles at me. Our hips are pressed together and the position is awkward for me but I want my answer more than anything else right now. She runs a manicured nail with a huge pink crystal down my jaw. “Blood of the Erika.”
“Y-You want my blood?”
Ms Pink smiles and shakes her head slowly. “I want you.”
“I d-don’t understand.”
Lips press on my neck and a tongue runs up the length of it as Ms Pink inhales deeply. “The smell of power is all over you. It makes me hungry. You the Erika will have the power to resist all dark magic. You, and you alone, will be immune to Helene’s mind controlling powers, Yuri’s enthralling magic—you have been resisting me from the beginning and now you’re resisting me more and more. Can’t you feel it?”
“Is this why you said you’ve never had these problems with other claims?”
“Not all. Some baits were quite strong. I had to build up my power to overcome them.”
Suddenly it hits me. “You’re planning something. There’s a reason why you claim baits specifically.”
The smile on Ms Pink’s face unfurls at a frustrating rate and sends chills down my spine. “My, my, perhaps your intelligence is increasing in direct proportion to your strength as the Erika.”
I am right. But I am horrified. Because only one word rings true in my mind.