Praeson? This—this is Praeson? Which means he’s a vampire and Praneos is probably one too . . .
“Ever so beautiful and charming, my dear Princess.”
Ms Pink flinches slightly but it doesn’t escape my eyes. “False flattery gets you nowhere, Praeson.”
Said vampire raises am ash-grey brow and smiles. “Is that so? The last I remember, you seemed to enjoy receiving compliments.
Last time? Why does it sound like they have a history together? I narrow my eyes and hunch my shoulders as a strong sense of dislike for this vampire powers up inside me.
“You should also remember I do not think highly of vampires who profess to be gentlevampires yet resort to kidnapping,” Ms Pink retorts, turning to present her bound arms as an example.
Praeson tosses his head and barks with laughter. “I knew it. Praneos! You cheat!”
Praneos merely shrugs and grins. “You wanted her unscathed and unharmed but I’m not ready to die an ugly death yet so . . .”
“Don’t tell me you brought your yenews—what am I saying—of course you did,” says Praeson, shaking his head, smiling.
“I brought ten. She hurt two of them, the poor things.”
“Ten?” Praeson raises his brow. “That’s a little overboard, don’t you think?”
“Don’t ever underestimate Princess Pan Ni.”
“What do you the two of you want,” snaps Ms Pink. I can sense her rage. It is at boiling point.
Praeson offers her a smile that doesn’t quite reach his eyes. “All I want to know is what your secretary was doing, poking around my company.”
“What are you talking about.”
“Bring her out,” Praeson commands and from the shadows where he appeared from, a figure emerges.
“Seo!” I gasp.
“Ms Pink, I am sorry,” says Seo, her head bowed. “I have let you down.”
“Let her go,” says Ms Pink with a voice of steel.
“So you admit that Executive Secretary Seo was sent by you to spy on my company?”
Ms Pink grits her teeth. “Yes.”
“Should I report this to the Sovereign then.”
“Do as you wish.”
I watch as Praeson struts around Ms Pink, his eyes glowing red as he looks at her chemise-clad body. A growl wants to escape my lips but I hold it in, simmering in my increasing dislike for him.
“Mmm, but I am more interested in knowing why.”
“There’s no need for you to know,” Ms Pink hedges.
“Ah, but I want to.” Praeson stops in front of Ms Pink and lifts her chin with a finger. She jerks her head away and steps back. There’s nothing I want more than to pull Ms Pink away from him but the two yenew men keep me standing on the spot. “I want to know why you’re showing dishonourable attention on my company when you so clearly rejected my interest after leading me on.”
Oh my God. I’m right! Ms Pink and Praeson had something in the past!
Stupid human. Be quiet.
“For the umpteenth time, I did not lead you on. I was interested but I changed my mind. A lady is allowed to do that.”
“You’re hiding something from me.” Praeson walks to a grey chair that looks like a bird’s nest and sits. “What are you hiding.”
Ms Pink holds her chin up with an air of arrogance. “There is nothing to hide.”
“Oh, that’s what you say, but I have to disagree.”
“Your disagreement does not change the truth.”
“I have reason to believe the truth you present is twisted for a purpose.”
“You have always been the imaginative type.”
“Imaginative I may be, but delusional I am not. You see, you can’t hide what you truly love.”
Ms Pink’s jaw clenches. “I love nothing.”
Praeson smiles and shakes his head. “You love PINK.”
“And nothing else.”
“You loved your claim.”
“I did not.”
“Yoohuan. Am I right?”
“Don’t you dare speak her name, bastard.”
I gasp from the waves of hate radiating from Ms Pink. Her anger is so strong that I’m surprised no one else seems to notice or sense anything. Then again, it doesn’t show on her carefully schooled poker face. Her lips aren’t even trembling. Not a single inch of her body or stance gives away what she truly feels. It is unbelievable.
“I have apologized for the accident. Many times. Sincerely. I never meant to kill her.”
Praeson killed Ms Pink’s claim too?
“Shut up!” Ms Pink’s chest and shoulders are heaving and I can see her straining against her bonds. I’ve never seen Ms Pink more agitated than this. Her eyes flash brilliant pink and I can almost see flames leaping off her skin. But the flames appear on Praeson instead, burning his dark grey pullover.
Immediately, two yenews step forward and extinguish the flames with what looks a lot like an actual fire extinguisher that humans use, leaving specks of white that look like snow on his pullover.
“You can’t burn me, Pan Ni. My clothes are flame resistant too.”
“Insults are unbecoming of a princess like you.”
“I will burn your gingamobs to ashes.”
Praeson’s eyes widen. “My gingamobs you say.” He chuckles. “You have become much bolder in your language with regards to intimate body parts since then, Pan Ni.”
“That’s Princess Pan Ni to you,” Ms Pink says in a low voice. I can sense her trying desperately to calm herself down. What game is she playing? Pulling herself to her full height, she stares straight at Praeson with eyes of pink steel and says, “Is this all you have to say. You are detaining us unnecessarily.”
“My apologies. We have digressed.” Praeson clears his throat. “I invited you here to clarify the matter of your secretary spying on my company’s operations. I am prepared to dismiss it if your explanation is reasonable. You may consider it a part-payment of what I owe you for that accident.”
“You owe me a lot more than that,” Ms Pink mutters under her breath.
“What did you say?” Praeson asks, his brows raised.
Ms Pink raises her chin. “I will explain. In private.”
In private? Nononono!
Praeson leans forward, elbows on his thighs. “In private, you say.”
“Without Seo and Praneos present.”
“What about your new claim?”
“She stays with me.”
Yes, I’m staying with Ms Pink.
“Then it’s not so private, is it.”
“She’s my claim so she’s part of me. It’s private.”
I’m oddly happy about this and trying not to smile as Praeson narrows his eyes looking like he’s weighing his options. Then, he stands and nods at the yenews holding Seo and says, “Let the secretary go.”
“No!” another voice bellows, “Nobody leaves.”
I turn towards the voice and if it weren’t for the fact that I’m perfectly sober, I would’ve thought I am seeing triple. Grey hair, side swept and gelled. Sharp nose. Grey brows. Angled jaw. Dark grey suit and a black tie. Tall. Handsome. Ruby red eyes. Straight out of the cookie cutter.
The new arrival reaches Praeson and Praneos and they pat one another’s back.
“Brother,” Praeson sounds surprised, “what brings you here today?”
The brother turns to look at Ms Pink and me and my thoughts are running wild. Praeson called him brother. They’re brothers. Triplets. Oh my God. They’re triplets. This is bad.
“Princess Pan Ni has committed an act of dishonour. I am here on behalf of the Sovereign to strip her of her title and assets.”
Ms Pink looks at Praeson in fury. “I knew you can’t trusted, you bastard!”
Praeson shakes his head. “I didn’t arrange this.” He puts a hand on his brother’s arm. “Brother, how did you know Pan Ni’s here?”
“Don’t underestimate the reach of the Sovereign.” He turns and sweeps Praeson’s hand off his arm. The action shifts his suit slightly and I catch sight of a mark peeping out from the top of his collar behind his neck just before he turns back to face us. “We gather our information from everywhere.”
“But even so, what Pan Ni did is not deserving of punishment as severe as stripping her title.”
“You can take that up with the Sovereign jury should you wish to plead for leniency on her behalf. But we all know how in love you are with her and the jury is likely to take that into consideration as well.”
Ms Pink, what is the new guy’s name?
“Brother, please, let me handle this.”
“The Sovereign has been notified. It is out of your hands now.”
They’re triplets right?
“Surely you can pull a few strings here and there.”
Praneso turns to Praeson. “You want me to pull strings for her?”
“Brother, I know you’ve held a grudge against her for how she treated me but we’re gentlemen. We won’t hold it against the lady.”
Ms Pink, Praeson doesn’t seem like a bad guy.
Stupid human. Evil intentions are always hidden deep. Just like mine.
I stare hard at Praeson and think. It doesn’t make sense. Why would he plead for Ms Pink if he’s the one who betrayed her father? Or is this an act to make him look innocent? Does he know Ms Pink intends to kill him? Probably not.
“This isn’t about grudges. I am tasked to bring her in for the hearing. She will be put through the process like all others before her.”
Praeson sighs. “Very well then.”
Praneso nods and pats Praeson’s shoulder. “You can visit her in the holding cell. I will send you word once she is allowed visitors.”
“Thank you, brother.”
Praneso turns and with a single jerk of his head, four women wearing solid black military-like uniforms enter the room. They attach cuffs to Ms Pink’s ankles and a chain between them, I assume to prevent any kicking or running. Additional cuffs are added to Ms Pink’s wrists as well. As for me, they don’t seem to think I’m worth the effort so I’m simply held by my arms as before.
Ms Pink, what do we do?
Don’t do anything until we get to the Sovereign.
“The secretary as well.”
Two more women in the same outfit appear from the door and march towards Seo, attaching the same cuffs and chains to her.
“Let Seo go. She was only acting under my orders.”
Praneso shakes his head at Ms Pink. “The Sovereign wants to hear her statement too. You should know that.”
Ms Pink’s lips are reduced to a grim line as we are marched out of Praeson’s castle and packed into a shiny black car, unmarked by any logo or sign. It moves off as soon as the doors are closed and we are on our way.
Ms Pink, are you alright?
Don’t worry, Taeyeon. I’ll get us out of this. I promise.
I crane my neck to look at Ms Pink. She is leaning back against the seat with her eyes closed. What kind of plan is she thinking of? I wish I could help. But I’m the most helpless one here. I heave a heavy sigh at that thought.
If only my powers were mature enough. I wouldn’t be as useless then.
Stop thinking about useless thing. You did well just now.
Stop worrying. Get some rest.
Yes, Ms Pink.
I settle back against the seat like Ms Pink and close my eyes too. Ms Pink is right. It’s fruitless to worry now.
Something is wrong. Very, very wrong. My eyes snap open to a bare white ceiling. My arms and legs are locked down to whatever I am lying on, spread-eagled. Thank God I still have my chemise on but the air is cool in here and my goose pimples are in full bloom. My consciousness makes a gradual comeback and a moment later, it hits me that another voice is in my head.
I am Tiffany Pink. I am Tiffany Pink. I am Tiffany Pink.
I’m here, stupid human.
Ms Pink! I raise my head as far as it will go and take a look around. I see two mechanical contraptions of white to my left and right, probably the same thing I am strapped to, with a body strapped to each one. The body with a pink chemise is clearly Ms Pink and the other body with a grey coat is most likely to be Seo. Not daring to make any noise, I call out to Ms Pink in my mind.
Ms Pink, look at me, please.
A head raises from the contraption on my right and our eyes meet. At once, my insides warm and I am calmed.
Taeyeon, don’t make a sound.
Ms Pink, what’s happened to us?
Praneso the asshole knocked us out in the car and brought us here. Every single one of the Park brothers is rotten to the core.
But why? What does he want with us?
Can’t be anything good.
How are we going to escape? You have a plan, right?
Ms Pink’s eyes glow deep pink and my insides grow warmer still. There will be a way. We will bide our time. Patience, Taeyeon.
The strain from raising my head forces me to lower it and I stare at the ceiling, wondering if I’ll go mad from all of this.
Ms Pink, are you still sure Praeson is the one who betrayed your father?
What makes you ask.
Praeson is not the one who locked us here. He also asked for your freedom.
They are triplets, Taeyeon. They could be in cahoots. It is highly likely that the whole thing was staged.
But for whom? There was nobody else there to witness Praneso taking us from Praeson. And it looked like Praeson was reluctant to hand us to the Sovereign.
Ms Pink’s internal sigh is long and suffering. For the first time in two hundred and seventy years, I’m not sure. You may be right. I don’t know what to think right now.
Before I can ask Ms Pink another question, the contraption I’m lying on cranks to life and begins rotating so that I am vertical again. The one good thing about this is that I can now look into Ms Pink’s eyes without straining my neck.
Ms Pink, what’s happening.
Ms Pink holds my gaze for a moment before replying. We’re going to get our answers soon.