I wake up in the middle of the night, screaming. Arms wrap around me immediately and I find myself in Ms Pink’s embrace.
“You are safe with me.”
Those words calm me down considerably but my mind is full of images from the day time. Blue. That ghastly blue. Max is dead. Someone ruthless had taken his life from him and I don’t know how or why he had to die. Max, who had treated me to ice cream so many times after classes. Max, my friend. Tears burn in my eyes.
Ms Pink holds me close and I bury into her. There is comfort in here. And sleep manages to find me again.
It isn’t until I regain consciousness and recall the activities of hours before that I realize something different about our atypical intimacy—I had not hurt Ms Pink during my climax! How did that happen? Had I held back somehow? But I certainly don’t remember holding back. In fact, I was doing everything but hold back . . .
“Good morning, stupid human.”
Lifting my head, I get to see Ms Pink leaning against the doorway, holding a pink cup of something I probably wouldn’t want to drink. She is smiling and her eyes carry just a tinge of pink in them. How does one look at a person make me feel this way? Like nothing else matters. Like we’re the only ones left in this world. Like this moment is enough to fill me up for the rest of my life.
“I didn’t hurt you.”
“What are you talking about.”
“I didn’t hurt you! When I—you know.”
Ms Pink’s lips slant. “When you?”
“When I lose my mind.”
Tinkling laughs reach my ears. “When did you lose your mind?”
“At the end.”
“My stupid human is shy this morning.” Ms Pink comes to me and lifts my chin. “Do I make you lose your mind?”
I nod. “Completely.”
Lips close over mine. I can taste a bit of iron on her but it doesn’t bother me much. “You’re not good for me,” Ms Pink murmurs when our lips part.
“Because of you, I don’t want to go to work today.”
I find myself grinning right away. “Is it because I no longer hurt you when I—you know?”
“Why so shy this morning?”
“I don’t know. Something’s different today.”
Ms Pink sits beside me, looking at me intently. “What is different?”
“You. Me. We’re different.”
“No, it is the expulsion of the mind control energy that was inside you.”
“Is that all?”
Fingers run through my hair as Ms Pink nods. “Most likely.”
“But I didn’t hurt you this time.”
“You didn’t,” Ms Pink finally acknowledges the change. It is infinitely important to me. Why doesn’t it seem as important to her?
“You don’t seem to . . .”
“Finish your sentences.”
“What does it mean? Why don’t I hurt you anymore?”
“Your training has helped. Part of you must have been careful about hurting me and held back.”
“I don’t remember thinking about anything at all.”
“You don’t have to.” Ms Pink smiles and places her palm on my chest. “It’s your heart.”
“Don’t you know by now? Your energy reacts through emotions. You emitted energy during your climax in the past because you have feelings for me. So if you have sex with somebody else, on a casual basis, your energy wouldn’t pose a threat at all.”
“I killed Praneso because he was hurting you.”
“Yes. Your feelings for me prompted you to protect me and in doing so, your energy snuffed his.”
“So why am I able to restrain it now? How did the training change me?”
“Observe your mind and body. The answer is within you.”
“Hmm . . .”
“But before you think about these things . . . I want something from you.”
“What do you want?”
Ms Pink’s lips slant and curl up as she pushes me onto my back on the bed, cup in the other hand. “I want your pleasure.”
The next day, I am surprised to see a gleaming pink car waiting at the steps of my campus building. Coming to campus has depressed me so I am more than happy to have Ms Pink here for me.
“This is a pleasant surprise. Don’t you have to work?” I ask while sliding onto my seat and fastening the seatbelt.
“Are you feeling better?”
First, she apologized. Now, she’s asking me if I’m feeling better? Is Ms Pink human or something?
“I asked you a question.”
Ah, this sounds more like Ms Pink. “It’s weird to walk around knowing he’s not alive anymore when everybody else doesn’t seem to care. Nobody misses him.”
“The Feds have done their job. His records will say he graduated.”
“It doesn’t seem right. Max died. He didn’t graduate. He will never graduate.”
“If his body were not in its blue state, the Feds would’ve been able to forge a cause of death. But given the circumstances, it is best if he is forgotten by the State.”
Sadness wells up in my chest. This isn’t right. Max deserves more closure. He died a gruesome death. I can only hope it wasn’t too painful.
“You are wanted by the Feds this evening. Be honest when they ask you questions. Don’t leave anything out.”
Demortams. Not my favourite place in the world. But at least, this time I’m going in with a health and strong princess vampire rather than a half-dead one. I can’t say I will enjoy what I have to do though. The last thing I want is to give a recount of everything related to Max but I don’t really have a choice.
The absence of Olympias is obvious from the moment I step into the room. There is no hissing in the background and I do not have to be worried about being bitten by a snake. Instead, sitting in her place, is Yuri in an abundance of fur. From Mdm Snake to Ms Leopard, I wonder if they chose Yuri because of her association with an animal to keep the trend going.
Next to Yuri is Sintix with his crystal wand. He glances our way as we enter but looks away, giving no indication that he had just met us recently. Then there’s Miras in black and Kharne with his bulging muscles, sitting side by side, looking mildly bored. On the other side sit bespectacled Yaelhu, Charles looking smart in his blue suit, Ayers and Edith. Edith is the only Fed who nods politely at them and I return her greeting with a smile and wave.
There are no members of the Sovereign or Parliament today. This must be highly confidential.
“Let’s begin,” Miras announces as soon as we are seated.
All eight of them turn to me, staring expectantly. I freeze.
“Start from the beginning, Taeyeon,” Ms Pink says.
So I do that. From the very beginning when I first met him in the university. When he came up to me and introduced himself. When we found out we had a few classes together. When we found jobs at the same shop. Tears are in my eyes as I think of all the times we shared during the past few years. A few of the Feds sit up when I mention his exchange last semester.
“Where did he go for the exchange?” asks Edith.
“Hmm. How was he when he came back?” Sintix asks, waving his wand gently. “Did he feel different?”
Ayers laughs. “Sintix, humans can’t feel these things like you.”
“He wasn’t different. But he did change a little.”
“Explain the change.”
“Well, before the exchange he was always a good friend. We’ve never been anything more but when he came back, he started to hint about having feelings for me. After that, he started to come on to me and he tried to kiss me even though I didn’t want him to. It seemed a little out of character for him at that time but he apologized and we were back to being friends again so I didn’t think too much about it after that.”
“He underwent a change in attitude and temperament,” says Edith.
“Not that much.”
“You said he tried to kiss you by force. That is out of character for him.”
“It represents a major shift of his mind and values.”
“He’s mostly still the same though.”
“But that is even before Ms Pink discovered what I am. Does this mean someone knew even before that?”
Sintix taps his wand on the table top. “The energy inside you modifies your blood. Those who recognize the scent will suspect something. But those who understand ancient energy, they will know.”
Kharne snorts. “Olympias and I are two of the most ancient supers here.” He pauses, then adds, “Olympias was.”
“You’re forgetting Helene,” Miras reminds them. “Weren’t there four of you?”
“Ttrowtos.” Kharne shakes his head. “But he’s gone. Like Olympias.”
“How do you know he’s gone?” asks Edith.
“No one has seen him for the past millennium.”
“Not seen doesn’t mean does not exist,” Yaelhu speaks up from the side, pushing his spectacles up his nose.
“Find me someone who can hide for a thousand years and I’ll listen to you,” Kharne retorts, flexing his muscles everywhere.
Edith puts her hand up. “Before we go on a wild goose chase, we need the full story from Taeyeon. Tell us about the events that happened recently.”
“He saved me and Yoona from a vulk attack.”
“Who is Yoona?” asks Kharne.
“Yoona has been escorting me from campus to the apartment. She’s like my bodyguard.”
“Yoona the slayer?” Ayers asks.
Voices rise like a hazy cloud in the room. I’m sure it’s not my imagination. All the supers are leaning forward in their seats and talking over one another.
“Who hired the slayer?” Miras asks and I panic. Should I not have mentioned Yoona?
“I hired the slayer.”
All heads turn to Ms Pink. She sits still and flashes me a look that tells me not to worry.
“Are you out of your mind?” Miras is not pleased and it is evident to see in her frown.
“The slayer is the best protect for Taeyeon between campus and school.”
“That may be the case but you are a vampire.” Miras’ lips are disapproving. “You are a royal. You cannot be seen hiring a slayer for personal use. We offered you the Federation’s vanguards, yenews even, but you rejected everything in favour of hiring a slayer. This act is punishable by law.”
My jaw drops. Why did Ms Pink reject all help from the Feds and hire Yoona to protect me? And what kind of punishment are we talking about here?
“Vanguards and yenews can be manipulated. A slayer is a better companion.”
“Slayers don’t act as escorts for nothing.” Charles looks straight at Ms Pink with triumph in his eyes. “What did you pay Yoona?”
Charles slams the table with his palms and stands, enraged. “You have no right to do that!”
The others nod in agreement.
“Princess Pan Ni, you have gone too far,” says Sintix.
“She deserves to be whipped!” Charles is out of his chair, fist drawing the whipping action. “And who knows what else Princess Pan Ni has been up to. Her title should be stripped!”
“Now, now, calm down,” says Edith, the only voice of reason in the group. “We have to ask Taeyeon herself. Taeyeon, did you give your consent for your blood to be used as payment?”
I nod. “Yes.”
To which Edith says, “A human paying another human for protection is perfectly fine. Although blood payment is a little unorthodox.”
Charles raises his hand. “I vote for punishment. We cannot let her go scot free.”
Kharne raises his hand too. “Aye, it is the rules. The Federation will make no exceptions.”
Miras, Yaelhu and Ayers raise their hands as well. That forms the majority. Then Yuri shocks me by raising her hand as well.
“Chained and whipped. For one count of unauthorized solicitation of a slayer and one count of unauthorized use of the Erika’s blood as payment for unauthorized services. That is one hundred whips and will be doubled for she is a royal.”
Two hundred whips? No. No, I won’t allow Ms Pink to be whipped two hundred times because of me. All eyes turn back to me. Opps. Why am I up on my feet? Say something! They’re all looking now.
Yaelhu snorts and laughs. The others laugh too, with the exception of Edith and Sintix. “What do you object to?”
With my eyes latched onto Ms Pink, I see through her calm façade and I know that I cannot let them do this to her. “The whipping.”
Kharne throws his head back and guffaws. When he is done laughing and stands up, the look on his face is far from friendly. “You don’t get to object. You don’t have a say in this room. The Federation has its rules and Pan Ni knows very well the punishment due for her actions.”
“Taeyeon,” Ms Pink calls me so I meet her eyes once more. “I can handle it.”
“But I don’t want you to.”
Charles slams the table again. “Such arrogance! Whip them both!”
Anger surges within me, fast and furious, prompting me to leave my chair. I walk round to the space in front of all eight Feds and kneel, much to everyone’s surprise, including myself. “Please,” I begin to say, but Ms Pink is next to me in a vampire second and stares hard at me.
“Taeyeon, don’t do this.”
“But I can’t let them do this to you. Not after I know about—”
Ms Pink stops me with a finger on my lips. “Shh.”
“You don’t even get a trial. You don’t even get to defend yourself.”
“There’s no need for that when I’ve already admitted doing it.”
“But Ms Pink—”
“It will be okay. Don’t worry.”
Impossible task. But seeing the warning in Ms Pink’s eyes, I think it is better to do as she says. Until my tolerance runs out.