“I am moving back to my castle,” Ms Pink announces the next day over breakfast.
Ms Pink sends me a frown. “This apartment is known to Yuri now. It is time to move out.”
I am surprised. “You don’t trust Yuri? But isn’t she—”
“She’s with me. But this space is no longer unknown to the supers.”
“You mean they didn’t know where you were the entire time?”
Ms Pink huffs with impatience. “Summer hails from a long line of practitioners of black magic. She put a hex on this place.”
“What?” Is this why Yuri was so disgusted with this place? “But you said she doesn’t know you’re a vampire. How is that possible if she knows black magic?”
“I am not a three-day-old vampire who can’t withstand a little hocus pocus. Summer’s hexes don’t have an effect on me.”
“But if it doesn’t affect you, it wouldn’t affect the other supers either . . .”
“I have properties everywhere. They would never guess I am putting up in this hexed up apartment right under their noses.”
“But won’t they try to track you down? Or stalk you?”
Ms Pink laughs. “Why would they? I’m not a criminal. They have better things to do.”
“So why put up here?”
Pink eyes flash at me. “I wanted our time to be uninterrupted.”
“Ah . . .”
“That time has come to an end however.”
“What do you mean?”
“My castle might not warrant us complete privacy.”
Her eyes flashes without venom. “So many questions.”
I smile. “Humour me.”
“I told you my castle was being searched.”
I nod. “But you didn’t tell me what for.”
“I sensed a presence in my castle during the sixty days. It was a strange feeling, as though I was being watched. But I couldn’t find anything.”
I gasp. “That’s exactly how I felt that day in the lecture theatre.”
Pink eyes narrow. “What do you mean. Why didn’t you tell me about this earlier.”
“I thought it was just me. I had asked Max if he felt it too but he didn’t—” I halt, the rest of the sentence dying on my lips. “Max . . .”
“You did not mention this.”
“I really didn’t think—”
“Yes, you did not.”
Ms Pink taps furiously on her phone, presumably reporting this new update to someone out there. “You did not know campuses of education are supposed to be conflict-free zones. I cannot blame you for leaving it out.”
“Uh . . .” I utter too quickly to stop myself.
My guts sink. “Actually . . . I knew that.”
Pink eyes are trained on mine, demanding more details.
“Yoona told me.”
Those pink eyes soften a fraction. “Stupid human.”
I sigh. “I’m sorry.”
“Finish your breakfast.” Ms Pink pats my head. “The Feds will investigate.”
My apartment is like a foreign place to me after leaving it for so many days. But I am glad to be home nonetheless. Even if I would rather be with Ms Pink in her castle right now. So apparently, moving back to her castle doesn’t involve me. That’s fine. I’m okay with that. Totally.
“You’re back!” Sunny exclaims and runs to be with open arms.
At least somebody is happy to welcome me home. “Sunny!” We hug for an extended moment, missing each other more than we realized. Or at least, that is the case for me. Finally, some human contact. No pink eyes. No superpowers. Just plain old powerless human interactions.
We sit down on our couch and Sunny drills me about why I moved back here and I have to skirt around the real reason, throwing nuggets about having her home re-decorated to keep Sunny satisfied. It isn’t until hours later that I finally get to my bedroom and flop on my bed, exhausted from the move and long chat.
I close my eyes, willing myself to get up and shower but my body refuses to respond to my brain’s demands. So I end up lying there, a foot on the floor, body slanted across my bed over the covers. I must have fallen asleep because my eyes feel heavy when they open again. My eyelids move in isolation, eyes blinking as my ears catch a strange hum that sounds like a very deep bass note. It is barely there, only just audible to me and I wonder if I’m hearing things because there’s nothing in my room that would make such a sound.
Sitting up with a lethargic push of my arms, I hang my head and try to chase the sleep out of me. The hum is persistent and it is bugging me. I get up to investigate. It’s not my phone. Not the fan. Not the laptop. Not anything. Outside the window, life is going about its business. With a perplexed frown, I reach for the open window only to find my hand is blocked by an invisible wall where the window pane would be if it were closed. What is going on? I try again and sure enough, I am obstructed by something I cannot—wait. Captes. No way. Did Ms Pink put captes at my window? And are they the reason for the low hum that is about to drive me nuts?
Even after all this time (a few months as calculated by the human calendar), I am still regularly surprised or shocked by the presence of the superpowers that a small number of beings possess. When I think about it like that, it frightens me a little. There’s nothing like the unknown to make me feel insecure. But Ms Pink will come to mind and suddenly, the unknown isn’t as scary anymore.
I miss her.
I miss my difficult, demanding, and at times domineering, princess vampire of pink.
So I decide to send her a diplomatic e-mail. I’m not about to take this lying down.
Dear Ms Pink,
It has come to my attention that I have some friends I didn’t know about. I’d appreciate it if you would let me know beforehand.
It doesn’t take my princess vampire to reply. Of course, vampire speed.
Subject: RE: Friends?
The tone you are using on me is questionable. Fortunately for you, I will let it slide this time.
Your friends serve a specific purpose. Be kind to them.
Be kind to them? Is she serious about this? Am I supposed to offer them food and water then? And what is with ‘you’re mine’. Does she think she’s being funny right now? I’m not in the mood for jokes after being unceremoniously dropped off back here without notice.
A great big sigh does not relief me of my pent up pissed off feelings. Neither does punching my pillow. So I stomp off to the bathroom and take a shower.
Sunny is having her brunch when I emerge from my room. I sit down to join her and soon we’re talking about graduation and job options (which have become much more complicated for me with my situation). Not surprisingly, Sunny fully intends to join the biggest media company in the country. It is somewhat to be expected when your uncle is not only on the board of directors but is also the founding chairman.
I’m thankful for Sunny’s generosity too. Thanks to her, I get to stay in this comfy apartment instead of having to shack up in a tiny little box people call a room because it has four walls. I mean, while I’m not exactly swimming in poverty, an apartment of this size and location would be beyond my accommodation allowance budget.
“Tiffany Pink wants you to join her company huh. Is she trying to keep an eye on you?”
“That’s the worst kind. Controlling, possessive, the nobody-else-can-touch-you kind of girlfriend.”
“It’s not that bad.”
“You’re blinded because you’re in the situation.”
“She has her reasons.”
“They always have their reasons. But that doesn’t justify controlling every aspect of your life.”
Sunny is right. Ms Pink should not chuck me back home without giving me a good reason. She should have told me earlier and discussed it with me. But how do I talk sense into a near-three-centuries-old-princessy-as-heck-vampire? I seem to be asking this question a lot lately.
It is approaching dinner time when I wonder what Ms Pink is up to. For most of the day, I busied myself with mundane chores are vacuuming and laundry but I’ve run out of clothes to wash and Ms Pink has not called me yet. Funnily enough, the moment I think the thought, a notification pops up on my phone.
I am leaving Shaw for a few days. Be good and wait for my return.
You’re All Mine,
Unbelievable. Did Ms Pink just take off without as much as a goodbye kiss? Not only did she leave without a word prior, she is also leaving with injuries that have only healed recently. Is she strong enough for the kind of work I think she’s heading out to do?
Dear Ms Pink,
Your notification is a little late, don’t you think? It’s not like I can stop you from leaving since you’ve already left.
Not Necessarily Yours,
I sit and fume with my phone in my hand for all of two seconds.
The tone you use in e-mails leaves much to be desired. I will deal with it upon my return.
You’re Definitely Mine,
Dear Ms Pink,
You may not find me waiting for your return. Have a good work trip, Ms Tiffany Pink.
Not Gonna Be Yours,
Her reply comes in a one second.
The tone you use in e-mails leaves much to be desired. I will deal with you upon my return.
You’re Definitely Mine,
“Deal with me?” I mutter to myself, alone in my room on my bed half-filled with stacks of folded clothes. “You can deal with me after I deal with you, Ms Tiffany Pink.”
My little moment of bravado doesn’t last long, however. I find myself sighing again. It’s going to be a very long few days.
With Ms Pink out of the picture for a few days, it occurs to me that I can dig around a little to find out more about the world I know so little about. Questions have been nagging at me ever since Ms Pink returned but many of them remain unanswered. There has to be a lot more than what Ms Pink is telling me and waiting for her to tell me anything is like waiting for an eclipse to happen. There is just one problem though: How do I begin?
After some thought, I come to the conclusion that High Society is the best place to start. And once the decision has been made, I waste no time in setting off the very next day, after breakfast. A little fear strikes my heart as I near the place but determination pushes me on. It has occurred to me that I may get into trouble and Ms Pink is going to be extremely angry with me but something in my heart says I need to do this. I need to gain some independence from Ms Pink. I need to be stronger for her if I am to stand by her side.
Entering the place is easy enough. I mean, there’s no one at the door to stop me.
“Good morning, do you have a reservation?”
Without hesitation, I whip out the luminous pink name card that Ms Pink gave me (what now seems like ages ago). Back then, I had only been trying to help Sunny to score a meal with Ms Pink when one thing led to another and landed me where I am now. But somehow, this name card has been stored safely in my drawer all this time and I’m glad I thought of it last night when I was wracking my brains to figure out a way to get in.
As soon as the card makes an appearance, things change very quickly for me. The polite but business-like receptionist steps from his counter and ushers me in without any further questions. I remember being treated like royalty the first time and being awed by it all but this time, I am able to school my expressions into a solemn class tackling Calculus instead of losing control of my jaw.
Much of High Society is still the same. The colours, the décor, the lack of patrons (although I wouldn’t expect any patrons at this time of the day either) are as I remember. The chandelier is still as majestic. I would say the only missing is the live band, but it is much too early for any band to be on stage.
“Your private booth, Madam,” he says while swiping the card through the electronic lock.
I collect my card back from him with a nod and thanks and make my way down the corridor to the place where it all started . . .
The private booth is exactly as I remember it. It is open just a crack and a sense of déjà vu washes over me. The last time I peeked through this door, I had seen Ms Pink holding Yuri against the wall with a single hand. The memory isn’t pleasant for me. It reminds me that Yuri was and might still be Ms Pink’s playmate, even though Ms Pink hasn’t played with her ever since that fateful night. Or has she? No. I am quick to slam the door shut on that line of thought. Ms Pink might have played with Yuri back then but not after claiming me.
What about the sixty days . . .? No. Ms Pink wouldn’t do that. Would she? But even if she did, would it constitute cheating? We were separated for sixty days. Separated. Is that classified as a breakup?
“Stop,” I say out loud to myself. “Stop.”
“Who is it!”
I stand frozen with my hand stretched, my name trapped in my throat.
My eyes widen in shock at the sight of an almost-nude Yuri, clad in a complicated harness-like setup that reveals more than it hides. “Yu—”
The door slams in my face and fortunately I retract my hand just in time to avoid injury. But the door opens once more and this time Yuri steps out from the room with a coat on, forcing me to back up as she closes the door behind.
“What are you doing here?”
“I-I—” I clear my throat. Say it! “I’m here to investigate.”
Yuri gives me the once over. “Investigate?”
“I have many questions.”
A snort accompanies the short answer that hits me hard. “I know.”
“Pan Ni mentioned it several times. I can’t help but remember.”
“She tells you about me?”
Yuri folds her arms and straightens her back. “Of course she does.”
“Because you’re a stupid human and she needs someone who can help her to work out her problems.”
Stupid human. No way. Ms Pink did not tell her she calls me stupid human. She did not.
“Don’t call me a stupid human.”
Yuri rolls her eyes. “I call all of you stupid because you all are exactly as the word suggests. You may be the Erika, but right now, you’re as useless to Pan Ni as all the other humans are so I shall call you whatever I want. Stop me if you can.”
“Why are you so mean to me?”
“Because you are nothing but trouble for Pan Ni.”
“I want to help her too.”
“If she didn’t fall in love with you, she wouldn’t be stuck in between both worlds. She can be the princess vampire she is meant to be. But because of you, she is trying for the impossible.”
Every single one of Yuri’s words are hitting me deep inside, killing me slowly but I pull all of my resolve to get something out of Yuri and it emboldens me. “What is the impossible?”
Yuri stares hard at me. For a moment, it looks like she’s going to hurl me out of this place. But she lowers her arms instead and says, “The best of both worlds.”
Yuri makes an impatient cluck. “The only reason you’re still free to wander around freely is because the Feds can’t decide what to do with you. And this is a result of Pan Ni fighting for your freedom. So right now, half of the Feds think you will be useful to them in future and half of the Feds just want to get rid of you before you pose a real threat to them.”
I cock my head and stare straight at Yuri, fearless. “Which half are you on?”
“I am on Pan Ni’s side.”
“So you are the vote that keeps the Feds in limbo.”
Yuri lifts a brow. “You’re a little smarter than you appear to be.”
“That’s what Ms Pink said too, after spending more time with me,” I say in a huff, disgruntled by Yuri’s low opinion of me although I know why she feels that way. “But I’m not interested in becoming a threat to anyone. I want to be useful. But only for Ms Pink. And that’s why I came here today. I want to learn more. I want to know more.”
“What were you expecting to learn from this place.”
“Nothing. I just thought I could sit in Ms Pink’s private room and think, since this is where it all started. And maybe there is something to be found in the room . . . who knows?”
Big, round eyes narrow into weary slits. “You don’t trust Pan Ni?”
“I trust her completely. But I also know she has many secrets. And I can’t help but feel that knowing her secrets will help me to help her.”
The weary slits relax and a calmer set of eyes holds my gaze for a beat before breaking away. “Pan Ni’s secrets, huh.” A smirk appears on Yuri’s face. “I can tell you one secret.”
“Really?” I’m half-excited and half-apprehensive. Why would Yuri give away one of Ms Pink’s secrets?
“I’ll give you one secret, considering how you saved Pan Ni from Praneso.”
“Okay, what is it?”
Yuri fishes her phone out from the pocket of her coat and taps on it a couple of times. “Here.”
I look. “It’s Yoona. Why are you showing me a painting of Yoona?”
The smirk persists as Yuri says, “This isn’t Yoona.”
“This is a painting of Yoohuan. I’m sure you know the name.”
Yoo . . . huan . . . “She’s . . .”
“Pan Ni’s claim.”
“I know . . . but she—Yoona.”
“They look very much like twins, right?”
“Is she Yoohuan reincarnated or—”
Yuri’s sharp laugh cuts my question short. “It’s just the genes. Yoona can be traced back to Yoohuan’s bloodline.”
My gasp must have been loud for Yuri starts a little. But I am too stunned to hear myself. Yoona and Yoohuan are all fills my mind right now. “I don’t know what to think.”
“Go home and figure it out. Or ask Pan Ni when she returns.” Yuri shakes her head. “She should have told you.”
“Have she ever loved Yoona then?”
Yuri looks hard at me. “If you can’t even figure out the answer to your question, then you really aren’t worth Pan Ni’s blood and sweat.”
With that, I am left standing alone in the corridor as Yuri re-enters the room and shuts the door.
a/n: it’s a day late but a little longer and meatier so the day was worth it 🙂 enjoy~