Ms Pink holds me away, stopping me from kissing her. I am panting as I stare at her, hungry for passion, and wonder why she isn’t allowing me to kiss her.
“Sit down. There are things to discuss.”
“What things?” I ask as I obey her command.
Yuri joins us and sits too. “What did Seo discover?”
“It’s very ancient.”
“Is it ancient enough?”
Ms Pink nods. “More than enough.”
“But it will be hard to convince the rest.”
“Nobody wants to believe you.”
“It is not convenient for any of them. The Feds want their power unchallenged. The humans would rather pretend it’s a myth than accept the possibility of utter chaos coming to their world.”
“Meanwhile, humans are murdered everywhere and all the blame is put on innocent vampires and vanguards.”
I almost balk at the use of ‘innocence’ alongside ‘vanguards’ but I manage to hold it in.
“Denial. Whether you are a human or a vampire, denial is something that we all have to avoid succumbing to.”
Yuri gives Ms Pink a strange look. “Are you no longer in denial?”
Ms Pink fixes a stare for such a long time that I thought she wouldn’t answer, but she does. “I moved on.”
“Since the day she tripped over herself in your office?”
Ms Pink’s eyes turn borderline hostile. “Before that.”
“The day I saw Yoona.”
“I see.” Yuri nods. “Helene is right. You have changed, and it is because of this human.”
“How have I changed.”
“You were willing to answer my questions. Not to mention, you talked about it with the human in our presence.” Yuri’s smile is smug. “Not more than two hundred days ago, you would never have done that.”
Ms Pink raises her chin in a haughty manner. “There is no need to avoid the topic just because Taeyeon is here.”
“Oh, really?” Yuri’s grin has taken on an evil slant. “What about Summer? Have you told her about Summer?”
“She knows Summer is not a vampire.”
“But does she know why a princess vampire like you would have a human sister like Summer?”
“We have more critical issues to discuss, Yuri.”
Yuri’s flashes a champion’s smile. “There is it. The avoidance.”
Ms Pink’s glare is steely like solid metal, ten inches thick. “Yuri, we are here to discuss the traces of the ancient Seo found in Max’s blue blood.”
“Fine. Fine, let’s discuss.”
Meanwhile, I’m sitting here, listening and flooding my mind with questions. What other secrets has Ms Pink kept from me? What else has she not told me? Why are there question marks everywhere I turn? I will ask Ms Pink when we get home. I will ask her.
“How many people do you hold in confidence?
Yuri frowns. “Miras.”
“I have Edith.”
“Two is little.”
“Two is enough. Together we are four. What we need is trust.”
Yuri shakes her head. “It is hard to trust. Even with Miras, I have my reservations.”
“Without trust, we stand no chance.”
A poignant pause passes between them and I wonder what it is about. Ms Pink had saved her before, so it might have something to do with that.
“I’ll talk to Miras.”
“And I, Edith.”
“This had better be a hundred percent accurate, Pan Ni.”
“Max’s blue blood corroded pure chromium.”
Yuri’s eyes fly to Ms Pink’s and holds their gaze. “How quickly?”
“Within a minute.”
“The strength of the acid must be . . .”
“Only someone like him would have such a lasting effect on human blood.”
“But why would he reveal himself like this. It is a risk.”
Ms Pink shakes her head. “No, Yuri. It is not a risk. He wants to reveal his strength. The killings are to display his power. Even Helene may not be his match.”
“Is Helene on your side for this?”
“Helene told me he’s gone. Accounts from that time tell of him entering Lakkos to challenge the evils there. He entered at midnight and was never seen again.”
“Are you spooked?”
Yuri scoffs. “Me? I’ve been in the worst dreams and not once was I spooked. It will take more than eerie tales of Lakkos to spook me.”
“That’s because you don’t really believe it.”
“It sounds rather farfetched,” Yuri says with a shrug. “An ancient power that has long been missing, committing brutal killings, turning a human’s blood blue . . . and our only proof is the blue blood that can corrode chromium. If he really did manage to survive Lakkos somehow, why did it take him one thousand years to show up again? And why isn’t he appearing before us in the flesh? What is his purpose in doing all this?”
“I don’t have the answers right now.”
Yuri nods, looking grimmer than ever. “That’s what I’ll tell Miras too.”
Ms Pink seems to be in some kind of mood when we get back. I can sense it and she certainly isn’t hiding it with the way she bangs around the kitchen. Deciding to leave her alone for a while, I head to the bedroom to take a quick shower and change into something new.
I am in the middle of my shower when I hear Ms Pink’s voice behind me.
Jumping in my skin a little, I turn around clutching the loofah to my chest. “Ms Pink, when did you come in?”
Lounging on the red couch with her elbow casually resting against the spiral arm rest, Ms Pink looks the part of a very rich and pampered diva. But looks can be deceiving and I know that Ms Pink is anything but a diva. She works hard as a royal and as a CEO. And right now, she’s making my heart work that much harder with her unwavering stare.
“Aren’t you going to ask me about Summer?” she asks.
I stare back at her through the mist in the shower. “I want to know but I won’t ask tonight.”
“Because . . . you have other things on your mind and I’m giving you space to figure it out. My questions can wait.”
Ms Pink stands. She steps forward and it seems as though she’s thinking about joining me in the shower, but she doesn’t. She just stands there, staring.
“Stupid human,” she says softly, before turning away and leaving the bathroom.
For some reason, I smile to myself. It’s hard not to, when ‘stupid human’ sounds so much like ‘I love you’.
Later that night, Ms Pink stands behind me, looking into the dressing table mirror as she pushes the bathrobe off my shoulders. Her fingers run down the course of my arm to my fingers, lingering there for a moment to play with them. Then, she takes me in her arms and holds me tight.
“Ms Pink, what’s bothering you?”
“You don’t need to—”
With surprising speed and agility, I turn around in her arms and press my finger on her lips. “No, I don’t need to know, but I want to know because I care for you.”
“I don’t want to talk about it right now.”
“Okay, okay, I’m not going to force you.” Smiling up at her, I place a kiss on her lips. “What can I do to make you feel better?”
A salacious grin appears on Ms Pink’s beautiful face. “I want to tie you up and ravish you from head to toe.”
I heave an exaggerated sigh. “Really, is that the only thing I can do for you?”
Ms Pink looks sat me thoughtfully. “No, it’s not.”
“What else can I do for you?”
Pink eyes look into mine for an extended moment. Then, I am picked up and carried to the bed at vampire speed. Standing at the side, Ms Pink strips in a blur before lying down beside me. For a while, neither of us say anything, simply lying there, listening to the sounds of my heart beating. “Stay by my side tonight,” she says, breaking the silence.
Rolling onto my side to face her, I take her hand and squeeze it. “I will.”
After that night of no-sex companionship, Ms Pink and I have not had sex for almost a week. It is not for a lack of trying, however. It’s a matter of timing.
Friday. The morning after the night of no-sex companionship. We had breakfast together and Ms Pink left for PINK Inc after dropping me at the campus. I submitted the assignment I miraculously completed despite my busy schedule with vampires and supers and stopped by the administrative building to settle the last of my bills and fines (book loan fines, darn it). I also found out that all outstanding bills and fines of mine had been paid without my knowing. Ms Pink, of course.
Friday. Evening. Ms Pink had gone to some place unknown to investigate yet again and I was left alone in the great mammoth of an empty house. I was also unhappy about being left in the dark about her whereabouts but there was nothing I could do until she returned.
Saturday. I was barely awake when I felt soft lips claiming mine and in my muddled, sleep-loaded mind, I returned the kiss with some passion of my own. It was only when I came to full consciousness that I realized Ms Pink had already left for work or royal duties and I was left alone for the day. I took the chance to complete my product design assignment write up and I learnt that I can be pretty efficient when I am free from distractions. Night time was spent laughing at a comedy and a failed attempt at staying up to wait for Ms Pink’s return
Sunday. Late morning. It was almost noon when I woke up. I was on the bed, which was strange, because I remember being on the couch last night. Did Ms Pink carry me to bed? The answer turned out to be a resounding yes. Ms Pink had come back really late last night (or really early morning) and left a note for me which said: Don’t wait up for me. Go back to your apartment. Yoona will go with you.
Monday. Morning. Yoona was downstairs, waiting in a car. She sent me to the campus and came back to pick me up when the day was done. Unable to contain my curiosity anymore, I asked Yoona why she was acting like my chauffeur. She told me Ms Pink had asked for her help to stay close to protect me. I did not, and still don’t, understand why this was necessary when I had proven to be able to fight off a super like Yuri.
Tuesday. Morning. I woke up feeling unwell and stayed in bed most of the day. Sunny was a dear, hanging around the apartment, preparing the three meals for me and taking care of me all day long. I sent Ms Pink a slew of e-mails expressing how much I missed her but left out the part about my bout of sickness. I didn’t want to distract her, in case she was busy investigating something dangerous.
Wednesday. Noon. I felt significantly better but still a little weak so I spent the day in my pyjamas, watching soaps and other cheesy stuff. Yoona visited and brought ice cream which brought a smile to my face. In the middle of a particularly moving—albeit, extremely cheesy—scene between a mother and her daughter, I asked Yoona how far back vampire slaying went in her family. She looked me straight in the eyes and said, “About a hundred years, starting from Yoohuan, my great-great-grandmother.” A swarm of questions buzzed about in my head after that but I wasn’t ready to deal with them yet so I didn’t ask in the end.
Thursday. Ms Pink appeared in my bedroom without notification, just like awkward surprise. I was well by then and I didn’t know if I wanted to pull her into bed with me or kick her out the window. In the end, I did neither because she presented me with a steaming hot breakfast (actual food, not a euphemism) nor my heart melted at the sight of the heart-shaped poached eggs in the bento box. Not to mention the cute smiley face made out of little cubes of carrots. We had breakfast together and she kissed me before going away again, leaving me with no heart to scold her anymore.
Friday. A week after that night of no-sex companionship. I am emptying my locker on the campus when I receive an e-mail from Ms Pink, telling me to meet her at the main entrance. When I get there, she bundles me into her car and drives off without saying as much as a word.
It is I who breaks the monotony of the engine’s low hum. “Where are we going?”
The neighbouring state? “Why are we going there?”
“There’s been a massive killing. I was summoned to investigate.”
“But why are you bringing me along?” You’ve never brought me to any of your investigations except for that one time when we met the rats . . .
“So many questions.” Ms Pink shoots me an irritated glance. “Yoona can’t keep watch today.”
“I can survive on my own for a day, you know. I’m not a child.”
“You’re not a child. But you’re a target.”
“I’m the Erika.”
“Without her full powers.”
I open my mouth to retort but close it again. Not now, I think to myself. Not when Ms Pink has something important to investigate. All of these issues that have accumulated over this week will be resolved. Eventually.
We ride the rest of the journey in silence. It isn’t exactly comfortable silence but it’s not awkward either. I guess, we’re at a stage where familiarity has taken root now. So it’s the sound of branches under wheels that greet us as we enter Elv territory and Ms Pink stops the car behind a crowd of thick bushes, hidden from view.
Ms Pink holds her hand out, her pink eyes glowing as they lock on mine. For a split second, I consider ignoring it to piss her off but I don’t. Not when she’s got something important to do. But the truth is, I want take Ms Pink’s hand. I miss her. I miss being with her. It would be stupid of me if I were to give up the chance to be by her side again.
Hand in hand we walk, entering the thick vegetation at the foot of the mountain Everelv. I stay close to Ms Pink as it grows darker the further we walk. We get to a spot where there seems to be a little clearing. Good, it will be brighter there and a little less eerie, is what I’m thinking as we near the opening. But reality is the drastic opposite of what I thought. Instead of brightness, my eyes are swamped with a darkening filter and the air around us seems to be contaminated with a layer of filth as we walk through to the clearing.
Ms Pink gasps. Unable to see clearly through the filthy air, I squint and try my damnedest to see what Ms Pink has se—Oh. My. God.
By instinct, I move closer to Ms Pink, almost stepping behind to hide from the gruesome sight. Blue is a colour that I normally like but here in this clearing, blue is the most sickening colour. It is unnatural. Bodies should not be blue. Bodies should not be lying all around the ground, motionless like these. This is like seeing Max’s dead body again, but tenfold, twentyfold. The bile is rising in my throat. This can’t be good.
“Ms Pink,” I whisper like a broken doll. One look at me and Ms Pink has me in her arms, turned around, protected from the horrendous scene of mass murder. Mass brutal murder.
“Stay strong, Taeyeon.” Ms Pink’s voice is calm in spite of the circumstances. “Hold tight.”
I bury my face into Ms Pink’s neck and wrap my arms around her, hugging her to me. “This is so sick,” I whisper.
“Yes, it is. Utterly sick.”