“What are you doing here? How did you get in here?” Qas Sogok is on his feet, glaring at us.
“Ms Pink?” I gasp as Ariz sets me down. Glazia and Cartu are standing side by side, poised for a fight and Ariz takes his place beside me. Ms Pink puts her tea cup down and rises from her seat, turning to face us. Standing there in a long pink trench coat over a creamy white flowing top and leggings tucked into knee high pink boots, she looks exactly as she did three days ago.
“Taeyeon,” she says, her pink eyes gleaming at me.
“Ms Pink, what’s going on?”
“Tiffany Pink, why are they here?” Qas Sogok demands to know.
Eying Qas Sogok warily, I take one step forward. “Ms Pink, have you been here the entire time?”
“You ask too many questions.” Ms Pink walks to me, eyes still gleaming. Her hand slides behind my neck and tugs me close.
I lean in and hug Ms Pink, relieved to find her safe and free of pain.
“Princess Pan Ni, are you alright?” Glazia asks calmly.
“Yes, of course.”
The Sovereigns exchange looks but none of them voice any objections or raise questions. I find it strange. Weren’t they convinced that Ms Pink is in danger? Why don’t they seem surprised to see Ms Pink safe and sound with Qas Sogok? Then again, the behaviour of supers have never made any sense to me.
Looking into Ms Pink’s eyes, I notice a strange flicker in her pinks. But before I can ask Ms Pink about it, dozens of black uniformed men materialize and surround us in the dining hall. Ms Pink holds me close to her while the Sovereigns form a defensive triangle, their backs against one another.
“Qas Sogok. Explain this,” Cartu growls.
“Isn’t it obvious? You have trespassed on my property. This is my security team. They will escort you out safely.”
Ariz snorts. “Do you need this much security to escort us?”
“In human terms, this is V.I.P. treatment,” Qas Sogok replies and nods at one of the uniformed men. Like water released from a dam, the uniformed men dash in on the Sovereigns.
“No!” I yell, turning to Ms Pink for help but she makes no move. “Ms Pink?”
Ms Pink’s hand tightens around my neck. “Stand still.”
“Shh.” Ms Pink’s finger silences me. “Do as I say.”
Something is wrong. The feeling comes from deep inside and hits me hard. Something is not right. The pink in Ms Pink’s eyes. The way she speaks to me. But I can’t put my finger on it. Did Qas Sogok cast some kind of spell on her? Or is she acting in front of Qas Sogok? Ms Pink did say she was going to pretend to be on his side. But at the cost of three of her closest Sovereign allies? Or does she have a plan to help them later?
Looking up from my thoughts, I am shocked by the sight before me. The three Sovereigns are fighting hard. Moving too fast for bullets from surrounding guns to catch, Ariz and Cartu are tearing body parts with their bare hands, while Glazia is ripping through bodies and pulling out their hearts with her claws. Claws? But there are too many to fend off and the fight ends when the uniformed men managed to stab something into the Sovereigns’ necks.
Not two seconds later, all three on their knees and clutching their necks. What did the men stab the Sovereigns with? Poison?
“Ariz! Glazia! Cartu!” I scream as they slump to the floor, seemingly unconscious. “What did you do!” I yell at Qas Sogok, quite forgetting my precarious situation.
“They will be transported back to where they belong,” Qas Sogok tells me as his uniformed men drag the Sovereigns out of the dining hall. “You are welcome to stay here.”
Ms Pink squeezes my arm and tugs me back. “Be quiet.”
“You.” Qas Sogok turns on Ms Pink. “Explain why they turned up here.”
“I told you they would come if I stopped sending them a code.”
“How did they find this place?” he growls.
“They are Sovereigns. They have their ways.”
“Anyway, they’re gone now. Three fewer votes. And they brought your human here. Just what we need.”
A chill runs down from my head to my spine. What does Qas Sogok need me for? And why did he say ‘we’? Who else is there?
“You got what you wanted,” Ms Pink adds and I stare at her, not understanding a goddamn thing.
“You have been worth all the trouble.” Qas Sogok smiles and it sends a shudder through my guts. “Tomorrow, we shall advance to Demortams. We have a Federation to overturn.”
A Federation to overturn? What?
A ton of questions run through my mind as Ms Pink hauls me away from the dining hall.
“Where are we going? What’s going to happen to the Sovereigns?”
“Qas won’t kill them.”
Qas, huh. Ms Pink has definitely made some progress in her mission.
“Where are you bringing me to?”
“My guest room.”
“Your guest room?”
By some kind of instinct, I know it’s not safe to talk. Not even when it’s just the two of us in Ms Pink’s guest room. But there are things I can ask.
Looking around at the excessive embroidery on every single piece of fabric in the room, I wonder out loud, “Is this where you’ve been staying the past few days?”
“So you’re working with Qas Sogok now?” I ask while picking up a cushion embroidered with lace and elaborate floral design and hugging it.
“Yes.” Ms Pink’s eyes flicker pink like a broken lightbulb. It’s not right.
“You ask too many questions, human. Sleep. You have a long day tomorrow.”
“Are you sure the Sovereigns will be okay?” I ask again, unable to let my worries go.
“Yes.” Ms Pink tosses me onto my back. “Now, sleep.”
Demortams. Again. It would be best if I don’t have to come to this place anymore but I have a horrible, sinking feeling that this is only the beginning.
There’s Yuri, wrapped up in thick leopard fur again. Sintix and his crystal wand still look the same as well, along with Miras and Kharne. Seriously, do they have a wardrobe full of the same clothes or do they simply wear the same thing without washing their clothes? On the other side, decked out in different clothes than what I last saw, are the other half of the Federation members. At least they appear to change their clothes.
The Sovereign, Parliament and are in attendance today, which excites me because I know Hyo will be in the crowd. Although I can’t exactly call Hyo a friend I can trust entirely, it is comforting to know that someone who had helped me before is present in this place. More importantly, someone who can talk to me without anybody else knowing.
Scanning the side of Demortams where the supers are seated, I search the crowd of faces for Hyo but I don’t see her. That’s strange, since she’s definitely one of them. Where could she be?
I obey Ms Pink without protest and take my seat. I’m sitting at the end of the curved table so the angle allows me to continue my search for Hyo but she’s still nowhere to be found.
Oh my gosh. Hyo! Where are you?
I’m in the crowd.
I was looking for you but I can’t find you.
That’s because I’m right behind you.
Behind me? I turn as surreptitiously as I can and take a quick glance. I catch a glimpse of blonde and focus on the face. It’s Hyo! But isn’t this the Parliament section? Why is she with the humans? Come to think of it, she was with the Parliament back when she shot a Sovereign to protect me too.
The clockwork in my brain cranks to life. Why is Hyo in the human section when she’s a succubus? Is she pretending to be a human? But don’t all supers know she’s a succubus too? And if this is the case, does it mean the entire supernatural realm is going against the rules for balanced representation?
Why are you sitting there?
I’m a member of the Parliament. Didn’t you know?
But you’re not human.
I was, up till recently.
We’re about the sink into chaos, Taeyeon. Very soon, it won’t matter if you’re human or not.
What do you mean?
I am seeing.
Qas Sogok, as the leader of the Parliament, raises the first agenda of the meeting. “As you know, the peace has been under attack in recent times. The treaty that holds us together is being challenged. On behalf of the Parliament, I am condemning the efficiency of the supernatural rule over their own kind. A review must be done. A revamp is required.”
Edith stands. “There always has been problems. But we have to do our best to solve them. The blame is not to be put on one party alone.”
Qas Sogok is quick to rebut. “The vampires have been killing humans. First it was one. Then, more. Now we have had ten mass murders all over the land in just recent months. And the vampires are making it obvious. Leaving behind a mess of horrific blue blood pools. They are challenging the order. Yet the Federation has done nothing. I protest against the Federation. They have failed to do their duty. And they have committed fraud!”
A loud buzz arises from the crowd behind the Sovereigns and Parliament.
Charles leaps to his feet. “Do you have proof to support your accusations? Hold your silence if you don’t.”
“As a matter of fact, I do have proof.”
Silence hangs in the air as every ear listens.
Qas takes a few steps towards the Federation. “We were told that Olympias was the mastermind behind a great scheme to break the peace. But recently, I managed to find out the truth. Tatua here, managed to talk to one of Olympias’s snakes that escaped death. Everyone, the Federation has been lying to us. Olympias was not the sole mastermind behind everything. She was framed by Charles and Kharne!”
The buzz doubles, even triples, with hushed whispers turning into raised voices. A number of Sovereigns and Parliament members are on their feet. Demortams security forces are in the middle of everything, trying to separate a livid Kharne from Qas Sogok.
“Is that true?”
“Where’s the proof?”
“I knew everything was fishy.”
Questions and comments are flying everywhere and the chaos that Hyo predicted is running straight at us in full force.
“Murderer in the Federation!”
Angry hollering and screaming are all I can hear. It frightens me and I reach for Ms Pink’s hand. She clasps my hand tight and our eyes meet. Somehow, this calms me. Even if the broken lightbulb flickering in her eyes still bothers me.
“We need a new leader!”
“We need a new Federation!”
“To Hell with the Federation!”
The chaos continues until Qas Sogok holds his hands up and speaks again. “Sovereigns, my fellow members of the Parliament, and everybody else in here today shall see the truth for themselves.” He turns to the front of the hall and points at a doorway opening. In slithers a snake more than twice the size of an anaconda, all green, thick as a tree trunk, featuring treacherous fangs.
“Shaew will tell us the truth,” Qas Sogok announces as the snake comes to a slithering stop in front of all of us.
Can snakes talk?
Of course not.
Hyo! You gave me a shock.
You’re the one who asked me the question first.
“How is the snake going to tell us the truth?” Edith questions, a much needed voice of sanity.
Qas Sogok’s grin is smug and I don’t like the look of things when the snake shudders suddenly. A violent shake. A neck-snapping jerk. A loud, collective gasp in the hall can be heard as the green snake transforms into a svelte woman cloaked in green scales. There is another gasp when her eyes open into slanted slits of green, radiating outrageous ancient beauty in every direction.
“Shaew, tell us the truth behind your mistress’s death.”
“Yess, ssirr. Ssher ssruss iss sshiss. My misssress iss besshrayed by her alliess. Kharness,” the snake woman hisses at the ancient struggling under the restraints applied by Demortams’s security forces. “Sshey sswore sso get back powers sshad belonged sso sshem. So my misssress bred ssher vanguarrd queeenss. Buss here in Dessmorssamss, where jussshisss sshould reign, my misssress was besshrayed. Kharness killssed her so she couldss noss ssay hiss namesss.”
Oh my gosh. What is she say?
Her mistress was betrayed by Kharne. She said Kharne was in it with Olympias to regain powers that belong to them. She claims that Kharne had killed Olympias to silence her.
How did you understand all that?
It’s simple. She’s a snake. She pronounces her T and Th like a snake would.
“Liar!” Kharne roars, absolutely raging against the chains that hold him to the wall.
“How do we know the snake isn’t lying?” Edith questions.
“Yeah! Snakes lie all the time!” yells a member of the crowd.
Shaew frowns, her gentle beauty suddenly marred by the shadow that eclipses her eyes. “I do noss liess. I hass proofss.” Reaching into a scale on her hip, she pulls out a tiny piece of technology that looks all-too-familiar yet ridiculously foreign in this supernatural setting. “Do youss hass a compusser?”
“We have one right here,” Qas Sogok replies while snapping his fingers. At once, a member of Parliament I don’t recognise stands with a tablet and walks down to the front to assist. Everyone watches with bated breath and a moment later, the video begins to play on the wall.
It is short. Just a little under a minute. But it shows clearly, Olympias and Kharne talking in a room of black and white, reminiscing the good ol’ times when supernatural beings were feared and had power over humans. How good it would be if they could have that kind of power again. How disgusting and degrading it is for supernatural beings to live amongst humans, to the extent of hiding their super powers and pretending to live a normal, pathetic human life.
By the end of the video, it is clear that Olympias and Kharne had some kind of agreement. Both wanted humans out of the balance of power. Both wanted the supernatural realm to rise to dominance over the world. It wasn’t only Olympias. Kharne was in on it too.
Another round of chaos later, the crowd of supers and humans finally quieten down enough for Edith to speak.
“I speak in truth here at Demortams when I say to everyone here that not all Federation members were privy to this knowledge. While Kharne may appear to be guilty of colluding with Olympias to scheme against our peace, the rest of us are in the dark, just like you are. If you would give us some time, I assure you that we will investigate and deal with this matter properly.”
Qas Sogok scoffs. “Kharne has been sitting amongst you all this time and you have been clueless. What good is a Federation if the members in it are incapable of protecting us? As leader of the Parliament, I say we appoint a new Federation today!”
Other members of the Parliament rise to their feet and stomp, chanting together in solidarity. Only Hyo seems a little less enthusiastic than the others.
“Hold on. How are we going to appoint a new Federation if we don’t have any candidates in the first place?” Charles rebuts.
“We have a candidate!” Qas Sogok proclaims. “One more ancient than any of you. More powerful than all of the Federation put together. One who will do as spoken. One who will rule with efficiency and lead the Federation with effectiveness.”
“Who is this candidate you speak of?” Edith asks.
Appearing from the doorway, a tall, muscular human-like creature with long fiery red hair and eerily red eyes walks into the hall, all eyes on him, or her, whatever it is.
“It is I. Ttrowtos.”