FSOP2: 46

Glittering lights across the vast dark land mirror the stars in the night sky. The expanse of beauty in this cityscape is nothing like what I have seen back in Shaw and I smile at Ms Pink, appreciating the choice she made to have us dine here tonight.

Located at the hundred-and-eighth floor of the tallest building in the city, the view from every table in this rotating restaurant is equally spectacular. It is also fully booked out for months, but these things never seem to pose a problem when it comes to Ms Pink.

“How would you like your steak done, Ms Pink?”

“Bloody rare, thank you.”

I gape at the enchanting princess vampire seated across the table as the waiter nods and takes a step back.

“M-Most certainly, Ms Pink.”

I wait till the waiter is out of hearing range before I hiss at my wilful princess vampire. “Did you have to do that?” All I get is an obnoxious smirk.

“Seriously?”

“He deserves it.”

“What did he do to deserve it?”

“He looked at you in a way I didn’t like.”

“How did he look at me?”

“Stupid human. You know nothing, Taeyeon Kim.”

“I know things. I just didn’t expect a princess like you to be bothered by a mere mortal.”

“Ooh . . . look who is calling them mere mortals now that she is an immortal.”

“Under the influence of your Highness, of course.”

My influence?”

The flame on the candle between us flares up. Ms Pink is looking at me with fire in her eyes. Hot, pink fire. Knowing that I’m courting trouble, I tell myself to tone it down but I can’t help firing back. “If not your influence, who else could it be? The waiter’s?”

The flame is now three times bigger than it should be. Things are heating up, so to speak.

“You are playing with fire.”

“You know how much I love playing with fire.”

With a flicker, the heat takes on a different vibe.

“If not for the bloody steak, I would take you out of here right now and bring you home with me.”

I smirk. “Patience is a virtue, my love.”

“If the waiter does not serve my bloody rare steak soon, I will suck his blood instead.”

Bursting into laughter, I reply, “You’ll get your steak soon enough. Just wait a little longer. It’s barely been a minute.”

“Humans. They lack the firepower.”

“That they do.”

“How much fire do humans need to cook a bloody rare steak?”

“Why are you complaining about everything today?”

“It is this place we are in. I do not like it.”

“This is the most exclusive restaurant—”

“Run by humans.”

“You are such a-a humanist.”

Ms Pink frowns. “I do not subscribe to humanism.”

“Humanism?”

“You said I’m a humanist. A humanist is a follower of the principles of humanism.”

“I meant it like a pun. Like a person who discriminates by race is racist.”

“After all this time as an immortal, you are still that stupid human.”

“That you love.”

“You are shameless.”

“Comes with the immortality.”

Ms Pink’s eyes flicker healthy pink. Any passing human would think it was the flame reflecting in her eyes but I know better.

“Your steaks, ladies.”

Ms Pink gives him the look that says she isn’t pleased. “Queens.”

“Pardon me?”

“Address us as queens, not ladies.”

“I-I’m sorry. Please enjoy your meal, queens.”

“You may leave.”

“Right away, queens.”

I’m sure I’m turning pink from trying not to laugh. Ms Pink has been in this mood ever since we took off and ‘eloped’. Part-annoying and part-hilarious with her unique brand of princess vampire deadpan humour. This is yet another new side of Ms Pink I’m discovering as we explore the world far from Shaw, the place where everything happened.

Currently, we are far south, in the southern region of Nam. There are vast forests, great lakes and walls of mountains around the city we are in at the moment. Just a week ago, we were up in those mountains, hiking across trails, taking in the majestic views from up above. That was when I l experienced the advantage of hiking a trail with a supernatural ability. Less tired limbs meant I had more energy left to admire the landscape from the peak.

The lakes were marvellous to swim in as well. Cool, clear waters that go on for what seems like eternity. With nobody around, we were free to splash and play in the lake as we wished. That was when Ms Pink surprised me by running and jumping into the water from a rock—without a shred of cloth to protect her modesty. My jaw hung loose for exactly three seconds at that sight. Three seconds because that was all the time Ms Pink needed to get rid of my clothes and pull me in together with her.

I had never seen such a carefree, relaxed Ms Pink. Such a playful Ms Pink. Her playfulness got to me and we behaved like kids the entire time we were there. It was great.

“What are you smiling about?”

I look into Ms Pink’s eyes, feeling the warmth radiating from them. “Us.”

Her eyes narrow. “Are you thinking about sex?”

The warmth rushes to my cheeks. I am still not used to Ms Pink’s lack of modesty when it comes to talking about such topics in public. I suppose it might take another ten or twenty years for me to shrug off the conventions built into my mind while growing up in the world of humans.

“I’m thinking about how happy we were at the lake.”

“We were happy,” Ms Pink agrees. “It was liberating.”

“You really surprised me.”

“I surprised myself too.”

I raise a brow. “You surprised yourself?”

Ms Pink nods slowly. “Do you think that not possible?”

“I thought it was a side of yourself you kept hidden.”

“Perhaps you are right. Maybe I hid it so well for so long that I forgot it exists.”

“That sounds sad.”

“Why is it sad?”

“It’s sad that you forgot about such a fun side of yourself.”

“Am I not fun in other ways?”

“Mmm, you are serious, proper, demanding and straightforward. Sometimes you are so straightforward that it might be rude but I learnt that it is common among supers. There are times when you joke and tease, but I have never seen you play like you did at the lake. You weren’t just playing. You were truly having fun. Like a child. For that little period of time, I could see what you might have been like if you’re not a princess vampire.”

“If I am not a princess vampire, I would not have lived long enough to meet you.”

My heart thumps. “That’s true.”

“Everything that happened from the moment I was born till now, over these three hundred years, happened so that I would meet you and fall in love with you.”

The magnitude of Ms Pink’s statement is greater than my heart can contain and the overflow finds its way out my eyes, spilling onto my cheeks.

“Stupid human.”

“You know you want to cry too,” I say in defence of my easy tears.

“Eat your steak before it gets cold.”

X

We are in the elevator after a satisfying meal of wine and steak when I feel a hand creeping down my bottom. On my left, Ms Pink is wearing a poker face, albeit with a trace of a smirk. That’s how I know she isn’t touching me by accident. My left bottom cheek is given a squeeze before the skin contact continues down to my thigh, sending a thrill up my spine.

As fingertips draw lines up under my skirt, I am reminded of the fuss Ms Pink made when she insisted I change into a skirt for our dinner date. Is this why she made me change? Had this been her plan all along? To feel me up in an elevator with strangers surrounding us? The thought ignites a fire deep in my body. I am surprisingly turned on by this. Maybe I’m adapting to being a super better than I thought. Or is this simply an undiscovered part of my sexual self?

The fingers nudge my upper thighs. Understanding what that means, I shift and part my legs, giving the fingers space to continue their journey. I can’t help but suck in a sharp breath when Ms Pink’s palm cups my intimates with a firmness that says she owns it. The fabric that covers it is pushed aside and I have to clap my hand over my mouth to mute myself when she makes direct contact.

The ding of the elevator as the door opens several floors down dampens the fire between my legs. But Ms Pink doesn’t stop rubbing me, even when the incoming strangers make eye contact with us before turning around to face the door. I bite my lip and try to school my face into the poker face Ms Pink so masterfully wears, but it is difficult to keep it up.

Ms Pink makes it even harder for me to swallow my moan when her fingers push in just as the door closes. And as the elevator makes a swift descent from the ninety-eighth floor to the first, her fingers are relentless.

“Isn’t this exciting?” she whispers in my ear and even ventures to flick my ear lobe with her free hand. She gets no answer from me. I am too busy trying not to make a sound. She knows this for her smirk grows more arrogant as her fingers apply more speed as we reach the lower levels.

I am edging towards a finish that will not be able to be muted and the panic rises a little. I don’t want everyone in here to hear my climaxing moan. I don’t want anyone to hear that again. Reflexively, I grab Ms Pink’s arm to stop her but she pulls out right at that moment, leaving me empty and wishing for more.

“To be continued . . .” she drawls, rubbing the shell of my ear with the very fingers that were just inside me, leaving a cool trail behind.

Her bold acts are driving me crazy. Can the others smell anything? Will they suspect something? What possessed Ms Pink to do this? Not that I mind. The people around us filter out of the elevator and Ms Pink pulls me out by the hand. I can feel the wetness on my skin. How decadent. How outrageously sexy.

Once we are safe from the eyes, ears and noses of others, I lean in and whisper, “You need to finish what you started.”

“Right here?”

“Right now. In the car.”

Ms Pink smiles. “Patience is a virtue, my love.”

I glare at the cheeky smirk she is giving me. “If you won’t finish it, I will.”

“I won’t let you.”

“Try me.”

“Stupid human.”

My lips part to embrace Ms Pink’s as she pulls me to her. Opening wide, I take what I need and give in return. Our arms go around each other as our kiss deepens but it only makes me want more. Much more.

“Take me back right now, Tiffany Pink.”

Ms Pink pulls back and stares into my eyes. “One word.”

“Tiffany.”

X

Flames scorch the walls as Ms Pink sets about finishing what she started. Fortunately, our apartment in this city is built to withstand flames. If it isn’t, the entire building would have been razed to the ground by now.

My clothes have turned into ashes, but everything else remains standing. Including the delicate parts of my body currently in Ms Pink’s hands. Her flames no longer hurt me. I am fireproof with my sphere of energy surrounding every inch of me. And I no longer need to focus on keeping it up. Over time, I have developed the ability to keep it buzzing around me on a constant flow of energy manipulation. Hence, I am free to be physically and mentally fully in tune with Ms Pink when we have sex. It also allows her to express her passion without the need to suppress her flames. It’s all great.

“Kiss me,” Ms Pink growls, sensing a momentary lapse of attention in what we are doing.

I crane my neck to reach her and suck her in. Our kiss is deep and sloppy. The heat in us is roaring. I moan without reserve when she moves her mouth to my chest again. My hands find their way between us, reaching for her breasts to return the favour. Our legs are writhing. It is a mess. We are a mess. But what a fantastic mess it is.

When we are both finally sated, I wrap my arms around Ms Pink and she does the same. I bury my face in her curls and she digs her sticky fingers into my hair. The sheets will need to be changed. Or maybe not. We might have another go at it soon.

Who am I kidding? We will have another go at it. Soon.

X

A week later, I find myself even further south of Nam, beyond the southern tip, where few people live. It is bone-chilling cold, but my energy manipulation helps to keep me warm. We spend our time skiing down snowy mountains, among other things and each day, I go to sleep happy and satiated with joy—and sex.

It is after one such night that my peaceful sleep is disturbed.

“Wake up.”

“Why?”

“You will miss it if you sleep.”

“I can miss it.”

“Get up.”

A strong smack on my rear has me opening my eyes. “Tiffany Pink,” I growl.

The princess vampire has yanked the sheets off and is straddling my legs. Her arms snake under me and she wraps herself around my whole body. “Why are you sexy and cute at the same time?” she asks while nibbling on my ear.

“So that I can make you hot for me.”

She gives my breast a squeeze and bites my neck. “I am hot for you but I am not a slave for you.” With that, she flips me over and drops me on the floor. “Get up and get dressed.” She takes another shot at my bare bum. “Now.”

My protest is ignored.

X

“It’s cold. Why are we here in the dark?”

“Be quiet and wait.”

“I’m sleepy and tired after you kept me up all night.”

“Any second now . . .”

A curious green glow appears in the sky, spreading through the stars. The green travels in a wavy path over the snow-laden pine trees, akin to dancing in the air. A mix of pink and purple joins the green soon after and forms a tri-coloured blend across the sky.

“Oh my . . .” I gasp. “This is beautiful.”

“Thank me for bringing you here.”

“Thanks for throwing me out of bed.”

“You are welcome.”

“This is surreal.”

“This is real.”

I hug Ms Pink closer and smile. “How did you know about this?”

Ms Pink looks at me for a moment. “Gerant told me.”

“I didn’t know you were still in contact with Gerant.”

“I am in contact with Seo. She helped me to reach Gerant.”

“So much for our elopement.”

“This is an elopement.”

“You’re not supposed to be in contact with anyone.”

“I contacted Seo only for this. We did not speak of anything else.”

“Really?”

“Seo knows this is our elopement. She would not spoil it.”

“That’s true. I trust Seo.”

“Do you not trust me then? Do you not believe what I say?”

“I believe you. I trust in you. At the same time, I know how much you love me.”

Ms Pink smiles. “You are not that stupid after all.”

I sigh and rest my cheek on Ms Pink’s shoulder. “How much longer can we travel like this? Without caring about the world of supers? And the world I just left?”

“There is still time left. There are yet more places I plan to bring you to.”

“Me too. I want to bring to my favourite places too.”

“There is time. You can bring me there.”

I smile. “Okay.”

Ms Pink is smiling as she kisses me. And our eyes close, shutting out the most beautiful light show in the world because the meeting of our lips is even better.

X

Season 2 – Completed

Thank you so much for taking this journey with me since FSOP began. I have thoroughly enjoyed writing this universe and having you on this experience with me has been awesome. Without you, this story would not have come this far.

I do not think the story of Erika and Ms Pink is done. But this arc is. I have plans for a Season 3 and I hope you’ll join in when it kicks in. Until then, enjoy the other stories I have here ~ Happy reading ~

xoxo, itsakyo

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FSOP2: 45

Trapped in a world of darkness, I am lost. I cannot find my way out. There is nothing. No walls, no barriers, nothing. In this vast, wild space of nothing, I am losing my mind. How do I get out? How do I escape?

X

There are strange sensations disturbing me. They make me nauseous. They make me lose my calm. Go away! Stop! The sensation does not heed my cries. It swells and overtakes the tiny section of my mind that struggles to hold on. I do not know what it is. But it makes me sick.

X

End it. I just want to end it all. The silence. The darkness. I am trapped. I need to get out. Let me out. There is nothing here. Nothing. Not a single thing. I feel like giving up.

X

There is a voice. I cannot hear what it says but the sound is a lifeline in this darkness. I hang on to this voice and tell myself to survive. There must be something out there I can look forward to. There is a chance for me. There is hope.

X

My mind is buzzing. Vibrations galore. As though bees have made my skull their new hive. It is a warm hum. Resounding in wave after wave of tiniest ups and downs. It feels weird. But it does not hurt. That is of comfort to me.

X

“She will wake up.”

“You are wasting your time here.”

“She will never be a waste of my time.”

“You are the most stubborn vampire princess that has ever existed.”

“Far from it.”

“If you will not leave, I will take you by the neck and drag you away.”

“You can try. But you will fail.”

“I will not go easy on you.”

“Be my guest.”

“Hwang Pan Ni!”

“Kwon Yuri!”

A blast of heat explodes around me. Naturally, I flinch. But the heat dissipates and I relax once more. A gasp.

“Did you see that?”

“There is nothing to see.”

“You numbskull. Your senses have been dulled by the fog of lust.”

“I have not been blinded by lust as much as you have been stupefied by wimpy, sappy human love.”

“She is an immortal now.”

“That is irrelevant. You love her like a human would.”

“How is this in any way human? I am a vampire. She is the Erika.”

“Your love is desperate. Like a human.”

“My love is eternal. Like a vampire.”

A deep, long sigh floats overhead. “You win. I am washing my hands off your pathetic, grovelling love.”

Another blast of heat hits me and it comes too close for comfort. It hurts.

“She moved!”

“Look—at—you. You have lost your mind.”

“She moved. I saw her flinch.”

“If she did, it is because you burnt her. It was her body moving in response to injury.”

“She is conscious. Her mind has healed.”

“Her mind has shattered. Miras could not read or draw thought from it.”

“Miras has never encountered such a situation before. There is no prior case study for comparison.”

“Your denial is no less epic than your royal title, Princess.”

“I am not in denial. I will prove it to you. Look.”

An intense wave of heat sweeps over me, most intensely on my butt. Ow, ow, ow.

“Did you see that?”

“I . . . I did.”

“I am not delusional. She moved.”

“And her face. She was hurt by your flames. She can feel pain.”

“Pain. Holy vamp. I should have used pain. I tried everything but pain.”

“She likes pain? What a match the two of you are.” A snicker. “One is a pain in the butt. The other likes pain on her butt.” The snicker grows into laughter until another blaze flares around me.

“I am displeased, Kwon Yuri.”

“Go ahead. Say my name again. I am not afraid of you.”

“Call for Seo. I need her analysis.”

X

“The Erika’s consciousness is trapped.”

“What do you mean?”

“Her mind may have healed under the protection of a cocoon-like mechanism but it appears to be trapped in the very mechanism that enabled it to heal.”

“How can she break through the cocoon?”

“Studies show that a suitable trigger may be able to give the mind enough momentum to have a breakthrough.”

“Send an invitation to Miras and Sintix.”

“Yes, Ms Pink.”

X

Soothing waves of calm ebb like the tide. Spectrums of colour flash through my mind. There are magnetic pulls to the north, the south, the east, the west. All directions. Tugging yet not touching. A cool sensation settles over me. It chills me from the outside but I am not cold. Little wriggly worms are squirming around my consciousness. I can almost see them, but they are still hidden by a wall. A barrier that keeps everything away while I float inside. Like a baby.

X

“What else can be done? What stronger triggers can there be than Miras and Sintix?”

“Ms Pink, have you considered doing something she loves?”

“She loves me, and I have been here from the moment I healed till now.”

“Something you shared, perhaps?”

“Something we shared . . .”

“I have thought about it since yesterday and the more I think about it, the more I think it may work.”

“What is it? Say it now, Seo.”

“Sex.”

“Sex?”

“Sex.”

“I did not think of that.”

“The last analysis revealed the Erika’s energy is charged by pulses of emotion. Since the consciousness is impenetrable, the other entrance would be the physical.”

“I should have thought of it earlier. I will attempt it now.”

“In that case, I shall take my leave, Ms Pink.”

X

There is warmth. There is heat. It is all around me. It wraps my mind. That warmth touches me. It glides over me. Then it stops and simmers like a gentle stew. My mind senses growing heat over my body. The gliding resumes, then stops and short bursts of heat explode behind me.

The impact jolts me. Oh, oh, oh.

The gliding heat is back. It glides over behind me, over to the front, down my sides to the bottom, and back again. It speeds up, to the point where my mind registers only a cocoon of warmth all at once. I am at peace. Then it stops. And multiple bursts of heat strike me from the back.

The beast within me awakens. It opens its eyes and looks around. It rises and stretches. Then it sees. And it feels. So it roars. A ball of fire shoots out as it vents, pushing out from the depths of darkness, flames reaching past their limit. Like a long dormant volcano rising from the ashes of centurial lava.

Heat continues to pile upon me. Heat, but not fire. It burns but doesn’t hurt. It seeps into every corner of my body, every inch, every spot. I am consumed by the fire.

“I love you.”

The voice speaks to me.

“I miss you.”

The voice grasps hold of me.

“Stupid human.”

Flames of passion implode and bring me back to life.

X

I am gasping for something which I do not need. Gasping and grabbing. Arms pull me in. My eyes snap open and light floods in. It is too much so I scream and hide.

“Taeyeon, Taeyeon. My love.”

I cannot speak. I am coughing and spluttering and still gasping. Something wet burns my cheeks.

“Taeyeon.”

The voice sounds broken. Like a string that has snapped. A pain that cuts to the deep.

“Look at me.”

With my unfocused vision, I search for the voice, but it is all a blur.

“Stop. Stop moving. Here I am.”

Hands clamp over my cheeks, forcing me to face the front.

“Can you see me?”

A swirl of reds, pinks and black swamp me. I choke.

“Here. Can you see this?”

Something is moving. A blur to me. Colours exploding into my eyes. I shut them to keep out the light and comfort comes to me immediately.

“What is wrong? Does it hurt to open your eyes?”

I nod, somehow unable to speak. Hands are on my cheeks, fingers on my eyelids. Trembling soft lips press on each of them. They are all a blur to me.

“Seo, come in at once.”

X

I am lying on my back and my view is constantly changing. The swirls are beginning to shrink and take on more form. The fog has become clouds. Clouds are turning into silhouettes. And colours are filling in.

“The Erika is responding favourably to the visual stimulation.”

“But the speech stimulation is not working.”

“She is able to vary her sounds now. That is an improvement.”

“The improvement is too slow.”

“Ms Pink, we have to respect her pace of recovery. Every little bit counts.”

“Slow as ever. Stupid human.”

That tone offends me. I am not stupid. I am not human. I have become a hybrid. An alien. An immortal with human qualities. But I am not stupid.

“Did you say something?”

“I did not, Ms Pink.”

“If it was not you . . .”

“The Erika?”

The two shadows crouch close to me. “Taeyeon. You can talk. I know you can. Say something, stupid human.”

I am not stupid!

“Did you hear that, Ms Pink?”

“I heard it. Keep up the stimulations.”

“Yes, Ms Pink.”

X

I wake up feeling hungry. In my foggy state, Ms Pink comes to my mind. I dream of lips and kisses. Hands and touches. I am hungry.

“Good morning, my love.”

Ms Pink’s face appears above. She is looking down at me but I want her closer. “P-Pi-nk . . .”

The smile on Ms Pink’s face crumbles into shock and surprise and Ms Pink drops to her knees beside me. “Taeyeon,” she gasps as her eyes comb my face for a sign that I am okay.

“T-Ti-ffa-ny . . . Pi-nk . . .” I manage to choke out in a halting voice.

“Taeyeon, you are back. You are finally back.” Ms Pink hugs me tight. “You took so long to come back to me, stupid human.”

Ms Pink’s tone sends a blazing trail of warmth straight down my chest to my guts. “I . . . l-lo-ve . . . y-yo-u . . .” I manage to say at last and tears begin to pour from my eyes, flowing down my cheeks to my jaw.

“I love you, stupid human. Stupid, stupid human.”

I am smiling now. I love how Ms Pink calls me like that.

X

Recovery is slow but Ms Pink is beside me every step of the way. She is with me from the moment I wake up to the moment I fall asleep. With her help, and Seo’s too, I progress from being fed my meals to eating them by myself. And my voice grows stronger and stronger each day.

By the end of the week, I am able to speak as I used to and take care of myself. But there is one thing Ms Pink still insists on doing—bathing me. A large part of me secretly enjoys being bathed by Ms Pink so I let her do it without protest.

Our daily bathing ritual consists of a slow, sensual stripping of each other’s clothes, following by an elaborate soaping exercise. We are practically worshipping each other’s bodies at this point and more often than not, kisses and excessive fondling are part of the package. Our skins are like dried prunes by the time we get out of the bathtub and the entire event is wrapped up by wrapping each other up in the fluffiest bathrobe money can buy.

What’s there not to like?

Days go by with the two of us indulging in each other as much as we want. It’s as though we’re trying to make up for time lost which Ms Pink says we did. But I didn’t know exactly how much time we had lost until Ms Pink told me I had been out of it for a month.

According to Ms Pink, she brought me back to her castle after my mind shattered in Demortams. Seo examined me and her diagnosis of my condition was hypersensitivity due to an over-expenditure of my energy. To save me, they had to stabilize the chemical reactions within my body, and the fastest way to do that was to freeze me. That lasted for a week.

After a week of being frozen, I was thawed carefully and exposed to UV to stimulate tryptamines in my system. That must be why I remember having bee-buzz vibrations in my head. They gave me regular doses of UV exposure and over time, I got back onto the path of coming back to ‘life’.

“What are you thinking about?” Ms Pink asks me, bringing me back to the present.

“I’m thinking about how I came back to life.”

“Life. You are such a human.”

“I am a human who doesn’t die.”

The sound of water splashing fills the bathroom as Ms Pink shifts around to get back me. Her arms pull me into her embrace and I relax against her chest. “I am glad you have retained your humanity.”

Lifting my head up to look into her brilliant pink eyes, I stare for a moment and smile. “Really?”

“I am vampire enough for the both of us.”

I grin and snuggle in her arms. “That’s true. I love your vampireness.”

“Your humanness is why I love you.”

“Hmm, what if my humanness becomes vampireness one day?”

Ms Pink holds my chin and runs her thumb over my lips as she stares into my eyes. “I will always love you. No matter what you become.”

“What if I become evil one day? What if I become power hungry like Kharne and Olympias and Ttrowtos?”

With a surprising gentleness, Ms Pink kisses me. “Then I will invest all my resources into helping you.”

My jaw drops. “Really?”

Ms Pink’s smirk is mildly disturbing. “I am a princess vampire. Morals do not rule me. You should understand this by now.”

“Sometimes I forget because you are so good to me. And because you help to bring the evil supers down.”

“I was only trying to find my father’s murderer. Much of what I have done is motivated by that singular objective. I am not interested in saving the world. Do not mistake it for kindness.”

“You are kind to me.”

“Only you.”

“And Seo. And Yuri. And Gerant.” I smile as the list grows longer and stroke Ms Pink’s cheek. “And you may never admit it, but I know you have been kind to Helene.”

“Shut up, stupid human. You have said enough.”

With a knowing grin, I comply. “Can I ask questions instead?”

Ms Pink heats up a little and tiny sparks go off around us. “I should silence you.”

“How will you silence me?” I ask with an eyebrow raised.

Ms Pink takes my hands but I move at super speed and escape to the other side of the bathtub. With narrowed eyes, Ms Pink follows my every move. Left, right, left, right—

“Got you,” she snarls and bites my lip.

Not to be outdone, I bite hers too. Then, in a quick super-paced manoeuvre, I wrap my legs around her and twist around to lord over her. But her strength overpowers me and I end up under her again.

“Feisty,” she says, her eyes glowing healthy pink.

“Frisky,” I counter with a smirk of my own. But my smirk doesn’t last for long. It fades and my jaw slackens when Ms Pink’s fingers find me under the water. Her thumb seems to know exactly which button to press and her long, slender fingers make quick work of me.

“T-Ti—oh my God.” I am gasping. My eyes are closing. Then lips clamp over mine and my moans are muted as deft fingers bring me to a body-tensing climax. “Tiffany Pink,” I finish with a sigh. “Tiffany Pink.”

“Say my name again.”

“Tiffany Pink.”

“Just my name.”

“Tiffany.”

The hand that owns me pulls out and I am pulled in for a deep kiss that could go on for ever since I am no longer human.

X

It has been just over a month. A month and a week. That’s exactly how long our resident princess vampire had to wait for her stupid human to recover from her mind shattering experience. But Ms Pink’s wait must have felt ten times longer than yours.

xoxo, itsakyo

New Story: Rock, Paper & Scissors

Hi dear readers!

Once again, my itchy imagination and fingers have gotten the better of me and I’ve started a new story AGAIN.

Rock, Paper & Scissors

I’m posting it on my AFF account since Tatt For Two worked out pretty well that way and the one thing I like about AFF is how it disallows people from selecting the text. Hence, I will post this new story over there as well.

Meanwhile, I will continue to post FSOP2 here, so that things don’t change too much.

I hope you understand my decision. I didn’t use to think about plagiarism much but ever since it happened to me, I’ve become more careful and there’s really no way to stop people from stealing my work so posting it on AFF is a form of deterrence (unless they are willing it type it out word by word to steal it).

I also want to take this chance to thank readers and friends who have signed up on Patreon and become my big time supporters. It’s all very exciting and motivating and because of that I dare to dream more and venture into new ground.

I hope to continue to share my love for writing with y’all! Thanks for everything so far 😀

❤ itsakyo

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FSOP2: 42

Demortams. Again. Nothing good ever comes out of visiting this place. The last time we were here, Ms Pink was whipped. And another time, I was forced to be intimate with Ms Pink with the Feds watching. So it is with great trepidation that I walk towards the great hall where the trial is to be held.

“Why are you nervous?” Ms Pink asks me.

“How do you know I’m nervous?”

Ms Pink looks at me like I just asked a stupid question. “I know you.”

“Even if you know me, something must have given it away,” I argue.”

“Becoming an immortal has not cured you of the human condition.”

“What condition?”

“Stupidity.”

“You—”

“Welcome back to Demortams, dear Princess Pan Ni and our esteemed Erika.” Standing in the middle of the great hall is Sintix, arms extended, crystal wand in hand.

“Good to see you again, Sintix,” Ms Pink replies with a curtsey.

The act has me raising my brows. Why is Ms Pink acting like a demure princess all of a sudden? The demure princess squeezes my hand and I meet her eyes wondering what’s up with her.

“I trust you are well, esteemed Erika,” says Sintix, swinging his crystal wand that is casting rainbow waves from within.

What is going on? “I am well, Sintix.”

“That is good to hear. We wouldn’t want our esteemed heroine to be any less than well, would we?”

I am staring at Sintix, on the verge of gaping at this point. “Thank you,” I say simply, not knowing what else is safe to speak.

“Please, take your place on your royal throne.”

Royal throne? Sintix steps aside, revealing a long seat of red and rose gold. It doesn’t look like the kind of throne I’ve seen in movies and museums though. In fact, it reminds me more of the grand chairs in High Society than a throne. Plush and cushy, I sink into the throne and lean back with a sigh of comfort. The back of the throne towers just above my head and there’s a headrest to nestle my head in, like a glorified mega first class seat on airplanes.

“The accused will be trialled in a few moments,” Sintix informs us before bowing and returning to his seat with the Feds.

Unable to hold in my curiosity anymore, I lean to Ms Pink’s ear and whisper, “What’s going on?”

Ms Pink takes my hand, pink and black dancing like flames in her eyes. “We are going to get the truth out of Tatua today.”

“What has that got to do with this royal treatment?”

“This is Helene’s doing.”

“Helene? But why?”

“It is between Helene and Kharne.”

“Is Kharne ruling over the Feds now?”

“He is an Ancient. Few are as powerful.”

“What about me? Could I beat him in a fight?”

Ms Pink frowns at me. “You are to avoid conflict.”

“Why? If I can defeat Ttrowtos—”

“Seo is still studying your EEL.”

“And?”

“Knowledge is power.”

“Ms Pink, I’m confused.”

“If we lack knowledge, we lack power.”

“But I can still beat them with my energy.”

“We do not know how your EEL will affect you.”

Then it hits me. “You’re worried about me.”

“Of course.”

“I get it now,” I reply with a big smile. “I’ll listen to you.”

Other than Sintix, none of the other Feds talk to us. Yuri is sitting like a cheetah ready to pounce, barely even looking in our direction while Miras is just sitting there, decked out in black yet again, staring straight ahead. On the other side, Yaelhu and Edith are engaged in conversation while Charles and Ayers are simply staring at their digital devices.

Wait. Someone is missing. Kharne. Why isn’t he here yet?

Just as I think that thought, the great doors creak open and in comes the hulk himself. It seems impossible for Kharne to be more muscular than he already was but his muscles seem to have grown larger since I last saw him. Muscles and rippling veins popping out like huge worms all over his neck, arms and legs.

“What happened to Kharne?” I ask Ms Pink in a whisper.

“He gained power.”

“So quickly?”

“It is possible. But suspicious.”

Kharne scans the crowd before setting his eyes on us. “Princess Pan Ni and her Erika.” His voice booms and bounces all over the hall, attracting the attention of everyone in here as he bows.

I don’t like the tone he uses on me but I try my best not to let it show. Ms Pink, ever the professional princess, rises and curtsies. Unsure if I should curtsy as well, I end up standing stiffly like a chunk of ex-human ice.

“The Erika is haughty.” Kharne stares at me with emotions I cannot read. “But a privilege duly deserved. A great addition to our family.”

Family? What is going on with Kharne and the Feds? What sort of deal did Helene strike up with Kharne?

I hope my face isn’t showing any of the confusion in my mind. The last thing I want to look like is an esteemed Erika that doesn’t know what is going on.

“The Erika is new. But she will learn quickly,” says Ms Pink.

I sure hope so.

The great doors are closed with a grand clang and I look to the set of smaller doors opening in front of us. Two glass prisons, exactly like the one I was locked in before, are rolled in and come to a stop under the high dome over our heads. My heart rate quickens at the sight.

The trial of Tatua is about to begin.

X

“Tatua, you are guilty of bringing Ttrowtos back to power and corrupting the system. What do you have to say about your crimes?”

I turn to Ms Pink in disbelief. Did Kharne just announce the verdict right at the beginning of the trial? What’s the point of a trial if their guilt is already assumed to be true? Ms Pink doesn’t even blink, however. She must be used to this.

Tatua’s glass prison splits open, allowing him to be heard.

“Ttrowtos is my vicist. I cannot be penalized for being loyal to my vicist,” says Tatua.

“That is true,” proclaims Charles, jumping from his seat in a hurry.

Kharne tosses him a condescending glance. “Sit down, human.”

A collective gasp is heard in the hall and I have an idea why. Even though the supers are obviously superior to humans in many ways, they have never been condescending to humans in open spaces such as this. I understand that there is an effort to maintain balance, like the equal number of seats given to both supers and humans in the Federation, and Kharne is upsetting it right now.

Miras stands. “Kharne.”

The hulk turns to Miras, clearly daring Miras to challenge him in this instant.

“We seem to have forgotten to bring the evidence out here, Kharne.”

“Who needs the evidence? We are all witnesses. We saw which side Tatua was on during the battle.”

“It is a procedure we need to respect,” Sintix adds from where he’s seated, crystal wand still in hand.

Kharne growls like an angry beast and flexes his muscles but relents. “Bring in the damned evidence!”

The doors open again, and trays roll in with vials of blue and a helmet that looks like a cross between a space helmet and a Darth Vader mask. What is it for?

“Esteemed Erika, rise for us,” Miras requests and I stand immediately. “Tell us,” she says while picking up a vial of liquid shimmering blue, “where you have seen this before.”

“Er, I saw it at the scene of Max’s murder.”

Members of the Parliament burst into a buzz of murmurs and Kharne glares at them. “Be quiet. We did not disclose the murders since it is none of your business.”

The murmurs grow in volume at Kharne’s blatant disrespect until Miras holds her hand up. “What Kharne means is we had to maintain secrecy while the investigation was happening. Only members of the Federation were aware of the murder of Max. We kept it that way to enable a more efficient investigation.”

“Max was killed by the dark power of Tatua,” says Kharne. “He opened the path to Max for Ttrowtos.”

Ms Pink rises to her feet as well. “Please allow my secretary to provide more evidence of the murders committed.”

Kharne nods. “Of course, Princess Pan Ni.”

“Seo will present the evidence we have collected during the last few months.” The doors open as soon as Ms Pink speaks Seo’s name and in Seo walks with a trunk behind her.

“Greetings to all members of the Federation, Sovereign and Parliament. I have brought in the records of the Royals’ investigation of the mass murders from the different provinces.” Another burst of murmurs spread across the hall but Seo continues without pause. “We have evidence to prove all the mass murders are committed by the same culprit.”

With a snap of Seo’s fingers, a 3-D chart showing weird looking figures and lines criss-crossing. They remind me of genes but are way more complex.

“Each of these blueprints are taken from the scenes of mass murders, fully verified by the Royal of each province.” Another snap and the weird gene charts are replaced by a map indicating each of the locations of the mass murders with a blue skull.

What an apt use of the skull emoji.

“The evidence you see now is collected across six provinces surrounding Shaw. The rating of all the samples is ranked Ancient.” Seo holds up a vial of deep sea blue. “This is the sample of Ttrowtos’ essence attained after the battle.” Another finger snap and the map turns into a report showing a hundred percent match between two sets of ‘genes’. “All blueprints have been certified as complete matches with Ttrowtos’ sample. There is no doubt Ttrowtos is the murderer of a total of sixty-six humans and thirteen vampires across the six provinces and Shaw.”

Kharne raises his arms and addresses the crowd. “Tatua is the guilty enabler. Death for Tatua! The punishment must be mete out.”

“You cannot prove I was not under Ttrowtos’ control,” Tatua rebuts calmly.

“That does not reduce your sin,” Kharne states harshly, almost spitting at Tatua.

“Ttrowtos had the power to fully occupy any being’s conscious mind. The esteemed Erika herself testified about Max who had lost his mind to Ttrowtos prior to his death.”

“There is crimes aplenty you committed with or without the influence of Ttrowtos.”

“Name one.”

Seo steps forward again. “You were responsible for turning Helene’s minions against her by bribery in the attempt to kidnap our esteemed Erika. We have on record the minions’ statement of your crime. You have attained unlawful gains from Qas Sogok during his campaign to become the leader of the Parliament.”

The loudest burst of murmurs yet booms across the hall as a new name is hurled into the frying pan by Seo. Qas, unsurprisingly, is first to leap to his feet in protest but Seo remains calm.

“We have all the papers and records necessary showing the complete history of the transactions between Qas Sagok and Tatua’s secret vaults.”

Secret vaults?

Apparently, I’m not the only one shocked by this since I can hear it being whispered among the crowd as well.

Qas Sogok is furious by now. “You have broken the law by accessing my private account without my permission!”

Without as much as a blink of an eyelid, Seo claps her hands and the 3-D image expands and displays a scroll signed by the members of the Federation, rotating for all present to see. “I accessed your account with the permission of the Federation.”

“I never allowed this!” Qas Sogok snarls in a rage. “The Federation has no authority over my private account!”

Kharne slams the ledge of the Parliament’s fence. “Silence! Or I will tear you apart with my bare hands.”

Qas Sogok shuts his mouth promptly without a word although his face has turned red from anger. But another member of Parliament has gotten on his feet.

“We, the Parliament, will not take this insult lying down. We demand equal respect and treatment in here.”

“Imbeciles!” Kharne roars, angering more and more members of Parliament who are now on their feet.

“Equality for all!” Members of Parliament are stamping their feet as they chant and on the other side, members of the Sovereign are crossing their arms, watching as Kharne stomps towards their human counterparts.

Amidst the disruptive mess, Ms Pink disappears from my side. Realizing she has gone to Tatua, I follow suit quickly.

“Tell me now, Tatua,” I hear Ms Pink saying to the prisoner as all eyes are on Kharne and the members of Parliament. “Were you the one?”

“I can take your secret to my grave. What can you offer me, Princess Pan Ni?”

“A chance to defend yourself.”

“You cannot guarantee my freedom.”

“That is a stretch, Tatua.”

“I know it is a stretch. Nothing else is worth the exchange of my answer which you desire the most.”

“Imprisonment instead of death.”

“Freedom.”

“The evidence is too damning.”

“You can control the evidence.”

“I will do no such thing.”

“Your esteemed Erika can do it instead.” Suddenly, Tatua nods at me, eyes gleaming. “Do it for your beloved princess, Erika.”

“Do not meddle with her mind.”

Tatua barks a laugh. “She is the Erika. Above one and all. You have nothing to fear.”

“Taeyeon, look away.”

I disobey Ms Pink, stepping forward to look straight at Tatua. “Tell Ms Pink what she wants to know,” I say in my firmest tone.

“Look at you. Trying so hard to be the Erika your princess wants you to be.” Tatua laughs again. “What can you do to me? What can you offer me?”

I narrow my eyes and grip his gaze. “Insanity,” I blurt as though I were a different person and a blast of energy shoots from my eyes into his.

“No!” I hear Ms Pink exclaiming and pushing me away.

My eyes are still locked on Tatua’s, however, and I can feel my mind slowly slipping away, as though entering a dream.

“Taeyeon!” Ms Pink’s voice rings in my ear, echoing from a faraway place.

From within, a warm implodes. An awareness that wasn’t there before appears before my eyes. I see a girl. A young girl. She is beautiful. She looks like someone I know. Familiar yet foreign. She is eavesdropping behind a great wooden door. My consciousness floats through that door and I see two grown men talking. They are dressed like kings. They are kings. They are negotiating the betrothal of their children. But one of them isn’t human. How do I know? I just do. Call it my sixth or seventh sense but I can sense a different type of energy in one of them.

“My daughter’s daughter . . . I promise to you . . .”

And with that single line of conversation, I am transported to a different world. A dark night. A man is moving over a woman. She is the girl I saw, only older. Still young, but older. Her eyes. A jolt of recognition fizzles through me. She is Ms Pink but she is not. She is the source from whence Ms Pink came from. I am seeing Ms Pink’s mother in bed with her husband. I managed to detect his human-like energy before I am sucked through a narrow tube and thrown out the other side.

A naked baby is crying. Wailing. I can see the baby is a girl for lack of male body parts. She has a strong cry. Loud and noisy. I see this baby crawling, suckling milk from her mother’s breast, giggling, laughing, yawning. This baby is growing bigger. This baby is becoming a toddler. She is growing up.

She is Ms Pink.

Her mother is crying. Her mother is begging. Her father is doing the same. But the man they are kneeling and begging in front of is not budging. Neither is the woman. My eyes widen. I cannot recognize the man but the woman is Helene.

Helene is staring at Ms Pink’s parents. She hauls them up with a hand on each.

“Two more cycles. We will be back then.”

Ms Pink is now the girl I have seen before. It is the garden again. Princess Pan Ni is a happy girl. She walks through the garden with her mother and I want to scream in horror of what is to come but I am mute in this state. They enter the dining hall as I have seen before. Malvico is bowing to the royal family. He is killing them. He is close to killing Pan Ni but he stops. I have seen this before. But still time I hear something else.

“I be damned.”

Malvico stares into Pan Ni’s eyes. He sees something. Then he says a name I know.

“Osiris.”

And Malvico disappears with Pan Ni. He reappears with Pan Ni. She is naked. She is hanging from a rope around her wrists. The sun is burning her skin. Malvico is standing behind Pan Ni. His fingernail scraps her skin from the tip of her spine to the base. The fingernail strays from the spine to the right. It hovers. Then pierces through her skin. Blood flows. Blood spills. He drinks of it. Spits the remainder on the part of her that is bleeding. He traces his caepicta with his fingernail. Once. Twice. Thrice. He traces it over her skin where it bleeds. Once. Twice. Thrice.

Pan Ni screams till her voice splits.

My mind is being ripped apart. I can feel it. The memory of what I have seen is seeping through my mind, into every nook and cranny, every vessel, every cell. It is taking over my mind.

“Taeyeon!”

A whisper of Ms Pink’s horror seeps into the mix.

Ms Pink. I must come back to you. Ms Pink.

The grip over my mind tightens. My brain is compressed by the claws that are ripping my head apart.

Ms Pink. I must tell you what I have seen. Ms Pink.

Darkness overwhelms my mind. Snakes burst out hissing, forked tongues wriggling. They are coiling around me. They are extending their jaws. Wide open jaws. Hollow figures swoop into my mind. Max’s blue motionless body. More blue dead bodies I don’t recognize. Vampires that were once vampires. Humans who were once humans. Vanguards that were once vanguards.

“Taeyeon!”

My body is shaking. Something is taking over me. I cannot allow this. No. I must fight back. Where is my energy?

Ms Pink! Don’t let me go!

A star appears high above and I focus all my remaining consciousness on it. The star is glowing. It is twinkling. It is turning red. Then pink. Ms Pink’s eyes. Pink flames are dancing. I can see Ms Pink’s face. Her lips. I can feel her lips on mine. Her tongue is caressing mine. She is kissing me. She is pouring love into me. I can feel her love. I can feel her emotion. I am all that matters to her. Even more than her life.

I halt at that.

No!

I will not take Ms Pink’s life in exchange for my mind. I will fight the darkness that is stretching across my mind. The star shines on and I refocus on it.

Fight back. Grow, star, grow. Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight, I wish I may, I wish I might, fight back and reclaim my light.

A lightness descends over me and I am at peace. My mind is my own. My energy is pulsing through my veins, pushing back the darkness, pushing away the snakes and ghosts of Max and vanguards and vampires I don’t recognize.

My eyes fly open and light floods my mind. I am shouting. “Out! Out! Out!”

“Taeyeon!” Ms Pink appears before my eyes as I blink. Her eyes are blazing pink and I wonder if I’m dreaming again. “Taeyeon, my love,” she whispers, tears falling from her radiant pink eyes, then she is kissing me like there is no tomorrow and my soul is lifted, filled, warmed.

“Ms Pink,” I say after pulling away from her kiss. “Ms Pink, I know what happened—”

“Kill!” Kharne roars over my voice. “Tatua!”

A blast of fire slams into Ms Pink and I but I manage to cast a bubble of energy around us before it burns. Ms Pink’s arms are still around me and tears are still streaming down her cheeks.

“Ms Pink . . .”

“Do not ever leave me,” says Ms Pink, eyes in full pink.

“Your eyes, Ms Pink.”

“You took the darkness away from me.”

“How?”

More tears roll down her rosy cheeks. “When I tried to save you from Tatua’s insanity. I almost killed you too.”

I am shaking my head, trying to wipe Ms Pink’s tears with my thumbs. “No. Ms Pink. You didn’t almost kill me. You saved me with your kiss.”

Ms Pink cradles my face and smiles through her tears. “Your eyes are blue again.”

I smile in return. “Yours are pink again.”

Ms Pink’s face contorts into an ugly crying expression and she hugs me tight. “Always be mine. Promise me.”

I hug Ms Pink back with all the strength I can muster. “I promise. I will always be yours.”

X

FSOP2: 40

Hyo’s office in High Society is beginning to feel like a third home and Hyo is smiling at us like we’re old friends.

“Welcome to High Society once again.”

Ms Pink nods and takes her seat so I do the same. “We have come to get some answers.”

My heart thumps unnecessarily hard at the mention of ‘we’.

“Your question?”

“I would like to know how I can make a tattoo disappear.”

Hyo frowns. “The methods are dark and painful.”

“There is more than one method?”

“There are two. For two different types of tattoos.”

“Tell me,” says Ms Pink, as she puts a pink card on the table.

Hyo pockets the card then leans back, elbows on the arm rests, hands clasped before her. “If the tattoo is marked under the skin, it is termed picta. A picta can be purged by consuming herbs. But it is painful. The herbs will purge everything along with the mark. And the process has to be repeated a few times for the tattoo to be completely removed.”

“What about the second method.”

“Tattoos that are raised from the skin are much harder to remove. It is termed caepicta. Herbs will cleanse the caepicta of colour, but the skin is still raised. It takes a dark power to make a caepicta which means only a healer can undo it. Crystals. They will burn the skin and undo the magic so that the new skin will not bear the mark any longer. The pain is excruciating because a part of you is ripped from you and the period of recovery is longer.”

“Does Sintix have the power to undo a caepicta?”

“I believe he does.”

Ms Pink is silent for a moment before nodding. “That will be all for this question.”

“And your next question?”

“Where did Tatua and Malvico descend from?”

“Tsk, tsk, tsk. Princess Pan Ni, you know that this kind of information is classified.”

“That is why we are here.”

My heart pounds when Ms Pink says ‘us’ again. It seems a little silly to get excited over this little change but it means a lot to me. Especially when we are going to be together forever. Literally.

“You can’t pay me with Taeyeon’s blood anymore, Princess Pan Ni.”

“Taeyeon’s blood is the Erika’s blood.”

“Uh uh. We don’t know what her blood will do.”

“Put it through your laboratory.”

Hyo laughs with merry, twinkling eyes and shakes her head. “You drive a hard bargain, Princess Pan Ni, but I am not to be forced into an unfair deal. Come back when you have tested the Erika’s blood and can prove it is as effective as before.”

“Is Summer here?” I blurt out without thinking.

Hyoyeon turn her eyes on me. “Summer is in her office.”

Thinking fast, I decide to take a gamble. “If Tiffany asks her to order you to give us the information—”

“Taeyeon,” Hyo interjects, “be careful what you say. Some words cannot be taken back.”

“Would it work? I mean, she’s your boss, right?”

“According to the agreement between supers and humans, the keeper in power at High Society will have to do the Choi’s bidding.” Hyo heaves a deep sigh. “Taeyeon, do you know why Princess Pan Ni has never used that card on any keeper even though she maintains excellent relationships with each Choi generation?”

I take one look at Ms Pink before turning back to Hyo. “To maintain peace?”

Hyo nods. “More or less. Princess Pan Ni is too smart to back any keeper into a corner and force them to divulge information they are not willing to give. Therefore, she wisely negotiates all her deals.”

“I didn’t mean it that way. I—”

“I know. But the loophole will backfire.”

Turning red, I apologize for my lack of consideration.

Hyo leaves her chair and goes to the book shelf, running her fingers across the spines of the books. “On the account of our past transactions, I am willing to give you a discount today.” She pulls out a book from a bottom shelf and puts it on the table. “I would have needed one minute to look for your socks, but I did not get to enjoy the haggling so I will only need thirty seconds instead.”

I blink in confusion, not understanding what Hyo is talking about. She exits the room through the gap between the sliding bookcases and Ms Pink wastes no time in scanning through the book at supernatural speed. I try my best to keep up but I am quite lost until Ms Pink stops at one particular page for a moment. There is a family tree spanning across the two pages and that’s when it occurs to me that Hyo is practically giving Ms Pink the information at the cost of nothing.

Quick as lightning, Ms Pink has her phone out and is snapping pictures of the few pages concerned. Then the book is back on the table before the book cases slide open again. Hyo returns with a smile and a pair of socks, nice and woolly.

“I found the socks,” she announces and puts the jolly blue pair on the table between us before putting the book away.

I am not expecting Ms Pink to pick the socks up, much less sniff at them.

“Good.”

Good? The socks smell good? What?

Hyo smiles as Ms Pink slides a little black metal case across the table. She opens it and her smile widens. “As always, a pleasure dealing with you.”

Ms Pink nods and stands. “We shall take our leave now.”

Hyo stands as I get to my feet. “Till next time, Princess Pan Ni. It was nice to see you again, Taeyeon.”

I follow Ms Pink as she leaves and together, we return to Ms Pink’s castle.

X

My butt is on the bed and my eyes are staring as Ms Pink pulls a blue woolly sock over one of my feet. “What is it for?”

Ms Pink releases my foot and grabs the other one. “The socks will sooth your feet.”

“Huh?”

“Look.”

I look and gasp. The sole of my foot is full of weird white patches of dead skin. “H-Why—”

“Your skin is not accustomed to your rapid movement. It happened to me too and Helene gave me a special pair of socks just like this.”

My arms are flying around Ms Pink’s waist and hugging her close by instinct. “Do you love Helene?” I ask without thinking.

Hands wrap around my head and reciprocate the hug. “No.”

“Are you thankful she saved you?”

Her tone is hard when she answers. “No.”

I look up into Ms Pink’s blazing eyes. “Not even a little bit?” Ms Pink pulls away from me without answering but I’m not letting her walk away. “Tell me honestly. Nothing at all?”

“After more than two hundred years of serving Helene,” Ms Pink looks into my eyes, “I have paid my debt.”

“What debt?”

“The debt I owe her for saving me from Malvico.”

“Is that how you see it?”

“If she is the mastermind behind my family’s assassination, she is also responsible for my torture in Malvico’s hands. I do not know why she saved me from him. I do not know why she decided to raise me.”

Ms Pink’s history has always been heart rending. But hearing Ms Pink’s admittance of her doubts and insecurities makes me tear. I’m not sure if it’s imagined, the tinge of longing in her tone. A longing to have a figure to love. I have a gut feeling she wants to love Helene as a daughter loves her mother. Yet, she has had to hold everything back for centuries because she doesn’t know who she can trust. Tragic.

“Have you ever tried asking her?” I ask cautiously.

“I have brought it up during our disagreements.”

I have to fight to stop my eyes from rolling. “It might work better if you ask nicely. When you’re not in a fight.”

“She will not answer me.”

“Why not?”

“Too many secrets to hide.”

“Well, if you ask, she might just answer . . .”

“You do not know her well enough.”

I shrug. “Sometimes, people can surprise you.”

Ms Pink stares at me long and hard. “Surprisingly, you are right.”

X

Exactly nine hours after my levels were measured, Ms Pink and I enter the study with Seo. She launches a program on her device and a spatial figure of my body is beamed before us in 3-D. It is mildly embarrassing to be put on show like this, but it isn’t as bad if I think of it as science.

“This is the physical map of Taeyeon’s energy and essence levels nine hours ago. The blue zones indicate where it is centred and intensity is indicated by the shade of blue.” At this point, Seo instructs me to stand on the same scanning device and after a few moments, a second figure appears. With the push of a button, both figures rotate and the differences are fairly obvious to us.

“The intensity of Taeyeon’s EEL has dropped by 2.38% in the past nine hours. To complete the preliminary analysis, you are required to have se—”

Ms Pink stands and takes my hand. “Come back in thirty minutes.”

Seo nods as I blush from the roots of my hair to the tip of my toes. Must Ms Pink be so insensitive about it? Sex isn’t just any act. It’s not like donating blood or giving a urine sample. Sex is supposed to be romantic and meaningful and—

“Take your clothes off and lie down,” Ms Pink orders as soon as Seo is out of the room.”

“No.”

Ms Pink frowns. “What did you say?”

“I said no.”

“This is not a choice. Seo needs the readings.”

“Can we at least not treat this like an experiment?”

“This is not an experiment.”

“It feels like one.”

“What is wrong with you now.”

I fold my arms and scowl. “Nothing is wrong with me. More like something is wrong with you.”

“I did not do anything wrong.”

“Don’t you think you’re treating me like some sex doll right now? Take your clothes off and lie down. Spread your legs. Cum now. Good girl.” I growl in frustration. “I’m not a doll or a robot, you know.

“You can take the reins.” Ms Pink strips down to nothing in record time and lies on the couch in front of me. “I am all yours.”

My eyes and ears bulge at the sight of Ms Pink lying naked, staring at me like a helpless princess, telling me she’s all mine. How does she do it?

“Taeyeon.”

I shake my head, in part to clear my mind and in part to tell Ms Pink it isn’t the point of my resistance. “It’s not about who takes control. It’s fun to be in control but I’m happy with you in control too. I’m happy as long as I’m with you.”

“What is the problem then?”

“Sex with you should be romantic.”

Ms Pink sits up with a grin—uncanny as it seems, she is actually grinning. “Romantic?”

I nod. “And meaningful. I don’t want to do it with you like an assignment or a job.”

A blink later, Ms Pink is standing again, fingers digging into my hair, her breath warm on my face. “You want romance. Like the stupid candles you wanted.”

Black skull candles appear in my mind. Vivid as the sun at noon. “I don’t want clinical sex. We did it once. In front of the Feds. I don’t want to feel that way ever again.”

Ms Pink laughs and pulls me closer, her hands on my behind. “Stupid human.”

A smile finds its way back onto my face. “Stupid princess.”

Ms Pink’s tongue greets the tip of my nose. “Only you—” a kiss drops over the same spot, “—can call me that.”

I am grinning now. “Do you like it?”

A dash of pink flares in Ms Pink’s eyes and dances like a flickering flame. “Only when you say it.”

Leaning close to her ear, I attempt to lower my voice so it sounds sexier. “Stupid princess.”

“Stupid human. Kiss me.”

This time, I oblige most willingly.

X

“I will continue to take measurements to determine the extent of EEL loss in a full moon cycle,” Seo informs us as she packs up her devices. According to her calculations, I will experience a drop of just over six percent every twenty-four hours which means I can go without sex for about sixteen days before my EEL drops dangerously low. It also remains to be seen how much EEL a round of sex can replenish.

Based on the measurement earlier, sex with Ms Pink had indeed replenished my EEL. However, we don’t know the full extent one round of sex can replenish unless I go without sex for something like a week.

“But more tests will be required to determine if her orgasm is directly responsible for EEL replenishment.”

I had not thought of that. “So if I have sex but don’t orgasm, there’s a chance my EEL won’t be recharged?”

“We do not know if that is true. Verification is required.”

“Seo, give me a list of herbs used in purging a picta and find out what you can about undoing a caepicta.

“Yes, Ms Pink.”

Ms Pink brings me into our bedroom after Seo leaves the castle and sits me on the bed. She seems to have something to say but all she does is stare at me in silence.

“Do you have something to say?” I ask. Ms Pink looks away. I’m surprised to see the reticence in her and my concern for her spikes. Laying my hand over hers, I probe again. “Is something wrong?”

“I have a theory.”

“What theory?”

Ms Pink’s shoulders heave as she looks into my eyes again, a faint pink flickering inside. “I think the caepicta might be on my back.”

My brain whizzes as pieces of the puzzle snap together. Now I understand Ms Pink’s tentativeness. Her back is a sensitive topic for her. It holds too many traumatic memories and clings on to her, a constant reminder of her sufferings.

“I want you to search my back for the caepicta.”

“So I’m guessing you think it has been purged by herbs but not completely removed?”

Ms Pink nods. “Helene might have purged it. But undoing the caepicta completely requires deep magic from crystals. Helene is unlikely to have the knowledge necessary to undo it.”

“And you want me to find the purged caepicta, which means I’ll have to examine your back closely.”

“Yes.”

“Okay.”

Ms Pink removes her pink blouse and innerwear and lies face down on the bed. I spot the tremble and my heart hurts for her. For as powerful as she appears to be, suffering and torture have marred her psychic and left permanent scars on her body. I’m also touched by her willingness to confide in me. Ms Pink hardly ever shows me her bare back but here she lies, trusting and believing.

“I’ll start from the top.”

“You may begin.”

I climb onto the bed and straddle her. Then, leaning on my elbows, I examine the scars, thicker and thinner, faint and faded. It is a mess of nasty reminders, crisscrossing, slanted in all directions. Looking for the caepicta among her scars is akin to looking for a word in a ten thousand word puzzle.

Ms Pink trembles slightly when I trace some of them with my finger.

“Are you alright? Should I stop touching your back?”

“It is fine. Do what you must.”

“Okay.”

I focus on the scars, examining the lines and curves carefully. I have no idea how big or small the caepicta may be. Or if other scars are overlapping it. So every inch of Ms Pink’s back is submitted to careful scrutiny. And progress is slow.

Many minutes later, I am half way down Ms Pink’s back when I spot something further down her spine. Something that looks remotely like a circle. My heart beats faster at the discovery. It is not a perfect circle, but it counts as one. It is definitely a circle. Squinting my eyes to see better, I lean closer to inspect the faint lines within the circle. It seems to be overlapping with other scars but I can just about make it out—a diamond. A diamond in a circle and a circle in a—

“I think I may have found it.”

Her head snaps around like I’ve just said something shocking. And it probably is.

“Show me.”

“H-How . . .”

“Take a picture.”

“Right.” I speed to my phone and return with the camera app ready for use. The caepicta is faint and obscured by overlapping scars so I have to zoom in to get a better picture. “Here.”

Ms Pink sits up and takes my phone. She stares at it for a moment, then in an eerily calm voice, asks me to touch it. I oblige, going around behind her and putting my finger on it. The caepicta isn’t much bigger than two of my fingers combined and would never have been found if Ms Pink didn’t ask me to search of it.

I grow uneasy when Ms Pink remains silent for the longest time, staring at the picture of the caepicta. “What’s on your mind?”

Ms Pink’s eyes meet mine and with a shocking display of pink in her stare, she says, “I think my family was assassinated because of me.”

X

TFK: Soolkyu

“This is the dude who has been doing the hi-and-run thing on me,” says Yoona after Taeng tells them about Seo asking him for advice on speaking to girls.

Everyone stares first at Yoona, then at Seo. “Him?”

Yoona gives Taeng a piercing look. “You knew who it was the entire time but didn’t tell us.”

“I couldn’t. I promised not to.”

The stare dissolves into a grin. “Cos he told you not to?”

Taeng nods.

Steph grins as she throws her arm around Taeng. “Taeng’s a loyal friend.”

Yoona turns to Seo. “What’s with the hi-and-run?”

Seo blushes from his neck to the tip of his ears and makes to run away again but Sooyoung is leaning on the door. “Not again, dude. No more running away. You owe Yoona an explanation.”

“I . . .”

Taeng goes to Seo and pats his back. “Tell her. This is your chance. Come on, Seo.”

With a deep inhale that has his shoulders heaving, Seo turns to face Yoona. His eyes are on the floor, drilling holes between them.

Yoona takes a few steps forward, closing the distance between them. “So, your name is Seo?”

Seo goes from pink to apple red. “Y-Yes.”

“And why have you been running away from me?”

The apple red turns wine red. “B-Because . . .”

“Because you like me?”

Seo gasps and looks up with eyes wide open. “H-How did you know?”

Yoona smiles. “Lucky guess?”

“Lucky . . .”

There is a low sigh as the sound of a chair screeching against the floor grabs their attention. Everyone stares as the girl in a black hoodie pulls a cap over her golden blonde hair and pulls the hoodie over it. The girl is half way to the door before Taeng remembers what they’re here for.

“Excuse me.”

The girl stops, two steps away from the door, and looks up into Taeng’s eyes. “What’s up?”

“We heard that you’re really good at hacking—”

“Don’t know what you’re talking about, dude.”

“Sunny—”

Taeng finds himself pushed up against the wall, a small fierce face within an inch of his.

“Who told you my name?”

“S-Sooyoung.”

“Who’s that?”

“That’s me.”

Taeng’s collar is released and he breathes a sigh of relief as Sunny turns on Sooyoung instead. Fortunately, Sooyoung is prepared after seeing her attack on Taeng and stops her with a finger on her forehead.

“Let go!” she yells.

“Soolkyu . . .?”

Fury is replaced by surprise. “What? H-How?”

“Oh my God, Soolkyu. It really is you.”

“Who are you? How did you know about Soolkyu?”

“Remember Dooyoung?”

“Dooyoung?” Sunny eyes Sooyoung in a different light. “You know Dooyoung?”

Sooyoung grins and sticks his hands in his pockets. “Girl, I am Dooyoung.”

Everybody else sees only question marks hovering each other’s heads. Nobody knows what Sooyoung and Sunny are talking about.

“You are Dooyoung?”

Sooyoung nods. “How else could I know you’re Soolkyu?”

“But how did you—”

Sooyoung bends and points at her nametag on her blouse. “You said your real name is similar to your in-game nick. And you’re really short. And gaming all the time. Everything is exactly as you described.”

A smile is forming on Sunny’s lips. “Very tall . . . you weren’t lying. And your in-game nick is similar to your real name too. But as for the ‘as handsome as an idol’ part . . .”

Sooyoung draws to his full height and poses like a model. “I didn’t lie about a single thing, Soolkyu.”

Steph clears her throat. “This is all very sweet and cute but either of you mind telling us what this is all about?”

Sooyoung turns to his friends with a wide grin. “Soolkyu, I mean, Sunny is my in-game wife.”

“Wife?” everyone gasps in shock.

Yoona reaches out and gives him a shove. “You have a wife and you never told me?”

“An in-game wife.”

Taeng blinks as he tries to understand what Sooyoung is saying. “Like a wife in a game?”

Sooyoung nods. “We’re married in the game we both play. It’s a proper marriage though. I was in a suit and she had her wedding gown and we got married in church.”

“In the game,” Taeng clarifies.

“Yeah. In-game. It was really cool.”

“If she’s your in-game wife, will she help us?” Yoona asks.

Sunny looks around at them. “What kind of help are we talking?”

Sooyoung explains the situation briefly and Sunny’s eyes widen at the rate of baby rabbits on steroids.

“Oh my God,” Sunny gasps after the story is told. “How would you like me to help?”

|\/\/|

After Sunny agrees to help them, everyone goes separate ways to head home. Taeng and Steph are walking to the bus stop together, Taeng stops Steph mid-way, much to her surprise.

“What are you doing, Taeng?”

“Nothing. I just wanna tell you that no matter what happens, I will always stand on your side and support you.”

A beautiful smile appears on Steph’s face and she surprises Taeng by giving him a tight hug. “You’re a really nice guy. I’m so lucky to have a friend like you.”

Taeng shakes his head. “Steph?”

“Hmm?”

“I . . .”

“What is it?”

“I would like to ask you out on a date.”

“What?”

“A date. Like dinner and a movie.”

“Taeng . . .”

“I know you think I’m inexperienced and don’t know what a crush is. But Seo told me but a crush feels like and my feelings match what he said exactly.”

“Taeng—”

A car honks at them, interrupting Steph in the middle of her speech. The door opens and out steps Ha Min and Ri Chae, smirking like they know what’s coming tomorrow. Steph grabs Taeng’s hand and turns to walk away but halts when Ha Min calls her a slut.

Taeng puts his arm around Steph and puts a foot forward to shield her from the principal’s daughter. “Don’t be rude to your classmate, Ha Min.”

Ha Min merely laughs. “Don’t be rude? What a joke. Why do I need to be polite to a slut when she treats herself like trash?”

“Ha Min, why can’t you just leave me alone?” Steph asks, her tone betraying her restrain by wavering.

Ri Chae points at Steph. “Cos she has to save Taeng from becoming trash like you. Don’t think we don’t know what you’re up to. You plan to seduce Taeng just like you seduced Yunjae, and Hanjin and Taeman.”

“I did not seduce them!”

Ha Min rolls her eyes. “Of course you’re gonna deny it with Taeng here with you. Wouldn’t want him to know what a slut you are in reality, right?”

“Yeah, you’re a slut,” Ri Chae chips in. “A slut who sells her body to the rich boys in school.”

“I. Am. Not. A. Slut.”

“If you’re not, why did you strip for Yunjae, Hanjin and Taeman? That poor boyfriend of yours quit school and left the country because you broke his heart,” Ha Min spits with venom.

“I did no such thing.”

“That’s what you say. But we have the pictures to prove it,” Ri Chae says with sickening glee. “And once Taeng sees the pictures, you can say bye-bye to your precious king.”

Steph rolls her eyes. “What king? I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Ri Chae snorts with derision. “Liar. You obviously know who Taeng really is. Why else would you bother with him?”

Taeng stiffens with worry as Steph draws to her full height and says, “You’ve both gone crazy. Taeng is Taeng. He is a nice guy and a good friend. That is all.”

Ha Min nudges Ri Chae and pulls her back. “Whatever you say, slut. We’ll see what you have to say once the pictures come out.” Turning to Ri Chae, she whispers something Taeng and Steph can’t hear as they get back in their car.

Taeng is standing stiff as a totem as the car drives away. He is literally rooted to the ground in worry. How did Ha Min and Ri Chae know he is a king? Did someone tell them? Has his identify been exposed? Will he be forced to leave this school and Steph?

“Taeng!”

Steph’s yell snaps Taeng out of his thoughts. “Yes?”

“Do you know what they were talking about?”

“Huh?”

“What is this thing about you being a king?”

Taeng blinks.

“Hold up, hold up. Why are you looking at me like that? Why aren’t you answering me?”

Taeng holds his breath. What can he say? How can he get out of this situation?

“Taeng? Were they speaking the truth? Are you really a king?”

The truth will have to come out sooner or later. He would have to tell her one day. And if he wants to pursue his crush, how can he lie about his identity?

“Yes.”

Steph’s gasp is louder than his heart pounding in his ears. “Is this a joke?”

“No.”

“You’re a king.”

“Yes, I am.”

“Seriously. You’re a king?”

Taeng nods. “I am King of Jebudo. My island is very small with an even smaller population. But we have a town and a port that is fairly busy. It’s quite a nice place. Would you like to come visit?”

|\/\/|

TFK: Warning

“Do you have time to go somewhere with me today?” Taeng asks Steph as they walk to school from the bus stop the next day.

“Where are you going?”

“The florist.”

“Why the florist?”

“I need to buy some flowers and I need your help to choose them.”

“Who are they for?”

“A friend.”

Steph’s eyes narrow. “A female friend?”

“Female friend.”

“A girlfriend.”

Taeng shakes his head. “Not yet. We are still just friends.”

Steph gasps. “Are you talking about me?”

“Yes, the flowers are meant for you.”

“Why would you tell me that? Why would you ask me to choose flowers you’re planning to buy for me? What are you even thinking, Taeng?”

“I’m thinking we’re friends and friends don’t have to hide anything from each other.” Taeng looks straight at Steph even though his cheeks are heating up like a pan on fire. “I spent the weekend thinking about it. And I even asked for advice from someone who has experience in crushing. I’m sure I like you. I can feel the crush. And I want to tell you about it.”

“You’re really—I dunno what it is—unconventional? I don’t even know what to say.”

“Is it wrong, though? I watched some dramas and read some books over the weekend and I learnt that most of the problems that happen between people happen when people don’t tell each other how they truly feel. I don’t want to make the same mistake.”

“How did you manage to sound wise while talking about learning life lessons from dramas?” Steph breaks into a laugh and shakes her head. “How do you manage to surprise me with something every single day?”

“Do I surprise you? Why are you surprised?”

“You’re unbelievable, you know that?” Steph stops walking suddenly and Taeng bumps into her. She turns, unperturbed and looks into his eyes. “I’ve known you for a little more than a week. In this week, I learnt that you’ve never been to a school like this,” Steph sweeps her arm in the school’s direction, “and never had a crush before now. You haven’t talked about your parents, only your grandpa you say you’re close to. You like Biology. You’re wealthy. You’re a nice guy, a loyal friend and kind to dogs. I learnt that you’re not afraid to apologize to a girl first, even though it’s not entirely your fault.”

“And? Why is this surprising?”

“None of it fits, Taeng. None. You’ve been home-schooled all your life and don’t seem to have any friends but you’re friendly and nice. You’re wealthy but you don’t brag about it. You like Biology. You like Biology and you’re rich and you’re totally fine with apologizing to me first after I blew my head off at you without hearing you out. And you’re supposed to be totally inexperienced in crushes and girls but here you are blatantly confessing your feelings and asking me to pick out my own flowers you plan on giving to me.” Steph is laughing by now. “I can’t with you, Taeng.”

“You can’t be with me?” Taeng’s shoulders sag and he hangs his head.

Steph shakes her head, her shoulders shaking too.

Gloom descends upon Taeng’s heart. He looks at his feet, sighs, and looks back into Steph’s laughing eyes. “Why can’t you be with me?”

Steph stops laughing right away. “I didn’t say that.”

“You just said it.”

“I said I can’t with you. As in I can’t understand the things you do or say but I think you’re cute anyway.”

Taeng’s chest puffs up with pride. “Does that mean you like me too?”

“Taeng, you are very direct.”

“Well, of course. I’m a—” I’m a king and kings are supposed to be direct.

“You’re?”

“I’m an honest guy.”

“That you are. Another rarity.”

“Are honest guys rare?”

Steph looks him up and down. “Honest guys with all your qualities are quite rare.”

But kings have to be honest men. “Honesty is important.”

“I agree, it is.”

But you haven’t answered my question…

|\/\/|

All through the morning, Taeng tried to ask if Steph will go to the florist with him but something would interrupt—the bell, the teacher, a book falling onto the floor . . . anything and everything. When the bell rings once more for lunch, Taeng seizes his chance by walking with Steph as she leaves the classroom. But before he can ask, he is interrupted yet again—by a harried Yoona and a taller boy accompanying her.

“Steph, we came to warn you.”

“About?”

Yoona grabs Steph’s arm and drags her away from the classroom. Taeng follows suit, wondering who the tall boy is. Could he be the Sooyoung that Yoona mentioned before?

“We should be good here,” says Yoona as she shuts the door to the school’s health clinic.

“Why did you bring me to here? Are you sick?” Steph asks.

“It’s lunch time. The nurse won’t be here for a while,” the tall boy informs them with a grin. “I’m Sooyoung, by the way,” he adds, lifting his hand and tossing a casual wave at Taeng.

“I’m Taeng.”

“I know. You’re Steph’s new good friend.”

Taeng beams. “Yes, I am.”

“So, the warning,” Yoona continues.

Steph nods. “Yes, what about it?”

“Well, you know how Sooyoung needs his food all the time.”

Steph nods again, listening intently.

“So we’re out during class to grab some food so we go around the back side to avoid teachers and guess who we saw huddled in a dark corner whispering?”

“Who?”

“Gim Ha Min and Ri Chae.”

“Those two are bad news.”

Yoona nods hard. “Very bad news. We hid behind the wall and listened. We think they’re planning to throw you in the muck again.”

“Again?” Steph’s eyes widen and blink. “How? Why?”

“We don’t know why, but we heard a bit about the how.”

“Tell me.”

“They seemed to be planning some kind of account hack. Like hacking into your Instagram and posting the pictures from the last episode.”

“Seriously?” Steph’s voice is in the highest of registers.

“Shh . . . keep it down. We’re serious. We literally heard Ha Min say ‘hack into the slut’s account and post them so she can’t deny it anymore’ and Ri Chae was like giggling after that.”

“Those two bitches.”

“We gotta stop them.”

Steph bits her lip. “But how? If I confront them about it, they’ll deny it ever happened.”

Yoona grins and raises her phone. “We have pictures and we tried recording their conversation. But the recording is not fantastic and very soft so it might not be good enough.”

“Damn.”

“But we have another idea,” says Sooyoung, grinning as he leans against the wall like a cool anime character.

“Out with it.”

“They’re not smart enough to hack into your account by themselves so they’ll need help.”

Steph gasps. “You’re gonna help them?”

Sooyoung puts up his palm. “Chill, sister. It is not I. I’m best at eating, not hacking. But I think I know who they’ll ask to help.”

“Who?”

“Sunny,” says Yoona.

“The girl who games all day err day?”

Sooyoung nods. “Mhm. Ha Min could bribe her with a free pass to skip all the classes she wants to game and not fail.”

Taeng is enraged by this dark, evil plot of Ha Min’s. “We can’t let that happen.”

Sooyoung pats Taeng’s shoulder. “Don’t worry. We won’t. We’ll look for Sunny right now and I think I know just the place to find her.”

|\/\/|

Taeng follows the group and together, they troop into the computer lab and true enough, tucked in a corner of the room, is a girl in a hoodie, wearing a headset. But to his greater surprise, he notices the existence of another boy next to her, typing away furiously on the keyboard. A boy he knows quite well by now.

“Seo!” Taeng exclaims.

Seo looks up from the computer screen and casts his eyes on them. He first hones in on Taeng, then Steph, then Yoo—Taeng starts when Seo leaps up from his chair glaring at him. “You said you wouldn’t tell anyone!”

Taeng blinks. “Huh?”

“Hold up, hold up,” says Sooyoung, stepping in front of Taeng with his hands in the air. “What’s going on here?”

Seo seems to have realized his folly and slaps his hand over his mouth.

Sooyoung turns back to Taeng, brows raised. “What’s the deal, bruh?”

Taeng heaves a deep sigh. “It’s a long, long story.”

|\/\/|