18. Final Goodbye

It was yet another sleepless night.

I was leaning against the glass window and gazing out at the beautiful colours sparkling against the backdrop of the dark night sky. The edges of the buildings and roads were lined with neon lights that lit up the moment the sun set, giving the night scene an entirely different atmosphere as compared to daytime. It was a starless night, and the lights made a good substitute for the lack of starlight. Like a moth towards bright light, I couldn't seem to take my eyes off this mesmerizing view. This was the first time I was able to take in the full night view of the entire city.

And perhaps, it was also the last.

It has been said that when one is about to die, his entire life would flash past him like a movie. Personally, I never really knew whether I should believe that or not. There had been countless of times when I had landed myself in situations where I could have died. And yet, I had never seen my whole life flashing past my eyes before in those situations. Perhaps, during those times, it was somehow known that I would eventually survive, that it wasn't over for me yet.

However, I couldn't seem to say the same for tonight.

I didn't know how or why it happened. All I knew was that flashbacks were flooding my tired mind uncontrollably, and I couldn't stop thinking about the past, about life since five years ago…, and about him.

Every situation that I had been in, the people whom I have met, every circumstance that had brought me to where I was today was replaying in my mind like an endless movie. I could see it so vividly, and the emotions that came along with it felt so unbelievably real. It was as though I was travelling back in time and personally reliving those situations again.

Needless to say, the memory that seemed to linger at the corner of my mind the most was that faithful day when I started my first day in a new school. What I had thought to be nothing more than a school transfer turned out to be the biggest change I had ever experienced. My life was changed, only because I had learnt to love someone so much that I was willing to trade my original quiet life in order to spend an eternity with him…

I closed my eyes and took in a deep breath. At that instant, I could feel a familiar warmth surrounding the palm of my hands, tantalizing the edges of my skin. It was a firm grip that was always able to dispel any anxiety that I might have, reassuring me that he would always be there when I needed him. I tightened my grip, and to my surprise, I could feel real skin and flesh as my fingertips rested gently on his hand, just like how I had remembered it to be. And then, in the quiet of the night, I could hear the calm and even breathing that didn't belong to me getting closer and closer until I could feel his breath on the edge of my lip. Before I could react, I could feel his soft lips pressing gently against mine like a perfect fit. But it didn't take long before that tenderness turned into an aggressiveness that was fueled by his possessive nature, something that I had long taken a liking to it. I could feel his fingers tangled in my hair as he pushed me even closer towards him. He wrapped his other arm securely around my waist such that there was nowhere else for me to move but towards him. He was taking my breath away, and at this rate, I was sure he would take away my soul too. But I didn't care, because I wanted him as much…

But as soon as I opened my eyes, hoping to catch my reflection against those dark enigmatic pupils of his, everything was gone. It dissipated so fast like smoke in the wind, making it impossible for me to even catch hold of it…

And then I realized that none of it was real. I looked around, and found that I was still stuck in this dark room all alone. There was no one, not even a fly. All that was there was the annoying silence that was occasionally drowned by the sound of my own breathing. I realized that I had imagined the whole thing. It turned out to be nothing more than a hallucination conjured up by my mind. Perhaps the accumulated fatigue from three years of nightmares and insufficient sleep had finally reached the threshold of hallucination.

There was no touch from the beginning, no sensation, no kiss…, no Night…

My heart throbbed painfully at the last one. I brought my legs closer to my body and threw my arms around myself. The broken arm had more or less healed, although it still felt pretty stiff. I was hoping that cuddling up would be able to lessen the cold that I was feeling from within my heart, but it didn't seem to be working.

I went back to gazing out the window, and caught sight of the moon that was hanging there alone in the starless sky. It was a full moon tonight, and the luminosity of the moon reminded me of that night during his birthday…

I closed my eyes again, and in an instant, I was transported back to the balcony where we had isolated ourselves from the rest of the party. It was just the two of us, and there was nothing more I could have asked for. I could feel the chilly night wind grazing my bare shoulders, but he made sure that I was protected from the cold as he laid his blazer over me. His soft black eyes were fixed on me, and I couldn't remember ever removing mine from his. He took my hand and placed it gently against his chest so that I could feel the rhythm of his heart, as though proving to me that his feelings were as real as I was…

I opened my eyes, and I was brought back to the cruel reality with the moon once again in view. Although only a few minutes had passed, that dark world behind closed eyes felt like I had spent hours with him at the balcony. Without thinking, I stretched out my hand, trying to reach for the moon beyond the glass barrier. But just like my future with him, it wasn't going to happen. I couldn't help but wonder if he could also be gazing at the same moon as me at this very same moment, if the night was as sleepless for him as it was for me. If so, I wondered if I was on his mind like how he had never left mine.

I sighed, retracting my stretched arm as I did so. Lucian was right. As ridiculous as it might sound, if turning myself in was the one and only thing I could do for Night right now, then I would gladly do it without any regrets. My life in exchange for his wasn't a bad deal to begin with. Rather, it was pretty obvious that Dymus was shortchanging himself this time round to settle for a small fry like me.

I let out another deep sigh. If I knew that I was going to die, that today was the last time I would ever see Night, then I wouldn't have allowed us to part with anger being the final emotion he would have towards me. I wouldn't have allowed him to just walk away.

If only I had the chance to give him one final goodbye…

At the break of dawn, when the sun rays had barely stretched out and the city was still largely covered by the night, the unlocking of the door, like a prelude to my execution, caught my attention. I lifted my head from my knees and stared with lethargic eyes as the two vampires entered the room, smartly dressed in a tailored suit and obviously prepared for what was going to happen.

These two people in front of me, looking down on me with those disdainful maroon eyes should be causing my entire self to be drowned in adrenaline. However, unlike yesterday, I seemed to have lost any sort of possible reaction or emotion facing them. The fear triggered by Lucian when he literally grabbed my heart was no longer lingering inside of me. I didn't really care what he would do to me anymore. Rather, I was completely numb, as though all that was left of me was this physical body that was on the verge of succumbing to the fatal effects of long-term fatigue.

Everything else, including my heart and soul, had already left with my memories of him.

"Let's go," Lucian mumbled in a low voice. I thought I caught sight of a hint of anticipation glistening in those deep maroon eyes of his.

Like a puppet towards its puppeteer, I obediently rose onto my feet without a word and followed behind them as they led the way to the same silver car that Lucian had driven yesterday. The trip to the Council was a quiet one. No one spoke a single word, not even between the two vampires themselves. But sometimes, unspoken intentions were perhaps even clearer than spoken ones. They already knew what they had to do in order not to lose all that they had. And I do too.

When the car finally came to a stop, I got out and came face to face with this tall and huge building that was fully wrapped in black tinted glass on the exterior from top to bottom. The building had been sculpted with an elegant slender body and a tilted roof. For a first impression, it looked no different from a gigantic piece of black crystal. And like the perfect vampires themselves, this black crystal-shaped building had a flawless exterior and was exuding the kind of fine elegance that vampires, especially the blue bloods, never seemed to lack.

With the car left in the middle of the road that led up to the building, Lucian and Zane strutted towards the building and I silently followed behind. With limited view behind them, I caught sight of someone (a vampire most probably) at the door who immediately opened the glass doors for them the moment their intention to enter into the Council building was detected. Once the doors were swung wide opened, the doorkeeper did a bow so deep that I couldn't even catch a glimpse of his face. All I could see were the trembling hands that were still on the door handle and the messy blonde hair that looked like he had just woken up from a nap. The deep bow was obviously a sign of deep respect and fear towards the two prestigious blue bloods, but Lucian and Zane simply ignored the poor man, as though his reaction was nothing out of the unusual, and went on inside.

At such an early morning, the inside of the building was just an empty hallway. No one had arrived for work yet. No wonder Lucian chose to do this so early. There would be no one around to witness all that was about to take place. It would be an exchange solely between Dymus and them without any traces or evidence left behind.

Passing the reception desk, we took the lift and went all the way up to the highest floor. When the lift door opened, there was only a long narrow hallway which could probably accommodate no more than the width of three average-sized people. Though at first it was impossible to see what was at the other end of this long hallway due to the length of it, as we walked on, I realised that at the end was a silver metallic door whose height had reached all the way up to the ceiling. There were no door knobs on it, and if not for the slit in between the two wings of the door, I would have thought that it was a metal wall.

It was uncommon to see a metal door since most doors were made out of wood, and it was even rarer to see a metal door that had no door knob, handle or a keyhole. Just as I was wondering how we were going to enter, Lucian placed both hands, one on each side, and pushed both wings of the door simultaneously. It was only through the opening made did I manage to see exactly how the entire structure of the door was. I had assumed that it was just like any regular door except that it was coated with a layer of metal. But I totally wrong. The thickness of the door was no less than five times that of a regular one. These weren't just doors. They were two thick slabs of metal that acted like doors, and yet Lucian had effortlessly pushed them apart without even breaking a sweat, as though they were no different from the regular ones. I had no doubt that such a feat could only be accomplished by vampires and their super strength alone. Perhaps such a structure was purposely placed there to distinguish vampires from non-vampires.

Beyond the door was a spacious room that was different from what I had expected. I had assumed that the High Council, a group of authoritative blue blood vampires that governed over the rest of the vampire community, would be located in a place where the atmosphere was serious and gloomy. However, this room that Lucian and Zane had brought me too was airy and light, even with the curtains drawn down. There was nothing gloomy or suffocating about this room at all. In fact, there was nothing much in the room except for a long oval conference table. I did a quick count mentally and realised that there were thirteen chairs in total, with each end of the table accommodating a chair each and the rest of the eleven chairs lining along the table body.

At the furthest end of the table was Dymus who was seated there and had been patiently waiting for my arrival. I could see those soulless crimson eyes hungering for me as his lips curled into a wry smirk of satisfaction. But I wasn't really bothered by it. I was going to be at his disposal sooner or later anyway, so it didn't really matter to me how much he could be craving to eat me up right now. Rather, my attention was on the chair that was at our end of the table. My guess was that the chairs at the two ends of the long oval table were seated by those who had more say and power inside the Council.

If one of them belonged to Dymus, then it wasn't hard for me to guess who the other seat belonged to.

In a blink of an eye, Dymus was right next to us, his speed too fast for my human eyes to catch. Without wasting any time, he started to circle around me in slow elaborated steps. As he did so, those eyes of his were inspecting me from head to toe, as though making sure that there were no defects on the 'package' before the exchange happened.

"We have kept to our side of the bargain," Lucian suddenly spoke, confidence strong in his tone, "I hope you will keep to yours too."

"Of course," Dymus replied without any hesitation, "As I've mentioned to Night before, I'm doing him a great justice by punishing the murderer of his beloved brother, Deleon. Since the time the first High Council was established thousands of years ago, the entire foundation that has sculpted our society into the way it is and the ultimate reason we blue bloods could remain in power are based solely on the rules that had remained unchanged even till today. Without these rules, our kind would have been thrown into total chaos. And as long as the rules set up by our ancestors from centuries ago are still being enforced and obeyed today, it is not important whether the Council comes to know about this matter or not. After all, I'm not one who likes to brag about the things that I do."

Dymus fixed those soulless eyes directly on mine, not hiding the evil intentions that were relentlessly pouring out from within. I gulped, trying to push down any sort of fear he was trying to instill in me.

"However, as to how our dear Night would react later when he eventually finds out and whether he will give himself away in front of the Council is not within my control."

"Of course. Don't worry, I'm sure Night will value this chance that you are giving him," Lucian said as his fake friendliness surfaced again, "He is not one who would sacrifice everything for a simple mistake."

Dymus smirked. "I hope you are right, Lucian. Unlike you, I can't decipher what is going on behind that nonchalant expression sometimes. Although I've got to admit, I would love to see what he looks like when he realised that I've got my hands on his favourite toy…"

Dymus grabbed a few strands of my hair and took in a whiff of the scent that came from me. As though his eyes weren't already red, an even brighter glow of crimson swirled in as his pupils dilated, and I could sense that he was trying to suppress the excitement that was building up his appetite.

"How's your arm, Christabel?" he asked tauntingly. I couldn't really tell if he was really interested about the arm that he broke, or if he was just interested in me, his food, as a whole. "Did you do something to attach your bones back? It seemed perfectly fine when you walked in just now."

I remained silent, refusing to answer him or give him any direct eye contact. I wished he would just get this over with. I was starting to get a little worried that if this dragged on, the rest of the Council might start to arrive soon.

"You seemed surprisingly calm for someone who is in this kind of unfavourable situation," he said again. But I still ignored him.

Seeing that I wasn't going to speak, Dymus started pacing around me again. And all I did was stand there like an exhibit. No one held onto me. No one touched me. I guessed they all trusted that I was obedient enough to stay where I was and await my doom. After all, the formula of three vampires to one human made it pretty obvious that I wouldn't be able to escape.

I started to imagine what he would, or rather could, do to me. He could do a quick strike and sadistically tear me apart, or perhaps drain me dry of blood first before feasting on my flesh and bones, or he could enslave me in a dungeon and feed on my blood bit by bit for the rest of his life. But while the wildest possibilities were playing out in my mind, he just continued to pace around me, the wrinkly lines on his face deepening further into his skin, as he eyed me so hungrily and menacingly.

However, I suddenly noticed that I was starting to feel strange. The edges of my skin became so sensitive to its surrounding that even the dust particles in the air seemed to be irritating it greatly. My palms were cold and sweating profusely, and the evaporation of the sweat just added to the cold eating into the tips of my fingers. My heart was drumming so hard that my chest was starting to feel tight and excruciating. My breathing staggered, quickened, and then went back to staggering. By the time I realised it, I was almost gasping for air. My body was forced to turn on its survival mechanism being placed on the brink of death. I was trembling so hard that I was having difficulty standing upright. The readiness of dying in his hands was slowly disappearing as the feeling of death started to creep in. I tried to calm myself down, but it didn't feel like I was in control of my own feelings and emotions. It was as though I had suddenly lost complete control of the way I wanted to feel, like someone had purposely switched off the numbness and calmness that I originally had and brought back the fear that I had thrown to the back of my mind.

While I was having a panic attack, Dymus finally stopped pacing. He stood directly in front of me and placed those blood red eyes on me with great satisfaction. My body was crumbling from the symptoms of fear, and that pleased him. I gasped as he placed his long fingers on my face and traced the outline of my cheek bones down to my jaw line. It worsened my body's reaction. The amount of pressure his fingers were pressing into my flesh reminded me of a strong hand on the verge of bursting a balloon. If he were to exert a bit more strength, I would be dead.

"You are not going to enjoy this…," he scowled.

He inched closer to my neck, baring his fangs at me, ready to let the indulgence begin. However, just as he was close enough to take the first bite, he suddenly stopped. His lack of action was both puzzling and abrupt. I thought that even if the sky were to fall now, it would not have stopped him.

He didn't release his hand on me but instead looked directly over my shoulders with a deep frown on his expression before turning to Lucian and Zane with a hard glare, as though they had betrayed him. Suddenly, I could feel a strong blast of wind as the door behind me was forced open without warning, as though an explosive device had blasted the thick metal door opened.

The first thing I noticed was that the vampires were alarmed, and I knew that something must have gone wrong. At first, I thought that maybe some vampire hunter had barged into the place miraculously and pointed a huge gun at them. Maybe it was Adam. Maybe he had somehow seen me coming here and chased after me. That would explain the expression on the three vampires. However, when I turned around to see for myself, there was no Adam, nor was there any vampire hunter for that matter. My heart jolted in quick pulses as the familiar figure that came into view was beyond the miracle I had expected. There stood Night, his flawless expression so dark and threatening that it seemed like he had killed everyone in this room in his mind repeatedly.

He placed his crimson eyes against mine. I didn't know how I looked, but it seemed to have multiplied his rage even more. He darted a dark glare at Lucian, obviously knowing who the mastermind behind this whole thing was.

"Night…!" Lucian muttered as his eyes widened in disbelief. There was a rare trembling fear coming from his voice, as though all that smugness that he originally had was washed away in an instant. This was the first time I had seen Lucian like this.

Before I realised it, I was suddenly swept off my feet by a strong aggressive arm that sent me flying across to the other end of the room. My head hit against something hard and everything became dark…

The painful thumping at the back of my head brought back my consciousness as I gradually opened my eyes. Instinctively, I reached back to the part hidden behind my hair that was searing with a mixture of sharp pain and throbbing soreness and gently rubbed the bump that was giving me that awful headache.

It took me a while to realise what was happening around me. I was leaning against a huge pillar, and my impact against it just now must have taken away my consciousness temporarily. I took a quick scan around me, and noticed the huge pieces of wood, which was once the long oval conference table, scattered all over the place as debris. In addition, there were holes and cracks on both the floors and the walls. It was as though the fight of the century had just taken place while I was unconscious. And then, in the middle of the room, were four men that stood stationary like statues, as though they were frozen in time and space.

And then, I realised that it wasn't because they were frozen or anything, they just couldn't afford to make a single wrong move.

I stared in horror at the silver weapon that was burning into the skin of that bony wrinkled hand. But Dymus's hand seemed unbothered by the damage it was absorbing even as blood started to trickle down from the handle. Rather, the muzzle of the gun remained locked at its aim and his finger was threatening to pull the trigger any moment. I immediately tried searching for my anti-vampire gun that was supposed to be on me frantically. But my pockets were empty. It must have dropped out when I was swept off my feet and hit the pillar just now. However, what really scared me was not just the fact that Dymus had his hands on my gun. It was the person that he was aiming the gun at…

The murderous hard glare from those crimson eyes that I was all too familiar with didn't even flinch despite the threat he was under. Rather, Night remained still, without the slightest stance of defense prepared, even with the gun aiming directly at him. It was as though he was just standing there and waiting for Dymus to pull the trigger and get it over with.

But of course he didn't put up a defense! I mean, what could he do? Any vampire would be powerless against a weapon like that…, just like how he was three years ago…

"Dymus! Put that thing down!" Lucian demanded. The usual arrogance in his voice had totally vanished in the presence of the anti-vampire gun that Dymus was holding. "We have a deal!"

"We had a deal," he corrected, still sounding calm and composed despite his burnt and bleeding hand, "From the looks of it now, however, it seems like Night isn't going to let it happen."

I could see the entire incident replaying clearly in my mind when he shielded me three years ago from Vincent. With the memory came fear, not for my own life, but over the fact that I might really lose him. The wound that could never heal, the bandage that was soaked red with his blood, those cold lips and pain-filled eyes, the fact that he could die... My eyes were brimming with pain and tears just thinking about all these. He was all that I had left. He was the sole reason I breathed. He was my entire world. And yet, once again, he was going to die right in front of my eyes…

"I might as well get rid of the three of you right now and get the Council back to those days before you three brats appeared and interfere with everything," Dymus hissed, "Don't worry, I'll give a reasonable explanation to the Council that the three of you fell out within yourselves and fought to your death. If Night's lousy excuse of Deleon and that vampire hunter died by killing each other three years ago could work, I don't see why my version won't."

His finger inched even closer to pulling the trigger, and my heart jolted in fear. Was the same thing going to happen again?

No, I can't lose him. I won't let it happen again.

My feet were quicker than my mind. I had already picked myself up and ran towards him in the biggest strides I could carry. I couldn't just sit at one side and watch him get killed. Even with my limited human capabilities, there had got to be something that I could still do to save him even at the very last minute.

There just had to be.

"Night!" I shrieked.

I threw myself in front of him, attempting to shield him from the incoming bullet. I held onto him so tightly, with my entirely self embracing him protectively so that the bullet would definitely hit me only.

Then…, I heard the gunshot…

All of this was going to end within a fraction of a second. I took one last glance into those crimson eyes that had capture my heart time and again, unable to restrain the tears that were brimming at the corners of my eyes any longer.

This was our final goodbye.

I shut my eyes tight, wanting to preserve my last image of him deep inside my mind. I waited, for everything to turn dark, to be over…

At the last second of my life, I thought I heard him whisper…

Chris, I love you.

To be continued...

Author's Note: Just in case you are wondering, this is the scene from the prologue. I hope you enjoyed this chapter too. :)