Episode VI: Persistence is Key
Those eyes…his greedy, soul numbing eyes…they pierced right through me. I felt my heart throbbing—the pain, the terror, the lust… Amidst it all, I was not only afraid and paranoid…but a part of me wanted to…wanted to hurt him. But that aura was…so powerful, so intimidating. He was so demonic…his charge, his rage. I felt so overwhelmed, but why? Why couldn't I strike him sooner? Why didn't my will to live overpower this, this stupid thing called—
"AGHHH! Fuck, Jeremy!" Eren gritted her teeth and jolted off the couch, snatching her arm away from his grasp.
"Sorry. The transition is difficult for me too." He sighed, grabbing onto his chest and dipping his head south. His body collapsed on the couch, her pain riding through his every veins. It was a lot to bear, but he was slowly copping. His delirious expression melted into Eren's dreary orbs, and she'd turn away instinctively. "Give it 24 hours. I'm sure you'll feel better by then." He edged a smile between his heavy cheeks, slumping his head on one of the couch pillows.
As Eren stood in the living room, she examined the sealed wound, eager to poke the wrinkled bruised skin. She'd never understand how these sorcerers worked, but she couldn't complain. Her skin was now intact, and the bleeding has stopped. She sunk right next to Jeremy arching her torso over her sprawled legs.
"Tsk, tsk, tsk. Man, I see this all the time." Master B hopped on the coffee table before them, oh so in the mood to preach some very crude wise words. "The fallen villain, the prince who couldn't finish the job, and the princess who weeps for her beloved!" He clapped his hands and rubbed them vigorously with a hunched back and an evil doctor's grin. "Aha! The plot thickens! Under a wicked spell like that, why did Michel feel the urge to run off, leaving you in one piece? I'll tell you why. He has a—"
"Shut up, fur ball!" Eren swatted him into the TV, watching as he slid off with a cheeky residue. Her hands jumped to her ears, trying to soften the whaling down the hallway. "Ugh, can someone tell that bitch to lock it?! I'm getting a migraine! I'm the one with the wound, you don't hear me hollering out one lung!"
Granted, Julie could hear Eren's comment—her mouth so big, it would be difficult not to. All she could do was console her. "Sophia. I'm sure Michel is fine. Don't underestimate his strength." A finger wiped her tears away with the softness of her motherly touch. Sophia clung on her pillow tightly pressed against her chest, her swollen eyes looking to Julie.
"Don't you get it? Ever since I got here I've been a burden to the people around me. And Michel was always there to comfort me. But now, I betrayed his trust! It was silly of me to trust that kitten, knowing the devil takes all shapes and sizes. I was a fool, gullible as always! I've managed to kill my parents and now Michel!" She sobbed, stifling her cries into her sheets as she burrowed her face near the headboard. A hand comfortingly stroked her back, but at this point, she completely muted Julie's words. It was the same rehearsed script. –This isn't your fault, Sessni is to blame.- She was beginning to sound like a broken record player, and Sophia wasn't buying any of it. And in that instant, everything that fate tossed on her shoulders became ten times heavier. Was she taking the death of her parents lightly? Or was Michel her drug, that special drug that numbed all the pain? Right now, it seemed like it. Right now, it seemed as if she was too fragile, too emotional to take all the nightmarish memories. She was feeling light headed and faint. Her skin was growing pale, and her eyes were drying up from all the tears. Sophia couldn't cry anymore. She has accepted the fact that she ruined her old life, and now her new one. To remember how this all came to be was the worst part of it all. She stormed to the bathroom, hearing Julie's footsteps not too far behind. Locking the door behind her and ignoring Julie's warnings, she turned on the sink faucet and flushed her face with cold water. A good look at herself was what she needed.
Look…look at what she has done…
She dropped to her knees, hands shielding her tired eyes and she sobbed. "Michel…I'm sorry…"
The derelict home stood dreary beyond the western groove. Little did trespassers know, the estate was all but empty. Dhampir loved playing a game with those who wandered the dense forest, sending ghouls out to bait them to their home, and from there, the dance would begin. Encroaching was punishable, and those who trekked were never to be heard from again. Seemed like a haunted tale, jaded—yet no specter waltzed this night, or any other, for those dead would rather lock their souls six feet under than to prance around on the cursed soil known as Dangathe.
The night meshed well with the walls of Boden as a white spectacle on its roof shuffled lightly. From afar, she seemed like an angel, her hair flirting with the cool breeze. The air was tainted, and its strong bloody scent grew closer with every step. Hell hounds howled at the moon and their paws pounding the groove caved deeper into his ears. He shuffled through the greens and the mud ponds, heaving heavier as he approached. His muffled cackling was now audible for his stalkers to hear, but he paid them no mind. His knees dipped and posture swayed back and forth to the tune flowing through his head, sniffing the sickening scent of sulfur and rotting flesh. It masked nature too well—the knights of Dhampir were abusing their supply, soon to be limited.
With the landing grace of a falcon, the goblin leaped three stories to the roof, accompanying his alley. "So you got it?! Yeeheee, my gal! You brought those bastards to their knees! Heh." He attempted, attempted to raze the tenseness with a little sarcasm, but with her miffed look piercing his flesh, he knew it only made it worse. Swinging the half empty beer bottle in his hand, his drunken wobble made it to her side, plopping his rear for a rough seat. "Now, don take it to eart! You gotta member with Everit, you need to, you need to be take'em down part by part! Re-member that! As a ole, they-er strong, but apart, you can wreck their shit! Got that kitten?"
Viola bit her lip and crossed her arms with a bitter look painted on her pale face. "That little brat! If he wants that shard so bad, why can't he go after it himself? I'm not a dog! Why doesn't he send the L class to go after it? After all, they did lose it."
"And you're about to lose yours in a minute…" a voice retorted from behind them, and with a timid glance, they both shot up at his appearance.
"No more excuses, Viola." The boy stood there, arms folded behind his back wearing a seamless grin and flat mellow eyes. "Do you want me to make an example out of you, dear? You know I won't hesitate to do so. Your performance tonight was disgraceful. A very sad attempt to manipulate our enemies. Now, this night is still salvageable if you listen to my every word. Get the shard back, and get rid of your puppet. Understood?"
She winced, giving him a cold shoulder, and subconsciously she'd hiss, "If you want anything done right, you're going to have to send more fire power. Four against one? I may be strong, but I will not get my hands dirty for something someone didn't—"
She writhed, struggling to reclaim her breathing as Knives squeezed her throat with a vengeance. To her knees she fell, her paleness drawing to a purple tint. Her alley could only stand there paranoid with terror, mouth agape and eyes swelling with remorse. Maybe he should have disregarded his command to stand back while she tried to retrieve the shard…
"Spitting your tongue at me again? You're a hard headed little bitch, aren't you?" He viciously reached into her mouth with his white-gloved hand and raked her tongue outside her mouth. "Allow me to fix that…"
She gargled for mercy, words bubbling in the back of her throat as he proceeded to tare her tongue out. As the blood teemed from the corners of her mouth, her alley bellowed out, "Master, I beg you!" He dropped the bottle of beer and raised his hands, surrendering. "Take my life if you will, not hers!" Knives turned to him with a cold stern look, casting the harlot away with the thrust of his arm.
"Please! Just give me a second chance, Master! Please…" She crawled to his feet, eyes teary and blood shot. The words were painful to breathe out, but she couldn't let her alley fall for her sake. "Please accept my apology. Give me your word to pursue the shard once more. I will not fail you…"
There was something about chocolate chip cookies and milk that brightened Eren's day. It was one home remedy that has yet to fail her. Coten's enriched milk had such an intoxicating smell as the warm steam rolled off her nose, picking the mug up from her breakfast bar. She'd reunite with the homemade cookies propped on the coffee table across the hall, but Eren found her step shortened and her breath lost when her eyes fell on a figure leaning against the adjacent wall. Her heart jumped, "You scared the shit outta me!"
"Didn't mean to startle you." He smiled, releasing his crossed arms and enclosing the gap between them.
"Ugh, I don't know what to say…" she uttered, puzzled by his appearance, but oh so relieved he was here. A part of her wanted to tackle him with a hug, but the other wanted to curse him out for the scare. He did jet out of there after the bullet impaled his shoulder. So she gave her leg a nice thrust, kicking him in the shin. "What the hell was wrong with you?! Rage slashing at me like that!" Guilt fluttered through her as she watched him jerk and cling to his leg. "You were really trying to kill me! I thought you were stronger than that, Michel!"
"Eheh, sorry." He winced, tightening his posture and nearly hobbling to the side.
"No…I should be apologizing here. How's your shoulder—"
She paused, her hand stopped from the reach over with his quick reflexes. He seized her wrist, gently retreating her hand. "It's fine. Not too much damage."
"But, the bullet went right through you. Stop being a thick head and let me—"
"Let you what, exactly?" He smiled lovingly, "You're not exactly Jeremy. Unless, you've been hiding this supernatural gift of yours from us all. I'll be fine. Don't worry about—"
"MICHEL!" A loud summoning echoed the apartment as a little figure tackled Michel with a tight embrace! She nearly brought him to the floor, tears of happiness streaming down her cheeks as she smothered him with joy. "It's you, it's really you! I thought you were dead! Michel I am so sorry! Please, please, please forgive me! I will never befriend a kitten again for as long as I live! Are you hurt? Are you okay? I'm so happy you're alive Michel!"
Eren arched a brow in confusion. How did Sophia know Michel was at her place? And how did she know where she lived? Her questions were soon answered as Master B walked into the livingroom and greeted the tiger feasting on her coffee table. "HEY! Paws off my cookies you little—"
"Sharing is caring!" His muffled response summoned a flying shoe towards his direction, and he'd scurry off, arms filled with chocolaty goodness.
"I'm fine Sophia. And there is no need for apologies." Michel reassured her, taking her by the shoulders with a soft smile embedded on his face. He could still see the sorrow and guilt in her watery eyes.
"Michel you had me worried…" Her lips trembled.
Eren sighed, "May I ask how you knew Michel was going to be here when I didn't even know he was dropping by?!"
"Coe texted me, I gave everyone the news, and Sophia begged for me to drop her off. Aww man, these are some sweet cookies!"
"Aren't they?" Coe agreed, munching off with his counter part comfortably plotted on the couch.
Eren sighed, and Michel took that as a sign to leave. After all, they all sort of dropped by unannounced. "We can talk outside, Sophia. Mind joining me for a walk?"
Sophia jumped, "I'd love to!"
"Michel, I cannot apologize enough for what I've done." She sighed, the crunching grass faint to her bothered mind. She looked up to the full moon, the stars dancing in grace, and a smile shimmered upon her face. "But I'm thankful, oh so thankful that you're alive." She stopped her walking feet and turned to him with a blush, shyly fiddling with her fingers under her chin. "About what I said…I—"
"Meant every word of it?" His words domed over her head, watching her stand silent yet heated like red sweet fruit. He loved her innocence, stroking the bangs away from her bright big eyes. "She was still you, Sophia; just a very expressive form of you." He chuckled.
"Michel…" She interrupted herself, "you've told me so little about yourself." They continued trailing. In the back of her mind, Sophia couldn't help but wonder if that kiss was a brainwashed one, or if he really loved her. She wouldn't dare ask, but with his response, it was safe to say he was all right with her infatuation of him.
"There's nothing much to tell. I joined this clan as a thanks to Julie. She saved me once. In my prior life, I was a craftsman. I don't have much of a family now, no living relatives as far as I can remember. But don't pity me, Sophia." Her eyes hinted empathy and concern. "I'm content where I am, and I'm fighting for the right cause."
A breeze brushed against the tip of his nose, carrying a scent of danger with it. He drew his arm out before Sophia, bringing them both to an abrupt stop.
"What's wrong?" Sophia asked, her question soon answered as a growl from distant shrubbery sent violent rushes of fear into her chest. Michel sharpened his vision, curling his hand to a fist. He drew the sword from his back, the blade's summoning triggering the white bobcat to reveal itself. Cautiously it circled the two, optics never blinking, never darting away from its prey.
"I didn't expect to meet you again, dear."
Michel veered to the woman dressed in white. "Viola."
She smiled, "You seem so very thrilled to see me again, Michel. The feeling isn't mutual…"
"Michel!" Sophia cried as the bobcat tackled him down, its fangs grinding against his mighty blade. She felt compelled to aid him, rushing to his assistance only to be interjected by her previous puppet master.
"Going somewhere child?" She snatched her neck, tossing her into the terrain with a rough swing. "So meek, so frail…" A stomping heel pressed against Sophia's chest as the tip of her pumps slapped her jaw in ill submission.
"Where is Eren? She has something that belongs to me!"
"Please! Please don't hurt Michel!" She struggled and squirmed.
"Michel? You should be worried about your own life! I will kill you both if you don't tell me where the remnant is!"
A whistling noise followed as Viola gripped her chest in irritation. A screen of smoke blinded her burning eyes as the chemical feasted on the back of her throat. She coughed out, stepping back in disarray. Sophia found a chance to get up on her feet, moving away from the cloud in the same condition as her enemy. Disoriented, she bumps into a tree, finally able to faintly see what was before her—a fallen danger with a split head. She cried out, traumatized by the crimson wash over the pale dress as Viola's body finally fell cold and lifeless.
"Seriously, someone give her some god damn basic combat lessons! I'm sick of saving her sorry ass!" Eren hollered to Michel, who was just about done with the bobcat. To his surprise, it fled once its mistress was defeated. Eren jumped down from the tree above Sophia, fetching her knife.
"Michel!" Sophia rushed to him, taking him in her arms.
He sighed, "Maybe that isn't a bad idea Eren…"