The pain was ever-constant now. Every part of my body was flooding with it.
If I had known back then that this was what would have awaited me, would I still have agreed to come?
To save Ash… would I allow myself to bear with this much suffering?
Some part of me would love to play the part of the brave, noble, chivalrous hero and say I would definitely have.
Deep down though, I didn’t know.
I might never have come.
So it was a good thing I didn’t know. I’m glad I didn’t know.
Maybe sometime in the future I can look back at this moment and say to myself it wasn’t that bad.
Provided that I leave this place alive, that is. For now, I needed to escape.
The ropes grinded against my skin.
Pulling, writhing, doing all I could do to make the table give way. With every force of effort, the table would quake, teetering closer to the edge of collapsing outright.
Meanwhile, the two sisters were still at odds with one another.
Frail as Adalia was, her resolve was that of iron. Anybody else would have faltered under the intense gaze that was instilled onto her. Even as the Matriarch yelled herself hoarse and her eyes glowed ominously with a dangerous glint, Adalia took it all, her expression never once wavering.
“You only have tonight, Adalia! You will not live to see another! Okay – it doesn’t have to be him, just pick one! Anyone! You need blood…”
“Let him… go,” Adalia whispered, her body becoming as feeble as mine. “Terestra will… save me…”
Beneath their notice, I moved again. The table gave a creak.
“You would take his word over mine? He’s lying, Adalia! He won’t be able to save you, why can’t you just believe me? How long have we – ”
“Amelia…” Adalia’s voice was growing faint, as was her breathing. “I… insist…”
A second heavy nudge and the table began to slant.
“You… insist?” The Matriarch, Amelia, took a step back. “After everything I have done… everything I’ve sacrificed – for you! And you still… insist?”
Another push, another loud creak, going unheard as Adalia had suddenly collapsed to her knees, clutching her chest with a quivering hand.
The Matriarch spurred after her sister, cushioning her fall with her hands wrapped around her. Much of the scene was out of view from where I was, but from the little I was able to see and hear… I could tell it wasn’t good.
Her veins were now starting to protrude out of her grey skin, her eyes were darkened and bloodshot, and loud grunts of discomfort were starting to slip past her paling lips.
“No, no… not yet, not yet – please!”
For the first time, fear had broken through anger and rage. For the first time, I heard the Matriarch plead, cradling her sister and clinging to her close.
“A...me..lia…” muttered Adalia, her voice barely a whisper. “Not… late.”
Amelia clung onto every word, her voice teeming with pure unbridled desperation. “Stay… please stay.”
But Adalia wasn’t looking at her sister, not at all… I saw, as I gave a final thrust, as the table finally gave way, her dimming, murky eyes staring back into my own.
The rush of wind on my face was immediate, the unmistakable sensation of falling had started, I braced to hit the ground.
Yet it never came.
“What do you think you’re trying to do?!”
Suspended mid-fall, left to only be able to stare longingly at the cold hard ground by a bloodied hand grasping the edge of the table, the Matriarch glared at me from above. There she was, her eyes streaming tears with the color red, staring back down at me with blame in her eyes.
I just wanted to curse it all right then. Curse the fact that this was happening, curse about the pain that kept on throbbing, and especially vampires – curse them, curse them, and their fucking agility!
All hopes were dashed at that moment and grim thoughts began to arise.
Her sister lifeless on the floor, her anger climbing to its utmost peak, and Ash was there to fulfill her every whim. There was now nothing stopping her from killing me right at that moment.
I had to do something.
So I did.
I bit the hand that was holding the table steady.
My next, and quite possibly, my last action. A final act of hurrah to get back at her for all the suffering. To whatever God that was watching me right then and there, I prayed desperately for a twist of fate.
Otherwise, it’s my head that would be twisting.
My jaw was locked in place, clamping down hard on her wrist, burrowing all the way down to the bone. With all effort I could muster, with my eyes scrunched tight, I made sure I dug in deep enough to be able to taste the blood trickling into my mouth.
And I did.
I heard her expel out a sharp hiss of pain as she attempted to pry herself loose. When that didn’t work, I felt a sharp sting dispersing across the surface of my cheek, it was only after it started bleeding did I realize she had scraped the skin with one swift slap.
If she wouldn’t let go, I wouldn’t either. Instead, I doubled down. That was when, through squinted eyes, I saw her fingers beginning to come loose.
Soon after, my falling was promptly continued. I immediately let go of her and felt the instant my face smashed the ground.
Another hiss of pain, and a growl emanating from up above. “I’m going to relish ripping your flesh apart piece by piece!”
It was a threat I’m sure she’ll make good on, but at that moment, I wasn’t paying attention to her.
I felt shattered pieces of the amulet pressed against my chest.
I broke it. It worked.
But what worked? Nothing was happening. Not in the first couple of seconds, not in the next couple either.
I felt my heart slowly start to sink in my chest again. I might have broken the table, I might have gotten free of my binds… but that didn’t mean I could do anything, not with the injuries I’ve sustained.
Forced to just lay there helplessly.
Helpless, as she violently tugged a clump of hair on my head. Helpless, as she raised me to my feet by its strands.
“This is all your fault.”
Her tear-stained expression was stricken with guilt, anger and sadness. She brandished her nails again, bracing to pierce deep into my chest. I saw her pull her arm away.
Then I saw her hand make it strike.
I closed my eyes.
Death… I expected it at any moment. I expected it to be painful, but it wasn’t. I didn’t feel anything. Did I even die? Did she even kill me? 𝐛𝗲𝗱𝐧𝗼𝐯𝗲𝗹．𝐧𝐞𝘁
What the hell was that smell?
My eyes fluttered back open. Amelia’s hand was bare inches away from my stomach, but she didn’t move another inch. Instead, I heard her sniff. She was smelling it too.
Between the two of us, a thick waft of smoke was swirling into the air, emerging from the fragmented remains of the amulet that laid on the ground.
I didn’t know what was happening to it, but clearly, Amelia thought that I did. She tugged me closer to her face, her expression suddenly filling up with shock.
“What did you just do?!” She said.
I never got to give her answer, for, at that very moment, the amulet had spontaneously caught on fire. A small one at first, then it got bigger… and bigger… until…
“Who gave you that amulet?!” She roared, threatening me with a pointed nail directed to an eye. “Answer me now, or else – ”
The flames erupted, soaring violently into the air and scorching the ceiling, a river of bright, blinding flames that separated us from one another, sending me collapsing to the floor on one end and Amelia staggering backward to the other where her sister laid lifeless, reeling and cowering away from the light.
Beside me was Ash, still without a reaction as if blind to it all, despite the fire literally sprouting tendril-like flames that slithered and folded in on one another.
What the hell did Irene give me?
Whatever it was, the only person that understood it stood across me, her expression a mix of confusion and anger, flickering her gaze from the bright ethereal flame and onto my own.
“Elf!” I heard her shout amid the crackling inferno. “Kill him! Kill him now!”
Not this shit again.