Ria maintained a constant silence throughout our search. Not a single screech on the third floor, not even a caw on the fourth. Just the whistling wind rustling past her golden feathers, her smoldering wings radiating a soft glow that painted the walls and floors with our shadows.
It gave me time to think.
I was never a strong believer in coincidences, much less ones that bordered on the realms of mystique and fantasy.
First time – that Elf in the dumpster. Yes, perhaps it was a coincidence that we met that day. Back then, I thought nothing more of it.
Second came the stern yet sensuous succubus. Okay… I could still deal with that, I could still brush it aside as nothing.
But the snowball just kept getting bigger and bigger.
Two Matriarchs came confronting me… then a phoenix was sent hurtling my way.
It hasn’t even been a month, yet somehow I managed to surround myself with not just one, but five separate different beings that were literally not of this world. It was almost as if someone was trying to hint at me on something.
If that weren’t enough, what about that dream? What about Asteria? Kronocia? How on earth did I know about Leonardo and Terestra when I’ve never heard of them before in my life?
Vampire venom. Amelia mentioned in her enraged state that no one is capable of breaking out of it. So how was it that I suddenly became the only exception to that fact?
Then there was Adalia’s continuous insistence on me. Why was she so adamant about the fact that I was Terestra? I told a lie, yes, but a baseless, hesitant one could not possibly inspire such strong unwavering belief in it. Adalia, as unhinged as it was back then, surely had good reason for her persistence.
A reason that I was starting to believe in as well, especially after that entire fiasco with Ash. Just one single shout in the midst of panic amongst many others, yet that was the one that got her to stop in place, if only temporarily.
Shit, there was so much more that I probably missed. So many signs, indicators.. some guy was practically waving the answer in my face. And here I was still asking the same questions. 𝘣𝘦𝘥𝘯𝑜𝘷𝘦𝘭.𝑐𝑜𝑚
Why did I take everything that has happened so far all in stride? Why did it feel so normal to me? Why wasn’t I freaking out over it all? And strangest of all, why did I feel as if I belonged in their company when I so obviously didn’t?
Coincidence just didn’t feel like a valid explanation anymore.
Fifth floor now. Seemed like the perfect time to finally break the long-standing quiet between us. There was only one floor left to search in, after all.
“Ria,” My voice was quite leveled uttering her name, suddenly I was quite comfortable with it now. “I’m related to Terestra, aren’t I?”
The phoenix soared on through, gliding past another labyrinth of empty hallways with not a soul in sight.
“That 11/10 of yours,” I continued. “That was it, wasn’t it? You knew all along. Don’t know how, but you knew. That’s why you’re so interested in me.”
Up a flight of stairs, we reached the sixth and final floor. Here we are, right back where we started. So this is where it’s going to end, huh?
True enough, far into the distance, there sounded the echoes of battle. I heard grunts, growls, roars, and even the clangor of heavy metal. Somewhere in one of these rooms… everything will end.
Ria gradually slowed in pace. Clearly, she wasn’t keen on rushing ahead without a proper plan. So, for my part, I decided to let her in on mine.
“If I let the frenzied feast on my blood, what do you think will happen to her?”
Before I received an answer, I received a surge of pain that got me hissing in agony. Why? Ria unhook her talons from my shirt and allowed me to drop like a brick onto the hard concrete.
By the time I managed to get rid of the dizzying stars clouding my vision, I was already being met with the piercing, fiery stare of Ria’s crimson eyes. Her arms crossed, her expression unreadable.
I saw her take in a deep breath, saw her mouth split open. Finally, the silent treatment was over.
“Dude,” she said.
I felt my lips form into a frown. “What?”
Ria went on to firmly clasped her hands together almost as if in prayer then, to my utter dismay, went down on her knees and started pleading with me.
“Please tell me you have a better plan than that, please tell me you do. Please tell me I didn’t bring you all the way up here just so you can kill yourself. That’ll be terrible.”
This was seriously not the reaction I was expecting.
“But if the plan works out, I won’t die, right?”
“Assuming you’re related to Terestra, yes!” She argued, getting back up to her feet. “That, and a million other variables! It’s more likely of a scenario of you dying than you pulling a solution out of your ass and somehow saving the day!”
“You saw it yourself, Ria! Ash stopped under my command! Adalia refuses to eat me because she thinks I’m Terestra and vampire venom doesn’t even work on me!”
“What if you’re wrong? What if you’re just being arrogant? What if you’re just having delusions of grandeur because the whole predicament is making you think you’re someone important when you’re not.”
I paused for a moment to consider her words. “Am I having delusions of grandeur?”
“No!” She shrieked, her expression a jumble of emotions. “I just said you could be! I think you’re right, but I wish you weren’t. That way I won’t have to agree with every suicidal whim that crosses your mind!”
“So the plan – ”
“Might work!” She raised a quivering finger, her breathing unsteady. “Big ‘might’. If you’re aren’t anything special… you’re just simply throwing your life away. She will literally suck the life out of you – you’re going to feel yourself slowly slip away, feel your heart slow to a crawl, feel your lungs gradually suffocate. It’ll be agonizing and then you’ll die. End of story. No Elf damsels saved. No Matriarchs vanquished.”
“And if I am anything special,” I countered back. “Then I am the solution to everything here, aren’t I? All we had to do to prevent any of this at all was to have her drink my blood. If she is saved, then Ash is saved and so is everybody else.”
“Well…” Ria’s stare was still filled with uncertainty. “Guess we won’t know until we try.”
“Agreed,” I said, limping past her. “So let’s go test that theory out then, shall we? Help me out here.”
Close behind me, I heard a loud groan escape her wide open lips. Heard her mutter under her breath begrudgingly, exhale a feeble sigh… but ultimately, she came to my side and help me hobble ourselves closer to the fight.
Limping a step at a time as the walls shook heavily, echoing every slam, every crash, and every thud. The aftershocks only got more and more intense as we drew nearer to the source of it all.
As we passed by empty rooms, and vacant halls, I couldn’t help but feel a different kind of unease from the one I was feeling right then… like something was wrong with the rooms and halls we trudged on through.
Then I turn to the left – saw the room where I first regained consciousness… then to the right – where I first explored the narrow corridors. Finally, it struck me.
My eyes met Ria’s.
“Where did all the victims go?” I asked.
Then it struck her.
“Uh-oh,” she muttered.
We forged on, a bit faster in pace now. Sharing the same sense of urgency, the same sense of dread.
“Just a question,” I said. “Say Adalia has hold of all the victims… what does that mean for us?”
“Your plan goes out the window. If she took enough blood from any one of them, she won’t be hungry anymore. All you’re left with is a crazy vampire with no interest in your blood.”
“Then we’ll starve her,” I proclaimed.
We already came this far, been through so much, I wasn’t going to let something like this stop us now.
“How should we go about doing that?”
“Played video games, haven’t you?” She said. “Same logic. Damage her enough, eventually, she’ll have to heal. Just make sure when that time comes, she’ll be healing from you.”
The next rumble that sounded was near deafening now. We slowed to a stop, fronting a double-door that was firmly shut, and harboring within it was the distinct growl I’ve heard so many times over.
This was the one, this was it.
We barged into the room with a stumble and the first thing that greeted us was a slab of concrete that came speeding towards us.
Grazing, just barely, it narrowly missed as we broke apart from each other’s hold. My twisted foot threatened to send me crashing to the ground, the surge of pain that shot through me was agonizing but I couldn’t afford to fall now.
Firmly, repressing pain, I planted myself in place. A second, maybe even less than that, was all I had to assess the situation. So I readily took in the sight before me.
An expansive room that stretched from one end to the other, with open-glass panels fitted on the far end, allowing a full view of the night sky and the city skylines.
Guess it was a meeting room of sorts. How fitting. We all had converged, after all.
The victims waltz aimlessly about the place. Two were sprawled lifeless against the cold hard floor, necks bearing the unmistakable imprint of bloodthirsty fangs that had recently pierced through.
Next to catch my eyes was the outline of pointed ears. Ash stood motionlessly to the side, hunched over against a wall, heaving feebly. The sword she gripped tight in a bloodied hand, battered and chipped.
Splatters of blood formed a narrow line, and I trailed after them, following along only to find the two figures that took center stage in the midst of it all.
The sisters, collapsed onto bent knees, in a tight grip with one another.
Somehow, in between us barging through the door and the slab of concrete being thrown, Amelia had managed to sink her fangs into the side of Adalia’s throat. Somehow she had done it.
All was quiet, all was still – it went on for long enough that I started thinking that it might actually be all over.
If only it was.
Adalia, a single swing of her arm – and her sister was sent flying straight into a wall, collapsing to the floor with a resounding thud, confirming to us what was already known: Amelia can’t subdue her sister.
Another howl of madness and Adalia vanished from sight. Where she could have gone, I did not know. But I wasn’t about to let her escape. I was going to see this through to the end.
I looked to Ria at once. “Fire now. Barricade the walls, the doors, the ceiling – engulfed it all in flames. Make sure she isn’t able to leave this room no matter what.”
Wordlessly, in an explosion of blinding light, Ria went on to do as told – soaring, screeching, conjuring a sea of flames cascading from her outstretched wings.
“What are you doing?” I heard Amelia’s voice, frail, her words spoken with agonizing effort. I saw her struggle to stand up, her eyes straining to meet mine. “Are you here… to help me?”
I simply shook my head.
“Your sister seems to think that I’m Terestra,” I said, turning to face her. “And I think so too. At least, I think I might be related.”
Confusion, unsurprisingly, filled her expression. “What? No… that’s not – ”
“Possible?” I finished for her. “Perhaps. But it’s only the chance you have now. If I am who I say I am, then you know the only chance of ending this now is for her to drink my blood.”
“If you’re wrong – !”
Please visit 𝚋𝚎𝚍𝚗𝚘𝚟ｅｌ.ｃ𝚘𝚖
“If I’m right, your sister is saved!” I yelled. “That’s what you want, isn’t it? I’m risking my life here again, I shouldn’t have to but I am! So I’m going to ask you one last time. Do you think you can trust me?”
A single second of consideration that seemed to span for almost an eternity. I saw indecision, hesitation, fear, rippling past her fast one by one… then I saw determination, saw resolve – glimmering in her eyes.
I saw her give a nod.