CHAPTER 5: New friends. Old Lies.

:: :: :: :: It was nearly dawn when Hideaki occupied the seat at the black, grand piano inside the music room. Weak morning light slowly shone through the windows. His fingers stiffly struck a few, incoherent keys. His mind was somewhere else, but not too far away. He couldn't leave this place, his mind and body. This was his home, his jungle²his life. For forty-seven years that he had settled here, there had not been any other place in the world he would rather to be. The beautiful, green forest surrounding his home provided the sense of security and solitude. The waterfalls, caves, streams and ponds garnished the mountainous landscape. There was a perfect peak to watch sunrise, and on the other side of the plateau, a breathtaking sunset, where he often took Ian when he was little. Sunday picnic in the wild was an absolute must for both, and together they loved observing wild animals hunt, or fall prey as nature dictated. It was a perception that guided them through their immortal path, to remind them that life and death was never too far apart. The two did most of the outdoor activities together, and as a young boy, Ian already showed great interest in firearms. He grew up to be an extraordinary shooter, defeating everyone in the clan, even Hideaki himself. And as decades passed, together they watched their family grow into a clan, sheltering those victimized by the same enemy²the vampires. Once Alex phoned him about the attack in the woods, Hideaki had rushed into the forest, cursing himself for ever allowing the disaster to happen. Forty-seven years had passed, yet it felt so fresh in his mind, the heavy crush in his chest, the bloodshed and the inevitable loss. It should not happen again. It could not happen again, or so he wished. Through the darkness, Hideaki had climbed down the muddy slope and followed the trails of blood, a flashlight in one hand. There were incessant yelling and howling from the angry werewolves in the background, but his mind couldn't seem to register the tension in their voices. The scent had confirmed his fear that the blood truly belonged to his son. Then he had halted in his track, Ian¶s bloodied gun laid idly in the shrubs. As he looked a little further, he spotted the other twin gun at the base of a gigantic tree. With his eyes squinted, he had tilted his head back and caught sight of the gruesome patches of red along the thick branch above. As a shooter, losing his gun meant death. But a vampire, a viciously strong one at that, had managed to disarm Ian. What had they done to my boy« my Ian«? The question repeated in his head a thousand times over, and the only thing that had kept him from insanity was the sound of the piano. How he wished he had learned to play the instrument. His wife was good at it, and Ian developed an interest in it as well. He never gave it a piece of mind, and now no one was playing it for him. While the vampire leader escaped before the reinforcement arrived, all of his nineteen men were killed on the mission. After making the call to report Hideaki of the incident, Sam, Alex and Samantha, followed the vampire leader into the wild. They believed that he had taken Ian hostage. Although Hideaki was desperate to go find his son himself, he remained at the mansion and allowed only two squads of men to assist Sam since the safety of their lair must come first. To make matters worse, he was enraged and heartbroken when Jerry

confessed of his affair with Mai. The young werewolf was then taken to the underground prison, awaiting verdict from the clan. In exhaustion, Hideaki buried his face in his hands and let out a deep sigh. After the death of his wife, he moved on with courage and hope only because he had Ian. But he couldn't seem to find that same strength now. Forgive me, Ann.

Blackness entombed him whole, and the air was bitter and cold. Ian tried to open his eyes, but his eyelids felt incredibly heavy, the weight of his limbs chained him to the spot. The garbled sound of words and noises eventually stirred him out of the deep slumber. Then the coldness of the hard surface he was lying upon began to reap his attention, though rather slowly. He felt two rough hands lightly pulling and hovering over his left shoulder. He tried to move away from them, but his body ached so badly that he had to stop to breathe. "Be still, child. Be still," a female voice said. The tone was calm, yet a hint of vigor resided in her voice. Mother« is that you...? Am I« dead? "It'll take only a minute, and I'm done," the same voice continued. Ian felt the dark clouds over him gradually lifted, and his head felt a lot lighter now. He could smell the woman's perfume and knew exactly the brand she used. His eyes still closed, he could tell how small the surrounding was by the slight echo of the woman's voice. His senses were regaining strength, though his body would need a little more time. "You said that an hour ago." Another voice, a much younger female, responded. But the source of voice seemed a small distance away, blocked by certain barricades. Perhaps, the other party was in another room across some sort of passageway. The hands that were working on his shoulder suddenly stopped. Ian felt the woman's weight shift beside his body. "Are you sure you want to keep him here?" There was a long pause before the younger voice giggled and replied, "He could stay and be my food." "This is not a joke, Spencer. You might actually kill him if you had more of his blood." She what« My« My blood«? Ian was pulled out of trance by his own coarse scream. He shot up into a sitting position, objects clanking around him. His eyes snapped open wide, and he turned to see a grayhaired, slightly overweight woman in a blue housedress kneeling beside him, a small pair of scissors in one hand. A few bloodied, white cloths and a scalpel were assembled in a stainless bowl next to the woman. "Oh, my, don't move too much. I know the wound could heal itself, but you need a little more time. It's rather serious," the old woman said. Breathing heavily, Ian stared at the stranger, looking her up and down. "You're human«"

"Of course, I am. You can call me, 'Annie'. Annie Lu. Now please sit back a little. I just need to cut that thread there and you're all set," Annie said. She reached for the black thread and cut it, releasing Ian from the stitching on the wound on his shoulder. When it came to fatal wounds, the vampires depended solely on blood, while modern medical treatments could assist werewolves. Being injury prone, Ian had grown to appreciate it over the years. His body recovered naturally faster than human beings, or even his peers, and now he would be up and about in no time. Calming down a little, Ian noted that he was still in his bloodied, white t-shirt and the same pair of black jeans he wore last night. He observed the surrounding and found himself on the floor in a rather compact, square room. The single bed, the wooden desk and the drawer on the other side of the room gave it somewhat a cozy look. His torn black coat was hung over the backrest of the chair next to the bed. But the absence of windows only suggested whose territory it was. He took a quick look down at his wrists, chained to a hook on the brick wall he was leaning on. There were two fresh, bitten marks on his left wrist. His hands then shot up to his neck and found a heavy object around it. Blood boiling in rage, he gritted his teeth, his clenched fists trembling. Not only had a vampire taken his blood and stolen his memories, the presence of the steel collar, which sported a row of inward spikes to prevent his transformation, deeply humiliated him. Annie let out a small sound of 'uh' when she realized what Ian was fuming about. "Where is your master? What does he want with me!" Ian snarled. He tried to stand up, but the chains on his wrists made it a little difficult to move. Instead of replying, Annie turned and looked over her shoulder, and Ian peered at the suggested direction. Beyond the opened door was a narrow corridor that led to yet another brick room, where a stove and a fridge in the corner came into view. A square dinning table stood in the middle, occupied by a chestnut-haired woman in a black, hooded sweatshirt. But Ian's brows knitted at the familiar shorts and the pair of leather sandals. The pair of long legs was no less notable. The stranger was sitting on a chair, her legs draped opposite to hers, staring right back at the dark-haired werewolf. It was such a peculiar scene to see: a vampire actually sitting so close to the pool of sunlight coming through the tiny window. It was as though she enjoyed the warmth that could have hurt her. 'Daring' would be how Ian describe it. Ian's eyes widened at the sight of his twin gun right next to the vampire's hand on the table. He then recalled what happened last night in the forest. The vampire appeared out of nowhere and attacked him. It was safe to assume that he had been taken hostage by this immature blood sucker. Ian glowered back. "It was you, wasn't it? Where am I? What do you want?" The vampire remained silent, her eyes unblinking. "Hey, I'm talking to you!" Ian pushed himself up but could only move around for less than two feet from the hook. "Did the queen send you? Where am I? Who are you?" But there was no response. Agitated, Ian turned to Annie and growled. "Who are you people! Tell me! Say something!" There was a tinge of reluctance in Annie's eyes, and the old woman quickly gathered her things. Baffled, Ian watched Annie leave as the vampire got up from the chair and headed towards the bedroom. Annie stopped the vampire in the middle of the path, looking down at

the floor. Her back was facing Ian's direction, and even though she whispered into the vampire's ear, Ian could still catch it. "I told you it was a bad idea to bring him here. He's trouble. He's going to bring trouble to us." The vampire said nothing and quietly walked right up to the door. One foot into the bedroom, she put her hand on the creaky, brass doorknob, and stared down at him. Her gaze was as indifferent as Ian remembered last night. She then turned off the switch of the light bulb which hung from the ceiling, and slammed the door shut. "Huh« H²hey! HEY! What are you²Come back! Where are you going! You can't just leave me here! Come back!" Ian yelled in the dark. Behind the closed door, Spencer turned around and gave Annie a sheepish smile, wincing at the constant yelling on the other side of the wall. The old woman just shook her head disapprovingly, and they both walked back to the kitchen. Tiredly grabbing the back of her neck with both hands, Spencer slouched onto the chair. "My, I'm hungry again," she droned. Annie brushed her unkempt hair a little, while turning her back to Spencer and pretended to rearrange the kitchenware. "I'm sure his blood was sweet. He's grown so much, though not as much as I, but still« Last time I saw him, he was still a baby²a human. The world has gone wrong. So wrong." Annie tried her best to hide the jealousy in her tone, and Spencer's easy demeanor (reading newspaper from Annie's laptop and enjoying a cup of hot tea) implied no awareness of such sentiment. Shortly before four o'clock in the previous day, Spencer had shown up by the doorway with the unconscious, raven-haired man in her arms. Annie had been alarmed to see Spencer's white sweatshirt soaked with Ian's blood, but what panicked her all the more was the patch of deep crimson on Spencer's left arm. The bullet hole in the middle of the fresh bloodstain had proven that, in the dark forest, Ian hadn't missed the target after all. Her knees a little shaken, Spencer had quickly stepped inside and headed straight into the basement. She had gently put Ian down on the floor of her bedroom, the only available space in the compact crypt. Annie had moved beside the unconscious form, observing Ian's shoulder wound, and then went upstairs to retrieve the first-aid kit. She had returned to tend Ian's injuries, but the process hadn't gone too far when she heard a thud in the kitchen area. Peeking out of the bedroom, she had seen Spencer kneeling on the floor, clutching her injured arm. 'Spencer!' Annie had rushed into the kitchen and slid to the floor next to the vampire. Spencer's body was bent, shaken, her eyes closed. Beads of sweat had been forming on her forehead, her skin paled even more. 'I'm okay. Just« give me a minute.' Spencer had tried to move away, but Annie had grabbed her lithe body and turned her around. 'Let me see it,' Annie had said, holding still Spencer's arm and lifting the bloodied sleeve up. Although the hole on the sleeve appeared small, the bullet had drilled into the pale flesh and split the bone, leaving gruesome, burn wound slightly smaller than the size of a

baseball, dark blood seeping around the opening. Had it hit vital organs, the vampire would have been burnt into dust. Annie's lips had quivered as she found no strength to utter another word. Spencer had left the monastery as soon as the sun went down, claiming that she was going for a stroll. Annie hadn't believed it, but hadn't stopped her either. Having lived together for many years, the old woman had learned of Spencer's way of lies. Whenever Spencer was aloof and silent, it was a way of saying goodbye²to detach herself from everyone and everything she had grown to know. Every time the vampire left their home on a task or a journey, nothing guaranteed if she'd ever return. But Annie knew that she couldn't change Spencer's mind no matter what. The vampire fiercely guarded her secrecy²her past so ancient and deep. As years passed, Annie learned to give up begging to be a part of it. She wanted to be Spencer's present, and she was. "Quit playing with that gun, will you?" Annie momentarily glanced over her shoulder as she washed the dishes in the sink. Smiling, Spencer looked up from the laptop. She continued to wave the gun around and said, "I admire their invention. This is even better than the last model. It works like magic! You don't even have to be good to hit the mark. The werewolves are really something, aren't they?" "It has nothing to do with the gun. That boy« He had to be remarkable²most remarkable to be able to get you." The statement wiped the smile off Spencer's face. It wasn't the first time the vampire tasted the bitter agony from a UV bullet, but the circumstance was vastly different back then and it wasn't what Spencer would like to talk about again. Annie listened to the knocking, yelling and pounding that continued in the bedroom, and shook her head. Ann's son proved to be as stubborn as her. She turned her attention back to the sink and said, "I'll prepare breakfast for him. He must be hungry. And you should take some rest, too. You can use my room for the time being." "I don't trust the curtains all that much," Spencer said. Giggling, she took a sip from her favorite drink. Green tea wasn't what her body needed, but it was something of her own taste of luxury goods. "I'll take care of it. You should go back to sleep, Annie. You've been up all night," she said, and then got up from the table. Moving around the pool of morning light coming through the window, the vampire approached Annie from behind and embraced her. It was Spencer's way of showing gratitude that Annie sometimes had a hard time to differentiate from love. "Thank you. You saved my life again," Spencer said, grinning. Annie turned around to face Spencer, putting her arms around her shoulders and clinging onto her. There was a second of silence before she said, "It was his blood, not mine." With that, she withdrew her hands and quietly left the basement. Spencer didn't follow. Standing by the sink, she took a minute staring down at the pile of dishes, and then began to pick up Annie's task. She turned the faucet on and let the sound of running water shatter distantly in her frustrated mind. Reito called her yesterday and asked her to join the ambush. Although she had teasingly refused him, she stalked his team into the woods near the werewolves' lair. Watching from afar, she hadn't thought that Ian would falter. She hadn't foreseen herself intervening and rescuing the stranger. She hadn't expected her wound to be critical enough to render her helpless, thus needing blood to

quicken the healing process. Since she had adamantly refused to feed from the old woman, Annie insisted that she sought help from the only other available choice. As she knelt next to the unconscious man, Spencer had tried to still her shaky hands as she held the limping wrist up to her mouth. Taking Ian's blood had been inevitable since she was determined to unveil Ian's certain knowledge, the very reason of the rescue last night. But she didn't trust herself when her body lost control like this. Reluctantly, she had buried her fangs into the smooth flesh. She could take only a little since the injured man could not give her so much after all. However, the scent of blood had been ever so sweet and torturous that she succumbed to its murderous intent. She would have bled Ian dry, if it wasn't for Annie. The old woman had rushed to hold her, and whispered soft words which felt almost like a plea, that only then succeeded to break her from the heavenly trance. If there was any trace of humanity left within her, it was Annie who saw it, lightened it and made her embrace it. After washing the dishes, Spencer proceeded to warm up some of the chicken Annie had stored in the fridge. She had never fed a werewolf before and meat seemed like the most suitable choice for carnivores. In fact, she always envied the werewolves for having such appetite close to human beings' and their privilege of walking in the sun unscathed. Spencer's world was limited, and her time was diminished in half. Her existence was reduced to mere rats in the sewer. How she wished to feel the warmth of the sun again. She couldn't quite remember exactly how long ago it had been. "Is anybody out there«! Please help me«! Anybody«! Help!" Waiting for the chicken to warm up in the oven, Spencer raised one brow at the noises coming from the end of the dark corridor. Her arms across her chest, she turned to look at the closed bedroom door. A migraine was building as she realized that she was going to have a hard time resting today.

Although the basement was cold and damp, Ian began to feel the heat in his body rising up after jumping up and down, pulling the chain, kicking and yelling. The injuries and the exertion finally drained him, and he slumped down on the floor. He leaned against the wall to take gulps of air, but his moment of peace didn't last for too long when the door swung open. The vampire entered the dark room with a plate in her hand, and Ian instinctively sniffed and knew what it was before he even saw it. The captor put the plate on the floor and moved away, keeping distance from the werewolf. Flicking the table lamp switch on, she then slouched down to the bed and lied flat on her back. With both hands supporting the back of her head, she closed her eyes and took a few deep breaths in. Ian easily caught the fatigue the vampire was trying to hide from the slow and unusually heavy movements. For a few minutes, Ian observed the stillness on the pale face, which was illuminated solely by the yellow beams from the lamp; the relaxed body post; the slowly heaving chest. Judging from the weariness, Ian presumed that the vampire traveled a large distance from the lair and brought him here all by herself. Given the fact that this place looked nothing like a prison, it was very likely that his captor was a rogue. Could it be that this was the vampire who had slain the female victim he found the other night? The world suddenly grew ridiculously small. Ian couldn't quite believe his luck. "Eat." The vampire spoke, her eyes still closed. Biting his lips, Ian looked back and forth between his captor and the food, debating which means was easier for the vampire: killing him with bare hands or poisoning him.

"They're chicken wings with ketchup²" "I know what they are," Ian snapped. At Ian's curt tone, the vampire opened her eyes and stared at him. She then made a little gesture to her own neck and said, "Is it too tight that you can't swallow?" Ian felt blood shooting up to his head. If it were any other circumstance, he would have kicked the plate away, but hunger stopped him from doing anything stupid. Besides, the vampire already had his blood, and he wasn't sure how much of his past had been revealed. "Who are you? What is this place? You're not from Uriah, are you«? Were you« Were you the one who fed on that woman?" His last question did garner some real attention from the vampire. Comfortable on the bed, the vampire stared at him hard, her gaze scrutinizing and searching for something Ian couldn't quite pin point what. "There aren't too many bodies floating around in the sea, you know," Ian said. The silence only confirmed Ian that the vampire in front of him was really the one his father was looking for. As far as he knew, the chestnut-haired stranger was probably among the strongest vampires he had ever encountered, and it was the requirement a vampire must meet to be able to survive without their peers or their protection. But the only thing that still kept Ian from instant panic was the serene air around the pale creature. It was what he first sensed in the woods, the tranquil presence that almost vanished behind banks of fog, and it was even more palpable now that they were so close to each other in such a small space, without the scent of death and the bloody struggle to survive. "Why do you always go to that library?" Ian slapped his forehead. "Oh, so you were the one stalking me that night!" "It was his idea. It was him, the one who apparently kicked your butt last night." Ian paused as the memory of the encounter was still fresh in his mind. As much as he hated to admit defeat, he acknowledged that the vampire leader was a brutal force to be reckoned with. The vampire then smiled. "Scared now? But I wouldn't worry if I were you. Your performance was« hmm, not bad." Ian inwardly growled at the sneering tone. He had never been described as 'not bad'. For God's sake, he was excellent. "I was already wounded when you decided to show up. I wouldn't have missed!" The vampire's lazy shrug only aggravated Ian more. "And why did you follow the vampires there? Sneaking around like a thief. What were you doing«? Who are you?" As expected, the vampire's only answer to those crucial questions was a silent stare. "I've heard about Mai Anderson. Is she still alive?"

"I'm not interested in talking about Uriah. God should have sunk that stinking island long ago." The vampire shifted a little in her pose, looking up at the ceiling. Ian quietly studied the rogue vampire, feeling a bit relieved. If an enemy of his enemy was a friend, at least for now he wouldn't be handed off to the bloodthirsty vampires of Uriah. "Have you ever been there«? The island, I meant," he asked. "Aren't you hungry? They're chicken wings with ketchup²" "I know what it is," Ian said, "«but ketchup?" The vampire looked away, obviously uninterested in food in general. She probably wouldn't care if the chicken was even edible. Ian put up a grin. "I bet Annie got some mayonnaise around." The vampire paused for a moment, and then let out a huff before jumped out of the bed and stalked into the kitchen. After a little while, she returned with a bottle of mayonnaise and put it next to the plate, ever so careful to keep her distance. Quickly, she hopped onto the bed and resumed her relaxed position once more. Ian almost laughed aloud at the slightly annoyed look in those crimson eyes, and then began his breakfast. After last night's trial, he was literally starving. It didn't take long before his stomach was full and his eyelids were heavy again. He put the plate away and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. He tried to stretch his arms, but the chains were too short. "This is annoying. They're so short." Ian griped. He waved his arms left and right, calculating whether he would be able to break the chains and whether he could transform. "It belonged to Shijo, Annie's first Tibetan Mastiff. It held him well as it does you now," the vampire said with a small hint of mockery in her gaze. Gritting his teeth, Ian had to spend all his mental strength not to jump at the creature. He wouldn't want to upset this strange blood sucker enough to get shipped off to Uriah. Hopefully, his father would find him here soon. Ian then smirked. "Well, are you seriously going to let me watch you sleep like this?" "You can sleep, so that you don't have to watch me sleep." "Can you put me in some other room? Don't you have like a dark, miserable prison somewhere? Like a cave where bats love to hang around or something like that?" "Do you prefer the kitchen?" The vampire crossed her legs and sank deeper into the bed, trying to delve into slumber. "I just don't feel so safe here. Do you sleepwalk?" Ian pretended to grab his own neck with both hands in panic. Visibly annoyed, the vampire shut her eyes and turned her face the other way to face the wall. Then Ian's eyes widened at the pair of large, black wings spreading out from underneath the vampire's back and enfolding her lithe body like a shiny, textured coffin. For a moment, Ian was speechless. He couldn't help but appreciate its menacing beauty and the

rare showcase of a pair so large and rich in its black shade, at such proximity. Even the vampire leader he fought with last night had narrower, gray wings, and the shape was not perfectly curved as the pair in front of him. In the dimly lit room, there was no other sound audible to even sharp ears like Ian¶s except for his own breathing. The vampire's presence seemed to have vanished behind the black veil. Ian leaned back against the cold wall, involuntarily content in the solitary corner. "Hey« what's your name?" After a long moment of silence, a murky whisper escaped between the folds of the wings. "Spencer."

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