1- Brian Donovan if you don’t remember was the WOOHP agent in the first district fight, the one

that Ian let to live. 2- Sam Savage was the leading werewolf who led the attack on the first district library, he was believed to have died in that battle……but as you can see he didn’t XD 3- I changed the name of the founder of WOOHP, his name from now on is Caleb Adam. 4- Shamisen is a three string Japanese musical instrument

CHAPTER 12: I'm not a Hero "Open your eyes." The whisper echoed in a far distant plane that, for most days, Sam Savage(1) would have overlooked. He was the temple wolf, one of the most gallant pack members, who never appreciated subtlety. Forceful and concise statement was the way to exhibit dignity, and he had lived by the creed for four decades. "Now, listen to me. Open your eyes." Except that the stranger's voice now held a remarkable persuasion that Sam couldn't help but obey. Slowly, Sam opened his eyes and squinted at the white glow from the downlights mounted on the steel ceiling. The air was rather chilly in this confined room, and so was the cold, hard bed he was lying upon. An unfamiliar scent of perfume struck him, telling him of a presence of another. The voice in his dream was real after all. With difficulty, Sam turned his head a bit and saw a young woman in her white garb. The woman had short, brown hair and a pair of round, hazel eyes. Occupying a chair about two meters away from the bed, she adjusted her crimson-brimmed glasses and cleared her throat. She crossed her legs and looked away, seemingly uncomfortable in her posture. A black laptop was put on the steel table next to her. Her look came across as a harmless individual, only Sam knew better. The woman's awfully pale skin was the first sign to ring Sam's alarm bell. The look of harsh lines of veins on her cheeks and neck was the second evidence. And the fact that Sam found his wrists and ankles restrained by iron handcuffs fastened to the bed told him that he was in the least friendly confinement he could possibly think of. "Vampire!" Sam spat. "Sofia Fletcher. I do have a name," the stranger said, turning her face away and discreetly letting out a small sigh. She then turned to her laptop and read a profile page with Sam's picture on the top left corner. "Sam Savage. You have got quite a record over the past two decades. You are also on the top ten wanted list—" "Where am I! What these handcuffs are for! You are so busted, vampire! I demand you to let me go at once!" Sam tried to sit up, but the handcuffs wouldn't budge. His inability to transform hit him hard, and he knew something must have happened while he was unconscious.

"Welcome to WOOHP' Midgard Headquarters. It is going to be a rough day…" Sofia said, and then looked up at the ceiling, "…for me." The vampire stood up and collected her laptop. Before she could turn away, Sam yelled, "You! Do not walk away from me! How did I end up here! What do you wand from me!" From what Sam remembered, he was fighting the weird, winged vampire in the First District, and then Ian and Alex barged in. What happened after that was a dark blur in his memory. He had no idea how long he had been out. "What's the commotion, darling?" A voice interrupted, snickering. Out of breath, Sam turned to the source of voice. Another young-looking vampire walked in with a sly smile on her face. She was in a tight, leather bodysuit, WOOHP emblem on the left sleeve. Her shoulder-length bob was dyed in defiant green, and her eyes were of the lighter shade of gray. With a gold-plated handgun in her belt holster and a dagger in her ankle holster, her looks was more of a combatant type than Sofia's bureaucratic one. "It is nothing, Jessica. It is exactly what I have been briefed… only worse," Sofia said. The green-haired vampire walked to the side of the bed and stared down her nose at Sam. "They were right. This dog isn't going to be easy to tame," she said. "AHHHHHHHHHH!" Sam shouted at the top of his lungs. He tried to break the handcuffs, but to no avail. Sofia pushed her glasses up with her index finger. "Why did they assign him to me in the first place? Have I misbehaved lately?" "AHHHHHHHHHH!" Jessica chortled. "Because you're the only one who can be in the same room with him for five minutes without killing him." "AHHHHHHHHHH!" Sofia tightened the laptop to her chest and turned towards the door. "We should go. I need a painkiller." "AHHHHHHHHHH!" "A martini will do." Jessica laughed merrily as she followed her friend out of the room. ::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: ::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: Arms across her chest, Julia stood by the window of her newly assigned quarter, watching the sun slowly rise above the far horizontal line over the vast sea. Within seconds, she had to retreat and pressed a button on the black remote control on the desk nearby. A steel plane automatically slid down and sealed the room from sunlight.

The steel-walled quarter offered a hard bed in the middle, a sizable closet to its right. She was given several of the same leather uniform along with a few pairs of knee-high boots. With a cell phone, she could order glasses of blood at anytime she desired. They even gave her a black laptop and allowed internet access. With all these privileges, she wasn't quite sure what Kazuya had in mind for his agents. As far as she knew, WOOHP' field agents were always humans, a practice that had kept vampire's relation with the organization hidden for long years. Could it be that Kazuya feared Uriah so much so that he had to hide behind his human puppets? Coward… Kazuya was then no different from Hideaki Kruger, the father of werewolf, who rarely set foot out of his pathetic lair for fear of his own life. Julia found their fear ridiculous. What immortality could give when one dared not to live? "AHHHHHHHHHH!" The shriek slipped through the door to her room, and Julia frowned at the source of voice. It didn't sound like a tortured cry, but a plain, crazy scream. Pressing the red button next to the light switch, the steel door slid open and she walked out into the hallway. She was alone in the brightly lit corridor for a moment before several doors slid open as well, vampires sticking their heads out and glancing at one another. They looked to be equally baffled as she was. A woman in a white garb and a pair of glasses turned around the corner, hugging a laptop to her chest. Beside her was a green-haired, young woman in the same black uniform Julia was wearing. "I cannot believe that he can be this loud," the woman in white said. "AHHHHHHHHHH!" "Go back to your room! It's only a dog. Go back to your room!" the vampire in black mischievously waved at her peers along the corridor, appearing to enjoy the screams. Julia glanced at the residents in the rooms closest to her. A few nodded to greet her, but most just ignored a newcomer like her and slipped back into their rooms. Shrugging at the cold gesture, Julia turned and was about to close her door. However, a fast hand slid through and the censor bounced the door open again. Instinctively growling in defense, Julia spun around to face the intruder, her hand ready at the gun in her belt holster. "Whoa…! She's a fierce one, Sofia!" Leaning against the doorframe, the green-haired vampire scanned Julia from head to toe. With her nails painted black, she had heavy makeup around her eyes and wore a dark shade of lipstick, a sharp contrast to her pale skin and colorful hair. "Hello, Ms. Spider, Mr. Krow has briefed me a little about you. I am sorry I have not been able to come see you sooner. I am Sofia Fletcher, and this is my friend, Jessica Fang ," Sofia said, smiling. "How do you find your room?"

"Is it comparable to your room on that god-forsaken island? Don't they still go by torches and such?" Jessica laughed at her own joke. Arms across her chest, Julia put up a smirk. "I thought WOOHP would be more wellinformed to know that I don't live in Uriah. I haven't for centuries." Sofia chortled and said, "We are about to go to the lounge. Would you care to join us?" "I think she's underage," Jessica sneered. It took Julia a few moments before the invitation could sink in. She glowered at the grinning, uncouth vampire. Throwing a wild guess, Jessica was at best half her age. Although Julia was a rebel herself, she was Mai's most discreet apprentices. She knew the orders of the immortal world and, in some ways, had always walked the fine line but never crossed it. It was perhaps why she had withstood disgrace and continued to serve at the First District amidst her maker's downfall. It was the reason she had endured all the pain, waiting for an opportune moment to avenge Reito. "Jessica is Jessica. You should not be bothered by her," Sofia said, with an unwavering smile, "What do you say?" And Julia knew better that an immortal must fit in. "Sure." "Well, well, well. I'm sure you'll have a blast," Jessica hissed in Jessica's ear. She had swung her slender arm around Julia's shoulder, and literally dragged the older vampire out of the room. They took the elevator down to the lobby area and headed towards the lounge, where a few dozens of vampires had already occupied the gray couches and several glass tables, having their good time with a drink in their hand. Near the blood bar, a black, grand piano stood in the left corner of the lounge next to the gigantic window, which was now sealed by a thick, steel plane. A large TV was mounted on the wall on the right, the volume tuned low as not to disrupt the chatter among partygoers. Looking around, Julia grimaced at how different WOOHP was from Uriah. Back at the island, life was as ordinarily dark and dull as it was in the ancient time. Uriah vampires still preferred their drink served in a chalice and usually slept in a coffin. They still looked for stars in the always cloudy sky and penned poems instead of surfing the internet and watching cable TV. WOOHP and Uriah were the ultimate cultural crash between Blade and Dracula. Among a few modern creations Uriah was willing to tolerate was the invention of deadly arms, UV and silver-nitrate bullets. After all, vampires were once humans, and they couldn't seem to shake off the thirst for power. "Please, wait. Jessica is getting us a drink." Sofia led Julia towards an empty table near the piano, putting the laptop down. With a devious smile on her face, Jessica moved from the counter and joined them with three glasses of blood and a bottle of whiskey. She laughed when she saw Julia's eyes widened in intimidation, knowing what must have run through the redhead's mind.

"Let's have some fun, shall we?" Jessica mixed some whiskey into each glass and handed them to her friends. Julia gawked at the drink in front of her. She didn't have to look, but she could feel everyone's stare upon her now. Not many vampires could consume anything beside blood, and it was obviously Jessica's test of strength. Without second thought, Julia snatched the glass and took one big gulp. Squeezing her eyes shut, she mentally forced herself to swallow it down. She would never let this punk vampire humiliate her in public. "Urgh!" Julia couldn't help it. Her body forced it all out, and she ended up spitting the drink onto the table. Panting, she wiped her lips with the back of her hand, blood pumping madly through her veins in severe rejection. She glowered up at the laughing Jessica, blushing as the whole room now snickered at her. Sofia let out a sigh, hugging her laptop. She had retrieved the item from the table in time as if she had expected it. "Please, Jessica. You should not have done that." Jessica had also lifted her glass early enough to avoid Julia's spit. She turned to wave at the bartender and said, "A glass of O, please!" The bartender quickly wiped the smile off his face and looked down to avoid Julia's glare. "Right away, sir!" Jessica turned back to the table. "Type O works best for hangover." "I don't have a hangover, punk!" Julia barked. "It was just a harmless prank. Loosen up, junior." Rolling her eyes, Jessica took a sip from her own glass. Julia paused. Normally, she would have lash out in anger, but the fact that Jessica could actually consume the alcohol stunned her. Out of frustration, Julia kicked the leg of the table, meaning to topple it over the greenhaired vampire. But Jessica rammed her heel against the steel pipe, thrusting it back. Still seated, both tried to push the table at the other, their face reddened and their leg shaken. "Oh, Lord," Sofia mumbled. Her laptop on her lap, she was now holding the bottle of whiskey in one hand and two glasses in another. "Umm… sir…?" The human waiter had approached the trio with a glass of type O, but he could only stand there, unsure whether to put the drink on the shaky table. "Goddamn it!" Jessica slid off her chair and down to one knee, shoving the table down with her. With the round, glass plane between them now, Julia swooped down on her knee and her strong punch met with Jessica's fist, shattering the glass into pieces. The force sent Jessica backwards, sprawled on her back. The onlookers burst into laughter, and some even clapped in amusement.

"I win! I win, punk!" Julia jumped around, squealing. Shaking her head, Sofia handed the liquor bottle and the glasses to the waiter. She then helped Jessica to stand up. "You should not have done that. You would only embarrass yourself." Trembling in anger, Jessica spun around and stormed out of the lounge. "Jessica is Jessica. Please, do not mind her," Sofia said. Grinning, Julia just shrugged. "No, I don't. I actually had fun." Sofia watched the back of her friend disappearing behind the corner of the hallway and let out a sigh. "She has been around for three hundred years, but still has not learned much after all." It was as predicted: Jessica was not a newbie, but her age would never allow her careless consumption. "I'm curious. How on earth could she drink that thing?" Julia asked, frowning. Bending to retrieve her laptop, Sofia adjusted her glasses a little and said, "She came from the Serpent Coven, where it harbored quite a few elders then. Her maker must have been one of them, thus Jessica has earned the ability to consume more freely than her real age would allow. Sadly, her power has not developed as much as she has hoped." Julia stopped at the bit of information. "Serpent Coven?" Sofia nodded and continued, "She rarely talks about her maker even to me, but we believe that she is the last survivor of the clan. The others were hunted down and murdered throughout the past centuries. You see, we were all rogues before Mr. Adam took us in. We have heard about your situation, and we feel that you can understand us, too. We have the same goal, Ms. Spider. We will bring down Uriah. They are villains." Looking down, Julia remained silent. Something struck her as odd as she recalled her encounter at the First District with a rogue vampire, who also claimed to have come from Kyoto. Spencer Lee clearly was the only one who still dared to use the infamous surname today. Considering Spencer's impressive strength, Julia was amazed that nobody seemed to know of her existence, or the fact that the reclusive vampire had refused to join other clan afterwards. Alas, things were never what it seemed in the immortal world. "Uriah is the villain?" Julia chuckled, and then looked up at Sofia, "I think we all are." ::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: ::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: There wasn't much entertainment in a day for a young man of dark, well-built looks like Brian Donovan (2). It had been about a month since his leg injury on duty. Surviving the mission, he received a medal for the fall of the First District, Uriah's deepest humiliation in centuries. He was promoted to the rank of Captain, an honor he felt undeserved. Like his

family members, who were killed by Uriah vampires, many of his friends perished in the crypt. The rank ultimately meant nothing to him. Brian still considered himself lucky. If he had stayed comatose in the hospital, they would have given him to the lab, and he would be experimented to turn into a Lycan. Chance was that he probably would not survive the operation, or, if he did survive, he would be enslaved by one of WOOHP vampires right away. But he was still human. He was still the master of his own body and mind. In his white t-shirt and a pair of jeans, Brian pounded his chest a few times and studied his boyish looks in the mirror. Today was the first day he was allowed to leave the Headquarters, having recovered from his injury. Putting on his navy, baseball jacket, he left his room, greeting a few human fellows along the corridor as he made his way down to the first floor. Passing the lounge, he peered in and had to stop at the sight of a red-haired vampire in the black uniform. She must be new. Brian noted her pleasant facial features and admired her from the distance. Even though he never had any intention to get intimate with the immortals, he was still a man after all. However, as soon as the redhead went down into a fight of strength against Jessica, Brian straightened himself up and retreated from the doorway. The immortal's ridiculously bloated ego always turned him off. Striding through the lobby, he nodded to the beautiful receptionist—a human—and walked out the building. There was no flirtation. There was no second thought. After his family was murdered many years ago, he was taken in by John Smith. He had then set a rule for himself: never court a colleague, or an immortal. Any emotional attachment was considered suicidal to him. But practically growing up in WOOHP Headquarters greatly limited the success of his love life, and at times the loneliness was indescribable. He marched towards his black Thunderbird, where it was parked in the big parking space next to the building. It was a lovely, sunny winter day. The wind was cold, but soft. The air was fresh and light. He took in a deep breath and glanced up at the twin, black, twelvestory buildings behind him. Each building was designated to immortals and humans separately, with only the first floor, where the lounge and the lobby were, that they did join. WOOHP' Headquarters in Midgard was the only site that harbored vampires, and it was much more immortal-friendly than its American counterpart, where the agents hunted vampires and werewolves for sport. At times, he wondered who would make a better villain between mortals and immortals. Although WOOHP operated largely by human troops, it was known that Caleb Adam (3) was the founder. But the vampire elder rarely made his presence public, and Smith was the true commander of the human forces. The unlikely collaboration had most human agents hesitated in the beginning, but they learned to accept the vampires, or they simply ignored their existence altogether. To Brian, WOOHP was not so different from the Kyoto Coven, an organization with its members at odds with one another. There were times when he feared that they would eventually suffer the same fate.

"Nonsense." Brian chuckled to himself. It was a bright day, and he meant to keep the dark thought from his mind. He got into the car and drove off the parking lot. At a T-junction, he turned right into a narrow road. Further down the hilly path, he admired the view of the sea down the cliff before driving into the tunnel, where it led 35 miles underwater to the larger island of Midgard. He had to make a short stop at the exit of the tunnel; WOOHP had their human troops guard the secret outlet in the woods at all times. "Good morning, sir!" A guard saluted him. Smiling, Brian saluted back and drove away. Midgard was lively as always. He had a few places in mind where he usually went to unwind after a mission. He also had a plan to catch up on a movie as he hadn't gone to a theater in months. Watching DVDs in his room, while being confined to bed, hardly entertained him. "Okay," Brian mumbled to himself, grinning as he spotted a twenty-four-hour diner, where he often picked up some breakfast or a cup of coffee on the go. Quickly, he parked his car in front of the diner and entered. "Hello… Oh…?" Brian stopped by the doorway, looking left and right. There were a few customers there already, but he didn't see a single waitress around. Sally, the diner's owner, was nowhere to be seen either. Shrugging, he walked further in and was about to seat himself on the crimson, leather couch. However, his body instinctively halted at a strong smell hitting his nostrils. He looked up from the seat and glanced over at the slightly open door to the kitchen in the back of the restaurant. Blood. Ordinary humans might have failed to detect the odor from where he stood, but Brian was a trained agent; he'd be damned if he had missed it. Lots of blood, and it's not human's. His mind took note of the crucial fact as he cautiously edged towards the door, one hand on the gun in his shoulder holster. As softly as he could, he pushed the door open a little more and peeked in. He could see Sally crouching on the floor, madly fumbling for a few towels from the counter. "We have to get him out of here as soon as possible. My dad has an old house not too far from here." A female spoke, whose identity was blocked behind the corner of the row of stoves. "I've stopped the bleeding. Let's go! Come on, help me!" Sally said. From where Brian was, he could only see the pair of bare legs of the injured person on the floor, bathed in blood. At this time of day, the suspect was very unlikely to be a vampire, but a werewolf.

Frowning, he debated his next move. How unfortunate his day was? His first day on vacation started with another dying immortal in his way. Before he knew, Sally and her redhead friend lifted a raven-haired man in a leather coat off the floor. They quickly exited the backdoor. From the narrow gap between the door and the doorframe, he couldn't catch the face of the wounded. Brian then turned and ran out the restaurant through the front door. Sally had driven off in her white Toyota, swerving fast around the corner. Soon, the car disappeared from the main street. Clenching his fists, he gradually let out a sigh. He would never suspect in a million years that an ordinary human like Sally could associate with an immortal. But it was a small world after all, and he knew that things were never quite simple. ::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: ::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: Through the centuries, Spencer could tally the times in her life with the count of her fingers when she was put in a helpless situation—incarcerated with no real assurance of being discharge as she was right now. She despised it. She felt threatened by improbability. She had grown to detest the unpredictability and its usually perilous outcome. Nonetheless, she was continually pulled back into the chaotic path of the immortals ever since she met Ian. In the dark, Spencer tried to breathe as deeply and slowly as she could. Curling up into a ball, she stared at the tool box in front of her with one good eye, one weak hand extended to keep the container from sliding into her face from the bumpy ride. In the trunk of the car, she was lying on her side, screaming inwardly as she counted the seconds to be freed. If she had developed a claustrophobia right then, she wouldn't be surprised. "Ah…" Spencer winced. The stinging pain all over her body struck her like an endlessly repeating whip from a fire belt. Her skin still sizzled from the contact with morning sunlight. Judging from the horror in the diner's owner's eyes when she first entered the backdoor of the restaurant, Spencer was sure that half the skin on her face had burnt and peeled off, her left eye had lost its sight, and chunks of her hair had fallen out. She found the address of the diner from the stuffed napkin in Ian's coat pocket, and immediately flew the werewolf out of the forest. In the soft sun, it was still an agonizingly long flight for her, but she still couldn't decide which was worse between burning in sunlight and being locked in the trunk. Sally seemed to instantly realize who she was and offered her a hiding place. But there was no assurance that the human would discharge her, or feed her, for the matter. Over the centuries, distrust had become her best friend. To her own amazement, there were things she would normally avoid, but simply could not ignore when it involved Ian. She could have left the werewolf there and fled to her own safety, but she found it startling that she didn't even waste a second to take the man with her. Ian could have been attacked again if the mad Lycans came back, or he would surely die if he were to wait for his peers to come and rescue him.

Spencer disliked uncertainty; she wasn't going to risk it. Then she started counting from one to ten thousand. She hummed all the songs she could recall, but didn't exactly finish any. She waited for long hours in silence for a sign to be released. Any sign. In the dark, enclosed space, she listened to her own ragged breathing, and her mind ran through a dozen different plans to disappear from the surface of the earth, or to terminate all those who had seen her. It's back again… I should have stayed in that warehouse. I shouldn't have left… It's never going to end. Her body was weak, and her mind was hazy to the point that she failed to realize that the car had stopped. It had stopped for a long time, and she only noticed a change in surrounding when the cover of the trunk was popped open, exposing her to a soft, cool wind from outside. Spencer frantically raised her arms over her face, praying that the end would be as fast as possible. She only opened her eyes again when her skin didn't react to the expected harsh sunlight. The sun had just set, and the sky was rendered in various shades of pink. Looking around, she found that the car was parked idly along a narrow, graveled path. Thick forest surrounded the area. Near where the car was, a set of high, stony flight of steps led up to an old house over the hill. "Here, I—I figured you might… need it," the diner's owner said. She was in her white coat and a pair of pants. She was holding a hand over her eyes, afraid to look at the battered vampire, while extended her other hand with a few bags of donated blood. Almost toppling herself out of the trunk, Spencer hastily grabbed the bags and fed herself until the very last drop. When she finished, she looked up at the trembling woman and said, "Thank you." Only then that the woman turned, reluctantly glancing her way. Her eyes then widened, her gaze fixed upon the vampire. "You… you're healed…" The vampire didn't need a mirror to know that her skin had regenerated, her hair grown long again. She could see clearly with both eyes now. "Is Ian all right?" Spencer stared at the woman in the eye to detect any hint of unusualness. She had no reason to count on this woman, yet it was the only way to get Ian to safety. "He's safe now. I got silver-nitrate out of his system. But he couldn't heal as fast as you did. He's still very weak," the woman replied. Suppressing her sigh of relief, Spencer just nodded. In the least, this woman knew a better way to deal with the situation than forcing Ian to take her blood. She couldn't believe how irrational she was at the moment, considering the outcome. She wanted no attachment. She couldn't. "With silver-nitrate wounds, he temporarily loses the healing power. He'll need to rest for a week, or so," Spencer explained. Oddly, the feeling of vulnerability and powerlessness only prevented her from going to Ian right away.

"Don't worry about it. I'll take good care of him. I'm sorry I didn't come to get you sooner… Well, honestly, I didn't know how to transport you out of the trunk. I had to wait until sunset." The woman then studied Spencer with great curiosity, but she did so in a harmless, mild-mannered stare. "You must be Vampire Spencer. Ian often talked about you." The notion stopped the vampire. She couldn't think of what importance to make Ian mention her to a friend. Judging from the smile in Sally's eyes, she hoped that Ian's take on her wasn't all vile and repulsive. "I'm Sally. Sally Thompson. I'm a nurse. I've been friends with Ian for thirty years," Sally said, winking. Now, her inquisitive gaze had turned into a look of admiration. "He used to tell me about how you saved him from the First District, and how you once knew his mother. You must be some kind of a hero to him." Climbing out of the trunk, Spencer chose to ignore the last statement. She was many things. She had had many personas. But Sally was greatly mistaken; she was anything but a hero. And Ian understood it. Ian knew it better than anyone else never to trust her. Glancing around the area, Spencer took note of the thick forest and the seemingly isolated environment. "Where am I?" Sally moved towards the car and slammed the cover of the trunk close. "The house belongs to my friend's father. Midori. You remember the girl you met this morning? We're roughly twenty-seven miles north of downtown. Not too far, eh? I could come in and take care of Ian when I'm off the shift at the hospital." A slight nod was Spencer's only response. If their friendship had lasted for three decades, surely the werewolves would know about the diner, and they could track Sally down to this place. Very soon. Not nearly far enough… Spencer bit her bottom lip, troubled by her worry over every step to guard Ian. It wasn't her responsibility. It never was from the start. Now that Ian had learned about his mother from Annie, there was nothing more to tell. There was no obligation to stay. Spencer herself had no reason to seek Sally's assistance any further. Perhaps, she should leave now when she still had the time to seek a hiding place to start a new life without Annie—with no one. Stuffing her car key into her pocket, Sally walked up the stony stairs. "This place has been abandoned for many years, so I must apologize for the dust and the untidiness around the house. Come, I'll quickly show you around. I think you might want a bath. It couldn't be comfortable sleeping the trunk all day! Well, I'm actually late for my shift already. Can I trust you to take care of Ian tonight? I'll be back by morning. Midori is busy, having to cover for me right now. By the way, do you have any preferred blood type?" She chuckled. "I'll sneak out some more for you. I was thinking… I… Hmm…?" The nurse's words trailed off when she had already reached the top of the staircase, but turned around to find herself alone. She then looked down the stairs and saw Spencer still standing at the bottom step. The mild puzzlement in her eyes eventually turned into a serious concern. After a long moment, Sally took the first step down. She was cautious as if she feared the vampire would fly away at her reckless pace.

Spencer watched every slow step the woman made. To her secret nuisance, she couldn't understand why it was impossible to just walk away like she used to—like she had always done. Sally came to stop two steps above hers, and a guilty smile curved up her thin lips. "From what he told me, I could guess that you're pretty much a loner. You aren't exactly Ian's companion. Well, not in the—the companion-companion way that I'd understand… But I think that he needs you." The vampire cast her gaze down at the last words. "Nobody does, and they better not. I got him into trouble last night, so it's best that we part now. Please send him my regards," she said, turning away. But Sally quickly followed and grabbed her arm, prompting Spencer to halt in her track. It took the vampire every ounce of strength not to react to the harmless touch. But the stern look in her eyes did stop Sally. The woman's hand instantly slipped off her. "You…" Sally started, and then regained her composure to speak again. "You didn't walk in the sun to bring him to me, and then just disappear on him like this." "I've done many things you'd never understand." Spencer's gaze was as cold as her words. "I—I heard how his pack had treated you, and I think I know where your anger comes from," Sally said, looking down, "But I beg you. I'm only human. I can't possibly protect him even if I try. Please stay until he recovers… Please…" Sally then let out a shaky, deep sigh of desperation, her gaze filled with grief. "Ian saved me from a train wreck when I was a child. I lost my parents from the accident, and he has been my friend ever since. He's very important to me… I can't lose him…" Spencer remained motionless, her legs chained to the spot. She had not the strength to admit that she would hate to leave, yet hate to stay. "I always find type AB most refreshing… if you please," the vampire finally said. Her implied promise earned a big smile, almost a squeal in delight, from the nurse. In a quick tour around the house, Sally showed her the two bedrooms, one with Ian resting inside, a living room, a kitchen, and a bathroom with a wooden bathtub. The house was decorated in traditional Japanese style, and it exuded the peaceful and solitary air all around. However, the appearance of serenity did very little to calm Spencer's psyche as it reminded her very much of the Kyoto days she had tried to leave behind. She even hallucinated the clattering sound of slippers along the graveled path whenever she wasn't careful. Those smiles, and my shamisen (4)… Her eyes narrowed at the reminiscence. Spencer lied back in the wooden bathtub, trying to relax in the warm water. After Sally left for her work, the vampire took a hot shower before deciding to delay her visit to Ian's room with a bath. It was uncommon for her to feel unnerved by a visit. It was even more unsound for her to have acted against her rule of survival; her stay would only broaden her unwanted exposure. She had had a lot to worry about ever since Hideaki had caught her lie about the Kyoto Coven, now Ian as well. Sometimes she cursed her luck for

having chased a Kyoto vampire into the alley, running into Ann that night. This family didn't seem to want to leave her be, and it meant threat to her. Hugging herself, Spencer curled up and slipped under the water. She closed her eyes and prayed that she wouldn't see it anymore—the people she had killed to save herself, the blissful days she sacrificed only to be alone in the end. She wanted to forget, but it wouldn't let her. The melody from the old days still haunted her from last night, and she knew she should leave Ian now for that very reason. God, make me disappear… ::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: ::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: His insufficient, often disruptive sleep was interrupted again by sporadic voices from the outside, and Ian only relaxed when he realized that it was Sally's voice. It seemed that his friend was having a conversation with someone, and he was relieved that there wasn't any commotion out there to require his presence. Even if his friend might be in danger, he was in no condition to intervene. Sally? How did I get here…? Spe—Spencer…! At the last thought, Ian tried to push himself up, but managed to lift his shoulders only briefly before falling back down. The slight movement shot pain through his body; he took in a deep breath in an attempt to ease the lingering sensation. His eyes sore, he glanced around and found himself lying on a bed in a small, room. The sliding door to his left lent a faint pool of moonlight through the blocks of white paper. Aside from his friend's voice that had grown further and further into the distance, he could hear only crickets chirping, accompanied by the sound of breeze. His breathing slowed down now, Ian struggled to ignore the pain gorging through his chest wound. It was difficult just to raise an arm, but he forced himself to lift the blanket. He was in a pair of blue jeans and a white shirt, the belt loosened around his waist to alleviate the pressure on his stomach. Peeking under his garment, it appeared that Sally had neatly bandaged each dressing over his chest and abdomen wounds. Without silver-nitrate in his bloodstream, he could feel his blood flow freely now. But her healing power had been diminished by the substance. Ironically, he felt most human when he was in his frailest state. Giving in to fatigue, Ian closed his eyes again. But the nagging curiosity over the vampire's whereabouts wouldn't let him rest. He grimaced as he recalled the look in Spencer's eyes at his lupine form last night. While he reminded himself that there was no reason to care, he couldn't quite grasp why he had felt starkly naked and painfully vulnerable in reaction to Spencer's fear. Throughout his life, Ian rarely transformed unless it was absolutely necessary. He disliked the power and cruelty it brought him, its influence over his body and mind stealing him of every human sense. And he believed that Spencer had felt it, too. Before his mind could plunge deeper into last night's event, Ian tensed up at the set of shadow emerging on the sliding door. He had no idea where he was, and he felt unready to receive a visitor, friendly or dangerous. But the shadow made no move to get any closer to

the door, and it simply knelt on the hardwood-floored passage outside his room and sat down. Studying the shadow, Ian gradually made out the visitor's long hair and slender frame. He relaxed at the now familiar form, realizing that it was, indeed, Spencer. To his surprise, the vampire just sat on her heels, hands on her lap, remaining absolutely still. Judging from the silhouette, Ian wasn't even sure if the vampire breathed at all. In the cold wind outside, Spencer appeared to have no intention to enter, or to leave. Involuntarily, Ian's eyelids fluttered close again. With the vampire right outside his door, he strangely felt safer than he would ever admit. Then he dreamt a slow, placid dream for the first time in many years. Under a darkening, pinkish sky, he saw himself walking on the surface of deep, dark water, the sight of a vast sea before and around him. He was alone, but he wasn't afraid as he should. An angelic hymn ringing distantly in his ears, he kept walking ahead with a heart full of determination. He knew he would get there—somewhere. When Ian opened his eyes again from what seemed to be hours of deep sleep, he found the same set of shadow on his door, unmoving from the last time he recalled. He blinked a few times, inwardly grunting at the vampire's persistence. For a werewolf, being in the cold air for a long period of time was still a threatening idea. He would expect the same effect on vampires, even if they could perhaps endure it longer. All arguments aside, Spencer was not doing herself a favor by sitting there like a rock. "Spencer…" Ian finally called out. No response. "Spencer." Ian repeated louder, earning a slight turn of the head. The shadow then moved closer, and the door slowly slid open. The widening gap between the two white planes revealed the vampire's pale face and the huge moon behind, and for a time, Ian couldn't decide which was more arresting to behold. Spencer was staring down at him, her gaze subtle in its usual intensity. Her serene exterior matched the calm sea of crimson, and the moon hang high in the dark sky as a witness to this rare harmony. In a pair of tight black jeans and a long sleeved white vest , Spencer's long hair pooled around her shoulders, unkempt from the wind. She turned to retrieve the black tray beside her and moved into the room. On the tray were a large, black, ceramic bowl and a clean towel beside it. Spencer proceeded to take some hot water from the white, electric kettle, which Sally had organized in the corner of the room, and mixed it with half of the water she had prepared from the kitchen. The mixture of water should now be warm enough. "What are you doing?" Ian asked, frowning. Spencer moved beside Ian, knelt down and sat on her heels. The vampire looked very fitting in the pair of clothes she was wearing, but the fleeting discomfort in her eyes Ian had caught earlier suggested otherwise; Spencer didn't particularly enjoy wearing the outfit.

When Spencer dampened the towel in the warm water and tried to wipe Ian's face, Ian quickly snatched the cloth from her. Spencer let him and quietly watched him wince in pain at the rash movement of his arm. "Shit…" Ian grumbled. The effort proved to be too painful for him. He looked away from the smile curving up on Spencer's lips, and sloppily spread the towel over his own face, shunning the vampire out of his sight. "What's this place? How did I get here?" Ian stared up into the white cloth until he was cross-eyed. For some reason, he felt more lucid without Spencer's bold stare. "It belongs to Sally's friend. I believe her name was Midori. They brought you here." Ian could hear the rustling of Spencer's clothes and the soft mumbling that followed. Spencer even smelled of Jasmine. Her hand is cold… "Wait. Why are you still here?" Ian blurted out in an attempt to clear his mind from noticing a little too much about the vampire. But he regretted the question as soon as it came out of his mouth because Spencer's reply came a bit too fast for his liking. "I'm here only because Sally pleaded me to. I'll be gone as soon as you recover." Spencer's inert tone suggested the insignificance of her intention in staying. But Ian stiffened when he felt a hand softly glide over his face, the wet cloth between their touch. The hand gently wiped his face, his ears, and down to his neck; it took very little detour over his features and all the time to freshen every inch of his skin with moisture. When the towel was pulled off his face, Ian stared up at the vampire. "I…" Spencer raised her brows and waited for him to continue. "I didn't drink your blood, did I?" Ian frowned. The questioning look on the vampire's face was then replaced by a blank one. "No, you didn't, fortunately. I really can't afford the burden now," she said. Ian's face grew cold at the choice of word. "Fortunately, I wouldn't want to be anybody's burden either." "So we're on the same page," Spencer said, her voice light with sincere relief. She wetted the towel once more and turned to pull the blanket off Ian. "How—how did you find Sally?" Ian at once glanced down to see if his clothes were still intact, unsure how to react to Spencer's nonchalant, almost robotic undertaking. "The napkin you left in your coat's pocket got the restaurant's address on it." The vampire drew up Ian's long sleeve, and began to rub his weak arm with the towel. Eventually, Spencer noted Ian's rigid limb and glanced up from the task at hand. "Your friends are still alive, if that's what you're worried about… Although I supposed their blood may be sweet."

Inwardly pouting, Ian looked away from Spencer's wink at the last sentence. He would have been worried by the statement if he didn't hear Sally's distant chatter a few hours earlier. Before he could stop himself, he lightly pulled at Spencer’s vest, causing the vampire to stop from reaching out for his left leg. "How did you get here…? Your wounds?" Ian remembered that it was dawning before he passed out in the woods, and he didn't think that Toby's blood alone could heal those nasty injuries the Lycans left on the vampire last night. "Sally had supplied me with some donated blood this evening. How very thoughtful of her," Spencer said, smiling. But when Ian kept silent, she seemed to reckon the more important question of the two. "I can fly really fast. You'd be surprised." Certainly, Spencer appeared to be fine and healthy now. Her rare, playful tone also relieved Ian to some extent. Spencer moved a little further down the bed, losing Ian's grasp on her vest. She slightly lifted Ian's leg and wiped the feverish skin with the towel. Ian had felt the dull ache all over his shuddering body, and he was secretly thankful for the physical refreshment. "Why didn't you just leave me there?" Ian couldn't help it. He couldn't imagine how Spencer could fly so fast in such a state. But what struck Ian now was the quick absence of calmness in the crimson eyes. Spencer compressed her lips, glancing away almost in annoyance that she wouldn't drop the subject. "I could have handled Toby just fine. We're from different worlds, Spencer. I don't feel comfortable having a vampire to help me around. You should have left me in the woods, and I'd be fine—" Ian stopped when his leg was slipped off Spencer's intentionally careless grip, and fell back down on the bed. The mild movement sent a ball of fire through his abdomen, and he groaned aloud at the pain. "D-damn it…!" "You prove to be much more stubborn than your mother ever was," Spencer said, shaking her head. She edged towards the bowl and dampened the towel again. "You don't have to do this because of my mother. She was never kind to you," Ian said. Although she disliked having to talk about his mother in such a way, he was only stating the truth. I never was… Spencer lightly sighed as she squeezed the towel to rid the water off it. "She used me, and I used her. I supposed we were even in some ways." At Spencer's confession of loneliness, Ian had to look away. He suddenly found it hard to see even the subtlest hint of sorrow in Spencer's eyes. The vampire held such a strange power over him for having known his mother, while Ian himself never had the chance to. "I… I think she never loved me… or my father. I really think so… Sometimes I even think that she was a villain…" Ian gazed up at the white ceiling. His blue jacket hang loosely off

his shoulders and his legs were virtually bare on the bed, but he made no move to cover himself. For the first time tonight, he wasn't embarrassed by Spencer's stare upon him. "It doesn't matter what she had done. She loved you more than you'd ever know, Ian. But she had her demons. She was on a self-destructive path, so to speak. No one could have saved her but herself." Spencer put the folded towel over the tray and moved closer to Ian. She slipped one arm under Ian's back to draw him up into a sitting position. The act would have earned protest from the aching man, but Spencer held him very tightly. The pressure on his back acted as a firm and efficient support, while the lift was gentle and swift. Now sitting on the bed, Ian didn't undergo much ache from the movement. Only when the cold hand left him that he started to feel the pain of gravity. Her breath is cold… Ian's cheeks abruptly grew hot at his own inquisitive thought. He turned slightly to try to keep his jacket from completely revealing his chest. Spencer didn't seem to mind, or even notice his half-naked form; the vampire proceeded to pull the jacket down his back and rubbed the towel down his bare skin. "Hold on. I'm almost done," Spencer mumbled as she continued fast, not wanting to prolong Ian in the uncomfortable position. "All right. Here we go," she said, tossing the towel aside. She wrapped one arm around Ian's back again, pressed herself in very closely, and stiffly bent down to let Ian fall with her. Ian was laid back down as painless and fast as he was brought upright. "All right… Yeah…" he breathed. He briefly glanced up at the pale face less than an inch above his. If he weren't mulling too much into it, the vampire seemed to linger a second too long before retreating away. Her breath is warm now… What the hell? Wide-eyed, Ian watched Spencer quickly move away to refill some hot water from the kettle. He put his hands on his chest and asked, "I've noticed something, Spencer. Your temperature seems to rise and fall so fast like a thermometer. Is that generally how it is with vampires? So strange." Spencer looked up from the kettle for a moment, but then flinched as a hot drop spilled onto the back of her hand. "My… I'm not sure what you're talking about," she muttered, moving back to Ian with the hot bowl. Head down, she continued to clean Ian's bare front and legs, severely lacking the leisure speed and the vigilant tenderness she had carried earlier. "I mean… I caught your… err, your…" Ian stammered. His words lingered at the tip of his tongue and eventually trailed off when Spencer seemed uninterested in the subject. When Spencer finished the task, she nodded to herself and turned away to retrieve the tray. "Tha—thanks…" Ian dazedly pulled his jacket up to cover himself. He then tried to reach for the hem of the blanket. The air was getting colder as the night grew darker.

"Ah, I'm sorry," Spencer said, having realized then that she had forgotten to cover Ian up. She hurried to pull the blanket over the horizontal form, all the while averting her gaze elsewhere. "Ms. Thompson will be back by morning. You should get some sleep now," the vampire said, taking the tray and getting up to her feet. "Where are you going?" Ian quickly asked before Spencer could slip out the door. Stopping mid-step, Spencer turned around with a quizzical look in her eyes. "I'm going to inspect the area. I won't be too far." Ian slightly clutched the blanket. "Where are you going to sleep?" However, Spencer hesitated at the simple question, glancing the other way. "You don't have to tell me. I can walk around in the morning and find you anyway," Ian said, rolling his eyes. "Ms. Anderson showed me the basement. Might I remind you that you're still in no condition to walk around tomorrow? Get some rest, Ian." With that, Spencer walked out of the room and slid the door shut. "Happy walking. Alone!." Ian spoke loudly, hoping for the vampire to catch it. But there was no response. The set of shadow on his door had vanished as quietly as it came. "I hope she's got a bed in the basement… and a blanket of cobweb. Yeah, that…" he continued to mumble to himself. Then Ian yawned and rubbed his eyes a bit. The uncomfortable warmth, which had nastily crawled along his skin before, had now disappeared. He was truly grateful for it even if it was only temporary. Although he wanted to act a little more with courtesy, Spencer's abnormal paranoia just annoyed him. He had hoped that the vampire could have loosened up a little around him. But she's still here… The fact that Spencer had stayed, risking being around strangers, who could easily put him in harm's way, was something totally unexpected. Ian wouldn't bet it was only for his mother's sake, but to ponder of Spencer's action would leave him no more hours to sleep. Feeding himself with a pang of relief to know that the vampire would still be around tomorrow, he gradually lured himself into slumber again.

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