The cold and dry wind blowing through the desert made my wounds sting in pain.
Moria used her magic to heal my wounds faster but she said my diminishing vitality was getting in the way of the magic’s progression. She also had to bind them tightly because the scent of my blood might attract more enemies.
Habang naglalakad kami ay muli akong napatingin sa braso ko. I remembered how its flesh got torn a while ago. Akala ko talaga ay magiging pagkain na ako ng ghouls. But that happened.
Before I lost my consciousness, I sensed the same sensation that I felt when we were attacked by the horde of Katteris before. I had my doubts before but Moria said I did that, though I had no idea how.
“Am I really okay?” tanong ko sa kanya.
She glanced at me. “Yes, you are, Lady.”
“But you said a ghoul’s claw is poisonous.” I looked at my wrapped arm. “I felt their claws digging into my skin earlier.”
Kei and Moria exchanged serious looks. Pakiramdam ko ay hindi maganda ang ibig sabihin no’n.
“I didn’t detect any toxins in your body,” she reasoned. “Somehow, their deadly claws didn’t affect you.”
“But how . . .”
She let out a quick sigh and I was afraid I made her angry with my questions. “I am not sure, too, my Lady, but for now, let us just say the ghouls’ poison don’t have any effect in your system.”
Hindi na ako muling nagtanong sa kanya pero mas lalong dumami ang tanong sa isip ko. I remembered how the blood of the Katteris splattered on both Kei and I that time but only him got affected. It almost cost him his life yet I didn’t even get any wound.
I couldn’t get anything out of my experiences and worse, they weren’t even telling me what they know. Now I’m scared of myself because I don’t even know what I’m capable of.
Hindi ko alam kung ilang oras na kaming naglalakad. Everyone was silent but the tension was high because we were still in the desert and a pack of ghouls might attack again. It seemed like it was already midnight but I wasn’t sure if we were already halfway.
Pagod na rin ako. My body was already giving up on me but more than that, I felt . . . hungry and thirsty.
“Are you okay, Lady?” tanong ni Kei.
“Y-yes, I think.”
Maging si Moria ay napahinto. She raised my chin and looked straight through my eyes.
“She’s getting esurient,” she commented. “She’s slowly awakening.”
Bigla naman akong binuhat ni Kei. He carried me on his back and he groaned when I placed my arms around his neck. He must have gotten a whiff of my blood.
“It means you’re starting to crave for blood,” he explained as we continued walking. “Your first feed.”
My insides started stirring. The mention of blood made me dizzier. For some reason, I couldn’t think of human food. It felt like my brain was rejecting the idea of consuming foods I had been eating for years.
“This is bad,” she muttered. “We’re still too far from Vrivarya. She won’t survive here.”
Hindi ko alam kung ano ang ibig niyang sabihin at hindi na rin ako nag-abala pang magtanong. I rested my head between Kei’s neck and left shoulder as I tried to quell my thirst and hunger. My consciousness was starting to slip away again and I tried hard to stay awake but in the end, I couldn’t resist the urge to close my eyes.
The sun had already risen the time I woke up. I was still a bit disoriented and it took me a minute to realize we were already near the city proper. No, not a city proper. Rather, a huge camp.
There were tents as big as a house, small taverns and campfires. Camels were also everywhere. People were wearing thick layer of cloths and some even got their heads and faces covered. It looked like a trading hub because everyone seemed to have a collection of goods with them.
“Oh, you’re already awake, Lady,” Kei remarked.
Hinang-hina pa rin ako at pakiramdam ko ay mahihimatay na naman ako. I didn’t even have the energy to acknowledge his comment.
“Her vitality’s getting weaker. Quick,” Moria said while pointing at a nearby tavern with rooms in the upper floor.
Inihiga nila ako sa kama at agad hinawakan ni Moria ang pisngi ko.
“She’s getting colder,” she muttered.
“S-should I drink blood . . .”
I wasn’t sure if she heard my words because they came out as a mumble. Narinig ko naman ang pagsara ng pinto at mukhang lumabas si Kei. Meanwhile, Irus collapsed on the side as he squirmed inside his black cloak.
Her face became grim. “We don’t have the blood that’s right for you,” she said.
“W-what do you mean . . .”
“You can only drink blood of higher clans and they can only be found in the North,” she explained, “but there’s one thing that can satiate your thirst other than blood.”
“W-what . . .”
Few seconds later, Kei returned with a guy servant. He was holding three cups of drinks, maybe alcohol, and he placed it on the small round table at the corner of the room. Kei carefully closed the door while Moria smiled at the guy.
The guy looked young, maybe around my age. He was wearing a turban around his head, long sleeves and trousers underneath a tunic. He must be a food servant in the pub below.
He said something in a foreign language that I didn’t know. Maybe he was asking Moria if she still had any request so he could bring them here. She replied in the same language and few seconds later, the guy was already in trance.
Kei helped me to sit while the guy stood in front of me with a vacant look in his eyes.
“You can drink the life force of humans, Lady,” she said as she gently pushed the guy closer to me.
That statement created so many questions in my head but I set them aside and just asked the only thing that mattered.
“Just look into his eyes and get as close as you can.”
I did what she said and held the guy’s face closely as I stared at his blank eyes. Our lips were just a few centimeters away from each other but the closer I get, the craving gets more intense. And then it happened.
The guy’s body twitched, and a smoke-like yet less transparent vapor began coming out of his nose and mouth. I breathed it in and I almost gasped in delight. It was the most delicious scent I had ever smelled and tasted to the point that I couldn’t get enough of it.
It took me a few seconds to realize that the guy was already unconscious. His skin was already as pale as chalk and his eyes were rolled up. I snapped out of daze upon seeing the limp body of the guy.
“D-did I . . .” My voice faltered in fear.
Kei checked the guy and heaved a sigh. “He just lost consciousness,” he reported and I drew a breath in relief. “But you almost suck all his life force.”
Inilagay niya sa kalapit na upuan ang katawan ng lalaki at matapos ‘yon ay tiningnan nila ako ni Moria.
“Feeling better now, Lady?” she asked.
I nodded. “A bit.”
Somehow, the energy that I lost in the desert was gradually coming back. Still, I felt guilty after stealing the life force of someone. Ibig sabihin ba no’n ay mababawasan ang taon ng buhay niya? Kung ganoon ay ilang taon ang kinuha ko mula sa kanya?
The questions that lingered in my head a while ago resurfaced.
“I thought the undead likes blood from maidens and children only?” tanong ko. “Is it not the case with this life force thing?”
“Oh, yes, theirs is the sweetest,” she replied. “Men, on the other hand, have disgusting blood,” she grimaced as if thinking about it would make her vomit. “But when it comes to human life force, according to the higher clans, men have the most delicious taste. In addition, they have a plenty amount of it so the chances of them dying is quite low, unless you take all of it.”
“I . . . I see . . .”
I recalled its taste when I was drawing it out of the guy. It had a minty scent, like peppermint, but it turned rich and sweet once it reached my mouth. It was quite addictive so I couldn’t stop a while ago. Had Kei not interfered, I would have killed that guy by stealing all of his life force.
Nang magising ang lalaki ay agad siyang napatayo. He was confused at first but Kei said he suddenly passed out. The guy didn’t ask anything anymore and went out of our room.
I spent the whole day resting while both Moria and Kei went out to gather some necessities and blood, though I doubt they could get some since most of the people here were men.
Paglubog ng araw ay nagpatuloy kami sa paglalakad. The arid land slowly transitioned into a rough grassland landscape. We spent the whole night walking through the vast grassland until we arrived at the mountainous borders of Margula and Northern Rusnia.
We were about to cross it when we saw a pack of werewolves again, but this time, I didn’t panic. Just like what Kei had said, I ignored them and they did the same. But every hair on my body raised when one of them growled and glared at us.
“Hey,” the biggest of the wolves called in a threatening tone. “Ailouros!”
Before I could ask what was happening, every wolf had already transformed into their lycanthropic form, their fangs baring at us.