I thought I had reached my fear limit but I guess there were still things that could exceed it. Besides, I was still in shock after discovering I had no heartbeat and I could breathe without using my lungs. That I was an undead.
“Let’s go. We need to move.”
Napatingin akong muli sa lalaki na ngayon ay naghahanda na para umalis.
“Where?” tanong ko. “Why do I need to go with you? I mean . . . I still don’t know what’s happening and I’m still freaking out to this whole undead thing and I don’t think I can—”
He sighed so loudly that I got interrupted. “You have so many questions.”
“Well, of course!”
“Alright. I’ll explain more along the way.”
“But . . . what about those . . . those creatures outside?”
“They have already been taken care of?”
Suddenly, a zombie appeared out of nowhere, making me hide behind the guy. My throat felt dry that I couldn’t scream anymore so I just stared at the creature in front of us.
Okay, he looked like a man but the bandages on his face made me think he was a zombie or a mummy. After what I just witnessed a while ago, I was sure most of the creatures I could only see from books or movies were real.
The only visible part of his face were his gray eyes that gleamed under the moonlight. He was wearing a black military uniform and dirty combat boots.
“All clear,” he said in a muffled voice.
“Well done, Irus,” the guy replied.
Come to think of it, I still don’t know his name.
“Hey,” I called as I tugged his sleeve. “What’s your name?”
He smirked at me and what they did next made me so uncomfortable. They both bowed and kneeled at me.
“Khmer of Abkhim bloodline, tracker and safekeeper of Vrivarya,” he introduced.
“Irus of Izcacus bloodline, assassin and shadow of Vrivarya,” the other guy said.
Vrivarya? That was a northern country if I remembered it correctly. Maybe that was the language he was speaking a while ago.
After their over-the-top introduction, Khmer, I’d just call him Kei, led the way and I followed right behind him. Irus suddenly disappeared but I knew he was just around us. I preferred him to be away from me after learning that he was an assassin.
Medyo dumikit ako sa kanya nang makalabas na kami sa bahay dahil naalala ko ang tatlong umatake sa amin kanina. Mamaya ay mayroon pang tulad nila na nakaaligid sa amin.
Naalala ko naman ang dalawang lalaki sa jeep kanina. They said something that sounded like those bloodlines, too.
“Those guys earlier,” I said while we were walking into the woods, “they called me something. Like string or what, it sounded like that.”
“Strzyga,” he corrected.
“Yeah!” I exclaimed as I pointed at him. “That. They called me that.”
“It’s an ancient bloodline, just like the clan of Abkhim and Izcacus.”
“Bloodline of what?”
“Vampires,” he said as a matter-of-factly.
I almost laughed at his reply, waiting for some follow-up, like c’mon,it was just a joke or maybe he was just making fun of me. Then again, I was an undead, which was hard to believe, too, so I guess he wasn’t. But what the heck? Vampires? For real?
“So . . . we’re vampires,” I blurted out which sounded absurd coming from me.
“What? Do you think we’re zombies or werewolves or something?”
I rolled my eyes at his sarcastic remark. “How about those that attacked us?”
“Also vampires,” he answered.
Hindi ko alam kung nagbibiro pa rin siya o ano pero seryoso ang pagkakasabi niya. I imagined myself looking like that and I suddenly wanted to vomit.
As if he was reading my mind, he chuckled and started explaining what he meant.
“Those vampires are called bloodsuckers,” he said. “They are corpses or people who were about to die that turned into vampires. Basically, the lowest of our kind.”
Our kind. It still didn’t feel right to be referred as a vampire. I mean, I only read those in books, watched in series and movies, but I didn’t expect them to be real. Hanggang ngayon, hinihiling ko pa rin na sana nananaginip lang ako at naghihintay na may gumising sa akin.
“They attack anything or anyone with blood, hence, they are called bloodsuckers.”
“Then, those who got attacked will turn into vampires, too?” His eyebrows knitted and he looked at me in disbelief. “What? Ganoon ang pinapalabas sa tv!”
He grumbled. “Those ridiculous stories.”
Napataas naman ang kilay ko. Well, I find all of these absurd, too, but I didn’t say it out loud. Baka mamaya bigla na naman siyang magalit. I didn’t want to see that face a while ago again.
“The bloodsuckers are also from unique bloodlines,” he explained. “They are normal people when they are still alive, but they turn into vampires once they died. Most of them are from countries like Changla and Amorliaz.”
Those were two of the largest countries in the world. I shuddered thinking about how most of the people didn’t know they were living with the undead.
“Their victims won’t be turned into vampires,” he continued. “They will only lose consciousness, but they may die if the bloodsuckers find their blood . . . delicious.”
The bushes in front of us suddenly rustled violently and two bloodsuckers came running toward our direction. Nagtago ako sa likuran niya pero bago pa man makalapit ang mga iyon ay wala na ang kanilang mga ulo.
“I-Irus?” tanong ko.
“He’ll be guarding us so don’t worry,” Kei said which was quite reassuring but my knees were still shaking.
“W-will they keep coming to us like that?”
“Probably. Your bracelet isn’t strong enough to conceal your presence anymore now that you’re seventeen.” He continued walking and I had to reach for his shirt so I could follow without getting left behind. “Besides, we don’t have a mage to create a protective barrier.”
Instead of asking more questions, I focused on our surroundings, paranoid that there might be more bloodsuckers who could attack us at any direction.
I gazed at the full moon, wondering what time it was already. It could be 10 P.M. or 2 A.M. but we were getting into the woods which was probably a bad idea.
Now that I think of it, my mind was more alert at night. I would always say I was a night owl because I could do much more during nighttime but maybe that was because vampires were supposed to be active at night. Oh crap, I was already accepting that I’m a vampire.
We continued walking through the forest and every time I heard some noise, I would always assume it was a bloodsucker. Fortunately, after that last encounter, we had not seen one anymore.
Hindi ko na alam kung gaano kalayo ang nalakad namin at unti-unti na ring nanghihina ang katawan ko sa sobrang pagod. I was hungry and thirsty and my mind was still buzzing with the whole vampire and undead stuff.
I was about to collapse from exhaustion and stress when the woodland started to transition into less trees and field. I ran toward the open space, thankful that we were finally out of the forest, but I abruptly stopped when I saw the edge.
“Careful,” Kei said behind me. “Hallim is known for its dangerous cliffs.”
True enough, before us was the highest set of cliffs in Hallim, which also meant we had reached the border. Hallim wasn’t a small country and unless we were flying, we couldn’t reach this place within a day.
“H-how . . .”
“I was planning to transport us here but I already night-travelled twice this day,” he said as if that explained everything.
I almost fell to my death when Irus suddenly appeared beside me. Damn it, why couldn’t he just show himself normally?!
“We need to hurry,” he mumbled as he looked above. I wanted to tell him to remove the bandage around his mouth so I could clearly hear him, but my head might roll on the ground if I said that.
The sky was starting to change colors, from darkness glittered with thousands of stars to blended tones of blue and gold. Batara, the country beyond this cliff, gleamed under the peeking rays. Multi-colored houses and towering buildings came into view. City lights glimmered like fireflies. Major roads were already bustling with cars and trains even though the sun was just rising.
A faint smile escaped my lips. Today was supposed to be my birthday. We were supposed to come here and enjoy a weekend vacation. I was supposed to be with my grandparents yet here I was, taken by a tracker and an assassin.
“Let’s go,” Kei said as he inched closer to the edge of the cliff.
“Wait, how do we—”
I stared at him in disbelief. Did he really think this was the time to joke like that? Jump? Alam niya ba kung gaano kataas ang cliff na ‘to?
“We have no time,” he added as he pulled me by my waist. I tried to pull away but he was too strong. We were just inches away from the edge when I realized he was dead serious.
“What the freaking he—!”
Before I could protest, he had already jumped, pulling me with him. My words turned into a shrilling scream as we plunged to our death.