Mi looked out the window. They could see across the street. From ground level, they would not see the trees from here.
“Good,” Jahan said. “Because other than cutting yourself on your dinner knife, or scraping a knee, none of us should see any more blood for some time.”
The world didn’t work like that. Mi knew it well. Yet Jahan’s hands were no longer wrapped. He was freed from what his hands had to do.
Mi wasn’t the same as them. They had scouted. Now they sat in bed, wondering why everyone still treated them as if they were made of glass.
“Fo should ask the doctor if there is a litter to take me to the ceremony.”
Jahan relaxes. “We’ll both go and get it.”
Mi couldn’t care less about the ceremony.
“Now we’re trapped,” Mi said.
Jahan smiled, confused. “We’re free.”
They shook their head. “Never to leave the city again? If the war gave us one thing, it was the ability to leave.”
Smile gone, Jahan looked long suffering. As if Mi forced him in a corner. “We’re safe now. Don’t tell me you wanted it to go on.”
“I don’t want to see more blood.”
Mi spoke the truth, but avoided outright telling him they wanted the war to end. The soldiers recovered and then returned to their practice. Practice within the practice grounds. Practice on the ground.
Let’s hear it for the good, for the bad
Obviously it just is, our one and only comrade
Obfuscating the truths of the matter
Descent simply is, we must hear the chatter
Of all things, at three o’clock in the morning, Zorica had not expected her roommate to break into her room covered in blood and murder her. Fortunately, she was already dead, so it was a minor inconvenience.
“What the hell?” she demanded, forcing her ghost back into the body. While she hated the pain that involved, without access to her hands she couldn’t begin to put the body back into place.
“I knew it!” Janice exclaimed. “You’re some sort of monster!”
“Why are you covered in blood, Janice?” Zorica asked the moment she could actually move her mouth again.
“Monsters!” Janice said, pointing the knife at her again.
Zorica slapped her. Janice dropped the knife. She could smell the blood, now on her hand, the fumes of insanity on it.
It wasn’t as though Zorica had had worse mornings, but she wouldn’t want it to become worse than now. Despite the pain, she dragged Janice to the shower to get her body and mind clean.
He wasn’t surprised none of the taxis wanted to stop for him. Considering how much blood he was covered in, it would certainly ruin their chance for sensible fare for the rest of the evening.
But his other option was bleed out, so he wearily struggled again to get someone’s attention.
“Do you need help?”
He glanced wearily at the man who spoke to him. Oh, not man, his mistake. It was a vampire. “No, I’m cool.” He couldn’t blame the vampire for it, but he wasn’t going to give him permission for any blood consumption.
“If you insist,” the vampire said, put out, but leaving him alone.
At least, until pulling up in an ambulance five minutes later. “What?” he asked, staring up at the same vampire stepping out of the ambulance.
“You might not want my help, but you’re gathering a crowd of blood consumers around you and I certainly don’t trust all of them to wait until you are dead to dive in.”
Then, without asking, the vampire threw him into the back of the ambulance, hooked him up and told the driver to get them moving to the hospital.
The attack party blocked the way into the nothingness, waiting for the moment he approached.
Their helmets shone gold, shaped as skulls that completely covered their domes. Silver scaled bucklers that attached to each of their forearms blocked all of their torsos completely. Thick robes to keep out the sands hung down in lavenders and midnight blues down to leather boots.
The scimitars in their other hands did not gleam. They were already dull. Filthy, but not with fresh blood. With old blood. Old blood with no time to clean it off before reaching this location.
They were to attack, but waited at their point of arrival as he came to stop them.
He stood no chance.
She didn’t know how to hold the sword.
Both hands reached out, gripping the hilt. The blade was long, thin, and embedded in the back of her father. She pulled it up and out. It changed nothing but the amount of blood which continued to spread across the floor, sinking in. A stain in the straw, under her feet.
One of those feet stepped back, turned out. The sword shook in front of her face, sharp edge dripping her father’s life down to her hands. A stain on her skin, under her skin.
The shadowed form rose on the other side of the room, framed in the moonlight.
She trembled, but held her ground.
It was hard to tell when she had closed her eyes. Robin occasionally glanced over at her, but in the dim light the young woman’s eyes were difficult to make out until she blinked. The blood of the moth in her was strong, maroon coloring her eyelids the same exactly pattern as the orbs that lay behind them.
“Have you caught your breath?” Robin asked her.
She nodded. “Yes, thank you. It’s so cold here. I’m not used to this weather.”
“They take you from far away?”
She nodded again. “My name is Min-hee. My father has to be looking for me. Is he looking for me?”
“I have no doubts.” Robin spoke as he usually did, without hesitance. “Let’s get you out of here. We can talk about what’s happened once we make sure you’re safe.”
Jay had a way of doing that simultaneously, but Robin hadn’t felt like he developed that skill yet. Still, they found a missing person. Perhaps they would finally find out why so many with signs of their beast blood were being kidnapped.
She clambered up the side of the crates, knife between their teeth. Her sheathe had fallen off earlier and she wasn’t sure when that had happened. Probably the guy who’d just betrayed her. That’s why his blood was on it. It tasted terrible. When she had a free hand, she would spit it out. Unless that would leave too much evidence of her passage. Maybe it would be better to swallow, if just to get it out of her mouth.
Was there a trail that she left? Bloody footprints, from the foot that had lost its boot? It could be hurt, there had been a cut, she remembered that. Not that she felt it. Not anymore.
Hunkering down at the top of the crates, she glared down at the soldiers beneath. When had they first come after her? What had she done? Absolutely nothing. Their search pattern was thorough, but they had yet to look up here. They would find her eventually though. She could not stay up here. With body flat to the metal, she skittered to the far side and looked up to the catwalks. She hid under while a soldier passed. After she would climb up and then… could she move past? Or would she have to take them out? Probably. It was either them or her.
As soon as the footsteps had distanced, she scrambled back up. Once there, she looked back to see the trail she had left behind. Her heart pounded in her throat and it took everything for her not to breath loudly, air hissing past the knife.
“Ma’am? Are… are you all right?”
She stabbed him before he could call out for reinforcements. With a clenched stomach, she dragged the body along, keeping as much of the blood from the metal floor. At least she could take these boots. At least she had that.
Mai stood still besides Zlhna’s chair as the woman wove her magic. The audience watched in awe and that was who Mai watched – the watchers. Those hovering close all had the same look of wonder on their faces. Mai wasn’t as worried about them. She recognized the complete banality that they represented.
Zlhna smoothed out the magic as though it were fabric and began to cut out the shapes she desired. Mai had seen this so many times, she could narrate it without looking. Which was what was necessary, because it meant she knew when, if anyone, would strike.
There were not many standing at the peripherals and they all appeared to be there because they had been late or shoved out from the main crowd. Zlhna’s eyes aimed up under her upper eyelid, showing the whites of her eyes. All she had awareness of was her fingers.
Mai caught sight of the assassin when Zlhna’s eyes narrowed further. This was the moment.
Mai shifted her stance barely and bit the side of her tongue until she tasted the blood begin to flow. She felt it flow through her veins. Staring directly at the attempted assassin, she shifted her arms as though she were about to move, just to get his attention. It worked. He met her eyes and she had him.
She stopped his blood. He crumpled to the ground.
Satisfied, Mai swallowed her blood and waited for Zlhna to finish her magic.