Story I – Chapter V [Part I]
Find all previous parts here
Galleran’s fears of what may come to pass because of the nights events were not unfounded yet even he was unable to imagine the true extent of the dilemma that was to befall their little town. The restlessness in the air was chilling-it spoke of droves on the move and with thunderous intentions and Galleran knew that this time, it would be near impossible to try and maintain the peace between hunters and demons if things were to escalate. Unfortunately, the bait that had been laid down was too sweet for either side to resist. A chill ran down his spine as he worried how ‘he’-the man he’d asked Daniel about, would react to things. He clung to the hope that he would simply let matters be even as his heart kept warning him it was already too late. The silence on his end had always simply meant that he was patient and waiting for the right moment. And as Galleran’s heart kept warning him, at that moment that very person was deciding it truly was time to return.
Life in the suburbs was easy, simple and much relaxing. That was exactly why he had chosen this particular spot as his resting spot after the last hunt. It helped that the last hunt he’d had, over six months ago, had more than satisfied his appetite and the ‘needs’ of his companion. There’d been no need to venture out specifically after that and so he’d spent that time polishing his ‘sport hunting’ and ‘lazing’ from his usual ventures. The little suburban area had been amok with rumors and fear of the supernatural phenomena that was plaguing them but it didn’t concern him much-not that anyone could do anything if they even wished so. And the way he’d planned it, there was still loads of time they could enjoy their little sport. His ward was all his present company included-it was the second time in his life he’d ever taken on someone with him and chuckled at the thought of how much surprise it had first generated a decade ago. He’d often heard people gossiping about him and his ‘little daughter’ and while it sometimes brought a chuckle to his lips; on some of the blue days, the comparison made him angry beyond thought. But he contained it, like he’d vowed to and it surprised and even frightened him how much he had changed. Yet, this was also the reason he’d spent the last ten years living a considerably low profile life-not because it was necessitated, but rather because it had now become habit to think for two instead of one. And since his ‘ward’s’ needs were special, he had to make several changes to his lifestyle to suit it according to hers. Needless to say, it was a change he’d chosen and had relished every day.
He’d barely been asleep half an hour this specific night after another long hour of the same thoughts rummaging through his mind that he was suddenly jolted out of sleep. While some may have been groggy, taken a moment to look around and search for the reason they were woken, he realized it the moment his eyes opened. Gathering his thoughts and taking a deep breath, he got out of bed and with deliberate steps, headed straight outside. His mind was so occupied in thought that he never even turned towards his ward, following five steps behind him. Once outside, he didn’t stop in the yard either and walked further out with longer strides until he reached the wind tower at the North end of his plantation. Nor did he stop until he reached the terrace at the top of the tower. Once there, calmly, he raised his eyes to look at the sky. He muttered an oath under his breath just as the little girl came by his side.
For moments, there was only silence as he kept gazing at the sky but took the tiny hand the little girl offered him. She sagged against him once he did and turned her gaze to the sky as well. And while he’d simply muttered an oath, she gasped.
“The stars-?” was all she could whisper.
“I know.” He replied absently, mind wandering in thoughts. For a moment neither spoke anymore until he continued, more in thought to himself than to her and with a cunning smile, “Who would’ve thought? Sweetie, seems like there’s something more interesting out there for us after all!”
“But why are they red? Why are the stars all red?”
This time he smiled wider. “It’s an invitation.”
“Are we leaving again then?”
“Yup. Time to go on a journey sweetie. You wouldn’t mind, would you?”
The little girl turned her face up towards his and smiled at him as she shook her head. He patted her head thoughtfully as he kneeled in front of her and placed both hands on her shoulders.
“There’s a little problem. So you should think about it first. We’ll be going back there.”
The little girl stiffened.
“Don’t be afraid! I’m here, aren’t I? No one can hurt you again, you know that! Who knows, we’ll even level the field this time!” he reassured her with a smile and squeezed her shoulders gently. After several moments, she nodded slowly but said nothing. “If what the stars say is true sweetie,” he assured her. “This will be one lucky trip!”
Releasing her, he turned his wrist and checked the time on the clock. Just past 3 am. But his excitement was too much to allow him to slip back to sleep and so he turned to his ward. “Let’s go around and play some. It’s been a while since we showed our faces around, hasn’t it?”
Instead of going downstairs to Uther and Annie, Ian headed straight for the back end balcony of the house. Once there, he released the breath he’d been holding and for a while continued to pant for breath, his forehead beginning to show signs of sweat. To an innocent bystander, it would have seemed like he had just taken a break in between a long and arduous run. The situation was much like it, he knew; he’d taken away Su Ae’s nightmares’ effects onto himself. Although his aura was well equipped to handle it, it also meant his body would now need to heal. Considering it had been years since he last went on a hunt, it would also require more time than usual. And going hunting now wasn’t an option either since it would mean leaving Su Ae vulnerable. He still clearly remembered the last time he’d left Su Ae alone for a while and his panic at finding her gone when he’d returned. Slowing his breath as he felt the pain from the effects subside, he let his eyes drift.
Looking out at the view, he leaned onto the railing and finally allowed his mind to wander. Su Ae was asleep and would not wake for many hours now, which gave him plenty time to go through the conflicting and worrisome thoughts that had haunted him since the night before. Someone had breached his barrier and yet he’d not felt anything. And yet, from the very few of those who were capable of such trickery, his mind couldn’t pin any one as a suspect. Unless he could find a reason for everything, he could not make any assumptions. And that thought was most alarming-with Su Ae’s fate still so unknown in the balance; this was definitely not the time for things to take such an unexpected turn. Under normal circumstances, his first suspicion would have been the Council, but he couldn’t put a nagging doubt out of his mind. If it were indeed the Council, how come they left Su Ae untouched? How and when had their motives towards Su Ae changed? The list of questions was endless but there was no way he could help Su Ae when he felt so helpless himself. How could he find a perpetrator when there was no trace left for him to follow?
Moreover, the presence of the two people downstairs was a dilemma he did not yet know how to handle. He knew better than anyone not to show his weakness or Su Ae’s to anyone, yet Annie and Uther were slowly but surely becoming a part of the puzzle. He’d much prefer to keep them away and in the dark but he’d also learned long ago that there wasn’t much he could control when it came to Su Ae. That was one thought that worried him still more. While he’d lived in the world and experienced its true nature, Su Ae was still unable to do much for herself. Her strengths as a hunter and demon hadn’t yet matured-a factor that would not have worried him ordinarily, but seeing Su Ae in the library last night, he was coming to the realization that time was moving faster than he’d anticipated and not in a good manner.
Closing his eyes, he ran his hands over his face wearily as a memory stirred in his mind, the slightest whisper of a name and words he’d tried his best to erase from his mind, even more so in the past ten years. “There are some sins you can never be free of!” The raspy voice still niggled at his mind. He knew it was true, knew he could never come close to atoning yet he’d managed to bury those thoughts under the happiness he’d experienced ever since he’d decided to break free and run. Ten years, he thought with a smile, ten years he’d run and he’d been happy. But it wasn’t going to be so easy anymore. What would Su Ae think, he wondered to himself, if she ever found out the truth about him.
He was still engrossed in his thoughts when a voice called out to him from behind. Startled, he quickly turned around, his senses going alert but came to a relieved stop when he spotted the figure from the slanting roof above staring down at him.
Lawrence jumped down onto the balcony-a mere twelve feet drop and faced Ian.
“What happened last night? Everything is in an uproar out there!” He casually gestured towards the scenery from the balcony but he needn’t have, since Ian caught his meaning easily-the world of hunters and demons was in an uproar.
“My barrier was breached.” Ian told him. “I didn’t even know it until someone got to Su Ae. And there’s no trace for me to follow.”
“What do you mean the barrier was breached? Why would anyone do that?”
“That’s exactly what I can’t figure out. Whoever it was, they didn’t harm Su Ae, just put her in a trance.”
“But an energy signal was given out. That can’t be just the trance! Nothing like that has ever happened before!”
“This wasn’t like before, Lawrence, it was worse; worse than I’ve ever seen, not even remotely close to simple.” Ian said grimly. “Her powers, her self is still mostly human. I’ve been taking care of her, I know how she is and how much she had matured. There’s no reason for her body to undergo such a sudden change. Even the mark has yet to appear! If there was even a slight chance, I’d have known.”
“Well, it definitely changes things, no matter the cause.” Lawrence told him as he leaned back against the railings and crossed his arms on his chest, then turned his head to look past Ian into the distance. “Was there anyone else around? What was Su Ae doing at her friend’s place anyway?”
Ian was silent for a moment before replying. “No, no one was around.” He didn’t catch Lawrence’s sharp gaze at his answer.
“She was staying the night, so what about her friend?”
“She slept through it.” Ian lied without hesitation this time. “I got here before anything could happen. She doesn’t know anything.”
For a few moments, Lawrence simply looked at him contemplatively. Ian caught the look but didn’t think much of it as Lawrence shrugged and spoke.
“Things have changed because of it. There’s no hiding here anymore. It’s wrecked havoc out there. You know how things in our world work. Either you move away again-quickly, or risk staying and you know how dangerous that can get.”
“But move again? We’ve barely lived here six months!”
“You’re not in a position to think naively Ian. If anyone dangerous or the Council-” Lawrence began but Ian cut him off.
“The Council can’t harm her even if it finds us now. How do I know it wasn’t them last night?” Ian told him. “Besides, I don’t think Su Ae would agree so easily this time. And even if we wanted to go away, I doubt we can. You know running and hiding can only work until a point. You said it yourself, the energy signal was too great and we passed that point last night.”
“At least you can still try! It’ll be better than sitting here waiting for hell to break loose! Trust me; the Council is the least of your worries right now.” Lawrence spoke sharply this time, with an edge to his voice. Although Ian could understand Lawrence’s words, he knew it wasn’t an easy decision anymore. Even if he took Su Ae and ran, life won’t be as quiet for them anymore. Now the world knew she existed, and sooner rather than later, she would be hunted.
“Why do you think it happened? What do you think happened? Why would anyone do this?” Ian asked him, his voice a gloomy whisper. “They just gave out her existence to the whole world! What could someone possibly gain by doing this?”
“If it’s the Council, you can never know.” Lawrence muttered in a neutral yet heavy tone. “They’ve never been too keen on the peace.”
“Oh, that is no reason. The war was always inevitable. This brittle peace was never going to hold on forever.” Ian countered as he spread out his hands, palms up and shook his head. “That’s not the whole picture. Even if it was for the war, why drag her into it?”
Lawrence didn’t reply and silence hung in the air as Ian looked out towards the view once again, his mind now racing with thoughts. Finally Lawrence straightened and headed over to the corner of the balcony.
“So you won’t change your mind?” He asked Ian as he jumped onto the railing.
“Not unless she wants it.” Ian whispered quietly.
“I’ll be around!” was all Lawrence said before he jumped down and walked away.
Once he was gone, however Ian tried to rack his brain for the reason for last night, he ended up with nothing. In frustration, he let out a sigh before deciding to head back inside. It was time to face Annie and Uther and decide on what to do next. Like Lawrence had said, he definitely needed a plan, not just for himself, but for their sake too.
Continued in Part II