Vampires, witches, werewolves, all stuff out of legends, stories told by parents to scare children. But try holding to that thought while you walk into a Vampire's lair wielding no more than a stake and a few spells up your sleeve. Try to comfort yourself that it's all just a bad dream and that you'll wake up, whilst fearing that one bite from your enemy might turn you also into a hunter of the night. Try wresting with a full-grown werewolf on a night of the full-moon and say it's all a myth.
But then, that's my job; to make it possible for people to keep thinking that it's all a myth. At least, that's what my parents did, and their parents before them, the title of The NightBane, to rid the world of evils.
Unlike my predecessors, I have no intention of saving the world or ridding the world of evil, it's all too much for my 19 years old shoulder to handle, but the pay is good, and I have fun doing what I do. In general I patrol the streets of Melbourne, keeping it clean of blood sucking vermin, whilst being paid by the government. More often than not, I take private cases; after all I am one of the best there is.
I am sure there are more such families around the world that have the title of The NightBane, but with the death of both parents when I was but eleven, I have no contact with others that have the same kinds of power as I do. It is better this way; no one can betray another when they don't know the other exist.
I tap my feet to the beat of R&B and move my body to the pulsating bodies of the people around me. The music is loud and hypnotic and I am impressed by the layout around me. The Hold On Bar isn’t exactly the most famous or popular club in Melbourne, but it is comfortable and active enough that it is still packed at 3 in the morning. The resident DJ has an obvious liking to R&B and so does the people who go there. Apparently The Hold On Bar is used to having regular customers only, as more than once that night I had gotten looks from the other dancers. I guess they don’t see many Chinese visiting; but it doesn’t matter to me either way, I’m here for a reason and blending in is the last thing on my mind.
The room is smoky and a lot of bodies are pressed together, but that doesn’t stop me from sensing her. She is on the other side of the room, pressing against another guy, dancing. I am guessing that the experience isn't unpleasant for the guy. I could imagine how she looks like from my previous glimpse of her. Long black hair with selected strands plaited with ribbons. White silk shirt clinging to ebony skin and a black leather skirt that barely reaches her thighs. She’s been dancing with a different guy for each dance, and I know that she is still looking, but I also know that there isn’t much time left to the night. Keeping in mind where she is dancing, I make my way towards her. I know I only have one chance at making an impression, and after watching her for most of the night, I know that I am not about to fail.
Sliding up to her as the song changed to a slower more intimate beat, my skirt flares in a rush of black material against her. The guy she was dancing with backs off at the unexpected intrusion. I know I've got her attention now, I guess she didn’t expect to be approached by one of the same sex, but I could tell that she didn’t mind. Ivory and ebony skin brushing and teasing as the song continued, I know that she wasn’t planning on looking any further, I let her lead me out of the club through the back door.
The back door of the club leads into a deserted alleyway, a long stretch of darkness either way. After the loud music within, the night outside seems blessedly quiet. All this registering in my head as she pushes me firmly but unthreateningly against the wall, I comply, keeping myself balanced at the same time. She leans towards me; catching my mouth with hers. I let her kiss me, returning the favor in a fashion. She was looking into my eyes, to look for any signs of resistance to her charms. I let her powers drag me into a slight lull, enough to put a daze look of compliance in my eyes, before anchoring myself mentally against any further mollification. Even with her powers, she would not be able to detect the resistance in me. I put my hand on her hips, as she begin to nuzzle at my neck, locking her into position. She doesn’t seem to realise, and I notice that her skin was becoming dry. She had left it till the very last moment; I am surprised that she could withstand the thirst for so long. As I had expected, she drew back from me for a fraction to look at my face one last time, memorizing my face... before revealing her fangs and drink my life-blood from me. In that split moment, when she was storing my face in her memory, realization hit her as she saw life flash back in my eyes. Before she has time to react, I press my forehead against her forehead, whispering, "NightBane" and releasing a blast through her, from mind’s eye to mind’s eye. With a soundless cry she crumbles into a pile of old bones as I force the power that allows her to be animate from her body. By morning, even the bones would be no more than a pile dust. She must have been old to be reduced to a pile of dust so quickly; it is surprising that I was so easily able to contain her. I shrug the thought away, it doesn’t matter now, it was better this way, I don’t need to get rid of the body, or worse, if it was a newly made, I’ll have to take the body to the morgue so that some stricken parents could claim them.
Brushing myself down, I step away from the pile of eroding bones. Then I feel it, a disturbance in the air, and I look back at the space above what was once the body of the vampire. Touching my forefinger to my mind’s eye, I reach out with my other hand to bring my finger into contact with the space where the vampire once stood. I drew a sigil of purification in the air and for a moment the sigil flashed silver in the air, and I hear a shriek of pain and forlorn in my mind before that too faded into silence.
I turn and walk towards the end of the alley, I didn’t turn to look back.
"It is interesting to note the many variations of the same myths across different countries..." The droning voice of the lecturer pacing at the front of the lecture theatre intermingled with soft whispers, some soft coughing and the sounds of shuffling paper; an overall normal lecture on a Monday afternoon.
Halfway up the lecture room from the lecturer, sitting slightly left from the centered of the row, a really tired 19 years old doodled in her notes. She looked at the clock on the wall; there was still 15 minutes till the end of class. She sighed.
"I think the whole lecture theatre knows you want to get out of here." The boy sitting next to her whispered, not looking away from what he was copying, "I thought you liked Ancient Mythology."
Lilac turned to her friend, "I just want to go home and sleep, I've been at Uni since 8 this morning, and I didn't get home till 5 last night." She rested her head on the table; "Even Ancient Mythology cannot keep me awake."
"And whose fault is that?" Alex paused in his scribbling to look at her, "I told you not to take the job, but you wouldn't listen."
"Oh come on." Lilac shifted her head so that she could look at Alex whilst still having her head rested on her arms on the desk, "Do you know how much they paid me for that extermination? I wouldn't let that job go just because of lack of sleep."
Alex rolled his eyes in exasperation, "Money. It's always money. Don't you think of anything else?"
Lilac gave her friend the look, "As if you don't know the answer to that already." She closed her eyes getting ready to nap for the last ten minutes of the class, "How am I to pay off my credit card bills if I don't think about money?"
Alex gave up on trying to argue with her; when he had first found out that his best friend also had a part-time job at ridding the world of evil, he had been delusioned with the idea that his friend, like him, was out to save the world, but after five years of getting to know her materialistic nature, any fantasy he might have had was banished.
"I thought that the government pay you pretty well for patrolling the city at night as it is. Why must you still take these private cases?" But even as he asked the question, he knew the answer; he's seen Lilac in action with her credit card, he sometimes wondered how she managed to pay it all off even with her private cases. Her answer didn't disappoint him; "One could never have enough money, not to mention that I saw the most gorgeous pair of shoes the other day..."
Even as she started to explain just why she had to buy the pair of shoes, Lilac could see that Alex was not really listening, he was just nodding his head every now and then. Lilac gave up talking and both resumed listening to the lecturer; that was one thing good about their friendship, they both agreed that the other has different views and neither tried to change the other.
"Okay, that's it for today. I'll see you guys on Wednesday, thank you." The lecturer began to pack away his notes as students shoved their belongings into their bags and filed out of the lecture theatre. Alex and Lilac relaxed in their seats as people congested at the two exits at the back of the lecture theatre, a few other people were also staying in their seats to wait out the worse of the crowding.
Looking at the pair, a casual observer would think that they were brother and sister; both were of Asian descent, with similar sophisticated facial features, the same black hair that tends to fizzle at any sight of rain, and the same piercing black eyes.
But on closer familiarity with the pair, it could be seen that the differences between them far outweigh their surface similarities. Alex's piercing eyes, rimmed by a pair of glasses were more often than not, a pool of calm serenity, in contrast to Lilac, whose fiery temper and over enthusiastic nature contrast sharply with Alex's complacent personality.
The two looked no different from the rest of the students that attend Melbourne University in Melbourne, Australia. They even had secrets that they keep, just like most other university students; it is just that most of the other students’ secrets didn’t involving being hired by government departments to rid the city of vermin.
The truth is, Melbourne, like other major cities in the world, has two worlds; the world which everyday people live, go to school or go to work, called the UpperWorld, and the other world, the world which emerges with the setting of the sun, known to those who know of its existence as the UnderWorld. Many things exist in the UnderWorld; creatures and beasts that are seen only in fairytales, exist in the UnderWorld and they flourish.
In the past, the government sought to rid all the cities of the UnderWorld, but after many generations of covered-up battles, and neither sides giving in, it dawned on these government groups that the UnderWorld was too deeply entrenched to be fully rooted out, the only thing left to do was to keep it in check. Therefore the government, to keep a check on the inhabitants of the UnderWorld, and to eliminate those who cross the line into the UpperWorld, employed agents with special powers. Lilac and Alex are one of the many agents under government employment.
Unlike the others employed by the government, Lilac and Alex enjoys a greater degree of freedom than the other agents; Alex because is the heir of a multinational billionaire, and Lilac because she possess higher levels of power. This is due to her inheritance of a legendary power, but apart from Alex, no one else knows the power for what it is, the sign of a Nightbane.
Walking out of the lecture theatre, Lilac squinted against the mid-afternoon sun, "Headache..." Lilac mumbled as she pushed on her purple tinted sunglasses, "I think I'm getting as sensitive as one of them."
Alex just stretched, turning his face towards the sun and breathing in the fresh air, "That's because you spend so much time in the Underworld."
Lilac gave Alex a dirty look; "You make it sound like I party all night with Vampires instead of hunting them."
Alex smirked as they walked towards the Union House, the center of student activities, "Well that seems to be the impression I'm getting from what I've heard about last night." Lilac could felt herself flush as they passed through the knot of people gathered in front of the Union House, declining the leaflets and flyers that were being handed out; it was true that sometimes during the night she becomes a totally different person, but she didn't really want to be reminded of that fact. "I always wondered whether you have ever set any spies on me." She grumbled.
Alex laughed, "You give me too much credit. Do you think that any spies of mine can ever track you down? No, one of my friends just happened to be at The Hold On Bar when you showed up. You made quite an impression, although he didn't know whom you were, you caught his eye, nearly made him forget his mission there. I recognized his description of you immediately." Alex paused to smile again as he remembered his friend's voice over the phone as he described the vision he saw at the hidden dump, The Hold On Bar. "He was a bit disappointed to find that you'd disappeared when his back was turned."
Lilac chose not to comment as they lined up at the coffee bar to order their drinks; she knew that Alex's "friend" was more likely than not one of his informants keeping him updated on the workings of the underworld, and knew that she would get no answers if she asked anything about him. "A hot chocolate thanks." She told the woman on the other side of the counter. "A latte please." Alex added to the woman.
Collecting their drinks, they wound their way through the groups of people milling around, or spread out around tables, and settled in a relatively quiet corner just outside the coffee shop, the sounds of conversation and cutlery muffling their voices from outsiders.
"I think there is some reason you mentioned your friend seeing me at the Hold On Bar last night?" Lilac scooped some of the froth from the top of her hot chocolate; Alex would never bring up the subject if there weren't some point to it.
Alex seemed to ponder for a moment, his eyebrows knitting together slightly as he took sips from his cup; most likely thinking of the best way of phrasing it to me, Lilac thought. Finally looking up at Lilac, Alex stated carefully, "I think you're getting sloppy."
Yep, he phrased it perfectly, Lilac thought as she just stared at him, "What do you mean by sloppy?" she tried not to over-react, at least not until he explained himself; mentally she began to tally up all the missions she has ever received, none that she had not completed without flying colours.
Alex could see that Lilac would start being dramatic again unless he could start talking, fast, "Please listen to me. Ofcourse I'm not suggesting that your abilities are any less than the best. But I just worry about you." Seeing that Lilac was at least going to listen to what he has to say before launching into a dramatic fiasco, Alex continued, "Take last night for example... you put on a show for the whole bar. I can bet my job that my friend is not the only one to have noticed you and whom you were with.
"Should anyone from the UnderWorld try to find the cause of death of your last night's vampire... well someone might remember something they shouldn't. And if they even suspect what you are..." Alex trailed off, totally serious now, "You don't need me to tell you what happens after that."
Lilac didn't answer, she knew what would happen, more than anyone; her parents had died because they were found out to be Vampire hunters, worse, they were discovered to be NightBane, the best of Vampire hunters and possessing powers to destroy Vampires by touch.
After being found out, the consequence was the same as all the others; in a matter of a few days, her parents were tracked down and killed. Her parents didn't even know that they have been found out. The Vampires had set alight the Fong family home too, to kill Sarah and Thomas Fong's one daughter, Lilac. But Lilac had avoided death by hiding in the treehouse in the backyard.
That was eight years ago. Lilac had no silly notion of finding the Vampires that killed her parents, it is expected that if you were a Vampire hunter, one day, you would die by Vampire hands, even being NightBane doesn't deter the inevitable. If the death of her parents were to make her more determined about anything, it was to make sure that she keeps her identity hidden and stay alive for long as possible.
Alex wonders whether he had gone too far by mentioning Lilac's parents. With her head down and her face in the shadows, there was no way that Alex could judge her emotions.
Lilac got up from her seat, she didn't look at Alex as she said, "I'll fix it, don't worry, I won't make that kind of mistake again." Hoisting her bag onto her shoulder, she walked out of the café, leaving her half-finished cup of hot chocolate on the table with Alex, whom despite Lilac's words - or more precisely, because of her words - was worried.
[to be continued...]