Blades collided, I kept the pressure on. Coil kept parrying, keeping his calm and not letting my flurry of blow get to him. I attacked again, he parried and my stance faltered. He riposted, going in for the kill, I tried to block the upcoming hit, but it switched to a lunge, stupid faint... The sword went past me defense and slit my upper arm holding the rapier. I dropped it. Coil didn’t believe in practice swords and he’d insisted on us training before he did anything for me. I hadn’t minded; I needed a way to vent my anger.
“You’re on edge.” Coil said, his weapon at my throat. “All offense and no real defense. Distracted and unfocused.”
“I’ve had a rough day.” I grunted. “My mom found out what was going on with me.”
“An interesting excuse, but there’s something else. You walked in here and demanded I introduce you to the downtown sorcerer. You attacked that insolent classmate of yours. You’re thinking long term and scheming.”
“So?” I said, getting my weapon back. The wound was shallow and not dangerous.
“You’ve been feeding on blood.”
“How do you…” I didn’t finish that sentence.
“It shows in your attitude, you’re feeding your vampiric side, the one that prompt you to act and think in terms of dominance. It’s making you defensive. Since when and how much are you taking?” He lowered his weapon.
“A week?” I said. “I don’t know the amount, not more than a few milliliters once or twice a day.”
“Are you craving right now?”
“I guess?” I said, I did feel an itch down in my soul.
“It’ll get more intense the more you feed. Your nature will also slide further into the vampiric and less toward the human. Come with me.”
We left the training room and went down the stairs, leaving the building and walking the stone path to the other end of the terrain.
“Our nature is twofold: One is predatorial, we live to compete and we are naturally wired for hunting and fighting. The second is that of dominance, we want to establish territory, control over those under us and be respected. We are not wired to be emotive beyond the need for those two parts. The more your vampiric nature will grow, the less feeling you will be.”
“So I’ll become a killing machine?”
“No, much worse.” He answered. “You’ll become coldly efficient and logical. Everything will be pawns in your grand scheme, you’ll also thinking more and more in longer terms. This is how I am, make no mistake Lauren, you are a pawn in my game, I have little feeling for you or for anyone. But I respect you and your uses.”
“So you want me to be less human?”
“That is your choice, both options are useful in my plans. Humanity will benefit in allowing you to more easily connect with others, something that will be necessary. Vampirism will make you a better planer and combatant. So I’ll leave the choice for you, not because I care about your feelings as an individual but because your feelings may cause setbacks in my plans should they be hurt.”
“Wow… Thanks?” I wasn’t sure what to say. Part of me knew, but another part hoped he was being nice because he liked me. “Can I ask you something?” He nodded. “Are you cool with me being trans or are you just getting on my good side? I mean you’re all kinds of ancient, I would think you’d be a little conservative...”
I wasn’t sure if he’d reply honestly but after a moment, he started talking.
“Social conservatism is of the domain of pathology, Things are not so different from before and the ideas that older times were better is a fantasy. I know because I was there. Should I be closed to new ideas, I would still be protesting masonry or the wheel. Beside what you are is nothing new, modern humans have a tendency to assume that western values are the default and have always been everywhere. But individuals desiring to be another gender or identifying as a third gender have always existed and many culture not only accepted them, but actually respected or even honored them through history. So, no I do not have any problem with what you are or have any problem understanding. It is not a new idea despite what eurocentric people would have you think.”
“Wow… That was a little more than I expected. No offense but you tend to skirt around issues and only give half answers.”
“Well, you are becoming a better asset everyday, so I have less compulsion against trusting you, Oath or no Oath.”
We kept walking and arrived at the Orphanage that occupied the other end of Coil’s domain. He walked into the door
We came into a room where two dozens kids aged between five to twelve were sitting on school benches, with a pair of tutors sitting at two desks on both end of the room.
“Mr. Coil!” One of them said when she saw us.
All of the kids got up from their seat and swarmed us, trying to talk to Coil.
“Settle down kids, I have time for everyone.” He said, seeming almost nice.
“Mr. Coil, I thought I’d asked you to avoid disrupting classes.” The older of the two women said.
“My apologies Ms. Washington, but I had to do so within the time frame my assistant was here.”
Eyes turned toward me, both adults and children’s.
“Sophia, would you like to come with us? You didn’t get a chance last time.”
The girl, who looked to be maybe eleven nodded and came forward, Coil took her hand and he started walking away with her. I followed and they stopped in the empty living room. She sat down and he sat down next to her.
“Are you ready?”
“Uh-huh.” She said.
He plunged his fangs into her neck and started drinking. I stood by paralyzed. The girl didn’t seem in pain, she seemed oddly pleased and it felt just wrong. When Coil pulled away she seemed disappointed.
“Already, Mr, Coil?”
“I just want to know if my friend wants some too.”
Somewhere I had suspicions on why Coil needed an orphanage, but seeing it in person was a very different matter. The worst was that I could see the small drops on her neck and I felt hungrier than ever before.
“The blood of Children is the most potent. It will make you stronger, faster, smarter and more vicious than you could ever want to, Lauren. I have dined exclusively on it for many decades.” He came forward, his finger was dipped in her blood, he raised it to my lips and I smelled it. I wanted it so badly, I shook. He slowly brought his finger closer but I jerked away.
“No…” I said, feeling sick. “I’ll pass.” I stumbled backward and fell to my knees.
I was in a downward spiral, I wasn’t sure I would come back if I did drink… At that moment, I understood I needed help…
“So this is the answer to the test.”
“What test?” I said, I was about to break.
“On how far your condition has progressed. Blood is not a biological requirement, Lauren, it is an addiction, a strong empowering one, but an addiction nonetheless. One day, you will break and drink, I have very little doubt, but for now, you still have a grasp on your own being. You may go, I’ll have an appointment with the Downtown Sorcerer ready for you within the hour arranged for tonight. It’s the least I can do for you after doing this.”
I didn’t say anything, I just slowly collected myself and left. I needed to leave, take some fresh air and to calm down.
I had what I wanted but I also got to learn just how faustian our bargain had been.