Part 20: Median Light LevelsNo, no, this just wont do. This is going nowhere I want it to go. I have to start over. I have to start again.
I feel I must write to you, mother, for even though you have abandoned me and father to be with the handsome prince who was your lifes true love from the first moment you met when both of you were but mere children, still I feel we share a kinship that permits me to write to you of my trials and tribulations in this new place, in this Academagia.
While my father continues to be dismayed by your departure, I am not so troubled, for I know your true love was destined to be and thus you have done naught but follow your heart. Still, I wish to assure you that Father is doing well, even in spite of the events which I shall relate.
Though I arrived too late in the school year to start at the beginning, still I have you to thank for getting a head start by providing me with the unknowable tutors who taught me unspeakable secrets which allowed me to keep up with my classmates.
But I get ahead of myself. I should first talk about my first day in Mineta when I did naught but move my belongings to this new location. You know that Father is the Captain of the Minetan Guard, of course, and so the new mansion was smaller than what I am used to. Father did his best to accommodate me, however, and while moving in I was met by a childhood friend whom I had not seen since we moved away from this fair city so long ago. I shall record here exactly what was said, for I have a perfect memory and present exactly what was said.
There you are, Izzy. I hope you like living here.
I shall do my best to tolerate it, Father.
Mm. Guess thats the best I can hope for from you.
It was at this moment that my childhood friend, James, arrived. He came astride a beautiful steed, a horse with a ruddy coat and a noble bearing in his eyes. James dismounted with the ease of a lifetime rider and we hugged to say hello. Do you recall James, Mother? He lives out on the island of Elumia itself, where his father runs a farm that breeds horses and other working animals.
Im glad to see you back, Izzy. Do you remember back when you lived here before? We played in the mud all the time.
Ah, to be such a careless youth again.
Yeah, I I guess. Anyway, do you like the horse?
He is a noble steed.
Glad you like it, cause hes yours.
Yep! I mean, hes over fifteen now, but hes got lots of experience with riders, hes patient and solid as a rock, and he knows the streets of Mineta better than a street urchin.
The magnificent horse shook his head in approval of James praise.
It is a wonderful gift. Has he a name?
Well, hes got a rust-red coat, so we decided to call him Sanford.
An excellent name.
Little else of note happened that first day. The next, however, would be very notable indeed.
The other students of the Academagia were very welcoming to me. Little time had passed before I was met by one member of the school paper.
Hi, there. Youre the new girl, right? I hear youre the daughter of the Captain of Mineta. Did you want to do a front page interview? Thatll be a great way to let everyone know about you.
I agree. It sounds like an excellent idea.
Great! See you during lunch, we should have some time for it then.
Classes thereafter were dull, as they ever are. However, during Athletics class, I accidentally kicked a ball into the back of the head of a scrawny lad.
My apologies. My clumsy actions are my only weakness.
No, thats fine, I shouldnt have been erm standing there like that. Nice to meet you, I suppose.
Hey, new girl, did you just hit Max in the head with the ball? Great shot!
Ha, ha. So whats your name?
You may call me Izzy. I come from a far distant land although my father lives in this very town, acting as the Captain of the Guard.
Wow, really? Thats cool.
You arent here to talk, kids! Get back to it!
Thus we had to continue our conversation at lunch, where I discovered that my first acquaintance was part of this same group of friends. We enjoyed our time talking, but I became distracted when a set of five strange people entered the cafeteria. Seeing my interest, my new friends explained for me.
Those are the Declans. Theyre all weird and keep to themselves. Like, you know, that way.
Are they not all related?
Theyre all adopted, or thats what they tell us.
Those two are an item, for instance. Lisa and Jeff.
And so are they. Those are Violet and Eric.
What about him?
Oh, him? Thats Ned. No one hangs out with him. Too cool to hang out with the rest of us, I guess.
I see. I will not waste time thinking more about him.
I was not so fortunate, unfortunately, for he would be my work partner during Zoology class. I saw nothing wrong with this at first, but when he made to retch when an errant breeze brought my scent to him, I knew then I would dislike him.
On that first day, it seemed the feeling was his as well, for he raced out of class and tried his best to convince the teacher to let him change courses though it was the middle of the term.
Sure enough, Ned did not show up for class the next day, or the two after that. I therefore forgot all about him, aside from glaring at his empty seat occasionally during Zoology. It would not be until Thursday that he reappeared.
[Writing like this is really hard. Why is she the only one who talks like that? I probably ought to fix that.]
When Thursday came, Ned returned, acting as though nothing unusual had happened. Feeling some distaste, I sat next to him only because all other spots were filled. Though my displeasure must have been obvious, still he spoke to me.
Greetings. I dont believe weve been introduced; my name is Ned Declans.
How nice. I am Izzy Crane. Interesting how polite you are now considering you almost threw up at the sight of me on Monday.
My apologies. I was sick. For the past few days.
Sick enough to try getting out of Zoology class entirely?
As if it matters that you dont like me. Lets just try and get through this class.
We traded few words after that. Still, I noticed even then that Ned had trouble taking his eyes from me. I therefore reviewed several defensive spells as the class wore on.
Returning to the stables to head home from the campus, a disaster struck! A driver had whipped his horses into an uncaring frenzy, and they were plunging out of control straight for me! My back was to the stables wall, Sanford still waiting inside, and there was naught to stop the carriage! Thinking quickly, I pulled out my wand, but oh, my one weakness struck and my clumsy hand threw the wand far out of reach!
Feeling the weight of the horses rush upon me, I cowered, but that was when Ned appeared from nowhere. Without a wand, Ned stepped before the horses and batted them aside with a single swipe. Ned then turned to me and asked after my health, to which I explained I was fine.
I was of two minds regarding Neds actions. On the one hand, he clearly saved my life, but on the other, he must have been following me in secret to see the event occur. I was thus more polite than I had been in Zoology, but still on the ride home I checked through the defensive spells I had considered earlier. And it was good I did so.
That night as I slept, a small sound awoke me and I saw Neds form standing over my bed. Without sparing time to think, I reached for my wand and cast the spell.
With a satisfying wump, the spell impacted his chest and sent him flying with an Oof! and an Ow! straight through the window. Satisfied that he would think twice before invading my home again, I pulled the covers back up and returned to sleep.
Nothing significant would happen for several weeks afterward. Ned and I continued to share a space in Zoology class, but we spoke little. I no longer saw Ned following me and I considered his defenestration punishment enough for creeping into my room, so I did not confront him further.
One weekend, I and my friends went to the lake out by James ranch. We had some fun splashing about and summoning waves to crash upon us. After growing tired of such sport, I went for a walk with James himself, who had come to join us.
Heard youve been hanging out with one of those Declans kids.
Hanging out would mean wed been doing anything beyond taking Zoology together.
Good. You know, my family has a legend about the Declans. They say they were some of the first to settle Elumia, back before the Empire even began. Our family was still here first, having descended from the first wolves, and we made a treaty with them. The Pale Skins would stay away from the humans, and in return we would allow them to live here. Crazy legend, right?
Convinced that James was trying to tell me something but still unsure what precisely he meant, I went to the hidden Library of Google to find the legend he described and hopefully get more information. And indeed I found it, along with other legends about blood-drinkers, soul-suckers, and human-shaped predators. In a word, vampires.
Still, I could not quite believe it. Ned handled garlic with ease, holy symbols were passed without comment, and, most importantly, I had seen him during the day. Surely he must be another form of magical monster?
Alas, going home that evening required me to move through a small alley and in it were a number of villains who wished more from me than I was willing to give. I was just about to pull out my wand and show them why they should have chosen a better target, but then Ned arrived upon a sleek black mare and scattered the attackers. Ned then reached down and asked me to join him before the ruffians could regroup. Seeing it an easier option than staying, I joined him on the horse and we rode off into the main streets of Mineta. Once there, I had to speak to him.
Why do you keep following me?!
Now look, I just saved your life! Again!
I could have handled that myself!
You didnt know what horrible things they were thinking.
And somehow you did?
Well I thought it was pretty obvious.
So obvious that I didnt know myself?
Im getting off. And stop following me!
I did not see Ned any longer that night, though I knew by then that that was no guarantee.
I had had enough. When classes ended on Wednesday, I marched into the Imperial Reserve, knowing that Ned Declans would be following.
I found a small clearing that seemed useful enough and halted in the middle. I began to speak.
You have super speed and super strength, all while barely using your wand. Youre really good at sneaking around, and apparently you can read minds.
Sure enough, Ned appeared before me as I spoke.
You know what I am. Say it!
Say what? I have no idea what you are!
I cmon! Not even after what wolf boy told you?
You were there, too? Ugh!
Fine then, Ill show you!
Then, without waiting for as much as a word of assent, Ned picked me up and ran at super speed further into the Reserve. After running for miles, he finally found what he was looking for: a meadow where the sun reached between the trees. Setting me down, Ned backed slowly into the sunlight.
now you will see me for what I really am.
I am a vamp
Pffffhha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!
It its not that funny.
Nope, its just plain fabulous! Kxxhta ha ha ha ha ha!
Im a demon of the night! I drink peoples blood!
And you look so amazing when you do it! Ah ha ha ha ha!
Its look, were made of a special kind of stone, thats all, and thats why we avoid direct sunlight
Or else people will figure out youre made of sequinite! I love it!
Sometime later, once I had finally calmed down enough to listen, Ned explained that all vampires have a special and unique power, and that his was being able to read minds. He could read any mind in the world except for mine. Probably because of my training in the Unspeakable Arts. Of course, I did not tell him this, even though my unreadable mind was probably why he obsessed over me. I was fascinated by this point since I had never heard of sparkling vampires before, and before the day was done, I had convinced Ned to introduce me to the rest of his family.
Two days later, Ned and I rode up a long and winding mountain road to the place where he and his family lived. Well, unlived. On the way up, he explained that the Declans were sort of vegetarian vampires, and only lived on the blood of animals instead of humans. This seemed to match what James had said before, but I kept my wand handy just in case.
Finally, we reached a large, open house that faced the wilderness beyond the mountain and hid from Minetas sight.
This is the only place where we can be open with what we are.
We passed from the front room into the kitchen, where I saw the parents of Ned for the first time. Aside from being unusually pale, they seemed to be perfectly normal, aside from how they puzzled over a cookbook, trying to make a simple meal. It was entirely disappointing, but I hid my disappointment well.
Father, Id like you to meet our guest for tonight.
Ah, yes, you must be the mortal Ned has been talking so much about! Greetings! Im Charlie! So good to meet you!
Youve already seen my siblings at school.
Hi there! I can see the future, and I know already were gonna be great friends!
I hate you already.
Sup, girl? Im down with the mortals! Check it!
Youll have to excuse Jeff. Hes only just sworn off human blood.
Well, enough with the greetings! I hope you like salad, lass!
Actually, I already ate.
For some reason, Violet thought this was a grave offense, and the bowl in her hand shattered instantly.
Hey, now, I was being nice! I know you vampires dont eat human food!
Now, now, we all wanted to be nice, just a bit of a communication error. Ned, perhaps youd like to take Izzy for a walk or something?
And so we turned the walk into a race to the peak of the mountain, I using magic and Ned using his vampire speed. I won, of course, but nothing else important happened.
The next week, Ned approached me.
Hey, you should know theres a thunderstorm coming.
So it means my family is going to play rimbal when it comes. You wanna watch?
Sure? But wait. What does
And I did indeed see. The vampires played an interesting variant on rimbal. The two teams were not allowed to cross the midfield to make the shots challenging, and both teams had a guard on the center goal in spite of its height. And while all the children were going to Academagia, no magic was used to move the ball.
As for needing a thunderstorm, I found out that the vampires could time their shots at the center goal so that they came when lightning struck. Though I offered to summon a few extra bolts to make the game more interesting, they refused, which I found again annoying. Thus I was not too sad to see more vampires show up and interrupt the game.
Izzy, you must hide behind me and stay quiet.
Ooh, are these actual bloodsuckers? I wanna see!
Why, hello there, friends! What brings you by?
Just passing through. We did not know this area was taken. I am Larry, and this is Carly and Howard.
Well it totally is, man. You gonna start something of it?
I see no reason to
Whats that smell? Do you have a mortal here?
Yes, they do! My name is Izzy, good to meet you. Tell me, are you real vampires, or do you sparkle like these ones do? Because so far it hasnt been nearly as
You smell delicious.
Dont make me hurt you.
I believe you have overstayed your welcome. Good day.
As the Declans were twice in number as the newcomers, the newcomers quietly walked away, but not before Howard gave me one last creepy look. As soon as they had disappeared, the Declans sprang into action.
I read Howards mind, and hes going to attack Izzy just because he thinks its fun. We have to protect her.
I told you I can protect myself
She will not be safe here. We must get her off the island at once! Do you have anywhere else you can go, lass?
My mothers old place, but
Ned, you must go separately to throw Howard off the trail. He knows youd never part from her.
What? How?! And where did that even come from?!
Hurry, Izzy! Well take our private airship.
And before I could object, I was pushed into a ship and sent sailing off with Lisa and Jeff. Practically kidnapped, alas, by the vampires I only wanted to study.
This next part you know of yourself, Mother. We came to the town where our old mansion once stood, but as it was exactly where Howard would know to find us, we stayed in a local tavern instead. There I would discover for myself the power Lisa held.
What is that youre drawing?
I see a vision of the future. There is a hall full of mirrors; the final conflict will happen there.
But that is the mirrored ballroom in my old mansion!
I could not believe Howard could move so fast that he would be in town so soon, but then the tavern owner slipped me a note that told me to go to the mansion alone for the sake of your dear mother. Alas, I believed every word of it! Leaving behind a minor Glamour of myself sitting still and behaving, I crept from the tavern and sped to the mansion.
Of course, the signs were obvious from the start that the mansion was already abandoned, as you had by then moved away to join your True Love, but still I looked for Howard to end this cat-and-mouse game.
Just like Lisa predicted, Howard was waiting for me in the mirrored ballroom.
All alone, girl. No vampires to protect you this time.
I never needed them to protect me.
Perhaps sunlight and garlic did not work on these vampires, but I already knew a spell that did.
Though he tried to dodge, the spell was too wide and Howard was flung into the air, crashing into a mirror. While this did not stop him, three more such spells were enough to slow him down, and that let me use a far more dangerous spell.
With this spell, I sucked out the vampires life essence and used it to improve my reflexes. As he slowed down, I sped up, until finally he could take no more and collapsed.
A hand formed itself from the floorboards around Howard and crushed the last bit of life from his body. Just to be safe, I also burned his corpse. As his body flamed, I heard a crash and saw that Ned had arrived through a window.
Stop! Ive come to saveoh.
I told you I could handle myself.
Unfortunately, the battle drew concerned neighbors, who called the constables. Ned and I were stuck in jail for a short time, until you, Mother, were notified and explained our relationship. I hope this explanation is enough to relieve your concerns.
So? What do you think?
No offense, Ana, but what the heck am I reading?
Well, I was trying to write a horror story about this evil vampire stalker, but then I realized I made the heroine too powerful, so it sort of morphed into a comedy from there.
Is it because the vampires sparkle?
No, that happened after the shift. I think the change started when Izzy threw Ned out of her room without getting up.
And the other vampires you put in right at the end?
That was when I realized I had shifted to a comedy, but I still wanted it to be a horror story, so I added them in. I think the heroine was still too powerful even then, though. Its hard to make a vulnerable wizard, you know?
Yeah, I can see that. Especially when you give her all those extra powers.
But I had to! See, before the story starts, Izzy