“OPEN THE DOOR, PARK!”
I shout as the four of us try to open the door that doesn’t seem to budge at all.
“Cannot open, Doctor!” Park calls from the other side. “No handle on door inside here!”
The snarling that I hear from inside starts to worry me, but I raise a hand to the hunters trying to open the door to stop for a moment.
“The noise might agitate Antonio, and he might attack Park if we’re not careful.” I tell the hunters as they back away from the door.
“Are you certain that Antonio has already become feral?” the hunterling asks as he looks inside the hole. “I hope that we can still save him.”
One of the hunterling’s lackeys comment that the snarling that they heard sounds exactly like a feral’s. Their hunter ears don’t betray them, they say.
“Just like what your hunters said, that snarling noise might either mean he’s close to becoming feral or already become feral. If he has become the latter, we have no choice but to kill him.” I explain as the hunterling gives a sad expression.
“I see…” the hunterling pauses for a moment. “In that case, I should kill him myself. He is my friend, after all.”
The lackeys offer their support to the young hunterling as I look inside the hole again to give Park instructions in Koguryeon. But I had to ask him something first.
“Why the hell did you go in without my permission?” I whisper while clenching my teeth in frustration.
“I misunderstood you, Doctor. Sorry!” Park turns towards me and bows in apology. “When you said ‘get inside now’ in Simlish, I thought it was an order.”
“Well then, I’m quite frustrated to be honest, so I was thinking of leaving you there while Antonio attacks you and drains you of all of your blood, leaving you as a lifeless husk.”
“But you are still vital to this operation, so you need to get out of there quickly before Antonio attacks you.”
Crap. Antonio starts to get up slowly and I see saliva dripping from his mouth, as if he were a ravenous creature looking for something to eat. And then he sees Park by the door.
“What do I do, Doctor?” Park asks me as he starts to panic. “All I have with me is the knapsack of supplies!”
“There might be a silver knife that you can use to defend yourself while the four of us out here try to open this door.” I say as the hunters resume trying to break down the door, using a nearby piece of scrap lumber as a battering ram.
“But Doctor!” Park shouts as I back away from the door and give it a powerful kick after the hunters attempt to ram the door. Both of our attempts don’t work. I decide to help the hunters with their battering ram to add more power. I grab the rear end of the heavy piece of lumber as I count down.
“On the count of three: one, two–”
“NOW!” the hunterling goes ahead of me as I am forced to follow their momentum. I wanted to complete the count.
As we keep ramming the heavy door, the snarling from inside grows fiercer as I hear Park screaming. Antonio must be chasing him around in that little room. I get a bit annoyed at one of the lackeys who keeps muttering a prayer at every attempt. As if that will get us in.
And then we hear different noises, as if a beast inside was getting hurt by something. We all stop in our tracks before another attempt. I raise a hand to stop the hunters and peek into the hole to check on Park.
“Park! What happened?” I peek into the whole to see Park on the floor and the feral Antonio who seems to be reeling from something painful.
“I dropped my knife, so I looked for something else. I threw a pack of plasma fruit kimchi at him, and when he ripped open the pack with his teeth, it seemed to hurt him as he consumed the contents.”
“Keep throwing some more of that kimchi, Park. Let’s see what happens.” I suggest as Park grabs the fallen knapsack and starts throwing some packs at Antonio. Every bite seems to hurt him as he screams in pain, and every time he consumes a pack, he inches closer towards Park. Park, however, throws another pack at Antonio. The same process repeats itself thrice until the feral Antonio falls to the ground. Thank goodness for the kimchi.
Parks breathes heavily in relief as he also lies down on the ground to rest. I look behind me and see the hunterling gesturing me to move out of the way for another ramming attempt. I make way for the hunters and let them charge.
With that charge, the door finally opens and we all see Park who seems to have pissed himself as well as Antonio on the ground, unconscious. I immediately go over to where Antonio is and kneel down on one knee to examine him. After turning his body to face up, I hear the hunterling order his lackeys to watch the corridor. The hunterling tries to come close, but I gesture him to stay away first. Anything might happen at this point.
And then Antonio opens his eyes slowly. I take a look at the pupils to see if they still belong to a feral’s hungry red gaze, but it isn’t. Antonio seems to have returned to his old, diligent self. My protege grunts as he tries to come to.
“How many vampire figurines am I holding up?” I ask as I bring out a little Ivan the Malevolent figure out of my coat pocket. Little Ivan has always brought me good luck, and it seems to have worked this time.
“One.” Antonio says with a weak tone.
“How are you feeling?” I put back the figure in my pocket.
“Feeling… tired.” Antonio manages to say.
“Do you remember how you got here?”
It takes a few minutes before Antonio can respond, which is understandable.
“Don Antares. Limousine. Then knocked out.” Antonio coughs as I see the hunterling approach us closer. “Saw the Pastor here. Then starved in this room.”
As I listened to what Antonio said, I think more about what Don Antares and the Pastor did. What exactly are they trying to accomplish? I’ll find out in time when both of their necks are in my hands.
“So that damned Westfall was behind this as well…” I see the hunterling clench his fists in anger. “He’s going to pay.”
“Your blood.” I tell the hunterling.
“Yes, I will make him pay in blood–”
“No, I meant give some of your blood to Antonio. He needs to drink a bit from you in order to recover.” I explain as the hunterling’s eyes start to tear up.
I stand up and see that the hunterling has started weeping.
“What are you weeping for, Llama? Your friend needs some blood.”
The hunterling tries to stop crying. “None of this would’ve happened if I stopped him from moving out of my house!” He sniffs. “If I had just tried harder to stop him from leaving, he wouldn’t be a monster right now. He wouldn’t be in this situation. He wouldn’t be lying on the ground needing blood! This is all my fault!”
And then I slap the crying hunterling on the cheek.
He looks stunned as I see tears still rolling down his eyes.
“Do not put all of the blame on yourself, young hunter.” I attempt to console the hunterling to prevent him from losing his mind. “Whatever happened between you and Antonio in the past cannot be changed anymore. And now I’m giving you the chance to save your best friend, so let him drink your blood.” I stress the last three words as the hunterling does not respond.
He gives me a meek nod while still sniffling, and I guide his arm towards Antonio who is still on the ground and in dire need of blood. We both kneel down beside Antonio, who seems to have closed his eyes. I support Antonio’s back to help him get up as the hunterling rolls up the sleeve of his right arm. He then positions his right arm near Antonio’s mouth.
To my surprise, Antonio gives a vicious snarl and bites the hunterling at the neck. Did the kimchi only have a temporary effect on him? I quickly back away as the hunterling screams, and I go into a fighting stance, but then Antonio embraces the hunterling as he drinks and pushes him down on the ground. They look like lovers making out on the ground from where I’m standing.
Park also exclaimed as he saw Antonio suddenly bite the hunterling’s neck, but he also calms down as he watches Antonio drink. Then Antonio releases himself from the hunterling’s neck. I look at his eyes and feel relieved that it is not that of a feral’s. I guess what he did was a natural reaction for vampires who have not had human blood in a while.
“Byron…?” Antonio looks at the hunterling who is lying down on the ground in shock. “Is that really you?” The hunterling just gives a weak nod as he gets up and sits on the floor.
“I should be asking you that question.” the hunterling takes out a handkerchief from his pocket and presses it against the area where he was bitten. “You worried me when you deactivated all of your social media accounts.”
“I couldn’t let anyone know. And here I am now, as something that you hunt. To think that I didn’t believe in stuff like this before…” Antonio replies, and I feel better knowing that he can respond properly now. “Did I just…”
“It was necessary. I needed to save you.”
“But you hunt vampires. You should’ve killed me when you had the chance.”
“True. But you’re still my best friend. No matter what you are, you’re a brother to me.”
The two friends slowly lean towards each other’s faces, and I somehow predict what will happen. However, this was not the time and place for such a thing.
“I’m sorry to interrupt your little reunion, but there are more pressing matters to attend to.” The two young men stop in their tracks and get up from the floor. Antonio gets helped up by Park.
“We still need to find the Don and the Pastor, but I need you to get Antonio to a safe place while he recovers.” I address Park who seems to have changed his pants while everything happened.
“I’ll get my two guildsmen to escort them.” the hunterling says as he orders his two men outside to help Park and Antonio out of the labyrinth. “I still have unfinished business here. Backtrack and get them to the van.”
The young hunterling and I go beyond the room as Park and the others go the other way. It does not take us long until we reach another door after a few turns. I cautiously open the door and feel relieved that it isn’t locked. The hunterling readies his crossbow as we cautiously enter the large room with candles, a rug, and what seems to be some sort of coffin at one end.
“What is this room?” the hunterling asks himself as I walk towards the center.
“We’ll probably find out soon, hunterling.” I tell him as I hear footsteps. A familiar figure comes out of the shadows.
“Well, howdy!” the vermin reveals itself and stands in front of the coffin. “Looks like you’re just in time for my little party!” the Pastor snaps his fingers as we hear the sound of cages opening.
Ferals shamble out of the shadows, and I look around to count how many appeared.