I end the call with the Doc.
The Fengs still have the building surrounded. It did not look like they were all blocking the entrance of the capsule hotel like a blockade; it was more like they were pretending to be bystanders scattered in certain areas, but the black suits and hats were a dead giveaway.
None of them have attempted to enter or infiltrate the building yet for some reason, however, but that has made me a bit anxious. Are they planning something? I’ve already called the Doc and he told me that they’re on their way. The train ride from the Spice District shouldn’t take more than an hour. Unless Preston gets them lost or something, but I doubt that’d happen.
I step back from the window and close the curtains to get dressed. After struggling to get the locker key bracelet off my wrist, I open my locker to get my clothes out. As I get dressed, I absent-mindedly step in front of the mirror; an old habit I used to have when I was human. Old habits never die. I can’t see my own reflection except through a special app on my phone called EspritCam. It was intended to be used to find ghosts, but vampires can also use the app as a mirror to groom themselves.
I open the app and raise my phone with one arm extended, as if I were going to take a selfie. I can see myself again. I haven’t changed much, except for the paler skin and the fangs that grew when I turned. And then the phone vibrates, shaking me out of my moment of self-admiration. I look at the phone and see that it’s the Doc calling.
“Yes, Doc.” I answer the phone.
“Where do we meet?”
“Use the service elevator. It leads to another part of the building which is a residential area. 5th floor.”
“Got it. And Doc, about Don Salvi’s man Karim…”
“Just tell me when you get here. We have a bit of time.”
I finish getting dressed and look for the service elevator, sneaking past housekeeping staff and going through a door labeled Authorized Personnel Only. I close the door as gently as possible and find the service elevator, which has access to the residential area of the building. I head for the elevator door, but the door behind me starts to open and I duck behind a pillar to hide. Taking a small peek, I see a staff member get a mop and grumble back to work. Now that the coast is clear, I head to the elevator.
After pressing the button, I look around with caution for any housekeeping staff and get in the elevator as the door opens.
Now how will the Doc react to my story?
“He says he’s in the elevator now.” I tell Park who sat down on a nearby couch.
“Will Presto be all right, Doctor?” Park asks with concern in Koguryeon. “San Myshuno has confusing back alleys.”
“The map data sent to us by Antonio should suffice, Park.” I reply in the same language as I look at the map in my phone. “And Preston has been through much worse, so he’ll be all right.”
Park nods but still looks out the window, worrying about the Feng thugs prowling around. We were able to get in the building by timing our movements with the thugs’ patrols and bribing the building’s elderly security guard to let us in and keep silent. That’s how we got access to the service elevator and residential areas.
And then the elevator opens as Antonio steps out with the strong scent of shampoo and soap.
“Tony smell very good. Must have washed body. I am envy.” Park quips in his broken Simlish as I see Antonio smile.
“I see you’re still in one piece.” I look at my protege, who has been improving much over the past few months. “Did the vampire lair here get raided?”
Antonio nods. “I also ran into an old acquaintance and a traitor.”
“Ah, you did text that you met your old boss from when you were human.”
“But do be more careful next time. Vampires must avoid meeting or being seen by people from their previous lives as much as possible. Rule 5.4 from the Vampiric Code of Conduct.”
“Yes, Doc. I apologize for that.”
“And what is this about a traitor?”
“Yes, Don Salvi’s lieutenant, Karim.”
Antonio explains what happened during his encounter with Karim who has been collaborating with the Fengs, which made me wary.
“And what did you do to this Karim after defeating him? Did you execute him or at least capture him?”
“I let him go.”
“You WHAT?” I look at Antonio in surprise. After taking a deep breath to keep my composure, I give him a quick slap to the cheek.
“Doctor!” Park exclaims as Antonio seems to have been expecting the slap.
“You know very well that traitors like that must be put down. Why did you let him go?” I cross my arms, frowning at the thought of having a traitor on the loose.
“I’m sorry, Doctor. I know what happens to traitors, but killing him right then and there seemed to be beyond my authority. He has a family, and his apology also seemed to come straight from the heart.”
The part with the traitor having a family raised an eyebrow. Not many vampires have family, so I bring out my phone and call Salvi to confirm. After a few rings, the jolly vampire on the other line answers. I put the phone on speaker mode.
The call is picked up and greeted by some wheezing.
“Well, if it isn’t Domsy! What a surprise! Do you need help with anything?”
“Quick question, Salvi. Does your man Karim have a family?”
Salvi wheezes again.
“Why, no! No relatives, wives, children, or the like! Aside from Miss Gupta who has a sister, all of my other underlings do not have family. Why do you ask?”
“That’s all I needed to know, my friend. Thank you.”
Salvi seemed like he was going to say something else on the other line, but I end the call. I’ll just explain things to him after all this is over.
“I bought his story. How stupid of me.” Antonio says with regret.
“Come here.” I beckon Antonio with my hand. “Closer.”
Within seconds, I grab Antonio by the lapel and pin him down on a nearby wall, creating a loud thud. Antonio, looking nervous, tries to break free but I hold one of his wrists down to not let him escape. I then look at him straight in the eyes with teeth clenched.
“Doctor, please calm down!” Park speaks in Koguryeon and attempts to stop me with a hand, but I ignore him.
“You should have captured the turncoat to let Salvi decide his fate. He lied to all of us and tried to kill you!” my nostrils flare as I speak.
Antonio does not reply but starts to have difficulty breathing with his glasses starting to fall off.
“You are a vampire, Antonio. A competent one, but still naive. Did it not occur to you that he might inform the Fengs of what happened?”
“I— I didn’t think that far ahead. I’m sorry, Doc.”
I throw Antonio to the side and watch him fall to the floor. He coughs a bit as I just look at him with slight contempt.
“Why would you make such a stupid mistake?” I ask my pupil.
“Maybe I just wanted to be like a noble vampire, like Archon Samuel and Count Pendragon.” Antonio manages to speak and gets up from the ground, assisted by Park.
I shake my head and explain things to my pupil.
“I admire the fact that you are trying to be like one of those noble vampires you’ve read about in books. Both were great vampires who left behind notable legacies and contributions to the vampire community as a whole. But do you know what else they both have in common?”
Antonio shakes his head.
“They were both betrayed by the ones they spared! Archon Samuel slain by a human he spared and made his servant, and Count Rayde Pendragon burned to death by the very same ghouls he rescued from oppressive humans. That is what happens when you are too kind, fledgling. If Karim were not Salvi’s man, I would have executed him on the spot.” It occurs to me after speaking that I just mimicked Count Rayde’s demise with gestures.
Antonio does not reply to that for a few seconds.
“Centuries of experience on this earth and fighting in three wars have taught me much, fledgling. Learn from this mistake or the next punishment will not be a slap to the cheek.”
“I will be more careful next time, Doctor. I apologize again.”
“Enough with the apologies. What’s done is done. Just remember that if this Karim rats us out to the Fengs, you will be held responsible.” I give the final word of my sermon as Park points to his watch. I must have talked too much.
“Now that I have given you my opinion on the matter, we must make haste. Preston should be waiting for us by now. We still need to rescue Dominica, remember.” I pat Antonio on the back.
“Yes, Doctor. I will make up for my mistake.” Antonio replies as Park leads us down the hallway leading to another elevator down.
After the Doc told me what to do, I got straight to work. Park stayed with the Doc since he’ll only be slowing me down. Stealth is necessary for a quest like this one.
I exit the rear of the building and look for the nearest Feng patrol. My plan? I kinda made it up while I was going down the elevator, but I had to stick with keeping the Doc’s escape route free of Fengs. Using the map on my phone as reference, I track my location and make a quick analysis.
Five groups of Fengs, seven street corners, fifteen alleyways, and a used clothing shop. All part of the route. It’s just like playing a game!
As I walk to the designated area, I hear the voices of Feng thugs and their footsteps. Seeing a trash can around the corner, I use that to distract the small group. I make myself invisible and kick the trash can to make noise, and then one of the goons investigates. The rest of them follow, and that’s when I see the Doc and the others exit the building. I gesture them to follow quickly while I distract the next group up ahead. They’ll keep up with me; I’ve played something like this in Iron Gear: Vengeance before.
The other three groups also get distracted, and I’ve formed a routine. Kick a trash can, wait for the Feng goons to investigate, and gesture the Doc and the others to pass. I almost get caught by the fourth group of thugs, but luckily a cat appears and occupies them for a moment.
I finally reach the final group of Fengs, blocking the way to the building where Nicky is being held hostage. We’re almost there! But there’s a big problem this time. We’re in a pretty open space even if there are fewer thugs around.
But then it hit me. I was expecting more thugs to be on guard by the entrance. This is looking too easy.
Way too easy.