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3.

She knew he would come back. She felt every shiver of his dead heart. He was known for his wickedness. So she was not surprised when she saw that he had involved innocent people in their dispute. Constance was standing over Jenny’s dead body. It was an hour after midnight. Bloody hole in her chest was staring at Constance, her arms were broken and put above her head. This time he really made an effort. He wanted to punish her through misery of others connected to her. She could not forget him, nor could she forgive him. Jenny’s glassy eyes were a warning. He was still nearby, she could sense it. She and Nexus lived through the centuries together, but she gradually began to notice his bestiality. Morrigan had to move away from him. Then his treason came. Suddenly, something landed behind her back.

“This was unnecessary,” Constance said.

“Of course it was necessary. They are expandable, so I might use them to send you a message,” Nexus replied.

“When will it stop?” she asked.

“The moment you realize that we belong with one another. There is no sense in rejecting me,” he replied calmly.

“There is nothing between you and me anymore. It ended centuries ago, only you won’t accept it for some reason.”

“What got in our way? That vampire, your pet? Or is it someone new now? Maybe it’s you wish to die? I’m very well informed, Constance. I know you. More than you would want to,” he said and hugged her.

“Is that why the innocent must be harmed?” she asked and pushed him away.

“Don’t pretend that you care about them. You only care about what’s in their veins. This is a warning for her boyfriend, the one you hired to do your bidding and take your life. It’s high time we extinguish the fire of that family,” he spoke tenderly, pronouncing every word with emphasis, rolling it over his tongue like a chocolate candy.

“Am I not the oldest of the Basics? Where is your respect? Do not threaten him. You took the life of this poor soul, but he is out of your reach,” she hissed. That did not upset him.

“The Philephebos are a danger for the two of us. We are the last of our kind, and you want to perish? You are obliged to stay alive, and so am I. Ours is the eternity. Don’t throw it away.”

“I’ve seen enough days, Nex.”

“Morrigan, please…” he sighed.

“It’s over,” she said.

“Don’t think I will stop. And this human is not the last one I will torture and kill in your name,” he whispered as she turned her back and disappeared in the dark of the alley.

He decided to fulfil his words. For wonderful Morrigan. She had enchanted him. So, he was incapable of letting her go. The taste of Jenny’s blood was still fresh in his mouth. She screamed delightfully. Another unsolved case for the police. It was a fair warning. He could not let the love of his eternity to surrender to their enemy. Murder was never odd to Nexus. There was no sweater blood than the one hunted down. The fear before the very moment of death gave a final, bitter note to the taste of blood. Nex loved that. Constance used to understand that. But, she changed. Their glorious past was a comfort for him after she left his side. The nights they had spent together were bathed in moonlight and love they shared for each other. She was his mentor, she had shown him the world he could never imagine. Their lives were such, destined to remain intertwined forever. They were two sides of the same coin. Her nature was the same as his in its core, although as years passed, she tried to deny it. They laughed at the nobles who invited them to the balls and parties and asked them to show their power in front of a chosen circle of people. Every party would usually end with a good feast for Constance and Nexus. Humans would scream and cry for salvation, but all that would remain of them were corpses, burned chambers and scratched doors. After attack and dinner, Nexus and Constance would kiss and have sex in the blood of their victims. In Venice, they purchased a palace on Grand Canal. The palace had a wide balcony from which they watched every spring sunset. On that balcony, they witnessed both the rise and demise of the Adriatic’s mistress. Constance and Nex spent every carnival in front of the Doge’s Palace, dancing all night on the pavement near the sea. The melody of violins, if it had lasted longer, would surely melt all the chill of February. Still, Nexus could feel that Morrigan grew tired of that lifestyle. Her eyes did not look only at him anymore, and their relationship was no more an inspiration for her. Where did all those years of affection disappear?

Soon, she cheated on him with a vampire called Hadrian. Maybe she chose him because he was a complete opposite of Nexus. He was a German knight and prince, travelling around the world after his transformation. He spoke quietly, his voice was plush and his manners were excellent. Morrigan and Hadrian used to ride horses on his estate, while Nexus simply wandered in the woods of the nearby mountain. He was slowly becoming a recluse, a nostalgic coyote who wanted to go back to the prairie. He felt he was not a member of Constance’s company for a while. Although Morrigan still showed affection towards him, Hadrian made it clear that he loathed him and despised him. In the eyes of the German vampire prince, Nexus was a beast, with no respect to anything civilized. Nexus threatened him on several occasions, demanding that Hadrian must leave Constance immediately. The vampire refused, but his decision led him to death. As a warning, Nex fought Hadrian in the mountains, and no creature is a match for a Basic. Although he suffered a lot of damage, the prince still did not not want to conform to Basic’s terms. Nexus knew Hadrian’s death would break Constance’s heart, but he was unwilling to lose her to an impure. He constructed Morrigan’s misery by bribing the clerks and vampire hunters of that region and gave them Hadrian’s location. Constance watched as her new lover perished to dust, and Nexus stopped her from intervening. He kept the secret about his responsibility for over fifty years, until Morrigan finally found out what he had done. For her, it was not simply betrayal of Hadrian. She was aware of the tension between the two men, but the way Nexus got rid of him was wicked and dishonest. Nexus betrayed her. They departed in great grief and in a very dangerous moment. The war between Philephebos family and the Basics was at its peak. Yet, Constance remained determined in her wish, and left Nexus. It was not easy for her to do that, she did love him. That is why after centuries of silence, she appeared and helped him with Stefania.

In the twentieth century, they met several times, usually when Nexus would kill some of her vampire or human friends. He detested the people she surrounded herself with. Moreover, he liked to remind her that he was still out there, waiting for her, sending her a signal that he would not give up. He could not understand the depths of her pain and sorrow. She moved away from the world, kept retreating in front of the explosions of the human world. The Great War made her leave the Europe, and travel to Egypt and then India. There she bought a mansion from a British general, who was called to join His Majesty’s army. Nexus, on the other hand, thrived on the violence and bloodshed, so he spent those four years on the battlefield. Constance returned to visit Paris, only to find another evil rising in the heart of the Old Continent. The time of the darkest moment in the human history had come. Morrigan went to Paris and opened a café, which served as a shelter and the resistance’s headquarters during occupation. During the years of the Second World War, Constance tried to save as many lives she could, but she was one and enemies were many. Although freedom finally won, Constance felt that the world had abruptly changed. She could not recognize it anymore.

One day, a morning before she moved to Los Angeles, she met Nexus on the pears. He was travelling to California as well. The Hollywood was a place to be at the time for everyone who wanted to forget the wounds of war. The usual medicine prescribed in the dream factory was various kinds of alcohol. The two Basic decided to abuse their ability to digest liquid, starting an adventure similar to the one they had centuries ago. Constance was still unyielding to Nexus’s asinine requests, but she did not mind having him around. Sometimes she would throw a party, and he would come. He had never been invited by her, but had never been sent away either. Besides, they were connected by a lifetime, invitations were for outsiders. Every time he would attend a party, he would complain about how land had changed to such extent, that he could barely call it his own. Once, Morrigan left the city and went south, to search for the area that they used to inhabit. Nex followed her, but they found nothing but the empty fields. Constance never returned to that place.

By the end of the sixties, Morrigan befriended a young and intelligent student of history, Michael Alastair. He was the first human to whom she trusted her secret entirely and showed him her records. Constance was Alastair’s source of information and knowledge, and he was her link to the world she always wanted be a part of. She felt like human next to him. Soon, he offered to give her his blood, to reduce her animalistic side and end her need for hunt. For her it was like liberation. But, she was also aware of Alastair’s desire to taste immortality and that he believed she would eventually turn him into a vampire. Constance explained to him that the transformation was beyond her, and that she could not perform it. There were ways of becoming a vampire, but it had to happen without any reason, and without any intention. Although it seemed like he was in peace with Constance’s response, she could still sense his envy. He could not understand how turning into a vampire was random. Alastair even planned a suicide in hopes to be given another chance as a vampire, but fortunately, Morrigan stopped him. The obsession nearly destroyed him. It took a while before he finally gave up and accepted his humanity. Alastair became a professor at the University and soon he was declared the chief of the History Department. Constance’s insight into the history of Earth enabled him to write various papers and earn prestige among the intellectual community. As she made sure that her human friend was doing fine, Morrigan left New York and decided to visit the family in Istanbul who kept the hawthorn stake safe for her. At that time, she began to take interest in finding a way to end her life. Constance was sad to hear that the last member of the family had recently died. But, before she died, the lady buried the stake in a metal box, underneath the store her family used to own. A merchant, who fortunately never discovered the casket in the ground under his property, purchased the store. The stake was safe, so Morrigan was pleased and did not need to worry about anyone finding it. Constance knew that she had to be killed with that stake, but she learned that the stake had to be held by a Philephebos to ensure her perishing. If she had been stabbed by anyone else, she would have been damaged, and badly hurt, but not killed. So, she had to gather all the information about the Philephebos family and search for its members. They stepped out of the shadow of the enemy and became a hope for her. Around the time of her research, Richard Phileph graduated with honours, but when she came back to New York to tell Alastair about her findings, Phileph had already moved to look for a job. Nexus discovered Morrigan’s intentions and came back to follow her. He wanted to find Philephebos before she did and eradicate them for good. Being behind her back, watching her moves and actions enabled him to eliminate other branches of Philephebos family. But, the last one, Richard, was out of both her and his reach. Years had passed, decades, until Morrigan realized the connection, which always slipped in front of her somehow.

It was Professor’s turn to fall. Firstly, Richard would mourn over his girlfriend’s body, and then over his mentor’s. Nexus was observing the window of Alastair’s apartment. The light was shining through the thick glass, and into the hot night. The youngest Basic was slowly jumping towards it, careful not to give himself away. The unsuspecting Professor was drinking tea, sitting in his favourite armchair, as he had a custom of doing whenever he could not sleep. He watched late reruns of his favourite detective show, and suddenly felt wind on his neck. The air was still the entire night, so he thought there was a summer storm coming up. Alastair got up and closed the window, and when he faced the room again, his eyes met Basic’s face. The Professor recognized Nexus and shrugged his shoulders, aware of what was going to happen next. Nexus smiled at him. He had that same, arrogant, wild smile the Professor saw years ago in a photo that Constance showed him when she was talking about her rogue friend and lover.

“Good evening,” Nexus politely whispered.

“Good evening, sir,” the Professor replied. He was making small steps towards right, keeping his back against the wall. The Basics moved at great speed, but the Professor wanted to be aware of Nexus’s moves as much as possible.

“No need to fear, good Professor. This was expected,” Nexus said.

“Why are you doing this? I am no threat to you,” the man replied.

“There is no other purpose of your death, then sending a signal to your former student. The woman with whom he was in a relationship is already dead. You are the next logical choice in forcing him to step out and face me,” Nexus explained.

“Constance will protect Richard,” Alastair said.

“She will try. But, eventually she will realize what mistake it would if she let that petty Philephebos steal her of the greatest gift the nature had ever granted to someone,” the Basic said.

“I am as disappointed as you are with her decision. But, it is the path that she had taken. You must respect it,” Alastair said.

“A path? You had your path of mortality, and I remember how franticly you struggled to change it. I’ve watched you, I know everything about you, about her, about her new friend. Tonight is the night when I return. Your death is just one of many,” Nexus said.

“And then what? What will be your next move, once you have killed me? You hate the humans, you hate the vampires. Should the entire world bow to you?” the Professor said.

“So typical. I don’t want to dominate this world, why would I? You humans always think about absolute submission, about control and seizing power. The power is within me. I don’t need to rule anyone to gain it. And whom would I rule over? My food? I have many flaws, but nurturing my vanity in such pathetic ways is not one of them. It’s as if you felt powerful ruling over chicken drums on your plate. All I want is to remove those who stand in my way, and to revenge my kind whose lives had been ended abruptly and brutally. I want revenge. I want him to suffer as I did, watching my friends leave into darkness and coldness of death,” Nexus replied. Listening to him, Alastair started to wonder where Constance was. She must have known that Nexus was back. But, why wasn’t she there, in his apartment, defending him from the Basic? Had she forgotten the years that they shared? The friendship they had? Or the decades mean nothing to her? Are those decades just a fistful of sand in her hourglass? She had abandoned him. The Professor was irrelevant to her now. Sacrificing Alastair was a delay she needed in order to prepare for Nexus’s attack. There was not much that he could have done. Before he realized, Nexus was next to him, grabbing his neck and pulling him away from the wall. Alastair struggled, but it was futile. Nexus kept squeezing his throat and the Professor felt dizzy. The agony began. Although his vision was blurry, he could see the Basic opening his mouth and showing two long, sharp fangs in the upper jaw. Then, he felt Basic’s fingers against his stomach. He pushed them into Professor’s flesh with great force. Nexus dived into Alastair’s body, while his victim dangled his legs in midair. The Professor screamed, but his cries were soundless, because Nexus held his throat tightly. Blazing pain rushed through Alastair, as Nexus ripped his insides apart. The blood was pouring out of his stomach, along with parts of organs and vessels. There was no fear anymore. There was just a wish, to die as soon as possible, to be released from the prison that his body had become. The loss of blood made the Professor flabby and listless. Why did he have to wait? Was his suffering supposed to be prolonged? Nexus threw him on the floor. The Basic cut his face and then drowned his fangs into the man’s flesh, just between the neck and the collarbone. He sucked his blood, bathed in it, savouring the red liquid, which he cherished so much. Richard would become aware that his world was crumbling and that the same fate waited for him. Nexus was standing over the dead Professor. The carpet and his clothes, and Nexus’s clothes, everything was soaked in blood.

Constance was on her side, with her cheek on the pillow. She watched as Richard’s chest went up and down. It was early in the morning, and the police had just left. Constance was sitting in the kitchen, listening to a detective explaining to Richard that two bodies were found during night. One was Jenny’s and the other was Professor Alastair’s. Richard said he would come to the precinct in the afternoon to give an official statement. He tried to sound strong, but Constance could hear shivers in his voice that humans could not. When the police were outside, she revealed her presence to him and told him what actually happened. Richard cried, and shouted, and smashed a chair against the table. Constance did not bother with calming him down. He was exhausted by anger and sorrow that kept returning to his heart, hitting it in waves, strong, stormy waves. His eyes were burning, and he felt as if he had no more tears to cry. Finally, he fell on the couch, breathing heavily, and trying to accept the reality.

“Weep now. We will talk about our plan later,” Constance said.

“What plan? The only plan I have in mind is revenge. He killed her, Constance. He killed Jenny, for no reason. She was… She was so young… And I… I had no right to be with her, to treat her like that… Jenny…” Richard sighed. His mouth was dry.

“I understand and I will help you. I didn’t want to admit it, but Nexus had stopped being the man I loved. It is our priority to get the stake and finish Nexus. Then, I will have my peace, and your mercy,” she said.

“Constance… Don’t talk about that now, please. I’m sick of death, solicited or not,” he replied. Morrigan put her head down.

“As you wish, Richard. I know you are in great pain. Nexus has denied us both of the people were care for,” Morrigan said. The memory of losing Hadrian reawakened the pain inside her.

“I’m sorry. It’s hard for you, too. I didn’t mean to be rude. I can’t wait to face him,” Richard replied. Constance nodded, and went into the kitchen again. She knew Richard would be hungry soon, so she made a double omelette with baked bacon and melted cheese. Constance was well acquainted with the appetite of humans. Richard did not want to eat at first, but grief is exhausting. He slowly put bits of eggs and bacon in his mouth, chewing it carefully, while thinking about his and hers next move. They had to be cautious. Nexus was a Basic. He could have been monitoring them at that very moment, and they would not know. The game he was suddenly involved in was cruel, but he could not stop it. He did not want to stop it now. Jenny and Alastair were more than just friends to him. Nexus had to pay. His malice was tolerated for far too long. Richard had the obligation to kill Nexus in the name of his family, but also had an obligation to help Constance. She was his only friend now. They have been living in this strange world. Phileph was getting used to that fact.

Later, they studied the scrolls she gave him for reading. Phileph was interested in Constance’s personal history, as well as the beginnings of the Basics. Unfortunately, Morrigan was unable to tell him anything more about the origin of her kind than what was written in the scrolls. They were both aware of the gravity of the current situation. The ongoing investigation of Jenny and Professor’s murders prevented them from leaving the country until everything was resolved. Morrigan wanted to go to Istanbul to secure the stake, but that would endanger Richard. Phileph would be alone, a perfect target for Nexus. Why Nexus simply would not let her go? Their dispute was frustrating and annoying. It had to end. The only way was her and his demise. She did not fear death, she asked for it. In the past hundred years, her only dream was to die. People died every day, every hour, sometimes in most ridiculous ways. Simple as that. Yet, in her case, it was a very complicated matter.

“Why? How can anyone become a vampire just like that? It’s hardly believable. I read folk’s tales and chronicles, but never had I encountered such an explanation,” Phileph complained when he showed Constance the list of ways of becoming a vampire.

“Whether you agree with it, or not, that is the case. Nothing can change it,” Constance said.

“Vampires, for me, were just a part of old stories and movies. Doesn’t a vampire have an infectious bite?” he asked.

“No, of course not. Imagine what would happen if that was true. Vampires have a different metabolism than Basics and humans. They are always hungry, so to speak. Everyone on this planet would be a vampire, considering the number of people they attack every night,” Constance explained.

“That does make sense. Are there any vampire covens? You know, like a castle, or a mansion, where you all gather and form an organization or something,” he said.

“There was a vampire night club, some years ago, but it was closed. It was unprofitable for the owner to keep it opened,” Constance replied.

“I guess I was watching too much movies. I always imagined vampires as rich, powerful, but secluded folks. Acting from the shadows, or something like that,” Richard said.

“Long life has material benefits for sure. Basics collected their wealth for centuries. When your family started killing us, we wrote a law. Our numbers decreased, and so we decided that the riches should be equally divided between the ones who remained. One by one, my kind fell, so the great wealth was finally split in half, between Nexus and me,” Constance said.

“My family was a real earthquake for you, wasn’t it?” he asked.

“It was a slap in our face. Until that moment, we thought we were indestructible, but you invented our weakness. It was quite a shock to realize that we were indestructible no more,” Constance replied.

“I would apologize, but… I’m not a part of that. I would have never been, if you hadn’t visited me,” Richard said.

“You are my only chance, Richard. I had to come to you and ask you. Although, I know that I basically ruined your life now. But, I just could not put up with this life anymore. Yes, it has become an annoyance. And, yes I know how awful that sounds. Still, it is mine to live and mine to die. Nexus is a serious threat for both of us, and this is the way we can stop him. We have to help each other, Richard. Don’t think he wouldn’t have found you. His purpose is the annihilation of your family,” Morrigan warned him. Phileph did not like what he heard. It was unacceptable for him to be involved in this charade. So what if his ancestors slew vampires and Basics? He had nothing to do with it. It was a different time, a different place. Back then, the war was raging between humans and the others. Today, both kinds simply wanted to live through the day.

Richard parted with Constance and went to the precinct, to give his statement as he said he would. The chief inspector was friendly, probably because Phileph was cooperative and answered the questions without complaining. If only he could have told them who was the murderer they were after. Would they believe him? He could have brought Constance to testify for him. But, she would have never exposed herself. So, he had to act as if he possessed no information about the attacker. Inspector told him that he had never seen anything like that before, and that he even thought the attack was done by an animal. Jenny and Professor’s bodies were ripped apart, broken. No human, no matter how strong or angry could have done it. Richard agreed with the inspector.

“Jenny and I were in a relationship. And Alastair, the second victim was my mentor at the university. Just yesterday, I’ve signed a contract of employment with him. He was supposed to be my boss, starting with this fall. I want justice, inspector,” Phileph said. He did not have to make up those words, he did not have to pretend about that. It was coming from his heart. It was true.

“I assure you, we are doing everything that is in our power to find the attacker. It’s just that this case is so bizarre. We’re not sure whether we’re looking for a man or a beast,” inspector replied. He was a good person, fifteen years on the force. He had seen a lot, but this was new for him.

“I am aware of the fact that my connection to both victims puts me at the top of your suspects’ list…” Richard said.

“It is the usual procedure to check relatives, lovers or friends first. Your alibi checked out for both murders. We have no further questions for you,” the inspector said. Phileph looked at him closer. Something was strange about him. He seemed like he was under the influence of drugs. Or, just under an influence. Phileph concentrated at the dark glass window behind the inspector. Suddenly, it became transparent enough for him to see a silhouette of a tall man standing in the other room. Everyone around him was perfectly still. Even the inspector did not move. Richard remembered that he saw something similar before. The dark glass appeared to be melting and stranger with a mischievous smile floated towards Phileph. His feet did not touch the ground as he glided through the air. Richard wanted to move, but stranger’s eyes kept him nailed to the chair. He was so gracious, light and majestic. Richard knew who he was, yet was afraid to think his name.

“Hello, Philephebos,” Nexus said, leaning towards Richard’s face while levitating.

“You are the Basic? You killed them,” Phileph replied.

“It was just to gain your attention,” Nexus said.

“Will you kill me now as well?” Richard replied.

“No. Where is fun in that? I want you to be fully prepared when I come to claim your life. And more importantly, I want Morrigan to witness your death and the stake to be destroyed,” the Basic said.

“I mean you no harm. I wasn’t even aware of your existence until couple of days ago. I’m not to blame for my ancestors’ actions,” Richard said. He tried to be diplomatic, to reason with Nexus. He had to try anything in order to save himself.

“You have a point there. But I won’t take any risks. I won’t turn my back on the enemy. Besides, Constance wants to use you, and I can’t let her do that. She must live. The two of us, we are the last. We must prevail. Centuries, millennia would be wiped away if she gives up now. Maybe you could persuade her to abandon those ridiculous thoughts,” Nexus said.

“I don’t have such powers of persuasion,” Richard said. Phileph saw how anger, pain and desperation reflected in his face, all together, torturing him. Nexus loved her, in his own, unconventional way. That emotion was pure and honest. Nexus did not even made an effort to hide it. He wanted to be seen as all that, cruel, wicked, violent, but in love and frightened by the thought of Morrigan’s death. Maybe it was a deception, cleverly played out by Nexus. But, Richard did not care.

“Next time, human, you will drink your lungs from my palm. Let this be a warning to both you and Constance. I can find you any time, any place. Be careful. I won’t be so kind to leave you your life when we meet again. These police officers won’t bother you anymore. It is my gift to you, so you can prepare for my attack,” Nexus said. He took a short dagger out of his sleeve and made a deep cut in Richard’s cheek. Phileph made a face of pain and pressed his teeth tightly against each other. He blinked, and when he looked clearly, he saw inspector’s worried face in front of him.

“Are you alright? You’re bleeding,” the inspector said and gave Richard his handkerchief to put it on his cut.

“It’s nothing,” Phileph replied.

“That is it, then. The investigation is still on, but as far as I am concerned, you are free to go. Do as you please. You are even allowed to leave the country. Just be careful, the attacker might eventually come after you. Let us know if you have any problems,” the inspector said. Nexus was sending him messages without even being present. If Richard and Constance would go abroad, they would reveal the location of the stake to Nexus. Definitely, he had been searching for ways to destroy the stake and secure his eternity. This was the opportunity Nexus could not afford to miss.

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