«I have to go to the training grounds,» I say while observing the girl torturing her fingers. «You'll have to come with me.»
She nods and then peeks at me from under her eyelashes.
I can't really say she's worried for nothing, as I did pin her on the wall just a few minutes ago. Still, her diffidence is bothersome.
What is more bothersome, though, is that she's so passive. She doesn't push me away when I assault her, she does exactly what she's told and doesn't ask for anything. Just like a trained pet.
She let me kiss her as if it was normal! She didn't slap me when I said it was part of our contract. She apologised for stepping away...
To ease my guilt, I'll take her out for a stroll.
«We can have dinner before going to sleep. Or breakfast. Depends on your point of view.»
«Do you sleep as well?» she asks, a bit curious. She scans my face with her eyes; her fingers are locked together, and her teeth nibble on her lower lip.
The same lip I just sank my teeth into.
I wasn't thirsty for her blood, but I felt relieved after hearing her moan and the clench from her fingers.
«Yes, we're living creatures after all,» I reply, recalling that she's waiting for an answer.
«No, that's a superstition you humans believe in. You want to think that anything more powerful than you is a mistake or a monster.»
«I guess I don't really know anything about you, then. Except that you can't survive without blood.»
«That's not completely true either. We can survive, but it's painful and difficult to resist.»
«You may not die, but you turn so ugly.»
«How do you know?» I ask all of a sudden.
It can't be something they taught her in school, right? She saw a starving vampire with her own eyes, I'm quite sure of it.
All the rest she's said till now was like out of a bloody fairytale. But she knows that starving vampires become ugly.
Oh, what does she even mean by ugly? It can be way worse than that if it lasts long.
«Do you keep prisoners in the base?» I continue, suspicious.
«Not really. There was one, but he fled.»
«And you saw him?»
She twitches and looks around nervously.
«I wasn't supposed to,» she reveals in the end. It's just a whisper, and her shoulders move up and down with her breath. Her heart returns to racing, and I want to comfort her. But a part of me is curious.
«Do you have anything to do with his flee, then?»
«No, I didn't help him!»
I blink, confused. She's not lying, yet it's intriguing, the way she thinks that anything she says could kill her on the spot.
«Did the hunters think that you did, though?»
She nods slowly, and I snort.
«So, they thought that you freed the prisoner. Did they punish you, or did they just decide to use you as bait?»
«Both,» she whispers. «But I'd prefer not to talk about it right now.»
«Fine,» I accept, and she sighs relieved.
I'll ask her another time, as now it would only make me furious to hear what they've done to her. I don't even know why I care, to be honest. I've just met this girl in the wild, and I'll have to let her go once I make sure she's not a spy.
While we walk through the hallways, she observes the surroundings with curiosity. I open my mouth to tell her that she'd become a threat if she memorises the structure of the building, but I don't want to scare her again with a joke.
I've done enough for a day.
«You can wait for me in a corner,» I utter, showing her a chair.
«And the rule that I can't stay more than three steps from you?»
«As long as you don't leave the gym, it's fine.»
«Then I'll read in the corner. How long will it last?»
«A few hours.»
«Okay,» she smiles and walks to the chair. Her mood is back to normal, so I guess she didn't take it to heart when I pinned her on the wall.
When the students start to arrive, they stare at her quite intensely, but Julia doesn't seem bothered by them. She's deep in focus, reading the book I selected randomly in the library.
I turn to my students and start to oversee the training, almost forgetting the girl. Still, a part of me is conscious of her presence for the whole time. Regardless of the noise in the hall, I can hear her regular breathing and the steady rhythm of her heart.
Maybe it's just my imagination.
The hall is too noisy to let something as feeble as a human heartbeat to be heard.
A few minutes before the end of the training, I notice that Julia is sleeping, her head leaned on the wall, and the book abandoned on her lap.
I take a step towards her when a dart flies mid-air, aiming at the spot next to her forehead. Right before it hits the wall, though, Julia opens her eyes and moves to the side.
She slips down from the chair and shouts in panic, attracting the attention of all the students in the room.
If I didn't stop my muscles in time, I would have flown there to stop that dart. Luckily, I realised it wasn't going to hit her.
It would have been difficult to explain why I felt the urge to protect her.
Even to myself.
I walk to her and help her up.
She nods and tries to smile reassuringly, but her heart is still racing. I'm not sure if it's out of fear, but she seems more nervous than scared. It's as if it's her fault if a dart flew there.
Now, no one here would make such a mistake. It was too precise to be by chance.
«Who threw the dart?» I ask the room. The silence is almost unbearable and, after a couple of seconds, someone walks to the front.
«It was me,» Susan affirms with her usual challenging gaze. «Any problem?»
«Why would you throw a dart during a martial art training?»
We were training barehanded.
«This human's presence was a distraction to many today. She was sleeping so peacefully that her breathing annoyed me.»
«Well, Susan. If it annoys you so much, you better skip the next few training,» I finish and turn my back to the hall. «Training is over for tonight.»
As if a breath as light could ever disturb anyone.
I drag Julia with me, and she struggles weakly.
«Let's go,» I whisper, confused by her reaction. It's the first resistance she puts actively, while not being scared to death at least.
«The book!» she reminds me and takes a few steps in a hurry.
She collects the tome from the floor and closes it before running back to me. She smiles gently and waits in silence for me to decide when to go. Her eyes are clear, even though she was sleeping a few minutes ago.
Seriously, it's like having a puppy.
I turn back quickly before having time to pat her head. What is happening to me?
Julia doesn't really seem frightened by Susan's threat. How odd...
She follows me with a little grin and an annoyingly good mood.
«Are you hungry?» I ask.
Her smile falters a bit, but then she returns happy.
«Oh, I think I am.»
«Why are you in such a good mood?» I can't resist but ask.
«I'm looking forward to sleeping again,» she reveals in a whisper.
We leave the gym in a disconcerting silence. Regardless of her low voice, all the vampires around have heard her.
«You sure sleep a lot,» I comment.
«You don't sleep at all!» she replies with a shrug.
«That's not true.»
We reach the canteen, and I ponder whether to collect some food and leave. In the end, I ask the cooks to pack our dinner.
I'm not sure how long Julia will stay here, so there's no reason to let her eat under so many people's stares.
If Amadeus decides that she's to stay longer, I'll introduce her to the others later.
For now, I prefer to be the only one she has contact with. For the sake of security, of course.