If someone had told me that I was a vampire few months ago, I would have probably laughed at the idea.
But after a guy with ashen skin saved me from two strange men, my life had become nothing but a whirlwind of absurdity. My grandparents disappeared. I was thrown into several near-death situations. And I learned that I was an undead.
What was worse was when the king revealed I was a vampire with a royal lineage, which my retainers kept from me throughout the journey.
“Vyrka Stryzyga . . .”
I mumbled the name King Zemus had called me. It felt unfamiliar, but my blood reacted to it fervently, as if it was yearning for it for a long, long time.
Nabalot ng katahimikan ang kuwarto ko. Hours had passed since I met the royal family, but I still could not wrap my head around the fact that I was related to them. Upon awakening, like what Sigrid and the king had called it, I was sent back to my room so I could rest, but my mind was still reeling with questions.
Bumangon ako mula sa pagkakahiga sa kama at napabuntonghininga. Hindi rin naman ako makatulog. Sigrid said vampires didn’t really need sleep since our bodies could repair and recharge itself on their own and through the help of blood. However, some would do if they succumbed to grave injuries, making them temporarily disabled, or if they had nothing else to do.
I sashayed toward the huge, vintage mirror and stared at my reflection. After King Zemus, whom I still couldn’t call my father, acknowledged my lineage, crimson streaks had encircled my eyes. I remembered the same searing sensation I felt when we encountered the herd of Katteris in Batara,
Also, my appearance kind of . . . changed? I still looked the same besides the linings around my eyes, but there was something different that I couldn’t pinpoint. Was it my presence? My demeanor?
Napababa naman ang tingin ko sa salamin at muling na-realize kung gaano kagarbo ang suot kong damit. Hindi ako makapagpalit dahil mukhang itinago ni Sigrid lahat ng simpleng dresses bago ako makabalik dito sa kwarto ko. Those that were left were even fancier than what I was wearing so changing into one of them wasn’t an option.
“Do I really have to wear these outfits every day?” I sighed as I walked toward the windows.
The huge, glass windows also served as the door to the balcony, so I pushed them open. The freezing air blew harshly against my skin, but as expected, my body was slowly getting used to this kind of temperature.
“Wow,” I blurted out upon seeing the glorious view of the moon.
From the balcony, I could see the entirety of the kingdom. It was already late at night, yet the land was still full of life. Lights illuminated the cities. Both humans and undead roamed the streets. Daunting howls echoed from the distant forest. It was as if everyone had just woken up.
“Right, we’re more active at night,” I murmured.
Someone suddenly chuckled. “Have you come to terms with your reality?”
I turned my head to the right and a familiar face came into view. Her long, luscious dark hair billowed from the cold breeze, with the moonlight accentuating the gray streaks in it. She, too, was looking at the moon, and for some reason, she was staring at it with mournful eyes.
Her gaze shifted to me. “I have been waiting to meet you, Vyrka.”
She smiled at me, and it felt eerie because it was like seeing myself smile. Standing on the next balcony was the first princess, my sister.
Kahit noong hindi ko pa alam kung ano ako ay madalas na akong mag-isa. I was shy and I felt I did not belong to any group, so I just naturally spent my time alone. Meeting the three was a special case because my life was in constant danger and I had to trust them completely or else, I’d be long dead before we could even reach Vrivarya. But right now, being alone with the princess made me feel more awkward than ever.
“Right, I haven’t told you my name yet,” she said. “I’m Zaria Stryzyga.”
Hindi ko na natapos ang sasabihin ko dahil nakita ko ang pahapyaw niyang pagngiti. Of course, she would know my name. I was introduced in front of everyone earlier. I’m so stupid.
Humarap siya sa akin at napaawang ang bibig ko sa itsura niya. She had that regal bearing that could make anyone awestruck and intimidated at the same time.
“I’m sure everything is confusing for you right now,” she remarked.
I lightly snickered. “Honestly, confusing is an understatement. I have a ton of unanswered questions.”
Zaria stared at me curiously. “I see. So, your retainers haven’t told you everything yet.”
Tumango naman ako. “They’ve been summoned for debriefing, I think. That’s what Sigrid said earlier.”
“Well, in that case, why don’t you ask me your questions? I’ll answer everything that I have knowledge of.”
The next thing I knew, Zaria had already made her way toward my room and accompanied me in the balcony. She asked me about the things I wanted to know, and a wave of questions flooded my mind. However, among them, there was one that bothered me the whole day.
“Am I really a princess?” tanong ko.
She just stared at me in silence for a few seconds before chuckling. “I see that you’re still in disbelief. But my dear sister, you are, without a doubt, a princess of this kingdom.”
Her certainty sent shivers down my spine. Simula noong umapak ako sa lugar na ito ay parang hindi pa nagsisink-in lahat ng nangyari. Kahit anong sabihin sa akin ng mga nakapaligid sa akin ay mayroon pa ring kaunting pag-aalinlangan sa loob ko. Were they telling the truth? Should I believe them? But her words felt so true and sincere that I had finally accepted my identity.
“A princess, huh?” I murmured. “Uhm, y-you’re older than me, aren’t you?”
Despite the cold temperature, the smile on her face warmed me a little. “I am. By one month.”
I got so distracted by her smile that it took me a minute to comprehend her reply. “Eh?! One month? How is that possible?”
Zaria chuckled. “Oh, my. They haven’t really told you a thing. Very well, I will walk you through our history.”
Hindi ko alam kung ilang minuto o oras ang lumipas noong ikinuwento niya sa akin ang kasaysayan ng bansang ito at ng mga tulad namin. Unlike Kei who would get annoyed with simultaneous questions, or Moria who looked intimidating and careful when answering my queries, Zaria was soft-spoken and patient.
Apparently, the earliest vampires were savages, killing humans and destroying villages for sustenance and fun, hence the magi loathed them. But just like humans, even the most vicious creatures could evolve, too. Some undead developed intelligence and reasoning, and built kingdoms and empires, which infuriated the magi even more.
But I was taken aback by her next narrative about how undead creatures produce offspring.
“Oh, silly. We do not have the same process as the humans. Our bodies are technically corpses; hence, we are incapable of reproduction.”
“T-then how . . .”
Bago ko pa bawiin ang tanong ko dahil parang ayaw ko nang malaman ay nagsimula na siyang magpaliwanag.
“Through a living host. The couple who wishes to have a child will bite the host and mix their blood with her. But it is incredibly hard to procreate as there are conditions that should be met. In addition, some do not even see the need for it since we are already practically immortal. That’s why vampires are reduced to a sparse population.”
Curse those tv shows for their absurd portrayals of vampires! What she said made sense, but imagining it was kind of gross.
“But . . . we’re just one month apart?”
“Ah. An unborn vampire fully develops its body inside the host after one moon cycle, then the host gives birth to a dead infant,” she started explaining while I stared at her in horror. “Nourishments will be given to the lifeless infant until it opens its eyes after around seven months. That’s when a youngling becomes an undead.”
“What . . .” Kahit na hindi na nagf-function ang sikmura ko ay parang umikot ito nang marinig ko ‘yon. “That’s . . . disgusting—! Sorry!”
Pahapyaw siyang natawa. “You lived as a human for years so that’s expected.”
“So, you’re saying . . . I was conceived after you were born?”
Zaria nodded. “But we’re a special case.”
“Vampires of royal and noble lineage can only produce offspring every 500 years. It’s incredibly rare to bear two children within half a millennium, let alone a year.” She paused and I saw that melancholic expression again. “It’s also considered inauspicious. A bad omen that can raze the kingdom to the ground.”
Her words seemed to weigh on her chest. The atmosphere turned gloomy, too, as if speaking it made the temperature drop for several degrees.
“B-but I’m glad you are here now,” Zaria said, shifting the topic hastily. “I finally have someone to talk to besides Alexei and Olga.”
Napakunot naman ang noo ko. “The king and queen don’t talk to you?”
I wished I could take back those words, but it was already too late. The pained expression on her face made me want to stab myself for being thoughtless. She tried to mask it with a smile, but her eyes were noticeably sad.
“Even within the hierarchy, vampires only bow to strength and power. If you want to be respected, you must prove that you are strong enough to be worthy of it.”
Bigla namang lumapit sa akin si Zaria at marahang hinawakan ang mukha ko. Her delicate fingers traced the red lining around my eyes, something she did not have despite being a princess, too.
“What happened to your eyes?”
She pursed her lips. “Nothing.”
“Do you remember how Father introduced you to his subject?”
I tried remembering my arrival at the castle and how the king addressed me. Pay your respect. My second daughter, the heir of Stryzyga, Princess of Vrivarya.
Normally, the firstborn would be the heir, but . . .
“He called me an heir,” sagot ko.
“Because you are.”
“Why? You’re the first princess, right?”
“Unfortunately, I do not possess our bloodline’s unique gift,” she said, her gaze shifting back to the bright moon illuminating the wintry sky.
Suddenly, some of my questions were answered. The way there were only two seats in the throne room . . . why her eyes were different . . . why the king and queen don’t speak to her . . .
A wistful smile escaped Zaria’s lips. “Unlike you and Father, I am not worthy . . . because I am powerless.”