“Elsie Vansing the Terrible. Elsie Vansing the Marauder.”
“Me? A marauder?” Hildreth would get such kick out of that one. I can guarantee there would be a joke about me dressed up as Attila the Hun.
He stopped just a little more than an arm’s reach in front of her. “Elsie Vansing the Troglodyte.”
She pulled out her stakes and charged at him.
He grinned and joined in her dance. “I’ve heard the stories about you.”
Fist to the face. Blocked.
Fist to the face. Landed.
“But the nightmares—”
He winced. “—will end—”
She kicked him just under his kneecap.
He fell to one knee.
She knocked him onto his back.
“Do you ever shut up?”
His grin returned. “Yes. But not tonight. NOW!”
A crowd of vampires climbed to the top of the mausoleum and surrounded her.
“You’ve killed so many of us. Too many of us.” He pushed her onto her back and pinned her wrists. “Welcome to payback, hunter.”
Hildreth sat in his room and listened to the dojo’s silence. He tried to keep his mind at ease, but it kept running in nervous circles.
What will the test be?
What will I have to do?
What if I fail?
What will I do?
What if I’m still not good enough?
I don’t have a lot of time to mess around with. What will I do if I need still more training?
Train some more, I guess.
But what if I—
He picked up his phone and considered calling Elsie. Only to set it back down on the wicker table.
“I need to find my peace. I need to…I need…” He laughed and it sounded too loud in the silence. “I need to calm myself down. That’s what I need.”
Hildreth closed his eyes and exhaled. “I need to do this. I will get through this. I will be fine. No matter what he has planned, I will be fine. I will get through this. I need to—”
His door slid open. “Master Shinowa requests your presence.”
Hildreth opened his eyes and bowed to the Master’s teenaged daughter. I wonder what happened to the Mrs. Master Shinowa. Oh, well. This isn’t the right time to ask.
He rose to his feet. “Lead me and I will follow.”
“Remember, Kleine. Don’t take too much.”
The other vampires muttered in agreement. “Yeah.” “Be sure to save some for the rest of us.” “Hear! Hear!” “Don’t be greedy.” “Yeah, greedy.”
Kleine bared his fangs.
Elsie’s mind raced.
Hildreth stopped outside the closed rice paper door.
I can do this.
I can do this.
He took a deep breath and sighed. “All right. Time to do this.” He slid the door open and entered the training room.
He closed the door and heard a soft whiffft of air.
And a bitter, throat scorching gas filled the room.
Hildreth dropped to his knees. He clutched his throat and coughed like he was trying to hack up all of his bronchial tubes.
The gas slowly dissipated, leaving him spent from his coughing fit.
“Well. Look who’s here.”
I know that voice, but it can’t be. Hildreth raised his head.
Ambrose stood in the middle of the room. He smiled at Hildreth. “Long time no see.”