Isellta returned to his room and locked the door.
The monsters had finally stopped their harassments, leaving him drained.
He stumbled over to the bed, curled up under the blankets, and closed his eyes.
mm. Missing something.
Isellta grabbed the extra pillow and hugged it as tight as he could.
He sighed softly and fell asleep.
Hildreth smiled as Jim-Marie tried to install one of the Bossman 550’s hammer plates.
“It doesn’t fit!”
Hildreth chuckled. “I remember telling my master the very same thing. The trick is you have to slide it in from just the right angle. Like this.” He picked up one of the hammer plates and slid it in without any difficulty. “You can’t force it in. You have to just kind of gentle it in.”
“Let me try again.”
“Be my guest.”
Jim-Marie glanced up at him. “Aren’t you scared I’ll accidently break it?”
“No. The Bossman Corporation makes high quality weapons. They’re designed to take a lot of abuse, unlike the Devil’s Dare weapons. Devil’s Dare has some real novel and really cool weapons. But they break down so easily. So, go on. Try again.”
Jim-Marie picked up another hammer plate. “Why did you become a hunter?”
“It wasn’t my choice. See, my grandparents on both sides of the family were very good hunters, but they opted out of sending their kids to hunter training. They wanted their kids to lead normal kid lives.” He shrugged. “When I came around, hunter parents were no longer allowed the opt out option. So, my parents had to send me away.”
Jim-Marie worked on putting the plate into its assigned slot. “Are you gonna send your kids to be trained?”
“Turn it just a little bit more. Don’t force it. Gentle. I don’t know. That’s something Elsie and I will have to have a long conversation about.”
“Do you want to send them?”
“No. It’s too dangerous. But I’ll have to discuss it with Elsie. She might agree with me or she might not. There! There you go! Look at you!”
Jim-Marie grinned and gave Hildreth a high-five. “Let me do one more.”
“Have at it.” He watched the boy eagerly try again and again.
He’s so young and innocent.
How do the masters do it? How do they train kids like him and me? How do they live with the knowledge that they’re training us for a life that might kill us? And in most cases will kill us? How do they keep themselves detached? How do they keep doing it?
But what is the alternative? Not training any new hunters? And what happens as the mature hunters die and no one takes their place?
The vampires win.
That’s what happens.
He patted Jim-Marie on the back. “I’m going upstairs to make a phone call. I’ll return in a few minutes.”
The boy nodded and kept going.
Hildreth walked upstairs and pulled out his cellphone. He dialed Master Shinowa’s number.
Master Shinowa answered it on the first ring. “Mayhew?”
“Hey! How’d you know it was me?”
“Your ring tone played out.”
“Do I want to know what you set it as?”
“Duel of Fates from Phantom Menace.”
Hildreth laughed. “That is awesome! Although, I will admit, I’ve always been partial to the Battle of Heroes from Revenge of the Sith. That music rocks my world. Actually, that whole soundtrack rocks my world.”
Master Shinowa chuckled. “But you call to not speak about music loves.”
“Unfortunately, no. I have a kid here. Seven years old. Orphan. Parents killed by a vampire. Eager learner.” He hesitated. “He wants to become a hunter. He wants to go through the whole training process.”
“You spoked him out of it?”
“I tried my best. Elsie even chipped in her twenty-seven dollars worth of negativity. He still wants to learn.”
“What think you, Mayhew?”
Hildreth considered the question. “To be honest, he reminds me of myself when I was his age.”
“Lost in head?”
Hildreth laughed. “No, not that bad. He’s determined and stubborn. Master Shinowa, I ‘m not a scout. So, I’m just going by plain gut instinct when I say this: I believe he has the makings of a good hunter. It would be a shame not to train him.”
Master Shinowa fell silent.
Hildreth waited patiently.
“When morning come, I come to Havaton to see him myself. I will make decision then.”
“Yes, Master. I will keep him here at my house. Do you need directions?”
“Okay. Grab a pen and paper and I’ll spill it all out for you.”
Elsie climbed on top of the mausoleum and her thoughts turned to Hildreth.
He isn’t here.
She sat Indian-style near the edge of the roof.
He’s probably still at home with that boy.
I wish he were here.
What did I think about before he or Ambrose entered my life? What did I daydream about in these lulls between staking vampires? I don’t know. I can’t remember.
“Hildreth.” Elsie closed her eyes and said his name three times. She opened her eyes.
He still wasn’t there.
“I guess that sort of thing only happens in the right kind of movies.”
She looked up at the night sky and, for one moment, she felt Hildreth’s strong hands on her shoulders.
But the moment passed and she was still alone.
If he left me for good, what would I do without him in my life? I’d go on being a hunter, obviously, but what would I do? How would I cope with not hearing his voice, not feeling his touch, not seeing his face?
She smiled. “It’s a pointless question. Hildreth will never leave me. I’d have to do something pretty horrible and drastic to make him want to do so. I know. He loves me as much as I love him. Maybe even more than that. He jumped out of his bedroom window for me.”
He won’t leave me.