A stabbing pain in her chest greeted Sora like an old friend when she woke up.
She couldn’t remember what it was like to start the day not being hungry.
Poking her head out of the grungy tarp, she peered past a curtain of black hair at the alley she called home. It looked as dirty, dark, and rundown as she felt.
Another painful heartbeat urged Sora out from under her crusty shield in search of a decent meal. She crawled across the ground and pulled up to the lip of the alley, the bright afternoon sun searing her eyes as she squinted at the street.
People. So many people walked past her. She was too afraid to go out into the sunlight, so she watched them from afar.
Sora managed to pull her eyes away. Just looking at the humans was making her feel hungry, and she couldn’t stand the thought. She looked around hopefully for a cat, or maybe a small bird, something small she could catch and feed on without drawing attention.
But the street was empty.
Sora slumped back against the wall of the alley and closed her eyes for a second, letting her hunger creep into her mind. It forced her awake. Wincing in pain, Sora peeled away the ragged clothes that clung to her chest and took a look at the black symbol above her breast.
It had spread since last night. Crawling out in tiny threads from her heart like the web of a spider, the further the black markings crept out, the more her body needed to feed.
She was so hungry. With every beat of her heart she could feel her mana poisoning her a little more.
When was the last time I had a good meal? Sora wondered.
“Eww, look at that scruffy child!”
“How can the lord let such filthy things stay on our streets?”
Probably since the last time someone had a kind word to give to her. Sora scuttled back into the alley, shrinking under the humans’ scornful gaze. The moment they left her sight another attack struck, unusually painful. She clutched her chest and went to her happy place.
“Your wings are so shiny and black! They’re pretty!”
A smile crept up Sora’s lips in defiance of the pain. Her heart returned to normal after a few agonizing seconds, and she could think clearly again.
She had to ignore the hunger.
She couldn’t hold it back anymore.
Sora couldn’t stand it! Her head was spinning and her heart was aching. She curled up into a ball and tried to block out the sensations passing by her.
People. There were so many people. So many humans, teaming with life, their hearts pumping out rivers of that crimson blood, rich with mana…
Sora’s heart was urging her to stand up, telling her to feed. Her hands twitched and black sparks crackled on the tips of her fingers.
Would it be so bad? There were so many of them! She just had to wait for one of them to get close enough. Then she could drain them dry in seconds! It would be so good, to fall asleep one night without the sting of her mana poisoning her.
No! You can’t! Not again! Never! Sora smashed her hands against the cobblestones to smother her lightning. Tears filled her eyes as her fingers shattered.
More sparks danced across her hands, her bloody fingers repairing themselves in seconds. A throb of venom in her chest made her woozy.
Sora had to stop hurting herself, it would just make her hungrier. Food! I need food! She bit into her lip until it bled, but that just made her hungrier. She doubled over and clutched her chest, begging her hunger to just go away.
A skittering sound caught Sora’s ear. Her head shot up and she looked deeper into the alley, where she saw…
A rat! A filthy little thing, barely larger than her hand. Standing right at the edge of the shadows, staring back at Sora with those beady little eyes.
Sora licked her lips.
Her hands shook with anticipation as she turned her fingers upon the rat, dark lightning shooting from them. And for the first time in ages Sora felt ALIVE!
It wasn’t human, but it was life. The alley crackled with electricity as she drank from the rodent, the creature wailing in pain as Sora felt the pain in her chest start to go away.
“Gaaah…” The small rat let out a whimper as its body crumpled, and Sora gasped, flinging her hands aside and stumbling away, horrified. Bad memories creeped into her mind as the pain in her chest returned with a vengeance.
“N-No!” She hadn’t meant to take that much! Please, no, no!
The rat scrambled to its feet and skittered away.
Sora sighed in relief.
“A vampire who refuses to feed, pitiful thing.”
Sora whirled around and raised her hands. Someone had seen, no! And it wasn’t just any someone. The cold, dark eyes staring down at her from under his black cloak struck fear through her heart, and she backed away slowly.
“Just… go ‘way,” Sora said. Her hands were shaking, and she had to force herself not to strike him with her electricity. “Go!”
“Or what, you’ll… ‘feed’ on me?” The man raised his eyebrow and took a step closer to Sora. She swallowed. She was so, so hungry…
“No! GO!” She released a burst of lightning that struck the ground in front of the man, forcing him back. She didn’t want to hurt him, but she was losing control. He just looked so delicious.
“That was quite a lot of power,” the man continued, walking forward. Sora backed up, more sparks building up on her fingers. “You’re not just any vampire, you’re a pureblood, aren’t you? Transitioning to adulthood, and from the look of you, you must be starving.”
He placed his hand over his chest. “How far has your encroachment gotten?”
Sora’s heart throbbed in pain, and for a second she wondered if she should just do it.
He knew she was a vampire. The meaning of her black wings had been beaten into her enough times for her to know that she needed to get away, or get rid of him. But… she couldn’t! The idea of hurting someone…
Sora wasn’t in that alley anymore. She was back there, in Evergarden, seeing her friend’s face twisted in pain.
She screamed and leapt away, lightning flying wildly. If she stayed here she was going to feed on him, the pounding in her chest was too strong to resist.
“Aaaaaaaaah!” Sora shouted, and her black wings burst from the markings on her back, tearing through the rags of her shirt.
Her eyes shot to the sky and she jumped up, flapping hard and flying into the air.
She barely made it off the ground.
A shadow dropped down on her from above, pinning her to the cold stones. She struggled and squirmed against whatever was on top of her, but she couldn’t do anything! Whoever they were, they were holding her with so much strength it was like she was chained again.
“NO! Leggo, leggo!” Sora wailed, thrashing against her captor. Lightning shot from her hands and broke harmlessly against the ground, there was nothing she could do.
“Dami, I got her!” The voice above her called out. Sora stopped moving for a second, staring up at the cloaked man towering over her. She lost the strength to keep fighting. She was just so hungry… what was the point? What was she fighting for?
Waking up tomorrow with her… what did he call it? In-coach-mint? Her pain spreading, driving her to eat and kill…
Sora couldn’t do it. She buried her face in the cobblestones and started to cry.
She felt a warm hand placed on her head. Curious, Sora peeked up to see that the man had crouched down, giving her a look that she hadn’t seen in so long she had almost forgotten it.
His eyes weren’t cold or hateful. They were soft. His hand felt so kind.
“Don’t be afraid, little one.” He spoke so gently. She’d heard words sound this warm before, it was how nice adults spoke to children. But only to the other children, never to her.
“Are you hungry?”
The ache of her heart pounded “YES!” Sora sniffled, and nodded.
The kind man removed his hand and held it out to her, and Sora saw something gleam in his other hand… it was a knife!
The warmth was gone now, and her fear had returned. She scraped against the cobblestones and shouted, ignoring the man’s attempts to quiet her. She wasn’t going to be fooled! He was going to… going to…
The knife wasn’t pointed at her. He had turned the sharp blade towards his arm instead.
The delicious scent of blood filled the alley. It rolled down the man’s hand, warm and thick and filled with mana! Right in front of her nose, Sora’s body screamed for a taste. She felt her fangs push out of her gums, slipping past her teeth and out into the air.
“Hah… Hah…” Sora’s tongue lashed out.
“It’s flowing anyway. Drink as much as you want.”
He was talking, but Sora couldn’t hear it. Her hunger was all that mattered now. Like her pleas were being answered, the weight on top of her lightened and she shot to her feet, grabbing his arm and sinking her fangs deep, drinking as much of that wonderful blood as she could.
It was the best thing she’d ever tasted.