Sunday had arrived, and with it, the tour. The final rays of sun were peeking through the window as dusk took the world into its grasp. I dragged myself out of bed and into the bathroom, brushing my teeth, then my hair, and prepared to head out. When I got back in a few hours, I’d work on some assignments.
I was struck by how my schedule had changed. I worked mostly night hours to accommodate my vampiric students, which was something I was still adjusting to. Giving a yawn, I grabbed my phone, glancing over to the message from Jasper. He was asking where we’d meet for the tour, so I let him know we’d go visit the cafe.
As I arrived on campus and began walking along the concrete pathway, I glanced off to my side, noting the dancing, flickering lights, and shuddering. Were those sprites of some sort, looking to make a dangerous deal? Narrowing my eyes, I couldn’t help but walk closer, only to discover they were just fireflies. I laughed aloud, realizing that I was now questioning everything.
I watched the darting colors of reds and blues for a moment, telling myself that relaxing every once and a while was just fine. Besides, they wouldn’t be here for long, considering fall was fast approaching, and the weather was getting colder.
Returning to my route, I looked off to the side, noticing the dazzling flashing from some buildings, indicating college parties. Snickering, I began to wonder how those would go as the various humanoid species mingled and began to learn more about one another. Add magic into the mix, and surely it would lead to some interesting interactions.
Up ahead, I spotted a building with fancy brick columns, a light grey roof, and long windows leading down to a glass door entrance. There were many silver arches to the building design, allowing the artistic aesthetic to ring through. I entered to the strong smell of coffee and baked pastries, causing my mouth to water somewhat.
My eyes swept the area until falling upon a certain vampire lounging about in a cushy red chair. Others here were avoiding Jasper, no doubt intimidated based on their wide-eyed glances toward him every so often. Here I was about to walk into the maw of the monster. Well, now was a better time than any.
He looked up from the book in his claws, some strands of his crimson hair falling into his eyes. A smile parted from his lips to reveal glistening fangs, tailored to biting into and ripping through flesh. I resisted the urge to shudder. Today, he was wearing the usual black T-shirt that said ‘I Bite’ on it.
Looking me up and down as I approached, he commented, “Hello there, morsel. You look delicious today.”
I pinched the bridge of my nose, glaring at him through narrowed eyes. “Are you coming off as creepy on purpose, or do you have no idea how you sound?” I asked him, sparking a head-tilt from the vampire.
“Hm, whatever do you mean?” Jasper asked, getting to his feet and stretching. His muscles rippled from beneath his shirt. Show off.
“You’re the gothic jock of the vampire world,” I stated firmly, pivoting and preparing to walk out of the cafe so we could get the tour started.
“I have no idea what that means, but I am very eager to learn,” he said with an amused tone, then added, “Would you like to get something to eat or drink before you show me around this lovely campus? Perhaps you can help me decipher this odd campus map.”
“Exactly how many times have you been late to your classes aside from mine?” I asked, turning around and eyeing the male vampire curiously. His gaze shifted away from me as he put his hand behind his head and smirked awkwardly.
“What a decidedly interesting question, morsel. Well, quite a few, but I manage after getting directions from those in my kingdom, who know where they are going better than I,” Jasper replied. Then, he pulled out a paper bag, one emanating a tantalizing sweet smell. “Do you like the pastries here? I have heard this is among their best.”
I accepted the bag and pulled out a raspberry croissant, admittedly feeling myself drool a bit. Then, my eyes fell upon him again. He was eagerly awaiting my reaction with a brow raised, and I gave him a chuckle. “Well, you’re not wrong. Thank you, Jasper,” I said, blinking at his grin of delight. Despite being afraid of him, I still found his reaction to be somewhat charming. Though that didn’t prevent me from inwardly scolding myself.
Jasper proceeded to remove his campus map from his bag, looking from me to it, before finally saying, “When you finish, and before we proceed, may I please have some aid with this… confusing bit of instructions.” Shaking my head, I smirked, giving my reply after a bite into the scrumptious pastry.
“A terrifying, merciless vampire king that’s confused by a campus map? Now I’ve heard everything,” I said, my voice dripping with amusement.
“This is not like maps I am used to,” Jasper said, pulling out several pieces of folded paper and laying them out on the table in front of us. My eyes widened as I looked upon the intricate map designs with complex twists, turns, and markings on the paper.
“…You work with complicated pieces like this, and you’re stuck on a campus map? Well, everyone’s mind works a little differently,” I commented, giving him a wide smile. “I’ll help you out. Why not?”
“Thank you, Luna,” he said, his eerie smile displaying that full array of his fangs again. After I finished up my pastry, I moved to sit next to him, on edge being so close to the vampire king but refusing to show fear. At least he didn’t loom over me, rather he paid close attention to my ‘map lesson’. He had plenty of questions, which I answered to help clear things up for him.
When we finished, Jasper said, “You honor me, Luna. I am not surprised that you were chosen as a professor at this establishment. Why, your teaching tactics make so much sense. I only hope my work in your class will reflect this as well.”
“If you pay attention to something other than the scent of my blood, it will,” I replied, giving him the side-eye. He had the nerve to draw his tongue along his lips and gave a rumbling, purr-like noise. No doubt, he reminded me of some conceited lion.
“That will be difficult, morsel,” he replied. I rolled my eyes and stood up, motioning for him to do the same. Now I’d show him around so it’d click even further for him, and he hopefully wouldn’t be late to anymore of his classes.
The moon shone brightly above us as we walked along, a breeze blowing back some of my onyx-toned hair. We passed by buildings with sharp angles made up of brick, some stained with soot due to fire pits in a designated area for warming up in cold nights and seasons.
Eventually, we passed in front of the library, walking along the brick-walkway sigil that represented Cobratongue University. The design was of a cobra, mouth wide open and fangs displayed, with a forked tongue hanging out of its mouth. I stopped and studied it for a moment, figuring a pause in the tour would be fine. Pointing to the sigil, then moving next to Jasper to also show him its location on the map, I said, “This is a good landmark. We’re center campus, and the cobra sits at the front of the library. You can figure out your routes from there.”
Jasper provided a nod, glancing from the map, to the sigil, and finally turning his head to look at me. “Appropriate that this college has the markings of the vampire king that rules this area,” he mused. Running his tongue over his fangs, he added, “You free humans have so much potential to destroy vampires, learning magic, and a wide access to silver. Quite dangerous for the ruling party. Don’t you think?”
I scoffed, placing my hands upon my hips. “I think it’s a good thing that we work in harmony rather than being livestock for the likes of you.”
“Given the chance, you would slay me in an instant, wouldn’t you, morsel?” Jasper asked, his tone not threatening, merely curious. “I would not blame you, really. After we took your world.”
“No,” I growled. “Because I don’t put everyone into a box. I have friends with fangs. The king has shown that he cares about us, as well, and wishes to make a better world with both species living together. Something you have yet to get through your thick head.”
Jasper tilted his head, tapping a claw upon his chin for a moment before sneering. “Well. Perhaps you can teach me, then, dear Luna. Regardless, I appreciate your lack of seeking to kill me. I admire your spirit. You will be a powerful mage someday.”
Furrowing my brow, I mulled this over in my head. This vampire honestly confused the hell out of me, and I feared him. But I could tell by his tone that he wasn’t playing around. “Thank you,” I said finally, then added, “If you threaten my friends, or me, though, that will change. Understand?”
“I do,” Jasper said firmly, his eyes glinting. “My brother and I clash heads, which is unfortunate. But I deserve his vitriol. I do not seek to be on the enemy side here. That is why I am glad you, my favorite human here, are teaching me so much.”
“Your favorite human? Why is that? Don’t you want to gorge upon my blood, or something?” I asked, staring up to the starry sky and rubbing my arm.
“Just as I said. Your spirit. And yes. Of course I do. I would like nothing more than to sink my fangs into your neck. In time, though,” Jasper promised, giving that eerie grin again.
I sighed and grumbled, “You didn’t have to confirm it. Alright, let’s continue. We have a lot of ground to cover.”
Now, Jasper was giving me his own tour, something that I agreed to against my better judgement. We wandered through the campus woods, the chirping of crickets causing me to relax a little bit. I couldn’t shake the worry that Jasper would attack me out here, though. Hopefully, if he did, I could fend him off with a silver knife from my bag. Who was I kidding, though? He was skilled and could probably rip that away before I could do a thing.
His voice sounded in my mind, causing me to yelp and whimper. “Relax yourself, morsel. If I wanted to attack, I would have done so by now. It would be extremely easy.” I turned to look at him, noting how his crimson eyes reflected like a predator’s in the soft moonlight.
“Y-you can read my mind?” I gasped, walking up to lean against a tree at this new information. Jasper blinked, then chuckled and shook his head.
“No. It is obvious by your body language. I merely am a strong telepath. Why did you come here with me if you are so afraid, Luna?” he asked, raising his brow.
“Because I refuse to let you intimidate me,” I said firmly, composing myself and standing up a bit straighter. We were surrounded by pine trees, the movement of small animals joining the harmony of nighttime noises.
Jasper sneered and shrugged, turning away. “I will keep my promise to King Goliath. So long as you’re here, in the kingdom borders, I will not lunge for you unless situations are dire.”
“What do you mean by that?” I asked carefully.
“Hopefully you will not find out,” he said darkly, his tone shifting to serious. “Luna, even my kingdom isn’t as bad as most out there. There are rebels in my own that seek to torture humans for the hell of it.” He gave a low, guttural growl, a very primal noise that seemed to vibrate through my body. I bit my lip, though I knew my attempt to hide my reaction was futile.
Jasper’s eyes fixed upon me, and he leaned closer, his tongue drawing over his lips momentarily before he purred, “The scent of your fear is so tantalizing, by the way, morsel. I do hope to someday try it. But, as I said. There are other kingdoms that seek to end the harmony established here. Something I fight against–and the reason why I patrol this forest. To make sure they do not break through.”
“Break through? What do you mean?” I asked.
“The forcefield around campus isn’t indestructible. Holes in it let the immoral vampires in, which result in humans like you getting hurt,” he explained, motioning to the area around him. “I have agreed to aid against this. But, that is not what I seek to show you now. Come…”
Typical, being a mysterious son of a bitch. I sighed and allowed the subject to drop as we crunched through some leaves. Eventually, we arrived at a clearing of grass.
Bright flickering, a menagerie of colors, met my gaze, causing me to squeal in delight. This time, I didn’t mistake the fireflies for something more deadly. Despite Jasper being creepy as hell, he was powerful, and I doubted he’d let anything attack me here. I wandered into the center of the clearing, watching the fireflies dance around like we were in an outdoor fantasy theater.
A gentle tap on my shoulder caused me to jump and whirl, facing Jasper. A few strands of his crimson hair fell into his face as he smirked at my reaction, but held something out in his other hand. It was a clear glass jar with a simple twistable cover that had many tiny holes in it. “For you, Luna. I have seen humans here partake in this activity. If you’d like to, of course.”
A chiming laugh emitted from my lips, and I took in a deep, refreshing breath. Exhaling, I gifted him a bright smile. “Alright, alright. I’ll admit, this looks like fun. You know what? Sure. Let’s catch some fireflies.”
“Perfect. I already know I will easily catch more. We must share a jar, though,” Jasper replied.
“Cocky much? We’ll see who wins by the end of this,” I said, turning away and staring at the shimmering lights. The weight of the world got slightly lighter.
Was I making friends with a vampire king? Evidently, I was. I’d need to keep on my toes, but little times like this relieved some stress, even if only a little bit.