Sinnae-Marie's eyes finally saw the dark figure in the back, and when her face lit up all the townsfolk looked as well. His beauty struck them senseless, a reaction he was more than accustomed to. D paid them no mind, and instead simply waited for the female dhampire to join him, his head lowered so his wide-brimmed midnight traveler's hat shadowed his upper face. As she stood to get ready to leave, the humans gathered snapped out of their passionate reverie and hailed D in such a ridiculous fashion he had to look up at them.

"Lord D! Welcome back!"

"How fared the hunt, Lord D?"

"We are relieved to see you safe, Lord D!"

"Are you tired, milord? Do you want a drink?"

Although his visage showed no change, D was at a slight loss. Humans stuttered in his presence, enthralled by his physical beauty and aura of danger. They were intimidated and afraid but allured and aroused. But never had he really had a whole village happy to receive him… concerned for his personal safety. It was bizarre, and in the back of his mind, almost comforting.

"Now now," Sinnae-Marie was saying. "Don't smother him. Go on, enjoy your night, I'll take D home."

Home.

D turned for the door without another word, and was already on his horse by the time Sinnae-Marie said her good nights and came outside of the tavern. The two shared a brief look before she went around the side and came back astride her own white horse, and in perfectly comfortable silence, made their way back to Sinnae-Marie's manor.

It was quite rare to find such a quiet female, and D contemplated briefly on every girl in the past several decades he somehow ended up saving or maiming, and each one had always felt the urge to fill the air with chatter. However, unless she had something worth saying, Sinnae-Marie was content much like he was with the silence, and no tension or fear ever wafted from her due to such stillness. It was almost relaxing, and it made the job that much less annoying. Despite his affection for her, Doris always had to stutter something when around him, and although she was amusing, Lina still bothered and got in D's way more than he cared for. Leila, when she wasn't hurt or crying for her mother, seemed to stop him from doing his job at every chance she was given, Tae, whatever other women that D somehow always got some sort of job with, none were quite as… accommodating as Sinnae-Marie. She fed him, housed him, answered his questions, and… that was it. Other than once in a while spending excess time with him, D more or less did not have to worry about an emotional female panting after him or cowering behind him for once. It was a change of scenery.

"I assume it did not go well," Sinnae-Marie's voice sliced through the silence—such a clean, beautiful cut, D did not feel the least be bothered by it. "What happened?"

"The castle disappeared." Was his reply.

Sinnae-Marie knitted her brow, her gorgeous eyes dimming in her confusion. "Disappeared? It has no teleport capabilities. Perhaps it was camouflage?"

"I checked. It's gone. I meant to ask you when we were inside where you think he took it."

D heard her shrug, for she was a half a horse's length behind him. "Honestly I don't have a clue, but we just installed new batteries into the town's camera system, I can run through it and have a look-see."

Despite D's private swear to leave by the night, just as he made it to the great gate of the castle it simply vanished before his eyes, leaving only a crater as a pocked reminder it was there once. He had searched, with his left hand's help, the entire perimeter and several miles in each direction with no avail. Not a single sign to be found, no clue or hint of the where or even how. While teleportation of short distances was easy for common Nobility, long-range was much rarer, but the Nobles could only teleport themselves and perhaps one other they were touching. To teleport a fully armed castle full of heaven knows what to a possibly far location was a phenomenal feat of mental skill and strength. D used his pendant and every mental defense he had in case it was another mind or eye trick, but it was still gone. Falien had, indeed, teleported himself and his castle somewhere.

As they stabled their horses and made their way inside, Sinnae-Marie nearly tripped when D suddenly changed the subject, "You don't play and sing at the same time."

She had to brace herself against a nearby table, so startled she was. She had not even thought D heard her, only assumed he walked in after she had finished. Embarrassment rose to color her cheeks and she fought it down. "No. I can't do it. If I try I mess up either my singing, the playing, or both."

Sinnae-Marie swore she heard D snort, but he hardly seemed like the type to indulge in such an action. She resumed her track to the main living space, D following like a silent reserved killer. Sometimes, when he stood close enough, Sinnae-Marie swore she felt the blade of a sickle hovering just under her chin, ready to lop off her head should she breathe. The female dhampire took a deep breath as she twirled around and fell gracefully onto a chair, her glittering hair seeming to cause a halo of soft light to envelope her. The Hunter sat across from her, and a moment later he pulled his hat off and let it rest on his knee, his dark eyes staring straight into the bright orbs of Sinnae-Marie and chilling her spine with such an empty look.

Sinnae-Marie twirled a bit of her hair with her fingers. "I guess Falien is truly afraid of you, if he moved his roots."

"No," D replied. "I think he's almost done with what he's been doing."

"Have you analyzed what you got from the lab?"

"No."

Sinnae-Marie blinked several times. "So how can you say—"

"Nobles like Falien will never admit to defeat, let alone fear." D was prompt to answer. Sinnae-Marie bit her lower lip, because she realized the Hunter was right.

She stood and began to pace, hands clasped behind her back and her shimmering hair trailing behind her in a luscious cloud of softness. D followed her moments with his eyes, waiting for her word. Several quiet minutes passed before the tense beauty stopped and faced the Hunter, her face strained.

"Check the data from the lab," she said. While it seemed like an order, it lacked the aggressiveness. "You can use the main computer in my bedroom—tap the blank wall and it'll come out of hibernation mode."

D stood and went to do such that, not a word or look spared toward her. Sinnae-Marie stood stock still, then looked up to the sky window and drank the moon's brightness with her eyes. She thought of her father, her mother, and tears bubbled to her eyes.

~*~

"You scared her," Left hand commented as D inserted the discs into the holographic computer.

D didn't bother to answer, simply moving his fingers along the holographic keyboard and downloading the data. Left hand hummed in a bored tone, knowing trying to speak of Sinnae-Marie would give it nothing but silence. D never liked to speak of the women he worked for or ran into, be it during or after the encounter. Which was a real shame—Left hand saw all sorts of great opportunities at conversations that centered on those women, like Doris' nice ass or how annoyingly easy it was of Lori to be duped. But no, D wasn't for conversation.

D watched as passively as ever as the graphs and letters and numbers flashed before his eyes, too fast for normal human eyes to read. Thousands of scans, reports and test results skimmed the wall-screen and showed no signs of slowing down—charts comparing two test subjects, analysis of after effects of drugs, dutiful notes and careful observations filled the screen and somehow despite the chaotic dispersion of it all, D followed it and absorbed all of the information.

Half an hour later Sinnae-Marie finally joined him, although he declined the cup of water she offered. Drinking it herself, Sinnae-Marie looked at the screen in respectable silence until D switched the computer off, turning to face her.

"He has copied and followed the notes left by your namesake," D said, voice plain. "He's added his own; apparently, Falien seeks to manufacture dhampires."

"Manufacture?" Sinnae-Marie asked, her eyes wide. "Wait, dhampires? Why dhampires?"

D looked over his shoulder at the blank screen. "He realizes as it stands, Nobles cannot overcome their weaknesses. However, dhampires have proven to be immune to some of those weaknesses, such as sunlight."

"So what? He wants to make a dhampire army?"

"Something like that. He's picking traits to go into this being, and your father's strength was one of them."

Sinnae-Marie's breath caught in her throat and she dropped the glass of water. It harmlessly bounced off the plush carpet and rolled close to D's foot, gently kissing it with an inaudible tap. She took several steps back until her legs found her bed and she sat down with no grace, her shock surreal to even her. Her mouth started to move, but no voice came out.

D finished his gruesome findings, "He's after you next. You apparently have a strength no other Noble or dhampire have."

The female finally let out a weak chuckle. "Hardly," she rasped. Despite the water she had, Sinnae-Marie suddenly felt as if her throat was made of sand. "I'm even as allergic to the sun like most Nobles… if not for my special clothes I'd… Wait." She blinked. "Oh. I see."

D waited patiently, but Sinnae-Marie said nothing more. When it was apparent she was not going to share her realization, the Hunter left her in her room and went to his. Tomorrow was another hunt, and until Falien made a move, D was unfortunately blind to what to do next.

When D clicked the door closed, Sinnae-Marie grabbed one of her luxurious pillows and hugged it tightly to her chest. Suddenly, things started to make sense, and despite her desire to know why, Sinnae-Marie wished she never figured it all out. She closed her eyes, listening as D went to his quarters and made no more sound. Silence crashed into Sinnae-Marie's ears, threatening to undo her very sanity.

Resigned, Sinnae-Marie activated her computer and read over the data herself. In it she learned more gruesome truth it made her nearly retch, and only more conclusions, all viable, filled her mind. She would have to tell D a little secret tomorrow, and given what she knew of him, she wasn't sure how well he'd take it.


I am terribly sorry for the shortness of this chapter, especially considering the wait. Finals were hell, and then holidays slammed into my front door in the form of overseas family. Now I'm in the job market, but in between interviews I hope to get back on the ball with the story.

I swear the next chapter will be a hellva lot longer. But I didn't want to put this one off for much longer. Thank you for your patience.