"She needs to die! A painful death is the only punishment worthy of her crimes against our kind," a dark haired abomination stated angrily in Russian.
"I couldn't agree more Isai, but how do you suppose we do that exactly? How are we supposed to find someone who may not even exist?" another questioned.
Rose could barely contain her laughter when the strigoi mentioned the previous ones name. With Isai meaning 'God is salvation' and all, she found it rather contradictory really. Once upon a time he might have reflected God in some way, but standing in that alley his soul was nowhere in sight.
"Oh she exists, just like the ones before her did," Isai said with over-zealous confidence.
"You're crazy, Isai, no such person could ever exist. It's impossible!" a third intervened, obviously wanting the conversation to end.
"And how do you suppose some of our finest were killed this past week?" Isai questioned. "Guardians? Unlikely, even the unpromised ones don't show that much promise." He laughed bitterly at his own joke, however, Rose seemed to miss the humour. "No one else could be responsible for such…such a…monstrosity."
"And in answer to this monstrosity, you believe it is the one and only assassin, whom no one has ever seen?"
"Never seen and lived to tell about it," Isai muttered under his breath.
"No, now boys, didn't your mothers ever teach you that it's rude to talk about someone as if they don't exist?" Rose asked as she stepped around the corner that had concealed her. "It was me," she feigned sheepishness as she rose her hand as if she was back in school, "that killed each and every one of the monsters you speak of, and if you'd like I could give you a play by play account of how I took each of them down." She smiled sweetly, the kind of smile that would have melted any man's heart.
"Well if it isn't the assassin herself," Isai stated, proving his point with way too much smugness for Rose's liking.
At this point words only served as a waste of precious time for Rose, especially when her arrival had had the desired effect on the situation. Four of the five strigoi all but had their jaws hanging on the ground from shock. Anyway, in these situations Rose was much more of an action kind of girl, living for the thrill of adrenalin pumping through her as if she was about to suck in her final breath.
Once they had regained their composure, the five strigoi looked at Rose as if their lunch had just been served on a silver platter. An uncontrollable shiver cursed through the brunettes body as their red ringed eyes penetrated her skin, seeing right through to the blood streaming through her plump veins.
As she stood there eyeing off the creatures in front of her, her muscles became jittery with anticipation, but she knew never to make the first move, she always waited for them to come to her. If you make the first move Rosemarie, it is likely they will move last, her guide had told her on numerous occasions, his tick Romanian accent licking at the words. And she knew better than not to listen to him. So she waited…and waited…until finally they engaged her.
The first strigoi was much too easy to take out. Rose couldn't tell if it was from a lack of experience, or whether he had seriously underestimated his opponent, but either way he went down in a record of three seconds after stepping towards her.
It usually wasn't a fair fight. Most of the creatures Rose came across underestimated what she could do, but to look at her one could surmise that she'd rather spend her time getting her hair and nails done…silly them. She was lethal, her arsenal of weapons were plenty, and she knew how to use each and every one of them in the most effective way.
The second strigoi stepped towards her, and while he wasn't as bad as the first, he still went down quickly. He left his chest wide open, allowing the charmed dagger to slide right in with ease. One dumb and deadly mistake he'll never have a chance to learn from.
The final three strigoi were the ones who had been doing all the chit-chatting. Each of them looked similar to the next, sickeningly chalky white skin and horrid red rings around their once lively eyes. The only really noticeable difference between them was their hair. Isai had pitch black hair which was cut short. The one who stood next to him had dirty blond hair which hung in what could only be described as surfer curls. The last strigoi left ogling Rose with his nightmarish eyes had light brown hair, styled in such a way it looked like he'd just stepped out of the eighteen hundreds. Their clothes were all worn and in desperate need of a washing machine, but who was judging when they were all about to die anyway?
It was the blond strigoi that stepped forward next, though the old fashioned one flanked him closely. The dance began, but disappointingly only lasted a few minutes at the most. Rose had been expecting more than they had delivered, especially considering there was two, but she had to admit they were better than some she had the displeasure of fighting.
Finally, only Isai was left. He'd been watching the fights intently, a smile widening on his lips as Rose made each kill. He was seriously enjoying himself. It was as if he hadn't just watched his four 'friends' be killed in front of him. Though it really shouldn't have been surprising, he was strigoi after all. In other words, he was a soulless, heartless bastard who cared for none but himself and his power. Rose was looking forward to wiping the twisted smirk off his face.
"I must say," he started, "I knew you would be good, but…wow." He paused, lost in thought for a second. "Oh, I'll be so powerful when word spreads that I devoured you, the assassin!"
Rose didn't bother replying, she wasn't as vein as some would think, and she knew there was no way in hell he'd get close to taking her out. Truth was, Rose was better than good, but in her mind she was only doing a job she was born to do. She'd been reluctant at first, but put in that position, who wouldn't be? She'd been dragged away from the only life she'd ever known. She was taken away from her friends – while still mourning the death of one of them – and told she could never see them again. She was also ripped away from the love of her life – the man who she still believed was her soul mate – and told he would never exist to her again. So not only was she reluctant, she was also seriously pissed off. But her guide had brought her to see a reality she'd never really considered before, and in the end she only had one choice.
The part that hurt Rose the most though was the fact that everyone she'd loved and cared about had been led to believe she was dead. Even Lissa had felt the bond between them break once Rose had sworn herself over to the life she was now living. And boy did Rose miss the connection with the moroi who wasn't just her best friend, but also the sister she had always wanted. She hated not knowing whether Lissa was okay, but that was one of many things she tried never to think about.
The dance between Isai and Rose began, and from the outset it was clear he wasn't going to be nearly as easy as the others to defeat. But still, Rose held her ground. She watched every more he made, saving them to memory, ready to use them to her advantage whenever the time arose. Each time he struck out he ensured his chest remained closed or out of reach, and each time Rose moved in such a way as to limit the force of his violent attacks. They continued for what seemed like hours to Rose, each of them giving and receiving blows, each of them watch the other closely, waiting for an opening to present itself.
It was as Rose was readying herself for Isai's next move that she felt the fatigue starting to wash over her, which left her confused and took her focus away from the fight. She never got fatigued. Even with only an hour of sleep Rose was able to remain alert to everything around her.
Isai took Rose's loss of concentration as his opening, and before she could regain any focus he was behind her, his razor like fangs sinking deep into her neck. It was the wake-up call she needed. She grabbed his head, her hands like vices on a workman's bench. With a slight flick of her wrists he flew over her head, landing heavily on the pavement in front of her. Without hesitation Rose quickly slid her back-up stake out of her boot and drew its sharp point along his cheek. His agonising scream was like music to her ears.
"Guess you won't talk about me behind my back like a school girl again. Shame really, I'm sure you would have convinced someone of my existence," she said as she rested the stake's point against his throat. Her voice had slipped into the familiar tone it takes when her powers have been used. "Although, then again…probably not."
The cool dawn breeze ruffled through Rose's long dark hair which now fell loose, the sun was slowly creeping closer to making its daily appearance. It had been a good night, five kills in the one location, though that was becoming more and more common. Strigoi had always been known for flying solo, Rose would only occasionally run into a group who had managed to set aside their…differences…and work together for the 'greater good'. However, in the previous week alone she had taken out three groups of strigoi who had formed some kind of alliance. Each group had at least four strigoi, and for the most part they were pretty good fighters.
As Rose stood in the alley waiting for the run to rise, she couldn't help but hear the voice in the back of her head telling her something was coming. It wasn't like the strigoi were just casually getting together for a few beers while they watched the game, and it was really disturbing to her.
She had never liked the whole 'wait around for the cremation to finish' part of her job, but it was necessary. The last thing she wanted or needed was for innocent humans to stumble upon the bodies, which looked more like their original forms than when she'd killed them. It also meant the alchemists didn't need to get involved. So she waited until the last of the ash was picked up by the cool spring breeze and carried off towards the always bustling city of Paris.
Rose stumbled into her old studio apartment just twenty minutes after the final trace of strigoi had floated away. The night's fight had taken its toll on her, and she was more than thankful she hadn't used her powers during the fight – apart from when they had decided to save her arse – it would have only fatigued her more, and the outcome with Isai would likely have been very different.
Her clothes – which consisted of black tights and a body-hugging tank top – hadn't faired the best, but they were at least repairable or replaceable. Cuts and bruises littered her arms and legs, but the worst of the injuries was the gash on her neck from where the now obliterated strigoi – Isai – had tried to taste her blood. He of course died an excruciatingly painful death. She slowly slid off her clothes and stepped into the steaming hot shower. She took her time cleaning the dirt and blood from her skin and washing her hair twice. She waited until the water had started to turn cold before she got out. It was as she changed into a pair of sweat pants and a hoodie that Rose was alerted to her stomachs need for food.
Her apartment had recently been cleaned, thanks to Mary – Rose's personal cleaner who never complained no matter how much mess Rose left for her. After a long night Rose loved being able to go home and put her feet up without a pile of month old dirty clothes waiting eagerly for her. Unfortunately Mary only cleaned, she didn't do the grocery shopping or cooking – not that Rose hadn't asked her countless times before, and she was seriously considering approaching the subject again after seeing her dismal food supply. All she could find in the kitchen was half a loaf of bread that was growing its own green mould farm, a carton of sour milk and a couple of tasteless microwave dinners. After much debate – not – a microwave dinner won out.
As Rose ate her thoughts drifted back to the strigoi she had taken out a couple of hours before. Two of them had been weak, barely worth any effort to remember them. The blond and old fashioned strigoi had been better than the first, but still not very worthy opponents. Isai, however, was different. He had been stronger than the other four combined.
It wasn't his strength that had Rose worried so much though, it was the fact she'd become fatigued so quickly. It had never happened before, and she was left gripping at any answer that could have possibly explained it. She had even considered the possibility that Isai had used some kind of voodoo magic on her.
The part that played on her mind the most, however, was that she hadn't even considered using any of her powers before her strength came to her rescue. It was as if a guardian angel had been watching over her, aiding her when she needed it most. And while that was a lovely thought, it still didn't explain what had happened, and Rose didn't like that one bit.
She beyond dreaded having to tell her guide of the events that had taken place. She cringed merely at the thought of his reaction when she told him she might need a night off to recover some strength. And just as though her guide was reading her mind, her phone buzzed on the coffee table in front of her. It was time to face the music whether she liked it or not.
"Yes?" Rose breathed into the phone after hesitantly accepting the call. She could take down strigoi without a problem, but talking to her guide near terrified her.
"You know why I'm calling Rosemarie, I thought you would have learnt by now to answer the phone with a detailed account of what happened during the night," he said, his voice was gruff with impatience.
"Sorry, just a hard night," she explained meekly.
They were all hard nights in one way or another. Rose alone had to assess the situation at hand, decide whether she should use any of her powers, or if she could take down the threat using only her skill. Then when it came to the actual fight – usually in the case of there being two or more strigoi – she would have to reassess the situation over and over until the end of the fight. It might sound easy, and it's what guardians have to do while protecting their moroi, but there was more to it for Rose. She also had to keep her powers in check as they tried to constantly consume her throughout the fight.
And while they were all hard nights, the previous night had been the worst since she had completed her training. She was utterly exhausted, but it was more than just that, she felt as though she'd been using her magic non-stop for days on end. Something was off, she just couldn't figure out what it was.
"Care to explain what happened?" her guide asked in that knowing tone of his.
"There were five strigoi in the one location, I arrived to hear one claiming to know about me, saying the assassin was behind the recent attacks on strigoi. The first four were easy enough to take down, but during the final fight I suddenly became very fatigued. My powers came to my rescue, but not before he bit into my neck," she explained on auto-pilot, her voice was exempt from any emotion.
"I see," he mused, and as he paused briefly Rose readied herself for him to begin chastising her for her lack of stamina. "We all have bad days Rosemarie. How are you feeling now?"
Rose almost fell off the couch, and it took her a moment to regather her thoughts as his words sunk in. Her guide had never been one to let her weaknesses go that easily. Any other time he would have jumped on her case, and demanded it never – and he meant never! – happened again. But there he was, passing off her lack of control as a bad day, and actually asking how she was feeling? Something didn't fit in the equation for Rose, the person she was talking to wasn't the same guide who had relentlessly trained her for the past four years. He was being kind, almost fatherly – not that Rose was versed on how a father would react in that sort of situation.
"I feel weak, it's like I've been using magic for days," she explained, she didn't see much point in lying to him.
"I see, but you only used part of your power to subdue the fifth right?" he asked, confirming what he already knew.
"Yes…well it was more like the power used me. It kicked in before I had any say in the matter, and it was fierce. It was almost like being consumed by Lissa's darkness when I was bonded to her."
Just mentioning her name sent a wave of sadness through Rose. It brought forward too many memories, and she really didn't want to deal with them in that moment, so she pushed them away as always.
"Well, that's different," he mused once again.
Rose's guide had once told her she was the first to ever be gifted with so much power. The ones before her only had a quarter of the power she held, if they were lucky, and her guide had never been able to tell her why she was so different. She saw herself as a freak of nature more of the time, like she was some kind of experiment gone wrong. She was a strigoi killing machine who could wield magic, heal friendly targets, and move at a speed that most strigoi would have a hard time matching. Oh, and she could summon more strength that was imaginable.
The ones before her had been able to use magic, so that on its own wasn't anything special, but they had only been able to wield one type of magic. Rose could wield all four. It of course had its perks, like she could charm her own weapons for instance, but it also came with a downfall too. If she used too much magic she would be worn out for days.
There were also the physical changes that had occurred when Rose had decided to take on her calling. Her once slightly voluptuous figure had slimmed down, but at the same time her curves hadn't been lost entirely. And although her guide would never agree, she swore she was taller. Her hair had a beautiful shine to it, and her facial features were perfect. She was stunning, and when she entered a room it wasn't uncommon for men to stop and stare. She only used her looks to gain information though, which was unlike the Rose of four years before who craved the attention. Yes, Rose had changed a lot, but she had a job to do, and it was life or death, literally.
"I'll be around in thirty minutes," her guide said after a drawn out silence. "Make sure you've got decent coffee, there's some things we need to discuss."