145 Loss of life- Part 1
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Leonard saw Vivian step out of the bathroom with clothes that she had changed to wear which was suitable in the mansion. The dress that she wore was the colour of beige, enhancing the colour of her pink skin on her face as she had spent time in the warm water. He had changed the clothes himself but with Vivian who took more time than necessary in the bathroom which he wasn't sure as by the time he had come to visit her she had already got inside to take bath, he had decided to wait for her until she returned back.
On their way back she had looked dazed, as if too tired with the day that had transpired.
Before heading to her room, he had gone to look for the housekeeper, his ire to high and ready to burst when the housekeeper apologized with his head down saying he couldn't refuse his uncle as the man had ordered Vivian to come along with him.
What he didn't understand was why would uncle Sullivan take her along when she had nothing to do with the matter. He couldn't help but think that it was one of his uncle's plan of wanting to keep Vivian away from him. After all, he had said that she would be no ordinary human once she would complete and pass the exam.
With them still not on talking terms with each other, he decided to break the ice between them.
"Lionel is a difficult man to work with for vampires. Harsher to humans. Don't mind his way of speech," he said to ease the tension between them that had built up for three to four days now, "You were of good help today. Most of us would have taken another day or two, or maybe never if it rained again."
"He despised my presence," Vivian commented with a small smile that failed to reach up to her eyes.
"He did," Leonard wasn't the kind of man to sugarcoat things for her but then there was nothing to hide. For a councilman like Lionel who was of high experience, the man didn't see a point of a stranger walking around the site where the death took place who was of no use. Though uncle Sullivan was the one who dragged her there, he doubted Vivian had resisted his words, "What were you doing at the dead man's village?" he asked her.
Vivian who had been rubbing her wet hair gently paused for a mere second before continuing to rub the ends and placing the dampened towel on the back of the chair, "I wanted to go and see it," her voice was quiet and soft on Leo's ears and it seemed that his notion was right.
She turned around to face him, his eyes staring at her where he sat while she stood not moving from her place. It made her wonder if she had disappointed him in going to a place where she wasn't supposed to as he had wanted her to stay put at home.
"I read the newsletter of the town, stating how there were bodies discovered with vertical slashes on the women's throats," she said it in one single breath.
"You thought it was that examinee. Jamien was it?" questioned Leo to which she nodded in response, "Did you find anything?" he asked taking her by a pinch of surprise. With the way, he had glared at her when he had first found there standing behind his uncle, she was sure she would take his anger upon her once they would get back to the mansion but she was wrong.
Leonard wasn't a temperful man but that didn't mean he didn't know when to control and pull the leash of flame before he would hurt the one he loved. She was the woman who was going to step into the world of the council, keeping her away and asking her to not be curious would be wrong of him to do. As he was the one who had wanted her to be part of the world he belonged to.
And no matter how much loved and how much he knew on the dangerous world, he couldn't stop but want her to share the same sky as he did. He was a selfish man. To have her under the same sky would fill up his empty world and she would be the light to his darkness.
Getting back her composure, Vivian answered to his question, "I couldn't. I was going to touch one of the female's body to see if there was a slash on her throat but uncle Sullivan was adamant on I not to touch anything in the words of corrupting evidence," she gritted her teeth in the end as she said it. They had made rounds together but when she had finally taken the courage to touch something dead, Sullivan had come to drag her off as if she were a child.
"He had a point. The bodies are sent to examine after the inspection, even the councilmen don't touch anything without wearing specialized gloves that don't let your fingerprints mark the bodies or mix your sweat with the possible outer fluid of the dead. You will end up falling into one of the possible suspicions if that happens," so that was why thought Vivian in her mind, "The guards are usually there to guard the perimeter so that no one walks or passes through it not that anyone will but it is always good to have precautionary measures. It seems like this time the magistrate forgot to send the guardsmen which I doubt as he never fails to send his men."
"Do you think they were killed before we arrived?"
"It might be so," she saw Leonard ponder, pushing himself up from the bed he walked towards her, "It's an old saying to scare the living away from the dead. 'Death upon the land, death upon the people. Death will pass on to everything that it touches. Ones that haven't been dead will be fetched back until there is no breath'."
"Does it have a deeper meaning than what it tends to mean on the surface?"
"It is a rumoured folklore which has only been passed down through the centuries but," his word caught her whole attention, unconsciously she leaned forward to listen to what he had to say about it, "If you look at the last line of the folklore 'Ones that haven't been dead will be fetched back until there is no breath', the lore was made for the witches, for the loss of death that was created. The lore might speak of the witches who come to look at the lands they have destroyed to make sure there's none alive. If the guards were assigned, there might be a chance that the witches killed them while surveying for any possible living person."
Vivian wasn't sure how to react to that information. She had reached the point where she couldn't take in any more details or news before her mind would collapse. It had come as an utter shock when she had found out about Sister Isabelle not being her but to find out that the switcher had taken her form to retrieve something that was in the box.
Though blurry and hazy, it didn't take her much time to piece out the memories. Her heart sunk as if an anchor had been tied around it and thrown in the sea in a depthless pit which didn't have a surface.
"What did you see there, Vivi?" her eyes flickered twice, moving up to meet his gaze which was patiently waiting for her to answer his question.
"The switcher knew my name," Leo's face hardened at this revelation.
She hadn't observed it before as she wasn't familiar with a switcher but there was a light sheen of sweat like a glistening shine on the skin of the switchers she had come across. And she was sure every time she had met it was the same switcher.
' "Sister Isabelle!" Vivian had exclaimed looking at the white witch.
"Good afternoon, Vivian," the switcher had dropped the box with a slight amount of confusion on his face, "I wasn't expecting you here."'
Leonard asked her, "What did you see, Vivi?"
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"The switcher, he, I have met him more than twice," she told him biting her lips. Leonard frowned, waiting for her to complete what she was saying. Her eyes brimming up with tears, "The man, he and I spoke. Here in this very mansion."
As if in realization, Leonard himself felt a prick in his heart as he confirmed, "He was impersonating Paul," Vivian didn't nod her head nor deny at his statement, "When was the memory part of?" he asked her.
"During the time of your birthday. The day..." she didn't continue to say as no one wanted to remember what had taken place that day or night. No one would have known or have realized about it. At that time, they didn't know about the existence of a switcher. As if going back to the memory she saw herself digging next to the pillar to make way for the creepers that had twirled around the white cylindrical walls, "I was cleaning the walls that had picked up mud when the man came to advise me on what to do. He looked at the mansion as if he hadn't seen it before, mentioning about cleaning the windows even though they were cleaned the previous week. I thought I saw him in the market place but took it to be my imagination as I had seen Paul die in front of me."
She took a deep breath in an effort to not let her emotions guide but her lips trembled. Drops of tears fell down her cheeks, as if a lid that had been opened, the tears spilt on her pale cheeks. She hiccupped, "Paul h-he was framed. It was the switcher who took his form. You said y-you and the councilmen looked into it. But he died. Paul and his family were innocent," when Leonard took a step forward she shook her head. Wiping the tears with the back of her hand, she looked away with her eyes closed.
She knew there was nothing that they could have done. No one could have known about the switchers taking forms and using innocent men and women to do their work. How could one doubt if the person was real or not? She had spent the entire day with Paul, asking him about what to do but not once had she found it suspicious enough to feel that he wasn't Paul.
When Leo raised his hand to reach out to comfort her, he heard her say, "I...need time."
The hand that had lifted up to touch her folded back to form into a tight fist and let it fall to his side.
He would have allowed to give her the time she needed but they couldn't keep taking time off every time something happened between them.
She might have asked for time and he knew somewhere deep down where she wanted to blame him, blame him for not listening to what she had said on Paul's innocence. The guilt of killing a caretaker of his who had been loyal until the end would slowly seep into his mind, the guilt of not able to save people around him, the guilt mixing in his blood as he remembered the smile he had offered Vivian before he was hung to death.
"I am sorry," he apologized, every word he spoke was genuine and tainted with guilt.
She shook her head, "Don't," when she opened her water filled eyes, she noticed the sadness in his eyes, "Why is this happening with us? Why are losing so many people around us," the last words were swallowed by her hiccups.
Despite her being upset and asking for the time, Leonard stepped into her space and continued to apologize, "I am sorry, Vivi," putting his arms around her, he hugged her and not a second later she broke down. Tears, silent cries and hiccups that took time to calm her down as he ran his hand over her head.