Chapter 2: Once a Criminal

When Grey was seven, he lived near Jesse Owens Park, nestled in the heart of Los Angeles. It was a haven for drug dealers, some restraining massive pit bulls with chains attached to their collars. Grey hated playing at that park, but it was his only way to get out of the house at times.

One day, three children, a few years older than Grey, forcibly seized his Huffy bike—a gift passed down from his older cousin. If that were the worst part of his day, Grey would have considered it a blessing. Instead, it was only a prelude to the challenges that awaited him.

Returning home, Grey was met with a stern resolve from his father instead of the sympathy he desired. The command was clear—return to the park and get the bike back. Marcus, with his own unique approach to parenting, believed that confronting adversity head-on was the only way to forge resilience.

As Grey stepped back into the park, its grim features became more pronounced. The whispers of the wind carried with them an eerie resonance. The air was thick with the scent of damp earth, each inhale a reminder of the weight on his small shoulders.

His heartbeat echoed with each footstep and the world seemed muted under the pallor of his fear. The distant hum of traffic provided an unsettling backdrop to the confrontation that awaited him.

Grey turned back to see his father watching, his arms folded across his chest. Taking his time, Grey waited until the kids separated. His first target ran up a slide and over a bridge. 

The confrontation unfolded within the blink of an eye, Grey tripping the child as he made his way down the stairs. Grey pounced on the much larger boy, striking with his elbow as his father had taught him previously. 

While young bystanders screamed and shouted in excitement, Grey’s eyes traced the motion of the other young thief running his way. And Grey used that momentum against his victim, tackling the boy to the concrete. No further confrontation was necessary because the child was stunned by the sharp pain on the back of his head.

With a stone he had found, Grey had taken down the third child. At that point, all he could see was blood. Rage consumed him, and he began attacking others for no reason, until Marcus intervened. 

This was a traumatic memory for Grey. Still, nothing was as bad as what Selene had done to him. 

Grey, Isabella, and Selene were all inside the master bedroom. Isabella stood at a distance, trying to stifle a few giggles, but Selene found amusement in Grey’s predicament. She clutched her stomach, wiping tears away as she watched Grey examine himself in her full-body mirror.

With a chuckle, the mistress remarked, “I’m enjoying this more than I should.” Grey’s hair had been twisted into braids, and he wore a light blue maidservant uniform, custom-tailored to fit his smaller frame. Selene had even taken the time to apply makeup, enhancing Grey’s feminine qualities.

“I told you he’s prettier than me,” Selene added. 

Grey couldn’t contest Selene’s words because, even in his own eyes, all he could see was a girl in the mirror. Those eyes, normally vibrant and somewhat defiant, were now lifeless. Grey had no desire to participate in Selene’s charade. While he would openly express disdain if it were his mother or sisters, Selene, as his mistress, posed a different challenge. Opposing her came with risks that Grey wasn’t willing to take. Selene, well aware of this power dynamic, exploited it. In her mind, she wouldn’t physically harm a child, even a slave, but Grey didn’t need to know that.

“You look like a doll!” the mistress exclaimed. 

I have to admit, I’d be the prettiest bell at the ball. 

This was an image Grey couldn’t shake. Nothing had stirred his emotions quite like this moment. Until now, he hadn’t been motivated much by his abduction and being sold into slavery. Even after vomiting, Grey surprisingly overcame the horror of Selene’s dead skin. And though he feared Christian’s potential torture through beatings and resurrections, none of it compared to the humiliation of being dressed like a girl.

I’m leaving this plantation. But where? The forest with twisted trees was only a mile away. There, I could live like a wild king and not some slave girl.


An aggressive scream followed by resounding thuds echoed throughout the estate. This was a familiar occurrence that raised no eyebrows from even a single slave. Christian was in the midst of another one of his tantrums.

Quietly ascending the stairs, Grey gingerly touched his fingers to his black eye, following Selene. She spoke under her breath, trying to maintain her composure. “It’s okay, Selene. He’s just a child. That little runt… I mean, the beautiful boy is practically the same age as Grey and should have outgrown tantrums by now. But we all mature differently. He needs space to grow instead of facing your divine wrath. So, go easy on him. Be patient. Be calm.”

Grey waited beside the library doors, a place that deeply interested him. The library held valuable books, likely explaining why Christian chose it as the stage for his tantrums.

For vampires, reading wasn’t a cherished pastime but a tedious chore. Magic users didn’t need to consume words bit by bit. Instead, they could activate the book’s magic using the enchantment on the cover. The activated power would flip each page and input knowledge into the “reader.” This process took about ten seconds per page, minimizing the need for deep understanding and reducing errors.

Removing pages from books had consequences, affecting future and past readers. Some servants assumed that Christian hoped to remove pages that would hasten his father’s return. Joseph Ward’s frequent absences, lasting two to three years at a stretch, were a common occurrence. This time around, many feared it might be an even lengthier separation.

Grey found the servants’ observations to be true, and he was wicked enough to make matters worse. To fuel the flames of Christian’s tantrums, Grey tested their assumptions. Every few days, he deliberately rearranged Joseph’s pictures around the house or moved his belongings from one room to another. And Grey chose moments when he knew Christian would take notice.

Less than fourteen hours ago, Christian caught Grey in the act of cleaning Joseph’s prized possession—a lesser wolf’s head. A lesser wolf, native to Rosewood forest, had once wandered into the city nearly a decade ago. These creatures were incredibly swift, stronger than lions, and possessed a slight resistance to magic. Despite the challenges, Joseph had hunted the stray and displayed it as a trophy for guests to admire.

Upon seeing Grey dusting the wolf, Christian reacted violently. He punched Grey and grabbed a dinner knife from the table. Selene intervened just in time to prevent further harm, but Christian shifted to a verbal assault.

“He’s fodder. Fodder! And father would never let something like that into the house,” Christian snarled. 

Selene, growing frustrated, interjected, “That’s enough, Christian.”

“When he comes back, he’ll add that boy to the shed, and you know what’ll happen. In less than two years, I’ll make that boy regret ever touching my father’s things.” 

“I said, enough!”

Grey was no stranger to the term “fodder.” It was what they called the younger slaves. While Grey didn’t understand what Christian did with them or why he could harm younger slaves, Grey knew he had only a year or two at most before Joseph would return and take him away from the house.

Unsurprisingly, Selene didn’t contest or rebuke Christian’s words. Instead, she seemed hurt and ashamed after hearing them. For the rest of that night, she didn’t assign Grey a single task, leaving an unspoken weight in the air.

With Christian’s latest assault on the library, Selene seized the opportunity to release some of her pent-up frustration. Despite the muffled quality of her stern voice behind the library door, her disciplining tone sent chills down Grey’s spine. It was reminiscent of the rare occasions when his mother unleashed her anger.

After an extensive lecture, Selene emerged from the library with one arm wrapped around Christian. Then, she signaled for Grey to enter the room.

Once they were away, Grey unleashed his characteristic evil grin. Taking Christian’s punch was worth it.

Grey marveled at the contrasting freedom on Vale. When slavery in America was legal, slaves weren’t allowed to read. But on Vale, slaves could read anything outside the library. Vampires weren’t concerned about humans becoming more knowledgeable, except for one thing—magic. It was strictly forbidden for slaves to understand or practice magic.

Christian’s tantrums inadvertently provided Grey with freedom to break this law. There, he delved into books about Vale’s world and immersed himself in the study of magic.

Within six months, Grey uncovered the revelation that he resided on the continent of New Vesland in the southern state of Amana—a region predominantly inhabited by vampires skilled in dark magic.

On the other side of the continent, the northern states boasted a population primarily of elves and dwarves, with freed or escaped humans forming a minority. These groups specialized in mana arts, harnessing internal energy to produce magic.

The central part of the country was marked by Rosewood Forest. In this area, diverse inhabitants, including creatures like lesser wolves, beastmen, and small elf communities. The elves here survived the challenging terrain by practicing spirit magic.

The politics also influenced how magic was used and advanced. The northern states were renowned for their superior technology, but their politics were somewhat archaic—they were governed by a monarchy, though they forbade slavery. Whereas, the South had a democratic system and a stable economy, but the residents relied on older technologies to survive. 

Grey speculated that the peculiar individuals he encountered in the shopping district might have been travelers from the North, potentially possessing considerable power. That would explain the wariness of the locals. The advanced technology in the northern states held the potential to overpower the southern states in a conflict, but the presence of the Rosewood forest acted as a natural barrier, preventing direct collision between the two regions.

Learning New Vesland’s geography was important to Grey, but he mostly stuck to the forbidden stuff. Magic. 

On Vale, magic was synonymous with life, making it a captivating system that governed the lives of citizens and slaves. Magic existed in three forms—written, verbal, and visual. These served as conduits for manipulating mana, the lifeblood of sorcery.

At the pinnacle of complexity and power, written magic reigned supreme. Those who wielded it crafted intricate spells, embedding magic into objects to store and transfer mana. This art demanded profound mastery, as inscribing enchantments required skill and precision. In short, written magic produced weapons of mass destruction and won wars.

The most commonly used form of magic was channeled mana through incantations. Magic existed in the form of everyday speech, which was why there was no usable mana on Earth. In that section of the universe, mana was abused through violent phrases used too commonly like, “I hate you,” or curse words used for fun. Uttering words without accompanying visualizations risked releasing chaotic dark energy. This perilous path often led practitioners toward necromancy and dark magic, tapping into morbid forces outside of a person’s control.

At the center of all magic was visualization—an art demanding a vivid imagination. To manipulate mana successfully, one had to picture energy flowing through their body. It was a fragile system that required mental focus with unwavering concentration. A lapse could lead to death.

Most practitioners found balance by combining written and verbal forms, avoiding the treacherous depths of their imagination. That was why vampires used enchantment tattoos to guide their mana flows, crucial for navigating the complexities of dark magic.

Mana flow had its own layer of complexity as well. 

Mana, the ethereal force, moved through two paths: internal and external. 

Vampires mostly relied on their internal reserves for dark magic. They circulated the mana through their body and pushed it into an enchantment circle that formed around their hands. It was an efficient and quick way to cast a spell, but the mana pool was low. Therefore, only a few spells could be cast before those reserves were tapped. 

External reserves were slower and more temperamental. This involved taking curses or dark energy from the atmosphere and converting it into a spell. External manipulation provided an unlimited source of energy but was physically exhausting. Not to mention, even daywalkers could only cast meager spells when the sun was out. 

While casting spells was crucial, circulating magic yielded tangible benefits. Energy summoned through visualization could shield a mage, deflect projectiles, or infuse physical blows with speed and power.

Grey kept reading and flipping through the open book as he sorted out the room that Christian had messed up. Amidst the chaos, one book caught Grey’s eye—a diary.

This particular book belonged to Selene and unfolded a personal tale of how her magic got sealed. Her story painted a picture of justice and vengeance, where the fallout of a violent act led to harsh consequences.

In the diary, Selene shared that she was once known as the most powerful vampire in New Vesland, a title she despised. Thanks to her magical skills and beauty, many men sought her hand in marriage. One, in particular, became obsessed and snapped after yet another rejection.

This unnamed man went on to commit a heinous act, murdering her parents and making even darker threats. He thought his title and prestige as a politician protected him. However, when Selene discovered the gruesome truth, she took matters into her own hands. She marched into his office and delivered a brutal beating before tearing his head from his shoulders while he was still breathing. Then, she mounted that head on a statue at the Amana Capitol.

For her act, Selene received a life sentence despite pleading insanity. Her release only came when another influential man, Joseph Ward, offered to reduce her sentence in exchange for her hand in marriage and the placement of a seal tattoo over her others. Joseph, through manipulation, achieved what no one else could—turning a monster into a wife.

Grey heard the library door open, making him close the book while casually walking back to the larger mess. He pretended to meticulously match scattered pages from Christian’s tantrum, ignoring the books’ content.

“Oh! I didn’t expect you to be this far along. Are you getting the hang of matching the books?” Selene asked. 

Grey confirmed her suspicion with a graceful nod. He knew that he couldn’t take as much time to read anymore or it would draw suspicion. 

After crossing in front of Selene, Grey stopped abruptly. Then, he got uncomfortably close to his mistress and sniffed. Grey gently clapped for her. 

“You noticed!” Selene cheered giddily. “I finally found the perfume, imported by traders from the North.”

Grey hid his menacing smile, a wicked contrast to his beauty. Redirecting Selene’s attention from the books was far too easy. 

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