Jinsoul sat on the edge of her bed, reading through a long text from Kim Lip. Opposite her Choerry stared at Yves's yearbook, brow furrowed.
"What are you thinking about?" Jinsoul asked.
"Looking at this picture," Choerry held it up. It was the photo of the Catholic girl with the Bible. "She looks really familiar for some reason."
"Maybe she became famous or something." There were photos like that throughout the yearbook.
Choerry shrugged. "The yearbook was a good find, right?" she asked slightly anxiously.
"Yes, it was very good."
Jinsoul hadn't said a word about sending Choerry back to Kim Lip since she presented her with the book. She also hadn't mentioned the extremely dangerous things that Choerry must have done to get it. She knew how much Choerry wanted to be seen as useful. Still, she wasn't going to let her take such a risk again.
She turned back to the text. Kim Lip used really academic language sometimes, it was very annoying. When she was confident she knew what the other girl was talking about, she went and sat next to Choerry.
"I sent Lip the photo of the sick girl. She's got a more advanced version of your illness, obviously. So Lip was thinking that the curse of the ghost must have been around then and that means the ghost was there back then, too."
"But I thought we were thinking the curse of the ghost might not actually be caused by the ghost itself?"
Jinsoul nodded. "Right. There's three possibilities." She counted them off on her fingers as she talked. "Either the ghost is even older then we thought and we were wrong and it does the cause the curse, or the ghost is even older then we thought and so is the thing causing the curse." she paused. "Or the ghost is exactly as old as we thought and it's the thing causing the curse that is older."
"Let's assume that we were right and it's something else causing it. That would mean-" Choerry's finger hovered uncertainly over Yves's picture.
Jinsoul nodded. "Yeah, that's what I was thinking too. The common denominator, so to speak."
"What is she? Another ghost?"
"Could be. Lip was thinking- well, it's pretty stupid, but can you think of a creature that lives for a long time with no visible aging and causes disease-like symptoms that focus on the neck? Especially symptoms that best fit the conditions of blood loss?"
Choerry paused for a moment, then laughed. "Don't be silly! Vampires aren't real."
"I sure hope not."
The younger girl was quiet, staring at Yves in the photo. "What does Lip want us to do?"
"She says the most important thing is to talk to the ghost. Remember, no matter what Yves is, the ghost is our first priority."
"Okay. Let's go, then."
Jinsoul raised a warning hand. "Wait. I'll go, not you."
"Not again! Why?"
"Your disease! You need to rest."
Choerry rolled her eyes. "I've been resting all day!" She had skipped school today on assurance from Vivi that she would be marked present.
"I'm still worried about you."
"And I'm worried about you. There's no way you can go alone. I need to be there. Please don't ask why, I just do."
Jinsoul looked at the cute girl sitting next to her. Choerry could seem like a typical teenager a lot of the time, but at moments like this Jinsoul could see a curious maturity. She nodded and Choerry immediately transformed back, squealing with excitement and rushing to her wardrobe to pick out the best ghost-hunting outfit.
They snuck out after lights-out. Jinsoul took the yearbook with them, holding it nervously in front of her like a shield. She managed to find her way to the music room again and the pair went up the stairs with their hands over their mouths to protect them from the dust.
The music room was just as Jinsoul remembered it. It was perfectly positioned to be drenched in moonlight, illuminating the derelict instruments and eerily abandoned desks. Every step they took echoed back at them in the domed roof. The thick cover of dust gave everything a grey tint.
Choerry sat down at the piano and banged her hand against the keys, sending a discordant note vibrating through the room. Jinsoul shot her a look.
"As if this place isn't creepy enough already."
Choerry shrugged. "You work with ghosts for a living. Better get used to it."
Jinsoul went to the empty place right under the window, where the moonlight made a clear circle on the floor. She swept a patch clear of the dust and put the yearbook down, opening it to the class photo with Yves.
"Are you there?" she said to the room at large. "What do you know about this girl?"
She half-expected nothing to happen. When a girl stood up from behind the tuba, Jinsoul almost jumped. Coming to her senses, she studied the girl closely. It was her first time seeing the ghost.
She was just as Choerry described. Dark hair carefully positioned to hide every centimetre of her face, her only notable feature was the tear tracks running onto her dress. She raised one slim arm and pointed straight at Jinsoul.
Jinsoul had seen too many ghosts to bother with creepy nonsense. She marched over and grabbed the ghost's arm. The ghost wrenched back, but she was unable to free herself before Jinsoul had brought her into the light.
Once she was in the light she brushed down the front of her dress, seeming almost affronted at being manhandled.
"You're not used to that, right? We're not like the other people you've seen. Can you talk to us? We can hear you."
The ghost emitted a strangled rasp. Jinsoul glanced at Choerry in confusion.
"That's what it did before. I don't know what's wrong with it."
"Alright. Ghost, can I part your hair?"
The ghost didn't response, but didn't pull away when Jinsoul reached for her hair. It was straight and silky, slipping between Jinsoul's fingers. When she drew it back the ghost glanced at the floor. Jinsoul gently held her chin and forced her to look at her.
In life, she fancied the ghost would have been rather pretty. She had pretty eyes and smooth skin. Her eyes were open and quite clear, although water ran out her in a steady stream. Her mouth, however, was shockingly different. She had a jagged diagonal scar running across the entirety of her mouth. Her mouth had essentially been slashed in half, with no care or precision. The ghost let the remnants of her lips fall open, revealing that she had no tongue.
Jinsoul forced herself to put her emotions to the back of her mind and think about the facts. The skin on either side of the scar had not fused together. Rather, the wound was just hanging open, though not bleeding anymore. That meant that this wound had still been open when she died. Jinsoul's stomach twisted when she realised the ghost must have been tortured before her death.
Choerry walked over. "That's sick. Can she talk?"
The ghost rasped again, her scrap of tongue fluttering in her mouth. Jinsoul's stomach flipped over. Choerry must have seen the sick look on her face, because she put a comforting hand on her arm.
"Don't be so sad. This is a ghost, remember, not a real person. This damage was done fifty years ago at least."
Jinsoul knew that was true, but that didn't stop the ghost's injuries from being horrific.
"She can't talk," she said. "What do we do?"
Choerry sighed. "I was hoping she could," she muttered. "You'd better call Lip. She needs to hear this."
Jinsoul was confused, but did as she asked. Lip picked up on the first ring.
"Finally! You guys had better have spoken to the ghost by now." Her tinny voice bounced around the room.
The ghost looked at the phone disinterestedly, like it registered its existence but not what it was saying. Most ghosts didn't really care about anything other then their purpose.
"We're with the ghost right now," Jinsoul told Lip, not taking her eyes off the ghost. "But she can't talk."
"Are you serious?" Lip was pissed off.
"Her tongue was removed. Must have been right before she died."
"Fuck, someone had foresight. Alright, our next move-"
"No need," Choerry said.
Choerry was now standing next to the ghost, both of them in the patch of moonlight. It bleached her skin unnaturally pale, making her look like a ghost herself. She looked scared."
"Choerry?" Lip said.
Choerry ignored her, looking at Jinsoul "Don't let her do this for long, ok? No more then five minutes."
"I've set a timer. What are you doing?" Lip asked again.
Choerry reached for the ghost's hand. Their fingers intertwined, the ghost's white skin crisscrossing with Choerry's living shade. Choerry let out a breath and closed her eyes. For a moment Jinsoul thought that her eyes had gone out of focus, but then she realised that the air around the two girls had actually blurred. When Choerry opened her eyes again they were pure white. She opened her mouth blindly, making little ah noises.
The ghost stopped crying.
"I can speak," Choerry said, voice filled with awe. "The curse has been lifted from me!"
"Of course you can speak, Choerry," Lip said a little impatiently.
"It's not Choerry," Jinsoul replied.
"Indeed not," Choerry said, hand still gripping the ghost's. "My name is Olivia Hye."
"Olivia Hye. Were you a student here?" Kim Lip asked.
"What do you know about Yves?" Jinsoul chimed in.
Choerry blinked. "Yves killed me sixty years ago, when I was indeed a student here. She cut out my tongue, placing me under the curse of silence from which you have just freed me, and flung me to damnation. I had found what she is, you see."
"And what is that?" Jinsoul breathed.
"A demon. Straight from hell. Or, in layman's terms, a vampire."
"How do you figure that?"
"I am a student of medicine. She was causing blood loss in girls she was close to, even her own lover. Also, I read some of the books she kept in our room. She had many about vampires."
"What do you want to do?" Lip asked. It was the obvious question to ask a ghost.
"I have to warn you! Yves was sent by the devil to corrupt girls and bring them into hell. In my life, I tried to warn my best friend that she was being fed upon by the forces of evil. I falsely believed that there was still time for God to save her. But Yves made it clear that there wasn't. Not for either of us."
Choerry's hand reached for Olivia's hair and drew it from her neck, revealing the small bruise splattered against her skin. Jinsoul sucked in a breath.
"You were sick."
"I was doomed. When Yves placed me under this curse I knew that I would go to hell no matter what I did. My life lost its purpose and I flung myself into oblivion."
"You must have been pretty surprised to wake up here."
Choerry shrugged. "At first. But the solution is clear. Of course any world where demons exist is hell. We are all in hell, struggling to break free."
"You can still go to heaven, Olivia. You still have that chance," Jinsoul tried to reassure her.
Choerry looked at her linked hand. "I believe it."
"Time's up," Lip said quietly.
Olivia must know what that meant, because Choerry shook her head violently. Her hand tightened around Olivia's.
"No! No, don't make me go back to silence and death! I won't!"
"You have to," Jinsoul said, putting the phone on the floor and taking a step closer to the pair.
"No!" Choerry screamed, mouth stretching open to a degree that must have hurt.
Jinsoul lunged at their joined hands and grabbed Olivia's arm, ripping her away from Choerry. The ghost reached for Choerry, but Jinsoul held her apart with arms wrapped around her middle. She felt ghostly water drip on her hands when Olivia started to cry again.
Choerry collapsed to the floor. Jinsoul cautiously released Olivia, who just stood there again, and rushed to Choerry's side. The young girl moved slightly when Jinsoul gathered her in her arms. She managed to open her eyes.
"I'm fine," Choerry croaked.
"What's happening? What was that?" Lip asked, frustrated at her lack of visibility.
"We have a vampire on our hands," Jinsoul told her.
"Right. I am so coming. Don't do anything stupid. And by anything stupid I mean anything without me."
"Alright," Jinsoul smiled.
"Is Choerry alright?"
"I am," Choerry answered as loudly as she could, which was just over a whisper.
"See you soon." Kim Lip hung up.
Jinsoul stared at Choerry in astonishment. "What the hell was that?"
Choerry rubbed her eyes tiredly. "I learnt how to do it a couple years ago. I was living in some burnt out basement with a bunch other half-deads- that's people who can talk to ghosts- when my parents kicked me out and some of them could pull off that trick. It was used to allow the dead to move outside the areas that they were trapped in. Mostly to get their help in robbing stuff."
"It's dangerous," Jinsoul guessed.
Choerry nodded. "Bunch of people died doing it. Any more then a few minutes and the ghost gets attached. They'd drag you into dead before giving up their chance at life." Her hands clung weakly to Jinsoul's arms, suddenly seeming very fragile. "Now can we go to bed, please? I'm tired."
Jinsoul had to half-carry her back to bed, but they managed.
Jinsoul put Choerry to bed immediately, then sat up all night reading about vampires on her phone. She didn't even know that they existed and the internet wasn't very helpful. Her anxiety allowed her to get only a few hours of restless sleep. Throughout the night, she was woken up with the terrible fear that Yves was going to drink Choerry's blood tonight. The thought that that had happened to her right here, under Jinsoul's protection, was horrible to her.
Choerry was up early. Jinsoul woke to find her stumbling around the room, clutching her school uniform. She gently took the uniform away from her and sat her down on the bed.
"What do you think you're doing?"
"I'll go to school today and try and do something before Lip arrives," Choerry said. She swayed where she sat, too weak to even sit straight.
"You are absolutely not doing that. I will go to class to keep suspicion off us and tell Vivi that you're sick. Yves already knows you're sick because it's partly her fault, so there's no way she'll guess that anything's up. Then we'll figure out a plan when Lip gets here."
Choerry collapsed back onto her pillow. "Alright. I'll see you after class, then."
"See you then."
As Jinsoul was heading out, Choerry cleared her throat. Jinsoul glanced back at her.
"Um, about what I said last night. About my past. Could you just forget about that?" She stared at the blanket, her fingers twisting the sheets.
Jinsoul nodded, smiling to herself. "Of course. It never happened."
After all, everyone's entitled to their secrets.
School was extremely hard to focus on, so Jinsoul didn't even try. At lunch, she bumped into Haseul. Haseul had been pretty mad at them ever since Yeojin had been bitten, but she stopped when Jinsoul put a hand on her arm.
"Hey, we've made significant progress. The person responsible for the illness is Yves, not the ghost. Lip is coming today. Can you be in Vivi's office after class?"
Haseul agreed. "Do you want me to tell Vivi?"
"No, I've got her as a teacher next. She's substituting for modern history. I'll tell her."
Jinsoul always looked forwards to modern history. She hadn't seen Heejin and Hyunjin today, although she usually ate lunch with them. She was wondering where they were.
She sat down in her usual spot and turned around to say hi to them, only to find empty tables. Vivi hurried towards her, looking worried.
"Hey, where are Heejin and Hyunjin?" Jinsoul asked her.
"That's what I've come to tell you. Principal Yves asked them to come to her office. It's really weird, she never lets anyone into her office and never deals with discipline personally. It's probably nothing, but after our last meeting I've been on my guard."
Jinsoul felt like the floor had dropped out from under her. Yves would know that Heejin and Hyunjin were her friends, right? And even if it had nothing to do with her, she did not want them anywhere near that vampire.
"I've gotta go," she said, nearly pushing Vivi over in her haste to get out the door. Vivi stared after her, mystified and annoyed.
Jinsoul sprinted to Yves's office. The door was open. Heejin and Hyunjin were sitting on two chairs facing Yves's desk, while she stood opposite them. A silver locket she wore caught the sunlight, momentarily blinding Jinsoul. The stolen yearbook sat plainly on the desk. Jinsoul felt her blood run cold.
She looked up and smiled when she saw Jinsoul lingering at the door. It could have been Jinsoul's imagination, but her teeth seemed sharp. She shuddered.
"Welcome, Jinsoul," she said. "Please come in. And close the door after you."
Heejin and Hyunjin twisted around to look at her. Jinsoul reluctantly did as she was told.
"I know about you," she said, still standing close to the door.
"Same goes," Yves replied.
Heejin slammed her hands on the table. "Well, I don't know anything about anyone! I swear to God we didn't steal that book."
"She knows," Jinsoul said. "It was a trap to get me here."
"You stole it?" Heejin asked.
"My roommate did. Guys, this is going to sound crazy, but Yves is a vampire. She must have been in my room last night to drink Choerry's blood and found that. We all need to run right now."
Yves had moved to the other side of the desk and now walked to the door and locked it. "Nobody's going anywhere. I know that you're not a real student, Jinsoul. You were just sent here to investigate me, right?"
"What the fuck are either of you talking about?" Hyunjin cried out.
Jinsoul groped for the picture of Go Won. "You killed her, right?"
"No. She's still alive as far as I know."
"How could she have killed her?" Heejin asked. "Yves isn't that old."
"I'm about two hundred years old," Yves said calmly, advancing slowly on Jinsoul.
"Alright. Either you're crazy, or…"
"Or she's a vampire! Let's get out of the chairs, guys."
Heejin stood up, pulling Hyunjin with her. The couple joined Jinsoul in her backing away, holding hands tightly.
"You did write the thing on the back, though?"
"Of course. I hated that bitch. Her and Olivia were always trying to turn Chuu away from me." Yves's hand gripped the locket she wore protectively
"So you killed Olivia."
"No I didn't. She killed herself. I'm not a killer."
"What are you talking about? You killed Yujin."
Yves tossed her head in acknowledgement. The trio were now backed into a corner. "Ok, yeah, I did. But she was so delicious. She tasted just like Chuu, I couldn't help myself." Yves licked her lips. "Chuu was so delicious, I tried so hard to not drink from her but couldn't help it. I doubt any of you will be even half so good."
"Oh my god," Heejin whispered under her breath.
"And now that I've killed one person, why not add three more to my list? Let's start with you, Jinsoul."
With that, Yves dove for Jinsoul's neck. Jinsoul screamed and flailed about, managing to knock off about half of Yves's books from the shelf. But before Yves could touch her she was thrown to one side.
Hyunjin had taken a running leap right into Yves and slammed her into the bookcase. Jinsoul took the opportunity to run to another corner, trying to get away from Heejin, who she vaguely saw make a beeline for the desk.
Yves screamed in annoyance and easily lifted Hyunjin into the air. She flung her in the general direction of the door. Hyujin crunched against the wall and slumped to the floor, not moving. Jinsoul heard Heejin scream, but it was background noise compared to the rushing in her ears.
Then in a blur of movement Yves's hands were on Jinsoul, pinning her to the floor, and Yves's mouth was on Jinsoul's throat. Her front two teeth had sharpened and she plunged these into Jinsoul's flesh.
Jinsoul immediately understood how Yves had been able to do this to people in their sleep. Rather then feeling pain, she was overwhelmed with a deep tiredness. She suddenly felt like she was about to collapse. Blackness rushed towards her as her blood left her.
She was dimly aware of movement around her. Heejin had grabbed something from the desk and tossed it to Hyunjin, who opened the door. They were both shouting at Jinsoul. She also heard someone who sounded strangely like Lip speaking.
"She's in love with a human! It's her only weakness!"
Jinsoul couldn't care less about any of that, though. She just wanted to sleep.
Right when her eyes were about to close, she became aware of a second presence over her. She forced her eyes open and saw that Heejin was right over Yves. Heejin seized Yves's locket and flung it across the room.
As it hit the ground it sprung open and Jinsoul saw the picture inside. It was the same girl who was hugging Yves in the school picture but older, maybe in her late twenties.
Yves detached herself from Jinsoul and scrambled for the locket.
"C'mon!" Heejin screamed, pulling Jinsoul to her feet and towards the door.
Jinsoul followed her, clamping one hand to her neck to stem the flow of blood. Outside, Heejin slammed the door and locked it. Jinsoul collapsed in the nearest pair of arms that were ready to receive her, which turned out to belong to Kim Lip.
"I've missed you," she said, rubbing small circles on Jinsoul's back.
Jinsoul could have cried she was so happy to see her. "Me too."
Yves slammed against the door. "You think I don't have a spare key?" she shouted through the wood.
Haseul, who was also there, looked at Lip. "What are we going to do?"
"Not to worry." Lip guided Jinsoul to the floor and reached into a canvas bag she'd brought with her, withdrawing a strange looking gun.
"That had better be some advanced vampire-killing gun," Hyunjin said.
"Nope! It's a nail gun," Lip also took out a piece of wood.
"What are we supposed to do with that, build a shelf?" Hyunjin snapped.
"Sometimes the best solutions are the simplest. Watch and learn."
Lip placed the wood on the crack between the door and the wall and used the nail gun to secure it in place. She then did that four more times with different pieces.
Almost as soon as she was done, the door unlocked and Yves slammed against it again. She chuckled when it didn't move.
"How long do you think you can keep me in here? A couple of hours?"
"A couple of hours is long enough," Lip told her. Then she glanced at the rest of them. "It is, right?"
Jinsoul shrugged, exhausted. She had already stopped bleeding and just had a bruise on her neck, but she was still slumped against the wall.
It didn't take long to gather the whole gang in the corridor by the office. Vivi and Haseul secured the corridor and kept students out while the rest of them tried to decide what to do.
"Yves was seriously here when the school closed?" Hyunjin said. Heejin was pressing a wet cloth to the blood matting in her hair.
"Yes, I was," Yves said through the door. She was sitting on the other side, listening to them. She had stopped trying to break through and instead was being smarmy and annoying.
"What did you do when it closed?" Lip asked.
"I followed Chuu. I was in love with her, you know."
"I think that's pretty clear," Jinsoul muttered, thinking with relief of Yves chasing the locket.
"She lived an amazing life," Yves said wistfully. "She became a major advocate for gay rights. Never got married, but she lived with a girlfriend for twenty years."
"And all the while she was being stalked by a vampire," Choerry muttered, with Yeojin lying in her arms. "That's repulsive."
"Why did you come back here?"
"How?" Lip asked suspiciously.
"Cancer. What, you thought I killed her? I never drank her blood again."
"She probably locked her doors at night, that's why," Yeojin said to Choerry. Choerry snorted.
"What's the deal with Olivia?" Lip asked.
"What is this, an interrogation? Olivia knew what I was, she had to die. I cut out her tongue so she couldn't tell anyone even if she survived. I didn't think she'd let Chuu know, but she did. Both of us lost everything that night."
"She's tied to the old school, right?" Jinsoul asked Choerry, who nodded.
"We could get rid of her by destroying those parts of the school."
"Why did you even keep her around? Why not destroy those parts yourself?" Heejin asked the door.
"Didn't know that would work."
"I don't think so," Lip said slowly. "You kept her around because you hate her. You like seeing her tortured like she is now. That's why you're making everyone who she tries to talk to sick, so she can't even have small comforts of being acknowledged."
Yves was silent. Jinsoul felt a shiver run down her spine.
She stood up, leaning against the wall for balance. "Let's get out of here. I'm sick of her."
They left Yves trapped in her office. On the way out, Lip turned to Vivi. "By the way, you have about an hour to get all these students out of the school."
Vivi gaped at her, then run off with Haseul.
Two hours later Jinsoul was standing outside behind the school. All the other students were milling on the front lawn. Most were milling around in confusion. All parents had been called saying that the school was closing early this year due to an accident and some were already on their way. Jinsoul's throat still hurt from doing that job.
Heejin passed her a long stick, which Jinsoul twirled experimentally. "Are you sure about this?" she asked Lip.
"It's all I can think of," Lip shrugged. "Don't see why it wouldn't work. Ok, let's split up. And make sure none of the students see you."
Jinsoul followed Lip to the corner of the school, hiding in the bushes. Lip pulled a lighter out from her pocket and pressed the small flame to the tip of Jinsoul's stick. Jinsoul flinched away as fire gushed out of the end.
"Quick!" Lip urged, so Jinsoul threw the stick at the school.
Fortunately, the fire caught. Jinsoul looked on in awe as flames crept up the side of the building, quickly spreading in leaps and bounds. The students started to make a commotion.
Jinsoul looked at Lip, suddenly remembering something. "Lip! We don't want to cause a bushfire."
Lip's face was mischievous as she handed Jinsoul a fire extinguisher. "Ok. You'll put out everything on the trees. Have a fun time."
"Ugh, I just remembered that I hate you," Jinsoul moaned.
Hours later, the school was almost entirely gone, a burnt husk of its former self, and the students were also gone. Heejin and Hyunjin gave Jinsoul a final ashy hug before being collected by their respective parents.
Odd Eye Circle reunited on the front lawn. They were joined by the other, Haseul holding Yeojin's hand safely.
Haseul glanced at Lip awkwardly. "Um… how much do we owe you guys, anyway?"
"A lot." Lip said comfortably. "We'll work it out when we get home. Ready to go, guys?"
Jinsoul thought of their small and comfortable van and got hit with homesickness. "Yes, very."
The six girls headed back to two cars. Jinsoul climbed in the passenger seat and listened to the engine purring.
In the back seat, Choerry was texting.
"Are you talking to Yeojin already? It's been like a second." Lip said.
"Yeah, I am. So what?"
"Nothing! Just, what can you have to say to her already?"
"Hey, quit judging!"
Jinsoul watched out the window with a sense of satisfaction as she listened contentedly to their bickering. Finally, everything felt safe and comfortable.
And if she thought she saw a dark vampire-shaped figure in the woods, well, it was easy dismissed as just her paranoia.