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5.1 | Our Accurséd Lot

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Ren Romanovich weaved around bustling keepers in search of a girl he'd never met. He'd thought locating her would have been a simple task. After all, she looked just like her father, only younger, smaller, and female. But after a half-hour of scouring Konstantin Academy's campus, he was starting to wonder if Nika Dimitrovich had turned invisible.

She hadn't been at the infirmary with the other two survivors. Nor did he find her at her dorm, or the administration building. Students and staff alike hadn't seemed shocked. Apparently, the girl had a reputation for being impossible to track and control. Especially when she was up to mischief.

Now, as Ren entered the scene of the attack, he came upon the large, crimson stain in the dirt, where a student had been slaughtered mere hours ago. He slowed down to study it for a moment.

"It's hard to believe there was only one fatality."

Ren whirled around at the source of that familiar voice. Misha Kovac approached from the dilapidated cabin nearby, offering a small smile, despite the grave pallor of his face. It wasn't often that Ren saw his friend with such a severe demeanor.

"I didn't realize you were investigating this case," Ren said.

Misha came to a halt before him, running a hand through disheveled, brown hair. "My dad assigned it personally. He needs someone he can trust."

Ren should've guessed. Given the recent events at Konstantin Academy, it was necessary that the High Keeper of the Vigil's North American division appointed the most trustworthy of people to solve matters. And who was more trustworthy than your own son?

"How much do you know?" Misha asked.

"I'm not supposed to know anything."

A pointed look. "That wasn't my question."

Ren conceded, "Minister Dimitrovich claims that Volkari attacked five students." Looking at the scarlet stain, he added, "and killed a Nefili boy."

"Don't forget about the kidnapping."

That part, Ren hadn't yet discovered. Children in prominent bloodlines had been targeted in the past—mainly by Inferni—but Ren couldn't recall an abduction. Especially not one orchestrated by Volkari, since they were supposed to have been nonexistent.

"Who?"

"Luiza Lazarov."

It was a name he'd heard before, and not just because the Lazarov family was one of the most respected in the Daemonstri community. Markos's daughter had lived and been raised alongside Luiza.

"Any leads?"

Misha shook his head, then frowned. "What are you doing here?"

"I was sent to find Nika Dimitrovich."

"I thought you were the head of Markos's security, not his errand boy."

"Sometimes, I wonder if there's a difference."

With a breathy laugh, Misha turned, gesturing for Ren to follow. They passed by keepers—all of them members of an investigative team and under Misha's command—examining massive paw prints, collecting blood and hair samples. Anything that might yield clues.

Despite being a keeper himself, Ren didn't do such things. His area of expertise was security, and his current position was one of the most important in the Vigil. And while Misha answered to his father, Ren took orders from the man who signed his paychecks—Markos.

"Nika got here a while ago," Misha said, "trying to do my job for me, apparently. She seemed ready to run off into the woods to hunt down the wolves herself, so I had to take extreme measures."

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