I hated the feeling.
I am not a mercenary. Not in the way that Takeshi wanted me to be tonight. I only showed up because I thought that he might actually regret not joining me in darkness when he had the opportunity to do so. That he might have some semblance of...'love' for me. Lingering from a time when we were both the same age.
I can still remember his touch. So soft. So careful. He always seemed to be stuck between two worlds. The one that was accepted by the rest of society...and the one that was made just for him and me. I knew that it had to be our secret...two teenage boys being so affectionate with one another. It started out being so innocent. Sharing a few smiles turned into sharing a few laughs. A few boyish shoves and nudges with our elbows turned into holding hands and extended hugs. And soon, when we eventually got time to be alone...our lingering eye contact led to more intimate moments. Kisses. Holding one another. And eventually...experiments with sex. I never felt so loved. He was always so gentle, so tender, when it came to the way he made love to me. Takeshi and I were only fifteen at the time, but we shared something truly special over the next two years that will always be a part of my aching heart. It was our dirty little secret, sure. But, deep down...I truly believed that he loved me just as much as I loved him. He was just too afraid to speak the words out loud.
I was quietly leading the children around the corner as I attempted to stay quiet enough to listen out for anybody who might be rushing in to do them any harm. Natpea, Kenshiro, and Katrina, were trembling with fear, but I tried to be strong enough to give them some level of faith in my confidence and skill. The best plan would be for all of us to get out of here without going toe to toe with any of these attackers. It's not like I couldn't handle myself...but I can't really say that I've ever been tagged with the challenge with looking after three kids at once, before. I can't imagine that it would be easy for me to fight off a cluster of murderous attackers and keep them safe at the same time. This isn't exactly a Chuck Norris action flick, here.
I got them all to line up behind me, and hurried across the room, forcing them to duck down behind one of the desks near the elevator as I heard it moving. Possibly bringing enemy combatants up to my level. I told them to keep silent, and waited to see if the elevator was going to open up or not.
I thought back to Takeshi and being so happy together...you know...once upon a time. But, perhaps that was what ultimately tore us apart. Takeshi's father saw us together, and it was almost as though he could tell that we were too close to one another to just be 'friends'. Always glaring at me with a watchful eye...worried that I would, somehow, corrupt his first born son with my unnaturally 'perverse' feelings for him and his well being. I know that he had to put a lot of pressure on Takeshi to distance himself from me. I could feel it. His voice became so quiet whenever he found the time to talk to me on the phone. Almost a whisper. And soon...he, pretty much, stopped calling me altogether. Afraid that someone might hear him say my name. His eyes were lowered down to his shoes in public...ashamed to even be seen with me most of the time. I didn't want to force him to talk to me. I didn't want to make him feel like he owed me some level of affection just because my heart was so enamored with him. So...when he backed away from me...I backed away from him as well. What would be the point of chasing someone who didn't want to be caught? Not by me, anyway.
I gave Takeshi an easy way out. He didn't have to make any big speeches, or call me up to explain why we couldn't be together anymore. He just ignored me...and I let him off the hook. It's the most painful of break ups, the ones without any sense of closure. You're always just left hanging...dangling in the wind. Wishing you knew what you did wrong, if anything at all. Just a broken heart that keeps the wound open...just in case the other person comes out of hiding and decides to give it one more try. I held out hope. I really did.
But he never returned my love again.
"I'm scared..." The little girl whispered, but her older brother, Kenshiro, was quick to hush her up.
"Quiet! We're all gonna be ok!" He said in Japanese, giving her a stern look. Kenshiro was the oldest of the three, but only by a year or two. Still, he probably had the strongest voice out of the group. Natpea, however, had the biggest presence. I could tell. He was strangely silent for a boy so young, but it was easy to tell that there was a fire behind his eyes. Something dark. Something sinister. Katrina was more vocal with what she was feeling, the youngest of the bunch, but easily influenced. I didn't have any doubt that she would eventually take on the cold blooded nature of her father and two adopted brothers in the future if she was exposed to them for long enough. That was an absolute certainty.
How was I ever going to take these kids and turn them into trained killers...vampire killers, in fact...without worrying about the long-lasting consequences of doing so? Giving them the gift of darkness...what would they become?
I heard the elevator doors open to the right of us, and put my hand out to keep the young children silent as I saw five men step out of the opening doors.
Particularly brazen ones, at that. They wore reflective mirror masks, as if to mock the vampires they came to slaughter. An old mythology that certain clans stuck to, that vampires didn't have reflections. They wore the masks to show their victims that they had no souls, thereby justifying their own execution. Of course, that didn't turn out to be true, but some hooded ones wear the mask as a traditional symbol to prove their loyalty to an outdated ideology. But a lethal practice that continues to this day...
I kept my head down, and watched as Natpea balled up his fists. He gritted his teeth, wanting to go back and save his father from harm...but I put a hand on his arm to remind him to be smart about this. This was not the proper strategy. Best to stay hidden for now. My chance to save to Takeshi from his potential fate was already gone. I gave him my word that I'd save his children and get them to safety...and I planned to do just that. Even at his expense...
"Takeshi, hehehe! Come with me! We've fulfilled our duties! They've agreed to cross us over into darkness!" I remember saying those exact words to him shortly after my 17th birthday. Six months prior to that day, we didn't even know that vampires existed, much less walking among us at night like normal people. I had run away from home, never expecting to go back again. And while Takeshi initially seemed excited to join me, fleeing his father's judgement and father's criminal dealings...his loyalty to being one of the hooded ones was only temporary. Something that I couldn't comprehend at the time.
They were promising us eternal life! A single bite, a few weeks worth of transformation...and he and I could have been together. Forever in darkness. Watching the moon and the stars together until the end of time. We were 17 years old, how could anyone ever hope to make us a better offer than that. We wore our hoods and did what they asked of us when we could. We cleaned up their messes, intimidated their witnesses, and performed tasks for them during daylight hours that they couldn't perform for themselves. So simple. It's not like we both weren't borderline delinquents as it was. But...when it came time for him to join me in darkness...he hesitated. He failed me, and decided that he couldn't leave the world of daylight behind him.
Basically...daylight meant more to him than I did. And that hurt.
It hurt more than I could ever possibly put into words. Because this time...it wasn't society or his father's scorn that he was running from. It was me. Just me.
"I can't..." He told me.
"What do you mean, you can't? We're being given a chance to live forever! Think about all the stuff we did for them to get this far!" I said, my emotions running on high, tears streaming down my face. "Takeshi...you and I...we can leave this life behind. All of it. I don't know about you, but I don't need another sunrise. This is our one chance to be free. To be together. Come with me."
Unfortunately, Takeshi decided that he wasn't going to be able to give up his life to join me in the shadows. And while I crossed over and attempted to keep my love for him in tact for years after that night...I couldn't hold onto him. I watched him grow older while I remained the same. I watched him walk in daylight while I had to remain hidden in the dark. And as he took on his mobster father's duties, eventually becoming a high ranking member of the Ogata triad...I lost him forever. I just couldn't bear to look at what he had become. I may have taken the lives of many people over the years...some for the sake of feeding, and some at the edge of my sword...but at least I fought for something. Takeshi just...he drowned himself in a criminal lifestyle that went beyond the few bits of petty mischief we committed as a pair of teenaged hooded ones. i don't even want to imagine the things he's done to maintain his control over the Ogata clan. It's probably better that I don't know.
I watched as the men in the room with us began to spread out to search and secure the area. I wasn't sure that we'd be safe for much longer. I could easily move around from one shadowed corner to the next without being detected if I had to...but with three young kids as my cargo, all under the age of ten...that wasn't going to be possible. It looks like I might have to 'fight' my way out of here. And just as I looked over to see the elevator numbers lighting up, possibly bringing another small squad of attackers up to join the ones who were already in the room...I knew that I was going to have to move fast.
This whole 'Sector V' software program had better be worth it.
I gave the bag to little Katrina, and I whispered, "You hold onto this, ok? Keep it safe. No matter what you guys hear...you keep your heads down and stay out of sight. Got it?"
They all nodded, but Kenshiro had a fiery fighting spirit within him. "I can help!"
"You can help me best by keeping your younger brother and sister safe! Stay still! Eh?" I said with a grimace. He pouted a bit, but agreed.
Elevator's half way to our floor. I had to act fast. Five attackers...spread out across the room...mirror masks may limit their visibility, but not by much. One of them is left handed. One has long hair. One looks to have a slight imbalance on his right leg. And one of them is looking back and forth in a way that makes me think he's paranoid about what might happen here. He's the nervous one. I'll save him for last. I don't have to worry about him rushing in until everyone else has been rendered unconscious.
I opened myself up to tap into their thoughts at a second's notice if I had to, and then I moved around the desk to begin my assault. Start off quiet...and then ramp things up as the begin to figure out what's happening to them. Hopefully, half of their squad will be incapacitated by then. I didn't draw for my sword yet. I doubted that I was going to need it. Hold it in stillness...that's the first lesson of a Samurai, right?
Moving around while staying my first target's blind spot...I got as close as I possibly could without making any sound at all. And just as he was catching a blurry flash of me in his peripheral view...I already had my hand clutching his throat to keep him from screaming. He raised a weapon, but I used my arm to block him from pointing it at anything other than the floor. And I delivered three extreme blows to his chest and stomach, knocking the wind out of him before spinning my leg around to take him down to the floor. I was hoping to take out at least one more hooded one before the others were alerted to my presence, but I wasn't so lucky. The other four turned around and I knew that I was going to have to jump into action before this became a mess with the potential of getting out of control.
I dashed forward, decreasing the space between me and them as quickly as possible. By the time they had their guns raised, I had built up too much momentum for them to stand a chance against me. I ducked down and slid under the first few shots, spinning around to knock their legs out from under them. Then, springing back up to my feet, I kicked their weapons away and went to work on taking them down, one by one. They were a little better trained at fighting than I had expected, but it was clear that they had never seen anyone move as fast as I was moving. I could sense the panic and confusion in them as I danced around their every attempt to protect themselves. They simply couldn't keep up. I kicked one of them in the chest, sending them flying back against the wall, and spun around to catch another one by the wrist, twisting it until I heard the bones crack. I then flipped him to the floor and brought my foot down, hard, on his ribs...no doubt shattering a few of them as well. The third attacker came at me from the other side...left handed. That would catch a lot of fighters by surprise, but I already knew his game plan ahead of time. I was able to block, duck, dodge, and parry, his every blow with ease, and after a few blows to his chest, and one to the bridge of his nose to impair his vision...he stumbled backwards just far enough for me to leap up into the air and bring my kick down on the top of his head. It rattled his teeth, and he was immediately rendered unconscious.
That only left one more. The one who was nervous to begin with. Just looking at him, mirror mask in place, I could see his eyes widen with fear. I almost felt sorry for him. Depending on what faction of vampires he was working for...there could be severe penalties for not succeeding with the task at hand. They'd feed on him just like they would anyone else. After being a hooded one myself...I knew the game, inside and out.
"Play dead." I said, staring him in the eye as he nearly wet himself. All of his companions passed out at my feet.
He didn't listen though. I suppose the promise of eternal life was too much for him to turn away from. So he grabbed a rather large knife from his hip, and after a brief hesitation, he charged at me with it!
I simply let my fist shoot out directly at the center of his face, stopping a half inch away from his nose! "Yaaahhhh!!!" I screamed, and he came to a screeching halt, going cross-eyed as he looked at my bloodstained knuckles. I hadn't even touched him, but his eyes suddenly rolled back, and he fainted. This is obviously not the life that he should be pursuing. He doesn't have the heart for it. Luckily, I do.
I hurried back over to where Takeshi's kids were, and I tried to get them up on their feet. They must have been watching the entire time, because they seemed to be utterly fascinated with what I had just done to the five men in that room. Especially Kenshiro, who looked as if he was impressed to the point of idol worship at this point. Heh, strange...I could see so much of Takeshi's influence in his boastful, but sweet, demeanor.
"Follow me. We need to get down to the parking lot. It's best if we take the stairs." I said. I turned to Katrina, "You still got those disks, butterfly?"
"Good! You hold them tight, ok? I'm putting you in charge of keeping them safe. Ok?"
She asked, "I'm...in charge?" She seemed so surprised.
"You got it. You and you alone. I'm counting on you, ok?" I said, and she seemed to raise her chin a little bit with pride. Nodding in my direction and clutching that backpack just a little bit tighter than she was before. I think she truly appreciated me trusting her with the Holy Grail right now.
If I play my cards right, maybe I can get all of Takeshi's kids to step up and play along.
"Kenshiro, I need you to make sure that nobody lays a hand on your siblings! Got it?" I said.
He stood up proudly, his chest puffed out as he roughly tapped it with an open hand. "I will guard them with my life, Norio Myoki!" Heh...ok. That works.
Natpea was a little harder to read. He was so quiet. So still. But when I looked down at his hands, I noticed that he was concealing a rather sharp letter opener...held back and hidden up under his sleeve. As silent as he was, I suspected that he may end up being the most devious child of them all. I put a hand on his shoulder and said, "You're going to be my navigator tonight, ok? You lead the way, and you make sure you all stay together, alright? Nobody gets separated. Nobody gets left behind. Deal?" He nodded, and I thought about maybe taking his weapon away from him, but decided against it. I simply pretended not to notice it at all. Besides, if push comes to shove...it seems like Natpea would be the first one to make the hard kill if he had to. I doubt he'd even hesitate.
Yes...out of Takeshi's three children, Natpea would definitely be the one to worry me most about having a murderous nature hidden behind that alluring mask of child like innocence. There's something 'else' going on with that kid...
Just then, I heard the familiar 'ding' of the elevator at the other end of the room, and when the doors opened, I didn't have any cover. No shadows to hide in, no office desks to duck behind. And there were more than twice the number of hooded ones than what they sent up the first time! Plus, the children were now out in the open.
It's time to go to work.
I'm sorry for the humans who signed up for this job, but I've got an oath to adhere to. And while I was just trying to pull my punches and make it out of here without killing anybody...the hooded ones weren't going to be playing by the same rules. So, much like my ancestor...I grabbed the handle of my sword...and I allowed it to be unsheathed to glimmer in the light for the first time.
Their lives belong to fate's intricate and brutal design now...