Birman winced as Souma's fist crashed into the table. Dead silence fell over the room. Beside the telepath, Iragadachi was staring stonily at their lackey.
When Souma spoke, his voice was like ice. "How could you let the Berserker escape? Do you have any idea how hard it was to get him in the first place? Now they'll all start to put two and two together. They'll be watching their backs; things won't be nearly so simple anymore."
"What about Kudou?" Birman demanded defensively. "He couldn't even kill Schuldich. They knew about us before Farfarello even escaped."
Souma's face twisted in rage, but Iragadachi intervened coolly. "On the subject of 'Silk'... In light of recent events, he will not be enough. We're going to need more."
Souma scowled at him darkly. "You should have tried to Erase the Berserker."
Iradachi gave a slight shake of his head, leaning his chin pensively on his fists. "We don't know if it would have worked. And I would rather have him dead. Even if we Erased him, he's still a loose cannon. It's too dangerous. Erasing his memories won't necessarily erase his madness."
"I thought he was sane without his medication," Birman said in some surprise.
"He's definitely more lucid," Iragadachi corrected with a small shake of his head. "But he has always been a little insane. We think he's been that way since childhood, from things Souma and the Mastermind picked up from him while Schwarz was under our control."
"So we Erase another one," Souma said impatiently, turning the conversation back to their main concern. "But how are we going to get close to them? The Mastermind must have told them about Silk by now. They'll be expecting a trick."
"We find someone outside their immediate group," Iradachi murmured, eyes narrowed as he schemed. "Someone that they trust enough to let close to them, without being able to tell right off that something's wrong."
"Which means we can't go after Schuldich," Birman guessed. "Except to execute him. The same with Manx. Her telepathy isn't as strong, but even she wouldn't miss something so out of place."
"Maybe Silk isn't a lost cause, yet," Souma said abruptly, mouth twisting in an unpleasant smile. "Weiß won't want to hurt him too seriously. If we wait and watch, one of them is sure to separate from the others on an errand of some sort. Silk can trail the person, then confront them."
"We'll try that first," Iragadachi agreed after a moment, gesturing curtly to Birman. "You have experience with Weiß. Choose a target you think would be most likely to separate from the others, and would be an asset for us. Then give Silk his orders."
Birman nodded curtly. "Hai." Her lips turned upwards. "I think I have the perfect one in mind."
After Birman had left, Souma propped his elbows on the table and scowled at his partner. "I want them dead," he said in a low, intense voice.
"We all do," Iradachi said sharply. "This time I'm going to do everything in our power to make sure they suffer. I won't be stupid like Thomas. He gave the Vampires too much slack. They got away with too much, and that Lord was too much in control of things. This time, we're the ones calling all the shots."
Souma nodded in agreement.
"However..." the tall man frowned down at his clasped hands thoughtfully. "I'm not taking any chances. Schwarz and Weiß went up against the Vampires before and walked away alive. Even Siberian, who should be dead."
The telepath beside him frowned. "What do you have in mind?"
Iragadachi's smile was chilling as he glanced at the folder by his elbow. "I think it's time to call in the backup team."
Souma's eyebrows shot up, then immediately furrowed in a scowl. "We haven't used them in nearly three years. Are they still dependable?"
"They will be once they see their paycheck," the Eraser grunted.
Souma raised a skeptic brow. "We lost a lot of our funds after that last fight," he reminded the older man irritably. "We're using the majority of what's left on funding this little War of yours."
"Once we win, we won't have to worry about money problems anymore," Irgadachi said firmly.
"If we win," Souma grumbled.
Iragadachi gave another cold smile, patting the folder beside him. "Oh, believe me... we will. Those fools will never know what hit them."
The telepath gave a small nod. "I've seen them in action," he admitted grudgingly. "They would be a big help."
"I know they'll succeed," Iragadachi said confidently.
He rose to his feet, folder in hand. "After all," he added smugly, "they've got that person."
"So it's true?" Souma also rose, feeling a little more confident. "The rumors, I mean."
"Aa." The Eraser nodded smugly. "The only person on our teams to beat Farfarello."
There was a long moment of startled silence after the Jackal's outburst.
Schuldich gave a loud sigh. "Will someone please explain this Adir-whatsit bullshit?" he demanded, running a hand through his hair in exasperation.
"You-you're part of the Adir'avar?" Ken squeaked, gaping at Himeno.
The woman covered a yawn. "That's right. I'm surprised you didn't figure it out, since Farfarello-sama did."
Ken looked up at his lover's calm face quickly. "Farfarello, if you knew what she is, why did you let her stay?"
The scarred Irishman gave a one-shoulder shrug, apparently unconcerned. "She was no threat to me."
Ken stared at him incredulously, but Himeno just gave a throaty chuckle. "How blunt," she said in mock sorrow. "You don't have to rub it in. Yes, I'm Adir'avar. But Farfarello is far stronger than I. Besides, I didn't join him out of any ulterior motives, if that's what you're thinking, Hidaka. I respect strength, and it's a nice change having a Lord around who has a chance at keeping the killing down to a minimum and the Vampire world under control."
"I didn't think your kind cared about that," the Jackal said nastily. She ignored him.
"Oniisan," Aya asked Farfarello impatiently, using the title unconsciously. Ran scowled darkly. "What on earth is an Ad.. Adder..
The Jackal's hand still hovered by his sword hilt as he watched Himeno warily. "Adir'avar," he said quietly. "They're Vampire assassins-- sort of like Vampire Hunters, except they do it for money, and their sense of right and wrong is pretty fucked up. Pardon my french."
"But how can you be Vampire and yet not Vampire?" Omi asked, face screwed up in confusion. "You either are or you aren't... right?"
Crawford's eyes narrowed slightly in sudden comprehension. "Or you're both."
Aya blinked. "You mean...?"
The Jackal nodded. "Part Vampire, part human." He eyed Himeno distastefully. "One of her parents is human."
"Was," Himeno corrected primly. "My mother died a very long time ago." There was no sadness to the tone, and Aya wondered with a shudder just how long ago it had been so that the woman could say it so casually.
"I.. I didn't think that was possible," Omi stammered, eyes a little wide. "Vampires can reproduce?"
Schuldich laughed at him. "Where do you think Purebloods come from, nitwit?"
"For a certain amount of time after being Turned, Vampires are able to.. reproduce," Ken explained, blushing just a little. "Purebloods are able to until they reach a certain age."
"Half-bloods are pretty rare," the Jackal explained. "Most Vampires think it below them to sleep with a human. They look at it the same way as we would look at a man who screws his sheep or something." He blushed at Aya's stare. "Uh. Maybe that example wasn't-" He snapped his mouth shut at Ran's withering look. Nagi rolled his eyes.
"So 'Adir'avar' means Half-blood?" Omi ventured.
The Jackal managed to swallow his embarrassment. "Not quite. The Adir'avar is an elite group of Half-bloods that joined together to get back at those that made them outcasts.. or something like that. I'm not sure what their exact reasons are. They aren't fully a part of either world, though. I guess that makes them bitter." He glanced at Himeno, but she was studying her nails with interest and didn't offer any input. "Anyway, they assassinate both Vampires and humans for money, depending on which side is paying. Their scruples are.. somewhat lacking," he said distastefully. "Anyway, I think Adir'avar means something like 'shadow slayer' in their old tongue."
"Nice to know you think so highly of us," Himeno said with a sweet little smile.
"Old tongue?" Omi repeated with sudden interest, ever the scholar.
"It's pretty much a dead language," Ken put in. "I've only heard a few older Purebloods use it." He glanced sideways at his lover. "And a certain Vampire Lord."
Himeno's eyebrows shot up, and she laughed suddenly. "You never cease to amaze me, Farfarello-sama," she purred. "No wonder you were usually one step ahead of the Purebloods. You knew exactly what they were saying in your tunnels. I'm curious as to where you learned it, though. In the past few decades the Purebloods have been arrogant and selfish about it, refusing to teach it to Turned. It was very difficult for the Adir'avar to find someone willing to teach us."
Farfarello's face was made of stone, his eye a hard golden gem. "A nun taught me," he said shortly, then gave her a long look that clearly said he would not elaborate. Ken's expression looked a little sad as he looked at his partner.
Himeno wisely dropped it.
Omi looked like a kid on Christmas day who had just got the electric train set he'd been begging his parents for. "So if you're part Vampire and part human, that means some of both worlds, right?" he asked eagerly. "You can walk in the sun like a human, but you can't come inside a home without permission. What else?"
"It's slightly different for all Half-bloods," Himeno said with an indifferent shrug. "Some of us can walk into a home just fine without permission. Some react to silver the same a Vampire would, while some don't even turn a hair. There are even some that only have to consume blood on rare occasions." She offered a cheerful smile. "And before you ask, no, I am not going to tell you which other rules do and do not apply to me."
Omi's face fell.
"What about the other Adir'avar?" Ran demanded, glancing from Himeno to Farfarello with a slight frown. "Do they feel the same about Farfarello's rule as you?"
Himeno shook her head. "Some do, some don't. We aren't technically under the Vampire Lord's rule, so we're open to our own opinion."
Ken cocked his head and looked at her thoughtfully. "Himeno," he said abruptly. She quirked a brow at him in inquiry. "How much do the services of an Adir'avar usually cost?"
Ran made a strangled noise in the back of his throat and shot to his feet.
Himeno faced him fully, smiling encouragingly. "You want to hire me for a job?"
"Actually," Ken said slowly, brow furrowed as his mind worked frantically, "I want to know how much it would cost to hire all of the Adir'avar that wouldn't object too much to fighting on Farfarello's side."
"What??" the Jackal squawked, eyes bulging.
"Whoa, hold your horses there, soccer punk," Schuldich said quickly, holding up his hands. "Did your brain take a coffee break somewhere in the middle of the conversation? The Jackalope here just talked about how these nuts can switch sides in a second depending on who's paying more."
"You can't be serious, Ken-kun," Omi objected. "What if Rosenkreuz decides to offer more money?"
"They'd turn on us in an instant," Nagi confirmed.
"We don't need them to finish this," Ran growled, infamous death glare in place. "Don't say stupid things."
"It's desperate, not stupid," Crawford murmured. Ran turned to stare at him incredulously.
"You're agreeing with him??" he demanded furiously.
Crawford was assessing Himeno with cool eyes. "Use your head, Abyssinian. They could prove useful. Or do you not remember the last fight we had with the Vampires?"
Ran ground his teeth. "We aren't going against the entire Tokyo Vampire population this time," he bit out. "Only the Purebloods."
"There are more Turned than Purebloods in Japan," Ken agreed. "But did you forget Malachi has Park and Rosenkreuz backing him up? They could drag in more Vampires from America or god knows where else." His expression turned grim. "I think by the time things come to a head, we're going to need as many allies as we can get our hands on."
"Ahem," Himeno said a little loudly, arching her brows. "Can I say something? Before you start panicking about who's going to work for who, the chances of the Adir'avar working for Malachi and his maggots is slim to none."
"Oh?" Schuldich's eyes narrowed. "Why is that?"
"The Purebloods hate them," Farfarello intoned, eye hooded. He looked completely unaffected by the discussion, as if he didn't care one way or the other.
"None of the Vampires are particularly fond of us," Himeno said with a somewhat vicious smile that flashed her elongated canines to the room. "But the Purebloods think we're an abomination. They'd rather swallow their own tongues than make any kind of alliance with us."
Ran started to voice a protest, and Schuldich sneered.
"In case you'd forgotten," Ken said loudly to get everyone's attention, "we almost got our asses pounded the last time we went toe to toe with the Vampires. We were almost killed. Luckily Farfarello was able to beat Agammedo. But if Talon and those other Vampires hadn't come to help, some of us wouldn't be here today." He looked at each of them in turn, expression grim. His gaze landed on Omi last.
The small boy gave a small sigh, but nodded solemnly. "We need allies. Especially when Rosenkreuz is trying to thin our numbers. They know we won't hurt Yohji any more than we absolutely have to; they could use him against us. For now there's only us-- maybe the Adir'avar," he added reluctantly. "That's not going to be enough to win a war."
Ken turned to Himeno. "How many Adir'avar do you think you could get for this?"
"If you pay well, you mean," she said primly. She thought for a moment, tapping a finger against her lips. "I can have a team of at least four, but I'm thinking I can get six."
"That few?" Aya protested.
Himeno offered her a long, unfriendly look. "First off, there aren't that many of us. Second off, you keep your skeptism to yourself until you see us in action, chibi." Aya succumbed meekly.
Abruptly Himeno turned to Ken, looking bored. "What are our assets?" she asked bluntly.
"Do we look stupid to you?" Ran growled. "If you switch sides, you'll have all the information on us."
"Normally I'd agree with Fujimiya," Crawford interrupted. Ran shot him a quick, warning glare that the other man ignored. "However, I'm confident Rosenkreuz won't be able to beat what we're willing to pay you. And I think they know most things about us already."
Ken sighed heavily and ticked them off on his fingers. "A Pyrokinetic, a Telepath- no, two, including Manx... A Telekinetic, a Possessor, a Clairvoiyant, a Necromancer, and a Vampire Lord. Oh, and a Hermes if we get Yohji back." His mouth gave a tired quirk. "We're also assassins, so we should be able to work with your team fairly well."
"So it's settled, I take it," Schuldich said with a yawn. "We hire these Vampire mutts."
Ran snarled at Ken and shoved past the others roughly, heading outside. He slammed the door behind him.
"Oniisan!" Aya tried to follow him, but Farfarello's hand on her shoulder stopped her. He glanced down at her and shook his head once.
"Don't bother, Aya," Ken said wearily. "You know there's no talking to him when he's in one of his moods."
Crawford was frowning at the door silently.
"Shouldn't someone go get him?" Omi asked anxiously. "None of us should be wandering around alone-- especially at night."
"I'll go," Crawford said, rising to his feet and leaning against the table to get the weight off his bad leg.
"No can do, crip," Schuldich snorted. "You still haven't found your little walking stick."
"I'll get him," the Jackal said suddenly, and everyone looked at him in surprise. He scowled a little, looking uncomfortable. "We're going to be fighting together," he muttered defensively. "We can't fight all the time. I might as well try to talk some sense into him and get him to accept me at the same time."
"Yes," Aya agreed quickly, clasping his hand earnestly. "You go get him. My brother is really a very kind person. If he would only let you in, you would see that."
Tomás blushed a little, tugging his hand free gently. "If you say so." He left quickly. Crawford's eyes narrowed unconsciously.
Schuldich laughed at him tauntingly. "Don't pop a blood vessel, Crawfish," he sneered. "That blush wasn't for your little pyro, it was for his cute little sister. Damn, never thought I'd see the day when Brad Crawford was jealous." He shut his mouth with a click of teeth at the dark look that Crawford shot at him.
Aya was blushing and stammering.
Farfarello steered her in the direction of the upstairs door with a strong hand on her shoulder. He scowled at Schuldich over her head in a silent order to shut the hell up. "Go to bed, Aya," he said firmly. "Nothing else is going to happen tonight."
"What about her?" Himeno asked suddenly.
Nagi looked at her. "Aya?"
"Yeah. What can she do?" Himeno asked, looking piercingly at the startled girl.
Schuldich waved a hand dismissively. "No Gift. She's one of those innocent bystander types. She's not one of us."
Aya's face fell, and she looked down at her feet.
"Hidoi, Schuldich," Omi protested. He beamed at the girl. "She's our sister," he said warmly. "She does more than she knows."
Aya glanced up at him hesitantly.
Farfarello's hand flexed slightly on her shoulder in reassurance, then he gave her another little push. "Bed," he repeated.
She nodded jerkily and hurried from the room.
Once she was gone, the Berserker aimed a deadly amber glare in Himeno's direction that had made the best of men quail. "She isn't involved in this," he said in a low, hard voice. "She won't be in the line of fire. But if she is, part of your job is to protect her."
The others nodded seriously. Not even Schuldich made a snide comment.
Himeno cocked her head, pursing her lips. "Fine, it's your money. But why do you say she has no Gift?"
Ken shrugged. "She's normal. The most she can do is the knife throwing that Farfarello taught her."
"Ah," Himeno murmured, but her eyes strayed thoughtfully towards the upstairs door. "Interesting."
Farfarello turned and headed for the back door, glancing at Ken.
Ken lifted his hand in farewell as he followed the Irishman. "We're going to head back to the caves for the night and talk to the Vampires that are still there. We'll see you tomorrow and figure out our next move."
"I'll go and talk to my people," Himeno added.
"I'll call Manx and fill her in," Omi offered.
The others called their good nights. Himeno flashed a fanged smile at her two employers and faded into the shadows. Ken gave a weary sigh and rubbed his forehead as they walked. "I hope we're not making a big mistake."
Farfarello grunted noncommittally.
Ken pulled a face at him. "Well you're a big help."
"You worry too much."
Ken gave a sigh of long suffering. "Well at least one of us is confident."
The Vampire Lord and his lover strode off into the night, thoughts of War on their minds.
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