||Chapter 21||
"Flesh Wounds"

Hwang, telekinetic of Nebel, cursed as he ran down the main street after the fight at the flower shop. He was holding his injured right shoulder in a crushing grip in an instinctive attempt to stop the bleeding and pain. That fucking bitch. Of all the people in the room, he'd gotten tagged by the one completely normal person there. Fuck!
He would have killed her, and gladly, if Souma's voice hadn't sounded in his mind, sharp as a whip, reminding him he was only supposed to be on recon. They'd said to go check things out, maybe spook them a little. OK, maybe he'd gone overboard... but fuck! His fingers flexed against the wound, sending another wave of pain up and down his arm and across his chest. He began imagining the many painful, slow ways he could kill the girl.
"Going somewhere, big boy?"
He came to an immediate halt at the taunting call, looking around quickly. At first he saw nothing, then someone in the shadows of a nearby alley stepped forward. They paused under a streetlamp: it was a woman. A tall woman with short dark hair, holding a vicious looking spear in her hands lightly. She offered him a small smile, eyes hooded. "I think we need to talk."
"Who the fuck are you?" Hwang snarled, not intimidated in the least.
Evidently luck was on his side that night.
He heard a very low hum- nearly inaudible -and reacted with the speed of the highly trained assassin he was. He threw himself to the ground, hitting the street hard on his side before rolling to his feet. There were more of them; they'd snuck up behind him somehow. He found himself gaping at the pair that were grinning at him from the sidewalk.
"Whoa, he sure is.."
Twins. Kids, at that. The girl was spinning a wickedly sharp sycle in her fingers. Her brother was yanking his back to his hand by a thin chain. The sound of the blade cutting the air had been what had saved Hwang's life. He caught it deftly and began spinning it in a blurring pattern to match his sister's as he grinned cheekily at the glaring telekinetic.
"That was.."
"..lucky of you. But luck.."
"..runs out."
He dodged just as the tall woman from the alley leapt for him, and the tip of her spear screeched against asphalt as it missed him just barely. He jumped back, out of stabbing range, and as she lifted it to hurl at him, he let his power ripple forward in a fierce burst. She made a small noise of surprise as her spear flew from her hand and she tumbled back to hit the street lamp hard.
"Ohh, he's one of those.."
"..special people."
Hwang whirled to face the twins as they hurled their weapons at him at the same time with deadly accuracy that would have lopped of an ordinary man's head. Another push of his Gift, and the blades whipped around back towards their owners. They leapt apart, dodging with unnatural agility.
"You stupid brats aren't worth my time," Hwang snarled, and sent them tumbling with a thought. One crashed into a dumpster while the other went through a store window.
The tall woman was already on her feet, snatching up her spear, and as Hwang turned to deal with her, he caught movement out of the corner of his eye.
A young man with wild auburn hair was coming at him at an inhuman speed, weilding a short sword in each hand. Hwang lashed out hastily, catching the man mid-air just before he was cleaved in two. The assassin yelped as he flew across the street and hit the sidewalk with a crunch of breaking bones.
"Three down," Hwang sneered, focusing his attention on the woman with the spear.
She rushed him, raising her spear for a fatal jab-- only to be sent flying into the air to crash through the second story window of a nearby coffee shop.
"Damn it!"
Hwang turned at the voice, staring incredulously as the man he'd tossed against the sidewalk stumbled to his feet. Crack-crack! He seized his arm, then his knee, popping both broken bones into place. Then he came at Hwang again, this time dodging in a zigzag pattern with incredible speed. What the hell--
As he took a step back, turning to break more of the man's bones, a flash of steel zipped by, shredding his shirt and taking off some of the skin on his chest with it. He screeched in pain, instinctively throwing out an arm to encourage his gift. Once more the man with the swords was knocked away. He twisted, hissing air through his teeth, to see the female child standing on the sill of the window she'd crashed through, already yanking her sycle back to her. Her brother was digging himself out of the trash bags around the dumpster he'd been thrown into, complaining loudly about the smell. What the hell were these freaks??
His stab wound was really beginning to hurt like a bitch, and Hwang's dangerous temper snapped. "I don't have time for this shit!" he howled, and sent out a powerful wave of power in all directions.
Windows shattered, streetlamps bent, and his hunters were thrown hard against walls or through doors and windows. This time they didn't get up so quickly, and he sneered before turning and trotting away to report to his masters.


Crawford was about half a second from blowing Farfarello's brains out as the back door burst open and he turned, aiming at head level in an instant. The shot echoed like thunder in the small kitchen, and he found himself staring into the Berserker's cold amber eye, a grip like steel around his wrist, holding his arm high. Crawford glanced up at the bullet hole just above the door and thought with detachment that if they ever got Ran back, he was going to throw a hissy fit at how wrecked his precious shop was.
Farfarello released his arm, looking over his shoulder at the door leading to the shop. "Where's Aya?" he demanded as Ken came through the back door looking warily towards Crawford. Himeno and two others of the Adir'avar- Raphael and Ryoko -were just behind him, weapons in hand.
Himeno looked around at the floor littered with broken plates and twisted silverware and arched a brow. "Where was I when this party started? Looks like it was a wild one."
Crawford holstered his gun, holding up the first aid kit he'd gone to fetch. "The others are in the shop. We had an attack." He reached out, barring Farfarello's path as the younger man started past him. He met the Vampire's glare calmly. "It was Nebel."
Farfarello's eye widened slightly.
"Is everyone all right?" Ken asked anxiously, striding over, bugnuks in plain sight. "Farfarello heard Schuldich's shout and we came as fast as we could..." He blinked. "You're hurt."
Crawford turned and led the way into the shop.
Ken gasped, and Ryoko let out a low whistle at the sight of the carnage.
"Jesus, did an army of Vampires come through here?" the woman asked, looking around at the mess.
"One man."
She looked incredulously at the American. "One man did all of this? You guys must have put up a hell of a fight, and he must have been damn good."
"It was a telekinetic," Crawford said shortly, carrying the first aid kit to Aya, who was crouching beside Schuldich, trying to revive him. The Jackal was kneeling by Nagi, and before Ken could ask what was wrong with him, Nagi gave a scream of agony as the Jackal set the broken bone in his arm.
Omi, pale faced, immediately put two sticks to the arm. Crawford tossed him a bandage roll before handing the kit to Aya.
Farfarello crouched slowly so he was on Schuldich's other side. His hand went out to touch some of the wounds the unconscious German had suffered as his eye flitted quickly over Aya. "Are you hurt?"
"I'm fine," she said in a slightly strained voice, eyes on her task as she dug glass from the telepath's body with trembling hands. "Help me."
Raphael was holding a shotgun lightly but competently as he glanced around. "What happened?" he demanded bluntly.
"A telekinetic," Nagi said through gritted teeth as he watched Omi wrap the bandage around his makeshift splint. "He came out of nowhere. Roughed me and Schuldich up a little, then threw him through the side window."
"He messed with us a little, like it was a joke," Omi said tightly. His eyes flickered towards Aya. "He got mad when Aya got him, but something stopped him and he left."
"He said Sou-"
Farfarello interrupted Aya's words, eye hard. "What did you do?"
"Omi told me to run, but I- I threw a knife at him. I was aiming for his heart, but.. I missed." She gestured vaguely towards her shoulder in the midst of her task, eyes still glued to the still body before her. "Got his shoulder..."
Himeno chuckled approvingly. "I knew you had some spunk in you."
"Shut up," Ken snapped. He glowered down at Aya. "Are you insane?? When Omi told you to run, you should have run! What if you'd been killed? Ran would skin us alive if we let you-"
"It was my choice," Aya shot back defiantly. "I thought he was going to kill them! How can you just expect me to-" her voice caught and she clamped her lips together tightly, still working furiously at pulling splinters and glass from Schuldich.
Farfarello's eye finally left her to rove over his partner's pale face. He gripped the man's chin in his hand and stared at him intently for several long moments. Nagi glanced up at the faint whisper he caught on the bond, frowning in confusion.
Schuldich's eyes snapped open, and he came awake fighting. Aya yelped and fell back as her patient squirmed out from under her hands and tried to leap to his feet.
"No, wait-!" she gasped.
Farfarello's hand wrapped around Schuldich's throat and he slammed the man back onto the ground, holding him down as he snarled and fought to get free.
"You're hurting him!" Aya protested.
"Schuldich, calm down!" Ken shouted. "It's us! Lay still!"
Finally Schuldich's wild eyes focused on the scarred face above him, and he froze, body still rigid. He blinked several times up at Farfarello's calm stare, then his eyes darted around the room, taking in the people around him. Slowly the tension seeped from his body, and Farfarello took his hand away.
"Where is that little fuck?" he growled, his voice thick. He coughed, pushing himself up on his elbows, and irritably spit a mouthful of blood to the side. "I'm gonna fucking kill 'im..."
"Hwang is gone," Crawford informed him, then turned a cold look on Himeno when she reached towards his head.
"Seems like you took quite a hit there, cowboy," she pointed out, but lowered her hand. "Looks like you're going to need stitches."
"Next time you invite old friends over to play, warn me ahead of time," Schuldich growled in the American's direction.
Crawford looked down at him with flinty eyes. "Don't start," he said quietly but firmly.
"Schu-san," Aya murmured in protest, and he subsided with a dark scowl, allowing her to patch him up. The fact that he didn't bitch about how much it hurt worried her.
"Old friends?" Raphael repeated, looking at Crawford expectantly.
"Hwang is part of an assassin group we knew several years ago," Crawford said shortly, not bothering to elaborate.
"Where are the rest of the Adir'avar?" Omi asked suddenly.
"They're tracking your attacker," Raphael answered. A slight frown creased his brow. "Normally I'd say he'd be dead by now, but they didn't know they were going up against a telekinetic."
"Why didn't he kill you?" Farfarello demanded bluntly, looking up at Crawford.
Aya had the answer. "I think that Souma guy sent him. He was going to kill me, but he looked like he was having one of those telepathic communications. He said Souma's name and then left." She decided to leave out the part where he'd sworn to kill her.
Schuldich sighed, then winced as Aya dabbed at his wounds with antiseptic. "I should've known those two weasels would bring in that damned team. Everyone thinks they're hot shit just because of that stupid fight. Doesn't anyone realize they lost?"
"Only because Rosenkreuz stopped the fight," Crawford pointed out quietly.
The others were listening with interest, so Nagi elaborated. "About half a year before I joined the team, Nebel and Schwarz went toe-to-toe in a piss contest to prove who was better."
"Hey, it wasn't just a pride thing," Schuldich protested, trying to twitch his hand away from Aya's stubborn grip as she tended to split knuckles. "We used to play pranks on each other, and it got personal after awhile."
"Pranks?" Crawford repeated dryly with an arched brow. "You set them up at one of their missions so that they would be killed. They made it out by the skin of their teeth."
"They were pretty pissy about that," Schuldich agreed with a wicked grin. "But that was just to get back for that time they managed to get me a ticket on a bus full of rednecks, homophobes, bible beaters, and retards. It was a fucking three hour trip. You're lucky I can still function at all after that. I thought my brain was going to leak out of my damn ears."
"Anyway," Nagi interrupted with a sigh, "they decided to duke it out. Without Rosenkeruz's permission, which could have gotten them punished or killed. They were the two strongest teams, and everyone wanted to know who would come out on top."
"What happened?" Aya asked, morbidly fascinated despite herself.
"Both teams got a pretty impressive reputation. The only reason one team isn't wiped out is because Souma caught wind of it and the Four came down and put a stop to things pretty quickly."
"Did they punish you?" Omi asked the German.
Schuldich gave a careless shrug, then winced as that aggravated some of his wounds. "Not too much. I think they were kind of impressed- or maybe amused -by the results. It was four against three, until Crawford killed the Teleport on their team. You know how hard it is to actually catch one of those guys, much less kill them without a gun? Yeah, so we got some major brownie points."
"But Nebel also went up a notch in Rosenkreuz's eyes," Nagi continued quietly. "Their leader beat Farfarello- he was about to kill him before the Four interrupted. Naturally no one had ever beaten Farfarello before, so everyone was pretty impressed." His eyes flicked towards the Irishman, who seemed to be ignoring the entire conversation as he watched Aya bandage the German. "Not all his scars are self-inflicted. And Nebel's the reason-"
"Nagi," Crawford said.
The younger boy closed his mouth and didn't continue.
"They beat Farfarello?" Ken's eyes were a little wide as he glanced towards his lover.
"Your little buddies are on their way," Schuldich said suddenly.
Raphael looked to him quickly. "How many?"
Schuldich did a quick mental count, then jumped as Farfarello reached out to run his finger almost thoughtfully along a nasty gash on the telepath's side. "Four. OUCH, dammit! Quit it, Farf!"
Farfarello grunted and gave him an unimpressed look, raising his fingers to his lips and licking the blood from them.
The Jackal made a face.
"So what is he, exactly?" Omi asked. "I couldn't place where he was from.."
"Korean," Nagi murmured. "And yes, before you ask, he's one of those Koreans that still holds a grudge against the Japanese. Not too fond of the Americans, either."
Omi sighed. "Lovely."
Crawford swayed slightly, eyes fluttering. He leaned heavily on his cane until the moment passed while the Adir'avar watched with interest. "The police will be here soon. One of them knows Tsukiyono." He glanced towards his partner. "..And Schuldich."
"I don't know any cops," Schuldich started to protest.
Omi looked equally confused until Aya snapped her fingers suddenly. "Oh! Omi-kun, that woman- from the bar..."
"Oh." He blinked. "Kiki-san."
"Oh, her." Schuldich rolled his eyes.
Omi looked at him in surprise. "How do you know her?"
"She was one of the detectives on the scene where Kudou was kidnapped," Schuldich said with an uninterested shrug. "What I wanna know is, who the fuck called the cops?"
"Someone was sure to hear all the commotion," the Jackal pointed out. "At the very least, they would have heard Crawford fire his gun just now."
"Damn it."
"I'll give the cops a call," Omi said, getting to his feet and heading for the kitchen. "If we don't report it at all, they're going to start asking some weird questions."
Raphael looked around the destroyed shop with a wrinkled nose. "They're going to ask some pretty interesting questions as it is. And I don't think it would be in your best interest to answer truthfully. Maybe the two of you should hide."
"Keep your opinions to yourself, peon," Schuldich grumbled, batting Aya's hands away when she tried to help him up. He rose carefully to his feet, swaying a little and staying upright by pure stubbornness alone. "She knows Tsukiyono works here, so it's pointless for him to pull a disappearing act. I think she'd love to arrest my ass, though, so if you don't mind, I'll be on the roof blackening my lungs." He limped towards the back door, already pulling his cigarettes from his pocket.
Aya moved to stop him, but Nagi grabbed the hem of her sundress as she went by. He shook his head solemnly when she looked down at him in question. "He needs to be alone right now, Aya-chan. He wouldn't offer to 'hide' otherwise. Just leave him alone for now. He'll only get mad if we bother him now."
"But his wounds-"
"Leave him, Aya-chan," Crawford said quietly but firmly.
Aya bit her lip, looking helplessly around the decimated shop that had become her home in the past five months. "I wish oniisan and Yohji-san were here," she whispered.
There was a moment of awkward silence.
Ken leaned over and carefully rescued a rose from a pile of dirt and broken stems. He watched a drop of blood well on his thumb as he pricked himself on a thorn. "We all do," he said softly.
"We'll get them back, Aya-chan," Nagi said with a weak little smile on his pale face. "In the meantime... can I please have some Motrin before I pass out?"


The rest of the Adir'avar arrived at the shop shortly before the police did.
Raphael's mouth pulled into a frown as he inspected his team's wounds. "This telekinetic is dangerous," he observed. "He must be taken care of quickly."
Hikaru was calmly snapping broken fingers back into place. For all her confident attitude and tough looks, her voice was cultured and slightly accented. Ken wondered to himself if she had been an aristocrat in her early life. "Let's hope that's the strongest of them," she said a little ruefully. "We couldn't even get close. He can turn our weapons aside as if it was nothing. I thought we almost had him for a moment there. The twins cut him once, and Yuusuke almost caught him off guard with his speed, but it's useless against an enemy who can strike you with a thought and a glance."
Yuusuke winced as he arched, popping a few misplaced vertebrae into place with helpful jabs from his thumbs. Aya, Nagi, and Omi watched in morbid fascination, a little sickened by the way the half-bloods so calmly handled their horrible wounds. Ken, who was used to seeing old Vampires handle their bodies so casually, didn't even bat an eye.
"That motherfucker ain't nothin' without his big bad magic tricks," Yuusuke snorted. "If I'd just gotten a little closer, he'd be in three pieces."
"At least we.."
"..got him."
"Only because I distracted him," Yuusuke pointed out, straightening and rolling his head to pop his neck. "You only nicked him."
"..than you." The two children stuck out their tongues in unison, the tips of their little fangs touching their bottom lips.
Aya caught the glimpse of teeth and felt both sad and sick at the same time. "How old are you?" she asked anxiously.
The twins beamed brightly at her in a way that could have charmed the birds from the trees. "We're nearly.."
Aya's mouth opened and shut uselessly.
"They've been training since a very early age," Himeno murmured when she saw the look on the girl's face.
The twins nodded. "Yeah, so don't..."
"..underestimate us!"
Ryoko cocked her head, eyes roving towards the wall. "I hear sirens," she said suddenly.
"We don't need any trouble from the police to make this more difficult," Ken said, looking meaningfully at the shotgun cradled in Raphael's arms. "You guys had better stash your weapons or take off for a little while."
Raphael frowned a little before nodding. "We'll set up a perimeter and stay out of sight. We'll keep an eye out in case that telekinetic comes back." He tilted his head towards Ryoko. "Ryoko, give Himeno your bow. Stay here in the shop with them."
Ryoko gave a little pout, but unslung the longbow from her shoulder and handed it and a quiver of arrows to Himeno.
"Isn't that a little.. old fashioned?" Aya asked dubiously.
Omi shrugged. "I have a crossbow. As long as her arrowheads are silver, the only limitation is close combat."
Ryoko fluttered her lashes and flashed long fangs at him. "For that, I have these," she said sweetly. Omi blanched.
"Farfarello, go with them," Crawford added. When Farfarello turned a baleful eye on him, he arched his brows, unimpressed. "You look like a walking nightmare to ordinary people, in case you'd forgotten. We'll never get rid of the police if they get a look at you. Ken will call you back when they leave."
Ken nodded, pulling his jacket sleeves over his bugnuks.
Farfarello bared his fangs in a silent snarl, but when the Adir'avar left on silent footsteps, he followed. A few moments later the squad car screeched to a halt outside the shop, sirens wailing.
"Let Tsukiyono and I do all the talking unless they question you directly," Crawford murmured to the others as car doors slammed outside.
"They're going to ask for descriptions," the Jackal pointed out.
"Vague descriptions will work," Ken said with a careless shrug.
"No, let me do it," the Jackal protested. "I've done this before anyway."
Crawford hesitated, but footsteps were already approaching. He gave a brief nod.
Kiki came first, holding her gun ready and glancing around warily as she carefully stepped over the broken glass in the shattered side window. Her partner followed a little more cautiously, eyes darting everywhere with nervous energy.
Sharp blue eyes roamed and landed on Omi. Kiki offered a wry smile, but didn't lower her gun, still on the lookout for danger. "We meet again, Lancelot." Her eyes flicked towards Aya. "I see you're still protecting your princess."
Omi offered a watery smile. "Hello."
"So what exactly happened here?" Kiki asked, slowly lowering her gun. "Is anyone hurt seriously?"
"A broken arm seems to be the worst of it," Omi said, gesturing to Nagi, who had been transferred to a stool.
Kiki's eyes shifted to Crawford, the most obvious choice for leader, as he stepped forward.
"A burglary went wrong," he lied smoothly. "They didn't think we'd be here, and put up a fight. They didn't get the money, but they got away."
Kiki finally holstered her gun as her partner whipped out a little notebook and a pencil. "Can you describe them?" he asked quickly. His nametag read Watanabe. "Anyone you knew, that might have a grudge against one or all of you?"
"I got a pretty good look," the Jackal spoke up. He began to describe three different men. At one point Ken's brows shot up, but he remained silent.
As Watanabe scribbled notes furiously, Kiki began slowly walking around the shop, her boots crunching in the broken glass as she looked for clues. She raised her radio to her mouth as her quick eyes darted everywhere. "This is Nigawa. We need a team over at the corner of Sakura and 15th street. We've got the aftermath of a robbery here, and we're going to have to dig for evidence. Get an ambulance down here, too."
Watanabe continued to question them as Kiki roamed around, keeping one ear on what was being said, occasionally asking for clarification. When she reached the spot where Schuldich had fallen, she squatted down and pulled a pen from her breast pocket. She pushed aside a cracked pot and used her pen to reveal the bloodied yellow cloth hidden amid the rubble.
Ken gave a nearly inaudible sigh. Schuldich, the cops just found your bandanna.
So say it's yours.
Your blood's all over it.
Dammit. Schuldich's mental voice was aggravated. Watch it with that bitch, she's smarter than she looks.
Ryoko noticed the sudden tenseness to Ken's shoulders and pulled a dagger from her boot. Out of immediate sight of the preoccupied police from where she stood behind Crawford, she calmly slid the blade across her collarbone. Sliding the knife back into its hiding spot, she ran a hand carelessly across the cut to smear the blood before licking it from her palm. "What's that?" she stepped forward, and Kiki glanced up at her approach. Ryoko offered a rueful smile. "Ah, I guess it's ruined now. I really liked that scarf."
Kiki rose to her feet, the bandana still dangling from her pen as she looked the other woman in the eye. Her mouth tightened slightly, her eyes crinkling in sudden suspicion. Ryoko blinked big eyes at her innocently, playing with a long curly lock of hair. "Officer?"
Kiki glanced from the bandana to the cut on Ryoko's collarbone before slowly handing it over. "And you are? I heard this shop was run only by these men and their sister."
"Oh, I don't work here," Ryoko confirmed, plucking the bandana from the other woman and examining it with a little frown. "Ruined," she sighed.
"Then would you mind if I ask what you're doing here?"
"I came to visit my boyfriend," she said with a careless wave over her shoulder in Crawford's direction, still inspecting the bandana with fake regret. To his credit, the American managed to keep his face impassive.
Kiki arched a brow, glancing from the cloth to the cut, and finally at the pile of rubble. Ken gritted his teeth. He could see the disbelief on the woman's face. She wasn't buying Ryoko's story. All this mess, and only one cut? Her clothes were also clean, despite the piles of dirt everywhere.
Schuldich, who'd been pawing at the woman's mind, came to the same conclusion. Get rid of them, he said shortly. She isn't buying it, and she's about to drag some of you downtown.
Ken glanced towards Omi, who hesitated before stepping up to Watanabe. He smiled disarmingly when the man looked down in puzzlement at the hand that wrapped firmly around his arm.
"Go to sleep, now," Omi whispered.
Watanabe's eyes fluttered, the notebook slipping from numb fingers. Nagi caught him before he collapsed, and Omi retreated out of reach before his lover released his hold on the man, allowing him to fall in a heap.
Kiki whirled around at the sound, her eyes widening. "Watanabe!" Her eyes shot towards the others- who had stamped expressions of surprise on their faces -but none were close enough to have visibly caused the collapse. One hand on her gun, she hurried over to her partner's side. "What happened?"
"I don't know, he just collapsed," Omi said with wide eyes. "Is he OK??"
As Kiki leaned over her partner, Omi took a step towards her.
"Oh, let me," Ryoko purred, wrapping the stained bandana around her neck like a trophy and strutting forward. "You're getting rid of them anyway, and I'm starving."
"No!" Omi protested loudly, even as Kiki whirled around, drawing her gun at Ryoko's words.
"Stop right there," she snapped, but Ryoko continued to come at her, grinning wickedly and displaying her elongated fangs. Kiki didn't so much as blink, her mouth tightening as she cocked the gun's hammer. "These are silver bullets," she added in a hard voice. "I said stop."
Ryoko hesitated, her smile faltering.
Ah, well, that explains a lot, Schuldich said in sudden disgust.
Nani? Ken demanded.
She's a fuckin' Vampire Hunter.

Author's Notes: Everyone groan at my corny Monty Python reference in the chapter title. XD;; I figured it fit, with the way the Adir'avar kept being so casual about their wounds.. And I couldn't think of anything else >_o
...OK, I'll go now. *sweatdrops and slinks off*
At least V22 is already 3/4 done. XD

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