"March of the Damned"
They slipped out of alleyways and buildings; appeared from behind trees, out of parked cars, and bars. Like trickles of a stream moving to meet the ocean, the Turned Vampires of Japan drifted from hiding to join their Lord, who marched at the head of his army with a stone face, his human lover at his side.
Right behind them came the assassins of Weiß and Schwarz, faces grim as stone. All but Schuldich, who was walking with his hands in his pockets and a careless smirk playing at his lips.
Covering their flanks were the Adir'avar; as the sun set, those of the half-bloods who were more sensitive to the sun than the Turned stepped from shadows and joined their comrades, their faces unreadable and their weapons at the ready.
And sweeping behind them was a growing mass of Vampires, fangs bared in preparation for battle, hands strong enough to crush a man's throat or lift a small car flexing almost eagerly.
Their course took them past the cemetary, and with a deep breath, Ken released the power inside of him, letting it wash out and cover the graves he had marked earlier with his own blood. "Wake up," he murmured. The power in him surged like it never had before, scaring him. And he realized abruptly why it was that his Gift- which should only work at night -would twinge in the daylight when in the presence of his partner's people.
The presence of the undead was strengthening his Gift.
Graves bubbled up like angry volcanoes, horrors from a nightmare lifting themselves from the ground. Out of the corner of his eye Ken watched with a pounding heart as skin and hair cropped up, covering wasted muscle and bone, making ruined and worm-eaten flesh renew to almost life-like quality. Ken felt the sudden, irrational urge to send them back to their rest as they stumbled forward to join the ranks of the gaping Vampires.
Schuldich hissed a strained German curse.
Ken took a deep breath, forcing his eyes forward and trying not to let his sudden nervousness creep into his voice. "That's never happened before," he stated, trying to sound flippant. His voice faltered slightly, betraying his emotions.
Farfarello flicked him a sideways glance, his mouth curving upwards just enough to show a hint of fang. He didn't respond.
Ken reached out and found the man's hand, wrapping it in his own. "Well, here we go," he said firmly.
"The march of the damned," Schuldich muttered from behind.
Farfarello threw back his head and laughed. The eerie sound sent a shiver up Ken's spine, and rang out into the night like the sound of impending doom.
"What the FUCK is this?!"
Jenell squealed as the force of Hwang's brutal shove sent her crashing into the kitchen table. She just barely managed to seize the counter and keep herself from falling on her ass.
Hwang was livid as he held up the tiny chip between thumb and forefinger. "You stupid fucking bitch!" he shouted, his face red with fury. "They put a god-damn tracer on you! You're leading them right to us!"
"How was I supposed to know?!" Jenell shrieked, shoving herself upright as anger rushed in to cover common sense and fear. "It was just that stupid little girl and one of those damned half-breeds."
"Well one of those 'stupid girls' managed to tag you," Hwang snarled, his fists trembling by his sides as he strove not to lash out with his Gift at the teenager. "All because you ran out in a tantrum and decided to show your face when you know shit's going down tonight!"
"Stop yelling at me!" Jenell screeched.
"I'll yell if I want, you fucking slut!!" Hwang roared.
"That's enough!" Iragadachi barked.
The two assassins fell silent, glaring at each other furiously. The Spark backed away a step as the Eraser's cold gaze swung her way.
Hwang was struggling to bring his temper under control. He held up the small chip for his employer to see. "They tagged her," he said from behind gritted teeth. "They could be here within the hour. Let me go out and take care of them. I won't let them get within a mile of this place."
"Schleimer," Jenell muttered, glaring towards him. (1)
"Dok cho," Hwang snapped back acidly. (2)
Iragadachi shook his head, shooting Jenell a silencing Look. She succumbed meekly, lowering her eyes. "No. No doubt the Berserker's coming in full force; he'll have expected us to have found the transmitter by now. If he thinks he can catch us off guard in our own hideout, he'll want to do it with his army behind him so there will be no slip-ups." He turned slightly as Souma appeared in the kitchen doorway, frowning. "Keep the tracer. Change of plans-- we're heading out." A small, fierce grin touched his lips. "We'll meet up with Malachi and Park. Let the Berserker follow us if he wishes; soon the sun will be down, and the Purebloods will be able to come aboveground and meet them head-on."
"Why would they risk it?" Felix asked from just behind Souma. "If the Berserker is assuming we've found the transmitter, he should know the Purebloods will be awake and ready to fight by the time he reaches us all."
"Perhaps he thinks he can get to them before the sun goes down," Iragadachi said with a slight shrug. "Or perhaps he is only following his own nature." He flashed a brief, mirthless smile. "That one never could resist a good fight. Whatever the case, he can't possibly know where Malachi and Park are with the Purebloods. He'll have to search for them, and that will give us the time we need to set up a trap." He looked towards Hwang. "Get Ash, Silk, and Birman."
"A trap." Felix crossed his arms over his chest, eyes gleaming. "So where do we set it?"
"The subway?" the Jackal asked, sounding puzzled as he realized where Farfarello was leading them.
"That makes sense," Ken said with dawning realization. "The subway is underground; there are sure to be a few unused, ruined tracks and tunnels. That must be where they sleep during the day. Good thinking, Farf."
Farfarello neither slowed nor looked back as they headed towards the locked entrance to Tokyo Station. "There's a station entrance close to our tunnels," he pointed out dispassionately. "And a lot of the killings done since Malachi left have happened in the subways or close to it."
"Listen to Sherlock Holmes go," Schuldich snickered.
"Ken-kun," Omi piped up nervously, "are you... can you control these things?" He glanced nervously over his shoulder at one of the zombies, who was staring fixedly in Ken's direction with an empty gaze. Even the Vampires shied away from the walking dead, fear and disgust mingling in their eyes.
"I think so" was what Ken was about to say, but stopped himself at the last second. He didn't want to make them all even more jumpy than they already were if he admitted he wasn't sure if he could control them. Hell, he wasn't even exactly sure how he'd pulled that many out of their graves at the same time. He knew it must have something to do with the presense of so many undead, but as far as his power was concerned.. he was drawing a blank. And it scared the shit out of him. "Yeah," he said shortly. "Just don't get in their way."
Farfarello's fingers wrapped around the back of his neck, pulling him forward. Ken stared into the Irishman's gaze as the pale man bumped their foreheads together lightly, his single golden eye intent. He knew Ken was afraid and confused; he could sense it on their Master/Feeder bond, and read it in his eyes. His lips curved slightly in a hint of his savage grin, and Ken felt a little better. He smiled tremulously back.
"We'd better get moving," Raphael pointed out abruptly, looking skyward. "Not long now until the sun sets."
"I still think we should have waited til dawn, when the Pureblood fucks will be asleep," one of the Vampires growled.
"They have to suspect we're coming by now," Ken said patiently. "If we don't make the first move, they could attack us at their leisure. And they might move their hideout during the night. This is the best chance we've got now." Secretly he was frustrated by their lack of options, but he could see Farfarello was more than ready for a fight.
"He's right," Omi said, holding up the transmitter. "They must have found the tracer and destroyed it; the signal went out a couple minutes ago, and it's nothing wrong with the equipment."
"Call dibs if you got 'em," Schuldich spoke up loud enough for all the assassins to hear, wrapping his newly acquired bandanna tighter around his forehead. "I'll take care of Souma."
"I'll take Hwang," Nagi said quietly. "He's never gone up against my full TK ability before; I wasn't a part of Schwarz when they fought with Nebel last time."
"I'll try to get to Yohji-kun and Ran-kun," Omi said grimly, pulling off his gloves. "If I can get them to remember early on in the fight, that'll give us an edge. Especially with Ran-kun's pyrokinesis."
"BBQ Purebloods," Himeno drawled from behind him. "I like the sound of that."
The twins Jun and Seiji giggled, twirling their scythes with eager skill.
"Farfarello will take care of Malachi, and I'll go for that little German brat," Ken offered. He glanced sideways towards Crawford, who was walking in silence, his cane's silver tip tapping the asphalt. His face was expressionless. "I suppose you'll want a crack at Felix?"
"Whoa, wait a sec," the Jackal interrupted, resting his hand on the hilt of his sword. "This English guy's an Alchemist, right? Why don't you let me take him out? I mean, I have a better chance at fending off whatever he comes at me with, right?"
Crawford hesitated, then nodded once. "Very well. Then Iragadachi is mine." His eyes were cold as he imagined his impending victory over a man who had controlled him side-by-side with his father for years.
"What about Park?" Omi asked hesitantly. "I know he's Turned, but... isn't he really old?"
"I'll take him," Raphael spoke up.
Farfarello finally turned his head to look at the man, arching a brow. "You think you can handle him?" he asked with a hint of mockery to his tone.
Raphael met his gaze dead-on, his face fearless. "Only one way to find out," he pointed out. He pumped his shotgun, sending a round into the chamber. The noise sounded loud in the empty parking lot, and Omi jumped.
"Skittish, kid?" Hikaru asked, glancing sideways at him with a bored expression.
Omi frowned at the half-blood. "I'm fine," he said firmly. Nagi reached down and clasped the older boy's hand in his own, offering a rare, faint smile of encouragement.
As they closed in on the station doors, Ken glanced back at the small army behind them, taking a deep breath to calm his nerves. The Turned look uptight more because of the presense of the eerily silent zombies than about the upcoming fight. Most of them looked eager at the prospect of wiping the floor with a pack of uppity Purebloods.
Ken had a flash of momentary panic. Can we do this? he asked himself hopelessly.
"Too late to quit now, soccer punk," Schuldich jeered, pushing him aside. With one savage kick he shattered the glass doors. Reaching through the jagged hole, he unlocked the doors and pushed them open with a flourish. The look he turned on his teammates was dangerous and just a touch haunted. "Ready when you are." The Adir'avar had pushed themselves up close, and Schuldich smirked in their direction, standing aside as Farfarello stepped in alongside Ken. "Age before beauty," he said primly.
Himeno flipped him off as she strode inside ahead of him.
Aya hadn't said more than a handful of words since her brothers had set off for battle.
She sat at the kitchen table, staring blankly towards the window, cradling an untouched cup of green tea in her palms. Kiki was pacing from the shop to the kitchen and back again, muttering to herself under her breath. She kept glancing at her watch and the door, wondering alternately when they would be back and if Vampires would attack the shop. She kept a hand on the butt of her gun almost constantly.
"What is taking this 'Manx' so long?" Kiki finally snapped, darting a quick glance towards the back door. "Shouldn't she be back by now?"
"She had to go back to her place to get some weapons," Aya reminded her woodenly, still staring at the green reflection of herself in her hands. "She needed more ammo, too."
Kiki blew an exasperated sigh, running her hand fretfully through her golden hair. "I hate this waiting," she admitted irritably. "I was never good at stake-outs. I'd rather be in the midst of something than just... sitting here."
Aya remained silent, lost in her own tormented thoughts. After a few more moments, she rose abruptly to her feet. "I have to use the bathroom," she murmured, and walked dejectedly up the stairs. Kiki nodded absently and continued to pace.
Aya found herself in her room, looking around helplessly. She felt numb and helpless, as if she was stuck in the middle of a nightmare she couldn't wake up from. She padded over to her bed and sank onto the mattress, picking up Farfarello's cross from her bedside table. She held it up to the light by its chain, watching the shining emblem twirl. She felt like she should be crying, but the tears wouldn't come. She'd cried herself out. She didn't even notice the distant ache in her ribs or the slight sting between her legs anymore.
Looking at the cross, she saw something glint out of her perefiral vision, catching the light reflecting from the lamp off of the cross. She glanced towards her desk and saw the bugnuk Farfarello and Ken had given her tossed on top of her calculus homework.
She stared at the deadly weapon for a long moment, her mind whirring. Abruptly she rose to her feet and put the cross around her neck. She acted spontaneously, not letting her fear override her sudden decision.
Lifting the corner of her mattress, she pulled out the two throwing knives Farfarello had given her. Kicking off her slippers, she retrieved her boots from the closet and yanked them on. She slid one of the daggers in her boot and the other in the deep pocket of her skirt. She looked for her bandanna to keep her hair out of her face, but couldn't find it. She tied her hair up in a quick ponytail instead, too impatient to bother braiding it again. Snatching up the bugnuk from her desk, she strode over to the window and unlatched it. She'd pushed it open and gotten one leg over the sill when she heard someone in the doorway clear their throat loudly.
She froze, looking guiltily over her shoulder.
Kiki was leaning against the doorframe, arching her brows at Aya and pursing her lips. Aya hesitated, wondering frantically if she should get down or climb the rest of the way out.
Before she could decide, Kiki spoke. "Bathroom, huh? You gonna pee in the bushes?"
"Those boys can handle it, honey," Kiki sighed. "Now get down before you fall and break your--"
A hand whipped out of the darkness and wrapped around Aya's throat. Before Kiki could draw her gun, the girl was hauled out of the window with a shriek.
Curtis Riddle had seen Farfarello's army marching through the streets as he'd huddled in the archway of an old decrepit church, watching with wide eyes.
He had been frozen in horror as the mass of pure evil had marched by, unable to so much as recite a single prayer. Now that the danger had passed, he was thoroughly disgusted with himself.
He hadn't known the evil in this city had been that great. But that was no excuse for him to freeze up. Now that he knew simple words and preaching wouldn't work, he would have to fall back on more drastic measures.
He pulled his large cross from his pocket and knelt on the steps, saying a quick but fervent prayer for courage. When he was finished, he dug through the bushes and found his dark duffel bag. Taking a deep breath, he set off down the street in the direction the Vampires had gone, saying the Hail Mary under his breath.
It was time to rid Tokyo of its demonic inhabitants once and for all.
Aya screamed in terror as the strong hand hauled her out of the window and onto the narrow second-story roof. She struggled to keep her feet under her as she was dragged from the bright window opening, gasping for breath.
"Well that was easier than I thought," a somewhat familiar voice purred right by her ear. The fingers flexed around her throat even tighter. Aya gagged and fumbled for the cross around her neck.
"Oh, please," the voice scoffed. Her attacker turned her around just enough for her to get a good look at the sneering face. It took her a moment to remember the woman's name. Rinata. Farfarello's advisor-- the one who had been a spy for Malachi all along. "You watch too many movies. Crosses don't hurt Vam--"
Aya thrust back her initial squeamishness and slammed the bottom prong of the silver cross directly into the woman's eye.
Rinata gave a screech that hurt Aya's ears and released her, stumbling back and clawing at her face. She gave another high-pitched scream as her face began to steam and bubble. Aya, coughing harshly, fought down naseau as she scrambled backwards.
Rinata yanked the little cross free from her ruined socket and flung it over the roof's edge with a shriek of rage. The whole left side of her face looked like it had started to melt off, and the bloody socket was still steaming. Aya felt the urge to vomit.
"You stupid little bitch," the Vampire hissed in a horrible voice, coming at her with curved fingers. "I'm going to tear your fucking little heart out and serve it on a gold platter to Malachi-sama!"
Aya shrank back, fumbling in her pocket for her knife. She'd dropped the bugnuk on the windowsill.
A gunshot, then another went off, and Rinata gave a grunt of surprise, stumbling forward. Aya gave a shrill scream as the Vampire stumbled right into her-- then abruptly burst into black flames and dissintegrated into ash. The flames were out as quickly as they'd appeared, and Rinata was gone.
Aya sat down hard, her head spinning, and gaped at the little mound of dark ash. Finally she tore her eyes from the mess and stared dumbly at Kiki, who was leaning out of the windowsill blowing a wisp of smoke from the barrel of her gun.
"Just for future reference," the Hunter drawled with a quirked brow, "if you're going to use that small amount of silver, going for the heart is best." She put one long leg over the sill and ducked out of the window. She glanced around warily before lowering her gun and walking carefully over to Aya. "You OK, hon?"
Aya nodded jerkily and let the older woman help her to her feet. Kiki opened her mouth to continue her lecture about sneaking out, but Aya blurted out in desperation, "They have my brother!"
Kiki hesitated, frowning at her. "What are you talking about, hon?"
"They have Ran," Aya cried hoarsely, the familiar agony ripping her heart apart once more. "They took my brother from me and twisted him into-- into something bad! And now the others.. they're.. they might..." She remembered with sinking horror Jenell's reference to Park's sick interest in her brother. She almost burst into tears, and choked them back at the last second, determined not to break down. "They'll kill them," she whispered brokenly. "Ran, Omi-kun, Schu-san, Yohji-san... All of them, they're all I have left. How can you- or they -expect me to just sit by and wait for them to die? How can you all expect me to do nothing to save my own brother?"
"Look, Aya," Kiki sighed, "they told you to stay behind because they care about you. I know some of them- that German twit for instance -were a little harsh about it, but it's only because they were trying to scare you into staying put. They don't want you in danger any more than you want them endangered."
"You don't understand," Aya practically sobbed. "You'll never understand how I feel and why I have to do this."
Kiki's face suddenly went blank, her eyes closed off. "Is that right?" she asked so quietly it gave Aya pause. Kiki studied her for a long moment in silence before looking away, her eyes distant. "Do you know why I became a cop?" she asked at last, her voice still quiet.
Aya shook her head, wiping sweat from her upper lip with the back of her hand.
Kiki took a deep breath, holstering her gun. "They killed my mother and my kid sister-- the Vampires did. Fourteen years ago. They tortured and fed on them while I was out having fun with my friends at a club. I'd snuck out that night; my mom didn't know I was going out. When I got back, I found my mother dead and my sister dying. She told me it was Vampires. I don't know why I believed her, but I did. But when I tried to tell the cops that..." She shrugged, her face still hard to read.
"They didn't believe you," Aya guessed in a whisper.
Kiki nodded. "No one did. So I decided I'd take care of it myself. Finally I found a way to do it." She patted the badge pinned to her breast pocket. "As a cop, I can carry around a gun at all times. No one needs to know I carry a clip of silver bullets with me as well. And if anyone else has to go through what I did..." a flash of dull pain flickered in her eyes, "Well, now there's at least one cop in this crazy city who will believe them and get them their justice."
Aya looked at the older woman for a long moment with a new respect and sympathy. She forced a smile. "This city could always use another hero," she agreed.
Kiki glanced at her and offered a tiny smile of her own. She seemed to shake herself back to the present a moment later, and glanced around warily, her hand resting on the butt of her gun. "Now, in my experience, these fuckers rarely travel alone unless they're just feeding. And I don't think you were just an accidental snack."
Aya looked around, suddenly nervous again. "No," she admitted. "That woman used to be Farfarello's advisor. She's actually a spy for Malachi." She thought for a moment, wracking her brain for all the little bits and pieces she'd picked up from her brothers' conversations. "There was someone working with her before," she blurted in sudden recollection. "A girl-- an American. I think she was Park's Feeder or something."
"American, eh? OK, my English is pretty good. Come on." Kiki slipped back in through the window, and Aya followed, scooping up her bugnuk. "She might be hiding in the yard somewhere. You circle around the back with your claw thingy, and I'll go around the front. Make sure you take her alive."
"Why?" Aya demanded as she hurried down the stairs after the Hunter. "She came here with Rinata to kill me!"
"Because," Kiki said over her shoulder, "she'll know where Malachi and the rest of those creeps are. And where they are, your brother is bound to be."
Aya stopped on the bottom step, opening and shutting her mouth in surprise. "You mean you'll let me go after them?" she asked in relieved excitement.
"Not so fast, girly, I'm going with you," Kiki cautioned, already heading for the front door. "Now get a move on, we've still got to catch up to them."
Aya nodded quickly and ran for the back door, buckling the deadly claws over her hand with renewed determination.
Ash scowled to himself as he did a few practice swings with his katana, testing his injured arm. Damn that little shit Jenell, he thought acidly. By the end of the fight the ache in his arm was going to feel like wildfire running up and down his arm.
If he lived through this, of course.
He sheathed his sword and reached into his pocket, pulling out the folded picture Souma had given him. He stared at the face of the man in the photograph, memorizing it. Brad Crawford. His target. He thought again of the sly glance Felix and the telepath had exchanged when they'd suggested he focus his attention on this man. They seemed to think it would be somehow amusing for him to kill the dark-haired American. Ash frowned a little, pushing back his feelings of unease. His earlier conversation with Silk was still murmuring in his mind, but now was not the time to dwell on the blond's conspiracy theories. He had a job to do. He would take out this Brad Crawford, and then slaughter the people of Weiß who had killed his family.
Ash gave a little sigh and slid the picture back into his pocket, glancing around for his teammate. He felt a little nervous about the upcoming battle, but a small part of him was grimly looking forward to it, assuring him that his sword hand would know how to bring him certain victory.
Felix had kept them on the teams he had first decided on when he'd arrived. Ash had been stuck with Hwang; the two of their powers made a formidable force to anything Weiß could come up with. Felix had taken Silk with him, and Jenell was sulkily working with Birman. Upon reaching the subway, Felix had ordered Ash and his reluctant partner to guard one of the exits while the rest of them spread out. Iragadachi and Souma had gone further into the disused train tunnels to make sure Malachi and Park were ready with their Vampires.
"Just remember," Hwang growled from where he was crouching against the wall smoking a joint, "I get that little bitch Fujimiya."
Ash frowned at him slightly. He struggled to push back the little niggling voice of conscience demanding attention in the back of his mind. Fujimiya Aya had been in part responsible for the death of his family, according to Rosenkreuz. But the fact that she was just a young girl bothered him. He shrugged in silence, and Hwang went back to ignoring him, basking in his drugged smoke.
Ash sighed to himself, wishing for the umpteenth time that he'd been paired with Silk. Thinking of the older man's kisses made him flush. But right on the heel of that was thoughts of what Park would do to him after the battle. It made him want to hide. Or vomit.
Or better yet, kill the man.
The idea was sounding better and better the more he thought about it. He reached down and wrapped his hand around his sword hilt in a death grip, his eyes narrowing with determination. Yes. After the battle, if Park tried something...
He would kill him.
"Look alive, firefly," Hwang drawled, pushing himself to his feet. "You smell that?" he sniffed eagerly at the air.
Ash gave a quick sniff. It took him a moment to place the scent.
It was a woman's perfume.
"Let's get this party started," Hwang chuckled darkly, cracking his knuckles. He set off down the tunnel. Ash drew his sword and followed in grim silence.
Author's Notes: Managed to shoulder my GW fic frenzy aside long enough to wrap this chapter up @_@ yeesh.
Oh, head's up... things are about to get nasty. *smiles sweetly and scuttles off*
(1) Schleimer= kiss-ass
(2) dok cho= shut up (A Korean taught me never to say this in front of the older Korean officers because it was really rude. He only said it, though- he didn't write it down. So the spelling is probably incorrect.)
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