||PART II: COLLATERAL DAMAGE||
"It's leaking into the human world."
"What?" Ran's mouth tugged downwards in a frown. "What are you talking about?"
"The Vampires." Manx stood before the blank TV screen, her face eerily shadowed by a nearby lamp. "This abduction of Farfarello has made the Purebloods bolder, it seems." She nodded towards Ken in silent acknowledgement of the information he'd brought her on that point. "They're getting careless in their feeding. They drain their victims completely dry, sometimes mutilating them, and leave the bodies right in the open to be found in the morning."
Ken had decided to attend the meeting after much internal debate. He had to keep an eye on Farfarello's people, but his friends needed him. They needed his knowledge and his contacts. And he needed their help in turn, if he hoped to stop this. He was sitting on the couch with Omi, legs crossed at the knees, arms folded over his chest. Nagi hadn't been able to make the meeting, as his class had cleanup duty today. "The only good thing about it all," Ken sighed, "is that Purebloods are affected by sunlight, unlike Turned. They can only hunt in the night, or when the sky is heavily overcast."
The Jackal shifted restlessly from where he was standing uncomfortably far apart from the assembled assassins and Talents. "How many Purebloods are in Japan?"
"Seventy that we know of," came Ken's prompt reply. "Fifty-five have claimed alleigance to Farfarello, and twenty-seven of those live in the caves." He scowled. "Now there's no telling how many of them are actually loyal to him. The ones in the cave seem to think Malachi is in the right- especially after his little speech yesterday. There are very few Vampires who accepted Farfarello's claim to the throne without argument."
Schuldich spoke up from Yohji's leather armchair where he was picking his nails clean with a butterfly knife. "Of course not," he drawled with dry amusement. "He was the bane of their fucking existance. Whenever Crawford actually let him loose between missions, he went out of his way to hunt those sickos down." He laughed quietly. "Talk about self-loathing."
"Shut up, Schuldich," Ken said sharply.
Crawford was seated at the desk chair, hands clasped on the top of his cane. Ran wondered if any of them would ever get used to the sight of the proud man depending on a cane for support. He tried to ignore the familiar twinge of guilt. He was still a little thrown by Crawford's behavior. The older man hadn't spoken a word to him since Manx had called them all to the shop for a meeting. He'd barely even looked over at the pyro. He wasn't acting rude or cold; he just acted as though there was no reason he should be interested in Ran's presence. For some reason this irked Ran. In irritated retaliation, he ignored the American completely. It was as if things had gone full circle, and they were enemies once more. Aya wasn't stupid- she'd noticed earlier, and it was obvious it bothered her. She was upstairs now, attending to the occasional customers. The flood of girls that had accompanied her home from school had left in disappointment when the boys had all disappeared downstairs soon afterwards for their meeting with Manx. Schuldich was monitoring the shop's customers mentally. Ran didn't like leaving her alone, but she'd begun to chaff under his firm rules, and he knew if he didn't give her some time alone, she'd snap. He'd even ordered the Jackal downstairs, against his better judgement. Let her have fifteen minutes to herself. She needed the time to think anyway.
"Most humans don't believe in Vampires," Manx continued, and Ken's lips quirked in a dry grin. He knew that well enough. If he hadn't been bitten himself those long months ago, he would never have believed in them, either. It had been a headache trying to convince his own teammates that he wasn't crazy. "But as more corpses show up with bite marks on them, bodies drained of blood, people are going to start getting nervous. There's a reason the Vampires keep their existence a secret for the most part. If the two worlds clash, there will be a war- a bloodbath -to end all wars. You all prevented such a war five months ago by taking care of Agammedo." She glanced at Ken in silent invitation to continue.
He nodded grimly. "Farfarello brought things back under control," he said. "He's got pretty harsh laws about feeding. No killing for fun- food only." Schuldich snickered at that. Ken didn't silence him. He knew it sounded like a ludicrous rule coming from the former Berserker of Schwarz. "And take care of the evidence. But Malachi's got ideas a little too close to Agammedo's for comfort. He sees Vampires as the superior species, and while he doesn't want to wipe humans out, he wants the world to know that they aren't alone. That there's nothing they can do against their stronger counterparts."
Manx nodded. "Malachi and the Purebloods must be stopped. Farfarello isn't here to take care of it; therefore, you all must do this yourselves. Watch your back, Siberian. I'm sure Malachi is keen to get rid of you."
Ken frowned slightly at the code name, as he was no longer an official member of Weiß. He didn't bother to correct her, however. It was just a habit; likewise, it had taken them all some time to get used to calling Ran by his real name instead of his sister's. It had been confusing for a time with two "Aya's" under the same roof.
"Have your little information goons figured out who took Farfie, yet?" Schuldich asked, still idly picking at his nails. Ken felt a flash of shame for not asking himself.
Manx shook her head, hands cupping her elbows. "No luck. They think they've found evidence of Birman's survival, however." Her eyes hardened unconsciously at the thought of her former partner. "The remaining members of Rosenkreuz are understandably harder to track down. I'll let you know as things develop."
Schuldich took that as a cue and rose with a languid stretch. Watching him, Ran was reminded painfully of Yohji. He realized suddenly that not even the blond's lover had asked about him. "What about Yohji?" he demanded, watching Schuldich angrily for a reaction.
Schuldich stopped mid-stretch, his face going strangely blank as he glanced towards Manx out of the corner of his eye.
Manx shook her head silently.
Schuldich dropped his hands by his sides, smirk appearing back in place. "Well, then," he covered a yawn, "if there's nothing else..."
Manx raised her eyebrows at Ken. "Anything else to add, Sib- Ken?"
Ken appreciated the correction, and gave a small smile as he rooted through his thoughts. Was there anything he was missing..?
Schuldich impatiently "helped", digging painfully and carelessly through the necromancer's mind. "Hey, cut it out," Ken yelped, clutching his head with a wince.
"What about this 'Sam'?" Schuldich asked, not looking particularly interested.
The Jackal straightened suddenly, eyes narrowing. "Sam?" he repeated sharply. "Where did you hear that name?"
Ken looked at him in surprise. "It was Rinata... Farfarello's advisor. She and Elsie said something about him. Himeno had to tell me later, because they spoke in English. Elsie was asking Rinata if I'd found out about some guy named Sam. She seemed to be afraid that I was asking about him."
All eyes were on the Jackal, who looked excited. "Sam- he was one of my sister's bodyguards. He came here with us. I- I thought he was killed in the ambush. I didn't see him when I got back from the jet and saw the attack."
"How would Farfarello's advisor know about him?" Omi asked Ken, puzzled.
Ken shook his head to show his ignorance. "I have no idea. Elsie must have mentioned him to her. But I don't know why they would be concerned about him, or why Rinata didn't mention him to me."
"I suggest you find out," Manx said with an arched brow. "Though it's a little suspicious that Farfarello's own advisor would withold information from you."
Ken looked at the woman who reminded him so much of Rinata and bit his tongue in consternation. He didn't want to not trust Rinata. He needed her right now; in the midst of the chaos that had been a result of Farfarello's abduction, her cool head and the respect she commanded from the other Vampires was invaluable. "I have Himeno looking into it," he said after a moment.
"What about the Adir'avar?" the Jackal asked suddenly.
Ken stiffened and turned slowly to stare at the tall man.
"The what?" Ran frowned at the strange word.
"No," Ken said shortly, shaking his head. "Farfarello told me not to trust them. We can do this without their.. 'help'."
"What are you two talking about?" Omi asked curiously. "Who are the.. whatever you said. Ada-whatsit."
Crawford surprised them all by answering calmly. "They're assassins. Vampire assassins."
"You mean Hunters?" Omi guessed, his gaze flicking unconsciously towards the cane that had once belonged to Tatiana. "Like Talon?"
Crawford's lips curved slightly in a humorless smile. "Not quite."
"I said no," Ken said loudly, glaring at the Jackal. "I don't want anything to do with them. They're about as trustworthy as the stinking Purebloods."
"Purebloods are the reason you need them," the Jackal retaliated. "You can't expect to keep an eye on them all the time. Like now, and when you're out looking for Farfarello-sama. Hell, the Adir'avar can probably find him faster than we can, anyway."
Manx pursed her lips in impatience. "Will you quit bickering and explain just what these people are, exactly?"
Ken felt the first touch of Schuldich's mind, followed by Manx's, and angrily slammed a wall around his thoughts- a trick Farfarello had taught him after one of his complaints of Schuldich's prying. Schuldich made a face at him. Ken glared back silently. The Jackal seemed hesitant to answer, as well, once he realized Ken wasn't going to provide the information.
There was an awkward silence.
"Ken," Manx said finally, sternly, "if you're witholding information that could help..."
"It won't help," Ken snapped, shooting her a sideways look. "Trust me, we want nothing to do with them. It would be like teaming up with Rosenkreuz or something."
"Or something- like Schwarz?" Schuldich asked with a leer.
Ken hesitated. If it hadn't been for their recent alliance, that would have been a perfect example. He shook his head silently and pressed his lips tightly together to show he wasn't willing to discuss it any further. Manx gave a huff of annoyance and looked expectantly towards Crawford.
He shook his head before she could ask. "I don't know much about them- only what I've heard from some things Farfarello said at the beginning of Schwarz." He rose to his feet with the help of his cane. "It doesn't matter. There's no need to employ them."
Manx looked pissed that no one was answering her question, but finally she decided she wasn't going to get an answer, and she might as well drop it. "Fine, then," she said a little huffily. She reached for her purse in an obvious dismissal. The others rose to their feet and headed for the stairs.
Ran frowned at Ken's back as he followed the younger man upstairs. The Adir'avar... what were they? Both Ken and Crawford seemed to think they wouldn't need their help, and seemed to find them somewhat unsavory. Still, he couldn't help but wonder.
There was the familiar sound of pottery shattering. Ran had heard the noise often enough in his days running the flower shop; Ken tended to be something of a clutz at times, and had often knocked over a vase or a pot when goofing around with his soccer ball or trying to do too much at once. His heart froze in his chest, his voice coming out a gasp of air.
Aya leaned her elbows on the counter and looked around at the rainbow of colors the flowers provided, giving a little sigh of relief. It was relaxing, in a way, to run the shop as if nothing was wrong, without the constant presence of the three men who worked there. She loved them all dearly like brothers, but sometimes she needed a moment or two to herself. Especially now, with all the craziness going on. Her brother's overprotectiveness had only doubled, and she felt smothered by his constant attention. Stay inside, Aya, Don't go anywhere alone, Aya, Bring Omi with you, Stay where I can see you, nag nag nag. Jesus, she wasn't five years old. She was a big girl, she could look after herself. Besides, if anything did happen, a shout would bring them all running. He didn't have to go all mother hen on her. It was endearing sometimes, but now it just frustrated her.
She toyed absently with a length of velvet ribbon as her eyes roamed the shop, appreciating the careful arrangements of vine, blossom, and leaf. The whole room had a sweet flowery scent to it. She loved the little shop. She loved tending the register, helping with the flower arrangements, and watering the plants. Just being in the shop relaxed her. Sometimes she wandered downstairs when she couldn't sleep to sit by herself and enjoy the scent and the sight of the results of her brothers' undercover art. She enjoyed working with the other boys, but she also liked it when Ran allowed her to run it by herself. Her favorite shifts were when it was just her and her brother. He didn't speak much, but went about his job with deftness and an unconscious gentleness for the flowers he tended to. She liked being with him, and watching him. The adoration of the school girls that were the shop's most frequent customers amused her to no end. Her brother and his friends had quite a mob of fangirls. She enjoyed sitting back at the register and watching the chaos with a little grin of humor. She herself had actually earned her own little band of followers. Suddenly the Koneko had started getting male customers, as some of her schoolmates and admirers began to drop by to chat with her. They would compliment her, ask her what she was doing this or that weekend, and other such flattering flirtation. She never took them very seriously, but it was cute how Ran bristled at the attention she got, glaring with distrust at her admirers. Some days when she wasn't in the mood for suitors, she would give Yohji a significant look, and he would swoop in like a white knight, kissing her on the cheek, making the lovestruck boys look young and foolish with his smooth words and charm. Or she would give her brother a helpless glance, and he would be over in a flash, scowling and glaring dangerously until her suitors scuttled off nervously. Even Omi helped sometimes, by calling her over to help with some imagined task.
All in good fun. She loved her big brothers to distraction; who knew that their protectiveness of her could actually get annoying?
She heaved a little sigh, twisting the ribbon through her fingers. She couldn't really blame them, of course. The urge to protect and defend was in their very blood. It was what they did for a living. The fretting and strict rules that had been a result of Ken's news from a few days ago had to be forgiven. They were doing it because they loved her, and she told herself she would just have to put up with it until this was all over. Once Ran realized she was safe and the danger was past, he would relax and maybe lay off a little.
She glanced towards her watch. The meeting had been going on about twenty minutes, now. They should be back up soon. The bell above the door rang to announce a customer, and she lowered the ribbon and straightened hastily. "Irrashai~" she called with a welcoming smile.
"Uh- hi." It was a man she hadn't seen in the shop before, and by the nervous way he glanced around, he hadn't visited before she'd started working, either.
He looked Crawford's age- possibly older. His hair was wet and hung limply as if he'd just gotten out of the shower, and Aya glanced unconsciously towards the windows to reassure herself that it wasn't raining. His clothes looked worn and a little shabby, and he rubbed his hands together in a continuous cycle that betrayed a nervous habit. He was wearing a crucifix, bigger than the plain silver cross Aya herself wore. He looked around at the flowers for a moment, then came up to the counter. She almost blanched as he neared, and quickly smiled to cover it up. The man stank of sweat and fear, and had the odor of a man who hasn't bathed in at least a day or two. His hair, she realized, wasn't wet, but greasy and lank from going so long without a wash. She stared at him, at his nervousness, his unclean body, and the fervor in his eyes, and wondered suddenly what could so drive a man that he would forget to take care of himself. "May I help you?" she asked politely, remembering her manners at the last second.
"Yes. I was looking for someone..." His accent was terrible, she noted. Japanese obviously wasn't his first language. His hands stilled, and some of the nervousness seemed to fade. He put his hands on the counter and looked at her earnestly. "I see that you are a woman of faith," he noted.
Aya's hand flew up instinctively to the small cross hanging from its thin chain, nestled between her breasts. "Oh- I suppose," she said with a little uncertainty, not quite sure where he was going with this. Was he a missionary of some sort? Or just a friendly parishioner from the church down the block? "I got this from a dear friend."
The man gave a slight smile, a mix between indulgence and gentleness that irked Aya for some reason. "Do you believe in God, my dear?"
She hesitated before answering. Her faith had been severely tried in the past five months or so, and with good reason. Waking from a coma to a world that had turned completely upside down- Vampires, betrayal, her brother turned an assassin, her parents dead... She had struggled for some time with her faith, and even now it was tenuous at times. She thought of her adopted big brothers, of Ran and his strange intricate relationship with Crawford of Schwarz. She thought of Ken's deep feelings for Farfarello, and the Vampire Lord's gentleness towards herself and his late sister. "Yes," she answered, surprising herself. Something deep in her chest, some tightness she hadn't even been aware of, loosened at the admittance, and she smiled back at the man. "Yes, I do," she said with more conviction.
"That is good." He smiled and nodded. "There are too many that stray from His path." He looked around at the shop, hesitating, then looked back at her searchingly, his eyes a little sharp, but also a little pitying. Aya saw the gentle pity in those eyes and stiffened slightly. Pity was something she did not appreciate. She'd gotten enough sympathetic words and looks her first month of being back from her coma, and she had grown quite tired of it. Seeing that look now on this stranger's face triggered her reflexive annoyance. "My poor child, I doubt you know just what kind of dark place you are in." He waved a hand to indicate the store.
Aya blinked, completely thrown. Was that what his sympathy was for? She looked around the room blankly. The beautiful flowers covered the shop's shelves and floor with their brilliant colors, proof of the care her 'big brothers' so earnestly put into them. It was her sanctuary, a place of light and color and love. But this man had just called it a dark place. She looked at him with wide, baffled eyes. "Excuse me?"
He reached out and touched her forehead in benediction, startling her, his face set in the gentle expression of a priest speaking to one of his parishioners. "My dear, innocent child," he murmured. He reached down and touched her cross.
His eyes flared wide, and he jerked his hand away with a strangled gasp, sudden fear in his eyes. Aya jumped, surprised. Warning bells rang in her head, and her heart leapt into her throat. Vampire??
But he didn't seem to be physically harmed. "Satan!" he rasped, and she gaped at him. He pointed a shaking hand at the silver cross, eyes wild. "Satan himself has touched that cross," he exlaimed in a strong voice. "My child, you are being deceived!"
Aya's hand flew up to clasp the tiny cross, fear and anger welling inside her chest. How dare this man say such a thing about Farfarello's gift to her! "What is wrong with you??" she cried.
"You must get rid of it," the stranger said fervently, pointing at the cross but not daring to touch it again. "Quickly, child! You do not understand the darkness that goes on in these rooms, or the evil of the one who gave that to you."
Fear and suspicion rose like bile in Aya's throat. He knew. Somehow he knew about Farfarello, and about her brother and his friends. He was an enemy. "Get out," she said in a voice that shook. Without thinking, she went around the counter. He stepped away from her quickly. "Get out," she said again, louder.
"Do not fall onto the sinner's path that these other defiled men walk," the man said in a powerful voice, pointing at her dramatically. "You must listen to me, before it is too late."
Indignant rage made Aya's head ring with the sudden rush of blood to her head. The boiling temper she shared with her brother threatened to break. Her clenched fists shook at her sides with the sudden urge to lash out at him. How DARE this man stand here and denounce her loved ones when he knew nothing about who they really were. How DARE he. She almost screamed at him in her fury- screamed at him to get out. But Ran would hear her, and come rushing to save her, and she didn't want any of them up here in the room with this madman. There was no telling what he would do.
He took a step towards her, and she retreated instinctively. Her elbow knocked against a pot Omi had been preparing for some budding gardenias, and it fell to the ground with a crash, soil flying everywhere. She'd have to sweep that up, a portion of her brain thought distantly. He reached for her. She swung her arm, intent on smacking the man's hand aside.
His reflexes were startlingly quick. He snatched her wrist in mid-swing, pulling and twisting it painfully. She gave a cry- more out of surprise than pain. Unbidden, the self-defense tricks her brothers had taught her kicked in. She moved forward swiftly to relieve some of the pressure on her wrist, and dealt a sharp kick to his shin.
He grunted in pain and released her automatically, stumbling a little. She drove her elbow into his face, feeling something crunch. He howled and staggered back, hands flying to his bloody face. She'd broken his nose, she realized with a strange mix of triumph and sickness.
Then suddenly he was on fire.
"Aya-chan!!" Ran was rushing towards her, weilding a shovel-- he'd left his katana in his room. "Get back!"
The man was screaming hoarsely in fear and panic, batting frantically at the flames licking at his shirt and pants.
"Damn it, Ran!" Ken shouted, dashing fowards. "Wait!" He snatched up a bucket of water from by the potted trees and hurled the contents on the burning man. The flames on his shirt went out, but his pants were still burning. Screaming, he fell to the ground, writhing in an attempt to put them out. Aya realized she was still screaming, as well. Ran was in front of her, partially blocking her view, ready to defend her. The others burst into the shop.
Omi seized Aya's forgotten cup of green tea from the counter and dumped it on the man's legs. A few more wriggles put out the last of the flames, and the zealout scrambled to his feet with surprising speed.
"Stop him!" Crawford called in warning.
The man slipped on the water on the ground and almost fell. Omi grabbed for him, but wet cloth slid through his fingers. The man bolted, slamming the door open and racing down the street.
"Shit," Schuldich snarled, vaulting over the counter. "Move it, chibi," he barked over his shoulder. He and Omi raced out after their quarry.
"I hope they catch him," Ken said, breathing quickly from the excitement. "Omi can use his Possession to make him come back and talk."
"Even if they don't, Schuldich will be able to get answers from his mind," Crawford said, stepping around the shattered pot Aya had knocked over and pushing aside the broken pottery with his cane. He looked towards Aya. "Did he hurt you?"
Ran turned quickly, dropping the shovel. He inspected his sister with frantic concern. "Daijabou ka??"
Ken gave a weak chuckle from the other side of the shop. "I think she hurt him more than he hurt her," he pointed out in amusement and approval.
"He's right," Aya said in a quavering voice when Ran turned to glare heatedly at Ken. Ken seemed to shrink a little under that withering look. Aya touched her brother's arm to get his attention, forcing a smile that hurt her face. "I'm all right, oniisan. I don't think he was trying to hurt me." Her brother's sudden pyro attack was what had shaken her worse than the strange fanatic, but she would never tell him that. It would break his heart if he knew that she had been afraid of him- even if only for a moment.
"What did he want?" Aya hadn't noticed Manx lingering in the background, and jumped a little at her voice. She turned to see the woman standing in the basement doorway, calmly tucking a small handgun back into her purse.
"I- I'm not sure," she stammered. She looked around at them all anxiously. "He knew about you," she blurted. "Somehow, he knew something. And he knew Farfarello gave me this." She gestured to her cross, ignoring her brother's scowl. "Have you seen him before?"
Ken frowned, scratching his jaw as he thought hard. "No," he answered finally. "I don't think I've ever seen him before." His mouth quirked. "He really should be thankful, though. That water I threw on him is probably the first bath he's had in god knows how long."
Aya laughed faintly. Ran glared at Ken again, obviously resenting his ill-timed humor. Ken held up his hands defensively and fell silent.
Aya took a deep breath to calm herself and ducked around her brother, retrieving the broom from the corner. "I'll do that," Ran said quickly, reaching for it. She held it out of his reach.
"Iya, I knocked it over. I'll do it." She needed to do something to stop the shaking in her hands.
Ran looked like he was going to argue, but Crawford shook his head. Ran relented reluctantly, unsure if he was doing so because of Aya or because it was the first sign of acknowledgement Crawford had shown him since yesterday.
Ken fetched the dustpan, and he and Aya had just finished cleaning up the mess when Omi and Schuldich returned. Schuldich looked thoroughly disgusted. "The greasy little weasel's a fucking ninja," he grumbled, walking over and slumping against the counter with a dark scowl. "He turned onto Ajima Street and disappeared."
"How could you lose him?" Crawford demanded with an accusatory frown directed at the telepath.
Ran turned on Schuldich angrily. "You were supposed to be concentrating on what was going on up here," he snarled. "He could have hurt Aya!"
"I've seen him before," Schuldich said, with an irritable wave in the direction the man had fled. "Kudou and I saw him in the foyer at his apartment the other day. I remember because I couldn't catch his thoughts. Same thing this time. It was like he didn't even exist. I didn't sense him in the shop, and I haven't heard a single thing in that twisted head of his this entire time." He added defensively when Ran continued to glare, "It's not my fault that nutcase got in here. Chill out, pussy cat."
Crawford frowned. "Shields?" he guessed.
"If so, they're even stronger than yours," Schuldich snorted. "I don't know if that's it, though."
Aya straightened, moving the broom to one hand and reaching up to clutch her cross. "He touched my cross," she said hesitantly. "He reacted like he'd been stung. It's silver, so I thought maybe he could be a Vampire...?" she looked towards Ken.
But the tanned boy shook his head solemnly. "No, I would've sensed him all the way downstairs. He's human."
"He mentioned Farfarello- sort of -when he touched the cross," Aya continued. "He looked surprised- and scared. He knew Farfarello had given it to me."
Schuldich's brows arched.
"A telepath, maybe?" Omi ventured.
"Maybe," Schuldich mused, eyes unfocused as he thought about it. The bell rang above the door, and Aya jumped. The others had already turned, bodies tensed for a fight.
Nagi stood in the doorway, staring at them blankly. His gaze flicked towards the dustpan full of pottery and soil in Ken's hand, then towards the water on the floor. His eyebrows rose to his hairline. "Did I miss something?" he asked drolly.
Omi reached belatedly for a nearby handtowel to mop up some of the water. "Someone came in and harrassed Aya-chan."
Nagi stepped fully inside, letting the door shut behind him. He frowned, looking around at them. "What happened?"
The others glanced at Aya. She took a deep breath and began to tell them all that had occured. Ken dumped the soil in the trash, and Nagi fetched a mop and helped Omi with the water on the floor. By the time they'd finished, Aya was wrapping up her story.
"Sounds like some kind of religious fanatic," Omi mused.
"Bible beater," Schuldich muttered.
Omi ignored him. "But how would he know about us? I don't recognize him at all."
"I think he was a foreigner," Aya offered. "His Japanese was pretty bad."
Manx had been lounging in the basement doorway, listening in silence. She finally spoke up. "I think your friend the Jackal knows," she said dryly.
Aya realized suddenly that she hadn't seen the Irishman. "Where's Tomás?" she asked, looking around. "Wasn't he with you guys in the basement?"
"He was the last up, wasn't he?" Omi asked, looking towards Manx.
"He went out the back door just before Bombay dumped the tea on the fire," she said calmly, flicking her painted fingernails in the direction of the kitchen. "I couldn't stop him and keep my gun trained on that man at the same time."
"Kuso," Ran snarled furiously, hands clenching and unclenching in unconscious longing for a sword he didn't have on him. "I knew he couldn't be trusted!"
Aya leapt to the man's defense. "Oniisan, don't say that. We don't know why he left."
"Maybe he knew the guy," Nagi pointed out.
"You're a telepath," Ran said to Manx, almost accusing. "Why didn't you pick up where he was going?"
"I'm not as strong a telepath as Schuldich," she reminded him with a little frown. "I don't pick up stray thoughts, I have to go after them. And distance hinders me."
"But not me," Schuldich said smugly. "I'll track him down. It won't take long." His eyes fixed on a point somewhere near the ceiling, slightly unfocused, and he fell silent as he began shuffling through the thoughts of the neighborhood.
Manx straightened, smoothing down her skirt with her palms. "Well, I'd better get back," she said briskly. "Let me know if anything turns up on your end." Waving, she walked out the back door, heels clicking on the kitchen linoleum.
"Aya-chan, didn't you have homework to do?" Ran asked almost absently, still scowling at the door.
Aya felt a flash of resentment for the casual dismissal, and bit back a retort just in time. Turning on her heel, she all but stomped off.
On the way upstairs, she reached up and tucked her cross underneath her shirt and out of sight. She desperately needed the comfort of its slight weight against her skin.
She winced as she turned the knob to her bedroom door. Her wrist still hurt dully from when that lunatic had twisted it. Pushing the door shut behind her with her foot, she walked over to her bed and flopped down on it with a noisy sigh. She reached for the large teddy bear she'd received from Ran for her birthday, pulling it close and burying her face in its soft white fur.
She found herself wishing suddenly and desperately that she, too, had a Gift. Ran had saved her with his pyrokinesis. Ken could confidently tell them the man had not been a Vampire. Omi could have Possessed the stranger and gotten them answers in an instant; if Nagi had been there, it all would have been over in a flash. He would've stopped the fanatic with his powerful mind, and they would have been able to find out more about him. And now Schuldich was downstairs finding Tomás with his telepathy.
She heaved a sigh. She felt like a useless, defenseless burden. If only she had some kind of powerful Gift that could help her friends and her brother. Then maybe they would be able to save Farfarello, and figure out who was behind it all. And Ran wouldn't worry about her so much.
Maybe the Jackal would respect her a little, and not think he had to protect her if she had a Gift.
Unsure where that last thought had come from, and a little flustered by it, she turned her head to the side with another deep sigh and was soon fast asleep.
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