Chapter I

The world is not as plain as most people see it. Humans trained their souls to close off from parts of reality that they deemed too dangerous, too demanding of them. Over centuries, they became blind to what is around them in plain sight and what little they do encounter is packed up nicely with a ribbon of ‘supernatural’ or made out to be fake. Ghosts, monsters, myths, all fabricated to humans, by humans to smooth the edges of the border between them, and Us. Under that veil of ignorance is a whole world, they don’t see, bustling with life, hidden away in dark alleys, never ending forests and deep in the mountains. For a long time, humans remained in the dark, deemed anyone that said other than their beliefs of the world a heretic, a jester or entirely insane. Because even so they evolved to be blind, Fate played cruel tricks, some to be born to See. A new breed of human, open to see everything that others couldn’t. Many went mad from the gift that was their own curse, many lived their life in solitude, never finding their place between the two world. Too human to join the ‘others’ and knowing too much to stay within human society. But some, just some, the most courageous ones, embraced and learned about this gift. Learned how great they could be and learned how greatly they were in danger because of the greed human leaders possessed.


Not many people choose to travel by train nowadays, it is either a convenience or time matter that people use plains, committing to a rush, as humans do. Everything became so fast paced, they have no idea what patience is, what it means to sit and listen, to really see and hear the world around them. And there are people who stick to the old-fashioned train rides, the slow rush among rows of trees, spotting animals as a blur and seeing the sun set and the moon rise before reaching destination. It is also more predictable when night falls and dawn comes. You can’t chase the sun with a train. Now of course normal people would not consider this, but Damian Roux was not just any normal people, he wasn’t even sure to consider himself as part of “the people”. Not since the french revolution. Not since his master abruptly turned him in the frenzy of a war where those closest to him were forced to die or flee. The painful memory urged him to turn to his newspaper; you see, Damian has lived on this earth as a human for 35 years, then people decided to roll heads in France and his life turned up-side down. Memories of seeing his friends loose to a mob still clear as day, as the feeling of sharp fangs and the abrupt stopping of his heart, it was frightening and painful. But he survived, sort of. He only had to loose everything in the process and trust the slender hand’s of a red haired woman that guided him to his new way of life. He did wonder where she was now, the ethereal being with so many faces but always, always bright red hair cascading down.

The paper he was reading was french, flipping through the news section, cold grey eyes scanning for something. Broad shoulders relaxed when he settled on a page. It was a small news article, really insignificant: A building collapsed, no casualties, blame on the building’s old structure. Even if he didn’t needed to breath, he let out a relieved sigh. Satisfied with the result of his search he folded the paper and put it in his lap. Looking up he now acknowledged the man sitting in front of him, only two of them occupying the train cabin. They seemed polar opposites: Damian sitting straight, his hair slicked back into a loose pony-tail, few strand of brown and graying locks coming loose as they were not long enough to tie in with the others. His clothes seemed very tailored and expensive. Dark colors with very subtle patterns. His attire seemed formal in these years but he had no intention the change his looks to society standards. He still liked the regal look, gave him a new kind of edge.

-Told you it will be fine – Sounded from the opposite side. A younger man, in his twenties. Sharp, Asian features, his lips curled in a ever present smile, undercut dark hair falling in to half of his face. His bright red leather jacket made him stand out like nothing else, maybe he wore it to distract from the two scars on his face: one over his right eye, the other on his lip’s left. They were faded, but still very much there, never to heal fully. He was slouching back into the cushions, one leg propped up on the seat next to Damian. – Nobody saw us, you can quit with the patronizing look. – His tone was nonchalant, like he had no care in the world, like he was afraid of nothing and spoke with a slight accent.

If someone would have looked Damian in his eyes, they would have seen the slightest hint of red. It only lasted for a split moment, to the human eye it might have been just the play of the lights but the other saw and knew it meant he was threading on thin ice.
-It was still too close of a call to my taste. I know you can do better than that and the reason your concentration lacked is of personal problems. – His voice was low and without emotion. He stated this matter-of-factly and left no room for arguing. – Aiji, you should really talk to him…
There it was, the thorn in his side by the look Aiji gave back. He was referring to a family matter, the matter of his best agent of six years, all the which he refused to talk to his brother, despite the latter trying to contact him tirelessly. Damian didn’t usually insert himself in matters like this, he had his own problems as is, but Aiji was someone he needed not to get distracted, he was a key to a very important mission. Multiply, if he lived that long.

-No. – Came the finalized answer without any other explanation to offer. Short and carried so much emotion that it filled the room. Damian knew not to press the matter more now. Maybe with time. They still had time. With a small sigh he continued – So what’s the next one? Ogre under the tower bridge? Or maybe a hoard of zombies planning to open a brain-restaurant? – Aiji was half-joking. In his line of work, he had seen it all in the past few years. And he wished he was kidding about the ogre. Nasty things, lot of mess, but stupid as a brick. Just don’t wear your best clothes for it, it will get ruined.

-Nothing too specific. We are expecting a new recruit, young boy with an exceptional talent – With that he handed over a folder to Aiji that was resting inside his briefcase before. The younger man scanned it with his dark blue eyes, lingering on the portrait photo in the corner a bit. Then he started to read the document, eyes widening a bit.
-He’s a freaking genius?! Like, not just being smart, he has papers saying he’s a genius? – He was taken aback a bit. He thought the boy looked young, now reading over he saw that the 23 year old blonde English kid was accepted in an internship to the Roux fund, since it was the only thing between him and his second college degree. Yes, second, because the papers said that this boy had graduated high school at 16 and went on and got his first degree in computer science at 20. Now on his second one in engineering but he had to complete a year of internship. That’s how the The Roux fund came in the picture, recruited people like him, in the guise of an education or work, Damian set it up to fund his little project, getting applications from the best humans for his cause. It was smart, rich people loved to boast each other and a fund to seemingly patron talents never got backlash. The whole thing fed itself, given Mr Roux made his rounds at banquets and other vip events. He even held his own balls for it yearly.
-And a seeker. – Damian added. – I plan on having you work closely together, of course after Mr. Brooks settles in. You will meet him at the station after he departs this train. I requested your car parked, I will see him in my office tomorrow. – It was an order and not a request. But babysitting at his level?
– He’s here? On this train? – Aiji looked up at Damian.
– Yes, but it would be rather strange to meet him here. I don’t want him to freak out. Younglings tend to do that.
– Right.


“Joshua Isaac Brooks, don’t you dare get into trouble. And call, as soon as you are there!” Was the motherly concern that rang in the young boy’s head. His mother was sometimes very overprotective of her only son, but he didn’t blame her for it. It was a tough childhood, with only the two of them. As a lucky turn of fate, Isaac had a spectacular brain that helped them in more ways then one. He was always the top of the class, finishing grades before his peers and this is why he was here, alone for the first time in a foreign place. He should be arriving soon to his destination, someone should wait for him there and this was all too new, anxiety slowly creeping up on him. But he could not pass up this opportunity. The Roux fund had been around for many years, to pick talented people, not just students, and guide them through to success. If this goes well, he could be so much more than what a normal college would have provided no matter how many he attended. He knew he has what it takes to do this, the only reason for his nerves was the social aspect. What the work entailed in his recent accepted internship was not mentioned, only that it was defined as paid internship that he hoped meant that he will be expected to do what he already knew how and not just be a glorified IT guy who has to explain to people why they need to update their computers. That would really be boring and he hated boring.

The other reason for his nervous demeanor was something that he had been battling every since he was born. Right now, when he looked up from his laptop that was sitting in his lap, he saw something revolting. A human mass that was purple, a hideous big mouth gaping in the middle and several eyes looking at him blinking slowly, out of sync. Had he not encountered these sights before, he would have surely freaked out. But he knew the creature in front was harmless, but it still made him shiver every time he saw one of them. Probably a poor soul that died and was stuck here, commuting endlessly. The sight was what bothered him, the human-like forms but in all the wrong spaces and in all the wrong colors, disturbing was the best way to describe it.

He saw them ever since he could remember, since he was a small child, he saw all kind of things, not just monsters, he saw all manor of creatures, from the little town he was, he mainly encountered kobolds and these shapeless human souls. Most of the time he tried to ignore them, that was the best he could do because if they noticed that he saw them, they started to cling to him. Other times it proved hard to act fool, like now. He was distracting himself, going through numerous forums on the train ride, and listening to an older album though his headphones. He was so preoccupied with the screen in front of him, that he never saw the flash of red leather jacket that walked passed his cabin, he only looked up out of instinct after the fact, feeling something strange he never experienced. He was sure it was not another one of the damned monsters, but then what could it be. Maybe something he never encountered before. He was sure, as they reached more rural areas, more and more of the ‘other’ kinds would be present. He had been in big cities before, like London. Those places were bustling with life and like such, had much more than met the eyes. That was one of the first times he had opened the carefully packed tin container with small, white pills in it. He hated it, so he was not happy to take it, but it did stop the pounding in his head and did lower his heart-rate when he got too anxious. And he noticed, it messed with his head, making it more foggy. Still he reached for them again now too, heeding the words of his doctor, not to take them too late.

Surprisingly, the big mouthed creature, as if just commuting like every other human, took to leave a few stops before Isaac’s. It was a dark night with no moon, but ever so many stars here at the outskirts of the city. Isaac’s pick-up point was a few blocks to the right, a big car-park with plenty of lights, he was told the licence plate of the car and that it should wait for him there. Aiji even made a point to park to the front so he can see when the blonde kid would show up a few minutes after him as he rushed to the meeting spot. Time ticked away, he looked at his phone checking the time, looked back at the empty street and frowned. – What? The genius took a wrong turn? – People have come and gone, the last taxi took off 10 minuted ago. And this was the only time Aiji was not lighting a smoke to wait. If anything happens to that idiot Damian will have his hide. Something in his gut said to move, now.

Isaac did take the wrong turn in fact. He was so over in his head from the day-long train ride and no real food that all logic just failed him. The real problem was that he started to overthink which was not a good combination with the now slight fog in his mind. He found himself in a dark alley, numerous graffiti lining the walls. It was quiet and he was nowhere near where he was supposed to be. What’s worse, he felt like he was being watched but knew his senses must be jumbled.

He tried to get out his phone, to see if he can navigate a map when he felt a hand grab his, twisting it behind his back and feeling a cold steel pressed against his throat. A small yelp escaped his lips as he looked ahead, his captor was not alone. Holding what looked like a small crossbow, he almost didn’t believe his eyes, seeing a very dark grey skinned man standing in front of him, in robes that jumped out of a fantasy novel and bright red eyes, gleaming in the dark. He had a hood on, but even then Isaac could see the shimmering white hair and the long pointy ears. Drow? He would have been in awe if the knife on his throat weren’t so apparent and the hold of him threatening. Being watched by those red eyes like it was boring into his skin made him want to run, but when he tried to move the strong hold on him got painful and the felt the knife pressing just above his adam’s apple.

The one with the crossbow said something, and he had no idea what. It was not human language and Isaac was not sure who the demanding tone was for. He could have asked for the time for what it’s worth but he doubted that was the case. He was lost on what to do. He had to get away somehow.
Then it all happened so quickly, in a matter of seconds. The only thing all three of them noticed was a soft click as a tall man in red leather jacket pointed his gun – a very big gun – right at them, aiming for the dark figure behind Isaac who was holding the knife, dark eyes never leaving his target.

-Release the boy and you can go. – He hissed, eyes sharp and demanding leaving no space for doubt that he will use the weapon if need be. The two figure must have understood something, because the crossbow now aimed at the bigger threat, him. A bold move in Aiji’s book.
However, the knife at Isaac’s throat felt looser and he hoped to any god that the stranger who came to his rescue noticed his eyes pointing at the knife, now that it was less threatening and easier to possibly move away from it.
-Do you trust me? – Aiji asked, voice a bit lighter now that he addressed the younger boy, who could only mutter a “No” as an answer. How could he trust this stranger who was essentially pointing a gun in his direction? – Smart boy.
And with that a bullet launched from the gun at the same time that Isaac took his hand and shoved the knife away, not minding the sharp edge cutting his palm as long as he could get free of the hold. The bullet penetrated his captor around his shoulder that sent him back into the wall, a bit of his blood splashing on the graffiti “Black Power”.
As soon as the bullet left for it’s target Aiji launched forward, the silent whoosh of the arrow fired from the crossbow coming from behind him missing it’s target. He grabbed Isaac’s hand, tossing him on the ground lightly as he smashed in to the tall figure, knife falling from his injured hand, pinning him against the wall, gun pointed under his chin.
-Look down! – Aiji shouted at the very frightened Isaac who was now sitting on the ground below them, looking up at what was happening, honey-brown eyes with wide pupils. As soon as the command reached him, he did just that, holding his head down between his knees, arms above and over his ears.
The drow-like creature looked at his comrade, who was busy reloading his crossbow, hands shaking with the task. He was not used to miss a target. The taller one barked the last order “Run”.

Then a bang.

The figure slipped down the wall, limp. After the gunshot, Isaac dared not to look up anymore. He never in his short life heard anything like this, living in a quiet little town his whole life. He really didn’t want to make any sound but was sure a whimper escaped him.

Aiji spun around to aim at the other one, but the robed figure was now nowhere to be seen. No footprints, no shadows. Aiji lowered his weapon, still scanning the area when he heard the little whimper coming from the ball that was the boy who he was supposed to pick up. Putting away the gun, he keeled down, to be at eye-level, feeling the shiver as he touched the boy’s shoulder.

-It’s okay, it’s over. – He sounded reassuring, witch was strange, considering he just committed murder right in front of him. But something about the tone, and the gentle hand patting him on his head quite down the thumping in his ears. His heart was still racing and when he looked up a few tears have fell down his cheek, mostly out of relief. – Hey, sorry about that – The ever-present smile in the corner of his mouth held a bit of reassurance – I was waiting in the parking lot but you seem to got yourself lost.
Aiji slowly helped him stand up on shaky legs, picked up his suitcase that was tossed to the side from all the commotion. Looking back at Isaac, he noticed blood dripping from his hand. Furrowing his brows, he gently picked up his right hand and saw a gash in the middle, not too deep, but enough to bleed. Rummaging inside his pocket, he found a load of tissues, Isaac noted they were once left in that pocket and washed.
-Hold this onto the cut, I can take care of it in the car. C’mon. – He urged the boy, and he did as he was told. Aiji wanted to make a joke about him not being much of a talker, but he was just almost killed, or kidnapped. He was not sure which.


The car was indeed parked just outside of the alley and held the licence plate Isaac was supposed to search for. That was a big relief since the thought that he was following a complete stranger to a car that can take him anywhere but his new address had occurred to him. On the way there, Aiji put his red jacket around the shivering boy. He knew he was not cold, but maybe the weight and warmth of it would calm him down more. He sat the wounded boy in the passenger seat, then put his luggage in the back. Sitting back in to the driver’s side he rummaged under his seat, finding the little first-aid kit. With delicate fingers he held Isaac’s hand in his, while cleaning up the wound as best as he could. – You’re lucky, this is pretty light, so no stitching needed. – He commented like he was talking about a mundane daily task. After he deemed it clean, he put some gauze on there and wrapped up the wound. He seemed to be an expect at this.
-Do you do this often? – Came the quiet voice. Slowly coming to from his shocked state.
Aiji could have asked what part he was referring to, but honestly, the answer would have been the same so he just hummed and nodded. -There, we’ll clean it up more, when we get home. – He seemed pretty proud of his handiwork.
-Home? – Isaac asked, curiously. He was supposed to go to a shared apartment. He was supposed to live with other interns, his stuff was delivered there. He can not go to this stranger’s home. Then again, this stranger was sent to guide him, he saved him and for some odd reason, his senses said to trust him. He must really be going mad then.

Aiji started the car, driving away from the dark alley and on to the main road. There were a few other cars around here, more street lights, all seeming to blur to Isaac as he sat in his seat, resting his head to the window, still not sure what to do.
– Can’t I just go to the place you’re supposed to drop me off? – He asked meekly, not sure himself.
– I know it’s not ideal, but if you don’t mind, I would hate to leave you alone after all that. – Aiji claimed. He was right, he didn’t wanted to be alone. – So for now I’ll invite you to my place, and then we go from there. I can keep you safe and you can rest up. Must be exhausted and honestly, I’d get an earful if something happened to you.
The boy nodded in his his seat. He felt so small. He was always weak in the grand scene of things, but he never felt this small. He always used his brain to make up for what he lacked in physical strength, but even if he didn’t, he would have still felt useless in the situation he was in. He didn’t fight monsters, he avoided them. That was the main point in seeing them no?
-What were those things? I never saw anything like them before. But you didn’t seem fazed. – Isaac was starting feel like maybe his eyes have deceived him. Maybe he just saw dark skinned men. He never met anyone else who could see creatures like him. Maybe the doctors were right and he was delusional. When he was young his mom took him to many specialists because he claimed to see things others didn’t. After a while he stopped saying it, learning that he was the only one who could and he will be better off not talking about it. Before he could reach the end of that spiral Aiji spoke.
-Dark elves is the common term. But these were different. – Aiji looked over for a second, then back to the road. – People call them all kinds of things. They are usually hostile, making a habit of sacrificing humans. Dunno what they wanted with you thou, never saw them come in to cities and hurting someone like you.
-So you can see them too? – Isaac perked up. Looking at the man sitting next to him, just now taking the time to look him over. He radiated some kind of strength, not just physical. He was not too buff, but he could see from his arms that he was strong and lean. He wore a dark t-shirt now that his jacket was draped over the smaller boy’s frame; and some tight jeans. He noticed a long necklace that had a black cross pendant and a military tag hanging from it. On his neck there was a tattoo, a dashed line around with the words “CUT HERE”. Isaac found that slightly disturbing. His eyes traveled down to his arm, both inked too. One had some geometric line-work, radiating a soothing energy, the other a checkered pattern on his whole lower arm. Finishing his musing on the man’s face, mischievous eyes blinked at him for a second, dark blue as the ocean at night. Now that he looked at him, he seemed strangely familiar. Aiji tapped his finger on the wheel. There were tattoos on the base of some of his fingers too, black nail polish on the fingers that had them. Somehow he felt those were not ordinary tattoos, the intricate designs radiating a different energy, darker in nature. He never felt or seen anything like it before.
-Not inherently like you. These help me to have a fighting chance. Seeing stuff was more like a shock to my system than anything else. – He explained holding up his right hand. He had one symbol at the base of his middle finger. – With the help of these I can send them back where they came from.
-Or kill them… – it was almost too quiet to catch it coming from Isaac.
-That comes with the territory sometimes. They would have done the same to us.


Had Isaac not been so tired after everything that happened, he would have tried to take in all of the luxury of the penthouse apartment that seemed to belong to his savior. They were on the top floor so he could see way beyond the closer houses, city lights playing under them and he wondered if he could see the wast water of the sea from here in daylight. The place had a huge open plan on the first floor. Kitchen, dining and living areas separated only by the furniture and some columns that must have been structural. Aiji guided him to the couch that could easily sit six people. The whole apartment held a contrast of light walls with brick accents, dark hardwood floors and dark toned furniture. He saw a massive tv mounted above a real fireplace, a huge and sturdy dining table with what seemed like designer lights above it. Huge folding glass doors lead to an outside balcony. He only saw similar interiors in magazines, it would almost be too sterile if it weren’t for the scattered personal decorations here and there. Unwashed mugs on the kitchen counter, real plants in a few corners, and photos hung on the walls and standing on shelves next to books. Everything else seemed super expensive and for a moment Isaac wondered who exactly was this man. Because there was no way he was just a chauffeur at this point.
The man that trotted over to the wall of the dining area, standing before what seemed like to be a console table turned wet-bar and already pouring a honey colored drink in a glass.

Coming back and sitting down he sipped up half of the glass, clicking his tongue. -I would offer one to calm your nerves, but I have a feeling you’re not a drinker.- Isaac shook hi head in confirmation, looking at the liquid.
– So I do have a spare room, if you’d like you can clean up upstairs in the bathroom and sleep there. I must say it’s a tad bit girly, originally I had my sister stay there last time.
Isaac was looking at his hands in his lap, seemingly deep in thought, playing with the edge of the gauze.
-I’m sorry – he finally looked up a little blush creeping up on his freckled cheeks – I didn’t meant to cause any trouble…
What he saw was something he assumed rarely happened. Aiji’s mouth widened to a warm smile, something so genuine that it made him blush a bit more. He saw a few sarcastic grins so far but this was genuinely warm, reassuring.
-It’s okay Joshua. – He used his first name. Nobody usually did that, that was a name his father wanted before he left them. But somehow now he didn’t mind it. – I was there to escort you and keep you safe, that’s what I did, didn’t I? – With that he downed the second part of his drink, set the glass down and extended his hand to him witch Isaac took hesitantly – I’m Aiji Sato and from what I know, we will be working very closely together, Mr. Joshua Isaac Brooks.


A long shower, that’s what he needs. It will all be better when today’s grime, sweat and tears are washed away. At least that’s what Isaac though. A long, hot shower usually helps, in these situations, right?
He even had a nice enough host too, gave him a towel and everything, let him use his own body-wash and shampoo – sea salt and mint, he liked that – and even had a room ready for him to sleep in. He was lucky right?

He didn’t feel lucky sitting on the guestroom’s bed, in a faded t-shirt that he used as sleepwear. He dug up his suitcase for it, somehow glad that he at least had his bare essentials. The faded shirt gave him some sense of home at least, smelling the familiar detergent.

It was fine up until he had to be alone. Well not alone per say, he heard the shower running and a humming from the shared bathroom between the two bedrooms on the upper floor. Looking around his current space, there was not much character to it. Aiji said his sister stayed here – She must not visit that often, there are no personal items anywhere. The bed was now freshly made, no dust covered the surfaces of the desk in the corner or the shelves and the wardrobe lining the wall was mostly empty, only spare bedding and a few blankets in one of it’s top shelves. The whole penthouse gave little clue what Aiji was like. Even with a few personal items it was like a bachelor penthouse – the thought crossed his mind. Maybe that was it, maybe this was just a home for show.

In the silence Isaac listened to the tune that was muffled by the door and slowly it became familiar.
Too familiar. Honey-brown eyes widened as the tune flowed into his ears, bringing up the memory of one of his all-time favorite band’s song. It was not popular back in the days, in fact, most people didn’t seem to like it, for it being a slower paced and more “depressing” piece. It stood out like a sore thumb from the album too. There was no way, this was a coincidence. This would be too much for today and way too creepy and he didn’t liked creepy. How did this man know?

Moving quietly and quickly, Isaac reached for his bag and got out his laptop. The first thing on his mind was that somehow this man came to know things about him, that other’s didn’t and the only way that was possible was access to his private computer. Recent access as he was listening to that exact album on the train to distract himself. Or being a mind-reader, after today, that was pretty much plausible too. The tattoos on him flashed up in his mind. The energy they radiated. Surly those are not powerful enough to just read people like that. The familiar tune flowing in his ears, every note perfectly in place.
He started typing quickly on his device, checking if anything was amiss, but came back with nothing. Then a thought hit him. Quickly bringing up a search bar, he typed in the song. He knew who wrote it, but just the nickname, he needed a real name. An overwhelming feeling to know came over him, the familiarity, the ever smirking mouth and dark blue eyes. He cursed in his head that all sites just copied each other’s information, making it almost impossible to get the correct answer, having to dive deeper into this specific fandom, something he didn’t do since he was a teen.

Just as the results loaded in, slowly from a Japanese website, there was a knocking at his open door.
– Hey, I know it’s been a long night for you, but care to eat something? – Aiji stood in his doorway – When did he finish showering? – hair hanging down wet, damping his loose shirt, grey sweatpants and the strange pendant and tag necklace.
– I suppose… – As on cue, his stomach rumbled – Yes, I think I could eat. – Isaac looked up at Aiji who gave him a genuine smile and gestured with his head to follow him. He was reluctant, desperate to be alone for one more minute, but it seemed Aiji was waiting for him to move. He swore to check what he wanted after this late dinner.

To say Isaac was taken aback by all the food that lay before them on the living area’s coffee table was an understatement. When they got down from the second floor, Aiji made way to the kitchen, opening the refrigerator and pulling out containers upon containers of what seemed like leftover home made meals. He lay out a fine feast in no time and instead of using the multiply dining surfaces, he opted for the coffee table, Isaac sitting on the couch, Aiji making himself comfortable on the floor, sitting across him.
– Please enjoy as much as you like – he invited the younger boy, then his eyes traveled lower, almost bending down looking under the couch where Isaac was sitting. – You can come out too hun, bet you’re eager to meet our guest.
Before Isaac could question Aiji’s sanity to talking to the dust under the seating, he heard a small “Meow” and tiny, puffy feet making their way out to the open.
A gray cat.
– Oh! Hello there! – Exclaimed Isaac, earning a look from the cat that seemed more then just an animal. It’s blue and yellow eyes held much more than a normal cat’s should. A low purr was all he got before said cat bolted under the table and came up in to Aiji’s lap, meowing and purring loudly as the man pet it’s small head. – Good girl, I bet you missed me. – As if on cue, another small meow. – This is Isao~
– Isaac – The boy corrected.
– Isao had a rough first meeting today with some dark elves, so he’ll stay a bit. – Aiji looked up at the blonde, while lowering his voice, almost whispering in the cat’s ear. – He’s a seeker.

What happened next almost gave Isaac a heart attack. The cat that was in Aiji’s lap was somehow no longer a cat. A small girlish figure sat there, in a blue over sized dress, indicators that the girl was in fact the cat he saw was the still present cat ears on top of her head, gray, like her hair that came down in waves to her chest; and her eyes, the same blue and yellow eyes, with a hint of sparkle. Looking in to them, he felt like a warm blanket fell on them, the noises from the outside were so distant. He knew, that sitting in front of him was a powerful spirit, but unlike the others, she didn’t felt like a threat. She felt warm and welcoming as well as distant. It was strange how the contradicting feelings mashed together in her presence. What exactly was she? And how could he not see through the disguise?
The cat-like girl stood up from her spot, she would barely reach his chest and that’s counting the ears. With soft cat-like steps, on barefoot she was now in front of him, reaching out small hands that ever so slightly touched his face and for a brief moment, Isaac felt like the world was at piece.
Her neutral face then smiled warmly at him.
– I am happy to finally meet you, Isaac. – Her voice was small like herself and radiated pure harmony, like nothing he has ever heard. – Please, call me Chino.
And just as quickly as it came over him, the feeling left, he was back in reality, hearing the traffic outside and feeling that awful fear that still lingered in his soul from today’s attack. It felt like he was blessed by something that he didn’t even knew existed and that was taken away from him the moment he wanted to keep it.
Chino, now again as the furry pet, sat back in Aiji’s lap, purring.
– What…what did she do? – Isaac tried to collect his thoughts.
– It’s okay, it can be overwhelming at first. You see, Chino here is a spirit, much like the ugly ones you see around, only thing is, that those spirits are corrupt, they either were created from the dread and despair of mankind, or were once part of nature and changed due to humans gaining bigger grounds and corrupting them. – Aiji tried to explain in common terms.
– But the ones I saw, they didn’t feel as intense. They felt human almost.
– Many don’t, many don’t even bother with humans in general. Chino however is a bit…stronger than the ones you met. I’m not sure what she is exactly, but I know she’s one of the older ones. In tune with nature and it’s elements. – Aiji picked up some meat from his plate and held it out for the cat in his lap, she took the bite chewing delighted. It was strange to see her act like a common pet after revealing herself.
– If she’s some kind of natural spirit, why is she here?
– Good question, I would love to answer it but I don’t know either. Back when we met, she claimed to be here in the city because she was curious of humans.


Aiji Sato’s life had been anything but perfect at that point. Somehow, at the ripe age of 21, he found himself in a foreign country, trying to restart his life from scratch. Not that he was cut off from everything that he built, far away from it. He still had the luxury of his siblings. Even if he never used his brother’s help, the possibility was still there and he would jump in and help had he been asked. He was also sure if he would fly back home, his mother would wait for him with open arms, his old band mates would keep him busy. The only reason this was not an option right now, was Aiji himself. He refused all help, trying to prove something, more to himself than to anyone else.
So here he was, in a park, playing some popular tune on his guitar. He wasn’t really playing for tips, he was more like practicing for tonight’s audition, but people started to throw paper bills in his open guitar case. He was not complaining. Rent was high in a capital city, even in areas that were less than savory. Good thing he knew how to deal with a hostile environment. Still he needed to get some stable income. So far he visited a handful of these hearings, established bands looking for extra members. He could start again, he could find a new place and new people.

Well that was easy in theory, harder in practice. He was rejected not because of his lack of talent or knowledge. He had a professional career for four years prior and even more under his belt since he played his guitar ever since his teens. No, the problem was that either he was not a great fit with the people already present; complains about his looks being too eccentric, his accent too thick or his talent too much, outshining the others. That was one thing he promised himself when he left home. That he would never hold himself back again for the sake of others.
Suddenly, as he played on this park bench, instead of loose change or paper bills, he saw fresh white flowers falling in to the mix of money in his guitar case open at his feet. The pretty petals came from a small girl, not taller than a child, however having all the features of a grown woman. Her small frame was swaying on her toes back and forth, arms clapped together behind her. She was watching Aiji, expecting something, looking into his dark blue eyes with her light yellow and blue ones.
Aiji reached down and picked up one of the flower offerings and smiled at her, motioning for her to lean closer. The girl did and he places the flower in her unruly gray hair. – Thank you. – He said with a warm smile that seemed to mirror in the girl’s face. As he started to play again the girl sat down beside him enjoying her little mini-concert, humming a tune in sync.


Aiji seemed fond of the memory, as he pet the gray cat in his lap. He talked about Chino as an old friend even thou this only happened 7 years ago, they felt as familiar to each other as if they have known one another their whole life. She was there when Aiji had the worst days, when he started his work with Damian and got home from his first mission, broken in body and spirit. Chino tended to him, piecing his soul back together and giving life back into his eyes. She said that she will always help him, as long as he does not stray from his path. A path she claimed to see for him but would not talk about in detail. He accepted that, now knowing the nature of her was far more than he could imagine.
– Do you have any idea why I was attacked? – Isaac suddenly asked the both of them, late in the night when they all had their fill from their late dinner. Chino looked up from her spot on the couch, nestled in a bunched up blanket but didn’t opt to say anything, just looking from one to the other.
– I don’t really. I don’t even know why they were there in the first place. – Aiji said looking in front of him, fingers tapping on his one knee that he bought up to his chest. – The non-human population usually keeps to their own territories. They rarely come out of hiding, specially not without any disguise. – He mused. He would have to report this back to Damian. He looked over to the young blonde; he was tired, he could tell, dark circles forming under his eyes. Aiji had a feeling the younger boy would have a hard time sleeping tonight.
– We should call it a night- He was interrupted.
– I’m not really tired! – It came out more desperate than Isaac intended. The thought of being alone now unimaginable. Even if it was just in a room, Aiji a few steps away, literally.
Aiji eyed his figure for a bit, coming up with a plan to get him to sleep at least for a few hours. He knew the feeling. And even if Chino could sooth him in to sleep, that would not make things better in the long run. Aiji himself had to go through nightmares upon nightmares till he fell into a routine to wind down from missions. Specially from the gruesome ones.

It took a hour and a half, Aiji noted, but it worked. He had them sit in the dark, putting on a movie (a very boring one), waiting silently for Isaac to lull his head, then lay down on the couch. Aiji let out a breath – finally – and he reached for the blanket at the end of the seat that was now abandoned by the grey cat, Chino moving elsewhere in the room. Tucked in the boy who was now taking steady breaths. What he did not anticipate when he got up to leave was a hand clutching his shirt for dear life. With a defeated sigh, Aiji sat back down, pulling his legs up and lulling himself off to sleep too, letting the boy cling to him. He woke several times during the night, first to a cramped leg. Then there was Isaac’s whimpers, hands reaching out for nothing outside of his dreams. A restless night indeed, but he didn’t wanted to wake him. That would be worse. So he did the only thing he could, at first he just reached out to pet the blonde strands on the boy’s head, then he let him grab his arm, holding on. Finally he lay down next to Isaac, keeping a fair space between them, letting the boy feel that he was not alone but not close enough to be overbearing. The thought of hugging him close to make the nightmares go away did cross his mind, but he held his ground against this instinct. His closeness seemed to work just fine too when he whispered to him reassuringly. – I’m here, I’m not going to let them hurt you. – Eventually he dozed off himself too.


Isaac really had no idea how he got into this position. He remembered watching a godawful movie before he had fallen asleep, he was still sitting up at that point. Now, as the sun was shining through the closed curtains, he felt himself tucked in a warm blanket, as a comfortable burrito, mint and sea-salt dancing around his senses, a strong heartbeat in his ears and a strong arm holding him from rolling off the couch. As soon as he started to wake, and he still felt arms around him, was when his own heart picked up and a crimson flush made it’s way to his cheeks. Why was he held like this? Surely even if Aiji wanted to keep an eye on him, he had enough space to himself.
Then he felt it. His hand was gripping at some fabric, Aiji’s shirt. And if he could turn more red, then he would have. His eyes shifted to gaze up, looking at the sleeping features of his host. Even in this calm state he could see a little smirk in the corner of his mouth. Black hair tossed back from his face. Why did he want to run a finger down the side of his face? He is but a stranger to him and yet, Isaac felt like he was so familiar. Suddenly he remembered his abandoned search last night.

After hearing Aiji humm that song, he had a gut feeling, something about him was too close, he felt like he was missing just one piece of the puzzle. He was merely a young teen when he first heard it, but fell so in love with the voice on the recording, that he searched up every little bit of information about the band. He found them to be a Japanese boy band, not really famous, seemed like many didn’t even know them, but locally, they had a fair amount of fan-base. Rightfully so, they seemed to be bringing a more harder edge to the table than most from the eastern region. But the new albums lacked the voice he was searching for. Lacked that presence that he first heard by chance.
That song he first heard, the one he recognized again was part of a special 2nd disc, where all band members got to write their own songs, focusing on them individually. Isaac liked all of them really, these were more personal and gave a little peak inside how the band members individually identified through music. But his favorite was this one. He could recall the lyrics even in his sleep.

*Original Lyrics by David Kushner

Unfortunate for him, this was the last time he heard his voice in the band. He remembered searching all over the internet, trying to figure out what happened. Ayo. The nickname he searched and tried to identify somehow. The last clue was a local blog, he had to try and translate it word by word. That blog entry was the only place he had read this; The band has been though a break, as hardships formed between members, second lead guitarist Ayo had left the company. There were a few images too, but right now, Isaac could not compare the face from his memory, to the one laying beside him. It has been years. Back then all of those in that band had different looks, the one in question rocking a long cut, that was dyed red and white.


Aiji stretched a few times before his brain registered where he was. Yes, he remembered falling asleep on the couch last night. He vaguely remembered a certain blonde that refused to let go of his top then the whimpers and finally settling in.
His hands reached up but he could not find him. ‘Hmmm?’ He cracked one eye open, expecting to be met with the morning harsh light, but it wasn’t there. He sat up, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes, the living area was as he had left it, thick blanket over his lover half, curtains closed in save for a few light strips. The sun was already high, meaning he slept till noon at least.
Suddenly there was some movement in the corner of his eyes. Looking over to the far end of the kitchen he saw his newly acquired flatmate, picking up a big plate, with something on it and a few bottles. He watched half awake as Isaac put the plate and all down on the big dining table where there was two set of plates, cutlery and two mugs. How cute.

Aiji blinked a few times before Isao noticed him staring, a small blush creeping up on his cheeks. He came closer to the back of the couch where Aiji was leaning over.
– I’m sorry, but Chino said I can use the kitchen…I wanted to thank… well, everything you did yesterday so… – he stepped aside so Aiji could see the steaming mugs and fresh pancakes on the table.
In a moment’s realization, Aiji eyes turned soft and as he stood from his place, he smiled a warm smile.
– You made, all this? – He asked, stalking over to the table he himself rarely used.
– Yes – there was a hint of pride in Isaac’s voice. – I hope you like it! – such a cute genuine smile graced his face, Aiji swore he took an arrow to the heart. He made his way to the seat across from him and sat down, Isaac following suit, eager eyes watching him pile his plate, squirting a few lines of honey on there and taking the first bite. Aiji was in heaven. His taste buds were at least. Isaac was watching his reaction eagerly.
– Well? Is it any good?
Aiji looked over with shocked eyes, swallowing the bite. – Any good? Isao, these are the best goddamned pancakes I’ve had!
– Really? – the younger boy laughed. – I’m glad. I hoped I can at least make your morning nice, you know, after you had to save me….
– I appreciate it, but you know, you don’t have to do me favors to thank me right? – he gestured with another piece on his fork.
– Oh, I know, but I was brought up to always be grateful. And I am very grateful for your help. I don’t know what would have happened to me if you didn’t … – He didn’t wanted to say it. ‘Kill’ is a violent word that was not common for him. – …shown up.
– Isaac. – Aiji looked at him seriously. – I know last night was not ideal, but you do know, why you are here right? Why you got this internship?
– I only know that I am supposed to work in line with my degree. I don’t know what they expect me from my internship. I thought it would be some IT stuff, at worst. Thou I’d love to have bigger challenges. – he sighed.
Aiji also sighed a little, continuing with his breakfast.
– Well, you’re not wrong there. But I would not call it IT stuff…
– Oh? Well I can do a lot of things.
– Yes, I saw your file…
– I have a file? – he crocked his head.
– Oh shit.

They were staring at each other for a moment. Wondering which one of them will break first.
– I suppose there’s no harm in telling you. – Aiji spoke first, gesturing with his fork in his hand. – But I would need to start from the beginning.
– Okay…
– What you saw me doing yesterday, was basically just a Saturday night for me. I have been doing this for seven years, with excessive training in between. You probably know there are numerous creatures living among us, you being a seeker and all must have seen them.
– Yes, I saw a few in my hometown too. But we are a very small town so there weren’t many.
– There are two kind of these creatures we separate. Ones that belong to our world, and the ones that came from other planes. Those who originate from our plane are now few and far between. The majority have died out, most left to secluded areas as humans overpopulated everything. We are an invasive species but the local creatures didn’t really put up a fight. The problem is the ones coming through various portals that seem to pop up from time to time. Those are usually aggressive and come here to conquer. That’s what the organization that I am working for helps in. Remove these invaders so humans can live their lives in peace and ignorance.
– So you’re like a soldier protecting our borders?
– Something like that. My boss, Damian Roux, is just one head of this organization, Le Sang. Means the blood, it has three heads, each have their own region to manage. The name comes from the saying, ‘The blood of the coven is thicker than the water of the womb.’ Basically, he searches out talented people, train them in this field and in exchange provides them with a pretty nice life. – Aiji motioned for their surroundings – I usually get assignments or missions, however you want to call them, weekly, at a bar he owns, Crimson Bar, we meet there and I get appointed to something. Yesterday’s was to pick you up. You’ll have an appointment to meet him today.
– So he’s handpicked me, but to be what? I can’t fight, I can only do things with computers. I doubt you would need that in this.
– I have to be honest with you, I have no idea. He did say he wanted us to work closely together. He might have a new agenda….it will be all cleared up tonight when we meet up with him.
– So I would be working with you? – Isaac couldn’t help the interest in his tone.
– That’s what he said.
Isaac swallowed hard.
– After almost getting killed, I don’t know if that’s good.
Aiji turned to him, leaving his now finished plate.
– Isaac, I promise you, you won’t get killed as long as I am there. – There was such seriousness in those dark blue eyes, Isaac felt like the world could crumble and Aiji would still be there, keeping his word. Why am I this important?


It was always dark in the Crimson, but it was a special kind of dark when it’s owner was there. The place was somehow cooler, most felt uneasy and on edge. Now, it was just the opening staff, getting ready for tonight, but they too felt like prey, threading carefully in the presence of the predator, that lets them live, just because it is simply not their turn to be on the menu.
Deep,through dark corridors in the back, a thick wooden door, slightly ajar, key still in the lock. That’s where a luxurious office was and only one person could open it. He made sure to grind this in everyone’s head that came in contact with this place. Walls painted black, with dark wooden trims, a big and heavy desk to the right, sofas in front. Behind him walls upon walls of books and dossiers. On the left, another set of sofas and a lamp, dimly lit now, that there was a presence there besides him.
As soon as Damian Roux came through the main entrance, there was a man following him to his office, no questions, no discussions. Tall lanky frame, unreadable expression as he entered just behind his boss. There was no need to lock the door, for everyone present knew their relations and nobody dared to disturb his meal.

Damian hungrily sucked the tall man’s neck, blood bubbling past his lips. Usually he was not this sloppy, but today was a bit demanding. It always was when he had to be active during the day. Moans escaped his prey, as if he was enjoying the intrusion on his veins, but he was also very, very aware of his predicament, feeling the blood leave his body, traveling down his shoulder. Despite the violent nature, this was a very intimate moment, both being the most vulnerable in this position. This is why Damian only took one or two humans as his bloodbanks. They needed to be trustworthy and resilient. Because he might not know when to stop. Like now.
There was a light tap on his chest as he held the tall man to him.
– Mr. Roux, please stop, now. – The voice was panting and hoarse, not bigger than a whisper, but Damian heard it. He always did, took good care of what was his. Licking the last of the blood to leave the two puncture wounds on the neck, making sure to stop the bleeding. This earned him another moan.
– Thank you, Sorel. Your contribution is well appreciated. – The vampire praised him, moving to sit back down to one of the plush sofas, eyes glowing red in the dark. One clawed hand reached out, tracing the buttons of the black shirt down till they reached the crimson colored dress pants, that seemed to have a disrupting bulge in them. Sorel took in a sharp breath from the touch, then for the lack of it. As Damian sat back into the sofa, reaching in his pocket, pulling out a pure white handkerchief, tapping the corners of his mouth, he eyed the younger man who’s eyes were almost pleading.
– You can take care of yourself here. – He said as he watched Sorel sit down opposite him, legs open, hand already undoing his pants. Seemed like a rush, a primal need to touch his length, stroking in long strides, all the while holding eye contact with the man who just took his blood, red eyes boring into his own light ones.


-Why do you insist on calling me that? – Isaac asked.
– Well, your real name is rather a mouthful. Isao is just easier for me. Rolls of the tongue a bit better. Call it a nickname.- Aiji turned to him. – But if you want, I can stop it. You just didn’t seemed to be that bothered.
– I’m not, it was just strange. But you can use it.
Their day consisted of letting Isao know of a few details, that he might have not known. Like why there are portals to other places, where they are, magic does exist but it is rare, we are using modern weapons to fight sometimes medieval creatures. Chino sat with them too for a while, explaining in length how the world on the ‘other side’ worked, how she had contact with many of the hidden races, visiting them from time-to-time then coming back to her ‘owner’. Aiji even showed him some security footage of a few missions. One had a part, where he clearly got hit in the back by a bullet, so he showed the wound on his back. This also showed off a rather big stylistic and black koi tattoo, it’s head coming to just below his shoulder blades, it’s tail wrapping around his right side down to the top of his tights. It was a magnificent piece of artwork, moving with the skin. It also seemed Aiji had no problem showing off his body, which to be fair, was easy on the eyes. He was not built big, but every muscle seemed to be trained to be used and not for just show. And the scars that littered it, albeit most faded and not even recognizable anymore, told the story that he regularly used and abused his well trained body.
– You should know, that I can’t die that easily. Humans are fragile, but one of the perks working for Damian is that there is this special serum. I’m not saying it makes humans immortal, but damn it heightens some skills. – He told as a fun fact. Like it was normal.
– He uses his own blood for it. Essentially not turning anyone into anything but lending some powers to keep them alive. – Chino said with a face of disgust. – I always smell it on you, but I know it is a necessity. – Then she looked over to Isaac – You however should not have that. Never drink it.
– What is it like? – Asked Isaac, but nodding to the valuable information the little spirit provided.
– Like your senses are more clear. You feel more stamina too, pain is just a secondary thought. Damian said that it is similar to how he feels constantly. Nothing gets past you. It’s not like superhuman strength or anything, but since the pain from straining yourself is less, I could do more than just the average human. Of course later it hurts like a bitch…excuse the language.
– It’s okay. Most of my teen years were spent with older boys, I’m used to it. – Isaac shrugged his shoulder. – So I take it, Mr. Roux is not human? Given your description.
Aiji and Chino looked at each other for a moment, before the latter just jumped down the seat, turning back into a cat and leaving the two to their own devices.
– Oh no, he’s a vampire. All of the organization heads are…. – Aiji was lost in though, naming the other two and what each branch was doing and what regions were they controlling, but Isao was not hearing any of it by then. Blood has left his face, making him pale and his ears were starting to ring.
Hey, kid. You with me? Aiji’s voice was so distant, as his world slowly shrank and blank spots formed in his vision.

-So much for not freaking him out. – Aiji muttered to himself as he held up an unconscious Isao, who seemed to have fainted. Reaching under the boy he picked him up, bringing him up to the guest bedroom. – Who would have though that in all of this, the vampire triggers you the most. – He chuckled to himself. He really didn’t wanted to shock the boy, he took last night’s events pretty well considering that he was not used to any of it. Even being a seeker, seeing most of the things that other people would run from, or make them go mad, it was a hard night. If Damian really intended for them to work closely, he would have to get used to the violence. Aiji himself was not all that kind out on the field.
He lay the boy down on the still untouched bed, propping up his legs. He looked over Isao with curious eyes. That ID picture in his file must have been a few years younger, because the boy looked more mature now, the babyfat on his cheeks were nowhere to be found. Still had a angelic face, one that seemed ageless, pretty much androgen too. Light gold locks framed his face, making his skin seem more darker than it actually was. Freckles spotted all over his face, down his neck and suddenly Aiji felt the need to count them one day. He was very much drawn to the boy, not just simple attraction – although blondes were his soft spot – but something he haven’t felt ever since he left his old band.
Aiji reached out a hand and pushed some stray hair out of Isao’s face, sneaking a light touch with the back of his hand. So soft.
Isaac stirred leaning into the touch as he was coming back from his blackout, giving a small groan.
– Welcome back. – Aiji said, taking his hand away.
– This is becoming very inconvenient… – Isao groaned – I’m sorry, I don’t know what came over me.
– Probably all the new shocking information, topped with some pre-existing anxiety towards mythical beings. Once you get over these, it’ll be alright, I promise. – He laughed.
– I think the fact I’ll have to meet a vampire face to face was too much. I could feel the blood leave my body. – Isao hung his head in defeat. He was beyond embarrassed that he reacted this way, but vampires were one of the things he was always afraid to meet, always looking out for one in his little hometown. He wasn’t sure how much from the folk tales were true about them, but one thing surely was, they drank human blood. And Isaac was shivering even at the thought of a needle, not to mention fangs.
– You don’t have to be afraid of him. – Aiji patted the top of his head. – Most of the urban legends are true, but some are a bit exaggerated. He won’t take your blood, he usually drinks from a cup. Plus he’s a picky eater, I never saw him drink from anyone and I’ve been around him for years. So you don’t have to worry.
They both fell silent when there was a muffled ring through the room, a light little tune that was coming from a phone. A too familiar tone for both of them. Isao’s eyes widened in realization and terror, flashbacks flooding his mind as his things were bought up to the room, his phone in his hand, then in his sweater pocket, sweater tossed on the chair in front of the desk, completely forgotten when he took a shower.
“Joshua Isaac Brooks, don’t you dare get into trouble. And call, as soon as you are there!”  Rang in his ear again, kicking him back to reality. Isaac scrambled onto his feet, almost tripping over his own legs as he made his way to the chair, digging through the pile of clothes, almost missing the last ring of the phone as he picked up.
– Mom! I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry! – A woman’s voice was heard on the other side, clearly upset but also relieved to hear her son’s voice. Aiji smiled to himself. I guess that’s an universal trait. Remembering his own mother’s concern when he left home. – I didn’t mean to make you worry, honest! I was just so tired after getting here! I’m sorry. – But he’s a better son than I am I guess. – I’m fine, really, uhum….yes I settled in a bit already! I even have a cool flatmate! Everything’s fine. – A lie, Aiji thought, but convincing enough it seemed. – I will definitely! Love you too! – Isao stared at the phone as the line disconnected, only then he let out a breath.
– I completely forgot to call… – he held his hand to his chest.
– Well at least she can rest easy now. It was convincing, you saying everything’s fine.
– Yes, well, what am I supposed to say? I can’t talk to her about all this, she already had to deal with that kind of stuff when I was little. When she became so concerned to take me to doctors, I stopped mentioning the stuff I saw. – he confessed.
– Interesting. So she doesn’t see them? What about your father? – Aiji asked, immediately seeing that he hit a nail.
– He left when I was very little. – Isaac smiled, but this time it was a sad smile – I don’t even remember him, I only know that he gave me my first name. That’s why I don’t use it.
– I didn’t mean to pry…it’s just that, one of them had to be a seeker. It’s genetic, for you to be one, one of them had to be one too. Maybe he had a reason to…
– That doesn’t justify him leaving. – Isaac cut in.
– No it doesn’t.


There was an awkward silence in the car as Aiji drove them to the Crimson Bar at sunset. After their conversation, Aiji didn’t know what to say or how to cheer up Isao. It’s not like they were friends and he knew what to say when he fell into this sad silence. It was pretty straight forward that this was a sore topic, so he wouldn’t push on it. He also knew that joking would not lighten this kind of mood, so he just let the silence escalate. They had dinner in silence, got ready for tonight in silence and now the car ride was silent too. It was deafening.
– I’m sorry, I didn’t know not to bring it up. – That was as long as Aiji could tolerate this. If the boy was mad at least cuss him out or something.
– Huh? – Isaac was blinking at him, face surprised. – Why are you apologizing?
– Aren’t you angry with me? – Aiji peaked over for a moment.
– No? I’m not angry just… – Isao looked down at his hands in his lap – I’m just sad.
– Well I’m sorry I made you sad…
– It’s okay, you didn’t know.
They pulled up to a private parking space behind their destination and they could have just used the back door, but Aiji wanted Isao to have the full experience. Picking up their bags from the back seat Isao pointed at Aiji’s. It has piqued his interest before they left.
– What’s that?
– Well, for your information, in the guitar case, there is a guitar. – Aiji answered sarcastically.
– Okay, let me rephrase that, why is there a guitar with you?
– You’ll see. – Aiji flashed him a grin.

The entrance to the Crimson was a simple red door at the front of a big building. No windows to peak in, just plain brick walls, a handful of posters and a few people out front, talking and smoking. Two of them had similar uniform-like clothes: Black button down shirts and deep red pants, black dress-shoes. They didn’t had name-tags but seemed like they worked at the place, given the design of their outfit. The other two were dressed just normally, jeans and jackets, much like how Aiji pulled up for tonight.
Aiji grinned at the group, waving to them. – Just a second – He turned to Isao then with long strides rushed next to one of the men standing there, smoking a cigarette. Isaac stayed put at the door, watching as Aiji laughed at their greetings, put a hand around said man and then, like it was the most natural thing to do, took the cigarette from him and sucked in a long drag, much to the amusement and then annoyance of the other guy, who’s face slowly morphed into an irritated expression. From where he stood Isao couldn’t hear what exactly they were saying, but it seemed like a friendly banter, the other pushing him off after getting his smoke back. Aiji then put his guitar case on the other guy’s back, ruffling up his short black hair, and turned back to Isaac.
– Yeah you better not play with it, or I’m not treating you tonight! – He said it back turning towards them one more time.
– Ready to go? How’s your nerves? – Aiji questioned now his attention fully on Isao.
– Well, I don’t have much choice. Let’s get it over with. – He sighed in response. Seeing Aiji act so casually actually helped calm him a bit.
Going in the red door, they came up to a more grand entrance than Isaac was anticipating. The foyer, because that’s the best term he could use, had crimson red carpet and wallpapers with black and gold accents. There was a huge man standing to the side, probably 2 meters tall, if not more, and pure muscle. Isao knew this because he was only wearing a black shirt and black pants that was hugging his form. He noticed the two gun holsters on his sides too. The big man just nodded once to Aiji.
To the sides there were short hallways, Aiji whispered to Isao that those are the bathrooms and the big man there is Goliath, of course that’s a nickname, but he’s here to keep the piece and not let anyone in that does not belong here. The name was more than fitting.
Aiji pulled Isao to a set of glass doors, pushed them open and they entered what looked like the bar itself. There was a big two-sided bar in the middle, with every drink you could imagine, stools sitting on both sides and a few employees behind there, talking between themselves now, seeing that the night was yet to start. There was a big space between the bar and either side of the room, making space for smaller tables and stools. On the side lining the walls where booths lined up back-to back behind archways. There were heavy curtains that could block each booth off from prying eyes. Up front there was a stage, just a few feet higher than everything else, brick wall behind it painted black.
On either side of the stage there were each a hallway, engulfed in darkness. Everything seemed to be a specific color, crimson red, black and gold.
Outside Isao didn’t get any glances from those people who Aiji greeted, but here almost as soon as they entered, almost all eyes were on him. He felt like he’s sticking out like a sore thumb with his light clothes.
– Okay, now I’m getting nervous. – He whispered, looking up at the man next to him.
Aiji only smiled and led him to the right side of the stage, going in to that dark hallway. There were numerous doors on either side of them, a slight curve to the path and very faint lights. Isao traced the layout in his head and came to the conclusion that there must be a room behind the stage’s back wall too, and the hallway probably goes around to the other side. They came to a stop at the middle of this curve, on one side a simple door, that was towards the stage, the other side, a thick wooden double door, slightly ajar.
Aiji knocked on the door two times, before they heard a deep voice. “Enter”

Inside Damian sat behind his desk, reading through a heavy folder. He sat it down to the side as Aiji and Isaac entered and he locked eyes with the later and as much as Isao wanted to look away, he couldn’t.
– Welcome to the Crimson, Mr. Brooks. I hope your travels were uneventful? – Damian’s word might have been a simple gesture, but as he stared in to Isaac’s eyes, a command formed in the back of his mind. Like everyone else, he was not to enter this office without permission from him. Finishing this imprint Damian looked up to Aiji, as if he were to answer the question he asked.
– It’s a great honor to meet you, Mr. Roux. I can’t thank you enough for choosing me to be in your program. – Isao bowed his head a bit. Somehow he was sure, who this man was, even thou he never met him.
– Go on, sit down, both of you. – Damian offered, motioning for the two seats in front of his desk.
– There was a little inconvenience. – Aiji started, sitting down and crossing his leg. Isaac followed suit, sitting proper and watching the two.
Damian had an interesting face. Although his nose was crocked and eyes had dark circles around them, he seemed handsome in a way. Pale flawless skin, cold grey eyes and dark brown hair with streaks of grey in them. He was also big, tall and broad, nothing like you imagined an urban vampire. The only indication of his un-dead state was the fact that Isao didn’t seem to see him breathe. Otherwise he could just be any other overworked man in his 30’s. And that was a scary thought, that they could blend in so much.
– Yes, the cleanup crew cursed your name as I heard. – Isaac could swear he saw the fangs as Damian spoke.
– What was I supposed to do? Pat him to death? – Aiji laughed. – Do we know who they were? I never seen dark elves around here. For them to come in to your territory, that must have took guts. Or idiocy.
– That’s because they weren’t dark elves. The sample they took didn’t match.
– What? That can’t be, they looked the part.
– Did you understand what they were saying?
– I didn’t really chat with them… – Aiji said, his hand reaching for one of the tattoos on his finger without thinking about it. – I think the one I shot said something… Run…maybe.
– Hm. I’ll look into this more, maybe the others encountered them as well. In the mean time, keep an eye out for the one you let slip away. – Aiji understood being reprimanded without any more words. He did make a mistake.
– Now, on to your internship, Mr. Brooks. – Isaac perked up, listening carefully. – I understand that you have been working hard on your skills.
– Yes sir, I’ve been the top of my class and won a few awards in my school years.
– I also know you’ve been pretty actively working as a freelance hacker, am I right Mr. Glitch? – Damian’s face was expressionless, not like the other two.
Aiji was shocked, to say the least, here he thought this boy was the perfect student and an angel and now it seems, he was far from it. Isaac on the other hand was slowly sinking in his seat, a meek “Yes” coming from him.
– I will be needing your expertise in this department. You see, I’m interested in a more grey area. Off records of course. Anything you do here, will stay here. Your internship will fill out as if you were working for me as part of my team. You can choose what department, it will not matter in the long run.
At this point Isao was cracking his fingers. It’s not like he had done too much bad stuff. He mainly only did what every other company does, find a loophole where he can sell his knowledge to people who have been hacked or had a compromised device. They didn’t need to know he knew how to solve the problem because he was the one creating it.
– I have no choice in the matter now do I? – he asked, looking up at Damian.
– You do, you would have to drop out of the program of course, but you can still choose. But I do feel obligated to warn you, that after what happened when you got here, you will probably be targeted. And honestly, if I know of your talents, others do too. They will try to recruit you and I’d rather have you on our side, than theirs.
Isaac looked up over to Aiji for a bit, contemplating his options it seemed. He really had no choice, it was just an illusion of options, but the outcome would be all the same. And he would rather work to whoever Aiji worked for than someone he didn’t even knew what their agenda was. These guys kept humans safe, that was enough of a positive for now.
– I will need equipment, that will cost a lot.
– I believe Mr. Sato here already showed you, how much I’m willing to pay for my employees. Your expenses will be taken care of. Any equipment, transportation, safety if need be. My only concern right now, is housing. Given what happened before, you are still a target. If those creatures wanted something from you, then they won’t stop. I’m not comfortable leaving you without protection. – Damian looked over to Aiji.
– I can protect him. He can take over the guest room and I can transport him anywhere.
– I really don’t want to be a bother…
– Shush, you’re not. – Aiji patted his head. – Besides, who else will you assign to him? Kravcs? He’s the only one not working currently. And I can still do business at night as usual while Isaac settles in here.
Damian nodded in confirmation.
– I will prepare everything in a week’s time. Documents, cards and passports. Mr Brooks, settle in these next few days, and we will start after everything is set up. In the mean time, I give permission to Mr. Sato to fill you in some details. – He looked up at Aiji again, eyes flashing red for a moment, giving permission, after the fact. – Make sure he meets the others too. They need to be aware that he’s in contract with me. Should anything happen.
– Sure.
Without another word, the meeting was over. Isaac didn’t knew how he knew that, but both of them left on an unknown command.

-Soooo Mr. Glitch, huh? – Aiji chuckled.
– It was harmless, just a bit of extra to help out with finances. Do you know how expensive computers are? Specially the ones I use? – he huffed at the taller man.
– Don’t let me judge you on your actions. You know what I do and how I live.
– So what now? – Isao asked as they made their way back on the dark hallway.
When they emerged it seemed the place had changed in pace. There were quite a few people around now, sitting at the bar and even filling up the booths. Isao looked around, all the people that eyed him when he came in were now busy with their guests. The stage changed too, there were numerous microphones out now, two guitars were sat down one reddish and one pure black, behind those were a simple drum setup. The guy who was smoking outside was up on the stage, plugging in the guitars and tuning the red one. He was as tall as Aiji but more lean, similar black hair cut short and piercing light purple eyes that were probably not natural. He seemed to also have the same style as Aiji, at least the top he currently sported was the same kind. The other one who was out there was back at the drums, Isao only saw his carrot-red hair from where he was standing.
Aiji led Isaac to the bar, the side that was facing the stage and sat him down, he himself leaned over the bar, almost reaching what he wanted but before he could a hand smacked his away.
– How many times have I told you!? Ask! This is my domain and you shall not have your hands over this bar Sato! – The man said behind them.
– Aww come on! I’m pretty self sufficient – Aiji coed at him only to earn a light slap in his face with the rag that hang from the bartender’s hand.
– Sit down and tell me what you want. Your friend too.
Isaac found the thick accent familiar, but didn’t think much of it before turning back. Then he had to pinch himself.
– Sorel?! – It was a bit hard to tell, but he was sure about it.
– Eh? Isaac? What in hells are you doing here? – The bartender exclaimed. It was hart to tell because the last time they saw each other was when they graduated high-school, Isaac two years younger than him. They were friends back then and they kept in touch after, but neither has expected to find one another here. Sorel said he was studying abroad and working at a bar part time. Isao had said that he was travelling for an internship and neither thought they would end up at the same place.
– I’m just starting to work for Mr. Roux. What are YOU doing here? Is this the part time bar-tending you talked about?
– You two know each other? – Aiji looked between them.
– We were classmates in school, dare I say friends even. – Sorel laughed.
The two seemed to be happy to see each other, chatting away how this could have been, understanding that neither of them could disclose any specifics, till now.
Aiji grinned at Isao, finally having a smile on his face again. Sorel seemed distracted enough so he tried to reach under the bar again, picking up two bottles and slowly making his way to the stage. If Sorel noticed, he didn’t seem to care, glad to see his old friend.
Isao didn’t even notice Aiji was gone, he was so engrossed with catching up with his friend, finally having a familiar face. He vaguely heard the band tune in, but to be honest he didn’t really care for it.
– Hey are you old enough to drink yet? – Sorel asked him, offering a glass as he pulled out drinks for others too all the while talking to him. It was an inside joke, since he was so much younger when they were in school, he was the kid of the class.
– My ID says I am. – Isaac answered grinning at him.
– I can work with that. – Sorel grinned back, and gave him a glass. He also made sure it was not something too strong, silently looking out for him like back in school.
However Isao could not take his first sip, because his ears now picked up the tune the band started to play and hearing a voice he only heard on record before.

Telling myself I won’t go there
Oh, but I know that I won’t care
Trying wash away all the blood I’ve spilt
This lust is a burden that we both share
Two sinners can’t atone from a lone prayer
Souls tied, intertwined by our pride and guilt

There’s darkness in the distance
From the way that I’ve been livin’
But I know I can’t resist it

Oh, I love it and I hate it at the same time
You and I drink the poison from the same vine
Oh, I love it and I hate it at the same time
Hidin’ all of our sins from the daylight
From the daylight, runnin’ from the daylight
From the daylight, runnin’ from the daylight
Oh, I love it and I hate it at the same time

Tellin’ myself it’s the last time
Can you spare any mercy that you might find
If I’m down on my knees again?
Deep down, way down, Lord, I try
Try to follow your light, but it’s night time
Please, don’t leave me in the end

There’s darkness in the distance
I’m beggin’ for forgiveness
But I know I might resist it, oh

Oh, I love it and I hate it at the same time
You and I drink the poison from the same vine
Oh, I love it and I hate it at the same time
Hidin’ all of our sins from the daylight
From the daylight, runnin’ from the daylight
From the daylight, runnin’ from the daylight
Oh, I love it and I hate it at the same time

*Lyrics by David Kushner

Isaac was feeling like the world stopped, like he was the only one between the bar and the stage looking up at the figure who’s voice hadn’t changed from all those years ago. His legs moved on their own as he made his was to the edge of the stage where Aiji stood and watched him, his voice pulling the boy in and when he played the black guitar Isao felt hot tears flowing down his face, biting down on his lower lip, trying to stop them but to no avail. Hearing him live, was vastly different, hearing where he took breaths, where his voice almost failed, all the little details that were lost in recording. Aiji was looking at him all the way, from the first sound till the last, dark ocean eyes boring in to honey gold ones.
Once the tunes died down Aiji stepped off the edge of his podium, to be at eye-level with a crying Isao. He reached out a hand, wiping away tears from one of his cheeks.
– I made you sad again, huh?
– I don’t know what this is, but it’s not sad. – Isao managed to squeeze out between hiccups.