Chapter II – Part 1

Creatures frozen in time like him didn’t dream. They are incapable of it because they do not sleep either, their rest is more so a meditative state, than anything else and instead of dreams, memories come forth from lives lived for centuries. Faces flashing by, the many he has met, and many he had watched to grow old. And the one’s that didn’t.

– Why her? – The shorter man asked, clad in a sharp edge tuxedo. Both him and Damian were sitting in a theater balcony, clad with gold accents, masked in the darkness. It was a late night performance, so not many had attended and it was painfully obvious that the actors down below, who tried to look put together, knew that most of their audience were just seeking shelter from the rain. Damian’s eyes were watching unwavering, but not the play put in front of him. No he was much more fascinated by the sidelines, where a young woman sat on the ground, just hiding behind the heavy red curtains. Her lips were moving in sync with the play.
Her long wavy platinum blonde locks of hair fell in her perfectly round face and light blue eyes that pierced through everyone that looked into them. She must have been in her late teens or early twenties, it was hard to tell because of her youthful complex that almost resembled a porcelain doll. Damian knew her by now. Elizabeth was a very smart and talented actress, but she didn’t strive for fame. The only reason she was even here and not locked up in a library was because she had to make ends meet.
Like many, she was left an orphan after the war, and not many options were left when it came to such beautiful girls. Over the last few years, Damian developed a habit of visiting her, giving her small gifts; at first flowers, then jewelry and when he got to know her better, book. The girl had a hunger for knowledge that he never seen before. After a while she let him stay after plays. They talked as long as the night lasted and even then it was a pain to leave. One might have called it love, but it was much more than that. Admiration, protectiveness, Damian felt alive when he was around her, something foreign for him by that time. But he always left before sunrise. It was not love, but a connection, two souls meeting and equal ground.
– Why anyone else, when she exists? – He answered, not looking at his companion.

But human life was fragile. He knew this as soon as small changes happened. Her warm hands got colder more often, her eyes lost it’s shine, her body grew tired. And her scent changed from the sweet lilacs to something he only smelled around hospitals. The scent of death, his friend called it. Humans usually couldn’t pinpoint it but still had that feeling of passing, but their heightened scent, the brush with death itself left vampires prone to pick it up.
It was again one of those nights when he stayed. Elizabeth had been tired all night as she pulled though her parts, her voice never faltering when she was on stage, but collapsing as soon as she was out of sight.
Damian found her in her dressing room, half-laying on her sofa, still in her white gown that was her costume for tonight. She looked up with tired eyes, dark circles starting to form under them and smiled.
– I’m afraid you will have to do without my performance for a while, it is time I rest it a bit.
– I’m sure you can get better, I can bring the best doctors to cure you… – he stopped when she put up a hand.
– Like I said before, I do not wish to see a doctor. Or anyone for that matter. I just want you to sit with me as usual. Like nothing is happening.
Damian strode over and knelt next to the sofa, wishing to be as close as possible. It was amazing how she still looked like a porcelain doll. It must have been the reason so many didn’t notice her dire state.
– I feel like you know what ails you. – He concluded. – And you deliberately will not do anything about it.
– You are too smart for your own good aren’t you? – Her voice was just above a whisper. – Can you keep a secret? Take it to your grave?
It was such an irony, that he will never have one.
– If you ask, I will.
She reached out and ran a light hand over his graying lock of hair, coming to a rest on his cheek. She was cold, almost as cold as him.
– L’appel du vide
1 – He closed his eyes basking in her touch, the first they ever shared. – I know I am poisoned. He poisoned me because only my body could he reach, not my soul. And the void is calling me.
It broke something in him. He would have years to ponder on who was at fault; him for not noticing soon enough and taking her away, away from this sick world into his own, the man that in his sick mind though that he owed anything that was her, or her self, for enduring and slipping into such a state, never asking his help.
He would have years, but she would be gone by the time he would come to a conclusion only to start the spiral again. He was not going to loose her, not like this, not to a man like that.

Her blood tasted of the poison that cursed through her veins, it was bitter and salty and underneath it all there was her sweetness still. The hand that rested on his cheek a moment ago was now limp under his lips, as he drank up the tar that tainted her, right up until the only thing left was her essence. She didn’t fight, didn’t scream, not even a sharp breath escaped her as she watch through piercing eyes how his fangs punctured her soft skin, how her dark red blood spilled over and dripped down to the old carpet.
As her eyelids got heavy, almost slipping into darkness, she felt a hand hold her head up and thick liquid dripping on to her mouth. Against any logic, it was warm, dripping from the same bitten wound, now on his wrist.
– I can show you darkness, I can show you the void, but you have to choose it. – He whispered to her. – You will be mine and I will be there to protect you, as long as I exist.

Damian opened his eyes to a dark celling. It has been so many decades since that day, they lived through another great war together and he always kept his promise, until a few years ago. He was only sure about her existence now, because of their bond. That was something unbreakable, no distance or time could make it undone. However it hurt, he would never admit to that, but he felt a great hole in his chest, missing her presence.

~~~

-What the hell did you do to him? – An angry looking Sorel was looking at the two with such disappointment, well mainly Aiji. Who’s hands were draped over Isaac, not helping the situation. Poor boy was drying his eyes still. Sorel reached under the bar and silently gave a napkin to him, offering some help at least.
– I didn’t do anything! – Aiji exclaimed. – I swear to god I didn’t knew he would react like this.
– I’m sorry, it’s not anyone’s fault. – Isaac tried to get it out before the two started anything else. – It took me by surprise is all.
The other two looked at him, questions apparent on their faces.
– I don’t know how you knew it, but that is my favorite song. I heard it when I was a teen and was devastated to learn how you disappeared from the band… – He used the napkin to blow his nose a bit – I never thought I would hear it live…it’s a bit overwhelming considering how much I… – he stopped himself there.
– Yes go on, I would love to hear the end of that sentence. – Aiji grinned.
– How much I loved your voice. – It was almost too quiet the hear it. But Aiji did, as it was apparent by the way he looked like he just got a badge of honor. Sorel huffed and rolled his eyes at him.
– Don’t feed his ego, it’s barely fitting in here as it is.
– And will my ego get a drink? Oh dear keeper of ale’s?
– Did you drive here?
– Since when do you care about that?
– Since you’re giving him a ride too. – Sorel pointed a glass at Isao – I could care less if you end up on a lamp-pole, but I don’t want him to get in that mess you call driving.
– You only got a ride from me one – Aiji protested.
– Yeah, I deliberately avoid it at all cost. – Sorel glared at him.

The night went by relatively peacefully. While Aiji joined the band again, Sorel kept Isaac at the bar and chatted with him between orders, when he was too busy Isao turned to the stage and with a small smile listened to Aiji’s voice. Nothing else was familiar that he played, compared to the old album, this Aiji seemed much more mature in his words and style. Calmer somehow. Which was a feat considering the last few day’s events.
Seemed like the band was just there to provide some background noise and whoever was interested could listen sitting in the middle. There was always a few people just sitting and listening to them, but most were seated at the booths on the side, chatting with various drinks in hand. It seemed the later it got, the more people gathered here and went about their night in a few hours. Sometime around midnight all three of the band members took their break, going out for a smoke, chatting about their life. Isao was around them following Aiji like a cute little puppy. He introduced both of them but by the time they got back Isaac completely forgot their names. It was late and he was tired. He would ask later.
Another smoke break was issued a few hours later, but this time they stood in the street alone, Isao leaning against the wall.
– Another hour and we can go home and rest. You’re good for that? – He asked between puffs, blowing the smoke away from the young boy.
– It’s fine. I’m usually up at night, it’s just so much all at once. – He smiled at him. – I still can’t imagine how all this comes in to your job.
– Oh, this? It’s just better than sitting around waiting for something to happen. Third of the people you saw were hunters of all kind. The rest were either not human or know about all of this world in some capacity.
– Somehow I thought it’s just you… – Isao confessed.
– Nah, it would kill me to run around that much. No, there are hunters all around the continent. They have a basic training and then they sign their life away. Most of them see a quick buck in the jobs, those are the ones that usually don’t come back at one point.
– I’d still like to know what exactly you do. I mean I get the jest of it, but I’d like to clear it up.
– Well, now you’ve met Damian, he’s the head of all of this region. I think he does it to keep his territory clean, at least that’s what is commonly known. – Another puff of smoke, Isao could smell the minty flavor. – He’s old, and thus have old money that can provide for all of this. I also know for a fact that he’s not alone. There are three of them, but I have just briefly met the others. In basic terms, Damian’s kind is a predator, he needs humans to feed on, but he is more than an animal. If something messes with his food, then he protects the herd he has. And something has been messing around with his as well as the other’s.
Isao was looking at him intently.
– How did you even end up here? – He asked. – You were…you still are an entertainer, I wouldn’t think you needed to do this just for the money, like the others.
Aiji let himself fall back to the wall next to him, looking up at the city sky. There were no stars here, only the pale yellow of the street lamps and the shine of the bugs that were lured to it. Seeing the stars at night was something he didn’t knew he missed.
– I should probably start from the beginning then. – He sighed. – I was very young when I joined that band you found. We were only doing gigs locally and did good for that scale. But the others were aiming for something bigger. Specially the lead singer. It frustrated them to no end that I was comfortable at the stage we were at, blaming it on my background, not having to worry about money, about the future since I was ‘a trust fund kid’ – they called it. It’s not like I kept it to myself, I shared, usually payed for our studios, the meals, I didn’t mind because I knew they weren’t well off. But it seems that was just insult to injury. The last thing I wrote for them was your favorite. – He took a long smoke, pausing a bit, not entirely here.
– I always thought that it was about someone you couldn’t have. It felt like that anyways.
– Oh it was. Norio, the lead guitarist. We were together for almost the entire time.
Isao blinked a few times at him. To be honest, he did not have a hard time imagining Aiji to be with a man, or with anyone for what it’s worth.
– But that was not the image they wanted us to have. The other knew too, but most of them, and especially Norio, wanted to keep it a secret. We had a huge fight about it before I left the band and also left Japan, came here on a whim and started performing on the streets. That’s how Damian found me and saw something that no-one did before. A potential to do good.
Aiji looked down at his hands, looking at the tattoos littering his fingers.
– I don’t do this because it pays for a lifestyle I want. I wanted to do something that has meaning. I was always the spoiled brat on the surface, daddy’s money paying for everything and at that moment, when I left, something just clicked. Damian showed me what these creatures can do the a human, then trained me with his right-hand man to be able to defend those, who have no idea how to do it themselves.
He saw a freckled hand reach and cradle his own. It was funny, because Aiji still had bigger hands but it felt reassuring, the touch sending little electrical waves up his arm. He left it fall between them, turning his palm to hold Isao’s hand back, not wanting to let go of the touch. They stayed like that, silent for the last few minutes of the smoke break.

The last hour went by quickly, with less and less people around. Isaac now watched everyone around, looking for clues about their identity. He didn’t see any of the spirits here, which was strange, spirits lingered almost everywhere, specially the places people frequented. Now that he looked around more, knowing what to see, he could spot out a few strange things. He realized that most here, who are not human, are disguising themselves. He spotted a tall blonde man, hair in neat braids, deliberately hiding his ears. He also had the same set of pendants Aiji wore. The black cross and name tag. A hunter.
Then he saw something strange, at first, the woman standing there at the bar was like any other ordinary human. Nice curves and a flirty smile, but as he was looking at her, the image somehow shifted, her skin darkened to almost pitch black, hair white and lilac eyes gleaming in the artificial light. She was definitely using some kind of disguise even thou she could have looked like herself, she was human enough.

Sorel grabbed his attention, poking him in the shoulder.
– Hey, do you know where you will have a place to stay? I have a spare room if you need to find something quickly.
Isaac looked at him with a questioning look. – I was told to stay with Aiji, that he will look out for me.
– Well good luck with that then. – Sorel said sarcastically.
– You don’t like him that much? – Between the two, Sorel was always the social one, a good judge of character. And it seemed he knew these new people around Isaac better than him.
– What can I say? He’s an ass. Just don’t get too close to him. He’s the best hunter here, but he’s still an insufferable prick.
It seemed the two of them saw completely different sides of the man. He was nothing but nice to Isaac so far.
– He was nice to me. Even talked about his past. He seemed he could use someone who listens.
– You are adorable. Look, I’m sure he has his moments, but he’s a player. Flirts with everyone he fancies but don’t think for a moment he is serious about anything. – Seeing Isaac’s face fell a bit he added – Look, I’m just saying because you tend to see the good in everyone. Honestly, you are a bit naive, and he can use that to get under your skin. So just take care okay?
– I promise I won’t fall for any dirty tricks. – He made an old scout’s honor sing in the air, an old notion they used to do.
– What dirty tricks? – Came Aiji’s voice from behind him, startling Isaac. – Nothing! – The two said in union. Like kids caught with their hand in the cookie jar.

The car ride home was again silent, but it was a comfortable silence this time. Aiji humming softly lulled Isaac to sleep almost instantly, dreaming of seeing him on stage, looking down at him with those dark dark blue eyes, devouring his soul.
Aiji pulled up to their building, into the underground garage. He stopped his humming when he noticed Isao sleeping soundly besides him. The boy was out cold, and that’s no surprise. Too much has happened too quick and he needed to sleep it off. He was reluctant to wake him, he seemed so peaceful like this. Aiji unbuckled him and then pulled Isaac from his seat, holding him up and resting his head to his shoulders. He noted how he snaked his arms around his neck, not even waking. That’s how he bought him up to the penthouse, then up the stair, carefully laying him in the guest bed again. – Really, like Nyans when he’s drunk…. – he mumbled, referring to his band-mate. He then pulled Isao’s shoes, tossing them aside then carefully pulled the covers over him. He stirred in his sleep, but didn’t wake up.

After tucking in his new flatmate, Aiji got to his own room, his own bed finally. Flopping down he stared at the ceiling. He felt the bed shift a bit as Chino, as a gray cat jumped up next to him,coming out of hiding from under his bed. She smelled around his neck and face, purring a bit.
– Hey darling. What were you doing down there? – He reached up, petting behind her ears before she changed forms. Her small frame sat next to Aiji, still purring low.
– I wanted to talk about Isaac. About his part in your work. – She said in her sweet voice.
– Hm? You didn’t seem to mind him. – Aiji sat up so Chino could see him eye-to-eye.
– I don’t, he is a sweet boy. I’m just wondering if you know just how much your fates are intertwining. – She often talked about this. When Damian offered him this job, Chino only advised him to take the opportunity, because she saw something in him that needed to go down this road. She didn’t like Damian, there was no surprise there. They were polar opposites, Chino being the selfless ray of sunshine, and Damian…well he was Damian, even before he was a vampire.
– Are you even supposed to say that to me? – Aiji asked her, raising an eyebrow.
– Well, no, not really. But you tend to pull on your fate strings until they snap. I’m just saying not to pull away this time. He is meant to be here, with you. – She stated matter-of-factly.
– Then could you please look out for him tonight? A lot has happened, make sure he sleeps well. – Aiji asked with tired eyes. He wanted to sleep too.
– Of course, you both looks spent. – Her little hand reached out to stroke some hair from his face. – I will take care of him tonight and you sleep tight.
He knew what she was doing. It was some kind of hypnotic spell, that helps him to a night of dreamless slumber.

  1. L’appel du vide (the call of the void) refers to the spontaneous urge to engage in a destructive behavior. Examples include thinking about swerving into oncoming traffic while driving or feeling the urge to jump off the edge of cliff. ↩︎