Yuugi clenched his teeth, forcing back a yawn. His eyes blurred and his head fell back under the tree he sheltered beneath, the leaves shading him from the sun high overhead. Chasing the fiend hadn’t left him with much time for sleep over the past few days. Yuugi’s eyes were heavy. He blinked, rubbing his palms over the dark blue trousers he wore. Civilian clothes always felt too comfortable compared to the uniforms Kaiba had them all wear. The white shirt and navy sweater didn’t help his fight against sleep the way tight leather and the heavy drag of his sword slung at his hip would.
The uniform of the Hunters stood out too much when Yuugi met informants. Where was the man? Yuugi had been on the hunt for over a week and was sorely in need of fresh information. This vampire was a slippery devil, evading every trap Yuugi set for him. He didn’t even know this vampire’s name, but it had made its presence known too violently for anyone else to be sent. A good idea, since the fiend seemed to vanish every time even Yuugi got close. If it was a new menace, potentially a new rogue, it had to be stopped here and now.
Yuugi stifled another yawn, eyes closing in a slow blink and staying that way. Surely he would arrive soon.
"You're still so green." The heat of Atem's breath ghosted across the back of Yuugi's neck, the rumble of his words vibrating in Yuugi's ears. His eyes snapped open, fear waking him more effectively than any alarm. Yuugi leapt to his feet and spun around in the same movement, trying not to trip over his own boots. His arm snapped forward, the dagger hidden in his sleeve sliding into his hand. Yuugi barely glimpsed the smug smile twisting dark red lips before Atem slid behind him again, moving so fast he almost seemed to blur.
"Falling asleep on the job." Atem laughed and Yuugi threw himself to the side instead of chasing him, rolling away from the vampire. Twilight had fallen and Yuugi cursed himself for falling asleep out in the open. "Kaiba will be so disappointed in you."
Yuugi twisted as he came to his feet, facing Atem this time. He held the small blade away from the vampire, hiding it behind his fingers. There was more than one point in a battle to take the element of surprise. His heart thudded painfully against his ribs, the tickle across his neck under the cascade of hair from his ponytail an uncomfortable reminder that Atem could have killed him right there. He met that smirk with a snarl of his own, wondering why the monster across from him hadn't moved. Atem never made any sense.
"You made a mistake, monster." Atem quirked a brow at him, spreading his hands in a 'who, me?' gesture calculated to have Yuugi's blood boiling. The panic that had lit up his senses was fading, merging into the cold urge to kill that had carried him through so many of these fights. "You should have gone straight for the kill. Why do you always want to talk?!"
Atem's lips twitched like he was trying to hold back another laugh. "You ought to take a good, hard look at yourself." He took a step forward, then another, but Yuugi held his ground, watching for an opening. "Well, not that you've had a chance yet to-"
Yuugi dashed forward and swung straight for Atem's throat, focused on the vein that pulsed there. The tip of his dagger grazed skin before the vampire slammed a hand straight into Yuugi's stomach, knocking him back several feet. The air left Yuugi's lungs in a rush and he groaned, smacking into the ground hard enough to bounce. Atem pressed his advantage, sweeping in to grab Yuugi around the shoulders and slam him into the tree.
The shock vibrated down Yuugi’s arm and his knife fell from numb fingers. He fumbled for a second blade he carried sheathed inside his boot, but Atem landed on him a second later. The vampire pinned both of Yuugi’s legs with his own and grabbed him by the throat, sharp nails gouging skin.
Yuugi choked, both hands wrapped around Atem's wrist as he struggled to breathe. Cold seeped into him, his feet kicking uselessly in the grass and head reading back to knock into the rough bark of the tree behind him. Atem stared deep into Yuugi's eyes for a moment that lasted far too long for Yuugi's comfort; with darkness creeping in around the edges of his vision, those wide, dark pupils swallowed him whole. Yuugi couldn't read anything in those eyes beyond a faint curiosity and the hunger that so terrified him each and every time he came up against a vampire.
"I'm going to ask you a question." Atem spoke in a whisper, all traces of humour gone. "I wonder if you've changed your answer since I last asked."
His fingers eased up just enough to let Yuugi take a shallow breath. He slowed his frantic struggling, focusing on pushing back the darkness that threatened to claim him. If he passed out here, he was dead. Atem wanted to talk? The vampire had done this to him before, the first time they met. Yuugi managed a grunt of acknowledgement, since Atem seemed to be waiting.
"What satisfaction do you get from killing us?”
Yuugi’s lip curled back, exposing his teeth. His pulse beat steady against Atem’s hand, his eyes flashing with anger that the monster would even ask.
“Why- do you think I owe you an answer?” he hissed, voice strained.
“I’m the one with his hand wrapped around your pretty little throat,” Atem purred in response, purple eyes lighting up with wicked satisfaction. He tightened his grip, thumb pressing in until Yuugi gagged before letting up again.
Yuugi snarled, letting his left hand fall to his side. It hurt to breathe. “Abomination. All of you!” He coughed, choking, and Atem’s fingers loosened again. “I kill you because vampires prey on humans, carelessly stealing our blood and lives. Hurting the people I care about!”
“Not all of us kill.” Atem’s words were calm but Yuugi barely heard them. His blood pounded in his ears, the echo of a voice screaming his name. The muffled thump of a body hitting the floor. A single, choked breath and the mocking laughter of the creature as it fled into the night.
Yuugi roared, surging forward to snatch the knife from his boot. Atem’s eyes went wide, fingers twitching against bruised skin, but Yuugi moved - for once - faster than the vampire. He stabbed the blade deep into Atem’s arm from the side, feeling the impact as the tip scraped bone.
Atem howled with pain, fingers convulsing and losing their grip. He sprinted backwards, ripping the blade out of his arm and throwing it right at Yuugi’s head. Yuugi threw himself to the ground, lips clenched shut as Atem’s blood had splashed across him. The knife stuck in the tree with a heavy thud and Yuugi breathed in through his nose.
When he looked up again a second later, Atem had vanished into the night.
Yuugi moaned in frustration behind closed lips, rolling onto his back. He snatched a damp rag out of the brown pouch attached to his belt and scrubbed his face with it, feeling the burn of the liquid on his skin. Rapidly cleaning up the rest of the blood, pulling the sweater off and turning it inside out before scrubbing his hands clean too, Yuugi scowled at the floor. Not again.
“Fuck!” Yuugi kicked the tree with enough force to make the knife wobble, then forced himself to calm down. Temper tantrums were a luxury he couldn’t afford.
He pulled a communicator out of his trouser pocket and growled commands to the back-up team to pick him up. They would bring his equipment and the rest of his weaponry. Yuugi couldn’t wait for the informant any longer; Kaiba probably knew where the man lived.
As much as he would love to chase Atem down, Yuugi wouldn’t forgo his mission.
Sliding his hand along the rough ground, misshapen rocks pricking at his fingers through the leather gloves he wore, Yuugi crawled forward inch by inch. He stalked his prey in near perfect silence, following the splashes of blood, erasing the evidence as he went with a rag clutched in his left hand. The mud stuck to the close-fitting black trousers and shirt he wore, dirtying the knees and elbows, but he would be dousing himself in much worse before long. A little mud wouldn’t damage the hybrid between steel and fabric, flexible yet strong enough to turn away most attacks from bladed weapons.
Another step, Yuugi so focused on where he put his feet that he didn’t notice the puddle of mud until his right hand landed right in the middle with a wet, sucking squelch.
“Sh-” Yuugi bit back the curse, teeth sinking into his lip. The monster he sought had sensitive ears and anything louder than the softest exhalation could give him away. He grit his teeth and gingerly shook the mud off his fingers, fumbling a second rag out of a brown pouch attached to the belt slung around his hips. Anzu would scold him for wasting equipment later, he thought with a wry smile as he cleaned his hand, but Yuugi couldn’t afford to have anything affect his grip when he intercepted his prey tonight.
He deposited the sodden rag in a second, black pouch hanging from the opposite side of his belt, newly clean fingers grazing the hilt of the sword sheathed beside it. Every muscle tense, he started forward again. After the run-in with Atem and the longer than normal chase, Yuugi was more than ready to kill.
Tonight. Yuugi’s lips curled up into a smug smile as he followed the trail to the next splash of blood. He hoped the creature enjoyed the broken nose it had received courtesy of the wife of his lack luster informant. The man had become dinner but she wielded that frying pan like a seasoned warrior might his most advanced weapon. Never mess with a woman who had the Talent to harden iron beyond its natural capabilities.
A Talent that would have gotten Yuugi out of more scrapes than he could count. Rising from his spider-like crouch, Yuugi stretched his limbs, checking the reinforced plates sewn into his shirt and taking a rapid inventory of his weapons. His eyes sought out the disk of light just barely visible over the house to his left. He had perhaps ten minutes of light left. Yuugi swept his eyes across the ground in one final check before shedding the glove from his left hand. Clear.
He stowed the bloodied rag and the glove both in the same black pouch as the first, clicking the overhanging lid into place. Yuugi pulled out a fresh pair of gloves and slid them on, tucking the ends into his sleeves with meticulous care. They fit him perfectly; every aspect of this outfit had been tailored to him, designed for mobility and protection above all else. He smoothed escaped strands of hair back into his ponytail, then dragged the attached hood over his head to hide the bright blonde and red that threatened to give him away in the dying vestiges of the sunlight. Finally, he checked the knives sheathed in his knee-high boots before setting his back to the cold wall of the narrow alleyway.
Yuugi followed his training to the letter. He had seen what happened to agents who ignored it.
The twilight would soon give way to full darkness and Yuugi would lose any advantage he might have had against the beast. He crept toward the basement door in the house across from him, barely visible in the deepening shadows, ears strained for the slightest sound. The woman couldn’t give him much of a description beyond a hooded figure and crazy eyes, which could describe almost all of the vampires he had met in the last three years. Not knowing this particular monster's Talent, he nearly vibrated with anxiety.
Kaiba was right; this never got any easier.
He exhaled in short, sharp increments, fingers closing around the hilt of his sword, waiting. Unless this creature was a rogue, it shouldn’t be able to travel in sunlight. Either way, the blood was only a day old and this door was the only exit from the basement. His dark clothing blended with the shadows thrown by the overhanging stories of the building behind him, blocking out the meagre starlight. The moon wouldn't rise for hours yet.
Another breath. A creak from the wooden door. Yuugi tensed and bared a few inches of his blade, the darkness muting its shine.
He dove to the side as a tall figure burst into the alleyway, the tip of the knife in its hand pointed straight at Yuugi's throat. Yuugi rolled, narrowly avoiding the patch of mud he had fallen prey to earlier, and came to his feet again with the flat of his blade facing the vampire. The polished steel gleamed dimly in the darkness.
"Shine," he hissed, fingers of his right hand brushing the blade to channel his focus, pushing his Talent to the limits. Light flared down the length of the sword, the metallic coating Kaiba had developed with him bursting into incandescence. Yuugi snapped his eyes shut, turning his head away. He heard the vampire scream, nearly drowning out the crash of its knife as it hit the floor. Amateur. Clearly this thing had never had a serious run in with an agent.
Yuugi moved a second later when the light winked out, leaping with the surety of a man who knew his terrain. The creature had both hands thrown up to protect its eyes but turned at the sound of Yuugi’s footsteps, letting out another screech. It managed to take two steps before Yuugi reached him, his blade already swinging in a low arc, humming through the air. Yugi used both hands to drive it deep into the vampire's back, cloth and flesh both parting around sharpened steel. Straight through the heart; Yuugi was a professional.
He turned his head away, pressing his mouth and nose into the scarf tied around his neck as blood spurted across his hands. The monster he had speared let out a gurgling scream, thrashing against the blade and succeeding only in widening the gash. Breathing in the familiar, sterile scent that always made Yuugi think of hospitals, he dug his toes into the ground and bore the vampire down. His muscles bunched with the strain of moving the dying, but still unnaturally strong, being and Yuugi hissed out a curse, nearly biting his tongue. Another shove and the vampire landed face down in the muck blanketing the alley's floor. A knee in its back, Yuugi twisted the sword viciously within his prey, listening with quiet satisfaction to the death rattles from its lungs.
Yuugi held it there for at least a minute after it stopped twitching before standing, leaving the point of his sword buried in the dirt. He had made that mistake once and only once. Couldn't trust those bastards as far as you could throw them. Breathing out slowly, feeling the staccato pounding of his heart against his ribs, a slow grin spread across Yuugi's lips. One more down. Kaiba estimated there were around two thousand vampires currently operating, at least half of that number created by accident. Some day, Yuugi would put his blade through the last of them.
His eyes flicked down to the gore soaking the front of his suit, cataloguing the damage. Blood dripped from his fingers, attesting to the moisture resistant abilities of all Kaiba Corp issued outfits for the Hunters, and the pouches were still sealed but Anzu really was going to kill him. Another messy kill.
Yuugi reached into the brown pouch and pulled out another rag soaked in the same abrasive smelling liquid as his scarf. He mopped his face first, careful to remove any trace of the monster's blood before risking opening his mouth again. Yuugi gave his gloves the same treatment, then dropped the soiled rag on the vampire's body. Reaching around behind him, Yuugi fished a small, round device out of another pouch hanging off the back of his belt. He flipped up the top of it, revealing an array of buttons and a speaker. Yuugi keyed in the number for the the crew assigned to him.
“Yuugi Mutou.” He waited for the static to clear, continuing after a hum of acknowledgement from the other end of the line. "Target is dead. I need extraction and clean up."
"How much clean up?" Anzu's voice was as sharp as the sterile solution still stinging Yuugi's nose. He winced but even that couldn’t wipe the smile from his lips.
"You do realise we have better weapons than swords to deal with them. Cleaner ones! One of these days you're going to really hurt yourself, Yuugi!" He held the tiny device away from his ear as Anzu really got into swing of her favourite lecture, dwelling at length on Yuugi's poor battle habits and the expense of replacing his clothes once every other altercation. Yuugi waited patiently, knowing she had already summoned the team. He didn’t have much else to do than guard the vampire’s body and listening to her proved less painful in the long run.
Yuugi turned his head at the sound of footsteps, relaxing again when the white suited men filed into the alley one by one. He locked eyes with Honda, sharing a wry grin. Anzu’s voice soared, loud enough for he and the other two men who made up the standard team to hear from the mouth of the alley. The girl had her lectures down to an art form.
“I know, I know,” Yuugi placated her, his free hand waving in the air as he rolled his eyes fondly. "I'll try harder next time. Gotta go, ok? See you later." And he hit the disconnect button before Anzu could get into voice again.
Honda whistled through his teeth, waving the other guys over to deal with the body. They all wore clothes of the same fabric as Yuugi’s but white this time to show up the blood, easily cleaned and sterilised again when they were done. They were covered from neck to foot, heavy duty gloves bound to their wrists and hoods pulled up over their heads with breathable material ready to be tugged across their mouths and noses. Honda gave Yuugi a cheerful wave before buttoning his in place, hefting a bucket into view.
Honda sounded far too happy, in Yuugi's opinion. He let out a heavy sigh and shed any electrical equipment into a bag Honda held out for him. Then his weapons into another bag He stepped into the basin one of the other men had set out for him - Yuugi always thought they resembled the inflatable paddling pools he had used as a child. Pulling down his hood, he gave Honda a tired smile. The adrenaline had worn off.
He closed his eyes, thoughts drifting to his next kill as the cleaning solution soaked him, washing away the corrupted blood. Yuugi didn't plan to make a mistake big enough to need the services of the black-suited clean up crew any time soon. They tracked all field-agents, carrying the weapons Kaiba gave out to very, very few. While he respected them more than any, Yuugi had little desire to join them. Their job seemed far harder than his.
After all, a rogue agent gone vamp presented a significant threat. Nobody wanted another Bakura.
Yuugi freed his hair from the silver ring that bound it, running his fingers through the damp strands before wringing it out as best he could. Most of him felt dry already, the water dripping into the basin beneath him. He scraped his thick hair back into an even messier ponytail than before and took the towel Honda held out to wipe off the last of the cleaning solution from his face and clothing. They would have to go over his equipment more seriously back at base, but it would do for now.
The lower-ranked agents had leapt to their duties with the ease and security of the comprehensive training Honda demanded from those under his command. These two must have been new - Yuugi didn’t recognise either of them, though the teal green hair peeking out from under the hood of the shorter one briefly held his interest. He watched the two of them assemble the metal cage over the vampire’s body, checking the fuel lines were clear and the nozzles were all pointed towards the creature. Yuugi’s sword had joined the rest of his weapons to be sterilised. Controlled combustion really was the easiest way to deal with these monsters.
Eyes trained on the body as the two men stepped away, Yuugi watched the flames blossom from the roof and sides of the cage, enveloping the vampire. He allowed himself a moment to lean against Honda, quietly appreciating it when his friend slung an arm around his shoulders. Yuugi needed a shower, some good food and about three days sleep. Too bad he was only going to get two of the three.
The mumble somewhere above his head shattered the precious moment of peace and Yuugi sighed. He turned enough in Honda’s embrace to meet his eyes, flames brightening the gold streaked through his hair. Honda looked concerned, lips pursing, likely about to answer his own question with a demand that Yuugi rest. Yuugi laughed, the sound weak against the roar of flames erasing the stain from the filth of the back alley. His friends worried too much.
"He resurfaced last night.” The brittle excitement in Yuugi’s tone made the frown lines across Honda’s brown deepen, but Yuugi chose to ignore it. “Anzu managed to lock down his location for me." Yuugi straightened up as the fire sputtered and died, leaving behind a silence deeper than the grave.
Honda opened his mouth, then seemed to reconsider. He echoed Yuugi’s sigh, dropping his arm back to his side as he watched the two younger agents dismantling the equipment.
“Ryuuzaki, Haga, hurry it up.” Honda’s voice made the two of them flinch and Yuugi considered apologising. It wasn’t their fault Honda was irritated. “We need to get back to base as quickly as possible.” A glance down at Yuugi, his voice lowering again. “The boss wants to see you.”
Yuugi’s eyes narrowed. He picked up the bag containing his weapons, slinging it onto his back with ease. "Kaiba will have to wait. This time, Atem's not getting away."