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Blood Life

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          It had been relatively quiet in Kyoto for the last few decades of the 18th century. Reo’s clan had gained new members, both mortal and immortal. Omi had died of old age and it was decided by Reo and Asanao that there would be no replacement for the mama-san, instead he would let the remaining girls live out their lives in the geisha house, no longer accepting customers. “I just don’t feel that it is necessary to continue with that business, Clan Aichi has other ventures that more than make up for the revenue lost by closing the house.”

          There had been no stirrings from Yoshiki, the impending war was now a questionable issue, “I’m not convinced yet that we are all safe, the man is unpredictable at best, and bloodthirsty at worst.” Reo reminded his clan members to stay vigilant. Mana and Arimatsu were living happily together, as were Hazuki and Jyou, the latter couple offered the entire clan an element of amusement.

          “I’m going to guess you said something wrong to her…that cut is rather deep.” Kyo teased his friend one evening, after hearing a ruckus from their private room, Hazuki escaping the wrath of his lover quickly. “It wasn’t that bad really, she just over reacts at times.” Hazuki said sheepishly as the slashed wound on his face slowly healed. “You know better than to tell Jyou to do something, you don’t tell her to do anything, you ask politely.” Kyo reminded his friend for the umpteenth time. Reo had kept up with his correspondence with Sakurai and Inoran, also making sure to inform his clan members of anything important.  

          Kyoto had seen no more incidents of women (or men) dumped outside the city walls since Mana had been found, even with Hazuki and Kyo searching for the offenders that had cut Mana’s tongue out. But that all changed in 1811, when a new horror was found behind a merchant’s stall on the main street through the city.

 

          The tea merchant Jin, had called for one of the mortals that were connected to Clan Aichi, wanting to report that he had found a dead body behind his shop, and the condition of the body was alarming. Reo’s senior mortal chief Hisao, went to Jin’s shop to see what the issue was; the dead man behind the shop had had his throat torn out. “Hisao-sama, what type of animal could have done this? We have no wolves on the mainland.”

          Hisao knew that the native wolf was not big enough to do the damage that was done to the body. “I’m not sure, Jin-san, but I will report this to Reo-sama. This may be an isolated incident.” Hisao knew exactly what had killed the man and he was worried that this would not be the first dead body they found.

          The report to Reo was made in the early hours after sunset, Jyou bringing Hisao to Reo. “My lord, this was not a wolf or any other animal…that man had his throat ripped out by another immortal, I’m positive.” Asanao and Arimatsu shared looks, this was not what they had wanted to hear. Dismissing Hisao and thanking him, Reo turned to his two senior men, “Tell me what you think, what would be your next step.”

          Asanao spoke first, “Put every available person on the street, both day and night, have someone at both gates into the city, again day and night.” Reo looked at Arimatsu, “I agree with Asanao, whether this is truly another immortal, I won’t believe that until I witness it myself.” Reo sighed, closing his eyes he rubbed the bridge of his nose, “I will not let myself fall to fear.”

 

          For the next several weeks, the city of Kyoto was in a panic, and the Aichi Clan was angry and frustrated; the body count was rising at an alarming rate. Between the day that the first body was discovered, until the third week, 17 other bodies had been found in and around Kyoto, leaving the mortal government agency just as angry and frustrated as the immortals.

          The condition of the bodies was all the same, though some were more abused than others. “Reo, three more this evening, near where we found Kyo-san.” Asanao gave his nightly report to his leader. “All three this time were women, and two of them had been brutally raped.” This was a new development, “Raped?” Reo was stunned.

          “Do you believe this is Yoshiki’s doing? Would he be so brutal as to rape a mortal woman then tear her throat out?” Arimatsu was not convinced, neither was Reo, “I don’t think this is Yoshiki’s doing, it is brutal but I do not sense the man anywhere near Kyoto.”  Reo was at a loss on how to deal with the attacks, “Just keep your men on watch, that’s all I can do for now.”

         

          After two long months and a total of 42 bodies turning up in and around the city, the attacks suddenly stopped. The local government deemed it a random attack, that somehow the perpetrators had either been caught, were dead or just decided to move on, Reo knew better, telling his men to stay aware and not to venture out unless it was to feed or to conduct urgent business. The izakaya’s were thankful that the attacks had stopped, their business had dropped off almost completely, two of the small pubs having to close their doors for good.

          “I need to get out! I’ve been cooped up in the house for months… can’t we ask Arimatsu to come with us, please?” Ayato was throwing a tantrum, bored from weeks of being told to stay indoors, and being watched carefully when he did go out to feed.  “I want to hunt, then I want something other than rice and miso! You promised me that once this all was over that you’d take me out.”

          Issay sighed as he rubbed his face roughly, “Let me ask Reo first. I do not want to go out against his orders.” He stood and walked to the door, “If he says no… that’s it, we will not go out.” Issay left the room, Ayato childishly sticking his tongue out at the door.

          “May I see Reo please?” Issay asked wearily, Jyou smirking at him, “Yes… you may go in.” Issay bowed. Reo was sitting at his desk, “Issay, what can I do for you this evening?” Bowing again, Issay sat on a cushion in front of the desk, “You can please let me take Ayato outside, the boy is bored and driving me insane with his tantrums and ridiculous behavior.”

          Reo raised an eyebrow, “Is he that bad?” Issay rolled his eyes, “Worse…I can understand, though it doesn’t make it any easier.” It had been almost three months since the attacks had stopped, and Reo felt sorry for the man, having a young lover had its perks and its drawbacks. “Yes, please…treat our boy to a night out, but please be careful, be aware of what’s going on around you.” Issay got up and bowed deeply, “Thank you, Reo.”

          “Issay, look! Do you think Mana would like this?” Ayato held up a long decretive hair pin, “I do, would you like to get it for her?” Issay smiled, it had been worth the effort of asking Reo to let them leave the house, Ayato’s face was flushed with excitement from shopping and from having fed as soon as they were outside.

          Walking through the shops and stalls, Ayato chattering like a squirrel, Issay had tried to check their surroundings better, but when they found themselves at the edge of the city, looking in the last stall, the hair on Issay’s neck bristled. Grabbing Ayato without warning, Issay started to drag the boy back to the center of town, “Wait! Why are you… what’s wrong? Issay!”

          “Shut up and just walk quickly, don’t look back,” Issay hissed angrily, he had sensed they were being watched and now the fear of being followed was real, as he dragged Ayato behind him. Just as they turned the corner that led them towards one of Reo’s izakaya’s, Ayato screamed and was jerked out of Issay’s grasp.

          “ISSAY! Help me… noo! I don’t stoppp!” Ayato was screaming, and as Issay turned to reach for him, he was faced with a male and female immortal, but none that he had ever seen before, “AYATO!” Issay didn’t know what to do, paralyzed with fear, he started to reach out for Ayato, but the immortal bared her fangs at him, all the while Ayato struggled and cried out, which earned him a slash of his face by the female immortal’s long fingernails.

           “Issay!!!” Ayato screamed again, “Help me please, Issay!” He couldn’t move, he didn’t know what to do, he knew he couldn’t kill the male immortal who was standing between him and Ayato, “Reo…” he whispered, then turn and ran towards the geisha house, Ayato’s eyes widened and he screamed again, “ISSAY!”

          “Ayato…come on, open your eyes for me, that’s it…” Ayato is being carried, his chest hurts and he feels sick to his stomach, opening his eyes he see’s Kyo…not Issay. “Kyo-san,” he whimpers. “You’re safe, I have you,” Kyo holds Ayato closer to this chest, the boy throwing his arms around Kyo’s neck. “Thank you.” He whispers in Kyo’s ear.

          Arriving back at the geisha house, Kyo gives Ayato to Mana, “Make sure he’s okay, I’ll be with Reo, come and get me if that piece of shit shows up.” He growled, Mana nodded, then reached out for Ayato.

          Blasting through the door, Kyo see’s Hazuki and Arimatsu struggling with the female vampire, Reo standing in front of her. “Who is your maker?” The woman growls at Reo, spitting and speaking nonsense words. “One more time, who is your maker?” thrashing around the woman finally spits out “Yoshiki”  

          The woman wrenches herself out of Hazuki’s grip, turning to slash Arimatsu in the face, and running towards the door. “Asanao,” Reo snaps, and with the speed of an immortal, Asanao grabs the woman and tears out her throat, killing her instantly, throwing the body in the corner.

          “That didn’t go well,” Kyo growled. “Are you okay?” He looks to Hazuki, “Yep…just hope she wasn’t infected with some disease, why else would she be acting like that? It’s as if she had no humanity left.”

          “The other one, the male, was worse…he was strong but less human that she was.” Kyo looked at Reo, “Is this going to be the norm now? Aggressive fledglings with no humanity? Could they be the one’s that killed those people?”

          “Where’s Issay?” Reo suddenly noticed the man is not with them. “I’d like to know that myself, he left Ayato with those things,” Hazuki hissed. Before he could say another word, Arimatsu had already left the room, “Kyo, stay here…Hazuki go with Arimatsu and Asanao, find Issay and bring him back to me.” Reo had some strong words for the cowardly immortal.

          Kyo left Reo and went straight to the geisha house, asking Mana how Ayato was feeling, “He’s upset but not hurt, he went to his room.” Throughout the decades, everyone had learned how to communicate with Mana through her special sign language. “Thank you, would you let me know if you see Issay, Reo wants to speak with him.” Mana bowed and smiled.

          Hazuki, Arimatsu and Asanao split up in order to search the city thoroughly, Hazuki sticking to the main streets, the other two hitting the small narrow lanes that crisscrossed throughout the city. All three men were very interested in what Issay had to say, his excuse for running and leaving his lover to die at the hands of the rogue vampires.

          “Hazuki,” a whispered voice came from between two produce stalls, “Are they gone?” Issay peered out into the street, looking to where he had last seen Ayato. “You bastard,” Hazuki reached in and grabbed Issay by the back of his yukata, dragging him out into the open, “Reo wants to speak to you.” He growled, Issay struggling to shake the man’s hand off. “Get off me, you have no right!” Issay sputtered. “I have every right you maggot, you left that beautiful boy in the clutches of two rogue vampires, and you tell me I have no right?”

          Hazuki shoved Issay in front of him, “Reo wants you, start walking.” Issay started towards the geisha house, every few feet checking to see if Hazuki was still behind him, he could feel the stabbing glare on his back. As they turned the last corner before the house, Arimatsu and Asanao were standing at the intersection. “Well, look what the vamp dragged in.” Arimatsu sneered.

          With another shove, Hazuki pushed Issay into the door of the house, “Where’s Ayato?” Issay demanded. “None of your business where he is, like you really care about his well being…” Arimatsu snapped. Jyou opened the door to Reo’s room, with a sweeping gesture to usher in the four men.

          Reo sat behind his desk, a scowl on his face and his eyes flashing red, “Issay. Explain yourself…why did you leave Ayato with those creatures? Why did you not attempt to rescue the boy?” Before Issay could answer, a yelp and the door slammed open, a fiery and pissed off Ayato storming into the room, walking up to Issay and slapping the man across the face, “I fucking hate you!” Jyou had come up and grabbed Ayato around the waist, “Settle down love, it’s okay.” Ayato’s fortitude crumbled at that moment, burying his face in Jyou’s shoulder and started crying.

          “Answer me Issay…why did you run and leave Ayato behind?” Reo demanded a second time. Issay’s face was bright red, “I did not believe I could have saved him, so I started towards the house to get reinforcements,” he stammered. “When I came back to where Ayato had been, everyone was gone.”

          “You’re LYING! You just ran away and left me with that …that creature! She almost killed me, if it hadn’t been for Kyo I’d be dead! You just left me there to die!” Ayato shouted at his lover, “You’re nothing but a damned coward!” Jyou scooped Ayato up in her arms and left the room, the boy sobbing into her neck.

          Issay reached out as he watched the boy leave the room, “Ayato…” he whimpered. “You’d better have a damned good reason to leave one of my children behind, and in the clutches of a rogue vampire, explain yourself.” Reo’s eyes were now blazing, if looks could kill, (and he could do it) Issay would have burst into flames.

          “I came to the house, I couldn’t find anyone outside, and I didn’t want to take the time to come in and get someone! When there was no one here, I went back to the last place I saw Ayato, after that I admit, I was a coward and I hid, I had no idea what those creatures would do to the city!”

          “In other words, you thought only of yourself,” Kyo came into the room, Hazuki trailing behind him. “You ran away from your lover, you did nothing to try to save the boy, you’re pathetic.” The room erupted in a cacophony of arguments to which there was no right or wrong, just one man’s truth against the opinions of others.

          “STOP IT!” A loud voice came from next to the door. “I want to ask him why…” Ayato walked over to Issay, “why did you leave me? You’ve told me you love me, that you’d do anything for me, that you want to be with me forever, so why did you run and leave me to die?” The sad look upon Ayato’s face spoke volumes to Issay, he knew he had lost.

          Kyo walks over to stand next to the boy, “Are you okay, look at me please,” he asked, as he put his hands on Ayato’s shoulder, holding the boy at arms length, looking him over. Ayato sniffled a bit, then slowly walked into Kyo’s arms, wrapping his arms around Kyo’s waist. “Thank you for saving me,” stepping back he looks at Kyo, “can I stay with you, please?”

          Issay gasped, “What? NO! You can’t stay with him, you belong with me. Let us go back to the room and we’ll talk about this.” He reached out for Ayato, who leaned away, tightening his grip on Kyo, “I want someone who will protect me…who won’t run away when I’m in danger, you’re no longer that person.”

          Issay looked at Reo, “This can’t… he has to stay with me! You gave him to me…” he argued. Reo simply shrugged his shoulders, “You are not his blood spouse, you are not his maker, I am.” Turning to Ayato, Reo bade him to come closer. “What is your desire, my son? Do you wish to go back to Issay and live with him?”

          “No, I don’t. I’d like to live with Kyo-san, if he’ll have me.” Ayato was the same height as Kyo, and the young man looked into Kyo’s eyes, “Can I stay with you, please?” Kyo looked first at Reo who nodded, then at Issay, “Ayato’s mine now, he will live with me and I will protect him. I have no feelings of animosity towards you, Issay, as we are members of the same clan, but from today until he chooses otherwise, Ayato is mine.”

          Reo sent everyone out of the room but Kyo, Ayato and Issay, he had to make sure everything was clear and understood.  “This is of your doing Issay, there is no malicious intent by Kyo, Ayato has made his choice, and as I am his father and maker, I am telling you now; Ayato will live with Kyo from today until he says anything more. There will be no infighting in my clan, if you have a problem with this, you may resign from Clan Aichi and leave Kyoto. If you are agreeable to the arrangement between Kyo and Ayato you can go back to your normal duties. But I will say this once and only once, if I find you are interfering in Kyo and Ayato’s relationship, you will be removed by force from my clan, is that understood?”

          “Yes Reo-san, it is understood. I will have Ayato’s things moved to Kyo-san’s room.” Issay bowed low and without looking at the other two men, left the room quietly.

          “As for you, young man, I expect you to leave all your feelings for Issay behind, and I also expect you not to play one man against another, that is unfair to both Kyo and Issay. You are my child and I can not banish you from my side, but I can restrict your movements. Do you understand this?”

          “Yes, Reo-san… my father, I understand.” Ayato turned to Kyo, “Are you sure you want me?” Kyo’s face soften, “Love, I’ve thought you were the most beautiful boy I’d ever seen since the moment I first laid eyes on you, I am a lucky and blessed man to have you to care for.” Kyo gently reached up and cupped the sides of Ayato’s face in his large calloused hands, and gave the boy a fleeting blush of a kiss, “We will take time to learn about each other, I am in no hurry.” Ayato had other thoughts, leaning in he gave Kyo a rather passionate first kiss, one that left the samurai reeling, and Reo laughing.

          Issay stormed around his room grabbing everything that was Ayato’s and even things that were his, but were now in his mind, tainted. “Little traitor… how the hell would he had lived if I would have been killed? Did he even think of that? Those creatures weren’t going to kill him anyways… liar making shit up, little fuck.”

          What Issay didn’t know was that Jyou was just outside the door, listening to the ravings of an angry and now dumped, vampire. The words that were being thrown around were important, at least in the way of keeping them in mind for the future. Jyou had some misgivings about Issay now, he wasn’t sure the man was as loyal to Clan Aichi as he proclaimed. The year was 1811.