Sakurai Atsushi was not happy with what he had just read, the latest correspondence from Clan Aichi detailing the attack by the rogue vampires, was alarming. He had not yet told the others what was contained in the letter, as the last thing he needed was for the young ones to be frightened, but he knew he’d have to discuss this new information with Kai.
Leaving the letter in his study, he went to see Kai in the kitchen, hoping that the young ones were out in the barn playing with the newest group of baby goats. Leaning in the doorway of the kitchen, Sakurai looked at Kai, “What?” the young man smiled, “Do I have rice on my face?”
“We need to talk, but away from the others.” Sakurai said somberly, “they don’t need to hear what I have to tell.” Now Kai was worried, “Is it that bad?” Sakurai nodded. Kai cleaned his hands and placed a lid on the food, “Let’s talk now before they come back from the barn.”
“The letter I received from Reo, has disturbing information. It seems that there are now rogue vampires coming into Kyoto, two of which attacked Ayato.” Kai gasped, “Is he …?” Sakurai held up his hand, “No, he’s fine…though it seems that he is no longer with Issay.” Sakurai explained the incident, “once again he has shown what a true coward he is. I don’t think the man is redeemable.”
Kai smirked, “But Kyo-san? That’s an odd pairing, don’t you think?” Sakurai frowned, “It says a lot about Issay’s morals, to leave your young lover to die at the hands of another and run, no…there is no excusing that. Ayato is better off with Kyo-san. The greater risk are these rogue vampires, it seems that they are products of Yoshiki, but as Reo put it, they lacked any humanity.”
“Do you believe Yoshiki is creating these immortals specifically for that trait? Is he creating an army that only have a killing instinct?” Kai was horrified at the idea that Yoshiki could be doing just that; creating an army of immortals who possessed no humanity and had no reservations on killing.
“I can’t even begin to imagine what that man has in his mind, but we should be preparing for that possibility,” Sakurai paused, “What about the others? How do we tell them without creating panic in their minds?”
Kai said nothing for a few moments, “Perhaps discussing the change in Ayato’s situation… and then lead into the attacks after? You know there is no love lost between Issay and myself, I don’t care what his situation is to be honest, though I don’t think we should express our true feelings about Issay, that does no one any good.”
Sakurai had sent the young one’s out to hunt, while he re-read Reo’s letter, forming in his mind how he was going to discuss the recent changes in Kyoto. With the news of Issay’s situation changing, it brought back memories of Imai and their time spent together. “Where are you now, Imai?” he whispered. “Probably holed up somewhere, hiding from the world.” Kai poked his head in Sakurai’s bedroom, “Acchan, they’re waiting for you.” Sakurai smiled, “Thank you, Kai-kun, I’ll join you in a moment.” Sakurai slowly rose from his desk; he was not looking forward to giving his family the disturbing news.
“I want you to listen closely, I’ve received some new information from Reo-san that is important to all of us as immortals.” Uta reached over and picked up Naoto’s hand, Toshiya doing the same with Kai. “There was an attack on Ayato by a pair of rogue vampires a few months ago.” Uta gasped, “He’s not…” Sakurai shook his head, “no the boy is fine, though he is no longer with Issay as a result of the attack.” Sakurai went through the incident, and Ayato’s abandonment by his lover. “Ayato is now with Kyo-san and while I don’t expect any retaliation against Reo by Issay…I don’t entirely trust the man.”
“The rogue vampires, does Reo-san know who their maker is and why are they being called rogue?” Naoto asked in a tiny voice. “Before the female was killed by Asanao, Reo was able to get her to tell him that Yoshiki was her maker. By Arimatsu’s report, the male was even worse as far as communication. They’re considered rogue as they had no humanity left, they are just killing machines.”
Toshiya shifted nervously, “What does this mean for us? This happened in Kyoto, do you believe that there will be attacks here?” Sakurai smiled, “I don’t know Totchi, the two that were in Kyoto were killed, Reo was unable to question them further and the way he describes the woman, she probably wouldn’t have answered.”
“I think we need to be more aware of our surroundings,” Kai interrupted, “We never go out alone, period, and we always hunt in a group. I don’t think we should be making any trips into Sendai for the time being, ne Acchan?”
Sakurai now had to bring a topic up that he had not discussed with Kai, “There is one other thing, that Reo has mentioned; there have been more voices heard, and we both fear that there has been an increase of immortals not just here at home, but world wide.”
“Acchan, why didn’t you tell me!” Kai snapped. Sakurai held his hand up, “Reo has reported that all his clan members have heard voices speaking, a few of them have reported hearing Yoshiki and Ryuichi’s names, but also my name and Imai’s.” Uta started to whimper, “Imai? Acchan no…please.” Sakurai opened his arms, Uta crawling over to sit in the man’s lap, “Please don’t let him find us,” Uta buried his face in his lover’s neck, “Uta, I won’t let him harm you, I won’t let him harm any of us. He will not come against me, and if he did, I would not hesitate to destroy him before I’d let him touch any of you.”
“Why do you need to find him? I thought you hated Sakurai, that’s all you’ve ever told me, so now suddenly you feel the need to see him? Why?” Tangier watched as Imai stormed through the house, muttering angry words under his breath. “Stay here if you’re too scared to go, I don’t care.”
During the last twenty-five years of living in Hokkaido, Imai had grown increasingly frustrated with their situation. After the incident in Paris in 1498, with Yoshiki acting as a messenger, Sakurai’s refusal to speak to Imai had burned a hole in his heart; his maker made it known that he did not want to speak to his child. Eight hundred years had passed since he had laid eyes on Sakurai Atsushi, eight hundred years of regrets.
Imai had assumed (wrongly) that by his presence in Hokkaido, living at the estate of his maker, would some how trigger a response by Sakurai. He spent hours sending out thoughts to his maker in hopes of a response, but night after night, Imai was disappointed. “Imai?” Tangier tried to slip his arms around his lover’s waist, “Do you really have to go?” he whimpered.
“Yes, I do, and I’m leaving tomorrow night. Stay here if you don’t feel safe traveling with me, but there is nothing you can say that will keep me from leaving.” Imai smiled sadly, “I love you but this is something I must do, there is no argument.” Tangier leaned into Imai’s chest, “I won’t be separated from you,” looking up at his lover, Tangier smiled, “If this is what you need to do, then I suppose we’ll be leaving as soon as the moon rises.”
Kyo and Hazuki had been on patrol all evening, the threat of encountering more rogue vampires weighing on their minds, both men hearing the voices which were becoming clearer each night. “Damn them, what the hell do they want from us?” Kyo growled as they walked the perimeter of the city. “Why the hell do I keep hearing Sakurai-san’s name? Who the hell is looking for him?” Kyo had asked Reo one morning just before dawn. “I suspect it is Imai, he was the first brought into the blood by Sakurai, and they had a falling out centuries ago, but why Imai is calling for him, I don’t know.”
Kyo grunted, “He needs to stop begging for Sakurai to contact him, he sounds like a whining child.” Reo smirked, “You’re very susceptible to whiny children, Kyo.” It was true, Ayato could whine and Kyo would do whatever the boy asked of him, within reason. Ayato had jumped into the relationship with Kyo quickly, surprising the samurai.
“Kyo… please?” Ayato was sitting on the man’s lap, wiggling his ass and offering his neck to his new lover. Kyo however hesitated to perform such an intimate act with the boy, “Ayato, we…I um…damn it boy,” Kyo couldn’t help but nuzzle the pale thin neck. “Why must you test me?” Ayato looked at Kyo for a moment, “I don’t mean to…it’s just, um…I think you’re probably more of a man than Issay is.” Kyo snorted, “Of course I am.” Another wiggle, “Show me.” Ayato purred, he knew that the samurai would take the challenge, and he wasn’t disappointed.
The members of Clan Aichi were told to report any new names that had been heard over the course of each night’s patrols. He knew of course that Sakurai and Imai’s names had been heard, and they were also aware of Yoshiki and Ryuichi’s names, but there were several that had started to float in, but not on a nightly basis. Mana was the first to hear the new names, and went straight to Reo to inform him.
“I was out in the back of the house when I distinctly heard the name Hide and the title onmyoji whispered in the same breath.” Mana claimed the names were not whispered in a threatening tone, “Almost as if it was the herald of a dignitary arriving in a town.” Reo frowned, “Onmyoji? Well that’s a new development, what would an onmyoji be doing with an immortal? There is something out of place, I want only Arimatsu, Hazuki and Kyo to know of this information, no others.”
Imai and Tangier had traveled at night, with spurts of immortal speed and in a few instances, using the cloud gift when they wanted to avoid a city. Tangier never liked when Imai would carry him through the night, it wasn’t natural as he told his lover, who just laughed, “You’re complaining that it isn’t natural? Do you even hear yourself, you silly boy? We’re immortals, we prey on humans for our sustenance to remain immortal and you’re complaining about using the cloud gift?” Tangier pouted for the remainder of that night, giving Imai the cold shoulder and not speaking as they moved across the night sky.
The immortal couple crossed the nine hundred miles in less than a week, setting down just outside of the small village of Oshu. “Why are we stopping here? Can you sense he is close?” Tangier had been almost asleep when Imai lightly set them on the ground. “I sense something though I’m not sure what or who it is,” Imai looked around for somewhere to spend the day sleeping, finally settling on a small low hut with a sunken floor. Covering themselves with large tree branches that Imai brought in, the couple settled in for the day, Tangier clinging to his lover and Imai pushing his thoughts out to Sakurai Atsushi, his gut telling him that he was closing in on his maker. “We will go into Sendai tomorrow night; we both need to eat and there is always some gossip to be found at any izakaya.” Tangier’s stomach churned at the thought of seeing Sakurai face to face, fear causing him to shiver. “He won’t hurt us, will he?” Imai didn’t answer. The year was 1824.