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Fox Moulds Her

Chapter Text

Sterile, silver hallways bathed in harsh neon lights echo with the many rushed footsteps as people in navy jumpsuits, people in white lab coats, people in various types of armor hastily pass each other, muttering or merely nodding in greeting.

That girl with purple hair you see fumbling with her communication glasses and muttering curses?
That’s me. My name’s Rachael Barry. And I am currently very late. Which translates to very screwed.
In all honesty, it was my fault. I always tell myself I will NOT purchase new video games while on high mission alert and yet… And then I tell myself “just this one fight, just this one level” and before I know it, it’s 7 p.m. and I have to go to work.
I am beyond lucky I don’t have to sleep. Like, ever. It’s a blessing but also a curse. You know those times you’d just like to sleep a disgusting feeling off? Yeah, I can’t do that.

I can hear the Boss’s booming voice echoing even as I’m two floors below his office still. All those scrubs from the Zeta team had taken up all the elevators and I really didn’t feel like being poked in the spine by one piece of cybernetics or the other. Fuckin’ loopholers. I could lift and throw a car too if I had Jax's arms! But then again… someone might taser me in the bicep in the cafeteria just for shits and giggles.

I ran up the stairs. I need some cardio anyway. I flinch and grimace as I get close enough to the office to hear what the Boss is yelling. Oh, yes, I do mean Boss with the capital B. Nobody uses his name, we don’t even think the “official” name is his real one. We just call him Boss.

“Why the FUCK is Alpha 4 this FUCKING LATE? I swear on everything each and every one of you holds dear; if she doesn’t waltz her sorry little ass in here in the next ten seco…”

I barge into the office, a shit-eating grin on my face:
“What would have happened? You’d make them buy me an alarm clock? You know we don’t need that anymore, Boss?”
“Maybe not. But you do need the SSA tech I so graciously provide. Any more tardiness and I’ll send you out on a Code Red without it.”

Now that was a low blow. Yeah, I mean, technically, it was not all that easy for us to die, but I only had mana for so many spells per day. And I didn’t really feel like battering monsters with a baseball bat, that’s so 2017! Yeah, I used to do that back then, just FYI.

Okay, super cocky backstory time!
SSA is short for Supernatural Suppression Agency. We’re supposed to be this super-secret type of organization, but how low-profile can you be when you regularly trash half the city?
So, technically, what we’re supposed to do is uphold the balance. You know, since we live in a world where there are witches and ghosts and werewolves and all other sorts of craziness. So, as soon as some of them get out of line by… oh I don’t know, killing civilians, attempting world domination, conducting occult rituals, that sort of ordinary Tuesday stuff; we’re dispatched to put them in their place.
Now, as you’ve heard, my codename is Alpha 4. I am the only female member of the Alpha team, there’s 4 of us in total. I’ll get to the other Alphas in a minute, I still haven’t milked my own 15 minutes of fame.

If you’re at all familiar with the Greek alphabet, you know Alpha is the first letter. Meaning the 4 of us are technically the best of the best, the big shots of SSA.
We get sent on all the most dangerous missions, we get priority when it comes to new tech and alteration/augmentation procedures and we get most of the glory. Hardly any salary, because the Boss is a complete cheapskate, though. But, since we don’t have to sleep, eat and we never get sick… our living expenses are pretty low.

Every member of the Alpha team has super amazing, video game level abilities. Me? I can control force magic, at least currently. Power sets change, long story. Yes, I could force-choke you. I don’t want to. Get your mind out of the gutter.
Some of my past accomplishments include mind-controlling the leader of the Alchemists, breaking the jaw of a gargantuan dragon and killing two gods in 18 seconds flat. Not like I’m bragging or anything.

Oh, you want to know about the rest of the Alpha team? Well, there is no Alpha 1. There used to be until his memory was wiped and he’s now just a regular civilian. He was awesome though.
Alpha 2 is a war druid, he can do all sorts of crazy stuff with Mother Nature at his beck and call.
Alpha 3 is kind of a cyborg who controls electricity. We all naturally defer to him as our de facto leader, he’s been with the SSA the longest. Just please never compare him to Scott Summers, he’ll obliterate you.
And Alpha 5 is the engineer. He’s the only one of us with no active supernatural powers, having chosen to alter his body and psyche as little as possible. I don’t blame him. The rest of us are diagnosed with schizophrenia, after all. It’s funny. You’d think that would cripple us, but without it, we wouldn’t even be able to see ghosts and many other creatures. It appears Lovecraft was onto something. So, SSA has tapped into our illness and made it an asset.
It’s still not a walk in the park, but hey! I’m a superhero, who cares!

I mentioned the Alpha team usually gets sent only on the most important missions. That’s our plot-structure beat to push this story forward, let’s listen to the Boss:

“Okay, guys. We have a bloodsucking problem.”
“Aw come on! I told the mosquitos to chill!” Alpha 2 quips, earning a glare from the Boss.
“Vampires, knucklehead.”
“I know, I’m just messing with you.”
“I’ll mess with your spine if you keep it up. AS I WAS SAYING. Vampires. Old ones. Not your run-of-the-mill Blade night club bullshit. These guys are centuries old.”
“So, it’s run-of-the-mill Interview With A Vampire bullshit?” I ask, bored. Vampirism is such a hassle. We’ve been vampires ourselves in the past. Long story.
“Very funny. There’s two of them. You know the drill. Find them. Kill them.”
“Hate to break it to you, Boss, but… They are already dead.”
“When I say dead, I mean off my fucking proverbial lawn. Unmoving, unspeaking.”
Alpha 3 finally speaks, ever the voice of reason:
“Wait, why are you sending all of us to deal with only two vampires?”
“Finally someone with a whole brain speaks. As I said, they are centuries old. One of them killed two werewolves singlehandedly last night.”

We all froze. A vampire cannot even hope to wound a single werewolf. A single werewolf can easily take on 6 to 8 vampires at once. Suddenly, we all grew serious, it was all psychopathic focus from there:

“Forward us the files. Who are they?”
“We call them the black one and the white one, for now, the info is scarce. We’d heard some refer to them as the Fox and the Devil. We’re pretty sure the Fox can turn invisible and the Devil is at least resistant, if not immune, to fire.”

This was another thing that was unheard of. Vampires were extremely vulnerable to fire.
“Fortunately, neither of them can hide from a camera lens. So here are some photos. Alpha 3 and 2, you’re going after the Devil. Alpha 4, you find the Fox.”
Was he fucking kidding me?
“Are you fucking kidding me? I’m going alone?”
“If I remember correctly, you control that force elemental from the 5th dimension?”
“Ah, yeah, you’re right.” I chuckled in embarrassment. I always forget about that.
“Be inconspicuous. Recon is paramount at this stage. Now get the fuck out of here, I haven’t even had my coffee yet!”

With that typical unceremonious show of respect and encouragement, our briefing was complete.
“Well, guess I’ll see you guys later. Gotta go be the foxhound.”
“Be careful, Rae.” Alpha 3 said, his brows dipping in concern.
“When am I ever not careful?”
“Don’t get me started.”

The city looked peaceful enough and I scouted all the nearby watering holes, from seedy to high-roller, to find any trace of the white-haired vampire from the grainy photograph the Boss showed me.
It was no use trying to scan the area for EMF, so many people had some sort of a supernatural ability these days, they’d just confuse my radar and precise readings are slow and noticeable.
Bored out of my mind, I ordered a drink, slumping on a bar stool. Another thing I missed. Getting drunk. Not possible anymore. Oh well, that was the price one pays for the Elixir Of Life. More on that later, it’s kind of a big plot element but this is only chapter 1.

“Are you the predator, or the prey?”
A deep, velvety voice rang in my ear just as I took a sip. I couldn’t see anybody, but I could smell white musk and gunpowder.
Now, this was my jam! I had the quite literal, but let’s say figurative for the sake of this being a story, Charisma modifier of +6.
“I could be whatever makes you tremble.” I retorted and the Fox materialized next to me, none of the other patrons having seemed to notice a man appearing out of thin air. Perhaps he could not turn invisible. Maybe it was illusion magic.
Now, on a scale of physical attractiveness of 1 to 10, most vampires worth their salt (now that’s funny because you can ward against them with salt if that’s really what you believe works) are a solid 12.
The Fox was approximately 13.7. Give or take.
Snow white hair and molten gold slanted eyes that appeared half-lidded in that sleepy-but-in-a-sensual-way kind of… well, way. Soft lips twisted in a teasing smirk. That he was pale goes without saying, not much skin tone diversity among vampires. In 2019! Shameful, really.

“You must believe you’re sneaky, little mouse.” He spoke and I was grateful for having been a vampire myself, the threads of awareness still held strong against their charm.
“I’m sneakily sitting here, purple hair and all, in the middle of a bar, downing gin-and-tonics like they were water? How very sneaky indeed.” I chuckled and he followed. It was NOT a pleasant sound.
“Nobody can smell you. But in a room full of heady aromas… to have blood without a scent… you’re a sore thumb.”
“Banged too hard?”
He inched closer, lips next to my artery and I was ready to retaliate at a moment’s notice:
“If you wish.”
“How about you don’t call me, I’ll call you?”
“That won’t do. You seem like a promising new toy.”
He laid a soft kiss on my neck, lips almost as warm as those of a human. Meaning he’d fed recently.
I was so, so SO grateful for my former vampiric Sire, who was still looking out for me, his goodwill the only reason the scent of my blood wasn’t luring every vampire and their mother in the Tristate area.
He taught me that life-saving neat little trick a while back. Conceal your scent. I was worried about Alpha 2 and Alpha 3. They never belonged to the same Clan and thus never had access to that exclusive form of magic. In a sense, it was their blessing. Blood and flesh magic took a toll. Namely, humanity.
“Mmm. You do have a scent, little mouse. A human scent I find quite pleasant. I’ll be seeing you.”
With that, the Fox disappeared again. I thought all traces of him were gone until I gazed down at my lap.
A silver ring, elegant and simple, laid there. But I was no spring chicken. This goes to the SSA lab for analysis! I am definitely NOT putting that on my fing… Look, it’s my size! And it looks so beautiful on my hand!
Mitsuhide. That was the Fox’ name. And he wanted to meet me the next night.

Chapter Text

I returned to the base in a daze. Everything was a haze. I was not amazed.
Yeah, I’ll keep my day job. Or night job, more precisely. I don’t show promise as a rapper.
Alpha 2 and Alpha 3 had returned before me and with a sigh of relief, I noted they appear completely uninjured. But since they’re here, their mission must have born fruit.
I found them in the smaller cafeteria with Peacock.

Ok, so, I was already getting impatient to introduce my second favorite person in the SSA, right after Alpha 3.
Peacock was a couple of centuries old druid. A natural born charmer and an extremely talented healer and interior decorator. A while back, he started off as our enemy, this was before Boss had a truce with both the Druids and the Witches, to which Alpha 2 and I technically belonged.
But I have always loved Peacock, his indomitable optimism and bubbliness meshing with mine wonderfully. The rest of the gang (to the Mystery Machine!) was apprehensive of him at first, partly due to the fact he was very skilled at mind-controlling magic and partly due to the fact that his gay ass would tease-flirt with all of them just for a giggle.

But now, we have been on several missions with Peacock, he had saved our lives and we had saved his several times, so at least the Alpha team grew terribly fond of him.
The small cafeteria I mentioned used to be a room used for something else, I can’t remember what anymore. But since Boss got tired of Peacock bringing in decorative plants and hanging expensive floral curtains in every other room of an otherwise futuristic secret agent base, he gave him one of his own, making him promise he won’t redecorate any other one. It worked, Boss had that tiny morsel of peace of mind and Peacock had a personal cafeteria that would make Professor Umbridge gasp in envy.
Well, at least this month, as his style of the month was pink.

“Hi hiiiii, my gorgeous babe!” He shouted as soon as he saw me walk through the door, getting up to kiss my cheek like he always did. He was the one who started calling me “babe” when we first became friends and back in 2017, and as I was using a baseball bat (it was a magical bat, just so you know), that nickname quickly evolved into Babe Ruthless that one time I smacked a zombie’s head clean off, making it fly right out of the (quite literal) park. You know, it’s a pun on that famous baseball player, Babe Ruth? Not funny? Shut up.

“Hello, Sweet Pea, I’d missed you! Goat sure kept you at the Druid Council!”
Goat was the leader of the Druids, Peacock his second in command. He was a terrifying guy.
“Yeah, but we had fun, Hawk blessed us with his crazy Holy Water cleanse idea again!”
“Dousing the city with it from a helicopter again?”
“Well, he came to the conclusion ONE helicopter wouldn’t be enough at least.”
Was it crazy to have a Druid, ergo someone using pagan magic, who was a devout Christian? Probably. But who was I to judge?

Peacock’s arm still around my waist, he dipped his curly ginger head toward my neck, grinning profusely:
“Ooooh, babe, you smell of a man!” He winked: “A hot one, I hope?”
“HOW can you smell things like that?”
“One of my many talents.”

Alpha 2 chuckled, pointing at his empty coffee mug:
“I much prefer your talent for making the best coffee in the world! May I get another one?”
Peacock beamed, like every time someone praised his coffee or food and went to make more coffee as I sat down with my teammates:

“Any luck?” Alpha 3 asked me seriously.
Oh of course! I wasn’t able to track Fox down, he was the one who found me! Flirted with me and somehow managed to get this ring on my finger!
The waiting arch of my friends’ eyebrows told me I hadn’t actually said that out loud. I tried again but all that came out was:
“Nope. No sign of him.”
What the actual flying fuck?! Why can’t I mention him? Just as I started getting angry (insert obligatory “you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry” here) I felt a wash of calm engulf me. Mitsuhide wanted me to keep our meeting secret. Well, that was that. What can you do?

“Well, we had slightly more luck.” Alpha 2 proceeded: “Boss was correct. Devil did kill two werewolves last night so we headed straight to Steve’s place.”
Steve was one of the werewolf gang leaders, a friend of ours.
“Were they his doggies…I mean men?”
“Fortunately, no. But he knew one of them. A young one also. Was probably reckless for some street cred. You know, the more vampires they hunt down, the better their rep.”
“Yep, first they get the money, then they get the power, then they get to bone. Pun intended.”
Alpha 2 scoffed amusedly, his expression a tad envious that he hadn’t thought of that.
“So, what we DO know is where the showdown occurred.” Alpha 3 pointed at the holo-map he pulled up.
“Woah, Armadillo, that’s close to your former Tremere hideout!” I told Alpha 2. Yep, his Druid name was Armadillo.
“Indeed. But you know I was never on great terms with the lot.”
That was true, he never went through that binding ritual with 7 Elders every Tremere had to complete. Because our Armadillo had always seemed to have a cheat code to life.
“So, I was thinking… could you contact Count for us?”

The Count was my former Sire. Yes, THE Count. Dracula. Making me a Tzimisce of enviable awesomeness in the past. I still wore red boots as a tribute.

Yes, of course! I’d love to catch up with the old man myself! Just gotta remember never to call him “old man” to his face, he’d Vicissitude my ass into a footstool.
But Mitsuhide had objections to that. I didn’t need the Count anymore. I had him. Mitsuhide would take care of me. Excellent care. Lie to them.

“Of course, I’ll give it a whirl.”
“Good. I’m off to report to Boss. Wanna play Street Fighter afterward?”
“Sure! I’ll annoy you with Dhalsim!”
“Gross. How you manage to mash your way through my Ken with that shit character is beyond me.”
“You want me to pull out my Ibuki instead?”
“Please don’t! I’ll take Mr. Yogatastic any day!”

The next night, I went out on more reconnaissance. Or so I said. My feet took me to the place where Mitsuhide wanted to meet. Now, I know I should have been afraid, but I wasn’t. I mean, I’d slain gods before, for crying out loud! But was that truly the reason?
It was a gorgeous house. I’d never been to that part of town much, but I seemed to navigate to the address without a hitch.
I let myself inside, finding the place dimly lit. Electric lamps, not candles. Vampires didn’t like candles. Or fireplaces. It was well-decorated, almost reminding me of the Count’s socially acceptable residence. The other one had been decorated by using Vicissitude. Have you ever reclined on a 47-eyed couch?

I found him standing next to the window in the master bedroom, swirling some wine in a crystal glass.
So he could consume mortal food still.
He wore a white kimono, I noted, a stark contrast from his last night’s black suit with a turtleneck.
There were several flintlock rifles hanging on the wall, as decoration. A sucker for antiques, it seemed.

“Welcome, darling.” He uttered as he turned to face me and I almost rolled my eyes.
“Of all the cliché lines! Improve upon your Romanian accent.”
“I have never met a Romanian person.” He smiled a slithery smile full of meaning. My skin crawled.
“Why am I here?”
“Why, you almost sound like you’re displeased. I desired your company, of course.”
“Why? I don’t recall us becoming friends last night.”
“You wound me. We became far more than friends last night.”

With a flick of the wrist, a pitcher of wine at the little table next to him poured some wine into a waiting glass that floated right to me.
“Let us toast to that.” He inched closer until I could feel his scent and count his long eyelashes.
“I will not drink or eat anything you give me.”
“I believe Persephone said the same thing to Hades.” He smiled.
“You mean Proserpine to Pluto.”
I happened to know Pluto extremely well. My previous power set came directly from him. He was an awesome guy, boy, could he shred a guitar! And you never wanted to get on the wrong end of his bident! Or his puppy’s maw, for that matter. I still thought his throne of bone was the most badass thing I’d ever seen. Like the book version of the Iron Throne, but it was… well, made of bone. Duh.

“Matters not. What matters is that it would make me happy if you drank.”
“I will not…!” I took a sip. What the fuck?
“Do not fret. It is perfectly safe. Great quality, too. French, from 1937.”
“I don’t even like wine!”
“Again, matters not. You like what I say you like.”
“You’re a dickhead.” I tried to spit in his face but for some reason, I couldn’t. He chuckled and it was like velvet being cut through by a sharp sword.
“A dickhead who owns you, I’m afraid.”

I took a step back and immediately felt I was only able to because he let me.
“Come again?” That amused him.
“You say such ambiguous things, little toy. See that ring on your finger? That’s my bond. You belong to me from now on.”

Belong to him? Heat pooled in my stomach despite my heart freezing in terror.
I raised my left hand and looked at my index finger, pulling out a small knife from my boot, knowing in my heart of hearts I am not able to just slide the ring off. Mitsuhide shook his head as he approached me, clicking his tongue:
“Uh-uh-uh. You’re not intending to cut your finger off, are you? How insolent, maiming my property like that.”

The knife shifted in my hand, running up my blouse and cutting it apart down my chest.
“Stop that!”
“Or what?” He teased as he poured some wine down my neck, bending to lap it up.
“I will kill you. I will then find a way to resurrect you only to kill you again.”
He chuckled against my skin, lips cool but breath hot. He still breathed. Probably consciously. It was helpful for vampires who wanted to blend into human societies.
I gasped as his long tongue pressed against my pulse, cursing everything I could think of in my mind. It was far too early for me to have forgotten what it’s like to be a vampire and just get turned on by something like this, that’s what a clueless human would feel.
But my breathing was labored and my nipples were already hard as his tongue traced lines along my neck, chasing wine droplets that slid down to my collarbones, between my breasts…
“Ahhh. STOP IT.”
“Are you telling me you’re not enjoying yourself?”
“That’s not the point.”
“On the contrary, little mouse. That’s precisely the point.”
“You could’ve just gone the traditional route. You know, exchange numbers, take me out on a few dates, make me laugh, flirt like a normal guy…”
“Call me abnormal. And eager.”

He nipped at my neck, you know, just a normal human nip; and something finally broke the daze as the next thing I knew was that he was knocked back into a bookshelf on the other wall, hardwood cracking and books falling out randomly. My right hand in the air and my hair up in a breeze around me, I held him there firmly, my force shackles tightening around him like an anaconda.
My anaconda don’t want none unless… OH FUCK RAE, FOCUS.
Even then, his expression was mildly amused as he licked his lips, no traces of pain on him even though I knew I was pressing almost to the point of breaking bones.

“Interesting. You seem to think I wish to kill you.”
“Don’t you?”
“And lose such a compelling little toy? No.”
“Your little toy is holding you in a death grip. I suggest you choose your next words carefully. They might be your last. You don’t want a stupid epitaph.”
“I just want to love you, little mouse. I’d never harm you.”

Why is my grip loosening?! He’s lying! I know he is! But… he truly doesn’t want to kill me. I knew that much. However… He wants to do SOMETHING horrible with me but it was like all of that didn’t matter to my resolve. Like all that mattered was if he’d kill me. Like I didn’t know better than anyone that there are fates worse than death.
The regularly forgotten elemental from the 5th dimension I controlled snickered in my brain. He rarely communicated to me, still salty that the only reason he was bound to me was that I extracted what used to be his soul from him after I killed him:
“Would you look at that! What’s it like to be a slave, oh mighty Godslayer?”
“A slave!?”
“That’s what you are to him, don’t you see? The only thing you can disobey him on is the matter of your survival, there’s no magic to make someone give up their will to live. And you know… if he drinks your blood… you’d die. Not immediately. But you’d lose the immortality you currently take for granted. You don’t want that, oh Godslayer? Maybe even more importantly, you’ve always been an evil, self-serving bitch. You’d hate to let someone else have that boon. I told you as you killed me. I will be seeing you in hell. You’re headed down my path. And now here’s your Godslayer. He’s smarter than you, too. He’ll find a way to get you to let him feed, he’d slowly poison you until you give it to him willingly. And then you’ll be free. And I’ll be free. You’ll become just a regular, weak human again. What you were always meant to be. And he’ll become the only vampire to ever walk in broad daylight, all his vampiric weaknesses erased. He’d be more powerful than Caine himself! And you can’t do anything to stop him!”

Mitsuhide was free of my grip again, slumping down to the floor and I took several steps back before he locked eyes with me and I froze:
“You cannot feed on me.” I stated seriously.
“Then I won’t.”
My ears buzzed as the cold from my chest suddenly vanished. I was suddenly unafraid. Gullible, stupid! He was already poisoning me. He was lying! But damn that fucking ring, it was making me believe him despite myself.

“Come to me” He whispered and like a mindless robot, I obeyed.
“This is not fun. You’ve heard about the importance of consent before, haven’t you?”
“And you’ve heard about the inevitability of obeying your Master, haven’t you?”
“I hate you. Dickhead.”
“Well, I love you.” He smiled and I froze, my face inches away as I knelt before him.

Chapter Text

Now, I’m not bashing on Rae or anything, but stories with one POV are kinda difficult for the author, you know?
My name’s Justin Powers. Also known as Alpha 3. Or Gavel. I suppose Armadillo was the clever one, coming up with that nickname, he first called me the Power of Justice and then one smash of a screamer’s head with a war hammer later, I became Gavel.
Let me tell you one thing. This SSA gig had been a bitch more times than I cared to count. Can you imagine; I lost the SAME ARM three different times? It was now cybernetic from elbow down, my left arm. But these days, there was a special gauntlet over it. The Bluebird Alchemy gauntlet. This “alchemy” was just a fancy way of saying I could control electricity. How that made sense, well fuck me if I knew.

But it came in really… handy for this.
Vampires happened to be extremely vulnerable to electricity. To think one of my previous powers was fire magic and this Devil dude is immune! Talk about a lucky break.

“Hey, Gavel? Ya think Devil is immune to electricity, too?” Armadillo muttered conspiratorially.
“Nah, come on, that would be too much of a plot shield!”
“I know but… if we defeat him this early in the game, the story would get pretty boring.”
“Are you reluctant to win?” I asked incredulously.

“Well, no. We could defeat him. BUT WHAT IF…” Oh boy, here we go. Armadillo’s “what if” theories.
Strap in, boys and girls, this will be a wild ride.
“What if we kill him only to find out that has some terrible consequences on Rae’s side? Like, what if Devil keeps Fox in check or something?”

Even though it was far-fetched, I couldn’t ignore even the slightest possibility of my teammates suffering because of my decisions. Especially not Rae. It was my fault she got scouted by the SSA in the first place. She could’ve had a normal, peaceful life and not get wounded, manipulated, kidnapped and killed during her service. And that was only so far.

“Alright, Armadillo, I can’t say you’re making much sense, but I’ll tell you one thing. You’re right in saying we may not endanger Rae.”
“So, we gotta use our brains instead of brute force?”
“Oh joy.”

We were scouting the area near where the Devil allegedly killed those werewolves. There were traces of a vicious fight on the terrain, but there was no material evidence we could collect. Someone had cleared this area meticulously. Armadillo went ahead, photographing the burnt grass and the claw marks on tree barks when he suddenly shared the results of his EMF reader with me:
“We’ve got a single 10 approaching.”

10 was troublesome. We were nines on a good day.

A glint of metal whistled right by my ear as I jerked back, locking eyes with a man… no. A vampire.
He wore a red velvet suit with a mint green silken shirt underneath, a white fur collar with golden accents around his neck. His hair and eyes were the color of honey and I thought that, had it not been for my experience in dealing with the supernatural, I would have thought he was a human, a very harmless looking one at that. Even if he WAS dressed like a pimp.
He swung his katana at me one more time and I deflected with my gauntlet, obscured under my leather jacket and glove and his eyes widened for a brief moment before I let an electro-shock curse through his blade. He screamed in pain before he released the weapon, his hands a furious shade of red right before he let dangerously long and sharp claws grow in place of neatly trimmed nails.

“Gangrel, I see. Nice. That’s a head I haven’t mounted on my wall yet.”
The Gangrel chuckled, his downturned eyes narrowing mirthlessly:
“Barbaric. And they call me an animal.”
“People actually CALL you?” 
His face grew grim as he swung at me, speed enviable but I dodged last second:
“Enough bullshit. You’re not getting near my Lord.”
“I should have known you’re nothing but a servant. I’ll crush you.”
“Yeah?” he managed to scratch across my cheek with his next swing and I thanked the lucky stars he missed my eye.
“You and what army?”

“Somebody called for an Army?” Armadillo shouted in his animal form, jumping from behind a tree, curling up into a ball and smashing the Gangrel straight into the chest, making him grunt as he almost lost his balance, spine arching back as he stopped himself like an especially limber limbo dancer. Turning back into human form, Army rolled his eyes:
“Oh come on, Dio Brando, quit posing!”

The vampire straightened back up as I was trying to lift my arm and shock him, but my face burned and I felt woozy. Did he coat his claws with poison?
“I’m honored you’re likening me to a deity, but I am merely Monkey.”
“You look like one, too.” Army retorted, making Monkey frown:
“You guys seem to be awfully fond of insulting people. Just leave.”
“You expect us to believe you’d just let us leave? Right, Gavel?” He turned to me, finally noticing I am struggling to uphold my balance.
“What you believe is unimportant. I only expect you to leave. Your friend is seriously poisoned. Not even your Elixir of Life can neutralize this brand of poison quickly.”
He raised his hand to stop Army from interrupting right when he scrambled to catch me as my legs buckled under me:
“But do not fret. It WILL be neutralized. But for the next few hours, he’s out of commission. I suggest you make him a nice hot cup of tea and wrap him in a blanket. Let him sweat it out.”
“You poisoned him and now you’re giving medical advice?!”
“I am just doing my job. You won’t be getting near Lord Nobunaga.”

So, Devil’s name was Nobunaga. Good to know. Maybe the techies can run that through SuperNet to see if it yields any results.

“So,” Monkey continued: “Unless you think you can take me on by yourself, I suggest you take him home. And don’t come back.”
“Oh, we will come back. With a real army next time.”
“Army, shut up…” I muttered but it was too quiet even for me to hear clearly. Monkey crossed his arms, frowning as he tapped his foot on the ground, like a displeased mother:
“You’re really stubborn. I have just gifted you your lives. Don’t be stupid.”
“Army, let’s go.” I felt an incredible urge to vomit and Army finally relented, seeing me miserable like that.
“Alright. We’re going. But don’t think you’re off the hook, Monkey!”

Back at the station, Peacock was almost shoving tea down my throat, having wrapped me up in three soft blankets on the couch of his cafeteria. Monkey was right, this was like a horrible fever. I was shivering so hard my muscles hurt as he pressed a cold compress on my forehead:
“Gavel, sweetheart, just try to drink the tea. It’s my special blend of medicinal herbs, it will help you stop vomiting at the very least.”

Army entered the room, a concerned look on his face:
“Rae is still not back and we cannot reach her directly, just voice mail.”
I tried to sit up, alarmed, but Peacock pushed me down on the pillow:
“Don’t! Babe’s a big girl, she went to gather info! She probably just cannot talk because it would arouse suspicion. She’ll be back soon, you’ll see.”

I hadn’t even registered messages arriving at my glasses.
Mitsuhide’s citrine eyes firmly affixed on mine, his cool fingertips traced my collarbones on our strange position on the floor.
“You’re enjoying my touch.” He stated matter-of-factly and I nodded before contradicting myself:
“Then why…” His fingertip brushed against my erect nipple: “Are these so hard?”
“You’ve done something to me.”
“And I plan to do much more.”
“Over my dead body.”
“That wouldn’t be very animated. I prefer you amusingly alive.”

He leaned in, lips brushing against my jaw, tongue tracing the outline of my ear. He was significantly colder than last night, almost as cold as a corpse he essentially was and my heart started thumping. This was getting dangerous. He was hungry.
“Let go of me.”
“I am not holding you, little mouse.”
“I cannot move away. Let go of me.”
“You just don’t want to move away. You want to stay right here. With me. Forever.”

I gasped. His velvety voice seemed to caress at my insides and I felt an aroused shiver crawl up my skin.
Was this how I finally meet my end? A super badass heroine unceremoniously defeated by a hot guy? Well, proverbially hot, I already mentioned his skin was cold as ice.
Was this a good moment for that non-sensical Britney song: “cold as fire, baby, hot as ice; if you’ve ever been to heaven, this is twice as nice”? Was this what she meant? Was Britney aware of vampires?
But anyway, this was unfair, so totally chauvinistic! I cannot just fail like this!

“No, I don’t.”
He smirked at me again, lips brushing against my nose:
“Hold that thought. And that pose.”
He stood up and walked out of the room and the air around me grew easier to breathe. With a start, I noticed that I was not only kneeling, but leaning forward. To where he sat.
And I was unable to move. Damn this ring!
I heard liquid pouring into a glass behind me and felt the smell of fish.
Mitsuhide was back in a few seconds, effortlessly lifting me up and manhandling my body to carry me bridal-style. He was warm, so warm again as he licked the last traces of blood from his lips.
I should have guessed he had some blood packs lying around.
“Put me down.”
“As soon as we get to the bed, of course.”
“I’m not sleeping with you.”
“Who said anything…”
“I’m not fucking you. Stop messing with me, you’re reaching the end of my patience.”
“My, my, such a fiery spirit my little toy has. Should I torture you into submission?”

Torture me?! I tried to twist his neck with my magic but apparently, only a squeeze came out, a squeeze that made his eyes darken:
“Oh, you’re trying to resist? Don’t be afraid. My torture methods are nothing short of ecstasy.”
“You get off on torturing women? You make me sick.”
Another chuckle rumbled through his chest:
“It’s sweet torture… They all love it. Contrary to what you may think, little pet, I treat what is mine extremely well. I’ll show you.”
“Can I take a raincheck on that?”

He lowered me on the bed, flicking his wrist again, making my arms shoot up above my head and the golden scarf around his neck slithered like a snake around my wrists, binding them snugly:
“I’m afraid that is out of the question. I have to start making you truly mine.”

I tried to squirm out of the bind, but it was tight, the silk too strong for me to rip apart. I wasn’t as strong as Army, my talents were subtler.
“Now is as good a time as any for me to underline the importance of consent.”

Straddling me on the bed, Mitsuhide’s fingers ran along my exposed torso and I cursed myself for hating bras with all the passion of a stereotypical feminist, which made me hardly ever wear one. Ah, he’d probably just cut through it anyway, which would have been such a waste, good bras were harder to find than one might assume. But I digress. His fingernails flicked my nipples, making me gasp:
“You consented the moment you slipped that ring on your finger, little one.”
“That was also some dirty trick, you snake. And stop calling me those patronizing pet names, I am not little, I am not a mouse, a toy, or a pet!”
“That was not a trick. You just knew you wish to belong to me. And you are little to me. Look.”
His long fingers enveloped my neck like mine would envelop a water bottle, almost linking at my nape.
“So small. And you are as cute as a mouse.”
Again that grin as he leaned in and kissed my forehead, making my eyes flutter closed in delight before I snapped out of it:
“Mice are pests.”
“Or pets.”
“Are you deaf? I am not a pet!”
His chuckle reverberated straight in my bones as his lips traced my brow, caressing my temple, escaping down my cheek, laying gentle pecks along their way.
“Seriously. Let me go. You’ve already crossed the sexual assault line. Do you want to become a fully-fledged rapist?”
“Oh my. Such harsh words. And all I want to do is love you.” He looked me in the eyes, the mask he slipped on almost fooling me. Oh! That’s my favorite Queen song: You Don’t Fool Me! I’m gonna play it on my way back to the base…
“Then let me prove it.”
I grinned triumphantly:
“Alright. If you love me, you will not touch me when I say I don’t want you to.”

For the briefest of moments, I caught the look of shock in his eyes. Like a man who thought he was winning a game of chess, only to hear the words “checkmate, git good, scrub”. Ok, ok, that’s not what they actually say, but that’s what they all THINK! Man, I hate chess.
His slithery smile was back again as he got off me, the scarf slipping from my wrists with another flick of one of his own:
“As you wish, love.”
I felt like there was a far less charming sequel to that sentence he was holding back, but I said nothing of it. Getting up, I gazed upon my ruined blouse. I cannot go back like this.
“Thank you. Was this as despicable for you as it was for me?”
He merely chuckled, producing a black silken shirt seemingly out of nowhere:
“I apologize for ruining your blouse, little mouse.”
“My. Name. Is. Rae. Rae. It’s not difficult. It’s pronounced like R A Y. You know, like the death ray, or Ray Bradbury, or that scratchy guy from Hokuto No Ken… RAY.”
“I prefer calling you my little mouse.” He leaned in, lips just shy of mine.
“I can’t wait to unalive you, I swear. You’re the most insufferable man I’d ever met. And believe me, I’d met many annoying douches.”
I angrily tore off the remnants of my sliced blouse, putting on the shirt he gave me. It was cool and pleasant against my skin, embracing my body like it was made for me and I realized too late that it was probably another one of his tricks as I felt my arms wrap around his neck:
“Undo this fucking spell immediately. I still don’t want to touch you.”
He tilted his head, his torso snug against mine as he gently pried my arms off of him:
I still found it impossible to pull away and he chuckled, taking a step back, thus breaking the spell:
“You do wound me, little one.”
“I wish.”

The wine glasses floated back to us, refilled. I pushed mine away:
“No, thanks. I should get going. Unless you have another crazy plan to keep me here.”
“Not at all. I release you for tonight. I will be expecting you back tomorrow.”
I rolled my eyes:
“And yeah, my charming self will be here, protesting all the while, I suppose.”
“I could always gag you if you grow tired of protesting.” His eyes glinted.
“That’s a no from me.”
“All your noes will become yeses soon enough, pet.”
“Is that a threat?”
“A promise.”

Chapter Text

I know I said earlier that I’m a former demigoddess, but let me be your omniscient narrator for a little while, mkay?

So after I left Mitsuhide’s manor, huffing and puffing with my cheeks as red as if I were a high school freshman who got caught staring by her crush (no, that never happened to me, what are you saying?! The only crushes I get are the crushes of the skulls of my enemies! … Ok, ok, his name was Philip.)

As I was saying, I had left Mitsuhide’s manor and that fucking snake slithered away to report to his devil boss. Now, at this point, of course, I have never met Nobunaga, I don’t even know his name, but I’m not going to check my omniscient narrator privilege yet.
I can’t promise not to meta later on, either. It is what it is.

Mitsuhide arrived at Nobunaga’s hideout, smirking while the frustration of being verbally played by his new toy still lingered in his mind. Mitsuhide was generally a patient vampire, there are certain things you simply learn if you get to live for almost 500 years. But his current plan didn’t allow for much lollygagging.

Nobunaga was lounging in his room, twirling a lit Zippo lighter in his hand.
Indeed, he was one of the extremely rare vampires who had no reason to fear fire, having perfected fire magic over the centuries. Granted, the price was high and Nobunaga was not what he once was. He was worse; because, if you wish to obtain something you were never supposed to have, you must give up something you can barely afford to part with, of equal value.
In Nobunaga’s case, it was a vital part of his soul.

“Mitsuhide, you must be bringing good news.” He growled, prompting Mitsuhide’s smirk to widen:
“Indeed. As per our plan, I have captured a member of the Alpha team.”
“Not a moment too soon. Hideyoshi has just repelled two of them snooping around.”
“That is of little importance as long as we avoid direct conflict until we reach our goal. Just like we anticipated, the target possesses higher mental fortitude than your average prey. It will take at least a fortnight to break her.”
“So, there is still the obstacle of the code?”
“Precisely. I will have it overridden soon enough. Then you will have your Divine Rule, Milord.”

Time for me to clarify. The code Nobunaga refers to is the Code of Honor, ironically.
See, Nobunaga has fire magic, but Mitsuhide is a mind controller. However, he is not without his limits. You do remember what the Divine Elemental from the 5th dimension said earlier? How there is no magic to make one give up their will to live? Well, for reasons I will still not reveal, a vampire feeding on me would cause me to lose all my superhuman abilities, which at the moment include immortality. Although the act of feeding wouldn’t kill me in itself; since I am, like mentioned, a selfish bitch, losing immortality and powers is the same as outright dying to me. There’s nothing more important to me than my superhuman identity. So, Mitsuhide cannot forcefully feed on me as of yet because him attempting that would break the bond he has with me and despite his immense power, he’s well aware of my own and he’s not certain he would win if we fought.
I DID say I was a complete badass, didn’t I?

Also, for the same reason, he cannot just push his luck and force me to do things that would cause too much mental anguish because he’s not certain how the SSA mental, let’s call it, jury rig of my schizophrenia would respond to that.
He does have an extreme amount of power over me, but it is still not flawless and he has to use his charm instead of force to manipulate my mental defenses if he is to be successful.

But Nobunaga is in a rush, having gotten wind of an upcoming war. This war was not with humans, or even with the monster hunters such as the SSA. No, this was a threat that was alien and merciless, intent on wiping away life as we know it.
Because, you know, the author of this story is a megalomaniac, of course there would be something super dramatic like that. Read that in your best movie trailer voice, I dare you:
A threat alien and merciless, hellbent on wiping away life as we know it!
Starring Christopher Lambert and Sigourney Weaver: THE UNFATHOMABLE!

Jokes aside, a strange threat WAS indeed looming, and Nobunaga was the kind of person who’d say “not on my fucking watch, alien scum!”
So, using his own Occam’s razor, Nobunaga assumed the easiest way to defeat these guys was to become the most powerful vampire that ever undeaded (I can’t really say “lived” now, can I?) and use these newfound powers to attain global domination. Phew. That sounds like someone Hugo Weaving or William Dafoe would play in a movie. If they were half as attractive as Nobunaga, who was indeed a snack. Maybe Gary Oldman…

But I digress again, revealing along the way that movie industry stopped existing for me some 20 years ago…

To the matters at hand!
As Mitsuhide and Nobunaga were talking, Monkey, or Hideyoshi, which was his real name, went to the study of another one of their allies, twirling a small vial in his hand, his brows scrunched.
He knocked and heard an exasperated sigh beckoning him to enter.

The man in the study was petite, looking no older than 20, dressed in a flowy robe the color of mustard, his blonde hair a prime example of a bed head:

“Well, isn’t that long face a sight for sore eyes.” He mumbled sarcastically, his voice soft and a little nasal. Now, see, this little porcupine is someone best described as “an annoying little snot”. Just like many other characters fitting in that trope, he was a genius and actually pretty kind under all those layers of character development. Hideyoshi knew this, so he just ignored the remark and put the vial on his desk:

“Your formula worked, Ieyasu. Very quickly, too.”
“So, the reason you’re upset must have something to do with that pesky conscience of yours.”
“I just dislike poisoning people. Seems like a dishonorable way to win.”
“If we’re talking honorable, you could have only lost.” Ieyasu’s gaze lingered on Hideyoshi’s wounded hands, the skin of his palms still red and peeling, even though it had started to heal already.
“He got you good.”
“I just had no idea he could project electricity from his hands.”
“Then you’ve had dumb luck that I’ve made you resort to dishonor. Besides, it was a great field test for my Dragon Blood suppressor.”

Ok, the time has finally come for me to explain the fabled Elixir of Life, or, as Ieyasu more correctly named it, Dragon Blood.

Remember when I said, way back in Chapter 1, that I once broke the jaw of a gargantuan dragon?
When I wasn’t bragging or anything?
Well, that was last year, a dragon from Korea woke up and started wreaking havoc all around. He had a real Mayhem World Tour. So, naturally, who you gonna call? The SSA Alpha Team! Man, it doesn’t sound as catchy as “Ghostbusters”!
Anyway, we managed to put an end to this crazy overgrown lizard, but out analysts discovered that its blood possesses some pretty neat properties; you basically become a superhuman once you ingest it. And the best part? It’s permanent!
You regenerate so quickly you become immortal. Unless someone severs your head off. We’re not Deadpool, after all. So, Boss figured it would be an amazing power-up to give to his precious Alpha team, so that’s how we became what we are today.

Ieyasu, being a formidable mage, managed to figure all this out and he was the reason this pesky magic-vampiric crew was in our city now, Nobunaga couldn’t resist his greed when he heard of this power.
Becoming a daywalker? Possibly never having to feed again? Getting all your vampiric powers augmented while eliminating all of the drawbacks? Sign him right the fuck up!

Now, you might be wondering: why have they targeted me in the way they did?
Well, I already mentioned the Alpha Team is strong enough to kill a dragon. So, getting the blood from us in combat was too risky. And since I am the only female member of the team, the infamous vampiric seduction was the best possible option. If Peacock were an Alpha team member, they might have targeted him, but since he wasn’t… that left me in the hot seat. Oh, joy.

Overall, Nobunaga’s plan seemed great. Mitsuhide would use that power of his, get him the blood, all would work out well.
But there were two problems.
Nobunaga trusted Mitsuhide way more than a vampire should ever trust a vampire. After all, the temptation of seizing the power for himself might prove too much for our dear Fox here.
The other problem was, Nobunaga didn’t know how unhinged I was.

I rarely, if ever, wore dresses. The last time I remember wearing a dress was 4 years ago, on an undercover SSA mission when I had to act as a devastated widow of our druid ally whose body we were trying to recover and bring to Hawk so he could give him a decent funeral.
That story has a happy ending, we managed to resurrect Jackie and he was alive and kicking not long after. Woof woof!

So, the next evening, I was wearing a long backless flaming red dress. Why did I even buy it in the first place, some years ago? I must have had a crazy notion (well, THAT’S a surprise!) that my lifestyle might eventually change enough to give me an opportunity to wear such an extravagant garment.
Yeah, sure, Rae, you’ll wear it on a fancy date! With a centuries-old vampire! Because that’s super logical.

I entered Mitsuhide’s manor again, only to find him in the dining room where a gorgeous table was set for dinner for two. Flowers, candles and all, even though he should’ve despised candles. They were even lit, soft jazz music coming from concealed speakers.
He was wearing an elegant black suit with a black silken shirt and a crimson tie to match my dress. Like we were prom dates, I thought. The only thing I lacked was a corsage.

“Welcome, Rae.” He said with a smile that almost looked sincere and I suppressed a thump of my heart by swallowing it back down my throat:
“You’ve learned my name. Good boy.”

His smirk widening, he helped me out of my black stole manually before pulling out a chair for me and kissing the back of my hand, his lips lingering until I made a move to pull my hand back:
“That’s enough, Casanova.”
He flicked my stole away to a coat hanger before pouring wine, also manually, which was kind of surprising but oddly soothing.
I settled in the chair, setting my awfully small and impractical clutch to the side. It couldn’t even fit that tiny stocking revolver in! I was actually completely unarmed, which was a feeling so long-forgotten and foreign that I felt naked.
As if he could read my mind, which he probably to an extent could, Mitsuhide snickered, settling in his own chair across from me:

“You won’t be needing any weapons, love. We’ll just have a nice dinner.”

“I am not hungry.”

“Such a shame. And I’ve prepared your favorite, too.”

He lifted the lid from my plate and I saw a great steak on the plate. Medium-well, just how I liked it. His own was of course, bloody rare. No surprises there.
Now, even though I didn’t HAVE to eat, that didn’t mean I was unable to, which Mitsuhide obviously knew.

“I do have other matters to attend to tonight, Mitsuhide. Without any time to spare, seeing I’m here unarmed and dressed like I’m going to the Golden Globes.”

“Oh, you mean the evil spirits sighting at the Western Graveyard and the rumors of a witchdoctor kidnapping hobos in Chinatown?”

My mouth gaped and Mitsuhide snickered again:
“All taken care of, love. I couldn’t have you worried over such trivial matters all throughout our date.”
“You did my missions? Are you an idiot?”
“Not the answer I was hoping for, little mouse.”

I wanted to tell him he had no right to interfere with my job. What came out instead was:
“You’ll get noticed, moron!”
“Oh, you’re actually concerned for my safety? I am moved. However, it was a piece of cake and I am very well versed in subterfuge and disguises. If anyone was sighted doing their job, it was you.”
“You disguised yourself as me?”
“A convenient ability to have, isn’t it?”

He made a folder materialize:
“Here’s a report from the missions.”

I stared at the meticulously compiled data, feeling… moved. I couldn’t help it, I felt happy that he did me a favor like this, although I knew I’ll be paying for it later on. But I just couldn’t force myself to think about that, with his citrine eyes boring into me until I felt my toes tingle in my strappy heels.

“Well, thank you, Mitsuhide. But don’t do that again. I am perfectly capable on my own.”
“That’s not why I did it. We had started off on the wrong foot, Rae.”
“You think?!”
“I wanted to make it up to you somehow.” My eyes narrowed:
“So this is an apology gift?”
“I also bought flowers, speaking of apology gifts, if conventional is more up your alley.”
“Like I need more dead things around me. So, you won’t be asking for anything in return?”
“Of course I will.” I just wanted to say “I knew it!” when he continued:
“I’ll be asking for that beautiful smile of yours.”
“A smile?” I spat out in disbelief. He flashed me one of his own and I thought about how I might get used to it:
“Is it too much to ask?”
“I suppose not.” I smiled and he nodded, pleased:
“There we go. Can you keep it on tonight?”
“Keeping things on is my game plan when it comes to you. If you even try to ruin this dress…”
“I could say I wouldn’t dream of it, but it would be a lie. However, I won’t. You look stunning in it.”

I rolled my eyes, trying to conceal a blush. Oh, come on! If there is one thing people are weak against, it’s compliments! Especially appearance-based compliments from attractive people! Or vampires.

“Thanks.” I managed, trying to sound like I didn’t care but he saw right through that:
“And you smell as wonderful as always. It lingered on my pillow, too.”
Now his voice was barely louder than a whisper and it took me all the mental fortitude I could muster not to lean in:
“I could tell you the name of the perfume if you wish to scent your pillows.”
“I’m not talking about perfume. Although it is captivating. I’m talking about the scent of your skin.”
“Ah, I forgot all you guys have predatory noses.”
“It is nothing a non-vampire would fail to notice either, little mouse.”
“More importantly, don’t you sleep in a coffin?”

He chuckled, reaching to tuck a strand of my hair behind my ear and that’s how I noticed I somehow DID end up leaning in toward him:
“Did you when you were a vampire?”
“Not exactly. But the capsule I did sleep in resembled it enough.”
“I prefer that bed you saw. Although I would much prefer it with you in it.”
“Is that so?”
“Absolutely. I find your skin irresistibly soft and warm.”
“That tends to happen when one is alive.”

Our noses were almost touching over the table and I could feel his own scent, surprisingly pleasant, the traces of gunpowder still lingering over the heady, yet fresh, white musk:
“What kind of a vampire are you even, Mitsuhide?”
“The kind that almost wishes he wasn’t if that would make you more at ease.”
“Answer my question.”
“I just did.”
“Answer it properly. I know you’re not a Lasombra, I could see your picture. And you’re definitely not a Nosferatu or a Harbinger of Skulls unless you have a VERY powerful Tzimisce friend, which I would know about. I would also know if YOU were a Tzimisce. I wouldn’t say you’re a Malkavian either, take that as a compliment. You’re too sneaky to be a Brujah or a Gangrel. You could be a Giovanni, but they Embrace within the family exclusively. Which leaves us with Tremere, Ventrue, Toreador, Ravnos, Nagaraja, Salubri, Assamite, Followers of Set… Oh god, you’re a Setite, aren’t you?”

Setites were, along with True Brujah, something I was almost afraid of, their clan disciplines broken in every way. Still, I’d rather take the former over the latter, because if there’s something that can ruin a story, it’s time manipulation! In the hands of a vampire, it can ruin The World, if you know what I mean.
Yes, that was a JoJo reference! Did you really think you’ll get away without any of those?

Mitsuhide snickered again, taking my hand and laying it over his chest, willing his heart to beat a few times:
“Not quite.”
Most Setites could take their heart out, but that still didn’t mean he wasn’t one, it was not mandatory or anything. But it was very wise and I somehow didn’t peg Mitsuhide for someone who’d pass on a wise opportunity.
“Not QUITE?”
“I am merely Mitsuhide. Your Mitsuhide. Who sired me is of little importance.”
Despite myself, I giggled:
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.”
Still holding my hand on his chest, he chuckled back:
“Romeo, doff thy name, and for that name, which is no part of thee, take all myself.”

His heart was still beating under my palm and in the back of my mind, I knew that was most likely a soothing tactic, meant to make me forget what he was. But it was working.
I could feel his almost-human warmth through the fabric of his clothes and I could smell wine on his breath as our lips brushed together softly, his palm running up my bare forearm as his other hand flicked the table away and my chair closer to his own until we were snugly against each other.
I mentally protested but the warmth of his lips was making me surprisingly docile as his other hand snuck toward my neck and he pulled me in, enveloping my lower lip between his own velvety soft ones.
He teased the seam of my lips with his tongue and my heels dug into the ground with all the instinctive desire to stand up and run away even as my lips parted and as his tongue brushed against mine, I felt all the resistance melt away.
I knew that was an extremely bad thing, but I was enjoying it with all my still alive heart.

Chapter Text

Nothing about schizophrenia is fun. As you may know, we hear voices. And me? I also control the Divine Elemental from the 5th dimension (damn, he needs a less robust moniker!) and his voice is very much real. Not like it helps.
As Mitsuhide was kissing me with tenderness unbefitting of a monster, the Elemental whispered:

Would you look at that, you’re enjoying his touch already! You trust him with everything he says and you’re letting him do whatever he wants! It’s so pathetically romantic, isn’t it? You, who managed to defeat ME, The Father of Death; are now in control of one simple nightcrawler. I almost wish to laugh at how weak you’ve apparently become!

I frowned into the kiss when Mitsuhide’s own voice replaced the Elemental’s in my brain:

There’s no need to listen to him. His is just lamenting of a loser. Focus on me, little one. I won’t be letting any harm come to you. I’ll make you happy. That’s why I’m here.

Hahaha, you’ll truly buy that bullshit, won’t you, Rachael Barry!? Vampires are selfish, he’s using you!

Why are you warning me, Elemental?

It is part of the pesky control you still have over me. You’re my body, I have to protect you. There’s nothing I’d rather avoid, but it is what it is.

He’s lying to you, little one. He wants to make you doubt me, he wants to come in the way of our love…

I managed to pull away from Mitsuhide:
“Enough! Both of you!”
“Both of us?” I had to hand it to Mitsuhide, his feigned ignorance was perfect:
“Don’t play dumb with me! You’re arguing with the voice in my head!”

I realized that sounded completely insane as soon as I’ve said it, but he just smiled:
“That’s just your subconscious wishing to communicate how much it wants me.”

My head was spinning. Fortunately, real life sometimes did play out a lot like a movie as I received a message on my communicator.

“Alpha 4, return to base immediately. Code Red alert.”

I jumped up, cursing the fact that balance in heels was such a bitch:
“I have to go.”

Mitsuhide’s face displayed carefully measured concern as he looked at me:
“I will walk you to the door.”
His lips softly brushed against my ear as he opened the door for me:
“See you tomorrow, little mouse.”

My heart was beating like a drum as I rushed back to the base as fast as I could, cheating the system with my force powers a little. I couldn’t see any signs of disarray in the city, which, for some reason, concerned me all the more. The most horrible threats were often ones that the regular people couldn’t even perceive in any way. Some very intuitive human might have it in them to, without knowing why, suddenly change their route to not cross through a dangerous area, but it was entirely subconscious.

I blinked several times when I entered the base and saw that absolutely nothing looked out of the ordinary. That is until the Boss suddenly walked up to me, dragging me by my elbow with all the super-advanced metal alloy grip his arm could muster:
“Why the fuck are all of you always late?” He grumbled, taking me to the main computer room.

The main computer room was where the core computer, or SuperNet, was located. SuperNet was an infinitely advanced, almost sentient, database that was able to store much more than documents. It served many other critical purposes, but it was also our supernatural scanner of the entire country.
Take that, Professor X’s lame helmet!

Our lead programmer, Zion, and the rest of the Alpha team were already there.
“Wooooah, Rae, what’s with the Hollywood getup?” Alpha 5 snickered, his barely-over-5ft frame smugly proper.
“Desperate times call for desperate measures.” I shrugged it off, hoping nobody would ask more.
Thankfully, Zion started the briefing:
“Ok, guys, listen. There’s a 13 on Mt. Avalon.”
Mt. Avalon was a mountain on the outskirts of the city.
A creature with the EMF of 13 was almost a god.

Now, you might remember that Alpha 3 mentioned that our own EMF was about 9 right now. Our power evolved cyclically, each time we’d obtain a new set of powers, they needed time to grow. We used to be about 15 ourselves in the past. Just not now.
“Well, do we know what it is and what it wants?”
“We do not know what it is per se, but it relayed a message to our scouts in the area. It said that the creature is looking for worthy opponents to duel.”
“Well, time to give it what it wants, then.” Alpha 2 was already getting up.

I changed into my mission getup and we all went to Avalon in search of our mysterious challenger.
As we reached the clearing in the forest, we could all feel a strange chill in the air:
“He must be close.” Alpha 3 sent out on the commlink: “Remember the formation. Try to obtain info before engaging.”
We all nodded, just as a single man emerged from between the branches.
He was overwhelmingly gorgeous and terrifying at the same time. Mismatched eyes, a blue one and a green one, under a platinum blonde fringe.
Icy blue clothes with a long black cloak with a fur collar. A katana on his waist.
I knew he was the 13. Which was about his score on the attractiveness scale, too.

“So, you are the champions I was sent?” He eyed each of us before his eyes landed on me in sheer disgust:
“And one of you is a woman? Am I to understand I am being mocked?”
“Scared of losing to a girl?”
This was one of my many bad habits. Whenever I was afraid, I would hide it behind sassy bravado.
The Samurai Of Chill scoffed at me like one might if you put a turd under their nose:
“Run along, woman. I will spare you if you flee. Women are not meant for battle.”

Alpha 3 almost growled, like any time he would when someone disrespected any of us:
“I will have you know you are addressing one of the greatest heroes in the world, a former apostle of Pluto.”

The Chillboy’s eyes glimmered in sudden interest:
“God of Death… Good thing I am also a god, then. Let’s see if any of you are worthy of my respect.”
“You? A god? Who’s picking petty squabbles around? How very divine!”
“Let’s see if you still consider it a petty squabble with my sword in your throat.”
“Is that a euphemism?” I inquired, grinning.

He charged. In the blink of an eye, a cold flash of steel whistled past my ear, only the fact my force magic was able to shield me having swayed its course.

“What was that about sparing a woman? You attacked me first!”
“You had your chance to flee. You didn’t take it. Now I will get rid of you first so I can have a real battle afterward.”
“Don’t be so sure of it, god! Underestimating opponents leads entire worlds to ruin.”

I activated the force blades from my bracelets, choosing to use the Ice rune in one hand and the Blood rune in the other. These blades were completely made of magic, the crystals with runes in my bracelets acting as emitters. They resembled lightsabers or Soul Reaver in a way.
We swung, the force embedded in my focusing bracelets allowing my blades to parry as well as attack. With an agonizing start, I realized I am unable to land a single strike on him. He didn’t seem to have any special guarding powers… it looked like pure luck.

I jumped back just as I caught Alpha 2 and 3 creating a good formation and they both blasted him with their respective powers, a surge of electricity from one side and a giant growth of vines on the other.
He made an impressive flip, completely avoiding all our attacks by a hair’s breadth, chuckling as he harmlessly landed on one of the tree branches behind him. His mismatched eyes shone in delight:
“Entertaining attempts, but just as I suspected, you’re not worthy.”
“Of what?” asked Alpha 2 impatiently.
“Of joining my army, of course. I did mention I am a god. I am The God of War. Gods are meant to fight Devils, in case you were not aware.”
Not giving us any time to process that information, he struck again.
I created a gust of force and wind to obscure all of us and sway his strikes right before I felt something cold and pliantly strong wrap around my body from behind, throwing me into nearby shrubbery.

My entire body was frozen and I couldn’t speak as I watched the scene unfold in front of me.
Another me entered the fray, striking at the God of War with lightning speed, using nine different force blades, that looked more like force whips.
I blinked several times before I realized I somehow know there were nine of them even as I cannot possibly see in that speed.

The other me wounded him, giving him two deep gashes across the torso and he pulled back:
“Turns out you’re not as weak as I thought, woman.”
Something compelled me to silently mouth the words my clone ended up speaking:
“Nice to see you’ve come to your senses. We refuse your invitation, the SSA is independent. Fight your Devil, we’ll fight ours. Now begone while I am still merciful.”

The God begrudgingly promised to meet me (her?) on the battlefield again before he left.
And just like that, the cold thing that bound me released me, slithering away into the bushes as I was pushed back to the front, my clone disappearing with a wink.
I realized it was Mitsuhide. I was so furious I could kiss him. Wait. That didn’t sound right.

Alpha 2 and Alpha 3 both rubbed their eyes as if just having woken up from a nap in a bus:
“Where did he go?”

Pretend you have no idea.

“I have no idea.”
“He was just there, you raised a force wall as he attacked… and now he’s gone!”
“Did he… run away?”

It dawned on me. They had no idea that anything happened between me raising the wall and this moment. Like they were put to sleep for the duration. I shuddered.

“I don’t know. It’s like he blinked out of existence.”
“Shall we pursue?”

Advise against it.

“I don’t think that’s wise. He’s too strong. Perhaps he moved on to seek worthier opponents.”
“I’ll alert the Druids. You tell the Witches. And let’s go back to the base to report to Boss.” Alpha 2 suggested. I nodded in agreement.

Mitsuhide knew something was iffy about that sudden Code Red. He was glad he followed Rae, even if at that moment, he was trembling as his eyes desperately sought any sort of big prey in the forest.
That required way too much blood and he felt he’d be succumbing to Frenzy soon unless he fed.
Frenzy meant the vampire loses all control of himself and becomes a mindless killing machine. Unless he gets killed. No vampire ever wanted to go there.

But he couldn’t risk Rae’s teammates seeing him and he also couldn’t risk Kenshin, as that was the name of the God of War, seeing him. He managed to manipulate him into leaving the SSA alone, he managed to protect Rae, and he now knew Kenshin meant to attack Nobunaga. A successful night.

He drained a deer almost entirely dry, feeling some sanity return to him.
Was this close brush with Frenzy worth all this?
Of course it was, it was all for the mission.
This was another big step in getting Rae to love him, too. Now she owed him her life. He snickered to himself. He might break her sooner than he thought.

Had he been truly alive, he might have noticed something humans call butterflies in the stomach.
I never understood that expression, by the way. To me, it always felt like an iron claw that pinches at your insides like they were a prize plushie at an amusement park. But yeah, it was that feeling you get before your crush kisses you or while you’re waiting for the exam results.
The mission became personal and Mitsuhide was not even aware of it.

Chapter Text

“Why did you do what you did last night?”
My eyes locked with Mitsuhide’s as we were both lounging on his bed. We got there through his powers of persuasion, but he kept a respectful distance, my clothes intact.
“I promised to protect you. I never go back on my word.”
“We could have handled it!”
His amused smirk told me he didn’t believe that any more than I did.
“Be that as it may, little mouse, I still couldn’t stand idly by with you in danger.”
“Mitsuhide, that’s my job!”
“And my job is to take excellent care of you.”
“But why? What is your end goal here? I find it hard to believe you’re doing this out of the kindness of your heart.”

He faced me on the bed, his head supported by his hand as he ran the fingertips of the other one along my cheek:
“I love you. Is that so hard to believe?”

Well, as a matter of fact, it was. We have only met several nights ago and he captured me and kept treating me like we were in a relationship. But even as my mind worked through all this with caution befitting of a weathered monster-hunter, my heart just… believed him. I hated it.
Silence followed, the kind that is more poignant than uncomfortable as I turned in bed and nuzzled his neck, his arms coming around me in an instant as he stroked my back.
He was even warmer than usual, feeling completely human as he willed his heart to beat again, letting me feel his pulse on his neck with my nose and lips.

“Why do you always do that?”
“Do what?”
“Fake a heartbeat when I’m touching you.”
“Because you like it.”
I smiled into his skin. He was right. I did like it.
“You’re warmer than usual. Making up for lost energy last night?”

Indeed he was, having stuffed his fangs to replenish everything he lost in his fight with the God of War.
“Do you like that, too?”
“I do. You feel… comforting.”
His embrace tightened as he kissed the crown of my head:
“Would you like to stay the night? I can comfort you all you want.”
“I can’t. I have work to do.”

He noticed I didn’t say that I didn’t want to.
“Be careful tonight.”
“Why?” I didn’t have the will to separate my face from his neck even as I wanted to look at him.
“Just do. We don’t want anything happening to you, now do we?”
He slithered against me, leaning in for a kiss and my lips welcomed him, feeling strangely closer than at any moment in the past. The resistance my mind was building was slowly melting away as I realized I just want him to keep going. That scared me and I pulled back, eliciting a curious look from his half-lidded molten gold eyes:
“I have to go, Mitsuhide.”
“Those words always break my heart, little one.” He smirked, causing me to be reluctant in getting up.
“How are you doing that?”
“Doing what?”
“Making me… never mind.” Making me fall in love with you.
He kissed my forehead:
“I never mind you too.”

Alpha 2 and Alpha 3 joined me at one of our favorite 24/7 arcades, looking less than pleased with themselves:
“Zion finally managed to get some info on our Devils and Gods and Foxes and other stupid nicknames.”
My heart jumped. Did they find out where Mitsuhide was?
Rae, you idiot! Mitsuhide is an enemy. The one you’re almost sleeping with.
Oh gods, was I a traitor?!

Alpha 3 went on:
“Just as we feared, Devil and Fox are not the kind of vampires we’re familiar with, but they don’t seem to be Kuei-Jin either. It makes us think they might be some odd sort of hybrids. We went to visit Astaroth while you were out.”

Astaroth was the only Antediluvian we knew of. He was way over 15 on the EMF scale.
Fortunately, he was almost entirely neutral and uninterested in power struggles.
He lived as a recluse under an abandoned mansion in the old town, his only ghoul, who could take the form of a cat, providing him with food.
Now, Astaroth might have been the original Cappadochian Antediluvian but as far as we knew, his bloodline was now reduced to several vampires whom we called Harbingers of Skulls.

He was different than all the other vampires in the sense that he never used to be human.
No, Astaroth was a demon, maybe even a devil (you know, in the hellish hierarchy, the latter ranks much higher than the former) who always took interest in the human world.
Having discovered that humans possessed a huge potential for growth, he started subtly assisting them on their quest for knowledge, which prompted the rage of his Master, causing the superbly clever Astaroth to flee Hell and arrive here, to Earth, several thousands of years ago.

There, he discovered that the only way for his considerably weakened form (no matter the dimension you hail from, you always have to abide by the laws of the one you currently inhabit, meaning that no being from the higher planes of existence can retain ALL their power here, although they are still unbelievably strong) to both survive and evade pursuit from Hell was to turn into a different being.
He was not a Cainite. Hell, he was older than Caine! His vampirism was engineered using his own dark blood magic.

His age and experience allowed him the kind of awareness that was bordering on being psychic. He could simply calculate things with such precision that he could see the future.

“What did he say?” I asked tentatively.
Alpha 3 frowned, concerned:
“He warned us about an upcoming invasion from another dimension. He mentioned that all the vampires, gods and other creatures we might be encountering now are drawn by this threat as well, although most of them are not aware of it explicitly.”
Alpha 2 interjected, pushing his glasses back to the root of his nose:
“Rae, there is something that I’m especially worried about. WHAT IF…”
We were both too engrossed to even roll our eyes as he said:
“What if this invasion has something to do with the 5th dimension? You DID defeat and are controlling an elemental from there; but we still don’t know where he placed in their society, assuming they even have one. What if they are now coming to avenge him or get it back?”

My head started swimming:
“Are you telling me I am the cause of this war?” I almost shouted at him and he raised his hands defensively:
“No, no, I didn’t mean it like that, don’t kill me! None of us had any way of knowing, it cannot be your fault! I’m just saying you should be especially careful, at least until we’re able to confirm who they are exactly and if you really are their target.”

My ears were buzzing. Was this why Mitsuhide captured me? Was he aware of this? Did he want to lure them out by using me as bait? Or maybe… maybe he wanted to offer me as a sacrifice in exchange for them allying themselves with him?
As these thoughts swarmed my brain, I was keenly aware of the fact that my heart, although trying to dispute all of that, was much quieter than previous nights.
My nostrils twitched. I felt a very familiar scent of fresh, wet soil just before a figure appeared in the door.
The sight of him would usually put me at ease like no other, but tonight, it terrified me.

He was tall and broad-shouldered, wearing a long maroon coat and an elegant shirt with a silken tie.
His long, raven-black hair was tied in a neat ponytail and he had a dark, perfectly trimmed goatee.
While he was alive, the most prominent feature on his narrow, bony face might have been his long nose, shaped almost like a beak. But, for the past 500 years, that spotlight has been overtaken by his eyes, glowing amber when he was serene or ruby red with his anger or bloodlust.

This was indeed the biggest vampiric badass that ever existed, the one who’s almost synonymous with vampires in general. Count Dracula. My former Sire and, by almost comical coincidence (although we SSAs shouldn’t believe in those after everything we’ve seen so far) my actual ancestor.

Alpha 2 and Alpha 3 greeted him with polite nods and he wrapped his strong arm around my shoulder, his long fingernails almost piercing my skin with his grip as he kissed my forehead as he always did:

“My Childe. Even amid this misfortune, it is always a pleasure to see you.”
He had never stopped calling me his Childe, even after we’ve stopped being vampires, having died and been resurrected by the SSA as metahumans again.

I have considered myself extremely lucky to be sired by him, of all vampires. I had been courted by the resident looney, the Malkavian Primogen, Black Jack, but Count’s actual blood relation to me took precedence. This same blood relation essentially forbade him from disrespecting any agreement we might have, as the family always came first and that didn’t only apply to the Giovanni, but also to the extremely traditional Tzimisce. His sorcery also came in extremely handy, as any course in it strengthened my own witchcraft considerably and that, I was able to take away with me even after having been reborn as no longer a vampire.

Another lucky point in this entire shitstorm that was the supernatural society was the fact that Count, although a Tzimisce, didn’t belong to the Sabbath. Or the Camarilla for that matter. He was independent and as such, sometimes willing to help us keep the status quo.

However, tonight I had a bad feeling about him meeting us.

“There are interesting characters in our beloved domain these past nights.”
He drawled, his deep voice overtaking the room with its presence.
Now, remember EVERYTHING that you’ve ever heard about Dracula, every book, movie, game or anime that you have ever seen? He’s way better and way worse than that.

“Have you encountered any of them, Lord Tepes?” Alpha 2 asked gingerly.
“I have been seeking one of particular interest.” He snickered, grip on my arm ever tightening:
“However, he is a clever one, hiding in sacred burrows.”

Whatever you do, do not allow him to lock eyes with you.
Mitsuhide’s voice echoed in my mind right before the Elemental’s snickered:

Oh, but why wouldn’t you, Rachael Barry? This is your chance to escape his mind control. Let your Sire rescue you.

I almost grinned at that thought. I could be free. The Count could break this bond!
But… he will kill Mitsuhide if he does.
As humiliating as it might be for my super badass heroine trope, that thought stopped me from looking at him.

I felt Count almost drag me out of the arcade, tossing a glance at my teammates:
“Family matters, dear children, please excuse us. We will be right back.”

I panicked inwardly, feeling like a teenager trying to lie to their mother about not being high on weed.
We stood in the back alley, Count pulling out his elegant pipe:

“Astaroth told me everything, Childe.”

Silence followed. My shoulders slumped. I really should take these boots for a thorough shining.

“As much as I cannot judge the plan of your sudden paramour; having done worse in the past; you are family so I cannot allow this to pass. However… there is one problem.”

“A problem?” I whispered, still avoiding his gaze and he snickered.

“The bond you two share is meant to produce an artificial emotion, resembling what is called “love”.”

He scoffed longingly and mockingly at the same time before taking a long drag from the pipe:

“Indeed, that sounds tragically romantic. But there is a possibility, however slim, that the emotion might become genuine.”

My gaze shot up in surprise, completely forgetting the warning of not looking him in the eyes and as I did, his own shone like glowing embers in a fire and I heard a soft clattering sound, realizing only moments after that the ring around my finger slipped off and rolled to the ground, landing right under Count’s elegant shoe, where he crushed it effortlessly like it were a Dorito.

With a sudden pang of pain, I heard the magical chains binding my heart snap and I took a deep breath, Count’s face inches away from mine:

“I apologize, my Childe, but a lie was the most painless way I could extract this parasite from you.”

My heart raced. In ecstasy or terror, I could not determine:

“So, there is no possibility of the emotion being genuine?”

He chuckled and despite him being like a father to me, my skin crawled:

“If there is, let us see him prove it the old-fashioned way. I will personally give my blessing to your union if he is worthy. But the more likely scenario would be that you will have to kill him. Can you do that, Childe?”

My eyes narrowed with a maelstrom of different emotions and I nodded:

“I’ve killed gods in the past. What is a vampire in comparison?”

His grin widened in sadistic glee:
“Remember those words as you face him with his life in your hands.”

Chapter Text

Mitsuhide was on a recon mission of his own when he felt it. He had lost Rae.
There was a subtle tug in the back of his gut as he tried to figure out who helped her.

His deductive reasoning painted a picture relatively fast. He was hoping he could stall and stay off the old Tzimisce’s radar but it seemed he had underestimated him. Or maybe her. She shouldn’t have been able to seek help, but what if she was?
That other voice in the back of her mind concerned him.
He had an odd feeling about that creature. He could sense his soul inside Rae and if he wasn’t careful, an old, long-forgotten emotion would sneak its icy fingers into his chest. Fear.

He chided himself. There he was, an almost 500-year-old vampire, multiple diableries under his belt, afraid of a being a mere human girl defeated! How did she manage that, anyway?
Something about Mitsuhide’s powers as a mind-controller was particularly handy in this case. By creating a bond with somebody, he could peer into their mind. If they happened to have someone else in there, Mitsuhide might be able to hear them too, depending on the situation.
Since this elemental was strong, Mitsuhide could hear almost everything he said. He was loud and clear in there, clearly an entity and not a figment of Rae’s fractured personality.
He recognized his emotions. Rage was the predominant one, but there were others. Malicious joy; or Schadenfreude in German; being joyful at the misfortune of others. He wondered why he wouldn’t define it as evil when he noticed another one. Grief.

That one worried him the most. Because, behind grief, there was the thirst for revenge.
He had flipped through his impressive library once he’d heard this creature identify himself as the Father Of Death, yet all of his research proved inconclusive at best.
He searched through all the occult books he had, but without a name, a description, age, affiliation… without ANYTHING to go by… he just wasted time.

Deciding to look into it some more at a later date, Mitsuhide went to report to Nobunaga, entirely prepared for his lord to be massively displeased.



And he was.
His lord stared at the city landscape which seemed tiny from the balcony of his remote hideout, gripping the railing angrily:

“What do you mean you LOST her? Is she a set of keys to be lost?!”
Mitsuhide apologized one more time, suppressing his own irritation. He not only hated failing, but he hated having to admit he did. And he absolutely DESPISED apologizing.
“That bitch was our best chance, Mitsuhide.”
“I will get her back, Milord.”

That was unusual. He had never heard his lord address an enemy with a profane pejorative. An occasional “weakling”, “small fry” or even “scum”; yes.
But he had never heard anything like this before.
Mitsuhide was so used to noticing patterns and deviations from patterns in a person’s behavior that he immediately cataloged this as very intriguing.
He knew better than to try and read Nobunaga’s mind, the other vampire would clock it in an instant.
Instead, he tried to coax more information the old-fashioned way; by talking.

“We might have underestimated Alpha 4.”
Nobunaga scoffed as if something like that was laughable. Again. Interesting. Nobunaga was cocky, but he never outright dismissed a threat, especially if it foiled his plan. The black-haired vampire turned to face Mitsuhide again, his carnelian eyes glinting with anger even as his voice was level:
“We already know she is their weakest link. We decided she would be the one whose corpse we step over to achieve our goal. Whatever has gotten into you Mitsuhide, you need to remember how much responsibility is on your shoulders.”
“Yes, Milord. However; if I may suggest a plan B.”

Nobunaga’s eyebrow arched questioningly and Mitsuhide smirked:
“In the highly unlikely case that Alpha 4 indeed manages to escape our grasp… Alpha 5 is an option.”
“Go on.”
“He is the only one who technically doesn’t count as a superhuman. I am guessing he would actually be the weakest link. One we might even break in combat.”
Nobunaga’s eyes narrowed:
“Are you suggesting this to protect the girl, Mitsuhide?”

Had Mitsuhide been a younger vampire or a dumber man, he would show how surprised this question left him. Of course he was not trying to protect their prey; and even if he was, that should not be obvious, with how well he lied, even to Nobunaga.
Yet, that was the first conclusion the other vampire drew.
Entirely ignoring not only the great plan B but also the fact that Mitsuhide was only now bringing that possibility up. He never thought he’d react this way; at least not immediately.

Nobunaga pulled slightly back as if contemplating, his gaze affixed on the city lights one more time:
“If you are, I suggest you get over it. There are plenty of women out there. This one has a different purpose.”
“Are you telling me to stick to the original plan, Milord?”
That got Nobunaga thinking for a couple of seconds:
“Yes. I am.”

Mitsuhide bowed and left, cataloging this new information. Ignoring a perhaps easier option so as not to deviate from his original plan… It wasn’t entirely unheard of when it came to Nobunaga. Yet something was bothering Mitsuhide.
Nobunaga seemed… almost anxious. Something he never saw on him.



As Mitsuhide left, Nobunaga snickered softly to himself, deep in thought.

Just you wait, Rachael Barry. I will make you pay. You will pay for everything you have ever done to me. You will pay for humiliating me, you will pay for defeating me.
And you will pay with interest. You will suffer just like I did and then some!
I wish I could decimate all your pesky friends before your eyes, too. I wish I could make you the last of your kin before I kill you. Just like I am now the last of mine; thanks to you.

I knew, I just KNEW splitting up to patrol was a bad idea. It never ends well in horror movies, so why would it end well in my life; which at times resembled a horror movie?!

Several Sevens encircled me. Damn Wraiths. One could never see the last of them.
Damn, some Setite saving would come in handy… NO!
You’re the hero of this story, Rae! Come on!

I started slicing through the wraiths with my force blades, their speedy regeneration unless they were hit in still-human spots making for an exhausting fight.
Seriously, which Divine Creator’s idea was that souls of the dead with unfinished business would be able to haunt the plane of the living as partly beastly, sturdy Wraiths because of some imbalance in the magic network?!

One of the fuckers managed to grip my ankle as I tried to hover over them and blast them with an ice attack. Why? Did I hesitate for a split second?
Something was wrong.
I desperately tried to repel the wraiths with a gust of force only to discover it almost missed.
That usually happened if I was extremely distressed. But other than the usual rush of adrenaline I always felt in battle, I was fine.

That’s when it hit me. The Elemental was oddly quiet. He was always swearing, taunting or mocking either me or the enemies during fights. Not tonight.
I mentally called out to him only to find him shriveled up in the back of my mind like he was hiding.
If I wasn’t so familiar with him, I wouldn’t even know he was still there.

No time to linger on that thought though! I need to wrap this up first.
Realizing I can’t fully rely on my force magic, I switched weapons. I still had my divine ax. It was a gift from Mars himself and it might coax the Elemental out of hiding, seeing how I fought him with it back in the day. Nope. Not even that worked.

However, I managed to dice through the Wraiths without sustaining grave injuries myself.
As their now cleansed forms reverted back to human ghosts and entrusted their quests to me, I permitted myself a sigh of relief before I spotted a 13 on my radar.
The Elemental shrunk further… trembling.
He didn’t do this even before that samurai who called himself God of War.

I contemplated fleeing when a tall figure of a man emerged from between the trees.

If his EMF was 13, his Sexiness must have been at least two points higher.
Broad shoulders, the figure not even Roman sculptors could do justice and a great head of cinnamon-colored hair. Steely grey sultry eyes and a cocky walk. He wore silken robes, the collar of which was parted into an enticing plunging V, revealing strong pecs.
I gulped as he smiled at me, feeling my heart thump:

“I never expected to find a goddess herself on this plane of man.”
I realized belatedly that I let out a weird croak in place of an answer. What was happening lately? Every powerful individual I meet is an insanely hot guy?!
I almost wished for more Wraiths.
Finally coming to my senses, I affixed my gaze with his forehead and not his eyes.
He had such prominent, expressive eyebrows!
“I am not a goddess. But who might you be?”

The man leisurely stepped toward me and I realized the Elemental has never been so hard to locate in my own brain:
“I apologize for my mistake. Truly, any goddess pales in comparison to you. I am most grateful to be lucky enough to lay my eyes upon you.” His smile broadened as he was a mere step away from me:
“Are you the God of Flattery?” I tried to frown. It probably came out like a pout.
“I only speak the truth, beautiful lady.”
“So, who are you?”
“Takeda Shingen, at your service, queen.”

He kissed my hand and I gulped again.
You have to understand reacting to flirtation from guys hotter than Brad Pitt in his prime (think Interview With The Vampire era) is not something they teach at the SSA metahuman crash course!
Mostly because such a course doesn’t exist.
It would require funding and Boss is such a cheapskate he once fixed a flusher with a toothpick!
Or was that Alpha 3, who was merely too resourceful for there to be a word for that.

Finally snapping out of my being-kissed-by-an-Apollo daze; I cleared my throat:
“Uhm, well… Mr. Shingen, what brings you to this area?”
“Please, goddess, it’s just Shingen to you. At least for now.” His eyes glinted and despite regularly throwing out sexual innuendos and “that’s what she said!” jokes around my friends, I blushed.
“I am here because I’ve gotten wind of an upcoming war.”
“What war? Are you a warrior, Shingen?”
“A war between gods and devils, gorgeous. I guess you might call me a warrior.” He grinned and I noticed his canines were unusually sharp. But he was so warm!
“Are you a vampire?” I took a step back as he chuckled:
“Nothing as mundane as that, I assure you. I am a Tiger.”
The way he emphasized that word made me think it should be capitalized. I felt a trickle of cold sweat down the back of my neck even though I wasn’t the least bit afraid of Shingen.
Who was it who apparently was? It was somewhere in the back of my mind…
“A Tiger?”
“That’s right, starlight. A Tiger warrior, you might say.”

Chapter Text

Now, as I said, Shingen was a 13. That meant that he either wasn’t from this plane of existence or was an extremely powerful metahuman.
Having been an apostle of Pluto in the not-so-distant past and still holding the honorary (more or less) title of demigoddess, I had access to Elysium, which was where all the who’s who in Roman mythology dwelled. Don’t ask me why is it Roman and not Greek, please, I’m tired of that question! We’re in a prominent part of the formerly glorious Roman empire!
A shit ton of emperors was born somewhere in the hood, c’ mon!

So, what I wanted to say before this digression was, I could still visit Elysium and speak to the Roman deities. Maybe ask them about Shingen. However, his name and features didn’t seem European to me.
Even if he were a deity of some sort, how likely was it that my Roman buddies would know him?

He smiled a disarming smile at me again, offering his arm for me to hook my own:
“Please allow me to escort you to safety, my queen.”
I crossed my arms, trying to suppress my blush with snark:
“As you can see, I’m perfectly capable of keeping myself safe.”
Shingen chuckled:
“I am well aware of that. However, it would weigh heavily on my conscience if I allowed a lady to walk through a forest alone at night. Would you please indulge this old guy in his ways?”
“Geez, if you just wanted to take a walk with me, you could’ve said so. Don’t give me that gentlemanly crap.”
This time he laughed openly, leading the way as I finally accepted his arm:
“You are one outspoken lady, aren’t you? I like that.”

We walked like that for a while and I had a constant nagging feeling that I forgot something, like what you feel when you ask yourself if you turned off the stove before leaving the house.
Shingen hummed softly to himself, chiseled features relaxed as he set a leisurely pace out of the forest.
“Say, goddess; may I have your name?”
“It wouldn’t suit you, it’s a female name.” I quipped, unable to suppress a giggle at my own joke. Shingen followed with a slight shake of the head:
“Outspoken, witty and beautiful. Careful now, I can see myself falling in love.”
“It’s a deep pitfall, I’d advise against it.”
Why do I have to throw out a self-deprecating joke as the second-hottest guy I’ve ever met is flirting with me?
Ah right, because he’s the SECOND-hottest. Mitsuhide, you bastard.
“Anyway, I’m Rachael. You can call me Rae.” I continued, pushing all thoughts of Mitsuhide aside. Good riddance, I say.
“Beautiful name for a beautiful lady.”

We reached the outskirt of the forest and I could see the street lights and a road up ahead. The bus stop was some 200m up ahead and the nightline should be running.
Shingen eyed me up and down, his grey eyes almost concerned:
“I wish to ask you a question, my queen. What is the source of your power?”

Oh, shit! This was not good. Why would a 13 care about the source of the power of a 9?
He could crush me with a couple of slaps, probably.
“I’ll tell you mine if you tell me yours.”
“I did tell you. I am a Tiger.”
“That doesn’t explain anything. You don’t look like a tiger. Are you a weretiger? Tonight’s not a full moon, so you could be? Or are you a druid that has a tiger aspect? Wait, what else could you be…”

A sudden realization hit me.
Of course!
I took a step back. Fuck no. Did I just get hunted? AGAIN?!
I could see from his face I was guessing right.
I brandished my bracelets, ready to fight if need be.

“Don’t come any closer,” I warned Shingen and I slowly backed away. He smiled once again, putting his hands in his deep pockets:
“Please, goddess, I don’t wish to harm you. If I did, I could have done so several times tonight already.”
“Then what do you want?”
“An explanation. What is the source of your power?”

I took a deep breath:
“Magic. I am a witch. Well, more or less.”
His grin broadened:
“A witch, eh? That’s most interesting. I always wanted to know if the rumor about the lover of the witch was true.”
The lover of a… oh yes. I almost forgot.
See, witches are sneaky creatures. If we so desire, we might bind a man to us through the powers of sex.
It works much like ghouling in the vampiric world, except better.
The guy would become telepathically linked to his witch and have to protect her. In return, he’d obtain some of the powers from the clan of the witch in question.
I cursed myself for being such a lame witch. I never did this. Not even once.
Oh well, I don’t need a man to make me happy and all that jazz.

“Depends on what you’ve heard.”
“I heard it creates a bond stronger than any other.”
“I suppose so. Never tried it for myself.”
Shingen tried to approach me again and I took another step back, causing him to stop:
“So… a witch, more or less. What is more, and what is less?”
“I don’t feel obligated to relay my autobiography to a Rakshasa.”

See, out of all the supernatural creatures you could run into, Rakshasas were pretty high on the “hell to the no” list.
According to legend, they were born from the breath of Brahma, tried to kill him, and were then defeated by Vishnu.
Or, if it was a Buddhist Rakshasa, it was Buddha’s enemy who was later convinced of his holiness and became a follower.

I wished for the Buddhist one.
The Hindu Rakshasas ate people and were very, very evil in general.
There was also the option of both legends being wrong or incomplete. I have once heard that Rakshasas were actually powerful sorcerers from another dimension that ate angels.

Shingen pulled his left hand from his pocket, unwrapping a Twix like he had not a care in the world:
“Oh, of course, you don’t have to tell me your life story, regardless of how thrilled I would be to know all about you, queen. Care for chocolate?”

He offered me one of the two chocolate sticks and I shook my head:
“No, thanks. So, why are you here tonight? I can’t believe it was all a coincidence.”
“You are right, it was not.” He munched on the dessert and I did my best not to appear as openly shocked as I was. Eating people and angels? This one was eating chocolate!
Well, I guess chocolate was more delicious.
“I must admit my nose led me to you. So… I will ask you again, more openly this time: are you aware you have a deity inside of you?”

A deity? Does he mean the… what was his name… Element… Prevalent… Fifth Disciple? Elemental from the 5th dimension! Right!
What do I do now? Do I lie? Moreover, he was an elemental, not a deity!

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Oh, that’s how you’re playing.” He seemed amused.
“You know full well what I’m talking about. I don’t know which name you know him by, but he’s Eon. The Father of Death.”

The Father of Death? I vaguely remembered the Elemental calling himself that a few times. And of course, I did slay the Goddess of Death Morana, pretty unceremoniously last year. That was a real pickle, having the spot of a god suddenly empty, especially one as important as that. Fortunately, it was not against the rules… hells, did we even have rules?! For an exceptionally powerful metahuman to be “promoted” to a demigod (that basically happened to me) or a full-fledged god (we did know one who seemed to carry a weird buzzing pen thingy he claimed was a screwdriver) so we did manage to find her a replacement and my own kinda-boss was not TOO upset with me. I mean, do you really want Pluto mad at you?

But I had no idea he truly and genuinely WAS Morana’s father!
I suddenly remembered what he told me right after I killed his daughter and faced off against him.
As he was defeated, he said:
“Enjoy your victory while you still can. I will see you in hell.”
I told him there’s no way I’d be going to hell, to which he replied:
“You’re already halfway there. You’re following in my footsteps perfectly.”
Back then, I thought that was just his last attempt at shaking me, but as Shingen continued, I grew worried:
“He’s the only completely self-made deity. You see, he is the only survivor of the once-mighty Atlantis and the inventor of alchemy. As the only living member of a once-powerful race, he already qualifies as a pretty impressive metahuman. But then, as he managed to invent this particularly strong branch of magic, his power only grew. He took anything others deemed useless and turned it into treasure until he managed to turn even traits nobody wanted into divine power. He’s the lone God of his own pantheon.”

“And the Father of Death, which makes him a PatrEON…” I murmured, unable to resist the pun opportunity even as my brain spun. Shingen’s brows furrowed:

“Goddess, I am begging you. I have been searching for him for centuries. He is too dangerous. You have to let me slay him.”

Slay me?! Who do you think you are, you overgrown fireplace carpet?!

The Elemental was finally coaxed out of hiding and I felt a splitting headache as he forced his own words through my mouth. He never did that before! I didn’t know he COULD do that!
Shingen’s grin only grew as he stuffed the now empty Twix wrapper back into his pocket. Well, at least this kitty doesn’t litter.
Then his form started changing. His skin turned darker until it was the color of whiskey and he sprouted two additional arms and an additional head. A tiger head, which now matched the one he previously had as his features grew animalistic.
With a flex of the fingers, he produced a large grimoire and two odd-looking small cages and I panicked:
“What the hell are you doing? You cannot kill him without killing me!”
I got ready to block, only to discover my bracelets were buzzing with the sudden surge of power.
“Let’s see about that. Have no fear. I know what I am doing.”

Damn, I am too young to die.

You want me, tiger cub? You want me so much you’d be willing to risk a lady’s life for me?

“Nobody’s life is at stake but yours, Eon! Prepare to join your daughter!”

Shingen said an incantation and the cages in his hand glowed as if they were on fire. They flew toward me, opening and twisting until they were wrapped around the bracelets on my wrists, the crystals in them immediately losing their own glow like they were shut down.
I couldn’t use my magic anymore! Where is a Dispel when you need it!?
Fortunately, that was not the only type of magic I had.
I hated using the other one, but if I had to…
I started my transformation.
See, there were certain options available to witches of certain age or status. If her power grows past a certain limit, a witch may enter a special state of hibernation after which she’d awaken as either a hag or a fairy. Both creatures were immensely powerful, but hags were… not entirely themselves. Kinda evil, ya know. They might pass a poisonous apple to a pretty girl or lure kids into a house made of candy…
And, as crazy as I was, I wasn’t fairytale level crazy!
So, yeah, I technically was a fairy (hold the jokes, that’s not nice!) and that brought me a lot of comfort since becoming a fairy was like a reward if you did good deeds.
But I didn’t like using my fairy form. First of all, it was draining, even with Dragon Blood. Second of all, it could fuck mortal minds up!
There’s a reason people tell stories about nymphs and mermaids and things like that. Fairies don’t work much differently.

However, there was a problem my stupid racing heart overlooked in my panic to not get killed by a Rakshasa.
I was alone. There was nobody to distract my enemies while I transformed safely.
The transformation was not instantaneous and I was vulnerable while it lasted.

The pages in Shingen’s grimoire flipped seemingly on their own accord and he cast another spell to silence me just as I felt a gust of force climbing up my throat. What was Eon DOING in there?!
I could hear him swearing and cursing in my mind, he was like an overwhelming clatter of kitchenware on a Sunday morning when you’re trying to sleep, your massive hangover a punishment for last night.

Then I felt myself stiffen. My entire body just stiffened and I couldn’t move. Shingen breathed a sigh of relief:
“I apologize, my beautiful queen; but I had to contain both you and Eon for the time being. I’m afraid I’ll have to take you with me. It’s been a while since I’ve slain a god, but I am friends with one. Perhaps he’ll know what to do.”

He flung me over his shoulder and went into the forest again, my squirming and protesting futile against his spells. What is this? Level Bazillion spell!?
And why am I constantly getting controlled into going places?!