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Blood Wars

Chapter Text

 

          The dawn of the new Meiji era of 1869, had brought about sudden and sweeping changes to Japan. The fractured politics, the expansion of foreign trade with the west and the general breakdown of Japanese society that had held for centuries, was now the norm. The rush to push the country in a direction of westernization, and to be viewed as a valid super power in the world, was the focus of the new government.

          The end of the Boshin war saw Edo renamed as Tokyo and the city was now the new seat of power for Emperor Meiji. The expulsion of foreigners had shifted instead, to a more welcomed approach, and laws were written forbidding violence against westerners. Emperor Meiji himself, had welcomed a visit from the Duke of Edinburg, who was stated, to the court, as an equal to the Emperor in rank and bloodlines.

          The samurai class was abolished, leaving the warriors to choose a path that included the opportunities to work for the new government or to create an entrepreneurial life, though there was dissention among the honored Samurai class, and those that did not agree with the new Imperial rule, had left many of them to suffer in poverty.  In 1889, the Meiji Constitution was enacted that laid out the framework for the new era in Japan, a framework that did not include the samurai.

 

 

          What was left behind in the dawn of this new era, was felt at the commoner’s level with the abolishment of the social classes, something that looked good on paper, but not so much for the actual citizens. The daimyo’s lost their lands and the samurai way of life was left barren of status and possessions, and government corruption was at an all time high. It was with this new life that Nakamura Taizo had agreed to be brought into the blood, due to his fellow samurai having perished in the war, and a deep-seated need for revenge. It had been a heavy loss for both Suzuki and Nakamura; Ogawa and Jin struck down in the streets of Kyoto during a skirmish with the shinsengumi forces.

          “I will avenge their deaths, if you will allow me to do so,” he asked Reo, “I will guarantee that their names and the samurai code of honor is upheld throughout my immortality.” Reo brought Nakamura into the blood in the year 1868, adding yet another warrior to his growing ranks, his numbers having swelled to twelve members.       

         

          The turn of the century brought major growth, but with that growth came a severe imbalance between wealth and poverty. The poor were scavengers, the rich were abusers, and the immortals were caught in the middle, neither wealthy nor impoverished, though some vampires found a great satisfaction from feeding off a wealthy pompous fool.

          While they were not immune to the changes in their surroundings, the immortals had more pressing issues to take care of; the increase of rogue and lost fledgling vampires were making themselves known in all parts of the country. There were weekly battles with the more dangerous rogues, those that were rife with viciousness and violence, most that were captured and brought to Reo, were non-verbal and could not or would not identify their maker.

          It was the lone fledglings that worried the clan leaders the most; brought into the blood and abandoned shortly after, some with no idea what had happened to them, repetitions of Akinori’s situation. There were a few who once they were convinced of what had happened to them, sadly committed suicide, these horrific deaths were a crushing blow to the clan leaders, and fueled their hate and anger towards Ryuichi and Yoshiki, convincing them all, that something would need to be done to stop the two sadistic immortals.

          There were two fledglings that had wandered into the capital city of Tokyo, after the start of the imperial rule, not being seen by any of Morrie’s clan, but once again, Isshi had sensed their arrival, a male and a female, newly brought into the blood. Isshi left the sanctuary of the Inari shrine, and walked into the woods that laid beyond, to have a look at the couple, and try to gather a sense of who they were.

          The male was tall and muscular, broad shouldered with long braided hair, walking with his arm protectively around the smaller female’s shoulder, she was almost childlike in size, reminding Isshi of Ayato. They were entering the small stone hut that formally housed Daisuke and his family, glancing around as they closed the door behind them.

          Isshi watched the hut for a few moments, wondering if the couple had already hunted that evening. Satisfied after twenty minutes, that the couple would be in for the day, Isshi returned to the shrine, his mind busy with questions about the new arrivals to the city, wondering how many more would make their way to Tokyo. The year was 1890.

Chapter Text

          The voices were buzzing in Sakurai Atsushi’s ears on a nightly basis, were a cause of worry for the ancient immortal. He had not experienced the frequency and intensity of the voices since the bygone days of his and Kai’s life in France, and it was cause for concern, something he did not expose to his small family. The change in government for the country had been trying enough for Clan Sakurai; the loss of a society that they had known for hundreds of years had been stressful for all of them.

          “Acchan?” Kai poked his head into his leader’s private room, “do you have a moment?”  Sakurai waved him in, “What can I do for you, Kai-kun?”

          Kai looked back down the hall before coming into the room, and closing the door quietly, walking over and sitting in a chair in front of Sakurai’s large desk, “I don’t want the others to hear this,” he paused a moment, “Acchan, I’ve been hearing whispered voices again, calling for someone named Sugizo.”

          Sakurai took a sharp breath, “If it wasn’t for that name, I wouldn’t have said anything, but I’ve been hearing the same name,” he grunted, “and I’ve also heard voices calling for Yoshiki and Mari.”

          “Mari?”

          Sakurai nodded, “I believe she is the maker of some of Morrie-san’s newest clan members, she was with Yoshiki when she was last seen. Have you been able to decipher any other names?”

          “No, not exactly. I hear snippets of names, but nothing clearly.” Kai leaned forward, “Should we contact Morrie and Reo? What of Inoran?”

          “I’ve been debating with myself on that actually, I don’t want to be an alarmist, but since it’s Yoshiki’s name we’re both hearing, I believe I will send a message to both Reo and Morrie.”

          “Could this be part of the issue with the rogue vampires that have been plaguing both Tokyo and Kyoto?” Kai ventured a guess.

          “No idea, I won’t discount anything anymore, though it does seem that the problems with rogue vampires, are on the increase.”

 

 

          In another part of Tokyo, Morrie was dealing with a different problem; contacting the two immortals that Isshi had seen the previous night, that were now in the same small stone hut that Daisuke’s family had used in the past.

          Isshi had gone to Morrie’s home to speak with the clan leader. “Would you like me to reach out to them?” Isshi offered. The response was not what he had expected.

          “No. I’m going to send Daisuke and Hiro to speak to them. It’s not that I distrust you, Isshi-san, rather I believe that they may feel safer with other immortals contacting them.” Isshi bowed to Morrie’s deference.

          “I’m going to send Daisuke and Hiro to speak to them tomorrow night, at that point, we will offer to meet with them if they so desire. If it’s possible could we use the temple again? It’s a fairly neutral environment and they may feel safer.”

          Isshi of course agreed, “Whatever you feel safe doing, Morrie-san. I wish nothing more than to offer my assistance when needed.” Thanking the onmyoji, Isshi returned to the shrine.

          “Is this safe?” Tatsu asked, “I’m concerned with sending in someone that has less blood life than others, we know nothing about these individuals.”

          Morrie shrugged, “I don’t believe that they’re aggressive, the way Isshi explained, they were more careful than hostile.” Reaching out to his lover, Morrie caressed Tatsu’s cheek, “Everything will be fine, I promise.”

         

          Daisuke knocked on the door to the hut, then stepped back several feet, “We just wish to speak to you, we mean you no harm,” he announced.

          “Who are you and why are you here?” a male voice came from the other side of the door.

          “My name is Daisuke, my friend here is Hiro. We are members of Clan Otsuka and we just wish to speak to you, nothing more.” They could hear whispered voices.

          “If you would please stand back a little further, I will open the door.” The man asked, Daisuke and Hiro stepping back further, and the door opened.

          An imposingly tall man filled the doorway, full chested and muscular arms, with long hair that had been put into braids. Just behind him was a tiny woman, no more than five feet tall, with long straight dark hair and a shy smile, they bowed low, and introduced themselves.

          “I am Ryo, and this is Aiko. We are both from Toyama, though we did not know each other before…” he closed his eyes and breathed deeply, “before we were turned into monsters.”

          Daisuke nodded, “I understand. My master would like to speak with you at some length. We can either go to our Clan house, or we can use the temple at the Inari Shrine, there is an onmyoji there that understands our special circumstances. It is entirely up to you, though…we do offer a family setting and more importantly, safety in numbers.”

          “When would this meeting take place?”

          “Any time you choose, tonight, after you’ve hunted of course.” Hiro inclined his head slightly. The woman stood on her tip toes and whispered in the man’s ear, he nodded, “If you can guarantee our safety, we will meet with your master tonight. Please just tell us where to be, we do need to hunt first.”

          Daisuke gave them directions to Morrie’s home, “We will be expecting you.” Walking down the hill back towards Morrie’s home, they were stopped near the shrine by Isshi, “I’m assuming everything went well? You detected no hostility?”

          “Not hostility, no, more like extreme caution. They did however, agree to meet at the house. I shall make sure to update you on the meeting.” With a short bow, Daisuke and Hiro made their way through the city streets.

         

          Clan Otsuka were present during the initial meeting between the clan and the unknown immortals, Ryo and Aiko. Once everyone was introduced, only Morrie, Miya and Daisuke remained in the room, Morrie did not want to overwhelm the newcomers by sheer numbers alone.

          Sadly, Aiko and Ryo’s stories mirrored so many others; seduction and then blood born, by Yoshiki and Mari. The two immortals had brought their newest children into the blood and left them with some instructions on how to live as vampires. The random attacks were separated by a few days, and a few miles. Ryo randomly coming across Aiko on the road east towards Tokyo.

          “We figured that Tokyo was a large enough city, that it would be easier to blend in and live, in Toyama that would not have worked.” Aiko said softly. “We could hear the voices, but we were too afraid to come forward.”

          This caught Morrie’s attention quickly, “Voices? What voices did you hear?”

          Ryo cocked his head, “Mostly names, nothing specifically was being said, but the names had some anger behind them.”

          The others exchanged worried glances, “What names were being said?”

          “Ryuichi and Sugizo.”

          “Are you sure it was Ryuichi?” If Morrie could have broken out in a cold sweat, he would have at that moment.

          Aiko nodded, “We both heard his name, but only Ryo had heard the other.”  Morrie leaned over and whispered something to Miya, who then quickly got up and left the room.

          “Is there a problem, Morrie-san?” Ryo watched the other immortal leave the room.

          “Well, Ryuichi is definitely a problem, the other person I’ve never heard of. Ryuichi is your…our Primogen…he is the father of all immortals, and he is ruthless and sadistic.”

          “Yes, Morrie-san?” Aoi bowed and came into the room. “I need you to go to see Sakurai-san right now, waste no time. Tell him we need to meet in the next few days, that I have been given some information on Ryuichi…go, now!” Aoi bowed again and without a word, ran down the hallway.

          Ryo was becoming uneasy, “May I ask, who is Sakurai-san?”

          “Of course, Sakurai Atsushi is an ancient, he is the oldest of the current clan leaders, being brought into the blood in 978, by Ryuichi.” Morrie was frowning, his thoughts battering about in his mind.

          “You mean… that makes him…” Aiko closed her eyes, “That can’t be! That means he’s over 900 years old!”

          Morrie chuckled, “Would you believe me if I told you I am almost 400 years old?” Aiko’s jaw dropped, “How many vampires are there in the world? I can’t… this means,” The woman became very distressed, the magnitude of what she was hearing, she could not process.

          “You called for me, Morrie-san?” You knocked on the door, “You-chan, could you take Aiko to the kitchen and get her some tea please?” You bowed her head, “Come with me Aiko-chan,” she held out her hand for the young woman, then led her out of the room.

          “I’m sorry, Ryo-san. I didn’t mean to tease her so, but this is something that as an immortal, you will have to learn to deal with. There are 5 ancients currently in the country, including Ryuichi who we understand was change din 817. Sakurai-san then the next oldest. Inoran was brought into the blood just two years after Sakurai, and lives in Fuji with his blood spouse, Yusuke. He is not terribly active in our little clan alliance, but he is important none the less. Then there is Clan Aichi, and Reo-san, I don’t remember the year he was blood born, but it was not long after Sakurai and Inoran. He holds control over Kyoto and has the largest clan in the alliance.”

          “This does not mean there are not other immortals out there, that we do not know of, and there are other individuals that are not part of any clan at this time. It’s unfortunate, but I believe you will also not be the last, therefore I sent for Sakurai, he needs to be made aware of what you have said.”

          The door opened again, and You returned with a much-relieved Aiko, “I apologize, Morrie-san. This is a little more than I expected to learn today.” She bowed low to Morrie.

          “Aiko-chan, this is a lot for anyone to hear, please make no apologies,” He had her sit back down with Ryo, “now what I’d like to do if possible, is offer you a place in Clan Otsuka. I do this selfishly in part, as there is safety in numbers, and because I know what it is like to be blood born by monsters. I can offer you a life that is some what normal, as normal as living for eternity can be. Please, you do not have to make a decision at this …”

          “Yes, we’d like to stay please,” Ryo blurted out before Morrie could finish, then bowed his head, “I’m sorry, but we have been nothing but frightened for over a year now. We have no home, no family to speak of, and it is a terrifying life that we have lived. So, yes…we accept your kind and generous offer of becoming members of your clan.” Both Ryo and Aiko bowed their heads low.

          Daisuke chuckled, “Welcome to the Clan, my brother and sister,” he turned to his clan leader, “shall I set them up in their own rooms, my lord?”

 

 

 

          “I want you to stay here, this is not a pleasure trip and if Ryuichi’s involved, you need to stay home, is that understood?” Sakurai had his small family gathered, informing them that he would be leaving within the hour for Tokyo.

          For once, Uta didn’t argue or pout. “Acchan, please be careful,” the young man whined, “please, for me?”

          “Are you sure you don’t want me to accompany you, my lord?” Uehara asked. “No Ue-chan, I need you here to protect the others. Between yourself and Kai, I believe you can keep the young ones safe. I will return before dawn,” he opened his arms for Naoto and Uta, “stay in the house, listen to what Kai and Uehara tell you, is that clear?” He kissed each of them on the head. They followed him out to the engawa, “I love you all, I’ll return before dawn.” Blowing a kiss to Uta, Sakurai Atsushi slowly rose into the air, and was gone in less than a heartbeat.  

Chapter Text

 

          Yusuke watched his blood spouse as the man walked through their garden, talking to the small dog that followed at his heels, “Chika, do you believe he hears me, or is he ignoring my calls?” Inoran walked over to the stone bench and sat down, patting his leg for the tiny dog to jump into his lap.

          “Does Chika have an answer, my love?” Yusuke walked into the garden, carrying a tray with two cups of tea, sitting next to his lover. Inoran smiled, “Unfortunately, I can not read the minds of animals, and Chika isn’t speaking to me.”

          Handing Inoran his cup of tea, Yusuke mused over the last year and his lover’s improvements just from using the herbal blend that Kai had created for him. The moments of unbridled anger had disappeared, replaced by a temperament that Yusuke could live with. The melancholy and constant watching of the night sky, had been replaced by nightly walks through their garden with Chika following behind him.

          Chika had been a surprise gift from Yusuke to Inoran, the younger man had found the puppy while he was in the countryside hunting. He had stumbled upon a house that was still smoldering, a possible random attack by bandits. Yusuke heard the whining and searched through the rubble, past the burned bodies of the home’s inhabitants, to find a small puppy under a shelf, that had been shielded from the fire.

          “Well, you’re a bit of a survivor, aren’t you?” Picking up the puppy, he placed him inside his yukata, “I’m sure he’s going to love you.” Making his way home, he entered the house and called out for Inoran, finding his lover in his private room.

          “I have a little gift for you, my love.” Yusuke tapped on the door. “A gift? For what reason?” Inoran put down his book, as Yusuke entered the room, holding his hands behind his back. “Close your eyes.”

          Inoran cocked an eyebrow, “Really?” He could smell something, but wasn’t sure what it was, there was an odd odor of smoke.

          “Yes, really. Please, for me?” Inoran closed his eyes with a smile.

          Carefully approaching Inoran, Yusuke took the puppy and placed it in his lap. “Open your eyes.”

          Inoran chuckled, “Well well…what’s this?” He picked up the puppy and held it in his hands, “you certainly don’t smell like a puppy, where did you find this tiny baby?”

          “I found her in a burned-out house, about fifteen kilometers from here, it was still smoldering and whomever lived there, were dead. I found her under a shelf, and thought you could use a tiny companion. Was I wrong?”

          Inoran held his arm open, “No, you were not wrong…she is adorable and I’m pleased you saved her tiny life. What shall we name her?” Yusuke leaned into the man, Inoran holding him around the waist. “I think I shall call you Chika, you’re just so tiny. How does that sound to you, Chika?” The puppy answered with a lick to Inoran’s nose.

          “He still has yet to answer me, I wonder if I should continue calling him.” Inoran stroked the puppy’s fur, carding through the small knots and tangles, “I believe Heath to be lost to us, Yusuke. Is he so far away or so destroyed that he can not hear me?” He looked up to his lover, “I don’t know, though you know how I feel about this so I can not honestly be unhappy about it.”

          Yusuke moved away from Inoran and sat in a chair, “I believe that he is ignoring you because he is angry with me for denying him my love. If that is true, then I say I’m happy that he has not answered your calls.”

          The frown that passed over Inoran’s face was not missed, “I’ve already explained to you several times now Yusuke; I am the leader in this family and if I so desire to have Heath next to me, then that is what will be. If I choose to bring another person into our small family, then I will do so with no interference from you or anyone else.”

          Inoran stood, placing the puppy in Yusuke’s lap, “Chika needs a bath, she smells of smoke and death,” is all he said before leaving the room.

 

 

          “He lied to me and played with my emotions, he just basically used me when Inoran would go missing.” Heath was sitting with Issay in the large living area of Sakurai’s abandoned estate in Hokkaido, having been surprised one evening when he was out hunting, seeing Heath walking towards him.

          Explaining to Issay the recent events with Inoran and his mental illness, Heath made no qualms about telling his side of the story, even as prejudice as it was. Issay identified easily with Heath, he felt the same way with his interactions with Reo and the entire Ayato episode.    

          “Well, he is Inoran’s blood spouse, what would you ultimately expect? The bond is too strong for it to be broken by something as base as sexual infidelity.”

          “To an extent, yes. But when Inoran became violent and threatened to kill both of us? I believed that pushed Yusuke over the edge, he promised he would leave Inoran, obviously it was a lie.” Heath justified.

          He knew it would be a sore topic, but Heath felt a need for a bit of payback, “You can say the same about Ayato. You don’t really expect Reo to let him remain with you after the incident with those rogues. You basically ran away and left the boy to die.”

          “Those rogues would have killed us both!” Issay snapped, “what good would it have done for me to try to fight them? It was two against one, it was a better idea to go and try to get help from the main house.”

          “Everything was perfect before those rogues showed up, then it all went to hell.” Issay’s shoulders sagged, the anger diminished. “Then the ultimate slap in the face, Reo agreeing to let that stupid boy go with Kyo, he had no right in that.”

          Now it was Heath’s turn to smirk, “Yes he did. Ayato is his child, he is the clan leader, he has every right to do what he did, it was in the best interest of the clan. Let’s just agree to disagree with each other’s transgressions, ne?”

          “Well, at least I have to admit my fault in my leaving Sakurai’s house, even though he’d never admit that Kai is just a peasant, I really shouldn’t have pushed him so hard into accepting me as his sole lover. I do regret that.” Issay truly did consider himself at fault for the event that led to him leaving Sakurai Atsushi’s house.

          “Sakurai has always seemed like a very amiable man, very even tempered, unless of course Uta is in harms way, but anyone would become unhinged if their blood spouse was in danger. Did you know about the immolation of that boy? I didn’t realize that the ancients have that power.” Heath had heard about the incident with Tangier, and it truly terrified him.

          Issay shuddered, “I’m not sure what I would do in that position. I of course knew about Imai and his relationship with Sakurai, but to set someone on fire because he attacked your blood spouse? I’m not sure it was justified, but all the clan leaders gave him pass on it.”

          The duo lived quietly in the north, while they didn’t consider themselves friends, they did understand each other’s positions and what had led them to this cold north island. Neither man had any plans on rejoining their clans, or changing the way they lived.

 

          The humidity is what struck him in the face first, as he left his stateroom on the ship after the sun had slipped behind the western mountains. Carefully walking down the gangplank that ran to the wharf, Raymond Watts set foot on Japanese soil for the first time, leaving the ship in Tokyo bay.

          The unexpected meeting with Yoshiki in 1852, had left the man unnerved. The questions about Imai, the situation with Sakurai Atsushi, had made Watts very shaken. He had left London that next year, hoping to leave Imai behind and find another hiding place from Yoshiki, though he knew that would be impossible.

          He had crossed the English Channel and landed in France, then made his way south to Spain, wanting the warmer climate to leech the English fog out of his bones. He found the city of Pamplona to be the perfect place to immerse himself in a small town, where he could blend into the night life, being viewed as an eccentric Englishman.  Raymond Watts had believed he’d found his final home and was living in peace, that was until he had a visitor in 1888.  

          Walking up the low hill to his small stone house, the moment he reached for the door, he knew he had a visitor. “Damn it.” he muttered. Taking a deep breath, he opened the door. “How did you find me this time?” Yoshiki noted the anger in his child’s voice.

          Yoshiki laughed, “What? You’re not pleased to see me, how rude of you,” the ancient’s tone changed, “how I found you is irrelevant, why I’m here is the issue. Why have you gone into hiding?”

          Watts stomach tightened, “Who said I was in hiding? I simply got tired of the dreary London weather, there are more days of rain than not. Is it a crime to want to live in a more temperate climate?” He handed Yoshiki a glass of wine. “If you’re looking for me, you’ve found me…what can I do for you?”

          “Who is Sugizo?”

          “I have no idea, I’ve never heard the name before, why?” This was unexpected.

          “Whomever he is, he won’t stop shouting my name, his voice is constantly in my ears, whining like a tiny child that wants candy.” Yoshiki sat down hard in a chair, “I’m tired of him crying for me, I want to know who he is and what the hell he wants with me.”

          “Can I suggest that perhaps you need to go back to Japan? It is not a name I’m familiar with, I’ve never heard of the man, so I’m sorry, I can’t help you.”

          “Where’s Imai?” the ancient snapped at him.

          “Again, I have no idea where that man is either. After your impromptu visit in London, I assumed you had found him and made your peace with him, it’s obvious that you didn’t.”

          “I spoke with him at length actually,” his voice dripping with venom, “we had an agreement and yet he decided not to keep up his part of the bargain, and now I’m looking to collect my part of the compensation.”

          This didn’t feel right, “And what bargain did you strike with the man?” Watts feared he would need to move yet again.

          “That’s of no concern to you. If you have not seen him then I will leave you to your life of luxury while the rest of us prepare.”

          “Prepare for what, pray tell?”

          “War.”

 

 

         

          Ryo and Aiko bowed low before Lord Sakurai, both quite nervous upon meeting the ancient, who had just arrived at Morrie’s home. “Please, there’s no need to fear me, I’m just old…not dangerous.” Sakurai attempted to lighten the mood. Morrie first introduced him to Daisuke and his friends, then to Ryo and Aiko.

          “Ryuichi… his name is being whispered, along with Yoshiki’s and Mari’s.” Sakurai explained, “Both Kai and I have heard their names being called and a new one as well, someone named Sugizo.” This information led Morrie to introduce Sakurai to the newest members of Clan Otsuka.

          “Can you tell me about the voices you’ve been hearing; how long and where were you?” Sakurai tried to calm his bristling nature, not wanting to frighten the young vampires.

          “On the road from Toyama, mostly,” Ryo offered, “Aiko heard Ryuichi’s name, I did as well, but only I heard the name Sugizo.”

          “Who are your makers?”

          Ryo frowned, “I don’t know mine, I was blindsided in an attack and left in the forest.” He looked at Aiko, “Her name was Mari.” They went through the events leading up to their being blood born, and how they met on the road. “We just started walking towards Tokyo, we figured it would be easier to live in a larger city.” Aiko explained.

          “How were the names being said? In a pleading voice or…?” Sakurai leaned forward, listening carefully. “I’d say anger, there was no pleading, it was angry, as if whomever it was, was demanding that Ryuichi answer them. It sounded to me like Sugizo was asking that Ryuichi contact him.” Sakurai thanked Ryo and Aiko, then asked to speak to Morrie privately.

          “We need to alert the others, this Sugizo person sounds like he could be a problem. I’ll send a message to Inoran, could you please contact Reo…and perhaps Isshi as well. I don’t want any of us taken by surprise.”

          “Consider it done. I’m going to keep my family at home for the time being, leaving only to feed and it will be done quickly. I’m sure you’d like to return to your young ones. Please, take care of yourself and let me know of any changes.” Morrie clapped his hand on Sakurai’s shoulder, “Don’t worry, we’ll take care of this together.” Sakurai nodded then excused himself and stepped out into the garden, then rose quickly into the air.

          “He’s worried, isn’t he?” Tatsu wrapped his arms around Morrie’s waist, laying his head on his shoulder. “Yes, and I am as well. I don’t like this new unknown; it does not bode well for the alliance if there are additional unknown immortals that want to destroy what we have.”

 

         

          “I require a room, and I’d like one without a window if possible.”

Chapter Text

 

          “You don’t look very happy; I’m assuming it’s not good news?” Jyou was casually leaning against the wall, watching Reo’s face as he read the letter from Morrie. “Call a clan meeting, pull everyone from whatever their doing and bring them here.” Hesitating for a moment, Jyou nodded then pushed herself off the wall and left the room.

          Within the hour, the members of Clan Aichi were standing in Reo’s office, waiting for their clan leader to explain why they had all been summoned, with Arimatsu, Asanao and Jyou standing to the side of Reo’s desk.

          “I’ve received a letter from Morrie-san, which concerns us all. It seems that his two newest clan members, have brought word that they have heard names whispered, while traveling to Tokyo.  Ryuichi is one of the names, the other is what I am concerned about; Sugizo’s name was also heard.” Reita and Tora exchanged quick glances.

          “My lord, has he been blood born?” Nakamura asked.

          “He was not an immortal when he left the clan, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he was brought into the blood, either Ryuichi or Yoshiki would be his maker, their tactics also fit the blind side attack on Ryo.” Reo closed his eyes, “We need to be watchful, all of us,” he looked at Akinori, “You, Mana and Ayato will stay at the house, you will have an escort, when you go out to hunt, and there is no argument to be had.”  Something in Reo’s voice, told them not to challenge his authority.

          Reo went on to discuss security measures that he wanted the people on the street to deal with, “Be aware of your surroundings, they are ancients and can paralyze you or set you ablaze in an instant.” He dismissed the others but held Reita, Tora and Arimatsu back.

          “I want you to go to Tokyo and speak with Morrie. You both know Sugizo better than I do, and he was under Arimatsu’s command while he was with the clan. Give Morrie and Sakurai both all the information you can possibly think of, I want you to leave tomorrow night, and I will have a letter ready for you at that time.”

           

          The incessant whispers from other immortals during the daylight hours, had left Raymond Watts more than just a little cranky. His fatigue was bad enough, that he almost fumbled while feeding, letting a passer-by see him bent over his victim in an alley. His quick thinking had saved him, “He was so drunk, the poor fellow, I just laid him down out of the road,” was the story he told the man who had seen him walk from the alley.

          “Ah, well I’m sure it wasn’t the drink entirely, the evil of opium is rampant in the city these days.” The gentleman doffed his hat with a light bow and went on his way.

           Watts made his own way back to the hotel, having a light dinner in the hotel’s modest restaurant, he then wearily returned to his room. He spent the next few hours, listening carefully to the whispers, and sending out his own call for Sakurai Atsushi, “You must hear me, I come to warn you.”  

          It was not Sakurai Atsushi who heard the calls, but Isshi the Onmyoji. He followed the whispered voice to the hotel where Watts was staying, listening carefully as he went up the stairs to the third floor, following the message to the hotel room door. Taking a breath, he reached out and knocked softly.

          “Who is it?” a low voice on the other side.

          “My name is Isshi, I’d like to speak to you about Sakurai Atsushi.”

           The door opened slowly, “Onmyoji, I am surprised that you speak English,” Watts opened the door, waving Isshi in, “I have heard your name thrown around lately, please, come in.” Isshi scanned the room before stepping over the threshold, “I am alone, please I mean you no harm.” Watts assured the man.

          “Thank you, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I decided to call on you, not all of your brethren are comfortable with me, and yes, my English is passable.” Isshi settled into a deep wingback chair. The two immortals studied each other for a moment, Watts eyes widened when he realized that Isshi was not a vampire.

          Isshi understood the questioning glance, “No, I am not a vampire, but I am an immortal. My master Abe no Seimei graced me with immortality before he died.”

          Raymond Watts was more than a little stunned, “Are there any other immortals such as yourself?”

          “None that I have ever heard of or come across, no. I believe my situation to be unique, at least in Japan.” He paused, “May I ask why you are calling for Sakurai Atsushi?”

          Watts stood, walking to a small sideboard, “Would you care to share some sake with me?” Isshi accepted, watching as the man poured two cups, handing one to Isshi.

          “I want to warn Sakurai,”

          “Warn him? Of what?”

          Pouring another cup of sake for each of them, Watts leaned forward, “Yoshiki is looking for him, and if I am to understand him correctly, there is some sort of war that is impending, though to what degree I don’t know.”

          “How did you come by this information?” Isshi remained calm, concealing his concern.

          “From Yoshiki himself, about four months ago. He sought me out…no, that’s not right. He hunted me down, he was angry with me for moving.” Watts went on to tell an abridged version of his life as an immortal, mentioning Imai and their connection, his life in London.

          “This will come as a shock to Sakurai-san. I gathered from what he has said, that Imai is not one of his favorite people.” Isshi smirked. “Do you believe an attack is imminent?”

          Watts sighed, “No, that’s the main problem, I don’t have any idea, but I wanted to warn Sakurai. He needs to know that Yoshiki and possibly Imai are coming for him at some point. I fear for anyone that gets caught in the cross fire, Yoshiki is beyond brutal and Ryuichi is insane.”  

          Isshi studied the man carefully, “I feel no malice from you, I do not believe you are attempting to deceive me, however,” he said, “I’d like to speak to the clan leader in the city, before allowing you access to Sakurai Atsushi. If you will wait an hour or so, I will return with an answer.”

          “I will agree to that, as it does seem prudent to speak to whomever is in power in the city, before asking to speak to an ancient.” Watts stood and showed Isshi to the door, the onmyoji bowed, “I will return before dawn.”

 

         

Chapter Text

          “What’s Morrie-san like?” Tora and Reita were questioning Arimatsu about what to expect when they reached Tokyo.

          “Mild-mannered really, I’ve yet to see him angry. I can’t say I really know the man, other than he was gracious enough to accept Miya, Shinya, Sato and Aoi into his clan, when Inoran refused to join the alliance. He also accepted four others that had been living in a small hut near the Inari Shrine.” Arimatsu was mentally preparing for the meeting with the Otsuka clan leader, trying to remember every detail he possibly could about Sugizo.

          “How many does he have in his clan? Reo said he has two new members,” Tora asked. Closing his eyes, Arimatsu counted the members, “Twelve, counting himself, so one less than Clan Aichi. Nobody really includes Isshi the Onmyoji, he is happy to live on his own.”

         

          Sitting in Morrie’s private room, the immortal listened as Isshi explained his meeting with Raymond Watts and the man’s desire to speak with the clan leader.

          “I detected no deceit in his words, quite the opposite, he is genuinely concerned with the messages he was receiving from Yoshiki. I believe it is pertinent that you accept his offer of a meeting, and I suggest you send for Sakurai.” Isshi didn’t want to sound like an alarmist, but they all knew that Ryuichi and Yoshiki were planning some sort of an attack on all immortals.  

          “Where is he staying?” Morrie asked.

          “The Hotel Yamato, he’s on the third floor in a central room.” Isshi realized that Morrie would want to have one of his members watch the hotel.

          “Tomorrow night, around eleven pm., that gives me time to send for Sakurai and to have my members advised. Please tell him not to be alarmed and that we mean him no harm. Does he speak Japanese?”

          Isshi smiled and shook his head, “No, but he does speak English and some French, if you’d like I can act as translator, as I speak some English as well.” With instructions for Watts, Isshi left the home of Clan Otsuka and returned to the Hotel Yamato.

          “Do you believe Isshi? Is this Watts person harmless?” Tatsu leaned over the back of Morrie’s chair, wrapping his arms around his lover’s neck, “I have to believe him, what other choice do I have? If the man has information about Yoshiki and Ryuichi’s plans for a war, I can’t ignore that.” Morrie patted Tatsu’s hand, “There will be no danger to anyone, Sakurai will most likely bring his entire clan, I can’t see Uta agreeing to be left alone again.”

 

          Morrie was correct in his assumption. Once Aoi had delivered his message and returned to the city, Uta started whining about being left behind, for a second time.

          “It’s not that dangerous, is it Acchan?” Uta was sitting on the bed, watching his lover pack a small bag. “I don’t know, it doesn’t appear that this Watts person is any threat, why do you ask?” He knew where Uta was going with the line of questions.

          “Can I go with you this time?” he wasn’t going to throw a tantrum, something that usually didn’t work with his blood spouse, though he was expecting rejection.

          “Yes.”

          He was shocked, “Really? Can everyone go? It wouldn’t be fair to leave Totchi and Naoto behind, would it?” Uta’s eyes shined brightly in anticipation.

          Sakurai walked over to the bed and bent down, cupping Uta’s face gently in his hands, “Yes, we will all be going,” he sweetly kissed his young lover. “Hurray! Naoto and I would really like to meet the new clan members, Aiko and You, there’s a severe shortage of female vampires, if you haven’t already noticed.”

          “What? No female vampires? Shocking!” Sakurai deadpanned. “You know what I mean,” Uta cocked his head, “Do you think that Ryuichi and Yoshiki choose men to bring into the blood over women, because of innate power? I mean, men are typically stronger than women, so it makes sense.”

          With a heavy sigh, Sakurai turned to look at Uta, “Baby, I don’t think that either of those monsters care who they bring into the blood. The rogue’s that attacked Ayato? One was a female and as strong as any man. I believe that they choose their victims on nothing more than a whim.”

          “Well, I think they’re choosing men specifically,” Uta declared, “maybe they choose women when they’re um…” Uta blushed, something that did not come naturally for the young man.

          Sakurai glanced over his shoulder, “When they are what?”

          “Um, never mind, it’s silly.”

          “I think you should finish what you were going to say, Uta.” Sakurai said calmly.

          Uta shifted uneasily, “Well, when they’re um, when they want to have sex.”

          “Rape is not sex, you know that. It’s about control, not primal urges.” Sakurai pointed out.

          Uta nodded, “I know, but what if they’re both so insane, they really don’t know the difference? Ryuichi seduced you, didn’t he?”

          Sitting down on the bed, Sakurai reached out for Uta, “Yes, he did, but that does not give him a pass on what he has done. Remember what he did to Naoto, the rape and the killing of her sisters in front of her, what the man has done to so many. He is evil, as is Yoshiki, and whether his attacks are vicious and violent, or they are rape, the fact remains that if there is pleasure in this for him, it’s sadistic. Now, get your cute little ass up, go tell the others we’ll be leaving soon.” Kissing Uta again, and smacking him on the ass, Sakurai watched as the boy left the room, “What can I do to protect all of you?”

          Within the hour, Clan Sakurai was on the road towards Tokyo, the horses sensing the nervous apprehension felt by their riders, Uta and Sakurai’s horses dancing a nervous trot on the dirt road. “They want to run, Acchan.” Uta groaned as he pulled Rai up once again, stopping the young horse from tearing away.

          “No, Uta. I can not take the chance that there is someone else on the road that wishes to harm you, you’re just going to have to keep that delinquent in check.” Sakurai said smartly.

           

 

          After hearing the thoughts of Arimatsu, Morrie had sent Miya to greet the travelers and usher them to Clan Otsuka’s house. Miya was waiting on the outskirts of the city, for the delegates from Clan Aichi, waiting to approach them, until they had each other in view. “Konbanwa, Arimatsu and…”

          “Konbanwa, Miya-san,” Arimatsu bowed, “this is Tora and Reita, they are new members to Clan Aichi.” Reita and Tora bowed.

           Miya returned the bow, “Let me lead you to the new clan house, it’s much larger than the estate, as you know our numbers are growing.”

          “The city has grown so large in such a short time,” Arimatsu observed. “Yes, especially now that it’s the capital, though we still have a few skirmishes with the holdovers of the shogunate.”

          Tora moved closer to Reita, “I’ve never seen so many people before,” He said softly to his companion, “I can guess that the hunting is much easier here.”

         “Yes, the hunting is easier,” Miya had heard the soft words, “but you must be careful with whom you choose as victims, the blood can be tainted from those that are from the west.” Walking up to the gate of the property, the members of Clan Aichi voiced their approval of the new clan house. “This is very grand, Miya-san!” Arimatsu spoke first.

          Just as they were to walk through the gate, the clatter of hooves sounded behind them, Miya and Arimatsu whipping around and into a fighting stance as they were faced with six horses with riders.

         “Miya-san,” Sakurai Atsushi called out, “I’m sorry to come upon you so suddenly, it was not my intention to alarm you.” Miya relaxed as he saw the members of Clan Sakurai ride up, “Arimatsu-san, this is unexpected, or is it really?” Sakurai chuckled.

         “No, Sakurai-san, it’s not unexpected, Reo-san received a letter from Morrie-san, and we were dispatched here to Tokyo,” Arimatsu bowed, “Futoshi-san, it looks as if immortality agrees with you…or is it Naoto-chan that has brought love into your life?”

         Naoto blushed, Uehara reaching out to hold her hand, “It is both, Arimatsu-san, though Naoto is truly my reason for happiness.”

        Sato had come out to unsaddle the horses, Uehara staying behind to help. Miya ushered them all into the house, and into the large living area, knowing that Sakurai wouldn’t want to waste any time in speaking to the clan leader.

         “Acchan, thank you for coming so quickly, we have much to discuss, we are just waiting for Isshi and this Watts person.” Morrie quickly introduced the newest members of the clan, You and Aiko sitting together with Shinya, both nervous about being around so many men.

          Shinya had gotten up to hug Uta, Naoto and Toshiya, taking them over to sit with You and Aiko, quietly introducing them to the women. “You must be on guard with this one,” Shinya patted Uta on the knee, “he’s very much a bratty young man.” Uta faked a pout, then giggled, “He’s right, just ask Acchan.” After that first night, Aiko and You had become close, the reality of being lone females in a house full of men, immortal or not, drew them together.

         With the return of Sato, and Futoshi, and Reita, Tora, and Arimatsu introduced, Morrie gave what information he had about the new immortal in town, and his desire to speak to Sakurai. “We are just waiting for Isshi to bring the man  to the house. He assured us that he felt no malice or hostility from Raymond Watts, and I will have to trust in that.”

         “Did Isshi seem concerned over the information Watts had given him?” Sakurai hoped that the onmyoji would be prompt in his delivering the immortal to them.

          Morrie nodded, “He was concerned enough to get involved, and to tell me that I should send for you, and I am anxious to hear what the man has to say.” The small talk continued until Hiro announced that Isshi had arrived, leaving Morrie to issue instructions,

         “Raymond Watts will be treated with respect. Miya, Sato and Aoi will be watching him closely, do nothing to antagonize the man.”

 

         Isshi walked into the room, bowed low, first to Morrie, then to Sakurai, “Sakurai-san, a pleasure to see you once again. I hope all is well with your family?”

         Sakurai inclined his head, “Yes, thank you, Isshi-san.”

         “This is Raymond Watts,” Isshi introduced the man, the proceeded to introduce Watts to the others, Watts on high alert due to the overwhelming presence of so many immortals in one room. “Mr. Watts speaks English, as well as French. I am acting as a translator only.”

         “Konbanwa, gentlemen, thank you for agreeing to meet with me.” Watts said in perfect Japanese, as he bowed. Isshi looked at the man in surprise. “I beg your pardon, Isshi-san, but I did not want to give away all my secrets on our  first meeting.”

         Isshi chuckled, “Very well then, I will make myself comfortable and leave you to your discussions.” Isshi took a seat against a wall.

         Morrie studied the man for a moment, “Mr. Watts, we typically start these meetings, with your recounting of how you came into the blood and whom your maker is. If you will, please.”

         Shinya offered Watts a cup of sake, “My maker is Ryuichi. I was living in the city of London, in the year 1588, working as a tailor. It was late at night, and the shop was closed.  I was finishing up a coat that was to be worn by someone at court.”

         “How old were you?” Morrie asked.

         “Twenty-seven, unmarried thankfully. I closed the shop and was on my way home, when I decided to stop at a local pub for a drink and a late dinner. I was sitting alone in a corner, minding my own business really, when Ryuichi walked in. I have to say that seeing a Japanese man in London at that time, was unusual. I noticed that he was wearing a very nicely tailored suit of clothes, and he must have heard my thoughts, as he invited himself to sit with me.”

          Sato snorted, “Sounds like something he’d do, pompous ass.” Morrie glared at Sato, “Please, go on Mr. Watts.”

          “There’s really not much left to say. I remember drinking with him, listening to him speak, though I believe he was speaking Japanese, but to my ears and senses, it sounded more like … how shall I put this…a hypnotic dulling of my mind. I had no awareness of my surroundings, and I could no longer hear the general noise in the pub,” he paused for a moment, “it was during that time that he told me his name, and that he was an immortal, that much I do remember.”

         Shinya had gotten up and refreshed everyone’s sake, it seemed that this story warranted more than one cup. Uta and the young one’s were captivated by Watts’ story, the uniqueness of listening to an Englishman speak Japanese, was alluring and exciting.

        “I vaguely remember leaving with Ryuichi and going back to my flat, but after that, I remember nothing, except waking to extreme pain, and the man sitting on the edge of my bed, laughing at me. When I asked him what he had done, he explained the basics; how I was to live for eternity, how to hunt and feed. Once my body had died, I tried to attack him, which of course, was futile. Ryuichi threw me to the ground and laughed, he told me ‘you are now part of the damned that will roam the earth forever, surviving off the blood of others, you will thank me for it later.’ He then walked out of my flat, and thankfully out of my life.”

        Morrie ordered a short break, allowing whomever needed, to go out and hunt, with an escort of Miya, Uehara, Aoi and Sato, Sakurai stayed with Morrie, Watts and Isshi. “Mr. Watts, would you like …” Watts held up his hand,                  “Please, Morrie-san, call me Raymond, I am hoping to become friendly with your group, at least as long as I stay in Japan.”

        “How long do you plan on staying?” Morrie had hoped for a lengthy friendship, the more immortals that were against Ryuichi and Yoshiki, the better their chances in any sort of conflict.

       “Truthfully, I haven’t thought about it. Yoshiki found me in Pamplona, Spain…though I’d like to wait until the other’s return before I get into that part of my story.” Morrie and Sakurai agreed, instead making sure that their guests had something to eat.

 

        Uta grinned, “He’s pretty cute, even with that stupid nose band, I wonder what happened to him?”

        “He was in a fight, and a shinsengumi hit him in the face,” Shinya said, “Arimatsu told me about it.”

        “Eww, I wonder how bad it is?” Uta made a rude noise. “What about Tora? He’s more manly than Reita, I wonder what his story is?”

        “Tora’s handsome, at least Aiko thinks so,” Shinya smiled, he had seen the young woman staring at the tall, dark-haired immortal, “But I don’t think Reita was too happy, he was giving Tora dirty looks.”

       “Oh, drama of the best kind!” Uta crowed. “We’d better get back, I’m sure Acchan is wondering where I am.”

 

        Gathered once again in the large living room, faces newly flushed with heat, Morrie asked Watts to continue with his story.

        “My life after being brought into the blood was fairly mundane. I continued at my shop, just changing my hours with some lame excuse that I no longer remember, keeping all my important customers. It wasn’t until one of those customers noticed, after ten years, that I hadn’t aged, making the comment that I must have found the fountain of youth.”

         This statement caused not a few to laugh softly, “If he only knew, ne?” Daisuke said. “Yes, that’s what I thought, Daisuke-san, and that’s what caused me to move from my home, and further into the city.”

          Raymond Watts went through the next one hundred years of his life, the constant moving about every twenty years or so, until he had found a flat near the theatre district in central London, somewhere he could hide in plain site. It was at the theatre, that he had met Yoshiki.

        “I don’t remember the play, but I remember quite vividly the essence of Yoshiki the moment he walked into the building, a feeling of superiority and sensuality. It immediately drew me to him, I got up in the middle of the performance and left my seat, something that shocked quite a few people.”

        “I followed his scent out of the theatre and back to my flat, I couldn’t believe when I opened the door that the man was sitting in a chair near the window, waiting as if he had lived there with me. I asked him his name, ‘Yoshiki, and I am your brother in all things,’. I asked him to explain and for the next several hours we talked. It wasn’t until dawn was about to break over the horizon, that he got into my bed, asking me to share it with him.”
          “From 1701 until 1810, we were lovers…though he didn’t always stay with me. There were times when he would disappear for ten or fifteen years, reappearing and worming his way back into my good graces, and my bed. But it was in 1810, when I told him I’d had enough. I had been out on the town, and when I arrived at home, he was there, sitting in that same chair by the window, drinking a glass of wine. I asked him where he had been the last few years, he just laughed and told me he had gone home to Japan, to wreak a little havoc.”

          Sakurai shifted in his chair, “Did he elaborate?”

          Watts snorted, “Unfortunately, he did. He told me of the rogue children he had created, that he had brought into the blood but abandoned them before their bodies had died, and the victims that he had killed outright. One specific tale was of a small family that had several young children, whom he tortured after he had killed the parents. ‘You should try a child, my love…the heated blood of their struggles is as good as sex, if not better, fucking one to death is just as pleasurable, taking their life as you orgasm’.”
          A sob was heard, everyone turning to see Naoto in Uehara’s arms, crying into his chest, “I’m going to take her to our room, if that’s acceptable Morrie-san?” Morrie waved Uehara away, “Of course, please do.”

          “I’m sorry, is it something I said?” Watts was confused, but Morrie assured him, “It was nothing you said directly, Naoto-chan’s family were killed by Ryuichi, and he… he raped her as her body was dying. This is just a sensitive subject for some, my apologies.”

          Raymond Watts looked genuinely horrified, “That beautiful young woman was…?”, he sighed and closed his eyes, “I will speak to her later if her spouse allows it.”

          Watts went through the timeline of meeting Imai in 1847, and the man’s obsession with contacting Yoshiki, and the two immortals avoiding each other in the same city. “It wasn’t until I had decided that I had had enough, when Yoshiki reappeared in my flat, in 1852.”

         “Once again, I asked him why he was there, and he wanted information on Imai, and why the man was calling for him. I explained what I knew in regards to what Imai had said about Sakurai-san and Uta-kun, when he stopped me, ‘He wants help with Sakurai? I do believe I will assist Imai in this farce, I do love to toy with Sakurai Atsushi, the man is just too proud for my tastes, elevating himself among his peers with his alliance of immortal clans.’

        “He left after that, with instructions on not telling Imai that I had spoken to him. I knew then that I needed to leave London, I wanted nothing to do with either of those insanely sadistic men, so I moved to Spain. I was happy there, a small village on the coast, a nice quiet house, and I was ready to live out my eternity in solitude. That was until on a fall evening in 1888, when I arrived home from hunting, and as I reached for the doorknob, I could sense him; Yoshiki had hunted me down and was sitting in my living room once again.”

       “He asked me why I was in hiding, I lied and told him I wasn’t. ‘Who is Sugizo?’ he asked me, and I told him I had never heard the name. I suggested that perhaps he needed to go back to Japan to look for the man. His next question was more hostile, he wanted to know where Imai was, and I told him I had no idea, and why was he so concerned with these two men.”

        “He explained that they had a falling out over some plan that had failed, and he was looking for Imai, so they could prepare. ‘Prepare for what?’ I asked him, he simply said, “War.”  I held my tongue, and without another word from him, he left my home.”

        A collected sigh was released as Watts finished his tale, “That is why I am in Japan, gentlemen, to warn you to be on your toes, something is coming and it’s going to be ugly. There will be numerous deaths of mortals and immortals,  young, old, you know as well as I do that neither Ryuichi or Yoshiki will spare anyone that gets in their way. We have a serious problem at hand, and I for one would like to avoid it at all costs.”          

Chapter Text

          In his mind, Heath envisioned a joyful reunion with Inoran and Yusuke, with all previous transgressions forgiven and being welcomed with open arms. He had been dreaming about such a reunion for some months, his tolerance of Issay was wearing thin. The immortal would not, or could not stop whining about his supposed ill treatment by Reo and Sakurai, the kidnapping (in his eyes) of Ayato and the overall rejection of his loyalty.

          “That bastard had no right to take Ayato,” Issay muttered for the thousandth time, “He brought that boy into the blood for me, not that midget Kyo.”

          “Why didn’t you speak up when you had the chance?” Heath knew he was provoking the man.

          “I did speak up! But what was I to do, go up against an ancient? It certainly shows how little you understand the intricacies of dealing with clan leaders.” Issay’s pompous attitude was about to get him in trouble.

          Heath pushed himself against Issay’s chest, “You were brought into the blood by Sakurai, I was blood born by Yoshiki, and I also lived with an ancient. Do not suppose to hold contempt for me, and do not assume I am uneducated or ill mannered.”

          It was these exchanges that Heath had grown weary of, it was the constant bickering attitude of his housemate, that had changed Heath’s mind about seeking a reunion with Inoran. The night that he announced that he was leaving, he asked Issay if he had any message for either Reo or Sakurai. “No, I have nothing to say to either one,” he said indifferently.  Without another word, Heath left the Hokkaido estate.  

          Whether Heath would stop to see Sakurai or Reo, was undecided for the moment, he wasn’t sure he wanted to be subjected to questions and concerns, that might cloud his mind and convince him not to be reunited with Inoran and Yusuke. This was what was on his mind as he made his way south to Fukushima, where he would cross the Seikan Straight.

          His other major concern was what to do about Yusuke, how would he approach the man that he had admittedly tried to lure away from his blood spouse. He had hoped that the political turmoil that had embattled the main island, had subsided enough for him to safely move about in any of the major cities, and to hunt, something he was looking forward to. He was single minded in his journey; to get back to Inoran and Yusuke.

 

 

          The meeting had ended for the night, leaving the guests to have rooms assigned to them. Tora, Reita and Arimatsu shared a large bedroom that held three futons and a chest of drawers, each then claiming a spot on the floor.  Normally, Tora and Reita would choose to sleep next to each other, Reita being more conscious about the choice, however tonight was different; Reita had chosen the futon against the wall.

          “She’s cute, like girl next door kind of cute, don’t you think?” Tora had started to gush over Aiko, hardly paying attention to what was being said in the meeting. “I wonder, is Ryo her mate or just a friend? I guess I could ask Shinya-san.”

          Arimatsu sighed, “I don’t believe Ryo is her mate, they met on the road and stayed together out of a sense of security.” He had seen the looks shared between Aiko and Tora, and the unseen looks from Reita; he knew jealousy when he saw it.

          “Let’s not worry about Aiko, ne? We need to be prepared for tomorrow night, so let’s just go to sleep.” Arimatsu reached for the light and turned it off. Tora sighed, “I guess I’ll try talking to her tomorrow night.”

 

          Slowly filtering back into Clan Otsuka’s home after the hunt, the collective group of immortals met in the large living room once again, though Raymond Watts and Isshi were no longer present. Sakurai joined Morrie at the front of the room. “Shall we?”

          Calling on Arimatsu, Reita and Tora, Morrie asked for the information they had on Sugizo, Arimatsu spoke first.

          “Sugizo was recruited by Clan Aichi as a human agent about fifteen years ago, he was a street kid, no parents and no family. He was quick witted and fearless, he adapted well to the way of the clan, and was usually well liked by his immortal peers. As time went by, he became a valuable human agent, I never had any trouble with the man.”

          “It wasn’t until our human agents were being cut down at an alarming rate during the Bakumatsu, that Reo decided to offer our human agents to be brought into the blood, that an alarm was raised by Tora and Reita.”

          “What caused you to second guess Sugizo?” Sakurai asked the two men, who stood, then bowed, “My lord, Sugizo was always talking about starting his own gang, but he never said if he wanted to be an immortal. He would brag that his gang would be more powerful than Clan Aichi. We went to Reo-san with our concerns, then we heard that he had disappeared.” Tora bowed. “My lords, if Sugizo has had a chance to be brought into the blood…well I would take great caution with him, he’s an angry man and vicious, I can’t imagine what havoc he could do as an immortal.” Reita bowed and returned to his seat.

          Arimatsu spoke again, “Morrie-san, Sakurai-san, I’m sure you understand the gravity of this issue. If Sugizo has been blood born, who was his maker? If it was Yoshiki or Ryuichi, we will be faced with a formidable immortal, that has the power of a first-born child. The fact that there are those who are hearing his name being called, and with some anger behind it, is of great concern.”

          “He never approached Reo after the offer had been made?” Morrie asked. Reita shook his head, “No, my lord. Tora and I went straight to Reo-san with our concerns, Sugizo disappeared after that, I’m sure he left the city.”

          The speculative conversation went on for another hour, only breaking when Shinya and Aiko brought in a light meal and sake. When Aiko came to pour for Tora, Reita and Arimatsu, Tora said something clever, causing the young woman to blush. As she walked away, Tora nudged Reita in the ribs, “Did you see that? She totally turned red…”

          “So? You made a girl blush; do you want an award?” Reita snapped, getting up from his chair and leaving the room, and a dumbfounded Tora. “What did I say?”

          It was Uta’s turn to nudge someone, as he had seen the exchange between the two friends, “Let’s go talk to Aiko,” he grabbed Naoto’s hand and dragged her into the kitchen.

          You and Aiko were busy putting away trays and bowls, quietly talking between themselves when a busybody Uta sprang on them, “Aikoooo,” he said in a singsong voice.

          “Yes Uta-kun?”

          “I saw you talking to Tora-san, he made you blush, what did he say?”

          Aiko blushed again, “Um, that I was too pretty to be a serving girl, I’m sure he was joking.”

          “Well you are very pretty, I’m sure you just caught his eye. Um, what do you think of him?” Uta was digging hard, standing behind Aiko, You was rolling her eyes.

          “He’s handsome, but so is Reita-san in his own way. But neither one is really my type, though…” her thought trailed off.

          You reached out, “What’s wrong?” Aiko shrugged, “I can’t be too choosy, if I want a mate, if someone finds me attractive, shouldn’t I just…”

          “NO!” Uta shouted, “no you shouldn’t just settle! That’s so wrong! You’re so pretty, and if you don’t already know, there is a shortage of female immortals! You can choose whomever you want.” Uta walked over and hugged Aiko, “You don’t have to settle, I bet there’s a lot of men who would love to have you as a mate.”

          “Uta’s right, Aiko. I have met 2 other female vampires, and they’re both standing in this room. Is there someone you like?” The young woman nodded. “Yes, but I don’t think he likes me…but I haven’t really spoken to him much.”

          Naoto cocked her head, “I know who it is,” Aiko’s head jerked up, “you do?”

          “Mmm, you like Sato-san, don’t you?”

          Aiko gasped, “How…?”  Naoto reached out and took Aiko’s hands, “You’ve been watching him since last night. I noticed it only because when Acchan and Morrie-san were talking with Isshi, I just happened to look over at you.”

          “Ohh, Sato-san is really manly and rugged, he has really pretty eyes…and a cute butt!” They all stared at Uta, “What? He has a nice butt! Damn, I’m a blood spouse, I’m not dead you know. I can appreciate someone else’s ass, can’t I?”

          “Whose ass are you appreciating, Uta-kun?” Sakurai walked up behind Uta and hugged him from behind.

          “Acchan! Um…nobodies, I was just saying,” Sakurai nuzzled Uta’s neck, causing the young man to squeal and wiggle out of his lover’s arms. “Alright, you lewd boy, we’re starting the meeting again, so come with me.”

           

 

          “Why are you being such an asshole, is it something I did or said?” Tora was trying to figure out why his best friend was giving him the cold shoulder, totally ignoring the man. Arimatsu reached over and took Tora by the arm, “Leave him be, we don’t have time for petty disagreements.”

          Tora looked over his shoulder at Reita as Arimatsu pulled him towards the other room, “Aren’t you coming?” He lost sight of the other man when they entered the living room. “Sit down, forget about him for the time being, you can talk later.” Arimatsu did not want to jeopardize the meeting by dealing with jealousy.

         

          Morrie wrapped up the meeting with the plans the had settled on, “I believe that’s all we can really do gentlemen, and ladies. We can only prepare for so much. I agree with Sakurai-san, we need to make sure that there are always two people together when hunting or attending to other business. Nobody travels alone, and that’s a solid command. I will be writing a letter to Inoran, as much as that will be effective, but he deserves to be alerted to what’s going on. Does anyone have anything else to offer?”

          “If I may?” Sakurai asked, “Arimatsu, would you please mention to Reo that I believe another clan meeting, that includes all members, is in order sometime in the next year? Morrie has some new members that have not met the others, and of course it’s always an excuse for our younger members to meet and cause a little trouble.” Sakurai looked over at Uta. “If there is nothing else, I believe we should retire for the day, I will be taking my family home tomorrow night.” As soon as they were dismissed, Reita quickly walked out and instead of going back to their room, headed outside to the barn.

          Watching Reita leave, then looking over to where Tora was chatting up Aiko, Arimatsu knew the situation needed to be dealt with before they left the next night or it would be a tense journey back to Kyoto.

          “Excuse me, Aiko-chan, but I need to borrow Tora for a moment please,” he bowed to the woman, taking Tora by the arm. “You need to go out to the barn and straighten this mess up with Reita, tonight. I don’t want to deal with your little domestic issue on the trip back to Kyoto.”

          “Reita? What do you mean?”

          “Just go out and talk to him, please Tora.” Arimatsu sighed, then walked away. Tora watched Arimatsu’s back. “Fine, whatever.”

          Reita was petting the horses, feeding them little treats of small pieces of apple, when the barn door slid open, “Hey,” Tora walked in, “um, do you want to tell me what all this shit is about?”

          Keeping his back towards Tora, Reita just shrugged, “You should go talk to Morrie-san about joining his clan.”

          “What? Why would I do that?” this stunned Tora, he walked over and tried to put his hand on Reita’s shoulder, the man slapping it away immediately.

          Tora stepped back, “Why are you being like this? What the hell have I done wrong? Why would you tell me to leave our clan…what about us?”

          “Us? Don’t fucking make me laugh. There’s no us…you’re interested in Aiko, so I’m sure Reo would let you change clans to be with her. It’s you and Aiko, not me and you.”

          “I don’t understand what you’re saying.” Tora’s heart started to ache.

          Reita whipped around, an angry frown on his face, “It’s fucking obvious you don’t understand! You’re fucking clueless. This conversation is over. Just leave me alone, Tora, go and flirt with Aiko.” Reita shoved past his friend and stomped off towards the house, leaving a completely and utterly confused Tora standing alone in the barn.

Chapter Text

          Heath’s journey from Hokkaido to Fuji had been uneventful for the most part. He had at last had a decent meal, waylaying a lone traveler on the road near Sendai, his first taste of human blood in what seemed like centuries. He purposely avoided the city of Tokyo, having no intentions on stopping to speak to either Sakurai Atsushi or Otsuka Morrie. The last thing Heath needed was chastisement from any ancient on his actions in regards to Inoran. No, he just wanted to go home…if he had one.

          As Heath neared the small sleepy village of Fuji, he started to hear Inoran’s voice, his heart jumped and he shivered; how long had the ancient been calling for him and why hadn’t he heard it sooner? He would have left months ago, if he had only known that Inoran had wanted him to come home.

           Dawn was still a few hours away, safe enough for him to secure a bed at a ryokan for the day. Walking through the uncrowded streets of Fuji, he knew of a place that could offer him a central room with no windows.

          Heath lay in the darkness, comforted by the windowless room and half expecting to sleep undisturbed through the day. His last thoughts were of Inoran, pushing out the message that he’s coming home, that he wants to see the ancient vampire. He purposely did not think of Yusuke, not wanting to alert the man that he was interested in speaking to him at all. “Inoran, I want to come home.”

 

          Inoran had Yusuke cradled in his arms, Chika at the foot of the bed, he had just slipped into a light doze when he heard Heath’s voice.

          ‘If you can hear me, I want to come home please. I’m in Fuji at a ryokan, please agree to meet with me tomorrow night.’

          Looking at Yusuke, Inoran could see that his young spouse was fully asleep. Did he dare send out a message to Heath, hoping that Yusuke would not wake?

Yusuke stirred in his arms, Inoran pulling the man closer, “You will stay here, my love.” Closing his eyes, he let sleep claim him. “Yes

 

 

            There was no enjoyment to be had on the journey back to Kyoto for Arimatsu, Tora and Reita. The casual banter between the three men had been replaced by a forced silence from Reita, who did everything he could do, to avoid speaking at all, let alone saying anything to Tora. For Arimatsu it was an awkward situation; he knew Reita’s feelings for Tora, Jyou had warned him before they had left to go to Tokyo, “Reita’s in love with Tora, but the boy is clueless, just be careful.” Now, that love had been replaced by stony silence.

           As soon as they saw the outskirts of the city, without a word, Reita ran ahead of his companions, disappearing into the crowded streets. “What the fuck is wrong with him?” Tora snapped. Arimatsu stopped dead, “You really don’t know, do you? Reita is right, you are fucking clueless.”

          “What the hell? I haven’t done anything wrong and now I have you on my ass about it? Fill me in please, since you seem to know him better than I do.”

         “If you would have just asked him, he might have told you. But you were too busy flirting with Aiko, and generally making an ass of yourself. You need to re-think your relationship with your best friend, because as of right now, you’re very close to losing him altogether.” Arimatsu turned on his heel and walked into the city, leaving Tora standing in the road by himself.

 

         “Where are Arimatsu and Tora?” Jyou intercepted Reita as he made his way towards the clan house. “They’re behind me somewhere, I just needed to get away for a moment.” Reita said lamely.

         “You didn’t tell him, did you? And now it’s a problem. Am I right?”

         “Do you think Reo-san would mind if I found my own place to live, or maybe move to the main house instead?” Reita was looking at the ground, hiding the tears that were about to fall. Jyou reached out to Reita, tipping his face up with a finger, “You need to tell him how you feel, Reita-kun. If you don’t, you’re going to lose him.”

          “He doesn’t want me, he’s in love with Aiko, from Morrie’s clan. I’m sure he’s going to ask Reo-san to be allowed to join Clan Otsuka, so there’s no reason for me to say anything.” Reita bowed to Jyou and made his way inside, leaving her to wait for Arimatsu and Tora.

 

          “An Englishman? And who is his maker?”

          “Ryuichi, though he and Yoshiki were lovers off and on over the centuries. He also knows Imai, and has had dealings with him.” Arimatsu relayed the stories, the incidents with Yoshiki and Imai, and the concerns over Sugizo.

          “This Englishman has also heard of Sugizo?” Reo’s face was shadowed with concern.

          “No, not before Yoshiki confronted him with the man’s name, though by the way Yoshiki reacted, I’m going to have to guess that Sugizo has been brought into the blood, but by whom is still unknown.”

           Reita and Tora had remained quiet while Arimatsu gave Reo the information gathered at the meeting. Tora was sneaking side-glances at Reita who was looking anywhere but at the other man.

           “Tora-kun, I heard that two of Morrie’s newest clan members are women? How did you find them to be?” Reo knew about the problems from Jyou.

           “You-chan is beautiful, as is Aiko-chan. They were very cordial and polite, my lord.” Tora could see Reita’s face turn red, the strain from keeping quiet was evident. Then it hit him, “Oh…” he said softly.  “Thank you, Tora-kun. If there’s nothing else to report, you’re dismissed.”

          Once again, Reita quickly walked away from Tora, “Rei, wait a minute!” Tora reached out and grabbed his friend by the arm, “We need to talk,”

          Wrenching his arm away, “No, we don’t. There’s nothing to be said, now if you’ll let go of my arm, I’m leaving.”

          “Neither one of you are going anywhere,” a deep growl said, “you’re both staying in here until you straighten this out, that’s not a request, it’s an order.” Reo stood behind them, “Go talk this out, I will not have dissention in my ranks, is that clear?”

         Pushing past the two men, Arimatsu, Jyou and Reo left the room, Reo closing the door with some finality. “Fine, say what you need to say then let me go, I have other things to do before dawn.” Reita snapped.

         Tora sighed, “Why didn’t you tell me?”

        “Tell you what?”

         “That you’re in love with me.” Reita’s head snapped up, “What…I never…” he started turning red, “who told you that?”

        “Arimatsu said something first, then Jyou, because obviously I’m too damn stupid to realize it.” Tora chuckled. Reita couldn’t look at his best friend, instead he just scuffed his foot on the carpet.

         Reita shrugged, “I don’t expect you to understand or do anything about it. It’s obvious that you’re interested in … well women, and not men. That’s why I never said anything or acted on my feelings. But now you know, so I’m going to move back into the main house, I don’t want things to be awkward, then you can ask Reo if you can change clans. I’ve got things to do, I’ll see you later.” Reita turned and walked out of the room, leaving an even more confused Tora to sort through his feelings. “What the hell is wrong with everyone?”

 

 

         “You came home,” Inoran wasn’t sure what he was seeing was the truth, his mind still played tricks on him at times. “I did, I heard you last night, just before I went to sleep.” Heath’s voice was just above a whisper. “How is Yusuke?” he dared to ask.

         “Yusuke is the same,” Inoran chuckled, “he does not know I am here. If he had known, I’m sure he would have tried to stop me from meeting with you.”

         “I don’t want to cause a problem, Inoran. I can always live outside the city, if Yusuke doesn’t want me in the house.” This was his one fear, complete rejection from Yusuke.

         Inoran scoffed, “It is my house and my clan. We have had the discussion before. I’ve had to remind him who the clan leader is, and if I want you living with me under my roof, he will just have to adjust to it.”

         Heath stopped in the road, “I will not come between you and your blood spouse. It was wrong of me to accept his affections while you were…while you were ill. I come back to you with the promise that I will not interfere with your relationship with Yusuke.” He bowed low, holding the bow for quite some time.

          Inoran reached out and ran his hand through Heath’s long black hair, “My child, I don’t doubt your sincerity, I know that in the past that I treated you horribly, and Yusuke as well. I do not harbor any ill feelings toward either one of you for finding comfort in each others arms. I was a very sick man.”

         Standing up, Heath looked deeply into Inoran’s eyes, “I never meant to hurt you, and I regret the choices I made. But I can promise you now, that my feelings for Yusuke are no longer an issue.” Taking Heath by the hand, Inoran started walking again.

         “Oh, I have not told you, I now have a sweet little dog, Chika!” Inoran sought to defuse the seriousness of the conversation, wanting to avoid the darkness that had been their lives before Kai had found his cure. Telling Heath about the little dog seemed a likely conversation that would lift the man’s spirits.

         Within an hour, they were at the drive that led to Inoran’s home. Heath stopped just before crossing that imaginary line, “How do you want to do this? It’s really not fair for me just to enter the house with no warning.”

         “You will enter my home, on my arm, there is no warning needed.” Inoran emphasized the words ‘my home’. Linking his arm in Heath’s, Inoran made his way up the drive and towards the house. “You will defer to me if there is any sort of argument, you will stay quiet and let me deal with it,” he said firmly. Heath had to smile, this was the man he had grown to love, before the mental illness scrambled his mind.

         “Tadaima,” Inoran called out as they removed their shoes in the genkan.

         “Where the hell have…” Yusuke came around the corner from the kitchen, a small dog following at his heels.

         “Chika!” Inoran squatted down and opened his arms for his pet, who eagerly ran towards him. “This is Chika, isn’t she precious?” Heath reached out and rubbed the dog’s head, ignoring the glare coming from Yusuke.

         “This is what you left the house for, without telling me?” Inoran looked up from cuddling his tiny pet, “I am not required to tell you anything, let alone leaving my own home, and yes, this is why I left at nightfall.”

        “Hello, Yusuke. It’s good to see you again.” Heath bowed his head lightly.

         “Chika come,” Yusuke called for the small dog, “Let’s get you something to eat,” the man turned and walked away without saying a word to Heath.

        “Don’t worry too much about it, he’s going to be a petulant child for awhile.” Inoran patted Heath on the shoulder, “Your room is still as you left it, nothing has changed. Why don’t you go rest before we have something to eat?”

          The argument that ensued between Inoran and Yusuke was loud and somewhat violent; dishes were thrown and broken, shoji screens wrenched off the tracks and smashed, and finally a loud yelp from Chika, after she was stepped on.

          “Maybe I shouldn’t be here,” Heath cringed as he heard another plate being thrown against a wall. As he started to put his things away, the shoji to his room was yanked open, a furious Yusuke standing in the doorway.

          “This is your fault, you bastard! Why did you come back?” Yusuke started towards Heath, who was backing away, his hands up in front of him, “Yusuke, leave me alone. I’m not here to cause any trouble, I just wanted to come home.”

          Yusuke started towards Heath, when suddenly hands grabbed him around the waist, holding him back, “You will not harm him, Yusuke!” Inoran growled as he tightened his grip on his spouse. “I will release you, then you will leave and go to our room, is this clear?”

          “Get off me Inoran!” Yusuke struggled against his captor, “just let me go.”

          “Will you go quietly, or do I have to drag you by the hair?” Yusuke struggled for another minute, then finally stopped, “Let me go, I’ll leave you alone with him, it’s obvious that you prefer him over your own blood spouse.”

          Heath gasped, “That’s not true, Yusuke! I’m not here to gain anyone’s affection, I just wanted to come home to you both, please believe me.” Inoran released Yusuke.

          “I don’t care what you say, I’ll never trust you again, Heath. If you’re going to live here, just stay the fuck away from me and Inoran.” Yusuke spat, then turned and stomped off.

          At that moment, with those words, Heath knew unequivocally that Yusuke was lost to him.

 

 

          Rubbing his face roughly, Reo listened as Jyou explained the problem completely, to her clan leader, “It’s not going to end well, I’m just letting you know ahead of the fallout.”

          “What then can I expect? A physical fight where they have to be separated, or are we talking moon-eyed boys making everyone suffer?”

          Jyou snorted, “Reita believes that Tora is going to ask for permission to join Morrie’s clan, so he can court Aiko. If Tora does ask, you need to turn him down.”

          Reo looked up, “Why would I do that?”

          “Because Aiko has her eyes set on Sato-san, not Tora. Neither one of these boys want to hear that. Reita would rather suffer in silence, play the martyr, and Tora … well that boy is handsome, but he’s not very clever.”

          Reo closed his eyes, “Should I just lock Tora and Reita up together until they can figure this out for themselves?”

          “Hmm,” Jyou smiled, “that actually might not be such a bad idea, it would force them to work things out. But where would we house them? It’s not like they couldn’t break a door down to escape.”

          “They wouldn’t dare escape if I told them not to.” Reo huffed, disbelieving that any of his clan members would not obey a direct order, “I could always put Kyo on guard duty as well.”

          Kyo couldn’t believe what he had been directed to do, “Fucking babysitting a couple of brats,” he muttered to himself as he crossed the road to the smaller clan house. Without knocking, Kyo slammed the door open, “Hey, you,” he pointed at Reita, “come with me and no bitching.” Reita bowed quickly, “Yes, Kyo-san.”

          Following Kyo as they walked back to the main house, Kyo stopped just before he opened the door. “Listen to me carefully. Whatever instructions I give you are as if Reo was standing in front of you. There’s no arguments, do you understand?” Reita just nodded.

          Asanao and Arimatsu were standing together near a room towards the rear of the house, a room that looked like it had been unused for quite some time. “Ready?” Kyo muttered, the other two men nodded.

          Kyo turned back to Reita, “You are to remain in this room until you have come to your senses. You will be fed regularly, but there will be no hunting until everything is worked out, is that clear?”

          Arimatsu slid the door open and Kyo gently pushed Reita in, “Remember, no bloodshed, unless you’re fucking yourselves senseless.” Arimatsu then slammed the door shut.

          “What the fuck? What are you doing here?”  

Chapter Text

          “You should be thankful that Reo-san didn’t make Kyo come with us, Ayato. Stop being such a brat.” Mana scolded the young vampire, who had been complaining during their shopping trip, unchaperoned by any of the other clan members.

          Ayato groaned, “I am thankful, but Reo needs to quit being so restrictive with us, we can take care of ourselves just fine.” He was thankful that his lover had not been ordered to accompany Akinori, Mana and himself, as Kyo was always on guard and kept a tight leash on Ayato. “Nothing’s happened in forever, so I don’t understand why Reo always has to be so strict.” The trio were walking the busy main street in Kyoto, Reo agreeing that they could do some simple shopping, but set a curfew of only two hours.

          “Because he cares about all of us,” Akinori shoved Ayato in the shoulder, “if he didn’t care, we’d probably all be dead already. Think about it; if Reo was uncaring, where would Mana be? You’d both be dead already, and I would have died before meeting any of you.”  This was a sobering fact, that Ayato knew in his heart to be true.

          He hung his head, “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be such a brat, I’m just tired of always being treated like I’m a child.”    

          “Ayato-kun, you are a child,” Mana laughed silently. “so is Akinori, both of you are still children, physically and even as immortals.”

          “Wait a minute, you’re not that much older than me physically and I’m older than you as an immortal, don’t forget that, missy.” Ayato teased back.

          Making their last purchase, the trio started the long walk back to the clan house, still teasing each other about age, and of course, their mates. They had just turned a corner, when Akinori stopped suddenly, Ayato bumping into the taller man’s back.

          “Aki, what the…?” Akinori held up his hand. Standing not one hundred feet in front of them was another immortal, one that they had never seen before. The man was small, almost the same height as Ayato, with a boyish face and deep piercing eyes.

          “Get behind me, Ayato.” Akinori snapped. They stared at each other for a moment, until the other immortal bowed to them, then he turned and walked down a side street.

          “We need to get back to the clan house now.”

 

          Hyde stared at the three young people at the other end of the street. He had sensed that there was a large connected group of immortals in Kyoto, at least as many as that resided in Tokyo, but without any knowledge of their intentions, Hyde chose not to approach them. Recalling back to the meeting that Isshi had set up with Morrie, he wondered if they were a part of the clan that had been mentioned, it was obvious that they were familiar with each other, the tallest of the group pushing the others behind him. He was certain that he would be approached that night, by whomever was in control of the city’s vampires.

 

          It took Nakamura and Suzuki less than an hour to find and contact Hyde, approaching the immortal as he exited a shop near the clan house. “Konbanwa, we mean you no harm, we’d just like to ask you a few questions.”

          Hyde bowed lightly, “I’m going to assume you’d like for me to speak to your clan leader? If so, let’s not waste time in mindless conversation, I have no desire to remain in Kyoto for over long.” Nakamura smiled, “That works, if you’d please follow us?”  

 

          “Welcome, I am Aichi Reo,” Reo stood and bowed to the diminutive immortal who was now standing in his office.

          “Thank you, my name is Hyde,” he bowed lightly, “I am just passing through Kyoto. As soon as this meeting is over, I will be leaving the city.”

          Reo now understood who the man was. “I am familiar with your name, sir. I am part of the same alliance that Morrie-san, and Sakurai-san are connected to. I understand you’re from the same area as some of Morrie’s clan members?”

          “Yes, I am from Wakayama originally.”

          “Who is your maker and what year were you brought into the blood?” Reo asked the standard questions.

          “My maker is Mari, and I was attacked in 1818. It was around the same time as Daisuke and the others.” Hyde understood the need for the questions.

          Reo tried to remain cordial, “May I ask what you are doing in Kyoto?”

          Hyde chuckled, “I had intended on looking for a new home, as I found Tokyo overly crowded, and with the new political government, I felt the need to move on. I am not fond of people from the west, their blood tastes as if spoiled. I’m sure you’ve heard from the others, that I am not interested in joining any clan, I prefer to live on my own terms.”  

          “Yes, I was told of your decisions, is there any particular reason you’re not interested? Are you not worried about what Yoshiki and Ryuichi have planned?”

          Hyde leaned back in his chair, “It is not that I am unworried, it is that I do not plan on being in this country when it happens. I want nothing to do with your problems with the ancients. It may seem selfish, but I was a selfish mortal man, and I will remain that way.”

          Reo knew that there would be no changing the man’s mind, but he had to at least offer the protection of a clan.

          “I understand completely. As I’m sure Morrie offered, I will do the same. If you feel the need to have safety in numbers, please reconsider and come to me, I will gladly accept you into Clan Aichi. I offer you the hospitality of my home while you are in Kyoto.”

          Joining the other clan members, Hyde sat with Reo and ate a late meal, watching with amused interest at the interactions of the members of Clan Aichi. He was particularly fascinated with the former samurai members.

          “I have not seen this before, to be honest, Reo-san. Why former samurai or ronin as clan members?”

          The clan leader laughed, “They are fierce fighters, loyal to a fault and protective of their family. I offered them the chance to avenge their masters, which they did, and in return they have become loyal members of the clan. You can’t argue that having a samurai in your family is a bad thing.”  

          Kyo had Ayato in his lap, his arm holding his mate protectively, eying Hyde as they ate, “Kyo, it’s hard for me to eat if you don’t let me reach the plate. It’s fine, the guy is like smaller than you, hell, even I could take him.”

          “Shut up.”

         

          There were two members of Clan Aichi that were pointedly ignoring each other, sitting on opposite sides of the room. Kyo had released Tora and Reita for the evening due to Hyde being an unknown and wanting all clan members present, in case there could be trouble. The only trouble that was to be had, was that Reita and Tora had not come to any conclusion in their situation.

          After the two friends had been shoved together into a room, Reita immediately retreated to a far wall, leaning against it with his arms crossed over his chest. “What do you want? I need to speak to Reo.”

          “First, I want to apologize, I never intended to hurt you. Secondly, you have to believe me when I say I had no clue you felt about me that way.” Tora sat on the floor, leaning against a wall.

          “Not like you go up to your obviously straight best friend and confess, Tora. It’s one sided, and it’s already over, you don’t have to worry about me or anything else. I’m sure Reo will let you leave the clan and go to Morrie’s.”

          Tora’s brow furrowed in frustration, “I don’t want to go to Morrie’s, why are you deciding that for me?”

          “Aiko’s there, she’s available, it just makes sense for you to want to go and have a normal life with someone, I’m not that heartless to deny you happiness, Tora.”

          Grabbing his head in frustration and raking his hands through his hair, Tora growled, “If I go to Morrie’s I lose my best friend, if I stay here…I still lose my best friend.”

          Pushing himself away from the wall and walking towards the door, he stopped next to where Tora was sitting, “I want you to be happy, so please…just go back to Tokyo.” He knocked on the door and spoke to Kyo, who let him out.

          “Did you settle things?” Kyo looked in at Tora. “No.” was the only answer he got.

 

         

          Aiko threw her head back in frustration, “He’s just so thick headed! Am I going to have to just back him up into a corner and force myself on him?”

          You laughed, “I’m pretty sure he’d get the message at that point.” Aiko and You had become close over the last few months, being the only two women in the clan. They were both very close with Shinya, but there was just something about bonding with another female, that couldn’t be replaced.

          “You could always have Tatsu talk to him, or maybe Ryo?” You suggested.

          “Mmm, I think I’d rather ambush him at some point, but I’m not sure how to set it up, do you have any ideas?”

          “How about you ask him to chaperone you? Tell him that you need to get something downtown, but don’t feel safe going by yourself, and that everyone else was busy.”

          Aiko liked this, “Hmm, maybe I could fall and twist my ankle? He’d have to carry me back to the house…” they both giggled. It felt good to have a best girlfriend, something neither woman thought they’d have, after becoming immortals.

 

          Little did Aiko and You realize that a similar conversation was taking place in the barn, between Aoi and Sato, with Aoi giving his friend advice…which wasn’t the greatest.

          “I can’t just walk up to her and kiss her! That’s just not done!” Sato started to walk away, Aoi grabbing his arm and turning him around.

          “I’m not saying attack her, but you’re going to have to do something…  you saw how Tora was watching her last week. If you’re not careful, he’s going to come and claim her as a mate.”

          Sato sighed, this was wearing on him, “But I’m not even sure she’s interested! How the hell do I find that out? ‘Excuse me, Aiko, do you want to be my mate?’, not like I can just ask her that.”

          “Talk to You, they’re best friends, maybe she can tell you.” Aoi patted his friend on the back, “Take a chance or you might end up losing her to Tora.”

 

 

          The depression that had settled in his heart, over the failed confession to his best friend, was choking Reita so badly, he wanted nothing more than to crawl into a hole and wait out eternity in the dark. Leaving the clan house, he knew he still had a few hours before dawn, deciding just to wander the streets of Kyoto and mull over his options.

          “Rei?”  He turned around, “Tora, we don’t really have anything else to say…I’m okay, I promise.” He continued walking towards the edge of the city.

          “But I’m not okay…” Tora said softly, standing in the middle of the street looking lost.

          He stopped, his shoulders drooped, “What do you want me to say, Tora? I’m not who or what you want and I accept that, so what else do you want me to say to you?”

          “That you won’t abandon me, that you’re still my best friend. I’d rather have you as my best friend for eternity, than lose you just to gain a mate.” His voice was shaking.

          This pissed Reita off. Turning and rushing at Tora, he threw the man to the ground, standing over him and grabbing him by the front of the shirt, “Don’t fuck with me Tora, don’t give me that simpering bullshit line. You think staying with me is going to make me happy? Having to ignore my feelings for you… no Tora, if you want to make me happy, then go to Tokyo. If you can’t commit to being in a relationship with me, then I don’t want you around.”  Letting go of Tora’s shirt, and without another look, Reita walked away, leaving Tora lying in the middle of the street to wonder, what the hell was going on in his life.

          Reita started to run, he just needed to get away from Tora, away from Clan Aichi and away from Kyoto. He needed to find a place to sleep, a place to hide from the pain. Once he was out of the city, he moved towards a remote area in the forest, where he new there was an abandoned burned out house.

          Surveying the area around the house, Reita senses no immortals or humans in the vicinity. Slowly walking through the burned-out building and searching for a place to sleep, he comes across a root cellar under the kitchen floor. Humiliated that his life has taken this turn, he resigned himself to sleeping in a dirt hole to escape the pain of Tora’s rejection.

          Pulling the door closed, he laid out a the few blankets that he had found while searching the house, wadding one up as a pillow. Pulling a blanket over him, Reita tried to get comfortable enough to sleep. Replaying Tora’s words, he knew he couldn’t go back to Kyoto; he would have to find a new clan to join. Maybe Sakurai’s or Inoran’s? Perhaps Hyde would like a companion while he traveled, he listed the options in his mind, until sleep finally claimed him.

Chapter Text

 

 

          “Aiko-chan, could I speak to you please?” Sato wiped his sweaty hands on his pants. It had taken him a full day to gather up the courage to approach Aiko, even with the promise from You that the woman was indeed, interested in him.

          “Just speak to her Sato-san, I promise you it will go smoothly.” You told the man. Aoi had also tried to convince his friend that Aiko would be receptive to his advances.

          “I’m fairly certain that she likes you, I saw her watching you during the gathering. She’s not interested in Tora, no matter how much she might blush.” Aoi insisted.        

          And now he had asked to speak to her.

          “Yes, Sato-san?” Aiko smiled demurely. “What can I do for you?”

          “I um, well …it’s like this. I was wondering if you’d…” Sato stumbled over his words as he stared at the ground.

          Taking pity on the man, Aiko didn’t want to make him suffer any longer than he had to.

          “Yes.”

          “Yes? But you don’t even know what…” Sato couldn’t believe that the woman knew what he was going to ask her.

          Standing close to the man, Aiko reached up and cupped Sato’s face in her hands,

          “I know what you’re going to ask, and the answer is yes.” Then without another word, Aiko stood on her toes, and kissed Sato softly. “I want to be your mate. I don’t want Tora or Reita or anyone else, it’s always been you since the moment we met.”

          Sato pulled Aiko close to his chest, “I think we need to speak to Morrie-san first, then you and I need to talk.”

          “Do we have to just talk? I would like to do a little more kissing before that.”

 

 

          Inoran frowned as he read the letter from Morrie, the information given was more than just concerning, it was frightening. With a resigned sigh, he folded the letter and slid it back into the envelope. Leaving his office, Chika trotting after him, Inoran made his way to the kitchen.

          “Yusuke love, I need to speak to both you and Heath,”

          “I have nothing to say to Heath, speak to him on your own.” Yusuke muttered angrily. Inoran had grown weary of the animosity between Yusuke and Heath, mostly on Yusuke’s part. Heath had established a routine, in order to avoid any contact with Yusuke, but there were times that it wasn’t possible.

          “No, you will put down what you’re doing and join me in my office,” Inoran said sternly.

          Yusuke turned to glare at his lover, and his clan leader. “If you have something to say, do it now. I will not be in that man’s presence…” Inoran suddenly reached out and slapped Yusuke.

          “Drop the shitty attitude Yusuke, I don’t have the time nor the patience to deal with it today. Now get your ass into my office, sit down and wait for me to get Heath.” Inoran turned on his heel and walked out of the kitchen, leaving a stunned lover behind.

          Yusuke stared at Inoran’s back, as the man went in search of Heath, “I can’t believe … you…” he sputtered. In all the time since Heath’s return, during all the arguments, Inoran had never been physical with Yusuke, had never struck him. Why now, what had changed?

          Turning the stove off, Yusuke wiped his hands and made his way to Inoran’s office, picking up a chair and moving it to the wall. He might have to be in the same room with Heath, but he didn’t have to sit near the man.

          “Are you sure I need to be there? I don’t want to cause another problem, Inoran.” Heath had heard the slap, even from the garden where he’d been hiding. The tension in the house due to Yusuke’s hostility towards him, was almost more than Heath could bear, to the point he was once again thinking of leaving his clan.

          “This is important, so yes, you do need to be there. Don’t pay any mind to Yusuke, at the moment he’s acting like a spoilt child.” Inoran held his hand out for Heath.  

          Taking his place behind his desk, Inoran took out the letter from Morrie. “We have been invited to another clan meeting, and we will be attending. There is no room for debate.”

          Heath looked at Yusuke, “Are you sure I need to attend?”

          “Clan Kiyonobu will be at the gathering, that means the three of us.” Inoran said with finality.

          “Where is the meeting being held?” Yusuke muttered.

          “There is no set date or location. I’m going to assume that it will be in Kyoto, as it is the half way point between the clans.”

          “Can you tell us the reason for the meeting?” Heath’s mind was churning.

          Inoran shook his head, “It was not mentioned, though I can feel the urgency in the message.” He looked at Yusuke, “There will be no violence or harsh words during the trip, is that clear?”

          “Whatever,” Yusuke looked away from Inoran. “Just keep him away from me, and from you.”

          “YUSUKE!” Inoran shouted before he stood up, “I’m tired of this. Stop your childish whining and petulance, now! You need to understand that Heath is part of MY clan, as you are, the only difference is that you are my blood spouse.”

          “If I am your blood spouse, why does my opinion not matter? Are we not partners in our relationship? I do not want HIM living with us!” Yusuke shouted back.

          “Please… stop.” Heath begged. “I don’t want you to fight over me. I’ll gladly move out and live in town, just please stop arguing.”

          “Leave then, leave this house and leave my blood spouse alone.” Yusuke growled. Heath stood up, “I will be out before dawn.” Walking towards the door, Heath turned to look at Yusuke, “I never wanted to come between you, I love you Yusuke, as I love Inoran.”

          This was for the good of their clan. Heath made his way to his room, grabbing his bag and began packing up what little possessions he had.

          “Heath, you will not be moving out of my home.” Inoran was leaning against the doorway.

          “It’s for the best that I leave, Inoran. You know that as well as I do.” Heath continued packing, not looking at his clan leader. “Yusuke will never be happy as long as I am living under your roof. I will still claim Clan Kiyonobu, but I will not live here any longer.”

          Lifting his bag onto his shoulder, Heath walked to the door, “I love you as my clan leader, and as my dear friend. I’m sorry that it has ended like this, but I am and always will be, loyal to no one, but you.”

          Inoran hugged Heath tightly, “I do not want you to leave, but I can not keep you here against your will.” He looked into the eyes of his friend, “You will still attend the clan gathering with Yusuke and I, there is no questioning that. Please let me know where you are staying, and do not be a stranger to me. I lost you once, I will not lose you again.”

          Making his way to the front door, Heath stopped by the kitchen, “I’m leaving Inoran’s home, but I will not be forced from his clan. Be happy Yusuke.”

          Without another look back, Heath left the home of Inoran, walking towards the small city of Fuji, hoping to find a peaceful place to live.  

 

 

          “Have you seen Reita?” Jyou asked Ayato and Akinori.

          Ayato shrugged, “Um, no. Not since last night at dinner, why?”  

          Jyou didn’t wait to explain, instead going straight to Reo. “Nobody has seen him,”

          “Shit. Get Tora and bring him to me.” Jyou left Reo’s office quickly. The fact that Reita was missing wasn’t noticed until early the next evening, Jyou waiting for the young immortal to come and speak to her about changing his living arrangements.

          Without a warning, Jyou grabbed Tora by the arm, dragging him from the kitchen area, where he had been speaking with Mana. “Reo-san wants to see you, right now.”

          Knocking once, Jyou pushed Tora in front of her, “Yes, Reo-san?” The young man was shaking slightly.

          “When was the last time you saw Reita, and where?” Reo snapped.

          “Um, last night, at the northern edge of the city.” Tora’s cheeks flamed red in shame. “I asked him about … well about our situation. He got angry with me, and left the city at a run.”

          Reo pinched the bridge of his nose, “Why didn’t you go after him, or at least tell one of us?”

          “It was a personal issue, Reo-san. I didn’t think I should involve anyone else. Why are you asking me? What’s happened to Rei?”

          “He’s missing, he didn’t come home last night and no one has seen him tonight,” Reo looked up at Tora, “do you know where he could have possibly gone?”

          “He’s…he’s missing?” Tora whined, “No, he just ran off into the woods,” He looked at Jyou, “why didn’t you tell me last night? I could have gone and looked for him.”

          “I want everyone except Ayato and Mana, out looking for Reita, go in pairs, and be careful please.” Even before Reo stopped speaking, Tora rushed out of the room.

          “Go after him and stay with him. Bring Reita to me as soon as you find him.”

 

          The humiliation burned hot in his gut. Sleeping in a root cellar, under a burned-out house, was not what Reita had envisioned when he became an immortal and part of Clan Aichi. But with Tora’s rejection, he believed this was what he deserved. What had he expected from Tora, open arms? “Stupid of me to even think of that.”

          Peeking up through the cellar door to make sure it was dark, Reita climbed out and into the kitchen area of the burned-out house. He was hungry, both for food and for blood, but this was not the place to try and hunt. He wanted to get as far away from Kyoto as quickly as possible.

          He had made up his mind to go to Tokyo, to seek out Sakurai and ask to join his clan. He was certain that the clan leader would accept him, especially if he told Sakurai why he was leaving Reo’s clan. “He can’t be that heartless as to turn me away…can he?”

          With his appetite sated with the blood of an older deer that wasn’t quick enough to elude Reita, the man made his way north, in the general direction of Tokyo.  He avoided the larger cities, knowing that a stranger would be a cause for alarm, instead staying to the less traveled dirt roads and hunter’s trails.

          With dawn approaching on the second night, Reita found himself without any decent shelter, finally having to dig himself a shallow hole, and opting to pull a rather large log over him, instead of dirt. This night, Reita cried himself to sleep.

 

          Reo had the members of Clan Aichi, standing in front of him in his office, “I’ll be sending a letter to Morrie, Sakurai and Inoran, letting them know that Reita may be trying to reach them and ask for acceptance into their clans.”

          Looking at the haggard faces of his family, Reo asked for more, “I want you to continue to search for him, I want no building, abandoned or not, to go unchecked. Hyde-san has also agreed to assist in our search, for which I am grateful.”

          Hyde bowed his head, “Of course, it would be selfish of me not to offer my help.”

          Reo smiled, “If any one of you finds Reita, do not question him, just bring him to me.” With a wave of his hand, the members of Clan Aichi dispersed.

          With a heavy sigh, Reo leaned back in his chair. “Reo-san? Is this a normal occurrence? Not the disappearance of a clan member, but for everyone to be so concerned?”

          “Yes, it is normal. We view our clans as our families. There are any number of immortals that were brought into the blood against their will, like yourself. Then there are the members that were saved, either from dying, or a life that would have been shortened by their circumstances.”

          “I see. Do you have members such as those?”

          Reo nodded, “Ayato is a prime example. He’s a beautiful boy, is he not?”

          “Almost cherubic, yes. What is his story?”

          “Long ago, the upstairs portion of this building was a geisha house, and Ayato was brought to me by the mama-san who ran the house. Ayato is the child of a geisha.” Reo didn’t need to explain any further, as Hyde understood the implications of Ayato’s birth.

          “Without going into detail, Ayato was brought into the blood, by me, to be given to one of my former employees. You know what would have happened to him, if we were to turn him out, death wouldn’t be far behind him. Or if he were made to service customers, he would have been abused regularly.”

          “You saved him from death, by bringing him into the blood. A noble cause I suppose.” Hyde wasn’t convinced.

          “Jyou had a similar situation, and Mana was dumped at the city walls, her tongue cut out, and she was left to die. The other clan leaders have similar stories from their members. I have never forced someone to be blood born, there are no random attacks, such as the one you and your friends experienced. Therefore, we have the alliance, to combat Yoshiki and Ryuichi, and what ever they have planned as far as this war that’s being planned.”  

          Hyde said nothing for a few moments, the seriousness of what Reo had just told him, now weighed heavy in his mind. “Thank you for giving me that information. I still can not say I would ever join a clan, but I will definitely keep it in mind if I have not yet left the country, and those two monsters decide to start their war.” With a stiff bow, Hyde left Reo’s office.

 

          Waking slowly, Reita breathed deeply, not looking forward to another long night of walking. Pushing the log from underneath, Reita got up and dusted off his clothes, “what shall I have for dinner tonight?” He knew the answer would be substandard animal blood, but he felt that he still couldn’t take the chance to go into a city to search for food.

          As he walked along a hunter’s trail, Reita felt weak, his body throbbing with hunger. So engrossed were his thoughts of food, that he failed to hear someone behind him until the last second when the person reached out and grabbed him.

          His eyes widened as he tried to back away, “Leave me alone…don’t.” he turned and started to run, but before he made it ten feet, he was dragged down. The man grabbed at him, slashing him across the face, trying to bite him on the neck. Reita fought with everything he had, he knew if the other immortal were to feed on him, he would die.

          The struggle continued for some time, Reita gaining ground and losing it, “LEAVE ME ALONE!” he screamed. With a hard kick to the other immortal’s head and stunning him, Reita finally scrambled away and started to run with preternatural speed, back towards Kyoto. He was bleeding, his wounds deep and fleshy. He kept running, not looking back to see if the other immortal was following him.

          Reita ran for what felt like hours, stumbling and falling, picking himself back up to run again, never looking back. He could see that dawn was approaching, he had less than two hours to find someplace to hide, to sleep so he could heal.

          Without realizing it, he had made it back to Kyoto, to the edge of the city, where the walls were in sight. Reita stumbled again, he reached up and wiped his face, feeling the deep wounds that were still open. “Reo…” he moaned, as he finally collapsed in the dirt on a back street.

          Hyde was in a full-blown argument with himself, worrying over the stories Reo had told him. “Stupid, I don’t need to be in a damned clan, I can watch out for myself, always have, always will…”

          He stopped for a moment, “What the hell?” he could hear someone moaning and calling out a name. Moving carefully towards the darkened side street, he heard the name whispered, “Reo...”

          “Shit.” Hyde knew it was Reita before even laying eyes on the man. Squatting down next to the injured immortal, Hyde was stunned to see that Reita’s wounds still seemed fresh and had not healed.

          “Reita-san, it’s Hyde.” He said before scooping the man up in his arms, “Hyde-san…Reo, please.” Reita whimpered.

          “I’ll get you to Reo, just hold on.” Picking Reita up, Hyde rushed back to the clan house, kicking the door in and rushing down the steps, “REO!” he yelled, as he made his way through the labyrinth of hallways to Reo’s office.

          “What the… Reita!” Reo had heard the commotion, and rushed to his door, flinging it open just as Hyde had started to kick it down. “I found him on a side street… his injuries!”

          “Reita-kun, look at me…that’s it. Let’s get you in a bed and see to your wounds,” Reita tried to sit up, “No, Reo…please, listen to me,”

          “Sshh, let me have Mana look after yo…” Reita reached up and grabbed Reo’s shirt.

          “NO, listen to me! It was Sugizo that did this, Sugizo attacked me, he’s an immortal!”

Chapter Text

 

          Before Reo spoke another word to Reita, a look over his shoulder to Arimatsu was all that was needed, the man leaving the room quickly. Turning his attention back to Reita, Reo tried to calm the young man. “Tell me what happened.”  

          “I, I was on my way to Tokyo, I had spent the day buried in the ground,” Reita’s face flushed in shame, “I didn’t have a chance to hunt, he caught me completely off guard, attacking me from behind.”

          Reita coughed as he struggled to sit up, “I’m sorry Reo-san, I didn’t want to bring dishonor to the clan, that’s why I left.”

          “That doesn’t matter right now, my child. You are home and you are safe,” Reo assured him. “Tell me what Sugizo said.”

          Reita shook his head, “He never said a word, it was like he was crazed. He slashed me in the face, I knew he was trying to kill me. I was able to kick him in the head hard enough to stun him, then I just ran without a thought.”

          Hyde cleared his throat, “I found him on a side street, he was calling your name, I just picked him up and brought him here.”

          “I am forever in your debt, Hyde-san, thank you.” Reo bowed his head.

          With a loud crash, the door was flung open, “REI!” Tora lurched over where Reita was laying, “Rei…shit you’re hurt! What happened, tell me please.” Tora was nearly in tears.

          “I’m okay Tora-kun.” He managed a small smile, “I’m sorry to make you worry, that was unfair of me.”

          “Tora-kun, move away please,” Jyou had came into the room, holding a bowl of rice, “Reita-kun needs to eat, and once he’s healed you can take him out to hunt.” The diminutive woman pushed her way past Tora, handing the bowl to Reita.

          “I think we need to let him rest.” the clan leader looked at the others, “I will speak to you again tomorrow night, please just rest and regain your strength.” With a soft kiss to the head, Reo and Jyou left the room.

 

          “This is going to be a problem. I assume you’ve already sent word to the other leaders?” Jyou and Reo stood just outside the door, “Yes, Arimatsu’s people are on their way. I proposed we have the clan meeting here, with all members in attendance. Do we have enough room?”

          “You probably didn’t know this, but you have gained control of two more houses, they were abandoned by some of the minor nobility.”

          Reo frowned, “Would you care to explain how this happened, without my knowledge or input?”

          “You were busy at the time, so Asanao and myself took charge of the project,” Jyou smiled, “we knew that any further meetings would stretch us thin in housing the other clans. The opportunity arose to obtain the houses, and I gave the order, so if you want to be angry with anyone, that would be me.”

          Sighing in resignation, Reo’s shoulders slumped, “Show me the houses.”

 

          The tension was palatable, neither one of the men wanted to speak first. Tora was sitting against the wall, his knees up, as he stared at the floor. Reita was finishing his bowl of rice, watching Tora. Setting the bowl down, Reita looked at his best friend, “It’s not your fault, so don’t blame yourself.”

          “How is it not my fault? You ran away because of me, so yah, this is my fault.”

          “Are we going to argue over this? Just stop Tora, none of this happened because of you. I’m the one who ran off because I can’t deal with rejection.”

          “I never rejected you, I just…I don’t know if I can…shit.” Tora sighed, leaning forward and resting his head on his knees. “I love you, you’re my best friend, ever since we were kids, I only want to be with you.”

          “But you being with me as a friend is not what I want, or at least it’s what I said,”

          Reita didn’t’ want to lose Tora, but he wasn’t sure he couldn’t go back to how they were living before, not after he had confessed.

          “What do we do now? Can’t we pretend all of this didn’t happen?”

          Reita shrugged, “I don’t know, I just know I don’t want to lose you. If that means denying my feelings, I will.”

          Tora got to his knees, and crawled over to where next to Reita. “I know this sounds stupid, but what if you just kiss me?”

          Reita was taken aback, “Yah, it’s stupid, you’re not interested in me like that, why would you force yourself?”

          “Rei, I love you, that’s my truth, and if kissing you changes my mind on what kind of love I feel for you, then who are you to deny me?”

          Reita sighed, “I’m just going to say, this is really stupid. One kiss won’t change your mind on loving a man.” He wanted this kiss; it may be the only one he would ever receive from the man he loved.

          “Let me be the judge of that.” Tora leaned in, brushing his lips softly on Reita’s. The instant spark felt by both men was surprising, Tora pulling away quickly. “Um…”

          “Yah, uh…can we try that again? That really wasn’t much of a kiss, Tora-kun.” Reita said breathlessly. This time Reita took control, reaching out and taking Tora by the shoulder, and pulling him into the kiss.

          It was a hesitant kiss at first, just lips softly brushing, after a few seconds, the tip of Reita’s tongue, slid over Tora’s lower lip, asking for more. Tora’s breath was heavy and rushed, he moaned Reita’s name, as the kiss deepen. Reita, emboldened by his response, pulled the man closer, sliding his other arm around Tora’s waist.

          The kissed lasted a few more seconds, before Reita reluctantly pulled away.

          “Well? Did that change your mind?” Reita was expecting the obvious disgust that he knew Tora was feeling. What he wasn’t ready for, was Tora’s real reaction.

          “Shut up and kiss me again.”

 

 

          “I urge you all to consider moving the clan gathering to two weeks from this day. There was an attack on one of my members, and the identity of the perpetrator is alarming. While I am not commanding that you all attend, I do believe you should bring all your family members, out of safety concerns. I am also extending the invitation through Morrie-san to ask Isshi if he would be available to attend, his input could be valuable. There are sufficient lodgings here in Kyoto.”

           

 

          With almost three dozen clan members, the logistics of housing the various clan members, was a task that was daunting for Reo, but who was grateful when Jyou pushed him out of his own office, “Leave this to me please, Reo. I will have every one housed and settled before dinner is served. Perhaps you’d like to go and speak with the other leaders?”

          “You don’t have to be so condescending, do you?” Reo huffed, “Fine, I’ll go speak to the others. Just make sure everyone is comfortable, please.” Jyou waved her clan leader away.

          Making his way to the large central room in the house, Reo heard the unmistakable giggling and whispers of Ayato and Uta. Stopping in front of Ayato’s door, he gently slid it open, “Are you two already plotting something?” he asked as he looked in.

          “No, Reo-san! I promise, Ayato and I are just gossiping, no plotting going on,” Uta laughed.

          “No plotting…yet.” Ayato said smugly. “Whatever plotting we’re doing, isn’t anything serious and it won’t hurt anyone, I promise Father.”

          “No match making, though I don’t know who’d be involved, everyone has a mate or loved one.” Reo scolded the boys gently.

          “Yes Reo-san,” Ayato promised. Reo nodded, then slid the door shut, Ayato and Uta waiting a few moments until they were sure he was gone.

          “Aoi doesn’t have anyone, does he? I know Sato and Aiko-san are now mated, but not by blood. Who else will be here that’s single?” Ayato leaned in and whispered to Uta.

          Ayato giggled, “Maybe we can set Aoi up with Isshi…”

          “What? Oh god, Aya…that’s not even fucking funny!” Uta chided his friend, “Isshi-san’s not even a vampire. No Aya, let’s not even think about that.”

 

 

          “It seems that Heath has returned to Inoran, they just entered the city.” Arimatsu reported to Reo. “Though it doesn’t seem that any of them are especially happy.” The news was unexpected, and with Arimatsu’s comment, Reo was now concerned.

          “Have Jyou speak to Inoran before assigning them any housing, I don’t need any conflicts between clan members.” Arimatsu bowed and left the room.

          “Do you expect any problems?” Asanao asked.

          “If Heath is with Inoran, it’s by Inoran’s choice. My concern is mostly with Yusuke, and his attitude towards Heath. I would like to know the circumstances of his return to the Clan, and I’m hoping it’s nothing alarming.”

 

          The journey to Kyoto had been tension filled, the hostility from Yusuke any time Heath got close to or spoke to Inoran, was blatant.

          “Yusuke, stop this instant!” Inoran shouted at his blood spouse after an extremely vulgar and heated exchange between the two men. Inoran stopped in the middle of the road. “You will either be civil, or remain silent. You will not speak to Heath in that manner, is that clear?” Yusuke didn’t answer but walked on instead, leaving the two men behind.

          “Inoran, I shouldn’t have come, this is not what I wanted.” Heath moaned. “I will make sure to stay in another house if possible, once we arrive in Kyoto.”

          Reaching out, Inoran caressed Heath’s cheek, “I love your loyalty and honesty. I’m sorry I can not sway Yusuke’s opinion of you, but that opinion is his, not mine. I want you by my side, Heath, and that’s where you shall stay until I say differently.” Inoran continued on his way, leaving a teary-eyed and grateful Heath standing in the road.

 

          “Is he dead?” Yusuke muttered, “Please tell me he’s dead. Tell me that you’ve sent him away and that I will forever have you by my side, alone.”

          “You’re an asshole, Yusuke,” Inoran snapped, “how quickly your tone has changed. You go from loving him, spending nights in his arms, letting him make love to you, to wishing for his death. What a hateful bitch you are.”

          “Is it hateful for me to want no outside interference in our relationship? If I am hateful for wanting him dead, and not have him as a threat to our love, then I will gladly accept that label.”

          Inoran shook his head, “What happened to that shy loving young man that I brought into the blood, to be my spouse for eternity? Where is that boy?”

          “That boy has grown. He knows that there are evil influences that are too close to home, for him to be that tender-hearted young man.” Inoran knew that there was nothing he could say or do, to change his lover’s opinion or heart.

          “At least be civil and cordial during the clan meeting. Do not speak ill of Heath to anyone. I am only warning you once and you do not want to anger, or go against me.”

 

         

          “He wants to speak to you, Morrie and Sakurai, before the meetings start.”

 

          “Heath-san, I’m happy to see you again, what can we do for you?” Reo had agreed to let the immortal speak to the other clan leaders, with the obvious exception of Inoran.

          “If you haven’t already noticed, there is certain amount of tension between Yusuke and myself. I am not at liberty to give you the details, but suffice it to say, we are no longer close. I am a member of Clan Kiyonobu, Inoran is my clan leader.”

          Reo sighed, “I’m sorry that the situation has come to that, but we will honor your requests for privacy. Is there something else?”

          “I know where Issay is.”

          “Where is he?” Sakurai asked eagerly.

          “Hokkaido, living at your estate. When I left Inoran, I made my way north. I wanted to disappear and live quietly. I hadn’t gotten very far into the city, when he stepped out into the road. We lived together, although we were not close. We tolerated each other, listened to each other’s complaints about our former clan leaders, and hunted together.”

          Heath looked at Sakurai, “He is remorseful for how he acted when he was still living with you, he said it was his greatest regret as an immortal. But he did not accept his part in the argument with Kai-san, he still views the man as lowly and unworthy of your affections.”

          “And what did he say about me?” Reo asked.

          “He blames you for losing Ayato-kun, that you had no right to give the boy to Kyo-san. He is unwilling to accept any responsibility for his actions in regards to the rogue vampires. I don’t see him ever trying to return to Clan Aichi.”

          Heath paused a moment, “I am dealing with the problems regarding Yusuke on my own. I have moved out of Inoran’s house and I now have a small home just outside of Fuji. I will still claim Clan Kiyonobu, and will do as my clan leader asks. I thought you should know all the circumstances in case there are any ugly incidents during the gathering.”

          Reo thanked the young man, and excused him, “What do you think?” he asked Sakurai and Morrie. “It’s obvious that the herbal treatments have brought Inoran back to his senses, but the animosity between Yusuke and Heath, that could be a problem.”

          “We stay out of it, as much as possible. It is not our place to tell a clan leader how to live with his family. I believe that we only step in if it’s the absolute last option.” Morrie asserted.

          “I’m going to agree with Morrie, let them work it out between themselves.” Sakurai was frowning.

          “You’re worried about Issay, correct?” Reo guessed.

          “Only in the sense that he may be biding his time, that he may be planning something later. I of course, hope I am dead wrong, but there’s never any sure way to tell with him, you know that as well as I do.”

          Reo snorted, “If he believes I wronged him, I doubt he’d come to you for advice or help, he will come straight to me. I’m not worried about that, we have much more pressing matters to discuss.”