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Blood Wars. Part 2.

Chapter Text

          Laying in bed Sakurai stared up at the ceiling, Uta was snuggled safely in his arms, and the house was quiet. His thoughts were churning over the news from San Francisco: there had been two deaths of immortals that were associates of Raymond Watts. A letter had arrived late in the afternoon in, post marked October 20 1934, detailing the events leading up to the deaths of Ricky Norris and Sasaki Seiji.

          The somber tone of the letter worried Sakurai, Watts was obviously despondent, but worse was the manner in which his friends had died.

          “Seiji was attacked and killed by three rogue vampires from the seedy area near the wharfs, his decapitated head was found on a pier pylon. Ricky Norris was set upon by a mob of mortals, who somehow had discovered that he was a vampire, and they chased him to the beach, where he perished in the rising sun. Atsushi, we are not certain of whom the maker or makers are of these rogues, so this is fair warning to you; I fear the worst is coming, sooner than we have predicted. I hesitate to return to Japan as it will leave my friends here in America devoid of anyone that has any experience and knowledge of the minds of Ryuichi and Yoshiki. I do feel however that I may be of use when this incipient war begins.”

          Sakurai immediately called the other leaders to share the information, “I don’t believe we have much to worry over,” he tried to sound confident, but it was not what he felt in his heart. Uta stirred, sighing softly and burying his face into Sakurai’s neck, the older man kissing the top of his head. The years following the last gathering had been relatively uneventful; there had been more immortals that had been discovered that had no connection to the clans, though were causing no problems and choosing to live apart from the others.

 

        Breathing deeply and closing his eyes, Sakurai’s last thoughts were of how far the community of immortals, had come; how they had weathered the centuries, facing the trials and tribulations of societal changes, modernization and the loss of members by death or destruction.  Imai had destroyed the life Sakurai had given him, and destroyed any possibility of reconciliation, the incident with Tangier solidifying the permanence of the estrangement.  As with Imai, Issay had also destroyed his relationship with his maker, albeit temporary. Sakurai’s child had redeemed himself in Sakurai’s eyes, even as Kai could not be convinced. With his own blood spouse to care for, Eiji had been the single influence in Issay’s redemption.

          They had all settled into a cautious existence., trying to live normal lives, (as normal as a vampire could) but as predicted, the weekly phone calls they had promised the young ones, were causing headaches for two of the leaders, with some pushback from Ayato and Uta.

“We agreed, no more than once per week.”

          “No, you decided that without asking our opinions. Those are the leader’s rules,” Uta argued with Sakurai.

          “What is so critically important that you cannot wait three more days, or is this just another reason to gossip with Ayato?”

          “We’re not gossiping!” Uta protested, “We’re just exchanging information.”

          Both Ayato and Uta had been chastised by their leaders for using the telephone to scheme and gossip. It had annoyed Kyo so much, that he dragged his mate to Reo’s office, for a scolding.

          “Tell him he can’t use that damned telephone more than once a week, or I’ll tear it out.” Kyo none too gently shoved Ayato towards Reo’s desk.

          The clan leader frowned, “Is this a problem, Ayato?”

          Ayato looked down, scuffing his feet on the wood floor, “It wouldn’t be, if I could call more than once a week,” he huffed.

          “AYATO!” Kyo snapped, “Mind your manners, boy.”

          “And how do you expect to pay for these extra calls?” Reo knew Ayato would have no clue to how the billing for telephones worked.

          “Extra calls?” the young man stammered, “It costs extra to call more than once a week?”

          “Mmhmm,” Reo nodded, “It’s not safe for you to work outside the clan house, so how do you expect to compensate me?”

          Ayato’s shoulders slumped in defeat, “Okay, um…I won’t complain any more.” With a light bow, he turned and left the room.

          “That’s a lie, isn’t it?” Kyo smirked at Reo, “It doesn’t cost any more than normal.”

          “Yes, but he doesn’t need to know that.”

 

 

         It wasn’t just the issue of Ayato and his telephone usage, there were other problems on the rise with Clan Aichi; an influx of Yakuza in Kyoto. There had always been a human criminal element, but it had always been controlled and allowed to function in Kyoto, with supervision by Reo and the assistance of local government officials. It wasn’t until 1933, that the oyabuns had collectively started to push back against both the clan and the government. At first, Reo allowed the city officials to attempt to control the increasing crime. It wasn’t until a late-night raid of a known Yakuza clubhouse, that Clan Aichi was called in.

          “We would have not approached you had it not been so serious of an issue, but there are children involved.” The police commissioner explained to Reo.

          A low growl was heard in the room, Reo raising a hand to silence who he knew was Kyo. “In what way were children involved?” The commissioner glanced at an obviously angry Kyo.

          “There had been an increase in what had initially been reported as runaways.” The man shifted nervously, avoiding Kyo’s burning gaze. “We received an anonymous tip that led us to a building on the outskirts of the city.”

          “Go on,” Reo had his eyes closed as he leaned on his elbows at his desk.

          “Once we gained entry into the building, and arrested those present…” the man looked down for a moment, “we found fourteen girls under the age of twelve, and nine boys under the age of ten, all being held in two makeshift jail cells.”  Without a word, Kyo stormed out of the room.  Reo opened his eyes, and waved off Asanao’s attempt to go after Kyo. “Human trafficking?”

          The official snorted, “that is our conclusion, yes. Of course, they tried to lie their way out of it, saying that they were helping the children, but it was obvious by their injuries, the children had been subjected to both physical, and psychological abuse.

          “Have you returned the children to their families?” Reo knew Kyo would ask the same question.

          The man’s expression turned to anger, “This is why we have come to ask for your, um…specialized help. Some of the children are now orphans, their families were killed during the abductions.”

          Jyou, who had remained silent, gasped, “What?” Hazuki reached out and held his mate’s hand.

          “Yes. Out of the twenty-three children, seven are now orphans.”

          Reo shook his head sadly, “Tell me who these men are, who is the leader and Clan Aichi will take care of it before dawn. Also, tell me where the orphan children are living, I will make arrangements for their care.” As much as Reo was hesitant to be involved in human politics or policing, this act by the Yakuza had crossed the line and Clan Aichi would not tolerate attacks on the innocents.

          “What are we going to do about this, Reo?” Kyo stormed back into the room, “Who’s going to take care of those kids?” The diminutive man was livid, only returning to Reo’s office after the city official had gone.

          Reo once again held his hand up to quell Kyo’s rage, “I am open to suggestions, but they will be cared for none the less.”

          The idea that Reo wanted opinions had thrown Kyo’s anger off immediately, “Um…well, I guess you could…” the man stuttered, unsure of how to respond.

          Reo smirked, “There is still time, the children will not be released from the hospital for another few days.”

          “Good! Make sure that they’re safe.” Kyo turned to leave, stopping just short of the door and without looking back, “I’d like to visit with the kids once they’re settled, they’re going to need to know that they’re safe.” With a grunt, Kyo left Reo’s office.

 

 

 

          In 1934, Morrie’s movie theater had shifted from a film theater to becoming a very profitable jazz club, providing a new venue for local musicians. The new venue was called ‘The O’, in tribute to his original theater, ‘The Oriental’, (though everyone believed it was really ‘Otsuka’). It was Miya who brought the idea of a music venue to Morrie’s attention. “We need to have a back up plan,” he claimed, “what if the theater stops being profitable?”

          “How do you know of this?” Morrie was hesitant, “how do you know a music venue would work?”

          “You obviously have not been reading the news out of Osaka. They’ve already had a jazz club for over a year, and more are opening every week. We should cash in on this, it’s a sure bet on a business scale. A music venue can evolve with time as music styles change. It could be the single most important business for the clan.” Miya had always been a music fan, and the thought of having a club for live music was almost more than he could stand.

          “Before I agree to anything, we need to present this to the family.”

 

          The transformation of The Oriental from a movie theater, to a music venue, had been a daunting endeavor. There had been more than a few instances where Morrie doubted Miya’s vision; finally handing the decision making to Tatsurou. “I trust you; you have more patience than I ever will,” was his excuse. Tatsurou’s supposed patience was put to the test daily, as he and Miya had conflicting ideas.

          “Wait! You want how many tables? I thought this was a music venue, not a restaurant.”

          Miya threw back his head in frustration and sighed, “Do you expect our customers to stand all night? We have to have tables and chairs for the guests, we’re offering drinks, not food.”

          Six months later, The O’ opened its doors and from the very first night, was a huge success, with the clan members staffing the venue, and working together much like they had at the theater.

          “Can I say it?” Miya grinned at Morrie and Tatsurou.

          “Say what?”

          “I told you so.”

 

 

          Inoran continued living with Yusuke, Heath and Rin, his life was now consumed with literature. He had gone as far as publishing a book on the subject of vampiric folklore, under a pseudonym, much to the amusement of his friends, “If they only knew…” was a frequent comment. However, the dull throbbing ache that constantly resonated throughout Inoran’s body, left him feeling the weight of the centuries of immortality pressing down on him. “Has it really been over nine hundred years? No wonder I’m tired,” he chuckled. In fact, it had been 1037 years; over a millennium of immortality. Did his peers feel the same pressure? Was the weight also too heavy for them to bear?

          “You need to see a doctor.” Yusuke had said on more than one occasion.

          Inoran scoffed, “And what shall I tell them when they listen for a heartbeat, or feel for a pulse? No Yusuke, there are no mortal doctors that would treat me, and as far as we know, there are no immortal doctors either. I’m just tired, there’s nothing else wrong with me, please leave me alone.” Inoran shut and locked the door to his study, leaving a perplexed Yusuke standing in the hall.

          Yusuke’s worried look, gave Heath pause, “Is it really that bad?”

          “I think it is, but you know how he is, too stubborn to admit he’s not well.”

 

         

          “Leave us alone, we have nothing to say.”

          This was the standard response from the unknown and unaffiliated immortals that crossed the clans’ paths, often frustrating Reo’s members in particular.  “What are they hiding…or who?” Kyo would growl and complain to Reo any time there was a new confrontation. The leaders would then call each other to report yet another incident. “Two older females this time, both about fifty, but Kyo said he could not tell how long they’d been immortal.” Reo explained to Morrie.

          “Hiro and Daisuke saw a group of four young men, barely out of their teens, hiding in that old stone hut behind the Shrine. Isshi said he’d been aware that they were lurking nearby, but you know he will no longer approach anyone.” Morrie huffed in frustration. “Also, Atsushi has heard voices near his estate. He’s sent Uehara out every time, but there was nothing to be found.”

          “I suggest we continue as we have, and perhaps we will get lucky at some point, and they will speak with us. Until then, we wait."

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

          The relative calm, partnered with the lack of any movement from Ryuichi, Yoshiki or Sugizo, had lulled the immortal clans into a watchful subsistence. There had been no attacks in the country that they were aware of, and no further incidents of killings in San Francisco had been reported by Raymond Watts.  That calm did not however, extend to the Inari Shrine in Tokyo.

 

          “Make sure to replenish the incense with the same type, we do not want to confuse or anger the Kami.” Isshi instructed the novice who was tending a small side shrine at the Inari temple. Isshi rarely left the shrine, his days were now spent in quiet prayer, having taken a few novices to perform the more strenuous daily duties. In the years following the last clan gathering, Isshi had come to realize that the signs of aging were starting to show.

          Kimura’s claim of another non-blood born immortal showing themselves, had proven in Isshi’s mind, to be unfounded. Seven years had passed since Kimura predicted the emergence of what he thought would be a new modern day Onmyoji, “Pfft, I am the last of my kind.” He often claimed after another year had passed, “there are none older than I.” In spite of all these truths, it did not stop Isshi from carefully scrutinizing each new novice that asked to serve Inari. No, there would be no new Onmyoji to assist the vampire clans in their eventual war, and frankly the thought horrified Isshi enough, that he voiced his concern to Morrie.

          “I fear my immortality does in fact have an expiration date.” Isshi confided in Morrie on a warm summer evening. Morrie had made an effort in keeping the Onmyoji feeling as if he was still part of the alliance, even though Isshi no longer left the shrine. They would visit and share information, and more than a few cups of wine.

          “Why would you think this?” Morrie poured another cup of sake.

          “Kimura was wrong, there will be no one to replace me.”

          Morrie scoffed, “You’re overthinking this Isshi. There are no signs of you aging, you appear as you have over the centuries.”

          Isshi smiled sadly, “I feel it in my bones, the overwhelming weight on my shoulders have grounded me.” He turned to his friend, “What will happen if this promise of a new Onmyoji…” he let his thoughts trail off, “never mind. Let us tonight, drink until dawn.”

 

          “What’s wrong?” Tatsurou was already in bed when Morrie arrived home, “Is there a problem at the shrine?” he sat up, “It’s not Isshi, is it?”

          “In a sense yes,” Morrie undressed, “but it’s not what you think.” Sliding into bed, he gathered his lover in his arms. “Isshi believes he is dying, and that Kimura’s promise of a replacement, will not happen.

          This was disconcerting for Tatsurou, who held a great affinity for the Onmyoji, “Do you believe him? Does he look ill?”

          Morrie shook his head, “Not at all, his appearance has not changed.” Kissing his lover on the forehead, Morrie closed his eyes, “It’s late, I’ll worry about this in the evening.”

 

 

 

          “Use the Murata Brothers for the renovations on the geisha house, including all former office space and personal rooms to be used for the staff.” Reo shifted through the papers on his desk; information and plans on how he was to proceed in creating a safe environment for the children that were orphaned during the child abductions. “Do you have any promising applicants for the different staff positions?”

          Jyou slid a document across Reo’s desk, “Ohno Nanami will be the house mother. I have other possibilities for the remainder of the positions. They have all been thoroughly vetted and have background checks completed.” She slid another folder towards Reo.

          “I’d like to suggest that you hire a tutor for the children, as it will be some time before they can return to a normal school life…if ever. We really don’t know how traumatized they are.”

          Reo frowned, this had no occurred to him; the possibility of the children being cared for, long term. “Also, did you know that Kyo went to visit the children?” This got Reo’s full attention, “No, I did not.”

 

          Kyo’s heart was breaking at the same moment his mind was burning in anger, “How are they?” he asked the woman who was watching over the children until the renovations on the new Seiiki House were completed.

          “On good days? Almost like any other normal children,” she sighed heavily, “but after dark? I believe that is when the abuse took place. Night terrors are plaguing them all. They share two futons on the floor, rather than sleeping in individual beds, huddled together like a litter of kittens.” The woman knew of Kyo’s tender heart, Jyou had explained the man’s background. “He will never harm those kids; he’d lay his life down for each and every one.”

 

          It took all of fifteen minutes for the children to realize, and understand that Kyo was nothing like the men who abducted them, and killed their parents. Kyo sat on the floor, getting down to the children’s level to speak to them, “There are people that will care for you, and provide you someplace safe to live, and help you recover. I know we can’t replace your parents, but if you ever need anything, you make sure to tell someone to call me. I’ll be here as quickly as I can, and I promise to keep you all safe.”

          Kyo wasn’t expecting to have his arms filled with hugs of gratitude and tiny whispers of thanks, as all seven children gathered around him.

 

          “There will be no immortals involved in this venture, though I will of course, do background checks on every employee hired. Clan Aichi will only step in if there is a serious problem, and I believe you understand what I’m referring to.” Reo was sitting in the office of the current mayor of the city, laying out his plans for Seiiki House.

          “Has there been any recent news or sightings?” The mayor knew that Reo would swiftly take care of any situation involving the vicious immortals, but it did not hurt to stay on top of the issue.

          “No, but we will not be letting our guard down. The renovation for Seiiki House will include underground safe houses, if there is a city-wide attack. I can also take in human women and children if necessary.  

          “How far do you believe they will go in their destruction? Is this something that the city should be prepared for, or will their attacks be restricted to your kind?” The mayor wanted no surprises.

          Reo didn’t have an answer.

 

 

          “I want to go home.”

          “Why are you acting like a petulant child?

          “Why are you ignoring my wishes?
          Mari crossed her arms over her chest, “You’re being unreasonable.” Uruha gaped at her, “Unreasonable? You’ve been dragging me all over Europe for the last five years, and I’m being unreasonable for wanting to go home?”
          “Why now?” Mari turned away, “Why have you waited until we arrived in Paris to demand to return to Japan?”

          “Think about it,” Uruha snorted, “What happened the last time we were here?” Mari didn’t need to think about it, she knew exactly what her lover was referring to. “I’m tired of traveling, I’m tired of foreign food and blood, I want to sleep in my own bed. If you want to stay, that’s fine, but I’m leaving tomorrow night.” Walking away and with a sharp snap of the door, Uruha left the hotel room.

 

          Walking out of the hotel lobby, Uruha inhaled deeply, the scent of an immortal hit him in the face, “Shit.” Quickly surveying his surroundings, Uruha slowly stepped back into the hotel lobby, “There’s an ancient nearby,” he sent his thoughts to Mari.

          “Stay where you are.”

 

          Mari was silent as they returned to their room, though Uruha would not remain quiet, “Is this a good enough reason for us to return to Japan? We may not have friends there, but at least we have allies.” In her heart, Mari knew what her lover was saying was true; they didn’t have any friends, but they would be protected. “We leave at dusk.”

 

 

          Setting down on the soft white sand on a beach in Chiba, Uruha was able to take a full and relieved deep breath for the first time in years, “Finally.” Mari smiled and admitted to herself that it did feel good to be back in Japan. “Shall we go home?” She linked her arm with Uruha’s, “We may have a difficult time finding the cottage, I’m sure the weeds have overtaken the garden.”

          Walking up the steep narrow path from the beach, Mari’s senses were on alert for any unwanted visitors. Once their small cottage was in view, Uruha jogged ahead of his lover. Reaching the gate, the couple took a hard look at their property. “Well, you were not wrong when you thought the weeds had taken over,” Uruha laughed, “can we hire someone to remove it all?”

          The look Mari gave Uruha spoke volumes, “No, you will be clearing the weeds. You wanted to come home…we did and now it’s time to clean.”

          “My…wait!” Uruha sputtered, “You expect me to pull all these weeds by myself?”  Mari raised an eyebrow, challenging him to continue to whine, causing Uruha to back down. “Fine, but I’m only clearing the garden, you have to clean the house.”

         

          Clearing the over grown brush and weeds from the garden around their cottage, had ended being a daunting task for Uruha, “We should have hired someone to do this,” he complained more than a few times. But he could not argue the fact that both he and Mari were happy and contented now that they had returned home. It wasn’t until a warm autumn evening, a month or so after their return, that there was an interruption in the couple’s happiness. Mari had not expected such a visceral reaction from her lover, after informing him that Sakurai Atsushi would be their guest that evening.

          “Why would you invite him into our home without evening consulting me?” Uruha ranted, “Do you not see the danger in having that man in our home?”

          “Sakurai poses no threat to us. What are you afraid of?” Mari asked.

          Uruha narrowed his eyes, “I’m afraid of those who hate Sakurai, your maker being at the top of that list, followed closely by Imai. Sugizo is also an issue, he’s unpredictable. How can you be certain that they will not be following him? No Mari, I will not allow Sakurai Atsushi in our home.” Uruha was firm in his decision.

          She was dumbfounded by her mate’s firm stance, but oddly pleased, “What will you accept as an alternative?”

          “We meet on neutral territory, in a public setting, perhaps a place that Yoshiki would dare not to make a scene.”

          “Your plan has one flaw, my love. Yoshiki, or Ryuichi for that matter would not hesitate on acting out in public. Sugizo is as you say, unpredictable. You haven’t forgotten what he did to Reo’s man, and Morrie’s clan member? Both were done in a very public area.”

          “I still do not believe we should have Sakurai in our home.” Uruha would not concede his position.

          Mari held out her hand, “Come, sit with me.” Grudgingly, Uruha took her hand, sitting next to her on the overstuffed couch.

          “If not here, would you agree to meeting Sakurai at his estate? Not one of those monster’s would dare attempt an attack on Sakurai’s home. I can contact him and change our plans.”

 

 

          “Please Uta, behave yourself tonight,” Kai pleaded with the man, “I’m sure both Mari and her mate will be feeling uncomfortable enough, without you stirring up mischief.” Uta had the decency to look ashamed, “I promise. Do you know why they’re coming?”

          Kai shrugged, “Not really, though I’m going to guess that whatever it is, it’s important enough that they agreed to come here.”

          Uncomfortable was an understatement, at least for Uruha. Being in such close quarters with the ancient, unnerved the younger vampire; his single thought was to grab Mari and run. For the family’s part, they simply sat quietly and ate, listening intently to Mari’s recounting of what had caused the couple to hastily return home. “…Uruha did not see who they were, but felt the hostility nonetheless. That’s when we decided it was time to leave Paris.”

          Kai cleared his throat, “I understand that this isn’t important,” he blushed, did you happen to see Norte Dame before you left?”

          “Kai!” Sakurai snapped.

          “Um,” Uruha looked at Mari, who nodded, “we visited the cathedral a few times, why do you ask?”

          Sakurai sighed, “Kai had developed a fondness for the building when we were living in Paris, centuries ago.” Mari coughed, attempting to cover her embarrassment, “Yes, well I did tell Uruha of our first unfortunate meeting, and as such we visited the cathedral several years ago. Age has not diminished its beauty.”

          “Thank you, I appreciate the information.” Kai beamed.

          “As I was saying, we do not know who the hostile immortals were; be they European or not is anyone’s guess. I wanted to give you the information as a precaution.” Mari bowed her head lightly.

          Sakurai returned the bow, “I appreciate your trust in coming to me. I am still happy to offer you protection and assistance should you ever need it.” The conversation was suddenly interrupted, “Excuse me, Atsushi?” Uehara stepped into the room, a bundle of rags in his arms, “I found this in the reeds along the canal.” He handed the bundle to Sakurai.

          “What do we…oh my, you poor thing.” Curled up tightly, a small dog covered in mud, shivered with cold and fear. “Who threw you away, little on?”

          In an unusually bold move, Uruha stood and reached out for the small dog, “May I?” Taking the puppy from Sakurai, he quickly checked for injuries, “It’s a girl, she’s only about three weeks old, too young to be away from her mother. I think she’s white under all this dirt and mud.”

          Sakurai glanced at Mari and winked, “Uruha-kun, please if you will, take this young pup and care for her, I really only have any experience with kittens.” Shock spread across the young immortal’s face, “Um, I mean…” he looked at Mari, “Can we?”

          “It’s true, we have not had another dog to love since Louie, and it looks as if she is in dire need of help. So yes, we can keep her. Thank you, Atsushi.” In a rush of emotion, Uruha leaned over and kissed Mari. “Now, I believe it’s getting late and we really should be going, we have a tiny pup to attend to before dawn.” Mari and Uruha thanked Sakura for the meal, even as they turned him down for his claim of wanting to give them protection, “We’ll be just fine.” Mari insisted, even as in her heart she wasn’t so sure.