Iori strides through the wide hallways of the Vampire Hunters Agency headquarters, his determined footsteps echoing off of the unadorned walls. The weight of the long leather jacket, proof that he’s a certified vampire hunter, still feels heavy and unfamiliar on his shoulders. It’s only been one week since the graduation ceremony and Iori remembers when he was first presented with the garment. He was sitting in the front row next to his older brother Mitsuki, waiting for the head instructor to call him to the podium. Iori had finished as valedictorian of his class and as such, he was expected to give a speech to his peers. Soon his name was called and Iori nervously made his way up to the stage. Trying not to fidget with the sleeves of his dress shirt, he faced the room filled with his classmates, and immediately saw Mitsuki giving him a huge thumbs up from the audience. Slightly reassured, Iori began reciting the words that he’d practiced so many times in front of his brother. His voice sounded mechanical and stiff even to his own ears, but thankfully his voice didn’t give away the apprehension that he was feeling. Whether the dread he felt was due to public speaking, or the fact that he was officially about to begin his career as a hunter, Iori did not know. Soon he reached the end of his speech and received an approving nod from the head instructor. Wordlessly, she handed him the simple black jacket and he was allowed to rejoin his brother. Iori breathed a sigh of relief once he was safely back in his seat.
Soon Iori reaches his destination at the end of the corridor and he quickly snaps himself out of his reminiscing. Beyond the set of double doors in front of him lies the briefing room, where he’ll be assigned his first case as an official hunter. Steeling himself, Iori prepares to be summoned inside and sure enough, a voice calls out for him to open the door. Stepping inside, Iori finds two senior hunters along with a frantic-looking red-haired boy, who Iori can only assume is the client, sitting at a table in the sparsely furnished room. Upon hearing Iori enter the room, the boy glances over briefly and then turns back to two hunters.
“Why did you call someone like him here?” The boy asks with a look of confusion on his face. He eyes Iori uncertainly, and his words are well-meaning but tactless. “No offense, but I need a hunter to help me and this kid doesn’t look any older than I am.”
An annoyed expression flickers across Iori’s face, and he opens his mouth to correct the boy when one of the senior hunters begins speaking instead. “He may look young, but we assure you that he is a certified hunter. He wears the uniform of the Hunter’s Agency and graduated at the top of his class.” The hunter then nods to Iori to introduce himself.
“My name is Iori Izumi, division one, crossbow specialist.” Iori says with trained politeness. Then turning so that he is directly facing the boy, “As a hunter of the Agency, I pledge my upmost support in aiding you with whatever task you require assistance with. If I may ask, what is your name? It will be difficult to communicate if I don’t have something to refer to you by.”
“Oh, I completely forgot to introduce myself!” the boy says while making an apologetic expression and scratching the back of his head. “I’m Riku Nanase! Sorry for doubting you, Iori. I guess I was just expecting someone who looked…uh…more experienced,” he finished nervously.
Before Iori is able to ask what Riku means by “more experienced” the senior hunters begin speaking again. “Riku, please brief Izumi-kun about the request that you have for the Agency.”
“Oh, right. My older brother, Tenn-nii, has gone missing and I’m sure that vampires are involved! I need you to help me find him and-” Riku has barely started with his explanation when Iori is already motioning for him to stop.
“Not to be disrespectful, Nanase-san, but how can you be certain that your brother’s disappearance is related to vampires?” Iori takes in the well-maintained but visibly worn clothes that Riku is wearing before continuing, “There are other plausible explanations for why someone would go missing in such a well-fortified city as the Capital.”
Riku proves to be sharper than Iori gave him credit for and angrily retorts, “If you’re going to imply that we owe money and that he got dragged off by loan sharks, then I highly doubt it. You said you would take this seriously and already you don’t believe what I am telling you!”
Iori can hear his own voice rising in volume. “You know just as well as I do that vampires have not set foot in this city for the past five hundred years. Perhaps you should take that into consideration before you come to the Agency with these absurd…”
Iori doesn’t get to finish his sentence before one of the senior hunters cuts him off. “Izumi-kun,” the older hunter says with forced patience, “That is no way to speak to a potential client. Behaving in such a way shames not only yourself, but also the entire Agency by extension.”
Iori immediately falls silent and turns an exceptionally bright shade of red. His face burns with embarrassment as he realizes that he’s lost control of his temper, and that he’s botched his first mission before it has even begun. Iori wills himself to calm down before addressing Riku and the senior hunters again. “Please pardon my transgression, Nanase-san. I promise that such an outburst will not happen again. I take full responsibility for my actions and ask that you blame me, not the Agency.”
Despite his previous anger, Riku feels a little bad for Iori as he watches the other boy get scolded. “Hey, don’t worry about it! Iori is right about how my explanation sounded kind of far-fetched. Anyway, moving on with what I was talking about earlier, I am certain that vampires are involved because Ten-nii went missing after going to sell blood.”
To Iori the connection still sounded extremely tenuous at best. It was common knowledge that the country they lived in had an established treaty with the vampire kingdom to the east to exchange human blood for crops and other necessities. This blood often came from the Capital’s poorer residents, who would receive monetary compensation for their donation. While the collection stations were staffed by government-appointed doctors and guarded by trained soldiers, they were often located in seedier districts where disappearances were commonplace. Iori doubted that vampires had managed, beyond all odds, to breach the protections of the Capital just to kidnap an ordinary boy. Rather, he thought it was much more likely that Riku’s brother had been ambushed sometime on his way to and back from selling blood by street thugs. Honestly, if someone had told Iori back when he was a trainee that his first case would involve such a preposterous situation, he probably would have laughed. However, in light of his recent outburst, Iori elected to take a different approach.
“I see where your suspicions are coming from, Nanase-san. Given what you have told us, I think it would be good for us to look into all of the collection stations that your brother could have visited.” Iori says calmly.
This seems to encourage Riku who responds by happily saying, “Yeah, that sounds like a good first place to start! Good thinking, Iori. If we head out now, we can visit at least three of them before it gets dark.” With that, Riku stands up, walks to the door, and waves for Iori to follow. Iori waits for his superiors to dismiss him with a nod before following Riku out of the briefing room.
Once the door had closed again and the pair was safely out of hearing distance, the pair of senior hunters began cackling loudly. Wiping tears from his eyes, one of them turns to the other and chokes out, “I can’t believe such a perfect case came up for us to shove on that upstart rookie! What sort of idiot actually believes that vampires can infiltrate the capital?” The man’s partner howls with mirth, “The extremely dense kind, apparently! That Riku kid is the biggest dumbass I’ve ever seen, and he’ll drag Izumi around the whole city before he accepts that his precious brother was just knifed in an alleyway or something! And even better, Izumi lost his temper just like we thought he would. He’ll have a lot of explaining to do for his little hissy fit and why he wasted so much time taking on a clearly worthless case!”
The two continued to laugh as Iori and Riku set off on their investigation.