FIVE golden rings, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves and… a vampire in a bizarre dream? It was five days before Christmas. Tristan should have been dreaming of sugarplum fairies or some silly bullshit like that. Instead, he was dreaming of an arctic wasteland.
The tall American was standing in an endless landscape of shimmering white, cutouts of mountains in the background obscured slightly by the forest of bamboo all around him. Visibly, he was alone. And yet, as he stood knee deep in the snow he couldn’t even feel, he had the eerie and undeniable feeling of being watched. There were eyes on him, it wasn’t his imagination. And with that gut feeling he just knew he was in a vampire’s dream.
A surge of anxiety rushed through him to pool in his middle where he carried a cold burn, an icy tingling sensation he felt whenever he was in vampire’s presence. So when he opened his eyes and saw the glowing silver eyes staring at him from the end of the bed combined with the burn in his belly, he knew he was in trouble.
“Fuck me!” Fully awake now, Tristan bolted upright, reaching for his gun. His hand slapping down onto the floor next to his sleep mat was like the smack of thunder. The gun was gone and he cursed again, scrambling back when the vampire moved for him. Seconds before his head slammed into the wall he realized his blunder. That, sure it wasn’t Ash, but he knew who this vampire was. And while she could be exceptionally dangerous, she wasn’t a threat to Tristan. Not since he last checked anyway…
“Yuki,” he hissed, rubbing the back of his head where it’d made good friends with the plaster. “Jesus... fuck. The hell are you doing here?” The evening had only just started, but he’d had enough surprises already. It was never a good night when the first word spoken after having just woke was a curse. Or, you know, Yuki was sitting on his bed.
Yuki laughed, the soft chime of tiny bells lark she had. No matter how many times she subjected him to that laugh, Tristan was never ready for the way it made him feel. He shivered under the force of her vampiric voice and shut his eyes, reveling in the sensation of fingers expertly coaxing his pleasure and wishing he could have denied it at the same time.
The bed moved and his eyes shot open again. Yuki was on her hands and knees slowly crawling up Tristan’s body. Her almond shaped eyes shimmered with pleasure, thin lips curled into a disgusting smile.
“Kon-ban-wa, Ryōshi-san,” Yuki drawled in her sultry thick Japanese accent.
Tristan hated his new nickname “Hunter” but it was only slightly better than danshi—child.
“If it is fucks you are interested in, I am more than glad I came by.”
She may have been over a thousand years old, but her body belonged to a child, a girl of fourteen at the time of her death. Her vampire transformation locked her into an eternal young woman—a child with the hunger and desires of an adult. Tristan wanted nothing to do with her, sexually or otherwise.
Yuki paused over his waist, giving him a huge grin that bared her long fangs, speeding his pulse up. “Don’t you want to play, Ryōshi-san?” She stuck her bottom lip out in an exaggerated pout. “You hurt my feelings...”
“You need a soul to have feelings,” he answered.
A shadow behind Yuki moved and then the short blade of a tantō was pressed across her delicate throat. The ancient vampire chuckled, turning her head enough to look over her shoulder. “Asta-chan, so nice of you to join us.”
Ash’s voice was scratchy and low when she answered, “That is enough of that, Yukihime. Do not touch him.”
“Why?” the little vampire said looking pouty again. “It’s not like you are… He’s not yours to be selfish with, you know. He’s completely unclaimed like this, a precarious thing… Perhaps I will claim him myself.”
Tristan frowned at the ancient nut-job wearing the guise of a young girl, sitting on his bed.
Ash’s hand slipped and she nicked Yuki’s throat. “No one will be claiming anyone, Yukihime.”
“Keep your chopsticks to yourself,” Tristan chimed in.
Yuki sat back slowly, carefully, putting her hands up in the air, showing she wasn’t a danger.
Who the fuck is she kidding? Even someone as “docile” as Ash was a danger.
“No?” the old vampire asked sounding disappointed. “What a pity. What’s the point then, Asta-chan?”
Ash hissed in Greek under her breath, something Tristan had heard many times and wondered if she weren’t really cursing. Even in the dark he could see her hand trembling, fighting herself not to cut the vampire deeper. And as much as Tristan liked the idea of no more Yuki…
“Ash,” he said in a warning tone and she removed the blade from the Master vampire’s throat with a huff.
“There are many points that do not involve fangs, Master.”
Yuki put a hand to her mouth and giggled. “Asta-chan always tells the funniest jokes. Don’t you think so, Ryōshi-san?” Yuki looked to him, letting her gaze run down his body, drinking in his naked flesh from neck to waist where the sheets had piled a little too low in his lap. Clear eyes lingered south. Somehow, he didn’t think she was looking at his fit waistline or the shiny new scars, courtesy of Malik and his minions.
Tristan cleared his throat loudly. “Up here,” he said and she returned her gaze to his face, smiling wickedly.
“You’re not sleeping together.” She made it a statement as if she expected to see the two in bed together, actually sleeping or something more intimate.
He frowned, making a dirty face at the ancient vampire. But he knew she meant sex and not actual sleep. And it was true, they weren’t doing either together. Ever since a kiss that Ash insisted never should have happened, there’d been nothing physical between them. Well, he did manage to steal a few small, closed-mouth kisses from her on impulse, but things never went further than that. Being an Uruwashi, and the last, was way more complicated than he cared for.
Safe sex with a vampire had nothing to do with birth control pills and condoms, and everything to do with not getting bitten and drained. And in Tristan’s case, turned into a vampire too and more. Even the smallest of cuts mixed with a simple drop of vampiric saliva could be enough to turn him into something not quite human, nor wholly monster. As it was, right then, he was only human… for as far as he could stretch the term anyway. And thanks to that fucking psychopath Malik, he was the last of whatever he was. Okay, he was comfortable enough to call himself Uruwashi if nothing else, only because he didn’t know the full extent of what the classification “Uruwashi” really meant aside of being the Beautiful Death.
After nearly dying more times than he could count, Tristan had convinced himself the best way to live was to die—to be bitten and become a true Uruwashi in more than just title. Tristan didn’t trust any other vampire but Ash to do the deed. Only, she refused. Because, if things went wrong, there was a slim chance he wouldn’t survive the transformation at all. That was the only reason he could think of that she would so adamantly refuse. She was afraid of killing the last of a clan meant to protect unsuspecting humans from the monsters of the night. Though, Tristan wasn’t naive enough to believe that was the full reason.
Whatever her reasons, having her around was… complicated. He was sure she felt for him the way he felt for her, but she was constantly acting as though she didn’t and looking pained for it. She was obviously doing it to help repress her physical urge for him—whether it be blood or sex. He got that, but it still aggravated, confused and hurt him.
Tristan huffed, furrowing his brow. “That is none of your goddamn business,” he said, referring to their sex life. “Princess.”
Yuki threw back her head and laughed a full-throated, fangy laugh. For once she didn’t put the power into that laugh that made him shudder and sway. Ash never did that to him. He wasn’t sure if that was a good or bad thing.
The ancient vampire pulled to her feet, standing over him. Looking smug, she crossed her arms over her tiny chest and looked down at him. It was just above freezing outside, but she was dressed in next to nothing, wearing a tiny tank top of thin silk. A matching skirt of the same soft pink silk covered in darker pink and maroon cherry blossom flowers hugged her non-existent hips. A long slit ran up each leg, stopping at her very upper thigh. And if everyone were very lucky, the old loon remembered her underpants this time—a tiny detail she’d forgotten more than once in the past. Oh, and no shoes. Come to think on it, in all the time he’d known her, Tristan was sure he’d never seen her in a single pair of shoes. Ash seemed to like hers enough.
“Why are you here?” Ash snapped from her place kneeling between Tristan’s feet.
The old vampire climbed off the bed and stopped to face Ash, tapping the side of her nose, looking haughty. Yuki showed up often when Ash and Tristan were practicing kendo just outside of town. But never once had the old vamp been to the apartment. Tristan didn’t even realize she knew where they lived. He was only in town still because he had nowhere to go back to at “home”. He canceled the lease on his apartment when he left and he couldn’t bear with the idea of living in his parent’s home, the house he grew up in, again. Not with the memories of them still humming within. Ash, ever thoughtful, offered to find them accommodations in the U.S. that would suit both their needs—whatever those were. There were land rights and blueprints involved, then some building. Until then, they were stuck with Yuki in Japan. Tristan was starting to wonder though if it would be worth it to leave now and rent something in the interim…
Ash shut her eyes and sighed as the millennia old vampire marched out of the room, nose in the air. Alone together, Tristan and Ash looked at one another. They slept in completely different ways. Tristan preferred the freedom of sleeping in the buff, sprawled out on his Japanese mat pressed into the corner of his shoebox room. Ash preferred to wrap herself up in a cocoon of layers, clothes and blankets, curled up on the floor of his closet with the doors shut and sealed from the light. Every day the reality of their natures became even clearer: they were complete opposites.
Maybe they just weren’t meant to be.
Ash, having heard a glimpse of the thought, quickly turned away, movements stiff.
“Ash,” Tristan called out softly and dove out of bed, grabbing her wrist.
Reluctantly, she turned around to face him.
“You know, I don’t really feel that way.” He brushed a bit of hair from her forehead, fingers trailing along her skin. “Right?” He was just so frustrated and as honest as he was, he still had a hard time telling Ash in plain words how he really felt.
But she knew all too well his feelings, read them from his mind more clearly than he’d ever be able to speak them. “I know,” she answered gently, but still pulled away from his close proximity, from his delicate touch. It really was almost too much to bear. Her eyes strayed south... That didn’t help either.
Seeing where her eyes had landed, Tristan grinned and turned away to get dressed. Ash cleared her throat and went to the mirror hanging on the shower room door to tidy her hair. Not that she ever moved, not even a twitch in her sleep, to tussle it.
“So, you don’t know why she’s here?”
Ash glanced at Tristan through the mirror, catching a flash of naked backside seconds before he pulled boxers up. “I cannot even make a fair guess. Honestly, I had not known she knew where to find us, or cared for that matter.” Not that it was hard to find the only semi-permanent tall gaijin in town.
He nodded, turning around as he fastened the button on his jeans. “Same.” He stopped, grinning when he saw the look on Ash’s face, eyes fixed on his half-naked body. One thing was clear to him, that she thought he was hot. So what was stopping her from indulging, just a little? Sure they couldn’t kiss too deeply, safely, but they could have fun other ways. Hell, talking would have been nice at this point, you know, sharing n’ shit.
Ash looked up slowly, taking in every inch of bare flesh. She was breathing heavy and under all those thick layers of clothing, her nipples hardened. Pale eyes full of heat met Tristan’s dark blues and he smiled, taking a step towards her. She could lie to him, hell, she could lie to herself, but her body always told the truth.
He reached out and when she didn’t instinctively pull away, he lightly touched her cheek. Then smoothed his fingers across her cold skin, leaving hot trails and slipping back into her hair. Again, she didn’t resist as he wrapped an arm around her waist and pulled her against him. She wanted this, but was always so afraid of taking things too far.
The hand in her hair trailed down until he slipped fingers into the collar of her top and traced around to caress along her collarbone. Ash’s eyes fluttered shut as a shudder tore its way down her back. He smiled that smile he had only for her. It held depth, longing and... something more. Something he didn’t dare give a name to. Not when she tried so hard to deny that same something.
Why couldn’t they just find a safe middle ground? Somewhere they could be comfortable with each other that wasn’t completely off, which was pretty much how they were operating now. If he couldn’t touch her, get just a little closer to her, he was going to lose his mind. Or have to leave for good.
Tristan leaned in and whispered her name across her face. He could taste her gentle scent, the delicate flavor of sweet oranges and creamy vanilla, she was so close, mouth hovering less than an inch from his. He could stick his tongue out and lick along her lip and he was dying to do just that. He got as close as his lips brushing over hers before she snapped her head back. She looked angry as she stepped away from him, shaking her head.
He let out a dismayed sigh and then, then he got angry. “Why?”
Ash stopped at the door and turned to look at him. “Pardon?”
“Why do you keep pushing me away like this?” He realized, without even having to speak aloud, that on the other side of the thin paper wall, Yuki could hear him. He really couldn’t give a fuck. Two months of confusion were finally getting the best of him. He thought Ash felt something for him, but every action since moving in together said otherwise. Hell, she flirted more when Tristan still thought she was a he.
“If you cannot understand something so simple, perhaps we are better off—”
“Ash,” he snapped. “Don’t. Okay? Just don’t. I get it. I really do, but this isn’t the way to go about it.”
“I am sure I do not know what you mean.”
Tristan made an aggravated noise, hands in his hair. “God! Why the hell are you even here? I swear, you’re just—” He stopped suddenly, looking more than a little alarmed as his eyes darted behind her.
Ash frowned, taking a step back. His thoughts cut off as sharply as his mouth. All she could hear now from him was a jumble of confusion and alarm. “What?”
His brow furrowed, eyes going towards the other room. “What the hell is that?”
“What? I—” Ash took a step towards him, looking up at him in wonderment.
“That,” he said, pointing towards the other room. “What the fuck is that? Is there someone else here?”
Ash’s eyes widened. “You can sense her?” Ash knew the moment she woke that Yukihime was in the apartment and not alone. But Tristan was only human. No, that wasn’t entirely right either was it? He was half Uruwashi, a virgin Uruwashi at that. While he could feel Yukihime, she was at the fringe of his ability, making her presence just a tiny little spark in his middle. And the other one…
It was Tristan’s turn to frown. “Why wouldn’t I be able to feel a vampire?” That’s what it had to be right? Too bad it really didn’t feel like one. The other was... more alive, warmer. Thicker and heavier.
“The other one is not a vampire, Tristan.” Very much the opposite.
His frown deepened, not liking where this was going. “Well, I feel something.”
Ash licked her lips, expression guarded. “It is Lilith.”
He gave a start. “The pythia? Why the hell do I feel her?” He didn’t feel her the one time they met before… did he? Then again, he was on the complete opposite side of the lawn from her and half dead.
Ash shook her head. “I cannot say.”
“Can’t or won’t?” he asked, narrowing his eyes at her. He trusted her, but didn’t entirely believe everything she said. She had this way with the truth and not telling it so clearly.
“I truly do not know.”
He shut his eyes and groaned, thinking he didn’t like the idea of feeling the pythia. That he was changing.
“Perhaps Shishō knows why.” Why else would she bring the girl?
“Great,” Tristan sighed. He really wasn’t having a good night and it’d only just started. “Listen, Ash about what I said before…”
“We should go out there. I do not trust her alone.”
He screwed up his mouth for a moment and then nodded. “Yeah, yeah okay. I’d rather she didn’t do something weird like make a hat out of what’s left of my sofa cushions.” Besides, he wanted to officially meet the pythia, even if he was completely weirded out by being able to sense her.
Ash’s expression went dark. It bothered her just as much, if not more than him, that he could sense her. She had a close, personal understanding of the pythia and knew such a thing was, in a word, impossible. Without speaking any of her concerns aloud, Ash pushed open the panel separating the main living space from the bedroom. Tristan heaved a sigh, grabbed a shirt and followed after her.
The main room of the apartment was simple and way too small for four people to be in. The place was barely big enough for him, let alone two vampires, even if one was the size of a kid, and the pythia, who was a child herself. Though, despite the small city he lived in, the apartment was considered a palace at almost 320 square feet. Being a gaijin, foreigner, he was lucky they even rented to him. Having money helped in the smaller towns.
Back in October, the place had been trashed when Malik’s people—read: vampires—had come looking for him. They went batshit and tore the place apart, wrecking just about everything he owned including his laptop and iPod. The only thing that survived was a one-cushion sofa, the other cushion having found its miserable end at the hands of a mad vampire; a small computer desk with no computer and the room divider. The rest of the furniture consisted of a few cheap lamps he picked up to replace the ones they broke and a new bed mat. What was the point of buying more furniture if they were leaving soon? Well, he hoped it was soon. Apparently not soon enough to avoid a special visit from the thousand-year-old Master vampire, Mizu no Yukihime.
The old vamp had found herself a spot lounging on the remaining sofa cushion, arms laid out across the back like she owned the place. One thin leg was crossed over the other, exposing all of the bright white paleness of her skin from toes to hip. And Tristan could confirm that she did in fact remember her panties tonight. Hurray for everyone.
She was perfectly at home, watching him with her eerie, crystalline eyes as he entered the room behind Ash. Tristan flinched, almost stopped in his tracks when his gaze found the pythia. Lilith stood in the corner, wrapped head to toe in a thick black velvet cape. Her face was masked in the deep shadow of the hood. She was like a mini Grim Reaper lurking in the corner like that. It took everything in him not to stare and gape.
Ash on the other hand did stop and stare. This was the closest she’d been to the girl in over fifty years. They had a past, these two, one that haunted Ash every day she slept and was left at the mercy of her own mind.
“Kore wa...” Yuki started in Japanese. She was searching for the least offensive word in English to use. “...kawayui—charming, little place you have here. I don’t understand why you two didn’t take my generous offer, Tristan.”
He snapped to attention on Yuki, but opted to stay quiet, ignore her bait. But Yuki wasn’t playing along. She never played fairly.
“Asta-chan, you of all people… sleeping in a closet? On the floor? How… simple of you.” Yuki talked as if the words were dirty, like they tasted bad on her tongue.
Shortly after the pair finished off Malik, Yuki had so generously offered Tristan and Ash their very own, spacious suite in her home. They respectfully declined. While Ash had her own reasons, Tristan’s was far simpler. He hated them all. Yuki, Desmond, Lucien, that chick he ended up hitting and the dude who poked him in the ass with his boner… Every single vampire in that place was on his shit list.
That place was a total freak show. Besides, just walking in that home set his blood on edge. He knew now that the freezer burn, tingling, near-arousal he felt when near Ash was what he felt when he was near any vampire, a device of his kind. But, being only half, or less, Uruwashi meant that the vampire had to be practically on top of him. But with so many in such close proximity, like in Yuki’s place, the feeling was exponentially stronger, always on. He’d never leave his room, trying to, ahem, relieve the tension. Ash wasn’t about to help with that any time soon either and she was the only one he was interested being anywhere near him.
Ash made a small noise of surprise and looked to Tristan. He blinked back at her, realizing she’d heard him thinking. There was nothing he could do about it and stopped caring weeks ago what she heard. He had nothing to hide anymore. Mostly.
Yuki was watching the two, the corner of her lips curled up in amusement. She knew exactly what Tristan and Ash were both thinking and thought they were being all around childish.
Ash rallied herself, a task she’d done more times in her three-hundred-forty years than she could count. “Yukihime,” she started out in a harsh tone then softened it. “Shishō, what can we do for you this evening?”
The old vampire smirked, her clear eyes going to Tristan. She looked him up and down, taking in his tall, lean, shirtless figure. Her smirk spread wider, growing until she flashed the tip of one of her long, saber-tooth fangs. The look was one he was quickly becoming accustomed to from her—didn’t mean he liked it. She was thinking about what she’d do to him if Ash weren’t around. He stifled a shudder. And for the dozenth time, his gaze was drawn to the figure in the corner. She really moved that time, didn’t she?
“Chibi-san,” Yuki said, waving her hand at the pythia. “You are making Ryōshi-san nervous. Please, come sit.”
The caped figure moved, appearing to glide across the tatami. Tristan’s pulse suddenly jumped. Sweat started along his hairline, though it was anything but hot in the apartment. Lilith lifted a hand slowly. It was then that he noticed she was holding something in the other against the front of her body, a glass jar. Her hood slipped back, finally revealing her face.
This was the same child Tristan remembered seeing that night he killed Malik. She was the one Desmond had been escorting around like a rock star. While she looked to be only ten, that wasn’t her true from or age. The girl was several hundred years old, the privilege of being a pythia with an arsenal of spells at her disposal. Her brown hair was thick and curled around her porcelain face like a doll. And her eyes, they were a brilliant blue, the color of the sky on a cloudless day. Something about those eyes haunted him, came to him in dreams. And yet, he had this overwhelming sense every time he remembered those eyes to see them again. But now, instead of getting a glimpse of blue there was only a strip of black cloth, blindfolding her.
For some reason, he felt compelled to touch Ash. He reached out, stretching his arm to her and found her hand. She didn’t protest when he pulled her close, fingers still meshed together. “What is this?” he whispered to her.
For once, she couldn’t read his mind, the mixed jumble of thoughts, and shook her head. “What is—”
Tristan licked his lips nervously, shot Ash a look and then looked back up to Yuki, trying hard to not look at the little girl now sitting on the low side of the sofa where the cushion was missing. His breath came out shakier than he would have liked. “I… I knew there was someone here, when we were in the bedroom still, something--someone not human. But this is nothing like what I feel with you vampires. She’s... I don’t know.” He stopped, rubbing at the back of his neck nervously. He wasn’t sure he should have even been saying any of this. “Warmer. I can just feel her. It’s making me dizzy, nearly nauseous. I can’t remember ever feeling like this in my life.” He looked down to Ash again and whispered, “Is she really a pythia?”
Ash’s face was dead expressionless. She nodded once.
“Yuki?” he asked looking to her. “Care to explain?”
She put her arm around Lilith’s shoulders. “You are an enigma in yourself, Ryōshi-san.”
“That’s not an answer,” he grumbled. He looked to the little girl even though she couldn’t see him through that blindfold. Why was she even wearing it? “Do you know, Lilith?”
The little brunette said nothing, only moving her head up and down slowly once.
“Really?” Excited, he took a step towards her, Ash heavy on his arm since he refused to let go of her hand—a comfort of any. When Lilith said nothing more, he asked, “Well, um, do you mind telling me?”
“Sorry, Ryōshi-san,” Yuki said, “she will not speak.”
“Since when?” Ash asked a little too quickly.
Yuki tilted her head to the side, lips tight with something that might have been apprehension. “Shortly after I took her from Malik. The child spoke a cryptic message of crow, night and death... Since then, not a single word has been uttered...” Yuki reached behind the girl’s head, untied the blindfold and let it drop away. Ash and Tristan gasped together, their clasped hands squeezing tighter. “Two days later, I found her like this.”
“By the Goddess,” Ash whispered. She tugged on Tristan’s arm, pulling him against her side. Her free hand came up and held onto his arm a little too tightly. “She… she did this to herself?”
Yuki nodded, looking as dismayed as Tristan’d ever seen her.
The skin around Lilith’s eyes was jagged pink edges of healing flesh, her eyes were missing. Yuki had been kind enough to sew the damaged skin back together but it still looked raw and painful.
Yuki’s voice was soft and sad when she answered, “Hai. She tore her own eyes out with her fingers. The same day, she refused to speak again, and she will not leave my side, not even for a moment. She will not even heal the damage with a spell. She’d rather walk around like this. I had to sedate her just to sew the holes closed…”
Ash was moved to nearly tears. For all the time she knew the girl, she never imagined this would be her fate.
“Why?” Tristan asked softly. He was more disturbed than should have been and couldn’t say why. Only just that it really bothered him, on a personal level. He felt like he needed to cry for the girl though he didn’t even know her.
Yuki shook her head, her eyes shutting for a moment in remorse. “It is just something that happens to all pythia, in time.”
“What...” Ash had to stop to collect herself. “What were her words? What did she see?”
Yuki tied the blindfold over the girl’s missing eyes again and straightened, looking from Tristan, then to Ash. “The raven flies. The flower blossoms. The star falls. The earth shudders. Darkness awakens.”
The room was unnervingly silent as the others processed the words. To Tristan, they just sounded foreboding and ominous. For Ash however, she knew enough about the pythia to not jump to any one conclusion as their words could be taken in multitude of understandings. Ash wanted to believe the foretelling wasn’t as dark as it sounded. She could ask the girl and of anyone, Lilith would speak to her, she knew this without a doubt. But if Lilith was no longer speaking and no longer allowing others into her mind, what words could be had?
Tristan let out a long, shaky breath and whispered, “What the shit does that mean?”
“That, I don’t know.” Yuki smiled even as she shrugged lightly. “I don’t speak pythia.”
“Is this why you came, Yukihime?” Ash asked in a tiny voice.
The old vampire made a flippant gesture with her hand. “No. I thought perhaps that Lilith here could do with a change of scenery.”
Tristan frowned. Change of scenery? The girl couldn’t even see. And she did that to herself.
“You’re being cruel,” Ash whispered in Greek, sounding as if she might cry.
“Am I?” Yuki answered in her own language with a high lit to her tiny voice and shrugged again. “If you really want to know, why don’t you address her yourself, Asta-chan? She is still of her mind and such.”
“Dammit, Yuki,” Tristan snapped harsh enough to make Ash flinch. He didn’t understand what was going on or what they were saying without including him, just that he didn’t like it. “Quit fucking around. Tell us what you want and then get the hell out.”
He gave up long ago on being overly polite with the Snow Princess. The night he and Ash killed Malik, Tristan flicked off the old vamp and said more than a few rude things to her and she never retaliated. Yuki didn’t want him dead. Besides if she did, well, there wasn’t a hell of a lot either him or Ash could do about it then, was there? He accepted whatever was going to happen to him would happen. Besides he wasn’t going to put up with Yuki’s bullshit. He wasn’t afraid of her.
Yuki tossed her head back and laughed. “Ryōshi-san… brave brave Ryōshi-san. So you don’t fear me any longer?”
Feeling confident again and able to let Yuki distract him completely from the blind pythia, Tristan took his hand back from Ash and crossed his arms over his still bare chest, looking defiant. “No,” he answered plainly and honestly. She only creeped him out, that was a very different emotion from fear.
There was a whirl of motion around him seconds before something solid made contact with his upper body. His middle lit with cold burning energy, warning him that a very powerful vampire was way, way too close. Tristan took in a sharp breath, feeling the air fill every inch of his lungs, and blinked up into a face he never liked seeing so close. Yuki grimaced all fang at him, hot fingers pinching around his Adam’s apple, choking him. His eyes widened as he started to gag for air.
Next to him, Ash made a small, strangled sound. Tristan flinched and tried to look towards her, but the pressure on his windpipe kept him in place. Out of the corner of his vision he could see her pinned to the floor at his side, Yuki’s steel grasp immobilizing her. They were both at the mercy of the fickle, ancient vampire.
“What about now? Brave, brave, Uruwashi. Mattaku, you smell so... totemo oishii.” Yuki licked her lips, wetting them. Her expression shifted from hungry to put-off again. She harrumphed, tightening her fingers so that she cut off his air completely. “Do you fear this mad, old vampire now? Is the Uruwashi frightened yet?”
Tristan bucked under her, straining for air, his vision fogging already. He wanted to lift his arms, fling them outward and hit her, punch her right in the fucking face and deal with the repercussions later. But, for such a small person, she proved to be stronger and he couldn’t lift his arms from under her legs where she’d pinned them to his sides. He was helpless, like a butterfly to the flame against an eighty pound girl. And she was going to kill him if she didn’t let go soon. All she had to do was pinch her two little fingers together and crush his trachea, then dead Uruwashi on the rug.
“Yeeees, Ryōshi-san. You’re so very right. All I have to do is squeeze and your life would be mine... Mmmm, and I bet you taste...” She shuddered hard, her eyes fluttering.
She really did want to kill him.
“Yukihime!” Ash managed to scream with the sudden lessening of fingers pinching off her voice box.
The Uruwashi blood in Tristan suddenly shifted, the way he felt was the same, yet different. Something was about to happen, he just didn’t know what. Yuki’s fingers on his throat became impossibly cold, as if they were made of ice. Then, as if confirming his last thought, a thin layer of frost spread out around his neck, radiating from her hand. Tristan tried to suck in a gasp, shocked. Instead, he kicked, bucking under the vampire, his eyes wide and wild as the ice started to enclose his entire neck all the way around. He could feel the cold all through his throat and into his mouth. His chest started to burn from the inside out.
Next to him, Ash’s writhing doubled. She tried to kick out, take the Master vampire in the head, but Yuki saw the move coming and blocked it. She warned Ash in gravelly Japanese to mind her manners or she’d be under Yuki’s scrutiny next. Reluctant, having to believe that Yuki wouldn’t really kill Tristan, Ash forced herself still, eyes welling with frustrated tears.
The small vampire gave a little huff. “Tadashi…,” Yuki drawled out, looking whimsical as the ice ceased to spread, “if I were to do something as silly as kill you, I think perhaps I could find much more interesting ways of doing so.” She smiled and leaned over Tristan, letting her top sag open, showing him that she wasn’t wearing anything under the thin fabric. Not that there was much under there to show off.
He groaned, his eyes starting to roll back. His whole face was tingling now, the pull of unconsciousness just moments from winning. Yuki huffed, pouting her lip out in an over-exaggerated display and opened both hands as she pulled to her feet over him. Tristan drew in a deep, gasping breath, the air burning all the way down his throat, pulling fire made of sharp ice into his lungs. Yuki stepped away and he coughed a few times as the fresh air filled him and rolled to his side, curling up into a ball.
Ash immediately reached for him, touched his face. “Are you okay?”
He nodded, unable to speak just yet. He’d live anyway.
“You are sure?” she asked a little more gently and he looked up finally, meeting her gaze. There were unspent tears lingering at the corners of her eyes. No matter how many times Tristan’d seen it, twice now to be exact, he was sure he’d never get used to seeing the red-tinted tears of the vampire. They literally wept blood.
“Yeah,” he answered in a scratchy voice. “Thanks.”
She gave him a small smile and sat up. And he said a silent thanks that she was okay, not even breathing heavy. Two months around vampires and Tristan wasn’t sure if they really needed to breathe or if it was just for show. He was starting to suspect the latter.
Tristan rubbed at his sore throat. The thin layer of ice brushed away easily, coming off in his hand. He stood, putting his back to the room and grabbed his shirt from where he’d dropped it on the empty computer desk and pulled it on. It didn’t make him feel as safe as he wanted.
When he turned around again, Yuki had taken up her seat again next to Lilith, looking statuesque, albeit smug. Tristan couldn’t help but glare at her as the last of the pain in his lungs dissipated. His throat throbbed with cold burn, but he wouldn’t give Yuki the satisfaction of letting it show.
“Okay,” Tristan said with his irritated voice. “You’ve made your point.”
The little vampire raised a single white eyebrow at him. “Honto ka?” For once her normal bantering tone was replaced with something dry and sharp.
He sighed and leaned into Ash when she wrapped an arm around his waist.
“Well,” Yuki said, “I hope my point is perfectly clear to you both because I have a job for you.”
“Pass,” Tristan answered without a second’s hesitation.
Yuki titled her head. “You have yet to hear my request.”
His posture shifted to stand-offish again. He was growing indignant, he couldn’t help it. Yuki just pissed him off. “I’ll listen, doesn’t mean I accept.” He was just lying to himself. If there was a vampire out there hurting humans, he’d feel obligated as the last Uruwashi to take care of the problem. Even if it killed him.
Yuki sat back against the couch and crossed her legs. Next to her, the pythia suddenly moved, mirroring the Master vampire’s gesture. Nothing could have freaked Tristan out more than that one little motion. Yuki smirked. “I think you will both thoroughly enjoy this hunt.”
Nothing with Yuki was exactly as she said. There was always a hook and maybe even nasty teeth too. There was always a catch. Something she says they’d enjoy was more likely to mean something that she’d enjoy watching them struggle with.
Tristan heaved a deep sigh and muttered out, “Christ, I’m going to fucking regret this aren’t I…?” Straightening, he asked, “Who?
The old vampire put on a broad grin. “Lucien.”