Ash made a rude noise and before Tristan could ask what was wrong she snapped, “Had I not warned you?” She let go of Tristan, jumping forward in challenge. “Fifty years ago, I told you. I told you he was not to be trusted. That he was dangerous. I told you!”
Yuki only gave Ash a condescending smile in return. Tristan though, was pleasantly shocked. He’d never seen Ash so loose-tongued with the ancient vampire. Maybe he was rubbing off on her more than he realized—in a bad way, obviously. After that little stunt Yuki just pulled though, it probably wasn’t a good idea to keep poking at her… no matter how much Tristan couldn’t help himself.
“Lucien?” Tristan said, jumping into the conversation. “This the same asshole who barged into Ash’s home back in October and—” He stopped short. He couldn’t put it into words, because honestly he wasn’t so sure really whether Lucien took from Ash or she was a willing participant in whatever happened behind those closed doors. All Tristan knew for sure was that there was the exchange of fluids, mostly Ash’s blood. Oh right, and that they’d “been lovers once”. Her words.
“Ee,” Yuki confirmed, drawing out the word. And he knew by the dirty smile that she’d just heard all of his thoughts. She knew exactly what he was thinking. She knew Tristan wanted to hurt Lucien regardless of what the vampire may have done to get himself on the shit list. “Lucien Lefèvre.”
“Lefe…” He had a last name? It struck Tristan as really odd that a vampire would have a last name. Then again, they were, after all, once human. It stood to reason that they all had more than the single names he’d come to know them all by. Until learning Ash’s real name, he just assumed they all adopted single name pseudonyms, like Cher or Madonna. He wondered what Ash’s last name was, if she even remembered it after three-hundred and forty years.
Ash cleared her throat softly next to him, shifting on her feet.
Tristan sighed, knowing he was going to regret asking, “Okay, so why do you want me to kill Lucien? I don’t think being a certified asshole is enough reason, not for me anyway.” In truth, he wasn’t sure what his requirements were. Malik and his summons, the jikininki, where the only things he’d killed so far. He had yet to sit down and decide what was the line between one death or two for the vampire. And did his services extend past the vampire, because he was pretty sure there were a lot of “others” out there he’d yet to knowingly encounter.
“It’s seems I’ve run into some… issues with the dear boy.”
“Issues?” he asked crossing his arms over his chest.
“He went rogue.”
Yuki was starting to look agitated as she crossed one bird leg over the other, flashing the others her crotch. Tristan groaned, rolling his eyes, but was thankful to whoever invented modern undergarments and that she’d worn them for once.
“He killed three dozen of my vampires.”
Tristan flinched back, shocked at the large number. He knew there was a lot in Yuki’s home, he just never expected there to be that many.
Ash wasn’t surprised in the least.
“Okay… and tell me why I should care. They were vampires, not humans.”
Yuki’s mouth screwed up in a look that was almost sorrow. Almost. “Ash is right, he is dangerous.”
This shocked both of them, hearing Yuki speak so plainly, truthfully and with Ash’s preferred name. It wasn’t like the Snow Princess at all.
“Perhaps I should start from the very beginning.” Yuki sighed, wholly unbecoming of her and sat back on the sofa. Tristan flinched when Lilith moved with her. He’d all but forgotten about the blind, mute pythia. He was unnerved all over again.
“In 1839 Malik found himself in France.”
Tristan made a rude noise through his teeth. He should have known Ash’s dead Master vampire was involved somehow.
“It was the same year Lucien was made into a vampire by Hi no Guinevere.”
“He?” Tristan asked, pronouncing the word as he heard it.
The vampire next to him softly answered, “Fire.”
He frowned and looked down to Ash. There was something in her voice he couldn’t place.
“Wait, just how many different types of vampires are there?” He never asked before because it wasn’t relevant. It was pure luck really that no one--no vampires had come for him yet. Word of Malik’s death had made it to the others, according to Yuki, but the validity of a real Uruwashi had yet to be made. He was still fable. And, thankfully, hadn’t been forced to kill since Malik. He agreed to take the reins as an Uruwashi, he just didn’t know how far he’d go to hold onto them.
A thought hit him and he frowned at the simplicity of it. Yuki was water, Ash earth. Therefore… “Oh. There’re four elements.” It seemed so simple and he felt pretty stupid for not noticing it before. Then again, it wasn’t like Ash was shoving the abilities of her kind in his face. He had no idea the extent of her strength, her true vampiric strength.
Yuki sat up straighter, stiffening her back. Next to her, Lilith did the same. “Chigau, go. Five, Ryōshi-san. Five elements.”
“Uh, yeah, last time I checked there were only four.” Not unless they were talking about his favorite movie. Damn, he felt like watching it now.
“Naïve again, Ryōshi-san.”
God, he hated it when she called him “Hunter”, a constant reminder of what he was supposed to be. Then again it was better than calling him a flat-out murderer, which he was now.
“Ah, but I suppose the last isn’t so much as an element as…” She paused, searching for the right word before coming up with, “Spiritual.”
“I don’t get it.”
Ash gave a little sigh next to him. “Earth, water, fire, wind and void. Sometimes one refers to it as sora, sky.”
He offered her a small smile. “Sorry, darlin’, that doesn’t help.”
Yuki gave that sigh again, the one that just didn’t fit her. In truth, this was the most docile he’d seen her since meeting her over two months ago. And that’s including the attack tonight. “In truth, I don’t entirely understand the power myself. Kū is the rarest and most obscure vampire ability. In my 1090 years on this earth I have yet to meet a single kū user. I often wonder sometime if it isn’t one of those… what are they called, old wives tales? Hai, like vampire folk lore.”
Tristan’s pulse sped up with her words. One-thousand-ninety-years... He realized that she was old, very old, but something about her spelling it out down to the year was... unsettling.
“Okay, okay. We’re getting off topic here.”
“Hardly,” Ash said sounding sour.
Tristan took a step away from to look at her more clearly. She was standing near the edge of his desk, arms wrapped around her middle, hugging herself. Her expression was grim. He knew Yuki wouldn’t let anyone read her mind, so there was no way Ash knew what was going on. So what was making her so glum?
She slowly looked up and met his eyes with her intense gaze. Those eyes alone always said so much to hum, the pale crystal amethyst color that they were. They were always full of much emotion, words unspoken. Too bad he didn’t speak their language.
“Each element is the vampire’s base power. Such as Shisho’s power over water. She wields it as she pleases and easily turns it into ice or steam. However, in addition to that base power, three of the four known houses possess a special summons, kōmajutsu. You saw the House of Earth’s in the form of the jikininki.”
Tristan’s jaw tightened. He’d had enough of those stinking man-eating demons to last a lifetime. If they weren’t fed on the corpse of the recently dead, then they looked like rotting zombies. But if they’d eaten recently, within the day, then… well, then they could fool horny American’s into thinking they were real. That’s what happened to him anyway.
“Okay, so this is the part where I ask, ‘which house doesn’t have a special summons?’” Like he couldn’t figure it out now.
Yuki giggled and Ash frowned. “Very good, Tristan, you play the game so well. I am growing so very fond of you Uruwashi folk.” She petted the pythia’s hands and lap. Her own little doll.
Yuki giggled again, but it was Ash that answered for her.
“Right.” The foreplay was starting to get on his nerves. “I don’t know, but it seems to me like that they are less dangerous than you water and earth users…” He looked from one vampire to the other. Ash ignored the prod, but Yuki grinned big, bearing saber-tooth fangs.
“Oh, Ryōshi-san, don’t misunderstand… I am very, very dangerous.” Her grin washed away and was replaced with a deep frown. “But the fire user is just that much more powerful. They are the most dangerous of us all.” Now, that wasn’t the whole truth either. But that was a tale for another day. Yuki couldn’t afford to scare off the last Uruwashi before he’d even had a chance to get his feet wet. Going after Lucien was the perfect chance to whet many things.
“Fire is complete, kiyomeru—purifying and kills us so easily. It doesn’t take much to burn us and once we start to burn, we do not put out so easily. It is why we burn our dead.”
“To make sure they are truly dead,” Ash added, thoughts drifting to the night she burned her Master and relished every second of it.
Tristan snorted. “You just mean they are dangerous to you. Vampires.”
Yuki’s expression went cold. “They are not to be taken lightly.”
Okay, so the look and the tone made him think twice about the seriousness of the situation. While he hated Lucien, it wasn’t enough reason for him to kill the kid. Lucien only killed others of his kind so as far as Tristan was concerned, they weren’t human—so why did it matter if they were dead? Lucien did Tristan’s job for him, really. He looked down to Ash and frowned. No. No, it did matter. They may not have been human, but they were real.
Ash’s voice was soft and distant when she spoke again. “I… I remember the night Malik returned from slaying Lucien’s Master, Guinevere.” She shuddered hard and he wondered what memory she was seeing again. “He was so... the burns, they went terribly deep. Some still smoldered upon his flesh, unable to put out fully.” She let out a breath, something dark in her eyes as she recalled that night. “I still do not know how he survived such extensive damage.”
Tristan went to her and put a hand on her shoulder in silent support. She shook her head to say it was fine.
“So, how did Lucien end up with you if you aren’t his Master?”
“Ah well, back to the beginning—Malik was in France to kill Guinevere. She was one of the last Master fire users. It was just her, and a single fledgling, Lucien in her home. She did have one other that was never found and suspected long dead. Malik had it in his mind that being a fire user, the line needed to end for fear of retaliation against his own kind. After killing Guinevere, a gentle creature really, Lucien was offered a choice. Die or serve Malik. Truly, I think he just meant to take Lucien as his own all along, but needed help in killing Guinevere, for as gentle as she was, she was also fiercely protective of those she loved.”
“Why does everything keep going back to Malik?”
“It is the fate of our kind,” Ash said softly. “We are all irrevocably bound to one another.” She looked up and met his gaze. “Whether we wish it or not.”
Tristan let out a long sigh. He wanted to hold her in that moment, comfort her, take away all the bad in her past. But she didn’t want that.
“How did you end up with Lucien then?” he asked, looking at Yuki again.
She titled her head to the side, giving him a sly sort of glare. “I take what I want.”
He rolled his eyes, trying to resist going across the room, grabbing the child sized vampire and shaking the shit out of her. “So where is he now?”
Yuki cracked a smile. “Furansu.”
“Of course he is,” Tristan muttered and then sighed. “Okay, so say I take the job, track him all the way down in France and kill him, what are you giving me in return?”
“In return?” Yuki raised an eyebrow high in amusement. “Ryōshi-san, I have already given you your reward.”
“You haven’t told me shit.” That wasn’t entirely true. Just half an hour ago he didn’t know that vampires had four--five elemental powers and that the fire line was all but extinct and the most dangerous of them all. He was a vampire hunter and yet didn’t know shit about them. He should really work on that. If only Ash weren’t so damn tightlipped.
“I will pay for all of your travel and medical expenses, of course.”
“Oh, well, how generous of you. In that case, how could I ever say no?”
She tossed back her head and laughed. “Hai, hai, I really am growing to like you, Ryōshi-san. Are you sure you won’t come stay with us?”
“Thanks, but no, Yuki,” he said sounding a little more than snide. “I don’t want to stay with you and I won’t be taking the job.” He turned to go open the front door. “You can leave now.”
“What if I told you he killed humans?”
Tristan’s shoulders tightened as he came to a halt and he huffed. Of course he did. “I’d say that better be true.”
He turned to face Yuki again and she nodded. “I had Desmond following him. But where my wonderful scion’s skills lie are not in tracking.”
Tristan furrowed his brow. “Then what are his skills?” Being a big, stupid, shit-throwing ape?
Yuki smirked in a way that Tristan just knew he wouldn’t like what was about to come out of her mouth. “Ah, what an apt question... He was serving my... whims.”
He looked to Ash, his mind going over a hundred different whims that someone like Yuki might have. Ash tilted her head slightly, her eyes widening as if to will him to understand the single truth. And as he looked to Yuki again, his eyes meeting hers as she rolled her shoulders back making her chest stick out, he finally understand.
“Oh!” he exclaimed, wide-eyed. His face fell and a sour look filled in as if he bit into something nasty and mumbled, “Oh.” Desmond was servicing his Master by way of more than just a second-hand man. “That’s fucking nasty,” he muttered making Yuki giggle.
“Ah, you do have a charming way with words, Ryōshi-san.”
He considered Yuki for a minute, trying to decide how much of what the old bat said was true. Ash, having said so little, was silently watching him. He gave her a look in return as if to ask her opinion. She shrugged. It was his decision in the end.
Yuki stood with a flourish, very dramatic-like and went over to the kitchen to pick up an item she’d left on the counter when she came in. “Do these appease your sense of truth then?” She shoved a stack of newspapers at Tristan, of which there were several, not just from Japan but Germany and Romania as well.
“I can’t read this shit.”
The old vampire took a seat again, eyes half lidded and dangerous. “That one on top says “Two dead, drained of blood.” That was five days ago. There were three others in Japan. Two days after that it’s Germany.”
Ash took the newspapers from him and quickly skimmed them. “I know a vampire attack when I see one…”
Tristan let out a long sigh. “Fine. I’ll do it.”
Yuki’s face lit up with a big smile. “Subarashii! I knew you could not resist what it is in your blood to do.”
Tristan narrowed his eyes at her. “And what’s that?”
“Why, kill, of course.”
“Hey, get it right. I’m no murder.” Too bad he didn’t really believe that himself. God, just what was he doing with his life?
“No, no, of course not. Your victims would have to be human for it to be considered murder now, wouldn’t they?” The ancient vampire was smiling, but her eyes were crinkled and angry.
“Think what you like.”
Yuki harrumphed and stood. Lilith stood with her, completely synchronized. The pair walked past him and Tristan had the sudden, terrible urge to back up, just to get away from the pythia.
Over her shoulder, Yuki said, “I will send Desmond first thing tomorrow with your travel arrangements.”
“Joy,” Tristan answered dryly and then had a thought. “Hey.” The old vamp stopped at the door and turned to look at him. “Why don’t you just go after Lucien yourself? You’re stronger than me. You’re stronger than most vampires, being the oldest ‘n all. Someone like Lucien shouldn’t be that hard for someone like you. Fire or not.”
A dark expression filled the Master vampire’s face.
Tristan narrowed his eyes at her. “You’re scared of him, aren’t you?”
Ash sighed, shaking her head, thinking he never learned. Then again, if the Master vampire had wanted Tristan dead, she could have done it at any time, in the blink of an eye and he’d never of known what happened. Earlier tonight proved just that.
Yuki considered him for a long time, running those crystal clear eyes over his face. Finally, she sighed and turned away, looking back to the closed front door. “Tabun—perhaps.” She sighed heavily and when she spoke again, her voice was soft and sorrowful. “I was there the night Guinevere was slain. I helped Malik kill her.”
Tristan jerked around to look at Ash. Her eyes were wide, her expression as shocked as he’d ever seen it. She didn’t know.
“Guinevere was a gentle person but her will to live was… kyodai. Odorokubeki ”
Ash leaned into him to whisper the translation of “enormous” and “astonishing” as Yuki continued on as if she didn’t even remember the other’s presence.
“She nearly killed Malik and I both. I do not wish to play with fire again.”
“Jesus Christ, Yuki,” Tristan breathed. “Why the hell were you helping Malik?”
Yuki turned and those clear vampire eyes that haunted his nightmares rolled slowly up to set upon his own. “If you live, consider it a consolation prize, me telling you why.”
“If I live,” he muttered. And then gasped, flinching back when the old vampire appeared right in front of him. She was so close the hem of her thin skirt brushed his bare feet. She had a warm hand against his chest over his pounding heard. His whole body was cold with anxiety that had nothing to do with her power.
“Oh, Ryōshi-san,” she sighed in such a non-Yuki candor. “I have faith.” And then the batty old vampire left with the pythia trailing silently behind. When the door shut with a definitive click Tristan let out the breath he was holding. Ash gave her own sigh next him and he flinched, not even realizing she’d run to his aid when Yuki rushed him. He guessed that she was relived to be rid of the creepy sisters too. Who wouldn’t be? Then again, they still had another fun filled night to look forward to when Desmond showed up tomorrow with the travel plans. Tristan was so excited he could faint.