The house is on fire when we pull into the driveway.
Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration on my part. The whole house isn't on fire, after all; the smoke is only rising from the back half. I could almost say Mokuba set the kitchen on fire (again) if it weren't for everything else that's happened to us tonight.
The gate is horribly crumpled, with one side on the ground in pieces, while the other still hangs on by one precarious hinge. The vampire guards who should be on shift right now (I always think of them as Bugs and Daffy) are nowhere to be seen. The smell of blood is thick in the air, though. I can't tell if it's human, vampire, or were, however -- or something else altogether.
I think it takes all of a split second for my mind to catalog all of this, which is actually more impressive than it sounds, because it's really a hell of a lot to take in. This has been my home now for quite a while, over two years, and it's physically painful to see this.
No, wait, that pain is coming from the crushing grip Yami has on my hand. A brief glance to my side shows red eyes opened painfully wide in shock.
The suddenly it's like the wall inside Yami's eyes breaks, he drops my hand, and he takes off a dead run towards the burning house. "Aibou!"
Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck! Ryou and Yuugi were still here when I left. Fuck! And I find myself running behind him.
The closer I get to the house, the thicker the smell of the blood becomes, but it takes until Yami and I break through the front door before I see the first body.
My first thought is, it isn't Ryou, followed quickly by relief that it isn't Yuugi either. My next through is that the body doesn't belong to any of our people, though it looks vaguely familiar. I have never seen the person staring up at me through dead eyes before, but I have seen her kind before: last Halloween. Whoever she was, she was one of that new kind of vampire that was attacking hostesses on the west side before Kaiba and I put an end to that.
This is worse than I thought.
Trouble with Akunadin and the woman... That we pretty much figured on. Trouble with these strange vampires from last Halloween? Never even crossed my mind.
I'm not placing bets on if it crossed Treeboy's mind at any point. He sometimes like to have contingency plans for his contingency plans. I can't imagine that, after how badly we got our asses kicked that time, he hasn't got five or six plans in store for something like this. I wonder if any of those plans covered the chance they might be stupid enough to attack the house, though. Probably so, if I know Kaiba.
As far as I know, there haven't been any sings of that kind of vampire showing back up in our part of Japan since Halloween, however, until now. And I can pretty easily tell -- even from a corpse, which is still creepy -- that this woman was that kind of vampire. There's something... off about them compared to the other vampires I know. They're too pale, and they're too thin, compared to other vampires; in fact, I think I compared them to zombies the first time I laid eyes on them.
Yami has already quickly qualified the body into one important category -- not Yuugi -- and is already moving on. Not a lot of choice for me then, except to follow on behind him.
The den is empty of corpses, as is the study next to it. The library, on the other hand, yields something: the body of one of our vamp guards, not Bugs or Daffy. Something's wrong with this, though. The body, it's too neat. From what I could tell while I was investigating the hostess case for Seto, these new vampires are very messy with their kills, while this guy was done downright neatly. It just doesn't make sense.
Well, there is one way it makes sense, but I'm not too sure I'm ready to make that leap quite yet. It's one thing to consider that Seth might be trying to send me -- and by extension, Yami -- off on stupidly dangerous quests, while it's another altogether to think he might have people loyal solely to him inside Kaiba's organization. Moreover, it's yet another step beyond to think he might be trying to off Kaiba.
I would like some time to go over both of these body in some more detail, but Yami's moving on again already. It's probably just as well anyway. While there's no fighting going on right here right now, that doesn't mean it won't come back this way. Right now, we both need to find our respective younger brothers and make certain they're okay -- and besides, it's not like I would be able to tell that much from the bodies anyway. It's not my area of expertise, so to say.
We manage to get as far towards the back of the first floor as we can, as far as the smoke permits us before we have to break off. I hope to whatever deity might be listening that neither of them are back there. If they are... it won't be pretty, to say the least.
The flames seem to be either mostly or completely out, though tons of smoke still remains. Still it's probably not either of our wisest ideas to go upstairs. I mean, who knows what kind of damage the flames might have done to the house's structure?
No. I'm decidedly not thinking about that. Right now, it doesn't matter. Right now, all that matters is finding our brothers. Everything else takes a backseat until then, even you, Kaiba. I can feel you in the back of my mind. It's a bit unnerving. So... fuck off for a bit.
I can actually see the tension and frustration and worry building on Yami's face and behind his eyes. It's only a matter of time before it overflows.
He's already drawing in breath to call out for his brother again when I slap my hand over his mouth. "Stay quiet," I hiss through clenched teeth, "if we want to stay alive long enough to find them."
All of this stuff Yami already knows. Once there's a threat to Yuugi, though, I guess, all bets are off. Good to know. I'll have to keep it in mind, I suppose. It might come in handy later. You never know.
"He's still alive," he whispers brokenly. Even in this weird near silence, it's a bit hard to hear him. "I can still feel him. He's still alive."
For that matter, I can still feel Ryou too. It's a handy thing about being twins. I haven't had to use it in years, though. Usually, I'm the one in danger, after all, not Ryou.
Still... "I know. Ryou's still alive too. We'll find them, and we'll get them out of here," before I come back and help Kaiba fish his ass out of whatever kind of trouble he's in, "I promise."
It feels a bit weird, me being the one comforting Yami, my hand on his shoulder and everything, like a bit of odd role reversal. But I think I just acknowledged that Yuugi is Yami's weak spot. He's seen his brother die at least once, maybe more in the dream world, and he should never have to see it again. I'm going to do whatever I have to do to make sure he never has to see that again.
Yami's already pulling himself back together, visibly straightening himself up. After a long moment, he takes a deep breath, releases it slowly, and nods. "You're right. Let's go find them." He pauses for a long moment, glances around, and finally comments, "It feels like Aibou's upstairs."
And wherever Yuugi is, Ryou should be as well. It makes this all that much easier -- and we really need easy right now. "Let's go then."
The stairs creak ominously beneath us, threatening to give way with each step we take running up them. Thankfully, though, they hold.
The room, nominally Ryou's, that he and Yuugi usually share is down the left hallway once we reach the top, and that's the way we turn. In fact, that's even the door we skid to a stop in front of.
If Yami can feel anything from Yuugi like I can from Ryou, then it's no wonder he's freaking out a bit. Ryou feels so scared.
This isn't right. I shouldn't be able to feel this, not all of this. This isn't what my ability is. This isn't something I can do. It just isn't. So why am I? Why can I?
Yami is already hesitantly knocking on the door when it opens, before he can even call out to Yuugi again. I'm not surprised to see Ryou opening it. Inside the room behind him, I can see Yuugi and Dragon Lady Kisara. Good, then they weren't alone in here. They had some protection, some pretty fierce protection in point of fact.
And then something occurs to me. "You didn't lock the door."
He shakes his head. "It was. I knew you were coming. I knew the first knock on the door would be you and Yami."
He doesn't say anything else, and instead he tackles me, hugging for all he's worth. Even as Yami pushes past us to go check on Yuugi, I can't let go of him. He's fine. He's not hurt. Once we get all of us out of here, everything will be fine. It will all be okay.
And fuck, if my life were a horror movie, I would have just doomed us all. Thankfully, though, my life isn't a movie, horror or otherwise.
Finally, I make myself let go of Ryou and back away a step. "Listen," I say loud enough for everyone in the room to hear, "we need to get out of here. The house is on fire," well, it was, so that's close enough, "and it looks like there's fighting going on."
Yuugi and Ryou nod and start towards the door when Kisara motions slightly in my direction, catching my attention. She saw something then, something she thinks I need to know. Wordlessly, I push Ryou closer to Yami and Yuugi, indicating for them to go on ahead.
Once the three of them are in the hall and hopefully on their way out of the house, I turn my attention back to the diminutive vampire woman before me. "Yeah?"
"Our own security forces turned on us," she whispers hurriedly.
Fuck. I mean, I suspected it, but I was actually hoping that wasn't going to be the case. Guess that's what I get for hoping, huh?
That does leave a question, though. "The vampire or the werewolves?"
She sighs. "The vampires, some of them at least, the ones who have worked for the family before Seto-sama took over." She has to be nervous or worried or something to switch over to calling him that instead of what she usually calls him when we're talking: 'the pain in my ass who won't take care of himself'. Of course, 'Seto-sama' is a lot quicker to say. "They sent the wolves away and started slaughtering the newer vampire guards."
We need to get the wolves back here and even the odds a bit. Of course, though, I don't have any way to contact Magnum except Mai, and I hope to every deity that has ever been that she is with Ryou and Yami right now, since she isn't right over my shoulder.
"Anything else? Where's Kaiba?" It's the question I've been dreading to ask, but I have to know the answer.
"Noa-sama and Mokuba-sama have gone to contact Tokyo for reinforcements; I don't where they went, but they have left the property. Dartz-san was sent to find you and Yami-san. Varon-san has set up a," she pauses, apparently stumbling over an unfamiliar word, "triage site at the boathouse. The... creatures, they seem to only be interested in killing Seto-sama, and..." She trails off, a torn expression on her face.
I have this sick feeling I know what's coming, but I have to know for certain. "And?"
"And they are obeying the commands for Seth-sama," she shakes her head, "of Seth." Good to know where her priorities lie in that case. I'd hate to be up against our resident dragon lady in a fight.
There are too many coincidences piling up. Seth sends us out of the house, right before the shit hits the proverbial fan. I can't imagine him wanting to spare Yami or me -- and he was even the one who suggested to me to bring Yami along with me -- so maybe the two we were sent to track down were supposed to off us? Why didn't they? Hell, why didn't they even try?
Still, it's worth a shot. I fish the folder full of photos from where it's still rolled up in my back pocket and hand it over to her. "Do you know either of these two?"
Kisara opens the folder, and her eyes go wide; I get the feeling that, if it were possible for a vampire, she would have gone white as a sheet. "Who gave you these?" she demands. "Did you see them? Are they in the city?"
"Seth gave them to me. He said they're in the city, and I saw the man. Who are they?"
She flips to a photo of the two of them and stabs her finger at the man. "That's Kaiba Akunadin. He's the oldest and first vampire in the Kaiba family. He then turned his descendent--"
"Gouzaburou." It's not a guess; at this point, it's a goddamn certainty.
She nods, of course. "Exactly so. And he, in turn, turned his descendents: Seth, Noa-sama, Seto-sama, and Mokuba-sama." It's like a sick family tradition at this point then. She points to the woman in the photo next. "That is his human servant, the witch Vivian Wong. They left Domino years ago, after Noa-sama was changed. Why would they be back now?"
"I have an idea," I mutter darkly. "Kaiba's the Master of Domino now, even though he's one of the youngest Kaiba, and he's very... independent. Seth wants the position, though, even if it means going to Granddad for help. Seth gets helping taking over the position and killing Kaiba, and Akunadin gets a Master of Domino that is loyal only to him."
"It will not happen."
I nod. "Absolutely not."
She nods and pushes past me, tearing off out of the room and out of sight faster than my eyes can follow. Good. That's a step in the right direction of getting this problem solved: we'll let the scarier dragon lady go kick some ass.
When I get downstairs, there's no sign of Kisara, but the smoke has cleared somewhat and Yami is waiting for me. "You look pissed," he comments blandly.
I'm not really in the mood for explaining the conspiracy theories, whether or not they're true, that we discussed upstairs. There's something else that's annoying me, though. "Where are Ryou and Yuugi?"
"They're fine; they're with Dartz. Kisara just went flying by a second ago, and she looked ready to literally take someone's head off, so I guess you two must have had a less than great conversation upstairs."
Now that was clearly a leading comment. I shrug, though; I'm still not really in the mood to discuss any of this. "I need to go help Kaiba."
He pauses, looking a bit concerned, and it suddenly occurs to me that we fought about this a few hours ago, about Kaiba and the fact I'm three-fourths of the way bound to him, as well as the fact that Yami is apparently incredibly jealous of him. Fuck. I don't have time for this!
"Want some help?" he asks at last, sounding a bit hesitant.
That works, at least for now. "Sure."
It sounds quiet outside the front door, but I still am cautious pushing the heavy door open.
It's just as well, since there's someone on the other side. For half a second, I relax, thinking it's Kaiba. Maybe it's stupidity, maybe it's wishful thinking, but this definitely isn't Kaiba. Just my luck: it's Seth. There's a gun in his hand -- and suddenly the body of one of the Kaiba vampires we found earlier makes a whole lot more sense.
Still, he's between us and the only way out, short of us jumping out a window. Whatever else, maybe I can stall things until Yami can shoot him -- last I checked, he was packing silver bullets, just in case, just like Seth himself must be, if he's actually using that gun for anything -- or until Kaiba turns up.
He looks momentarily stunned, like he's surprised we're still alive. If Akunadin was supposed to take us out, then it's no wonder. And oddly, I don't even care that he's armed and I'm not or that all the odds are against me with him being a several hundred-year-old vampire. Yami's at my back and is likely packing heat, and I am a weapon.
I reach for my power, and it sluggishly and painfully responds. Crap, that's right: I overextended myself earlier tonight, separating the Ishtars, when I am already not at my best. Still, I force it to answer, even if it feel rather like trying to use a severely injured muscle or walk on a broken leg.
I'm hurting like a son of a bitch, but I still make myself smirk and quip, "Yep, we're still here."
"No," Seth calmly comments, "you're not."
There's a loud bang, one I easily recognize from the number of times I've been at a firing range with Yami, then pain explodes through my entire chest.
Well, fuck. I guess my life is a horror movie, after all.
18 June 2011
And this was a decent turnaround time, for once. I want this story finished so badly. I'm loving every minute of this and have loved every minute of writing every word of Season One, but it's time for it to end soon. I've had the ending of Season One of Endless Loop planned ever since Blood and Sacrifice; it's just been a matter of getting here.
I have one chapter and an epilogue still to go, and then Season One will end. Whether or not I write Season Two (which will probably be a lot shorter) depends entirely on response to this last book of Season One.
I'm going to start to work on Chapter Nine once I have this posted in all its usual places, but please do remember: responses feed the author. Comments help me go faster! (They also make me squeal and dance in my seat!)
On the health front, I'm still struggling. It's a day-to-day thing. I'm going to about three different doctors, and none of them can figure out what's wrong with me. So in the meanwhile, I will remain sick to my stomach, constantly exhausted and stiff, and frequently dizzy. I'm trying not to let it get in the way of writing, and I'm trying to do at least 200 words a night, if nothing else.
I'm also still hoping to do July Novel Writing Month. Fingers crossed on that. Here's hoping!
See you next chapter!