Synopsis: (AU) An ancient prophecy ordained her to be the salvation for a death bringing, night worshiping race. Unbeknownst to her, an assigned protector stalks her every move. On a night of shadowed thoughts, her mundane existence is tossed into a mysterious world of demons and world-shattering revelations. (KK)
Author's Note: Figured I'd try my hand at something in the fantasy/supernatural realm since I seem to be drowning myself with real-world fics these days. I'm really quite excited about this story because it has more of a plot than any of my other fanfics.
Disclaimer: I do not own Rurouni Kenshin.
This is dedicated to my awesome reviewer 'person' who asked me to write some kind of vampire fanfiction. Thanks for that small push.
Red River Raging
The hushed sizzle of bacon fat burning on the scalding hot grill was lost in the cluttered commotion of the diner's humid kitchen. One young cook wearing a grease splashed apron slaved tirelessly over the hot grill while the second cook sporting a blue apron stained with splotches of ketchup hustled about, slapping hamburger meat patties into the snug embrace of warm buns. In the seating section of the cramped diner, Kaoru quickly jotted down a new order shorthand as she swiftly walked over to the rectangular window which gave curious customers a peek into the inner workings of the kitchen. Sticking her head through the opening, she slapped the paper with the order on it onto the counter and placed a hand on her hip.
"Want me to recite that order out loud?" she asked, turning away to scan her tables.
"Does it look like I have time to read it, Kaoru?" Yahiko replied in a bitingly sharp tone. "My hands are just a tad full at the moment."
Rolling her eyes in exasperation and snatching the small paper from the countertop, she read out the order. "Two eggs murdered and burned, fried pig on the side, and a double splash of devil's brew." (1)
Yahiko grabbed two eggs out of an open carton and cracked them open with practiced ease, slipping the yolk and slimy egg-white into a tan bowl.
"That all?" he asked, his eyes on the eggs.
"Yes, your highness," Kaoru muttered, running a hand over the top of her head to calm the erroneous frizzles sprouting from her formerly tidy ponytail. Reaching over to grab two dirty plates form an abandoned spot at the customer counter, she hurriedly dumped the messy food contents into the trash and pocketed two dollar bills left as her meager tip as she placed the plates into the wash stack.
Wiping her wet fingers against the coarse material of her short red apron, she pulled her yellow pad and pen from the front pocket and walked over to a two person table newly occupied by a tall businessman primly scanning the menu contents.
"What can I get you, sir?" she asked politely, pasting a fake smile on her lips.
"Just iced tea for the moment," he replied, keeping his eyes on the menu. "And make sure that's unsweet tea, miss."
Kaoru jotted down the chosen beverage, uttered a small reply and hurried over to the colorful drink machine behind the customer counter. Grabbing a large, red glass from beside the machine, she depressed the ice button and started to fill the cup with large ice cubes.
"I'm off," a voice behind her said.
Kaoru turned, her eyes widening in disbelief as she watched her older sister untie her apron from around her trim waist and toss the dirty material underneath the counter in a small bin.
"What do you mean, you're off? Megumi, we have a full house," Kaoru hissed in desperation, her eyes flicking with growing anxiety to the many customers waiting at their chosen tables.
Megumi shrugged and thread her fingers through her long, pristine hair to rid herself of any imaginary tangles.
"I have a life plan, Kaoru, and it doesn't include working at the family diner for the rest of my life. You should follow my example and take some college courses. God knows you could definitely benefit from them."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Kaoru retorted, stung by her sister's underhanded insinuation, while angrily pulling the now overflowing glass out from underneath the ice spout and dumping half of the ice from it, her movements jerky.
"Get a life. It's simple. Don't let Dad continue to run your life, suppressing you from any future success in the real world," Megumi stated with a drawn out sigh, buffing her polished nails against the clean fabric of her red and white striped uniform.
"What about Yahiko?" Kaoru replied as she filled the glass to the brim with cool tea. "Shouldn't he follow your perfect example as well," she asked snidely.
"Yahiko is still in high school, though he told me last night that he's applied to that university half an hour away from here. Both of us are getting out of this hell hole eventually. Take the hint, little sister."
Clenching her lips together, Kaoru's fingers tightened on the glass in her hand. "Just get out, Megumi."
Rolling her eyes upward and shouldering her black purse, Megumi turned her back on her sister and started to walk away slowly, though hesitation was apparent in her steps. "Tell Dad I won't be back tonight. But, I'll work the morning shift tomorrow." Turning her head to look back at her sister, her eyes flickering with something akin to pity, Megumi's shoulders slumped slightly. "Don't let what happen to Mom haunt your future. Move on."
Keeping her eyes downcast, Kaoru brushed past Megumi and headed over to the businessman tapping his fingers impatiently against checkered tabletop.
"About time," he said rudely when Kaoru placed the glass of tea carefully down in front of him. "I suggest if you plan on having a tip by the time I'm finished with my meal, you quit the socializing and get me what I need…," he stopped to glance at her nametag, "…Kaoru."
Taking a deep breath and mentally counting to ten, Kaoru bit the inside of her cheek to keep herself from reaching over and slamming the asshole's head down on the tabletop hard enough to give him a concussion. Hooding the animosity broiling in her flashing blue eyes, she managed a forced laugh and nodded her head tersely.
"Yes, sir," she choked out as cheerfully as possible.
"I'll have the dinner special with an extra side of warm, buttered grits. Make sure the toast has grape jam spread evenly on the surface, as well as the eggs seasoned lightly with a pinch of salt and pepper and dash of Tabasco sauce."
Quietly, Kaoru wrote the order down, mentally asking herself if the man thought this was a five-star restaurant that catered to every person's individual culinary needs.
"Is that all?"
"If I wanted more, I would have asked for it," he retorted as he slapped a newspaper onto the table and unfolded the large pages.
"Ah, well, sorry about that. Your order will be up shortly," she told him, turning around quickly and stalking away from the table, her cheeks flushed an embarrassingly apple red. She slapped the order onto the counter and sent Yahiko a death glare. Sighing, he took it and started to gather the food items to cook the picky order.
Kaoru had to serve as the diner's only waitress for thirty minutes, though time seemed to drag on in a sedate sloth's pace, laughing at her as she stumbled blindly in between tables, fatigue creeping slowly into her mind. By the time Tsubame joined her for the night shift, Kaoru's entire body ached, while her head pounded painfully with an excruciating headache. The businessman finally uprooted himself from his table after an hour of demanding her constant service, leaving her a ten cent tip. Slowly, the number of people inside the diner diminished to a steady trickle of regulars arriving at their normal time, just after the mad rush of the evening.
Kaoru leaned weakly against the counter, relieving some pressure from her sore left foot. She would have some tender blisters in the morning. Placing an absent hand on her growling stomach, Kaoru sighed and lowered her head. Despite her hunger, she was just too tired to eat.
The bell above the glass door jangled as a plump man waddled inside, a hardcover book clutched tightly in his pudgy palm, reading glasses perched precariously on the tip of his red nose.
Kaoru moaned inwardly, closing her eyes tiredly as the man settled down at one of the tables in her section. Tensing her shoulder muscles, she started to move away from the counter when her brother touched her lightly on her bare forearm, stopping her gently.
Giving her a tired smile, Yahiko said, "I'll cover this one for you. You get the guy over in the corner."
Kaoru watched her little brother head over to the table and start a friendly conversation with their customer, while filing away the man's order into his memory banks with practiced ease. If there was one thing exceptionally remarkable about the young man, it was his incredible memory. It was probably why he made such a quick and efficient cook, similar to their father.
Sighing and turning her head to the customer in the corner Yahiko had mentioned, Kaoru hummed softly under her breath and cocked her head to the side in a curious manner.
The man had snuck through the door undetected by her again.
Somewhat piqued and baffled, Kaoru crossed her arms over her chest and worried her bottom lip between her teeth. She let her gaze take in the details of the familiar, yet unfamiliar form of the stranger who came into the diner every night, ordering only a cup of bitter coffee and sometimes a small, trivial snack he never seemed to particularly enjoy. His long red hair was pulled back into his usual ponytail somewhat high on his head, while he wore a pair of faded black jeans and a navy blue shirt. His black jacket rested partially on top of the table.
Kaoru slowly made her way over to the coffee machine and filled a white ceramic coffee mug with the steamy caffeinated brew. Making sure she didn't spill any of the scalding liquid, Kaoru carefully walked over to the mysterious red-haired man.
Setting the coffee down on the table in front of him, Kaoru leaned a hip against the edge of the table and crossed her arms over her chest. A genuine smile curving on her lips, she watched as a pleased look flickered over the man's face.
"Is this all you'll be wanting tonight?" she asked.
He wrapped his slim fingers around the warm mug and nodded his head slowly, his violet eyes deepening with muted appreciation.
"Yes," he replied, his soft, yet firm voice sending subtle shivers up her spine. "I'll just take the coffee tonight."
"Are you sure?" Kaoru said lightly. "We have some fresh apple pie."
Slipping a pink packet of artificial sweetener between his fingers, he chuckled softly and shook his head. "No, thanks."
"All right. I'll be back in a few minutes to refill this, but here's your check."
Kaoru slipped her hand into her apron pocket and pulled out her yellow pad. Jotting down the beverage and the total price, Kaoru set the bill face down on the table. As she pocketed her pen, she turned away from the table with one last friendly smile and walked back over to Yahiko who was filling a glass with some soda. Patting a hand on his back to get his attention, she pointed to the back room as she pulled the ties of her apron loose.
"I'm going to start refilling the salt and pepper shakers. Do you think you can get the supplies from the store room?" she asked him quietly, her eyes reflecting her internal weariness.
He nodded and walked away from her, disappearing through the red swinging door. Kaoru walked over to empty tables and started gathering the salt and pepper shakers. Yahiko returned with the full containers of salt and pepper, plus a larger bag of sugar.
"Brought the sugar, too. Noticed it's gotten low as well," he told her.
Kaoru had started to unscrew the top of a clear saltshaker when a gruff looking young man walked through the door, his hands stuffed absently in his ratty jean pockets.
Kaoru's heart skipped a beat.
The last time this guy had been in here, he'd picked a fight with a local teenage boy, resulting in a small costly fistfight for the diner.
Dropping the saltshaker top, Kaoru straightened and watched the young man saunter smugly over to the red-haired man. He lifted a lazy hand slowly, brushing his long blonde bangs from his forehead, his lips smirking in a haughty display of arrogance.
Yahiko came to stand next to Kaoru, his eyes narrowing in suspicion, his hands clenching in tight fists.
"It's that guy, isn't it? The one who trashed the place last month?" he asked through clenched teeth.
Kaoru placed a calming hand on his arm to silently reassure him. "Yes, but don't do anything, yet."
"Yahiko!" their father shouted from behind them in the kitchen, his voice filled with frustrated irritation. "Give me a hand back here. I'm up to my elbows in bacon grease!"
Yahiko made a sound of frustration, turning worried eyes to his sister.
Kaoru mustered a smile and motioned with her head for Yahiko to follow their father's wishes. "Go on. It'll be fine. I've dealt with the guy before."
Shaking his head, Yahiko turned and hurried over to their father's side, his motions strained.
Kaoru turned back to see the delinquent come to a halt in front of the red-haired man, placing his ruffed up hands on the edge of the table to lean over menacingly.
Then he pounded his hands down hard on top of the table.
Startled, Kaoru's eyes widened as she placed an arm around her middle, trying to comfort her suddenly churning stomach. This didn't look good.
The red-haired man shifted in his seat, turning his gaze slowly to the other man, his eyes narrowed in small slits. They exchanged some words, the blond man's expression becoming more heated with each passing second.
Kaoru started forward, stuffing her trembling hands into the front pocket of her apron to conceal her visible weakness, while swallowing and blinking her eyes rapidly to wash out the stain of fear lurking in her dark pupils. She managed to catch some of the choppy exchange as she neared, though the words slipped in one ear and out the other, her concentration shot to hell as her heart rate started to accelerate.
"Um, excuse me, sir," Kaoru started out hoarsely, her soft interruption going unnoticed.
"We're not happy, Kenshin. And you know what it means when we aren't happy," the rough man snarled in a hushed tone, his nostrils flaring and eyes widening with warning.
"Excuse me, sir," Kaoru repeated in a firmer voice, stopping next to him. "I'm going to have to ask you to leave."
The red-haired man now identified as Kenshin, turned slowly to Kaoru, his features loosing some of the hard edge they had retained when the delinquent walked through the door.
"I suggest you do as the lady asks, Cho," Kenshin told the other man softly, a deadly warning in the undertone of his voice. A flash of amber surged through his gaze dampening the normal, vivid violet.
Cho straightened away from the table and turned his eyes on Kaoru's form. His beady eyes narrowed as he cocked his head to the side, tapping his forefinger lightly against his chin in pseudo thought.
"Did you just tell me to leave, little girl?"
Kaoru fought the urge to back away from the intimidating man. Roughly sucking in a deep breath, she nodded jerkily.
"Yes. Please leave."
Cho lowered his head and chuckled softly to himself, snagging the fingers of his left hand into the belt loop of his jeans.
"You don't know who you're dealing with…little one," he said as he leaned closer to her, his eyes sparking.
"Cho," Kenshin warned again, laying his hand flat against the surface of the table.
Reaching out a pale hand, but stopping himself before he touched Kaoru's face, Cho licked his lips.
His next words were raspy, pain-filled and almost inaudible. "I just want some fun."
And, then…in a violent blur of motion, Kaoru felt him wrap a steeply hand around the upper part of her arm, and jerk her roughly against his body as he lowered his head where her neck sloped into her shoulder, breathing her scent in with an animal like growl.
"Smell so good," he murmured, his other hand coming up to grasp her waist firmly.
When the initial shock subsided, Kaoru bucked against the strong man, panic bubbling in her throat. Letting loose a weak whimper, she desperately stabbed her foot down on top of his toes, though she received not even a twitch of pain from him.
Kenshin rose from the table, his mouth pulled in a hard frown, a somewhat exasperated look flashing in his brilliant amber eyes.
"Let her go."
"I haven't had anyone this delectable in weeks."
"Let her go, now."
Cho lifted his head and tightened his painful grip on her arm brutally, digging his fingers into her flesh.
Behind her, Kaoru heard another new dangerous voice whisper maliciously. "Yes, Kenshin. Make him."
Something akin to apprehension momentarily flashed in Kenshin's eyes. Apparently this new guy was bad news. Kaoru wished she could see him.
Cho started to laugh with new pleasure, his head returning to the curve of her neck to nuzzle her skin. Kaoru fought a sudden wave of disgusted nausea as her throat constricted heavily.
"Who would have thought," he said against her skin, "that this little one is the River Soul."
Kaoru struggled anew against the powerful man's arms, twisting in his unbreakable embrace. Clenching her eyes shut, she kicked desperately at Cho's shins. A loud, deafening bang burst in Kaoru's ears. She almost choked in relief when she felt his grip loosen on her arm, his steely arms loosening limply from her tense frame. Cho fell in a flaccid lump on the diner floor, his mouth agape, a bullet hole marring the former grubby perfection of his forehead.
Kaoru's stomach heaved roughly as she cried out and stumbled away from the body, painfully ramming into an adjacent table. Looking up away from Cho's still face, Kaoru moaned when she noticed the smoking gun held loosely in Kenshin's right hand, resting against his side.
His jaw muscle ticked as he clenched his teeth together and shoved the gun into his jeans against his back.
Stuffing a hand to her mouth, Kaoru stifled her sounds of distress and pressed herself against the wall as Kenshin walked over to her. He hauled her swiftly to her feet, keeping his grip tight enough to where she couldn't rip free, but loose enough to where it wasn't uncomfortable.
But that wasn't comforting in the least. Kaoru still reeled from the fact he had just killed a man inside her diner.
"You ki-killed him," she stuttered as he pulled her toward the back door.
"He's not dead."
Kaoru let out a brief hysterical laugh as they stopped, and Kenshin turned around to glance at the strange pair of men.
"Of, c-course he's dead."
"Look. He isn't."
Hesitantly, Kaoru lifted her head and turned to look at Cho's body once more. Her mouth fell open in shock as she leaned weakly against the wall. Cho coughed and heaved against the floor, pushing himself up into a sitting position and wiping a hand weakly across his forehead. The bullet hole had disappeared leaving on a small smear of dark blood.
"But…," she uttered softly, sideswiped by shock.
Swallowing she turned to the other man, only catching a small glimpse of his ominously wicked visage before Kenshin pulled her through the back door and into the dank, dripping alleyway behind the diner. Kaoru followed him blindly, her mind hazed with disbelief. She stumbled against a stray trash bag, and fell to the ground hard, causing Kenshin to reach down and heft her onto her feet.
"Where are we going?" she asked when she regained her voice, pulling against his strong grip. "Take me back. We'll call the cops."
"That's not an option."
"Not an option?" she started, turning to him. "Let me go now!"
He ignored her.
"I get attacked by one crazy man, saved, then abducted by the savior? What the hell is going on?" she whispered.
"I'll explain later, but right now, we have to get the hell out of here."
Kaoru pulled against him and grabbed a hold of a moist pipe attached to the side of a brick building.
"You'll explain now!" she yelled desparately.
Stopping, he turned to her, his amber eyes flickering with impatience. He reached past her, grasped a hold of the pipe and yanked it roughly from the wall, bits of debris falling to the ground. Kaoru let go of it immediately, her eyes widening.
"Let's go," he uttered softly, pulling her with him.
Kaoru followed him numbly, her heart bursting with a surge of punishing dread. Behind them, the back door of the diner opened with a loud squelch, alerting them another body entered the alley. Quiet footsteps sounded on the wet asphalt, traveling closer and closer to the two stationary figures.
Kenshin yanked her firmly, dragging Kaoru out of the dark alley and onto the dimly lit street. They headed over to a beat-up black Chevy parked neatly next to the curb.
"We have to leave, now," Kenshin muttered more to himself than to her.
"Why?" she hissed, confused, her mind finally reaching the breaking point. "Why do we have to go anywhere? Who the hell are you? And what did that crazy guy mean by called me a…uh…River Soul?"
Ignoring her, Kenshin yanked open thedriver side door and shoved her inside. He climbed in quickly beside her as Kaoru struggled to slide across the long seat to the passenger side, hissing in pain when she knocked her knee against the open door of the glove box. Placing a hand on her throbbing knee, Kaoru squinted at Kenshin as he jammed the key into the car ignition, turning the car on. Turning the steering wheel in quick motions, Kenshin hurriedly pulled away from the curb as the person following them emerged stealthily from the alleyway shadows. Shoving his foot on the accelerator, they sped off down the street.
With shaking hands, Kaoru put on her seatbelt and leaned back against the seat. Glancing over at Kenshin's profile, she bit her lip and ran the tips of her fingers against the fabric of her skirt nervously. She cleared her throat.
"You didn't answer my questions," she said apprehensively.
"I don't understand what's going on."
Sighing, Kaoru rubbed the back of her neck tiredly. "I don't where we're doing either, but as you've said…you know, right?" she asked smartly.
Sliding his gaze from the road, Kenshin nodded slowly, his hands clenching on the steering wheel. Turning back to the road, he pressed his foot more firmly on the accelerator.
They were heading to the outskirts, toward a more shady part of the city. Kaoru watched dirty, old building blur by, her mind spinning as she thought about her family abandoned back at the diner. She hoped nothing had happened to them after she left.
"Those people won't hurt my family, right?" she asked in a wobbly voice.
"No," Kenshin replied, his voice filling the car. "They wanted you. Only you."
Furrowing her brow in confusion, Kaoru frowned. "So why did he approach you, then? And how come that guy…that Cho knew you personally, it seemed?"
Kenshin made an odd sound in the back of throat as he appeared to think about how to answer her question. "I've been, shall we say, assigned to protect you." He sighed and looked over at her.
"From what? Them?"
"Among other things," he answered cryptically. "I -"
"Shit, watch out!" Kaoru screamed as an oncoming car swerved maniacally into the path of theirs, crunching into the driver's side with a brutally loud smash of metal. Kenshin swore and swiftly shifted his body to cover hers from any flying debris. The car slid with an ear-slicing screech to a halt, inches from a flickering street lamp.
Reaching over to pop open the passenger door, Kenshin hustled her quickly out, favoring his right arm. Wrapping his good arm tightly around Kaoru's waist, he led her away from the smoking car and down a dark alley. Clenching her fingers in the fabric of his navy shirt, Kaoru gasped for breath as she tried to keep up with the brutal pace he set. She could hear the quick slap of following feet behind them; the ragged breathing of their persistent assailant. Breaking free from the dank shadowy darkness of the alley, Kenshin turned sharply, pulling her with him across the street toward a tall brick building with a large black door.
He half dragged her ragged form up the three steps and pulled a ring of clanging keys from his pocket, jamming a golden key into the door's lock. Turning it with steadfast fingers, Kenshin shoved the door open and pushed her roughly inside the hall, slamming the door closed behind them. He closed three locks on the door, then turned and grabbed her wrist to pull her further down the hall. Looking over his shoulder with narrow eyes, he watched as a heavy thud shook the doorframe. Placing a hand in the middle of Kaoru's back, he pressed her into a sparsely furnished room with a single window.
Closing them inside, Kenshin pushed Kaoru firmly into a corner and with a flourishing movement of practiced ease, pulled an ancient katana from behind a plush, green chair.
"Why do you need that?" Kaoru asked, trying to keep the betraying tremble from her voice.
"I prefer it to the gun," he answered tersely, his voice taking on a hard edge as they heard the unbarred front door shatter mercilessly under the immense strength of a single blow.
Sagging against the wall, Kaoru watched as her supposed protector stepped back slightly from the door, his feet apart in a ready stance, head bowed slightly. He clenched and unclenched the fingers of his injured arm as he tried to get mobility back into the limb. Kaoru placed a cool hand against the burning skin of her flushed cheek and closed her eyes.
She had no choice but to trust this mysterious man. Her abductor. Her savior. Her stranger.
The door to the room slipped open sedately, its hinges squealing in protest. Kaoru couldn't help but open her eyes to stare at the dark silhouette that filled the small doorway. Oh, God, he completely dwarfed the small redhead in size and strength it seemed. Kaoru fisted a hand in the fabric of her shirt.
A devilish laugh burst quietly into the room sending cool shivers up her spine and causing goosebumps to rise on her exposed flesh. The large man stepped confidently into the room, his hands wrapped in ominous fists, his body tensed in pleasurable anticipation of a fight.
"The great Battousai, I presume?" he asked in a deep, rumbling voice.
Kenshin nodded his head mutely, his attention tuned to every move of the lumbering man's body.
"I knew I would get fight someone of the Gyoukou Clan, but I never imagined I'd get the chance to take down a warrior as mighty as you," he said as his face became partially illuminated by a stray slip of moonlight, revealing the cruel twist of his grotesquely evil visage. "I shall enjoy this immensely."
The man revealed a jagged double-edged sword, glinting brilliantly in the smooth light. But before he could move his arm, there was a blur of shadowed movement followed by a swift intake of startled breath. Kaoru watched as Kenshin sheathed his sword, his amber eyes sparkling with muted menace and satisfaction.
A gaping wound spread from the large man's shoulder down his chest, though no blood emerged from the deep slash. Instead the man's eyes widened with realized horror as his body started to glow, dark cracks appearing on his pale skin. A panicked yell started in his throat, suddenly cut off as his body burst into vivid flames, falling into sizzling ashes on the hardwood floor.
Kaoru pressed a hand to her throat and watched as Kenshin placed the katana against the wall and turned to her, his eyes darkening to the violet she recognized.
"You aren't human, are you?"
"No," he answered. "I'm a vampire."
Author's Note: I'm sure you all have a few questions…just like Kaoru. And, just like her, you'll have to wait for them to be answered. For once, I do know the answers. (wipes sweat off brow) Input on how I'm doing so far would be greatly appreciated. Now I'm off to write some more chapters for my other poor fics.
(1) My diner slang for this person's food. Means scrambled eggs with onions, side of sausage with some salsa.