There was something out there, waiting in the darkness, following my footsteps. I have felt it now for three days. A tingling, a chill, a whisper. Whatever it was, it was fast and relentless. I quickened my steps and shrouded myself in darkness. It followed still, so I quickly erected a veil of fear between my hunter and myself. The veil, when touched, will invoke a terror unlike any other felt in the world. I listened intently as I hurried down the alleyways. There. I heard the sound of the veil being breached, and a horde of silent shadows rushed past me to surround that which disturbed their rest. The sound of pursuit stopped. I ran on.

And then, there was a horrible cry, a wailing of lost souls who have somehow found themselves bathed in light. They looked upon themselves and despair. Their weeping was cut short by something darker and more terrible than they were. The pursuit continued; we raced on into the night.

I drew upon my power and reached out to the thing that was chasing me. It was a whirlwind, a crashing of waves, a suffering and turmoil. For a moment I was overwhelmed. I had never sensed so much pain and sorrow in one being before. Before I could probe deeper, I perceived another presence in the immediate area. There was a quick flash of light that slashed through the darkness and my connection was severed. The psionic backlash sapped away my strength and I fell to the ground. For the first time in my existence, I was powerless. For the first time in my existence, as I laid upon the cold and dirty street, I knew true fear.

She appeared before me, silently floating above the dirty street, as I knelt upon the ashy street struggling to get to my feet. She was small, so small; at my full height I would have dwarf her, but I could not rise. I looked up at her in a pose not unlike a man trembling before his god as she landed softly upon the ground and was still.

She looked down at me with eyes of sorrow and of hate. They were a fiery gold and deep. Her rich mahogany hair was put up in a small bun on the left side of her head, encircled with a long red ribbon that flowed out from the beneath the dark curls to play with the thick rope of braided hair that hung down to her waist. She was dressed in a plain white kimono that ended shortly past the middle of her thighs. Wrapped loosely around her waist was a dark purple obi.

"You do not belong in this world, Shinma," she said in a cold voice. "You know that."

"No more than you," I managed to say. "We are but two sides of the same coin. The only difference is that you hide yourself beneath a veil of beauty and innocence. You have deluded yourself into believing that you save them from a more terrible fate. You are worse than us. We do not hide the fact that we feed upon their bodies and minds to survive. When you feed, you feed off of their misplaced trust, their ignorance of what you really are."

She gasped and drew back against the onslaught of my words. Her face was one of horror, pain, and then finally of righteous anger. "Enough, Shinma," she cried out in the darkness as she cast her hands up to the heavens. Lightning seemed to discharge from her open hands as a fire suddenly ignited above her palm. She brought the flame down to the level of her shoulder, throwing half of her face into a well of shadows, and spoke in a low and barely controlled voice. "You speak of things you do not know. I make a compromise: eternal life for eternal life. I have set them above the pain and the suffering of this world."

I smiled at her as I stood. "So do I."

"You lie!" she shouted, hurling the glowing ball at me.

I quickly dodged aside, casting a swarm of tiny darts in her direction. She raised her arms and they broke before her in a shower of sparkling lights. I swept my hand around me and a forest of dark and twisted trees broke through the cracked pavement. I pointed at my hunter before leaping away onto a nearby building, and the branches scuttled towards her.

With a simple wave of her hand, my creations were laid to waste by a terrible torrent of fire. She turned to look at me. "You'll have to do better than that," she said with an almost girlish giggle.

I did. I dove into her, plunged deep within her mind and embedded myself deep in her core. She fell to her knees and weakly clutched at her throbbing head. She arched her back and cried out in pure, unadulterated anguish. Had I not been fighting for my very existence, I would have taken more time to enjoy the music. This was not the time or place though, and so I wretched and pulled on the various strings I found within her, listening to her screams echo in the deep recesses of her mind. And suddenly, amidst her cries of pain, a name is called out. "Larva!" she shouts. "Larva!"

There was a rushing of cold wind and I knew my time was short. A foreign presence laid a commanding hand upon my prey's convulsing form and attempted to purge me from her body. A tingling filled my body, and my hands, black as midnight, twitched and moved on their own accord. They loosened and let go of her mind, and I was ripped loose. My physical body materialized again, weak and drained. There was no escape this time.

Released from my control, the young girl was gently brought to her feet by a pair of ghastly white hands. Somewhere behind her I could make out the frame of a tall figure shrouded in shadows and a dark black cloak. The cloak billowed in the strong wind, wrapping itself around the girl who was quickly recovering from my intrusion. I saw her shake her head a few times, before opening her eyes again. A look of burning malevolence filled her amber eyes as she caught sight of me. As if it could read her mind, the figure behind her extended a hand and a great fire erupted behind me.

I turned around and saw my name written in a blaze of glowing characters. "No!" I cried out as a small surge of strength poured through my body.

I leapt at the building, calling upon what little power I could muster to summon the shadows to help me scrub the building, to rub my name from its side. They wouldn't come, they shrank away from the light, leaving me to claw at the building alone. I turned to face the little vampire girl, and I sank down slowly to my knees and offered up my neck. She took a step closer but stayed out of range.

She eyed my exposed jugular suspiciously, but I could see her lips part slightly to run her tongue over her sharp incisors. We both stayed like that for a long time, frozen in that moment for what seemed an eternity. Suddenly, she bowed her head slightly and shook it; the moment was gone. Her accomplice extended a hand and created a fireball that it held out to her. She looked at it for a long while before she took it and weighed it in her hand.

I saw her glance in my direction and for a moment I thought I saw her eyes soften. Maybe they did, but it didn't matter. I sensed rather than saw the speeding fireball that was hurled at me. I cried out when it hit me, not because it hurt, but because it was then that I saw the great door yawn open. I saw them, those that I sought asylum from. I saw the nightmarish beings and their beastly forms twist and reach out for me, and I screamed.

My skin had begun to molt and dissolve into the air. Every dark layer that peeled away carried a part of my essence back to that desecrated world of black and red. I closed my eyes tightly as the figures came closer and closer. I could feel their fiery breath, their sharp and barbed tongues, and heard their gnashing teeth. The girl's chilling laughter faded and melted into the wicked chuckle of hellish beings. On the thin air hung the wailing of a thousand damned souls. Gnarled tree branches clawed at me, tearing into my old, scaled body.

Behind me the gateway closed and darkness descended upon me.