AUTHOR'S NOTE: If, for some reason, anyone is wondering, then yes, my "within the original series" stories are also part of this "series extension" continuity. "Shades of Gray" would be somewhere around Night 6.5, "Dark Heart's Shadows" at Night 9.5, and "Carnival of Dolls" at Night 11.5. Actually, you can pretty much figure that out on your own just by tracking how competent Riho is at being a vampire in each story.
"So this is it. The house of Dr. Emmanuel Barton."
The building was Western-style, Victorian in age but with a tangle of turrets and gables that spoke of Romanticism and gothic fantasies rather than the staid conventionality of the latter years of the nineteenth century.
"I don't like this place, Shinji."
Shinji Kawamura clucked his tongue. Though only twenty-three, the habit always made him sound like a fussy old man. Louise Barton hated it.
"For Heaven's sake, Louise, it's just an old house."
Louise shivered and pulled her green cardigan more tightly around herself.
"I don't care. It's creepy."
"Well, I admit it is a bit odd, a rambling old Western pile and its brick-walled estate in the middle of the city. Why, if you cut those trees down"--he pointed off to his right--"you'd see nothing but skyscrapers and neon."
Louise looked around herself at what she could see of the five-acre estate, its cobbled paths and tangled lawns, the towering English oaks with their riot of autumn colors.
"It's almost obscene, to have this much space for one house. Our apartment is barely larger than my freshman dorm room."
"Your aunt could have made a fortune if she'd sold it," Shinji agreed. "Space wasn't at such a premium in 1884, especially for a close friend of the British consul. I gather it wasn't actually in the city, either, but that it was engulfed over time as the population grew."
It was strange, Louise thought. She'd been happy enough about her family's historical connections to Japan back in the States, when it had provided common ground with the handsome Japanese doctoral student. It had given her time, time to talk over coffee or pitchers of beer, time to form a bond that had led to romance. Now, though, face-to-face with the reality of that history, she was hesitant.
"You're right. Dr. Barton wanted a quiet place, private," Louise agreed.
"Getting out in the country where his only neighbors were suburban and rural Japanese who couldn't speak his language and probably had no desire to interact with the foreigner among them would certainly insure that."
He stated down the path towards the house. After a moment's hesitation, Louise followed.
She didn't stop to ask himself about Dr. Barton's need for privacy. Louise only knew the barest rumors, hints passed down in the family without any real detail behind them. Besides, Shinji hadn't asked her about that part of the story.
She didn't ask herself about that, either.
-X X X-
The young man growled hideously, then bent and ripped a chunk out of the pavement at his feet. It must have weighed a good thirty pounds, but he showed no hesitation as he snapped it through the air like a discus.
Tatsuhiko Shido could have dodged the missile easily, but the crowds below the overpass could not. Injury was certain, death probably.
Fortunately, Shido did not have to dodge.
He raised his right hand to his lips and bit down on his forefinger. Droplets of blood welled up, spilling into his palm. The power of a vampire was in and of the blood, and Shido knew how to use that power to his advantage. The blood drops swelled, merging and extending until Shido held the ornate hilt of a crimson-hued sword. A sweep of his arm met the chunk of pavement in midflight; the vampire's strength and the bloodsword's power combined to blast the missile into a cloud of gray dust.
"Is that the best you can do, night breed?" he challenged the creature. The night breed was strong; it had given its human host physical power to nearly rival Shido's own, but in a battle against a fellow dweller of the night purely physical power wasn't nearly enough. It sprang at Shido, slashing out with elongated fingers like claws, but the vampire parried the attack with the bloodsword, striking aside what guard it had--which wasn't much. The night breed was fighting like an animal, barely sentient, only a beast driven by appetite and instinct.
It proved almost too easy for Shido to slash a killing blow across the breed's abdomen. The host staggered and fell, but Shido had done this too many times to think it was the end. The breed would rarely cling tightly to a host unable to sustain it, but would abandon it and flee for its life. This one kept to pattern, its natural form flowing like deep indigo gel from the corpse's nose, mouth, and the gaping wound in its torso, then started to slide away.
Shido bit his finger once again and snapped his hand outwards, spraying the drawn blood. The drops arrowed like glowing missiles to strike the liquid form of the breed. Even a low-power breed like this one had no vital organs that a conventional weapon could harm, but the power of Shido's vampire blood was a different matter entirely. The breed was consumed with an azure flame, charring to a fine gray ash in seconds.
"Hardly worth my time," he murmured.
"You're not going to go all 'I must seek a worthy challenge to bring my life meaning' on me, are you?"
Shido glanced at the tiny, green, bat-winged figure that hovered next to his left shoulder. Neither vampire nor breed, Guni was an urban fairy who had attached herself to Shido when he'd first come to this city some years ago. Her sarcastic attitude and demonic appearance was not the stuff of pretty storybook elves, but it was fitting enough for the city.
"No, Guni," he said with a smile. "I only meant that the human NOS agents could have stopped this breed on their own, without my help."
"You'd better not tell Yayoi that, or else she might decide she doesn't need your services. Then where would we be? I'm the only one of us that doesn't have to fasten onto someone else's neck every so often, you know."
"Then why are you the only one complaining?" Shido asked reasonably. In fact, it was sufficiently reasonable that Guni didn't have an answer ready for him.
Wonders never ceased.
"Come on, Guni. Let's go see if Yayoi has any further need of us tonight."
-X X X-
The sun was still streaming through the Venetian blinds on Shido's office window when Yayoi Matsunaga walked in. Shido hadn't expected to see the beautiful, dark-haired NOS agent for a few days after he'd finished off the breed on the walkway, but here she was, the very next evening, and not even waiting for sunset.
"Hi, Riho. How are you doing?"
Shido's assistant grinned shyly. She looked to be around sixteen or seventeen, with a face that was more cute than beautiful and her hair tied up with an oversized bow and left to fall in a foxtail to her waist. She actually was nearly as young as she looked, but she'd still look exactly the same in another decade, or another century, because Shido had been forced to turn her into a vampire to save her life.
It had been a decision he'd made in a matter of seconds. It had taken months, however, for him to realize that Riho had not asked him to change her because she was afraid of dying. Rather, it had been that she feared being parted from him that made her ask, that what he'd dismissed as a young girl's crush when he thought of it at all was much more.
"Mr. Shido says I'm getting better at using my vampire abilities," she said. "I hope that soon I'll be a real help in the field."
"That would be a nice change," Guni sniped.
"And what do you know, you pipsqueak?" Riho shot right back. Yayoi chuckled at the byplay, and it gave Shido a quiet smile as well. They'd become family, this little group he'd almost accidentally gathered around himself, and it felt good after so many years of carefully avoiding emotional entanglements.
He'd learned all too well that love could be a doorway to pain; sooner or later, it seemed, one had to walk through. For a human, it was possible for the span of their mortal life to run out before "later" came, but for an eternal vampire...Shido had learned that lesson brutally.
He shoved aside the thought of the vampire who'd made him, who'd been his teacher, master, and lover, with a violence that surprised even himself. Cain had no place in this new life he'd made for himself, and even if things led to a parting in the future he was not going to let past sorrows close him off from the future. There was no point in working so hard to keep a human heart if one was never to use it.
"So what brings you down today, Yayoi?" he asked. It was hard to brood while talking about work.
"It's last night's case. There were some unusual features to it."
"I thought it was only a low-level breed?" Riho asked, curiously.
"It was, so far as I know," Shido agreed.
"That's actually part of the surprise."
She set a slim black attache case down on Shido's oversized desk and opened it.
"We were able to identify the host as Yuji Shinohara. He'd been arrested for drug possession, so his fingerprints were in the system. That's how we learned his identity, since there was no identification on the corpse."
"How is that significant? I presume he was dead when the breed took him?" Shido asked.
While the night breeds differed widely in strength, appearance, and powers, they all had one thing in common, or at least the ones Shido encountered had. They wanted to attain the light, to live in the sunlit half of existence, not just the dark. The only way they could do that was by possessing a human body. The weakest could only force themselves on a corpse, which had no animating soul to fight it off. Stronger breeds could possess an unconscious living person, a vastly better solution for the breed because the living shape would not distort irrevocably into a monster. The worst of them in Shido's mind, though, were the ones that would answer the hopes and dreams of people in a kind of devil's bargain. These breeds drew their host down into the darkness, eventually cementing the bond between them so deeply that the breed could not be forcibly exorcized from its victim.
There hadn't been any of that the night before. The young man had been dead, beyond all pain and suffering when the breed had taken his form. It had assumed only the abandoned shell of a human spirit, which was the reason Shido had attacked the host ruthlessly, rendering it unusable by the animating breed.
"Yes, which is why he carried no identification. People are rarely buried with a wallet."
"Shinohara died from virulent pneumonia; his body was apparently stolen from the funeral home before embalming could take place." She took a file out of her attache case and set the report before Shido.
"Big deal," Guni said. "The body was just lying there and some breed walked off with it--well, in it would be a better way to describe it. We've seen it a dozen times. It's kind of creepy for friends and family, but nothing special."
Shido, however, was looking at the date of the police report on the missing body.
"It's not that simple, Guni."
"Howcome?" Guni and Riho clustered around the desk so they could see, too.
"Shinohara's body was reported missing by the funeral home over two weeks ago," Shido explained. "You have sharp eyes, Yayoi."
"I don't understand, Mr. Shido. Why would that make a difference?"
"It's too long, Riho. A dead body infected by a breed begins to change and distort to reflect the nature of the creature that possesses it. The process only takes a few days, a week at most, before it starts being an obvious monster. The breed I fought last night was nowhere near that stage. Likewise, it could not restrain its hunger, its urge to feed for that long."
"We haven't had the pattern of incidents to go along with a two-week possession," Yayoi confirmed. "In fact, this breed made only one kill, so far as we could determine. The local police actually did their job and reported the murder to the NOS so we could stop it before more people died."
"So if the breed has only had the body for a few days, who took it from the funeral home?" Riho asked.
"Not to mention, who kept it in a state of preservation? A breed can only possess a corpse if it's relatively intact. After a week and a half, the decay might be too advanced, under ordinary circumstances, for the body to be useable." He glanced up at Yayoi. "Someone has been playing games."
"Do you think that the...body-snatcher...has anything to do with the night breed, or that it was just coincidence the breed picked that body?"
"Coincidences," the vampire detective told her, "are a bit like we night walkers. We're obviously out there, but it's devilishly hard to find people who have actually seen one."