Mai HiME Halloween Special
Tooth and Nail
Disclaimer: I own neither Mai HiME nor any concepts used in Underworld.
Warning: This is rated T for violence and sexual references. If you can pick up on those. Heh.
Notes: Happy Halloween! As you can probably tell, I couldn't think of a proper title for this story so I just stuck with Halloween Special. It was suggested I do so anyway. Heh. I've taken some concepts used in Underworld and mixed them with Mai HiME characters. Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time. Hehe.
Heart wrenching, blood curdling, overwhelming pain. That was the memory of her first transformation. It had seemed so long ago. Through the mists of time she had trudged, attempting to make her way in a world that despised her, a world that hunted her, a world that could never understand her. So many misconceptions. She was nowhere near the primitive animal that she was portrayed to be, nor did she have the pack mentality that was expected of her. She was, as the saying went, a lone wolf.
As such, she would often find herself alone and fending for herself. Of course, that was the way she liked it. Life had a way of throwing irony at her though. Even though she shunned the pack life, she was considered of high standing within it. Her pack's Alpha would put up with her behaviour because she was respected amongst the others. Her werewolf brothers and sisters held her with such high esteem simply because she was a killer. To be precise - a vampire killer. At least, that's how she saw it.
Natsuki stretched out in her den, her slim, muscled form sprawled across a mattress that lay against the hardwood floor. A musty scent hung in the air from the dirty clothing and old food that was littered around the cabin. The odour irritated her sensitive nose, but she tolerated it. It was familiar after all. If there was one thing she hated, it was change. Which was rather ironic, considering how she changed from human to beast quite often. But that was a familiar change and one she didn't mind.
During nights such as this one, she'd spend far too much time thinking. Her mind would run itself in circles as she pondered her existence, from the strange to the mundane. As she shifted her weight on the aging mattress, she let her thoughts drift to the cause of most of her problems: Vampires. If it weren't for these creatures she wouldn't have to stick around and protect her pack. She'd be able to live a free life and do as she wished if there wasn't a war. And the war was vicious.
She blamed her strong sense of protectiveness on her werewolf side, and her strong sense of duty on her human blood. They were the only reasons she stayed. She had no other ties. There was no one she cared for above being a passing acquaintance. Even her den, where she spent the most time, could easily be replaced somewhere else. Though she'd begrudge the change for a while.
She let out a small huff, remembering that she was required to attend a hunt tonight. Fuuka's Alpha wanted her to lead it but she had refused, eventually relenting to at least go along. She did enjoy the hunt, the adrenaline pumping through her body, the tensing of muscle as she poised, ready to strike. She'd heard very little on their reason for gathering tonight though, and she had to admit, it had piqued her interest. If only mildly.
Pulling herself into a standing position in one swift motion, she brushed down her faded jeans and white tank top. Old clothes, but practical and comfortable. She pushed her feet into a pair of heavy, black boots and stalked to the door, resisting the habit to grab her motorcycle helmet. She wouldn't be riding tonight.
She moved out into the night air, a slight breeze brushing against her sensitive skin, bringing with it a plethora of scents that told her many things. Her small wooden cabin sat alone amongst Fuuka forest, far from any intrusive civilisation. Just the way she liked it. She had built it herself, taking great care when picking the location. Apart from the isolation, this forest provided adequate hunting grounds for her and she could easily slip outside and satisfy the urge whenever it arose.
Natsuki quickly made her way through the trees, leaving her den behind and following the shortest route to her destination. Luckily for her, the meeting place for tonight's hunt was not too far. She knew every inch of this forest, every fallen tree, every clearing, every stream. She sniffed at the air, satisfied when nothing smelt out of place. Everything was as it should be. As fallen twigs crunched beneath her booted feet, she briefly considered shifting so she could cover ground faster but she shook that idea from her mind. She usually only allowed herself that when it was absolutely necessary. Sometimes she'd shift so she could prowl in the forest but that was to satisfy the overwhelming need to hunt. She didn't use her abilities frivolously.
Before long, she'd passed through the majority of the forest and she could pick up familiar scents. Her pack was near. Soon, sounds joined the smells and she honed in on their location, their forms coming into sight quickly. She lingered on the edge of the clearing, watching the small group of her kin. If any of them had picked up her presence, they didn't show any outward signs of doing so. It seemed the usual members of the pack had turned up. She quickly glanced over each of them: Masashi Takeda, Haruka Suzushiro, Yukino Kikukawa, Nao Yuuki and a few faces she didn't see that often. She couldn't place their names. She smirked as she watched Nao shuffle restlessly. She was new to the pack and had yet to adjust fully to her lycanthropy.
She moved from her position between the foliage and emerged into the clearing, immediately drawing Haruka and Takeda's attention. The others followed their gazes. Haruka was openly disapproving of Natsuki's opinions of the pack and she now regarded her with a sneer. Yukino, who had been dubbed "little puppy" by members of the pack who liked to mock the way she followed Haruka around, just looked timidly at the newcomer from her spot behind Haruka. Takeda grinned at her and she avoided his gaze, taking a wide berth around him. Whenever she had contact with the pack, he would be there, and that annoyed her endlessly.
"It's about time you showed up, Kuga." Haruka grunted and her eyes narrowed as she flicked her thick blonde mane over her shoulder. Natsuki shrugged at her, not wanting to rise to the bait. Once Haruka got started, it was as if she was a hurricane and nothing could prevent the destruction she wrought.
"Decided to come out of hiding and play, huh?" Nao interjected, a smirk pulling at her lips. Natsuki felt her jaw clench at the comment. She'd only been here for a few seconds and she was already agitated.
"That's enough, Nao. You should learn to respect your elders," came Takeda's firm voice. Natsuki glanced at him, surprised at his commanding tone. From the way Nao had nodded awkwardly at him it seemed as though he was leading the hunt tonight. Still, she didn't like him being defensive over her. Sometimes he came off as a lovesick puppy around her and that just made her skin crawl. On several occasions he had, somewhat nervously, asked her to become his mate to which she had tried to suppress a bout of laughter. Her and him? No way.
While it was often true that werewolves chose only one mate throughout their immortal lives, she was certain she wasn't going to be tied down to anyone. She'd rather be alone if that were the case. Especially if Takeda was the only option she was offered. She shuddered slightly at the thought as he looked at her with a soft smile.
"So what's the plan?" She asked quickly, wanting to get moving, her senses itching for the chase.
Takeda's smile dropped a little at her curt tone and he turned to face the entire group. "Alpha has chosen us for an important hunt tonight, one that may be the turning point in our eternal war." He began and although his choice of words was overly dramatic, it got Natsuki's attention. "We have received information that the elder of an out-of-town cadre will be arriving in Fuuka tonight via the subway."
"Which cadre?" Haruka asked abruptly, drawing Takeda's attention.
"Does it matter? They're all the same." Nao cut in snidely.
Haruka glared at the redhead, her lips pulled back slightly to reveal white teeth. "Of course it matters, whelp!"
"Please." Takeda stepped in between the pair, his voice calm. "I will answer all question before we leave. Suzushiro, in answer to your question, it is the Kyoto cadre if what we were told is correct."
At the new information, Haruka visibly paled and just as quickly reddened. Natsuki thought she might faint from the sudden change but instead she let out a bellow. "What!? They... they..." She stopped stammering once Yukino laid a hand on her arm and she glanced down at the smaller girl who gave her a reassuring smile.
"I think what Haruka is trying to say is she's had run-ins with these Kyoto vampires before and they can be particularly troublesome." The brunette glanced up at Haruka to ensure what she said was all right with her. Natsuki thought they had a rather strange relationship and she wasn't entirely sure who was the more dominant of the pair. Haruka was more openly aggressive but Yukino appeared to be the calming influence. She inwardly shrugged; it didn't matter much to her either way.
"Since when were you in Kyoto?" Nao asked, her mocking tones having decreased somewhat.
"I have had to carry out several missions there I'll have you know. Before your time of course," Haruka explained, her eyes narrowing as she spoke.
"Can we focus on the current mission, please?" Takeda asked before the pair of them could get started arguing again. When no one offered up any complaints, he continued. "As you're all aware, the Fuuka cadre have been a constant thorn in our sides and if they are able to strike up a partnership with the Kyoto cadre then it may prove disastrous for us. We can not allow that to happen."
"So how are they getting here exactly, and what kind of numbers we looking at?" Natsuki asked, deciding to get down to the real facts before they were diverted again.
Takeda looked at her and smiled that annoying smile of his again. "As I said, they will be arriving by subway but they have acquired their own personal transportation so we won't have to worry about other passengers. In their arrogance they haven't provided much protection though. If our information is correct, there should be the elder and perhaps five bodyguards. That's easy enough for us to handle, don't you think?"
Natsuki grunted in response. The protection shouldn't be a problem but she thought he was underestimating the elder. They didn't gain that position by being weak and if they were anything like the Fuuka elder then they were cunning as well. This Kyoto elder could prove a handful. She certainly looked forward to the challenge though.
"Follow me to the van, we'll get equipped there and then head to the subway," Takeda shot over his shoulder as he headed out of the clearing. Everyone fell into step behind him, wanting to get on with the hunt as soon as possible. Natsuki had had enough of talking and she was eager to see what they were up against. The journey to the nearby road didn't take long and soon they arrived at their destination.
The vehicle was large enough to accommodate some of them plus their weapons. Those that wouldn't be riding in the van would take the car that was parked behind it. The van itself was black, nondescript and reinforced. It was specifically designed for transporting them to and from their hunts so it could take quite a beating and had had ample opportunity to prove that in the past.
Takeda unlocked the rear of the van and pulled the two doors open, revealing a compact setup within the vehicle. There was seating inside, enough to accommodate four or five people. At the deepest part of the van was a tall rack that contained an assortment of weapons and Natsuki peered at it with great interest. She wondered if her pistols would be there as she'd allowed them to be taken for modification and had yet to have them returned.
Recently, technology had been made available to the pack concerning UV ammunition. It was a special kind, developed by Searrs, that could eliminate any vampire almost instantly, effectively filling their body with sunlight. She'd never used the bullets before and had always relied on normal weaponry but she knew this elder wouldn't be easy to take down and now was as good a time as any to experiment.
The hunt leader pulled himself into the van and ducked to avoid hitting his head, making his way to the rack Natsuki was so interested in. He reached to the top of the rack and pulled down a rifle. Natsuki paid little heed to it as she knew it couldn't possibly be her weapon. She did notice it had a scope attached though and guessed it was a Remington. She was surprised when Haruka took the offered weapon. She wouldn't have thought the blonde had the patience for precision aiming.
In the next few moments, Takeda had handed out pistols to the remaining pack members, saving Natsuki's modified Glocks until last. She gladly took them, revelling in the familiar weight. The pack's armourer had tried to persuade her to take a pair of Berringers instead of her beloved firearms but she'd refused, insisting he modify the Glocks instead. The new Ultra Violet ammunition had been designed for the Berringers her kin now carried but as she looked at her own guns now, she saw it hadn't taken much to make the Glocks ready for use with the new bullets. She looked forward to trying them out.
Takeda thrust something else in her direction and she grabbed the black shoulder holsters from his outstretched hand. She placed her pistols aside and slipped the holsters on before easing her weapons into place. She always found this type of holster to be awkward but it was the best way of carrying and concealing her firearms. She looked up at the hunt leader once she was done and watched as he lifted the last item from the rack. It was a sheathed katana, the scabbard a dark brown that matched the cloth wrapped around the hilt. Takeda gripped the sword and sat down in one of the seats, nodding to the others to follow suit.
Natsuki climbed into the van, taking the seat farthest away from Takeda whilst her fellow pack members organised themselves. Haruka, Yukino and two of the werewolves she didn't recognise headed away from the van and slipped into the car instead, the rest taking up position with Takeda and Natsuki. Soon, they were ready to be underway and she was glad when they started their journey. She wasn't known for her patience, especially when it came to the hunt.
Being jiggled from side to side wasn't Natsuki's idea of fun, she decided. No matter how many times she made this trip, she'd always be in a foul mood by the end of it. That van had a way of annoying her immensely. Perhaps it was its restrictive nature that got to her, maybe she didn't like feeling like a caged animal. Or perhaps it was merely the fact that is bounced around so damn much. Natsuki frowned, unable to pinpoint the exact reason; it was more than likely a mixture anyway.
She was drawn out of her brooding by movement from within the vehicle and she lifted her head to watch Takeda crouch and move to the rear, quickly pushing the doors open so he could hop outside. The other pack members within the confined space shifted impatiently, waiting for the word to do the same. Natsuki pushed herself off the seat and hastily exited the van, not waiting for Takeda to get around to giving the order. She didn't feel as though she needed to be ordered in and out of a vehicle anyway. The notion was absurd, although the pack liked to stick to such rules.
She noticed Takeda giving her a sidelong glance and she merely shrugged at him, having no intention of explaining herself. It was bad enough she felt awkward in small areas; it was an entirely different matter to have to talk about it. She adjusted her holsters again, shifting the weight to make them more comfortable while the other pack members filed out of the van. She found herself scanning the area, her instincts kicking in and her body preparing itself for the hunt.
They'd parked a few blocks away from the subway so even if the vampires had arrived, it was unlikely they'd be spotted at this distance. Looking at her watch, Natsuki confirmed that the train wasn't due to arrive for another fifteen minutes. They'd have to hurry if they wanted to set up a competent ambush. She briefly looked up at the sky, noting that it was fairly clear and the moon shone brightly down at her. She knew that would provide them with decent visibility at least, although it might also mean they'd be spotted more easily.
With the pack gathered and seemingly ready to leave, Takeda muttered a few warnings and orders and they were soon moving. Natsuki led the group, her senses on full alert. There was very little breeze, which pleased the werewolf; she'd be able to pick up scents with a higher degree of accuracy that way.
When they had moved a few blocks nearer, Natsuki halted, pushing herself up against the wall of a tall building, motioning for the others to do the same. Something had caught her attention and she sniffed at the air, picking up a repulsive and all-too-familiar scent immediately. Vampires. Her eyes narrowed as she scanned the streets, her top lip pulling back over her teeth in a subconscious gesture of disgust. She could tell that there was more than one vampire and that they were situated east of them, but nothing more than that. They'd have to close in on their position to learn more.
She glanced back at the others, noting that Takeda had picked up on the scent too and was giving her a wary look. Perhaps he wasn't the fool Natsuki thought him to be if he could use caution at a time like this. She decided to wait and test that theory though, finding it hard to believe he could be nothing more than a bumbling idiot. The urge to take over and issue commands was niggling at her now and she had to consciously keep her mouth shut to stop from usurping leadership. She wasn't sure if that was what her Alpha had intended by persuading her to tag along on this hunt or not.
"It seems they arrived earlier than expected," Takeda muttered to the rest of the group, glancing back at Natsuki with a little uncertainty. She gave him a mildly annoyed look. A leader should always be sure of themselves; it instils confidence in those under their command.
"If you were wrong about that, then I just can't wait for the other screw-ups that await us," Nao sneered, crossing her arms across her chest. Haruka shot her a glare but surprisingly said nothing, but Natsuki thought that might have been from the calming influence of Yukino's hand on her elbow.
Takeda let out a short sigh. "It's a minor detail. We'll head in quietly and assess the situation, hopefully not drawing any attention."
Her jaw clenching at his decision, Natsuki couldn't keep quiet any longer. "Takeda shut it. You want to get us all killed?" he looked back at her in shock at her words but she didn't give him time to form a response. "This is what we're going to do: Two of you will circle around to the far side of the subway while the rest of us sneak closer to assess the situation. We don't get too close and we stay low. I'll lead the way, the rest of you stay well behind. Once I give the signal I want Haruka and Yukino to double back and find a good position to pick a few of them off, if any are visible. Got that?" she said quickly, motioning to two young werewolves as she spoke, noting she really must learn their names at some point.
Takeda stood there staring dumbly at her, his jaw hanging open slightly whilst the nameless werewolves blinked at her with poorly hidden admiration. She wanted to roll her eyes at both reactions. She saw, with yet more surprise, that Haruka hadn't launched into a tirade about breaking rules and disrespecting the chain of command. In actual fact, she was merely shaking her head slightly, a frown tugging at her lips but a glimmer of respect in her eyes. Yukino's eyes reflected the same emotion. Natsuki glanced at Nao who was staring at her nails in mild interest.
When she saw no movement had occurred, she motioned with an arm to the pair of werewolves she had singled out previously. "Well? Get moving!"
The two pack members jumped slightly at her shout and quickly scurried away in the opposite direction. Natsuki let out a short grunt at their lack of stealth. She just hoped the vampires didn't hear them coming. Turning on her heel, she marched to the end of the street and peered around the corner of the building, noting no movement. It was as if the citizens of this town had sensed the impending battle and had decided to stay out of harm's way tonight. She was glad of that though, it meant things wouldn't get unnecessarily messy.
From her position behind the building, she could just make out the entrance to the subway at the far end of the street. She couldn't make out any detail to it and knew she had to get closer to be sure of her suspicions. Taking note of the parked cars, she decided that she could probably make it halfway up the street without being spotted. She just hoped the rest of her pack could do the same. She peered over her shoulder and signalled for the others to stay at their current distance before slipping around the corner of the building and moving up the street to the first vehicle.
As she moved from car to car, she could make out more and more of the subway entrance. It was a fairly large entrance, with a metal beam stretching over it holding up a sign that swung slightly even without much of a breeze. She found that a little ominous but pushed the thought from her mind. When she reached the halfway point, she halted and crouched behind a small car, peering through both windows to examine the subway entrance. She could just make out the slightest movement and she honed in on two figures seemingly standing guard.
She had been right. She sniffed at the air once more and confirmed her theory. They were definitely vampires, though something seemed off about the entire situation. Her instincts were telling her they weren't the only ones in the area. Perhaps more were further inside the subway, down the steps, or perhaps they were located in nearby buildings. She didn't like it either way, things could get complicated if she didn't have all the facts.
She raised a hand and motioned behind her, dropping down further against the cold tarmac of the street, leaning her shoulder against the contrasting metal of the car. Soon, she saw Haruka and Yukino moving behind a building and she was sure she could at least rely on them doing their side of things competently. Within moments, the rest of the pack joined her at her position and she couldn't help but continuously glance at the subway to see if they'd been spotted.
"There's two at the entrance, Haruka should take them out but I know there's more around here somewhere. I'm just not sure where," she explained, noting the expectant look on Takeda's face.
"So what's the plan now, Miss. Leader?" Nao said snidely, her voice dripping with contempt.
Natsuki watched as Takeda leaned over and grabbed Nao roughly by the arm, her face contorting into annoyance at the gesture. "Why must you always-?"
"Enough!" Natsuki interjected quickly, before any fighting could start. "This is neither the time nor the place. Or do you want to give our position away?" she hissed between clenched teeth.
Both Takeda and Nao looked back at her and eventually shook their heads, if somewhat reluctantly. Natsuki turned once more and peeked through the windows at the subway again, wondering when Haruka would make the first shot. They'd have to move simultaneously to be effective. They could certainly use the element of surprise here, especially since there was an elder in play.
Watching the pair of vampires closely, she shifted so she was positioned at the corner of the vehicle, ready to dart forwards at any moment. She occasionally scanned the buildings nearby, hoping to catch sight of the other vampires or Haruka and Yukino but had no luck with either task. She was beginning to get impatient, even though they had left only a short time previously. Her body was aching for a good fight.
Movement at the far end of the street caught her attention once more and she narrowed her eyes, focusing upon it. She could just make out the small forms of her werewolf kin, the ones she'd sent to circle around. They were crouched behind a vehicle much as she was, yet more visibly so. She groaned inwardly at their lack of experience and common sense. Why did she have to be stuck with the incompetent ones? She knew they'd be spotted soon but she couldn't give the order to attack yet, not without Haruka's shot.
Just as she thought she might have to forget her plan, a shot rang out and echoed down the street, one of the vampires dropping to the ground instantly. Without much thought, she launched herself into a run and covered the distance between her and the subway in very little time. Her eyes were focused on the remaining vampire as she looked from side to side in panic. Had they not expected an attack? Or was he just inexperienced? She couldn't reach him before the two werewolves on the opposite side of the subway had leapt upon him, tearing at him.
Before she had time to celebrate the success of her plan, Natsuki noticed two more vampires emerge from a nearby building, pistols raised. She ducked behind the wall surrounding the subway entrance, looking back to see the other pack members closing in on her location. They couldn't afford to lose this advantage and it was certain more reinforcements would come at the sound of gunfire.
"You two," she pointed at the pair of werewolves nearby. "You stay and take care of them, use Haruka and Yukino as back up. The rest come with me," she barked out the orders quickly before diving over the side of the wall, landing on the stairs below.
The grey tiled stairs led down into gloominess and they went on for some time, a black metal gate barring the way about halfway down. Yet, it had been roughly shoved aside and had come away from the wall slightly. She guessed the subway had been locked up after hours and the vampires had to force their way outside. The walls were also tiled and the blue-coloured ones near the floor had faded to such a degree that it was hard to tell them apart from the grey tiles above and below them.
She stepped carefully forwards, her eyes constantly shifting to try and catch the slightest hint of danger. The only sounds she could pick up were those from above and she knew Takeda, Nao and two other werewolves had joined her on the steps. Sniffing at the air, she could pick up an oily odour mingled with the stench of death. She surmised that those represented the train and the vampires but she couldn't tell if it had come from those above or if any remained below. Only one way to find out, she decided.
Natsuki slipped past the metal gate and farther into the darkness below, her eyes adjusting to the light difference quickly. She could just make out where the room below opened up to hold the platforms and she saw the lower parts of several large pillars. Why did everything need to be tiled? The obvious reason was that they would be easy to clean but they looked so damn ugly. At least, Natsuki thought so.
She pressed herself against the wall of the stairwell and tried to peek around the corner to see if the train was there. From what she could see, there was some form of train sitting stationary at one platform but she had no idea if it was the right one. It didn't help that it was completely dark inside either. Edging closer to the train, she placed one foot into the expansive platform area.
Instinctively, she ducked backwards and something collided with the wall beside her head. Her head snapped to the left and she saw the face of a snarling vampire, his fangs showing clearly. He had rammed his fist into the wall, cracking the tiles and if Natsuki hadn't responded as quickly as she had, that would have been her head. Reacting quickly, she grabbed the vampire by the front of his jacket and threw him across the room, his body smashing into the train doors, the metal creaking noisily under the punishment.
The vampire tumbled to the ground and it was only then that Natsuki noticed the other three vampires on the platform. Her kin had surged into action now and Nao and Takeda each took an opponent, whilst the remaining two werewolves doubled up against the remainder. Natsuki stepped into the center of the platform, facing the vampire she had just thrown against the train.
He picked himself up and brushed off his legs, glowering at her with hatred. He lunged forwards and Natsuki had planned out her moves before he had even reached her. He was an inexperienced fighter, that much was certain, and he was letting his emotions cloud his judgement. As he ploughed into her, she caught him in the jaw with her elbow, effectively snapping his head around to the right and dazing him. He tumbled backwards and she reached out, stopping his fall and jerking him back towards her. She spun him around easily and caught his head between her hands, quickly jerking it in one direction and hearing the cracking sound of his neck breaking. His body went limp and she shifted her hold on him.
Natsuki gripped the lifeless vampire and lifted his body, willing to use it as a shield if necessary. Her eyes darted around the subway, debris littering the tiled flooring. Dust filled the air but she could make out Nao and Takeda fighting off to one side whilst a few other members of her pack dealt with a single vampire who, she was sure, wouldn't last much longer. The hairs on the back of her neck bristled and she instinctively looked to the doors of the train car, her senses on high alert. Her emerald eyes narrowed as the dust cleared a little and a silhouette appeared in between the damaged doors.
Her heart thudded heavily in her chest as adrenaline surged through her veins, the mere presence of this newcomer making her feel uneasy. The figure stepped out into the subway a little too casually for Natsuki's liking and she could now get a better look at whoever it was.
Long chestnut tresses fell down around the calm features of a youthful appearing woman. A calf-length black leather coat framed her lithe body and complemented the matching leather corset, tight trousers and boots. Her entire ensemble seemed designed to hug every curve and Natsuki could see the power in every graceful step. Her eyes were what truly drew Natsuki's attention though. Piercing crimson jewels glinted in the low light of the subway and they looked straight at her. The woman was smiling serenely at her and she found herself holding in a breath as her eyes trailed down that body once more.
Natsuki released her hold on her previous quarry and straightened, turning to face the newcomer. It wasn't until one of her pack snarled off to her right that she realised the leather-clad woman had a hand hidden behind her back. Her eyes picked up movement and she watched with a sense of dread as one of her kin charged forwards towards the other woman, completely weaponless. Idiot, she found herself thinking. She could only look on as the chestnut-haired woman brought her hand out from behind her back and revealed a large blade. It was the colour of blood, much like her eyes, and was rather wide for a sword - perhaps more like a cleaver. The blade itself curved down past the woman's hand, acting as its own guard, and it looked as if something could be screwed into the bottom end of it.
Before she could ponder that, the woman struck with alarming speed at her attacker, cutting down diagonally across the male werewolf, and he let out a howl of pain. He fell backwards, blood trailing through the air, and Natsuki shuddered when she saw that the woman's expression hadn't changed at all during the process of her strike. The newcomer moved her sword arm to her side and returned her gaze to Natsuki, their eyes meeting instantly. Natsuki stepped forwards slowly and very deliberately, her senses keeping alert for any sudden movements. If this woman could kill her kin in one strike she couldn't afford to underestimate her.
"I suppose you're here to kill me as well?" The woman spoke with a melodious yet unusual accent, her tone even and calm.
Natsuki's gaze didn't waver as she replied. "If you're the Kyoto elder, then yes."
One corner of the woman's mouth quirked upwards at her reply. "Then it would be in my best interest to deny that, no?"
Natsuki slowly took her guns from their holsters and gripped them tightly, not raising them yet. "No grunt has that kind of skill," she stated simply, becoming slightly irritated when her target's smile widened.
"I am flattered that you think me skilful." Natsuki's brow furrowed at that comment. What sort of game was she trying to play with her? Surely, she didn't think she'd be able to escape her death by this means? Then, the other woman raised her free hand to her chest. "Well, if I can't convince you otherwise, allow me to introduce myself... I am Shizuru Fujino, elder of the Kyoto cadre. If you'll allow it, may I know who my potential assassin is?"
There was something about the way she said that that irked her. "Natsuki Kuga," she growled, not quite sure why she had actually given her name.
One of the elder's eyebrows arched slightly. "Oh? The infamous slayer of my brethren here in Fuuka? Impressive." Crimson eyes roamed her body as she spoke, making her feel a little uncomfortable. She's heard of me? Why am I even talking to her anyway?
Natsuki raised one pistol to aim at Shizuru's head, her eyes narrowing as she did so. "Enough talk."
A flicker of disappointment flared in those crimson eyes, making Natsuki pause for a few seconds as she pondered the reason for it. She shook that question from her mind, thinking it weak of herself to be affected by it. Her forefinger twitched against the trigger of her gun and the shot rang out around the subway, drawing everyone's attention. She gasped as the bullet ricocheted off Shizuru's blade; the act of bringing it up to defend her face was so fast that she barely saw it. Those eyes twinkled at her from behind the weapon and she tensed her muscles, knowing the attack to be imminent.
A blur of chestnut, black and red was all she could see at first, and she dived to one side as the blade narrowly missed her shoulder. She rolled and lowered herself into a crouch as she twisted to fire off two more rounds at where she thought her opponent to be. The bullets buried themselves into the subway wall instead of meeting their intended target. She turned her head in time to see Shizuru bearing down on her once more and she launched herself forwards and away from the merciless swing. Damn it, she's fast.
As she scrambled to her feet, she noticed another one of her werewolf kin enter the fray and she realised she didn't know his name either. At least he had a weapon though. He aimed his pistol at Shizuru but the bullets never hit and the vampire easily closed the distance. Natsuki didn't have time to get a shot off as Shizuru thrust her blade into the man's chest, causing him to open his mouth to let out a scream. The only sound that emerged was a sickening gurgling sound as the life drained from his body.
Instantly, Shizuru's eyes were on Natsuki once more as she stood there with her sword buried in the dead man's chest. A smirk tugged at her lips and she made no move to pull it out. When Natsuki's eyes narrowed and she snarled in anger, then Shizuru placed a foot against her victim's stomach and pushed him off her blade. The blood was camouflaged well against the colour of the metal. The elder turned slowly and faced Natsuki, apparently waiting for her to make the first move again, taunting her with that calm expression. Natsuki took that moment to glance to her left to check if Nao and Takeda were still alive. They had seemingly taken care of their own opponents and both wore similar horrified expressions at what had just transpired. Natsuki hoped they wouldn't interfere, as she wasn't sure they'd be able to avoid the same fate.
She could feel the sweat accumulating in her palms and she gripped the pistols tighter so she wouldn't drop them. No vampire had ever caused this reaction in her before, but she had never had to go up against an elder either. If they were all like this one she hoped she'd never have to again. All she could do was stare back into those blood red depths, captivated by their unusual beauty. Perhaps this was the charm of an elder? She clenched her jaw as she tried to regain her composure. Shizuru's lips twitched into another calm smile as she stood there unmoving.
"What the hell are you doing, Kuga!? Kill the bitch!" Came Nao's incredulous shout from the other side of the subway.
Natsuki watched as crimson eyes slid to the right, focusing upon the young werewolf, and she saw the fingers gripping the blade twitch slightly. If she didn't act now, she was sure to lose another member of her pack. She raised both pistols and released several rounds in Shizuru's direction. Some of them piled into the pillar behind her, releasing a cloud of dust and debris into the air. She flinched as she felt something whiz past her neck, a sharp whistle reaching her ears to accompany it. She froze, the shock of the attack causing each of her muscles to cramp up.
The skin around her right shoulder suddenly felt a bit cooler and she looked down at it to find the strap of her vest to be cleanly cut. She gaped as the white fabric hung down revealing her shoulder blade and the milky skin just below her collarbone. She spun around, instinctively knowing the vampire to be standing behind her. And there she was, propping the blade up over her shoulder and smirking at Natsuki, her head tilted to one side. Natsuki could feel the anger welling up inside her, the beast wanted to be released but she pushed it down; it wouldn't do to lose her cool in a fight.
"Natsuki has a lovely complexion." Shizuru murmured, her eyes wandering down to linger over her handiwork.
Natsuki snarled at her, baring her teeth. "Don't call me that!"
The elder arched an eyebrow at her. "We are equal opponents fighting to the death, are we not? What is there that can possibly bring us closer? I believe I have the right to call you by your name." Her tone was earnest and Natsuki found herself surprised by that.
"Since when do vampires have honour?" She spat, raising her pistols once more. It was more than a mere insult, she had not come across one vampire that had ever shown a shred of honour or who had been worthy of showing honour to. Most of those creatures had been fairly young in the scheme of things, of course, but she had truly believed that they were an honourless breed.
Natsuki caught the amused glint in the elder's eyes. "I would think the same of you if I were not a little more experienced," she stated matter-of-factly.
She didn't like that insinuation one bit, even though half of the statement could be considered a compliment as well. She didn't need compliments from her enemies. She squeezed the triggers on her pistols once more, firing one shot at where the elder was and the second at where she thought her opponent might move to. The forethought paid off and she saw that blur of motion falter for a moment and Shizuru veered off her current path that was directed at her. The vampire came to a stop to her right, whirling around to face Natsuki as if the movement was planned.
Natsuki's heightened senses immediately picked up a new scent and she realised it was the elder's blood. Her eyes honed in on the gash along Shizuru's upper left arm, the bullet seemingly having clipped her. Fresh blood seeped from the wound and she could see a sliver of pale skin. Surprise soon vanished from those crimson eyes and another smirk appeared on Shizuru's face. "So your reputation is more than mere rumour," she stated, almost appreciatively.
Natsuki kept her pistols level with her opponent, expecting movement at any moment. If the bullet had cut into her flesh any deeper then it would probably have done a lot more damage to the vampire; the contents of the small piece of metal would have been able to get into her bloodstream and take her down. But if she could clip Shizuru, then that meant she could defeat her and she felt a bit more hopeful for surviving this fight. "Don't underestimate me." She growled.
"My apologies. It has been so long since my last good battle, I had hoped to prolong this." Natsuki saw something like regret flicker in Shizuru's eyes but she thought it a trick. What would an elder have to regret anyway? She must have been trying to stall her, keep her off-guard, but she wasn't going to fall for it. She squeezed the triggers of her weapons again, this time firing more bullets than she normally would, hoping to land a solid hit. There was that whistling sound again and she stumbled backwards as she felt the air disturbed at her stomach. She looked down in horror at the large gash through her vest travelling the width of her abdomen.
She spun on her heel, facing the grinning vampire once more. Why was she toying with her like this? If she could get past her defences so easily, then why not just kill her? How could she even make such a precise attack with such a large and bulky weapon? There wasn't a single scratch on her skin. That thought made her shudder as she glared at her opponent. The vampire seemed rather pleased with herself. When Shizuru surged forwards again, the attack caught Natsuki unawares as she'd expected her to gloat a little. She heard the blade cut through the denim of her jeans this time and she fired off a few shots of her pistols in response, causing the vampire to break away quickly.
Shizuru pressed her back against a pillar, raising her weapon up to partly cover her face. She peered out over it, eyeing Natsuki's right thigh with great interest. The werewolf left out a frustrated snarl as she saw the skin of her leg exposed and yet no trace of a wound. How the hell..? She looked back up at her target, unable to hide the surprise any longer. She thrust her pistols back into their holsters, considering them useless for the time being. The elder was just too damn fast. Shizuru's eyes met hers with amusement glinting in their depths. "Does Natsuki surrender to me?" she asked, her tone all-too playful for her liking.
"No," she spat, her hands tightening into fists.
"Such a shame." Shizuru's voice deepened with disappointment. When Natsuki made no move to reply or attack, she lowered her weapon a little. "How does Natsuki plan to defend herself without a weapon?"
There she was talking again, why did she do that? It was seriously irritating. Why couldn't they just fight and get it over with? Besides, it wasn't as if she'd answer questions like that truthfully; that would give her enemy an even larger advantage over her. She edged to her right, carefully stepping over debris, trying to get a better angle on the elder. The vampire had the advantage of speed and her weapon but Natsuki was skilled in hand-to-hand combat and that was a surprise she hoped she could hold to her advantage.
Blood red eyes followed her every movement but Shizuru didn't shift her position, eventually leaving her posture open to Natsuki should she choose to attack from her current location. Natsuki just couldn't get a read on this opponent, she did things that completely contradicted everything she'd been taught and learnt about combat. Now only roughly ten feet away, she could probably lunge at the vampire and land a hit if she was quick enough. But that was the problem, Shizuru seemed impossibly fast and she needed to use her own abilities wisely.
"Or does Natsuki wish me to disrobe her further?" A perfectly sculpted eyebrow arched as the smirk grew, revealing a hint of one of the vampire's fangs.
The question brought the werewolf out of her analysis and her eyes widened in shock. What the hell!? The nerve... She could feel a heat rise to her face though, and she glared angrily at Shizuru to try and hide it. This only proved to amuse her opponent further and Shizuru shifted to face her properly, lowering her blade to her side once more. She was completely open now and Natsuki would have interpreted the action as arrogance had she not seen the sheen of respect in those crimson orbs. Why would a vampire have any form of respect for a werewolf anyway? Natsuki couldn't understand it.
Shizuru took a step forwards, her long legs tensing slightly with the movement and Natsuki found her eyes drawn to them as adrenaline pumped faster throughout her body. The vampire was making very slow and very measured motions, not attempting to take her opponent by surprise. This just added to Natsuki's confusion. The closer she got, the more the fluttering in her stomach picked up. Was she nervous? That had never happened before. Once she was within a few feet, Natsuki lunged forwards, hands stretching out for Shizuru's sword arm. If only she could get to that.
The elder spun to the side to avoid the attack as Natsuki had expected so she lashed out, her fist glancing off the other woman's cheek. She heard Shizuru grunt and stagger backwards, surprise evident in her features. She raised her weapon up in front of herself, the tip of it aimed at Natsuki. Her free hand brushed against the reddened spot at her jaw and a pink tongue peeked out from behind full lips to capture the small trickle of blood that tried to escape. Crimson bore right into Natsuki with an intensity that hadn't been there before.
"It seems Natsuki does not want to play," Shizuru spoke around the pain; her usual accent distorted a little, the slightest hint of annoyance breaking through her calm exterior.
Natsuki's eyes narrowed. "I would have thought you'd like it rough." What the..? Why did I say that!? Gah, whatever... focus... She tried not to blush at the low chuckle that spilled past her opponent's lips.
"On the contrary," Shizuru murmured and then she shifted forwards. Natsuki tensed, ready to defend herself against the attack. She sensed the movement beside her before her eyes could register it and she struck out to her left, hoping to catch the vampire once more. She felt a pressure at her waist, something cool against her recently exposed skin. Then red flashed before her and a much colder sensation pressed against her throat. She froze as she realised Shizuru had gotten behind her, wrapped an arm around her mid-section and had pressed her blade to Natsuki's neck. "I am very deliberate and tender in everything that I do."
The werewolf squeezed her eyes shut, expecting the end to come quickly. Instead, she found herself gasping as she felt the softness of the other woman pressed tightly into her back. Why aren't I dead yet? Her two kinsmen had met an instant death after all. It made no sense for her still to be breathing and thinking these thoughts. Her muscles tensed as she considered trying to escape the position but when the blade drew closer to her skin, she decided against it. She was at the mercy of this vampire elder now and probably had been the entire time.
"Natsuki is so soft and warm," came a low purring beside her ear and it made her shiver. Shizuru's cool fingers slipped under the material of Natsuki's vest, the task made easier by the fact that there was a large gash in it. Natsuki clenched her jaw so she could turn the odd noise building at the back of her throat into a snarl. She knew vampires were cool to the touch, they were dead after all, but it was strange feeling the chill sliding against her skin now. What was even more irritating was that it wasn't entirely unpleasant either.
Breath trailed down her neck to her shoulder, causing a shudder to shake her form. She found herself wondering if vampires even needed to breathe but they had to at least have the ability to as Shizuru was doing so rather tantalizingly now. The air was oddly cool like the rest of the elder and from the way it hit her neck, she could tell Shizuru's face was close to her skin. So that's her plan... I won't be some vampire's meal! She felt something brush against the sensitive skin of her neck and another shiver crept down her spine. There was no sharp pain as she had expected though, just a soft pressure. She became aware of a scent but it wasn't one she recognised. It reminded her of tealeaves and leather. She found it quite pleasant. Could it be the elder? Could a vampire actually smell of anything but death?
"Mmm, I can feel the blood coursing through Natsuki's veins." That soft sensation fluttered against the werewolf's neck once more and she realised it was Shizuru's lips. They were resting just above her jugular. The proximity of the vampire was causing abnormal reactions within her and she tried to focus on something else, anything that could help free her from the elder's grasp. Her gaze found the two remaining members of her pack: Nao and Takeda. Takeda's face had changed to a strange purple colour and his eyes were clouded with what Natsuki recognised as anger or perhaps jealousy. Nao was merely gaping at what was transpiring before her. Both of them had shifted positions slightly but didn't dare to approach, lest their kinsman be killed.
"If you're going to suck me dry, get on with it," she growled, the words forced through clenched teeth. She felt a soft rumbling coming from behind her and realised Shizuru was chuckling. Why was she so damn infuriating? Was she trying to annoy her to death? Perhaps she was testing out a new technique.
"Tempting..." came the lilting tones at her neck. "But if I'd wanted to do that, Natsuki would already be dead." The voice hardened as the words spilled out and she knew them to be true. She still couldn't figure out what was happening though.
"Why aren't I dead yet?" Natsuki mumbled, keeping her voice low so the other pack members couldn't hear her. She felt the blade of the weapon fall away from her throat slightly. The body against her back shifted a little, sending a new shudder through her body. Why was her own body betraying her like this? What was that vampire doing to her?
"Why would I waste something so delightful?" There was that mocking tone again. No, not mocking, teasing perhaps? "Natsuki is not like the others, is she? I find that intriguing."
Intriguing? What did she mean anyway? How was she different? Before she could reply to the strange questions, her senses bristled and her eyes shot to the stairs that led out of the subway. The elder must have picked up on something too as she had tensed behind Natsuki. A shrill cry pierced the unnatural silence that had gathered in the subway and Natsuki recognised it as belonging to Haruka. She couldn't make out the words, but somewhere above them the blonde was in a state of alarm. Another noise soon joined the yelling, and a body came tumbling down the steps, rolling to a stop near Takeda.
Natsuki recognised the newcomer as one of the nameless werewolves that had joined their hunt. His eyes had rolled back into his head and his chest was littered with small circular holes that seemed to be smoking. The scent of something familiar reached her nostrils and she heard Nao gasp in panic. Silver-nitrate bullets. The smell was unmistakable. Death could be slow and painful if you were clipped and instantaneous if it hit a vital organ. But who would have that ammunition here? She thought all the vampires had been taken care of.
She felt her body being turned by Shizuru and the vampire now placed herself in between Natsuki and the corpse of her pack member. Her brow furrowed but she didn't have time to ponder the action as a clicking noise echoed throughout the room. She moved her head to the side carefully, attempting to look to the stairs without wounding herself on the blade at her throat. A pair of black shoes appeared first, obviously the source of the sound, quickly followed by a black suit and a smiling face. The man presented before them was quite young and he held a pistol in one hand, raised in front of his body.
"Searrs..." she heard Shizuru whisper next to her ear. Natsuki recognised the name. They were a bunch of 'monster hunters' who killed her kind mercilessly. The amount of confrontations they'd had with Searrs over the past few months had dropped drastically though so she was surprised to see one of them now. He must have been the one to have killed the other pack member. Her eyes narrowed as she peered at the gun; it had obviously been modified. She could hear more commotion from above so she guessed there were more of them. Just great. Can things get any worse?
The man's smile turned into a twisted grin as her eyes rose to his. "Werewolves." he spat and she tensed as the sound of gunfire rang out. She instinctively squeezed her eyes shut, not having the ability to evade the incoming bullets. She didn't feel the searing pain or the impact though. She heard an almost strangled gasp beside her and she found herself being pushed forwards. The obstruction in front of her clattered to the ground, metal meeting the floor with a loud clamour. What the hell just happened?
Natsuki braced herself, which stopped her from being toppled by the weight behind her and she heard the gunman call out in what sounded like pain. She turned against the weight at her back and caught Shizuru as she slumped forwards, her gaze snapping to the steps in time to see Takeda tearing into the shooter. The gun tumbled down the steps and halted harmlessly at the first pillar. Her eyes went immediately back to the elder and she looked her over. The vampire's head hung low and all she could see of her was a chestnut mane. A ragged cough racked the other woman's body and she strained to stay on her feet.
"What..?" Natsuki breathed, her mind whirling as she tried to figure out what had just happened. She pushed the vampire backwards and leant her up against a pillar, hearing Shizuru hiss out in pain as she did so. As she brought her right arm away from around the elder she noticed the liquid coating her hands. Blood. Her brow furrowed as the pieces began to fall into place. "Why did you do that?" she whispered harshly.
Shizuru raised her head up and smiled weakly at Natsuki. "Such... a waste..." she murmured, her usually calm voice quivering a little. The werewolf found her head shaking of its own accord. Why? Why would she take those bullets? It makes no sense. We're enemies. Mortal enemies. She watched as Shizuru's eyelids clamped shut and an expression of intense concentration passed over her features. Within moments the vampire straightened and opened her eyes again; her crimson pools were slightly cloudy but her face was a wall of calm once more.
Natsuki opened her mouth to speak but couldn't form any words. Shizuru peered levelly at her but then snapped to the side as Natsuki picked up on more footsteps on the subway stairs. Crap. More? Her eyes skimmed the room and she found the forms of her two kinsmen. "Get moving! We can't risk fighting against them when they're armed with silver-nitrate," she called across the subway station and Takeda nodded back at her. Nao seemed indecisive but when Natsuki glared at her she turned and fled into the subway tunnel. That appeared to be the only means of escape for them.
She glanced back at Shizuru who was staring back at her, almost expectantly. She should just leave her enemy here but something made her hesitate. Was she getting soft? Before she could make a decision, the vampire smirked at her, turned and headed towards the tunnel. She stared after the running woman, her eyes lingering over the bloodied leather coat and she noticed the damage the bullets had caused. The sound of gunfire caused her to flinch instinctively and she registered the two new Searrs men at the lower steps.
Both men turned and looked her way, pistols raised. She needed to get out of there immediately. She didn't have a vampire as a meat shield this time. When gunfire rung out once more she ducked and rolled behind a pillar, pushing herself up against it so no body parts could be used as target practice. She glanced at the tunnel Shizuru had just disappeared into and growled, she had no choice. She had to follow her enemy or be killed. Without another thought she lurched forwards and sprinted for the track, throwing herself to the ground and rolling with the momentum as she felt bullets whiz past her, all too close for her liking.
When she rolled to her feet, she pushed herself up and continued running, finding herself in the tunnel quickly. The darkness closed in around her as she ran further into it and she could hear nor see any sign of Shizuru or her pack members. Keeping the fast pace, she tensed her muscles further as her senses bristled, every fibre of her being on high alert. Whether her enemy was Searrs or vampire, she'd be ready for them.
END OF TOOTH AND NAIL
Author's Notes: And there's the end of the first part. I spent quite a bit of time preparing this story and I found myself inspired by the strangest things. In fact, that subway scene was inspired by a mobile phone advert. Heh. I intend on this only being a two-part story but I have the feeling I'll like the characters too much and use them in either a sequel or further chapters. I like making work for myself it seems. Heh. I'll try to stick with the original idea though!
The second part will be called Fang and Claw… and I'll be introducing the transformation!
Thanks to my beta reader, Leebot. Thank you Bryan! Hugs for the beta-chan!
Also, special thanks to a certain someone for making this month such a nice one, for a change. I am truly blessed.