Author's Note:

This is my first AU fic ever. Seriously.

Why is that, you ask? I didn't really like AU too much when I started writing. It seemed too much like a cop out, like taking the characters out their original world left too many of their conflicts behind. But after writing this, I have to say that my opinion's changed. You can still keep in a lot of the conflicts the characters are faced with in an AU world, and, especially for Tsubasa, it can still be poignant.

Anyway, this is dedicated to the wonderful xMysticxDawnx, who suggested writing Kurogane as a version of Van Helsing. If not for her, I probably never would have tried this, and would have missed out on a lot of fun. So, thanks, Mystic! And to everyone else, enjoy.

--cy.

P.S. I've been reading a ton of Anita Blake novels lately (just about to start the sixth), so if my vampires sound similar, or (God forbid) Kuro-bun sounds a little like Anita, that's where it's coming from.


He flicked the pistol deftly out of its holster and clicked a round into it. It had been a long day, though his nights were typically longer. A silver sword was strapped to his back, the leather-bound sheath resting comfortable and familiar on his back. Steel and silver daggers were wrapped in easy-draw pulls on his arms, and his black coat trailed out behind him as his boots crunched through the debris.

It was the dead of winter, and snow slowly cascaded down to the earth through the rafters of the ruined chapel. Bastards. They didn't have to do something like this; it was all just showboating in their part, making a statement. Yeah, big deal. He'd seen vamps break into churches before.

He knelt down by the remains of the altar and picked up a small handful of snow and ash. Fire. That was brave of them. But what the hell, he thought, when you've got forever to live, what's the fun without a little danger every now and then?

He grinned. They'd figure out just how dumb a move like that was when he came calling.

Only...something wasn't right.

He swept out of the chapel, snow catching in his hair for a few moments before it melted, to find a constable standing by the entrance.

"Hey, you." The constable straightened, paused, and then gave him a perfect salute. Kurogane sighed. Oh boy, not another one.

Being a vampire hunter ought to carry some prestige with it (like getting him first-in-line privileges for his favorite restaurant back in Sterling City) but out here in the boonies people either didn't know what the hell he was or worshiped him. Tsh. Like he was some higher power than the police or High Council. He waved off the salute irritably, too used to the gawking and too fed up with the questions that would follow.

He jerked a thumb back at the remnants of the building. "There aren't any holy items in there."

Vampire attacks varied, depending on the age of the vamp attacking and their control. Generally, you had the younger ones going crazy and taking stupid chances (such as the fire trick) or destroying things unnecessarily and causing undue havoc, trying to bait people into going after them. The older ones had more sense, stayed away from towns and village centers, instead either catching victims months in advance or luring unsuspecting travelers off the road.

They didn't touch holy things. At least, things that had some sort of faith placed in them. The church doors, pure silver, remained standing and untouched, but the other items--the silver chalice, sword, platter, and wand --were all gone.

He'd never met a lich without an aversion to silver before. Tsh, even magicians hated the stuff, it was so vibrantly anti-magical. But hell, they lived with it, even if it made them queasy when they touched it. Queasy was better than dead when you had an overpopulation of vamps stalking the globe. If the ones that had made the attack didn't weaken when faced with silver, well...that made his job just a little more interesting.

It turned out that someone had run off with them. Kurogane rolled his eyes. Typical, small town worries about robberies. He'd seen this before. Something gets attacked, someone takes the holy items and pretends to keep them safe while really they're just saving their own hide. Dissension in the ranks, once again sown by the walking dead.

He knocked crisply on the door, expecting a middle age man or woman, perhaps with children clutching their legs, to open the door. Those were the worst. Having to pry the holy things away from their parents, as they begged for protection of their children--not fun. He'd done it, but he hadn't enjoyed it.

Instead, he found the mayor's daughter answer the door. She had black hair done up in some style and seemed like she was in the middle of something. Her eyes looked him over inquisitively, before she spoke.

"Is this really important? I've got something I have to finish."

Kurogane subtly wedged his foot in the door, just in case. She saw it and frowned. "I hear that the holy things from the burned chapel ended up here. I want--"

"You can't have them."

He gaped, and then frowned back at her. "Why? You just going to barricade yourself in here while everyone else goes out and risks their lives tonight? They're going to come back. It's just how they work."

She pursed her lips. "No. I'm blessing them so that three will be sufficient to protect the rest of the town."

He arched a brow in question. "Why not just use all four? Was one stolen?"

"I need one to drive them off. Four would work normally, but three can have the same effect provided they're all newly blessed--"

He cut her off.

"Wait, you think you're going to come out along with me on a hunt?"

"You're that vampire slayer who came to town, right?"

He would have thought that it was a silly question to ask. His silver sword, guns with silver bullets, steel knives and other supernatural hunting paraphernalia tended to give him away. That an the fact that he was the only person with leather armor with silver runes on his arms. Or maybe just that he was the one person to have entered town recently.

"Yeah."

"Then, yes, I do."

She shut the door in his face before he could contradict her. And, sure enough, as evening fell and the villagers gathered in the mayor's house for the duration of the battle, he saw her approaching him again.

He couldn't help but notice that the people here didn't seem so perturbed or frightened at the evacuation. Small towners didn't usually handle vamp strikes this well. The girl was close enough for him to talk to, and he could catch the gleam of something silver in her hand.

"What's with this place?"

"Hmm?" She said, coming over to wait in the darkness with him as the sun departed.

"The people. They're too calm, like they've gone through this before."

She nodded, eyes fixed on the last of them, all trying to squeeze into the mayor's home. "This has happened a few times before. Someone would disappear, or we'd find telltale evidence that a raid was planned. The church never was attacked before, so everyone would just go in there while we held them off."

"We?"

She looked away from the house, meeting his eyes for the first time. "Father Highland and I used to guard the village and drive them back."

Kurogane would have fiugured. So now she was the last crimefighter left now that the good old priest had deserted them, huh? "So tell me, did he prefer the wand too?"

Shaking her head, she held the rod up, turning it over in her hands. "No, actually. He liked the chalice best."

Kurogane shrugged. Guess there was no accounting for taste. "Look, you need to get out of here. You and that priest held them off, but you're not trying to kill them. It's going to be too dangerous."

His eyes flicked from hollow to hollow in the deserted town as a chill winter wind blew in. Tsh. These people should be preparing for mid-winter celebrations, not hiding out for fear of vampires sucking them dry, or worse. His hand itched to reach for the pistol, better yet, the hilt of his sword.

And then, suddenly, there they were.

He could have sworn under his breath, but refrained. Damn it! It was always like this. Either they moved too fast or they used some type of magic to cloud his brain while they moved-- he could never pinpoint the moment of their arrival exactly. The three dark figures began making their way to the mayor's residence, dead feet making no noise on the icy ground.

Kurogane jumped.

He was able to slice through one of them while the other two turned to look at him. Vampires had faster reflexes as a rule, but if you decapitate one with a silver sword, it's not going to be troubling you any time soon.

"Alright. We can do this the fun way or the easy way." He said, his voice traveling harsh over the graveled road as he whipped out a stake from his belt and prepared to drive it home. "Either you come out and surrender, or I do to you what I'm doing to him."

He pounded the stake in and the headless creature writhed helpless for a moment, then grew still. The body would rot away once he stepped away from it. A voice, cool and intimidated as a stream, swept around him, as he fought not to fall prey to its draw.

"Pity. He was newly turned. Do not think you will be so lucky with us, meat." A female voice enveloped the air around him, making it impossible to tell where the speaker was.

Kurogane smiled. Lucky, huh? He'd show them lucky.

The dangerous dance began, and he found himself as he usually found himself: neck-deep in vampires who wanted a piece of him. Business as usual. They move faster, but he's trained himself to move like them, anticipate their attacks and parry when he can. He had one of the others, a male pressed up against a tree (damned if there was a single holy oak left in any of these parts after the Great Conflagration) and had the stake poised over the bastard's chest when he heard the sound and saw the flash of light.

"Stay back!"

Through the night's light dusting of snow falling, he could make out the distinct shape of the girl he'd met, silver wand outstretched, fending off the last vamp, who was fast closing in, silver or no. He rolled his eyes, stuck his sword into the vamp's chest (pinning him to the tree without the undead being able to free himself due to the silver. Useful for putting things on hold, provided they didn't have human cohorts), flicked his pistol out of its holster, and fired.

He caught the female in the arm, which was about the best he could do without risking the girl with her goofy notions of doing battle with old relics. He waited for the attacking vampire to turn, to make a run to free her colleague, but all of sudden, she shrieked and then fell to the ground. Behind her, the girl's silver wan burned eerily blue in the midnight.

Kurogane quickly put an end to the one he'd pinned against the tree (who actually had tried to free himself, despite incurring burns on his hands from the action) and sighed as he stalked over to his companion, who still held the wand over the creature. Kurogane perfunctorily hammered a stake into the prone vampire, and decapitated her as well. Good to be careful.

He also removed a small bag of garlic from a pocket and went to each body, sprinkling it. "Told you you shouldn't have come."

The girl frowned. "I prevented her from sneaking up on you."

He glanced up at her, smiling sarcastically. "Because I definitely wouldn't have sensed her myself, having spent so much time doing this. Besides, you got lucky. Holy items are unreliable. Your faith in them wavers for a second and," he snaps his fingers, "you're done. No serious hunters use them any more."

"They just don't have the perseverance or doubt them." Then, something hit her. "I don't even know your name."

"Kurogane." He said flatly.

"I'm Tomoyo." She replied, watching him curiously as he collected the severed heads and began to walk back through the buildings. "What are you doing?"

"The heads need to be floated downriver, but Sterling's got a bounty-by-the head policy out, so I'll take them there and let them take care of it."

A pause. She hastily followed behind him, walking fast to keep up with his strides.

"So you're from Sterling City?"

He shook his head. "Is anyone from there actually from there?"

It was a bit cryptic, but it made sense. Sterling City was a place for refugees, people that wanted to be free of the vampires and not have to deal with infrequent raids on their homes. The city was walled off with walls of silver, garlic growing wild around it in all directions. Vamps liked the winter because the plants all died off, but even without the foliage, Sterling was a fortress. Though, with all the silver around, it cost a fortune to live there, let alone pay for food.

"Where were you from then?"

He typically didn't answer this question, but what the hell. Let her start to see him as he really was. "Suwa." He replied.

She didn't believe him at first. He didn't blame her. Suwa District had been another start-up vampire-safe city, but one that had failed. The goal had been to make the entire city a dwelling, one to which the vampires would be denied entrance, guarded by a troupe of vampire slayers and the lady of the city's wards. It had worked out for a few years, but one vamp somehow got himself invited in, and all havoc broke lose. No one had survived, except for the lord and lady's young son.

The villagers here were happy, though. They had to stay on the land to keep their farms going--food was almost as valuable as silver these days, what with the attacks increasing-- and the menace for the moment was gone. Kurogane was about to head out for Sterling again when the villagers insisted he stay the night, and he'd been forced to agree, if not out of hospitality, but of making sure nothing else came to attack.

He was actually looking forward to the warm blankets promised him when he saw someone following him in the hallway mirror. He sighed.

"Absolutely not."

"I'm coming with you." Tomoyo said, carrying with her a bookbag stuffed to the brim with papers.

Kurogane wondered if he'd somehow known that this was going to happen all along. "I can't promise you anything. Your safety, your happiness, whether you'll get to Sterling quickly or not. You take care of yourself out there. And I'm damn tired, and sure as hell not going to be leaving now, so why are you even here? " His eyes narrowed. "Why do you even need to do to Sterling anyway?"

She drew a paper from her bag and held it out in front of him. It appeared to be a complex schematic for a weapon of some sort that utilized the symbols of coin, sword, and wand, and could be wielded by just about anyone. He snorted. She frowned, and rolled the paper up.

"The Flowright Magic Company is holding a contest in Sterling City, to find the best new design to hunt vampires that magicians can use without weakening their own powers. I need to be there to turn in my entry." She paused, gaze falling. "Thanks for helping me earlier."

Kurogane sighed and raked a hand through his hair. Damn it all, he was so close to getting to sleep...

"Fine. It's not going to be an easy journey." He eyed her as a smile lit up her features. "Don't get cocky or you'll end up prey or worse."

She nodded, smiling teasingly at him. "Met you at breakfast tomorrow."

"What?!"

And then remembered. This was the mayor's house he was staying out. Oh, damn it.

He closed the door, locked it, and buried himself in the blankets, laying the gun holster over a chair, but keeping the sword within easy reach. As he sank down into the comforts of the down bed and watched the snow descend outside, he cursed himself for giving in so easily.

It looked like he'd have his work cut out for him.