1# - Is This A Mysterious... Oh God It's Eating My Face!

The long grass blew in the breeze, the long shadows casting patterns of light and dark which whipped and shifted. The sky was lit with auburn streaks, the reddish-brown holding onto the last vestiges of the sun as it crawled below the horizon.

It looked like it was going to be a pleasant night. Not too cold, but still clear. Certainly no rain; the wisps of cloud still visible were a fluffy white. In the village, on the hill overlooking the valley, the lights were on, spewing forth light and warmth, and portraying a scene which was almost sickening in its rustic nature. One might even use the word "saccharine" without prior provocation. Only the cars parked outside the old houses drew attention away from the scene and locked it in a fixed time period; otherwise, it was almost timeless.

There were no lights in the church, though, as the three police officers approached it, weapons raised. The lead man pushed at the door.

It was unlocked, sliding open with a creak.

Flashlights danced across the walls, as they looked around the interior of the building, eyes darting over the thick wooden pews.

A figure knelt at the end of the aisle, by the altar, in the robes of a priest. It cradled a figure in its arms.

The three lights shone upon it, waiting for it to move.

And so it did, turning to show its twisted face as bright red arterial blood spurted from the rapidly cooling corpse in its arms. The officers recoiled in horror, the blue-haired policewoman raising her hand to her mouth in disgust. The figure grinned at their response, and waved a hand, pale orange triangular diagrams coalescing around its hand for just a second, before disappearing.

That was the cue for the congregation to rise from their seats, jaws twisted impossibly wide, far beyond what the mouth should sustain, and eyes alight with the same orange light which had wrapped around the priest's hand.

The policemen opened fire, of course, their handguns belching forth bullets, but they merely punched through the figures; figures which, as they approached, bought with them the reek of the grave and of stale flesh.

The guns fell silent.

The command van was lit in blue and red as the police lights flashed around and around, overlapping and intersecting. The guards, their ballistic vests and submachine guns a clear sign that they were serious, stood on watch, the coruscating colours lending their flesh a sickly pallor. From within the van, a slightly patronising, male voice could be heard, his tone a blend of confusion and disbelief.

"What? Are you really serious?"

The aide-de-camp, her long white hair hanging loose, carefully removed the jacket from her mistress' shoulders, folding it carefully then retreating to a position in the background. The woman did not even deign to face the senior policeman.

The suited man tried again. "I'm sorry, but could you perhaps please repeat yourself one more time? Hayate Yagami," he said, choosing each word like a marksman does his bullets, "wasn't it?"

The woman, her short brown hair neatly tied, gave a long suffering sigh. "Very well, I'll start again," she said, turning to stare at the man. Despite her youth, there was something slightly disconcerting about her eyes. "They're Ghûls, and the entire village has become a den for them. A Ghûl is what happens to an unsuitable human candidate when they're bitten by a vampire. They're much like zombies, their bodies reanimated by ancient Belkan technology, and they're completely under the control of their vampire master."

Hayate narrowed her eyes.

"And that means there's a vampire loose somewhere near the village." She raised a hand, apparently to accentuate her point.

The senior policeman snorted, scepticism written all over his face. "That's ridiculous," he scoffed. "Vampire? Ghouls? Do you really expect me to believe this occult nonsense?"

Hayate did not respond to his mispronouncing of the word " Ghûl", but instead accepted the cigar offered by her white-haired sub-ordinate. She clamped it between her teeth, then stared at the man again, rich contempt in her voice.

"Why on earth would a cheap bureaucrat like yourself know anything on the matter? How dare you even question my credentials!" she snapped. "The Organisation has been protecting the planet from the dangers of magic since the start of recorded history!"

The policemen before her were now quivering.

She sighed. "I shall illuminate. The Organisation is a special operations agency tasked with the duty of finding, isolating, and eliminating all supernatural and magitechnical threats to the planet."

From outside, a brief rattle of gunfire was heard, the chatter of heavy machine guns cut off too quickly.

"There's a vampire here," Hayate continued, "creating the Ghûls. A powerful, magical being with its origins in the darkest times of recorded history. Send in all the troops you like. You can send in every last man under your command. They'll end up little more than rewritten husks, as the magic of the vampire rebuilds them as slaves." Her voice dropped slightly in pitch. "Or, they may suffer a worse fate. If they're compatible with whatever twisted programming drives the vampires, the reconstruction creates a new vampire, rather then just a Ghûl. If they are lucky, they'll merely become food for the monster and its servants, then join their ranks as another Ghûl."

The policemen stared silently at her. The noise of radio static filled the air.

"Sir," reported the operator, "I've completely lost contact with squads two and three."

The senior policeman opened and closed his mouth a few times, helpless before the young woman, while his subordinates tried to work out exactly what was going on. She took in a deep breath of cigar smoke, which was ruined somewhat by the fact that she almost immediately coughed it back up, dropping the cigar.

"Hayate, I told you that was not a wise idea," muttered her servant.

"Shush, Reinforce," she muttered back. She cleared her throat, coughing several more times as she did, then fixed the senior policeman with a gaze which clearly dared him to say something.

He, wisely, didn't.

"If you are to stop the Ghûls," Hayate continued, with a hint of menace in her tone, "you're going to have to terminate that vampire at the source. Cut off the head of the snake, and the body perishes." She smiled faintly as the policeman's face blanched, when one of his officers whispered into his ear. "And this is where the Organisation comes in. We will take care of your vampire."

"That's... insane," the man ventured, his paradigm sufficiently broken that he was willing to accept anything.

Hayate smiled, widely. "I can assure you, gentlemen, one of our finest anti-Vampire field agents is already in the field. This will be settled in a matter of hours." She paused, as a fundamental bit of honesty raised its head. "There probably won't be much of the village left, though."

"What sort of agent would handle this," he asked incredulously.

"When dealing with monsters... vampires, devils, cloned supersoldiers, giant kittens..."

"... giant kittens,"

"Yes, giant kittens. There is no greater expert walking the earth."

The sun had fully set by now, and the night sky was dark and enveloping, a shroud of darkness layered over the sky. A full moon hung heavy and gravid in the sky above, casting a blueish light which was but a pale imitation of the sunlight. From around the area, the crackle of gunfire could be heard, coughing shots too often silenced.

None of this concerned the figure striding down the road. Her long white skirt blew in the night breeze, flapping gently in synchronisation with her beribboned hair. Her boots made soft noises against the tarmac. Perhaps the figure was incongruous in such an environment, but the self-possession, which could even be read as arrogance in her walk was a sign that she was either very, very foolish, or equally dangerous.

The woman gazed up at the moon, its luminescence reflected in her eyes, a faint grin; not one of malevolence, but of the honest pleasure from doing a job one loves, painted across her face.

"How beautiful," she remarked. "Nights like this... they make me want to make some friends. Yes," and her voice shifted, "I couldn't imagine a more perfect evening."