They are creatures of the night, mythical beings that prowl on the streets when the night is at its darkest hours.
They are one to be feared, so we are told, for they are fearless hunters. They hunt when children are safely tucked under the warmth of their blankets, and when the adults slumbered off, regaining their energy after a hard day at work. As the moon shines on the face of mother earth, they become faster and stronger. And when they hunt, they never fail to catch their prey.
They too, are said to be ruthless killers.
They are known to be merciless to the pleas of their victims. They tear open their guts and rumors have it that they even eat their victims' still-beating hearts.
They are immortal beings, ones who weren't bound by the nature of aging. They live a long, and sometimes, lonely life.
They have weaknesses, oh they do. Like any other beings, the do have weaknesses.
And if you tell people that such creatures exist, they would call you crazy. However, the truth remains that such strong, mythical creatures exist.
Oh they do exist, my friend…
You better believe it…
The sound of sirens blasted into the silence of the dawn. People clad in uniforms rushed in and out of a small house at the corner of the street. Frantic calls were made through the radios in the police cars.
Neighbors tried to peer inside from behind the police's yellow tape, curious about what happened inside that house.
There was an emergency.
A sleek, black car, a Toyota Celica sped up the street and pulled beside a police car. The engine soon was halted to a stop and a young man stepped outside.
He was a tall, well-built, good-looking young man. He was 28 years old, and he was a well-known policeman in his town. He had a long, red hair, which he tied into a ponytail. He was wearing a plain t-shirt and he sported weird-looking tattoos on his hands. And his eyebrows were as weird, drawn with the same markings as those on his body.
Ignoring the curious eyes of people at the scene, he walked straight up to the house surrounded by yellow tapes. He lifted up the yellow tape and ducked in, immediately walking toward the house.
A police officer in uniform stood just outside the house. Noticing the young man with the red hair walking up, he immediately bowed, "Good morning, Abarai-san." He then reached over and pushed open the door, giving access to the man he greeted earlier.
The man with the red hair merely grunted in reply, as he simply walked passed the officer. He was feeling cranky. He was not a morning person, and getting emergency calls at four in the morning certainly wasn't on his ten favorite lists on how to start a great day.
Cursing, he walked inside.
As soon as he stepped into the house, his nose had caught a whiff of a sickening smell. A smell he'd became very familiar with.
The stench was unmistakable. Blood. It was overpowering. Had he been in his early years, he was pretty sure he would gag.
It was a small house, with few furniture and simple decorations. The owner lived alone, probably a student, seeing as there was absolutely no expensive pieces of decorations he could see in the living room. Human beings were proud creatures, who loved to put in display whatever things they considered to be most valuable and most envied by others, in order to gain attention. This sometimes resulted in crimes, and Abarai Renji had always considered those kinds of show-off behaviors to be plain stupid.
He'd been informed on the radio that the incident had taken place in the bedroom, but he was in no hurry to get there. Instead, he walked around the living room slowly, all the while trying not to think of the sickening odor nearly suffocating him.
He noticed few pictures hung on the wall and some in the frames on the TV cabinet, placed neatly next to the television itself. In them, there were faces of smiling people, and in all of them, there was a young blond girl with long, straight hair. She looked like she was in her early twenties. Probably the one living in the house.
Renji searched more around the room, entered the bathroom, the kitchen, paying no attention to people greeting him 'good morning', searching for clues, indicators on whomever it was living in the house. But he'd found none. It appeared that the young woman lived alone.
Finally, he set off to do what he dreaded the most about his job. With years of experiences as a cop, he'd learned that whatever you discovered at the crime scene would still shock you. No matter how many deaths you've seen. No matter how many cases you'd solved.
He mentally steeled himself before entering the room from where the smell was reeking. The bedroom. The scene of the crime. Judging by the smell, he knew he wouldn't like what he'd find in there.
And boy, was he right.
The first thing he noticed was the color red. Dark red. Almost black. He had always liked red. Hell, he was proud of his red hair. But the reds of the blood? Never. He never liked it. In fact, he hated it. And right at that moment, his vision was tainted with that hateful color.
Blood was splattered everywhere in that small space of a bedroom. On the floor. On the wall. On the bed sheet. On some of the furniture used to decorate the room. Some were even on the ceiling. It was everywhere. He never knew a human being could bleed so much.
And that horrible stench. It was even stronger in here.
He began to scan the room, and his eyes caught sight of a gruesome-looking body, if you could still call it one, right there on the bed. The corpse was horribly mangled. It would be almost impossible for the coroner to identify which parts was which, as there were pieces of meat scattered all over the place. On the bed itself and some on the floor. Even half of the victim's face was destroyed and there was a gaping hole on the skull. It was the very place where the brain should have been.
Slowly, he stepped closer towards the unsightly corpse, or at least what remained of it. A few steps nearing the bed, he stopped, immediately regretting what he'd done earlier. From that close of a view, by the remaining intact features on the face, he could make out that the victim was a woman, probably a very young one.
For once in his life ever since he'd became a cop, Abarai Renji shivered.
He'd been to hundreds of crime scenes. He'd investigated numbers of murders. He'd seen deaths. He'd seen plenty of corpses. But none of them, absolutely none, was as grisly as the one right in front of his eyes.
"What a sight, huh?"
Startled, he whirled around toward the sound of the voice.
A bald man, with almost the same height and the same built as his, only slightly smaller, was staring at the victim. His eyes betrayed no emotions. It was a completely blank stare.
"Ikkaku. What are you doing here? I thought you're supposed to man the office tonight."
The bald man shrugged, "I got bored. So I switched with Yumichika. He was on field duty tonight. He was more than glad to agree, saying something like 'I dislike going to dirty crime scenes' and such."
Renji pictured the said man and mumbled an agreement. Ayasegawa Yumichika was a narcissistic man who seemed to think of himself as somewhat 'beautiful', and he hated going to crime scenes, claiming them to be dirty, smelly, ugly and hideous. Well, what do you expect from a man who colored his hair purple and wore colorful feathers on his eyelashes and eyebrows?
But, just as he and the bald man standing beside him, Madarame Ikkaku, Ayasegawa Yumichika was an excellent cop. If he weren't, he wouldn't have made it to their squad. The highest-ranking police squad in all of Karakura. Nicknamed the Covert-Ops Squad, only the best cops in town would stand a chance to enter the prestigious squad. Only cops with excellent skills, be it in weaponry, martial arts or detective works were known to enter the squad.
Their squad was envied by most fellow crime-fighters, as they were reputed to be highly paid, respected by the upper echelons of the police society, and that they got their hands on the most famous, most demanding, and most mind-baffling cases. More importantly, they were allowed to carry on their duty in free clothing whereas other polices must conform to the police's dress code, and unlike those 'regular' cops from other squads, they were able to use their own cars while on duty, instead of using the police cars.
But being on the squad was actually far from glamorous. Being deemed the most excellent squad around, they were handed the most difficult cases, and the most risky ones as well, which put them constantly in danger. And there was nothing fun in wearing plain clothes and driving their own cars while on duty as well, it was simply requirements to make their identity as law enforcers unknown. One small mistake and not only they would jeopardize their own life, but their loved ones as well.
"And when I got the call mentioning that this one could be caused by the same killer who killed our Jane Doe last month, I just couldn't resist it," Ikkaku added after a long pause.
"You're a sick man."
"I'm not. I just love crime scenes."
"You're a sick man."
Ikkaku was about to reply Renji's matter-of-fact statement when another man stepped into the room. He seemed to be a few years older than Renji and Ikkaku. He was a little shorter and smaller built than the younger men. He had a number '69' tattooed on his left cheek and on the right side of his face, there was a set of three scars, straight over his right eye and down his right cheek. And there was another tattoo, this one blue and striped. It ran across his left cheek and over the bridge of his nose, ending right above the '69'. He also wore something that looked very much like a jeweled choker around his throat.
Clad in a white lab coat, the man who had just entered the room, Hisagi Shuuhei, the coroner, wore a morose expression on his face.
Renji had always held a great amount of respect for the man he considered his senior in police service. Hisagi was the one who'd taken him under his wings when he'd first landed a job as a cop. He was instructed by his captain to get some reports from the Coroner's Office and he immediately taken to a liking to Hisagi when he'd met him then.
Hisagi was the one who reminded him that life in crime-fighting business as theirs can be cruel, because they would have to face the ugliest side of humanity on a daily basis. Murderers, grieving families, and numerous deaths are some of the things they would somehow have to gotten used to in order to carry on their responsibility without losing their mind.
Whenever he felt down after a long, hard day at work, Renji would stop by the Coroner's Office and the both of them would hit the local bar, drowning away their stress of the day.
"May I ask to have the discussion outside? I find it very uncomfortable to be in this room."
Silently agreeing, Renji and Ikkaku both nodded and the three of them stepped outside into the living room. The disturbing stench Renji had smelled earlier was somehow still as strong over there, but still, he was glad to be out of the bedroom. He couldn't stand being in the same room as the poor woman's corpse any longer.
"So Doc, what's the deal here?" Ikkaku began.
Hisagi drew a deep breath, "From the initial inspection I'd done earlier, I was certain that the MO for this one was exactly the same as the few killings we'd discovered over the past six months."
"No surprise there," came Ikkaku reply.
So far, their squad had came across three deaths in the period of six months, and this one would made it four, suspected done by the same killer or killers. All the corpses were either found in their own home, on their own bed, or in a motel, or in a completely weird place, and all the corpses were somehow hideously disfigured, as if someone or something deliberately tore up their bodies. And all of them, except for the first victim who was in a far better condition than the others, were almost totally unrecognizable.
The previous victim's corpse, the one they'd called Jane Doe didn't even retain a human form. At first glimpse, in all that muddle of flesh and blood, it was almost impossible to tell whether it was a human corpse or that of an animal's. She was found at a house in the farthest corner of Karakura. They had thought that it was the corpse of the owner of the house, but DNA testing showed otherwise. No records were found of the victim.
The house owner had been going on a vacation and was shocked to find her house had been the scene of a ghastly murder. She admitted to never letting anyone her house key, and that none of her close friends and family was missing.
The other two victims were males. The first one was the corpse of a man in his middle thirties who worked as a teacher in the local school. His name was Kenzaki Ryusei, and he was remembered by his friends and family as a kind man. Unmarried, he lived alone and his colleagues reported him missing after he'd been absent for three days straight from work and they were unable to contact him. Known to be a highly responsible person, such act of absentness was considered alarming by his colleagues.
Though his corpse suffered some heavy wounds and scratches, along with a missing brain, Kenzaki Ryusei's body was still intact and his father, upon being called to the morgue to identify the victim, was immediately able to recognize him.
The second victim however, was unidentified, as was the victim afterwards. The body was found in a motel, and with no records of registration. It was assumed that it was a corpse of a man in his early twenties but it was impossible to be sure, as his body and faces were severed badly into pieces. Hisagi and his team had to do bone reconstruction and identification in order to determine the victim's gender and age. Unable to identify the victim, he was simply called by the name John Doe. As of now, they were still trying to trace the identification of the victim.
Hisagi continued his explanation, "The corpses were mangled or torn off, most likely while they're still alive and still very aware of their surroundings, as there were no traces of anesthetic drugs in their bloodstream. And I'm pretty sure this one would turn up like that as well."
"Torn off?" it was Renji, sounding strained and disturbed by what he heard. Hisagi had explained the conditions of the previous victims before but hearing it again still made it as disturbing as the first time he'd heard it.
"Yes," Hisagi nodded solemnly. "Same as the other three previous murders, this one appears to have been done without the aid of sharp weapons or tools."
"No weapons… It means…" Renji's voice trailed off, unable to say what he wanted to say.
"It would mean that the killer or killers did the deeds, bare-handedly."
"It's as if the victim was torn up and ripped off."
Renji shot a glare at Ikkaku, annoyed by his calm sentence. "But their wounds, and the way their bodies were destroyed… It was impossible to do that with your bare hands. Even when you had help."
"Except if you have claws."
This time, both Renji and Hisagi shot an annoyed look at the bald man. He seemed to be enjoying himself. Madarame Ikkaku was an action-driven man, and a good case, no matter how disturbing or how sick it was, would definitely spark his interest.
"Don't be ridiculous. No animal could do something like that either. Except for a lion, or a large tiger, but I'll be damned if those animals could roam around freely in the middle of the city without us noticing them."
A grin formed on Ikkaku's mouth, "Well, maybe it's done by werewolves." And then he laughed, much to the other men's annoyance.
"Quit being so irritating!" Then, turning to face Hisagi, Renji said in a much lower voice, "Make sure you call me after you've done with autopsy."
Hisagi nodded. Ikkaku shrugged his shoulder, "We're done here anyway. Let the lab people do what they're paid to do. I'm gonna head back to the headquarters. See ya there, Renji."
"Yeah. See ya."
With that, Ikkaku walked out of the house. Minutes later, a car was heard leaving the vicinity.
Renji scratched the back of his neck. Ikkaku could be so downright annoying sometimes. But despite his bizarre interests in cruelty and anything involving blood and gore, Renji knew that he was a friend that you could rely on. He was the type of friend who would stay loyal and be there for you when you needed him.
And right now, he needed his morning fix of coffee. Badly.
"Sometimes it sickens me to witness all these murders."
Renji let out a deep sigh, "Same here, senpai."
Hisagi turned his gaze towards the direction of the bedroom. "Wonder how her family would react to the news of her death. She seemed to be so young."
"Deaths never brought pleasant reactions. At least not on the family."
Silence fell between them.
"Have you ever wondered how it would feel like if something like that happens to our loved ones?"
Along with Hisagi's question, an image popped into Renji's thought involuntarily. It was an image of someone very important to him. Someone whom he loved dearly. Someone who he would protect with his own life. Someone with long, auburn tresses and very, very beautiful. She's got large, beautiful gray eyes. She seldom smiled, but when she does, it was like a ray of bright sunshine.
Then that beautiful image disappeared and was replaced with another image of her. Only in this one, her face was bloody, and her body wounded. She was screaming for help…
Renji shuddered. He cleared his throat, trying to shake the horrible thought away.
If something were to happen to her, he would never be able to forgive himself. Never.
"Wanna grab some drinks later tonight?"
Snapped away from his thought, Renji looked over apologetically at the man he respected so much. "Nope. I promised mama I'd be home for dinner tonight."
Then, an idea popped into Renji's head, "Hey, maybe you could come over for dinner. I've always wanted to introduce my family to you."
"Any beautiful, sexy women in your family?"
"Hey, it's an absolutely normal, healthy interest!"
And then they both laughed. They laughed so hard that a few of the crime scene people stopped what they're doing and stole a glance at the two men.
"Ahh… The atmosphere was so tense here. Seriously, I can't come. Not when the image of the victim still etched clearly into my mind. I just need a few drinks to drive all those images away. The sooner the better."
"Whatever you think is good for you," Renji said sarcastically. "Maybe some other time then."
"Yeah. Some other time…"
Renji bowed and asked for leave. Before reaching the door, he stopped walking and turned around to look at Hisagi, his lips forming a small smile. "It's good to see you, senpai."
"Same here, Renji. Send my regards to your family."
Renji waved his hand behind his back, "Will do."
* * * * *
A few hours later, Renji returned to his squad's headquarters. He'd grabbed breakfast and his much needed shot of caffeine on his way back. He was feeling way better than he'd been earlier.
His good mood was short-lived anyway, as immediately after, his captain called for a meeting.
The Covert-Ops Squad's captain was a small, petite, dark-haired woman. In fact, Captain Soi Fon was the smallest person in their squad. Despite her fragile appearance, she was well-respected among the members of the squad. She was a strict leader and would not tolerate any violations of the rules, whether ones governed by law or the ones she decided for the members of the Covert-Ops Squad.
She was an expert in hand-to-hand combats, and was known to defeat men thrice her size. Renji himself had witnessed a large, strong man from the District Attorney's office, Omaeda Marechiyo, who seemed to cower in Captain Soi Fon's presence. And she had an extremely excellent reputation as a cop, never failing a case as she was someone who was deeply focused in whatever cases she was working on.
And she was not too fond of cowards, lazy people, or weak ones.
All in all, it's better not to get on Captain Soi Fon's bad side.
To Renji, she looked even smaller sitting behind the meeting table. In light of the new murder, she had called forth a meeting with her best men. Four of them. She had a stern expression on her face and Renji was dead sure that she wasn't in her greatest mood.
Ikkaku had just finished reading his report on the most recent case. Captain Soi Fon was flipping over the photocopied pages of the report made for her.
"So the coroner was sure that it was the same mysterious killer."
"Pretty sure, Captain," came Ikkaku's reply.
"Then this would mean this case would attract more media attentions. And nearing the elections, the mayor's sure not gonna like this. Which means more pressure and more work for us."
"Such gruesome murders. Such hideous crimes. I would do anything to stop this unsightly incidents."
"My, my. What a high spirit, Ayasegawa-san." The remark came from a morose-looking, smaller man, compared to Renji and Ikkaku but slightly larger built than Ayasegawa Yumichika. He had straw blond hairs that covered his left eye and they fell on his shoulder. He appeared to be about the same age as Renji and Ikkaku. He was the most quiet among the four, only speaking when he felt he needed to. He appeared to be depressed almost all the time. As much as the other three men liked him, he was almost always wasn't invited to their outings, claiming he brought around so much gloom that his presence would only ruin the mood.
"I appreciate such enthusiasm, Ayasegawa. Anyway, Kira, have you find out the identities of our unknown victims?" The question was addressed to the blond man.
Kira Izuru bowed politely at his captain, "I'm sorry, captain. The forensic people were trying their best doing facial reconstructions. However, judging by the damage done to the skulls, it was going to be a hard work. Even if they managed to do it, it would be highly doubtful to be accurate."
Captain Soi Fon muttered a curse under her breath. "Ikkaku, what about the most recent victim's vital organs?"
Ikkaku cleared his throat, suddenly feeling uneasy. "They were missing, Captain."
Yes. The same thing happened to the other victims as well. The brain, the heart, the liver and the lung were missing from the corpses. One could only wonder what the killer could possibly want with the organs.
"We had already ruled out the possibility of syndicates selling human organs in black markets as the one responsible for the murders. Ripping off the organs would cause damage and there is no way these syndicates risking those valuable organs like that."
"That's right, Abarai. But think, what other possible reason to take away the organs?"
"That's disgusting, Ikkaku."
"Shut up, Yumichika. For you, everything is disgusting."
"Cut it off, both of you! Show some respect for the Captain!"
Ikkaku and Yumichika both snapped at Kira, "Shut up, Kira!"
Captain Soi Fon slammed her hand on the table. Silence fell across the room. No one dared to cross her when she was pissed.
"Stop behaving like children!"
Simultaneously, all of them, including Renji, apologized.
"This is a serious matter. And, considered as the elites of the police squad, I expect good things and results from all of you. Try to solve this case as soon as you can. Stop the killer before someone else gets killed.
"Yes, Captain," again, they said it simultaneously.
"Abarai, Ikkaku, the two of you are to work on the most recent case. Ayasegawa, you are to check the database of missing persons for the last six months and see if they were somehow linked to the place where the victims were found. Find out the similarities between those victims. We needed those data to narrow down our search. And Kira, keep in touch with the Forensic Lab. As soon as the facial reconstructions were done, take immediate action and try to match it with Ayasegawa's lists of missing persons. Try your best to identify the John Doe and Jane Doe."
They sat unmoved in their seats. Suddenly unable to move, fearing that their captain would get more annoyed if they do.
"Well? Get going. Do you need your asses whipped?"
"Yes, Capt~ Eh… No, Captain!"
And they scrambled out of the room. No one dared to stand the wrath of Captain Soi Fon.
And thus, began a story never told…
A story of creatures that came alive in the night…
A story of love between two very opposite beings…
A story of hope, faith, and sacrifices…
A story of evil, deceits, and manipulations…
Good against evil…
Hope against desperations…
Faith against deceits…
Sacrifices against manipulations…
Black versus white…
It all happened…
Behind the moon…
Detrás de la Luna…