Happy Couple-Days-After-Thanksgiving, all. I am, in fact, alive. Uh, surprise! This chapter has been mostly done for quite some time, but because I became so distracted by everything else in my life, it remained unposted and unenjoyed for months. It was, however, beta-ed by the wonderfully efficient Aldedron. She got this chapter back to me in just a couple days with some marvelous suggestions, and I thank her grandly for that! Finals are here for me in the next two weeks, but I hope to write and post as much as possible during winter break. It worked last year! (oh god, has it been that long since I started this thing) :)
Feel free to comment, complain, or lurk. Really, who am I to judge after all this time. Plot happens in this chapter -fluff was kinda taking over there for a bit. As a general reminder for those of you without photographic memories, the story so far is thus:
Saya has woken up 30 years after the end of the anime. Haji is with her, and together they go to see Kai.
Kai has been taking care of Saya's nieces-with occasional help from Julia and her son, David. The father-the David we are all familiar with, was reported dead not long after Saya went to sleep.
Red Shield is no longer in existence, but since (almost) all chiropterans are extinct, this isn't a real problem.
Mika and Zuki(the nieces) confronted Saya about feeling like outsiders, and pressed her for information as to how to unlock their true powers. Since drinking human blood is pretty much the answer to that, Saya had a hard time of it. She was also embarrassed when questioned about drinking Haji's blood. Haji reluctantly saved her from having to answer. Since then, Saya and Haji have returned to Kai's shop/home, but the girls are late.
New Beginnings (Chapter 5)
It was dark. The girls hadn't returned.
Kai had long since removed Saya's watch, but she stared at her bare wrist anyway.
"This is ridiculous. We have to go look for them." She snatched up her jacket and headed for the front door.
Kai stepped out in front of her, a forced look of calm on his face.
"Look, I called Julia. She says that the girls called to chat around four o'clock. It's only a quarter past six; they probably just went out to grab dinner."
Saya saw the stress behind his expression and wasn't fooled.
"I know you're just trying to calm me down, but now's not the time. You're worried too. I'm going." She slipped past him with hurried grace, Haji following silently.
It was still damp outside, the heavy rain from earlier lingering under the darkened sky. The pair jumped silently over the rooftops, all pretense of normality discarded as their worry for Mika and Zuki grew. They followed the path the girls had taken away from the park, soon arriving at an intersection.
"Which way?" Saya asked, head turning back and forth between the different streets.
She didn't wait for Haji to answer, however, instead flashing to her left in the direction of an antiques store. They could see a dim glow coming from the back of the shop, and Saya quickly began knocking loudly on the front glass. Haji stepped to her side, noticing the impressive display of samurai armaments in the window.
A young foreign man approached them from inside the shop.
"Sorry, we're closed!" He gestured towards the sign in the window.
"We're not here to shop!" yelled Saya.
"Our nieces may have stopped by her earlier—twin girls—we're here looking for them!"
She paused, ready to describe them further if needed, but he waved at her dismissively.
"I don't want no trouble okay? Those girls were here, and I sent them along. I haven't done anything wrong, and now I'm done doing business with you all." He pulled the bars down over the inside glass to emphasize his point and turned to leave.
"Wait! Where did y—"
Saya watched as he left through the back of the shop and the lights went out. She turned to Haji, who stepped close enough to wrap his arms around her. He bent slightly before propelling both of them to the roof of the building.
They watched as the shop owner exited loudly down the back stairs. He paused to adjust his things before heading down the nearest side street, tapping his fingers rhythmlessly against his coat pocket.
Saya didn't hesitate, appearing in front of him instantly. A thrill ran through her as she was reminded of how good it felt to move like this.
"Where did you send my nieces?" Her tone was deadly, a list of implied threats running through it.
"Wh-what the hell?" He turned in an attempt to run, but stopped short as he noticed a man in front of him. Haji stood still, shoulders back. The shop owner immediately gave up escape, turning back to the woman.
"I dunno who you people are or why everyone is suddenly so interested in those local girls. They haven't done nothing wrong, and I'm sorry I ever got involved." He crossed his arms over his chest with an expression of guilt on his face.
"I just want to find my nieces. Tell me where they are." Saya's voice was a bit more passive now, but her determination for answers hadn't changed.
The owner looked her over, her shared appearance with the girls' obvious, and somehow relaying truth to her words.
"I don't know how much of this you know, or how you're related to all it all. But five days ago some European man comes into my shop asking about my collection—nothing specific. He says he's new to the area, and has a daisho set even rarer than mine. He told me to send anyone interested over in the direction of the old high school where they'd see his shop or something. I dunno, I never checked it out. Yesterday, he stops by and says he found a good buyer online, and if I would please send them in his direction when they came by here. He told me to expect two teenage girls. It seemed super fishy, but he... he paid me to make sure they got over there." His face twisted down in shame as he continued. "I didn't want to take the money, but business hasn't been good lately and I—I really needed it. Then today another man attempts to pay me to call him when those girls got to my shop. I told him to—Hey." He looked up from staring at the ground only to find both the strange girl and her bodyguard gone.
"Why can't we find anything?" Saya hissed in frustration, her tone echoing off the school walls. They had been combing through the courtyard for almost an hour and her patience was all but gone.
"What could have happened here? There's no sign of a struggle, or of anything at all. The shopkeeper said this was where he was instructed to send them, wasn't it?" She kept her voice low and controlled, but her fists shook with frustration as she flashed across the grass.
"Haji, don't you try and talk me into going back; we can't just give up. There has to be something."
"Saya," he repeated, the added force in his tone making her turn towards him.
He held up three small pieces of foil. She appeared at his side.
"What are these? Candy wrappers?" She took them from Haji and examined them.
"They smell of the girls, and someone else," he remarked.
Saya's head snapped up. "Really?" She straightened, her gaze predatory. Haji watched her with mixed feelings. She looked right when she was hunting someone like this, her eyes one step from the glow he knew so well. But it made him uneasy.
"Do you recognize the third scent?" she asked.
"No... and yes. I know I've never encountered this exact scent before, of that I'm sure, but it still feels familiar." His gaze dropped a bit. "I'm afraid my sense of smell is not that of a bloodhound; I won't be able to track it."
"Don't worry about that. I'm amazed that you could even tell they were touched by the girls. Now that we know that, maybe we can get something off of the third. Technology's got to have improved in that field in the past thirty years, right?"
"There's no way to lift prints off of crinkled foil— the surface is too textured. Sorry." The officer handed the foils back in a clear evidence bag and stepped out of the lab room.
Saya made a sound of frustration, her sudden movement knocking papers everywhere.
"Saya..." Haji knew that this had a been a long shot, and moved to calm her. But he stopped more than a foot behind her, unsure of how to do so. Her back was turned to him, and her shoulders shook with anger. Their only lead had gone cold. He wanted to reach out and touch her, but something kept him from doing so. They still didn't know if there even was a problem; the girls had only been missing for a few hours. Though he had to admit, the shopkeeper's words were alarming. Someone was willing to pay strangers for a meeting alone with them. He had rarely interacted with the girls over the years, but he felt strongly attached to them.
Haji noticed that his arm had risen out towards Saya, fingers outstretched. He wanted so badly to be able to comfort her and to make everything better. To be able to find Mika and Zuki.
He heard her swallow and then watched as she walked out of the room. Haji let his arm fall.
Kai paced the main room, no longer trying to feign ease. It hadn't been long enough to start calling and worrying people but he couldn't think of anything else to do.
Sighing, he pulled out his cell phone for the umpteenth time that evening and dialed Mika's number. He set it on the counter with the speakerphone on and listened to the ring echo off of the empty walls. Again and again. After a minute her voice cut in, relaying its usual message of absence: "I'm sorry, Mika isn't here right now. You've reached her refrigerator instead. If you'd kindly leave a message I'll post it on myself with a pineapple magnet." He remembered joking with her when she first changed her message to that—and asked for the stove. Kai walked around the counter and snapped the phone shut.
His body tensed as he recognized the package from earlier. He had forgotten all about it since Saya's arrival. Picking it up and flipping it over, he checked the return address again: A.D. Pharmaceutical company. It was addressed to the girls. He grabbed a steak knife from the pile of clean dishes and sliced across the package's seal. Ripping through the last of the tape by pulling the cardboard flanks upwards, Kai found himself staring at a notebook surrounded by packing peanuts. His stomach tightened as he lifted it out of the box carefully, revealing two glass vials filled with black liquid. Julia had never sent such a strange package to them before, and he was beginning to worry that maybe it wasn't her who ordered it after all.
Backing away from the gutted cardboard box, he felt behind him for his cell phone.
"Hello?" a distracted female voice answered.
"Julia? It's me."
"Oh! Nice to hear from you again, Kai. Did you forget something earlier? With all this back-and-forth I'm thinking it's high time David and I discussed coming down for a visit." Kai could hear the hum of machines in the background and the faint tapping of a keyboard. Julia never ceased to amaze him with her multitasking abilities.
He debated for a second whether or not to tell her the girls were missing. It still hadn't been that long, they would probably be walking through the door any minute now. His stomach flip flopped, and he decided to keep his paranoia to himself.
"Listen, you wouldn't have forgotten to tell me about a package you sent for them, would you?"
"Hm? A package?" She paused, and the typing in the background stalled. "Not since that last one for Lulu. You received that one, correct?"
"Right. But nothing after that?"
"I'm afraid not. Are you low on something? I can put to—"
"Don't worry about it, Julia," Kai interrupted, his anxiety growing. Julia sensed this, and pressed on.
"Kai? ...If you're not low on anything, then why ask about a package? You didn't get a random one, did you? If it seems suspicious, don't open it, okay?"
"Ah... well..." Kai realized his mistake and cringed.
"You opened it? And it made you think of me? What in the world was in it?"
"Just... just some vials of stuff. Unmarked. And a notebook."
"Kai, that sounds dangerous. Don't touch it. Any of it. I'll fly in later next week and take a look. Business expense. Keep the girls away from it too, will you?" He could hear her shaking her head. "Why would you open something like that anyway, Kai? You have more sense than that."
"What? Hey, it wasn't marked 'suspicious package', okay? It's from..." He circled back over to the box, crouching down to read the return address on its side. "…A.D. Pharmaceutical company. I thought maybe you switched."
"A.D. Pharmaceutical? Are you sure?" He heard a shuffling on the other end, followed by sound of a shutting door.
"Yes? Why? Julia, why are you suddenly so worked up?"
"Kai." She exhaled. "I do not mean to alarm you, and it is most probably not going to be a problem, but don't touch anything that came out of that package, alright? I'm on my way home right now, and I'm going to grab tickets to Okinawa in the morning. Pick me up at 10?"
"What? You're really coming because of this? What the heck aren't you telling me?"
"A.D. Pharmaceuticals tried to recruit me when they started up fifteen years ago. They knew of my work with the chiropterans. At least, their president knew of my work."
Fifteen years ago? thought Kai. Who would have waited until then to start something related to Julia's old work with the chiropterans? They had been completely eradicated—sans Saya, Haji, Mika and Zuki, twenty-five years ago. Hadn't they?
"Julia, who contacted you about working for this company?" He could hear her getting into her car.
"But they haven't had access to any queens' blood," Kai heard her mutter, the sound of an engine starting in the background.
"Kai, fifteen years ago Van Argiano was released from prison. He immediately began amassing support for a new company, this time with financial backing from the French government. Apparently, something he wrote while behind bars interested them enough to cut his sentence in half. He contacted me personally with a job offer—I was to lead a division of the company responsible for using chiropteran blood derivatives to heal wounds in humans. I declined, naturally, since exposing people to any level of chiropteran blood can have terrible consequences. I told him as such, but he was convinced I was wrong."
Kai paused to absorb this new information, angry with himself for never having looked into Van's activities after he left prison. Now that Julia had mentioned it, he remembered clearly seeing his release on the television years ago. "Julia?" He asked, still trying to understand her earlier reaction. "That's unnerving, but what does it all have to do with this package?"
"I have no idea. But if I were you, I'd keep a seriously close eye on the girls, alright? Van Argiano's chiropteran experiments never got off the ground because he didn't have access to queens' blood. Since then he's dabbled in human developmental research, but if the French government is putting pressure on him for results of a different nature, or if he's just gotten bored with the limits of the human body—he might be interested in what your nieces have to offer. This 'package' could be a harmless gift, of course—until I examine it we won't know. But it could also be a sign that Mika and Zuki are again of interest to a very dangerous man."
Kai saw no reason to keep it from her any longer. "Julia, as of this afternoon, the girls are missing."