Glass 1: Heirloom
He found himself on the outer side of a circle of crosses, the letter from his uncle crumpled in his hand.
To the one who inherits my fortune:
Do what you want with my house, my money, and whatever other junk you may see. But do not break the heirloom which I keep on the highest floor. It's something I picked up a very long time ago, when I was still a young man, and though I've neglected it as I aged, I believe you'll appreciate its condition.
Jyake Shinten Tezuka
12th Grand Maestro Hunter of the Shinten Line
Tezuka's uncle had given up the work of a hunter even before his father had, but according to his grandfather, Uncle Jyake's skills were still first rate despite having ended his practice in his youth. As a result, Uncle Jyake was one of the few hunters to live to old age and die of natural causes. But his long life had been a lonely one, with many lovers but no wife, no children and very few friends, most of whom passed away before him, killed in the hunt they lived for.
Though the 12th shinten master was not known to have hunted after the age of 30, his father, Tezuka's grandfather, had clearly seen the younger brother would not take over the duties of a maestro. Thus, as his grandfather's last hope, Tezuka had been vigorously trained and, after quickly proving his excellence even as a child, been appointed the 13th Grand Maestro by the age of fourteen.
As was tradition, the successor to the line became the successor to the fortune that had kept his uncle afloat, even though the elderly man had not worked in over fifty years. Of course, twenty five year old Tezuka did not care for the 'junk' any more than his uncle had. He had already been given the highest quality tools of the trade, and been blessed with skills and training that had brought all of Japan and half the world to acknowledge him as one of the best, if not the number one, hunter in asia.
At the age of nine, he'd had his first kill. It was really his grandfather that had done the work, but he'd been given the honor of the finishing blow. He had never forgotten that first experience, the gold eyed beast that struggled to escape his grandfather's trap of imitation sunlight, its snarling glare, its fangs dripping with crimson life, ivory claws and ebony wings thrashing angrily at the small child who calmly, emotionlessly, plunged a silver dagger into its heart.
His other kills had been similar. Once trapped, they became like cornered rats, angry, vicious, bearing their true appearance of evil right at the end, though often times he would first discover them living amongst humans, pretending to be decent beings of life. But they knew him as well as he knew them - they would even come after him, thinking they could win, whatever glory and wealth and fame their own kind had promised for the death of the bespectacled brunette who had slain so many of them.
In every battle, for every kill, Tezuka had shed blood but never tears. He was, in a way, another kind of monster.
He had never, upon seeing a vampire, no matter how well clothed, how suavely spoken, how carefully mannered, been unable to distinguish a vampire from a human.
And yet here, he found himself staring at something that from all signs was clearly vampiric, and... did not find himself tensing, the blood running through his veins calling out, the dagger at his side humming...
Like any disguised vampire, it did not have eyes of gold. But such sharp, sunlit shades of blue he had never seen, not for a being of darkness. He had never seen a vampire unclothed, and he had never seen one... cry... water. Tears of water had begun to spill, soon after her entered the room, from those shimmering sapphires... clear and salty, like human tears, not the tears of blood that vampires were known for.
This alone would have caused him to second guess, were it not for the wealth of clues his uncle had left... the circle of crosses the boy was bound in; the holes around the outer edges of the roof that brought sunlight down in patches, creating a secondary cage; the silver chords wrapped around the boy's arms, pulling them up towards a bar in the ceiling, and the chains around his angles, keeping him in a constant kneeling position, forcing him to show every inch of his clothless body, his pale, sheening skin, the curves of his bones and tone of his muscles. Tezuka had seen many of these monsters weak, on the verge of defeat or dead, but never had he seen one vulnerable.
The boy gave him the strangest look, one that Tezuka would not understand for a very long time. The tears continued to leak, streaming down the boy's cheeks in dirty trails, his honey brown hair sticking to his face. His pink lips parted slightly, as if to say something, but there were no signs of fangs behind them. There was no malice, no anger, not even fear within those eyes or that expression.
But do not break the heirloom...
He wanted to kill it. He wanted to kill it so badly, for there was only one thing he hated more than vampires, and that was creatures he did not understand.
...do not break...
The lips parted, moved, mouthed something, Tezuka could swear he heard a whisper... Kill me...
He stepped between the crosses. They were different sizes and shapes, ornate pieces of gold or silver, staggered jaggedly about, roughly following the middle ring of a magic circle that elegantly covered the floor, with the boy in its center. He did not have his dagger ready. It was clear he didn't need to.
I believe you'll appreciate its condition.
The silver chords dug deeply into the boy's arms, creating black, deep scars where they had burned their way through. The skin must have been completely dead, otherwise they would have cut those skinny limbs to pieces. The chords had been notched, tiny prongs sticking out along them, forming miniature crosses. Tezuka had seen such tools before but they seemed like a waste of time.
His uncle had once told him no tool was unuseful.
He took hold of the boy's chin, pulling the round, baby face upwards, running his thumb along the boy's lips then forcing it inside till he felt the unnaturally sharp incisors brush his skin.
"You won't drink?" His tone was bland, calm to match his eyes, as he met the quiet glistening ones that trembled back at him.
He pulled his hand away, the boy gasping as if he'd been choked, confusion marring the hunter's brow. This boy was clearly a vampire, but his behavior was too bizarre for the bespectacled youth to put aside.
It's something I picked up a very long time ago.
Maybe this place, full of crosses and taunting sunlight, had driven the creature crazy. Maybe his uncle had these intentions, keeping such a being trapped here... what had his uncle been thinking? Keeping a vampire in his mansion's attic like a... pet, though strangely, it did not seem uncharacteristic of the old man, who had taught Tezuka many things, both in the world of hunting and the world of desire.
It was really because of his uncle that Tezuka technically had a wife. He'd never really seen her, it'd been too dark whenever she'd come to him, and he'd been more or less drugged into ejaculation. But once she was pregnant, the elders had been satisfied and had whisked her away, and Tezuka had never seen his child even as it grew in the womb. He'd had other women, and a few men, more as a way to pass the time than out of pleasure, but that had been mostly due to uncle's urging...
No... it couldn't be. He looked closely at the light haired being trapped before him. If he took out of his mind that this was a creature of evil... as a human, this boy was... beautiful. But all vampires were... it was partially because of this that Tezuka thought so little of humans, who paled in comparison. Still, there was something different about this one... for despite his ethereal beauty, the boy still felt human.
Do not break the heirloom.
Fine. Tezuka would listen to the last wish his uncle had made of him. It went against everything he'd been taught, but just as he'd been taught to hunt, he'd been taught to be sensible. This boy was clearly harmless, at least while he remained a captive, and Tezuka would have two months to slay him anyway, as he had told his family he would care take of his uncle's house for such a period.
He turned on his heal, deciding he would ponder his discovery further while digging through his uncle's office, with a feeling like he was leaving the room light on and should turn it off. He stepped through the circle and towards the door, and almost missed hearing the rough whisper from the boy.
"Master..." The boy's throat was coarse as if damaged, his voice refusing to come from it. Tezuka turned in surprise, realizing he was being addressed. "At least... may I have a glass of water?"
Perhaps it was because of his uncle's wish, or an unusual trace of pity, or perhaps just curiosity, but Tezuka did return to the room once more that day with a full flask.
Glass 2: Bread
He spent the next several days sorting through the manor. His uncle had everything organized about how one would expect of such a man: most of the upstairs rooms were full of junk he clearly didn't want but couldn't get rid of. Gifts from lovers, tools of the trade worn beyond use, clothing and other belongings left behind by guests, furniture and other random things that must have been inherited from generations past. Tezuka's grandfather was already in a clamor about how the old house must be inherited by the current Shinten master. Tezuka could understand his uncle's chagrin at being forced into living here.
But if the so-called heirloom in the highest floor was any proof, his uncle had made the most of it.
He went every day around noon to see it. The creature in the skin of a beautiful young teenager hung limply like always, arms pulled up over its head, ankles chained to the floor. He brought it water, holding the flask up to pinkish lips, which drank greedily yet graciously at the same time. It was clear that the water would never be enough, but the being showed no sign of blood lust, even when Tezuka held his fingers against its fangs.
If it took even one drop of blood, he'd have enough reason to kill it. But it never even pricked the skin.
One time he'd sat watching it while eating dinner. It was the only other living thing in the manor, the only interesting thing in the twenty acre woods that spanned the Shinten estate. Every time he entered the room, those cerulean eyes were empty and downcast, but upon sensing his presence, the being would look up at him, and its lips would slowly twitch into something of a smile. It had stared at his strips of steak so intently, he'd experimented by giving it a piece.
He'd never heard of a vampire that drank water or ate food, but from that day on he bought enough groceries for two. The boy that was not a boy ate fruits and vegetables, breads and even sweets. It was almost amusing.
The smile was starting to grow.
As the days past, when he visited, he'd find the boy no longer down cast, but awaiting his return with a small, close lipped smile. Tezuka had not spoken to it, and it had not spoken to him since that first day. But each day it looked a little stronger, as though its body had been malnourished the way a human's would have been, and as though the food had somehow revived it.
He wondered how long he would play with it before he had to kill it.
The third week after his arrival, he was called out for a job over at a village on the other side of the mountains. He spent the night in a ryokan, killing the foolish vampire who, like all the others, fought bloodily to the death. It was clearly a newborn, having slaughtered several villagers upon its arrival, as if asking to be hunted.
He was not able to return to the manor until late evening. He'd been avoiding going into the barrier without the added security of sunlight, but the two day gap left him feeling strangely anxious. He felt strong, having cleanly completed the hunt, and kept his blade at his side as he entered the attic.
His eyes widened at the scene that greeted him.
The room was a lit with magic, the circle carved on the floor glowing softly yet strongly in light shades of blue. A column of light rose up in its center, surrounding the boy and going up until it reached the ceiling. Unlike the visage of daylight, where the wooden boards and dust of the attic cast an aura of decay, in the mystical light the room seemed ripped with luscious power, particularly with its captive on display in the center.
The boy had his head down, as he had in the beginning, his bangs covering his face, but upon sensing Tezuka's entrance, looked up with a smile so bright that it hurt.
The hunter approached with caution, weary of a being he knew was stronger at night, but comforted by the glow of the circle, which was far more powerful than he had initially realized. He passed through the ring of crosses, which seemed unnecessary in light of the barrier, and drew out from his bag a bean paste filled bread that he'd bought from the village.
It'd been strange to hand feed the creature whenever they ate, but Tezuka had nothing better to do except clean through the antiques, so it'd become something he'd grown used to. But now he realized it was something unnecessary.
"You can't pass through the barrier, even without the chains," he stated, eyeing again the twisting scars that wound underneath the silver chords.
"No," the vampire said, surprising him, its voice soft but stronger than it'd been before.
Frown deepening, Tezuka wondered if he should be listening to a creature of darkness verifying his assumptions. For all he knew this could be a trap. But still, he'd been waiting for an excuse to kill this creature, and he was well prepared tonight...
He unwound the chord on the boy's left arm, and the boy made a small cry as the limb fell limply to the ground.
"...S-sorry..." the boy whimpered, turning his tearing eyes away from the hunter's glare. "... It's been so long since I could move it..."
Any other vampire, when given even the smallest chance, would have used what little strength it had to extend its claws and strike. But this... this being was so... weak. Or maybe... no, this was only weakness from decades without blood. His uncle must have also fed it like a human. Perhaps it'd forgotten its blood lust ... but a drop would have been enough to awaken it.
Tezuka placed the pastry in the boy's limp hand before he left.
Glass 3: Master
He entered the attic to find the light hair boy asleep, his upper half laying against the column of light as if it were a wall.
After Tezuka had undone the other chord, he'd undone one of the ankle chains, allowing the being to move within its small cage. The inner circle was only four or five feet wide, but at least the creature was less pitiful this way.
Not that Tezuka felt any pity. His goal was only to properly care for the heirloom his uncle had left behind.
He placed the bowl of oatmeal within the circle then settled in his usual place against the wall. He'd set part of a tatami mat down in the corner, having cut it so that it would not lay upon any part of the four ring circle.
The boy's eyes opened slowly, but it did not look sleepy as a human would have. That closed mouth smile appearing on its face, it took the bowl in his hands, as if savoring the feel of the warm ceramic, before it took the spoon and helped itself.
"The light doesn't burn you." The hunter eyed the column of light, which glowed brilliantly in the darkness of the attic.
"No. To me, it feels like glass," the vampire smiled softy as it spoke, its eyes crinkling upwards until the blue could no longer be seen. "But it's stronger than the traditional wards. Things that burn or repulse can be ignored by anyone powerful enough, but barrier magic is absolute."
"..." Tezuka did not directly ask questions, yet the youthful being always seemed to have answers. It liked to chat, he'd learned over the past few days, and it seemed to be less afraid of his cold glares that all others - humans included - shied away from. "In that case," the sharp eyed hunter said in his usual monotone, "the crosses and patches of sunlight are unnecessary."
The boy shook its head. "They aren't here to keep me in. Their purpose is to keep other vampires out."
Frowning, Tezuka almost asked the question that'd been on his mind from the first moment he'd come here, but his lips stayed sealed. This vampire liked to explain things, but as far as the hunter knew its words were all lies.
"... Thank you for the meal, Master." The boy pushed the cleared out bowl as far as it could outside of the barrier. "I liked the walnuts and cranberries mixed in."
"... Did you also call my uncle Master?" It was a question, finally, but not the one he wanted to ask.
"Yes," the boy replied matter-of-factly. "He is ... was not the same as my vampiric master, but he was my master. Now you are my master."
"..." So, the boy was not a pure bred as Tezuka had suspected, but one of the lowly familiars that served a master vampire. Such creatures were of the most pitiful sort, and the most abundant. Older vampires no longer hunted for themselves, and instead created other, lower vampires that would hunt for them... then the masters would feed indirectly from them. Such familiars ran rampant, and were more often prey for hunters than efficient at finding prey themselves.
"At least, that's what I would like to think." The boy turned away from him, leaning against the glass-like column as if to rest.
It was a very long time later that Tezuka understood what he meant.
Glass 4: Queens
He heard screaming, crying, moaning, but all he could see were the blankets crinkled below him. He was lying on his stomach, his arms twisted behind his back, and someone was holding him down. He could hear heavy pain within the cries, but even though he realized he was the one screaming, he could not feel it.
After all, this was only a dream.
He woke up to sunlight streaming onto his eyes. The dawn was his only wake up call; he was not raised to use alarm clocks or other contraptions and no matter how late a night he had, his body knew better than to let him sleep in.
He cut a loaf of bread for breakfast, buttering some pieces and leaving plain ones for himself. He imagined this must be what it was like to have a dog, or this creature was more like a kitten. Though no cat would appreciate life in a cage. He brought up the bread on one of the white ceramic plates he'd dusted off a few weeks ago.
The boy was not sleeping, but like always his eyes were downcast and blank, his knees tucked against his chest with his arms around them. The remain ankle chain had been removed now, but there was still not enough room for him to even lie down. His expression changed into something more happy once he realized Tezuka was there. The hunter wondered what it was that excited the vampire - the food or the presence of another. Only a total idiot would not be able to tell how bored the creature was.
He pulled out of his pocket a pack of cards that he had found in one of the rooms, and after setting down the buttered bread, handed five of the cards to the boy. The look of shock on the vampire's face was priceless, then it looked as if it were about to cry as it fingered the cards in its hands.
"Do you know how to play poker?" Tezuka asked, ignoring the unnerving bit of emotion this creature showed from time to time. Usually the vampire was calm, soft voiced, and had only a few expressions, but Tezuka had seen that even the smallest acts of kindness could bring out something more. The spartan hunter did not like displays of emotion, particularly from women, but the way the otherworldly brunette would try to pull in his tears, blush a bit and look oddly ashamed for crying was... endearing.
Tezuka did not like how his feelings toward the vampire were starting to change. He hoped he'd have an excuse to kill it soon.
"Yes, yes... at least, I played a bit with the other familiars, but after a while they wouldn't play games of logic with me..."
Sitting on the other side of the barrier, Tezuka placed the deck just inside the column of light so both of them could reach it. He looked at his cards, deciding what to discard and what to keep after a short period of time.
"This isn't really a good game to play with only two people," the vampire chuckled, as it set down two of its cards. It drew two more, pulling them up. "And if there's nothing to bet... let's see..." It looked thoughtful, tilting its head to one side, soft brown locks flowing onto its shoulder. "If I win, you have to tell me your name."
". . ." Pausing, Tezuka wondered why he had never thought of it before. Well, there was no need for him to introduce himself to a vampire; after all, he'd never known a vampire for more than three days, his longest hunt, and he'd certainly never conversed with one. Playing card games was out of the question. "Then... if I win, you must tell me your name and the name of your master."
The vampire's mouth dropped open a little, his smile vanishing. ". . . Then... " he glanced down at his cards, his lips twisting into a smirk and his eyes opening into a sharp dagger of blue. "Should I win, on top of your name... you have to bring me the chocolate croissants from Cafe Saint Marc."
Frowning, Tezuka examined very carefully the look on the vampire's face, the way he held his cards with confidence. If it was a bluff, it was a very good one. But two could play that game. "Then, if I win, instead of pastries, I'll bring you the boxes my uncle dumped my great grandmother's porcelain ballerina collected in and you can dust them off. I'll even bring you soap and sponges."
Chuckling, the vampire's eyes disappeared again as his smile turned merry. "I'd like that, actually. Mmm but the other request is a bit of a problem for me... how about this, since it's just the two of us, if either of us folds then we don't have to grant the requests."
". . . You aren't going to fold." The hunter glared, and the boy's smile grew.
"Then, shall we?" Smiling, he lay down his hand. For all his confidence, he only had a pair of queens, hearts and diamonds.
Eyebrow twitching, Tezuka laid out his own hand. One pair of queens, spades and clubs.
Full out laughing, the vampire set his cards back in the pile. "That's the first time I haven't won in sixty years," he exclaimed. "Then, since we tied, how about we stick with just exchanging names?"
Nodding, the hunter placed his cards on the pile as well, leaving them within the inner circle. "Tezuka Kunimitsu." It had been a long, long time since he had introduced himself without his title of maestro.
"Fuji Syuusuke," the vampire smiled. "It suits me, don't you think?"
"You're Japanese?" Now that he knew, he realized the rounded face, straight hair and small, flat nose were giveaways.
"I'm a quarter English," the boy chuckled, "hence the light hair and eye color. But it wasn't this light for my siblings..." The smile faded, and a blank sadness crept into his eyes as he grew silent.
So, the boy... Fuji still remembered his life before he was a vampire. From what Tezuka had just learned, that would have been at least sixty years ago. Said siblings were probably dead.
He left the plate of bread for the honey brunette to snack on, and nodded in parting before heading off to do his round of sorting for the day.
He was already down the stairs and had begun clearing through the next room, his uncle's library, when he realized the cards hadn't been shuffled.
A/N: According to babynamesworld, Syuusuke means 'to learn meditation.' Fuj is joking because this is about all he can do while trapped in the circle. Of course, he also just bragged about always winning games of logic, so he's referring to his family name Fuji as well, which means 'peerless; unparalleled.'
To be continued.