All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owner, Yoshihiro Togashi. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
1. Preface: The Night
They say that on the twelfth night of each month, the darkness hunted.
This particular twelfth began in a house in the southeastern suburbs of drizzly York Shin.
Three after midnight; the optimal time for the darkness to begin hunting.
The boy stood in the middle of the living room, where his mission just took place. Beautiful cabinets, lamp tables, a long sofa table and in one corner a long-case clock was tick-tocking in a soothing monotone. The chairs were large, upholstered in winered velvet, and there were two sofas, one each side of the fireplace.
He could hear the wind rustling dry summer leaves in the trees. He listened to a noisy of neighborhood dogs barking doggy gossip back and forth. A car revving its engine as it sped down the road in front of the building. A group of loud wannabe thugs walking down the road, professing their toughness, all the while respecting their parents' curfews. An old hooting in the distance. A cricket chirping.
He noticed all these things, but the smells were what he always noticed first. He could detect the acrid scents of vomit and urine that clung to the floor and walls beneath the masking scents of disinfectant sprays and soap. Of course, above all these horrible scents was the bitter odor of smoke.
These things were only tolerable because of the filthy blood that scattered all over the place, little, tiny drops of red sliding through his fingers and drumming over the wooden floor.
Sweet, salty—warm, soon to be cold. Filthy.
The corpses of his victims reclined dead at his feet. The father, the mother, and the big brother. It was a real massacre and he was the murderer.
The minute he calmed himself down, everything had become surreal. There was nothing unfamiliar about the blood on his hands. The sight was not an aberration. His stunned mind reeled from the sight, yet, in fascinated revulsion, he stared, loosened up a bit. Although he never believed in fortune-tellers, it was eerie how the sticky, drying blood was outlining the lifelines of his palms. He curled his hands and looked at the crusty red of his claws — on his claws, under his claws, it would take forever to get it all out.
Blood only covered his hands, while the rest of his body remained pristine clean. He was that good. He was taught to be that good.
His feet were stuck to the floor. He really couldn't tell how long he'd been rooted to the same spot, just waiting to go back to his normal self, if normal really was what he really had been.
As he lifted his right foot, the suction between his shoe and blood pool made a decidedly nasty slurping noise. Lifting his left foot, he cautiously stepped over one of the corpses. Strange relief flooded him as he stood on the rug island in the midst of a sea of red.
Suddenly and surprisingly, the vomit rose in his throat. The horrid yellow bile coming from his perplexed stomach was the only feeling he currently had.
Wiping his blood-stained hands against the kitchen towel, he looked at his reflection in the stainless steel refrigerator. White hair was matted to his skull with sweat. The victims put on a bit of a fight, but nothing he couldn't handle.
So much blood. Everywhere. No surface was untouched. He stared at horror and horror stared back at him. Even the kitchen ceiling had a crescent-shaped streak of splatter. The entire apartment looked like it'd been bathed with every pint. That was requested. It was demanded in the contract and in his brother's farewell words, 'Make it as bloody as you can.'
Maybe he was becoming a real murderer. A lifeless kid. A monster. A devil. A death maker. But the worst thing was that he actually, truthfully, undoubtedly didn't care. At least not at the moment.
Too many random thoughts were coursing through his shocked brain. He had to hurry, leave the place, but he felt so sluggish, so mentally tired.
He needed to get out of there. Out of this catastrophic, claustrophobic room. Away from the sights and the smells. Away from the constant reminder of what he did.
He needed to perfectly calm his nerves before making any moves. It was the way he was taught, the words his big brother had drilled into his mind: "Think, find who you are. Bring him back again."
Leaving the island-like safety of the kitchen rug, he stepped only on clean squares of cold tile. Slowly and carefully, he walked away from the living room and down a dimly lit hallway.
Then he froze, his breath hitching in his throat
Startled, the assassin turned his head swiftly to find a little girl staring at him. How long had she been here? He couldn't observe her before. Nobody had told him about her. Nobody had mentioned that she'd be here.
She was sitting in the darkest corner of the hallway, staring widely, openly, unflinchingly back at him, watching every single movement he made. In return, he searched for something in her eyes. Much to his surprise, he couldn't see hate, grudge or even terror. Simple emotions he used to deal with all the time. He expected to hear some curses, some really bad words, screams, maybe a little bit of weeping. He expected anything but this.
She obviously did not see—and did not know—what he did.
She hugged her bent legs gingerly around her still frame when she saw him closing the small distance between them. He noticed that she was wearing a red dress, her hair was silky black, eyes blue, skin a dark golden color. She looked like she could be his age.
She didn't move an inch when he towered over her. She did nothing but stare at him as he knelt on the floor before her. And smirked.
Her eyebrows shot up, her small hands balling into fists around her knees.
Unsteadily, he got to his feet. He exhaled in an unfathomable satisfaction. Was scaring her his main intention from smirking at her like that? It made him feel peaceful and, at the same time, deliriously alive.
The little assassin took out his cell phone from his pocket to dial a number. "Done," he said in an ominously soft voice before he quickly hung up.
Cold air hit the back of his neck where he had left the window open. His exist. Turning around, he started to walk away slowly towards the exist.
"How old are you?" He heard the soft voice of the little girl again. He stopped and turned around. She was still looking at him with her wide wondering eyes, only now she was standing on her feet.
"Nine," he replied, blinking. "How old are you?"
He didn't know what he could say to her. In fact, he couldn't relate to anyone before. He didn't know how to deal with people outside his house, even if kids that were just like him. He had no idea what to say or how to speak. He was a Zaoldyeck, after all. And the Zaoldyeck shows no emotion.
Even for little kids like this one.
He turned his face again, trying to ignore her. He had to ignore her. He shouldn't be talking to anyone during his mission. He shouldn't interact, shouldn't engage.
"What's your name?" she asked him then, raising her voice purposefully; she was obviously interested in him, too.
"No," he answered, ignoring every voice in his head that screamed anything related to the word 'shouldn't'. No names.
"Can you stay with me for a while? I was asked not to leave the room. I can't—" She looked down at her feet "—go further than this spot."
Killua sighed, lost of words. Was she out of her mind? Or was she just too friendly? Did all kids just trusted other kids so easily or was she just too gullible, even for a kid?
But who was he to judge? He did not know what a normal kid should be like. Hell, he did not know what a normal person should be like.
What would any assassin do in this kind of situation? He wondered what would his father or his brother do. They would probably ignore her and walk away—no, he would definitely ignore her, maybe even get rid of her.
The thought sparked momentarily in his head.
He was neither is father or his brother.
He questioned himself for a short time, but then he found himself getting closer to the girl again. Kneeling on the ground again. Only he couldn't say anything.
"I'm Yuki." Her smile brightened, and this time, he couldn't help but smile with her, too.
"Do you want me to show you my room? There are a lot of cool stuff in there." She held her palm out for him.
He just stared at it. How stupid could she be? How foolish? Killua felt too self-conscious then, shuffling uncomfortably on his feet. He brushed his hands against his pants to wipe away the lingering blood traces.
The little kid didn't wait for him to contemplate; she was just too impatient. She grabbed his arm, and pulled him with her. Their small shoes thundered in the hallway that led to the girl's room, making the place full of life. Therein lay the irony.
"Do you want to play?"
Odd jumbled thoughts crisscrossed his emotionally stressed mind.
She took him to her room and showed him a scary number of dolls and toys. For an assassin like him, her room was so weird. It smelled sweet – unlike the scent that invaded him everywhere – and it was too colorful. Too colors. Too many possibilities. He did not know what it was like to have too many possibilities.
She asked him to sit on her bed then she started to talk, walk, dance around the place.
For the first time in his life, Killua felt the ease. The simplicity of the world this girl was living in.
Because for once, he wanted to know what it meant to be in a world with colors. To know what it meant to be stupid. And foolish. And just…normal.
The odd, incoherent thoughts had started to get overwhelming to him. As he watched the girl, lively and imaginative, the hollow in his chest expanded and deepened, but he still wanted to stay. Stay here. Just for a while.
Minutes had left.
In the distance, he heard the sirens.
He knew he should run. He should have left the apartment a long time ago.
He stood up very fast and opened the only window that was in the room, gracefully jumping on the nearest building. Once his feet landed soundly, he slowly turned around only to see Yuki's suspicious eyes, staring at him again.
He smiled and waved a goodbye to her, just a timid and weak wave. He wanted to say that he had a nice fifteen minutes with her, but he couldn't.
Weakly, she waved back to him.
He jumped from one building to another until he reached the place where the private jet was supposed to be.
He wandered out onto the quiet streets, trying to reconcile what he saw with what he remembered. Everything seemed different, somehow. Nothing was the same-even the feel of the air, the scent of the sea breeze, the look of the stars; even the things that were supposed to be eternal, supposed to be the same now as they were ten years ago or fifty years hence-everything seemed different. It was as if something had been robbed from him-as if he had just lost his allotted share of youthful naivety and this homecoming was his rude awakening.
The private jet landed on the building to pick him up.
Laying his head on folded arms, he closed tired, scratchy eyes. What happened during this mission was very strange. He just sat there, refusing to think about it, just letting the fresh, unfamiliar wave of guilt rush into his veins.