Nothing Sweet About Me
Bright Lights. Big City
The big city was always vibrant and alive. There were always lights, always people on the streets, always something happening somewhere or other. Like ants below her feet, people went on with their lives surrounded by richness and adventures.
Megumi overlooked the spectacle from her expensive apartment on the top floor of a building which was higher than the highest mountain in Sotoba. In the past two years since her escape from that awful place, she had settled in magnificent Tokyo, leaving a trail of bodies in her wake. Bodies which had ended up paying for her apartment and her living costs before they died permanently.
Moving to the big city had been her dream all her life, and she had achieved it. It had all come to her very naturally. Being the center of attention as she wildly danced the night away in clubs, decadent wealth, even some fame, fabulously hot sex with beautiful men and women...
Okay, that last one had taken quite a bit of practice and effort. But it ended up being a good source of food either way.
Megumi had want for nothing - money, food, entertainment.
And yet it all seemed so incredibly hollow.
All her life she had dreamed of coming to the city, being discovered by a talent scout which lead to wealth, fame and a fabulous life. In a way she had achieved that.
So why did she feel so... so...
The city was a place of crushing emptiness, which was eroding away her sanity bit by bit every day. Those fabulous city people she used to dream about? Many city folk were just as miserable, unfashionable and ignorant as the bumpkins from Sotoba, some even more so! Those clubs she liked to dance in? Noisy, dirty, smelly. Wealth? She'd learned quickly enough that money wasn't everything. Fabulously hot sex with beautiful men and women? It got old really fast.
Killing? The joy she got from that had started to fade even now.
She was young, certainly by Shiki standards. Was this how it would be like as she'd get older? How did someone like Chizuru deal with it. Or even Sunako-sama. Or Shiki even older than both of them together? Had they ever felt as stale and empty as she did right now, or was it something that had gotten used to?
Questions she could never ask now. She was a masterless Shiki. Megumi had always made damn sure her victims never rose. She had no idea how to run a coven and she would rather be her own person. It was always something she could do when she was older. In turn, Megumi was surprised she had never encountered other Shiki in the city. In fact, she had no idea how many of them were even out there. But then again, it didn't really matter.
Megumi checked the clock. She had wanted to go out but had spent too much time moping around in her apartment, something which was fast becoming a habit. Only two hours left in the night, so there was nothing worthwhile she could do.
How to spend two hours?
TV was a quickly chosen option. She switched it on and was greeted with the spectacle of a Japanese gameshow. Full grown men and women dressed up in Velcro-suits jumping against a wall coated with cloth for a couple of thousand yen. Megumi grunted in disgust and switched it off. To her it was living proof that the city folk were just as terrible as the country bumpkins she had had to deal with all her life.
So, what to do then?
She fished a Nintendo DS from her pocket and piddled on it a little. A few seconds later, the poor device shattered against the wall as the fickle Megumi had changed her mind about playing. Megumi cursed herself when she looked at the ruins of the device - now she'd have to go out and kill an otaku to get a new one tomorrow.
Last option. Sit on the couch, face the window and look mysterious and dour for two hours. Like a proper vampire. She plopped down on the couch in a lotus position and stared at the window.
Like a proper vampire.
She threw herself on her stomach and sank her teeth into the leather upholstery. Finding the taste horrible, she quickly withdrew.
Stalling. It was all just stalling.
She looked up from the couch to see the table next to it. On it was a mobile phone and, next to it, a piece of paper with a number. It had taken quite some effort to find that number, as the owner of it had been placed into a foster family far away from Sotoba.
Megumi bit her lip for a moment and decided to give it another try. She took the phone in one hand, and with shaking fingers, dialed the number.
It rang. Once. Twice. Then a cheerful voice sounded from the other side of the line.
"Hello! Kaori speaking."
Megumi remained silent, frozen in time and space.
"Hello?" Kaori spoke again.
"I-is the person who keeps calling me?" Megumi could hear the fear in her voice. "Who are you? Why wo-"
Megumi clicked away the connection and tossed the phone back to the table.
"Coward," she whispered into the darkness.
She guessed it was time for an early night. Before closing the heavy black drapes in front of the windows, she took one look at the people, lights and traffic.
Funny. Megumi never thought she'd miss Sotoba.
Megumi fumbled nervously with her phone as she sat in a crowded cafe. Despite her recent disdain for the city and cityfolk, she always liked crowds. The idea of a deadly predator like her stalking around her unsuspecting prey made her feel powerful and special.
The men (and some women) in the cafe often shot stares at her. And why not? She was the most beautiful girl in the cafe and she knew it. Megumi had always been a lovely girl, but being a Shiki gave her an unnatural beauty which never went unnoticed. This sometimes gave some meaning to her otherwise empty life, even if it was shallow.
Megumi checked her watch and saw that her guest was late. For a moment, she worried that she might have changed her mind.
Then she saw her.
Kaori, two years older than the last time she had seen her, had entered the cafe. Megumi watched her for a moment - she was still the brown-haired girl she had known from the village, if a little older and more filled out.
Megumi waved at her and the moment Kaori spotted her, she could see her expression change.
Her expression was one of complete joy at seeing her long-lost friend again mixed with abject terror at being faced with a monster. Megumi could smell her fear from across the room.
But that was the reason Megumi has chosen this crowded cafe to meet - with lots of people around, Kaori's fear of being attacked should be somewhat alleviated.
"Megumi-chan," Kaori said, and Megumi could she that her friend wanted to hug her but simply dared not to.
"Kaori-chan," Megumi nodded.
Kaori sat down at the table and an awkward silence followed, only disturbed when the waitress came to take their order.
"Uhm, just coffee, please," Kaori muttered softly.
"Water for me," Megumi nodded. Even though Shiki couldn't eat or drink human food, she could stomach a few sips of water.
More awkward silence.
This was silly. Megumi had finally mustered up the courage to speak to Kaori over the phone, so why couldn't she do it face to face.
"So, uhm," Megumi started. "How was your trip?"
"Only four hours on the Shinkansen," Kaori shrugged nervously.
"Shinkansen are nice."
Megumi bit her lip.
"So, uhm," she started again. "How've you been?"
"How do you think I've been?" Kaori glared at her for a moment, a silent accusation.
Deafening silence. Megumi noticed that Kaori was wearing a rather thick overcoat for this time of year. Beneath the coat, she smelled the distinct odor of freshly cut wood. No doubt she had a stake, a hammer and a myriad of religious charms hidden on her person. Clever girl to come prepared.
Fortunately things went a little bit smoother from that point on. They talked about their lives after Sotoba. Kaori about her brother and her foster family and the new village they lived in, new school new friends. Megumi talked about her life in the big city, omitting the more gruesome details. Eventually, the night was about to end and Megumi found herself having to hurry home.
As the door to the apartment opened, Megumi made a theatrical swing with her arm to invite Kaori in. "Enter of your own free will," Megumi joked, just as Kaori looked at the door with some form of apprehension.
"I, uhm, could stay at a hotel," Kaori tried meekly.
"Don't be silly," Megumi smiled. "My apartment is big enough."
"It really isn't a problem," Kaori said quickly and looked around nervously. Megumi couldn't blame her. After all, Kaori was about to set foot in a lion's den.
"Scared?" Megumi smirked.
"I am not!" Kaori replied, somewhat more defiant.
"Come in then," Megumi tried again. This time, Kaori complied.
"Sure is... big," Kaori said and Megumi could see that she was impressed.
As the sun was about to rise, Megumi quickly closed the drapes. "Look," Megumi asked. "Feel free to use everything here. The fridge is just for show, sadly, but there's a couple of restaurants right around the corner. And don't worry about waking me. When Shiki sleep, hardly anything can wake us."
Megumi could already feel an unnatural fatigue sap at her will. She entered the bedroom and plopped down on the bed.
"Kaori-chan?" she muttered groggily.
"Thank you for coming. Really, thank you," Megumi spoke truthfully. "But, Kaori-chan? I killed your father."
The last thing Megumi saw before drifting off was the look of utter shock on Kaori's face.
Megumi's eyes fluttered open at the start of the next evening. She propped herself off slightly and found that her blouse had been undone. Megumi found the reason for it - next to her on the bed lay a stake and a hammer, close but unused.
Kaori lay sleeping, cradling herself in the corner of the room. The trails of tears on her cheeks were close to drying.
Megumi closed her eyes. Even though she would like to say that she had expected Kaori not to kill her, she truly had no way of knowing if she would still be alive this evening.
"Kaori-chan," Megumi whispered as the other girl tilted her neck slightly. Immediately, Megumi felt the overwhelming urge to feed. Kaori's heartbeat pounded in her head. It would be so easy to taste of that sweet warm blood... Megumi's eyes changed as her fangs extended and craned her neck as to bite.
Megumi closed her eyes and resisted. Kaori had resisted killing her, so she could at least return the favor.
Kaori's eyes fluttered open and looked upon Megumi with sorrow and regret. She never expected Kaori to hug her tightly.
"They made you do it," Kaori sobbed. "They forced you to."
Kaori was lying to herself. But Megumi made no move to correct the lie.
"You're so lonely," Kaori told her. "I've never met a person as lonely as you are."
Megumi felt warm tears running over her cheeks as well.
Nobody got out of Sotoba unscarred.
"Well, no, enough crying for today, hm?" Megumi said, making her best effort to stop the well of tears. "I promised you I would show you the city and I will! I know all the best and fabulous spots. Let's have some fun!"
"You don't have to force yourself to be happy, Megumi-chan," Kaori nodded.
"I want to," Megumi nodded. "Right now, I need to. Come on!"
Kaori yelped as Megumi grabbed her by the arm and pulled her into the nightlife.
Sure, she could understand the need to take precautions while traveling, but to travel in the back of a very tiny trunk of a very tiny car over a very bumpy road was not her idea of glamour.
Another pothole and once again, Megumi's head rammed against the trunk.
"OWWW!" she wailed pathetically.
"Sorry!" Kaori called back from the driver's seat.
"I'm awake! It must be night! I can ride shotgun now!" Megumi growled angrily.
"Didn't know you were awake," Kaori sounded apologetic.
The car came to a stop, ending Megumi's horrific experience. She waited impatiently for Kaori to open the trunk and found that they were standing on the side of a blocked dirt road.
"Geez," she felt her forehead. "How many potholes did you hit? Ugh, I smell of motor oil and spare tire."
Kaori smiled. "Sorry. But we'll have to go through the woods to go further. The roads are still closed."
Megumi nodded and followed ahead. Both girls knew these woods like the back of their hands. They had played here as children for as long as they could remember.
Though the village had burned to the ground, there was never an official investigation. It was called a tragedy in the newspapers - a forest fire which had claimed so many lives. Not all bodies were ever found, the papers said. If only they knew.
They walked together in silence through the remnants of what was once their home. Nature was doing it's job and was quickly reclaiming it.
There was a noticeable age difference now between the two friends. Though Kaori was now in her early twenties, Megumi hadn't aged a day since being turned. Their story while traveling was that Megumi was Kaori's baby sister, though technically she was still a year older than Kaori. Kaori wasn't sure how to explain why Megumi had to travel in the trunk should the police pull her over, making her drive extra careful.
Megumi was, as always, decked out in the most recent of fashion, but then again clothes had always been important to her. Kaori herself had chosen for a more inconspicuous outfit.
And so they walked into Sotoba, passing the burned clinic, the remnants of the houses and places they had once called home. Megumi could see that Kaori's steps became heavier every meter.
"Hey, can we take a break?" Megumi said. "My feet are tired."
"The dead girl is complaining about being tired?" Kaori smiled at her.
"Uh, well, uh..."
"Thank you," Kaori smiled. "Look!"
Kaori pointed at a small roadside wooden fence at a crossroads. Megumi remembered it clearly. It was the place where they often talked after school or in the evenings. It was the place where they had made a pinky promise to be best friends when they were pre-schoolers. Yes, she remembered it well.
"Our place," Megumi said. "And look, it's still in one piece. The fire hardly touched it."
The two girls propped themselves up on the fence and sat there for a moment, looking into the night.
When they had rekindled her friendship, they had made a pact to never talk about the intimate details daily lives - whatever Megumi did as a Shiki, Kaori didn't want to know. One such moment occurred when Kaori was about to say something to Megumi, but noticed she was fumbling with a medical with a medical bloodpack which she had taken from her purse.
Megumi apparently caught the stare. "What? I've just woken up and I'm hungry. It's not fresh, but it's still good."
"Okay," Kaori twiddled her thumbs uneasily. "W-what are you doing?"
"Hm?" Megumi said as she tore open the bloodpack with her fangs and poured the contents into a glass, adding both a little pink paper umbrella and a colorful straw as a finishing touch.
The moment Megumi started sucking on the straw, Kaori looked away quickly before the urge to throw up became too overwhelming.
"How did you get those things anyway?"
"I have a fan who works at the bloodbank," Megumi grinned. It was the last they spoke of the bloodpack. Kaori waited for her hungry Shiki friend to finish her meal first.
"I know my therapist told me it would be good to confront my past..."
"... which is why you dragged me here," Megumi huffed. "Because you thought that your stupid therapist's advice would also apply to me... which is why I now smell of motor oil."
Motor oil wasn't the only thing she smelled. There was death in the air. Her vampiric senses were ablaze with it. Ten years of time and a fire could hardly hide that.
Kaori patted her on the shoulder.
"I know. It's just... now I'm here, it's just... so real. Does that make any sense?" Kaori said. "All that's happened. I know it can't hurt me anymore, but still... Has it really been ten years?"
"Yeah," Megumi said. "I get it."
Kaori decided to lighten the mood a little. "This is where you told me about your crush on Yuuki-kun, remember?"
Megumi closed her eyes. "I wish he could be here right now. With me."
Quickly aware that her attempt to lighten the mood had failed, Kaori looked for a way to change the mood again, only to find Megumi giggling and swinging her legs back and forth like a little girl.
"I was so stupid. If I'd just gone up to talk to him it might have been different. Instead I looked at a closed window for god knows how long, even *after* I became a Shiki," Megumi chided herself. "Then again, it might *not* have gone differently."
"I know," Kaori said. "Boys can be fickle."
"Oh?" Megumi cocked her head sideways. "Are you keeping secrets from poor Megumi-chan, hm? Share!"
Kaori sighed and knew it was pointless to protest. She spoke of the boy she had met during her first year in college and how it taken almost half a decade for them to overcome their shyness and go out on a first date. There weren't any concrete plans yet, but things were getting more serious between her and Keji.
"And what are your plans, hm?" Kaori pressed. "Your turn to tell a secret."
"Ah," said Megumi said. "I want to eventually move from Japan, so I am taking courses in English!"
"Oh dear," Kaori snickered. School work and study were never Megumi's thing, so she hazarded a guess that her pink-haired friend was trying to get through the courses with as little work as possible.
"What?" Megumi seemed miffed.
"Say something English."
"Alright," she scraped her throat. "-Good morning dude, you are dog.-"
"It's a greeting!" Megumi nodded cheerfully.
"I, uh, gathered as much."
"Come on," Megumi pressed as she let herself drop off the fence. Together the two girls followed the road, leaving the worst of the destruction behind them.
"I, uh, ended up doing what you suggested," Megumi nodded.
"How did it go?" Kaori asked nervously, though if it had really ended badly, she knew Megumi would never have brought it up.
"They still love me," Megumi said it with a slight smile as if reliving an unexpected but pleasant surprised. "Not enough to invite me into their new house, but I guess that was to be expected. My mom cried. And my dad cried harder than my mom."
"I'm glad," Kaori smiled. Both Megumi's parents were survivors of the Sotoba massacre. Megumi always claimed (rather loudly) that she didn't want to feed on her parents because then they'd come back as Shiki and would cramp her style. But Kaori never believed it. She has always suspected that by loudly proclaiming her parent's lameness to the other Shiki and even to Kaori now, was Megumi's way of protecting them.
"I don't think I'll go back there often," Megumi said. "They have enough trouble to deal with without their dead daughter showing up on their doorstep. Well, at least they didn't call me a monster or threw rocks at me."
The girls walked on until they came to a stretch of highway. "Oh, hey," Megumi suddenly spoke up. "I remember this bit of road. This is where I gave those idiots the slip when they were killing all the other Shiki. Heh, they never saw me coming."
Megumi jumped on top of the slightly mangled railing and kept her balance while walking forward on it.
"Careful, that looks shabby. You might fall, Megumi-chan," Kaori stressed.
"Please!" Megumi huffed. "I am a Shiki. I have superior equilibrium."
"Just be careful," Kaori smiled.
"You know what?" Megumi stressed. "I have completely wasted all my time and energy on Yuuki-kun. And you know what? Sod him! He doesn't know what he missed out on. And he was probably gay anyway!"
Megumi threw her head back as she disturbed the silence of the night with an impromptu song.
"So, when your playing with desire, don't come running to my place when it burns like fire, boy. Oh, nothing sweet about me, yeah. Sweet about me, oh nothing sweet about me, yeah. Sweet about me, oh nothing sweet about me, yeah."
Kaori giggled loudly as Megumi's horribly butchery of the English language, which could only be described as 'Horriful Engrish'.
"Sweet about me!" Megumi continued cheerfully. "Oh, nothing sweet about...aaaaaaaaahhh!"
The tell-tale creak of fatigued metal and the yelp from Megumi, let Kaori know something had happened. She turned around just in time to see Megumi tumble from the railing onto the field below.
"ARRGGH!" Megumi shouted in disbelief. "Seriously!"
"What happened!" Kaori said as she ran to the railing. "Are you okay?"
"I fell on a tractor!"
Kaori let herself slide down the side of the road and found Megumi sprawled all over the burned out machine with her cheek smushed against the remains of a burned rubber back wheel.
"Great, now I smell of motor-oil *and* am covered with soot!" Megumi sighed. "What a day."
"Well, uh," Kaori blinked. "The sun will be rising soon and the only road out is the way we came so..."
"Another trip in the trunk," Megumi sighed. "You really know how to cheer a girl up, don't you?"
"Well, think of it this way," Kaori said cheerfully. "Better on top of the tractor than under it."
"Yay," Megumi grumbled.
After the incident with the tractor, Megumi spent all the way back to the car in an endless tirade on how the stupid people left their shit standing about in places where innocent unsuspecting Shiki could fall on them. Suddenly, Sotoba was a backward hicktown and its former inhabitants a bunch of ignorant and annoying country bumpkins again.
It almost made Kaori laugh. It reminded her of better times.
Kaori knew she was dying.
But she didn't mind. She had lived a long, happy and fruitful life with her family. She had had many children and grandchildren. And in the final days of her life, her family was almost always with her.
The room had gone dark as her grandson had gone to bed after bringing her some soup. She lay in bed and stared at the ceiling. Just then, the window opened.
"Geez," sounded a whispered. "I thought they'd never leave. I've been sitting out on the roof here for an hour.
Megumi stepped inside, looking as young and flamboyant as ever as she strode over to the bed and sat down next to her friend. "You don't look so good, you decrepit old fossil."
"And you still look like a slut, you stalker tramp," Kaori winked.
Megumi suppressed a giggle and took Kaori's hand. "This is the last time we're going to see each other," she spoke heavy words, but there was no sorrow in them.
Truth be told, Kaori was glad to see her friend one last time. Over the years, Kaori had constantly encouraged to end her loneliness by seeking companionship with other Shiki and she at last had done so. A group of Shiki who were not under the yoke of a master vampire had found each other, over the internet no less, and were now living together as a family. It was a small, but tight group of fiercely independent and colorful vampires. And Megumi had been happier than she had been in years. Like humans, Shiki were social creatures. Kaori was just happy the stubborn Megumi had finally realized that.
"It's not too late to change your mind," Megumi tried.
Also, over the years, Megumi had given her countless offers to be turned. As her family had turned, there was a very good chance she would turn as well. But Kaori had always refused and Megumi had always respected her wish. A slight shake of the head was her usual answer.
"We're quite a pair, aren't we?" Kaori muttered to herself.
Megumi patted her on the shoulder, the coldness of her hand sending shivered through Kaori's aged body. "Yeah," Megumi muttered. "Oh, I got you something!"
Kaori looked on with curiosity as Megumi put on a glove and carefully, very carefully, put her hand into a bag to fish out a good luck charm.
Megumi recoiled violently for a moment and couldn't bear to look at it. She quickly pushed it underneath the covers of Kaori's bed where it was out of sight.
"Shit," Megumi bit her lip. "You'd think we'd only get more resistant to religious symbols with age, but it only gets worse."
"It's beautiful," Kaori whispered.
"You'd *better* like it," Megumi huffed. "I ran into a temple, yanked the charm of the stand, tossed down the money and ran out without ever closing my eyes. My whole body felt like it was on fire."
Megumi's expression softened. "I don't know where you're going. Or if I'll ever be able to join you there. But, I figured, whatever's out there, luck is always a good companion to have."
"I hope you'll be alright without me," Kaori smiled.
"Kaori-chan!" Megumi huffed. "I am a 90 year old vampire. I am savvy! I am cunning! I am fabulous!"
"You are flighty. You are childish. You don't speak a word of English. You are about as socially capable as a cucumber."
"You take that back! I am following English courses!"
"You've been following English courses for the past 90 years. You still can't watch American movies without subtitles."
"T-that's because... I don't want to! That's why! I just don't want to!" Megumi crossed her arms and glared.
Kaori started laugh softly. And soon enough, Megumi joined in. It was one of the last moments they would share together.
When Kaori opened her eyes, she saw that Megumi was gone. Though the open window.
So much like her. Megumi had left on a high note, rather than teary farewells and heavy words. There was no sign Megumi had ever been there, other than the charm she was now holding in her hands.
"Be safe, Megumi-chan," Kaori whispered to the wind. "Maybe we'll see each other again. I hope so."