Chapter Twenty Three: My Father

Rating Warning: Mild Sexual Content.

AN: I will complete this story with a few more chapters and then its starting chapters will be rewritten, as I believe this fiction started on a rather bubbly note – not the direction I intended.

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The day was warm; sunrays slating down the corrugated roofs of houses to the left of the street. The road was strewn with dead sakura flowers. They had lost their pink hues and lay crumpled and smashed under the nearly bare trees. Their naked branches swayed slightly with the steady and gentle wind that betrayed the autumn season – it would soon be too cold to bear.

Hiromi sat alone on the pew in a cascade of sakura petals still falling down on her dark brown sweater. She didn't flick them off and absent mindedly smoothed out the wrinkles on her skirt. She looked skyward at the clouds starting to pile up at the far end of the horizon. The sun hung low, just dangling like a large glowing golden ball in the sky.

The thought kept haunting her like a lingering spirit from beyond life; soon it would be night and soon the moonlight will break through the barriers of the day. Death was waiting beyond the mantle of day, waiting to claim its next victim. She dropped her eyes down to the grass, frizzled by the chill in the air.

Everything seemed dead – suddenly death felt everywhere around her. The flowers, the grass … her friends, all under the dreadful and cruel grasp of something that was inevitable for them all, even her. But not Kai, the thought suddenly came to her mind and a surge of envy made her feel disgusted with Kai and his demonic eternal beauty.

Hiromi clenched her fist and her teeth as if the thought of mortality pained her, all of her memories. The fact that she would die and Kai would remain made her feel destitute and desolate, when she would finally be buried deep under the mound in a graveyard. Or maybe she will not have a rotting body at all, just a few ashes locked up in an urn.

She had never been devastated by all this … then why now? Everything about Kai reminded her of her struggle in life and that she was destined to lose before it, that inevitable silhouette that would sneak itself onto her and steal her life from her. Even if she would want to live, wriggle and thrash about in its pitiless clutches, it would never let her go without sucking out the final dregs of her life and leaving her body barren and empty … just like the ground, these trees, and her friends.

Why did it worry her so much? Kai assured her that he would protect her that he would keep her safe … but something dreadful kept wrenching at her heart. It thumped loudly, its sounds beating in credence with the life that still coursed through her veins. She was a young woman, but as the years would drag on, her skin would bear the marks of age. Soon it would bear the furrows of her life's hidden memories upon itself like marks on the beaten track of long years.

But Kai … he would remain young, forever youthful and beautiful, safe from the plague of age and being human itself. But she had to remind herself yet again that Kai was not human, he only looked like one. She wanted to be like him and yet he denied her his own blood … that melted philosopher's stone soldered to immortality – it had life eternal in its every drop.

Hiromi caught her breath in a weary sigh and then suddenly a single tear broke through and slid down her frost-bitten cheek. She didn't want to end up like people, old and weary and forlorn as the youth that would slowly let her go. No, she would talk to Kai, make him listen. She deserved it as much as his any other summoner.

"You haven't left for home?" Mariah said, standing next to the pew. Her voice broke Hiromi's thoughts. She looked up at her, screening her eyes with her hand.

"I was waiting for you," Hiromi said, picking up her bag and standing up to face the petite girl who loved dying her hair pink.

"It's already four pm," she paused and looked around as if searching for someone amongst the sparse huddle of students sitting here and there in the front lawn, "let's go. Unless …"

"Unless … what?" Hiromi asked, starting for the road to their right.

"Nothing," Mariah said, striding next to her; she had to take quick steps to match her friend's pace. "I thought you were waiting for Tyson."

"At least you are relaxed," Hiromi breathed out, her voice had that note of irritation.

"Come on, this isn't fair," Mariah protested, stopping under a large Sakura tree. "They were my friends too. Everyone has their own coping mechanisms."

"Salima was always so helpful; she cared about you, and you?" Hiromi asked, raising her voice. "You don't care about anyone but yourself don't you? You know, you have always been this way. You stole her boyfriend, always came to my house just to see my dad, and you slept with Jessica's boyfriend as well, didn't you?"

"Hiromi, you don't have to…"

"Shut up," Hiromi spat out, her features contorting with rage; Mariah, Tyson, and even Kai … they were all making a fool of her. Her best friend was dead and god knows what the killer wanted with all of them. "I bet you would even deny trying to steal that one guy I brought to University that day?"

"What are you talking about? What guy?" Mariah asked, wrapping her arms around herself.

"You would stoop this low?" Hiromi's voice dropped down to a whisper, her nostrils flaring. "Now you are even denying you met Kai? I … I don't believe you."

Mariah's eyes were brimming with tears. She inhaled nosily and opened her trembling lips to speak, "you don't have to be so mean, Hiromi. I don't know any Kai. I swear it. I don't know what you are talking about…"

"You … bitch," Hiromi said hatefully, staring at the look of disbelief on Mariah's tear-streaked face. She didn't wait there a second longer and started walking, leaving Mariah there alone beneath the tree. She wouldn't let Mariah betray her with any more of her lies. She was through with her.

"Hiromi … w-wait…" Mariah called out, her voice wobbling with tears. "I am sorry, I swear … I don't know any Kai. Hiromi … Hiromi… I love you. You are my only friend. H-Hiromi…"

Mariah's shaking voice didn't carry over the sound of the wind and the last of her words barely wafted to Hiromi's ears, who had already increased the gap between them as she took long quick strides to get home to Kai. She didn't look back and kept walking, building up the courage to speak to her demon lover. Or maybe, she had given their relationship some kind of status. But who was he, if he wasn't her lover?

The thoughts befuddled her mind but she was strong today. Hiromi stopped before the gate to get her wind. Her eyes travelling to the open window … he was here. She curled her fingers on the wooden gate and stepped on the stones of their large garden. Her mother's bonsai trees were beginning to wilt away under the weather and the rose bushes in the garden had lost all their roses by now.

Winter didn't herald the beginning of life, it ushered death everywhere. But Hiromi didn't care what winter brought inside her ripe belly. Today was all about her. Slowly she stepped inside and closed the door behind her. The house was empty. Her parents were out for the weekend. She took off her shoes and stepped on the wooden floor. It creaked a little under her feet. She looked around, as if cautious of someone and inhaled sharply … there was a wonderful scent in the air.

It bewitched her senses. Kai always smelled wonderful and beautiful. But it was different than before, powerful and enchanting … it felt like a spell. Hiromi's eyelids began to droop. Her vision swayed and she felt as if she was drowning underwater but she didn't feel like straining her body to fight against its power.

Her inner thighs were getting slippery from signs of her own arousal. The scent was weighty, it almost suffocating her. Slowly, she climbed up the stairs to her room. As Hiromi drew near, the scent grew more intense, almost palpable, as if she would touch it if she extended her hand. She opened the door, feeling trapped in a dreamy state and stepped in. There he was, bowing down on the floor like a welcoming serf, his welcoming sounds horse and raspy.

Hiromi squashed her back against the door, the haze clearing from her brown eyes still filled with lust against her will. Kai was going through another transformation. He slapped his right hand down, clenching his fingers and dragging his long nails on the wooden floor. His backbone wriggled underneath his skin grotesquely and thin spikes poked out of his back.

His hair grew longer right before her eyes and when he snapped his head up to look at her, his eyes had that look of hunger and feral intensity that scared the life out of her. As she moved her eyes around, she espied horns adorning his head on both sides … those pages didn't lie. What was he turning into?

"Enjoying the spectacle?" he said suddenly, startling her. Slowly, he sat up, his head still bowed down as if something still burdened and pained him.

"I don't think any of this is enjoyable," Hiromi said in a small voice, deciding to keep her distance from him.

He made a mocking expression and got to his feet. "You have matured," he said sarcastically and leaned against the wall next to the table, "is this what you humans call … miracles?" He gave a soft laugh and then suddenly decided to become a silent monk again. This habit of his always annoyed her. She didn't say anything in response and oddly … this time, her silence piqued his curiosity.

"Ah, you want something," Kai said in a voice of a man who had just triumphed. "Come on, don't be shy … what do you want?"

"It depends on what you are willing to give," Hiromi said softly, wearing no expression as a fitting mask.

"You don't want to play games with me, naughty little girl. You know that, don't you?" Kai said with slow pregnant pauses. His face hinted at nothing, just that same playful smile haunted his expressions like a readymade solution for a small show of civility. Though he was beyond such artificial manners, he opted for them often just to mock her ever now and then.

"Fine, I want your blood. Is that direct enough for you?" Hiromi said, watching his countenance that didn't falter. He looked at her with nothing but curiosity on his face and playfulness glinting in his eyes. The beautiful demon … just this once was lost for words or … he simply didn't know how to let go of this curiosity of his. Curiosity may have killed the curious cat, but Kai had evolved beyond this metaphor some thousands of years ago.

"Why?" came the small question from the demon who had not dropped his gaze or his interest in this whole matter. He was actually smiling from ear to ear and somewhere at the back of her mind, Hiromi found it quite innocent for someone like Kai.

"Why do you think? I thought you were smart and a genuine know-it-all?" Hiromi said not looking away and holding her bold gaze.

"You poor thing," Kai said with smile in his voice, "is this because of all these deaths around you? You humans have such short lives and you race through them in the blink of an eye. Yet you all think how this youth will last forever. Isn't that right?" That same sardonic smile came over his features, flickering with a haughty expression. She hated him, his beauty, his whole existence.

"Aren't you honest," Hiromi said hatefully, trickling malice out of her eyes for him to see. He didn't seem to care much for it. After all, it was his choice to give it to her or not. She was at his mercy because of her own desires.

"I wouldn't say that. I sometimes like lying as well. It's enjoyable," he said and winked at her. "Now what to do about this request of yours? You have thrown this at an odd sort of time. I wonder …" He was quiet again, thinking about something. He turned around and looked outside the window and that's when Hiromi saw the tattoo on his back visible from between the curtain of long hair… it looked like a black smudge; its lines an indistinguishable mess. It was alive, moving under his skin like small parasites. Was it this blackness that would consume him?

"Why is this an odd time?" Hiromi asked, looking from the disgusting looking tattoo on his perfect back to the serene face that awaited the arrival of the night.

"You ask too many unnecessary questions. Have I told you that?" Kai said, turning around slowly to meet her eyes. He stood silent for a few fleeting seconds and then raised his hand. He bit into his forefinger and a single drop oozed out of the small wound. The wound disappeared and the blood made Hiromi move her legs on their own.

She stood close to Kai and kept looking down at the red blood drop right at the tip of his finger. "Take it, but know this," he paused, forcing Hiromi to look up at him, "this will only prevent you from getting old. You will never know illness, but your body will remain human, susceptible to injury, harm, and even death."

"But … why? I thought you…"

"Because it's just a single drop of blood. You will heal better than others, much better. But any mortal wound will kill you. I am unsure whether you will be able to generate limbs or not. You can always try by cutting off your little pinky and seeing the effects. Just for fun," he said with a wonderful lilt to his voice. His honesty disgusted Hiromi. "Consider this me being generous, given how much you irritate me."

Hiromi touched the droplet with her forefinger. It clung to hers like a small, rippling ruby. She brought it to her lips and cast one glance at Kai before she sucked it in with her lips. Her body felt cold suddenly and a single spark ran up her spine. Something felt different. A veil of calm covered her heart and as if it had been assured, it beat slowly and wonderfully under her breast. She knew she was different … somehow, she just knew. Was it that easy for Kai? How unfair life was for her.

"Thank you," Hiromi gasped out, looking up at him. Kai merely smiled and said nothing. She stretched on tip-toes and kissed his warm lips.

"You sure are demanding today," Kai said and returned her kiss passionately. He lead her to the bed and when he took her, she felt that this time … she truly felt completed by him. It was a desperate thought but she loved it regardless.

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Hiromi felt a strange uplifting feeling as she sauntered for the front door of Mariah's house. Perhaps she was cruel to her. Maybe she didn't remember? But it was so like Mariah to act like a forgetful drunkard to get sympathies. As these thoughts raced through her mind, the road bathed in moonlight drew her attention to itself.

She looked up, lost and clasped by the pure light … it was full moon today and Kai was gone by the time she woke up after their intimate time together. Still lost in thought, she approached the front door. But as she stretched her hand, she noticed that the front door was ajar.

"No…" she breathed out and pushed the door. It creaked open. The inside was pitch-black. She peered into the back of the hall and saw a grey light travelling downstairs. Mariah was awake. She stole her way inside. Mariah told her that her parents were out and she wanted Hiromi to come over – she had left more than a dozen messages on her mobile.

Moaning sounds wafted to her ear. Was Mariah with someone? Slowly she climbed the stairs and stood behind the shaft of grey light coming out of the room. What greeted her knocked the wind out of her lungs. Her father was … making love to Mariah. She slapped her hands on her lips, her eyes betraying her as she saw her loving father fondle Mariah's breasts and touch her between her legs.

He moved slowly within her and Mariah gripped his shoulders, looking ecstatic. It couldn't be true … it had to be a lie. His father couldn't betray his mother this way. Hiromi's cheeks were streaked with tears. She couldn't help but keep looking, gripped by disbelief. A part of her wanted to walk in on them, but she didn't want to shame her father.

She looked away but her gaze somehow found them again. Still caught between the choices of running away or confronting her father when she saw her father's hand transform. Nails jutted out of his fingers and in one swift motion he drove it into her heart. A tiny sound burned in her throat but Hiromi pressed her hands down hard and slinked further back under the mantle of shadows.

Her eyes two large saucers as she saw this thing that looked like her father open its mouth wide, so wide that it began to tear up like an old seam in a quilt. He consumed it whole, and ran his tongue over his lips. Hiromi stepped back and a creak sounded under her feet. It snapped its head in her direction, its eyes searching for someone. A look of amusement came over them as they momentarily stopped in Hiromi's direction … but then … it looked ahead and ran out of the window so fast that Hiromi thought it had simply disappeared.

Hiromi's heart was beating in her ears. She felt as it would jump into her mouth. Her whole body was trembling with a brush with death. Moments passed, when she finally moved her wobbly legs and opened the ajar door. There on the bed lay Mariah, naked without her heart. Her face … it was just like Jessica and Salima … serene and within the clasp of lust.

Her eyes ran all over her body and that's when she saw her clutching a tuft of hair … hair as red of blood. It was Tala's doing and come another half moon … she was next …

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