Author's Note: What is this? A Moczo/Beam Collaboration? Ha, ha, awesome, time for some more awesome crack, and... what? It's a... a serious work?
And now, without further ado, we are proud to present...
In the Blood.
The hunger was unbearable tonight.
The first night, it had been fine. No problem at all. No, better than fine, perfect. The strength, the speed, even things such as sight and hearing burned with an electric clarity.
It went without saying that he had gone out again the next night; just being in the city was an experience when he was like this. But he had begun to notice something about the people he saw, looking down from the buildings as he leapt between them like some kind of God.
He noticed that to his new, heightened senses... they had begun to smell very, very good.
He'd been scared, by that. What his body told him to do was monstrous. And so, he had tried to stop there. Stay in at night, forget the rush. But God forgive him, he just couldn't. He had tasted something special, and he just couldn't give it up. He just couldn't.
It was his third night. And the hunger was unbearable. But at least his body was telling him exactly how to sate it...
He had followed her for awhile, now. She was pretty. Young. She lived in a good neighborhood, and didn't see any problem at all with walking to the pub at night; she didn't drink enough to worry about losing her way, and it wasn't far from her flat. He knew this because he had followed her every step of the way, both ways. He told himself that he was trying to talk himself out of it, but...
Really, on some level, it was just the thrill of the hunt. That realization made him feel alternating sensations of deep revulsion and primal joy.
She walked, drunk and tired. She never looked behind herself, never looked into the shadows. It probably wouldn't have saved her if she had, but she might have at least seen when one shadow descended from the rooftops, into the next alley she would pass, just before her apartment building. She might have turned the other way, found somewhere with people, run for safety.
She hobbled near the entrance to the alleyway, humming a bar song, her stride slightly uneven, but firm. There was nobody on the street with her.
In a blur of black and red, he snapped out from the alley, clamped one hand on her mouth and the other around her waist, and dragged her into the shadows with him. He was stronger, faster, had the element of surprise, and he could see with perfect clarity even in the dark. She was drunk, tired, and in shock. She tried to struggle, but it was a doomed effort from the start.
He bit down onto her neck, as hard as he could, her screams muffled by the hand clamped down on her mouth like a vise.
She stopped struggling quickly.
The blood was so, so good.
"Well?" The man in the shadows asked. His voice was deep, and resonant, but somehow not quite right... it had a hollow quality to it, as though he were shouting from the other end of a long tunnel.
"Demand has doubled over the last two weeks. And this is on the heels of tripling the month before." Said the robed man. His voice, in contrast, was not only human but rather pleasant. Lightly accented, almost melodic; not a voice for dark dealings in abandoned buildings. "Profits are skyrocketing. Word-of-mouth is in our favor."
"Ugh. How tedious! I've told you before, I care little for the accountant's craft. Tell me what I want to hear, man!"
The robed man sighed. "There have been seventeen deaths that I have been able to confirm since the product was introduced, and nearly thirty more in critical condition. Mostly dregs... the homeless, vagrants, illegal aliens, people who won't be missed."
"Well... it's a start."
"… Only a start?"
The shadowed man smirked. The darkness was so absolute that even when he smiled, nothing was seen.
"Why, of course. Did you really think we'd only keep this limited to such trash? Where's the fun in that?"
"... this attitude is troublesome."
"I prefer to think of it as 'inspired'." The shadowed man said. "You love this dreary business of concoction and economics, my friend, but I am an artiste. And while there is a certain plebian amusement to be taken from sweeping aside garbage, well... I have never seen a finer artwork than the palaces of the wealthy and powerful wreathed in flame. They're so secure. So confident. They never see it coming. The surprise is the best part, don't you think?"
"... they also have the most disposable income."
"Ugh. I find myself trapped! My soul constrained! Gods above and devils below, I am trying to make art and I am partnered with an accountant!"
The robed man rolled his eyes. Drama queen, he thought. Out loud, he said, "You have the samples I need, at least?"
"No. Soul." The shadowed man said. A gloved hand slid a black leather attaché case across the floor. "That should be enough for another two batches. Don't waste it, providing requires a rather personal, painful touch."
The robed man clicked open the case, looking in to see over a dozen small sealed vials of a liquid that might have been blood, or might have been something just a bit too dark. "As always, your sacrifice is appreciated."
"Is it? Is it really?"
The robed man simply sighed.
It was, all things considered, a beautiful day in London.
Enjoying the scene right outside the airport window—even if it was just a couple of planes taking off into the air and landing—Sakura set down her travel bags and took a moment to stretch, exhaling deeply. The sensation of her spine cracking out and her muscles relaxing felt good, after so many hours of being in the air, in the tightness of a plane.
As she lowered her hands from above her head, right on cue, her cell phone lit up and rang.
She scooped it up from her bag and checked the caller id, not particularly shocked when she recognized the name that was listed there. Smiling in spite of herself, she flipped it open and brought it to her ear. "Hello, Senpai."
"Sakura?" He was surprised. "How did you know it was me?"
"Your name came up on my caller ID." Sakura pushed hair out of her eyes. "I landed safely, no worries."
"Oh, did you?" Shirou seemed to sigh in relief. "Good, good. You didn't feel sick or anything, right? You got through the flight okay?"
"Because it was your first time flying, and sometimes—"
He might have been annoying, with how he worried and fretted; he should have been annoying. Sakura found his concern was like sugar to her. "Senpai. Shirou. Honey. I have been through greater trials in my life than a plane ride. I even made it through most of them." She said, making sure to let the laughter leak into her tone so he knew she wasn't genuinely angry.
"... I know. I just worry. We haven't been apart for more than a few hours at a time since... you know. I know it's silly to worry, but I can't help it."
"It's silly in a good way, at least." Sakura said, grinning. "But I'll be fine. I have nee-san's address, and everything is labeled clearly enough. Good thing I practiced my English, right?"
She could have sworn she heard Rider grumble something in the background that made Shirou chuckle nervously, and didn't ask him what she'd said; the poor woman had suffered enough, being an unwilling listener to her English lessons as she practiced.
Sakura still thought she'd been pretty okay, considering how short notice it was. Taiga had been a huge help.
"Are you sure this is such a good idea?" Shirou asked. "I mean, I know you wanted to surprise Tohsaka, but…"
"It'll be fine, Senpai. Even if Nee-san is annoyed at first, I'll just wear her down so she sees things my way." She'd gained experience in that, during the time Rin had been home on break. Turned out her older sister was far softer than her icy exterior showed.
"I still wonder what you did to her over break to convince her to actually listen to somebody for a change. Your sister is the most stubborn person I've ever met."
Sakura laughed. "I have my ways." She checked her watch, noting the time. "Ah, I have to go now, Senpai, I need to get to my hotel and drop my things off before I visit Nee-san. I'll call you around dinner, okay?"
"Yeah, okay, sounds good." Shirou paused. "Sakura?"
"I love you."
Those words never failed to make her heart swell, even after two years. "I love you, too. Talk to you later."
"Talk to you later. Tell Tohsaka we all say hi, and want her to come home soon. She should visit more often."
"Will do." She said cheerfully. Then, with a smirk, said, "And if she disagrees, I'll just twist her arm some more."
"My girlfriend is an evil mastermind."
"And you love it." She said, clicking the phone closed with a smile.
Now then. She didn't have a license to drive in this country, so she would have to find a taxi, check into the hotel, find another taxi, walk around the Clock Tower until she found Rin's room...
"Good thing I slept on the plane." She said dryly. She lifted her bags and followed the signs to the exit.
At least she would get to see some of London outside the window? Living with Senpai, it had been ages since she'd seen Western architecture. And she wanted to see some of the big, touristy places... Big Ben, the Tower of London... oh! And the western cuisine! Hopefully she'd pick up some fun new recipes to try when she got home.
Hey, a trans-continental trip was pricey. It couldn't all be about her sister.
Rin was not, all things considered, having a good day. And it was only the middle of the afternoon.
Not a promising start.
She blamed it pretty squarely on Zelretch. No matter what her mentor seemed to think and how he ran his own life, she needed sleep, dammit. She was running on her second day of pulling an all nighter, and she was seriously beginning to think that drinking an ungodly amount of tea wouldn't get her through it.
She was tired, she was sore from the training, and to top it all off, she was pretty sure she had the beginnings of a headache pounding at her temples.
Oh yes. Rin was having a very, very bad day.
She was contemplating the wisdom of just skipping school for the day and sleeping when she heard someone knocking at her door. She ignored it, at first, thinking it was just the sensation of pain singing through her forehead.
When the knocking sounded again, though, she groaned, cast one last longing look at her bed, and finally went and opened the door. "Hello?"
Sakura smiled brilliantly, looking amazingly cheerful and almost glowing. "Hi, Nee-san!"
"… Hi, Sakura," Rin said, her brain somewhat lagging behind her mouth at the moment.
Then, something in her brain clicked.
The younger girl blinked. "Yes, Nee-san?"
Okay. Okay, yes, Sakura was really here. This wasn't just a figment of her sleep deprived brain, her sister was actually standing in front of her. Which meant Sakura was in London. Which meant…
"Sakura," Rin said very, very calmly. Almost too calmly.
"I have one question, and it will determine whether or not I attempt jumping out my window to escape, screaming like a little girl."
"Is Rider with you?"
"Rider?" Sakura frowned. "Ah, no, I came by myself, she's back home with Fujimura-sensei and Senpai."
"Then I won't have to consider jumping out my window."
"… Something happened between you two, huh." It was a statement, not a question.
"I don't want to talk about it," Rin mumbled, and swore her headache increased in intensity. "... do you wanna get lunch? I don't think I'm going to be getting back to sleep."
"Oh! Oh! Can we have fish and chips? I want to try something 'British-y'."
Rin sighed a little at Sakura's blatant, puppyish enthusiasm. "Tourists."