Chapter Two: First Blood

There was a few seconds after the cell started to ring that nobody could quite figure out how to react. A moment of bizarre, almost magical tranquility as the whole world was silent save the cheery tune of Sakura's phone.

Finally, she reached into her pocket, flipped it open, and said "Hello?"

"Find whoever that is and kill them!" Screamed the man with the briefcase.

Rin stared dumbly at her sister. "... Really?"

"Well, it was ringing." Sakura said. "Oh, hello senpai!"

"Run!" Rin snapped, grabbing Sakura's hand and dragging her into a sprint. She had counted five men, all armed, and she wasn't exactly loaded for war. To make things worse, they were mundane... if she and Sakura used magic against them, and it somehow got back to the Clock Tower, Rin could look forward to another trial, and she didn't see this one ending well. And so it was that her mind settled firmly on strategy number one: Run Like Hell.

The men chasing them had the same idea, unfortunately. Rin and Sakura were faster than random thugs, but they were not faster than bullets.

Guns, Rin discovered, were much louder in person than in movies. More of an explosion than a pop. She was not enthused by this.

"Faster!" She screeched, dragging Sakura down an alley. They couldn't go in a straight line or they'd get cut down.

"Yes, we're fine!" Sakura shouted into her phone. "Just... watching a movie."

A bullet slammed into the wall next to Sakura's head as she ran.

"A 3-D movie!" She said. "Very lifelike."

"Would you put away the stupid phone?" Rin shrieked.

"Hmmmmm? Oh, yes, nee-san believes very strongly in being quiet at the movies! It's very important to her!" Sakura said.

"Dive!" Rin screamed, dragging Sakura into a leaping slide beneath a parked truck blocking their exit from the alley.

"Yes... ULF!... that was her too. The hotel has a pool, you see, and she wants to go swimming after the movie, so..."

"Dammit, Sakura!"

Sakura laughed weakly. "She might be a bit stressed from school, senpai, I'm sure it's nothing..."


So much had gone wrong...

The vial had been in his hands. He'd had everything he wanted, everything he needed. And then it had all gone so very, very wrong.

The dealer's expression was as bland and unremarkable as ever, even as he leveled his gun. "You were followed. You brought witnesses."

"No! I... it was an accident, I don't even know them..."

"And that changes what they saw? That changes what they can tell the authorities, if they get away?" The dealer said, his tone horrifyingly reasonable. "The reasons don't matter. I have people I have to answer to, and they will not be happy. And when they're not happy, I'm not happy. And when I'm not happy..."

Two shots rang out. A burning weight in his chest, a sudden aching fatigue that spread through his entire body, so cold, so cold, I wasn't shot, I can't have been shot that doesn't happen, I'm a normal person, I don't die like this I don't...

"... well, you can guess the rest." the dealer said. He picked up his briefcase, and began crossing the room to reclaim the vial. No sense leaving more evidence than needed, after all; someone would be around shortly to burn this entire warehouse to the ground, but it was impossible to predict what might survive.

The man lay on the ground, staring up at the ceiling more in disbelief than in pain, darkness creeping in around the edges of his vision. Even as his body began to slow, his mind continued working in overdrive; I don't die like this, I wake up in my bed and the whole last month was a long nightmare, I never took the first dose never became a monster never died alone in some dank hell like an animal... I don't die like this. I...

So if...

So if there's a way... to live... I should take it. Because... because it's all a dream, and it doesn't matter anymore...

He couldn't lift his arms. Couldn't breathe. But the syringe was still grasped in his hand... the fingers were numb, but he could move them... and before the girls-

those self-centered bitches, why couldn't they have just left well enough alone

- had come, he had slipped the cover off the needle. He couldn't reach a vein, but Bloodlust was... an odd drug. The first thing you always heard was that the vein really didn't matter all that much, as long as it got into the blood...

He twisted the needle in his fingers, nearly fumbling it, until he felt the tiny, almost imperceptible prick of the needle piercing his skin.


Rin kept a hand against Sakura's back, her fingers grasping tightly at the fabric of her shirt in case she needed to drag the younger girl quickly. She strained her ears, trying to listen. It seemed that they'd managed to escape, for the time being. She couldn't hear anyone coming, or any gunshots…

"Nee-san," Sakura whispered. "Senpai says hi."

"… Hi, Shirou." Rin sighed, not knowing when her life had changed from a rather mundane student one—even if she was a magical student—to something right out of action movies.

Not the first time it's happened, to be fair.

"Nee-san says hi. Oh, um, why is my voice so soft? Well, we're at a really dramatic part of the movie…."

"Sakura, the first thing I'm doing when we get back to my dorm is throwing your phone away."

Sakura actually looked wounded at that, but Rin ignored her and cautiously bellied forward a few inches, peering out. No one was around now; if any of the thugs were nearby, they were in another area of the warehouse.

Now was the best chance they had.

"Come on." She crawled out carefully and got to her feet, offering a hand to her sister and pulling her up. As distracting as it was to see Sakura talk and run at the same time, she was now quiet enough to not be of any real harm to them. Rin nudged her gently, herding her towards the exit as she made small noises of agreement now. Apparently Shirou had switched over to telling her what was going on at home while she was away.

She was so focused on her sister that she didn't see them; they were dressed in dark colors and moving quietly, far more familiar with the lay-out of the building than she was, and having spotted them from a distance. Rin wasn't even aware of their presence until she glanced back, almost on whim.

They were already taking aim, right at Sakura.

Shit—


The gunshot was deafening, at such close range. Sakura jumped, feeling a chill run down her spine, and her phone clattered to the ground as she lost her grip on it. Stunned, heart pounding, she whirled around.

"… Nee-san?" It was practically a whimper.

Rin weaved dangerously in front of her, blue eyes dazed. The bullet hadn't hurt nearly as much as it probably should have—one of the benefits of reinforcement—but it still hurt far worse than she had expected. "Ow," she managed eloquently, before her legs finally gave out on her and she crumbled.

For a long, long moment Sakura simply stared at her sister, pale. The men were approaching calmly now, guns raised.

Her eyes hardened, narrowed. Leaning down, she picked up her phone again, ignoring the sudden panic in Shirou's voice. "I'm sorry, Senpai, I have to go," she said icily. "Something came up."

She hung up before he could reply.

Sakura fell to her knees, throwing her arms around Rin. The men were making their approach openly and calmly now, getting close enough for a sure kill. Secure in the knowledge that their prey was no longer in a position to flee, the purple haired girl's mind broken by the fall of her companion. They were seasoned killers, and had seen such things many times. Once someone got hurt, once it became real, those who had never faced violence before often simply froze up.

This train of thought was unfortunate, on their part.

Sakura was not unused to violence. She had not frozen up in any meaning of the word.

And she had not thrown her arms around Rin to give her a hug.

Her hands deftly slipped under Rin's light jacket, seeking the hidden pouches she knew her sister always carried. She found it quickly enough, and slid her hand inside to be rewarded by something rock-hard, smooth as glass, and oddly warm under her fingers. Rin had wanted them to run, to not risk a confrontation they would need to use magecraft to win.

But Rin was hurt, and Sakura was no longer in any mood to flee.

She slipped the small azure gem into her palm, and concentrated. To use another's magical tool was difficult, but they were sisters, their mana was similar, and Sakura had always had a gift for binding. Arcs of black and violet energy ran between her fingers, slipping into the gem. The gem's magical inner light turned briefly dark, before redoubling in brightness as the stone began to release a soft and rather menacing hum not entirely unlike an engine about to overheat.

The leader of the thugs took careful aim.

Sakura threw the gem.

Those of the gunmen who were still conscious, afterward, were divided on what exactly had happened. Most swore the unassuming little girl in the tacky shirt had somehow thrown a grenade at them. But one or two stated, with a somewhat haunted look in their eyes, that this made no sense; she had been holding a rock. And it wasn't really an explosion, either; more like a small tornado had simply... appeared in the middle of them, hurling the hardened killers across the block like bowling pins.

The only thing certain was that by the time any of them were in any condition to chase anyone, the two girls were gone.


He didn't even fight the urge to laugh.

The power was there, just as he'd remembered it. It thrummed in his blood, even here under the sunlight. His body was covered with blood, both his own and that of the tiny man who had dared to strike him, to wound him.

Tearing his head off had been so easy. Like breaking a toothpick.

Still, things were not ideal. The simple metal pellets in his chest no longer hurt him, but the blood he had lost from them made him feel weaker than he should have been with the Bloodlust in his veins. He had drank for as long as he could from his latest victim's blood, but he was still so thirsty, and the scent of the blood that covered him was not helping matters.

It smelled so good, and that was only a pale shadow of how it tasted...

More. I need more.

Pausing, he tilted his head back, breathing deep. The scent of blood clung to his body, but his ability to sense it while he was like this was beyond that of any predator in nature. He could smell more, spilled nearby. It smelled sweet.

Young.

He smiled, a line of crimson drool slipping down his chin. Ahhhhh... my little friends. I should thank them for the wallet.

He leapt from roof to roof, following the scent of young, fresh blood. He was so, so thirsty...


"Are you an idiot?"

Rin laughed weakly and immediately regretted it. Laughing hurt a lot when you had a piece of lead bruising your flesh. "Seemed like a good idea at the time."

Sakura was fuming as she helped her sister walk, one of Rin's arms slung over her shoulder and gently gripping her hip to help her limp along. Thankfully, the bullet had just grazed her head, even if it had still been enough to make her bleed. Small streams of red dripped between her hair, but her eyes had cleared.

"That still doesn't—that was a bullet! A bullet! Even with reinforcement…"

"It only grazed me. Knocked me around a bit. I'm fine." Rin's words were short and to the point, as if her brain was still a little too rattled to connect them into longer, more meaningful sentences.

Sakura sighed, giving it up. "Just focus on walking," she muttered. "I'm really not strong enough to try and drag you back to safety."

Rin didn't say anything to that anymore, but her arm tightened gently around Sakura's shoulders, a light squeeze. It was wordless and a clumsy attempt at conveying a message, but it worked all the same.

Slightly, Sakura relaxed. She smiled, just a little.

"You realize, I'm still tending to that wound when we get out of here."

Rin snorted. "It's just a scratch."

"It's a bullet scratch! It's... a bullet, right to your head, and you're bleeding..."

"I noticed."

Rin and Sakura stopped in their tracks, eyes widening. "Nee-san... did you suddenly get a man's voice?"

"Hell-o, ladies..." Purred a deep male voice. As one, the two girls turned to face him.

They regretted this.

He was clinging to the brick wall of an overhanging building like a gigantic, humanoid spider. His clothes were caked, from head to foot, in still-fresh blood, and his face was set in a grin that contained equal parts hunger and madness. His bright red eyes were fixed firmly on the girls, and the look in them made it very clear he did not mean them well.

Oh, shit. The guy from the warehouse. He's a damn vampire? Rin thought. This was just... cosmically unfair. Out loud, she hissed, "Sakura... can you run?"

"No, but I can take another gem from your coat and blow him to..." Sakura began.

"We're in no shape to fight a vampire, and if you can get away by leaving me, you're damn well gonna... wait. You took one of my gems? Without even asking?" Rin asked. "Those are expensive, dammit! Don't just throw them willy-nilly! I swear, you are such a little sister!"

Sakura slid her hand into Rin's coat, and withdrew a tiny red gem. "I'll get you new ones?"

"Yes, you wi-" Rin began, before being cut off by the explosion as Sakura's (HA! Like Hell it was 'Sakura's') gem slammed into the brick wall where the vampire clung, exploding in a burst of ruby flame that filled the alley with light and searing heat. Brick dust and ash rained down over the girls as the blast cleared, the section where the vampire had clung reduced to charcoal.

Which would have been great if the vampire had been caught in the blast.

The blood soaked man had released his grip on the wall and fallen to the street before the gem impacted, landing with feline grace as the ash and rubble rained down around him.

And then he charged.

His movements were fast, insanely so. Rin had never seen a real vampire, but she felt that probably the only thing she'd ever seen that was quicker was a Servant.

And he damn well hit like one too. His rush was centered on Sakura, but he swatted Rin aside as he struck her, sending both sisters flying in opposite directions. Rin tried to adjust, land on her feet, but she slammed painfully into a parked car, lights flashing behind her eyes.

But it was Sakura who had taken the brunt of the strike. The creature had judged her the greater danger and struck her dead-on, hurling her down the length of the street. He then leapt after her with the same superhuman speed, catching her in midair, and slamming her down onto the street. She couldn't even let out a gasp of pain, as a hand like a vise clamped down on her neck to pin her to the pavement.

The vampire licked his lips, and opened his mouth.

Something invisible and burning struck him in the back like a bullet the size of a fist, hurling from the fallen girl. He rolled, dodging a second blast which potted a hole in the concrete of the sidewalk, leaping to his feet.

The other girl, her eyes burning with rage and her face cold as stone, had her arm raised in his direction. A strange, intricate series of green symbols glowed brilliantly upon it, shining right through her shirt and coat. "That. Hurt." She growled.

He snarled right back, baring his teeth- teeth? No fangs? Rin noted, her mind analyzing the situation with the same natural keenness she used in the lab. And he wasn't quite... the same as when he'd taken Sakura's wallet. Something is just not right here...

"This will hurt more..." He growled out, the words barely comprehensible.

Rin smirked wickedly, the Magic Crest on her arm burning even more brilliantly. "Yes. It will."

What she had released before was a concentrated sniper-bullet of Gandr. This was more like a Minigun. Dozens of the shots, and not one holding back; each would have felt like getting slammed with a tire iron, enough to shatter bone. And the creature charged right through it, taking a hit, a dozen hits, his body rocked wildly by the impacts, but his charge just not stopping...

She couldn't stop either then. More power, as much as she could force through the crest; she would tear him to pieces if nothing else could do it. Fall, you son of a...

His hand clamped down on her crest arm, twisting it painfully to the side. His other snapped across her face, pinning her to the car she was pressed against. He wasn't smiling, anymore; the only expression on his face was purest rage. "You... you..." He snarled.

Rin blinked. "Your eyes. They're not red anymore..." As last words they were pretty pathetic, but she couldn't think of anything better.

"That's... no, no it... it shouldn't be wearing off..." He stammered. The strength left his hands, and Rin slid from his grasp; more than that, he just seemed smaller. Diminished. The effortless grace and impossible speed seemed to simply drain away, and he fell to his knees. On his chest, beneath the caked on blood, two holes opened and new, sticky wetness began to flow from them.

"What the Hell...?" Rin muttered.

The man looked up at her, his expression pleading and lost. "It... it wasn't... supposed to be like this. It wasn't... I... I... I wanna wake up now..."

This was never a nightmare, and you deserve everything you're getting.

The vampire who was no longer a vampire smiled sadly. "Yeah... yeah, I guess so."

And quietly, almost gently, he died.