By Lucia Widdop
Prologue - Rouen, France 1913
The latest crime has been uncovered, it's 1913 and a priest has been found brutally murdered before sunrise.
His body lay scattered in pieces as if savaged by a beast, his daughter Alice Elliot aged 20 who is believed to have been travelling with him is missing…
Chapter one (Yuri)
South Manchu that same year…
My head feeling like it was about to split open I sank to my knees in the dry plain gasping as the voice began instructing me on where to go next.
I'd spent the day following the path it had told me to and now I was in the middle of nowhere near rusted train tracks as the voice ordered me to board the next train and save the girl.
Come on, save the girl what kind of command is that?
I mean it's vague for a start; who was this girl?
All I knew was that she was being escorted to Fengtian and was in need of my help…
I could hear the repetitive rumbling; the train was on its way.
After boarding I huddled beneath a thin blanket and tried to be inconspicuous and took in my surroundings.
Polished wooden floors, clean windows revealing the blur of the scenery, red velvet seats most of them empty.
I sat willing myself not to fidget.
I'm not used to fancy steam trains let alone luxury steam trains…
Click. Click. Click.
The sound of heeled shoes drew closer alerting me to a western mans presence.
He walked calmly down the aisle of the carriage by the time I'd turned to glance at him he was ahead and was left staring at the back of his figure.
He wore a black suit with the cuffs rolled above his white gloves.
His black top hat covered most of his silvered hair and when he turned to let an elderly women pass by I noticed that he wore a navy blue tie adding to his formality.
He appeared to be English at a guess and he stuck out like a sore thumb, contrasting with the Japanese soldiers guarding the end carriage.
Stealthily I pulled the blanket over my head like a hood and followed the man keeping behind so he wouldn't notice me.
By the time I reached the next carriage he was already gone presumably further ahead than I.
Two guards were up ahead alert and talking and this carriage was empty of passengers.
I listened in to their conversation hoping for a little more information on the strange man.
"It's already past 2300 and we're still a long way from Fengtian" said one his gruff voice sounded tired almost… weary.
He was dressed differently from the regular soldier beside him he seemed a higher rank.
"Major Tsugi what is this all about? Why the special train in the middle of the night to escort this girl to Japan? She seems pretty ordinary to me…"
The girl! This had to be the girl the voice was talking about.
The guards seemed to be protecting the door so I assumed that the girl was ahead.
I took a seat and slouched listening, so far so good no sign of the suspicious man.
I decided to continue eavesdropping.
"Hell if I know… Who knows what the big-shots in Tokyo are thinking, next time I see you-know-who I'll ask her okay?"
Seemed like a pretty big operation if the guards weren't even in on it, judging by the Major's response he was quite intrigued himself, this was way too suspicious…
Before I could listen in further there was a loud yell from the carriage ahead and a splattering noise as if he'd just exploded or something then the muffled thud of a body hitting the floor.
Another scream as the next guy was slaughtered, time for me to step in.
"What's going on?" shouted the Major.
My thoughts exactly as I ran ahead to find the door jammed shut.
The man stood his back to the door and I could see two soldiers positioned and shooting the hell out of the man but the bullets weren't harming him it was as if he had some kind of anti bullet field around him as he advanced forward towards the trembling guards.
The two guards screamed as they were slain their bodies hit the ground with a thud just as the girl popped up white gloved hands over her mouth in fear the only thing between her and the killer was the Major.
The Major pulled out his gun shooting and shouting "Die!" but it was a wasted effort.
The bullets deflected and the man continued walking towards him just as the Major's bullets ran out he looked fearful, as he was killed the girl turned her head away in horror and terror.
He'd reached her she gasped in shock her voice pitched high with fear.
"It's you" she whimpered fearful.
The guy stepped in front of the Major's body a smirk on his face his tone calm and pleasant as if murder was an everyday ritual.
"Yes, Roger Bacon I'm honoured that you remember me so well" he replied.
Adrenaline kicked in and the girl tried to run screaming as the man's demon jumped towards her forcing her back.
The man chuckled I felt sick to my stomach I couldn't watch him hurt her.
Bacon chuckled softly to himself
"You can't escape come along quietly…sister"
Rage fuelled me this sick man savouring her fear.
I kicked the door hard and it swung open and I walked into the carriage as Bacon turned to look at me.
Sickeningly calm he smiled at me.
"Ah a new actor in our play" he replied.
His demon flew at me and I caught it by it's throat it became visible wheezing and fighting for air, I looked at the man and smiled as I squeezed and it's body exploded.
Hah just a taster of what's to come!
But Bacon wasn't fazed he was… different.
He feigned sadness.
"Ah I was fond of him." he replied as if humouring a child.
I stepped back the exploding body of the demon had taken my arm with it and it lay on the floor, another scattered body part.
I picked up my severed arm and held it to the joint where the flesh and bone fused together as if it hadn't recently been detached from my body. I shrugged no big deal really.
The girl looked shocked and the man looked angry that I wasn't screaming in pain like the others before me.
She had wised up and had noticed he was distracted and she shuffled away watching him so she could make her escape… too late.
He grabbed her arm and pulled her towards him until her shocked face was in front of his palm then he released a blue glow.
She gasped and then slumped unconscious forwards he caught her and slung her over his shoulders ready to escape…
I charged full speed towards him ready to change and kick his ass but midway he turned and stared at me and a huge beam of light shot from his eyes hitting me square in the chest knocking me through the last two carriages back to the first where I collided with benches and seats…
I sat in the rubble for a moment whilst the dust cleared and my ears stopped ringing.
So much for luxury carriages.
I sprang up laughing yet shocked he was going to escape!
I had to save that girl!
I ran back the way I came towards the end carriage where he was.
I hadn't realised the carnage he had left behind…
A green leather seat with a white cloth near the door of the second carriage was stained red with soldier's blood as if this carriage was a kind of… crypt.
I barely recognised the mangled remains of the soldiers and I almost felt… sorry.
I couldn't let them die for nothing so I persevered wondering why it was so cold all of a sudden.
Then I heard footsteps running across the metal of the roof I looked up he was making his escape!
Not if I could help it.
I punched through the ceiling and jumped up onto the roof not surprised when I saw Bacon.
His tailcoat flapped in the wind the girl's body hung over his shoulders it seemed almost unnatural the way her legs dropped over his left arm as if she was a doll.
He wasn't particularly pleased to be interrupted for the second time.
"You're a persistent little rat aren't you?'' he called across the wind.
"You ain't getting away, pops!" I called back.
He set the girl down, strangely careful as if he didn't want to harm her.
Then he stood arms clasped behind his back.
I ran and punched and kicked him over and over he didn't seem to tire then he started hitting back.
Hard punches which shook me down to the bone.
I had no other option allowing the darkness within me to rise to the surface I changed screaming as my body shifted into a monster.
I released a wave of darkness towards him but he barely blinked.
Then he raised his arms and purple darkness surrounded him.
He had dark magic too?
He muttered some foreign tongue and the darkness became a huge ball, a strange symbol appearing above his head.
The shroud of darkness enveloped me and I felt an excruciating pain as I sank to my knees clinging onto the train so not to be flung away into the distance.
I returned to human form, battle over.
"You're stronger than I expected…" he said.
I couldn't even think up a witty response I was torn between pain, anger and humiliation.
I moaned gasping for air, anything to end the pain…
"Now foul monster… You shall cease to be!" he shouted.
I braced myself for the next wave of agony before death would bestow it's sweet merciful kiss on me.
He began drawing all the energy from the wind and air into one huge ball of magic ready to annihilate me…
But it never came.
The pendant around the girl's neck began to twinkle then glow then pulsate with magic.
Bacon looked fearful and I smiled if it scared him surely it couldn't be that bad?
"Wh What on Earth…!" he shouted.
The girl began floating arms spread as if casting a spell whilst the energy around us thickened.
"What?" he yelled.
I mustered all of my strength then charged slamming my fist into his face.
I'd crushed the bones in his face where my fist had connected.
He wasn't human, and this foul monster was quite smug.
He clutched his eye with a glove stained red with his own blood as more blood streamed down his face.
"Wha… Damn!" he moaned.
I scooped up the girl in danger and jumped off of the train leaving Bacon watching until the train sped off into the distance.
I landed on my feet in the plains, the only light for miles was that from the swollen moon against the dark night sky.
She was still asleep and I held her feeling her heart beat against my chest for a few moments the only audible sounds; the quiet whistle of the wind and my heart beating louder than hers…