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Shinigami Dance

Chapter One: Death Wears a White Dress and Carries a BLACK SCYTHE

Figment A: Death Rides a Horse

The tension in the room was overwhelming; the shadow of death looming over like a hideous beast stalking the frailest wounded prey. All around the boy, worried family held their breath in suspense of what would come.

In the boy's own head things were tense but quiet. He told himself that he was ready. He'd come prepared. Readied himself for whatever might come. He had rested his mind and tried to embrace his destiny. Still, he couldn't help but quake lightly in fear of the unknown. It was a dark fear - a heavy burden to try and bear. A weight that would crush the mind of a weaker person and send them sprawling into fear.

But the boy was fighting this fear. Like a fight for his life in the face of death as he awaited the imminent loss of his life. Indeed, while no one spoke, the tension of thoughts bounced off the walls and radiated throughout the room.

Then there was a gasp. The boy's breath clenched in his throat and his face twisted in agony. Though they had known this would happen, the family was tormented by the vision. Tears were abound as all were forced to face the death of their family member. The choking lasted only half a minute, but anyone could have sworn it lasted hours. Then the boy, who lay in his own bed, in his own room, surrounded by his own family, no longer tried to breath. A scream burst the silence as a mother planted her face into her husband's chest. The boy was dead.
 

***


"Hello there." Aeru chimed as she appeared beside the boy. The child sat up to greet her. The room was empty except for the young boy and girl.

"Hey Aeru. It's time for me to go, right?"

"Yes. I hope it wasn't too painful..."

"It was... not so bad. I had episodes that were worse when I survived. And besides, now I feel better than I can even remember!" Though he said this with enthusiasm, the boy turned his head down. Aeru came to his side, placing her gentle hand on his shoulder. He bent her head down to his ear and spoke softly.

"...Are you sure you're ready?"

"......yeah....."

Aeru closed her eyes. The boy began to gently glow - a soft white aura around his body. The aura grew brighter until the boy was no longer seen and then faded away. Aeru opened her eyes again. They were full of tears.

"You're crying again? Even though he was so at peace?" Joe, the furry black cat with bat wings, floated above her shoulder.

"So young..."

"Everyone dies sometime. They say that the longer you live, the more you have to loose."

"..." The room was quiet again. The tension and fear washed away. The echo of cries faded into nothing, The chokes and gasps came to a stop. The room was quiet.



"It's nice today!" Aeru sang as she hopped along down the road. She laughed and twirled, dancing in the warm summer breeze.

"I dunno, I'm rather bored. And we need to find a TV - I don't want to miss the next episode of Kanon."

"Don't be so boring! You can't stay inside on such a nice day! Besides, it's rare to have so little work, and all so easy!" Aeru giggled like a young girl. Joe sighed, wondering how he'd become partner to such a child.

"Do as you like, then. You said yourself that there was little work, so I'm going. If you need me, you'll find me in the nearest electronic store..."

"Hey! For real? You don't want to play outside on a day like this?!" Joe ignored her as he flew off to go do as he pleased. Aeru puffed her cheeks. Guess I'll go have fun on my own. I'm sure I can find someone else to play with.
 

***

***


"What the hell?!" A man holding a shopping bag gaped at something on the shelf. "Dude, Marty, check it out! This TV is changing channels by itself!"

"What?!" His friend also turned in awe toward a large TV that was going on it's own switching through channels.

"Curse these paws..." joe mumbled as he pushed the fat button a painful amount of times. "Here we go..."

"It stopped... on the anime network?"

"Oh my god, we were about to miss the new episode!"

"The TV was giving us a sign! How much is that thing?!"

"Ugh..." Joe sighed as he thought of how silly humans could be.



"Hey, do any of you guys recognize that girl?" A kindergarten boy asked his friends.

"I don't think though... we should let her come play with us!" A girl with pigtails remarked. She turned to the girl in question - she looked to be a second or third grader, the same as the oldest in their group. The girl had long white hair and wore a white t-shirt and shorts. "Heeeeeeeyyyyyy! You wanna come play with us?!"

"You sure?" A first-grader asked, "she looks strange... her hair's all white like an old lady." The girl with pigtails turned to him angrily.

"Don't be rude!" She turned back to see the white haired girl coming their way.

"Um... hi! My name's Aeru. What's yours?"

"I'm Rebecca, and these are my friends Johnny and Yuno and some of their friends. We're playing kickball, okay?" Aeru smiled brightly.

"Sounds like fun!"
 

***

***


"...And there's no way we can talk you down just 50 bucks?!"

"I'm telling you, it's sticker price or bust, sir. This isn't a bazaar."

"But that TV is important! It's magic!"

Joe growled.

"Sir, I'm sorry, there's nothing I can do..."

"grr...."

"Please!"

"I said no!"

"GRAAAAA!!!!!!!"



WHACK! For a brief moment, there was confusion among the group, but it was quickly apparent what had just happened. The new girl had gone up to plate, and with a kick that could shatter bones, launched the poor kickball far into the sky. For thirty long seconds, the other kids stood with heads aimed upward following the beautifully devastating arc of the newly created projectile as it soared off into the distance. All the while, the oblivious girl making her round of the bases.

"All right! Home run!"

VWOOSH! All at once, a group of daggers turned to Aeru. In one of them, presumably the boy who owned the ball, tears were forming.

"Uh... oops!" Aeru scratched the back of her head. What do I do?! "Erm... gotta go!" And with that, she disappeared into thin air.

"Whoa!"

"Where'd she go?!"



Aeru and Joe found themselves once more walking down the sidewalk, now with heads down.

"Hey Aeru... um... I don't think we work really well apart..."

"Agreed." Just then a chime cut through the air and Aeru's head shot up. "My cell phone." 2 quick flips of the hand later, it was at her ear, and 32 seconds after that, it was in her pocket again.

"Work?"

"Yep."

"We should get it done as fast as possible. I..." Joe turned his head aside, blushing slightly, "don't want to waste all of this pretty day..." A smile spread across Aeru's face. She quickly snatched up the kitty and hugged him tightly.

"I'll be sure to do as much as I can as quick as possible, then!" And with that, she danced off to her destination.

***

***

Edited by Allamorph
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Warm golden sunlight was pouring down on her face as the blue haired girl lay back on the grass, simply looking up into the clear blue sky. A moment later a shadow covered her face, a shadow that moved as if it's owner had wings. The girl simply closed her eyes and stretched till her arms were resting just above her head on the grass.

"Lucia!" A high pitched female voice demanded. "Don't you think it's time we got going?"

Lucia opened her eyes again as a familiar weight settled on her chest, she looked slightly down just as the pink cat sitting on her reached up with it's paw to touch her chin. It's eyes slightly accusing. Gently, Lucia grabbed the cat and set her aside. Paying no attention to her wings or the silly yellow bow she was wearing. With a tiny yawn Lucia finally sat up.

"Don't be in such a hurry Ruby, we have plenty of time before our assignment is due." Still Lucia stood up just the same, stretching a little more before with a blur her clothing changed from the simply shorts and casual shirt she had been wearing to a more formal full black outfit and long flowing red cape.

She reached into her pocket and pulled out a type of flat crystal and after concentrating a bit, an image appeared along with the details of an elderly woman who was due to move on later that day. Lucia took a moment to listen to the messages stored for her as well, but there was nothing new beyond the old woman.

"Honestly Lucia, why do you insist on using that thing? You should use a cell phone like the others. Humans don't even know what that is. All you do is draw attention to yourself anytime someone sees it." Ruby took off and moments later landed on Lucia's right shoulder.

"Human technology is destructive," Lucia said simply, giving Ruby the same answer she always did. So long as she was not required to use a cell phone, Lucia would not. Especially where there was technology available to her that did not require destroying the Earth to create it. In that respect humans annoyed her to no end. On some level it was unavoidable and part of how life worked, but on others? She shook her head and simply vanished, along with Ruby.

Moments later she reappeared inside a hospital, hovering just to the side of an occupied bed. It's sole occupant obviously struggling to breathe as a few tearful family members kept watch. The old woman seemed to know that Lucia was there and turned to give her a slight smile.

"So it's finally time is it?" She said with a soft voice, ignoring her family who were confused as to who she was talking to.

"It is." Lucia said. "Are you ready?" She readied her scythe for setting the old woman's soul free.

"I am," the old woman said simply. "I've had a good life so I can't complain."

"Very well then," Lucia said. With a swift motion of her scythe, seconds later the old woman took her last breath and passed on, leaving her loved ones behind to mourn her. Then as the room they were in seemed to fade from view, Lucia and Ruby along with a young woman with flowing black hair and eyes was standing before them in what appeared to be an endless field of white.

"What happened?" The woman asked clearly confused as she looked at her now young body.

"Your soul has been freed from it's body." Lucia replied. "It's time to move on."

"Did you make me young again?" The woman asked, tears in her eyes. "I was worried that even in death I would still be trapped in my old and frail body."

"No, I did not. This is how you see yourself. Now it's time to go Mary." Lucia admonished her, ignoring Ruby's snide remark that she could be a little more personable. It was the same thing Ruby always said when she sent someone on.

"Thank you..." The woman paused as she realized that she did not know Lucia's name.

Ruby rolled her eyes, "Her name is Lucia and I'm Ruby by the way." Ruby just sighed a bit, I guess Lucia will never change. Not that she minded to much, but still, sometimes she was such a stick in the mud.

"Thank you Lucia, Ruby." Then moments later Mary had faded from view as her soul moved on. Leaving Lucia and Ruby who moments later appeared just outside the hospital that the woman had been in. Lucia was about to switch back to her more casual clothing when a tiny bell sounded.

She reached into her pocket and pulled out her crystal communicator, Lucia listened to the new message, and then after putting it away she left immediately for her next destination. Saying nothing as Ruby landed on her right shoulder again.

"Well that was quick," Ruby observed. "I was expecting a little more time off. Oh well. You'll have to save your tanning for later." Lucia just said nothing and continued on her way.

Edited by Allamorph
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Improv


He descended the steps to the dive leisurely, his right hand in his pocket, his left trailing on the banister. Breathing deeply, he glanced around, taking in the welcome dusky atmosphere provided for and by the five-thirty crowd. Afternoon sun streamed in the high windows, creating rectangles of light on the wall behind the bar and causing the bottles on its shelves to sparkle temptingly, and smoke from a few of the tables rose and mingled with the beams in glowing clouds.

It was a crowd today, he marked. Unusual for the time of day. The big rush usually didn’t start until about seven or so, after the music had arrived and set up. Good, consistent music did wonderful things for business, and the Peregrine almost always had good music. Sometimes the artists were mediocre, but never were they awful.

The crowd was definitely here for business now, though, judging from the activity of the staff. He glimpsed Eileen disappearing into the kitchen, and Tiffany was busily making her rounds—he caught a hasty “welcome to the Peregrine” as she whisked brusquely past him, though he doubted she actually had time to recognize him.

“Nathan!” The exuberant voice belonged to Gerry Miles, the Peregrine’s owner, proprietor, and barkeep. “How’s it going? Come on in; sit down, sit down.”

Nathan followed the stocky bartender’s gestures over to the corner of the bar, just past the lift-up entrance and moderately away from the other patrons: his customary place, and his favorite. Gerry pulled a stool out from behind the counter and passed it to Nathan. Good old Gerry; he probably hadn’t let anyone else sit there the entire time Nathan had been away. Nathan sat, swiveling his back to the wall, and placed his hat on the oak bartop, resting his right arm beside it.

“So, what can I get ya?” Gerry was asking him.

“Just some water for now,” he answered.

“Ya sure?”

“For now,” Nathan repeated. “I’ll let you know when I order something.”

Gerry left with an acquiescing “all right”, and Nathan’s gaze drifted off, his thoughts turning to his morning’s duties.

-------------------

His assignation had been a couple of states over, on a major interstate. It had been raining atrociously that morning, though it hadn’t bothered him too terribly; he had, after all, been incorporeal at the time, so the rain had just passed right through him. The only thing he had minded had been the lack of visibility through the sheets of water—and the fact that he had been standing on the shoulder like an ill-lucked hitchhiker. He had been like a hitchhiker in the sense that he was waiting on a ride, but Nathan had had a particular car in mind, and every now and then he had checked his watch to see how soon his vehicle would meet him.

Naturally he hadn’t been told what kind of car to expect, or even what color. All he had had to go on, as usual, were location and time of death. Normally that was all that was needed, but in these situations he usually found himself wishing, as he had then, that he might be given just a smidgen more. Details about the car, for instance. Or maybe the driver’s gender.

Of course, he had reflected, as a dark-colored Jeep Cherokee had hydroplaned into his field of view, this one might be a little obvious. It was on time, at least, or close enough. He had watched as the car’s back end had drifted to the left, as its driver had overcompensated, as it had swung sharply back the other way. He had moved calmly into its path as it had careened sideways onto the shoulder, as its wheels had caught on the turf and it had snapped over, flipping and rolling sickeningly, its passengers’ terrified screams reaching him even across the distance and through the car’s sheet metal. And as it had flown towards him, he had drawn his scythe.

Leaping backwards, he had swung for the front passenger as the Jeep had sailed through his body; that one had died mid-roll. His feet had contacted the rough bark of the pine tree just before the car had wrapped itself around its large trunk, and he had pushed off sharply, catching the girl behind the driver on his way back through—for her, whiplash. One more left; he’d grabbed the roof of the car, and as his body spun around his hand, he’d hurled his scythe at the flying body of the boy who hadn’t been wearing his seatbelt. The sickle had whipped through the boy’s chest as he had collided with another pine; it had bounced afterwards, falling to rest a few feet away from its target.

He had landed in a crouch, conveniently right beside the three stunned souls. They had been staring at the steaming wreckage, utter collective shock etched on their faces.

“What’s going on?” one of the girls had stammered; Nathan recognized her as the one beside the driver.

“Car wreck,” he’d answered simply, standing up. He had calmly adjusted his blazer and scarf, watching them coolly as the realization of their situation had slowly dawned on them. The second girl had let out a strangled gasp.

“Oh my god,” she had begun whispering pathetically, as people do when they find themselves in terrible situations. “That was; was…was that…?”

“Yes.”

“Oh my god.”

 “Oh, stop it,” Nathan had admonished good-naturedly, wrapping an arm under her shoulders before she could collapse to her knees. “There’s nothing you can do about it now, so why don’t you just come with me?” He had phrased it as a question, but it really wasn’t, and he had begun moving through the trees, helping her walk. The other girl had followed dumbly, and the boy….

The boy had finally found his voice.

“What about Craig?”

Nathan had turned as he walked. “What about him?” He had assumed the boy meant had the driver.

“Craig—Craig! The boy had started running towards the hunk of twisted metal. “We have to help Craig!”

Nathan had stopped and faced the boy. “Really,” he’d asked flatly as the boy’s frantic arms passed straight through the car. “And how do you propose to do that? You’re dead.”

“Oh my god,” repeated his burden. The boy had looked at him, stunned.

“Your body’s over here,” Nathan had continued, motioning with his head. “You are currently a bodiless soul; there’s not a whole lot you can do for your friend now.”

“Can’t you do something?”

Nathan had shaken his head. “Not my job.”

“But,” the boy had insisted vehemently, “he could die!”

“He’s not going to die.

“How do you know!?”


Nathan had sighed. Depositing his load gingerly on the ground, he had walked over to the boy’s corpse and retrieved his fallen scythe. “Because,” he had said slowly, holding it up, “I’m Death.”

If they all hadn’t been staring before, they had certainly been staring now. The “god” girl had looked as if she might cry. This had somehow prevented her from reciting her current pitiful mantra, for which Nathan had been relieved.

“Well,” he had allowed, lowering his arm, “I’m not really Death per sé. I’m kind of an emissary of Death; Death’s field agent, so to speak. For all intents and purposes, though, I am effectively Death. I get told who dies where and when, and I go, take the soul from the body, and send it on. I wasn’t told to deal with—Craig, did you say?—so as far as I know he doesn’t die yet. Besides, somebody has to stay behind to be on those teen safe-driving videos.”

“So,” the first girl had started abruptly, “you’re basically a grim reaper.”

“Pretty much, yeah.”

 “Isn’t your scythe a little small?”

Nathan had grinned. It had appeared that she was getting over the incident quite nicely.

“Most of them are a lot bigger,” he had responded, “but I like mine this way.” He’d spun it deftly through his fingers. “It’s much more precise, I think. Less impersonal, too.”

 “And that little acrobatics display?” she’s asked, a little smugly.

Of course. She’d been the first one separated, so she’d probably seen the entire rest of his maneuvering.

“Umm, yeah.” Nathan had scratched the back of his head. “You know, usually they send more than one of us to take care of stuff like this….”

“Really.”

 “…so I had to just make up stuff as I went.”

“Sure.”

“Hey, you wanna find a better way to work out the timing, there, be my guest. Sheeez.”

Nathan had suddenly noticed that the girl he’d been carrying had now been staring at him curiously.

“Your hair’s blue,” she pronounced, as if she’d just decided this fact. Nathan looked down at himself, then back to her.

“Well, it went with the outfit.” The first girl had chuckled, and smiles had finally cracked the faces of her companions. Nathan had broken into one as well. “I think we’re all sufficiently past the recent crisis now,” he’d said. “Shall we be moving on, then?”

-------------------

“Nathan? Hey, Earth to Nathan! Come back to us there, buddy.”

Nathan shook himself; Gerry was peering at him inquiringly from across the counter.

“I’m sorry; what?”

“I just asked you,” Gerry said slowly, “if you’d like anything to eat while you daydreamed.”

Nathan sat up. “Oh, sure, sure. I’ll have your chicken club, no onions this time, and I think I’ll stick with the water.”

“Right.” The bartender turned and called the order back to Tiffany in the kitchen. He raised his eyebrows at the reply.

“What’d she say?” Nathan asked.

Gerry gave him a wry look. “She said that you knew where everything was and you could come back and make it yourself.”

“She said that?” He grinned. “Sounds like someone’s not in the best mood right now.”

“Well, you should’ve talked to her,” Gerry retorted.

“What? When?”

Gerry leaned wearily on the bar. “Nathan, you’ve been staring off into space for over an hour now. Tiff came over and tried to say hi twice, but you were out in Blueland somewhere, or something. What on earth have you been thinking about?”

“Oh, you know,” Nathan dismissed. “Death, the afterlife; why we’re all here. Taxes. Nothing serious.”

Gerry rolled his eyes. “You’re never serious.”

“More fun that way.”

“Yeah, right.”

His sandwich arrived, delivered by a tight-lipped Tiffany who stalked off to another able before Nathan could manage so much as a word. The two men stared after her.

“Wow,” said Gerry.

“You think flowers might be in order?” Nathan mused.

Gerry laughed. “Hell, man, I think chocolates are gonna be iffy for ya right now. Have fun with this one.”

One of the other patrons called him away, and Nathan enjoyed most of his club before the barkeep returned. The evening’s music had started: a small combo, playing some good standards.

“Well, speaking of lady friends,” Gerry started, “how’s yours?”

Nathan wiped his lips. “Actually, we’re not on speaking terms right now, either,” he said with a grin.

“Really? You’re on a roll, there, buddy.  How’d that happen?”

“Bad rat.”

Gerry choked.

“Yeah, she had a major hairball last night. I told her the rat was mangy….”

“You reminded her, didn’t you?”

“Yeah, and now somehow it’s my fault.”

The bartender chuckled. “It’s not that time of the month, is it?” He retreated at Nathan’s look. “Sorry, sorry I asked. Stupid question.”

Nathan sighed. “And he complains that I’m not serious. Anyway, she’s been at the house all day today; considering she almost horked a lung getting it out, I can’t say I blame her.”

“Jeez.”

“Yeah. I was already working on something to make her feel better, and now I’ve got to worry about this whole deal—hold on.” Nathan pulled out his phone, flipped it open and held it to his ear. As he listened, a shadow crossed his face; after a minute, he closed it and replaced it in his pocket, exchanging it for his wallet.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I have to run.” He counted out some bills and laid them on the counter. “Here; keep the change, tip Eileen, tell Tiff I’m sorry for…tell her I’m really, really sorry and I’ll think of something for her as soon as I’m not tied up with stuff.”

“From the looks of things, I think she wouldn’t mind doing some of the tying herself.”

“Very funny; that’s dangerous territory, there, and not exactly G-rated.” He snatched his hat from the counter. “I’ll try to be back in later this week. Take care.”

Edited by Allamorph
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"Jonathan!" A stern voice said from the door to the bedroom. He turned lazily from his position of lying down and semi facing the television where his favorite video game could be seen, momentarily paused.

"What do you want Mom?" He asked.

With a shake of brown curly hair she walked over and around the bed to switch the game and the TV off. Uttering a tiny sigh when she turn back to face her son, crossing her arms across her chest and tapping her foot slightly.

"You know you're suppose to be resting, no games until you get better!"

"Aw, come on Mom! I'm not going to get better so why can't I have some fun before I go?" Jonathan pleaded. He watched as she sat down on the edge of the bed and then pulled him into a fierce hug. Something that he simply tolerated until she was done.

"Sweetie," she said when she finally let go. "You don't know if you're going to die or not, the doctor said their's a good chance that they'll find a donor soon."

He looked down at his hands, instead of lying back down. "No Mom, Alex said my heart will give out before that will happen, why won't you believe me?" He looked up when she firmly grasped his hands in his.

"I don't know who this Alex is, but no one knows when someone is going to die," she let go and stood up. "You are not to talk to Alex anymore understand?"

"Why don't you tell him yourself Mom? After all he can hear you." Jonathan pointed to the corner of the room where Alex was casually leaning back against the wall with Nall sitting on his left shoulder. But Alex just shook his head.

"She can't see or hear me you know." He reminded Jonathan. "There's no reason for her to see me."

"Couldn't you talk to her? Just this once? I really want to finish that game." Jonathan pleaded. But Alex merely shook his head as he always did when Jonathan asked that question.

Jonathan's mother looked back and forth, clearly confused as to what her son thought he was talking to, until finally she gave up. "No games allright?" She waited for him to nod before finally leaving, closing the door behind her.

He turned back to Alex to ask him to turn the TV and the game back on when a sudden pain exploded on the left side of his chest. With a gasp he fell backwards, struggling to breathe as his weak heart started to finally give out. Jonathan looked up to see that Alex was standing next to his bed, his scythe ready.

"So it's finally time is it?" He managed to whisper.

"It is." And with a swift stroke the scythe slid through Jonathan's body as if it were smoke. There was no sign of any damage, but when it left, his body was still. Moments later Jonathan was floating just to the side of his own bed, looking down.

"Wow, I thought it was gonna hurt more than that." He said.

Alex just laughed. "That sort of thing never hurts for long, now it's time to go." He reached out with his right hand to take Jonathan's in his. With an encouraging smile he took of, straight through the walls and to just above the house. Then he let go as Jonathan started to fade. Seconds later he was gone.

"Well that was pretty easy, what should we do now Nall?"

Nall just snorted, "I don't know why you ask, you never do what I suggest anyway. You like those video games and anime shows and always go to some silly store or shop to watch them no matter what I say."

"I do not!" Alex protested. "Just name it and we'll do it! I promise."

But before Nall could speak Alex's cell phone started ringing, he pulled it out of his pocket to answer it. After listening to the message he closed it and then let out a little sigh.

"Man, now I'm gonna miss the next episode of..."

"Ha! I knew it!" Nall said triumphantly. "You had no intention of doing what I suggested."

Alex gave him a hurt look, "That's not true. Besides work comes first, you know that."

But Nall just laughed. "Sure, you keep telling yourself that Alex." But Alex pretended to not hear Nall as he flew off into the sky towards his next assignment, perhaps if he was lucky they would be watching the show he didn't want to miss.

Edited by Allamorph
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Fragment C: Death has Anger Issues

"Honey!" A man shouted as glass flew by his head. Floating next to him was a woman with a scythe. Sitting on her shoulder was a small crow with a cute little bow on it's neck. "Honey, I can explain!" The man shouted frantically at his crazy girlfriend.

"Who the hell is this Shalua girl Tom?" A women asked as she threw a vase at poor Tom's head.

"She's going to bring me to the afterlife!" He cried. "Isn't it right Shalua?" the man asked, the vase nearly hit him on the head.

"She can't hear me you dope!" Shalua yelled. "I told you that the last two times you've had this fight. Listen. To. My. Words. Retard!" Shalua groaned and smacked herself across the head.

"I know your sick Tom, but I know this Shalua girl is somewhere else.Stop making up the "she's taking me to the afterlife" crap again Tom. You're sleeping with her aren't you?!"

Tom was sweating like a pig. He wasn't supposed to get over stressed otherwise his heart would give out. "Honey I..." Suddenly Tom stopped talking. He clenched his chest and fell to the ground.

"Nice try Tom! using a fake heart attack to get away from the fact that you're cheating on me! Not a third time!"

Tom gasped for breathe. He started coughing up blood. Shalua took her scythe and readied it.

"It's time..." he whispered. Shalua nodded and drew back her scythe. She took it and slashed Tom through the chest. Suddenly he was out of his body, starring at the lifeless lump of a man below. A life of failure was all that Tom had, finally he'd achieve peace. "I'm ready, Shalua..." tom said smiling. Shalua took his hand. In seconds Tom faded away, leaving the world of the living. His girlfriend had finally realized that he was dead. Almost instantly, she an over to his body, and cried the last few tears a women could for a man.

***
"So what now Tuko?" Shalua asked Yutuko. She looked at Shalua with evil content. A baron wasteland of fear and desolation came out of the crow's glare. Almost chilling to the human psyche. Shalua gaped into the crow's dark eyes.

"Take this frickin bow off of me!" Yutuko screamed. She tugged at the bow with no avail, it was useless, the bow was stuck on Yutuko like a curse.

Shalua smiled and laughed as her attention was taken by a bookstore. "Hey, Tuko, let's check out the bookstore, they cold have some interesting manga!"
Tuko suddenly stopped trying to rip off the bow "Fine then, manga it is."

***

"Death Note!" Shalua hollered angrily. "How dare they do this to us Shinigami! Bastards!"

''Shalua, it's just a book."

"No, shut up. No one makes fun of us, what the hell is this damn 'Death note?' We won't be fooled like this."

"Shalua, it's just a comic!" Yutuko tried to calm Shalua down. As this foolish little quarrel was going on, a kid was glaring at a floating manga. He suddenly ran away screaming.

"Mommy, mommy, there's a floating book near the manga section!" The boy screamed.

Shalua took the book and put it back, she tried to calm herself down. "Its alright Shalua, it's just a comic, there's nothing to be mad at..."

Why doesn't she just go to the 'Psychological' section and find a book on self therapy? Yutuko though.

***

Shalua floated around the city of New York, looking for some idiotic human. Maybe a good laugh would come out of this city, or even someone Shalua would have to pass on, who understood that others can't hear or see her. Yutuko floated around too, looking for some bugs to eat.

"Shalua, you want some nice insects for lunch?"

"Not today, how about some Chinese?" Shalua suggested.

"I can't stand Chinese food! it makes me sick to my stomach! Come on Shalua, bugs, bugs, bugs!" She tried to talk Shalua into eating some bugs with her. The hope welled inside her. Shalua scratched her chin, she entered a deep thought.

"How about some McDonald's then?" Shalua asked. Yutuko flew up to a building and hit her head against a glass window. then she tried ripping the bow off again, this time it came off. She tossed it at Shalua, it hit her on the forehead.

"What's your problem Tuko?!" Shalua asked, she started yelling at the crow.

Why in the hell did I get stuck as her familiar? Yutuko complained. It seemed that Shalua was making everything worse than it really is... like she usually did.

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Volume Two: Death Whispered A Lullaby

Piece One: Windowpane

Out on the road there are fireflies circling
Deep in the woods, where the lost souls hide
Over the hill there are men returning
Trying to find some peace of mind

Aeru was shivering slightly as she wandered about the dark woods. These kinds of places always gave her the creeps. Joe was completely the opposite, taking a cynical approach to Aeru’s fear.

“You realize that to the humans, you’re the scariest thing in existence…” Aeru ignored him as she continued to stroll about, trying to figure out where the victim lie. On one hand, she was scared, but she still wanted to find him as fast as possible, so as not to prolong any suffering he might have been tortured with. She couldn’t feel the wind herself, but she could tell it was deathly cold.

“Ngh… guh…” There were faint sounds of pained gasps. Aeru followed them to the scene. There was a man against a tree with a hole in his chest going directly through his lung. The assaulter was only just strolling off, still within sight. She was lucky - it was only just moments ago. Still, there was a lot of blood from the wound as well as the man’s mouth. She decided to work quickly. She drew her scythe above her shoulder. With a solitary arc she brought her scythe across his neck. The man’s heart stopped.

“……” Tears began to form in Aeru’s eyes.

“If it’s any consolation, this man is a convicted felon. The crimes he’s committed are unspeakable. If anything, you’ve brought justice-”

“No!” Aeru spoke boldly. “I am only doing my job.”

***


Under the fog there are shadows moving
Don't be afraid, hold my hand
Into the dark there are eyelids closing
Buried alive in the shifting sands

A dense fog had filtered into the maze of trees. Aeru had become lost among the trees, but fear was no longer on her mind. There was a solemnity in her eyes that Joe knew to be depression. Every once in a while she got like this. Death was never a pretty sight - she was only a child, after all. Even though he was bored of it, he continually followed Aeru around the forest. What a strange amount of time to not get a call.

“You don’t have to, you know.” Aeru suddenly spoke, looking Joe in the eyes. She was pouring with tears. “You don’t have to follow me. I know you want to go watch anime.”

“Aeru… I--” Suddenly, Joe disappeared. A shock pierced Aeru’s mind.

“Joe?!” Suddenly the fear of this place came rushing back. The fog was so thick she couldn’t even see. “JOE!” There was no sound. The only thing in all directions was the dirty white fog. Then, without warning, a hand suddenly came from over Aeru’s shoulder! It covered her mouth and she was pulled back into a person’s body.

“Sleep, my child…” Aeru felt her consciousness drifting. Her eyes slowly closed. She fell into a deep sleep.



Speak to me now and the world will crumble
Open a door and the moon will fall
All of your life, all your memories
Go to your dreams, forget it all

shinigamidanceletter.png
hintA.png

***

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Oh this was rich, Adrian just snorted as he read the letter. What idiot sent this out? Not only did they fail to give the name of the Shinigami who was stupid enough to get caught, but they couldn't be bothered to tell them who was on this team that was suppose to hunt for her. He couldn't help it he just laughed out loud, ignoring the startled glances he got from other patrons of the tiny cafe where he was enjoying his lunch. Not that Adrian really needed to eat, he just enjoyed it. He pushed it aside, setting down more than enough money to pay for it and then left in favor of changing his state to one that humans could not see. Moments later Astera appeared on his left shoulder.

"I want to see it!" She piped up in her tiny yet stern voice. With a shrug Adrian handed it over. Chuckling inwardly when she unconsciously took off and started flying around agitatedly. She flew up to the top of a building with Adrian close behind her, muttering under her breath as she did so.

"This is terrible! We have to do something and quick! Oh the poor dear! Kidnapped by vampires. I thought humans took care of them ages ago." She fluttered back over to Adrian who was hovering in a mock sitting position as he waited patiently for her to calm down a bit. But she was too worked up for that.

"What are we waiting for! We need to get going right this second!" She exclaimed.

"And where should we go Astera?" He asked with a smile.

"Why..." She paused and looked at the letter again. "Hey! They didn't even tell us her name or who we are working with! I mean couldn't they have told us where the Shinigami who was kidnapped was working? Stupid..." She began to mumble to herself again, her wings fluttering even faster until Adrian chuckled.

"It's not funny!" She pouted. "Vampires are terrible and you saw the part where they told us to have fun with their victims! What if they've hurt other people or kidnapped them too?"

"It doesn't do us any good to get worked up over it." Adrian reminded her. "After all the note did not forbid us from talking to other Shinigami, so I suggest we check with a couple of the others in this area to see if one is missing. If they are, then that's likely to be the one who was taken."

He took the note back from Astera and once she was settled on his shoulder again he took off, it wouldn't be too hard to find the others. After all for one such as he, seeing the difference between a Shingami and a regular human was a simple matter. Though failing that he could always fall back on actually contacting one of them with his cell phone. Much as he hated contacting anyone for any reason. Even if they too were Shinigami like himself he still preferred to steer clear of them.

Still this should be fun, unlike regular humans, vampires cheated death and did not require a notice to be sent to the next stage of existence. So what if the note said they could not act until their comrade was recovered. He laughed at the idea. If a vampire was foolish enough to show themselves to him, he would not hesitate to send them on their way. One did not give into the demands of their natural enemies. By kidnapping her they were deliberately bringing themselves out into the open.

Which could mean only one thing, they intended to interfere with the natural balance of death on Earth, and what better way to do it than to get rid of the Shinigami? If anything the clues for finding the missing Shinigami were clearly nothing more than a trap to ensnare the rest of them.

Moments later he detected the aura of another Shinigami in the area and he flew in that direction. Taking only a moment to put the letter he was still carrying away. As he got closer to the other Shinigami one thought crossed his mind. This is going to be far more interesting than dealing with stupid humans. A thought that had him smiling all over again.

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Lucia had already finished her next assignment and had found herself a quiet spot in one of the parks inside the city. Even though it was lunch time there still were very few people around. Something that she enjoyed as she lazily lay on the grass soaking up the sun, even Ruby was being quiet and sitting calmly as she watched the birds that frequented the place. But then that moment of stillness was interrupted by the unmistakable aura of another Shinigami, once who was approaching her position quickly. It was merely a messenger and after handing her a small packet they were on their way.

Curious she opened up the letter and read it with Ruby sitting on her left shoulder, reading it at the same time she did. But before she could do more than wonder who was missing or who else was on the team, she once again felt the presence of yet another Shinigami. Wordlessly she put the letter away and looked to the sky, becoming invisible to human eyes without a thought as the other approached quickly and then came to a stop in front of her. It was Adrian and Astera, and as always, Adrian was wearing one of his usual smirks. Leaving her to wonder if he was planning on passing on an assignment yet again.

"Adrian," She acknowledged. "Why are you here?"

"What makes you think I want something?" He asked innocently. "After all I could just be in the neighborhood for once and simply saying hello."

"If that were so, this would be the first time." Lucia observed. Adrian did not come around to be sociable. Unlike Astera who given the chance would talk your ears off.

"Oh Adrian!" Astera said with irritation. "Just ask her about the letter already! We need to find the missing Shinigami!"

So he got one too? Lucia had noticed that none of the names were mentioned when it came to who was on the team, not that it bothered her. But Adrian? He's so irresponsible! Why would they assign him the task? She knew he was unlikely to care about what happened to one of his own kind, even if they had included the name of the one who was missing.

"As you wish Astera," Adrian started to pull out the letter but Lucia interrupted him.

"I already know the contents of the letter."

"Ah, excellent, I don't suppose your letter actually told you who was on the team or who is suppose to be missing would it?" Adrian asked her, all traces of the smirk gone. Leaving Lucia to wonder why he was being serious for a change.

"Of course not." Lucia replied. "Why would it?"

"Oh I don't know, how about the obvious answer of knowing who you're working with would be helpful?" Adrian said with a snicker. Clearly amused at the situation.

"And what if the letter fell into the wrong hands? After all the vampires have proven that they can kidnap a Shinigami, what then?" Lucia didn't expect an answer so she continued before Adrian could respond. "Seems to me that figuring out who is missing is a simple matter, just as who got the letter and who didn't. There's no reason to tip the vampires hand as to how many have been assigned to this task. All you need to know really is that you are not alone."

"I suppose you could look at it like that." Adrian finally said. "In that case I'll be on my way, I'm checking to see who is missing and who has a letter, it would be easier if you checked the south side of the city while I checked the north."

"Very well then," Lucia agreed. With a mocking bow in her direction Adrian took off. She watched until he was gone and then with a sigh turned to head into the city and find the others. The only question she was wondering about was if Adrian would actually finish the task instead of getting bored and losing interest. How he became a Shinigami she would never know.

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In the end Alex had ended up missing the episode of the show he wanted to watch. Not that it mattered, but still. With a tiny little sigh he left the residence where he had sent the next soul on it's way. Moving through the walls with ease as he took up residence on the roof top, taking in the beauty of the calm and peaceful day. Moments later Nall settled down on his right shoulder.

"So what should we do now?" He asked, knowing full well that Alex would most likely head off to the nearest gaming or anime and manga shop. As much as he protested, Nall really didn't mind, but then many of the shops also had those fantasy novels that he liked to read. Humans had the weirdest concepts about magic and life after death.

But before Alex could answer Nall, both of them were startled by the aura of a messenger Shinigami who came to give Alex a letter before leaving. Curious Alex sat down on the roof and opened it up and read it. His eyes going wide as he realized just what it said. Vampires? They kidnapped another Shinigami? How was that even possible? They shouldn't even be able to see them if they didn't wish it. He tucked the letter into one of his pockets and kept the part out that was a clue, reading it several times before finally putting it away.

"Wow! Vampires?" Nall said with disbelief. "I thought they'd been taken care of already. And who did they kidnap? I wish they had given us more information to go on. I haven't a clue as to where to start."

"I've no idea either," Alex said as he stood up and flew up a bit to get a better view of the city. Just as he didn't know who else had been assigned to the team, or who had been kidnapped, he didn't even know how to look for a vampire. If they had managed to kidnap a Shinigami it meant that they had figured out how to detect their aura.

"But more importantly, how does one go about determining if someone is a vampire? We can sense other Shinigami as well as when someone is about to die, but what about someone who has cheated death? Will their aura be any different?" It was something that puzzled him. He couldn't imagine that they couldn't tell if someone was a vampire or not.

"I don't see why not," Nall reasoned. "After all they are no longer human. I would imagine that the only reason we haven't come across one before is because they've been avoiding us."

"Yeah, I guess that makes sense, after all we'd be required to send them to the next phase after all. Cheating death like that upsets the natural balance on Earth." Alex looked around once more before making up his mind, taking off in the direction of a faint aura from a fellow Shinigami.

"I think we should ask a couple of the others if they know what's going on or if they know how to tell if someone's a vampire or not." Moments later he descended and came to a halt in front of Lucia and Ruby who upon sensing their approach had stopped in front of one of the schools that the human children attended.

"Alex, Nall," She greeted them. "I take it that you also got a letter?"

"Yeah, though it didn't really say much, and I've no idea where to begin searching either." He shrugged, "I've no idea how to tell if someone's a vampire, do you?"

"I would have thought that was obvious," Ruby said with a know it all tone of voice. "They've cheated death so they won't have any aura of dying about them like other humans do."

Nall just snorted, "Or they may have an aura of being dead about them, or they may come across as normal. As always you jump to conclusions Ruby."

"I do not!" Ruby said in agitation. "It's logical that their aura would be messed up." She started to launch into a speech but was stopped when Lucia hushed her.

"Ruby and I have been discussing it and we are of the opinion that their aura will differ from normal humans, though we have not had the chance to test this theory. Right now we are hunting for other Shinigami in the area to see if someone is missing and to see who else got the letter. So far it seems that you, myself and Adrian have received one." Lucia finished.

"They sent a letter to Adrian?" Nall exclaimed. "Why in the world would they do that? All he'll do is get bored and hand it over to someone else."

Lucia just shook her head, "I don't know, but for him, he was unusually serious. He even hunted me down and proposed that we work together to see who else has a letter and to see who is missing. He's checking the north part of the city while I check the south."

Alex reached up with his left hand to scratch the back of his head, "That is odd, for Adrian that is. Well if you've talked to him then that only leaves a few more to check on, as far as I know the only ones in this area besides ourselves is Nathan, Aeru and Shalua. Markus, was suppose to be here as well, but I hear he got moved to another area altogether. So it's unlikely that he's the missing one."

"Yes, it is unlikely," Lucia responded. "In that case, unless you wish to work alone I suggest we finish checking the south part of the city and then meet up with Adrian."

"Works for me," Alex said with a grin, "I'll take the western side of the southern city while you take the eastern. How does that sound?"

Lucia just nodded. With another grin Alex and Nall took off to check the western part of the city. It shouldn't take too long, quickly he rose until he was high enough to have a good vantage point and yet not so far up that detecting another Shinigami's aura would be a problem. With three of them looking they would most likely know before the end of the day just who was missing and who else had gotten a letter.

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Letter 2: Bug Eyes

Aeru was crying.

The place she was seemed to be a void of dark, grainy brown. All around was the same color, and she seemed to be merely floating in a space that was probably not much larger than her body. She wasn't restrained at all, but without Joe to talk to or anywhere to go, she found herself bored to torment. She tried to fly or teleport away, but nothing worked. It wasn't that which was painful so much as the fear of what was to come.

Having lived for many decades, Aeru had known her share of time doing nothing, but never had she experienced something like this. The idea that a human could lay hands on her seemed ridiculous, but it was obviously true.

What's gonna happen to me? She wondered. Joe... where are you...

***

"Ah... well, if it isn't Hikaru and Tsubasa!" The room was backer than night. The deep, charismatic voice of the Count bounded throughout in a manner which made him feel all-encompassing. For any normal human, this room was a void with a voice. To the young twin vampires, though, it was an extravagantly decorated bedroom. The bed was enormous and draped with the finest of curtains and furnished with the most expensive blankets and pillows.

"Counto-sama, " The girl who spoke looked to be 10 or so years-old with shoulder-length hair tucked behind her ears. Her fangs peeked over her bottom lip and her skin was dark blue. Both she and her identical twin sister wore extravagant black dresses. They held hands constantly.

"Good work. Our game has begun well and will continue to run smoothly. I only hope some of the other shinigami figure out the clues as quickly as possible." A devilish grin spread wide across the Count's beautiful face. "I wish to do battle very soon."

"Counto-sama, "

"I am fine, you may be excused, my darlings." With a bow, the twins exited the room to their own devices.

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Time


Nathan's "house" was actually an unused apartment on the top floor of a complex on the east side of the city. It was a fairly well-populated complex, but Nathan had managed to convince the landlord and several of the more permanently established denizens that the apartment was the dwelling place of some spirit or other, which currently wasn't far from the truth. Of course, this required that Nathan perform the odd apparitionary tasks every couple of years or so to show that the spirit of the apartments hadn't yet passed on, but as long as he got to keep his own place, he didn't mind all that much. In fact, he kind if enjoyed it; just last year he had played an intense chess match against the fifty-four year old Joel Robertson of 207B. The graying man had once been a local tournament champion in his youth and had finished in the top ten at the state level several times. Needless to say, Nathan had been very pleased with his win, if a bit disappointed at having to make Robertson lose to an invisible ghost.

The apartment's furnishings were spartan: white walls, a white ceiling with a single frosted-glass light set in the center of each room, white carpet that cut off diagonally at the small kitchen area to become white linoleum sheet-tile with small black diamonds in a tessellated pattern, a dark gray futon couch and chairs. The living room was further lit by track lighting around the walls, which Nathan had had to install himself—also with an audience. He had been intensely amused by their presence, and had availed himself of some assistance from a few of them. Isen, as always, had protested her disapproval, but since he had been the only one to hear her he had taken the liberty of ignoring her. After all, track lighting is no easy beast to install by oneself.

Isen was a large, sleek Russian Blue with gold eyes. Her short fur was silky to the touch, and she was almost obsessively proud of her appearance, washing herself at least eight times a day; Nathan had counted. Isen had been his familiar for as long as he could remember, and as Nathan would say himself, he'd been around the block a few times.

At present, she was in a state of extreme agitation. She'd pace back and forth at the apartment's entrance in tight circles, then jump up on the bar that separated the kitchen from the living room and sit staring at the lone envelope on the counter's white marble surface, tail twitching nervously, then jump down and start the process all over again. Her eyes were dilated, and they flicked repeatedly around the apartment as she paced, picking up every detail, searching for anything out of place, anything she might have missed the last time she'd looked.

She accosted her partner the instant he floated through the front door.

"Where have you been?" she demanded angrily. "I have been going mad waiting for you!"

"Relax," cajoled the shinigami. "I was just down at the Peregrine for the afternoon, and then I had to take an old man for a heart-attack. He was sleeping, so it wasn't a big deal." Nathan looked at her askance. "Why? What's got you all worked up?"

Isen leaped back up to the counter. "This," she said flatly, touching the envelope with her paw. "We were visited while I slept," she continued.

"So the big guy decided to send us a letter. I don't see what–"

"It smells wrong," she interrupted.

Nathan stopped and looked at her for a second. Concern crept into his eyes, and he reached slowly for the envelope, opening it deliberately. As he read the letter his eyes narrowed, until they finally closed, and the hand holding the missive sagged to rest on the counter. Isen looked at him apprehensively.

"Nathan, don't do this."

Nathan's expression became strained; his lips parted slightly, and he drew in a long, heavy breath.

------------------------

Grant Taylor couldn't understand what had gotten into his beagle.  Missy had been sleeping quietly on his lap while he watched the Giants/Chiefs game, and without warning she'd hurled herself to the floor and run whining into his bedroom.

"Missy?" he called, getting out of his recliner. He could just see the tip of her nose peeking out from under his bed. "What's wrong, girl?"

"Hey, Dad?" his daughter called from the next room. "Does it feel a little cold in here to you?"

Grant paused. Come to think of it, it did feel unusually chilly all of a sudden—enough, even, to give him goosebumps, and the hair on the back of his neck was standing up.

"I'm sure it's nothing, Meredith," he replied, giving Missy a funny look.

------------------------

Isen was considerably worried; Nathan hadn't spoken, or done anything at all, for the past five minutes. His normally calm aura was pulsing out from him in smothering waves, closing in the air and causing her fur to bristle.

"Nathan, stop," she pleaded, arching her back in spite of herself.

"Vampires," he murmured thinly.

"I know."

"Cowardly–"

"They were here, Nathan."

His gaze snapped to her, his expression terrible. Isen stammered the next sentence.

"I-I scented them when I woke up," she told him. "I do not know how they-how they got in, and they did nothing...I believe...." She trailed off uncertainly. "They should have woken me, I do not know how they snuck in."

"They didn't deliver this," Nathan said through clenched teeth. "They never just go places." He left the kitchen and walked towards the center of his living room, his blue eyes sweeping across it just as his familiar's had done before he'd arrived. They came to rest on the chess set on the lone table in the room. He stepped closer to it.

A single emerald pawn was out of rank on the highest tier, moved forward to the fourth rank. Isen eyed it curiously. "I ... what?" she said.

"It a message," he responded quietly. "They're saying that this is their game and they know all the players. Damn cowards!" he hissed.

He moved around the board until he was facing the sapphire pieces at the bottom. He studied the board for a long moment, then reached down and grasped a piece of his own.

"Queen-bishop's pawn to A3," he said. "Time."

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Z. Games to be Played

Adrian had been searching for a while, but other than Lucia and Alex he had not seen or sensed the others, well other than Shalua, he had seen her from a distance earlier on, but didn't care if she had a letter or was missing. It was simple, he didn't like her at all and preferred to avoid her. A quick call to Lucia revealed that Alex was involved and that both of them were checking the southern part of the city and had so far found no one. Another quick moment to explain that Shalua was not missing and that he could care less if she was involved and then he ended the call, putting his cell phone back in one of his pockets.

That left Nathan and Aeru and he was willing to bet that it was Aeru who was missing. Somehow he couldn't imagine them taking Nathan, at least not as a hostage. Someone like Nathan would be troublesome. He appeared calm and unruffled, but to anyone with half a mind for details, it was obvious that Nathan was quite intelligent. Adrian knew that if he was a vampire, there would be more fun to be had at flaunting the ability to do things that Nathan could not foresee or prevent.

But that was just a thought, whether or not it was true... Adrian smiled from his vantage point on top of one of the taller buildings in the northern part of the city. The first stars starting to appear in the night sky, he thought about returning to where he kept residence, but changed his mind. A Shinigami did not need sleep, he often did sleep, if only because dreams were such a curious thing, but he did not require it, much in the same way that he did not require food either.

"Adrian! We should keep looking!" Astera said with irritation. "By now Lucia and Alex are probably done with checking the southern part of the city! And we still have more to check!" But then as silence descended and everything seemed to stand still Astera fell quiet and dashed to the safety of Adrian's left shoulder. Looking around in alarm, but there was nothing to be seen.

"There's really no point in hiding in the shadows," Adrian said even as he straightened up and moved away from the spot where he had been sitting down. So they can see us even when humans and others cannot. Interesting. Though it made sense, and seeing that they had managed to kidnap one of them, it was obvious that they would be able to touch a Shinigami as well.

"Just as you can see me when humans cannot, I can clearly sense your presence. That aura of one who has cheated death is unmistakable." He started moving towards the presence he could feel, opening his hands as the twin scythes he used materialized. Adrian grasped them firmly as their weight settled into his hands.

"Not being able to see you will not stop me from sending you to the afterlife." He said in a conversational tone.

"You would do well to think before you act," A voice spoke even as the deepest shadow on top of the building blurred and then took shape. Dressed in black, with long blonde hair that flowed in the slight breeze, the woman had an amused look on her face.

Adrian came to a stop, "Oh you mean because you have one of us?" He laughed. "I really don't give a damn."

"I wonder if your Masters feel the same," she replied, "I would have thought that even you Adrian would be required to obey."

Adrian started to reply only to swiftly dodge to the right at the last second, barely avoiding the second shadow that tore though the spot he had just been standing in. Mocking laughter reached his ears as the presence of the two shadows faded.

"You'd better hurry little Shinigami, next time we won't miss." And then their presence was gone.

"Are you alright Adrian?" Astera asked from her perch on his shoulder. "They didn't hurt you did they?"

"No." Adrian said flatly, annoyed that he had not sensed the other one until it was almost too late to avoid the attack. How had the other one managed to get so close without him sensing it?

"Those rotten sneaky underhanded vampires!" Astera fumed, taking off and flying around in an agitated manner. Still upset that she had not noticed them in time.

Adrian had to agree, just what were they up to? And why did they need to hurry? And better yet, how had they known that he was one of the Shinigami's who had been assigned to the task of recovering the other one? As well as his name? He shook his head, offering Astera a tiny smile when she settled back down on his shoulder. Then after putting his scythes back into their half existence state to await when he would need them, freeing up his hands, he took off in the direction of the last part of the city he had not checked.

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Op. 1. Accelerando

Alex was not expecting to find anything nor was he surprised when Lucia contacted him to let him know what Adrian had found out so far. And though neither one had said anything he was leaning towards thinking it was Aeru who was missing. Why he couldn't say, it was just a feeling. He ignored the coming of night since he was not affected by it. Unlike humans he did not require sleep.

"I've been thinking Nall," Alex said as he suddenly came to a halt, hovering just above the pavement in front of the same school for children that Lucia had been in front of earlier that day.

"Vampires have cheated death, so just how do we kill them? I'm assuming that like any human a scythe will do the job, but what if it doesn't? What then?" Nall just took off from his right shoulder to hover right in front of him, fixing him with a look as if it should be obvious.

"I'll purify them myself, I'm a dragon remember?" Nall pointed out.

Alex laughed, "Right, you never change out of your smaller form so I kind of forgot about that."

Nall just rolled his eyes. "I swear Alex, sometimes you're as stupid as the humans are."

"Hey! No need to be rude Nall!" Alex started to protest until he saw that Nall was laughing at him. "All right, all right! I get it. Still it's going to be a problem if I can't send them on their way."

"I don't see that as a problem," Nall asserted. "I'd be more worried about them catching you like they did the missing Shinigami. If they can touch us, it stands to reason that they can hurt us as well."

Alex didn't bother to answer that, it had already occurred to him. He wasn't about to say anything to Nall, but it made him nervous just to think about it. With a shrug he dismissed the feeling and started to take off, but then an odd sensation caught his attention. What the? He froze, turning towards the empty school, Nall doing the same.

"Alex!" Nall hissed.

"I know." Alex responded, still unsure as to what he was sensing. It was unlike anything he had experienced before. In a small way it reminded him of how another Shinigami felt. A sensation of being between two worlds. But at the same time it was clearly different. It took him a minute to realize what that difference was. And when he did... So Ruby was right, they do have an aura of something that has cheated death. He couldn't sense when their time to die was like he could with other humans.

"Vampires." Alex said softly, he couldn't see where they were but it was clear that at least one was nearby. Without giving it much thought he went right through the closed gate to the school grounds, his scythe appearing in his right hand.

"What are you doing Alex?" Nall cried out in alarm as he followed him. "We should tell the others! It's too dangerous to confront them alone."

Alex came to a halt, turning to face Nall, "We need to learn more Nall, or we'll never find the missing Shinigami!"

"I know that Alex, but if we can sense them..."

"Then they can sense us as well." Alex nodded. "You're right we need to join the others."

With a thought, he banished his scythe back to where it rested, waiting for him to call it forth. Then as Nall landed on his right shoulder he took off, heading at top speed towards where he was suppose to meet Lucia, moments later the aura he had felt faded as he left it behind.

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Op. 1. Allegro


Lucia had finished checking her part of the city, without picking up anything out of the ordinary. Now, she was simply sitting on top of one of many buildings that towered above the rest of the city, her long blue hair and clock being teased by the slight breeze in the cool air night. As soon as Alex joined her, they would head over to join Adrian. But now what bothered her the most was why hadn't she heard of vampires still being around before now? Had those in charge known and yet said nothing? She sincerely hoped not. Lucia had come to accept that humans were destructive but to have ones who lived forever? The thought of them living longer only to continue with their destructive ways was distasteful. The cycle of life was about balance. Not about greed and a desire to live beyond what one should.

"You're being moody Lucia," Ruby said from her spot on the edge of the building over looking the city.

"No, Ruby, I'm concerned that vampires have been here all this time without us being aware of it. Something that upsets the balance of life should have been noticed sooner." She corrected Ruby. Lucia stood up and walked over to where Ruby was.

"The Shinigami exist for a purpose, to help maintain the balance, vampires seek to undermine that balance for personal gain. It is our duty to correct this imbalance. My real concern though is why have I never sensed one?"

"Perhaps it's because we've made sure you never did." A voice said from behind Lucia.

Startled she whirled around, her scythe materializing in her left hand. On the other side of the roof, wrapped in shadows, there was someone else, a woman dressed in black with long blond hair. How did she sneak up on me like that? How can she even see me? Lucia wondered. But then she knew, though faint, the woman's aura was devoid of when her time of death would come. She's a vampire.

"Foul creature!" Ruby spat as she took to the air.

"Now, now," The woman said with a smile. "No need to be rude, after all we have not been so unkind to our guest." She dragged the word out, smiling even more at Lucia's startled look.

"Return the Shinigami you have taken at once." Lucia demanded. But the woman merely laughed at her and then bowed mockingly as three more shadows appeared and came forward, surrounding Lucia and Ruby in a half circle.

"What is your intent?" Lucia asked as Ruby landed on her left shoulder, digging her cat like claws into her clothing as she arched her back a bit.

"I would have thought that was obvious... Lucia. We've come to extend the Count's hospitality. You do want to see how your friend is doing don't you?" The three who were with her started moving towards Lucia and Ruby.

"Lucia!" Startled the others looked up to see another Shinigami approaching rapidly, his scythe already out. Within mere moments Alex had landed next to Lucia, facing the vampires in a defensive stance.

"Pathetic," Nall growled. "Four against one? You vampires are the ultimate cowards, afraid of death as well as the Shinigami."

"On the contrary we have never feared you," The blond one replied. "In fact the Count is quite eager to meet you. Now you can come quietly or we can do this the hard way."

"We do not take orders from ones who deny the natural order of life." Lucia said firmly. "You will return our companion and then you will submit to your fate."

With a laugh the four rushed them, but when Lucia moved to destroy the connection between their soul and their body, instead the first vampire she tried to strike deflected her swing. What the? No one should be able to stop it! But an even greater shock came next when the second one actually managed to touch her. Lucia knew it was possible, but it still came as a shock to actually feel someone grasping her right wrist.

Before she could react she was pulled off her feet and thrown across the roof, quickly she recovered and landed on her feet, holding her scythe before her as they rushed her again. She spared a quick glance towards Alex who was struggling with one of the other vampires before turning back to those who were approaching. Wait.... only one?

A split second later an arm wrapped itself around her chest, forcing her arms down, pulling her back and pinning her against whoever was behind her. Lucia struggled to pull free and halted when she felt something cold against the right side of her neck.

"I suggest you put that toy of yours away." The woman told her.

Can she actually hurt me? Lucia wondered even as she let her scythe return to it's resting place. She looked to see that Alex had halted, unsure about what to do.

"Lucia!" Ruby screamed. "You let go of her right now!" For a brief moment Ruby shimmered and then changed her form, becoming the red dragon that she truly was. She was easily the size of a small house with her wings covering the entire roof.

"I'd do as Ruby suggests," Lucia said. "Her purifying fire will not touch me, you on the other hand..."

With a snarl the woman let go and all four fled the area as Ruby attacked. A shrill sound filled the air as one vampire was not quick enough. Then when the flames had died and Ruby had returned to normal, muttering to herself angrily about stupid vampires and such, Lucia breathed a sigh of relief.

"She didn't hurt you did she?" Alex asked.

Lucia started to answer and then stopped. Above the ashes of the Vampire that Ruby had slain was the soul of a young man, clearly in despair.

"No!" He cried. "I was suppose to live forever!"

"Wrong, no one is suppose to live forever," Lucia said firmly. "Once you've moved on you'll understand." Then to make sure she took her scythe and this time used it to force him to move on.

"Well," She said to Alex with a small smile. "At least we know that they can be taken care of. Now, I suggest we find Adrian immediately. If they came after us, then they probably went after him as well."

"Humph!" Ruby snorted as she landed on Lucia's left shoulder.

Lucia just reached up and scratched her ears. "Thank you Ruby." Then the four of them took off to find Adrian. Unless something had happened he would be waiting for them by now, probably impatiently wondering why they were late.

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Young Neviril had become bored. She sighed heavily. This was antagonizing.

"If the shinigami is as skilled as she ought to be, it won't take her an especially long time to escape the time-space rift. If she's to escape, you'll have to conjure a new rift to trap her in..."

Under the allure of The Count's gaze, Neviril had a hard time refusing anything he said, but she regretted agreeing to being the guard. No one had even offered to help her or come to visit her. Jerks, she thought. So here she was, sitting on a bed in an empty room. The rift was in the center of the room, though it wasn't visible or anything.

I wonder what she looks like... The Count assured her that she was dangerous and that's why they had to keep her in the void rather than be hospitable in any fashion. Neviril imagined that it was a tall woman with black hair and cloaked in an evil robe. She wielded a massive scythe on a long wooden shaft and laughed devilishly as she swung it in a long arc.

She's sexy but cunning! Her imaginations had become assumptions. Just then there was a sudden slicing noise. Instantly alert, Neviril jumped up and took a fighting stance. Sure enough, the tip of a black blade was poking out of thin air in the center of the room.

Neviril watched in shock as the blade slowly but cleanly carved through the air. It's path through the air was marked with a long red cut from which blood began to seep. Finally the scythe tucked back in while the blood continued to poor and fall to the ground. A pair of hands peeked out of the sliver and grabbed onto each side. They pulled the hole wide open.

...Out stepped a young girl dressed in pure white, now covered in red stains of blood. As she stepped out onto the wooden floor, her free hand wiped the spots of blood from her face. In her other hand was a black scythe.

She's not even close to what I imagined... Neviril completely forgot that she was supposed to immediately knock her out. Even so... The young shinigami turned to the petite vampire girl. Her eyes studied the girl up and down.

Girl

"Excuse me," Aeru asked. Neviril snapped out of her trance. Crap! What do I do?! "Um... miss?"

"I-it's Neviril!" Why am I giving my name?!

"Do you know where my friend Joe is? He's a black cat with wings on his back. Have you seen him?"

"U-uhm..." Crap, crap, crap! It's not supposed to go like this!

"I guess I'll just have to find him..."

"N-no! Wait! I know where he is. I'll take you to him!" Right. No harm in that, right? After all she hasn't attacked me yet... Neviril was about to panic.

"Ah, thank you miss Neviril! I'll let you lead the way." Moments later Neviril found herself guiding the young shinigami about the manor in which she lived. It was a very fancy and extravagant home, though it was so dark all over that a regular human wouldn't be able to see their hand in front of their face. I guess she has eyes just like ours, Neviril thought.

As the pair reached a certain door, Neviril announced, "he's right in here." She opened the door and was suddenly hit in the chest so hard she stumbled backward. Ack!

"That's what you get for locking me up!" Joe yelled. He had head-butted the poor girl at top speed.

"Joe!" Aeru called in alarm.

"Eh? Oh, Aeru, you're here. I was just about to come save you."

"It looks like I'm the one who saved you instead."

"Yeah, I guess you're right. But why are you with that vampire girl?" As he asked this, said vampire girl was rising to her feet with a none-too-pleased expression.

"Ah, right. Joe, this is Neviril. Neviril, Joe. She helped me find you."

"Really? But you know, Aeru, she's totally eeeeeevil!"

"Why you little!" Neviril grabbed onto the cat's wings and tugged on them. Enraged and underestimated, Joe head-butted the girl in the face. The girl fell over backward, releasing his wings. Aeru giggled.

"Don't be silly, Joe. She wouldn't have helped me find you if she was evil."

"But she's a vampire! And besides, these guys are the ones who captured us and brought us here! Weren't you just trapped for 13 hours in no-space?!"

"It wasn't Neviril who trapped me though," she turned to the once-more arising young vampire, "right Neviril?"

"Uh-" she blushed, "r-right."

"See? If anything, Neviril is our friend for helping me save you." Neviril blushed harder.

"I still don't trust her," Joe muttered, turning away. Aeru just smiled on.

"That's alright. Miss Neviril, if you don't mind, do you have anything I can change into? I managed to get my dress all covered in blood."

"Ah, I was meaning to ask about that," Joe interrupted.

"Oh, uh-of course! Just follow me..." I'm leading her to my room?! This isn't what I expected at all... but that's a good thing, right? Neviril continued leading the pair to her room.

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Y. Meetings


Adrian had saved the part of the city he was checking for last for a very good reason. Nathan had taken up residence in that area and he was positive that he was not the Shinigami who was missing. Nathan was in the last part of the north eastern side of the city, in an apartment complex. Why he bothered with the charade of it being occupied with a ghost Adrian didn't know, his own place, he simply let them think he really was human. It was much simpler and attracted far less attention. But then Nathan did things differently than he did. He was, even for a Shinigami, eccentric. But like everything else, Adrian didn't care, except for one tiny detail. And that was that Nathan really was smart.

He couldn't help but smile at that thought, because like everything else, knowing that a fellow Shinigami was smarter than yourself, didn't bother Adrian either. But in this case, if he really was going to find who was missing, though as he got closer and Nathan's aura could be felt, he was positive that it was Aeru who had been taken. Everyone else had been accounted for. But still, if they were going to find Aeru, he was sure that by now Nathan probably had something in mind, provided the vampires hadn't gotten to him yet. Though he imagined that if they had, it would have been to toy with him like they had done to him and Astera earlier.

Adrian paused and pulled out his cell phone, sending off a message to Lucia, indicating that he would meet them later, then after pocketing it he headed straight for Nathan's residence at the top of the complex. He did not bother with the equivalent of knocking as a human would have done, by now Nathan would have detected his aura and would know he was coming. Sure enough as he ghosted through the walls, Nathan was already turned towards where he was located his eyes narrowed as he watched Adrian and Astera enter his home.

"I was expecting you." Nathan said. No greeting or his usual light banter that he was so fond of. Telling Adrian that the vampires had paid him a visit as well.

"Then I don't have to tell you why I'm here then, do I?" Adrian replied.

"Isen!" Astera said as she took off and flew over to where Isen was on the counter. "They didn't hurt you did they?"

"No Astera, they did not." She looked over to Nathan who was still tense.

"Damn cowards!" Nathan hissed. "They came while I was out."

"I figured as much, they paid me a visit while I was checking to see who was missing. It was nothing more than a game to prove that they can indeed see us and interact with a Shinigami." Adrian frowned a bit, he had never seen Nathan look so annoyed. I wonder if he's dealt with vampires before?

"Anyway, I've already talked to Lucia, who has talked to Alex. And though I did not bother to say hello, I saw Shalua as well. So the only one we have not found is Aeru. Since the others checked the city as well, it means that she must be the one who was taken. Everyone else has been accounted for." Adrian looked down at the letter that Nathan was still holding in his hand, noticing how it was clenched tightly. He looked over to see Astera and Isen discussing something in hushed tones. Adrian looked back to Nathan, who was clearly thinking about something.

"I'm sure I don't have to tell you why I am here, since you are holding the very same letter that I also received. I don't know about Shalua, but Lucia and Alex received one. As soon as I'm done here I'll be going to meet up with them. The question is do you wish to come along?"

Adrian waited patiently, at least for him that is, in another moment he would simply leave. Whether or not Nathan answered, but then Nathan looked down at the letter he was holding and then back up at Adrian.

"I need to go somewhere first, before meeting up with the others." Nathan finally replied.

"Fine by me." Adrian said with a shrug as Astera upon hearing that took off and came back over to sit on Adrian's left shoulder. Still a bit worked up from their meeting with the vampires earlier.

"Lets get going then!" She said firmly. "We have to save poor Aeru from those rotten vampires!"

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"Indeed," Nathan replied, giving the fairy a thoughtful look. "Actually," he continued, as if he had just decided something, "I have a favor I'd like to ask of you." He turned to Isen. "I need you to see what you can dig up on 'Death Whispered a Lullaby'. It sounds like a song of some sort; try starting there."

Isen nodded. "I'll see what I can do."

"I'd like you to go with her," Nathan went on, turning back to Astera. "That is," he added, "if it doesn't bother your partner too much."

"I don't see a problem with it," Adrian said.

"O-okay," Astera answered uncertainly. "I don't know how much help I'll be...but I'll do my best!" she finished brightly.

"Excellent," said Nathan. "I'll leave you to it, then. Adrian?" Without further ceremony he dropped through the floor, and the other shinigami followed suit.

---------------------------

Nathan was privately glad it had been Adrian that had come for him. The man was considerably more observant than most, and decently intuitive to boot, qualities that Nathan appreciated in a counterpart. His utter disdain for, well, basically everyone, Nathan was more than willing to overlook, especially since Adrian kept it well out of sight most of the time. It crossed his mind briefly that it might be nice to know where he stood with Adrian, but the curiosity quickly passed.

It felt nice, Nathan decided, to have another person on his flank. Adrian had unconsciously fallen back a few paces from him as they'd walked, and Nathan's right side felt somehow less vulnerable, more secure. He'd missed that feeling....

"So where exactly are we going?" Adrian's blunt voice cut sharply into his thoughts.

"Oh, yes." Nathan spoke forward as he walked, letting his voice carry itself back to his partner. "Information. I want to find out a little about who I'm dealing with before I start making any significant moves."

"So we're going to see a person. I assume you know them well?"

"Yes. We know each other." Nathan's amiable tone altered almost imperceptibly with the statement, and Adrian remembered it.

They walked for a while longer in silence. The late hour meant that there was very little traffic on the road, and so the pair traveled in the middle of the road—though even if any cars had come that way the shinigami would have passed right through them, so it didn't really matter. Nathan navigated the streets with peculiar ease, as if he needed no landmarks to get to his destination, and Adrian followed warily behind.

As they progressed further into the city, an unease began to settle over him, and he moved closer to his blue companion.

"We're being followed," he murmured.

"I know," Nathan replied in the same hushed tone. "Just let it be."

"But...."

"And do me a favor?" Nathan asked, grinning back at the other shinigami. "Don't do anything rash, hmm?"

Adrian gave him an intense look, but nodded anyway.

"Thanks. Now then," he continued in a louder tone of voice. "Let's keep moving, shall we?"

A blur came from the right side of Adrian's field of vision, and their path was abruptly blocked by a tall, burly man.

"And just where might da two of you be goin'?" he asked roughly. His voice was gruff, and he leaned imposingly forward as he spoke—and his body gave off the unmistakable aura of a vampire. Adrian tensed.

"Oh, I'm sure you wouldn't want us to bore you with our evening's menial itinerary," Nathan replied, completely unruffled. "If you?ll excuse us, though, we were just on our way to see someone."

"Really?" the vampire thug inquired menacingly, his eyes slits.

"Yes," Nathan answered. "I don't usually hear his name mentioned in many of the higher circles, but you may have heard of him. Victor L'Envers?"

The brute made a quick gesture, and the two shinigami became aware of six more vampires surrounding them. Adrian shot Nathan a furious glare, but the blue grim slowly shook his head.

"Search them and secure them," the heavy barked. Two vampires came forward for each one; the first pinioned each's arms forcibly behind their backs, and the second one patted them down, relieving the shinigami of their cell phones and wallets while Adrian silently fumed. Nathan's vampire looked quite surprised to see the scythe hanging at his belt.

"Get a load of this!" he called snidely. "This one carries his around with him! It's a tiny one, too."

"Take it," his boss ordered.

"I wouldn't," Nathan admonished quietly. "I don't have to be touching it to cleave your soul from you. But go ahead, though, if you really want to."

The vampire hesitated, then sneered at the blue-haired man.

"I dont take orders from pricks like you," he spat, grabbing for the scythe.

The instant he grasped it his entire body seized. His mouth flew open, his eyes bulged wildly, and veins stuck out on his head and neck. Snarls came from some of the other vampires as they watched their ally struggle against the invisible force that held him down. Nathan's eyes were locked with the vampire's. Adrian thought he saw a look of cold satisfaction flash across Nathan's face, but it happened too fast for him to be certain.

At last managing to release the scythe, the vampire collapsed to his knees, clutching painfully at his chest, his breath coming in laborious wheezes.

"Like I said," Nathan stated matter-of-factly, "I wouldn't advise it."

And then the vampire behind him delivered a harsh blow to his neck and he, too, was driven to his knees.

"Cleave that, ya asswipe!"

Adrian was by now almost beside himself with pent-up frustration. He started to struggle, calling mentally for his own scythes. "The hell with this!"

"Adrian." It was a command.

"Nathan, I don't fuckin–"

"No."

Though he wasn't sure why, Adrian ceased fighting his captors, contenting himself instead with ferocious glares at those vampires nearest him.

The head vampire approached Nathan, who appeared to be either still in pain or studying the asphalt.

"Not so fun when it happens to you, eh?" Nathan didn't answer; the heavy stepped closer. "So, ya still wanna see mister L'Envers?" He pronounced it 'il-envers', as though it were plural.

Nathan's head shot up. "Hunh?" he inquired intelligently. "Oh, oh yes. That's what we came here for, after all."

The thug glowered at him. "Bring 'em," he ordered. "We'll take 'em to mister Il-envers, all right. See how he likes 'em." His cohorts grinned nastily.

---------------------------

Victor L'Envers was a refined, androgynously attractive vampire, with baby-blue eyes and smooth blond hair that flowed elegantly behind his ears to his shoulders. At the present he was dressed in a casual burgundy suit and a white, ruffled dress shirt open for the first three buttons, and was seated at a cherry-stained wood dinner table, his legs crossed at the knee, pleasantly engrossed in a bowl of lobster bisque. A knock came at the door, and he paused, surprised, his spoon halted halfway to his lips.

"Who iz it?" he called.

"Sorry ta interrupt yer dinner there, mister Il-envers, sir," came a voice through an intercom panel by the door across the room. "Got some visitors ta see ya."

L'Envers frowned. "Bring tsem in."

The door opened, and Nathan and Adrian were shoved roughly inside, arms still bound behind their backs. They were quickly flanked and held firmly in place by vampires. The lead thug approached the table.

"Found some rodents wanderin? around the place," he said. "Thought you might like ta see 'em."

L'Envers looked up in displeasure. "And for tsis you disturb my...." His voice trailed off when he caught sight of the shinigami captives, and he stood up abruptly. "But what is—what is tsis? What are you doing?" he demanded, appalled. "No, tsis is terrible; you must release tsem at once!"

"But sir?"

"No! No buts. Untie tsem, Phillip. Give tsem back tseir tsings. I will not have my guests treated so crudely." Adrian noticed that L'Envers' Rs tended to disappear into the back of his throat when he spoke, and that he had a thick French accent.

The lesser vampires obeyed, and soon only the shinigami where left in the room with Victor, the vampire in charge retreating with an "I'm terribly sorry, mister Il-envers. I didn't know...."

"Hard to find good help these days, eh Victor?" Nathan seemed completely unaffected, as usual.

"Yes, unfortunately," L'Envers replied. "It iss tso terribly depressing how poorly tsey've been educated. Tseir French is offensive to tse ear! "Il-envers", indeed!"

"Well, they are Americans, Victor. Kind of a dull-witted breed, mostly."

Victor sighed in resignation. "Yes, tso true." He seated himself again and resumed eating his dinner. "Tsey have no mind for tse finer tsings in life. Bisque?" he offered.

Nathan glanced at Adrian. His partner?s face was a stone mask. "No, I think we'll pass this evening," he returned, smiling gently.

"Oh, too bad." Victor spread his hands appreciatively. "It is such very good bisque." He took another spoonful and directed an inquiring look at Adrian. "But who iss your friend tsere? I'm afraid I haven't had tse pleasure."

Adrian, standing as if he were to be executed in front of a firing squad, didn't utter a word. His downcast eyes betrayed nothing, and Nathan knew that he'd probably get blessed down the country later for the current escapade.

"I'm sorry," he answered for his partner. "This is Adrian. He works the city as well."

"I see." L'Envers' brow furrowed. "Iss he always tsis...untsociable?"

Nathan grinned. "He has his moments."

"I tsee." He dined once more. "Well, it has been quite a long time, Nassan. Tell me, what can I do for you gentlemen tsis evening?"

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Fragment X: Hushabye


Shalua stood, holding a crumpled note in her hand. She threw into the air and let out a furious grunt. "Damn vampires! I swear if I had to, I would slaughter them all!" Shalua swore, she picked up her scythe and threw it against a tree. "Well, what to do?"

"Well, it would help if we knew where to go. And 'Death whispered a Lullaby' sounds like a clue."

"I don't care about clues!" Shalua said snarling. "We need to run off and find these guys."

"Well, Shalua, I hate to interrupt the flow here, but the clues are also important. we need more leads than the-!"

"I can help you." a man said behind them. Shalua turned around to see a Shinigami. Her eyes focused on his face. He had dark blond hair, and wore a tuxedo.

"Mike?" Shalua said smiling. "It's been a long time, a very long time. Where have you been?"

"Well, I stopped doing my duties for a while. Then I remembered my promise, my promise to you. remember?" Mike was an old friend, and an old lover of Shalua's. They were always freinds, and Mike always protected her.

"You said 'I will protect you' That was so long ago, but I've grown, I can handle myself." Shalua frowned and took a look at Yutuko, she wanted her to agree.

"No Shalua, we need as much help as I can get. And I was there too, of coarse you forgot me. But a promise is a promise. let's see if he can keep it?" Yutuko scratched her chin with her wing. She winked at Mike.

"It's good to know Tuko is still around. She has the sense out of you two."

Shalua just turned her head. She wasn't the kind of Shinigami who liked help. In fact she despised help; but inside she agreed. A new mission at this level, would definitely need help.



"This sunny Sunday is a good day to go." Mike said happily. The morning had arrived, and the three of them were deciding if they wanted to leave and go search, or stay and figure out the clues.

"Death whispered a lullabye... could another Shinigami be held in a CD store?" Shalua hit her Head. "Well, how about we go on a search instead, and figure out the clues then?"

"Well, I need a few things." Yutuko said, she needed to eat, something they haven't done in a while.

"Why- why aren't you ready? We need to get going!" Shalua hollered. "If you need food, get some along the way."

"God Shalua, you really need to calm down! what's wrong with you?" Yutuko said, she flew up to Shalua and looked into her eyes. They seemed to quiver, almost as if she was scared. "Shalua, there is something wrong with you? Your eyes are shakingback and forth. is something wrong?"

"No it's just, I haven't slept well." Shalua said, she let a out a false laugh afterwords.

"But two days ago, you slept for about seventeen hours, something is up, what is it?"

Shalua turned around, she didn't want to say anything. I just want to sleep this away, I need to be hushed into a sense of security, just because of what happened, doesn't mean I have to keep it form the others.Shalua thought. She had to say something. "Well, it's just-"

"I think Shalua is afraid of the vampires. But Shalua, your a strong woman, you always were, even wen you were weak, you had a strong heart. So tell us if that's the problem. It just doesn't seem like you to be afraid." Mike said encouragingly, but it wouldn't work.

Shalua wanted to, but she choked. She just didn't have the guts.

***

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Op. 2. Adagio

 

It didn't take Alex and Lucia very long to arrive at the top of the building where they were suppose to meet Adrian and Astera, but when they arrived, no one was there. And a brief fly around revealed that no other Shinigami were in the area. Great. Now what? Alex was landing on the roof top next to Lucia who had already done so when a strange chime sounded. Puzzled he watched Lucia pull out her Crystal Communicator. I wonder where she got that thing? As far as Alex knew nothing like it existed on Earth. Lucia read something and then put it away.

"Adrian is not finished with his part of the city, he's gone to meet with Nathan." She looked up at Alex. "Though the message says he'll meet us later, there's no reason for us to stay here, we should check into the meaning behind the clue: Death Whispered A Lullaby It's probably a good idea to check at one of the Internet cafe's around here."

Alex followed her as Lucia flew down to the street and with a blur changed into the shorts and casual shirt she often wore. Immediately heading towards a little coffee shop nearby. It was a little surprising since he knew how much she hated human technology.

"I'm surprised that you even use the Internet, after all, everyone knows how much you dislike..." Alex almost winced when Lucia gave him a look as if he was stupid.

"Whether or not I like it does not affect using it to complete a mission. Besides, you're going to use it not me." Lucia said with a shrug.

Alex just reached up and scratched the side of his head, "Uh, yeah, I knew that." But Lucia just kept heading towards the cafe, taking no notice of the glances they were getting as she took one of the spots near the back that had a workstation for customers to use.

Within moments they were seated and Alex had used his credit card to pay for the session. He had barely entered the words Death Whispered A Lullaby when the owner of the cafe came over.

"I'm gonna have to ask you two to leave." He pointed to the sign that said no pets. Alex felt Nall start to stiffen but Lucia beat him to doing anything.

"And I'm going to have to ask you to mind your own business," she said firmly, even as she pulled her wallet out of her pocket, opening it up and showing the man something.

He looked at it and bowed slightly, "Understood ma'am." To Alex's complete surprise he turned around and left.

"What did you show him?" Lucia just opened her wallet again and showed Alex, but the slot for an identification card was only holding an empty piece of paper.

"Uh Lucia, there's nothing there."

"It's paper that is treated with a substance that is psychically receptive, all I have to do is think of what I want it to show someone and that's what they will see." Lucia put her wallet away.

"What? I've never heard of that before, where did you get it?" But Lucia just fixed him with a stare, the same look she gave anyone who asked about her communicator or anything else she had. Just like her wallet, it looked ordinary enough, that is unless one was holding it. The material was a flexible type of Crystal just like her communicator was.

"Just look for what Death Whispered A Lullaby means Alex, once you've done that we'll also see what we can find out about Vampires."

"Heh, Right." Alex turned back to the computer and pressed enter to start the search, in mere seconds links to different information as to what the phrase could mean pulled up.

**************************************

 OOC: Tag SunfallE
 

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Lucia was not expecting a lot as far as finding information about the clue, but the words Death Whispered A Lullaby did pull up on the Internet as a song. Following her directions Alex pulled it up and Lucia pulled out her communicator along with a small type of pointer. She tapped the screen with it enabling her to copy the lyrics to her communicator.

"One of these days you need to tell me where you got that." Alex said as he glanced at her equipment almost enviously. But Lucia ignored the comment and instructed him to run a search on Vampires next. But the information was far to vague and the links that it pulled up were clearly not what they were looking for.

"Do a search using keywords that tie into the local and higher levels of authority here on Earth." It was clear that nothing would be found through normal means. Lucia was sure that they monitored the Internet and removed information that could compromise their existence. But she was willing to bet that the government had something useful.

"Lucia, if I do that I'll end up alerting the authorities, also," Alex turned giving her a knowing look. "They'll have security that will need to be bypassed. And to be honest, I've never bothered to learn how to get around it. There's no need when I can simply go through the walls to get to someone who's time has come."

Lucia just smiled, "Leave the security to me, I can get around it, now search!" She watched as Alex just shrugged and did as she told him to. It didn't take too long, and just as he explained Alex had run into security designed to keep people out.

"Uh Lucia, you do realize that a good amount of truly sensitive military information is also kept on a separate network? Even if we get in the front door, there won't be any access to the internal databases." But Lucia just smiled as she reached up with her pointer and tapped the screen again. Within seconds they were in.

"How the hell did you do that?" Alex inquired. "Seriously Lucia, one of these days you really need to tell me where you got that." But Lucia fixed him with a look that told him to drop it.

"Hunt for information about the Vampires, I'll take care of connecting us to those separate networks you mentioned." She instructed him even as she opened up something on her communicator. Lucia had a special program that once she sent it to the military's network, it would would use their own equipment to establish a link.

She looked up at Alex's exclamation that he had found something and read through the notes, it wasn't a lot, just some basic information about known factions as well as suspected criminal activities. There were a few names that she copied into her communicator. Then when Alex hit a dead end referring him to another network she tapped the screen again, sending the program on it's way. Once they were done it would delete itself.

"Whoa!" Both Alex and Nall could not hide their surprise when they found themselves in the internal network. Hesitantly he pulled up the menu and then entered the top files for information on known Vampire factions. But instead of reading it Lucia simply copied the files using her pointer once again. Then with another tap she ended the connection.

"It would be a good idea for us to leave now. Even though they will not be able to find the program I used or trace who accessed the information. They will be able to determine that it was accessed from this location." She stood up. "Lets go back to the meeting place and review the information while we wait for Adrian."

Lucia didn't wait for Alex to respond, she simply got up and left. Moments later he too was outside right behind her and then as soon as they were clear with a thought both of them took off towards the top of the building, no longer visible to human eyes. It wasn't necessary, but Lucia switched back to her full outfit and cape. It was slightly cold out, though she herself did not get chilled. Then once they had landed on the roof of the building, she pulled her communicator out and the two of them began to go through the files they had obtained.

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X. Information or Deception?


As he watched Victor L'Envers exchange words with Nathan, there was but one thought going through Adrian's mind, beyond the initial irritation over what had happened. So Nathan has dealt with Vampires before. I should have found him first instead of bothering with Lucia. Though he originally had figured that with her fondness of using technology that was different from the humans, that she would have been the best one at finding things out. He had never pried, but it was clear that Lucia had other means at her disposal.

Adrian pulled his attention back to Victor L'Envers when he inquired as to what he could do for them. What? What the hell does he mean by that? Surely he's not saying... Adrian turned to Nathan who was watching him with a wry grin on his face.

"What the hell are you looking at me for?" Adrian said in a cold quiet voice. "This was your idea remember? Since you seem to know something about vampires you can do the talking here."

Nathan just grinned at Adrian before turning back to Victor, "Well I'm sure you can guess as to why we are here. You know the usual what's going on, or what's new request as far as information goes."

Victor leaned back a bit, "True, you have not been by in a while Nassan. Tis most unsociable of you." He chided, to which Nathan just gave a slight bow of apology.

"Anyways, it matters not," L?Envers said as he once again crossed his legs and got a bit more comfortable before beginning. "One would assume tsat you are most likely interested in tse Count since he iss fairly new to tse vampires. Tse Count is a very powerful vampire, but he was only immortalized witsin tse last ten years."

Victor gave both of them a curious look as if the thought had occurred to him that it was possible that the Shinigami did not know of the Count. When his eyes met Adrian's he was positive that for all his 'friendly' manner, he could have and would have dealt with both of them if the situation warranted it. He kept his own feelings carefully hidden and waited for him to continue.

"He only has around forty followers and most of tsem are kids." Victor said disdainfully, "Even if good help is so hard to find, it tis better tsan children! Still, tsat fool is far too ambitious! He cares not tsat his foolish desires would bring tse rest of the world against vampires all over."

Nathan spared a quick glance at Adrian who was maintaining his stone mask and look of indifference. With a mental shrug he turned back to Victor. "Stepping out of line is he? I can take care of that for you. That is our department after all." Nathan just calmly started brushing his clothing down as if only now realizing that they had become dusty. Looking for all the world as if obtaining the information of where this Count was located was the last thing on his mind.

Victor just laughed. "You hase not changed Nassan." He accused him. "And since tse 'word on tse streets' is tsat tse Count intends to do away with your kind I am not surprised to see you here."

Nathan just looked up from what he had been doing. "Oh? It is? Well that's the first I've heard of it."

"Tsen perhaps you should ask tse Count for yourself. I understand tsat he has taken over an old mansion located out in tse woods along the sea shore. No one goes tsere so I cannot be certain. It's south of tse old abandoned light house."

"Perhaps we'll do that." Nathan replied. He turned to look at Adrian again but Adrian just shook his head, still refusing to say anything. If Nathan had anything else he wanted to cover then he had better do so and soon. Adrian was ready to leave.

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Nathan was honestly impressed. Adrian was handling himself much better than Nathan had originally hoped; perhaps they’d manage to conclude the evening without incident after all. He’d need to hurry, though. His associate was starting to get noticeably edgy.

“Children, you say,” he continued, giving Victor a curious look. “Sounds like a pedophile to me. I wonder if that’s why he chose Aeru….”

“What?!” L’Envers started, dropping his spoon into his bowl with a wet clatter. “Iz tsat true? Why, tsat – tsat is despicable! I am tsorry, Nassan; I had no idea. I don’t know what to tsay.”

“Mmm,” Nathan assented.

“Poor girl. I do hope he has not done anytsing…ungentlemanly yet.”

“As do I, Victor. Unfortunately,” Nathan apologized, “we have other business to attend to this evening, and I am afraid it cannot wait any longer. We thank you for your hospitality thus far—”

“Please, tsink notsing of it.”

“—but we really must be going now.”

“Of course; of course.” Victor stood magnanimously and clapped his hands together. “Phillip!”

The pair’s earlier captor reentered the room carrying their personal effects, which they quickly collected and replaced.

“Shall I provide you wiss an esscort outside?” the vampire inquired.

“Thank you, but I don’t believe that will be necessary,” Nathan replied. “We know the way.”

“But of course.” L’Envers swept an elegant bow, which Nathan politely returned. Adrian ignored the gesture, heading for the door without waiting to see if Nathan would follow, brushing angrily past the guards outside. One of them flinched; Adrian locked eyes with the other, daring him to come closer.

As Nathan made to follow his companion, Victor spoke again.

“I like your new partner, Nassan.”

The shinigami halted in the doorway. His smile faded, and he turned halfway around, looking sideways at the vampiric host. His right hand, which he had kept until then in the pocket of his blazer, strayed free, hovering near his right hip.

“Nathan, what’s your deal?” Adrian barked from the foyer. “Let’s get out of this hell-hole already.”

Now it was Victor who wore the calm, knowing smile. He inclined his eyebrow slightly.

“He suits you, I tsink.”

Nathan said nothing. Victor’s smile broadened, as if he’d won a small victory.

"I would hang on to tsat one, if I were you," the vampire went on coolly, clearly enjoying his new control over Nathan. His soft voice barely carried his words past the door. "It would be tsuch a shame to let anytsing...happen."

Returning irritably to retrieve his companion, Adrian faltered mid-stride as Nathan's aura pulsed over him, just as it had back at the apartment. The vampire guards around the hallway tensed, and Adrian immediately called out his scythes, his expression reading Come on, just give me an excuse.

Nathan held L'Envers's gaze for a few labored, silent seconds, at last turning his back deliberately to the undead and crossing the threshold.

"Good night, Victor," he said, his tone devoid of emotion. His right hand brushed over the door's handle, and it swung to with a final click.

Victor sucked his breath in through his teeth. "Did you feel tsat, Phillip?," he asked rapturously.

"Dat–" Phillip stammered. "What—what was dat?" The thug obviously did not share his employer's thrill.

"Tsat, my boy, was tse most delightful, terrible feeling I have ever known." L'Envers glanced slyly at the shaken vampire. "Tsat was Deass itself, knocking on tse doorstep of our soul." He shivered. "Oh! I am so excited, I am getting tse goosebumps!"

He turned to face his subordinate.

"Did you do as I instructed?"

"Yes, Mr. Il-envers, sir. I don't quite understand what it's gonna do–"

"Tsat is fine," Victor interrupted, waving his hand as if it meant nothing. "I do, and tsat is tse important tsing. Continue to follow my instructions, and inform me of tseir movements. I wish to know how our friends intend to 'handle' tsis situation, as tsey so put it."

Phillip bowed and left Victor alone in the dining room. The vampire stared absently out of the room's single window, lost in thought or memory.

"You must come by again, Nassan," he murmured to the air. "I have missed our...relationship...tso much. I wonder – will you finish tse game tsis time?"

------------------


"What the hell is wrong with you?!" The shinigami was furious. He strove to cut in front of the path of his blue associate, whose face had once again returned to the frustratingly unreadable calm smile. "We had them right there! We could have taken them out at any time! Why did you let them live?!"

"Because," Nathan replied, "it wasn't the right time."

Adrian stopped. "And just what is that supposed to mean?" he demanded.

"Exactly what it says. Besides, there's no good in eliminating valuable resources just like that."

"So you do know each other."

"I told you that already, didn't I?"

Adrian's scowl deepened. "What are you hiding, Nathan?"

"Exactly what I want to hide," he answered. "That was a foolish question, and you're making me be redundant. Now are we going to rejoin the others or not?"




To borrow the phrase, tag indifference. Have fun.
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"Fine." Adrian said flatly even as he relinquished his scythes and turned to leave. He continued, allowing his voice to carry back to Nathan instead of turning around. "Next time don't keep the fact that the person you know is a vampire to yourself."

He ignored the other vampires in the area in favor of leaving as quickly as possible, not even bothering to turn back and assure himself that Nathan was right behind him. It was not necessary, he could feel his presence. Adrian didn't know which was more annoying, the fact that vampires existed or that others knew about them and he did not. All Shinigami knew what a vampire was, but he had never encountered one before.

The more he thought about it, the angrier he became. If the higher ups knew about vampires, why was nothing being done? Unlike humans he would gladly work to rid the world of a blight that was worse than they were.

Adrian and Nathan were almost clear of Victor L'Envers area when three rather large vampires moved to block their path, clearly looking for trouble. Adrian moved immediately to call forth his scythes only to halt when Nathan put his right hand on his left shoulder.

"Adrian." He warned.

Adrian rolled his eyes, "Yes I know, there's no good in eliminating valuable resources just like that." He said mockingly as he shrugged Nathan's hand off.

"What do you mean by that scum?" The one in the middle scowled.

Adrian did not answer but instead called forth a type of blue fire and reached forward and grasped his shirt effortlessly and forced him down on his knees, while calmly extending his left hand and using the same fire to send the other two head over heels.

" It's simple scum." Adrian said in a very quiet cold voice, looking down on the vampire who struggled to get free. "Get in my way again and I'll send you to the next life." He shoved the last one aside as well. "That was your first and last warning."

He stepped over the fallen vampire and left, immediately taking off the moment they were outside, heading for the soothing aura of his familiar Astera. It wasn't until they were halfway there that he realized that Nathan was unusually quiet. He shot a look back at Nathan but his expression was unreadable.

"Since when were you so quiet? You got what you wanted didn't you?"

"Yes, I did." Nathan hesitated a bit and finally said what was on his mind. "You should not have done that you know."

"You're kidding right? I did let those three go. Besides," Adrian said flippantly. "That is what the cleansing flames are for remember? To deal with those unusual circumstances such as vampires."

Adrian sighed a bit. "Honestly Nathan, I realize that you're trying to gather information, but sparing the lives of vampires? Sooner or later you are going to be required to send them on their way, death exists for a reason."

He shook his head a bit, wondering just what happened or what Nathan was hiding as far as the vampires went. He had not missed the calculating look on Victor L?Envers face. Just what is he up to? I find it hard to believe that he did not know about Aeru's kidnapping.

"Let's just meet up with the others shall we?" Nathan said with his usual irritating grin. Adrian just sighed and followed along.

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Op. 2. Coda


"Well I think it's a given that the information on the song is pretty useless." Alex grimaced. "Not to mention it's certainly not pleasant to listen too. I'd hardly consider that music." He leaned back against the half wall running along the edge of the roof before finally sitting down, moments later Lucia joined him, holding her communicator between them so they could both see the information on the screen.

"I have to agree, even if there is a clue in the lyrics themselves, I believe we'll find out more from the files we got." She pulled up the first one, the name of the file: Seras Valkyrie. The more they read the more Lucia's expression became one of distaste.

It was pretty easy to guess why, with her dislike of human technology, to find out that such a huge cooperation existed globally would be quite irritating. Gangs and crime syndicates were among the worst among the humans for being destructive for personal gain. Once we find Aeru, I just know she's going to give the higher ups an earful. A thought that Lucia echoed when she spoke.

"This is unacceptable." She stated in that flat voice she used when she was truly annoyed. Alex just kept his mouth shut and continued to read.

The next file, which was about a vampire known as The Count was the most interesting, if only because it was thought that a large mansion along the seashore just outside the woods of the town, belonged to him and his followers, who according to the file, consisted of nearly nothing but children.

"I wonder if it's this Count who took Aeru. Other than the blonde one, the vampires who attacked us earlier were mostly kids. If he really is in the mansion mentioned here, that would make sense. The file on the Seras Valkyrie cooperation didn't indicate any major offices in this area." He looked at the other bits in the files on rouge or rather mercenary vampires as well as one about the theory that quite a few vampires simply stayed hidden.

"Most likely," Lucia said as she closed her communicator. "It's close to this city and even the file the government has mentions that this Count has declared an intent to destroy the Shinigami. Though obviously the government does not put any stock in this claim and believes that Shinigami is merely some code word for a political enemy." She hoped off the edge of the wall and started pacing back and forth, clearly thinking.

"Code word for a political enemy?" Alex wondered, confused as to what she meant.

She stopped and stood facing him. "I've heard of a wealthy and powerful Count living in this area, but until I saw the file I never once thought that he was a vampire. If what we read is correct, then someone like that would have a lot of enemies both politically and otherwise. Kidnapping Aeru would mean that he perceives the Shinigami as a threat, for more than the obvious reasons."

Alex just groaned, "Lucia," he whined. "I hate politics. And to be frank you're making no sense at all. I mean how could he not perceive us as a threat?"

"It's simple Alex, unlike other vampires who seem to try and remain hidden or at the very least attempt to avoid attracting our attention, he openly kidnapped Aeru. Which means his ambitions must include more than a life of hiding in the shadows." She looked at him as if it was the most obvious thing in the world, electing yet another groan from Alex.

"So what you're saying is he is not content with simply hiding from us?"

Lucia nodded, "Exactly. I would imagine that he has ambitions that our presence would interfere with."

Alex just sighed again as he hopped off the edge he was sitting on and flopped down on the roof on his back staring up at the stars. Moments later Nall settled down next to him.

"I wish Adrian would hurry up and get here. I'm ready to go and see if Aeru really is at this Count's place."

Lucia simply nodded in agreement and sat down next to Alex. Ruby took off and sat down next to Nall. "Hey dummy." Ruby said. "Why don't we go and grab something to eat?" She reached up with her paw and poked Nall.

"We're waiting for Adrian." Nall said stuffily. "Besides we don't need to eat."

Ruby rolled her eyes. "Oh come on. That cafe had some some rather tasty fish. Besides, it's close enough that we'd know if Adrian and the others arrived. Don't be so serious Nall." She twitted as she took off and headed back towards the cafe.

"I am not being too serious Ruby!" Nall objected even as he followed her. Ruby just laughed and then the sound of the two of them arguing among themselves faded as they moved out of range.

Alex laughed a bit once they were gone. "I see that Ruby still has a thing for fish." Lucia just shrugged and then turned her own gaze up at the stars. Once Adrian and the other's arrived, they'd get this mess taken care of.

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X.2 Information or Deception?

 

After they'd moved some distance away from L'Envers's building, the shinigami took off; Nathan extended his senses to find Lucia and Alex's direction. He felt Shalua Hibikime a good ways to his right, but he decided against detouring to find her. She hadn't been noticeably active thus far, so he wasn't sure whether or not she was even involved with the situation. If she was, she surely couldn't miss picking up the auras of four shinigami, especially clustered so close together.

It bothered him that he didn't recognize the aura of the person she was with. Unfortunately, he wasn't entirely sure what to do about it, either.

Once he knew where he needed to go, he let his body drive itself, focusing his consciousness on determining exactly how informative his gamble had been. Victor was no slouch; he'd always played a very hot game, and Nathan knew his talents certainly hadn't atrophied with time. Victor knew how to keep himself fresh.

The alacrity with which Victor had relinquished the information about the Count bothered Nathan a great deal. Nathan had assumed that Victor would have already been aware of whatever this Count was up to, but he?d been certain that more probing would have been necessary. Victor had spoken of it almost off-hand, though, so most of it was probably reliable. More than likely he wanted to see how the shinigami would respond once they knew something of the Count's true objective—but that could wait.

He had known of Aeru's abduction as well; Nathan had seen through the surprised act as soon as the spoon had hit the bowl. Victor didn't drop things. Ever. That could mean that Aeru's selection had been deliberate, or it could be nothing. Not enough information to decide now, but Nathan leaned towards the deliberate.

Knowing vampires in general, the clue that the Count had sent was most likely a road map to either Aeru's point of capture, the location of the next clue, or the location she was being held at. Once Isen returned, Nathan would be able to decide how honest Victor had been concerning the Count?s location; still, considering how quickly Victor had divulged the rest of the information, it was probably accurate as well.

–Damn Victor for a cretin! Nathan thought in aggravation. It had come too easily to be true, and yet it was all probably true. Such generosity was uncharacteristic of the vampire; what could he be up to? What was his game this time? Did he want the Count thwarted? Was he throwing smoke in mirrors? Or was he only trying to make Nathan nervous? If he was, it was working magnificently; Nathan's mind was churning in harried circles on the problem. Nothing made sense unless Victor was out of the equation, and there were very few times Victor allowed himself to be out of the equation. Unless....

There was truth somewhere. Nathan just needed to dig for a while.

 

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