Sun shone rather harshly through the window, casting its trail of light in an angular pattern across the dusty, wood paneled floor before moving over and across the bed. The light upon the covers seemed to toss and turn as the girl beneath them did the same, sitting up in the slightest, supported on one arm and shielding her eyes from the offending daylight with the other.
Aemilia remained in that position only long enough to peer through heavily lidded eyes across the room, regarding with slight annoyance the empty bed that met her gaze. He was always leaving, and although it was never for long and he never roamed too far from where they’d stayed the night before, she could never shake the suspicious fear that he would one day abandon her. She’d grown to appreciate the familiarity of his company, and wanted nothing less than to be forced to travel alone again.
She slid out of bed with a pang of regret as a yawn escaped her lips and the chill of the wood floor bit tenaciously at her stocking covered feet. Regardless, she padded over to the small bureau in the corner, slipping on her boots with urgency and taking a few moments to brush her hair. As she did so, a faint but concentrated murmur met her ears, as if an anxious crowd had gathered somewhere nearby. Making her way back across the room, Aemilia stopped at the window, her hands gripping the ledge. She peered as best she could around towards the front of the tavern, the possible source of the commotion that she had deemed most probable. Sure enough, as she did so she could spot the very edge of a crowd that had gathered around the front of the building, but only the very edge, considering the position of the room she was in.
Standing at the window offered her no progress in locating her companion, and so she made her way over to the door and began down the stairs, noting before anything else the drowsy silence that inhabited the barroom. It was in complete contrast with the crowded commotion she and Rain had been faced with upon entering the tavern the night before, for the only customers that morning seemed to be lonely men and shady, or perhaps just tired, characters who had no interest in drinking and only wished for a quiet place to think or sort out their dull affairs.
She answered the barkeep’s kind nod with a smile, navigating around the empty tables. She reached and overcame the front door, blinking rapidly as her eyes adjusted to the increase in sunlight. Even before her vision leveled, Aemilia was immediately aware of the crowd almost directly in front of her. A few men were in the center with a semicircle of about fifty expanded around them, shouting out in a tone that suggested exaggerated propaganda. The skeptical murmurings and countenances of the audience suggested the same.
One of the men around whom the crowd had gathered appeared to be holding a cage of some sort, but from her current distance she couldn’t make out what was pent up inside of it. Taken once more by the situation that had urged her outside in the first place, Aemilia scanned the edges of the crowd as well as the close surrounding area, smiling to herself as she spotted Rain leaned in a calm, observant manner against the front of the tavern, near the corner. His head was bowed slightly, but she found it obvious that he was watching whatever events were unfolding before him.
Aemilia approached him and, as if her sudden presence beside him wasn’t enough to divert his attention towards her, placed her hand against his arm gently, as a greeting of sorts.
Ahh.. Rain sat up on the bed, his back against the wall. The cold rough of the wall made his clothes stick to it. His fingers found a pleat in the blanket which he used to pull the covers off. Rain pushed himself up against the wall a little more and his left knee found its way up to his chest. Seraph blinked as he leaned his head on the wall, turning slightly to face the bed across the room.
... What am I doing...?
He blinked again.
The room had not tasted the light of the sun yet, neither had the town they were in. It was all mist and darkness, save for the dull moon and white dust scattered on the velvet sky. The usual sounds of the night were there. The nightingales calling, people softly shuffling about in the tavern below who were probably going home after a night of drinking. The vampire moaned very softly in the dark room as he looked over at the girl who was sleeping soundly in her own bed.
... Falling for a human girl...
He sighed, closing his eyes. Making up his mind, he pulled the blankets all the way off as his feet found the ground. Truth be told, he felt some sort of guilt. He had been traveling with this girl, gladly having her company and she was so nice; paying for the lodging and all...
Rain kept looking at her. She moved and moaned a little, covering her body a little more with her blanket.
He sighed again.
Perhaps he would try to remedy this pang of guilt. It was very late, in the wee hours of the morning actually. Maybe he would find some petty thief or some other criminal and turn them in for some sort of small reward. When he snapped out of his train of thought, he found his left arm holding his jacket, and the fingers of his right hand twisting the doorknob. He looked back at her until the door creaked to close, making a clicking sound as it met the frame.
For a while he wandered about. Slipping into and out of alleys, slithering stealthily among the night's offered shadow.
Finally, he halted.
A police whistle in the distance had caught his ear, the usually sounded the whistle to alert other patrols in the area that they were chasing someone. The vampire found his way to the rooftops, following the whistles. They kept getting louder, he was getting closer.
Until they stopped.
Rain looked over the edge of the roof. The band of policemen had cornered and caught the assailant without any sort of trouble.
"Crap.." The vampire was slightly annoyed, his small plan had been met with abrupt failure.
He turned around, walking sheepishly along the rooftops. He intended on heading back to the tavern, or maybe just it's rooftop to relax a little. Aemilia would usually step outside and he would meet up with her, but she never really mentioned that she was looking for him in any way.
It was close to dawn now, Rain had took his time with making way back to the tavern. And now, before him there were people gathering, right near the tavern itself. One of the appeared to be holding a small cage, with a dark coloured bird inside. Although the bird seemed near to lifeless, the man seemed to be insistent on selling it to the highest bidder.
It also seemed as if his mouth had some sort of honey to be drawing such a crowd. A small crowd, but a crowd nonetheless.
Rain slid off the roof, landing nearby. As his feet met the ground, he shifted his weight backwards, allowing him to lean comfortably against the wall. He was listening to the voices in the crowd while he felt something move across his feet. Rain looked down for a little, and shifted his feet slightly, looking for whatever touched him there. At the same time, he felt a soft, warm hand against his hand, accompanied with a soft, familiar voice.
"What's going on?"
Rain looked up to soft red eyes and flowing white hair. And for a second, he lost himself.
"Oh! Uhm.. I think the guy over there is selling, some sort of bird or something."
Aemilia looked over to the small gathering of people, listening to the mumblings and words of the salesman. Rain's soft gaze followed hers as he continued.
"I don't know exactly, but he seems to claim that it can talk."
Her expression began to shift to one of uncertainty as she peered through the crowd, trying to catch a better glimpse of whatever was being kept inside the cage. It was in fact a bird, but it didn’t seem to be of any special breed, and it most definitely didn’t appear to possess the power of speech. From where she stood with Rain at the edge of the crowd, she couldn’t discern anything unusual about it. If anything, she felt sorry for it, for it didn’t seem to be in the best of conditions.
It was a raven, a sleek jet black, and she imagined that it had appeared very handsome, majestic even, before it’d been stuffed inside the cage. It sat lazily, or perhaps hopelessly, in the bottom of it, completely ignoring the swinging perch overhead. Its beady black eyes, flickering the reflections of the sunlight, peered out from between the thin gold bars of its penitentiary.
As one of the two propagandists held the cage up for all to see, despite its prisoner not being much of a spectacle in its current condition, Aemilia felt a pang of guilt and wondered how they’d caught it. Perhaps it was sick, and the men assumed that someone would buy it out of pity. At this thought, her hand moved instinctively to one of her skirt pockets, but as she did so the men were already calling out requests of prices much higher than anything she currently, her perhaps had ever, had.
One of the men watched, with exaggerated interest, as a feather slipped through the bars of the cage and began its descent towards the ground. His partner made a show of skillfully catching it and holding it above his head, voicing his admiration.
“Quite a fine specimen, indeed,” the man with the cage replied.
“Now all he needs is a home.” His partner lowered the feather, then himself, coming to meet the eyes of a young girl in the front row. He handed her the feather carefully, winked, then regained his former height to continue addressing the crowd. The girl’s mother plucked the feather from her daughter’s hand, looking rather disgusted and most likely muttering something about diseases, and in a few moments they were making their way out of the crowd to go about their usual morning errands, adding to the audience’s slow dispersion.
Aemilia drew her eyes away from the sad scene before her. She realized how ridiculous it was, and yet she couldn’t help feeling such sympathy for the imprisoned, sickly animal being auctioned off before her. Glancing at Rain, she offered a murmur of disapproval.
The cage was held up and the morning sun glistened on the bars, casting shadows on the jet black raven. The sunlight that reached to the feathers reflected off of them. Although they seemed tattered in some places, they glittered perfectly. It stood on the paper, just staring. Only moving to keep it's balance when the cage shakes. It let out no sound, but no one in the gathering seemed to notice that. All they saw was a good looking bird in a cage ready for sale. Hey, maybe some of them noticed it's silence and thought it was a good thing.
"Wouldn't keep squawking in my ear all the time."
Either way, it seemed unusual for a caged bird to keep quiet for so long. A feather slipped and a man next to the salesman caught it before it touched the sand.
The salesman with the cage smiled and held it up. "Quite a fine specimen, indeed!"
With that, the man with the feather walked forward and gave it to a girl at the front of the gathering.
"Now all he needs, is a home."
Aemilia turned away, glancing at Rain.
"Poor thing..." She murmured.
She felt sorry for it. Rain sighed softly, looking at the bird and not at the girl next to him.
It only took seconds before he made up his mind, but his conscious did not let him off easily. He would get the bird and maybe treat it well for a while, he was sure Aemilia would like it if she saw the bird getting better. But there was one simple problem, easily solved by most, but it was kind of hard now. There was no money in his pockets and he couldn't ask Aemy for any. She had already done so much with what she earned.
At times like this, he felt he was burdening her more than helping.
Rain forcefully stopped his thoughts. He felt he heard them screeching to a halt as a took a few steps forward. The vampire put his hands in his pockets and shifted his weight to his left as he stood in front of the man with the cage.
"Ah!" The man said excitedly, "It seems we have an interested customer! Would you like to take a closer look?"
The words passed into one ear and out the other; Rain paid no mind to them. He focused on the raven. It looked back up at him. It seemed to have a pleading look in it's eyes, along with the intense aura about it that screamed to Rain: "I'm not a normal.".
A voice seeped into his thoughts. At first, it was in the background, but then...
The vampire turned to the salesman who had been calling him out from the trance. Rain smiled instinctively to cover up for those few seconds that were lost, unintentionally showing his fangs.
The raven noticed this first.
It flapped it's wings, beating the bars of the cage, and squawked out loudly.
Rain's eyes shifted to the bird, the world's sound started to become drowned. He felt a rising wind against his cheek and then a click was heard.
The vampire turned, staring into a black barrel of a gun. The gun that was at the side of the salesman. There was no time to react. Even if he could have, he felt he couldn't move. Rain's eyes followed the gun as it raised higher, aiming at his forehead. Another click.
She rushed forward, reaching him almost before he hit the ground, dropping to her knees as if her presence would completely reverse the last few moments, if only she reached him in time. In response to his blank, pale face- paler than usual, she was certain- and hopelessly closed eyes, she leaned up a bit, one hand beneath his head for support, the other lain aimlessly across his chest. It was probably for the best that, in her panic, she didn’t notice the absence of a heartbeat.
Somewhere, perhaps another place, on a level of occurrence that she could no longer perceive, the two men scrambled over the cage, determining who would carry it as they ran. The sounds that reached her from this level were muffled, drawn out, distorted. Meaningless.
As meaningless, perhaps, as this scene was to the onlookers who were now shuffling away and out of site. It’d been a spectacle, of course, when the vampire had first approached the man, shown his fangs, when the salesman had swallowed his terror long enough, or maybe just enough, to fumble successfully for his pistol, to take the necessary precedents. To aim it, fire it. But now that the monster was dead- he had to be, for he’d been shot point-blank in the forehead- there couldn’t possibly be much else that could be done there, much else for them to witness. No, this would be the end of the stories they’d tell to their families that evening.
Of course, some of them might mention the rather peculiar looking girl who knelt beside him, for some of them wondered about her. Perhaps she was also a vampire? In any case, no one thought it wise or worth it to stick around to find out. And so, no one acknowledged, or perhaps even noticed, her pleading stare.
And so she drew back that stare, focusing once more on Rain. Thin yet fair-numbered lines of blood made their way down his face, from beneath the hair covering his forehead- concealing the bullet wound that Aemilia couldn’t bring herself to deny was there. She wiped a bit of the crimson away with her sleeve, having nothing else to do but stare down at him, at his face, in all its natural impassiveness. The presence of blood made it impossible for her to tell herself ridiculous yet temporarily reassuring lies, such that the bullet had missed it’s mark, that Rain was merely pretending, that the gun hadn’t even been loaded, that… that…
Eyes flickered from a dead state.
And as they did so, his face took on an expression of pain, and perhaps of slight annoyance with that pain. He winced and moaned softly, but how? How could he be conscious? How could he even be living? He’d been shot in the head, and here was behaving as if he was merely plagued by a simple yet persistent headache.
But it didn’t matter how, at least not at that moment. Instinctively, Aemilia wrapped her arms around him, hugging him tightly. And instinctively she let him go, moved away.
“I’m- I’m sorry. I just...” She apologized, trailing off, yet her relief and happiness at his sudden recovery backed her words with what sounded like confidence, giving the impression that she had made a mistake that was quite understandable, and that she knew this. Given the situation, it wasn’t far from the case.
He only looked up at her, smiling slightly, his eyes squinted a bit both from the obvious pain and the presence of the morning sun overhead. “Did you get the bird?”
Nng. Rain twitched, his eyes closed, his mind no longer in a blank state that was brought on by the gunshot. My head...it feels like a house fell on it... twice.
What a headache. His ears rang and his throat felt clogged. Maybe he swallowed some blood, but he didn't know since he was practically out cold. There was no light at the back of his eyelids, he swore he was blind: hearing voices but not being able to see who was talking. He felt something trickle across his eyelid and tickle his nose and then down around the contour of his lips.
I know I have to wake up, but how? I'm trying...I can't open my eyes... am I dying?
At that moment, he felt an incredible warmth on his chest, his eyes flickered and he breathed comfortably.
That... is that my heart?
Rain's eyelids fluttered, the morning sun was too bright. The sudden, intense light made his headache grow worse. He groaned and as soon as he did, he felt the warmth move off of his chest as two arms embraced him warmly. Rain smiled, knowing the smell of Aemilia's hair by heart. He was about to put his arms around her in response, but he felt a short breeze pass just in front of him. Realizing that Aemilia had backed away at the last second, he remained frozen in that position for a second or two before raising his palm to his blood covered face.
"I’m- I’m sorry. I just..." Aemilia began to apologize to him, perhaps for her not being there, or just because she hugged him at that last moment. Rain listened to her, his mind begging him to find some way to get her to finish the sentence.
Please finish that sentence, Aemy... Rain lowered his palm and looked at the blood, noting that vampires' blood were abnormally darker than humans'.
I've wondered how you felt-
"Did you get the bird?" Rain looked up at her, smiling slightly, asking a question that cut off his train of thought completely.
Aemilia was shocked, what were seconds seemed like minutes. She seemed to be processing the question, trying to compete with the suddenness with which it had been asked. She stuttered, her mind obviously trying to understand why Rain was asking about the bird right after he had been shot at point-blank range in the head.
"I...um...no, I didn't. But... Rain," She called out his name, in a soft, worried tone,"you're hurt..."
Rain stood up and began dusting off his clothes. Aemilia took a few steps forward, but before she could do anything, she found herself looking at Rain's jacket held out towards her. She looked up at the vampire and he smiled reassuringly.
"I'm okay," He said softly, "I have to go after them."
Rain looked into her eyes, immediately recognizing the confused look in them.
"I'll explain later," the vampire smiled again, "I don't know for how long I'll be gone, but if it gets colder later today and you're outside, you can use my jacket, okay?"
He stood with one hand on his waist, the other hand holding the jacket up. His white shirt was stained crimson in some places and his hair was scattered with sand clinging on to the grains. The wind blew, his hair followed it, but his eyes remained fixed on Aemilia's face and on his lips he kept that small smile.
Aemilia attempted to counter the skepticism in her voice with a small smile as she took the offered jacket. She was, and she realized this, accepting more the gesture than the article of clothing. It wasn’t very reassuring to think that he might be gone until late into the night. His anticipated endeavors weren’t at all necessary and she’d much prefer that he at least got some rest after practically dying, but she knew better than to waste her time attempting to persuade him.
Rather, she would just have to help him out.
She waved in a slightly awkward manner, unsure of what else to do, as Rain turned to walk away. It wasn’t until his form had been nearly lost in the crowd that she called out to him.
The pause in his step made it obvious that he had heard her and, as could have been predicted, he turned halfway and flashed her another smile, nodding slightly. It was somehow enough to convince her that he intended on being cautious, yet not enough to dissuade her from turning and moving quickly in the opposite direction once he was out of sight.
Aemilia assumed that he had taken to the alleys, certain, as she was, that that was where the salesman had fled. And so she followed.
She admitted to herself that it was a nice plan, having taken to the darker side streets of the town by a route that differed from her companion’s. At this rate it was likely that one of them would find the men, and she hoped that it would be her, that she would spare Rain another run in with danger. Besides, hadn’t she caused this, anyway? Hadn’t it been her sympathetic remark that had sparked Rain’s somewhat ridiculous quest to retrieve the raven for her? That had thrust him into the confrontation in which he had been shot?
She shook her head vaguely, forcing a rift in her thoughts.
Aemilia had vanished, he had turned and watched her go from a distance. Rain did this to make sure that she wouldn't follow him, mainly because he didn't want her to see what he was about to do next. The bleeding had not stopped, so it was only a matter of time before he would pass out. Rain needed to heal. And he needed to heal fast.
The red now covered half his face and stained his shirt. This was sure to be a worrying sight if the people in the town saw him like this. As a result, Rain took to the alleyways. He followed them all throughout the city, until he came upon a small fountain in an almost desolate part of the town. He used the water, slightly murky as it was, to wash away the blood and the wound. Then, he took off his shirt and ripped a long strip of cloth from below the last button which he used to wrap around his head, covering the wound and preventing the blood from running down his face.
The vampire stood up and looked around. This part of the town looked desolate, but he felt two things here. One was faint and he had a slight idea of what, or who, it was. The other felt like something completely different.
Something very powerful.
Something extremely deadly.
Both felt as if they were in the same direction. Possibly some lower demon meeting with someone higher up? Could be. Couldn't be. Either way, Rain's feet made their way toward the source of these feelings.
It lead him down the road, through alleys and even caused him to go over a few rooftops. When he landed, he felt his head vibrate furiously, almost toppling him over. Rain was right on top of what he was looking for, or at least he was extremely close to it.
In the alleyway he walked until the bricks that made up the walls became shrouded with shadow: the darkness made by the sun itself. In that darkness, he heard wings flutter and a small whisper came from the right.
"You're... you're that vampire from before."
The raven in the cage sat neatly on a battered crate, beside it was a champagne bottle, filled with red liquid and corked tight, and two champagne glasses.
Rain lifted his foot to walk over, but soon realized that his foot had stuck slightly to the ground. It was then that the sickening smell of fresh blood rose up from underneath. Looking around, he realized the bricks were redder than usual and that there was blood everywhere: one the cage, on the crate, on the outside of the bottle. Everywhere.
He heard footsteps approaching him. A man appeared, holding the body of the dead salesman from before. Flesh from his neck was literally torn off, leaving a gaping, red hole. The man dropped the body on the ground before Rain and licked his lips before speaking.
"Hello, young Rain." He bowed, "Allow me to introduce myself. I am Vladimir Constantinos."
He was dressed in expensive garments. His hair was shoulder length, wavy and dark. His face pale, his eyes gray, his nose sharp and his lips were small. Vladimir wore a dark green jacket, tooled with intricate gold designs, over a frilly white shirt. His trousers was also dark, and his shoes were black.
All spattered with crimson.
He stood up, Rain did not respond. He smiled slightly, baring long, pearly white fangs.
"Before we begin," Vladimir offered, gesturing over to the glasses and bottle, "blood?"