Chapter Eight: Rain and Temptation
The rain continued to pour down, pelting against the windows while the group waited. Out in the van, Jiro had taken off his coat in hopes of drying off faster, but the steam still continued to issue from his body despite his best efforts. He winced at the pain it caused him. He didn't dare try turning the van on, even though he knew there was a heater. He still wasn't very good with modern gadgets and was afraid he'd manage to break something and leave them stranded so he endured without.
He felt the desire to feed rising up in him as he fought against the pain, wrapping his arms around his chest, his heavy coat discarded on the floor. He hoped that would help his other clothes dry out faster, but in such cramped quarters, and rain thick outside, the chances were less than likely.
He grit his teeth, one fang grazing his lip. A small trail of blood trickled down his chin, but he didn't notice. He would not give in to the more base nature of the vampire; the desire to feed on anything living that could come near him. He had to get that part under control before the rain let up and the others rejoined him.
Inside the cabin, Mimiko and the others shivered, watching the rain on the glass windows while Dave listened to the radio for news of the storm.
"I hope he's okay," Kotaro said, his bottom lip trembling as he stared out towards where the van was, though the rain was coming down too hard to see it.
Zelman put a hand on the young Black Blood's shoulder. "Someone like the Kin Killer wouldn't be put out by a little rain storm. He's probably enjoying the time alone." He smiled, showing a slight hint of his fangs.
Mimiko rolled her eyes. From what she'd seen, he was probably actually not doing so well. She kind of wished she dared go out there to keep him company but no one seemed to have an umbrella handy, or if they did, they weren't bringing it out. But the older vampire's words did seem to calm Kotaro down so she was at least somewhat mollified.
Matt walked back over to Dave to listen into the weather report as well. The radio crackled with static as the announcer's voice came over the frequency. "Rain expected….. thunderstorms….continuing throughout…." The storm kept interfering with the signal, leaving a lot of static.
James sighed. "Sounds like we're going to be stuck here for a while," he commented and squeezed Sarah's hand.
Damian looked around at the rather bedraggled group. "I vote we head down as soon as it looks like it's lightening up. I don't know about you, but I'd rather not be caught up here at nightfall trying to go downhill in the rain, if you know what I mean."
Matt looked up at Dave. He was probably the most experienced here, having been a ranger far longer than Matt had been. "Think we could make it down in one piece?"
Dave scratched at the five o'clock shadow on his chin. "I wouldn't advise going back down towards the city, but if you have the gas, and don't mind going the long way, you'd probably have better luck that way. Road's aren't as steep and there are less drop offs."
Matt nodded. "True. And it'll actually bring us closer to our apartment than if we went back down the way we came up." He turned back to his group. "Let's put it to a vote. I'm more than willing to drive since I know this mountain better than anyone if that's what we decide."
"I'm all for going somewhere where we can all dry off," Mimiko said, thinking of Jiro. She wondered if he really was okay. Karri, Sarah and Lucienne nodded in agreement.
Damian nodded. "That's four, and I make five."
Kotaro turned away from the window. "I want to see brother," he announced.
Zelman smirked. "I believe that makes six. As for myself, frankly, I don't care either way."
Matt scratched at his cheek. "Looks like we have our answer. Question is should we head now or wait in the hopes there's at least a slight let up."
"I'll drive," Scott volunteered. "I think it might be best if we head out now." He glanced over at Mimiko who was practically chewing on her fingernails. "I'm the best driver for this kind of weather and I know the road."
Matt nodded. Even though he'd been a ranger, it was true that Scott knew the other route home best. He'd used it many times in the past. "Fine by me. Ladies?"
Sarah shrugged. Lucienne and Karri nodded. "Yeah." They both exchanged glances with each other though, thinking about Zelman's words. What had he called Jiro? Kin Killer? That sounded ominous.
Jiro's head went up as he heard the sound of a door opening. He looked towards the direction of the cabin, where light was now coming from the open doorway, the silhouette of several people in the line of light. He ground his teeth as his head went back down. He could not let them see him in this state, not the other Red Bloods. Mimiko had already seen him this way before, but there was no way he could let the others see him this way.
He was so distracted by this, and thoughts on controlling his increasing desire and need for blood, that he didn't notice the footsteps coming towards the van, only one set.
Mimiko opened the van door. She had to stifle the urge to take a quick step back, water running down her face with the heavy rain. "Jiro?" Her question came out almost as a half fearful quaver. She recoiled slightly as she saw the muscles in his face exposed, then her professional side kicked in. "We need to get you covered."
She entered the van and closed the door to keep out the sheeting rain, and then leaned over the back seat, searching for one of the blankets she remembered being stowed there. "Just bear with it for a bit longer," she said with a slightly trembling voice. As soon as I have you situated, we plan on leaving, heading down the other side of the mountain.
Jiro put one gloved hand out and grabbed her arm. "Mimiko."
She smiled to hide the emotional pain she felt for his physical pain. "It's okay. Once we got off the mountain, we can go back to the apartment and you can dry out without any worry. Or, we can find a place where no one will see you. Then, after that, if you need it, I can," she hesitated for a moment, "give you some blood. But only if you need it." Her cheeks flamed.
Jiro gently touched her face, holding back as much of his pain as possible. "Mimiko, I'll be fine." He winced slightly, even more tightly reigning in his suffering so that he would not make her suffer. He clearly saw the pain in her eyes at seeing him like this. There was no way he could ask her for blood, not when she was still only so recently recovered from her own injuries.
Mimiko bunched up the blanket she'd found in her hands, a little surprised at his gesture, not sure if she should buy his assurances or not. It was hard to look at his skinless face. She thrust the blanket at him. "Here. You might want to make sure your face is shrouded. The others will be coming out soon and I don't think you, or I, want to explain why you suddenly don't have any skin and are almost, really, a skeleton under your clothes."
Jiro sighed as he took the blanket, fumbling with weak limbs to pull it around his shoulders. She had to help him wrap it around him, pulling it up and over his head.
At that moment, Zelman came striding over from the ranger's cabin, leading the others. He seemed unconcerned by the water sluicing off of him as the others ran towards the vehicle and shelter.
Kotaro tried to shake off as much water as he could as Matt opened the side door and shoved in a bunch of plastic bags for them to sit on in an attempt to try and keep as much water off the seats as possible.
Mimiko settled herself next to Jiro, securing his seatbelt, even if he probably wouldn't need it. In his weakened state, she wasn't willing to take any chances. Kotaro slid in next to her on the back seat.
"Hey, Mr. Vampire, you okay back there," Damian called from the middle seat, looking back at the shrouded figure.
Zelman grinned as he took his seat, the others climbing in around him, Scott taking the driver's seat, with Karri taking shotgun. "How much fun this will be," he jibbed, noting that there was still steam coming from under the bundle of blankets that was Jiro's hunched form.
Mimiko rolled her eyes as Scott put the van into gear. The tires crunched over the gravel as they backed up, then turned around to find the road. The windshield wipers were going like mad, making a steady metronome beat as the college student concentrated on getting back to the main road.
"This is going to be rough," he announced as he clicked on the turn signal, waiting for a pair of headlights to move out of the way so he could turn. "Hopefully there won't be too many idiots on the road, what with the rain and everything. We should be lucky."
The van turned onto the main road, heading slightly uphill to reach the crest of the mountain road before heading back down. At twenty miles an hour, their progress was slow, the rain pouring over the van so that the view out the windows was warped.
Mimiko kept glancing anxiously at Jiro's hunched shoulders. He head was hidden in the blankets, but his back was bent so that the top was closer to the seat in front of him, possibly in an attempt to hide his disfigured appearance as much as possible. It reminded her of that morning, almost a year ago now, when she'd first met him on the beach.
He'd been nothing but a skeleton at that point, regenerating right in front of her eyes after having survived a bout in the ocean thanks to circumstances beyond his control. Their relationship had changed greatly since then, especially since he'd saved her from Kanaye.
She tried to remember the last time he'd had blood but couldn't think of any beyond when he'd bitten her that one night she'd been stuck in nightmares from the past. Unless he'd been using blood packs, which she doubted, he hadn't had any since then. Nor had he brought up the subject at all. If he had indeed not had any blood since then, he must be starving for the nourishment it brought him.
"Jiro?" She tapped him lightly on what she hoped was his shoulder.
Kotaro leaned far forward, peering up under the blanket over his brother. "I think he's asleep," he half whispered. The sight of a skinless, only half muscled skeleton did not faze him in the slightest. He knew what the water did to his brother.
Mimiko sighed, then looked out the window at the slowly passing dark masses that she assumed were trees. Everyone was pretty quiet as Scott concentrated on the curves of the road, taking them back down to the valleys, and, hopefully, away from the rain.
Almost an hour later, Scott pulled up in a small town that was, thankfully, not under a deluge of rain. Only a light drizzle filled the air, though it didn't look like it would last long. The clouds were breaking up, heading more north, back towards the mountains.
The college student released his grip on the wheel, knuckles a bit light, the car engine now off as they sat in a parking lot. "Whew!" He wiped figuratively at his brow. "That was fun, but let's not do that again."
Zelman smiled in mild amusement, resisting the urge to chuckle. Red Bloods still managed to amuse him, even after so many years. Perhaps that was why he liked living in the Special Zone. He glanced back at Jiro and Mimiko. "He still out?"
Mimiko leaned forward to check on her companion, moving the blanket aside to look. She was glad to find that his skin had regenerated, at least on his face. She wasn't sure about the other parts of him. His clothes were still damp. "It looks like it," she replied.
The red haired vampire let out a smirk, shaking his head. "Children."
Lucienne turned back as well, glancing at both vampires, then looking pointedly at Mimiko. "That guy said something odd back up on the mountain," she said, pointing at the Crimson Eyed Butcher. "He called Jiro the Kin Killer."
Mimiko sighed, knowing what would come next. "Yes," she said before her friend could actually ask. "That's one of the names he goes by back in Japan."
Zelman chuckled. "Yes, the Kin Killer," he interrupted Mimiko before she could continue. "It's just as the name says. He killed his own kind."
One of the seat belts slid back into its unused position with a loud zip as Damian turned to stare at the Black Blood. "What? You're saying that guy there killed vampires? So, what exactly is he, a vampire hunting vampire or something?" Thoughts of Van Hellsing entered his head at the idea, a Van Hellsing with fangs.
Mimiko let out a mild huff of impatience. "Not exactly. You see, about ten or fifteen years ago, a strand of Black Blood was created that is more like the vampires you see in movies, who just have to bite someone to turn them into a vampire like themselves. To the other Black Bloods, they were considered a scourge and a threat to their existence because they could turn anyone, be they vampire or human, into what they were, a parasite living off of humanity.
"If these vampires, these Kowloon Children as they were called, were allowed to exist, they would overrun the world, exposing the vampires to the rest of humanity, which was something they definitely didn't want. Another major problem with this new bloodline was that they not only turned others to their bloodline, but, more often than not, they killed the people they turned."
Sarah shuddered as the story unfolded. She didn't particularly care for ghost stories, especially not true ones. And she was the least comfortable with the idea of being in the presence of a vampire, but Jiro had been so gentlemanly that she couldn't find much room for protest.
"Jiro," Mimiko continued, "sided with the Company and helped to eradicate a good majority of that bloodline, an effort that was known as the Hong Kong Crusade. Then, just this last year, a few survivors of the Kowloon bloodline were able to infiltrate our home and tried to revive their founder, who Jiro had killed all those years ago. The losses were devastating, but, with the help of everyone, we were able to drive them off and cut them back down. The unfortunate thing is that some of them still survived and will probably, eventually, try again."
James blinked, putting an arm around Sarah's shoulders. "Wow. I had no idea he was that kind of person. I mean, sure the idea of him being a vampire's pretty cool, but hearing there are actually vampires out there actually like the ones in the movies…. That can turn you into mindless zombies… ugh."
Zelman's lips frowned slightly. "That's exactly what they do," he agreed, "turn their victims into mindless zombies that they can control, then easily throw away. I may not agree with some of the things you Red Bloods do, but I definitely don't agree with their way of living. Like the compromiser said, they are a parasite that don't deserve to exist."
Kotaro, who had been sitting quietly, listening to their talk, suddenly popped up from his seat. "Say, can we find some food? I'm getting kinda hungry." His stomach rumbled, emphasizing his point.
Karri looked at her watch. "Huh, kid's got a point. It's been a while since we last ate anything. What do you think? Wait the extra hour until we get back home or stop by a drive-thru and get something?"
"Drive-thru," Damian, Lucienne, Matt, and Scott said almost in unison. Mimiko and Kotaro just blinked.
"Drive-thru it is," Scott said and turned the engine back on, put the car in gear, and pulled back into traffic, heading for his favorite fast food place, thankful that the small town had one. "Any preferences?"
Everyone shook their head, just glad to be back in the valley, out of the majority of the rain, and having any kind of food. Kotaro's stomach growled again.
"Okay then, the usual it is." Scott drove up to the window and ordered everyone two hamburgers apiece, along with fries and something he called "fry sauce". Mimiko wasn't sure what this sauce was, but it sounded interesting.
It didn't take long for their food to be paid for and delivered, filling the van with the smell of hamburgers and golden fries made from a yellow potato, instead of the usual white that Mimiko associated with fast food places.
Scott then drove them to a place that looked like it was right out of a movie, a bit out of the way, which was fine by Mimiko. She was still worried about Jiro. Fake facades faced an open square right out of an old American movie she'd once seen on a random station years before.
"Welcome to Little Hollywood," Scott said as he parked the car and turned off the engine. "I used to play around here when I was a kid. They also used to actually film movies here back in the day. I don't think they've used it in a while though. Thought it would be best, especially if our friend over there," and he indicated Jiro, "is still steaming or something. Don't need to answer any more awkward questions than are necessary, right?"
Mimiko nodded silent agreement, glad that everyone was still being fairly normal after having learned a bit more about Jiro's past. How would they react if they found out that Kotaro was actually the reincarnated head of his bloodline, and that he was once a girl? That was definitely something she was sure neither she nor he would care to explain.
Damian opened the door, letting in warmer air and sunlight, the clouds breaking up above them as the upper winds blew them away. "All out!" He climbed down and stretched like he'd been stuck in the same seat for over eight hours. "Man! What a ride!" He fist bumped Scott as he walked around from the front. "Nice driving."
The others began leaving the van, carrying the bags of food with them. Mimiko nudged Jiro with an elbow and got a grunt for her efforts. "Jiro," she called, "time to wake up."
Kotaro blinked. "Brother sleeps like the dead. Maybe we should just leave him here."
Mimiko was tempted to roll her eyes, remembering that first night in her apartment with the Mochizuki brothers, and how she'd had to douse the sleeping vampire with water to get him up. She had no buckets, and pouring more water on him would only add insult to energy. There was another way to wake him up, if one of the guys would lend her a knife, since shaking him wasn't having much effect. But she knew he was still alive because she could faintly feel his breath on her skin, and Kotaro didn't seem to be overly worried. That was always a good sign.
She pushed past Kotaro as the youth exited the vehicle and went over to the impromptu picnic the others had set up. "Anyone have a knife I can borrow?" She didn't want to really think about what she was contemplating, but it was the only other way she knew to wake him without hurting him more. She could, of course, just let him sleep, but she was sure that it was better to eat the burgers now and not wait until later. Besides, there was always the chance that there wouldn't be any left, the way she'd seen those guys eat. She could also ask Zelman for help, but there was no way she was going to do that.
Matt glanced up from his burger, wondering why she suddenly needed a knife. The others also glanced up momentarily. Zelman gave her a wry glance, almost as if he could read what she intended to do. A smile perked at the corners of his lips. Would she actually do it, he wondered.
Matt finally pulled out his own pocketknife and reached across the food to hand it to her. "Here. You can borrow mine."
Mimiko took the knife with an almost sense of relief. "Thanks. I'll only need it for a minute." She turned and headed back to the van very purposely, the folded knife held tightly in one hand.
"What does she need a knife for," Karri asked, breaking the silence around the picnic.
Zelman started laughing. "You might want to make sure you have a band aide handy," he advised.
Lucienne blinked at him. "Why?"
Mimiko decided against closing the door once she'd returned to the vehicle. The back seat was far enough back that she hoped nothing scandalous would be seen, and far enough away that hopefully any noises she might make would be less than audible. It also allowed for a potentially fast get away if things didn't go quite as she planned.
She slid into the back seat where Jiro was still sleep, hunched over with the blanket still covering most of him. She tugged at the blanket, making it come off his head where settle down closer to his torso. She opened her hand and dropped the knife by accident, her heart pounding. It landed on the seat between them.
Mimiko quickly picked it back up and flicked it open, thankful that it wasn't one of those that required some locking mechanism to release the blade. She closed her eyes, steeling herself to just go ahead and do what she had decided on, took in a deep breath, then opened her eyes and moved her right index finger towards the blade.
"Ouch!" She hadn't been paying as much attention to where the blade was as she should have and had managed to gouge her finger on the tip, the blade going about a quarter of a centimeter into the flesh. Blood welled up as she quickly pulled her finger away, resisting the urge to suck on it. This was what she'd been trying for, more or less, after all, even if it was a bit more extravagant than she'd planned.
Jiro's rhythmic breathing changed slightly as the scent of blood filled his senses, like a shark that had lazily been sleeping in a deep pool tasting the barest hint of blood in the water. He sniffed at the air, saliva filling his mouth as his mind started to resurface from the dark void of sleep.
Instinct told him to grab hold of the creature bleeding, grab hold and feed. But the logical side of him held back such actions. He was not an animal, nor would he allow himself to act like one. Despite that resolve, his hand unconsciously sought out the bleeding flesh and grabbed hold of Mimiko's wrist, bringing it closer to his mouth, where his fangs had extended from his jaw, anticipating blood.
Mimiko flinched ever so slightly when he'd grabbed her. She hadn't exactly expected that reaction, though she also wasn't sure what kind of reaction she'd expected. With Jiro, it was hard to tell. Her pulse accelerated as her hand was drawn closer to the fanged mouth, her blood almost singing in her ears, whether in protest or expectation, she wasn't really sure.
Jiro stopped moving, her hand inches from his face as he opened his eyes. The scent was overwhelming in front of him, but it was Mimiko's scent, and he had promised himself that he would not ask for her blood, or even take it if offered, for at least another month, just to be sure she was fully recovered. He would not risk her health for his own needs.
Mimiko wasn't sure why he'd stopped moving her hand. She looked at him questioningly as he stared at the blood oozing from the cut on her finger. "It's all right," she said gently, trying to encourage him, pressing her hand a fraction of an inch closer to his mouth before he gently, but firmly kept her from moving it any closer.
"Mimiko." He held out his other hand for the knife, which she dropped into his gloved palm without thinking. He thought he recognized the blade as one that Matt had used earlier that day while on the trail. He would have to be sure to return it to him. He slipped it into his pants pocket with only a little difficulty. His clothing was still damp and he was still sitting.
He reached towards his other pocket and pulled out a handkerchief, which he then gently wrapped around her wounded finger, ignoring her protests. He would not drink so much as one drop of her blood until he was sure she was completely recovered. "You should probably have someone look at that once we get back into town," he commented. "It might require stitches."
Mimiko slowly pulled back her bandaged hand and looked at it with some small confusion. "Jiro," she started to protest but he put a finger to her lips.
With a smile, he unbuckled his seatbelt and slid to face her more fully. "It's all right. I'm fine. You don't need to worry. It was only a bit of rain and my clothes are already mostly dry again."
She bit her lip but didn't argue. He had ways of persuading her if he so chose to use them so she let it drop. Instead, she let out a sigh. "They bought hamburgers and fries. They also got something called "fry sauce" which I'm not really sure what is, but if you want to give it a try, we should probably go over and join everyone before they eat it all."