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Last Hope - Chapter 8: Crows

"A group of crows is called a murder."
Veepo, Online Chat Group

Haru: (3:32PM) So, did Riku treat you well?

Ayu: (3:32PM) Yes. He was nice and respectful.

Riku: (3:33PM) See? I'm more civilized that you'll ever be, Haru.

Haru: (3:33PM) Hah, good joke.

Kai: (3:33PM) Lol.

Ayu: (3:34PM) Guess what! Riku's grandma actually knows Killoran!

Kai: (3:34PM) Really?

Riku: (3:34PM) Yep. He was her student, a long time ago. He attended her Christian school.

Ayu: (3:34PM) He was a toddler back then.

Haru: (3:35PM) Aww, that's precious.

Ayu: (3:35PM) I know! <3

Nat: (3:35PM) Is Killo-san a prince now that he's married to a princess?

Haru: (3:35PM) No. If a girl marries a prince, she almost always becomes a princess. It's rare for a guy to become a prince in this instance.

Ayu: (3:36PM) You learn something new everyday.

Nat: (3:36PM) Did you guys know that the vampire kept her family name?

Haru: (3:36PM) What are you talking about?

Nat: (3:36PM) His wife. She's not called Princess Killoran...

Ayu: (3:36PM) Whoa! Why not?

Nat: (3:37PM) According to Goshippu magazine, she didn't want to lose her identity and be seen as his property.

Ayu: (3:37PM) Good for her! I support her!

Kai: (3:37PM) What identity? Lol, she's a fucking vampire. Scum of the earth.

Riku: (3:37PM) Haha! Those beasts are acting like they're real people LOL. They're all the same. Bloodsucking parasites. One look at them and you know Satan exists.

Kai: (3:38PM) True.

Riku: (3:38PM) I can't believe the law wants to protect these demons. It's the end of the human race as we know it.

Kai: (3:38PM) Mmh. Fact.

Riku: (3:39PM) There's still time to do something about it. We should cleanse as many as we can.

Kai: (3:39PM) Way ahead of you. I've already ordered A-V grenades.

Riku: (3:40PM) Let's meet up! I'll bring my U-V rifle along and we can take these suckers down.

Kai: (3:40PM) Good idea. I know a den we can visit. Bunch of them are lurking there.

Riku: (3:41PM) This will be so much fun! I can't wait to kick vampire ass and send them straight back to Hell!

Haru: (3:41PM) Ayu, are you sure this kid was 'nice and respectful'? I'm finding it extremely hard to believe.

Riku: (3:41PM) STFU. I respect other humans. Vamps can all die a painful death for all I care. They don't give a crap about us. We are their FOOD, not their equals. They are PREDATORS. Why should we care for those monsters?

Kai: (3:42PM) Save it, bro. There's no point wasting your energy. Haru is a stubborn piece of shit. There's no changing his mind.

Haru: (3:43PM) You're both assholes, you know that, right? What's the point in Killoran and Hamasaki's marriage if you're going to ruin their movement? This is why we can't have peace because of reckless idiots like you! You're only going to make things worse with your impulsive violence!

Nat: (3:44PM) Please stop fighting... I don't like this :(

Ayu: (3:44PM) I agree with Nat. No negativity, please. And no cussing! It's very tacky.

Nat: (3:44PM) Yeah! We're better than this.

Haru: (3:45PM) Just so you know, I'm screen-recording this conversation. If you morons are serious about your killing spree, I'm not afraid to bait you out to the police.

Kai: (3:45PM) Fucking dipshit.

Riku: (3:45PM) Man, you piss me off so much.

Nat: (3:45PM) Stop!! Please!

Ayu: (3:45PM) Let's all calm down!

Kai: (3:45PM) KYS Haru. I'm done with this fucking chat.

[Kai has left the group chat.]

Haru: (3:46PM) Wow.

Nat: (3:46PM) Nooooo! Oniisan :'(

Ayu: (3:46PM) Ugh, is this actually happening?

Riku: (3:46PM) Great. I'm left with a bunch of girls.

Ayu: (3:46PM) Well, you've got Haru...

Riku: (3:46PM) Exactly my point.

Haru: (3:47PM) [Annoyed emoji]

Nat: (3:47PM) I feel sick. I hate this.

Haru: (3:49PM) I'm trying to private message him, but the moron blocked me.

Riku: (3:49PM) Why the hell did you have to bring the police into this?

Haru: (3:50PM) Because you idiots were going too far! I'm not going to stand by and let you wreck this movement for everyone!

Nat: (3:50PM) Ayu! Please add him back!

Ayu: (3:50PM) I'm trying, but he blocked me too.

Nat: (3:50PM) Same! Why did he block us?! :'(

Ayu: (3:50PM) I have no idea. We did nothing wrong.

Riku: (3:51PM) I hope you're happy, Haru. We just lost our friend, thanks to you.

Haru: (3:51PM) Oh, shut up. I didn't kick him out of this chat. He chose to leave.

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Location: Tokugawa Castle, Arashiyama, Kyoto.
Time: 12:25AM, February 18th 2072.


"You may now kiss the bride."

The white light from the television was the only source of brightness in the cold, dark room. A tall, slim figure sat opposite of the television, his blood-red eyes glued to the image of Seraphina and Sharugo on the flat, wide screen. The figure was dressed in complete black and, if it wasn't for the screen light, he would've become one with his shadow. The only feature that stood out was his translucent skin, which was already paler than the moon, but in the darkness, his paleness appeared to glow more, as if he were an angel.

Prince Kuromiya, Lord of Shadows. He was one of the highest ranked princes in the vampire society, attaining the highest honor. He had proven himself worthy of the title through his persistence, impressive strength and intelligence that he demonstrated in his many battles, attaining the trust and admiration of his fellow vampires. He had been staring at the television, replaying the same scene, again and again, as he watched Seraphina walk away from Sharugo's kiss.

There was a knock on the door, before it creaked open slowly. His old butler, Goro, poked his white, fluffy head through the door.

"Are you busy, Your Royal Highness?"

"Come in," Tarō commanded. He paused the scene on the television, freezing on the pixelated image of Seraphina's beautiful angry face. He took lengthy sips of the thick, dark blood from his wine glass with a brooding expression.

Goro entered the gloomy room, as he eyed the prince cautiously. Tarō's black hair was messy, his lips were red and wet, and his eyes refused to budge from the screen.

The butler held a scroll in his hand. "I have a message here from King Leandro of Ashikino."

What does that old bat want now? Tarō thought grumpily.

The butler opened the scroll, cleared his throat and began reading:

"Prince Kuromiya, I am sure by the time you reach this message, you'll be fully aware of my daughter's marriage to Killoran-san. Kindly please refrain from making any form of contact with Sera-chan or else-"

Tarō slammed the wine glass down onto the mahogany coffee table with so much aggression that the liquid spilled everywhere, making the butler jump in surprise. Goro looked at the prince with hopelessness, uncertain of whether he should continue reading or leave him be. There was a moment of tension-filled silence. And then a low, dark chuckle reverberated around the room, coming directly from the vampire prince himself. It was a type of laughter that made the butler nervous, who recognized that it spelled trouble.

"Tell me," Tarō pointed at the television screen with the remote. "Does that look like the face of a happy bride to you?"

The butler stayed quiet, unsure of how to respond. He wasn't meant to have an opinion in this matter. Tarō pressed play with the remote, unfreezing the screen.

"Look at her! She's practically running away from him," the prince huffed, balling up his fists. "It's clear to anyone with half a brain she's forced to marry this vile human."

He threw the glass on the granite floor, shattering it to pieces. The ground was stained red, the color creeping outward among the many pieces of shards. There was a thunderous look on his flawless face.

"A princess of her status shouldn't be with an unworthy scumbag like him! It's a mockery against our kind. I refuse to let this happen on my watch! I refuse for my-" He spat out the word 'my' with a possessive tone, "my Sera-chan to be handed over to some common man! I won't let it happen."

His eyes seemed a darker pool of red, reflecting the fiery anger he felt within him, while he clenched his perfectly defined jaw.

"Write a message to the king," the prince demanded.

"Let him know that there's nothing he can do to stop me from seeing the princess again. If it means having to go to war for Sera-chan, I will. A hundred men can't keep us apart! If it's the last thing I do, I will make her mine. Let him know these exact words."

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Location: Nakano Forest.
Time: 6:15PM, 2nd March 2053.


There was nothing but silence in these arcane woodlands. Little Sharugo couldn't see where the path of bones and dead leaves led. It all just faded into twilight. He felt intimidated by the darkness of the woods as he found himself scooting closer to his friend. Eiko was older, bigger and smarter... perhaps even smarter than the adults in their lives! Little Sharugo felt safer with him, believing that Eiko could solve anything life would throw at them.

As they continued forward, a glint of light caught the boys' attention and what followed was a sickly caw. A bird with grievous eyes and ink stained wings, seemed to float over towards the boys with the swift movement of a wing. It landed on the branch in front of them and it cawed once again. Sharugo tilted his head, examining the crow. The crow tilted its head too, staring back at him with its beady, black eyes. The little boy pondered what was going through the bird's mind.

"Did you know that crow-" Eiko said in a hushed voice, "could be a vampire spying on us right now?"

Sharugo felt an unsettling feeling creep over him. "Really?"

"Yes. They can shapeshift into almost anything.... bats, crows, snakes, wolves, deer -- anything that doesn't exceed their mass."

The little boy shivered in fear. He hoped his friend was joking, but then again, it wasn't in Eiko's nature to clown around. He was often a serious boy, who was constantly observing the world around him, always interested about the little things in life, and he was always eager to learn about anything that stimulated his curiosity.

"How...?" Sharugo wondered.

Eiko opened his book that he liked to carry around with him at all times. He was an avid reader and supporter of Doctor Akhihoro's theories, an intelligent individual who graduated with a degree in Biological Science and Anatomy of Vampires, and who was currently working for the Japan Science Technology agency. The boy began reading aloud a section of his idol's work:

"It is generally believed that vampires have the same mass, before and after their transformations. They are merely reorganizing their bones, organs and cellular structures and so on. Often their transformations are painful - thus, they have a high pain tolerance to survive such modifications. Every vampire has, at least, two nuclei in each cell, each containing the DNA to code for one of their forms. Some higher ability vampires are observed to have more than two nuclei within their cells, and the phenomenon behind this is still a mystery. Essentially they are a mass of independent cells functioning together. They have special proteins in them called 'Vetherium', proteins that are vital to determine the duration of their transformations. They need large infusion of energy, likely calories from their food or perhaps heat and light, a moderate amount for these nocturnal creatures, from photosynthesis to activate and maintain their transformations."

As usual, Sharugo didn't understand the foreign words and ramblings coming from his friend. Eiko slammed the book shut with a satisfactory smile.

"You see, some vampires can only transform into one state, while some have no limitations," he said, his eyes glued to the crow ahead of them. "In other words, some vampires can only transform into one thing, like a bat. And others can transform into multiple things. It really depends on the vampire and how powerful they are."

"Powerful..." Sharugo repeated in a tiny voice. There was a gut-wrenching feeling in his stomach as he thought of his father.

Diablos told him that he would be leaving for six months to fight in a war against those creatures. Little Sharugo wasn't having it! He had thrown himself at his father's legs and clung tightly onto him. He cried and begged his father to stay, but the soldier was stubborn and he had already made up his mind. Sharugo felt a punch in his little heart every time he thought of his father being hurt in the battlefield. He prayed the vampires weren't too powerful for the soldier to handle.

"Every vampire is different from each other," Eiko continued. The boy could talk for hours, but Sharugo didn't mind. It made him feel calm, providing a familiar background noise in the otherwise silent and chilling forest.

"Some take hours to transform, others can transform within seconds. Some vampires are slow, others are fast. Some have super strength, some are fragile and easily hurt. Some have poison in them, others don't. Some can hypnotize humans, some can't. There are different factors for this - but mainly it comes down to their genetics and blood intake levels."

Eiko paused, looking down at the boy proportionally smaller than him. Sometimes he would forget that he was talking to a child half his age.

"Basically the more they feed, the more powerful they'll get," he explained in a simplified way.

"Ha-Ha!"

Looking up, the boys were transfixed by the crows that were flying above them like dark kites, making a roof above their heads. They were beating their wings as they made a raucous noise. The older boy noticed the crows were forming an ominous circle, as if they were creating a cage around them.

Someone is about to die soon, Eiko thought.

"Ha-Ha!"

One by one, they swooped down and landed on nearby branches. These branches, newly bereft of their leaves, were weighted down with birds so black they looked more like shadows, or perhaps silhouettes cut from the dawn canopy above. Sharugo felt uneasy with their presence, as if they were ganging up on the boys. Were they vampires in disguise? He didn't know what to make of his reality anymore.

"It's a murder," Eiko remarked, making the little boy freeze in fear. He noticed the color had drained from Sharugo's face and he gave him a comforting smile.

"A group of crows is called a murder," he explained.

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

Location: Tadami, Fukushima Prefecture.
Time: 12:05pm, June 14th 2066.


The family of three were running away; the father, the mother and their five-year-old daughter. The sky was gray and it had been raining heavily, but now it was drizzling. There were puddles that formed in the streets that the family splashed through. Behind them, there were figures dressed in black trench coats, following their every move, tailing after them like they were shadows. The Crows. That's what they were called amongst the streets. They were getting closer.

The little girl's feet slipped outwards, as they rounded the corner, the cold afternoon air shocking her throat and lungs as she inhaled deeper. She almost slipped, but the mother caught her child. Red bullets were firing at the three. The father extended his cloak, like the wings of a bat, as he shielded his wife and daughter from the attacks.

There was a tall, gray building they approached. There were yellow police tapes around the area. As soon as the three entered the prohibited building, they slammed the door shut behind them. They pressed their backs against the doors, pushing their weight against it to prevent the outsiders from getting in. The Crows weren't giving up so easily. There were more of them. It was ten against three.

"Is there anything we can use to seal this door?" The father asked, his eyes desperately scanning the room. As the place was abandoned, there weren't many tools lying around. His legs were shaking and he could feel himself moving forward, as the door was being forced open. It was getting harder by the second to keep it shut.

"What are we going to do?" The mother cried. "If they get in, we're..."

The father looked ahead, noticing multiple flight of stairs that led to the top floor. He looked at his teary-eyed wife.

"Listen to me, Ana. I need you to take Yuri and escape. Take the stairs and look for a way out of here. I'll stall them and buy you time. Don't stop running - and don't look back."

"But Hiro-!"

"Don't fight with me on this. Go now!" He commanded sharply.

His wife exhaled deeply. She gave him a quick kiss. "Please be careful," she whispered. Then she picked up their daughter.

The little girl reached out her hand towards her father, screaming. "No! We can't leave Daddy! Put me down!"

The mother tightened her hold on the child, while they raced up the stairs. There was a loud bang, as the door was kicked open.

Little Yuri watched in terror as the big, bad men in black were closing in on her father. She watched as her father drew out a long sword, which gleamed in the afternoon light, from behind his cloak. He charged at the men with a mighty cry, his eyes a blazing red. The enemies swiveled in his direction. He was swinging his sword violently, whilst it made contact with their shields with a resounding 'clang.' The men were faster and stronger than her father. They were able to dodge his attacks. One had kicked his spine, sending him tumbling forward, another had attacked his knee cap, causing a loud crunching sound to echo throughout the air. He let out a harsh scream of agony, as he fell to the ground.

BANG!

Ana stopped in her tracks. They were at the top floor, near another glass door that led to the flat roof. Even though she was instructed not to, she couldn't help herself. She looked down from the balcony and immediately she felt her heart stop at the sight of her husband on the floor, sprawled out across his pool of blood seeping from his head. Little Yuri screamed, a voice of pure terror that sounded wrong in her childish voice. A scream that grabbed their enemies' attention.

A Crow pointed towards them with his gloved finger. "Up there!"

Ana began running again, as her daughter's screaming had faded into ragged sobs. They were greeted by the outside, the sky seemed darker than before. The mother's mind was calculating her surroundings. There were no ladders or pipes that she could use to climb down. Instead, she noticed another flat roof ahead from the building opposite of them. The distance was six meters apart. She could transform into a bat and fly across, but her child couldn't transform, and the mother wasn't strong enough to hold on to her child as a tiny creature.

The glass doors burst open behind her. She didn't need to look behind to know they were gaining on her.

"Please, God, let us live!" Ana cried aloud.

She ran as fast she possibly could. Her arms were aching from holding another weight, but she clung onto her daughter for dear life. She had thrown herself forward and reached the edge of the building, taking an enormous leap. Her lungs and heart were pumping, whilst air was rushing through her. She felt like she was flying.

Yuri's eyes widened, her tears wavering with the rush of the wind, as she watched the cars zooming past below them. If her mother missed this landing, it would be the end of the road for them. Red bullets were firing their way. Ana thanked her lucky stars for their enemies' poor aiming skills. When they were nearing towards the flat surface, the mother bent her knees, ensuring she landed gracefully on her feet like a cat.

Ana continued running and she snuck a glance back. She hoped she would've lost them, but she was surprised to see the men running back and then bolting forward, gaining their momentum, and taking a huge leap once they reached the edge of the building. One by one, they were landing on the same surface as them. They were fast. Strong. Powerful. She needed to outrun them, but how could she? The Crows had been training their entire lives for this moment. For this specific purpose. To eliminate them.

Yuri was still audibly crying by the time they reached the pavement.

"You have to be quiet!" The mother said through a pained voice.

"They killed Daddy. They-!"

"Yes, I know. And they'll do the same to us if you don't zip your lips!"

Together, they ran through a maze of buildings and winding side streets. There was a jarring pain in Ana's feet, shooting from her ankles to her knees. For a fleeting moment, her arms felt relieved that she no longer needed to carry Yuri, until the little girl tripped against the cobblestone and sprained her ankle. Quickly, the mother picked her child up and she ran through the alleyway, shadows lurking after them, following the sound of the child's cries, and they turned a corner and-

They had reached a dead end. They were facing a brick wall.

Dreadfully, the mother turned around, only to see the men in black trench coats were blocking the exit. The sun had come out, shining with a golden brightness, illuminating the bronze badges that were pinned to their uniforms. There was a logo of a crow carved onto their badges with the initials 'V.E.T' above it and 'U.S.D' below it.

"Please," Ana dropped to her shaking knees, clasping her sweaty palms together in submission. "Please you can take me. Do whatever you want to me. I beg you, just let my child go."

The little girl crouched beside her mother, clinging onto her arm tightly.

"No! I'm not leaving you!" Yuri yelled, furious that her mother would even make such a suggestion.

The leader of the Crows, a man in his early twenties named Heisuke, burst out laughing cruelly. His blue eyes were sparkling with amusement.

"How touching. You almost seem human-like, you foul beasts."

His comment made the rest of the men laugh.

"That's quite a performance, I must say," the co-leader, Ryuji tittered. He stepped forward and pointed at the little girl's face with his gun. "Look at that! It's crying!"

The men laughed harder. Piot, the smallest Crow, was stroking his chin in puzzlement.

"These beasts are getting clever. Mimicking human emotions," Piot murmured. "It almost makes me feel pity for them."

"How dare you!" Ana roared, her shoulders shaking with fury. "You killed my husband in front of my eyes - in front of our child! You took his life away without any remorse! And now you want to kill his wife and child too? And all for what? Just because of our existence?!"

She stood up, wavering slightly, as her eyes burned red with her growing rage. "What did we do to deserve any of this?! We weren't hurting anyone! We were minding our own business in the comfort of our home, until you broke in and-" Her face twisted, as she choked out sobbing. "You're the inhumane monsters here! Every single one of you!"

Heisuke glared at her, stone-faced. "You're not fooling anyone with your little show, you revolting creature! Cut the act."

"Exactly," Ryuji said, backing up the leader. "Nice try, but we don't sympathize with bloodsucking vermin like you." There was a smirk across his face. "In fact, we welcome your emotions of suffering. At least you'll understand what thousands of our people go through because of your kind."

Ana looked down, knowing that it was hopeless. The Crows had become immune to killing vampires. The law made it permissible for them to get away their murders, which in turn made them believe they were justified for their actions. On top of that, she heard rumors that the government paid them generously for each vampire they killed. The more dangerous a vampire was deemed to be, the higher their paycheck would be for its elimination.

Ana took a deep breath, her balled up fists shaking furiously. If they wanted to remove her from this world, she wasn't giving up without a good fight. She decided that it was now or never. With a pounce, she bit the co-leader's leg with her sharp fangs. Instantly, Ryuji whacked the back of her head with the butt of his gun. Then he kicked her off him, causing her to tumble backwards, making her spinal cord hit the wall.

"Mummy!"

The little girl tried to run towards her mother. Heisuke kicked the child's stomach, making her double over in pain. Another Crow grabbed Yuri from behind, his strong arms wrapped around her tiny waist as he lifted her up.

"Yuri!" Ana exclaimed.

The mother tried to pick herself up from the tarmac, but Ryuji grabbed her head and smashed her face against the hard ground several times. Blood was oozing out of her nose and dribbling down her forehead. Her vision had turned blurry. She could vaguely see the little girl thrashing around in another man's arms, trying to escape.

I'm sorry, Hiro, Ana thought with tears streaming down her cheeks. I couldn't protect our baby girl. Forgive me.

With one last vain effort, the mother crawled forwards and she tried to reach for her daughter. Heisuke stamped on her hand, crushing her palm underneath his boot, trying to flatten her fingers. Ana let out a scream of agony, while black stars danced around her vision. She was close to passing out, when all of a sudden, she could no longer feel his weight crushing her down.

Ana blinked, trying to focus her hazy vision, but everything was happening too quickly for her to process. The Crows were dropping like flies, all of a sudden. From what she could decipher, it seemed like there was a quick, moving shadow amongst them.

Unlike her mother, Yuri could clearly see what was happening. A stranger wearing a white gargoyle mask had appeared, seemingly out of nowhere. He had lifted up Heisuke by the scruff of his neck and, with his brute strength, he threw the Crow against the garbage bins recklessly.

Immediately after the attack on their leader, the Crows tried to gang up on the masked man, attacking him all at once. He threw himself on the ground, seeming to perform a handstand. Then as his opponents tried to jump on him, he spun around viciously like a tornado, until he became a blur, managing to successfully kick all of them. They backed away, giving him some breathing space.

One Crow charged forward, but the masked stranger delivered a powerful front elbow strike at the assailant's jaw, causing him to fall to his feet, making him shriek in pain from his dislocated jaw.

Several of the Crows were trying to shoot the stranger with bullets and lasers, but he seemed to be dodging their attacks, running up against the walls, twirling around like he was dancing, and twisting his body in such bizarre, flexible movements. With a roundhouse kick, he sent a Crow flying against the others, forming a pile of disarrayed bodies.

"What is this beast?!" Heisuke cried out, astonished.

"He must be an MSS-rated vampire," Ryuji answered. "Don't worry, sir. I've already informed HQ. They're sending backup as we speak. They'll be on their way any minute."

Seizing this opportunity, the little girl ran to her mother. Her sprained ankle made it hard to run, as she fell to the ground at her mother's feet. Ana managed to sit up straighter and she pulled her daughter into a warm, loving embrace. Yuri hid her face into her mother's shoulders, crying and shaking, while Ana ran her fingers softly against the girl's thin, mousy-brown hair. They were convinced they would have lost each other right now, had it not been for the stranger's sudden disruption.

The smallest Crow, Piot, went ballistic as he threw rapid punches and kicks everywhere, but the masked-man was effectively blocking his attacks with his forearms. When he saw an opening, the stranger swung his fist and he delivered a punch so powerful that it could knock out a buffalo. Instantly Piot fell into unconsciousness.

There were multiple loud bangs that sliced through the air. Heisuke had fired several V-T bullets at the masked man, but he was baffled to see the pointed tip of some bullets were stuck to the stranger's back, and some had bounced off him and rolled onto the ground, as if they were red marbles.

"What the hell is going on? He's not wearing a protective cloak, so how can this be?" The leader questioned, perplexed.

"His fighting moves seem familiar..." Ryuji said, panting. It hurt for him to breathe at this point. "We've seen this before... remember? In the training arena?"

"Our training arena?" Heisuke asked, bewildered.

"Yes!" Ryuji said. "He reminds me of... of... "

They both stared at each other, their eyes widened in realization. There was a look of sheer horror across their faces.

"No..." Heisuke whispered. "It can't be..."

The masked man lifted up the two remaining Crows effortlessly by their necks. Heisuke and Ryuji were writhing around in his tight grip, desperately trying to kick and flail their arms at him with their feeble attempt to escape. He smashed their heads together, knocking them out cold. They fell limply to the floor, alongside their colleagues.

The noise of the busy city rang in the background; cars, people, buses and trains. Then there was the sound of his footsteps tapping against the tarmac, as he walked over to the mother and child. They had backed up against the brickwall, trembling with fear as the stranger neared closer to them, wondering what on earth he would do to them.

He stopped in front of them and he removed his gargoyle mask. He looked younger than they initially presumed from his well-built physique. His light-brown eyes looked at Ana and Yuri with concern.

"Are you okay?" Sharugo asked.

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

Location: Itakane Forest Park
Time: 3:04pm, 21st February 2072.


There he lay, a luscious green dragon, camouflaged amongst the nature around him. He was fast asleep; a thrumming came from his jaws and nostrils, and wisps of smoke, but his fires were low in slumber. The vampiress had finally found him.

"There you are, you asshole!" Seraphina screeched, as she poked his big head with a stick.

Draku opened his one yellow eye. "Oh, hello there, Princess."

"What were you doing? I had the human here with me. I was yelling 'We're here!' a hundred times, signaling for you to come out of your hiding! And when the human got suspicious, I showed him my-" she gestured towards her pale cleavage with the stick, "bosom to distract him! And it worked. I had his attention on me for a long time. How he stared! You would suspect he hadn't seen a pair before."

"Oh, my sweet goodness. You're certainly more wild than most princesses I've come across," Draku said coyly.

She rolled her eyes. "You had multiple opportunities to catch him off guard and strike him!"

Draku huffed, a noise of contempt. "I'm sorry, but where was the puny human that you promised me?"

"He was standing right next to me, you giant goofball!"

"That was Killoran."

"Yes..." Seraphina paused. "How do you know him?"

The dragon's immense yellow eyes engaged hers with a serious intensity that seemed to swallow her soul. A stern expression crossed his scaly face that she had never seen before.

"I can guarantee, there's not a single dragon that doesn't know about him."

"What?" Seraphina frowned in confusion. "What on earth are you talking about?"

"He's far from a puny human. He's the deadliest beast known to dragonkind. He's captured and enslaved a good portion of us. He's slayed so many of us, we had to pass on the message to every other dragon, so they'd know whom to avoid. That's how I learnt about him!"

"You're joking," Seraphina snorted.

"I wouldn't joke about something like this! It's because of him that, we, dragons are on the brink of extinction. He is beyond dangerous! I'm not prepared to risk my life for you, Princess. Our friendship is not that valuable to me."

"This is just dragon gossip that's been ridiculously blown out of proportion!" Seraphina retorted.

"Let's be serious, Draku, he's a human. What magic does he have up his sleeve to beat us? We are the predators that he should be scared of. One bite from me and it's game over for him. One step of your huge feet, or a slap from your wings, or roasting him alive with your fire, is enough to destroy him - right there and then!"

"You underestimate the power of humans," Draku groaned, frustrated.

"Listen to me carefully, Princess. This man has a dark side to him - a side you don't ever want to see. Please stop testing his patience. Haven't you ever heard of the saying, 'beware the fury of a patient man'? Well, it certainly rings true for him. Please, just leave him be, for your own sake."

"Are you insinuating that he's more superior than me!?" Seraphina shrieked. She snapped the stick in half with her bare hands, overwhelmed by her anger.

"What? No-!"

"Read my lips! I won't rest until I break every single bit of him," the vampiress spat out, balling up her fists with determination.

"I'll show him the true meaning of darkness! I'll make him regret the day that he met me. I don't need you or anyone else to help me. I'll get rid of him on my own!"

Draku watched her stomp away. He shook his head and sighed heavily as she disappeared through the trees.

"She is one hot-headed princess... Boy, I'm going to miss her."
By
Published: 4/18/2019
Bouquets and Brickbats | What Others Said