Ch. 5 part 7

(Cat and mouse)

1.

(One day later...)

Salina Smith, Salina Smith, Salina Smith...he thought with a longing sigh. He sighed heavily and peered out from the roof of the house staring off into the rising sun. When will I see you again, he thought with another longing sigh.

"Darling," said a voice quietly from his side.

He ignored it and continued to stare ahead of him.

He felt a hand slide over his shoulder and then looked irritably at the pale woman standing beside him. "What do you want?" he growled.

Kithara's eyes flickered, "Why are you so agitated this morning?" she asked.

"You're the only thing agitating me," he snapped and looked away with a snort. "I want to be alone, why do you think I stay up here on this roof?"

He heard her gasp shortly and then clear her throat. For a while she just stood there, and then knelt beside him. He looked at her wishing that she'd disappear.

Her face was pained, "Tell me what's wrong, Shou Lang," she said.

"There's nothing wrong with me," he said with a smirk and looked away from her. "Why can't you go away? You're irritating me, Kithara."

"What's wrong, Darling?" she pleaded.

Here he was, trying to think of a song to play for class today and this stupid woman was holding him up! She was distracting his mind from developing a tune for Ms. Smith!

"Nothing is wrong with me!" he snapped and looked at her with growing agitation. "Get off the roof! Leave me by myself!" he told her tightening his fist.

"Darling, you're never like this..." she started in a pleading voice grabbing his hand.

"Don't touch me!" he cried roughly pushing her hand aside. "And don't you dare call me your darling anymore! I'm not your darling, I never was! So you can get off this roof and leave me alone!" he shouted.

Her face crumpled, "Shou Lang...please..." she said and reached for his hand again.

"What did I say?!" he shouted and rose to his feet. "Touch me and I'll throw you off the roof myself! You got it?!"

"What's wrong?" she cried pleadingly, her face pained and hurt. "Why are you-?"

Did he have to pick her up and throw her off the roof?

"Nothing! Nothing!" he shouted waving his hand in her face to get her to stop. "Stop talking! Stop it, just stop what you're doing!"

He watched her swallow and clasp her hands together.

"I'm trying to think," he said lowering his voice and breathing deeply. "I need you to leave me alone so I can think, you understand?"

Kithara swallowed again and stood a little taller, "Is there something going on at school that you need to talk about, Darling?"

"Darling?" he shook his head angrily and twisted her wrist in his hand. "I told you not to call me that!"

"What's happened to you?" she whispered looking in his face.

"Get away from me," he said letting her go and turning his back on her. "You're irritating me. Just...leave me alone!" he snarled glaring at the rising sun.

"Shou Lang?" she asked helplessly. "What's going on? Why won't you talk to me?"

Because you're making me sick, that's why, he thought gritting his teeth.

"Shou Lang-" she said and felt her cold hands on his arm again.

A rage of fury and intense heat swept over him all at once just by her hand, it triggered something that infuriated him.

"What did I say?!" he shouted raising his hand over her face as if to strike her.

Kithara fell down on her side looking up at him fearfully. "Shou Lang-!" was her strangled cry.

His hand shook, he held it poised in the air for a second or two, and then lowered his hand to his side. "Get off the roof," he said without emotion.

Kithara climbed to her feet and then swooshed off the roof and in the air. He lost sight of her and stood there glaring at the sunrise.

Damn woman, he thought. Why can't she leave me alone? I'm trying to concentrate on something important and she comes along nagging me about something. I should've hit her, he thought bitterly. I should've broken her jaw, and maybe that would keep her mouth shut for a while...

Ms. Smith, he thought and sighed sitting down and gazing in the sun. I can't wait to see you at school today, he thought. Ms. Smith...Ms. Smith...Ms. Smith...

...

"That's not a good excuse," said Ms. James shaking her head and sighing deeply. "You still have to go to school," she said.

"I'm not going anywhere near him!" she cried pulling the covers over her head and burying her face in her pillow.

"Ms. James," said Chip quietly from the foot of the bed. "I understand her feelings exactly," he said. "I don't want to go to school either."

"That's insane, I thought you liked school, Chip," said the old woman.

"Not if he's coming," said Chip and dove in the cover with her.

"He was so mean yesterday," cried San sitting up and staring at Ms. James. "If you could have heard him! He..." she trailed off and looked away. "I don't want to be anywhere near him!"

Just then the door to her room burst open and there stood Kithara. "Ms. James," she said with a sigh.

"Ah, Kithara," said the old woman turning to the door to meet her gaze. "I thought you were watching TV with Salem!" she cried.

San watched Kithara breathing hard.

Kithara looked fallen, defeated, and worn. "I..." she said quietly.

"What's wrong?" asked Ms. James.

"Nothing," said Kithara shaking her head. "I just wanted to tell you that I was going out for a while. I might not be back for a while."

"How long is a while?" asked Ms. James.

"I don't know, maybe a day," said Kithara turning from the door. "I just...need time to think, that's all," she said and departed from the doorway.

All three of them stared at the empty door.

"What was wrong with Kithara?" asked Chip.

"Strange..." said Ms. James looking back at her.

She lowered her eyes and stared at the covers.

...

She walked in silence without looking up from her shoes. Her hands she had jammed in her pockets to keep warm. Her breath came out as mist with the chilled air.

Shou Lang walked on the road, hands in pockets, whistling and wagging his tail. He did not talk either, not that she wanted him to.

She snuck him a look and then lowered her eyes and looked back at her feet. She did not know what to think or feel about him anymore. He had changed so much in just a few days. He had always been mean, but it was always a mischievous-mean not a cruel-mean like she saw now. He had changed so much, he had become almost heartless.

While she had stood in the rain she thought about this. She thought about him, the way he used to be, the way he was before. And yet, she had changed a lot herself, Ash had changed her in many ways. She had expected Shou Lang to be upset, angry about her meeting with Ash, but he had surprised her. He did not care.

What does that mean? She thought twisting her fists in her pockets. Why wasn't he upset? Why didn't he get upset with me...why didn't he care?

Do I want him to care? She thought suddenly and snuck him another look.

Yes, she answered for herself. Yes I do, I wanted him to get angry, I wanted him to get mad at me and threaten me not to do it again. I wanted him to show some emotion at least, he could have pretended to have been upset and worried...

But he was not, she thought and looked back at her feet. I don't think he cares what happens to me anymore.

The thought surprised her for she felt a sudden ache in her chest.

...

"Catch the ball, Kevin! Catch the ball!" commanded Ms. Walton waving her silver whistle above her head. "Catch the ball!" she cried.

Kevin was running backwards with his hands outstretched for the ball. He smacked into her and knocked her over on her stomach.

"Go! Go! Go!" screamed the gym teacher waving her hands at the rest of the team.

"Get off me!" she told Kevin pushing him off and then sprinting to the end field.

Another boy on her team had the ball, he looked in her direction. "Pass-!" screamed San waving at him.

He threw her the ball, and just as she braced herself to catch it she was thrown across the field to her side. She slid against the grass gritting her teeth.

Ms. Walton blew the whistle. "San James? You all right?" she asked.

She felt hands helping her to her feet from behind and murmurs of the other students around her. "You Ok?" asked a girl.

"Fine," she said holding her shoulder and limped up a step. "I'm fine," she said.

Derek pushed through the crowd grabbing her shoulders and shaking her. "I'm so sorry!" he cried. "Please don't get mad at me, San, I did not see you!"

"Get off me! I'm fine!" she told him swiping his hands away from her.

All of the sudden Shou Lang appeared in the crowd. He took a look at her and then glared at Derek. "You did this?" he asked him.

"Lord Shou Lang-!" wailed Derek backing away and then tearing off the opposite direction.

San gaped at him and then gawked at Shou Lang. "Lord?" she inquired.

Shou Lang's yellow eyes flew over her for a second as if making a quick inspection, then he disappeared from the crowd.

Huh? She thought tilting her head with a puzzled frown.

"Hey! Stop gawking and get back playing on the field!" yelled Ms. Walton blowing into the whistle and waving the other students away from her. "She's fine! Get back on the field!"

San looked up at her swallowing hard. "Can I sit out?" she asked hopefully.

Ms. Walton looked her over and then smiled, "Not this time, get back out there in the field!" she said and pushed her out.

San's shoulder was sore but other than that she was fine. She ran back into the playing field, disgruntled, but unhurt.

Ms. Walton screamed through the whistle starting up the game again.

San ran off to the left with her eye on the ball. She saw that Shou Lang had it in his hands and was running through the field faster than anyone could catch him. Since he was not on her team and she was the farthest player in the field it would be up to her to intersect.

She ran diagonal toward him.

He was ten feet, five feet, three feet away...

"Got you-!" she cried jumping and grabbing his waist in an attempt to tackle him down, but she was lighter than him and bounced off and landed on the grass.

Shou Lang jumped over her and continued running down the length of the field.

San struggled to her feet and then with an angry cry flung herself on his back latching on with her legs and arms.

In the end her assault turned into a sort of piggyback because Shou Lang kept running, even with her latched on his back trying to tip him over.

"You're supposed to fall-!" she cried pulling back on his shoulders and leaning as far as she could.

He ignored her and kept running down the field. He moved and ran as though she wasn't even on his back.

"Shou Lang-!" she screamed beating her fists on his shoulders. "Fall over! You're not supposed to carry the opposing teammates on your back in a tackle!" she cried.

He shrugged his shoulders, throwing her off balance and teetering off his back.

Panicked she threw her arms around his neck, but she was falling backwards, and in the process bringing Shou Lang down with her. He was choking, trying to get her off as they both fell.

She heard Ms. Walton's shrill whistle in the distance.

He was extremely heavy! His weight suffocated her. She was on her back while he was sprawled on top of her with his shoulders digging in her ribs. "Get off of me!" she gasped trying to shove him off.

He half sat half rolled off of her and was coughing with one hand enclosed over his neck. He gagged, coughing and spluttering while trying to say something to her, what looked like a shout or complaint.

"Shou Lang," she said sitting up and breathing hard. "I did not mean to choke you when we fell over."

He was breathing hard, coughing and glaring at her as though she had done something. He pointed a finger at her but could not say anything because he was coughing and gasping so hard.

"I'm sorry," she said with a shrug and slowly got to her feet. She watched him coughing on the grass and felt a little bad. "Here," she said and hooked her arms around his. "I'll help you up," she said.

But Shou Lang grabbed her wrists and flipped her over on his back so she landed solidly on the ground on her back.

"AH!" she groaned twisting and gasping as she tried to sit up. Her whole back ached. "What was that for?!" she cried limping to her feet and glaring at him.

He had stopped coughing and gagging and stood to his feet. He was still breathing hard and glaring at her coldly. "The next time you want to choke me I'll snap your spine," he said holding his neck and gasping.

That sounded much like something he would say and she couldn't help herself from smiling at him. "Sorry," she said holding her back and wincing. "But now I think we're even!"

His gaze shifted to the running figure coming toward them. It was Ms. Walton running over. "Are you kids all right? I saw you both fall," she said taking the whistle from her mouth and shaking her head. "You need an ice pack or something?"

"Fine," said Shou Lang seemingly regaining breath.

"I'm Ok," said San cringing and holding her back with a sharp wince.

"Ok, then," said Ms. Walton. "For now, until the next goal just sit out and rest a bit." And then she jogged off into the field blowing her whistle. "Get started!" she was shouting at the other students.

San looked back at Shou Lang and sat beside him. Her back was sore and cramped, she hit the small of her back with her fist blowing air into her face. Her breath floated in mist with the frosty air.

"Did you have to throw me so hard?" she asked trying to stretch the pain away from her back. "It hurts!" she cried.

His eyes cut at her. "Serves you well," he said coldly.

Gosh, she thought hitting the small of her back and moving her shoulders in an attempt to ease the discomfort. Feels like there's a rock in my back!

"Here," he said taking her shoulders and massaging them with his hands. San looked over her shoulder in surprise. He took one shoulder firmly and placed his other hand solidly on her back and pressed so she arched. "You can't hit it and expect for it to go away," he was muttering. "That was a nerve in your back you fell on," he explained rubbing his large hands around her shoulders and back.

"That...feels good..." she mumbled as he massaged with the ball of his palm on the sore part of her back. She hunched her shoulders and gasped. "You could be a great massager..."

"Still hurts?"

"Just...a little higher," she mumbled again, surprised that he was doing her a good deed for once, especially after how he had treated her in the rain.

He moved up to her shoulder blades, pressing and rubbing his hands over her back. "Here?" he asked without much feeling in his voice.

"Why are you...?" she started to ask looking back at him.

His expression was cold-like. "I don't want your spine getting locked in place. When you fell you hit a nerve point, and if not loosened up, your muscles will freeze up and leave you bent like an old man."

She felt his hand press hard against her back and she arched her back again. The muscles in her back felt loose and soft.

"Hurts anywhere?" he asked after she had sat straight.

"No..." she breathed without looking behind her.

His hands moved from her shoulders and she felt him move away from her. "Hmph," he said as she turned and saw him crossing his arms over his chest.

She swallowed and opened her mouth to thank him before he interrupted her. "Let's get it straight," he said shooting her yellow iced eyes. "I'm not out to help you, you understand? It was simply-" he started to say.

"Shou Lang," she said cutting him off. "It isn't my fault with Ash," she said. "He calls me," she told him without pausing for a breath. "He calls me sometimes and I have to follow-! I try not to but I can't, and I end up doing things that I wouldn't do! I can't think whenever he's around me...!"

"San," he said without feeling. "I don't care," he said.

"But I don't want to meet with Ash at all," she cried pleadingly. "I have no control over it!"

"San," he said in the same unfeeling voice. "I don't care."

"You don't care?" she cried starting to become angry. "Then if I get bitten and turned into a vampire you won't care?!" she cried shrilly.

He looked away from her. "Why would I?" he asked and then shot her a look. "I have better things to do with my time."

"What's wrong with you?" she asked staring at him unbelievingly. "What is wrong with you?! You've completely changed!"

He smirked and looked away again.

"You do care about the navigator dagger, don't you?" she demanded and stood to her feet. "You must care about that, for your precious Uoy stones, am I right?" she blasted at him angrily. He did not seem to care and kept his face leveled to the playing field.

"If he took me away who would wear the dagger, answer me that! You must care about that part! Do you?! Do you?!" she raised her voice shrilly.

He looked at her and shrugged, "I have other priorities now," he said in a low voice. "I found myself thinking about that yesterday after school, about my priorities," he said and looked back into the field with a nod. "And I've straightened them out, I've decided already what of is of most important..."

She could not believe what she was hearing!

"You're saying that the Uoy no longer matter to you anymore?" she gasped.

"Yes," he said and looked at her coldly. "And neither does the condition of you or anyone else's health!" he snapped. "I have new goals now...better ones..." he looked back at the field. "Our truce if off."

What? She thought with her head reeling. What was he saying? What did he mean?

"Where are you?" she asked shaking her head in disbelief. "Where'd you hide the real Shou Lang and who are you? You must be an imposter, the Shou Lang I know would never say what you just said..."

His eyes averted to her face again, studying her. "You don't know me," he said and then snorted. "You've never known me, so how can you assume about me?"

"I know you," she said kneeling down on one knee and staring into his face. "The Shou Lang I know has been with me for months! I know him very well! He's mean, sour and bitter, but never has he been indifferent towards me and the rest of my friends." She narrowed her eyes, "But you are."

"I told you," he said carelessly. "I have new priorities now."

"Such as...?" she demanded angrily.

His eyes shone, "Why would I tell you? They do not concern you," he said and gave her an empty smile. His smile was one that resembled much of Ms. Ran's rehearsed expressions.

She swallowed and shook her head sadly. "Whoever you are, you really made a big mistake! If you don't care about Salem, Ms. James, Chip and Kithara why do you stay in my house?"

"Maybe I should leave," he said with a shrug, broadening his unfelt smile. "I should, brilliant idea, San."

"Shou Lang..." she said sadly. "Why are you acting like this? This isn't like you! Come back to the old you, everyone liked you better that way."

"I don't care what everyone else likes," he said shaking his head with a dry smile.

"You should," she said standing straight. "You should care, because we all care about you, the old you..." said San looking away to the grass. "The old you wouldn't be so..." she shot him a glare. "Mean and selfish!" Her fist went into a ball. "The old you would never abandon his friends!"

"I don't have friends," he said standing and making a disgusted face. "Especially a human friend like you and that old hag of a woman."

"Don't you dare talk about Ms. James that way!" she cried tensing in response.

"I'll talk about whomever I like however I like," he stated with another slow forming smile and a snort.

"You won't take the friendship of an old woman who cares about you but you'll fall head over heels for some stupid music teacher!" she yelled breathing hard.

She had struck a cord, she saw it on his face.

"Talk about Ms. Smith and I'll rip off your head!" he growled.

"You're a hypocrite," she said shaking her head and backing up. "You're such a liar and a cheat! You hate humans, and yet you're falling for one! You're pathetic Shou Lang, a real loser!"

"Say it again!" he threatened, taking a step toward her with his eyes blazing.

"I will say it again!" she cried balling her fists to her sides. "I'll say it as many times as it takes for you to wake up and start acting like your old self again!" she cried at him.

His expression darkened. "I shouldn't have ever fixed your damn back!" he snarled.

"You're acting like one of them!" she cried breathing harder.

"Who?" his eyes shone with anger, "Who?!" he demanded.

"One of those demons," she cried pointing at him. "You're not Shou Lang," she said shaking her head. "No, you're someone else! Shou Lang may be part of a demon, but he wouldn't act like one! Not like this!"

"You don't know how I act!" he snarled straightening with rage. "You know nothing about me at all!"

"You're wrong!" she countered shrilly. "I do know you! I may not know details, but I know how you are! I know you better than you think, Shou Lang! I know you would never act like this unless something was wrong with you!" She took a deeper breath and stormed up to him, losing her fear of his size and temper all at once. "It's Ms. Smith that's made you gone insane! After meeting her you've been acting weird! It's her, Shou Lang, you can't pretend anymore that she doesn't have some sort of affect on-"

"Shut up!" he raged raising his hand over her face and swinging it down.

She fell over on her back and elbows staring up at him frozen with shock, dismay, and hurt.

At first she did not feel anything, but then she felt it all come at once like a wave sweeping over her. Her cheek burned, it shot like flames all down her neck and back like a rush of searing heat. Her cheek felt alive with the heat of it, it felt open and raw.

She reached up and touched her face staring at him flabbergasted. Her fingers felt along her chin and she felt something wet there. She felt along her cheek with shaking fingers only to trace three long lines.

Shou Lang's face held no expression. "Get out of my sight," he hissed.

Her eyes blurred with tears, "You...hit me...?" she whispered.

"And I'll do worst the next time I hear you speak in that tone about me, or Ms. Smith, you understand girl?" his yellow eyes flashed angrily as he spoke. His whole presence radiated a cool sort of cold-like aura. "Get out of here!" he nudged her with his foot.

San let a gasp escape her throat. She had never felt such crushing weight searing inside of her like this. She had never imagined that he would...hit her, actually strike her and harm her. She trusted him, and at times she thought he had trusted her...

He sneered and snorted walking away with his tail swishing from behind him. "The next goal has gone up, Ms. Walton said to get on the field," he said without looking back.

She watched him leave without breathing. Her heart broke all in just a matter of seconds, her trust had shattered like glass. She felt so torn inside, so raw and weak. She felt as though he had reached into her heart, torn it out of her chest and squeezed it, leaving her open torn and shredded chest to bleed itself out.

Shou Lang, she thought and gasped touching her bleeding lip again and closing her eyes. Her hands shook, her breathing came out shaky and labored in the air. She gasped again and felt a wrenching sob sweep over her.

I shouldn't cry, she thought as she knelt into the grass holding her raw cheek and sobbing in her knees. I shouldn't cry...

It was not the physical pain that hurt her so, it was another pain. A kind of pain and hurt that could only be felt on the inside of a person, a pain that could not be soothed with mere words or sentences, this kind of pain was alive. It buried deep inside of the heart and spread itself like veins, spreading its pain to every part of the body. This pain dug deep and stayed inside the heart for a long time, and even after healed would leave an ugly scar in its memory.

2.

'I could never forget you, Kithara,' he had said. 'You're my number one ally,' he had also said at one time. 'I'll never forget your kindness toward me, Kithara' he had also said. 'I like you and Master Urdu,' he had told her when he was little.

Shou Lang, she thought clasping her hands and looking up into the trees. When you were a small child you adored me, as a boy you loved me, and now as a young man you once were fond of me, but now...? Something has changed, something has made you feel different, but what?

I cannot help but think that something is terribly wrong with you. Your eyes have changed in a way that is so different...! I can't even recognize your face anymore. Your eyes have nothing in them, they're so empty. They're so lifeless, you look as if something had taken away your soul.

She sat back against the small little bench in the park watching a small girl throwing a ball at her dog. The trees whispered sighs into the wind.

Something is happening, she thought making a fist and narrowing her eyes in thought. Something is going so wrong, here, I feel it, but I don't know what it is. The city reeks of demonic scent, and yet, Shou Lang isn't doing a thing about it!

"Shou Lang," she said looking in her lap. "Do you have something to do with this? Even you smell these foul polluted scents," she said sniffing sharply and gazing back at the little girl and her dog.

Is there something you're hiding from me? Why does your scent smell thick with these smells? They grow stronger and stronger every day...I cannot believe that you have something to do with this.

She thought about the news she had been watching with Ms. James while everyone else was at school. More and more reports about missing young people and adults washed over Philadelphia like wildfire. Every day there were different reports about the various people found missing.

I cannot figure this out at all, I cannot! I don't understand! What is making Shou Lang change so? It must have to do with these incidents-it has to!

Her hand clenched tighter inside her lap.

Every time he stays after school the demon scent is stronger and stronger! It is nearly suffocating! There has to be something going on in the city, or at least the school.

She stood from the bench gazing into the crowded streets.

"I'll figure this out...I have to know what's going on with Shou Lang...and the city..."

3.

(Kithara and Venus)

"Don't you laugh at me," she whispered with trembling fists. "Don't you laugh!"

And still she laughed. Her yellow cracked teeth shone out the gleam of the glass as she held her sides trembling with laughter.

"Stop laughing!" she cried turning from the mirror and holding her burning cheek.

Shou Lang's nails had traced three long lines down her cheek and broke the side of her lip leaving a bruise and blood stain. The three slashes on her face stung the worst, they were still raw and open.

She turned and ran the water in the faucet. For the third time she washed her face and held a soaking paper towel against the cuts on her face, already her lip had swollen into a purple looking bubble.

Gather's laughter was shrill and piercing. It ran around the girl's bathroom surrounding and filling every crack and space. It filled her ears and deafened her.

"Stop," she cried looking in the mirror and breathing hard.

"Venus has done well," laughed Gather pointing at her. "He has turned on you, and very soon she will take his soul and have him kill you all!"

"Nonsense!" she choked trembling. "Shou Lang hasn't turned on me-! He's...he's..."

Gather laughed again, and this time the whole mirror shook and cracked. "Silly girl does not understand! I see! I see!" she laughed thunderously.

The mirror cracked even more, San gasped and looked up in horror at the mirror. "D-don't-!" she cried backing away. The mirror splintered and cracked into fine cobwebs of broken glass.

Gather let out a huge guffaw and the mirror began to shake, the cracked shards falling out of the mirror and splintering on the floor. The walls vibrated with her laughter.

"Stop!" she cried covering her ears and looking into Gather's splintered reflection.

The girl's eyes were wide like grapefruits, her pale face seemed to glow all of the sudden and her face lit up in white light. The light bathed the room and bounced off the glass making crazy patterns on the ceiling. "You will die...in the end you all will die! I see your fate clearly," she was saying with a menacing sounding cackle. "Ash will take you and then we will rise to power!" she exploded sending glass shattering over her head.

San screamed and covered her face with her hands. "No!" she screamed shaking her head and backing against the wall.

"Yes! Yes! Yes!" and the wall vibrated and shook.

"You're not real!" said San swallowing and then breaking for the door.

"You can run! But you can never run from your fate!" the girl cried as San slammed the door shut after her.

...

"Came again?" laughed Ms. Smith smiling at him and looking him over pleased. "Sit down, I was just about to have lunch!"

He stood by the door for a while. "It is my lunch period too, would you mind if I ate my lunch here?" he asked although he had no lunch to eat in the first place.

"Sure!" her eyes sparkled. "Sit by me," she said patting the piano seat and opening a lunchbox. "We can eat lunch together!" and she laughed.

His legs moved him to the little bench and he sat down beside her looking out the window. "I made another song for you," he said to the window.

"Ah!" she exclaimed touching his arm and then smiling at him. "Good," she said.

He stared in her face for a while unable to look away. It seemed the more he saw her the more he couldn't control himself when around her. The more he thought about her when he wasn't with her, the more he couldn't focus or think-

"Shou Lang?" she asked and gave him another pretty smile.

"Oh yes," he said and took out his panpipe. "I'll play it," he said placing his lips on the bamboo. He was about to blow a note into his instrument when someone knocked at the door.

Who would dare come in here when he was about to play for his Salina?!

The person was a fat looking teacher much of an age of forty or fifty. He shot the short little man a glare. "We're busy!" he snapped.

The teacher looked past him to the piano. "Salina," he said looking confused. "You're supposed to be in the teacher's lounge."

"I chose to eat lunch here today," he heard her reply sweetly. "Is that a problem Mr. Ronald?" she asked.

The little man looked back at him again. "Where are you supposed to be, young man? Aren't you supposed to be in class?"

He narrowed his eyes and felt a tremor of anger shudder down his spine. "I said that I was busy!"

"You're not supposed to be in here," the little man replied angrily.

"Mr. Ronald, it's ok," she said standing beside him and holding his arm. "I told him to stay for his lunch today, is that all right?" she asked.

The fat little man tilted his head and looked the both of them over. "Ms. Smith..."

"You heard her, old man!" shouted Shou Lang unable to keep his patience. "Get out of here!" he barked.

"Now see here..." the little man replied.

"Mr. Ronald!" cried Ms. Smith stepping between them and smiling at Shou Lang. "Please return to the lounge, Mr. Ronald. It'll be all right," she said.

He frowned and turned to look at him. "I don't like your tone," he said.

"I don't like your fat, pudgy, face," he replied coolly.

His face turned scarlet. "That's it, step aside Ms. Smith!"

"No-!" cried Ms. Smith with an irritated sigh.

He watched as his fat fingers curled around Ms. Smith's soft ivory arm pushing her aside. He watched his ugly, nasty fingers soiling her skin and sleeve as he used his other hand to steer her away.

No one touches her, he thought with a rage inside of him that blinded him of all reason and control. How dare he touch my Ms. Smith that way?! I'll kill him!

...

"Oh my god!" cried the old woman taking her face in her hands. "What happened to you? Who did this?!" she cried hugging her tightly.

"Shou...Lang..." she answered numbly.

...

"Shou Lang-! Stop!" screamed another voice from the doorway. "Don't-!" and then a white-faced woman swept inside the room taking his poised arm away from Mr. Ronald's sweating face. "Darling," she cried.

"Get away from me! I told you not to touch me!" he growled shoving her away.

All of the sudden the new stranger turned to her-!

"You-!" she cried pointing a trembling finger in her direction. "You!" she cried again.

She forced a smile and looked fearfully at Shou Lang for some sort of explanation. "Who are you?" she asked drawing back against the wall.

She smelled it, she could pick up her scent, a demon scent. This woman was a demon. She had a white face, black hair, black eyes, pink red lips, and delicate looking hands and frame, yet she knew. She knew...

The woman took out a row of daggers and held them over her head. "I'll kill you!"

"I'm calling the police!" cried Mr. Ronald running from the room and tripping out into the hall.

Shou Lang grabbed the woman's wrists from behind and hauled her up over his head. "Leave her alone, Kithara!" he growled and threw her outside the window.

The sound of glass shattering to pieces split the room apart.

So that was the woman-! The other woman that I suspected-! I knew there was one other woman that he cared for! Is she dead?! She thought running to the window and peering outside of it.

Shou Lang was behind her. "Are you all right?" he asked without feeling.

She felt a shudder and grinned, hiding her smile as she stared at the unmoving figure at the bottom of the ground. "I...I..." she stammered and covered her mouth.

She found that by acting weak and vulnerable that he also became off guard and easier to manipulate.

"I'm going to faint," she said falling over.

As expected he caught her. "Ms. Smith-!" he cried.

"Who was that woman?" she asked looking in his yellow eyes.

"No one," he said. "She's nothing...probably dead now..." he said and again without any feeling. "She tried to kill you, but I killed her first. You know that I'd never let anyone hurt you," he said softly.

"I know," she said and couldn't help smiling. "I know."

...

Now! He thought pulling away from the large black doors and staring into the sky. "It is time! I knew Venus would pull through!" he said clenching a fist and smiling into the setting sun.

"Ash?" asked the pretty girl he had flirted with in the bar. A human girl, a stupid girl, "Where are you going?" she asked pulling on his arm.

He shoved her away, "Look, princess," he said irritably. "I'll see you later, but I have other things to do right now," he brushed past her and moved into one of the alleys.

"Ash," said one of his converts. He was a boy about sixteen or seventeen, he waved Ash over and nodded at Gram, his replacement for Shank. "Is today the day?" he asked showing his fangs through a smile.

He ignored him and looked at Gram. The loud music from his little club behind the alley walls vibrated in his ears. "Gram," he started in a low voice. "It is time."

Gram's red eyes flashed, "Today is the day?" he asked.

"Look after them," he said with a slow grin. "Very soon, very soon...we will have the power to take over everything."

"Why do you say that?" asked the boy curiously.

He looked at the boy with a mixture of irritation and impatience. "Why what?"

"Take over everything," he said leaning against the alley wall. Then he cowered at his glance and turned his head away. "I'm only curious...they say many things about this human girl that you are interested in..."

He leaned in his face and planted his hands on his shoulders, his face, only a couple inches from the now nervous looking newly convert in front of him. "Do you know what a demon eye is?" he asked.

From behind him he heard Gram laugh.

The boy scrunched against the alley wall behind him shaking his head from side to side. "No," he answered quietly.

"It is a power," he said with his eyes lighting up. "A power as great as the gods themselves!" He leaned farther in his face, "A gift..." he said lowering his voice in the boy's ear. "The gift of 'sight', boy," he said.

"'Sight'?" he asked quivering. "I...do not understand..."

"Of course you don't," he said patting his shoulder with a sympathetic nod of his head. "You don't understand, I know." And he swept his hand over to Gram with a widening smile. "But he knows," he said and looked back at the reluctant looking child. "You see," he said dropping his voice and draping his arm over his trembling shoulders. "The demon eye can tell the future! It can show anything from the past, present, or future, so you see, it is very important."

"The future?" the boy's eyes darted from left to right. "I still don't understand..."

"Think of the power," said Ash closing his fist with a lush smile. "Think of the advantage I'll have over the other demons around us! Think of it," he smiled at Gram. "I can use this girl, once she becomes mine, the rest will be easy! I'm counting on you, Gram," he said.

Gram nodded his head.

"Not only can the gift of the demon eye grant 'sight' into other dimensions," he said looking at the kid in front of him. "It is said, that the ancients with the gift of this eye had extreme demonic powers!"

"The demon eye is only for humans?" asked the boy.

"No," answered Gram for him.

"It is a rare gift, a gift that has even been found in animals! It is an ancient and sporadic event," said Ash nodding his head. "The power of it is endless!" he said. "And think of it, I'll have it all under my control!" he clenched a fist.

"I'll take care of everything while you're away," said Gram grinning all of a sudden. "I talked to Venus, she said that she has everyone under control."

He held his temples and nodded his head, barely hearing him. "That stupid Venus," he said narrowing his eyes. "Once I have San I won't need her anymore!"

"Is that wise to dispose of her? It is Venus's power that has Shank's killer under control," said Gram.

"What?" breathed the boy.

"Nothing," said Ash releasing his temples and patting the boy's head. "I'll leave," he then looked up at Gram. "Make sure nothing happens! And prepare the others for the invasion. We'll take over the city, and then the world," he grinned and looked at the first star that had appeared in the sky.

"Good luck, Ash," said Gram.

"I won't need it, but thank you," said Ash giving his shoulder a squeeze, and then disappearing into the sky.

...

The stars pricked silently into the sky...one by one. Each star burning brightly beneath the mask of the dark night surrounding it, the night was closing in.

She could only look up, for her neck was twisted in an unnatural angle and body bent underneath her. Her arm she knew was broken, she could not move it. Her legs she could no longer feel anymore, they too had become numb with pain. Her eyes were the only part of her that seemed to be working properly. Eyes that stared unseeingly into the starlit sky, eyes that were glazed with pain and held an endless wonder of death...

Am I going to die? She asked herself for the hundredth time. Will I die tonight by on this soiled ground? Am I to lay here and slowly bleed away? -Or will he rescue me...Shou Lang...my darling... My traitor! She thought bitterly and blinked hard.

I must mean nothing to him anymore! My Shou Lang, she thought blinking again. I've watched you grow up since you were a toddler, I watched you grow, befriended you, cared for you...is this how you repay me? Is this how it will end? Betrayer...! Cheater...! Liar...!

She felt an immense sweep of sorrow wash over her, but it did not last long. It was a foreign emotion for demons to feel, if they could feel sorrow at all. Her feelings turned from sorrow to intense anger and hatred in seconds.

You miserable wretch, she thought. You took my care and trust and killed it! You are no longer a friend of mine, no-! You are my enemy! My foe, my betrayer!

How brightly these stars burn tonight, she thought and for the first time noticed the white blurs painted in the sky above her. They burn bright and hot, just as my hate and anger-! I will burn brightly, she thought with her lip quivering. My hate and vengeance burn brighter than these stars, and like the stars are sure to rise every night, my revenge will be surely paid!

Shou Lang, she thought, her eyes changed from black to gray. Pray that I do not find my strength. Pray that I do not find you, because once I have you in my sight...!

Her eyes glazed past the stars.

I swear by these burning stars tonight that I'll use every inch of my hate to kill you.

4.

(Converted)

"Does it still hurt, San?" asked Salem placing the cloth delicately on her cheek. "I cannot believe that he would do this," he kept muttering. "Why?"

"Do you know where he is?" asked Ms. James pacing back and forth in front of the door.

"School," she mumbled through her bruised lip. "He's staying after school with Ms. Smith again," she said quietly.

"Oh San," whimpered Chip cuddling against her hand. "Does it hurt?"

"You were right, Chip," she said numbly, gazing past Salem's shoulder as he nursed her swollen cheek. "Shou Lang is a demon...an evil one without feelings. I should've believed you..."

Chip's eyes were red and puffy because he had been crying. He had only took one look at her face before he burst into tears declaring boldly that if Shou Lang came into his sight he would kill him for her.

"I did not think he would do this," he cried holding her hand. "I would never dream of him harming you..." the little possum sniffed.

"Something is going wrong," said Ms. James pacing back from the hallway. "Shou Lang may be a demon, but he would never afflict pain on anyone unless he felt that it needed to be done."

"Or if he's angry," stated Salem brushing his hand over her head and steadying her.

"Angry or not he wouldn't hit my San!" she cried and bent to wipe her face. "Shou Lang is a sweet and honest boy, why would he do this?! Why?!"

"Have you noticed the strange demonic scents on him lately?" asked Salem straightening and pulling the cloth from her cheek. "Have you noticed his frequent visits with this...human?" he asked.

"Yes," said Chip sniffing and wiping his face again. "Ms. Smith, you mean?"

She shivered and looked at her hands. "He's in love with her," she said quietly. "I saw it in his face the first day he started acting...obsessed with her!" she looked at Ms. James. "This is why..."

"Ms. Smith?" asked Salem narrowing his eyes. "I know Shou Lang, I've heard the stories," he said with a snort. "I know for a fact that Shou Lang of all people would never allow himself to become infatuated with a human! It goes against all he stands for!" he cried vehemently.

"He hates humans, San," said Chip. "Are you sure he is in love with Ms. Smith?" he asked.

"First of all," Salem cut in bluntly. "Shou Lang can't fall in love with anything! He's a hard man, he knows how to guard his feelings, I should hope." He looked around the room with a long sigh. "To let himself fall completely vulnerable and helpless over a woman is absolutely absurd! Shou Lang is a fighter-a warrior!" Salem's orange eyes began to burn. "This is no ordinary infatuation, this is madness!"

"Oh, San," cried Ms. James hugging her tightly. "I'm sorry...I really am!" her blue gray eyes stared into hers. "You must be thankful that he did not break any bones in your face when he struck you." She sighed and held her close, "Shou Lang's temper is very uncontrolled and dangerous!"

"Ms. James-!" she cried pulling away. "What are we going to do?! I don't want to see his face here ever again! I hate him!" she cried and buried her hands in her face.

"This isn't your fault, San," came Salem's low voice and his hands on her shoulders. "I think this whole thing is fishy, something doesn't smell right! For one thing, Shou Lang has gone completely insane, he smells of demonic scents, and his eyes..." he stopped and shook her shoulders a little. "You've seen his eyes, haven't you? They're colorless, they're yellow, but they lack of emotion. You've seen them, haven't you?"

"I have," replied Ms. James' voice. "What is wrong with him Salem? What is making him act this way?"

"Speaking of which," she heard Chip say. "Where is Kithara? She said that she would take a walk, but it has been nearly the entire day!"

San looked up from her hands and stared at Salem. "I haven't seen her since this morning, does she always take this long on her walks?"

"No," answered the three of them in unison. "This is very unusual," said Chip.

"We have to find her!" cried Ms. James in a shrill cry. "What if something has happened?!"

"Kithara?" she asked and shook her head. "She's fine," she said.

"No," said Salem standing up. "I'm going to go check on things. I'm going to find Shou Lang and Kithara, you three stay here."

"I want to come with you!" cried Chip bounding on his shoulder and looking at their faces. "I want to talk to Shou Lang just as you do!"

"Very well," said Salem with a nod. "I'll find them, you two stay here."

"We'll be all right," said the old woman cradling San. "I'll take care of her."

"Ok," said Chip and waved. "Be careful, you two, I got a really bad feeling about this for some reason."

"Me too," said Ms. James squeezing her hand.

She felt so as well. "Please watch out," she said as they walked down the hall. "If you see Shou Lang, don't try talking to him! He won't listen!"

"We'll be fine, don't worry about us!" said Salem's voice from the front door.

She heard the door open. "We'll be back!" cried Chip, and then the door shut.

San looked at Ms. James and held a worried stare.

...

"I'm so afraid these days," she said casting her eyes away from his face and swallowing hard. "Aren't you, Shou Lang? With all the kidnapping and homicides going around recently...?"

"You have nothing to be afraid of," he said. At that moment he felt her hand slip into his. He looked down at her.

"Shou Lang..." she said looking in his face for a long while. "You're my student, and I am very grateful and happy to have you...but..." she looked away again and released his hand. "You are just that...my student. I am grateful for what you did today, but you-" she gasped and looked up at him, her eyes shining with tears. "You killed someone!"

"She was going to hurt you, I had to," he said with a shrug.

"That woman could've been anyone, Shou Lang-! Don't you think we should go back and tell someone?!"

"No..." he cried grabbing her elbow and shaking his head. "She's not human," he said.

"Not human...?" her face became frightened. "Then...what was she?!"

"Demon," he answered.

"Demons!" she gasped turning away and putting her white little hands to her face. "Demons...? But they aren't real, there is no such thing as-" she started.

"You're wrong," he said shaking his head again and looking in the sky. "Demons are very real, you may not be aware of it, but at this moment there are demons crawling all over this planet."

"Oh," she gasped. "I don't think so," she said closing her eyes. "That woman...was she trying to kill me?"

"I think so."

"But why?! I haven't done anything!" she cried, her eyes spilling over with tears. "I have never done anything to that woman! I'm innocent!"

"Yes, I know," he said taking her hands and staring in her face. "That is why I must stay here and protect you. Others will come," he said. "They'll be looking for Kithara, so you'll have to stay close by me."

"Who will come?"

"Salem," he said narrowing his eyes and looking over his shoulder. "But don't worry, I'll kill him too."

"Shou Lang-!" she gasped.

"You must understand," he said taking her shoulders. "I'm not going to let anything happen to you, not while there's a breath in my lungs to prevent it! You have nothing to worry about, Ms. Smith, I'll take care of everything."

"Shou Lang," cried Salina Smith moving away from him and staring in his face incredulously. "You talk as though we're-" she stopped and took a step back. "Shou Lang, you're only my student-! I don't need you to protect me! I'll get the police, they'll-" she started to say but he did not let her finish.

"No," he snarled shaking his head. "They can't help you, only I can!" he said and looked back over his shoulder. "I have this strange feeling now...that something bad is about to happen..."

"To me?" she asked.

"I..." he looked back at her. "I...yes, you," he said positively. "But I won't let it happen, I swear it."

He watched her face soften, "Shou Lang..." she said. "What you're doing is very sweet, but you can't beat this alone. We have to go to the police station. I'll drive there, you can come along."

He shook his head. "Those human fools," he shook his head. "You'd prefer their help over mine?" he asked and a little angry.

"Of course not," she cooed.

"Then it is settled," he said with a firm nod. "Ms. Smith," he cried taking her hand and looking in her face. "You'll come with me..."

...

He peered in her face shaking his head, "You must be the other one, eh?" he asked and smiled at her.

Her lips quivered, she stared up at him making little sounds in her throat, but not loud enough for anyone to hear. Her body was completely broken up, he imagined that she must've fell from the cracked open window three stories up. He shook his head at the broken window up top and looked down at her. "Allow me to introduce myself," he said and squat down. "My name is Ash," he said.

Her eyes widened and she made more sounds in her throat, angry sounding grunts. He looked past her face to her shoulders and body, examining her injuries. One of her arms were bent underneath her back, the other was badly dislocated and broken above her head. She was sprawled out, one leg bent out of place, the other nearly twisted around at the knee. Her blood pooled from underneath her. It was green.

Her blood scent was ripe and fresh, but he preferred human blood better. She would taste strong, like all demon blood, but unlike human blood it did not clench his thirst. He would not feed off of her, from the looks of it she lost too much blood.

"I'm sure you've heard of me," he said and cocked his head. "You must live with that idiot with the tail and San, do you? Your scent is all over San's house, so you must be one of the other demons." He smiled and patted her cheek, "I'm glad we've met!" he said cheerily.

She made another grunting sound in her throat, her eyes turned into a smoky gray.

"So much for the tailed-one, eh? He's done this," he sniffed and nodded. "I smell him on you too," then he laughed. "He threw you out the building?! That's hilarious!" he stood up laughing and looking at her. "Wow! Venus has really got him, I wonder..." he bit his lower lip and stepped away from her. "Anyway," he said throwing her a careless glance. "I hope you don't have too tough a time!"

She made another sound, more like strained cry.

"I probably won't see you again, so I'll drop you a little message to where I'm heading. I'm on my way to San's house. Too bad you couldn't say goodbye to them all," he sighed and walked away from her. "And too bad you couldn't say goodbye to the tailed-one either, I'm sure by now that his soul has been taken away from him..." he pocketed his hands in his jacket and left her there by the edge of the school. "Ciao!"

...

"I'm a little shaken up still, can we walk just a little more?" asked Ms. Smith looking around her shoulder at a curious bunch of black-eyed teenagers.

"Of course," he said. She linked arms with him and looked up in his face. "You don't need to worry, as long as I'm here nothing can harm you."

She smiled at him," It must feel good to be so big and tall," she said and smiled at him. "You must not be afraid of anything!"

"You're right," he said looking down at her again.

As he passed down the busy Philadelphian streets, clustered groups of black-eyed people watched him. He looked at them as he passed, making eye contact with them just long enough so they looked away uneasily.

Who are these people? He thought to himself. And so many of them...he thought looking into the half moon. They smell so...human, yet so demonic!

"Shou Lang?" Ms. Smith pinched his arm. "Hey, you weren't listening!" she cried.

"Sorry," he said looking ahead of him.

He heard her sigh, "I don't know what to do, Shou Lang. I don't know anything! I feel so confused and lost..." she looked up at him. "I need to just close my eyes and think! This is too much to take in for me right now!" she gasped closing her eyes and stopping.

He stopped walking and looked at her face. "Ms. Smith..."

"My hotel isn't far from here," said his teacher opening her pretty eyes and staring at him. "Do you mind walking me there?"

"No," he answered.

She sighed again and hugged his arm, "Thank you so much!"

He caught the looks of another passing group of black-eyed people and looked back ahead of him.

...

Finally, thought Ash licking his lips and smiling. Finally is the day that I take my rightful place as king! San, he thought breathing deeply. Today is the day you become mine, he thought looking at the face of her house.

...

Missed me?

She gasped and dropped the cup in her hand. It shattered to pieces at her feet but she made no move to retrieve it. Instead she grabbed Ms. James' thin arm and bolted with her upstairs.

"What are you doing?! San?!" shrieked the old woman as she dumped her inside the bathroom and shut the door. "Don't come out of there!" cried San wheeling away from the bathroom door and sprinting back down the stairs.

I've missed you...

"Oh no you don't-!" she cried grabbing a large butcher's from the drawer in the kitchen and spinning around breathing hard. "Not anymore! You've ruined me for the last time, Ash! I won't let you hurt Ms. James!" she cried.

Hurt Ms. James? I would never dream of doing that!

"Don't you dare-! Don't even try it! Get out of my head and leave me alone! I'm not falling for your tricks again! I'm not stupid!"

"San?! Let me out of this bathroom!" the old woman was screaming and pounding from upstairs.

I know you're not stupid, you're a very smart girl. That's why I like you, I just don't understand what is it about me that you don't like anymore...

"I've never liked you!" she cried gripping the knife to her chest.

You did the last we met. You told me that you wanted to be my queen...you wanted to become a part of me...or were you lying to me?

She swallowed hard and closed her eyes. "What is it that you want?! Why are you doing this to me?!"

"San?! Let me out! What's going on down there?!" screamed Ms. James.

I only want to be friends...I only want you to like me, San. That is all I want...

"You're," she sank to her knees with the knife wobbling in her hands. "You're lying to me!" she breathed.

I've come all this way to see you. Will you open the door if I knock?

He's here! Near the house, she thought with a cold shudder running up her back. Oh no, she thought looking helplessly at the front door. She stared at it wide-eyed, and then gasped when she saw the knob turn.

"Oh God!" she cried crawling to the door with the knife clanging against the wooden hallway. "Please-!" she wailed flinging herself to the door and locking it.

There was a light cheery knock. Two short raps, and then there was silence. "San?"

He's here, she thought shrinking to the stairway clutching tightly to the knife. I can't believe it, he's here!

"I know you're in there," came his familiar voice. He sounded too real, yet the situation seemed almost dreamlike. He knocked again, "San?"

"Go away!" she cried.

"Open the door, San..." he said.

"NO!" she shrieked.

He knocked several times, each knock pounding louder and louder until she was sure that he was going to knock the door down. "Open the door!" he shouted.

"No! Go away!" she cried.

"Why don't you trust me anymore? I've never done anything to harm you and yet you're treating me like a complete stranger..."

"Leave us alone!" she cried gripping the knife with wide-eyes.

"I can find other ways to get in," his voice said low and steady through the other side of the door. "Please open the door for me, San."

She trembled silently by the steps staring at the door. She held the knife so tightly that her knuckles began to show yellow.

There was silence now.

He's gone...she thought after a while and loosened the grip on the knife. He left us, she thought and sighed with relief.

All of a sudden there was the sound of glass shattering from upstairs followed by Ms. James' screaming.

"Ms. James!" she cried stumbling up the stairs unable to breathe. "Ms. James?!"

Ms. James screamed again.

She made it to the top and spilled into the open hallway darting her eyes from left to right but she saw nothing!

"ASH?!" she screamed turning around in a wide circle. "Leave her alone! It's me you want, leave Ms. James alone!"

She saw the door opening to Ms. James' room and dashed toward it. "Ms. James-!" she cried running to the door. From inside the room she saw Ms. James lying on her bed, twisting and groaning. She was just about to reach the door when it slammed shut in her face, she heard the door lock on the other side. "No!" she gasped trying the knob, then she screamed and pounded her fist on the door. "Ms. James!" she screamed.

Something cold rushed past her feet from the open slit from the door and floor. She stared in disbelief and shock as black smoke poured over her legs and then around her face. The smoke wrapped around her, wispy and light yet so cold. The black wisps turned into long white fingers and then a pale face.

Ash-!

The mist disappeared, leaving his arms around her waist and her face against the side of his cheek. "Little one," he laughed.

"San-!" groaned Ms. James inside the other room. "San-!"

"Ms. James?!" she cried pulling away from Ash and trying the doorknob. "Ms. James! I'm here! I-"

"She is not important now," whispered Ash grabbing her hand and pulling her back in his hug. "Right now, it is only you and me... Isn't that what my queen-to-be desires? To be with her rightful king?"

"I..." she gasped. She looked longingly at the door, already her will slipping from her. "Ms. James..." she cried, she felt the last of her willpower escape from her grasp.

"She'll be fine, San," said Ash sweeping her up in his arms and carrying her down the steps. "You will see her again."

"But...I..."

"Hush, hush," said Ash smiling at her. "Tonight is a very special night, and I brought you a gift."

"A gift?" she repeated absently. "A...gift for me?"

"Oh yes, I got it especially for you. I want you to see it," he said carrying her into the parlor and then setting her down near the green rug.

She looked into the hallway not knowing what to do. "What about Ms. James? Will she be all right in that room by herself?"

"She'll be fine," said Ash looking a little irritated. "Right now, I want you to think about the present that I got for you, Ok?" he said.

"The...present," she said and sat on the sofa as if in a trance. "For me..."

Ash waved his hand and black wispy smoke appeared at his fingertips. The wispy cloud transformed into a black looking garment. He placed it on the table and waved his hands in a careless sweep.

Soon she was looking at high-heeled black shoes, black jewelry, and the thin black dress laying sideways on the table.

"All that...for me?" she asked stupidly and pointed to herself.

"Yes," said Ash stepping back and smiling at her. "I want you to put them on for me, I want you to look beautiful when I take you."

"Take me?" she stood up and ran her fingers along the soft, thin, silken material of the dress. "Where?" she asked touching the black-gemmed bracelets and earrings.

He laughed and crossed his arms over his chest. "I'll take you to a land of freedom, you'd like that wouldn't you?" he asked.

Yes, she would like that. She touched the high-heeled shoes breathing in a sigh of surprise and awe. "So pretty..."

"And all for you," he said. "Why don't you take off those old looking clothes and wear the gift I got for you!"

"But..." she looked up at him. "I won't look good in this kind of dress...I'm ugly."

"No," he said caressing her face. "You're beautiful!"

Beautiful, it was the first time she had heard herself called that by someone else. "You really think so?" she asked feeling stupidly flattered and pleased.

"Oh," he said touching the slashes on her cheek. "Who did this to you?" he asked.

She had forgotten about it, but now she brought her hand to her cheek and looked at the floor. "Shou Lang..." she answered.

"He did this too?" he touched her bottom lip where it was bruised.

She nodded her head.

"He's a savage," Ash was saying angrily. "How dare he? I should find him and break off his legs...would you like for me to break off his legs, San?"

"He...didn't mean to..." she said slowly.

"What a bully, he'd hit a girl like you...? I'll kill him, would you like me to kill him?"

She swallowed and slid her hand down from her face, "It doesn't matter. I don't really care about it anymore."

"Why not?"

"Because," she sighed, "I'm not important..."

"You're very important to me," Ash said putting his hands on her shoulders. "You shouldn't just let him push you around, or anyone else! You deserve better, you are a princess and should be treated like one."

"I'm not a princess...I'm ugly and hated by everyone..."

A sudden crash upstairs startled them both. San looked up with her hands clenched. "What was that...?!"

"Nothing," assured Ash.

"Ms. James," she had forgotten about her. "She's upstairs! I should-" she started and was about to dash in the hallway but he had caught her arm.

"San," he said drawing her close so he was speaking in her ear. "You want to try on the gifts that I brought to you, don't you?"

"Yes," she was convinced. "I want to try them on..." she said absently.

"That's my good girl," said Ash pushing her gently into the parlor and in front of the pile of clothes he had brought. "Since you're worried about Ms. James, I'll go up and check on her while you change down here, how does that sound?"

She smiled, "You'll check on her for me?" she cried clasping her hands together.

Ash took the knife she had dropped and nodded his head. "Yes," he said smiling at her. "Hurry and get dressed, all right?" he said and started down the hallway.

"Thank you, Ash!" she cried with her happy heart fluttering.

...

"Your hotel is very big," he said looking around the tall ceiling around him. "You must like living here," he said.

"Yes," said Ms. Smith pulling him in the elevator and closing the door. "You like it?"

He nodded his head.

They stopped at the seventh floor and both stepped out. Ms. Smith took his arm and propelled him through the long rows of doors. He had lost track of doors after a while. "Here," said Ms. Smith releasing his arm and dishing out a key in her purse.

He looked around the narrow hallway with his hands in his pockets.

She had finally got the door open and motioned him inside. "Come in," she said and closed the door behind him.

First thing he noticed about the room was the alarming scent of vampire and demonic smells. He stood rigid by the doorway looking around and sniffing.

This smell...?

"Sit down," Salina directed him to one little chair by the window. He sat down forgetting the smells and deciding to relax a bit. "I'll be right back," she said disappearing to the bathroom and shutting the door.

He took this moment to look around. He peered at the little TV, the two beds in the center of the room and around the floor.

Nothing unusual, the room did not look to be used much.

What did catch his eye however was a large piece of glass by the foot of the dresser. He narrowed his eyes on it and squatted down to inspect it, but the bathroom door flung open and he sat stiffly in his seat.

She looked a little different from before. Her lips had a new coat of red lipstick on them, for one. He tilted his head and sat firmly against the back of his chair.

"Shou Lang," she said crossing to sit on the little bed across from the chair. "I can't figure this out," she said with a sigh. "Why would there be demons after to kill me?"

"I don't know," he said. "But I'll figure it out."

"I'm tired of being so afraid," she said quietly, lowering her head and sighing in her hands. "I hate being so helpless!" She stayed quiet for a second or two before she looked up from her hands. "Do you know what that feels like...? Being helpless and afraid...?"

He did not, so he just sat there staring at her.

She moved from facing him and sat horizontally on the bed so her feet were cast over the side.

Now he noticed what made her look so different, she was no longer wearing the jacket anymore, the jacket that went all the way to her knees. Now he could see her legs. She had crossed them and was sighing in her hands again.

Without the jacket he noticed her little shoulders and arms. She wore a short sleeve blouse and a short black skirt. She must've unbuttoned the blouse by two buttons, he knew for certain that it was closed tighter than that during school.

"I wish sometimes that I was a man," she looked at him sideways. "Then I wouldn't have to worry so much when I walk down the streets at night...and now this..." she shook her head and leaned back on her elbows stretching herself out like a cat. "Now someone is trying to kill me-!"

"You'll be all right," he said looking at the suspicious slab of glass by the dresser.

"Maybe," she sighed, "but I'm afraid. I'm glad you're here..." she said.

He looked back at her.

Her face looked softer in the tungsten glow of the lamplight on top of the dresser. It was the only light in the room. "Do you think they'll try to kill me here?" she asked him.

"If they do try it, I'll stop them. You have nothing to worry-" he started.

She had hugged him, "Thank you so much, Shou Lang," she said squeezing him tightly. "I'm so glad you were there when that crazy woman dropped in my room today!"

He gulped and pushed her backwards a few inches. "Do you think it is safe to stay here, now? I think we should-"

"I feel safe here," she said and sat in his lap hugging his neck. "You're here, right? You told me that I don't have to worry about anything."

"Yes, but-"

"How old did you say you were, Shou Lang?" she asked looking in his face.

"58," he said awkwardly, "But-"

"58!" she laughed standing off his lap and smiling at him. "Ah," she sighed.

He watched her walk away to the dresser mirror, she looked herself over, and then smiled at him. "Shou Lang," she said.

He stared at her.

"Nothing," she said after a while and looked back at the mirror, the smile melted from her face. Her shoulders slumped and her head went down by a few inches.

"What is it?" he asked.

All at once she had thrown her hands into her face crying again. "Why does everything have to be so hard?!"

"What?" he stayed in the chair looking at the glass again.

"I mean, this whole thing about-" she stopped herself and took her hands from her face. "I'm so tired," she sighed. "I just want this to end, it feels like a nightmare."

"Nightmare?" he asked and looked back at her. "Why?"

"I'm sure you don't know what a nightmare is, anyway," she said looking at him.

Why would she say that? He thought.

"I just want it to go away..." she sat on the bed with her eyes closed, hands clenched in the covers and head bent. She cried silently this time, which wasn't any better than the loud cries she was doing before.

He squirmed in his seat and then was out of it sitting next to her and taking her hand. "I told you," he began. "I'm going to stay here so nothing will happen, you don't need to cry anymore! I'll watch-" he began to say.

She grabbed him, hugging him tightly again. "Don't pull away, Shou Lang," she whispered small and frightened in his ear.

He gently put his arms around her holding her. "I...won't."

Ms. Smith, he thought gulping in the smell of her fresh smelling hair and skin. You are the most beautiful woman in all the world-!

But as much as he tried to enjoy this moment he could not, it was that piece of glass that brought his eyes to the dresser again and got his mind spinning. It was that slab of glass that bothered him, for on the edges of its chipped surface was specks of green.

Paint? He wondered, food? What is it?

He tried to forget it but he couldn't. His mind would not let it rest. His brain would not ignore it, and he stared at the speckled glass with a frown. He wanted to forget it and hold Ms. Smith, his Salina-finally she was in his arms and he couldn't even enjoy the moment. He was busy thinking...

Why would the glass have green specks on it? Why is the glass over there by the dresser? Why isn't it in the trash?

He felt her hands rubbing the back of his neck- a pressure point. He grabbed her hands and pulled back looking at her surprised. "Ms. Smith!" he cried.

She hugged him again, "You said that you wouldn't pull back-!"

Relax, said a small voice in his head. She probably wasn't blocking a nerve, she was only touching...touching...there was nothing wrong with that, was there? Relax, stop thinking and just feel...

Feel, he thought holding her again and looking at the shining slice of glass. Feel...

Minutes passed, maybe hours, he had lost track of time, just holding her and looking at the glass on the floor. Finally she pulled away with a pleasant smile on her face. "I feel so safe with you," she told him.

He smiled and put his hand on her shoulder. "Nothing is going to happen," he assured her.

"I know," she said. "You'll take care of me, right?" she asked. "You've been the nicest person I've met since I've moved here," she said and grabbing his shoulders leaned in his face kissing his cheek.

He froze-

He had not expected her kiss, but this-? Her lips on his cheek froze his skin, he shuddered, his skin began to crawl all over. He felt large gooseflesh rising on his arms and neck. His hands clenched in his lap beyond his will and his teeth snapped firmly together in his mouth. He turned to ice, his skin felt frozen and freezing cold as though her lips had shot something cold all throughout his body. He felt sick, he felt his stomach turning in his stomach, his ears laid flat against his head.

She pulled away and smiled at him, and for the first time he got a good look at her eyes. Her eyes were empty, they held no emotion although she was smiling. There was something dead in their glance.

He shuddered once, twice, and then stood up trembling all at once from head to foot.

She shouldn't have this affect on me, he thought as a crawling sensation burned the area on his cheek where she had kissed. Why is my body reacting this way?

His stomach turned inside of him and lurched.

Does my body know something that my mind does not? He thought gazing at Salina shivering.

"Was I wrong? Did I offend you?" she asked looking sober on the little seat he had sprung out of.

All at once he knew what was sickening him, it was the smell of the room. It was the suffocating stench of demon flesh. It burned his nose and he gagged, he wondered how he could've missed it when he first came in...or did he catch it but chose to ignore it?

He walked over to the dresser and looked at the glass, he looked at the green specks and touched it. The green liquid came off on his finger, he looked at it and then knew exactly what it was.

"Salina..." he said looking up at her.

"I did not mean to offend you if I did," she said planting her head on his chest and wrapping her arms around his waist. "I'm sorry," she said.

The car, he thought closing his eyes and swallowing hard. Her car had smelled this way too, he remembered.

His mind was foggy, he tried to clear it but could not. He did not understand, his brain was out of practice, he had been too busy thinking about Ms. Smith rather than what was happening around him. Now that he had an idea, he could not put the pieces together in the puzzle.

She's so soft, he thought suddenly resting his cheek on the top of her head. She smells so clean and...

Wake up, Shou Lang, a voice erupted in his head. Think of what you're doing! Think! Think! Think! There are strong scents of demons in this room there has to be a demon in here, or a demon that has already been here...

She smiled up at him, "What's wrong? You have a look on your face..."

"I'm just thinking," he said looking at her and then his green tipped finger. "What exactly were the name of your cats again?" he asked.

She went blank.

"You have two cats, right?" he asked and pushed back from her. "Where are they?"

"O-Oh!" she stammered standing up and smoothing out her skirt. "My cats!" she laughed and looked around the room. "I...uh...I left them at the vet's office today," she laughed.

He watched her with a faint nod. "What were their names? I forgot what they were called..." he said.

Her mouth opened but no sound came out, "Their names?" she asked and grinned nervously at him.

His mind broke the fog and haze and now for the first time he could see the situation clearly. His mind raced, he felt something break inside of him, something that had been weighing him down, now the weight was gone.

"Why do you ask?" she asked playing with the ends of her hair. "You want to see my cats or something?"

"Do they live here?" he asked looking around the room.

"Yes...no...sometimes," she answered hesitantly studying his face wearily.

"It's been a long day," she sighed and laughed. "Don't make me worry about my cats, Shou Lang, it's been a nightmare as much as it is."

"It has?" he looked around the ceiling, the floor, and then back at her, still shifting the puzzle pieces together in his head. "They sometimes live here? Well," he smiled at her. "You must do a lot of cleaning, I don't see a hair anywhere!" and he laughed with her.

Now that he had his mind working for itself he could use his senses as well. He could smell fear and felt her hesitation mounting.

"Shou Lang," she walked up to him sighing and smiling. "You must be hungry, or maybe even thirsty. I have some soda and left-overs in the fridge, you want anything?"

"One soda for me, thank you," he said smiling politely around the room.

She scurried to the little refrigerator and pulled out two cokes. "Here you go," she said handing him a can. "I only have coca cola, sorry," she said through an apologetic smile.

"Fine," he replied looking in those empty eyes again, funny how he had never noticed them until now.

He opened the can and watched her sit down on the bed. He remained standing studying her face. He took a sip and watched her over the rim of the can.

The tension in the air became thick enough to cut with a knife. He watched her carefully, just as she watched him. She had the eyes of a predator, watching, studying, deciding...

He realized with a jolt just how oblivious he was in regards to this woman. He knew absolutely nothing about her at all!

"How old are your cats?" he asked casually leaning back on the wall and gazing at her cheerfully.

"They're a couple of months now," she said with a shy smile, looking at her hands.

"Oh, I see," he said looking at the mirror over his shoulder. His reflection gazed back at him, a different person. He had pictured himself in his mind but the reflection showed different. His eyes were heavily bloodshot, his eyes had round bags underneath them, and his eyes-! It was his eyes that scared him the most! They were a dullish looking yellow, almost a gray looking color. He gasped and looked back at Ms. Smith.

"What?" she asked alarmed.

"Nothing," he said and looked at his coke. "Ah, Ms. Smith," he said and looked at her. "The very first day we met, you said that you had a friend living close by. How is she?"

She smiled and nodded, "Fine."

"Your friend lives in a very dangerous area, you know," he told her sipping his coke and studying her reaction. "You know those demons I was talking about? I found a lot of them over there by that area."

"Did you?" she asked with a tiny slant in her mouth.

"I did," he said sipping his coke again and swallowing the contents down his throat. "I like animals," he said switching topics casually. "Have I ever told you that I was interested in animals?"

"Oh, no," she said watching him through the corner of her eye.

"I love wolves the most," he said gulping down some coke, still watching her. "I like them so much I put my last name as Wolf," he laughed and watched her laugh nervously with him. "I guess that's why I love music," he said. "Their wolf bays sound much like song to me," he said and smiled.

"I like wolves too," she said.

"Cats as well?" he asked casually. "Cats and music, you told me once that you loved them just the same."

"I do," she answered.

He shifted a puzzle piece in his head and decided which piece to place next.

"I like cats too," he said swishing the coke in its can. "They're smart animals, very sophisticated..."

She looked suddenly very weary and cautious. "Yes...?"

He leaned back with a sigh and downed the rest of his coke. "Thanks," he said looking at the can and then smiling at her. "Where do I-"

"I got it," she said taking his can and walking to the corner of the room. She dumped it in a trashcan. Then she turned to smile at him, "Thirsty?" she asked.

"Fine thank you," he said watching her sit down on the bed in front of him.

They looked at each other for a while.

"What were the names of your cats, again?" he asked in the same casual manner as before.

"Tinker and Blues," she said through a smile.

Wrong, he thought with a smile, the final puzzle piece was waiting to be placed.

"You're very good at music, I like the way you play on the piano," he said smiling at her cheerfully. "You told me that I have a good musical future ahead of me..." he pulled out his panpipe and looked down at it. "I want to go to the school you graduated from," he looked up at her. "Where did you go to school?"

She looked hesitant again, "Columbia," she answered.

Wrong again, he thought and clenched his fist while putting the panpipe back in his pocket.

"Oh," he said and smiled even more casually. "That's strange, very strange," he said and tilted his head. "You told me that you graduated from Julliard," he said.

Her mouth opened partway.

Before she could speak he held up his hand, "That's all right," he said offering her a smile. "You're tired, I'm sure it slipped your mind..."

"Yes," she nodded and laughed nervously.

"You love your cats don't you?" he asked sitting next to her on the bed. "You must worry about them a lot, right? It must be hard for you," he took her hand and gave her a sympathetic nod of his head. "You must miss your cats very much..."

"Oh I do," she said with a sigh. "It's been a nightmare! It really has!" she cried.

"No friends," he said quietly and gave her a small smile. "No company but to your two cats," he said. "I'm very sorry for you, Ms. Smith."

"Yes, I get very lonely here," she said lowering her head.

He sighed and looked at the mirror, he saw the both of their reflections shimmering there in the light. "This is also strange," he said with a sigh. "Because if you worry constantly about your cats, surely you would know their names-"

"What?" she turned to him.

"Your cats' names are Felix and Jazz," he said with a snort narrowing his eyes on her face. "I find it hard to believe that you've forgotten about your only furry friends staying here in Philadelphia..."

"Shou-" she started to gasp.

"Why are you lying?" he asked standing and glaring at her. "Why are you lying to me? What is there that you care to hide from me?"

"Nothing-!" she started to plead.

He was angry, yet felt so alive and excited. He was surprised, he thought that he would be sad, anguished at the thought of Salina Smith lying to him, but strangely he was not. "What are you hiding?" he demanded.

"Nothing-!" she said again.

He held his finger in front of her face, the finger that had touched the glass by her dresser. "Do you know what this is?" he asked with his voice growling in his throat.

"I..."

"Demon blood," he answered with a snarl.

"But it isn't my blood!" she cried looking up at him with wide eyes.

"I know," he said with a satisfied smile.

She became aware of how much information she had leaked out with her last statement and closed her eyes, she became deadly pale.

"This isn't demon blood," he said with a smile. "This is vampire blood, that means that a vampire must've been in here..." he cocked his head at her. "You..." he said and then grabbed her throat pressing her into the mattress. "You lied to me! You cheated me!" he growled.

"No! NO!" she pleaded reaching for his shoulders and face. "Shou Lang, you don't understand!"

"I understand enough," he growled. "Demon!" he cried squeezing harder on her neck. "How could you?!" he spat in her face, and now feeling the anguish that he had suppressed before. "Why would you do this?"

"I love you, Shou Lang!" she cried shrilly.

"Demon!" he cried grabbing her throat with both hands. "I'll kill you! You tricked me! You entranced me, you led me to believe that I could ever-"

"You don't understand!" she cried.

"Never mind it," he said leaning in her face. "Your spell over me has ended! I feel nothing for you anymore! You lied, tricked me into caring for you...but that is gone and done with! You'll pay for-" he stopped suddenly with his eyes widening.

She seemed to read his look and his mind and began laughing.

...

She turned around observing the dress in the mirror from the bathroom downstairs. She smiled at the reflection and crossed back into the parlor slipping on the jewels and gems around her neck and wrists. Then she crossed back into the bathroom and flicked on the light looking at her reflection.

"Beautiful," Gather's voice was saying. "The perfect dress to die in..." and then her soft laughter rolled around the walls.

San touched her reflection never feeling so beautiful and magnificent in all her life. She looked like a queen, the dress was thin and snug. She wasn't a beautifully framed girl, more on the skinny side, but she looked beautiful in the dress tonight. Her earrings were long and beautiful, her necklace sparkled in the light.

"That's me," she kept whispering over and over again. "I can't believe that this girl is me...!"

She felt cold fingers closing around her shoulders and looked around to see Ash since she could not see him in the mirror. "Ash.." she breathed. "How do I look to you?"

"Like a queen," he said and touched her cheek with his cold finger. "My San," he cooed caressing her neck and cheek. "You look beautiful."

Her eyes filled with tears, "Beautiful..." she repeated looking back at her reflection with trembling lips. "Beautiful..."

"Come," he said pulling her from the mirror and walking with her slowly through the hallway. "Since you look so beautiful tonight," he said smiling at her, "I want to dance!" he took her waist in his hand and dipped her down.

"I don't know how," she cried when he pulled her back up.

"Silly girl," he said and smiled at her again. "I will teach you how," he said leading her outside into the backyard.

The night was chilly and cold, she shivered from head to foot. Standing with the high-heels she stood three inches or so taller than Ash, but she did not mind, and Ash did not seem to mind either.

"Follow my footsteps," he said taking her waist and then her hand. "It's very easy, you'll learn quickly, you're a smart girl after all, aren't you?"

"Yes," she smiled.

She placed her hand on his shoulder, the other was closed inside of his. "This way," he said stepping left and then right, almost a waltz.

She caught on quickly and before long they were waltzing through the yard with only the moonlight as their light.

...

"No where," mumbled Chip with a sigh. "Can't find neither of them, where do you think they could be?" he cried.

"I don't know," said Salem with a defeated sigh. "But we have to keep looking, we have to find Shou Lang and talk to him before he loses his mind!"

"You're right," agreed Chip.

...

"It is time," he said sitting next to her in one of the patio chairs. "Are you ready to come with me, San?"

She looked at him from across the table nodding her head. "Yes," she said. "I'm ready..."

Ash took her hand and helped her up to her feet. "That's my good girl," he said touching her neck. "I've been waiting for this since we've first met..."

"You have?" she asked dazedly. The moon struck his face and made it snow white again. His teeth glinted in the moonlight as he smiled. "Of course," he answered.

"And I'll be free?" she asked squeezing his cold hand.

"Free as a bird in the heavens above," he said looking into the moon. "My child, you'll live forever, never age...and you'll be with me, is that not heaven itself?"

"And I'll be beautiful, always" she asked.

He looked at her, "You're always beautiful," he said.

"Beautiful," she repeated looking at the moon.

"And I'll never hurt you," he traced Shou Lang's claws on her cheek. "You won't have to worry about anything at all."

"Yes," she breathed through a gasp. "I want to be happy!"

"You will be," he looked in her face. "This is what you want?"

"Yes," she answered closing her eyes, surrendering... "Take me, Ash..."

He gently pulled on her hair raising her face up and exposing her neck to the moon's rays and his face. She felt his cold fingers moving up and down her throat.

"Will it...hurt?" she asked.

"No," he answered lowering his face to her neck and sinking his teeth into her flesh.

She cried out with the pain, writhing in his hold as he bit harder into her neck, and then she felt the movement of her blood rushing powerfully out of her. She did not fight back, could not fight back, she was helpless. The pain continued to mount higher and higher as his teeth dug deeper and deeper in her veins and blood. "Ash-!" she cried.

He fed hungrily, ignoring her...

Eventually the pain began to subside as with her state of mind. She saw images of her life passing by. She saw the lighthouse in Maine, and then the rope cutting in her skin, she saw Chip sleeping in her lap by a fire, then Ms. James holding her during the storm. She saw Shou Lang and Salem fighting for popcorn, Kithara smiling at Shou Lang, Ms. Ran and the doctors in the hospital during Ms. James' coma. She saw the fabric of the green rug, the angry eyes of Master Urdu and lastly, the final image before she died, she saw Gather in the mirror-laughing and warning her of the horror yet to come...

Death comes to us all, she thought, all of us must die...

5.

(Shou Lang's amends)

Her laughter still rang in his ears as he raced through the sky towards the school. His heart pounded like drums inside his ears, his breathing came out in short rasps.

Lord, he thought as he shot through the air in a blue streak. Please! Please be alive! Please...Oh Kithara! Please! Please! Please!

He found the school dead ahead of him. He pushed forth his remaining speed and landed by the school running around its perimeter. "Kithara!" he cried. "Kithara!"

He found her scent, it was weak and heavily clogged with blood. Trembling he found her where he had last seen her, sprawled by the school with glazed eyes.

"Kithara-!" he gasped grabbing her and hauling her up in the moon's light so he could see her face.

Her lips moved but she could not talk.

"You've...lost so blood," he said breathing harder and staring into her eyes. He could see the hatred and pain shining in them. "Kithara," he breathed swallowing hard, a knot had formed in his throat. He looked up at the window and then shaking violently hugged her. "I'm so sorry!"

"Sh...Shou..." she was mumbling.

"Kithara," he picked her up so she was off the hard ground and in his arms. "Don't talk, save your energy!" he begged her.

"Have..." she strained, he could read the anguish and pain in her voice. "Ho...home..."

"Let me fix this," he said resting her against the brick and then examining her injuries. He quickly lodged her shoulder back in place where it was dislocated, Kithara made a grunting sound in her throat.

"Shhh," he said looking painfully in her eyes. "I'll fix this...I can fix this..." he popped her ankle back and set back her knee so her calf no longer twisted around in an unnatural angle.

"A-Ash-!" she gurgled.

"Save your energy," he said taking off his shirt and wrapping it around the wound in her leg. "You've lost a lot of blood, I need you to stay quiet," he kicked himself for forgetting to bring his pack with him. "Damn!"

"Shou...Lang..." she gasped. Her lips moved again but he couldn't make out anything else. Her eyes shone with the moon. "Ho...um..."

He fixed her wrists and then checked her spinal column. Much to his relief her spine was intact. He checked around her jaw and realized that it was broken, "Hold on, Kithara," he said setting it back in place with a hard sudden push of his palm.

Kithara fell limp against him, he caught her and whirled her up in carrying position. "Don't die on me," he said looking in her face. She nodded weakly and closed her eyes. "Kithara," he said looking away from her face. "I was such a fool! I realize now how selfish and stupid I really was-!" he could not bear to look at her knowing that he was the one responsible for her suffering.

She had to have been lying here all day, he thought pained. And I didn't even care! I'm so stupid and thoughtless, I'm such a monster! A maniac! Nothing better happen to her or I'll never be able to look at myself again!

"Forgive me, Kithara..."

He felt a light airy thing on his cheek and knew it was her hand, he looked at her breathing heavily. "A...Ash is..." she was mumbling.

"What?" he asked setting her down on one knee. "What?" he brushed the hair away from her face with his hand. "Kithara?"

"He...ho...um..."

"What are you trying to say?" he asked gently.

"Ho...um...ho...ho..." she swallowed and fell limp again, out of energy. She was fighting for breath, "Ash is ho...um..."

"Ash?" his heart leapt around the name. "What about Ash? Ash is what?" he asked.

"Ho...ho..." she tried to say. She fought for air, "S-San...is...ho...ho..."

"San?" he cried pulling her close. "Kithara, you have to help me...are they in danger? Is Ash at...ho um? What is..." and then he cocked his head. "Ho um," he said it again but faster. "Hum?"

"H-O-M-E..." spelled Kithara weakly in his ear.

"Ash is at home?!" he shrieked whirling her back up in his arms and peering ahead of him.

Kithara nodded again.

"No," he gasped hugging her close. "Hold on," he told her. She tried to reach over around his shoulders but was too weak. He did it for her and looked in her eyes. "Hang on, ok? I'll make sure you get there, but you have to fight!"

Kithara swallowed hard closing her eyes.

...

"What-?" he cried stopping in the air and looking wildly around. "That scent...Kithara...?" he looked in her face. "Salem isn't home with them?!" he cried, panic filling inside of his chest.

"I..." she mumbled through cracked lips.

"Shhh," he said and hugged her so her face was in his neck. "Save your energy, don't answer my questions," he felt stupid for asking. "Damn-!"

Of all times for Salem to walking about at night, he thought looking around for him.

He found Salem, Chip on his shoulder, walking around an empty parking lot peering between cars and dumpsters.

Shou Lang jumped down in front of him breathing hard. "Shou Lang-!" Chip and Salem cried out at once.

"Please-!" he said thrusting Kithara in Salem's arms. "Ash is in the house! Ms. James and San are alone in there-!" he cried.

"Kithara?!" breathed Salem looking at her. "What happened to her?" he looked at him angrily. "Who did this to her?"

He swallowed and could not bring himself to look in his eyes, "I did," he answered.

"Shou Lang-!" gasped Chip.

"We were looking for you all this time," said Salem, sounding even angrier. "And this whole time you were beating up on-"

"No-!" he shouted cutting him off. "I..." he looked at Chip. "Please, Chip, don't look at me like that, I wasn't myself when I did it."

But Chip's horrified and bewildered expression didn't leave his face.

"Salem..." groaned Kithara. "It...was..."

"Kithara," he cried stepping up to Salem and putting his hand over gingerly over her mouth. "Please don't talk! Save your energy!"

"Get away from her, Half-ling!" snarled Salem jerking her away. "What was this about Ash being inside the house?" he said not waiting for him to say anything back.

"Kithara said that Ash was at home..."

"What about Ms. Smith?" asked Salem dryly. "I thought you were with her! You need to start telling us what's been going on with you, Half-one!" he snarled.

"Ms. Smith..." he said balling up his fist. "She's a demon, I found it out tonight..." then he shook his head with a frustrated cry. "But now isn't the time to talk! Ash is in the house with Ms. James and San! We have to get home...they could be dead," he then lowered his head. "Oh Lord...if Ms. James is dead...."

"Come on," said Salem flying off the ground. "We have to hurry!"

He followed after Salem flying faster and then passing him. "Hurry-!" he shouted at him as he looked over his shoulder.

...

The door was open when he arrived at the front doorstep. His heart leapt inside his chest, his nose taking on a strong scent-Ash's scent.

No, he wilted by the front doorstep with trembling hands. Please, he thought.

Salem landed behind him, "Shou Lang!" Salem cried. "He's here-!" he sounded just as panicked and desperate as he felt inside.

"Yes," he looked up and silently rose to his feet. "Come with me!" his mood changed, he had no time to grieve on his stupidity and mistakes at this point. He had to save them!

"Chip, stay outside right here!" he commanded taking the possum off Salem's shoulder and looking at him. "Actually," he tucked him in his pocket. "Stay there," he said and looked at Kithara in Salem's arms.

"Go..." she whispered with a faint smile.

He swallowed and without any more hesitances he kicked the door open running inside the house. "Ash! Ash! Get out here and face me, you coward!" she shouted running into the parlor breathing hard.

Salem stood a few feet behind him, "Take my sword," and he turned so Shou Lang could reach over to the belt of his waist and tear it off.

He gave Salem a nod and unsheathed the sword pointing it in front of him.

He felt a cold blast of air whip across his face. "Welcome home," laughed a voice and then a black figure stepping out from the kitchen to join them in the parlor.

"Ash-!" he shrieked, his blood rushed to his temples. "I'll kill you if you've done anything to any of them!" he could not recall a time he wanted to rip something apart as much as he wanted to now. He hated him from the very core of his bones, he hated him just as much as he hated Monde.

Ash smiled, there was blood on his cheek, "I believe you're too late," he said.

He was about to erupt and throw himself at him when Salem's hand stopped him. "Where are they?" he demanded.

Ash shrugged and grinned, "What does it matter? They're going to die anyway, actually," he looked directly in his eyes. "One is already dead."

Chip moaned from inside of his pocket.

"I'll-! I'll-! I'll-!" he trembled all over. He felt a rage of hot fury swarm over him, it boiled the blood in his veins and clenched his hand tighter around Salem's sword handle. He was losing control, he felt it...he felt his body erupting from within, and he knew that all too soon he would lose it all.

Salem's hand left his shoulder, Ash's expression turned to stony bewilderment. "Are you human or demon?" he cried taking a step back.

"Find Ms. James and get Chip and Kithara out of here," he said to Salem without turning to look at him. "Don't come back-!"

"Shou Lang..." Salem sounded a little afraid all of a sudden. "Your eyes are red...!"

"Get them out of here, now!" he shrieked at him.

Ash's expression fell through, his lower lip began to twitch.

Chip scampered from his pocket and in the hallway. "Ms. James is upstairs! I heard her voice!" he squeaked.

He heard Salem's footsteps treading up the stairs.

Moments later Salem was downstairs throwing him his pack. "Your sword," he said and took his from Shou Lang's clenched fist. "I found Ms. James but San-"

"I'll take care of it," he growled unable to control his breathing anymore. "Get them away from here..."

He heard them leave and then heard Chip's voice from the doorway. "Shou Lang?" he squeaked miserably. "Please-!"

"Get out!" he shouted.

The front door shut.

"Listen," began Ash with a nervous smile. "What's done is done..." he raised his hands in front of him. The bloodstain on his cheek gravitated his eyes toward his face. "Let's not get all angry and out of sorts, let treat this matter like adults."

"Where is San?" he asked shortly.

Ash smiled at him, and then for the first time he noticed red tipped fangs. "San?" he asked with a grin. "The San you think of, my friend," he stated and gave him a sideways glance. "...Is dead."

Dead? Dead?- the word sent a rush of cold chills running down his spine. Dead? San is dead? Dead?!

"She no longer walks with the living, I'm afraid," he continued with a dishearted sigh. He waved his hands carelessly in front of him, "I'm very sorry to disappoint, you, friend. You came all this way for nothing."

For a second or two he stared at him unbelievingly, unable to comprehend, and when it finally dawned on him he reacted with such a force Ash screamed and fell backwards.

His mind forced an anger without human limitations to spread through his pulsating veins. He pointed his sword at him, the blade tip quivering with his hand. He could not speak or think, he could only feel anger.

His seething fury and infuriation reached its height-! He no longer had the mind and emotions of a half-demon, but of a pure demon itself. An anger only like one he felt now could trigger such a response in his mind and soul. It was the fires of hell itself burning through his veins and throbbing in his temples.

It was this violent anger that made his eyes turn white. It was this anger that transformed his already claw-like fingernails into the claws they were meant to be, claws of a wolf. His tail snapped from behind him like a whip. His fangs grew heavy and sharp in his mouth.

"You-! You're from hell!" cried Ash shielding himself with a cry and backing into the wall screaming and shrieking. "Wait! Let me explain! Let me explain!"

Ash's eyes turned round like oranges, "Wait a second! Don't kill me! Please! There's no reason to get angry! You can save her still! She's only half dead! You can bring her back just as long as she doesn't drink blood before dawn-!"

He dropped his sword. He wanted to kill him with just his bare hands.

"Please don't kill me! I-I-" he raised his hands over his face shielding himself. "I killed only a part of her! If you hurry you can still revive her! I left her in the backyard! She's out there-she's-"

Shou Lang seized his throat with one hand and his face in the other. Without any flash of emotion passing over his face he snapped Ash's neck in two breaking it. Blood splattered from his neck to his face, but Shou Lang did not care.

Shou Lang had not killed him...yet anyway.

Shou Lang pressed Ash against the wall and drove his fist inside his chest breaking past the bones in his ribs and punching through the wall. Shou Lang's hand closed around the still beating muscle in Ash's chest.

Ash's blood dripped down Shou Lang's arm on the floor pooling around his moccasins.

His eyes stared unbelievingly into his, his mouth was open in a bewildered gasp.

Shou Lang jerked the muscle from his open chest and let Ash slump to the floor. The heart in his hand had stopped beating and now lied cold and still. Green smoke appeared around Ash, he disappeared from the floor in a whirl of smoke.

Shou Lang stared at his bleeding heart in his hand and then bit into it ferociously, his fangs tore the organ to pieces in big chunks. The heart bloodstained all over his face and bare chest as he devoured it greedily.

Afterwards he wiped his mouth and stared at his hands, drenched in blood and dripping off his fingertips. He licked it off staring absently at the wall. The blood stuck in his mouth as he swallowed it down his throat, the taste was exquisite.

Shou Lang walked through the empty house and outside the backdoor. He walked through the yard until he found the figure of San lying across the top of the patio table. He stooped down to pick her up and turned back around carrying her back inside the house and tossing her carelessly on one of the sofas.

He walked absently to the bathroom across the hall and looked at his reflection without bothering to flick on the light switch. His white eyes stared back at him.

Without warning he punched himself as hard as he could in his face, knocking himself unconscious-

...

"I think she's coming to," said Chip moving across the bed and looking earnestly in the old woman's face. "She's starting to open her eyes."

Salem remained by the window with his fists clenched around the windowsill. "Did you feel that?" he asked.

"What?" asked Chip looking up from Ms. James.

"That sudden force of power..." Salem looked at Kithara. "Did you feel that just now? That tremor?"

Kithara on the other hospital bed only moaned softly in reply.

"Ah," sighed the old woman groggily. "Ah...San..." she muttered holding her hands up and feeling around the air.

"Ms. James-!" cried Salem running over to her side. "Ms. James!"

"Ms. James, are you all right?" asked Chip touching her cheek. "You were unconscious, but uninjured. Are you Ok?" he asked.

Ms. James sat up looking around the room. "Where...?"

"A small hospital," answered Salem taking her hand. "I found the place nearest to home," he said and gave her hand a pat.

The old woman cried out, "Where is San? Where is my daughter?" she cried shrilly.

"She and Shou Lang are still in the house," answered Chip. "Ash was there..."

"What's going on-?" she searched their faces. "What is happening?"

"I don't even know myself," sighed Salem shaking his head. "I know that something has happened with San and Shou Lang for sure. I think Shou Lang is back to normal...or something..." he shrugged with a sigh. "I really don't know, he told me to take you all to a safe place."

"My San? What has become of my granddaughter? Is she all right?" Ms. James searched the room. "San?" she called out. "Where are you?"

"Rest," said Chip. "You're confused still...it'll catch up with you after a bit of sleep," said Chip.

"No," she resisted against Chip's little hands. "I don't want to sleep, I want to find my daughter, I want to-" she gasped, her eyes finally found Kithara. "Kithara?!" she gasped.

Salem and Chip followed her gaze and hung their heads.

Ms. James looked back at them, "Where is San?"

"Please go to bed," said Salem pushing her back down in the covers. "You need to sleep, I don't want you awake."

"But my granddaughter," cried Ms. James. "I want to see my granddaughter!"

"You will!" assured Chip.

"Oh, Kithara," cried Ms. James looking at the hospital bed beside her. "What has happened to her?"

"I-" Salem hung his head. "I don't know."

"San-!" she cried sitting up and looking desperately around the room. "I have to find San! I need to help her, she's with that man! That man with the black eyes, he's going to kill her!"

"Please!" begged Salem and Chip together pushing her back down. "Please get some rest, Ms. James! You are not well!"

"But my daughter! My only child...she can't-" she started to cry again.

"Please go to sleep," Salem patted her hand. "Close your eyes, this is only a bad dream, when you wake up your daughter will be with you again."

"San..." sighed the old woman settling in the pillows and tossing fitfully in the covers. "My poor grandchild..."

As she tossed fitfully in her sleep Chip passed Salem a strained look. "Do you think they're going to be all right?" he asked.

"Yes," answered Salem with a nod. "With the medicines I've given them, they should be Ok, now."

"Do you think...San is really dead?" asked Chip in a soft voice.

"I don't know," said Salem.

Chip let out a cry, "She can't be dead!" he cried.

He pat his shoulder, "I want to go back and help Shou Lang, I think something is wrong. Can you watch them if I leave?"

Chip looked up at him shaking his head, "I'm going with you!"

"No, you're staying here with the women, I have to check on San! I have to see if she's all right," Salem stood up and placed his sword in his hip belt. "I'm leaving you with them, make sure that they stay asleep."

"Salem!" Chip cried. "Don't you leave me too!" he wailed.

"Rat," he said fondly and tousled his hair, then he walked out of the door leaving the possum and the two unconscious women behind.

...

Shou Lang was wavering on one knee, his hand in his face and head lowered so his bangs hid his face. "Shou Lang-" he knelt beside him and shook him. "Shou Lang! Shou Lang!" he cried.

Shou Lang pulled his fist from his face and looked up at him. His eyes were a crisp clean looking yellow, their brightness and clearness took him off guard. "Shou Lang-!" he stared in his face blinking his orange eyes.

Shou Lang stared in his face blankly for a while, then looked around. "Ah," he sighed as if gaining his bearings.

Shou Lang was drenched with blood. He was completely covered with dark green stains all over his face and shoulders. The floor was also covered in the green pooling liquid, Salem looked around disgustedly.

"What happened here?"

"I think..." he said slowly. "I think Ash is dead...I must've killed him," he said.

"Where is San?" asked Salem looking around the splattered walls and sofas.

"Sofa..." said Shou Lang standing to his full height and then as if noticing the first time the blood on himself widened his eyes. Salem watched Shou Lang raise his hands, some of the blood on them were dried. "Yes..." he said absently with a faint nod. "I killed Ash." His yellow eyes ran over his hands.

What did you do to him, I wonder? Thought Salem looking around the blood drenched room. He must've slaughtered Ash!

"Your sword," he pointed out looking at the silver blade on the ground. It was specked with green blood, but other than that there was no sign that told him that Shou Lang had used his sword. "How did you kill him, Shou Lang?" he asked looking up from the sword.

Shou Lang's face darkened, "With my bare hands," he said in a voice so low and soft that he had to strain his ears to hear him. "I sent him to hell, just where he belongs."

It occurred to Salem that Shou Lang must've...

"Is she Ok?" asked Salem crossing to the sofa but Shou Lang stepped in front of him. "Don't come near her, she is no longer alive anymore."

"What?" he gasped. "She's...really dead?" he faltered.

"I did not look at her yet, myself," said Shou Lang giving him a push. "But this burden is now my own, it is my fault that this has happened to her. Her fate rests with me now, I need you to leave me alone."

"What?!"

"I might still be able to save her, Salem," said Shou Lang quietly. "She has not yet given her soul just yet...she has not drank the blood of another being."

"Yes," he said slowly. "You're saying she has been bitten?"

"I think so, I haven't looked at her yet," he said firmly. "I can keep her from killing anyone just as long as she stays with me."

"That'll be impossible," said Salem fiercely. "If San has been bitten then she is a vampire! Her desire for blood might overpower you, Half-one. I don't think you could bring yourself to stop her if she happens to escape from you, and it is very possible that she could bite you and kill you."

"That is my fate," he said. "I am taking full responsibility over her now, if she bites me, then I'll die..." he looked directly in his orange eyes. "But whatever happens, it ends tonight. Either one of us dies or San goes cold-turkey and kills the demon inside of her, and you don't have to worry about her getting away." Shou Lang's eyes became more determined. "I swear to myself that I either let her walk this planet as an innocent or have her walk an innocent in heaven. I will not let her become a demon, she doesn't deserve that fate, I'll kill her first before I let her live a life like ours, Salem."

"Yes," he agreed. "San is too good to be wasted in demon form. Are you sure that you'll be able to go through with it if the time should come? If you should fail to keep her from losing her soul and taking another creature's life away?"

"Yes," ached his voice. "She may be an annoying human, but she is my annoying human and I'll make sure she stays that way. I will see her no other way, even if I must take her life in the process...you'll tell Ms. James won't you?"

"Yes," he nodded and put his hand on his shoulder. "You're sure, Shou Lang? I can easily take this off your hands..." he offered.

"No," he shook his head. "I must do this, this is my fault to begin with," he shrugged his hand away from his shoulder and stood a little taller. "Get going Salem, and no matter what you do, do not come back."

"I understand."

"Tell Ms. James, will you?" he asked in that same aching sounding voice. "Tell her for me?"

"I will," he promised, and secretly felt his admiration for the young little half-demon slip up a notch. "I promise."

"If I should not return tomorrow," said Shou Lang gravely. "Apologize sincerely to everyone for me...will you do that?"

"Yes."

"Many thanks," Shou Lang said and gave his shoulder a firm squeeze. Salem returned the gesture to Shou Lang's own shoulder. "Take care, Shou Lang," he said.

He nodded.

Salem released his shoulder and walked out the front door. "Good luck, I hope for the both of your sakes that you are able to keep her, Shou Lang."

"I do as well," said the bright-eyed yellow boy-demon in front of him. And then Salem shut the door and flew off to the hospital not giving it a backwards glance.

...

He had changed, washed himself and now sat patiently beside her watching her with his hands folded in his lap.

He had hidden his pack from her, he had hid it underneath Ms. James' bed so if San had the intention of killing him with a sword she would not find it. He had also taken the liberty of hiding all the knives and glasses as well. He wanted to make sure that she would be as weak as possible when she finally woke up.

He had found the slashes on her face, and after a long while of thinking he remembered that it was him who had administered the marks to her face. This had brought him much guilt and regret just as much as Kithara had. He had felt even more responsible to protect her, even if it was from herself.

San was wrapped in the blanket he had thrown over her several hours earlier.

She was still asleep or unconscious.

He would wait forever if he had to, he would not leave this spot until dawn. He promised himself and San both that he would stay right where he was. He was patient tonight. The long drawling hours seemed to crawl by, but he did not mind, the more she slept the closer he was too dawn and the less harder time he would have keeping her from leaving the house.

After an hour or so he got the first signal that she was starting to wake and come to. Her eyes moved underneath her eyelids in a quick fluttering movement. His breath caught in his throat and he tensed.

He saw her arms moving around from underneath the blanket, her eyes still closed, but now her mouth partly open. His heart broke when he saw two little points in her mouth where her canines were supposed to be. The two marks in her neck began to close up.

He squared his shoulders and took a deep breath bracing himself for whatever she would do first.

Slowly her eyes opened, and again his heart broke. Her eyes, her once honeyed eyes were tainted with a black film. Her eyes were black as the night itself, and as she opened her eyes her features changed.

She sprang up looking at him, her black eyes unblinking and staring at him. He felt a cold presence in her eyes as she looked him over. He wondered if she could even recognize him anymore.

Unlike the San he remembered, this San was paler, darker, colder... She wore black jewels around her neck and black long earrings. She even had darker lips, looking much of a wine color than their normal pink hue. Her cheeks had hollowed out making her look much older than what she was. This new San wore a thin, snug looking dress that cut a V-shape around her long neck exposing new flesh around her shoulders and collarbone.

"San..." he said her name.

The girl did not appear to hear him or register what he had said, instead a wicked smile crossed over her face.

He looked at her hands and found long black fingernails on each finger. Fingernails that looked long and sharp enough to tear through something.

"San, I know you hear me," he said quietly without flinching as she crept up to him circling around him with that same wicked smile. "I'm only trying to help you..." he said following her with just his eyes, and then looking over his shoulder when she circled back there.

This new San looked like a cat, her eyes gleamed at him. She circled around him again and then stopped in front of him smiling again, a flirtatious kind of smile. Her cool black eyes danced with the light.

"I'm not going to let you turn into a demon..." he continued stiffly. "I'm not going to let you leave this house, so you can go ahead and fight me if you..." he felt her long fingernails tracing his neck and looked at her. "San?"

She smiled at him again and tilted her head, her fangs caught with the light. Her fingernails scratched up the side of his neck to his cheek. Uneasy he moved his head away looking at her.

The new San backed up, studying him for a while. She sat like that for a moment and then he saw her eyes light up as if the coming of a new idea had popped in her brain. He did not like her smile, it looked so sinister and cruel.

Can I really do this? He thought watching her stand up. Can I really hold her until dawn without her escaping? Will I be able to fight with her if the time should come? Could I really kill San? Could I?

He stayed where he was, cross-legged on the floor but watched her wearily. She stood, her long dress clinging to every part of her body as she moved around him, circling him again.

Shou Lang stood up taking another breath and watching her.

She smiled and put her hand on his shoulder as she circled around and around. He wondered what she was doing by circling him, was her intention to confuse him so she could strike when he was unprepared?

"San..." he said moving away from her and looking at her. "I know what you're doing, and I'm telling you right now that it won't work."

The girl gave him a playful grin. She backed up again, backing away from him and walking around the parlor touching things. A picture, a small figurine, just about everything she came in contact with.

What is she doing? He thought furrowing his brow.

She circled around the sofas still running her hand along the objects she came in contact with. And then she neared him, and before he could take a step back she had put her hands underneath his chin, panicked he had stared at her, and she had only smiled that same wicked smile at him again.

Her fingernails felt like sharp talons digging in his throat and tapping against the back of his neck. They were cold, just as cold and empty as her smile.

He grabbed one wrist and threw her back a few feet, his breath catching his throat as he did so.

San stumbled backwards in one of the sofas. She remained in the sofa looking at the floor for a long while, and then she looked up at him. Her fangs glistening in the light over her head as she smiled again.

He crossed his arms over his chest and walked in front of her, careful to keep a good three feet distance away from her.

San turned and gave a little throaty sound in her throat, and after a quick half-second twisted her head up to smile at him. The odd sounding murmur vibrated in her throat again as she tilted her head up looking into the ceiling.

He stood rigidly where he was confused.

The straps to her dress fell over her shoulders and on the top of her arms as she moved around in the sofa still making those sounds in her throat.

He was scared. This was nothing like San at all. This girl was someone else.

The new San smiled at him once more catching his eyes. In result she leaned back arching like a cat on the sofa, her mouth open this time, her tongue running over her lips as she watched him.

He did not like that at all. He felt a tingling shudder start up at his toes and ending to the ends of his navy hair. "S-San?" he stammered.

She fell back on the cushions of the sofa grinning at him cat-like. The ends of her dress had slipped up to the top of her thighs. She crossed her legs after a moment, licking her lips again and closing her eyes. Slow cat-like purrs vibrated from her throat.

He did not like this either. He felt another eerie shudder crawl over his skin. He did not like San acting this way at all, it bothered him...even scared him.

She opened her eyes staring at him. And after several seconds of gazing at each other she smiled. Her hands moved around in her hair, pulling the rubber band that held her hair in a ponytail and let it loose.

"Whatever you're trying to do...it won't work," he said with a nervous swallow.

She combed through her hair with her sharp fingernails, it served just as well as a brush. He noticed the texture of her hair and silently compared it to his own. San's hair was thick and course, it was not like his that was wild but straight. San had hair that always looked to be standing on end, but of course, he had never seen her without a ponytail only on few occasions. This was one of them.

Her hair wasn't straight like all the other girls, the lighter girls that he was used to seeing. Her hair was thick and held texture and volume. It was brown, soft, kinky hair that fell to her shoulders. Hair like hers grew outwards not downwards the way the other girls' hair at school.

He suddenly wondered if that had to do with her ethnicity. He had observed the television actors and actresses. Most of the darker ones, the ones around his skin tone and San's had thicker and bigger hair. The lighter the actors the straighter the hair, he wondered why his own hair did not follow that rule.

In fact, his hair was a mix of volume and straight locks. His bangs were straight but also curly at the same time. If anything, his hair was a mix of different textures. Straight in the back and curly-like and thick toward the front and middle, he decided to give up on his hair.

The girl was clicking her fingernails about her hair in a fast rhythm, it took him a minute to realize that she was braiding her hair. She braided the hair with incredible speed, nearly lightening fast. When she was finished San's head was covered with cornrows, and just as fast she had braided the cornrows she unbraided them. Her fingers moved up and around her head clicking down each row until she had unbraided everything.

What was the point in that? He thought a little fazed.

San reached in her hair and shook it out, the unbraided braids had turned her hair into a curly-like spiraling Afro. Her hair bounced against her shoulders airlessly.

This new spiraled look made San's look change. For one, he found this hairstyle to his liking. It made her look even more queenly and regal with the black jewelry hanging around her ears and neck. Yet, it also made her look more wild and demonic...that he startlingly found very appeasing looking.

The wine colored lips parted into that wicked smile, her fangs shone, and another purr came out of her throat. A black fingernail pointed at him and then curled with its finger beckoning him to come closer.

He refused to come, he remained planted where he was with his arms crossed. He knew exactly what kind of trick she would pull, and there was no way he would fall for it. He knew that vampires were known for their persuasive ways of pursuing their prey. He would not become prey.

San's black eyes flashed again, their emptiness fading away into a sorrowful gaze. Her eyes were in a silent plea, beckoning him to come-

This isn't San, he had to say to himself in his head. This is a demon I'm dealing with and she'll try everything to keep herself alive inside of San. I must destroy this demon! I must make sure that she is kept away from blood. If I let her get away...if I can't stop her then San will be gone forever!

No, he thought shaking his head. I could not bear the thought of that...I cannot lose her now, I've kept her all this time from harm...and now Ms. Smith...damn that Ms. Smith! This is all my fault! If I hadn't been so stupid...!

The girl sat suddenly upright in the chair, her eyes becoming alive and desperate. He saw her fangs turn to peaks in her mouth, their light catching hold of the light again. "Come...!" she hissed beckoning him fiercely with her hand.

He felt a pull on him but resisted it. He would not budge. He felt the tugging sensation on him again but restraint it and planted his feet more firmly on the ground. Each time the tugging grew harder until he felt as though some invisible force was trying to yank him towards her, but he kept his ground with his jaw set and fists clenched.

San stood up, breathing hard, her features changing again so she looked as though she wore a mask of hideous cruelty. Her face scrunched up into a tight ball of hate and desperate frenzy.

He could not recognize her face anymore. His heart broke again.

San beckoned, her eyes wide like oranges and desperate. "Come! Come!" she hissed even more fiercely.

"No-" he said quietly stepping away from her.

"DIE!" she exploded driving at him with her sharp nailed fingers sailing toward his face. The hunger of blood must've made her become crazy and desperate. He knew that this would come, it was expected, and he had been waiting for her to crack.

He grabbed both her wrists and flung her on her stomach on the other chair. He took out the duct tape he had saved in his pocket and tore out a long strip wrapping it around her wrists and ankles so she was twisting and hissing on the sofa. She rolled off onto the floor and began slithering toward him, her mouth open, her bloodlust thirst showed in her eyes.

He jumped back and had to dodge as she jumped at him trying to bite at his ankles.

"San-! I don't want to hurt you, I'm only doing this to help you," he cried picking her up by her hair and half dragging half carrying her upstairs. He did this so she would not be able to bite any part of his body, and she did try. She twisted around biting her own hair in her frenzy to reach him. He had to give her a good cuff on her head a few times to get her to cooperate.

Once at the top of the stairs he dragged her into the upstairs bathroom and flicked on the light.

San was screaming as though hell itself was burning inside of her. She kicked and thrashed around trying to bite him. He had to shove and push to get her to move the way he wanted her to. She flung herself against the side of the walls, ramming into the cabinets in her attempt to reach him, but he had dodged all her efforts and now pushed her in the tub.

Foam started to form in the corners of her mouth. Her desperate need of blood had driven her wild. Her dress twisted this way and that as she thrashed around the inside of the tub. Several times she knocked her head in the side of it as if trying to break through. She gave the tub a couple of cracks, but none big enough to get herself out of.

He was thankful for the deep wide tub. It was the old fashioned kind of tub with the feet at the bottom and the plug in the tub for a drain. He watched her screaming and hissing sadly, he hated seeing San this way.

"I promise, San," he said to her hissing and thrashing form at the bottom of the empty tub. "I promise to make you human again..."

She was a wild animal banging and bucking in the tub trying to escape. She kicked her bound feet together against the walls cracking the tile. She had even started to bite the walls of the tub.

He took a step away and sat down by the doorway looking in at her sighing and closing his eyes. All he had to do was keep her in there until dawn, and then she would be cured...

After a while the thrashing and screaming stopped, and then there were only her anguished sounding moans and groans.

A part of her was dying-her demon part.

Pretty soon he heard her fingernails scratching against the tile. San was trying to get out again. Her moaning and groaning grew louder and louder until he covered his ears and stepped out of the bathroom.

"You can scream as much as you want but you're not coming out of there!" he shouted over her wails and angry groaning.

San kept this up for a long period of time, maybe a whole hour before she stopped and quieted down in the tub again. She was whimpering now, whimpering and scratching uselessly against the tile trying to escape.

He had sat back down against the doorway watching an occasional arm or so flail out from the edge of the tub.

"You can't get out of there, San," he told her quietly. "Stop trying to get away, just give up!" he cried.

He heard banging sounds in the tub and with a sigh knew she had started up again. She kept at it for another long hour until finally calming down and whimpering again. Even the scratching sounds in the tub had stopped, her whimpers were dying down as well.

He waited her out.

And fifteen minutes later she had stopped whimpering and had fallen into a dead silence. He assumed she had given up for a while to rest.

He let her, he waited another half hour before he stood and checked on her. She was still bound by her ankles and wrists behind her back. Her eyes were open but she did not appear to see him standing by the side of the tub. Her breathing was irregular and eyes strangely bloodshot, she was also foaming at the mouth and trembling.

Must be the hunger getting to her, he thought.

He felt sorry for her, he felt guilty for putting her through this. "I'm sorry, San," he said quietly and rested against the side of the tub with a sigh. "I know it hurts now, but it'll get better...you'll see...you'll thank me later..."

...

He must've rested. He must've let his guard down, for when he shuddered himself into alert consciousness and peered down into the tub-

She was gone-!

...

"Ash hasn't come back," said Gram looking into the faces of the others. "He said that he would be here for the invasion, but he isn't here, and the time is past-!" he pointed to the digital clock. "We must assume that his plan for the demon eye has failed."

A gasp went around the club.

"Since Ash is not here," Gram continued. "I will take charge! We are to start the invasion without Ash! Now is the time to raid the city and take over everything!" he raised his fist with a snarl.

The other's laughed and cheered in reply.

"Now is our time! The resurrection of vampires has begun!" he cried, and with that everyone in the club ran outside into the Philadelphian streets-

The 2nd era of Ash's vampire army had begun again...

...

"San?! San?!" he cried tripping over his feet as he ran out of the bathroom. "Where are you?! Where are you?!"

He felt sick. He felt dizzy and was trembling all over. His chest felt constricted and very tight, he was finding it hard to breathe or see because the ground seemed to be tilting from underneath his feet.

"San...?" he crossed the upstairs hallway peering into rooms and throwing down beds and dressers. "San!"

Oh no, he thought as he ran down the stairs. I hope that she hasn't gotten out! Please be inside the house, San...please...!

When he jumped the last stair he felt an odd cold prickling sensation creep up his skin. He shuddered and froze, cocking his head and listening.

It was very quiet, yet he could feel her presence. She was here.

His breathing slowed, his adrenaline rush spurted down his veins alerting all of his body. He listened. Then crept down the hallway looking into the light of the parlor.

I feel you, he thought as he inched along the hall. You're waiting for me, aren't you? Well you won't get me, San! I'm a hunter, you may think you're a hunter too, but you do not have the experience as I have. In this game of cat and mouse, I will surely win!

6.

He inched carefully into the parlor, eyeing the room with great prudence. The room looked the same as it did when he had last seen it. She was not in the parlor, so he decided to check out the kitchen.

Shou Lang took a deep breath and moved past the splattered stained walls of the parlor into the kitchen. He stepped into the room crouched beneath a cabinet. He looked around but she was not there.

Convinced that the room was clear he straightened up and bent his head looking around the room.

The eerie feeling he felt persisted. He could smell vampire flesh around the room and winced sharply. He was getting more uncomfortable with the situation by the second.

I'll find you, San, he thought setting his jaw and walking forwards. You have to be hiding around here somewhere...

Shou Lang was just crossing through the border of the kitchen to the washing room when talons seized his throat and something toppled him over on his back.

San was on top of him, her mouth wide, her eyes penetrating their craving of blood in his eyes. Her nails dug in his throat as she hissed and snapped at him. Her hair was wild all over her face.

He fought with her, wrestling with her but she was much stronger than he anticipated. She was three times stronger than normal! It was then he remembered that vampires were much stronger than humans by far.

"San-!" he cried pushing back her face with one hand and her wrist with the other. "Stop it!" he cried moving his fingers away from her snapping jaws.

Foam started at the corners of her mouth. Her drool dripped down her chin and on his shirt. She leaned hard on him, her snapping mouth aimed at his throat. Each time she hissed and snapped at him her saliva speckled his face.

"San! Don't do this! You don't want to become a vampire-!" he cried shoving her backwards off of him and into the refrigerator.

The refrigerator toppled over. San jumped up in a crouched position on top of the refrigerator and leaped at him before he had chance to stand up.

He fell over against the kitchen chairs and tables-knocking them all over and lay sprawled beside them.

San ran around the other side of him and grabbed his throat. She pulled his neck into her mouth just as he grabbed her face and pressed it back away from him.

She hissed and snarled at him. Her face wore a vicious mask of hate and cruelty, a face that did not resemble San's face at all. She dug her claws his stomach, and with her other hand enclosed around his neck lifted him off his feet in the air.

He was much taller than her, so his feet were only a centimeter or so off from the floor, but nonetheless he was choking.

He did not want to hurt her, but he did not want to be strangled at the same time, so he kicked her hard the stomach and flipped over her head.

San fell on her knees clasping her stomach and spitting up foam and dark green liquid on the tiled kitchen floor. She then stood up and grabbed a kitchen chair, snapping a leg off and hurling it at him.

Shou Lang caught it and threw it to the ground. "San...I don't want to hurt you!"

She tore off another leg off the chair and lunged forward, stabbing it to his chest. He countered by ducking underneath it and tripping her on the floor. Once she fell on her back he seized her throat and wrestled the leg of the chair out of her hand.

San kicked him away from her so he fell into the parlor against one of the sofas. He jumped to his feet just as San threw the whole rest of the chair at him. He jumped up over it, the chair smashed into the table.

"San-! Stop fighting me!" he cried.

The new San stopped and smiled at him. Her smile was cruel and dark. "Stop calling me, San," she said in a voice much that of a snake's. "San is dead."

"No," he said straightening stiffly. "She is inside of you! I'm trying to set her free!"

"She is dead," said the girl again with the wicked smile. "My name is not San, my name is Venom!" she declared showing him the fangs in her mouth.

Venom? He thought.

She hurled herself at him again, knocking him over on the cushions of the sofa. He grabbed her wrists and held her back with his knee. San reached for him, spitting the foam in his face and snarling at him.

"San is still alive," he said throwing her off the sofa and over the top of the table. She slid off and fell against the TV set. "I am saving her from you!" he cried flipping over the sofa when she lunged for him again. The sofa fell on top of her, pinning her against the wooden floor thrashing and screaming. "I will not let you become a demon! You can fight me as much as you want!"

The girl knocked the sofa out of her way and jumped over it at him. He rolled out the way and stood up. "You can't win against a fight with me! I'm not trying to hurt you! I'm trying to help!"

The new San charged at him hissing like a snake. He flung down his hand over her head and flipped over behind her. "I'm sorry, San," he said and finding the point with his eyes stabbed two fingers in her neck.

San's knees buckled and she fell over.

He grabbed her before she fell and tossed her back on the cushions of the sofa.

San was unconscious, the nerve he hit struck a nerve connecting to the brain. She would remain unconscious for a few minutes and then wake again.

He took these minutes to rest up a bit. He could still feel her nails in his stomach and her death grip around his neck. He gingerly rubbed his neck and sighed. "This is becoming much harder than I thought!"

...

"What is that banging sound?!" cried Ms. James holding on to Salem's arm. "Who is trying to get inside?!" she cried shrilly.

Salem grabbed his sword and pointed it in front of him. The banging on the door and the moaning grew louder and louder. He faced Chip and Kithara on the other hospital bed and picked them up. "We have to get out of here!"

"What's going on?!" screamed Ms. James.

"Those are demons banging on our door," said Salem calmly. "Something has happened! You've noticed the strange things happening around here, haven't you?"

"The kidnapping?" the old woman croaked.

"Yes," said Salem balancing Kithara on his shoulder. "I think the kidnappings have something to do with why this town smells strongly of demonic scents!"

"What is this?! Some sort of invasion?!" wailed Chip.

"I guess," Salem said. "But we must leave, this town is no longer safe for us anymore!" he cried.

"What of my daughter! We must go back for her!" Ms. James cried as Salem kicked the glass to the window open. "We can't go back," said Salem.

"What do you mean?!" she shrieked. "We have to go back! I'm not leaving my daughter behind!"

"Shou Lang is taking care of her, we can only save ourselves for now," said Salem steadying his orange eyes on her lined face.

"NO! I'm not leaving San here with these monsters after her! Put me down, Salem!"

"Hold on, Chip," Salem ignored her.

The door began to crack. The loud moans and snarls from the outside grew louder and louder.

"No! Salem, you can't! I have to find San! I have to save her!" wailed Ms. James.

"This is horrible!" cried Chip covering his ears over the pounding on the door. "What is to become of Shou Lang and San?!"

"Where are you taking us, Salem?" demanded Ms. James.

"Away from here," he answered jumping off the ledge and flying into the air. "Ash must've converted nearly the entire city!" he cried looking below at the teeming bodies of vampires. "This is insane!"

"We have to get San," said Ms. James. "I can't leave her by herself!"

"Ms. James," said Salem looking into the half moon. "San is dead. She is no longer a human anymore, she's one of them-"

Ms. James' jaw dropped open.

The vampires finally broke through the door of their room and stood by the open window shouting and hissing at them. Their pale faces showed white in the moonlight, their fangs looked like knifes.

Chip screamed and covered his eyes.

"San is dead?!" cried Ms. James through a moan. "She's dead?! No! No! No!" she wailed.

"We have to get out of here," said Salem shooting off away from the city. "I'm going to put you three in a safe place, and then I'll go back to the city and handle these vampires. Chip, can you handle taking care of them?"

"Yes," sniffed Chip.

"Good," said Salem scanning the empty country they were headed. "I'll come back for you guys later, can you hold out?"

"My San!" wailed Ms. James.

"Yes," said Chip again.

After flying as fast as he could he found an empty, broken down looking barn house. It was breaking apart as it stood, but fit for the situation. It was far enough away from the city and they would be safe.

"Here," said Salem setting Ms. James in the grass and gently laying Kithara next to her. Chip jumped off of his shoulder. "I'm leaving you three here, please take care of Kithara," said Salem.

Salem took off his pack and dumped it beside Chip. Salem kept his sword in his hand. "The medicines are in there for Kithara, make sure she gets them."

"I will!" promised the possum with glowing eyes.

Ms. James was crying into her hands.

"Take care," Salem said softly patting her shoulder. "I'll be back soon, I'll return after I'm through with the demons, alright?"

She did not look up from her hands.

"Be careful, Salem," said Chip.

"Take care," he said with a wave and turned around flying back toward the city.

...

She moaned quietly, then rolled her head to one side, her face scrunched up. The black jewelry glinted with the light overhead as she sat up looking dazedly around the parlor.

"You're up," he said rather calmly. "You can try fighting me again...you'll soon understand that there's no way out, though. I am not letting you leave this place."

Her eyes shone in the light, her expression became anguished and pleading. "So hungry," she rasped and threw her arm out to him.

He backed away studying her face.

"Please!" she moaned reaching out to him with trembling hands. "I'm dying-!" she rasped through cracked maroon lips. "I'm going to die of thirst!" she cried crawling weakly towards him.

Shou Lang stood up and backed up. "I'm afraid I have no pity for you. You can stop."

"No," she croaked with one hand around her throat. She coughed up foam and green liquid at his feet. He looked down at the wooden floor in disgust then back into her pleading face. "Dying...of thirst-!" she croaked reaching for him again. "Help me!"

"I'm trying to," he said quietly.

"Please!" she coughed and crawled closer with one hand trembling for his ankles. "Just one...bite...!" she pleaded.

"No, San," he said stepping back from her. "You have to fight it!"

"San...is...dead..." she said writhing on the floor with her eyes bulging. "But, so will I, if I don't drink...!" and she looked up at him. "One bite is all I ask!"

"Fight it out!" he said.

She began coughing up more foam and green gunk. She was trembling violently and began to smell of decay. "Must drink-!" she cried reaching for him pleadingly. "Please!"

He took a step backwards eying her with a mixture of disgust and pity.

"I am dying," she cried coughing on the floor as she dragged herself along the floor towards him. "Don't you want to...help me?" she rasped breathing hard.

"Yes," he said swallowing hard. "I am helping you."

"One bite," she reached out for him again with trembling fingers. "One bite...!"

"No, San," he said stepping away from her touch. "You have to be stronger than the demon dying inside of you! You have to fight it, you must!" he told the trembling creature below him. "I can't help you if you don't want to help yourself!"

"Please..." San whispered. She leaned against one of the splattered walls breathing hard and looking at him. "Help me..."

He stood where he was watching her. "You have one hour left," he said reading the sky through the window. "This will be over very soon, San. I promise."

"Yes," she said nodding. "Very soon..." her expression grew sly again. "Very soon!"

What is that look for? He thought tensing.

San coughed up more of the green smelling gunk and foam.

Is she up to something? He wondered.

And then, all of a sudden, without any warning at all the girl leapt at him, knocking him over and pinning him down. A triumphant smile wore her lips as she leaned in his face. "Soon it is, isn't it?" she laughed coldly.

Damn, he thought twisting uselessly underneath her. She had his hands pressed underneath her nails. He could not move without tearing apart his hands to shreds in the process. "San!" he cried staring into her cold cruel face.

She laughed at him. "And now!" she said leaning down in his face. "Finally, I can drink-!" she said the words longingly, her voice filled with yearning. "Finally!" she gasped with her black eyes shining in the light. "Finally I can drink to my fill..." she ran her tongue over her lips, "Yes...!"

"Wait-!" he said twisting and struggling. "San, listen to me! You don't want to do this! You don't want to become a vampire!" he cried.

She narrowed her eyes and laughed coldly. "So thirsty..." she was saying. "I've waited long enough..."

He gave up and rested against the wooden floor with a sigh. "I promised myself that I would never let you become a demon, and now look," he said looking sadly in her face. "Look what I've done! My ignorance and selfishness has done this to you," he looked into the ceiling closing his eyes. "This is my fault, San, all of this is my fault! I let myself become bewitched by a demon-that Ms. Smith!"

He sighed and shook his head. "I told Salem that I would rather have you walk the heavens as an innocent than walk the world as a demon. I should kill you, San. I can't save you," he looked back in her face swallowing hard. "But I cannot..."

She was staring at him without an expression.

"I can't-!" he said pained and looked back into the ceiling. "You realize that I could get away if I wanted, take away your life and be done with it?" he paused and sighed again. "But I wont...I cant..." he shook his head. "I deserve this end," he continued. "You deserve to kill me, I guess. I've done more harm to you than you've ever done to me..." he looked back in her face. "San..." he said sadly and swallowed hard. "I know that you can hear me inside of this demon," he took a breath and relaxed his muscles. "I want you to know that I'm sorry, that I'm sorry for you and for everyone else. I've messed up this time," he said and gave a dry laugh. "I really messed things up, and now I must pay for what I've done. It is right that you kill me."

San's eyes lit up. "That I shall!" she hissed.

He gave a half smile and nodded sadly, "Yes...that you shall..."

He rested his head back and waited. He closed his eyes and slowed his breathing, relaxing. He thought about Ms. James, his father, his Master, Salem, Kithara and Ms. Smith. He thought about his life and the numbers of innocent people he had killed, he thought about his brother and his horse and Chip.

Yes, he thought setting his jaw. I deserve to die. And what be better than to have my end be by the hands of one I have destroyed! This is a fitting end for the Half-god of Ether, this is the way it should be.

San hissed and leaned forward, her breath poured over his face as she dipped closer to his neck.

He opened his eyes and stared into hers. "Go ahead," he said softly. "Kill me."

And she stopped-! She sat there looking him over for a long moment. "I do not understand," she said after a while. "You can fight back, still? Do you wish to die?" she asked him.

He gave another half smile, "I don't want to fight with you, San," he said. "I'm tired of fighting..." he sighed. "I'm tired of hating my brother. I'm tired of wasting away my life, living each day...miserably." He swallowed and looked in her face, "I've killed so many people," he said sadly. "I've destroyed so many lives and families, and all for what?" he shook his head. "I'm tired of hating myself all of the time, I'm just too tired of it. I guess I've wanted to die...I want you to kill me."

She narrowed her eyes and licked her lips.

"You're a good person, San...and I really do apologize for the way I've..." he closed his eyes and sighed. "I don't deserve you, or Chip, or Ms. James at all..." he said with his eyes still closed. "Why don't you kill me?"

"Mmm," she murmured with a dry smile.

A long wait of silence followed...

And then he became angry. "If you're going to kill me, damn it, then just do it!" he shouted at her. "I told you that I'm not fighting anymore! If you're a vampire now then just bite off my damn head! I want you to! I told you already!" he shouted.

Her expression of surprise made him even angrier.

"Kill me, woman! If you're so thirsty then drink me! I don't want to live anymore! I don't want to deal with my life!" he cried frustrated and pained. "Kill me! Put me out of my misery! You'll never get the opportunity if you don't take the chance now!" he shouted at her. "Bite me!"

She only stared at him.

"Kill me!" he shouted at her again. "Bite into my throat and take my life away! I deserve it! I need you to kill me! If you don't, I'll only kill more people and do more harm than good-" he cried looking away. "I know myself, I know what I'll do! The full moon is rising, it'll be out in a couple of days-" he looked at her. "I'm so tired of the killing! I'm so tired of it!"

Her face was completely blank.

"Please?!" he begged her. "Put me out of my misery! Take it away from me!" he cried. "I can't take this anymore! I don't want to bear the guilt anymore! I don't want to feel, you understand?! I hate myself! I hate my demon father and my human mother for doing this to me!" he cried. "They created me! Me! The only demon in the world that can feel so-" he took a breath. "Do you know what it is like?!" he cried. "It is like being torn to shreds everyday! Everyday of your life!"

"I wake up-tormented! Tormented because of what I am, what I've done...! And unlike everyone else, I care! I remember the things I've done! I remember the horrible things I did and yet when I was doing it, I liked it!" he cried. "Everyday I rip myself apart! Over and over and over again! It never stops-! It will never end...!" he cried. "I can't continue doing this..."

With a start she stabbed her fingernails harder into his hands and then leaned down into his neck. She started to sink her teeth in his throat but stopped-

"Go ahead! Do it!" he urged. "Kill me!"

She pulled back and looked at him, "Shou Lang..."

"Don't you want to kill me? I've done so much to you, why not repay it back?!"

Her black eyes wavered, "Shou Lang..." she said again.

"Bite me!" he cried angrily. "Bite me! Bite, bite, bite!"

"I...can't-!" she whispered.

"Damn you and bite me!" he snarled at her.

Her eyes were flashing between brown and black. "I don't want to..."

"You're a vampire, of course you want to bite me!"

"Shou Lang," she whispered, and before he could yell at her, her eyes rolled to the back of her head and she coughed up the last green gunk and foam into his face.

Her fingernails left his hands and she rolled out from on top of him beside him shaking and jerking as if she was having a seizure.

He wiped the green liquid off his face disgusted and repulsed. He stared at her with his chest constricted and tight again. "San?" he called out weakly.

"Sh-Shou Lang...!" she said jerking violently coughing up the green gunk over her face. She bounced up and down on the wooden floor, coughing and jerking as if something was trying to get out of her.

"San-!" he cried again breathing hard.

Finally something smoky and wispy began pouring out of her mouth, black smoke that curled to the ceiling and disappeared there. She was still jerking after all of it had erupted from her mouth and disappeared. She lay on the floor twitching violently and coughing.

"San-!" he gathered her in his arms and ran his hand over her forehead. "San, are you all right?"

She opened her eyes. Bright honey colored eyes greeted him and when she smiled she no longer had the sharp menacing fangs in her mouth. "Shou Lang..." she said in a small weak voice.

"San!" without thinking he hugged her close. "San!" the liquid and foam on her face rubbed off on his neck and shoulder but he did not care. "You're all right!"

"Shou Lang-!" she was laughing and crying at the same time. "I-I was so scared!"

He never thought that he would be happy to see her but he was. He never thought that he would be hugging another human but he was, and at the moment he did not care. At that moment he was happy just seeing her alive and whole once again.

"I told you to kill me!" he shouted in her hair. "I told you to bite me but you didn't, why can't you do anything I ask you to do?!" he demanded smoothing the hair from her face and suffocating her in a hug.

She held on to him just as tightly, still laughing and crying. "I'm so glad to see you, Shou Lang! I'm so happy you're here!"

He pulled back looking at her and taking a deep relieved breath. "San..."

She smiled, wiping the gunk and slime off of her face while crying and nodding at the same time.

He let her hug him again and patted her hair. "It's over now...you're not a demon anymore," he said with a sigh.

She pulled away and smiled at him. "I'm sorry, I got all this disgusting goop all over your face," she said.

He smiled, "That's all right," he said.

"Is Ms. James all right? Is Ash gone?" she asked.

"Ms. James is safe," he said, "And Ash is dead, and you don't have to worry about him ever again." He lowered his eyes a second, looking at the three slashes on her cheek. "San, about what I did-" he said motioning to her face.

"Don't apologize, I already know you're sorry," she said smiling at him through her tears.

He gave her a weak smile, "I wasn't going to apologize," he said. "I was going to mention that you left some of that stuff on that side of your cheek," he lied with an apologetic smile.

She smiled at him and nodded her head, swiping the imaginary goop off her face with a sweep of her hand. "Thanks for telling me," her eyes shone.

"No," he said quietly. "I should thank you for understanding."

She smiled at him again. "I'm sure it was an accident that won't happen again," she said standing and watching him stand to his feet as well.

"Yes," he said swallowing. "I promise," he said solemnly, "I'll never forget to tell you if you have something on your face ever again."

She laughed while he smiled.

7.

(Narration)

The invasion cost the city of Philadelphia serious damage, the vampires destroyed nearly everything, but the alliance (between two skilled disciples of the Demonic Swordsmanship) were able to defeat the vampires and regain control over the city. Many of the vampires surrendered to the allied force, but many refused and chose to fight, a choice that cost their lives. The vampire army fell, they were without a leader to guide them during combat. If their leader, Ash, were still alive during the invasion, perhaps the outcome of the battle would have turned out different. Alas, he was killed, and the last race of the vampire has been eradicated from the world, both worlds.

Yet the true meaning and threat of the other box demons remain hidden, but the time will come for them, all too soon, for word has swept around the allied nations of a girl blessed with the gift of the demon eye itself.

A rat race has begun, a race for this legendary eye and who would be the one to claim its prize. The word of this girl has not only touched the regions of Earth, but also the parallel dimensions as well.

Who will be the prized owner of this girl and her demon eye gift? Who will take the throne? Who will possess the legendary powers of this demon eye and become king of the demon underworld?

Only time will tell...

End of Part 7...