Chapter I

Morgan wasn't a patient man.

He had never been a patient child, either. On his tenth birthday, during an extravagant party at one of those tacky family-friendly restaurants, surrounded by his school friends and family, Morgan had gotten angry after one of the other kids blew out his candles on a sweet ice-cream cake before he could.

He'd broken the kid's nose. It just got downhill from there.

Throughout his high school career he had been threatened with expulsion not once, but seven times, with only his father's abundant 'donations' to the school keeping him from dropping-out altogether. If he'd had the chance, he would have been only too glad to simply join his father's business without a diploma—the business being the next head of his father's gang, the Akatsuki. You didn't need to know calculus to be a gang boss.

But life, it seems, had other plans.

When he was turned into a Vorvintti when he was nineteen—a powerful, albeit savage species of vampire native to the continent of Jotai, where Morgan's family had emigrated when he was a child— Morgan had found that the little patience he had was swallowed up whole, leaving him more inclined to shoot first and leave the questions for someone else.

It would be a long time before he regained that patience—or at least a semblance of it—again.

But not right now.

Morgan slammed the butt of his austere—a Jotai National Defence Bureau-issued handgun that reminded Morgan of the revolvers he'd seen in old-timey westerns as a kid, expect the chambers accepted plasma-canisters instead of bullets—into the hotel door several times, then waited.

The person inside—Morgan could hear their steady breathing, the jack-hammering of their heart— uneasily shuffle their feet and hold their breath, but didn't move toward the door.

"I can hear you in there," Morgan yelled, knocking the handgun against the door once again. "It'll be easier for everyone if you just come out with your hands—Shit."

They ran. The slamming of feet against carpeted ground, the clang of metal as the person on the other side of the door climbed over the guardrail of the balcony, and the mistakeable thump as they leaped and fell to the ground.

"Fuck…!" Morgan slammed his shoulder against the hotel door, splintering the wood and crashing through to the other side with barely a breath; having such insane, superhuman strength did have its perks. Sometimes.

The hotel was strewn with garbage, food packets and empty drink containers scattered about the purple-carpeted floor. But beneath the coffee table, tucked in between chairs, left on shelves, was the detritus of a criminal. As Morgan crossed the hotel room, clutching his austere, he saw a knife tucked into the cushion of a brown sofa, or spent bullet-cases strewn about the floor. More telling was the blood splattered against one of the walls, and a mound of documents and photos on one of the tables.

He hadn't expected the anonymous tip he had gotten to turn out to be this serious.

Morgan took in the hotel room in a matter of seconds before he leaned over the balcony rail, gazing out on to the suburban street far below.

"…Fuck," he repeated.

The target wasn't dead.

They looked quite the opposite, in fact, sprinting across a cobbled alleyway behind a street of houses and shops, occasionally looking back at the hotel window—three storeys up. They quickened their pace as they caught sight of Morgan.

"H-Hey!" Morgan yelled, tucking his austere into its holster on his thigh and clambering over the edge of the guardrail. "Freeze! F-For fuck's sake, stop…!"

He leaped. The drop wasn't a long one; he barely felt the shock go through his legs, but the sweltering sunlight beaming down far above made it difficult for his body to recover quickly. Morgan stumbled on the cobbled street, right knee aching just slightly before it healed, then raced after the target. They were already so far ahead, at least a street or so, but the cobblestones were slowing them down, and Morgan had the stamina to pursue them for as long as he needed—at least, until the sun did him in.

"Captain? Come in, sir?"

Morgan pressed the button on the small transmission device in his left ear. "Yeah? Orlov, that you? I'm a—" he stumbled on a stone a little higher than the others, "Fuck! I'm a little busy right now."

It took more concentration than he'd like to admit not to trip over, but Morgan continued on, ending the transmission before waiting for Orlov's reply. He had the target in his sights, he didn't need anything else, even if he knew his boss would probably chew him out for not listening to his subordinates later.

I'll deal with that when it comes, Morgan thought as the target tipped over two garbage cans into the alleyway. He easily leaped over the barrels, the distance closing between them with each step.

Just as Morgan's fingers brushed the back of the target's oversized leather coat, they slid onto the main street, blending into the large crowd clogging the road. Morgan was tempted to take out his austere, but couldn't risk shooting someone else on the street; the target had emerged onto one of the more busy intersections in the middle of twenty-fifth precinct, a large shopping district filled with malls, restaurants, casinos and a whole array of attractive—and lucrative—businesses aimed to invite foreign visitors using Jotai City as a byway between their world and their destination. The sheer number of people clogging the streets and alley entrances made it difficult for Morgan to quickly follow the target, but when the crowd saw his uniform they parted for him as easily as they would a diseased man.

"Just coming through," he urged, pushing people aside as he kept tabs on the man. He was nearly toward the edge of the crowd on the other side of the long street; Morgan didn't have much time before he'd lose sight of his target. "Nothing to see here, just police business…"

Before he decided to simply jump over the crowd, Morgan finally found a small opening to sprint through, following the leather-coated man into the alleyway squeezed between two high-rise shopping malls.

"Hey! Stop…!"

But it was no use; Morgan might as well have been speaking Almischan for all the good it did. The man didn't turn around, instead racing through the alleyway and pushing a large garbage container into Morgan's way.

Morgan sighed. This guy really wasn't making it easy, was he?

He easily leaped over the container, taking the austere out from its holster and landing on the balls of his feet on the other side. "Freeze—"

Pain.

Blistering, mind-numbing pain burst across his side; Morgan had to physically remind himself to keep a grip on his austere as he fell to his knees, warm blood tickling his hips.

"Don't follow no more," a heavy voice rasped, like dry leaves scratching together.

The man stood over Morgan, a long, dangerous—and bloody—knife held in a shaking grip. He pulled the fabric away from his face to reveal green scaled skin and bright yellow eyes, the pupils vertical slits. "This, you get," he snarled, revealing a row of crooked, serrated teeth.

A lacert demon, Morgan idly realised, pain numbing his thoughts. Didn't see that coming. Should've known.

The lacert demon took off the large brown coat and tossed it to the side, the green scales of his shoulders sparkling in the sunlight. A huge tail snaked out behind the man, slowly turning in the air as that yellow gaze took Morgan in. The demon was panting, glancing up and down the alleyway as though waiting for something—or someone. He absently rubbed his left wrist, where the scales had been worn to reveal pink, distorted skin beneath; he had worn something there until recently, possibly shackles or manacles of some kind, Morgan thought. The demon looked down at Morgan, who cupped his hands to his side to mask the knife-wound the demon had made, then back at the alley entrances.

"Don't even think you'll make it out of this." Morgan grimaced, the muscle and skin at his side knitting together unpleasantly beneath his hand. "I'll make sure you never see the sun again."

The demon actually scoffed, prodding his knife in Morgan's direction. "You say? What you? Will be death, soon."

Morgan chewed on his bottom lip, drawing blood. Long gone were the days where he could simply squash this demon's head like a watermelon.

I miss the old days, Morgan thought—

—before staggering to his feet and slamming his head into the demon's chin.

A head-butt probably wasn't the most eloquent way to settle things, but he hadn't the time to put the austere between them; the demon slammed his shoulders against the alley walls, but to his credit didn't fall to the ground.

Morgan only wished he was so lucky. The lacert demon's bones were denser than a human's, the scales an extra measure of armoured protection against Morgan's bare skin. A little dazed, Morgan clutched his head before remembering to place the barrel of the austere against the demon's chest.

Green blood dribbled from the corner of the demon's mouth as he focused his wavering yellow gaze on the barrel of the handgun.

"Yeah, don't move," Morgan prodded the gun into the creature's chest. "You're under arrest—"

The gun—

Wasn't in Morgan's hand anymore.

One second he had the austere against the demon's chest, the next it was simply gone, wrenched out of his grip as though a wind had torn it from his fingers.

What the hell?

Morgan had only a split-second of shock before the austere somehow appeared in the demon's clawed hands, a toothy smile stretching across his face. "Not the tough, huh?"

"What—"

The demon fired.

Since his training at the cadet academy seven years prior, Morgan had always wondered what it would feel like being shot with an austere. Of course, all new recruits were shot with the 'stun' setting on the handgun; it apparently 'built character', but Morgan knew it was just to stop curious new recruits from shooting themselves. But Morgan, being what he was, had barely felt a sting, whilst his classmates were writhing in pain on the floor at his feet.

He now sympathised with their pain.

Because as he himself thrashed, limbs simultaneously on fire and numb at once as electricity arced across his skin, he glimpsed the side of the handgun, where a revolver chamber would normally be: it was set to 'kill'.

He couldn't even laugh, though he tried.

For several seconds his body refused to obey him as the electricity coursed through it, but the demon wasn't waiting around to watch him recover; he left, tucking the austere into the back of his pants and leaving Morgan behind.

"F-Fucking… shit…" Morgan mumbled, drool foaming at the corner of his mouth. If his body didn't recover soon…

Oh.

That's right.

I can do that, Morgan thought.

Morgan willed his Sleight—a Vorvintti power unique to every bloodline, of which Morgan's was known as the volatile 'burning-blood'—to burn, the blood in his veins alighting with his will—

At least, it would have, in the old days.

He groaned in pain and frustration, but the burning-blood was sluggish and slow, a slumbering beast content to sleep beneath his skin and let him squirm with the austere's bullet running through his body.

C'mon…! he urged, but the Sleight was slow coming, and contained barely any power at all; all he could feel was a slight increase in his body-temperature, perhaps even the numbness and pain in his muscles lessening just a fraction, but that was it.

He risked a glance back at the lacert demon. The thing was nearly at the mouth of the opposite end of the alleyway. If he didn't get his blood to burn soon…

There.

Finally.

A burst of heat blossomed across Morgan's skin, the blood inside catching, turning the veins in his hands and arms a bright, golden orange. The numbness and pain in his limbs faded, replaced by feeling and power as he leaped to his feet. But there was no steam at his fingertips, and the fire beneath his skin was controlled, mild—it would probably never be as powerful as it was when he was a kid again, but he could only be grateful.

At least now he could catch the demon.

Morgan sprinted, muscles powered by the Sleight, and easily closed the distance between him and the demon. "I said, freeze—"

The demon turned around sharply, the barrel of the austere prodded against Morgan's chest.

Shit. Not again—

Morgan glanced up, just a quick flick of his eyes, as he caught something in his periphery. A figure, standing on the edge of a balcony in the building on his left, impossibly balanced on the edge of the rail. Before Morgan could shout a warning, the figure leaped the six storeys or so—

—and landing behind the lacert demon, slammed their elbow into the demon's head.

The man was out cold.

He fell to the ground, and Morgan quickly scrambled to have the austere back in his hand. Just because he was strong enough on his own without the gun, didn't mean he could go against his boss's orders—he didn't want to be chewed-out again for letting his gun fall into the hand of a criminal.

The figure—almost matching Morgan's six-foot-four height, although had a leaner build—dusted his heavily-tattooed hands and let out a low whistle.

"Fancy meeting you here," he said, emerald eyes dancing.

Morgan shrugged, but he was bewildered. "I could say the same."

There was no way he could have predicted his younger brother saving his skin at the last minute.