Megumi was slow to wake up. Her mind felt disoriented by the fact she was sitting upright in a chair. Squinting through the bright overhead light revealed she was in the kitchen. Attempting to move, she was halted by the strips of clothing binding her to the chair. "Wha- what the hell?"
"It's Megumi, right?" asked Nanako. She stepped out from the bedroom doorway; the stake and hammer in hand. The expression on her face was wired yet weary, as though she hadn't slept in days.
It was hard to not focus on the stake in Nanako's white-knuckled hands. Megumi forced herself to not yell and appear non-threatening. "Yep, that's my name. Where have you been?"
Nanako's gaze never left the floor as though she couldn't bare to look at the monster sitting before her. She spoke in a soft, calm voice making her question sound genuine. "In the closet, you nearly found me when you took your bath. How do you like wearing my clothes?"
"You lack style," said Megumi.
Nanako smiled at her blunt answer. The next question was harder to ask. "Are you... a vampire?"
"Yes," said Megumi. The girl already knew, even if she didn't quite believe it. "I prefer the name shiki. It's less dramatic."
Nanako's voice became sharper as she asked, "Why did you attack me?"
"I was scared, people were after me and I needed to hide. Nothing personal." Megumi made a pouting face, her eyes pleading for mercy.
"I was going to kill you in your sleep..." Nanako paused, thinking of how many times she placed the stake on the monster's chest. "I just... I just couldn't do it."
"That's good, killing people is wrong," said Megumi, a touch of hope in her voice. Suddenly she felt the bindings loosen. The knots must not be very tight or well done.
Nanako looked at Megumi for the first time. Her eyes were watery with dark circles underneath. "Ha... Have you ever, killed someone?"
"No." The lie forced Megumi to grin for a split second. "I only take a little blood at a time. I would never kill someone. You're still alive aren't you?"
"Y-yes," Nanako squeaked. She turned away crossing her arms to comfort herself. The reality of it all was too much to handle. Vampires aren't real. This must be some sort of delusional experience. Perhaps caused from months of late night studying for entrance exams. "So you're a good vampire, er I mean shiki. But why were people after you?"
As soon as Nanako turned around Megumi began shifting her shoulders and twisting her wrists to free herself. The poorly tied strips of clothing came apart easily. "A lot of people had the same reaction you did. Except they didn't wait for an explanation. They just wanted to kill us."
"Us? You mean there are more of you?" Nanako turned back around only to see Megumi standing before her. "How... how did you?"
"Free myself?" Megumi laughed. "It seems not only are you terrible at fashion, but you suck at tying knots as well."
Nanako stepped back raising the stake in defense. The shiki was quicker on the draw and pounced on her. Together they stumbled back against the wall hard enough to indent the plaster. Megumi took Nanako by the wrists then repeatedly slammed her hands against the wall. Eventually Nanako dropped her weapons. They struggled for control pulling and shoving each other until the fight spilled into the living room.
"Just leave me alone!" Nanako picked up a nearby lamp and struck the shiki across the face with it. The plastic lamp snapped in two.
Megumi staggered but managed to stay on her feet. Warm blood trickled down the side of her head. She smiled at Nanako as she pointed to the small gash in her head. "Do you really think you can hurt me?" The girl became horrified once she saw the cut heal instantaneously. "You might as well give up Nanako. You can't win this."
"Are you, will you... will," Nanako stammered. A wrong step backward sent her tumbling to the ground.
"Will I kill you?" Megumi finished. Stepped over the girl placing a foot on her chest. "Perhaps I should. Considering you tried to kill me. That's only fair right?"
Nanako trembled as her eyes teared up. "Please, don't... I knew I couldn't do it. I've never been a strong person. P-please, I..."
Megumi dropped down so that her knees were pinning Nanako's shoulders to the floor. Grabbing the girl by the face she said, "Shut up. Just shut up. Do you think it's easy being shiki? Do you think I like putting up with this shit night after night? You're weak. If you were in my place you'd have a stake in your heart before the first sunrise."
"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry, I don't want to die. You're right I wouldn't have what it takes," Nanako babbled.
"Everyone I know from my old life is dead or missing. Everyone I'm going to meet I'll either have to control or kill. It's going to be like this for the rest of my existence isn't it?" said Megumi speaking to herself.
"I thought you said you hadn't killed anyone," said Nanako.
"Oh that was a lie. People lie you know," said Megumi. The level of disgust with the girl's naïvety was thick in her tone. "I've killed a lot of people. They all deserved it though. Kinda, like, you." Megumi tapped Nanako on the nose with each word. "I'm afraid you leave me with no choice."
Nanako closed her eyes tight when she saw the shiki's fangs lengthen. Even her eyes darkened making her appear to be pure evil. Soon it would be all over. The vampire's fangs scraped along her slender neck searching for the perfect spot to draw blood. Something rose up within Nanako. An urge to live at any cost. Finally she blurted out, "I can help you!"
"Help me?" Megumi sat up looking at the girl incredulously.
"Yes, if you let me live I can help you. If I die how will the rent get paid? People will come looking for me. If I live you can stay here. I can look after you during the day," explained Nanako. Something about her eyes made her offer seem real.
The urge to feed was strong. Killing Nanako was the prudent thing to do. She was a threat. Yet something stopped Megumi. Getting rid of the body would be a problem. Having to move on to another location would be a pain in the ass. Perhaps the girl could still be of some use to her. Megumi snatched Nanako's head with both hands asking, "And just how am I supposed to trust you?"
"Like I said, I'm not a strong person. I don't think I could kill anyone. Not even someone who is trying to hurt me. I promise I won't ever betray you," said Nanako while trying to force a smile.
"Not good enough," said Megumi. A tense silent moment passed between them. "You must swear your life to me. You must willingly give your blood to me when I need a snack. In exchange I'll let you keep your free will."
"Alright, I swear my life to you. How often will you need to, um, snack?" asked Nanako.
Megumi stood up and gave Nanako a hand pulling her up. "Only when I need it to stay alive. I'm sure I can find plenty of food elsewhere. However... I'll be needing some blood right now. To see if your offer is genuine."
"R-right now? Okay." Nanako took a deep breath before tilting her head to one side and brushing her hair back. The nervous tension on her face was obvious.
"This will sting only for a second," said Megumi. She embraced the girl closely before sinking her fangs in. Nanako twitched, wanting to pull away but held her ground. The flow of fresh blood made Megumi's face feel warm. The temptation to stand there and drain the girl dry was palpable until reason forced Megumi to let Nanako go. The same zombified expression washed over the girl's face. Unsure if it would even work Megumi called out, "I command you to have free will."
Life returned to Nanako's eyes. A moment later her head dropped onto the shiki's shoulder. Quietly she muttered, "I don't feel so good."
"Go lie down and sleep it off," said Megumi. Considering the condition the girl was in she decided to help her into bed. After tucking her in Megumi watched Nanako for a moment. Just minutes ago she might have been disposing of another corpse. Instead she had a new uneasy alliance with a mortal. There was something about Nanako that made Megumi believe she was telling the truth. Maybe she just wanted to believe she was telling the truth. "Idiot."
Megumi returned to the living room. Stepping over the lamp she scoffed, "You can clean up your own mess for the trouble you've caused me." Plopping down on the couch, she turned on the TV. The first channel was a local news station. The recent events left her still feeling full of hate. The dark side of her thoughts wanted her to make Nanako pay even more for attempting to take her life. What was left of it anyway. Normally Megumi would side with hate yet this new feeling of pity pervaded. I don't need a servant. I need a friend.
Something caught Megumi's eye on the news. The handsome news anchor announced, "Caught on cam, a man was seen emerging from an alleyway on fire. Police are saying it was an apparent suicide but they aren't ruling homicide out. A few of the witnesses are claiming he didn't catch fire until after stepping into the sunlight."
Megumi knew before the anchor could finish; it was Atsuo.
"Locals recorded the incident on their smart-phone cameras. The footage was deemed too graphic to show on the air but you can see it on our website. This might be the first recorded incident of spontaneous combustion. We'll have more at eleven," said the anchor.
An icy feeling penetrated Megumi's body. What if they figure it out? What if someone saw Atsuo leave with her? So many scenarios ran through her head. None of them ended well. Maybe it would have been better if they had caught me in Sotoba. Then I wouldn't have to worry about any of this. She made a decision. "I need to run."
Megumi located Nanako's purse and ransacked it. Taking any cash, credit cards, or anything else of value. Next she searched for her keys. They weren't in the kitchen. Not in the couch. The longer the search took the more panicked Megumi felt. She tore through the bedroom miraculously without waking Nanako. Finally she remembered there being a hook near the front door where the keys were hung.
"Gotcha," Megumi snatched the keys up holding them to her chest. Time to escape.
A fist pounded at the door.
Megumi froze. Who could it be? The pounding came again. The type of knock the police would use. Regardless, no one with friendly intentions would use such a knock. A third volley of knocks compelled her to look through the peep hole. To her surprise it was the large man from the club.
She slowly opened the door almost too afraid to ask, "What do you want?"
"Didn't I tell you not to make a scene?" said the man. The scowl was permanently fixed upon his face.
"You're a hard girl to find Megumi," said a woman from out of view. She stepped out from behind the large man. Megumi didn't recall seeing her at the club. She was very beautiful with long dark purple hair. The short blue dress she wore accented all of her feminine qualities. "But no one stays hidden for long. Least of all from me."
"Who are you? How do you know my name?" asked Megumi.
"Your friend Kiyoko is a regular at our little club. She was very helpful. My name is Chiyo and this gentleman is Shigeo. You can walk with us back to our car or..." the woman produced a jagged metal stake. By the look it it had been specifically made to kill shiki. "We can take you in pieces."
"I think I'll walk," said Megumi. Chiyo laughed at her attempt to sound defiant.
"I would hate to hurt such a pretty girl," said Shigeo before seizing her by the arm. They didn't bother closing the apartment door behind them as they led Megumi away.
"What's all this about?" asked Megumi. "You can tell me that much can't you?"
"You're a careless little girl," said Chiyo. "Our boss is none too happy with you. You can't just run around doing whatever you like. There are rules. Something the Kirishikis didn't teach you apparently."
"You know the Kirishiki family?" Megumi's face brightened for a moment.
"Yes and if you think being associated with them is going to help you, you are very mistaken," said Chiyo. They entered the elevator. Once the doors closed Chiyo continued, "Now do yourself a favor and keep your mouth shut."
A/N: I'm really sorry for the long delay in posting a chapter. Hopefully you guys are still interested. I've been going through some personal stuff these last few months and haven't had the motivation. On a good note I went to an anime convention back in October in Detroit and actually got to meet Megumi's voice actress which was cool.