CH 10: The Art of War

"I mean, I still don't understand why we didn't just get four laptops, heck maybe six." The Hunter's voice was heavy with sarcasm as she entered the library with her arms full. She smiled and Clarion rolled her eyes.

"Keep it up smartass. I just wanted the top of the line and those three were it….just be happy I paid for them." She wiggled her eyebrows.

"I'm so proud." She said dryly and then added, "honest." The tall woman looked at the boxes scattered about the cement floor. "So what's all this stuff for?"

Clarion nudged a box with her foot and looked at the small mess that had formed before them. "Well, once we find what we're looking for, we may need help from the boys."

Blue eyes cut to the red head as she stood in silence with a furrowed brow. "And..", she prodded.

She drew in a short breath. "A book actually, not sure what kind, but I do have a clue where to find it." She nibbled at her lip. "Of course that doesn't mean it will be there."

"Is it ever." Yoshi mumbled the words. Clarion heard the whispered words and swatted the dark woman on the butt as she walked out of the library. White teeth were displayed as Yoshi grinned appreciatively at Clarion's retreating frame. "Don't try to distract me."

Without missing a step and looking over her shoulder, Clarion responded as she walked to the bedroom. "Wouldn't dream of it Samurai. Besides, we have to go see one-eyed Lou!" Green eyes danced with mirth as she let out a giggle and entered the bedroom.

The dark woman burst into laughter at the red heads antics as she followed. "One-eyed Lou, eh? Does he have a peg leg and silver teeth?"

"No, that's Pirate Joe. One-eyed Lou is just a regular guy."

Yoshi chuckled. "Yeah right. Larieux, nobody you know is ‘just a guy', so what's his deal. He lost his eye in the Crusades or something?" Yoshi asked her questions as she began to discard her clothing.

Clarion grinned as she exchanged her blue jeans for black chinos. "Nah, he lost it at Mardi Gras a few years back."

Black eyebrows rose in curiosity. "Really?"

Clarion held in her laugh. "Yeah, really." She was all smiles. "Do you know how fast those beads travel? Man, he got one right in the eye from some guy on a float." She chuckled softly. "It was pretty funny."

Yoshi frowned as she exchanged her tank top for a sports bra. "Where is the humor in a man losing an eye?"

Clarion couldn't help but smile at the Hunter's concern. "I'm not that callous, but trust me, when you meet him, it'll all become clear."

"Whatever." Her shoulders rose with a shrug.

Yoshi slipped on a pair of black pants and bent over at the waist to tie the laces on her black workboots. She seemed oblivious to the Clarion, who sat down on the bed and watched as the dark woman transformed into the Hunter. Gone was the curious grin that always seemed to tickle the edges of her mouth. In its place was a mask of focus and ritual--Clarion watched as if bewitched.

What appeared to a lycra tank top, was actually made of a thin body armor that kept the Hunter cool when she overheated and warm when she was on the verge of freezing. A top this, she slid on a small vest that clipped together at her sternum and guarded her upper body. Clarion couldn't help buy think that a few Vampires might like to get their hands on that piece of armor. Finally, the Hunter donned a simple cotton t-shirt that clung to her deltoids and did well to accentuate the cut of her biceps. The red head spoke not a word as green eyes followed the path of Yoshi's hands as she strapped her tanto in to the small of her back and her knife to her hip.

Leather bracers covered the area from her wrist to a little more than a third of her forearm. Green eyes grew wide with excitement and fear, as the twitching of a muscle sent forth two silver spikes from the bracers. The spikes retreated without sound and Yoshi grabbed her long Trench coat from off the wall. The coat made a crisp snapping sound as the jet black material was whirled through the air, slipping her arms into the coat. Out of habit and ritual, the Hunter pulled out hair from inside the collar and smoothed down her lapels. Her movements were precise and practiced as she gave herself a once over without aid of a mirror and then turned around to retrieve her blade. As if taking in light, the pupils of her eyes dilated as she recognized Clarion's presence in the room.

The dark woman gave the smaller woman a lopsided grin that Clarion was in no shape to return. The Hunter felt the faintest of blushes rising up her neck as the red-head gazed at her with no hint of shame. When Clarion sat there silent, Yoshi shifted from one foot to another and darted her eyes about the room for fear of meeting the wanton gaze of fair-skinned lover, and losing the focus that she had attained. Finally, Yoshi found a spot on the wall just to the right of Clarion and stared at it as she cleared her throat. "You okay in there?" Yoshi's voice was like a low purr. She let out a cough as she realized what effect she was having on the smaller woman. "Larieux?"

A smile swept over the red head's face as she sat up straight with a small shiver. "Yeah, yeah, I'm here." She wet her lips and stood from the bed. "Just enjoying dress-up time." She winked at the now grinning Hunter and reached across the bed to pick up the sword. Clarion was sure her heart stopped as the Hunter's strong voice shook her body with the word, "No!"

At the sound of her own voice, Yoshi crossed in front of Clarion and picked up the blade in a blur of motion. The smaller woman wasn't sure if she should be upset or simply scared, so she just backed up until the bed stopped her movement. She could feel blue eyes seeking her out, but Clarion cast her gaze elsewhere unsure again for the first time in so many weeks as to what the Hunter was about to do. Yoshi breathed deeply without a sound as she calmed herself, stilling the raging energy that flowed through her. She opened and closed her eyes slowly as she watched the woman before her look to the ground in order to avoid her. Yoshi wanted to kick herself at scaring the small woman, but it had been a reflex that was in their best interest. Her voice was just above a whisper, but the deep timbre of her voice carried to Clarion as if she were next to her ear.

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to yell," Clarion looked up at her instantly, clearly relieved. "It's just that…this blade is very particular about who handles it. Kind of like a barometer of feelings, and I don't want you to hurt yourself." She managed a grin which the smaller woman returned.

"But why now?", she asked with curiosity.

"You remember what happened with Magnus's sword?" Clarion nodded, not even needing to conjure up the memory of the severe burn she got. "Exactly, but," Yoshi tapped the red head on the nose, "if I give you permission you can handle it, okay?" Clarion smiled widely and drew the taller woman into an embrace. Yoshi just went with the actions of the younger woman, only being careful to avoid cutting her with the sword in her hand.

Clarion pulled away and brushed her lips against the Hunter's. "C'mon let's go."


Clarion followed the path of dark woman as they left One-eyed Lou's. Clarion could only smile as she watched Yoshi's broad shoulders shake with another round of laughter. Clarion met up with Yoshi at the car and just shook her head at the smiling woman. "So you agree with me right?"

Yoshi looked at Clarion and smiled. "He certainly is unique, but I was right…he's definitely not just some guy." Clarion shrugged. "In fact he seems to be suffering from a bit of lycanthropy."

Clarion snorted. "Either that or he's just one hairy son of a bitch."

Both women laughed. "So what is he really?"

"Lou used to be a Guardian and now he's a Watcher…unofficially."

Yoshi furrowed her brow in thought. "Guardian? Guardian?"

"You ever heard of Edrigan?"

Understanding lifted Yoshi's features. "Sure, Merlin's creation, the beast and the man were one."

Clarion nodded and lit a cigarette. She took a deep drag and exhaled thick smoke rings. "Man if only these things could kill me." She winked at the scowling woman and continued talking. "Anyway, he had some weird fall out or accident and now he just sort of watches. He's just your basic demon now. Not really good or really bad, just somewhere in between awaiting opportunity."


Clarion arched an eyebrow at the woman. "What?"

She grinned. "Two hundred years ago, I would have killed him on the spot. A hundred, and I would have just beat him up. And now, now…I can't even tell what the hell he is." She shrugged.

Clarion eyed her with concern and tossed her cigarette. She stood between Yoshi's legs as the taller woman leaned back onto the hood of the car. Clarion pushed the long coat aside as she wrapped her arms around Yoshi's waist careful to avoid the dagger in the small of her back. "You second guessing yourself again Samurai?"

Yoshi let out a small chuckle as jade eyes bored into her own eyes, making her weak in the knees. "It was just a relapse, I promise."

Clarion arched her eyebrow to comic proportions and gave the taller woman her own lopsided grin. "All right then, because you can't be flaking out on me tonight."

Yoshi smiled. "No flaking." She leaned down a bit and kissed the red head on the forehead, the nose, and finally the lips. The gave each a small squeeze and moved apart. "So tell me about this Warlock book, so I'll know what I'm looking for."

Clarion chuckled as she picked up her still burning cigarette. "Still good." she spoke to herself and then looked at the woman cloaked in black and her words finally registered. "Well, you don't have to worry about what it looks like, we just need to get inside and I'll take care of that."

Yoshi folded her arms across her chest and stood to her full height. "We?"

Had Clarion been an inexperienced smoker or even fully human she might have choked on the amount of smoke she inhaled, but instead she only exhaled a plume of smoke. "You've lost your mind, if you thinking you're walking into a den without me to pick up something you've never seen before nor can you read, so you should rethink this one." Clarion's voice was calm but was verging on being annoyed.

Yoshi sighed and took a step towards the simmering red head. "Larieux, would you let me do my job. There's no need for us to both go down there and get hurt."

Clarion spat out a laugh and flicked her cigarette to the ground. "So, it's okay for you to go and get hurt?" She moved closer to the dark column of a woman and poked her in the chest. "You can't do this without me and even if you could I wouldn't let you. So get off your high horse or I'll be forced to get nasty."

Yoshi rolled her eyes and stifled the angry comment that she wanted to make. "Okay, Larieux, fine, you want this to be a two-man operation, show me what you got."

The statement caught Clarion so off guard that she took a step back and regarded the slightly grinning woman with a confused look. "Wh-what, you want to fight or something?"

Yoshi chuckled and leaned back against the car. "No. I want you to explain to me why it is that you think you're necessary for this part. I mean, all you need to do, is lead me to the den, give me the map, and wait for me."

Green eyes drew to small slits as Clarion rested her hands on her hips. "You know Hunter, if I thought you'd feel it, I'd give you a mouth full of fist." She huffed. "Of all the arrogant… and damn it, just plain chauvinistic things to say. I should wait. Ha! What do I look like, Scarlet fucking O'Hara?"

"I didn't know Scarlet and O'Hara had a relationship." Her face was blank as she spoke.

Clarion's cheeks were almost as red as her hair. She let out a small growl and punched Yoshi in the arm out of frustration and amusement at herself. "You're an ass Yoshi." She rolled her eyes and stepped back as Yoshi shrugged and rubbed her arm. "Oh stop humoring me."

Yoshi stopped rubbing her arm and regarded Clarion seriously. "Really now, I'd rather you not go," she held up her hand as Clarion started to protest. ", because you're too important in all this and I'm not running the risk of dropping you into a trap." Blue eyes held fast to green in a moment of silence.

"I hear you Yoshi, but just trust that you will need me. You don't know who or what's down there and you've all but admitted that you don't feel up to par, so I'm not running the risk of dropping you into a trap." Clarion drew her the back of her hand across Yoshi's cheek. "Besides, I can be of some help to you."

Yoshi smiled and stood up straight. "Oh yeah. You got some cloves of garlic and wooden stakes in your back pocket?" Long arms reached for the pockets in question and the red head danced out of her reach.

Clarion giggled. "Who the hell decided that garlic was a Vampire deterrent? Garlic is only the staple of every good meal." She scoffed. "Humans are so insensitive," she added playfully and then retrieved a what looked like a compact from her pocket. "No wooden stakes, but I do have Gopher dust." Clarion smiled like she had a secret.

"Gopher dust, huh?" Yoshi was far from convinced. Clarion opened the small case to reveal a heap of grayish-black powder and smiled harder. Yoshi had no idea how not to be sarcastic in the moment. "Uh, so you're going to blow fairy dust in their eyes and I take them down in the commotion?"

Clarion's proud smile turned into grin. She just nodded her head as the dark woman chuckled. She allowed the Hunter to get her chuckles, knowing she had the upper hand. "You finished Samurai?" She sucked her teeth and waited for Yoshi to gather herself. Clarion took a pinch of the powder in her hand and closed the case with her free hand and put it away. Green eyes, that held no mischief looked up at the grinning Hunter. "Give me your hand." Clarion's voice was calm and sweet without a hint of malevolence.

Yoshi eyed the smaller woman with suspicion. "You're not going to spit in my hand are you?"

Clarion shook her head. "Your hand." Her tone was still calm, if only slightly irritated.

Yoshi held out her hand, palm down hovering over Clarion's hand. Clarion lifted her own her hand until their palms met and then she gripped Yoshi's hand and Yoshi did the same. Clarion said nothing for a moment as Yoshi waited. "Well, you know, now that I think about it, this does feel like special dust. I mean this just isn't sand from the ocean, oh no. It's like super sand." She smiled cheekily and Clarion continued to nod.

She turned their hands over three times and stopped when Yoshi's hand was once again on top. She slowly pulled away making sure that she kept Yoshi's attention with her eyes. Clarion clasped her hands behind her back and spoke matter of factly. "You know sand would probably be a lot better than that flesh-eating bacteria."

Yoshi looked at her oddly and then followed the gaze of Clarion's eyes to her hand. Yoshi slammed into the side of the car as she shook her hand wildly in an attempt to dislodge the microscopic creatures that were eating away at the flesh of her hand. Her movements were chaotic as she screamed in fear and what she thought was pain at seeing the bone of one of her fingers.

Clarion rocked back on her heels as she watched the Hunter shake out her hand hard enough to break her wrist. Finally, with the smuggest of looks Clarion spoke. "Something wrong with your hand puddin'?"

Blue eyes filled with fear, looked to Clarion. "M-m-m-my hand, fuck, my hand!" She was beyond panicked as her flesh disappeared.

"There's nothing wrong with your hand."

"Yes, my…" Yoshi trailed off as she looked to the hand in question and saw she could no more see the bone and muscles of her hand than she could see through walls. Disbelieving blue eyes darted from her hand to Clarion and back for several seconds. "My…but…I could see…what…holy crap." She let out a sigh and finally looked up at the grinning red head, who was fighting hard not to burst into laughter. Yoshi hung her head in shame and mostly embarrassment. She cut her eyes toward Clarion and shrugged. "Do you want to rub it in now or later?"

Clarion let out a low snicker. "I was thinking…later." She winked at the slouching woman. "You ready to go now?'

Yoshi stood up straight and nodded. "So, um uh, you want to tell me about the book we're going to find."

Clarion shook her head and opened the car door. "Just get in the car and I'll tell you everything you need to know." Clarion attempted to glare at the tall woman, but she ended up kissing the air in her direction and then getting into the car.

* * *


CH 11: ‘Smile Pretty and Watch Your Back.'

The soles of their shoes made no sound as the unlikely pair of Hunter and Vampire traversed the gravel road leading to the crumbled ruins of a church. Yoshi let out a snort as they crouched beside the dilapidated head of what was once a gargoyle. Her voice barely carried on the air, but she knew the red head at her side would pick up her words. "They do have a sense of humor don't they." Even in the dark, Clarion's smile was blazing as she turned towards Yoshi and winked.

"I was taught to do the opposite of what was expected, and when Mama D said hide in plain sight I took it to heart." Yoshi just nodded and followed Clarion as they edged their way forward and stepped through the ruined archway of the church. What remained of the altar covered the entrance to the crypt, with its fallen legs and broken body. Yoshima swept her coat tails back from her body as she squatted down next to Clarion. "Once we're down it'll just be getting from point A to point B. We might get lucky and it'll be clear, but-

Yoshi nodded. "You just get the book and let me deal, okay." She gave her shorter partner a small grin.

Clarion smiled as well and placed a quick kiss on the Hunter's lips. "No showing off Samurai." She wagged her finger at a barely grinning Yoshi.

"I'm not in any shape to showboat. In and out, trust me." She took a breath of restlessness.

Clarion just nodded. "Ready?" As Yoshi nodded Clarion took a small breath and swung open the hatch with ease. Clarion shrugged her shoulders as if to say, ‘here goes nothing' and dropped into the dark.

Just as the dark material of her coat cloak shrouded the Hunter, Yoshima draped Clarion with her presence. It was only breath that separated them as they walked in the dark. Yoshi held her drawn blade at her side ready for whatever might spring from the dark. She adjusted her eyes to gather the bare minimum of light there was in the tunnel and could sense nothing ahead of them. Of course this didn't put her at ease, because most often, the walking dead did not give off energy. Their short walk came to a stop as Clarion stood before a sliver of light at her feet. There was no time for second guessing or hesitation as Clarion eased open the door and let the false light spill onto their forms.

If someone had been in their immediate area they would have made quite a picture. Clarion's green eyes glowed fiercely iridescent as she summoned demon strength and stood poised to strike, with flaming red hair. Behind her, merely a shadow that stood more than six feet tall was a dark vision, with the only source of light glinting off the steel of a blade held high above her head ready to attack. Clarion calmed herself as she realized there was no immediate threat. When she turned towards Yoshi her eyes gave off no iridescent light.

"We got about a 200 yards to go. They're here." She sniffed the air. "I don't know how many."

Yoshi seemed to look past Clarion as regripped her blade. "About 12." Her voice was low.

Clarion couldn't stop the arching of her brow at the Hunter's words. "You can tell?" She didn't mean to sound surprised.

Yoshi barely shrugged. "They smell."

A wisp of a smile reached Clarion's lips. "And you say you're out of practice."

Yoshi only grinned as they continued forward side by side. Both Hunter and Vampire sensed the presence of another in the hallway, bringing them both to a quiet stop. "Qui marche mes couloir cette nuit? Who walks my halls this night?

Clarion stepped out into a small pool of amber light given off by a torch. "The devil I say."

"Montrez-vous le demon!" Show yourself demon. His footsteps took him closer to her position but his eyes had yet to find her.

"I'm right behind you." With the correct strain in her voice, her words echoed off the wall behind the man and caused him to turn away. Yoshi was more than impressed as she took the moment to stand in front of Clarion ,in plain view.

Fangs and nails had yet to show themselves when the steel of a blade, folded more than 200 times. sliced through the man's chest. He fell onto his back with a thud and surely wished the ground could have swallowed him whole, as his position forced him to take in the sight of the Hunter standing above him. To him, her eyes seemed as coal black as the hair that surrounded her face. In the moment that he should have used to warn his brethren, he could only whisper words of damnation and disbelief. "To hell with you, Hunter." His words were punctuated with the hissing sound his heart made as the sword pierced the organ. Yoshi removed her sword in the same quick motion that she had struck with and pressed a finger to her lips as if to quiet the dying vampire. Her crooked smile would be the last thing he saw and the last words he heard were, "you first."

Clarion made no comment as she moved past the limp form on the ground and took the lead again. She stopped short 10 yards away at the next torch, half expecting Yoshi to collide into her, but she didn't. "Um, Yoshi," Clarion turned so that she was facing the taller woman, "do you think we could not kill everything we see." Her tone was light and undemanding. Black eyebrows furrowed as Yoshi searched for words that made sense of her confusion. Clarion shook her head at her obvious bewilderment. "What I mean is… I mean… I'm not telling you how to do your job." She grinned at Yoshi's arched eyebrow. "Just saying, the less people that know we're here, the better. You understand?"

Slowly but surely Yoshi's eyebrow lowered and she nodded. "I see what you're saying--okay." She nodded again.

Clarion tried unsuccessfully not to look surprised. "You understand?"

A small grin played over full lips. "In and out right. Nice and quiet."

Clarion smiled fully. "Exactly." Both women nodded at their agreement and began walking through the cavern. The moved quietly towards the mouth of the tunnel that emptied out into the catacombs. Neither knew who heard it first, but it was as if their footfalls had tripped an imaginary wire and set off an alarm. The high pitched wail tore through the stone walls and rumbled their insides. It was the cry of a sentry who was alerting the others to a Hunter's presence. Clarion and Yoshi turned to one another as they held their ears.

Yoshi couldn't hide the smirk that came to her lips. "You were saying?"

Green eyes rolled. "Apparently, nothing." Clarion reached for her back pocket and motioned for Yoshi to go forward. "Stay to the right and move fast."

The dark hunter ignored her want to protest and did as Clarion asked; moving to the right and fast. She believed Clarion capable, and even if she wasn't, Yoshi wasn't about to go too far ahead. The wailing of the sentry died down as he and another advanced upon the two women. Yoshi checked her blindsides and pulled out her tanto so that her hands held both weapons. She continued to watch the slow advance of the sentries as she listened to the heavy footsteps around her of advancing vampires. She furrowed her brow as she watched Clarion fumble with the contraption in her pocket and nearly had to bite her tongue to keep from questioning the smaller woman's tactics. Her worries were laid to rest as Clarion turned around so that she faced the advancing sentries. "Hope you guys are flame retardant." As she muttered the words, a stream of fire exploded from her hand and burned a quick trail to the two sentries. A second stream shot out, aided by Clarions's breath and soon the two sentries were engulfed in a wall of fire.

There was no time to admire the work, as Clarion quickly turned and urged Yoshi forward. "All the way down, take the steps at the end and keep moving until you can't any longer." The words came just as fast as their feet were carrying them. It was only a brief moment that carried them to the steps, but it was fueled by a rush of motion as wails grew louder and threatened to shake the core of the catacombs. It sounded as if an army had surrounded them and Yoshi was sure that nothing short of that awaited them at the bottom of the steps. If she had been hesitant before or skeptical of her abilities all was lost to her as more important matters pressed on her psyche: staying alive.

Yoshima barely heard Clarion call her name but the sound was lost in the ground swell of her feet and the snap of the air as her coat billowed out behind her and she leapt down the stairs. Green eyes were wild with anticipation and Clarion was filled with a rush of adrenaline that could only be best described as excitement, as she watched the shadow come to life. Whatever her words of warning had been moments before died on her lips just as easily as the steel of Yoshi's blade sliced through her unworthy opponents. Clarion found herself frozen on the bottom step as she watched the dark warrior cut her way through the room that had no exits. It did not seem to matter to the Hunter that she could see no visible means of escape, but only that she cut down everything within her path.

A room that had been filled with stagnate air moments before was charged with life as Yoshi's blade carved through the air. As solid as she appeared to be, her movements gave her the appearance of an oil slick. Her movements were precise and measured but not without flair. It was like watching a mad conductor as he beat out time to ‘Symphonie Fantastic'. The warrior herself made no sound, but the room was filled with the hiss of burning flesh, gasps of disbelief, and the howls of inevitable death. It was only when Yoshi remained standing that Clarion moved from her perch. The broken bodies of 10 were splayed across the floor in such a fashion that it seemed as though their had been three times as many. Black hair, heavy with moisture whipped around as Yoshi faced Clarion who still remained by the stairwell.

In the time it takes a human to blink, Clarion was fearful of what she would see when she looked the Hunter in the eye. Where she expected to see a wild beast, she saw nothing but calm. Where she expected to see feral pleasure, she found only soft concern. Where she expected to find hate--she could only discern love. Blue eyes held to green and the moment faded. "You got a way out of this one hot shot?" Her grin was small, but the words made Clarion laugh from her gut. The spell was broken and suddenly she remembered where she was and why.

"You know chick, I don't know whether I should throw you to the floor and have my way with you or wait till we get outside."

The small tension that Yoshi had left her as quickly as it came. "I'd prefer later…I gotta thing about public sex."

Clarion laughed as she moved along the wall. "We'll talk about that later." Clarion placed her palm on a rise in the wall and pushed. A large rectangle fell away and she winked at Yoshi. "Shortcut."

Clarion stepped through the hole and stood on the small landing facing Yoshi. "We need to make this fast, ya know."

"After you, Larieux." Clarion smiled as dark eyebrows wiggled and the Hunter that had always seemed so formidable became adorable. She let out a small chuckle. "What's so funny?" Yoshi put her hands on the sides of the wall as if she was ready to step through.

Clarion gave her a half shrug. "I never thought I'd say this," she paused and waved her hand through the air, "hell, I never thought I'd be in this position….but you are so cute right now."

A black eyebrow reached for the sky as Yoshi emitted a soft growl. What probably should have been a menacing look, became nothing short of a sexy smirk as Yoshi regarded the deep green eyes of Clarion. Yoshi leaned forward just a bit so that their noses almost touched. "You know this is neither the time nor the place young lady."

Clarion rolled her eyes and smiled. "I know, I know. But there's something about all that black and the sword and that sweat!" She fanned herself. "Woo! I don't know about you but I'm warm and fuzzy all over."

Yoshi was trying to keep a straight face. "Warm and fuzzy, eh?" Clarion nodded vigorously. Yoshi was silent for a second as she drew her tongue across her top teeth in contemplation. "One kiss…and we're gone." Clarion's face lit up like a six year old who had just been let loose in a toy store. The red head wasted no time, as she placed her small hands on the dark woman's face and pulled her into a forceful kiss. It was the kind of kiss that didn't necessarily have any love behind it, but it wasn't missed on account of being fueled with raw energy.

Admittedly, the world seemed hazy to Yoshi, but not so that she didn't sense movement behind her. A blonde eyebrow rose as they kiss ended, but Clarion didn't take her eyes off Yoshi. "Um, Yosh…behind you." A wisp of a smile came to the Hunter's lips as she nodded and proceeded to bury her sword into the advancing Vampire without so much as a look in his direction. No air left his body as he slid of the sword and collapsed into a heap of ash. Clarion just shook her head and quickly nipped the Hunter's nose. "We definitely gotta talk about public sex." Both women laughed as Clarion disappeared into the wall with Yoshi right behind her.

The short drop deposited the two women into a wide hallway that was well lit with electricity. The two women moved as if they had done this a thousand times with one another. Clarion checked their blindsides, while Yoshi stood tall, staring down both ends of the hallway. Clarion took a small breath before she spoke. "The library's off to the right, about 50 yards."

Yoshi nodded without looking at Clarion and pulled out her dagger from the holster on her ankle. "Take this with you." Green eyes were wide as Clarion held out a shaky hand. Yoshi couldn't help but smile at the smaller woman's hesitation. "It's okay, I promise."

Clarion grinned and grabbed the dagger. She squeezed the handle a few times just to get a could grip and test the fact that the handle wasn't searing her flesh. "Where are you going to be?"

Blue eyes scanned the ceiling and the floors. "Waiting on the rest of them."

Clarion groaned inwardly. "More?" Yoshi shrugged. "You don't know?" She touched Yoshi's arm, so the Hunter would look at her.

"Not yet, but this place is too large to just house ten suckheads." Clarion groaned at Yoshi's choice of words causing the dark woman to blush slightly. "Sorry."

"It's okay." She waved a hand through the air. "You going to be okay?"

Blue eyes rolled. "I'll live…but hey, I'm only one woman here--so make it fast." She plucked Clarion lightly on the nose.

The red head smiled. "I'm on it."

Before Clarion even reached the corner she heard the sound of metal slamming together. She very nearly turned around, but her purpose lay behind the doors in front of her. She visualized the book she was looking for and called up the image of the handwriting in her head. She knew she could waste no time searching the stacks. Clarion blew through the heavy wooden doors and went to the left where the stacks began. The top row ended just at her fingertips but that didn't stop her from seeing, as she touched the spine of each book with her fingertips. Green eyes moved with blazing speed as she read through the titles. There seemed to be no real order, not even language let alone subject matter. She blew passed a Gaelic tome on the nature of dragons, wasted no time on Latin articles about the Apostles, and didn't even flinch as she skimmed over Romany tales of Vampires. Clarion found herself bending at the waist to read the second to last row and suddenly she stopped. She couldn't tell if it was the large hole in between two books that caught her attention or the smell. Whatever the case, it all fell to the way side as a disembodied voice filled the room.

"Looking for this?"

At his words, Clarion pulled out the dagger and swung around to face the speaker. His smile was bright, his teeth pearly and straight. His hair reached his shoulders and was just as bright as his smile. His skin was smooth and clear and appeared to have a hint of color. He could have been an angel or in Clarion's hopes merely a ghost, but he was neither. Where his eyes should have been a soft gray, his sockets held two orbs colored chrome.

Clarion shook as if the ground was collapsing beneath her. She stumbled back as if shoved and only remained standing for fear of falling. The awful silence of the moment was shattered as the dagger spilled from Clarion's hand and fell to the concrete floor. Her small hands flew to her mouth, lest she scream out in disbelief. The red head was speechless as her eyes rimmed with tears. She watched as his mouth formed words, but the sound never reached her ears. A dull hum of shock filled her ears and barely registered his words let alone Yoshi's voice behind her.

"Clarion. Clarion?" Yoshi called from the hallway. "Larieux? You ready?" She came closer to the doorway. "Clarion…you hear me? We gotta go. Clarion?" It was only discipline that kept Yoshi from charging into the library. She took deliberate steps into the room with her sword at her side. While her heartbeat calmed at the sight of Clarion standing, she went to the attack as she saw the smiling man before her. She was at Clarion's back as she raised her sword and made ready for the downswing. However she was halted by a familiar voice.

"No." Clarion's voice was quiet but firm. Without looking, she reached back and placed her hand on Yoshi's wrist, effectively stopping her attack. "Leave him."

All though the Hunter couldn't see Clarion's face, her tone offered no room for argument. Blue eyes steeled as she took in the form of the man across from her. She lowered her blade, but did not resheath the blade. Yoshi placed her hand on Clarion's shoulder, but kept her eyes forward. "Clarion, we need to go."

"I sure wish I had a camera for this kodak moment." His words were crisp and his smile was eerily radiant.

Yoshi kept in her snarl. "Let's get the book and go." Clarion only nodded.

If possible his smile grew wider. "Hunter, I was just telling Clarion here that the book really can't help you now."

Both Yoshi and Clarion bristled at his words. "That's for us to decide." Yoshi's voice was deep with rage.

The silver eyed man chuckled. "I was telling Claire here, how you guys are really out of time and there's nothing you can do."

Yoshi felt the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end as a bolt of recognition coursed through her body. "I know you don't I?"

The man merely smiled. "Anyway, what I wanted to say to Claire, was thank you." At his words, Clarion visibly left her stupor and stood up straight. He took a step forward and Yoshi began to raise her sword. It was only at Clarion's raised hand that she stopped. The silver eyed man broke his gaze with the Hunter and locked eyes with Clarion. "Claire I just wanted say thank you, thank you." He took a deep breath. "I know you feared this and I feared it too, but oh honey, it's so much more. For a while there I was angry with you, ya know. Cause I couldn't understand why you'd want to keep this from me, but in time I understood. But oh, Claire you were wrong. Pahtna, this isn't bad…this is power. And you know that." He wagged a finger at her in a chiding manner, but smiled to convey the playfullness of his statement.

Yoshi stood stock still and took everything in around her. Her mind churned to place this man and moreover to place him in Clarion's life. It was with wild blue eyes that she watched him and did her best to listen.

"I was so scared at first, but things work out always in the end." He drew in a breath of air and let out a chuckle. "Ya' know I've never felt bad about going home after it all happened. I mean as a human I would have never dreamed it, but like this-- it made perfect sense." His eyes rolled to the ceiling and he smiled wistfully. Even though Yoshi couldn't see Clarion's face she could sense a change come over the small woman. The silver eyed man purposefully avoided Clarion's eyes as he spoke, waiting for the right time to hammer home his point. "Claire, I can't quite explain the feeling they gave me. It was odd, but it was exactly what I needed at the time. I was so scared and so in awe of what I had become that home seemed so right. And it was so right. Of course, it was sloppy, and messy by my standards now…but at the time the rush was what I was feeling."

The Hunter's eyes glazed over with hate as she understood what was being admitted. Here before her stood the life that Clarion took. Here before them both stood Lucien in all his glory. What was more, was that she realized what she was sure Clarion realized…it was Lucien that had killed the remaining members of her family. It was her own flesh and blood that had torn apart her dreams. It was only on instinct that Yoshi dropped her free hand to Clarion's arm. Yoshi kept her attention focused on Clarion as she tried to drown out the man's words. She pulled on Clarion's arm, trying to pull her away and only met a wall of resistance. Clarion didn't even budge as Yoshi tugged on her arm. The Hunter might as well have been pulling on a vault door. Clarion was like steel in her stance.

Clarion could feel Yoshi tugging on her arm, but she could only register his words. He had Lucien's face and his beautiful smile and his body--but that was not Lucien that stood before her. Anger coursed through her at his words and she was helpless to stop the energy that pulsed through her being. She did nothing to stop the tingle in her teeth or to calm the power that surged through her. Glowing green eyes bored daggers into the silver eyed beast that stood before her. Lucien chuckled as he watched the change pass through Clarion.

"You can feel it can't you Claire." He was goading her.

"Clarion--please." Yoshi's words were soft and pleading.

The Hunter's words seem to tap into the last bits of self-preservation that Clarion had and the Daywalker began to calm herself as best she could. Her visible fight only excited Lucien. "Stop fighting Clarion. Come on. Let me see you."

Clarion snatched her arm away from Yoshi's grasp and the Hunter was sure the red head was about to attack, but she was pleasantly surprised. Clarion kept her arms at her side and made no move to go anywhere. Lucien gave the barest hint of a frown. "You won't win Claire. You two are out of time, it's done." At that he sucked his teeth and hurled the book into the air. The leather bound book sailed out of the doorway into the corridor where it skidded to a dark corner. Clarion didn't even flinch. Lucien rolled his eyes once again. "Claire there's so much more you can do than this. And you're a fool if you believe what the Hunter says. She'll kill you in the end….it's law." He mockingly drawled out the words

The room was quiet as both Yoshi and Lucien seemed to wait on Clarion's answer. The response began as she took a small step back. and then she spoke. She spit on the ground and drew her eyes up to meet Lucien's. "Die like the dog you've become. Lucien is dead…you're just the thing in his place." Lucien only snorted. "Yoshi, take his arms and his hands." Her voice was heavy with ire but smooth in elocution. "Sever his head," she paused, "and save his heart for last." Clarion managed to make the minimal amount of contact with Yoshi as she passed by, but it was enough for the Hunter, who was rendered speechless by what had transpired.

Lucien chuckled and revealed the sword he held behind his back. "A Hunter taking orders from a Vampire. I say, what is the world coming to?" His eyes danced with glee as Clarion left the room.

Yoshi regripped the handle of her sword and grinned. "You're never going to find out."

Lucien chuckled genuinely and raised his sword. "Shall we?" His answer came not in the sound of the Hunter's voice but in the sound of steel slicing through the air.

* * *


Chapter 12

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