The children followed my lead into the staircase, but I knew that we wouldn't be able to use one method to simply sneak our way down more than a couple of levels at a time before they were onto us. They'll be looking for any elevators trying to get to the ground floor from this part of the building. Best to start with the stairs and make it as far as we can before leveling off and leaving the staircase for a different office elevator altogether.
I pulled my cloth mask over my mouth and nose to hide my face. Not for the sake of cameras or anything to do with my anonymity for even coming here. It was to hide my expressions from my attackers...much like their mirrored masks did for them. The can't see my aggression, they cant see my calm, they can't project my next movement in any way, shape, or form...even if they wanted to. All they got was a blank slate...and the consequences of the making the wrong decisions, should they have the courage to try to attack me.
Much more blood would be shed tonight before we made it down through the next 22 levels...but that wasn't the goal. Getting Takeshi's children out of here, safe and sound, was my main objective. I consider the bloodshed a bonus.
As a shiver of hunger pains rain through me, I made an attempt to quickly still myself...but Natpea seemed to notice my sudden change in character. His dark eyes looked over at me, and he seemed to wait to see if it would happen again. He never said a word about it. Not so much as a whisper. But even for one so young...it was clear that he was observant beyond his years. Always watching. Silently analyzing everything around him, seemingly all at once. Like a serpent in tall grass...watching its prey walk right by without even knowing of its presence...or its lethal proximity.
Stay alert, Norio. We'll have plenty of fresh blood when this is over with. For now...just concentrate on playing both offense and defense simultaneously. Easy as a pie, right?
Whatever family sent out this particular squad of hooded ones tonight...they knew what they were doing. They trained them well. And they didn't send them out until after dark. Which makes it easy for me to assume that...
...Their vampire 'handler' for the evening is somewhere watching from nearby. Another serpent in tall grass.
"Where are we going? Why are we using the stairs?" Kenshiro asked, stubbornly slowing his pace down in an attempt to stop the rest of us from moving forward.
"Shhhh! Not now! Come! Hurry! Follow me!" I scolded him with a whisper.
"But the elevators work just fine!" He resisted, and I tried to use what little I knew of his particular personality traits to get him to comply.
"Kenshiro...your sister is holding the most important part of our mission here tonight. Do you understand?" I told him. "Natpea and I can't protect her alone. I'm going to need you to trust me here. Ok?" That seemed o get his attention. "You are young, but you are strong. I can sense that in you. Use that strength to do the right thing and watch after your siblings. You let me lead the way, and then you follow up behind us to watch our backs. You got it?" He hesitated briefly...but I could tell that it was only for show. His mind trying to figure out some way to make it look like this was his idea all along, and that he wasn't just bending to my whim, simply because I asked him to.
"Perhaps the stairs would be our best exit for now. You guard the head, and I will guard the tail." He said, his chest puffing up with pride again.
"Are you sure? I'll need you to be at your best, Kenshiro."
"I am always at my best." He replied, now fully on board with the plan. Thank God. "Katrina...you follow right behind, Norio. Natpea, you shall be in the middle." And after he felt as though he was the one in control again, his need for dominance melted away, and they children followed me to the staircase door.
I opened it up and made sure to lean forward and peek my head in to see if I could hear any activity coming our way...either from below, or above. Luckily, the staircase seemed quiet, so I waved the children in, rushing them into the dimly lit corridor so that I could close the door behind us and begin our descent. However, I noticed that Natpea's eyes stared into mine again as he passed me. I swear, it was almost as if he could look right through you sometimes. And it was chilling.
Katrina continued to clutch her bag close to her chest. Being the youngest, she hadn't really learned to hide her spontaneous thoughts and emotions as her brothers yet, but I could tell that she was doing her best, despite being nervous. I'm quite certain that Takeshi would have given his adopted every luxury that he could possibly provide, as well as the tightest amount of security. This may be her very first time actually feeling as though she was in any real danger of being harmed. It makes sense, though. That's pretty much how he was raised when he was coming up. So was I.
Boys were supposed to be strong. Rigid. Immovable. Decisive. We weren't able to display emotions in front of others, even when it hurt. Boys don't love. Boys don't cry. Boys don't hurt. We weren't allowed to feel much of anything at all. Nothing that could possibly weaken our outward appearance in front of anyone who might find an instant opportunity to take advantage of our vulnerabilities in order to give off some false sense of strength in their own right. As boys...Takeshi and I were meant to swallow those feelings...even as we could clearly feel ourselves choking one them from the pointless effort. And yet...I couldn't. Neither could he.
Our entire reason for escaping our confines and running away from home together was the hope that we could one day find a place of our own...together. A place of softness, and tenderness, and truth. A place where we could both discover what it was like to cherish one another without this looming storm cloud of shame and judgement hanging over our heads every second of every minute of every day...for the rest of whatever pathetic, loveless, life these decaying mortal shells of ours was willing to let us have before it was all over and done with. Being born into darkness...separated from society...
...It was the only salvation that we had left to cling to.
But for girls? It was different. All over the world, it was culturally acceptable to let them cry when it hurt. To be afraid. To ask for help. They were our princesses. Queens in the making. And deserved to be treated as such. I can't help but to admit that I envied that my entire life in Daylight. Where my younger sister could bawl her eyes out over losing her favorite doll in the backyard for hours on end...my father dared me to shed a single tear the first time I fell out of a tree and broke my arm in two places. I didn't get the same comfort as she did. I never got a hug when my vulnerability was ever caught being unguarded or exposed. Even for a moment. And where my father and Takeshi's might think something like that makes us strong...it doesn't. It makes us cold. So cold.
Moving down those steps to take my position in front, I felt Katrina reach for my hand, and just from her shaky touch I could tell that Takeshi had taken on his father's ideology in all of the places where I had rejected mine. My guess is that he had finally found a place to freely express himself with all of the unconditional love and affection that he could never give to me when we were together. It was in her touch. In her demeanor. Her very aura screamed that she was the most privileged child of the three, adopted or not...and that he would have gone out of his way to protect the most precious blossom in his garden at all costs. A diamond that shined brighter in his eyes than any other. Even me.
How can I not envy that?
With an aggressive whisper, I said, "Come! Down, down, down! Quickly! Stay quiet!" We all rushed down the steps in single file, but had only made it about three levels before I heard a door to the staircase open up about five levels beneath us. Then another one above us. Shit! I was hoping we'd get a bit further! I swear, if I had a Delorian right now, I'd go back to a time before I even agreed to taking on this stupid job!
I quickly, but quietly opened the staircase door to the nineteenth floor...ushering the children inside just as I heard the sound of troops rushing inside. The entire floor was dark, but surrounded by windows on all sides. The glitter and glow of the city lights giving us enough illumination for me to see the walls clearly enough. The entire floor was one giant office space, full desks and computers, locked away in a maze of cubicles. There was another set of elevators on the far side of the room, and that might help us get down a few more floors before having to take back to the stairs. Fighting a squad of hooded ones wouldn't be so much of a labored task for me...but trying to do so while protecting an entire trio of young ones all at once isn't an ideal situation. It's best to keep as low key as humanly possible until we reach the bottom. The streets of the Kabukicho Shinjuku District are my personal stomping grounds. Losing them there will be no problem. I just have to get out of this building first.
"Hey! Look at me!" I whispered, and the ids turned to pay close attention. "Watch my hand...this means 'get up', this means 'gets down'. Low enough to hide beneath the desktops. This is 'turn right', this is 'turn left.' I push forward, you MOVE! You see me pull back? You STOP! Don't make a sound!" I told them, showing them the hand signals again to make sure they didn't get the mixed up. The kids nodded in agreement, and I instructed them to all get down and follow me further into the office.
"Norio...?" Kenshiro asked.
"Shhhh!!!" I scolded him! "Keep moving!"
"But what about, Father? How will he know where to find us once we are ready to travel? Did you leave him with no instruction?" The last thing I needed right now was Kenshiro getting all stubborn and normal on me.
"Concentrate on your sister! What did we agree upon?"
"What happens if they catch us?" Katrina said, her voice lightly shaken as she gripped the satchel in her arms even tighter than before.
"I will take care of it! I told you. I can keep you safe, but only if you stick together and move when I tell you to move. Ok?"
While the other two gave me a suspicious look, unsure of what my plan was going to be when it came to getting their father out of this place in one piece...Natpea narrowed his eyes slightly. And I think that he was beginning to understand that saving Takeshi was not necessarily a part of the plan tonight. At first, I thought he was going to maintain his silence...but then he asked, "There are many coming for us. How can you possibly protect us from them all?"
Keeping my ears and open for any sound or movement on this floor before preparing to move forward. "No need for you to worry about that. I have my ways."
"You are a trained killer, then?" Natpea said softly.
When I looked into his eyes, I almost felt a pinch of shame for even being tempted to tell the truth. He seemed...almost disappointed. I merely looked away. "Let's just say that my 'sensitivity training' is lacking..." Then I looked back at hose serious eyes and told him, "But, I will get you out of here tonight, and I'll make sure that I get you to safety. Trust me."
At that moment, I heard some of the stomping footsteps from the staircase approaching the door, and I gave the children the signal to drop down low and move forward on their hands and knees as fast as they could. It was a pretty big office, and it was all one giant floor. Not much to duck or hide behind if it came to that.
When the door opened, I order the trio to stop moving and calm their breath as much as possible. I reached out to push their backs up against one of the cubicles and remembered my 'stillness'. Relax. But stay alert. I listened to their footsteps...counting maybe ten. Perhaps twelve. It's hard to guess with the speed they're using to spread out across the entire office. And then...the sudden flare of bright flashlight beams as they brightened up the room from multiple different angles. I didn't want to move just yet...but I didn't want to stay where I was and give them the chance to find us first. Dammit! This is SO much easier when you can do it solo!
Moving swiftly, I allowed their progression to force my hand. I gave the kids the signal to hurry over to the next cubicle and wait for me there, all while keeping a low profile. I watched them scramble to reach the next point, but we weren't even a quarter of the way through the room yet. I heard a sound to the right of me, and silently told the children to stay put. I waited...and waited...just a few more steps. The guard stepped out from around the corner, and I was swift to draw my sword and slice the backs of both of his knees. He instantly fell to the ground. So fast, in fact, that it knocked the window out of him. I took the opportunity to catch his flashlight and spin the beam towards the wall on the floor...before reaching up to cover his mouth with one hand, and violently snap his neck to the side with the second.
None of his fellow troopers heard a thing.
I peeked around the corner before rolling the body under a nearby desk, and then dashed forward to catch up to the children. All of them, staring at me wide eyed. Sorry. I guess that was pretty brutal. But its not like I promised them that anything I do here tonight was going to be very 'child-friendly'.
With another signal, I guided them forwards another ten to fifteen feet...and as soon as I saw the beam of another flashlight shine overhead, I forced them to turn right. I quickly rolled forward, my razor sharp blade thrusting upward to sever the hand holding his light from his wrist, and kicked it to the other side of the room. The sudden noise and flashing light distracted the others as I sank back down into the shadows again.
The hooded ones were much more alert this time. Half of them going to investigate the other sound while the others kept watch. Smart. Not smart enough to make it out of here without suffering severe injury and getting past me first...but a bit more ready for my stealth attacks than I had expected.
I turned to give the kids their next set of signals...but felt a wave of utter frustration roll through me like the rumble of thunder during a building storm. They were all GONE! All three of them! But the other soldiers were still aimlessly scanning the room...which means that Kenshiro had probably led his siblings off somewhere without my say so! I swear...that boy is SO much more of a handful than he's worth!
The elevator wasn't too afar away now...but I cant just leave them here, or expect them to find their way on their own. I'm going to have to sneak around and explore the rest of this massive office until I find them myself. Hopefully, something that I can do before they find them first.
Fuck! Now I'm going to have to be a bit more reckless than I had planned on. Sighhh...I hate kids!
The others were now moving in much more erratic patterns now. Often crossing one another's paths as they continued their careful scan of the room. Watching those lights reflected off of the ceilings and walls was the only way for me to keep track of them for now...but if they catch on to that trick, I'll be marching around just as blind as they are. Shit...one of them is getting too close. Got to take care of it.
I waited until he turned around and sliced his throat open. He was too busy gasping and holding his neck, gurgling blood, to call out to anyone else before falling to his knees. He didn't even have enough time to recover from the shock of it all. But it was when I gently brought him down to lay at my feet...that I felt more violent tremors of my personal bloodlust take me over. I could feel my hands shaking, and even though I didn't have a whole lot of time to waste, I bent down to sink my fangs into the side of the man's neck suck hungrily at the warm sustenance that I found there.
It was hard for me to stop. An electric thrill for the senses...my eyes turning red and practically glowing off of the cubicle wall in front of me. Sooooo...good. The tang of his adrenaline soaked blood made me want to drain him dry, right then and there. But...no time for that. not know. I had to pull him into one of the little closed off spaces and lean him up against a nearby cabinet as best as I could. Then I jumped out and ran to the next cubicle, just as someone else was coming by to see what was going on.
They couldn't help but to notice that there were fewer of them in the office now than there were when they first burst in through the door.
"Michaels?" One of them called out. "McHenry?" All of the soldiers began to look around frantically, their flashlights darting from one side of the office to the next. "Rogers???" When they didn't get an answer...I think one of them walked by the spot where I was just feeding on one of their own, and began to panic. "They're IN here!!! Watch your backs! Guard the exists! Nobody get out of here until we're eliminated the threats!"
Threats??? A bunch of harmless children?
That's not going to happen.
Alright...you asked for this!
Don't worry though! Because, when I find those damned kids...I'm probably going to end up killing them myself!