Moving closer...I ran my thumb across the bladed edge of my scribe to make sure that it was razor sharp before unlocking and carefully opening the door. I made sure to check all of the corners before stepping inside and closing it back behind me. Whoever this stranger was, he couldn't be up to any good.
It has been many years, decades, since I've had to go toe to toe with a hunter...and the last time didn't work out too well for me...
Damn you, Charlemagne, for not telling me where you were taking the boy to keep him so 'safe' from the likes of ME while the real threat had already invaded the building, and would soon be knocking on his chamber door...if I didn't find him first.
All alone, I continued to search through the rooms and corridors as quickly as I possibly could. Not an easy task, but my eyes were drawn to a few damp spots on the floor. Not footprints, really...but slightly darker patches of cement. All in front of the doors that were locked up tight. I noticed one of the 'unlocked' doors was slightly ajar...meaning that our intruder was definitely looking for the entrances that he wasn't supposed to be in. That obviously meant trouble. BIG trouble.
Another damp patch, disappeared under the locked door to the left of me. I made my way over there and unlocked it with my personal set of keys, but couldn't just go charging in from room to room without making sure that the area was safe first. If he truly was one of the Elders' hired assassins, I couldn't afford to let him get the jump on me. It only takes a few seconds' worth of the element of surprise for an experienced vampire hunter to slash me to ribbons. I've been trained to fight, and I've been trained well...but it's all been a part of the culture and tradition of being a teacher of the scriptures and the rich history behind it in darkness. It's rare that I've actually had to defend my life with those skills, or anyone else's life, for that matter. How could I possibly fare against an average proficient vampire combatant...much less a HUNTER???
I guess I'm about to find out. And I hope the fates are with me tonight.
Fear began to settle in quickly, nearly causing my hands to tremble in response...but I didn't stop moving forward. Wherever Shiloh was...I needed to find him before this murderous creature did. Otherwise...all could be lost with the single piercing of that boy's pure and innocent heart. I wasn't about to let that happen. Not on my watch.
I attempted to keep my footsteps quiet. My focus, sharp. He was here somewhere. And chances are that he's going to notice me before I'm able to notice him. I need to stay vigilant. Clear your mind, Mason. You can do this.
Already...I could feel the grip on my scribe beginning to shake even harder. It was denial, alone, that kept me from being too frightened to move. But as I took a moment to calm my breathing down, and close my eyes...I remembered my personal meditations and found my balance again. There is no enemy...only a loss of focus.
Focus, Mason. Focus.
I opened up another door...crept inside...and made sure to check out all of the dark corners inside before moving forward any further. And it was then, that I became aware of another presence in the room behind me...quietly sneaking forward...and putting their hand on my shoulder!
I swiftly spun around and guided the blade of my scribe to the strange entities throat before stopping myself at the very last second...to see Jericho looking at me, wide eyed and breathing hard. I aggressively whispered, "What are you DOING here??? You should be back in your room right now!"
"You told me to go get, Mage McClaren! I found him and he said that the security systems had been disabled somehow!" Jericho said, his quiet voice shaking slightly as I had forgotten to loosen up and take my scribe away from his neck. "There are more coming. Only one hunter, from the looks of it. The rest might be human."
"How many more?" I asked.
"We don't know. Ten...fifteen, maybe." He replied.
"That's definitely a squad formation. They must be here for the boy."
"Boy? What boy?"
"Jericho, I need you to listen to me, ok?" I said. "I need you to go back to you room and lock the door. Tell all of your classmates to do the same."
"Preceptor Vicke...I might be able to help..."
"You can help by doing as I say!" I demanded. "Let us handle this!"
"BEHIND YOU!!!!" He suddenly shouted out loud, his young voice cracking as he looked over my right shoulder to alert me to the attack that was coming my way!
I shoved Jericho with both hands to push him backwards until he fell to the floor, and then spun to the side to keep from being nearly sliced in half from the hunters strike. I turned to face him, and he was quick to flick his long hair out of his vision as he charged forward with a long sword, hoping to make quick work of me so that he could get back to his main mission. I was agile enough to dodge even the most deceptive of his movements, even while being out of practice, and watched as Jericho rolled out of the way to give me some room. I could tell from his frantic motions and relentless attacks that he was definitely one of Mistress Katrina's best. But if he planned to leave this room with a victory, I wasn't about to make it easy for him!
His sword and my scribe clashed between us, with him switching his style and speed for different attacks, high and low, low and high...but I was easily able to spin and dodge swiftly enough to avoid his deadly blade from making any contact. It was at that moment that the shock of the situation began to wear off, and my natural instincts began to kick in. I felt myself getting stronger, faster, more agile...and as I spin flipped over one of his sword strikes, I lashed out with my scribe in an attempt to pierce his heart. Unfortunately, he was too fast for me and deflected it with his own weapon. We locked blades for an extended moment and both pushed against one another...looking each other in the eye with a savage snarl as the crimson glow of our bloodthirsty eyes connected with an intensity that would weaken the courage of most warriors in this level of combat.
"WHO ARE YOU?!?!" I shouted. But he didn't answer, he simply pushed me back a few steps and began to use his footwork to kick at my legs, knees, and ankles, in order to throw me off balance. Luckily, I already knew these tricks, as I've experienced them before in the past. I began to match him, step for step, bending my knees and moving my feet in ways that would counter his ability to do any real damage while we were fighting. I don't think he expected a random 'teacher' in a school for vampire scriptures to be so well practiced in the art of war. But he was certainly going to learn today!
After a long trade off, with neither one of us getting the upper hand, I was finally able to spin left, then right, and then grabb a hold of his wrist to pull him towards me while spinning off to the side so that I could end up behind him.
There was always a moment of hesitation before making the strike. It only lasts for a split second, but your mind has to contemplate the audacity of taking another vampire's life with what you are getting ready to do. But if it meant keeping my students safe...it was simply something that had to be done.
So I took my scribe...and I brought my arms down to jut the pointed end out behind me so I could puncture this hunter's heart and leave him for dead. However, when I did so...instead of piercing flesh and bone...it felt as though I hadn't hit anything at all.
Turning my head, he had turned himself into a standing column of liquid, and the scribe went right through him without piercing anything at all. Instead, his body warped itself into another position and moved to the side...only solidifying itself in mid spin for his kick to connect with the side of my face and send me spiraling helplessly to the ground.
Damn hunters and their enhanced extras!
I rolled back up to my feet, ready for more...but this hunter had now deemed me a credible threat to his mission here tonight, and began to use his abilities to their fullest. Abilities that I had never seen before, nor was I equipped to fully understand. I dove towards him, spinning on my knees to slice at his legs and, hopefully, incapacitate him for the moment, but my blade went through his liquid limbs like they weren't even there. He could turn the ability on and off at will, and faster than I could move to catch him off guard. My only saving grace was the fact that he had to be solid to attack me back...so I did all that I could to stay on the offensive and keep him from taking advantage of that.
Let's just hope that I can hold him off long enough for someone to figure out what's going on and find a way to get Shiloh to safety...
Suddenly, a rapid combination of punches made a harsh impact with my chest and stomach, and a side kick thrusted me backwards as he found an opening in my pattern of attacks. Having the wind knocked out of me, I was down on one knee, holding my chest while trying to catch my breath, a long stream of blood running out of my mouth. The hunter stepped forward to continue, but was suddenly distracted by a few flashes of light on either side of him. About the size of a well packed snowball, these balls of light hit the ground and exploded with the force of a weak stun grenade...catching him off guard and causing him to cover his ears from the noise.
When I looked over to my right, I could see Jericho standing there with both of his hands glowing gold, building up another set of light bombs to toss in his direction. "Jericho!!! GO!!! Get out of here!!!" I yelled.
"NO!!! I can help you!" He insisted, and when the next two bombs were ready, he tossed them in the direction of the hunter again, quickly using his extra to build up two more. While the sudden explosions worked as a decent distraction in my favor, I could tell that Jericho hadn't really used his extras in a combat situation before now...and they didn't do much damage. Still so young. He was trying valiantly to make it hurt, but wasn't having much success. I would feel much better if he was simply out of the way so that I could take care of this myself and not worry about guarding him and keeping him safe at the same time.
The next set of light bombs that he was building up in his palms didn't come quickly enough, and the hunter jumped and flipped over his attempts to do him any harm, hoping to take this meddlesome halflife out of the equation. It was by luck alone that I was able to roll forward and hold my scribe up to keep him from piercing the boy's heart without mercy!
We both began to duel it out, blow for blow, just as I noticed a few human outsiders getting kicked into the room and landing on their backs inside the same room. That's when I noticed Charlemagne entering shortly afterward, ready for battle. Thank goodness, because I wasn't sure how long I was going to be able to hold this hunter off without help.
Whoever this intruder brought with him, they had all accumulated into this one spot, which made me wonder if Shiloh was closer to us than I had previously thought. Where did he hide him? He should have been held in a much more secure space in the facility! He's been targeted by the Elders themselves, for crying out loud!
Still, Charlemagne jumped into the fray, and I saw Mage McClaren and some of our other human monks engage the multiple enemies as well, turning the whole room into a den of utter chaos as we all tried to fend off a high priced assassination attempt all at once. The hunter I was fighting was still switching between being solid and being liquid, and that made many of my deadliest strikes useless against him. I, then, saw Charlemagne 'create' a series of knives out of what looked like thin air. He threw them directly at the hunter, and they both passed through him as if he wasn't even there. But Charlemagne was able to call the blades back to his hands and will and adopt a stance that would allow him to use them again whenever he wanted to.
I managed to get a few shots in to the hunter, but as I ran up to kick him in the back, he liquified himself again and I passed right through him. He grabbed the back of my shoulders and slammed me down to the ground. HARD!
Jericho tossed over a few more of his light bombs, but they didn't connect. Instead, he dodged them and faced off with Charlemagne, one on one. I rolled over to try to get back up on my knees, looking up to see Charlemagne and this other enemy...hunter versus hunter, pulling off some of the most elaborate and deadly maneuvers that I had ever seen before. The way that they matched wits with their fighting techniques, arms colliding at the speed of light, kicks impacting with the force of a runaway truck...I hate to admit it...but it was quite impressive. A lethal dance that has to be seen to be believed.
Get up, Mason! Get in there! Give Charlemagne the edge he needs to bring an end to this conflict, once and for all!
I struggled to get up on my feet, and saw more enemies running into the room to help their commanding officer complete his task. So I flipped forward and took them on, three at a time. I swept their legs from underneath them, delivered blows that I was hoping would stagger them for a few moments while Charlemagne and I handle the most dangerous threat among us. How did they all get in here? How did they disable our security systems? no time to think about that now. The only thing I needed to focus on was driving them out before they did any harm. And if that meant them losing their lives in the process of pushing their agenda forward...then so be it.
They brought their bullshit to the wrong underground school tonight! Believe that!
I began to duck and dodge their slow attacks with the kind of speed and power that all vampires are gifted with, leaving them at a huge disadvantage when it came to fighting back. My scribe cut and sliced through their flesh, but not deeply enough to cause any mortal wounds. I was giving them a chance to take the hit and walk away with it, maybe with just a few scars to show afterward. But if they kept pushing me any harder...they may lose a lot more than they were prepared for.
Meanwhile, I watched as Charlemagne did his best to neutralize the threat with multiple, self made, daggers...but his liquid form was much too fast for him to have much impact. And despite my orders, I saw Jericho rushing around the outer rim of the room, looking for any opportunity that he could find to send a few more stun bombs into the fray. He wasn't skilled enough to realize that they were distracting me as well, but I tried to tune them out as much as I could as I kept fighting. As my sharp slashes began to cut through their armor, I used my most advanced scribe techniques to execute the most painful and most intimidating methods of my specific martial art. I bega to slash at them with the scribe, then tossing it up in the air...and using their moment of fear and awe to slash at their throats and attack their open chest cavities with harsh blows that they weren't prepared for.
Trust me...once you slice through someone's flesh with a sharp object and make them bleed all over themselves...that sharp object is all that they're going to concentrate on for the rest of the conflict. And the higher I throw my scribe in the air, the longer I have to truly fuck them up internally while they're keeping their eyes on it.
I began tossing the scribe up and kicking them in the back of the knees to knock them down before catching it and using the butt of the handle to knock them unconscious. Now they were in unfamiliar territory not knowing how to defend themselves against a fighting style that they had no previous experience with. I rolled and ducked and leaned and dodged faster than their human eyes could follow. And whenever my scribe was in the air, they were too distracted to protect themselves. I tossed it up, too some free, unanswered blows to their most vulnerable areas, and then could catch the scribe again, sometimes behind my back, or in mid spin, and slash at them again until their blood spilled all over the floor in giant splashes, all while they cried out in agony. I hope that whatever they were being paid or promised to be here tonight was worth it. Because a lesser vampire would have cut them into bite-sized morsels for now and tossed their lifeless bodies in the trash by now!
I was fighting three or four guards off at once, while Charlemagne was still concentrating on the amorphous blob of watery liquid that had infiltrated our quarters in the first place. He was doing a much better job of it that I ever could have, but refused to give him any real credit, as that's just what murderers like him are supposed to do. It's their only purpose in our world, after all.
As I finished off the last of the human attackers by shattering their kneecaps and ripping my bladed scribe up the spine of another, I watched Charlemagne and this other hunter battle one another with a ferocity that I hadn't been witnessed to for years.
My heart sank deep down...from my chest into my stomach. I thought about my sire...and the night that I wasn't able to protect him from the fate that had come knocking on our door....and how...some random assassin took pleasure and a healthy paycheck to murder him right in front of me...the only boy that I've ever loved...the one that set me free from the struggles of daylight and made me who I am...
And for a moment, I was disgusted with myself. Totally disgusted.
Because...as much as I HATE these murderous hunters for everything that they are...
...I knew that I was going to have to help him now if either one of us was going to get out of this situation alive.
Goddamn dilemmas! I hate 'em!