InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Purity Redux: Vivication ❯ Malicious Intent ( Chapter 65 )
Stepping out of the jetway, Kagura had barely turned her phone on when it rang in her hand. “Moshimoshi?”
“Kagura . . .”
She smiled at her mate’s slow drawl. “Yes?”
Sesshoumaru uttered a terse sound. “I just got a phone call from the airport. You took the plane, did you? To Russia, no less . . .”
“I did,” she replied. “Didn’t you check your voicemail?”
“Not yet,” he remarked. “Is there a reason you’re in Russia?”
“Some guy showed up and tried to abduct your granddaughter,” she said. “Aiko and I did the most logical thing.”
“. . . You followed them.”
He sighed. “Did it not occur to you to come and get me?” he demanded in the same quiet tone.
“That would have taken too long. Besides, I’m telling you now, and if you had listened to the voicemail I’d left, then you’d have known sooner still. We’re not sure who he is or what he wants, but we think it might have something to do with Evgeni-san.”
“Evgeni-san. Did you hear something or—?”
“No, but who else could it be? If it were Fai, then she wouldn’t have been rushed into the taxi, and she didn’t act like it was someone she knew, anyway.”
“Kagura, I need you to hear me. You and Aiko—You’re not to go, racing in there, without me. Do you understand?”
She rolled her eyes. “And since when do I take orders from you, Sesshoumaru? I’m your mate, not your child, and Saori is my granddaughter.”
She clicked the phone off and dropped it into her pocket as she met Aiko’s curious gaze as the two strode through the airport. “Otou-san wanted us to wait for him, didn’t he?” she asked rather quizzically as they hurried past other travelers in the general direction of the baggage claim area near the doors.
“Of course, he did,” Kagura replied, still unable to shake off the brush of irritation that Sesshoumaru would actually think she’d comply with what amounted to his order. “When I get home . . .” Heaving a sigh, she gave herself a mental shake, willed herself to let go of that. “Did you reach Fai-sama?”
Aiko shook her head. “No, but I left him a few messages. Any ideas how we’re going to find Saori?”
Kagura frowned. “We’ll find her,” she said, a steely determination entering her gaze.
Aiko’s phone chimed, and she retrieved it, blinking in surprise as she retrieved the message that had just arrived. “Saori’s safe. She says she’s going to meet Evgeni-san . . .”
Kagura’s frown darkened. “Is that right? Well, let’s find her.”
Aiko nodded, hastening her step as she trailed her mother through the bustling airport.
Fai strode into his office and dropped the cell phone onto the desk. It was dead—dead as a door nail. Already in a bad mood since he’d managed to take a hit while sparring with Yerik, right on his cell phone, which was really his own fault, given that he should have thought to take it out of his pocket before they got started, he uttered a very terse grunt and ground his teeth together hard.
He hadn’t. It figured. So, his already black mood only got that much blacker in the face of the idea that he wasn’t going to be able to talk to Saori all night—or at least, he wouldn’t be able to leave his desk for the duration, anyway, since the only landlines in the entire place were this one here and the one in the kitchen that the servants used to place orders for delivery and—whatever else they used it for . . .
No sooner did he get settled behind his desk when Vasili stepped into the office, clearing his throat before offering Fai a slight bow. “Excuse me for interrupting, Your Grace, but Master Izanagi is here and wishes to be granted audience.”
“Izanagi,” Fai repeated thoughtfully. Then, he stood. “Show him in.”
The butler nodded and bowed again as he slipped out of the room. Fai had almost forgotten the hunter since he hadn’t heard a thing from him since he’d given him the information regarding the youkai for the trial hunt for the elk-youkai. That he hadn’t bothered to call when the hunt was completed wasn’t that much of an issue. Even so . . .
“Evening, Your Grace,” Taine remarked as he strode into the office. He strode over to the desk and dropped the hunt kit on top of Fai’s small pile of paperwork.
“Taine . . .” he said, taking his time as he filled a glass with vodka.
“I tried calling to let you know,” he said. “The number that was programmed in said it was out of service.”
Fai frowned. It was entirely possible, he supposed, since he hadn’t actually used many of the other hunt kits in a while. “Sorry about that . . . I take it you were successful.”
Taine nodded slowly, taking the glass that Fai held out to him. “Thanks, mate. As for the hunt? Yeah, all done. He won’t be causing more trouble for you.”
“And how was it?”
“The hunt?” he asked, peering over the rim of the glass. “He put up a fair fight, if that’s what you mean.”
Fai cocked an eyebrow as he casually wandered back to his desk again. “Almost too much for you?”
“No, just . . . tougher than I figured he’d be, given that most who target humans tend to be fairly cowardly.”
“He was a Class C target, which means that he falls into the mid-range of the payscale for this kind of job. Did you write up a report?”
“I did,” he said, jerking his head at the bag. “It’s in the slim-file.”
Digging out the device, Fai scanned over the report with a slow nod of his own. “Very good. Thank you. If you fill this out—” he said, pulling a blank payroll form out of his drawer and handing it to the hunter, “—I’ll transfer the payment first thing in the morning.”
To his surprise, Taine shook his head. “It was a test, right? You don’t owe me for that. Just give me a job—officially, that is.”
Narrowing his gaze as he sat back, Fai stared at the dog-youkai for a long moment. Raking his hand through his long, startlingly-red hair as he shifted his dark gaze around the room in an entirely predatory kind of way, the man exhibited the strangest mix of nervous energy as he tapped his combat boot-clad foot and an almost misplaced sense of calm that seemed entirely at odds with one another—but seemed to be right at home in him, too . . . Once more, it struck Fai that his coloring seemed . . . somehow off . . . even if he really didn’t know why he felt that way, but then, what did it really matter as long as he was able to do the tasks that Fai gave him . . .?
“All right,” he allowed, understanding on some level, that it wouldn't matter if he argued with him or not, the man wasn’t about to take payment for that particular assignment. It was something that Fai could appreciate—Taine’s conviction. “Tell me something. Do you need some time off or would you rather get right back out there?”
Taine shifted the lollipop in his cheek to the other side of his mouth and chuckled. It was a soft and warm sound, but somehow, the amusement didn’t quite reach his gaze, either. “I’m good,” he assured Fai. “If you’ve got another assignment for me, I’ll take it and head out at sun-up.”
Fai nodded. “All right. I’ll get the information together while you fill out that paper, but tell me something?”
Scowling as he tapped his knuckles against the desk, Fai tried to read Taine’s expression. Carefully blank, or maybe he simply wasn’t really considering anything at the moment. There was more to him, wasn’t there? And Fai . . .
“Why do you want to hunt for me?”
Taine blinked, shrugged, broke into the barest hint of a smile. “I told you,” he said, “I just figured it was something I’m good enough at doing, and you need hunters.”
Fai shook his head. “That’s what you said,” he allowed evenly. “But I have to trust my hunters, and I don’t think that you’re being completely honest with me. No one just decides to be a hunter on a whim. There’s got to be a deeper reason.”
Taine stared at him for a long moment, then he suddenly chuckled that warm and sunny sound—a sound that reminded him of Rinji’s easygoing laughter. It wasn’t a jaded kind of emotion, which only deepened Fai’s overall confusion as to why such a man would want to do something like hunt and kill youkai for a living. “You’re right,” Taine allowed, his smile widening as he cocked his head to the side. “I guess you could say that it’s a feeling I was born with,” he went on.
Fai raised an eyebrow. “An inborn need to right wrongs and to fight the good fight?”
Taine made a face. “Well, that sounds a lot more altruistic than I really am,” he admitted. “It’s, um . . . I’ll just say that I don’t like to see people—human or youkai—being targeted and abused just because someone else is bigger or stronger.”
“You know, right? That sounds completely altruistic,” Fai concluded, a smile of his own slowly surfacing, too.
Taine chuckled again. “I suppose it does.” His amusement slowly died away as he turned his face, staring out the far window as his eyebrows slowly drew together. “It’s the only thing that feels like it fits me,” he went on softly. “I’ve felt unsettled for so long . . . like there was something I need to do that just isn’t there, but this . . .”
Fai frowned as he considered Taine’s quiet statement. “And this feels right to you,” he concluded. “I see.”
“Do you? Because, to be honest? I don’t.”
There was truth in Taine’s words, wasn’t there? Staring at him, Fai could see it. He really wasn’t entirely sure where the feeling came from—maybe not even why. Fai could understand that. He’d felt that way when he considered his own future, when he’d thought about the responsibility of being the next Asian tai-youkai. In Taine’s case, however, wasn’t it worse? To not really know just what that feeling was, where it was trying to lead him?
“All right, then,” Fai said. “Fill that out while I get the file ready for the next target.”
Taine sat down, frowning thoughtfully as he filled out the required information, as Fai sent the next hunt information to a clean slim-file. This one was a rumored water-youkai that had attacked a family, vacationing just outside of Leningrad a few years ago. Fai had gone out after him, only to miss him by mere hours, but no one had known where he had taken off to—or they simply hadn’t wanted to tell him. Maxim had contacted him just today to say that he’d been spotted in a town in the north of Siberia. He was going to hand that assignment to Yerik, but he had to admit that, until the Evgeni situation was taken care of, he kind of wanted to keep his brother nearby, just in case. He didn’t honestly think that Evgeni would try to exploit Fai’s feelings for his brother, but then, he hadn’t thought that Evgeni would do half of the things that he’d done, too . . .
Pulling the prepaid card out of the bag, he narrowed his gaze on Taine. “Did you use this at all?” he asked, mostly so that he’d know how much to put back on it.
Taine glanced up before dismissing the question, turning his attention back to the form he was still filling out. “No, I didn’t,” he said.
Fai stuffed it back into the bag before dragging the phone out to check the number programmed into it. It was an old number and easily rectified. It still had a thousand minutes on it, so it was good enough for this job, too.
By the time Fai zipped the bag closed, Taine dropped the ink pen on the edge of the desk on the finished paper.
“Ivan Levanovitch is rumored to be a water-youkai—”
“Rumored to be?” Taine echoed.
Fai shrugged. “There were conflicting accounts, but, given that there was evidence that a couple of his victims drowned quite far from any bodies of water other than a small stream that was really too low to account for it, it was kind of assumed.”
“Not that we know of. He attacked a human family, vacationing just outside of Leningrad in a nearby forest. One of the children survived long enough to tell the authorities this tale about the man enclosing her parents in what seemed to be bubbles of water—hence, the drownings. She died a few days later.”
Taine considered that, slowly nodding as he reached for the strap of the bag and stood. “Got it.”
“I fixed the phone number in the cell,” Fai called after him as he headed for the door. “Let me know if you need anything or when you silence the target.”
“Right, mate,” he called back, lifting a hand to wave.
Fai watched him go, his frown deepening. Reaching over to retrieve the paper, his frown only darkened slightly as he read over the information that Taine had filled out. The address he had given was a hotel in the city—a really nice one, at that. Cell phone number . . . bank information for payment routing . . . Everything seemed in order, right down to his temporary visa number. Fai supposed that he ought to do something about that, given that he really would rather that Taine stayed in Russia while he was working for him. That was really nothing more than a formality that Fai could easily take care of with a simple phone call.
Everything looked fine on paper, didn’t it?
And yet, he couldn’t quite shake the feeling, either, that there was something about Taine—something he wasn’t saying. There was something else, hiding in his head, and secrets were fine as long as they didn’t impede his work, but, given that Fai knew nothing at all about him, he couldn’t say he was entirely comfortable with the strange New Zealander, either . . .
Before, he would have called Evgeni—would have asked him to look into the youkai for him. Now, however, that wasn’t really an option. That realization was enough to send a pang through him, straight into the deepest part of his soul. It only served to underline the idea that he didn’t have a single person he could fall back on—at least, no one that he could trust to help him in something like this. Saori, Yerik . . . But neither one of them was any good at what would amount to undercover work. He could ask Konstantin, but the bear tended to be a little too overzealous to gather intel, and the odds that he’d ever heard of Taine were just not very good.
No, there really wasn’t anything he could do, he figured. Fai would just have to see what he could dig up on Taine Izanagi himself, he supposed . . .
Saori took the bottle of water that Stepanovich Taras handed her. It wasn’t cold, but that was all right. She hadn’t had a thing to drink since lunch hours ago. “How’s your hand?” she asked, sipping the water, nodding at the wrapped-up appendage as she tried not to feel too bad for hurting him, to start with.
Taras grunted. “It’s been better,” he muttered darkly, slowly flexing his fingers.
She made a face. “I’m sorry I did that,” she told him, even though her tone was a little on the prim side.
Taras grunted again. “At least you were able to reverse it.”
That didn’t actually make her feel much better.
He’d stopped the cab, dragged her into a small bar near Tokyo International Airport, long enough to give her the gist of the information she’d wanted with the promise that she’d extract the poison if he cooperated with her. He had, telling her that he was working for Evgeni, that the youkai had told him to bring her back. He didn’t know exactly what Evgeni’s plan was, but either way, it wasn’t good.
He wasn’t really a bad sort, she thought to herself as she watched him, kneeling down to start a fire in the decrepit and crumbling hearth in the old, run-down cottegi not far from Evgeni’s estate—maybe half an hour away, as the crow flies. He’d admitted to her on the plane that he was working for Evgeni because he paid him well, but he held no real allegiance to him, so it was simple enough for Saori to offer him enough money to sway his alignment, and now, he worked for her.
Saori sighed. “Tell me why you’re doing stuff like this instead of getting a real job?” she asked, setting the water bottle on the small and rickety old table.
“Why else? To make a decent living,” he replied.
“Well, sure, but everyone has a reason, don’t they? What’s yours?”
He shrugged. “Does it matter?”
He turned his head, stabbed her with a rather dark look. “Are you one of those people who wants to save the world or something?”
She blinked at his question, then laughed. “Well, no, but . . . But it might be good if you told me why you do it.”
“And why’s that?”
She made a face. “Because if my mate finds out about this, he probably won’t be too happy, even if you did change your mind and decide to help me.”
He grunted again. “I just need money. That’s all.”
“Did you grow up poor? So, you decided that you’d do whatever you have to do to keep from being poor again?”
That earned her a longsuffering sigh along with another very dry look. “No,” he said in a tone that indicated that he was done talking about it.
She frowned. “I’m trying to help you,” she ventured quietly.
“Why?” he growled, shooting to his feet, rounding on her as he glowered at her. “Why would you want to help me? I was paid to take you to Evgeni, and when I walked away from that, I wasn’t going to give you another thought—whatever happened. So, why would you care? If your mate kills me or not is irrelevant! No one will ever hire me again—not when I turned on my employer!”
She grimaced at his very real anger. “But Fai won’t kill you if you tell me why—if you have a reason for what you’re doing . . .”
“In your world, maybe,” he scoffed. “Youkai princess, aren’t you? Tell me, Your Grace, just what do you know about anything outside of your ivory tower?”
“I know Fai!” she shot back, rising to her feet, glowering at the seething youkai. “He’s a good man—a fair man—and he won’t kill anyone who doesn’t deserve it!”
He opened his mouth to counter her arguments, but it never got that far. With a rip of wind so powerful that Saori had to raise her hands, to cover her face as she quickly turned away, she heard the sound of the rickety old door, shattering, felt the splinters of wood as they struck her, as they blew past her.
She heard the sharp hiss of breath as she cautiously lowered her hands, blinked rapidly as the dust slowly spiraled around the stagnant air of the tiny cottegi. A second later, Taras uttered a terse groan—a sound that wasn’t meant to escape—as gentle hands drew Saori back a few steps—as Kagura strode inside, flicking her fans as she stared at the would-be kidnapper.
“Are you hurt?” Aiko asked, turning Saori around, her greedy gaze, raking over her face.
“You . . . You give me one good reason why I shouldn’t cut you down right now,” Kagura demanded.
Taras slowly uncovered his face—he’d been hit by something—a splinter of wood or an air blade, Saori didn’t know. Wiping the blood that trickled from the laceration on his cheek, he frowned at the wind-youkai.
“Obaa-chan,” Saori quickly blurted, stepping away from her mother. “Obaa-chan, it’s okay . . . He works for me now.”
== == == == == == == == == ==
xSerenityx020 ——— Goldeninugoddess
Monsterkittie ——— Amanda Gauger ——— minthegreen ——— TheWonderfulShoe
Nate Grey ——— cutechick18 ——— Thanatos
Final Thought from Saori:
Go, obaa-chan …!
Blanket disclaimer for this fanfic (will apply to this and all other chapters in Vivication): I do not claim any rights to InuYasha or the characters associated with the anime/manga. Those rights belong to Rumiko Takahashi, et al. I do offer my thanks to her for creating such vivid characters for me to terrorize.