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A Storm of Dark Creatures

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He usually has a pretty good nose, but this time around it's wrapped up in chocolate. Maybe that's why he sees her before he smells her. Or maybe it's just destiny.

Still, destiny's got a rotten sense of humour, because as soon as he smells her, he smells the blood and that makes him cringe.

But she's so pretty…

He peeks over his chocolate bar. She's reading a novel of some sort, fringe kept out of her face by the purple beany… because the purple hood would've probably had it falling forward instead and obscuring that cute face –

Okay brain, he thinks. Stop right there.

It's somewhat easier when he can still smell blood. Not that strong, like someone's bleeding from somewhere. Could even be a coincidence. Like someone's bled over the train seats and the janitor hasn't done a good enough job of getting rid of it.

Not good enough for a werewolf anyway.

Then the girl licks her fangs.

Damn.

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Vampire.

The word echoes in his head.

Vampire. Vampire. Vampire.

Well, damn.

Shouldn’t mean anything, in the end. She’s cute, sure, but there are other fish in the sea.

But he’s not a fisherman. He’s a werewolf and now that his inner wolf’s latched onto that scent, it doesn’t want to let go.

The girl looks up, bemusement quickly changing into sheer horror.

Oh, he’s growling. Whoops.

He drops his chocolate bar and waves his hands. ‘Sorry,’ he says. ‘I’m just… You’re cute.’

She gapes at him. ‘You’re a werewolf.’

Vampires have sharp senses too, apparently.

‘You’re a vampire,’ he replies. ‘But first you’re cute.’

She snorts. ‘And I just had lunch. Guess that’s a good thing for both of us.’

Definitely good.

‘Chocolate bar,’ he offers. He always carries more. They’re great for the scent. And the endorphins –

But that’s probably a bad idea right now.

She takes a bar though, licking it cautiously… before taking a far more generous bite.

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If she isn’t his soulmate (or the soulmate his inner wolf had decided on, anyway), then he won’t be able to pick her out of a crowd the next time they coincidentally cross paths.

He has absolutely no problem spotting her at Shibuya station three days later.

It does take him a bit longer to spot the other vampire she’s hissing at.

He doesn’t approach them (because everyone knows it’s suicide to get between two quarrelling vampires… or two quarrelling werewolves, for that matter). He watches them instead and maybe that’s a mistake too because the blonde cutie turns around.

Their eyes meet: green and brown.

Then the other vampire strikes and blood splatters.

She turns again. They fight in earnest while Junpei backs away. That smell is unbearable: the fresh blood, the vampires. His inner wolf is howling. It wants to avenge its mate.

That’s suicide, the rational part of him tries to remind.

But no point reasoning with angry wolves.

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Izumi knows about werewolves. As a vampire herself, she needs to keep up to date on the supernatural population of Japan. And she knows that, when werewolves pick a mate, they’ll move heaven and earth for them.

She’s just not sure how she’s wound up with one. Was accepting that chocolate some sort of engagement promise? Part of her wanted to rewind so she could make sure not to this time around – but watching him tackle the other vampire also made her a little warm inside.

Vampires are lonely creatures by nature, and only the strong and independent survive. No-one will fight for her, and she fights for no-one.

And yet here is someone – someone she barely knows – fighting for her.

Though he’s getting pretty beat up. Not used to fighting vampires, apparently: nimble rather than packed with brute force.

Well, it’s only fair she cuts in. It’s her fight to begin with and yet she’s the only one still looking human.

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With two against one, chasing the other vampire away turned out to be the easy apart.

Well, Izumi muses as she drags the werewolf boy into the elevator and pushes the emergency stop partway down, it’s partially her own fault for starting a quarrel in such a crowded place. The other one can deal with looking like three-quarter bat, but she should help out the three-quarter wolf before the Committee decides he’s in danger of biting someone and shows up.

Granted, they’re usually quite slow on the uptake so they’re probably safe. But it’s the principle of the matter…

But it’s not like curbing werewolf instincts were part of her life lessons. So what’s she supposed to do?

…talk, maybe?

So she talks. Nonsense, most of it. About vampires. About herself. About how it’s everyone for themselves and it must be nice having a pack, and a mate that would stand by your side no matter what…

‘I will,’ the back-to-being-a-boy says.

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Junpei is feeling a bit sheepish when he comes back to himself and he’s in an elevator with his soulmate – and they’ve barely talked with each other.

And they need to talk a lot with each other.

But she’s talking now, and her voice is melodic but her words… They’re so sad. She shouldn’t be lonely.

She won’t be lonely, because I’m here.

Well, maybe this isn’t a complete mess after all, he thinks.

                ‘I will,’ he says. ‘I’ll stay by your side forever, if you’ll have me.’

She stares at him. ‘Why?’ she asks. ‘I mean, how can you just decide on me when you barely even know me. You just saw me sitting across from you on the train and you must’ve smelt the blood.’

‘I saw you first,’ Junpei shrugged. ‘But my inner wolf decided when it smelt you. You’re not just a vampire, you know.’

Her lips twitch a smile. ‘Of course I’m not…. But most don’t care.’

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It’s pot talking to kettle, really. Most don’t care he’s more than a werewolf too… and he’s only a werewolf once a lunar month. Which of them has it worse, he wonders? Vampires whose instincts are a constant, or werewolves whose instincts wax and wane with the moon?

Of course, they’re not the only supernatural creatures on Shibuya’s streets. The ghosts probably have it the worst, because they don’t have any form of physical body. At least the rest of them can interact with the normal plane.

On the other hand, it also means they can’t shut certain chatterboxes up. Though Takuya (who’s actually a poltergeist so better off than a ghost) cheers him up even when chatting his ear off and Junpei wonders if he should introduce him to Izumi. It can’t hurt, really. It’ll be nice, even.

                ‘I don’t have many friends,’ he muses aloud. ‘You two are probably it.’

                ‘I thought I’m in a different league,’ she says teasingly.

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Takuya isn’t where he normally is, but it’s not hard to find a poltergeist (unless it’s Tokyo, since that city never sleeps).

He’s at Shibuya station tonight. And he’s got company. An honest to goodness ghost that keeps on fading in and out and Junpei can make very little out of him or her at all.

Well, there’s no moon tonight so that means his own connection to the spirit world has hit the trough – except it’s more than just that, because Izumi shouldn’t have that problem but she’s squinting too.

Takuya is as vibrant as ever, in contrast. ‘Hi!’ He waved. ‘New friend… except we can’t seem to figure out his name.’

That explains it. A ghost who can’t even remember their own name won’t have much presence. They also won’t have much luck finding what’s holding them back –

But Takuya’s a good Samaritan sort of poltergeist. And recklessness probably won’t hurt a ghost.

‘Well…’ Junpei offers a grin. ‘Good luck.’

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‘Interesting friend,’ Izumi remarks. ‘But if he’s going around helping amnesic ghosts who’d just fade away without interference, he must be a nice guy with a lot of time on his hands.’

‘He’s a social butterfly,’ Junpei explains, ‘and he gets bored easily. He’ll prank people and be a general nuisance if he’s not doing something productive, so it’s good for everyone he’s found a pet project. He lets us – as in his friends – know when things are happening places, too.’

‘Poltegeists make good spies?’ Izumi asks, surprised. ‘Huh. What do you know?’

‘It’s more ghost friends of his,’ Junpei clarifies. ‘He can’t really do subtle.’

‘No,’ Izumi snorts. ‘I don’t see him doing subtle either. But he’s bright.’

‘He is.’ Better than the grumpy one that haunts one of the nearby schools. They’d gotten an exorcist to lock him in the building… and then build a new building because that one became unusable.

Izumi thinks a while. ‘Can Takuya find someone?’

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It’s a foolish thing to ask, she knows, when she’s no match but she asks anyway. She asks because this needs to end at some point, and it doesn’t matter that she’s a lone vampire and not particularly talented in the field. She doesn’t go around biting people for the sake of growing an army, or worse, for fun. She manages just fine with animal blood and it’s really just a matter of getting to the farms before someone’s cleaned up the slaughtered animals.

It’s wasteful and unnecessary and cruel, to kill especially for their food when humans do enough of that. And vampires are the ones called monsters. And werewolves whose instincts are to bite in full moons (and never mind how dogs bite everything anyway, or humans bite in the throes of pleasure…)

Humans are hypocritical, but they’re all human in spirit despite their transformed bodies.

So it’s a foolish thing to fight the norm, but she’ll do it anyway.

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‘Find someone?’ Junpei repeats. ‘Probably. Unless he’s doing something he thinks is more important.’

‘Hmm…’ Izumi hums. ‘Yeah, the poor ghost with no memories is probably more important.’

‘Is it?’ Junpei asks. ‘He could wind up stuck forever.’

‘Or he can remember everything, including what’s keeping him from passing on, and then see heaven one day,’ Izumi points out. ‘It’s that possibility that people struggle for, after all. We don’t want to fade into something inconsequential.’

‘No,’ Junpei agrees. ‘Though most of our lives are inconsequential anyway.’

She frowns at him. ‘Are they?’ she asks. ‘Then you’re offering your inconsequential life to me? Is that it?’

She sounds hurt, he realises. ‘Of course not! It’s the special people like you that make life meaningful.’

She hums again. ‘Okay, I’ll give you that. But then I’m one of your reasons for living…’ She’s still frowning. ‘I work alone.’

‘Never said I’m chaining you. But you can lean on me some too, you know.’

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He’s babbling. He knows he’s babbling. But he’s not that kind of guy who’ll keep a girl as an ornament rather than treat her as a person and he wants to make that clear.

Of course, Izumi has no reason to believe that of her. Just like he has no reason to believe she’s not the sort of girl to use a guy and then dispose of them. But he doesn’t think she is.

‘I don’t think you are either.’ She flushes.

He flushes too. At least they’ve got that message across, though.

‘You risked getting hurt for me,’ she continues. ‘You’ve had plenty of opportunities to hurt me but you haven’t. You’ve told me so much about you.’ She laughs. ‘You didn’t run away screaming at the smell of blood.’

‘Almost did,’ he grins, but he barely smells the blood, anymore. Used to it so quickly… or spending time with Izumi has her personal scent so much stronger.

Doesn’t matter which.

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‘What do I smell like?’ Izumi asks curiously.

‘Chocolate,’ Junpei admits. ‘I mean, I always carry chocolate because it helps with overwhelming smells and cravings and all that… but I haven’t had any all day, and you still smell like it. The caramel sort.’

‘Huh.’ She blinks. ‘You gave me caramel chocolate, when we first met.’

‘You ate it, though.’

‘I ate it,’ she agrees. ‘So I’m like a permanent chocolate bar and that’s drowning out the vampire trademark. Interesting.’ She sniffs lightly at him. ‘And you’re honey.’

He blinks.

‘You smell like honey,’ she clarifies. ‘Blood’s usually metallic – and tastes metallic too. Sometimes it’s sweet but that’s plain sugar. This is different.’

‘Soulmates,’ Junpei grins. ‘Like I said. Though you’d no chocolate smell when we first met.’ That was the chocolate bar in his hand, he’s pretty sure.

‘I didn’t smell the honey, either.’ She’s quiet. ‘Until now, I didn’t realise…’

She looks uncomfortable.

He’s about to make it worse, probably.

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‘Go on a date with me?’ Junpei blurts.

Izumi just stares at him. ‘Why?’ she asks finally.

‘You’re nice,’ is his first response, before he scrambles. ‘Uh… and you’re strong and it’s great talking to you and you’re cute and you smell nice and – oh my god, I’m going in the wrong order, aren’t I?’

‘Perfect order,’ she corrects. ‘Not every girl wants to hear they’re cute first off in the list. But better that than the smell of blood, right?’

Junpei smiles, relieved. ‘Well, I’d have run for the hills if that’s the first thing.’

‘Okay,’ she replies… which isn’t answering what he last said.

‘Okay?’ he repeats. ‘Okay to the date?’

‘Okay to the date,’ she affirms. ‘Want to hear my list?’

‘…okay.’

‘You’re honest,’ she starts. ‘You’re awkward and bumbling but intuitive and wise. You don’t look at me like I’m a monster, or I’m stuck-up or I don’t fit in. You didn’t change for me. You just are.’

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Her list is insulting. Izumi knows. Most people would be insulted and not catch what’s most important in there: what’s most important to her.

Junpei, on the other hand, looks like she’s handed the sun to him. ‘Glad someone likes me the way I am,’ he says, before reconsidering the thought. ‘I guess it’s not just you. My parents. Takuya… Still, it’s special.’

‘It is special.’ And Izumi thinks she can understand what he’s feeling, because, inside, she feels like she’s floating too. It was a lucky day Junpei looked up from his chocolate bar and spotted her in the same carriage, she thinks. ‘It’s perfect.’

He blushes. She thinks she’s wandered into sappy territory – but oh well. It was a natural progression. She hasn’t changed anything herself. Nor has he. It’s the type of confession she’s dreamed of even before she was bitten, while everyone else wanted flowers and chocolate and pretty falsified words…

And now it’s here. It’s all hers.

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She’s what he’s always dreamed of: awkward just like him but likes her for who he is and that’s important – the most important part of all. She’s also agreed to go on a date with him, and there’s no automatic deal-breaker right off the bat.

It’s even better, because a vampire can’t be turned into a werewolf or vice versa. Something about the toxins being so similar that the body’s built up an immunity to the other if they’ve already been infected with one… And it wasn’t like vampires went wild during full moons like werewolves did. It was perfect and practical, and practicality was the side-effect.

It’s what they’ve both been looking for without even searching… and now he has a date to plan. ‘My parents are going to cry,’ he realises. ‘A lot.’

‘Mine will shake your hand and wish you luck,’ Izumi supplies. ‘My dad might even pat you on the back.’

They laugh. ‘Who gives the shovel talk?’

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They split up after that (and swapping numbers), because they've got things they'd been doing before running into each other and the other vampire, a date to prepare for and a tentative relationship to wrap their heads around.

Junpei also needs to pick up more chocolate and painkillers, because the full moon's in a week. Extra too, because he may not be friends per say with other werewolves, but he's familiar enough with them to know someone will show up at the bunker without them and expect him to have them on hand.

And it's not like OTC painkillers were particularly expensive. He and his paper run can afford them, anyway. So can his parents, but he prefers his paper runs. No sense asking his parents to pay for the consequences of lonely desperation. And it's probably presumptive of him, but he thinks Izumi's like that too. Not everyone's born something other than human, after all. And the turned ones are lonelier.

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Takuya pops up again four days later, and Junpei almost rides in to him. He’s a poltergeist, though. He can turn himself transparent to avoid a collision.

Junpei swerves anyway. Human instinct.

Takuya laughs. ‘Hey. Hear you have a date.’

Junpei blushes at that. ‘Surely that’s not what you came to say?’

‘No.’ Takuya agrees. ‘Came to say I found the vampire your girlfriend’s looking for. Or Kouichi did, rather.’

‘Kouichi?’ Junpei repeats, because that’s a new name.

‘Or Kouji, rather.’ Takuya rolls his eyes. ‘That amnesic ghost from last time. That’s Kouichi. Kouji’s his still alive twin brother with precognition.’

‘Cool,’ Junpei blinks, because that sounds like something out of a movie… and so right up Takuya’s alley. ‘But the ghost hasn’t moved on?’

‘Can’t ‘cause apparently twin souls are tied together. But he’s got postcognitive powers. They make a great pair though… athough pity they didn’t work it out when they were both alive. They didn’t even know each other!’

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Takuya’s social circle gets wonkier and wonkier, Junpei thinks, but having both pre- and post-cognition on his team is bound to be useful. And it’s lucky that Takuya is, though a social butterfly, picky about his friends. They’re all good people. There may be personality clashes but they can be trusted with that sort of access.

Unfortunately, the news is that Chiaki (the vampire) will be at Shibuya station on the day of the full moon. Luckily, it’s the day. Still, he can’t help but be worried when he relays the news to Izumi because he’s not exactly pleasant company on full moon days.

‘That’s fine,’ Izumi says. She sounds distracted. Already looking ahead. ‘I won’t live it down if I don’t beat her myself, anyway.’

‘Why?’ Junpei asks… then checks himself. It’s not really his business. ‘Territory? She your sire or something?’ Somehow, he doesn’t think so.

Izumi snorts. ‘Nothing that noble. Just things we need to prove to each other.’

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Junpei wonders if he wasn’t supposed to interfere in the earlier fight, then. But they proved other things during that, so maybe things worked out the way they were meant to.

He’s going to have to sit on his self-control this time, though.

And turns out he’s not the only one. Someone’s relayed the message to Chiaki to be ready for a fight, because she’s got her own cheerleading section. Including a very familiar werewolf.

Junpei throws a chocolate bar and a strip of tablets without being asked. Izumi’s green eyes sparkle with laughter. ‘Helping the competition?’

‘Helping a fellow werewolf who won’t buy his own painkillers,’ Junpei replies.

‘He’s slow,’ says the other vampire, who looks as human as everyone else this time. ‘But you won’t find anyone more protective. He’ll keep us in check.’

‘And we’ll keep him in check,’ says another boy. ‘Wights. Katsuharu and Teppei.’

Junpei is suddenly outnumbered – until Takuya materialises with a boy covered in frost.

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‘This is Tomoki,’ Takuya cheerfully introduces. ‘Kouichi thought it’d be a good idea considering how passionate you two get. Kouji says the station won’t be completely destroyed, though, so that’s something. Or will be something.’

Takuya’s taken to the twins quite well, Junpei thinks. And the new kid looks cute, too. A little shy and at least four years younger than the rest but playing with snowflakes in a warm August day…

‘You’d be good at magic tricks,’ he says aloud.

Tomoki glows. ‘Will I really? I’m only good at video games and my brother says they’re useless.’

Magic tricks aren’t either, but he likes them. ‘You play anyway,’ Izumi comments.

‘Yup. I like them.’ The other boys mutter something about soccer.

‘Find me on Overworld,’ Izumi grins.

They all blink, except Tomoki who beams and agrees.

‘Trade gaming lessons for magic tricks?’ Junpei offers. ‘Unless I’m terrible or don’t like it.’

‘Sure.’ Tomoki beams wider.

‘Can we get started?’ Chiaki groans.

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It looks more like a sparring match, this time, but a sparring match with supernaturals is going to be on a different tiers than two weaponless humans and it shows. Luckily, they’re on the underground platform closed for repairs… so they can’t make things too much worse.

Unless they damage the roof. Hopefully they don’t.

They’re fighting for something petty and it’s obvious. They understand each other a bit better now, though, and that’s obvious too. They’re fighting for pride, Junpei thinks. They’ve both got alpha traits and that’s why. And that’s where he’s different. He’s protective over one person only. They’re protective over a hoard and their ideals.

Junpei wonders if Izumi will look that amazing fighting for him. Because he’s sure she will, if it ever happens. She won’t stand on the sidelines unless he asks her to.

He won’t ask her to unless he needs to, like how she asked for this.

‘She’s strong,’ Tomoki says, awed.

‘She’s amazing.’

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Apparently Kouichi’s post-cognition gives him a good estimate of character, because it turns out he’s right and Tomoki does need to freeze the roof when they get too close. He also freezes their claws and, just like that, the match is over.

Happy mistake since they’re both dripping blood, but at least they have werewolves on both sides who can provide blood without a problem. ‘Extra chocolate infused,’ Junpei explains. ‘And the painkillers give it a bit of a bitter taste.’

‘The taste of pride,’ Izumi shrugs, before her eyes soften. ‘Thank you.’

Tomoki chatters excitedly behind them, but for the moment they only have eyes for each other. It’s a pity they have an audience, Junpei thinks, because the scents are mixed and muted.

It’s probably a good thing, seeing as the full moon is in a few hours.

‘Anything I can help with?’ she asks, when he groans and stands (sitting is so much easier).

‘Chocolate for tomorrow?’ he suggests.

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Izumi does one better. She brings homemade chocolate-flavoured brownies and a hot water bottle.

Junpei questions the hot water bottle… though it does feel lovely on his joints.

‘I’m still a girl,’ Izumi shrugs. ‘Being a vampire doesn’t stop the periods, unfortunately.’

‘So you need more blood during that?’ he asks curiously.

‘Huh.’ She doesn’t answer the question. Instead… ‘You’re not screaming for the hills, still. And you don’t even have a sister as an excuse.’

‘I wouldn’t mind one,’ Junpei says thoughtfully. ‘Think we can adopt Tomoki?’

She laughs. ‘I wouldn’t mind him either,’ she admits. ‘And it looks like he can use more friends.’

So can they, and Takuya’s a good judge of character… Though he didn’t pick Izumi out of a crowd.

‘What’s wrong?’ Izumi asks.

‘I have a bone to pick with Takuya,’ Junpei replies. ‘He didn’t find you.’

She laughs. ‘Maybe he’s hopeless in the romance department.’

‘Probably.’ He tries to imagine Takuya playing matchmaker and fails.

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Their date goes off without a hitch. And the full moons. Better when Izumi has a drink first. They wonder if it’s the lack of blood or something from her saliva or pheromones or just something on the emotional level – but it doesn’t really matter, in the end, so they don’t question it too much. It just is, after all.

Just like they’ve settled nicely into a relationship as teenagers. Sure, they put their feet in their mouths and it turns out Junpei doesn’t like video games after all (but Tomoki likes magic tricks, and Junpei likes the board games they tackle together), but that doesn’t matter because it turns out they both love desserts (especially with chocolate), so they’ve got hobbies they share and hobbies they don’t and that’s how it’s suppose to be so that’s fine.

And now that they can get along with people who don’t share all their interests, they find they’re getting along with others better too.