Heart of the Dragon Ch. 03byAurora Black©
The gentle ocean waves made their way ashore, stroking across the beach like a lover's caress and washing away the recently made footsteps from the sand. The cries of the seagulls echoed through the air, and several of them landed on the beach to feast upon an unfortunate fish that had been washed ashore by the tide. One by one, the birds used their hooked beaks and sharp talons to rip it to shreds. The birds, in their ecstasy, did not notice the shadowy figure of a man that was watching them.
He had been there all along, observing. He continued watching the seagulls as they ravenously devoured their meal.
Such savagery, he thought. It is brutal, yet so poetic, so...beautiful. How delicious it is to feel the life drain from your prey; to feel their surrender before they die. How satisfying. It's been too long, but soon my wait will be over.
The figure turned away from the content birds and faced the ocean, repeating the words in his head like a mantra: She's so close. She's so close. I'll have my chance again. The figure threw his head back and his psychotic laughter revertebrated along the deserted beach. The frightened birds fled, and the figure melted into the shadows.
Let the games begin.
* * *
June 22, 1995
It was a balmy early evening when Grace and Gabriel emerged from the plane. With the combination of the long trip and the time zone changes, they were exhausted. They had decided to leave immediately instead of waiting until morning. They changed their clothes, and they left Gerde at the castle, promising to call when they arrived. The trip was filled with delays for their connecting flights, loud children, and occasional turbulence. Grace hadn't noticed. She had been in deep thought since they'd left Munich. After they collected their luggage from the baggage claim, they sat down on a bench near some pay phones.
"Should we call Gerde now?" Gabriel asked.
Grace was looking at the floor, in another world.
Grace looked up. "Hmm? Oh! Yeah, we should."
Gabriel looked at her for a few seconds. "Are you all right, Gracie? You haven't been yourself since you were on the phone with your father."
Grace took one of his hands and squeezed it. "No, I haven't. I don't know what's going on here. I don't know how to feel about all this secrecy. I called my parents to find out what they wanted, my mom had some kind of fit, my dad was very brief about what's wrong and told me to come to visit my grandfather here in Oahu, and my father also said that this was going to affect the whole family? That can't be good."
Grace let go of Gabriel's hand and covered her face with her hands. She let out a sigh. Gabriel put an arm around her and whispered, "Tell you what. Whatever this situation turns out to be, we'll get through it together. Okay?"
He pulled her hands off of her face and looked into her eyes. "Okay, darlin'?"
Grace smiled. "Okay."
Gabriel grinned and kissed her. "Good. I'm going to call Gerde and let her know that we're here, and then we'll get a cab. I'll be back as soon as I can." With that, Gabriel got up and strode over to the pay phones.
Grace watched him go, then she started looking in her purse for a map of the area she had thoughtfully placed in there before they left Germany. It had been a while since she had been in Oahu last. Grace had always been close with her grandfather, but she hadn't been to visit him as much as she should have.
She continued looking through her purse and its compartments. "Damn. Where the hell is it?" She didn't see the stranger nearby, staring at her with narrowed eyes.
Meanwhile, Gabriel was at a pay phone, calling Schloss Ritter. Gerde answered the phone.
"Schloss Ritter, may I help you?"
"Yeah, Gerde. It's Gabriel. We're in Oahu."
"How was your trip, Gabriel?"
Gabriel let out a sigh. "It was long and uncomfortable as hell, but it's over, thank God."
Gabriel glanced over where Grace was sitting, and he saw that she was looking for something in her purse. He kept his gaze on her, while still on the phone with Gerde.
Gerde asked, "How's Grace?"
"She was quiet through most of the trip, thinking about that phone call. She'll be fine. Don't worry."
Gabriel noticed a movement from the corner of his eye. His gaze had shifted toward the phone, but it returned abruptly to Grace. She hadn't moved. She had given up on her purse, and she was fishing a map from her carry-on. For the first time, Gabriel noticed a man that was standing near Grace, staring at her. A strange feeling washed over him.
Of course, Gabriel thought, I should be used to this. Gracie is a beautiful woman, but something is... different about that man's stare. Gabriel didn't like it, not one bit.
He realized after a few minutes that Gerde had been talking. "I'm sorry, Gerde. What did you say?"
Gerde answered with, "I said that I hope that this crisis blows over quickly. That's all."
"I hope so too."
It was then that Gabriel noticed that the stranger was making his way towards Grace. Gabriel looked at Grace again. She suspected nothing. He had to get over there.
"Gerde, I've got to go. We'll call again later." Gabriel hung up the phone and started to hurry back to where he'd left Grace.
Grace had succeeded in finding the map. It wasn't in her purse, but it was in her carry-on.
I knew that I had put it somewhere. Now, time to look at it and find Grandpa's area... there it is.
A cold hand on her shoulder made her jump. "What the...?"
Grace turned around to find a strange man behind her, and she let out a gasp. She jerked away from the hand and stood up, dropping her map. She moved so the bench was between her and the stranger.
Surely he wouldn't try anything here with all these people around. Grace thought. Would he?
She looked at the man with a frown. "Do I know you?"
The man locked eyes with her. "Don't you recognize me, Grace? You probably wouldn't. It's been so long since you were here last."
Grace's frown disappeared as recognition finally set in. "Uncle Takeo?"
Gabriel approached the scene, adrenaline pumping through him. He saw the stranger come closer and closer to Grace, even going as far as touching her. He also saw Grace moving away from the man when he had made his presence known. What the hell does this bastard want? I'm going to damn well find out, Gabriel thought. He grabbed the stranger and raised him until his feet dangled off of the ground.
"All right, God damn it. I'll ask you two questions: Who the hell are you, and what the FUCK are you doing bothering my woman? Answer me!"
Grace was in shock from seeing Uncle Takeo again, but she recovered when she saw Gabriel pick him up and shake him. "Gabriel! It's okay. He's my uncle!"
Gabriel looked at Grace, who nodded her head, and he lowered the middle-aged man down and patted his back. "I'm very sorry, sir. This is the introduction from hell."
"I'll say," Takeo Nakimura managed to choke out. He leaned over the bench and recovered his breath. When he was back to normal, he calmly said to Grace, "I was sent here by your grandfather to pick you up. He didn't want you to worry about getting a cab in the evening rush."
Grace managed to clear her throat, which was curiously tight. "Thank you. That's very nice. We're ready to go over there now." They picked up the map and the bags, and Takeo led the way out of the airport to the parking lot, where a jeep was waiting for them.
"It'll be a while between Honolulu and the house on Kaneohe Bay, so we can chat on the way over."
The bags were loaded, the key was turned, and they were off. The sun was setting, and it bathed everything in a warm, red glow. The road they were traveling on gave them an awe-inspiring view of the ocean.
Grace sighed at the sight. "I almost forgot how beautiful it was here."
Gabriel nodded in agreement, his gaze switching from the surroundings to Takeo.
"Yeah, it's great out here. I wasn't expecting Hawaii to be THIS beautiful, Mr. Nakimura,"
The middle-aged man turned slightly, casting a look in Gabriel's direction.
"Please, call me Takeo. Tell me about yourself, Mr. Knight."
Gabriel watched Takeo turn his attention back to the road.
"Oh, I write mystery novels. That's about it. And please call me Gabriel."
Takeo's smile was slightly visible from behind as he continued to drive. "Okay, Gabriel. And I believe that you are being modest. I've read your books, and they are quite fascinating."
Gabriel grinned, "Well, thank you very much."
The jeep fell silent for a while. A few moments passed when Grace spoke up.
"Uncle Takeo, can you let us know what's been going on?"
Takeo took a lengthy look at her, as if weighing the pros and cons. "Well, I'm not sure if I should. I promised your grandfather that I would leave all of the explaining to him."
Grace's curiosity was really piqued by this point. "Come on, Uncle Takeo. Tell me a small bit."
Takeo glanced at Gabriel before his gaze returned to the road. "Is it safe? No offense, Gabriel."
"None taken," Gabriel replied. "Don't worry. Your secrets are safe with me."
Still facing forward, Takeo let out a sigh. His eyes remained on the road.
"I'll tell you a few details. This situation partly involves you and your place in the family."
A pause followed while Grace slowly digested this information. "Go on, Uncle Takeo."
"Your role in this family has been planned since before you were born. Your role as a protector and a defender of the family."
Grace shrugged her shoulders. "My role? Protect and defend against what?"
Takeo turned and looked over at Grace. His eyes locked with hers. "Evil."
Grace's jaw dropped, and she immediately turned around to look at Gabriel, who was equally shocked at the revelation. The silence was so thick, it could've been cut by a knife.
Grace was stunned. A defender against evil? Me?
She thought back to when she first took up with Gabriel, when he was finding out about the Shadow Hunters. She also remembered her research at Schloss Ritter, when she had read about other Defenders of Light. My family?
She recalled her excitement and envy when she first arrived in Rittersberg. All that history surrounding one family, all that power. She had envied Gabriel's destiny then, but now, when the same thing could be said about herself... she was scared.
In a flash, she remembered the events that took place on the night of Von Glower's death. The flames wrapping around his form in the furnace, the stench of burning flesh. A shudder ripped through Grace. That was definitely a time when Grace did not envy Gabriel's role as a soldier of God.
Grace wrapped her arms tightly around herself. Am I going to have to go through something like that, only with myself as the Hunter? My God, would I be able to bear it?
She turned around in her seat, watching as the sun continued to disappear into the ocean.
Grace found herself trying to remember the old family castle. Her parents had taken her to the United States when she was three years old, and no matter how hard she had tried in the years afterwards, she couldn't remember anything about the Nakimura castle, Tatsu Island, or anything else in the few weeks prior to her life in America in any form other than bits and pieces. It was like trying to watch a movie with some of its critical scenes missing. It was very frustrating to her, knowing that part of her past was gone from her memory. It was an emptiness that she had felt her entire life. She had always sensed that something significant must have happened, but she had no idea what it was.
Now that the big secret was out, Grace wondered at the lengths taken by her parents to keep her ignorant. Part of her felt betrayed by them; that they knew about this and failed to tell her. But deep down she knew her parents must have had a good reason to stay silent about her role in the family. Grace took a deep breath and closed her eyes.
If I had known about this sooner... who knows how I would have reacted. I'm not the same Grace that I was before. I am no longer the skeptical know-it-all. I've seen and experienced too much over the last two years to pretend to not be affected by all this.
Grace opened her eyes and saw the Nakimura house looming in the distance.
I'll hear what Grandfather has to say and I'll know what to do.
Grace was brought out of her reverie by the touch of Gabriel's hand on her arm.
"Are you okay, Gracie?"
Grace smiled. "Yeah. I'm fine."
Gabriel grinned back at her before glancing at Takeo, who had his attention completely on the road. Looks like the road's getting a bit TOO much attention, I'd say. A burning sensation began in the pit of his stomach as the eerie feeling from the airport returned.
His eyes narrowed as he continued to watch the middle-aged man. There's something about him that I can't quite put my finger on, but it's there. "Takeo? Is that the house?"
Gabriel had to repeat the question before the older man nodded jerkily. "Sorry. I guess I'm a bit preoccupied," Takeo blurted out before the path to the house became visible.
Grace placed her hand on her uncle's arm.
"It's okay, Uncle Takeo. It seems that we all have a lot to think about right now."
The last of the sun disappeared as they approached the house. The house was magnificent. Surrounded by a garden of exotic flowers and stone-lined pools with an abundance of tiny fish, the house was built in the traditional Japanese style, complete with paths leading through the garden to the different areas of the house, and authentic sliding paper and wood doors. Lanterns led the way to the front porch, where an elderly man was waiting for them.
Grace, Gabriel, and Takeo unloaded the jeep and walked up the stone path towards the house. She looked around at the wonders of the garden. "God, how I've missed this place."
Takeo responded. "The house has missed you, as well."
Grace turned and smiled at him, and Takeo grinned back briefly before his expression became strangely blank. Grace continued walking towards the house with a puzzled expression and Gabriel, noticing the peculiar exchange, made a mental note to keep an eye on Takeo.
He's starting to creep me out, and Gracie isn't that unaffected either.
Grace was the first to see the old man in the shadows near the front door.
She put down her luggage and she raced towards him. "Grandfather!"
The old man stepped from the shadows into the light, and Gabriel got his first look at Yukio Nakimura. He was a very powerful looking man, with an air of immense wisdom. His long white hair was secured with a long black ribbon, but some tendrils had escaped to frame a face that exuded great strength and intelligence. His eyes were so brown that they were almost black, and they seemed to have the ability to draw a person in completely, to captivate and mesmerize.
He watched as Grace and her grandfather embraced. Now I know where Gracie got her eyes.
They parted and they both went down the front stairs into the garden. Grace looked back and forth between her grandfather and Gabriel as she made the introductions.
"Grandfather, this is Gabriel Knight. Gabriel, this is my grandfather, Yukio Nakimura."
"Pleased to meet you, Mr. Nakimura. You have a very lovely house here, " Gabriel said as he shook the older man's hand. Yukio's eyes twinkled with a hint of amusement.
"Thank you very much. I hope that you'll find your time here pleasant, Mr. Knight."
Yukio looked over Gabriel's shoulder at Takeo, who was watching the three of them with an unreadable expression. Yukio cleared his throat and Takeo shook his head and blinked as if waking up from a deep sleep.
"Takeo? Would you please bring their bags in while I'm showing them around the house?"
Takeo bent over to pick up the bags after muttering, "Sure. No problem, Father."
The old man led his guests into the house, leaving Takeo behind in the garden.
The large entry hall was filled with many family photos, old portraits, and mirrors. The library was filled with many volumes of the classics in Latin, English, and Japanese. They continued to tour the many rooms of the house, seeing the art studio, the game room, and the dojo. They made it as far as the kitchen before Grace decided she couldn't take any more of the suspense. She brought them all to a halt.
"Grandfather, what's the deal? I'm sorry to disrespect you, but could we please talk about what's going on instead of touring the house like nothing's wrong?"
Yukio sighed deeply. "You're right. I don't know why I keep stalling when it I know it will only delay the inevitable. Let me show you both to your rooms, and we'll talk about it all you want over dinner."
Without another word, Yukio led Grace and Gabriel up the stairs towards a set of sliding doors. The old man slid them open to reveal a very lovely room with a large canopied bed. Grace's bags were already placed on the bed.
"It's beautiful, Grandfather," Grace said.
"It's your old room, my dear."
Yukio glanced at Gabriel, who was taking in the surroundings, especially the bed.
"Gabriel, your room is there." Yukio pointed to a door that led to a connecting room.
Gabriel grinned and glanced at Grace, who was watching both men with amusement.
"Dinner will be ready in a little while, so you two can rest and unpack. And don't worry, all of your questions will be answered to the best of my ability. I'll let you know when it's ready." With that, Yukio left the room. As soon as the door closed, Grace let out a sigh.
"Gabriel, do you think I was too hard on him?"
Gabriel cleared the bed of the luggage and sat her down.
"No. You wanted to know exactly what the emergency was. We found it out from Takeo already, but there's nothing wrong with a second voice in the matter."
Grace shook her head. "I guess, but I'm starting to have a weird feeling about this whole thing. Is that all there is to it, this big secret? Maybe it's so big to them because they think that I haven't been exposed to this sort of "Defender of Light" thing. Maybe they think I'd faint or go into hysterics at the revelation."
He cleared his throat. "So since you've been with me while I've had my trials, you think that this is all a piece of cake?"
"No, that did not cross my mind at all," Grace was quick to point out. "I was just thinking that maybe Takeo didn't tell us the whole story. He was reluctant even when he told us that little bit of info. I was thinking about that phone call from my parents, also. My parents have always been strong people, Gabriel. Good people that anyone could depend on. That phone call was the first time that I've ever heard fear in their voices. My mom crying in the background, and my father..."
Grace let out another sigh. "I'm just saying that I think that there's something else, something really bad going down. I don't know what it is yet, but it damn sure isn't what we've been told so far."
He sat down on the bed next to her. "I've been having the same thoughts. I've also been picking up some strange vibes from your uncle. There's just something about him that throws me."
She placed her hand on top of his. "I know. I've felt it, too. He's acting really weird. I don't think that I've ever seen him that way before. He has always been a bit withdrawn, but never to that extent."
Grace fell back on the bed, pulling Gabriel down with her. Her smile was seductive.
"I don't really want to talk about Uncle Takeo right now; let's forget about him and everything for a while."