Fate's Crucible Ch. 02byHanaNoir©
Zankoku first became aware of the new sensations as he began to wake. He was pleasantly warm and the gnawing hunger was at bay for the moment, not to mention the bed was actually comfortable, making him wonder if he'd been moved. He stretched slowly, feeling the protest of long unused muscles, but it was a good thing. His eyes opened, and he blinked, a startled look crossing his face as he realized that he was not alone in the bed. He peered curiously at the strange female; her arm was still over his back and her head was lolled back among the plush down filled pillows in their jet black silk covers. He had to admit as he reached over, it was a striking background for her long snow white hair. He ran his fingertips over her throat, checking for any marks on her skin, frowning slightly. He still wasn't quite sure how they ended up here, but he didn't think that he hurt her that badly. All he found was a few newly healed scars, and those were already fading as well.
She seemed to be deep asleep, a soft rumble coming from her chest, and she didn't seem to be protesting the arrangement, so perhaps it wouldn't be bad. He watched her curiously, wondering what her reaction would be upon waking. He rather hoped that she wouldn't wake and start screaming. A few more minutes passed in silence, the only sound that of their soft breathing. He tensed slightly as she began to rouse, waiting to see what she would do. Her free hand came up to stifle a yawn and her eyes began to open, the crimson irises wide in the darkness.
"Mm... there you are," Yami murmured softly, her hand stroking his back. He blinked, surprised at first, then his eyes half lidded.
"Are you all right?" he asked quietly. She arched a pale eyebrow at that, somewhat bemused by his uncharacteristic concern.
"M'fine. I heal quickly," she said, palm stroking over his spine. "See?" She pulled her arm away from him, using a sharp talon to slice across the palm of her hand. They both watched as it healed almost instantly.
"Good." He nodded, nostrils flaring slightly at the scent of blood.
She noticed that and the corner of her mouth turned up slightly. "Mm. Later. How are YOU feeling?" She tapped his bottom lip lightly with a finger and he regarded her warily.
"You don't... mind this?" he asked slowly,
"No. Should I?" She tilted her head up from the pillow to look at him curiously.
He frowned slightly. "My newfound...appetites...aren't exactly looked upon well." His eyes were unfocused as he spoke, looking at something not in the room with either of them. He shook his head, and focused on her again. "Your name was Yami, wasn't it?"
She shrugged, making the blankets ripple. "They don't bother me." She smiled slightly when he said her name, eyes practically alighting. "Yes, Zankoku, it is." He sighed softly, glad to have remembered that much, resting his head back on the pillow. "Yami Setsuya, actually."
He nodded at that, then reached over, running his fingers through her hair. "Thank you, Yami." She blinked at that, rather shocked. In all the time that she had known him, never once had those words sincerely passed his lips.
She recovered quickly, leaning into his hand. "For what?"
"For allowing me to feed on you," he explained, eyes narrowing slightly. He hated the irrational compulsions that he was now subjected to and the fact that they overwhelmed his control. "It's so hard to control this constant hunger."
"Well, you had to be fed," she said softly. "And I sort of have to do something similar."
He looked over at her, interest evident in his eyes. "You do?"
"I think we can fix that," she said thoughtfully. "You'll just need to feed a bit more often. I have to have foods that are high in iron and protein content, usually rare red meat. My metabolism is so high, that if I don't, I'll consume myself." He nodded slightly. "Yours sounds similar."
"I...don't know," he admitting with evident annoyance, fangs baring slightly. "I have no idea what those sons of bitches did to me."
"Well, you HAVE been in a locker for the past twenty or so years, Zankoku," she said wryly.
"Locker...?" he looked over at her, confused.
"Morgue, love, morgue," she elaborated. "You were presumed dead." He frowned at that and she ran her hair through his hair. "It's a long story." He leaned into her hand, eyes half lidding. "The condensed version is... Some chick who you once fucked up found a mate, and both of them attacked you. They tore you up pretty good and left you for dead. The authorities started moving you around, and Amir and I had been chasing you since then."
He shook his head slightly. "I don't remember any of this. The last clear memory I have... is the battle at Khar'kastan. Then just bits and pieces after that."
"S'not important right now," she said, yawning widely. "What's important is that you're alive. That's all I'm concerned with." He smiled faintly, still watching her. "You'll have to tell me of that, though. Amir is close mouthed about the war."
He chuckled softly. "He doesn't care for messes. And in his opinion, war is just one big mess."
"I noticed," she said, sitting up. "He seems rather.. prim." She leaned over, opening the drawer on the nightstand to pull out a hairbrush which she then began to run through his hair. There was an odd sort of Zen to the motion; up and down, up and down, feeling the silky ebony strands sliding over her hand.
He chuckled softly. "One of the saddest sights I'd ever seen was his face just after he tripped and stumbled into a pile of kartazh droppings."
"Ech," she wrinkled her nose, tone bemused. "Kartazh... are those your mounts?" She pulled the brush through his hair again as he nodded.
"Large lizards," he explained, eyes half lidding as he enjoyed the attention. "We have various types."
"Sounds like the Driders we have," she commented. "Minus those that are transfigured traitors."
"Oh?" he asked curiously.
"Mm-hm," she replied. "Our sorceresses take traitors and turn them into spider-mounts. The Driders go insane through the transfiguration."
He chuckled softly at that. "Remind me to stay on your good side then."
"I'm no enchantress," she said wryly, shaking her head. His eyes followed her long pale tresses as they swayed back and forth behind her.
"No?" he asked softly, giving her a slight teasing smile. "Could have fooled me."
"No," she replied, grinning back. "I'm just a matricidal freak." She couldn't seem to help but to find him... charming... to use a clichéd word.
~ ~ ~ ~
A beeping sound from the cockpit distracted Amir's attention from the diabetic spectacle in the next room. He had been doing a bit of paperwork when he had sensed his brother rousing and he'd thought it best to discreetly monitor the situation. Everything seemed to be well in hand now, though, and he didn't think his brother was going to do her any lasting physical harm.
He rose from his makeshift desk, walking out of the room to head for the cockpit. He slid into the empty pilot's seat then reached over to click on the com, looking to see the source of the alert. It was an incoming message addressed to Yami Setsuya. He blinked slowly at that, considering.
Eyo, Yami, he said mentally. You have a message.
She blinked, surprised. Me?
Mm-hm, to you directly, he continued. And I don't open other people's mail.
Zankoku looked up at her then sat up. "Go see to your message then," he said with a slight smile. "I feel the need for a very long hot shower."
She chuckled softly. "I forget you have that mental sieve crap." She gave him a light tap on the shoulder. "All right."
He shrugged, turning and putting his feet on the carpeted floor. "Sometimes it comes in handy."
"Apparently so," she said, sitting up. She stared down at her body and then over at him. It was a good thing that she had taken a shower last night after he had fallen asleep. She reached over, snagging her robe and pulling it over her shoulder.
"Yes, let us not scandalize Amir," he chuckled as he rose to his feet.
She tied the sash at her waist and gave him a wry look. "He could use a bit of scandalizing."
He returned her look with one of his own. "True, though I wouldn't know where to begin."
"I can think of a few things," she said with a smirk. "Trust me." She gave him a light tap on his rear as she walked past him, heading out the door and toward the cockpit. He watched her walk out, the corner of his mouth turned up just a bit, then made his way into the bathroom for that shower.
Yami slid into the copilot's seat, flashing a bit of leg as she sat down. "All right, Amir, what's up?"
He looked over at her, shaking his head at her disheveled appearance. "Nothing, Yami," he said, the corner of his mouth turning up in a slight smirk. "Just read your letter, yes?"
"Fine," she replied, resisting the urge to roll her eyes at him. "Fine." She glanced over at him. "You sure you aren't gay?"
He bristled at that, giving her an annoyed look. "Quite sure. I am not gay."
She smirked slightly, pleased to have ruffled his metaphorical feathers. "Yes, and I'm a celibate nun," she quipped as she opened the letter.
I know that you don't know me so I'll begin by introducing myself.
My name is An'ya Setsuya, and I'm one of your nieces. I've recently left our homeworld in order to avoid the same fate as the rest of my line. I learned of you through some of the family records and I was hoping that we could meet, as I have no other relatives or contacts off of our homeworld. If you would, please consider replying so that we could perhaps arrange a meeting.
I hope to hear from you soon.
Yami stared at the screen in patent disbelief, a thousand thoughts and emotions swirling about her as she tried to assimilate this. The last that she had heard, she had been declared an exile and her name had been removed from the family records. Who was this girl and why did she want to meet with her?
Amir frowned slightly when she didn't move for several minutes. "Yami?"
She turned slightly, wide crimson eyes looking at him. "I...have family," she said, still stunned.
Amir considered that. "Well, this is a good thing...yes?"
She shut down the file, frowning slightly. "I don't know." She stood up, hands on the console. "I have to think about this." She turned on her heel and strode out of the cockpit, heading for the living area to pour herself a glass of wine. She knew that she had to calm down and think this development through logically. She leaned against the wall, wineglass in hand, staring out the small window at the blackness beyond.
Zankoku came out of the bedroom wearing a crimson robe trimmed with black fur, his ebony hair still damp from the shower. He raised an eyebrow, easily sensing Yami's agitated state. "Something amiss?" he asked, walking over to join her at the window.
She shook her head. "S'just... I didn't expect to ever hear from home again." She glanced over at him. "I just found out that I have a niece. That survived." She took a sip of her wine, looking thoughtful.
"Is that good or bad?" he asked candidly, half lidded crimson eyes watching her.
"I... don't know," she admitted. "I...uh... sort of killed her grandmother. And... several of her mother's sisters. And her uncles." She couldn't help the slight grin, hiding it by taking another sip of her wine. "So... it's sort of a vicious cycle, really."
"Ah," was his only comment.
"Yeah," she said, still frowning. "Anyway. Supposedly, the clan's being wiped out. So she's left. And is trying to find me." Her talons tapped an agitated beat against the metal of the wall.
"You don't believe her?" he asked curiously.
"I don't know what to think," she replied. "She could be coming to me for help. And she could be coming after me in retaliation. I'm not sure what to do."
He turned it over in his head for a moment or two, then looked over at her. "Well, meet her somewhere neutral and find out," was his suggestion. "Then go from there."
She smiled wryly at that, turning her head to look over at him. "Logical, as usual." She thought a moment longer. "All right. That sounds... well. I'll go and reply to her message." He chuckled softly. "I think there's a planet coming up soon. Maybe she can meet us there."
He nodded, reaching for a wine glass. She immediately reached as well, plucking it out of his reach. He blinked at that, looking at her curiously. She smirked, reaching for the bottle in the warmer on the counter, pouring its contents into the glass. "It's bloodwine," she explained, handing it to him. "Here you are."
"Thank you," he said with a slight smile, sipping lightly.
"It's your favorite vintage," she said, watching him.
"Yes, it is," he remarked, eyes half lidded. It amazed him how much she knew about him, this female that he had no recollection of. And she had gone to obvious lengths to help him. He couldn't help but to find her attractive, as well.
"I know a few things about you," she said with a faint smirk. He kept his face blank, but it struck him as uncanny. He had been thinking the very same thing.
"So it would seem," he said, tone noncommittal, watching her over the rim of his glass as he sipped his wine.
She gave him a slight personal smile. "But I'll enjoy learning more." She drank down the rest of her wine, and he lifted his own glass in a little salute to her before taking another sip. She watched him a moment more, then walked into the small galley, placing the empty wineglass in the washer.
Yami turned, heading toward the cockpit to reply to the missive from her unknown relative just as Amir strode out of the cockpit, heading toward the kitchen. He gave her a nod as he passed, which she returned. He stopped a few feet from his older brother, regarding him silently. "How are you feeling, brother?"
Zankoku turned, crimson eyes level. "Much better. Where are we heading?"
Amir nodded at that before answering. "Home. I wasn't sure where else to head."
Zankoku nodded slightly. "I thought as much. I honestly have no ideas either."
Amir nodded at that, pulling a leather band from his pocket and beginning to tie back his hair, making sure it was neat and tidy. "Are you hungry?" he asked.
"A bit," he admitted, watching his younger brother. It seemed that some things never changed, no matter how much time passed. Amir was always meticulous in his personal habits and now he seemed even more so.
"Then I shall start breakfast," he said. "I'm sure Yami's famished. And my own stomach is starting to growl." He gave his brother a wryly amused look. "You sort of tired her out last night."
"Can't have that," he replied mildly, not rising to the bait.
"Indeed," was the bemused response as he padded into the kitchen. His brother watched him go with a faint smirk. Amir paused at the counter, turning to look back at him. "How much do you remember?"
Zankoku finished off the wine in his glass, sliding onto on of the barstools on the opposite side of the counter. "I remember the last battle the clearest. Then bits and pieces past that."
Amir frowned slightly, beginning to pull out breakfast foods. "Well, it might have to do with the fact of how long you were in that locker." He pulled a skillet from the cupboard, setting it on the rangetop. "You were in there quite a while, brother."
Zankoku nodded slightly. "If we go back, I can't let them see me as weak. You know that as well as I."
"Well, I'll fill you in as best I can," Amir said, turning on the burner. "We'll just have to use the sifting method, let you go through my mind and pick out important events." He glanced over at his brother and turned the conversation to more mundane manners. "D'you want your steak rare or medium?"
"Medium rare," came the somewhat distracted answer as he thought over all that he had learned since waking. He still felt the edge of that initial disorientation, but he was slowly acclimating to the new situation.
"Yami?" Amir raised his voice slightly to ask her preference.
"Rare!!" was the immediate reply from the cockpit. She looked over the reply again, adding the coordinates for the port that they were approaching, then pressed send before she could change her mind.
Amir shook his head at her answer, bemused. "I shouldn't even ask," he commented as he turned back to the rangetop.
His brother chuckled softly. "Then why did you?"
"Her tastes change," he explained with a shrug. "For one week, she didn't eat anything but eggs. Another week, she didn't eat at all. So, of course I ask."
"Ah..." was the slowly drawled reply.
The scent of the cooking meat drew Yami out of the cockpit and into the kitchen, where she helped Amir finish up the meal. Zankoku rose to walk over to the small table so that they could dine together, stopping to collect drinks before sitting down. Once the plates were on the table, there wasn't much conversation, as they were all exceedingly hungry.
~ ~ ~ ~
Amir watched his older brother from across the table, trying to get some sense of his thoughts. He wasn't as good an empath as his brother, but he did have some semblance of skill. His latent talents had not been as strong as his brother's, and he had always felt slightly guilty that he was lucky to have not been so talented. Zankoku had been his mother's golden child, which had been a source of contention between their father and his mother. He had always felt that the experimentation that his father had allowed had been carried out more for petty spite than for any real scientific reasons.
He himself had been the son of their father's second wife, and she had died shortly after his birth. Zankoku's mother had cared for him as if he were her own, and he had never felt any jealousy or antagonism toward his eldest sibling. In fact they had been unusually close while growing up. Zankoku had watched out for him and he had to admit that he had pretty much worshipped his older brother. Zankoku had always been more than he - more intelligent, more skilled, more fit. And that had never bothered him. When they had attended military school at the Kel'hamesh Academy, his nickname had been Zankoku Rus'kaidoh, or Zankoku's Shadow. He was his brother's right hand, and it was a position that he was comfortable with. He had no use for the limelight; that was what nearly killed his brother after all. He was quite content to work behind the scenes, to be what his brother needed him to be.
He couldn't help but to wonder if this turn of events might prove fortuitous for Zankoku. Wiped clean of his earlier psychosis, he might very well be able to assume their father's position as head of their family. A slow wicked smirk curled his lips, baring the tips of his fangs. This could very well be the chance that he'd been waiting for all these years. All he had to do was put the question to his brother and see what he thought.
~ ~ ~ ~
A week later found the brothers immersed in paperwork, as Amir reacquainted Zankoku with their family's current financial and political situation. Zankoku knew his brother's reasons for this and he had no current objections to the idea. He rather found the idea of going home appealing. As much as he disliked the place, he had to admit, if only to himself, that there were things he missed. So it behooved him to come up to speed on all aspects of family business, and quickly.
"All right," Amir's voice broke into his thoughts and he looked over at his younger brother. "I've found a few documents that will support your claims, especially to the Muh'sa province." Zankoku nodded and he continued. "Considering that you conquered it late in the war, the property of course goes to you." He slid the documents across the table. "Along with all the back taxes forthwith."