Sixteen hundred and eleven. He's counted them four times already, working the number over in his head, tumbling through vast dreamscapes as he lay awake on his bunk, his oshiego - student, in a way - snuggled up to him, brushing his fingers through her hair. Sixteen hundred and eleven. Why did that number bother him so much? All it was, in his eyes, was the number of small pits in the otherwise blank, darkened steel ceiling over them.
The train stormed over it's rails, heading through the Amerind lands, towards it's destination: a small town near the UCAS/Free Republic of Quebec's border, built in the last two decades as more and more of the Republic's population lusted for a return to 'simpler' times. Of course, by simpler, they meant without metahumans of any kind. So much for the burden of loyalty and friendship, the Oni mused, shaking the number out of his head as he looked down at his beloved Hitomi, or 'Jade' as she preferred to be called. The very sight of her had unsettled him at first, before he settled into an uneasy (yet certainly rapid) divorce from Bella.. but now, she was growing in power, learning from his advice, from his lessons... from their 'love'. That was another thing that startled him, how he could feel something like that after all he had lost, all he had thrown away for his ambitions.
She snuggled against him, her lips turning into a smile, and all nagging doubts, all uncertainty fled from his mind as he whispered to her, "Koishii.. rest, we'll be there soon. Sleep, love.." No, if he had the choice, he would do it all again, if she wanted it. The fact that they were lying in a private cabin, wearing nothing but a thin coverlet and contented smiles might have had something to do with it.
Still.. Sixteen hundred and eleven. The number came to him once more, drifting through his jumbled, satisfied thoughts, cutting through the haze like a knife. He knew. It was the number of metahumans he had killed, back in Japan. The official number was less, but he knew - he remembered each of their faces, each of their curses as he cut them down. Every tear, every cry, every nightmare that came after. He knew. And she must never know.
Of course, they hadn't come to this little fenced-out community without reason. Met at the gates by several armed guards, each looking more frightened than the last as they glanced at the unsettling couple, they were let through with stuttered warnings and ill-aimed submachineguns. "H&K 227's," Aleksei mumbled to himself, pointing at one of the guards who stood apart. "You might want to push it your magazine, son. It won't do much like that," he said with a chuckle, and the guard looked down with am an embarassed frown, slapping the SMG's clip in with a click.
They walked through the village's center, most of the caucasian folk (were they really THAT racist?... apparently so) walking past them quickly, several muttering curses as they strode by. He stopped near a small antique store, and looked over his shoulder, noting the tiny camera over the door, the man armed with a rifle looking out of a second-story apartment building, aimed in their direction.. and he pushed the door in, the tiny bell over it resounding cheerfully.
A man behind the counter looked over his shoulder, the scowl of one being disturbed turning into a welcoming smile, his age-crisped skin tightening from the effort. "Aleksei! My good Aleksei Toji, it has been far, far too long!" the man croaked enthusiastically, taking slow, pained steps towards the Oni to pat him on the arm with a bony hand, skin yellowed by time. The man was obviously well over the hill, his greasy hair almost falling out as he looked the Oni over, his time-warped and blackened teeth jutting out from his aged face. He was unmistakably a local, but an unremarkable one beyond his age. "I could never forget that face! It has to be you, isn't it?"
"Aye, it's me, old man. You look like someone tossed you into a blender, what the hell happened?" the Oni said to the man, eyes filled with mirth as he patted the bony human on the shoulder. "Old man? Old man?! You -wound- me! You're older than I am, you fossil!" the human laughed out, and shook his head as he turned in place to pick something up from a nearby counter, tossing the small leather pouch to the Oni. "This happened.. I made this, and it took too much out of me. I consider my debt repaid, Aleksei.. or do you still go by that moniker.. what was it... Kiss Wrath? Kick Rat? My memory's hazy.."
Jade leaned against the Oni heavily, looking up to him with impatient eyes, and Aleksei simply smiled down to her with a slight nod. Turning back to the man, the Oni pulled something out of his pocket: a velvet box, ten inches high, six inches across. He handed it to the man with a smile, "And here's your payment, dear Jean. You earned it, believe me. And it's 'Kyzrath'," the Oni said, turning on his heels to head out of the shop, an arm wrapped around Jade's shoulders. He waved over his shoulder, but the man was already too absorbed by the contents of the box - a gold and white Faberge egg, beautifully decorated. He took his treasure to his desk, and started examining it, appraising it...
Aleksei and Jade strode out of the town with purpose, the leather pouch securely in his pocket, the driver waiting outside the gates as instructed. As they climbed into the rear of the Westwind, Kyzrath waved to the nervous guards, and he shut the door with a broad smile. "The train station in Trois-Rivieres, and step on it." Jade looked up to him, an annoyed look on her face, and he tsks loudly. "Oh, come on, love. This telesma was worth the trouble," he said to her, and she lowered her eyes, still looking frustrated. He pulled a small, steel tube out of his breast pocket, and handed it to her, flipping the cap off to reveal a small red button. "Here, if it makes you feel better, you can do it."
Back in his shop, Jean De Chevrier was fretting over his new collection piece.. a fake! That bloody Oni gave him a tabarnaque de fake! Oh, he knew he couldn't rightly trust the 'man' who had 'saved' him from death... only to offer him service in his squad.. but THIS was insulting! That virgin telesma had nearly cost him his life, and stuck in the throes of his astral searchings, his body had deteriorated due to the stress.. and he repays him with a FAKE EGG! This was inexcusable! This was!... was... a red light flashing from under the egg?
Jean turned the egg over, and what he had thought to be a tiny ruby was, in fact, a light..? How strange, he thought, then it struck him. Of course it's a light. Of course it's flashing. "I should have listened to the Circle Masters..." Jean De Chevrier whispered to himself, raising his hands in a useless defense against the inevitable.
A small flash of light cut through the night sky, and Aleksei looked over to Jade as the flash faded from the air. He smiled down at her, closing his hand over hers, on the detonator, and she looked up to him with that wicked, predatory smile that he loved so much. "See, love? Everything works out after all," he said to her, leaning down to press his lips to hers, the kiss filling him with a hunger..
The return trip would be -very- interesting.
Every man dies. Not every man truly lives.