Innocence

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Chapter 1

"Are you up yet, or what?"

I open my eyes slowly, glancing over at my twin brother.

"I was going to enjoy the bed today, but your voice just ruined those plans," I mutter. My hands shove the blankets off me as I rise, wincing in pain at the sunlight. Damn, that's bright. "Could you have at least left the blinds closed?"

"Alright, Mr. Vampire," Roku tells me as he tugs on the cord of the rickety old blinds.

I roll back and sigh.

It's been ten years now since we were attacked in the dirty slums of Acadia. We were orphans, living on the sand-caked streets of the largest capital city in the continent. As humans, we were always targeted. I always had to look out for my younger brother, but even then, there was trouble. When we were seven, a vampire found us. She managed to turn us both before a hunter killed her and saved our lives.

This world of chaos and inhumans is a brutal one. Each city has its own ruling family. The families are power-hungry, always waring among themselves with no regard for the people below them. If you add in the temples and the priests, it's a miracle said cities are still standing.

It would be an awful place to live in alone. Having friends to watch your back is easier than having to look over your shoulder on your own.

I decide that I've spent enough time being lazy and prop myself up on one elbow.

I blink sleepily. Our room is a mess. Clothes, papers, drink bottles, and food packages litter the floor. A TV sits in the corner with a paused video game burning into the screen.

"So, we've got to meet Yuko and Crow today. Do you remember where?" Roku explains. He pulls his jacket on and bobs his head. He already has music on, which is unbelievable. How does anyone have so much energy in the morning?

He's always been the first up, always been the first to smile.

He annoys Zeke that way.

Zeke is the man who owns the house that we are currently sleeping I, and is one of the most annoying, strict pieces of shit that ever walked the land. One of the first things we confirmed was that he would very well shoot us if we rubbed him the wrong way. He was a hunter, someone who tracks down the worst Inhumans. But hey, he saved our lives, right? I suppose we could consider him our foster father, considering he feeds us for free, but he does his best to keep us at a distance.

"You never answered my question," Roku says. I look towards him and blink again, trying to remember what it was exactly that he asked me.

"Into town," I reply as I pull a flannel over the black t-shirt, a common style for me.

"Hey, you two. Get the mail while you're out."

Zeke's blood son, Tido, leans against our doorway. He crosses his arms and lifts his chin slightly. Internally, I roll my eyes. He always thinks that he's better than us, even though Zeke all treats us the same. He only ever comes to see us if he needs something. It doesn't help that he's dating a member of the ruling family of the city we live in. One day, I'm convinced that his ego will swell too much and Tido will float into the sun.

"Why don't you just get it yourself?" I ask, annoyed.

"Because I'm going to be with Yia today," he says smugly, crossing his arms. I roll my eyes in further annoyance, hearing Roku chuckle next to me.

"Make sure you don't embarrass her this time," Roku tells him. "Wouldn't want to dropkick an ice cream cone directly into her face again, would you?"

Tido's expression grows cold. I roll my eyes towards the ceiling as they begin to fight.

"At least I didn't get my arm broken by the last girl I was with!"

"You almost broke her nose!"

I shuffle into the bathroom to brush my teeth. We might as well all be siblings, with the way they bicker. Zeke must not be home, or else we would hear him yelling too. My eyes slowly meet the gaze of my reflection. Is this the life that I'm content with? This endless drabble, days repeating a predictable schedule? I shake my head and splash water on my face. It's too damn early to be having an existential crisis.

I shut the door as loudly as I can to pause the argument.

"I'll get the mail while I'm there, alright?" I ask tiredly. I grab my motorcycle helmet and walk out of the room. Roku follows me, shoving his hands into his pockets.

"Ever since he's been with Yia, he's been kind of annoying," he mentions.

"Well, they're bound to get married, you know," I say. I sit on my bike and start the engine, cringing at the choked sounds. I'll have to get that fixed soon. The thought of bringing my bike to a mechanic makes my stomach twist. Yuko and Crow could do better without murdering my bank account. "It would boost any man's ego if he was going to marry the second most powerful woman in Spiral."

The years of stealing parts out of cars and airships and then selling them have done wonders for their skills as mechanics. To think, all that time spent ripping things apart is now spent putting them all back together.

"You really think he has a chance? I mean, she's the head of the Ratskera family," Roku inputs.

The ruling families are complicated. Two parents are married, typically at a very young age, and have several children. The oldest becomes head of the family when both parents die and takes their place in the council. If that child dies without an heir, the next oldest sibling takes the chair. Despite the rules, they marry who they wish, most often for love. It doesn't matter about rank, and anyone can rise really. Our country, Spiral, is the last to break the rules. Yia and Tido will be the first couple from mixed social status.

Most parents don't live very long, due to wars and constant threat of assassination. Many types of Inhumans don't live for very long despite contrary beliefs. The average life span is only about one hundred and fifty, which, while longer than human's, is still rather small. The Ratskeras, the family that runs our city of Ruka, lost the mother fifteen years ago, and the father six. The two left three children behind, all daughters.

"He has a chance. The guy's famous for sports," I reply as we begin to drive into town.

"Prepare for the cameras and paparazzi, Reiji," Roku jokes as we make it down the main road, heading towards the city in the distance. We live on the outskirts, past the main walls. Zeke can't stand the smell of the city, or so he says. "I told you that she only wants him for his money."

"What else could any girl who was raised in that environment want?"

We secure our bikes in a parking garage, heading into the streets on foot. Our home city is near surrounded by water, so it's important as a fishing district; the second most popular city in our country. The capital, Regilina, is far more of a tourist attraction. Sure, sea-side cities are great and all, but the capital trumps us both in luxury and in population. No one really wants to see the second most important place in a country, after all.

"Hey, nerds!"

I look to my right to see Risa Ratskera. She stands tall, nearly my height of six feet.

You wouldn't expect her to be the second in line to the crown by looking at her. Short black hair that sticks every which way, dark green eyes, tattoos of ravens adorning her arms and chest, and dark makeup makes her look like an average rebellious teenager. She's a surprisingly approachable person.

"Hey, Risa," Roku says politely. She nods to him, and I can feel the ice in the air between them.

They had a falling out a year ago, resulting in a broken arm for him, and a broken heart for her.

For someone who shows so much distaste with the ruling family, Roku did have a fling with Risa Ratskera. Everyone knew that it was just a fling except for her. He wasn't exactly one for relationships, but he was funny enough, attractive enough, that she fell for him. When he tried to break things off, everything went south. The arguments lasted for days, whether it was over the phone or in person. He ended up falling off somewhere high during the last fight and broke his arm.

At least they can be civil with each other now.

"You guys should come with me, to get lunch or something," Risa suggested. "You haven't been in town for a while now, you know."

"No thank you; we're waiting for someone," I say. It really is best if we don't go with her. Watch, the press will think that I'm dating her or something. Can you imagine the awful headlines that would be slapped onto those already ridiculous magazines? You know, the ones that you stare at when your phone is dead in the checkout lines and wonder how the hell someone came up with something so absurd.

"I'll go," Roku offers, making Risa smile. They're civil with one another as they abandon me on the side of the street like trash. I roll my eyes.

I knew he wouldn't stick around long. Roku has always had a problem with wandering off. That habit is what nearly got us killed on the night that Zeke saved our lives.

I walk to the docks and sit on a crate, near the spot where my friends and I arranged to meet. Why am I not surprised that they're late? I reach to pull out my phone and sigh. And I've forgotten it, well done me! I've just eliminated my last inch of entertainment that I could have right now. I begin to look for signs to read out of boredom when I hear a dock worker shout.

"Hey! You can't be up there!"

I slowly start to get off the crate before I realize that the annoyed, old fisherman isn't talking to me. I look up and raise my eyebrows, seeing him glaring upwards. I raise my eyes upwards and my jaw drops slightly.

A girl is climbing one of the fishing ships from the dock, and she's already at the second deck. She lifts herself into a handstand on the railing, arching backwards to set her feet neatly on the wooden deck. The wind picks up, sending her scent towards me. My eyes widen as my blood runs hot. She can't be...

"Get down!" the man calls to her. She smiles a bright smile and goes to get back onto the railing, but she slips off and starts to drop with a gasp of surprise.

It only takes a few seconds.

One.

She's going to hit the dock.

Two.

I'm running as fast as my legs will take me to get to her.

I grunt as she hits my arms, wavering slightly and then sending us both into the ocean.

I cough as I surface, spitting out disgusting, salty water as I tread slowly. I look around for the girl as I hear giggling. Peering behind me, I see her dark brown hair slick and stuck to her neck, her eyes a chocolate brown. Freckles dot her pale face as she smiles at me. Oh yes, that's her.

"Well that was dramatic," she points out cheerily. I raise my eyebrows and watch as she swims to the dock, pulling herself up. I follow her and climb out of the water far less gracefully than she does. I can't pull my eyes away her.

As she begins to walk away, I regain my senses.

"Hey!" I call, catching up to her. "Are you at least going to apologize?"

The girl looks at me, stunning me with her eyes again. Sharp browns cut through softer with a hint of red around the pupils. She seems to pretend to think before she dazzles me with another cheerful smile.

"Nope."

"No?" I ask, slightly shocked.

"That's what I said," she says.

"You just got us both soaking wet, I think that qualifies as something that deserves at least the word sorry," I reply.

"You're the one who dropped me," the girl points out. "So technically you got us wet and therefore you owe me the apology, mister."

"You were the one climbing things you weren't supposed to," I say back.

"You were the one staring."

I look at her, at a loss for words as she smiles at me, a glint in her brown eyes. Is she playing with me?

"You were staring at me, weren't you?" she asks teasingly, stepping closer and poking my chest. I look down at her, seeing how short she really is. How am I intimidated by her right now? She can't be more than five feet and a half.

"I mean, you were causing commotion, I think everyone was staring," I defend myself.

"But why exactly were you staring at me?" she asks.

"You were causing trouble!" I exclaim.

"And you were being nosy."

I sigh, awestruck by her stubbornness.

"Who are you anyway?" I ask, letting her win this one. She smiles and bounces on her toes, holding out her arms. Before she answers, I already know. There's a reason my heart started to race. A vampire this powerful can only be another daughter of the ruling family.

"Katya. Who are you, super soaker?" Katya asks.

"Reiji Kiryu," I mutter. Did she seriously just call me a super soaker? You'd think that someone from house Ratskera would be a little more... mature. Another smile comes to her face as she starts to walk away, taking off her hoodie and tying it around her waist. "Where are you going? I was talking to you!"

"Too bad!"

I shake my head, looking after her and shaking my head. Good lord. Did that really just happen?

"Sooo, who was she?"

I turn around and smack Crow across the face before I realize it's him, sending him to the ground.

"Ow!" he says, looking at me with annoyed grey eyes. His ginger hair is tied up in a blue bandana, stuck up with gel. "What was that for?"

"I thought I saw something terrifying," I say.

"What did you think you saw?" Crow asks as pushes himself up from the dock.

"Your face, and I was right," I tell him, making him shove me. We laugh slightly as Yuko comes over. While Crow is fifteen, Yuko is nineteen. He's the oldest, and the most mature. He has black hair and darker blue eyes. You can tell that Crow makes him do all of the errands. While the two are both from Acadia, Yuko has darker skin that's been scorched tan from the desert sun.

I met Crow and Yuko years ago, before Zeke saved our lives. As I mentioned before, they're mechanics, but back then they made their living by ripping apart cars and old machines, and then selling them. They lived in the slums, just like us. Even though Roku and I have offered several times to find them a place in Zeke's old house, they insist on staying together in their garage.

"So, who was the girl?" Crow asks me again as he rubs his jaw. I give him a stern look and raise one eyebrow.

"Your face is starting to terrify me again," I warn him, and he puts his hands up defensively.

"Your brother texted us saying he wanted to see us for lunch," Yuko says, holding up his phone. I raise my eyebrow at it and sigh. Of course, Roku did.

"Yeah, he's with Risa. He ditched me," I admit.

"Ohh are him and Risa trying again?" Crow questions. I smack his hand away from the likely important pile of spare parts that he is reaching for Honestly, Crow is fucking weird. He makes bad puns, has a bad sense of social interaction in general, and feels the need to flirt with nearly every girl that he sees. Not to mention he is a serial kleptomaniac.

"No, it's just lunch. We'd better go, she might try and kill him if we leave him alone with her," I point out, and they nod in agreement.

It's a short walk to the café. The time until then is filled with teasing conversation, and updates on the past months.

"Demons attacked the western district," Yuko recounts. "The military took them down, but the carnage..."

"They're getting more aggressive each year," I reply sadly. "I'm just waiting for the capital building to explode one day."

When we get there, I see Risa and Roku sitting in the back at one of the round booths. We exchange greetings as we shuffle awkwardly into the seats. I notice the empty seat to my side, seeing the extra menu resting there.

"Who else is coming?" I ask as I pick up mine and flip through it.

"My sister, she's... she's just late," Risa says, but I don't notice the twinge of slight hope in her voice. She's hoping she's late? More importantly, which sister is she talking about?

"Yia's coming?" Roku asks.

"No, not Yia," Risa begins to correct him before someone steps up to us.

"Hiya."

I breathe out sharply as I hear the voice, slowly lowering the menu.

Katya sits in the booth next to me, smiling slightly before she sees me. Her eyebrows go up in slight shock, mirroring my own expression.

"You again?!"

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