Innocence

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Chapter 4

"He's dead?" Katya asks, shocked and pale. The bat slips out of her grip and clatters on the floor.

"Murdered, bleeding in an alleyway, with a bullet hole in his head," Risa replies. I look between the two uneasily, knowing that means the city is on lockdown. I won't be able to get home. There will be a manhunt for whoever has dared to harm the nobility. No one gets away with that kind of homicide, not in this country. Whoever did this will die with a bullet in their own skull.

"Should I meet you anywhere tomorrow? I'll stay here, just in case they were looking for me, too," Katya questions.

"I'm sure there will be announcements on the news. Just come home as fast as you can," her sister says. Katya nods and shuts the door carefully. I watch as she holds her hands together, clearly nervous.

"Who would kill him?" She whispers, her fingers running through her hair. "Sure, the priests aren't exactly liked, but he was just a kid, my age..."

"He was high up, right? It was probably an assassination." I sit on her couch. She's uneasy, tense. She wrings her hands anxiously and takes a deep breath. "Look, it's alright, you'll be okay."

She holds her arm and looks out the window. She's right to be scared. Her father died to demons, just like her mother. If this is an attack, the entire city could be in danger.

"I'm going to take a shower," Katya mutters. I watch after her, seeing her fish around in a large, woven basket. "Help yourself to anything in the fridge. You can't go home tonight, right?"

"Oh, thanks, I appreciate it," I tell her, grateful. I'd hate to be stuck in the garage all night, especially in this storm. If I was caught outside, they would assume that I'm the killer. Even though I'm innocent, they'd interrogate me for days if they found me wandering Ruka's streets on my own.

After several seconds of tense silence, I pull out my phone. It's nearly dead, with just a few more minutes of life. A sigh leaves my lips. Of course, of all the things to happen. I should have charged it before I left, but no, I had to be dumb. Roku must be worried sick. First, I run out without saying anything, and now I won't be able to answer if he calls. I rake my fingers through my hair. I'll ask Katya if I can use her phone when she gets done.

I glance around the room again, shoving the device back into my pocket. Outside, it's still pouring. Rain pounds against the glass of the window, little droplets racing across the panes. I sit still and watch, following a drop with my eyes, urging it to beat the other drops to the windowsill. I curse quietly as a drop swerves in front of it, taking it from the running.

The sound of the bathroom door rouses me to Katya's return.

Her dark brown hair is unbound, slightly damp and frizzy in places. She does seem to have calmed down quite a bit. The color is back in her face. She notices me looking and blushes.

"You really need help with the staring thing," Katya mutters. I smile slightly, my grin widening as she sits next to me. I brush my hair from my green eyes and watch her. It feels like I'm under an enchantment as our eyes meet. She smiles a little and crosses her legs. It's then that I notice a cut along her arm.

Heat runs down my throat and I ease back from her, quickly glancing away.

"Fuck," I get out. I stare into my reflection, seeing my bright red eyes. I haven't fed in a week now. Don't tell me that I'm about to lose it right now. I jerk back in surprise as Katya lightly touches my nose. I turn to give her a look and nearly fall into kissing her. She laughs and pulls back, falling backwards on the couch. I raise my eyebrows.

Then my traitor lips twitch upwards in a smile, making her grin happily. She tilts her head as I look to her, ignoring the burning at the back of my throat. Katya rests her chin on her hands.

"I have blood tablets, but I don't think they'll help in your case," she says quietly. I sigh and nod, leaning back against the couch. No, I'm too far gone now. I just need to calm down. I start following paint lines on the ceiling absentmindedly. This is how I don't notice her leave the couch.

No, I pretend not to notice her leave the couch. I realize the second her warmth leaves my side. My eyes snap up and I look to her. Katya sits at the window, fussing her hair between her fingers. There's the same look in her eyes that was there on the roof. She looks sad, and hopeless, and lost.

I couldn't go to her then, but maybe now...

I get off the couch and go to her, sitting on the wooden floor beside her. Cautiously, I take her hand in mine and smile. Katya looks to me, then at our hands. She breathes out quietly and slowly rests her head on my shoulder. I run my thumb over the back of her hand on instinct. Sighing, she relaxes.

I look at her and see her with her eyes closed. This brings a light smile to my face as I rest my head on hers, glad that I was able to help. With all that she must be going through right now, I want to be there for her.

"I can't stop thinking about you," I blurt out. She blinks and tilts her head, the mischievous glint in her eyes returning.

"What about me?" Katya purrs, leaning forwards.

"Th... it doesn't matter," I quickly say. She giggles slightly and then looks out the window once more. I turn my gaze back to the storm, noticing that it's gotten even worse. Lightning flashes, and I have to shake my head. Was that violet? No, I must be seeing things.

"Okay," she pipes. I look at Katya and smile slightly, watching her kick her long legs. I cross my legs and look out again, yawning slightly.

I realize we're still holding hands and I hesitate. Do I let go? She doesn't seem to mind, so I don't move my hand away. It's not the worst thing. Lightning flashes again. There it is again, that violet! But no, I must just be tired. Violet lightning? Yeah, I'm going nuts.

"I wonder what it's like?" Katya murmurs, distracting me from questioning my own sanity.

"What what's like?" I question, tilting my head.

"Flying. You know, like a bird," she says, letting go of my hand and spreading her arms. I chuckle slightly in response.

"So, I have a question," I admit. Katya raises an eyebrow, turning to face me.

"Shoot. What's up?" she asks.

"Why are you living here?" I ask, genuinely curious. She has a gorgeous mansion to go back to, and yet she lives here, in the worst part of the slums in an apartment that looks as if the roof could come down at any moment. "I mean, you do have a room in the manor."

Katya begins to play with her hair as she determines whether to answer or not. I wait patiently. I'm aware that this is a sensitive topic; a ruling family member, living in the slums? Unheard of.

"Things aren't the best between me and them. It used to be bearable, at least before my father died," she begins to explain. "In fact, they'd protect me from him. He used to say such awful things, like that it was my fault that my mother died, or that I never should have been born."

"That's not right," I say.

"After he died, I think the stress and power went to Yia's head. She's gotten so demanding, so cold and manipulative that I can't stand to even be in the same room as her," Katya continues. "So, I said fuck it, took my small share of the inheritance, and bought this apartment and some old furniture."

"H-how small?"

If she's living in this squalor, it can't be a big amount, but the Ratskeras are rich! She should be able to afford more than this.

"It's enough to pay rent and buy meals for the week. I didn't want to spend too much in case they noticed," she answers. "It's enough, and it's mine."

"I wasn't living in anything better than this when I was homeless," I admit. "This would have been a luxury to me and Roku."

"Why? Where did you live?" Katya asks curiously. I'm in no place to hide information, so I answer truthfully.

"We lived in this old car in a junkyard in Acadia. Zeke found us after this vampire attacked us."

"Attacked you?!"

I rub my neck at the painful memory.

"Roku! Roku, come on, get up, please get up!"

His blood coated my small hands. I had tried to stop the flow that was dripping from his neck, but it just kept seeping from the deep puncture wounds. He stared up at the night sky with blank pine green eyes, his breaths shallow. I looked over my shoulder at the grinning woman. Her tangled blonde hair clung to her dirty jacket like spiderwebs. My brother's blood dripped out of her mouth.

"Go away!" I demanded, though fear had made my heart pound. I was a seven-year- old boy who was ghastly underfed and dehydrated. What did I hope to do? Still, I grabbed an old pipe and prepared to fight for my life.

She knocked it from my weak grip and sank her fangs into my throat.

It was then that I was shoved away, and my ears rang for several minutes as Zeke fired the shotgun into her chest.

"We were seven and orphans. That's like a crown roast if you're a starving vampire who can't afford anything better," I mutter. I stare at my hands and breathe out. "No one was going to miss us. I thought we were going to die, but thanks to Zeke, we managed to survive and turn. He took us in, too."

"So, who's Zeke?" Katya asks. "Your adopted father?"

"He never adopted us. How would he explain it to the government?" I reply, "'Hey, I found these two kids getting chowed on, but I'm gonna fill out the forms even though you have no public record of them, okay?'"

"So, you just kind of... live there?"

"You just kind of live here, right?"

Katya holds her hands in her lap and brushes against my shoulder. I cherish the silence, taking a moment to try and relax. It's in the past. It's over now. I yawn and stretch, realizing how late it must be.

I mess up her hair and stand, stretching.

"I'll sleep on the couch," I say. Katya nods slightly and walks to her mattress, getting under the blankets. She rests on her side and holds the fleece blanket around her. I find myself sitting on the couch with my legs draped over the side, staring at the ceiling. It's so quiet.

Bmp- bmp

Bmp- bmp

My heartbeat echoes in my ears at nearly the same pace as Katya's. I can hear it so clearly in the darkness.

Unable to fully fall asleep, I start to think.

Who would kill her fiancé? A hate crime? No, couldn't have been. It wasn't even announced that the man was in town, so it wasn't any terrorists. Demons, maybe? That lightning flashes again, making me press my eyes shut. The only way someone would have known was if...

"Reiji?" Katya asks.

"Yep?" I respond, raising my head. She looks at me and opens her mouth, as if to say something, then closes it again.

"Never mind," she mumbles.

"No, what is it?" I ask. Katya hesitates, then reaches out to me.

"Can you... can you come here? You don't have to, it's just..." She pleads. I blink for a second, staring at her. I then shrug and walk over to her. What can go wrong? Katya watches as I lie down next to her. I keep my distance, wondering why she called me over here. Did she think that I was uncomfortable?

"You know I'm fine sleeping on the couch," I mumble, looking to her. Though, the mattress is much more comfortable than the lumpy disaster that is said seat.

"I'm sorry," she whispers. In the dim light, I can see a tear slip down her cheek. I frown and turn fully to her. I place my hand on her arm in concern.

"What's wrong?" I ask quietly. Katya looks in my eyes, trying to decide whether she can trust me. She decides for it, because she sits up and scoots closer to me, resting her head against my chest.

"I don't like being alone," Katya admits. "And with the murder..."

"Yeah, I get it," I whisper. Wrapping my arms around her on instinct, I rest my chin on her head. She breathes out and presses into me quietly. "I'm worried too."

"So, you don't mind staying with me?" she asks. I shake my head and run my hand over her back. Katya slowly falls asleep in my arms, leaving me alone with the silence. I close my eyes.

The silence that rings with our heartbeats entwined, running with the rush of blood and the drawing of breath. With that in mind, is the silence truly silence?

Well, if the burning my throat had a voice, it wouldn't be so quiet in here. My eyes snap open again. She had tablets, didn't she? I carefully get up and shuffle to the kitchen. Quietly, I slid open a drawer. Flashlights, batteries, and... are those bullets? I squint in the dark and find a pistol. I didn't expect that, especially not from her. I close the drawer and keep looking.

I find a small bottle and pop it open, spilling the tablets into my hand. I take a few, then put the bottle back where I found it. I slip back beneath the blankets beside her and stare up at the ceiling.

I close my eyes and swallow the thirst as I drift off as well.

"Fuck!"

Katya's scream jerks me from a dreamless sleep. I look at her, seeing her pressed into a corner, holding her bleeding arm. Lightning flashes outside and illuminates the stain in the mattress.

"What happened? Why are you bleeding?" I ask frantically, taking her arm. In the dark, I can't see how bad it is.

"Th... there was a light, it hit outside, I... my arm felt like it got burnt, you know," Katya says. She breathes heavily and looks at the wall, trembling. "It hurt really bad, and I smelled smoke, and-"

I look at the wall as well, seeing scorched marks saying one word.

SAVIOR

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