The sun had long since set, which meant that Elliot had closed down the flower shop a little while ago. She wasn't expecting anyone for the rest of the evening, nor was she expecting to go anywhere else except home for the rest of the night. It was peaceful at this time of day, and while Elliot could perhaps be the loudest among any crowd, she did enjoy moments of silence to finish getting things ready for the next day.
That silence was soon interrupted, however, when she heard the chime of a small bell, signalling to her that someone had entered the store.
Though this confused her, it wasn't something she worried about. Most people that stopped by after hours were people she knew, so she took an additional minute to finish putting aside some empty crates before she came out of the back room to spot a familiar face leaning against the main counter. Lorne was a fellow hunter, though one of the few who was getting close to retirement. He still had the spirit of a younger hunter, but unfortunately his body couldn't keep up. He'd arguably been around the longest in Aquila Hills, and had helped many others get their start. When it got harder for him to train, he helped in other ways. Like getting Elliot this space for her to open up her store.
Everyone once in a while he liked to come over, just to see how she was doing, but he did the same with all the younger ones. Hunters didn't really have leaders, but if they did, Elliot was sure that Lorne would be theirs. He'd seen and experienced more than all of them, but preferred using weapons rather than words. It was why any time they needed to form alliances, Lorne usually asked someone else to take over the discussion.
"Not gonna lie, I thought you'd be at the bar by now, with Kai," Lorne told her before she could properly greet him.
Elliot arched an eyebrow, slightly confused by his statement. "What do you mean?" She asked, grabbing the register from atop the counter to store it away in the small file cabinet she kept nearby. "What's happening at the bar?"
"There's a meeting," he answered. "With Hakim. About the vampires who've been giving us trouble lately." Despite Lorne's next question, he seemed unsurprised that Elliot was unaware of this. "Didn't your uncle tell you?"
Elliot pursed her lips. "No, he didn't." She'd expected to go straight home after closing up at the store, but it seemed she had one more stop to make.
As she grabbed her jacket from off the back of a nearby chair, Elliot looked to Lorne. "Would you mind closing up for me?" She'd held out the keys toward him but he'd already taken them from her before she could finish her sentence.
Elliot got the feeling that tonight, Lorne had shown up for this very reason.
Kai wasn't totally sure about who'd chosen the name Moonlight Bar. Regardless, when he'd bought the place, he decided to keep the name as it was. Changing it would just cause mass confusion, and besides that, fixing the light on the existing sign would cost less than getting a brand new one.
That neon sign was off right now though, despite it being hours from closing time. The only lights on were the ones inside the bar, and the only people inside were Kai and Mason, two hunters of a similar age, waiting a vampire to arrive. Or vampires. When the meeting had been arranged, nobody specified how many people would show up from either side. Kai knew that Hakim Edom probably had no issues showing up alone, but that didn't mean he would.
In any case, if this truly was a truce, Kai figured having one other person with him would be best. They were on hunter's ground to begin with, since they'd agreed to meet at his bar, but he knew that meetings like this could quickly go sideways. All it took was for one person to say the wrong thing. Kai was just hoping that wouldn't be the case tonight, and this was perhaps just one of the many reasons he didn't inform Elliot of what was happening.
He should have known, however, that she'd find out somehow. As he looked up from his glass of whiskey and saw her approaching the bar from one of the large windows, Kai could only assume that Lorne had been the one to tell her. Very few hunters knew this was happening in the first place. There was no need to get them all riled up till a proper decision had been made.
"Heads up," Mason called out to Kai, sitting at a table close to the bar counter. He was relaxing back with a drink in his hand, his feet kicked up onto the table. He was perhaps one of the few who'd remain relaxed and calm in such a situation, which was exactly why Kai had wanted him to be there, and nobody else.
"I know," Kai replied, downing the rest of his drink and moving to rinse the glass just as the door opened and Elliot let herself inside.
"Hi, Mason," she greeted the other man with a dismissive wave, barely looking at him to see that he'd tipped his glass toward her by way of saying hello in return. Elliot marched straight up to the bar, which was all that separated her and Kai at the moment.
"Was it really necessary to keep me in the dark?" She asked, crossing her arms and resting them on the counter.
As Kai dried his glass, he met her gaze. "Everyone's in the dark," he told her. "The only other people who know are Lorne and Mason, and there's no need for everyone else to know until there's actually something to say about it." No deal or alliance had been struck just yet. They'd have to see how this evening went.
"You know that I—"
"Shut up." Kai silenced her all of a sudden and stood up straighter because he noticed others now approaching the bar. And he knew they weren't customers. "And stay sharp," he added in a murmur before setting the glass aside and walking around the bar so he could come to stand beside Elliot. Mason, having noticed as well, quickly finished his drink and stood up just as the doors opened.
“Aww, you mean the head honcho of the Moonlight bar isn’t named Ludwig?” Tristan, who had dyed his hair blue for the night, asked as he slid into the driver’s seat of his blue Bugatti Chiron. Tristan was known around town for his cars, paid for by the one who slid into the passenger’s side, Hakim Edom, who seemed only mildly interested in the most recent complaint of his eternal driver, and eternal hacker.
“Is this some reference to Beethoven? You know he wrote other music—” Valerian hazarded a guess as he slid into the backseat, eyes barely leaving his tablet as he skimmed a few invoices that were out of order, cross-referencing them with others, trying to determine where the problem was.
Karina remained silent, taking her seat behind Hakim and besides Valerian. She didn’t know either Valerian or Tristan well, though Tristan had gotten her out of a few rough situations before as a getaway driver, so she had some small respect for him.
Knowing him, it also had nothing to do with classical music.
“No! Bloodborne! Ludwig the Holy Blade!”
The car pulled out of the garage besides the brilliantly lit up Calliope hotel, shimmering in gold and glass, full of luxuries most of the residents of Aquila Hill could never dream of affording, but they visited for the restaurants, or the boutiques, now and then. The Calliope did well here because of the college, and the great minds that gathered. Conferences were held often with those great minds, and encouraged.
“You need to catch up with the times, Vally,” Valerian pulled a face, teeth bared, not that Tristan noticed from the front seat as he put the car on the road and drove to the location, “You can’t drive, you don’t play video games—”
“This is another video game reference? Do you do anything useful with your life?” Valerian snapped at him.
“Mmm, I think I saved your ass last week when I didn’t let you plug that UBS into your laptop, because you wanted to see what was on it, and it turned out to be a virus, like I said? Maybe? Is that useful?”
Valerian opened his mouth, but the protest was cut off by laughter from Hakim, “Now, now,” he said coolly, “If we could try to show a united front for once? Our problem is a divided front right now. I know our politics always bring out a bit of arguments, but honestly, you both are quite valuable. Though, I think I shall learn to drive before I play video games. I admittedly still do not understand the appeal.”
“Remind me to show you some VR some night, I think you’ll get it, then,” Tristan said, “Oh, Kari, you finished up Castlevania yet?”
“You’re humoring him?” Valerian gave her a sidelong glance, and she just barely managed to keep the burning embarrassment at bay long enough to keep her head up and answer.
“He said it had vampires in it, and could be useful…it wasn’t useful.”
“Are you kidding me? You could totally learn to use a whip like a Belmont, and with some undead blood, you’d be a killer!”
“Which means humans would be pretty damn easy, huh?” They came upon the Moonlight Bar in record time, not much of a surprise. By now, the majority of the cops new Tristan’s cars, and left him well enough alone, unless they were new, or wanted to make a point. Not that the point ever mattered. Hakim paid them off well, as he was now doing for the nights to come, and what was soon to explode once this alliance was made.
He let out a sigh as the engine was cut, and the doors unlocked. “I’m staying with the car, right?”
“That is correct,” Hakim said as he opened his door, followed by the other two, “I doubt we will need the escape, but too many vampires is likely to spoil the mood further. This was hard enough to get done.” Thankfully, Lorne had mostly stepped down from these things. Malachi was not who Hakim expected to step into those shoes, but he wasn’t ungrateful for it. They hadn’t truly met until recently – very few dared to hunt Hakim nowadays, it led to massacres on principal, but Hakim kept his tabs on the activity of hunters as best he could.
He knew they tried to keep tabs on him, too. He’d made his stock of blood fairly well known for that reason, so they knew that it wasn’t worth hunting him – he wasn’t recklessly killing humans. For all they knew, he wasn’t killing at all.
And really, humans weren’t worth his energy.
As Valerian exited the car, and Karina was about to get out, Tristan managed a, “Pst,” and when she looked back, he smiled, asked, “but you enjoyed it, didn’t you? Castlevania?”
Karina chanced a glance, but Valerian had walked from the door, and Hakim was moving around to Valerian’s side, “Yes,” was the quick answer, then, “Let me try Bloodborne next.”
Tristan grinned, nodded, and then Karina shut the door gently. Hakim waited only long enough for her to catch up, and then led the way to the doors of the Moonlight Bar.
It was definitely not the kind of bar for suits; the three stood out in that way, would have stood out on a normal night, as well. Not that Hakim was ever outside of a suit, making them practically his skin.
Hakim smiled at the hunters, recognizing them, and showing no surprise in who was present. Given this wasn’t discussed, little could be a surprise. “Malachi, thank you again for being willing to play host to this discussion,” with a sweep of his hand back, he introduced, “This is my son, Valerian,” the blonde vampire gave a slight nod, shifted his weight again, silvery blue suit certainly suggesting he hadn’t seen many days of hardship, “and this is my enforcer, Karina,” Karina didn’t acknowledge beyond letting her gaze flick over faces. She wasn’t dressed as an enforcer; she’d slipped into one of the many gifts she’d inherited from her position, a midnight blue dress – still quite practical, with a slit for movement, and not too much excess fabric.
No weapons were visible on any of them.
Hakim suspected the latter to be more well-known amongst the hunters, considering Valerian kept to his ivory tower more than not.
Valerian’s name was always obscured behind his own, his gains taken as family gains. As Hakim’s gains. That didn’t mean he was unknown, but few knew what he was capable of, or what he did. Fewer knew of his talent; they never saw it in action, so it was likely his presence wasn’t to be understood.
“We’re dealing with a crisis in our ranks that has the potential to impact the entire world,” Hakim drew his hand back, “Perhaps I’m being a little dramatic,” he smiled, easy as ever, “but in times before we didn’t quite have technology like this that could send one little break of protocol across the world, which is why I’ve reached out to you, so we can contain this before it becomes something we can’t pass off as…what was it Tristan called it?”
“CGI,” Karina filled in helpfully.
“Yes, that. And other such misleading technology. Tristan is the only other yet aware of my intentions to align with you, but I promise I will inform the rest of the vampires still loyal to our old agreements should we find common ground, so they will not interfere.” Hakim said, “I know the old agreements don’t quite…cover this circumstance.”
Vampires and hunters never agreed to help one another, even if there were occasions either side turned a blind eye, such as when a vampire targeted children, or a hunter threatened to let the stress of their job cause them to reveal everything. That was usually the case; stress, lack of respect, lack of pay…it got tiring.
This was new. At least to this century. Maybe to the past several centuries. Hakim lost track of when the last rebellion was.
Kai hadn't predicted how many would show up, but he supposed three against three was fair. Maybe not, but there were security measures put in place all around the bar, and Kai had taken the steps to do that way before he'd bought it and made the place his own. One could never be careful, though if Hakim really was here in peace and to offer assistance, then hopefully it wouldn't come down to having to destroy the setup he had here.
Everything about the three vampires oozed class and sophistication, while the hunters were less so. Not that they walked around looking like a bunch of hooligans, but the clothing they wore was mostly for comfort rather than appearances. Anything that helped conceal weapons or made it easy to move around in was best, and black was a common shade among them all to allow them to better blend in with the shadows.
All three hunters standing there certainly looked the part. Kai's own black shirt, rolled up at the sleeves, hid the gun tucked into the back of his jeans, but he was certain that Hakim and the other vampires at his side knew that he had a weapon on his person already, regardless of how well it may be hidden.
When the leader of the vampires thanked him for hosting the discussion, Kai nodded. "Thank you for agreeing to meet on our ground." Hakim then made some introductions, so Kai thought it would be best if he did the same. "This is Elliot," he said, nodding to his niece while abstaining from revealing her relation to him. The less they knew about personal details, the better. "And this is Mason." There were no titles, no designated occupations that were specific to each hunter. They came together and they took care of threats. That was it.
Hakim quickly got to the point, outlining the issue that the hunters had taken notice of as well. Their reasons for wanting to stop them was different, though. The hunters wanted to take them down because they posed more of a threat to innocents. Vampires wanted them out of the picture because the rebels posed a threat to their very existence.
In this situation, they definitely had a common enemy, but before Kai could say anything about that or the old agreements, Elliot had beat him to it.
"What exactly would an alliance mean, though?" She asked, standing up straighter and crossing her arms. Being the youngest in the room never stopped her from commanding attention when she wanted it. In this particular instance, she was genuinely curious about why they needed to partner together at all. Hunters had been taking down vampires and other supernaturals for years, much before either she or her uncle had been born. Maybe there was a bit more than they could handle right now, with some vampires rebelling against the rules set for them to coexist with the other species, but Elliot was sure they could still be taken down.
"We're already doing what you want," Elliot continued with a shrug. "I would have thought you'd prefer to let us take control of the situation while you watch your problem be dealt with."
There were rarely meetings that took place between hunters and vampires regarding an alliance, but it was clear anyway that Elliot had never been part of one. While Kai would have preferred to approach the subject a bit more delicately, he also understood where Elliot was coming from. Vampires had killed her parents. His brother. He was as reluctant as she was to ally with them, but he knew better than to let his personal feelings get in the way of what was probably a smart decision.
Kai cleared his throat, and Elliot shifted from foot to foot, understanding that she needed to phrase things better. So, after a moment of silence, she continued. "What I mean to say is, us hunters have plenty of experience dealing with vampires and taking them out of the picture when necessary. I assume that's a notion that's more new to you since, obviously, you don't go around killing your own." Kai clenched his jaw, feeling like he needed to intervene. "So—"
"So," Kai cut her off before she dug an even bigger hole for herself. "Do you believe the situation has gotten so far out of hand that an alliance is absolutely necessary?" Yes, they were dealing with an even more troublesome lot, and their numbers were growing each day, but if they rallied enough hunters maybe they could take care of it.
If the vampires had a way to quickly root out the rebels, however, that would definitely speed up the process, and though he didn't ask for specifics, Kai's tone made it fairly clear. He wasn't so keen on making any alliances if this was simply about additional man power. If there was something more to be gained from them working together that would end this situation in an efficient manner... that was something that would interest him.
Hakim did not seem at all phased by the interruption of Elliot, and listened, even as she was cued to rephrase all that she had just said. As if he didn’t understand the meaning behind her words, or what it all meant. Valerian was the one to bristle, and as soon as Elliot was finished, started to say, “You know, we don’t have to help, we can let chaos overwhelm things and have a lot of innocents on both sides get killed in the midst of it.”
Hakim extended the hand on Valerian’s side out, low, and looked over his shoulder. Not a warning look, it wasn’t so severe as that, nor did it lack in warmth. If anything, perhaps mild exasperation and understanding were within the gaze, before he turned his attention back to the hunters.
“You do make a good point, Elliot. It would be easy enough for me to stay locked up in my penthouse and let the rabble die, hunters, civilians, and vampires, alike.” He wouldn’t list vampires as civilians, though there were certain to be casualties of those not involved in any of those nonsense. “Unfortunately, I happen to have a heart.”
Something about that comment caused Valerian to snort, and Karina to give him a side-eyed look.
“I do not believe the situation has gotten that far yet, and I would like to prevent that because I can sense it is coming, for all of our sakes,” Hakim indicated. “This alliance would help to prevent innocents on all sides from being killed; I know a great deal more about those who have joined with the rebels, and who haven’t, so it will mean more targeted attacks. I am also aware that if it keeps going as it is now, hunters from other areas are likely to come in and swarm – and when that happens, vampires not involved are likely to retaliate as they sense a threat to their territory and livelihoods. Rebels and those simply defending themselves will be hard to differentiate.”
He lifted one hand, tilted it, “And threatened people don’t respond sanely to threats over a long period of time. I want to prevent that from happening by cleaning house quickly, and efficiently. Which means working with hunters that can kill vampires, and entrusting some of my vampires to help show you to the right vampires to kill, and who have knowledge to weed out the others who haven’t made their stances clear.”
He lowered the hand a little, only to offer it out in a simple gesture to Elliot, “Does that make sense to you, Elliot?” And then to tilt it, and lower it again, “As for the future that comes of this arrangement, that remains to be seen. I daresay any of us are in a position to be certain of what the dawn will bring when all is said and done; we’ve all seen a bit too much for that, even where we are willing to try to trust one another.”
Elliot merely arched an eyebrow when one of the other vampires — Valerian, she remembered Hakim introduce him as — spoke in response to her, only for their leader to continue the line of conversation. She was nowhere close to believing he had a heart, of course. This benefitted him and his community, or there'd have been an alliance with hunters a long time ago. That had never happened in her lifetime, or Kai's either, as far as both of them were aware, and Elliot hadn't believed it ever would, yet here they were.
It was perfectly natural for all hunters to want to avoid making any sort of agreement as much as possible, when it came to dealing with vampires. The hunters could certainly be a prideful bunch. Kai had seen that firsthand in his father, and he'd be lying if he said he couldn't club himself along with him. They would try to avoid forming alliances as much as possible, unless they really knew that there may be no other choice. Kai had no reason to trust that the vampires were doing any of this out of the kindness of their own hearts, or because they truly cared about putting an end to chaos.
He trusted, however, that they wanted to save themselves, which was why he could believe that this particular alliance could be considered a good one.
As Hakim spoke, Kai nodded. He wanted to spare the lives of the innocent, of course. That was what he did on a daily basis. Unlike his father, he didn't kill members of the supernatural community for sport. He only took matters into his own hands if he felt like there was a threat that needed to be taken care of. Right now, there were threats all around them, and if Hakim could guarantee that his vampires could help weed out all the ones they needed to get rid of, this situation would quickly be taken care of.
When addressed, Elliot nodded. Though stubborn and believing they could deal with the vampires themselves — even if it would take considerably much longer without their help — she knew that her uncle would make a decision that better served the community, despite it not being one he was too keen on. Right now, allying with Hakim was more of a benefit, and merely temporary. Elliot allowed that to sink in before Kai inevitably agreed to this treaty.
"I see no reason to refuse your help if it helps end this more quickly," Kai eventually said, shoving his hands into the front pockets of his jeans as he studied Hakim and the two vampires by his side. "You tell us which vampires to kill, and we kill them." It sounded simple enough, but Kai knew it could end up becoming complicated along the way. It all depended on how many were out there that needed to be put down, but the sooner they began, the better.
"I'll have to spread word to the rest of the hunters as well," he added, remembering that Hakim had also mentioned keeping the other vampires in the dark about this arrangement till they could confirm it.
"How would this work, though?" Piped up Mason from Elliot's other side, who'd taken a back seat in the conversation up until now. He glanced between both Kai and Hakim before speaking again. "Gather a small group to concentrate on this, or split off into pairs to cover more ground?" He looked to Hakim. "How were you thinking of sharing that exchange of information?"
There was little argument, even if there was some disbelief about Hakim’s intentions. It didn’t surprise him. Valerian knew he was ruthless – not how ruthless, but he’d seen enough with business deals and other vampires to know – and hunters had their natural biases against vampires. The comment had been tinged with enough good humor that it didn’t seem to spur any anger, so Hakim was satisfied that every point landed.
The hunters were willing, and stated it simply.
Hakim knew what he could get away with, only too easily. The hunters weren’t apt to question who they were killing; only the vampires were. He had an idea of how to start.
The other hunter, Mason, spoke up. “Honestly, I was not sure. Hunters are different with their preferences in hunting, some preferring larger groups, others preferring on their own. Singular won’t quite work, but pairs could be accommodated, as could small groups. Anything above eight will start to draw unwanted attention, as that has not seemed to be the norm.” Let alone vampires working with hunters.
“I believe it would be beneficial to maintain pairs or small groups – I understand if pairing off feels a bit too threatening, in which case, two hunters to one vampire could be sufficient, or three to one.”
Valerian again showed his displeasure with the constant outnumbering with a frown, but he held his tongue this time. He knew it wasn’t hard to kill humans, but three trained hunters to one vampire? That seemed excessive. At least for someone like him. It was probably nothing to Hakim.
Sometimes, he swore Hakim forgot things like that.
“Obviously, this will have to take place at night. I know that isn’t ideal for any of you,” Hakim said, “I know a few of the individuals involved; ideally this would start with hunting them down, and gleaning what information you can from them of other participants or events to gather recruits. Ideally, they could be hit in one night, as there are five I know for certain, before they can start warning the others. However, I understand if that is a bit too much for one night, in which case, within two, and then determining how to go after the rest when that information is gathered.”
“We also know they use the Study Grounds as a recruitment place. We can’t do much there,” Karina spoke up. Why nothing could be done there was obvious; it was the café in the university library, open at all hours to help students with their studies. That vampires used it was obvious to those who knew what to look for.
That they’d use it to spread anarchistic propaganda was also not much of a surprise – libraries were always grounds to study and spread dissent. “And not every vampire who frequents there is a part of this group, but it’s worth staking out and trying to figure out who’s who among them.”
Hakim nodded his agreement with the information shared, “There are likely other hubs we have not yet narrowed down, though it’s unlikely we can move directly within those spaces, we can work to make them inaccessible once discovered.”
“Not like the internet exists or anything,” Valerian muttered under his breath.
Hakim sighed, “I have no idea how to deal with that.”
Kai listened to Hakim as he expressed his thoughts on how the entire arrangement would work. Hunters definitely had their preferences. Kai himself preferred smaller groups or pairs, or even working on his own if the assignment permitted it. For this particular situation though, he was thinking that the smaller the group, the better.
As he got more information from Hakim, Kai made certain decisions in his head. If there were five to be hit in one night, that meant at least five hunters being involved. There were already three right here in this very bar, but the reason Kai hadn't invited any more was partly because he knew several hunters who wouldn't be happy with this entire arrangement. Elliot was reckless, but she also wouldn't threaten the treaty by killing vampires that were on their side. Kai knew others who would do just that if the idea of working with them was brought up.
Though Hakim suggested a ratio of three to one, Kai didn't think he could take him up on that offer. The fact that he even considered it was definitely curious, but that aside, Kai didn't want to involve that many hunters until he knew he needed to. He'd keep Lorne in the loop and recruit two or three others whom he knew he could trust for now.
"Night is never ideal," Kai agreed with a nod. "But it's also not something we aren't used to." Simply because of the nature of vampires, and the fact that they couldn't be out in broad daylight, hunters were used to working at night. It wasn't new to any of them, and they'd definitely adapted to work well during the later hours of the day.
"So we start with the five that you know of then," Kai continued. "I think pairing everybody off would be the best course of action. Smaller groups are going to be better for this, and I can have other hunters on call if needed." Not that he thought they'd need it, but he didn't really feel like divulging that he wasn't yet going to share the details of this arrangement with all the hunters.
Elliot gave her uncle a sideways glance that lasted just a moment, but she knew he'd noticed. She wasn't sure she liked how he was willing to trust Hakim and his vampires to allow them to pair off. Smaller groups were definitely better, and Elliot even preferred working alone, but either Kai had something else up his sleeve, or he was confident that this was the best course of action. For now, she wasn't going to question it. Especially not in front of the vampires.
"Getting it done in one night also shouldn't be an issue," Kai added. He kept what Karina said in mind about the Study Grounds. He was sure more hubs would reveal themselves once they started weeding the rebels out and taking care of them. "We'll see what else we can find out from those five and decide where to go from there." He looked to both Mason and Elliot for confirmation, just so he knew he had a majority vote of confidence right now.
Mason nodded, and Elliot, though hesitating for a moment, did the same before looking at Hakim and speaking up again. "When do you want to begin?"
Valerian relaxed as the hunter indicated that pairing off would suit him just fine. No outnumbering, then. He was pleased with that, though he wondered what sort of hunter he’d have to deal with for at least a night. ‘In and out.’ They knew the vampires, and he’d do what he could to get the information out of them.
It ought to be as easy as trickling some blood down their throat, although he knew that might be a bit tricky in the situation. Especially revealing such a talent around a hunter. It wasn’t ideal. ‘A problem for later.’ It wasn’t as if Karina or the others were going to have as much luck getting one to talk and give up their allies. Not when they were all marked for death.
“Why not now?” Hakim stated plainly at Elliot’s query, “It is likely soon to be common knowledge among others that I was here tonight. Speculation will lead to logical conclusions about that. The sooner we act, the less time the others have to react to this particular event. Valerian and Karina are two of my hunters, and Tristan in the car will be another.” He looked then to Karina, “I can safely assume you have others in mind who would pair well with humans?”
“Yes,” she nodded, and offered up, “Bertram and Anuka.”
“You’re not joining?” Valerian asked, not masking some of the annoyance in his tone, nor his own surprise.
Hakim chuckled but shook his head, “Unfortunately not, I have other matters to attend to that involve this situation less directly.” His smile remained easy as he went on to add to the hunters, “I’ll disperse the information about the marks to the vampires, and they can fill in their partners. If you can find two others willing enough, we’ll be able to move tonight,” or they could always just use the three of them, and have two plan to take out an additional two – but Malachi wanted things done in pairs, and he seemed to think he did have other hunters he could reach out to.
Each group going after a vampire should easily wrap it up that night, and then they could plan for the next night, based on the information gathered.
“I did have meetings tonight,” Valerian grumbled.
“Just forward me the list and I’ll handle them,” Hakim said, clearly not all that concerned about these meetings. Not that he had any reason to be; not even Valerian thought they were terribly important. Of course, few ever were. Most could have been an email.
Hakim was right. Acting now would be better for them. Especially if Kai wanted to keep knowledge of this whole thing on the down low for the time being at least. Word would begin to spread soon, of course, there was nothing that could prevent that. People had eyes, and even if it was late and the bar was shut down, Kai was sure that there would be questions in the morning, some way or the other.
"I can find two others," Kai responded with a nod when Hakim made the assumption that he had others in mind to trust with this particular task. "We'll just need a little bit of time to gather all of them, and our supplies." He had to make a few calls, keep Lorne in the loop and also alert the other two hunters he was considering for the job who'd pair decently well with another vampire.
"Who are you thinking of calling?" Mason asked, turning to face Kai. He rarely asked questions about things. Mason happily did as he was told as long as it meant that he got to get in on the action, and he was a loyal lad. Kai suspected that was a major reason Mason had been asked to attend meetings when Lorne had been taking them because it sure as hell was part of the reason why Kai himself had asked him to be here tonight.
"Zara, definitely," Kai replied. Hers was the first name that came to him. She was perhaps one of the few hunters who held no personal grudge against vampires or other supernaturals in general, but Kai knew that if asked, she'd happily work alongside one if it meant taking down threats to their community. "And probably Cade." Cade would be less enthusiastic, but mostly expressed his distaste for things with sighs and grunts, meaning he was less likely to make situations worse. There were a few others in mind, but Kai decided to keep that in his back pocket for later, if more were needed.
Elliot, making note of the names, got out her phone so she could do the needful and reach out to each of them. "Not to sound like a kid in middle school," she piped up as she tapped away on her phone. "But what are the pairs?"
At this, Kai simply shrugged. It didn't much matter to him because he knew all the hunters were equally skilled, even if they had different strengths and weaknesses. And he wasn't trying to gain any upper hand here. So he looked to Hakim. "If the vampires want to pick their poison, they're free to do so," he remarked. "Or we just leave everyone to decide where they'd rather go and have them paired up based on that." Kai supposed that would work better once they had everyone gathered.
"Just give me twenty minutes or so to have everyone here and armed," he added. "You're all welcome to wait, or if you'd rather leave and return later, we'll be here, ready to go." The bar was, fortunately, fully stocked. Not to mention Zara and Cade would bring their own weapons of choice from their homes, so once they got here, they'd all be good to get their assignments and split up.
Twenty minutes wasn’t terribly long, nor was it terribly short. Hakim wasn’t going to be staying, so there was no reason for him to linger further, unless it was simply to maintain his authority in all of this, but at this point, he didn’t think that was necessary. Malachi had a level enough head, and Valerian and Karina weren’t likely to start any fights. That was why he brought them, after all.
The others would heed the authority of one or the other. They all knew Valerian’s relation to him, and Karina knew the other enforcers.
“I do not know enough about your particular skillsets to pick and choose for everyone. The vampires know their own and can choose who it is they wish to hunt down with you, and relay what information they have on that. You may find it better to pick based on who you’re hunting, or who you’re working with. You may find it better to simply roll a die,” there was a touch of sarcasm there, but not without humor, as he took his cell phone out.
Humans were really all the same so far as hunting went. So far as he knew, few humans had any touch of the supernatural to them, so it was all the same. The differences were debatable. Some were better with guns, some swords, some better at hiding – but it was all still fairly physical skills of limited difference. He didn’t think it mattered much who they paired with, in the end. “I think I will go ahead and leave. Tristan will return here with the other two vampires shortly, and the equipment for Valerian and Karina.”
Valerian and Karina’s phones both pinged with the message, “Those are the targets,” he stated as he slid his phone back into an upper pocket, “is there anything either of you would like brought back in particular?”
“Your greatsword?” Karina said in a teasing way, a bit of a smile coming to her face at the query she knew was to be denied. And it was with a laugh, and a shake of the head.
“I’ll make sure your daggers are brought,” he said instead, “I suppose you also want your kerosene?”
He didn’t quite shiver, but he still shook one hand out once, as if to dash kerosene off of it that wasn’t there.
“Just my gun, and my vest,” he wasn’t getting staked tonight.
Hakim nodded, “Then I bid you both good luck,” his gaze lifted to the hunters, mostly steadying on Kai, “And to all of you, as well. May this night prove fruitful.”
Hakim exited as Valerian took out his phone and glanced over the list sent, mentally calculating his odds of tricking anyone in particular, and the odds of them being more talkative than not before any violence began.
“You can have first choice,” he heard Karina say, but scoffed, as she walked to take a seat at the bar, not even glancing at the list yet.
She already knew it, in truth. She’d been the one to go over it with Hakim earlier, discussing what findings the enforcers had figured out already about who the leaders seemed to be, or at least, the most outspoken ones.
Kai figured then that it was probably best that they all just pick and choose based on what they knew of their targets. Ultimately, it didn't really matter who paired up as long as they got the job done, and Kai was fairly certain that all of them could do that.
He nodded when Hakim then said he'd take his leave, and as he discussed with Karina and Valerian about what they'd like brought back for them, Kai turned to Elliot. "You've alerted Zara and Cade?"
Elliot nodded. "They're going to drive here together. Zara said it shouldn't be more than fifteen minutes," she informed him before casting a sideways glance toward Karina and Valerian once Hakim left. Though she had some uncertainties about this entire thing, she knew better than to share that with Kai right at this very moment. For now, they'd all accepted to working together, so the sooner this night got over, the better.
"Everything's still in the back?" Mason asked, taking his hands out of his pockets and walking backward so he could walk around the bar counter to reach the storage room. Kai nodded and allowed him to walk in to grab what he needed, as well as some additional things for him and Elliot. Some things were pretty standard. Anything else could be retrieved on their own, if they needed to.
Valerian held the list of the vampires they were paying a visit tonight so Elliot stepped closer. "What do you know about the ones on the list?" She asked, wanting to gain some insight so they could all quickly choose who they were going after. As soon as Zara and Cade arrived, they'd be taking off, and Elliot didn't want to waste any time till then.
Keeping an ear on the conversation to hear what Valerian had to say, Kai moved to the back as well to pick up his machete as well as the harness he usually strapped onto his torso for hunts which would make it easy to carry his weapon around. As he strapped it on, he glanced at Karina who sat close by at the bar counter.
"I know you have things being brought for you but you're welcome to help yourself to our arsenal if you need anything additional," Kai added, double checking the gun that was tucked away in the waistband of his jeans. The bar had enough supplies to spare, and Kai truthfully didn't care, even if he could practically feel his father's disapproving gaze for offering to help arm the vampires.
The hunters themselves scattered to gather supplies, which was expected. Karina tuned in to the conversation of Elliot and Valerian as her gaze went over the various labels on the bottles, more bored than interested, and waiting for Valerian to pick out who it was he wanted to target.
Valerian did give the woman a sidelong glance as she approached, but forced his posture to relax once again as he felt it tense. Shoulders raised, jaw tensed. He really didn’t enjoy being around hunters, even if he had no issues being around humans in general. He worked with too many to be bothered by them, but hunters were another story.
That, and his ego was on the line; he knew he wasn’t as capable as some other vampires in a fight, and he didn’t want that to become obvious. “Yeah, I know all of them,” he tilted his phone so that Elliot could see the list, “Two of them are just hedonistic bastards who want to do whatever they want, whenever they want. There’s Jasper, and Valerie.” Valerie was a fucking drama queen, but not to be taken lightly.
He’d seen enough tension between her and Hakim to know she might be out of his league. He also had no idea what, if any, power she had.
Jasper on the other hand, didn’t seem as intimidating. He didn’t usually care much for confrontation, unless he was the one confronting. He might be easy enough.
“Then there’s just this young whelp, Nadine. I don’t think she’s even been twenty years a vampire, but she’s loud, and persuasive.” Definitely wouldn’t have a power at that age, so maybe—
“Nadine is in charge of the Blood Angels gang,” Karina said from the counter, “Bikers. Humans. She’s hard to reach because of their defense.”
That explained why she wasn’t dead already. Valerian nodded, fought back the urge to ask if she had anymore insight. He wouldn’t have asked nicely, and they still needed that illusion of getting along. “Right. Forgot about that,” he grumbled. He hadn’t actually known about that. “Then there’s Ambrose. He’s old,” he wanted to say ‘like his name implies’, but caught himself.
No one was really called Valerian anymore, either, “I think he’s just pissed at Hakim and looking to usurp his position by helping out the anarchists. Show Hakim doesn’t have control then swoop in and end it all. Isn’t the first time he’s tried to undermine us, should be the last time, though.” But as he was old, he was powerful. Given, to Valerian, old was anything over 200. Ambrose was only 500. “He also sired Nadine.”
“And last and probably least,” saying that, he realized he couldn’t pick ‘the least’, and mentally cursed himself, “would be Comrade Vikrul.” He did his best impression of a Russian accent, “far as I know he likes to find out if he can give himself lung cancer as a vampire and rage against capitalism while talking about utilitarian philosophy.” Which seemed at odds with each other, but no one said he was smart. He just pretended to be. “I think I’ll go ahead and grab Jasper,” he told Karina then.
She nodded, and was about to speak to who she wanted, before Malachi approached and offered a look at what they had. There was no consideration of denying; hunters had weapons to deal with vampires. If only for knowledge, she ought to know what was available. “I’ll take a look then. Thank you,” she moved off the stool, and took note of the way Mason and Malachi had gone earlier and retraced their steps.
Valerian made no move to follow; he wasn’t interested in what the hunters had. One look at Malachi’s gun told him they didn’t have anything he’d like. He was a bit particular. “Familiar with any of these vampires yourself?” He asked Elliot, wondering if she might have a grudge against one in particular that would make her pick them over the others.
Elliot peered into the screen when Valerian turned the phone around for her to see, and she instantly recognised a name on the list, one that Valerian soon mentioned aloud. Her decision was made, but she decided to hold off until she'd heard about the rest.
Kai took note of them all as well, finding some names vaguely familiar, but not enough for him to feel like going after any of them would make it personal. Judging by the look on Elliot's face though, he realised she felt differently about one of them. Or more. He wasn't sure, but it was clear that she'd made her decision already, even if she hadn't said so out loud just yet.
Coming out from behind the bar, Mason checked his gun for bullets. "I think I'll go with Nadine," he announced, tucking away his gun and setting his crossbow down on the counter. "Always loved a challenge. Might prove to be a more interesting night."
At Valerian's inquiry, Elliot nodded. "I'll join you," she declared. "Jasper and I have a bit of unfinished business." She already had her knives on her, having taken them from the flower shop before leaving to come here. She'd figured there was a good chance she'd need them tonight, but that aside, it was probably best if she stocked up on some wooden stakes as well so she headed to the back to grab some.
"Alright, that leaves Valerie, Ambrose, and Vikrul," Kai said, about to pick his own target when the door to the bar opened. Zara and Cade walked in, seemingly armed and ready to go. They'd gotten here quicker than Kai expected them to, which led him to silently wonder if they'd been together on a hunt when they'd been called in.
"Thanks for coming," Kai greeted them with a nod and tried to quickly summarise what Elliot had left out in her texts to them. "We're splitting off into pairs," he added, once he briefed them of the arrangement and the fact that they were now working alongside the vampires to take down the ones that were causing trouble. "Pick whoever you want—"
"—except Jasper, and we can get going soon enough." Kai himself felt he was as prepared as he could be so there wasn't much to do besides pick their targets, and wait for the other vampires to arrive. He didn't think that would take much longer.
"Vikrul," Cade decided, taking little time to choose, and feeling no need to elaborate any further. He wasn't picky, and he also didn't care. He didn't seem very thrilled to be working alongside another vampire, but Kai knew he wouldn't question the decision, nor would he protest.
"I'll take Valerie," Zara said after a moment of thought, reaching up to tie up her hair. the fact that she was quite tall, paired with the tattoos that adorned her arms, made her look more intimidating than she actually was. To her, the hedonistic ones were the ones that posed a bigger threat to innocents, so the decision was an easy one to make.
"Okay." Kai nodded. "Old Ambrose it is, then." Kai leaned against the bar counter and left the other vampires to make their choices.
Valerian knit his brows together as Elliot chose Jasper, citing unfinished business. That could make this easier, or harder. He wasn’t sure. He didn’t feel like elaborating right there; that could wait until they’d split off and he explained a bit of what he had in mind. More ideas rolled through his head with the thought of it. Would she be good bait? Did Jasper know her?
‘Plenty of time to consider.’ Not really, just a night, but he knew where Jasper would be that night.
Other hunters came in after Mason chose his foe, Valerian smirking a bit at the challenge aspect. “I’m sure the news is going to love this story,” a bunch of bikers murdered. Gang violence was no doubt how they’d have to frame it. He didn’t have nearly enough journalists on his payroll. Something to fix in the future, no doubt.
Ideally, Mason would find a way to deal with it that didn’t also involve killing a bunch of humans.
The others were claimed except Ambrose, left to the hunter that seemed in charge. Fitting. Valerian half-wished he had claimed Ambrose for himself, considering the history there, but he wasn’t stupid. ‘Hakim should be dealing with him.’ But no, Hakim had Valerian’s meetings to deal with, and other petty things. He was too good to go get his own hands dirty.
Karina returned to the main room with a couple of stakes on a belt she’d found, and a flashlight. “You’re bringing a UV flashlight?” Valerian knew it was obvious, and yet he had to ask the question as if it would make Karina realize that was a stupid idea.
She just shrugged, “They’re useful.”
Valerian just sighed. “The hunters have all picked their targets, and Tristan—”
“—is surprised to be beaten here, but that’s all Bertram’s fault,” Tristan said as he walked in, tossing everything towards Valerian, who managed to catch it, and then set it on the counter as he sorted through his things, and set Karina’s aside. Tristan’s grin was in place, Bertram and Anuka following. Bertram just gave a sheepish smile, an odd look for a man dressed as if he belonged in the Crow film.
“Sorry, I hadn’t finished feeding my pets…didn’t have much warning. Wasn’t planning to go out until my shift….”
“So, everyone’s got the list?” Tristan asked, and saw nods as Karina went to fetch her knives, blades lifting without her touching them, and arranging themselves underneath her dress without lifting a hand, either.
Valerian just had to take of his jacket to add the protective vest.
“Can’t believe this shit about Vikrul, man. He was my drinking buddy.” Tristan grumbled, “Don’t think I can fight him, sorry everyone.”
“I’ll deal with him. I’ve hated him for years,” Anuka said flatly.
“I’ve already got Jasper,” Valerian noted.
“Fine, fine, I guess I can handle Valerie. She’s always been a bit of an uppity primadonna.” Tristan said with a shrug, “Though she was just getting into J-Pop. I’ll miss her.”
Valerian rolled his eyes.
“So that leaves, uh…Ambrose and Nadine.”
Bertram chuckled and shook his head, “Not ideal,” he looked to Karina, “Any preference, commander?”
“I’ll take Ambrose. I think Nadine should be all right, just try to avoid any additional casualties.”
“Yeah I’ll—we’ll…try. Who am I working with?” Bertram asked, glancing between the humans.
“Please let me work with the really tall muscular beauty. Please let me work with the really tall muscular beauty,” Tristan said, which caused Valerian to palm his face in obvious mental distress at Tristan’s inability to act normal for five seconds.
Karina soon joined them again, having picked up some things from the back room. Elliot followed shortly after, having changed into a different jacket that was perhaps a size too big. Kai was willing to bet she had a few tricks hidden up her sleeves. Quite literally.
She had on a harness underneath as well, though not for holding a machete like Kai's was. Elliot's was just for a back up gun since she didn't always enjoy using them, but they were useful to have nonetheless.
They were then joined by the remaining three vampires, and once Tristan was quickly pointed out, Kai easily determined which one was Anuka and which one was Bertram. They all made their choices as well, and when Karina mentioned avoiding additional casualties with Nadine, Kai and Mason shared a look.
It was an unspoken agreement. Mason had no issues with killing vampires, and if humans stood in his way, he'd handle them as well, but not unless it was absolutely necessary. Not until he'd exhausted all other options to keep them out of the way without killing them. They were just going to have to see how it went.
There was a bit of confusion as to who all were working together, and when Tristan expressed an interest in working with the tall, muscular beauty, Elliot snorted and took the opportunity to joke. "If you're talking about Kai," she said nodding toward her uncle. "You're out of luck."
Kai smirked a bit, but thought this was a good opportunity to get some introductions out of the way while listing out the pairs. "Tristan, Zara's coming with you," he said, pointing out the blonde in question. His hand continued to move around, gesturing to each person he referred to. "Bertram and Mason, Anuka and Cade, Valerian and Elliot, Karina and me."
That covered everyone, and with them all armed and ready to go, there was no more reason to hang out around here. Kai turned to Karina while grabbing his jacket from over the bar counter. "Do you know where Ambrose is going to be tonight?"
“I am a little disappointed,” Tristan gave an exaggerated sigh when Elliot mentioned the one he wasn’t referring to was taken. If the hunters were going to have a sense of humor, he would play along, too. “I suppose I can accept the second most beautiful in the room. Besides Valerian, of course, but I know that can never be.”
“No. It can’t.”
“Cruel. Good luck with him, Elliot,” Tristan said, “He hasn’t known a day of hard work, or the warm embrace of a lover’s arms,” he sniffed dramatically, which caused Bertram to stifle a snort, and a laugh, behind his hand.
“I’ve known plenty,” Valerian said deadpan, trying not to play into Tristan’s games too much. “Let’s get this over with. I know where Jasper will be, Elliot.” He turned to the exit to get out of there before Tristan could really get going.
It didn’t save him from a parting comment.
“He can’t drive either!” Tristan called after Valerian, “I can. I have a great car.” He said, speaking to Zara, as if that was a selling point to this partnership, or mattered in the least. “None of you better need me, or my car, I’m going to be too busy saving my own ass to save any of yours.”
As Anuka and Bertram would figure things out, Karina would tune it out to focus on the situation with her partner, and Ambrose. Did she know where he was? “No,” she shook her head, “but I know where he lives, and I know how to find him. He’s not the sort who can afford to hide away,” what that meant was he was likely in public, so getting him to a private area might be tricky.
“We should start at the university,” she hated saying that, but it was true. Ambrose was one of those lovers of knowledge, “he’s taking evening classes at the university and has friends there. They’ll know if he has classes today, or if he’s expected anywhere on campus.” She glanced him over to make sure the weapons wouldn’t be too obvious. Her stakes would be, but as far as she was aware, weird wooden spikes weren't banned. Nor were flashlights.
Of course, the university had metal detectors for guns, and knives.
And Ambrose might be willing enough to fight in public, considering he was on the side of revealing everything to humans. Not ideal. ‘Just damage them.’ She could do that. A random tree branch falling on them would be sufficient.
Elliot smirked a bit upon hearing Tristan's remarks about Valerian.
Unlike Tristan however, Valerian didn't seem as keen on joking around, which was fine by Elliot, really. She just wanted to get this over with. She wasn't used to working with other hunters, let alone vampires, so it was going to be a challenge either way. She preferred hunting on her own. Every decision made was her own and there little that could be leveraged against her. She supposed she wouldn't have to worry about that with a vampire though.
As Valerian moved to exit the bar, Elliot began to follow, turning around just briefly to meet her uncle's gaze. He nodded, his way of telling her to go ahead and to be careful, before he turned his attention back to Karina and Elliot stepped out into the evening air.
"So, where are we going?" She asked, falling into step beside Valerian. "And do we need to drive there?" She added, recalling the fact that Tristan pointed out his inability to drive. She wondered if that was true. Surely someone who had plenty of time to live would have learned how to drive? Or perhaps he never felt the need to.
Regardless, if their destination was a little far, she did have a bike parked right outside, but she was willing to bet that neither of them would be too keen on using that to get around.
Kai, meanwhile, allowed the others to get on with figuring out where they needed to go and how to best approach the situation. He focused on Karina for now, who told him that she didn't know where Ambrose was, but that she likely knew how to find out where he could be.
"The university?" He echoed. "That's going to be tricky, but okay." His weapons, though hidden, were likely to raise flags as soon as he walked through a metal detector. Karina would do the same, considering he'd seen her collect the knives that Tristan had brought for her.
But they still didn't know if Ambrose actually was on campus, even if it was their best bet. And it was night time. Kai figured there was a decent possibility of slinking through the shadows and finding another way inside.
Slipping his jacket on to hide the weapon hanging on his back, Kai nodded to the exit. "We can take my truck. It's parked right outside." Ideally, Kai wanted to avoid anything happening on the university grounds itself, but he also wasn't sure how they could lure Ambrose away if he was, in fact, there.
"Are you someone he'll recognise?" He asked after a moment. Kai knew that as Hakim's enforcer, then it was definitely a possibility, which meant thinking of a strategy that'd allow them to get close enough to him.
Valerian allowed them to get outside into the fresh air. He might have walked further, but the question of vehicles stalled him and he stopped, turned to face Elliot, “It’s never a need. There’s enough ubers and lyfts, if you don’t have a vehicle, but I don’t think it’s too necessary.” He said, shifting a bit, “He’s actually prepping for a party at a venue downtown in the White Rose event center. I was invited.” it was probably strange he knew ubers and lyfts, and didn't know how to drive.
Driving was older technology, after all.
Valerian obviously wasn’t going to be showing up at the party now, since the party wasn’t going to happen. “I need to know your history with him. I have a few ideas on how to confront him,” given Valerian had an invite, he figured it was obvious he wasn’t on atrocious terms. Not the best, but Jasper didn’t let such things get in the way of fun, and Valerian had money enough to help him with fun.
Staying on semi-good terms was likely important enough to the hedonist.
That, or he planned to humiliate Valerian in front of others.
Valerian wouldn’t be surprised by any set of reasons from Jasper. “I’ll be able to just walk up to him, but you won’t. Which means we need a plan that includes you, or obscures you.” And their history would be the deciding factor here.
Another thought occurred to Karina for travel into the university, as Malachi – Kai? – Malachi mentioned his truck. It should have been obvious, but then again, she didn’t tend to use it except for herself, and occasionally Hakim. She wouldn’t broach it immediately. These things were usually left to in-the-moment, no matter how level-headed the hunter seemed right now.
So she nodded at the statement of a truck, willing enough to go along, and stepped towards the exit. “Yes, he’ll recognize me. That does not mean he’ll recognize I’m there to kill him. These vampires have yet to be ostracized or publicly marked. Some may not even be aware that we know their intentions, though…not Ambrose.”
That was more Jasper and Valerie, in truth. Ambrose, Nadine, and Vikrul made their stances very clear, and she remembered one particular council meeting that nearly got out of hand.
Most in-fighting was with words and politics, but things had obviously changed. That didn’t mean vampires did. They tended to still try those things first among their own kind, and Karina wasn’t expecting an immediate shift to hostility. She also wasn't sure how that was going to translate to getting Ambrose out of there, when he would know she didn't want to cause a scene.