Jean-Claude tells his story.
Kenta somehow was able to get his mother to come with him after some hesitation from the sudden invitation. She decided to come, anxious that she would get to meet Karin’s parents for the first time. They ascended the hill, and reached the fog bank. They passed into it, and Fumio instantly took Kenta’s hand. For Kenta, the fog was not even there. He knew that this was the ward that Anjou had put up, and he was now immune to it. Fumio did not have this privilege. For her, all she could see was the fog, and could only feel Kenta’s hand. “Oh, this fog,” she said, “Kenta, don’t let go of me, I’m scared.”
“Don’t worry, mother,” said Kenta, “You’ll be okay.”
Just as he said that, Ren showed up right behind her. She barely had the sensation that someone had approached her when he touched her head, and she fell asleep in his arms. “Okay,” said Ren, “she’s asleep. Let’s go.”
“What happened?” asked Kenta.
“You’ll see, and smell, soon enough,” said Ren, as they ascended with Fumio in the arms of Ren.
Soon, they were above the fog bank, and it was then that Kenta first saw the funeral pyre, and smelled the horrible smell of burning human flesh. “Ugh! What happened here?” asked Kenta rhetorically. They went down the walk, and entered the house.
Inside, all was quiet. One would have thought that someone near and dear had just died. Ren said, “Go in to the main room. Everyone’s in there. I’ll put her on Karin’s bed for now.”
When he went in, he saw everyone, including Elda and Yuriya, seated around the room, all staring at one person. Sitting on an easy chair hunched forward, head down, forearms on his thighs, wearing black military pants and boots, a belt and sword, and a blood stained brown tee shirt, was Jean-Claude D’Amphile. He wondered at first if he was in some kind of trouble. Then he had to ask himself again, because, if that were the case, Henry would never have let him bring the sword in. Kenta took a seat beside Karin, as Ren returned and sat by Anjou. “Well, stranger,” said Ren, “everyone’s here, so you’d better have a good explanation.”
A slipper flew across the room and hit Ren upside the head, followed by Calera saying, “Ren, remember your manners! This young man saved our lives tonight.”
She then looked over at him, and said, “However, you do need to explain what you are doing here in Tokyo without us knowing, how you got here, and why you are here. How you answer will determine what happens next.”
However, Henry was not so sure that such veiled threats were needed, or if that would have done any good. If he had wanted, he could have hacked his way out, and there was little that he could have done to stop it. Jean-Claude detected the sense of some still remaining distrust, and as a show of peace, he took off his sword belt, and slid everything out of immediate reach. “Now we are going to see who can trust who,” he said, and proceeded to tell his tale. “The name I go by is Jean-Claude D’Amphile, though that is not my real last name—it’s Madore. I am sure you all already know the meaning of the last name I use.”
“It’s an older way of saying what you are,” said Elda, “but I assume that this is what you are.”
Jean-Claude hung his head and said, quietly, “Yes.”
Elda could not believe what she was seeing. This was the second d’amphile she had ever met, and she wondered just how many more there were. “Oh no,” said Ren, “Another half-breed.”
Yuriya looked up and glared at Ren. Ren returned the stare, but said nothing. Yuriya got up and went to Jean-Claude. She pulled him back and began to knead his shoulders, saying, “Its okay—bat brain here needs to learn to curb his tongue.”
He seemed ready to get up and say something, but an angry glare from Jean-Claude backed him off. Ren did not know how easy it would be to take him, because he was indeed strong in his abilities, so he did not push it. Henry said, “All right, everyone, there is no time for this posturing. Someone who saved our lives deserves more than the way you are treating him. Son, are there any more?”
“I have no idea,” he said, “Until I met Yuriya, I thought I was alone. I have heard rumors that there are a couple of others, but I don’t know.”
“Why can’t some vampires just learn that the two worlds cannot mix,” said Elda, knowing Kenta was listening. She still did not care for the arrangement between her granddaughter and Kenta, and still had a problem with d’amphile. However, Calera, though she seemed hollow and crass, still had a good heart, and said, “I find this odd coming from you.”
“Humans betray, and humans hate!” snapped Elda, “I still cannot trust them, not after what happened to me!”
Calera was about to say something, but Jean-Claude was up like a shot, and Yuriya jumped out of the way, not knowing what was to happen next. The chair went sliding on the floor as he shoved it aside. His eyes began to glow, and his fangs extended, as he thundered, “How can you hate like that when you know what it’s like to be hated? How dare you!”
Elda took that as a challenge, and started to stand. Henry, on the other hand, actually sided with Jean-Claude, and tried to calm the situation. However, Calera was a bit more forceful, and said, “Mother Marker, sit down! He is not Yuriya, and by the looks of him, he would rip you apart! Now Jean-Claude, you have to calm down…”
But he interrupted, and growled more than he spoke, as he said, “None of you have any idea what it is like to have to run from everyone, to have no home, no haven to flee to, to be hated and despised by every sentient creature on the face of the earth, and all because of something that was not your fault. I didn’t ask to be born, much less to be born like this. DO YOU THINK I WANT THIS? DO YOU THINK I ASKED FOR THIS?”
His voice started to tremble, and he started to return to normal, saying, “Do you think that somehow, before I was born, I reached out to the heavens and said, ‘Yeah, make me one of those! It would be so much fun making people hate me everywhere I go.’”
His voice really quieted and quivered, as he said, “Why does this always happen? Why can’t I find peace?”
He collapsed to his knees, and began to bawl uncontrollably. Karin felt a surge in herself. She stood up and moved to the corner of the room to avoid her blood rising any further. Yuriya went over and knelt beside him, putting her arms around him, rocking him back and forth, her chin on his shoulder, feeling more for someone than she had ever felt before. She had been fortunate, having been raised by her uncle, another vampire, who prevented much from happening to her that had happened to Jean-Claude. She did not know what to say, so she said nothing, just letting her actions speak for her. Suddenly, Anjou got up, and stood before Jean-Claude, with the most accusing eyes. She said, “In my short time on this earth, I have seen more hate than I care to have, and more from our kind than from humans. If it were not for humans, Karin would still be having problems in school, and I may not be here now. If it were not for a classmate protecting me on two occasions, I may have been fried to death by the sun. Karin and Kenta have taught me how to love, and take people one-on-one. Can anyone say that Maki is evil? Could anyone say that Fumio would not accept us if told the truth correctly? Victor and Wiener have changed for the better. Every human that we have brought into our world the right way has become our ally. Now here we have two examples of how our kind and theirs could mix, and yet you treat them as sub-creatures. Ren, you owe him, and you know it. I owe him. He saved me from risking exposure, though he did not realize that that was what he was doing. Now, he has saved our family, and all you can do is hate him, grandmother? Why? Mother, father, I am so glad you taught me how not to hate.”
The air of conviction filled the room, and all were at a loss on what to say. Anjou went over to him, and said, “Thank you so much, big brother,” and hugged him. He scooped her up, and said through sobs, “Oh, God bless you, child! With those around like you, there is hope.”
Yuriya now included Anjou in her embrace, and Elda and Ren sat there ashamed. Henry sat beside Calera, and Calera was showing open affection on the arm of Henry—something that she did not often publicly do. Karin let out a gag, with all the unhappiness in the room, and Kenta saw it. “Karin,” he said has he went over and took her out to the back porch, “Don’t hold it in.”
He sat down on a padded bench in the back, and let her do what she needed. In fifteen minutes, both were back in, after Kenta has come to. By this point, Jean-Claude collected himself, put the chair back, and sat down again. However, now Yuriya was seated on the arm, stroking his hair. Anjou was seated on the other arm. Calera then said, “How did all this happen?”
“Get ready for a story,” he said.
“Father was human, mother was the vampire. When my father was a Marine officer, he did a lot of night work. In fact, to keep his metabolism straight, he even lived at nights on the weekends. That’s how he met Shelia—my mother. She was a vampire with a taste in brave and courageous people, and my father was indeed that. At first, she only thought him a good meal, like most vampires would have. She erased his memory every time she fed. However, because of the person she was—because of the person that she was—he fell madly in love with her. He was a solid Christian man, and always treated her like a lady. He was indeed an officer and a gentleman in every respect. At first, she resisted his advances, both because he was a human, and also because of his faith. However, he never took advantage of her, and never even tried to kiss her—he felt it better two people be married first. Anyway, she kept seeing more of him, and wondered how it was that he could stay happy and courageous despite having to live at night, and endure the hardships of a military man. When she finally understood what it was, she could not help but give her life to the Lord. Can you imagine that—a vampire giving her life to the Lord? This was something that he had hoped for all along. Now she wanted to see him constantly. Other vampires did not say anything about her beliefs, because, as you know, everyone makes their own choices, even as vampires. However, they did frown upon the advances that she was now making. Then, even as now, marriage was not something of love, but for the propagation of the species. Because of too many vampires having the idea of survival as their central focus, love often takes a back seat. That is so wrong.”
“Really,” said Ren, “And just what is love?”
Jean-Claude thought for a moment, and he said, “My mother insured that I memorized these words as a small boy, so that I would never forget how to love: Though I speak with the tongues of men and angels, and have no love, I am become as a sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I would have all faith that I could move mountains, and had all power, that I could understand all mysteries, and all knowledge, and have no love, I am nothing. And though I would give over all my goods to feed the poor, and give my body over to be burned, and have no love, it profits me nothing. Love suffers long, and is kind. Love envies not, vaunts not itself, and is not puffed up. Rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. Love NEVER fails.”
After about a minute’s silence, as the words were sinking in, he said, “In short, true love is something that gives completely of itself, and expects absolutely nothing in return. One can be in love, but until that love has been tested in some way, one can never be sure if the feeling truly is love. Love is a verb—an action word. You can say it, but do you show it? If love is love, then no matter what one does to another, love will still be there, and it will mend any rift. That, my friends, is love.”
There was another minute of silence, except this time, everyone was reflecting on moments where that kind of thing had been shown to them. Certainly, Karin knew her father loved her, after what he risked to save her and them from discovery. He never asked anything from her in return. She knew Kenta loved her, because he was willing to put all on the line for her, from his neck to his life. Fumio showed love to Kenta with all the sacrifices she had made. Her little sister certainly had shown this. She began to tear up, to bury her head in Kenta’s chest, and said, “I love you!”
He held her tight, and concurred his love to her. Calera and Henry were arm and arm now, realizing that, though they had been betrothed, they had been through a lot, and had learned to love one another. Karin then looked at Elda, and tears were streaming down her face. Alfred had shown this to her, as did James Marker. She knew James loved everyone—human or vampire. Though it was never demanded of her, she never did show much in return. Now she sat with great regrets, especially since her taste in blood was indeed love, and she wondered how many lives she may have shattered. On the other hand, she did indeed provide the test for some, so, in a way, it was helpful. However, could she have shown more love? Ren sat stoically, seemingly unmoved, but inwardly knowing that all the love he had been shown growing up he should have learned from himself. Meanwhile, Yuriya was beginning to feel things that she never knew that she could, especially for the one in the chair spinning the tale.
Jean-Claude then said, “I digress. Things got worse when they actually married. Dad was close to retiring from the corps, and he had been so used to living at night that continuing to do so was no problem for him now. There were some protests at the council, but it was permitted. However, there seemed to be an up-tick in ‘incidents’ involving my parents. They were able to live, but they were always on their toes. Things came to a head when mom became pregnant with me. Now ‘incidents’ became ‘accidents.’ They were trying to kill me before I was even born. Essentially, my birth would make me a living example that our two worlds could get along, although the offspring of this kind of a marriage results in a d’amphile being sterile. Yet, that could change with Karin here. I know that the vampire population has had a jump since her blood has been going out all over the world. Yet, no one has ever thought about us, because there are so few of us. Regardless, you combine that with my life, and maybe we all could get along. However, because of the ones that existed then as now, who, because of prejudice and cowardice, would never permit it, my life has never been normal. As soon as I was born, some vampire who was working as a nurse tried to kill me in the cradle, but she was caught, and she fled. I represented what could have been good, and some did not want anyone to know that. By this point, dad was out of the corps, but we were then on the run. We met up with my grandfather, and began to live in the wilderness. Through him, I gained the ability to survive on the land and the sea. However, feeding mom was a chore. She had to go from one local village to another to avoid detection. She had to feed. Dad could only give her so much. Grandfather did most of my schooling, but for the first ten years of my life, it was rough, but it was the most peaceful time. I never knew hate, never was taught how to hate, I was taught to love people and respect the land, and I was always taught to see the best in people, unless they have proven that they are reprobate.”
Karin had to ask, “What happened when you turned ten?”
Jean-Claude’s face sank, and he had to wipe away a tear before he spoke. “If it’s too painful, please, don’t.” said Karin.
“No,” he said, “A man must be able to face the past with strength. It helps him look at the future, to know the way he must go. It was spring in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. There were a few towns near enough for mother to feed, and for me to attend school. We had built a cabin deep in the darkest parts of the woods in case mother had to get up during the day. For about four years, things were bliss. We figured that we were far enough away from everything to not be found. It all came apart. Granddad was bringing me home from school, and I had not yet awakened. In fact, they were not even sure that I would awaken, because there was at least a 33% or 34% chance that I was a normal human, though with recessive vampire traits that I might pass on. There was no knowing at that time. Anyway, where was I? Oh, yes, school: we were coming back, and stopped in town for a few things. The sun had set by the time we got off the main roads to go to the house, and about three cars showed up around us. After playing chicken for a bit, they ran us off the road. I was okay, but Grandfather was hurt. I tried to help him, but he told me to get out and get to the house. I begged him to let me help, but he practically threw me out of the car. I tore into the woods, and it was at that time that some of my abilities were coming to the fore. It seemed I could “see” the branches, but it was more a sonar than anything else. I never knew what happened to granddad’s body. I got to the house, but I did not realize that they were right on my heels. I burst into the house, saying all that had happened, and Dad didn’t even flinch. He went to the closet and pulled out an old M-14 assault rifle he had been keeping for this occasion. He tossed me a long Bowie knife, and we were out the door, just as the Molotov cocktails smashed through the windows. We were making our way well enough for a while, until we were trapped. Dad loaded the rifle, and mowed down a few to create a space for my mother and me. She kissed him, took my hand, and we were gone. I heard shots for a while, and then they were gone. Eventually, they caught up to us, and my mother gave her life to allow me to escape. They almost had me, when help arrived.”
Looking around the room, the story was having an effect. Elda was behind her chair on the floor, clutching herself, crying uncontrollably. Karin was balling, as Kenta was trying to console her, hoping her blood would stay down with all the unhappiness in the room. Ren was in shock, not knowing people could be so cruel. Calera was holding Henry’s arm, wiping away some tears, while Henry kept a serious but saddened look on his face. Yuriya was now on her knees beside the chair, resting her head on his arm as she cried, and Anjou, though not one for emotional outbursts, still sat there silently, but with tears rolling down her face. Jean-Claude continued, “They tried to thrust in a blade, but I was good with that knife, and cut up a few of them. However, I had no idea what I was facing, and they eventually got a hold of me to try and finish me. However, the one preparing to drive home his blade suddenly found his head off of his shoulders. Before they knew it, they had been overwhelmed by about nine individuals that I could not make out at that time. All I knew at that moment is that they pulled me out of that mess, and got me out of there. Later on, I came to find out that these were a band of vampires that lived in the woods, and had developed a taste for animal blood. They had been observing my family, and feared something like that may happen. Since it was their territory, they did not take kindly to these outsider vampires coming in trying to exact a justice—if you could call it that—without them knowing. They knew my mother did not know that they had been there, so she did not report in as she should have, although at this point, I don’t know if she would have anyway, not knowing who to trust. These vamps took me in and raised me as their own. For five years they educated and trained me, not just in fighting and survival, but in my blood abilities once I awakened. They loved the fact that I found my taste was in those that were evil. This was when I met a certain group of vampire hunters that had seen the error of their ways. They now hunted renegades, kind of what we saw tonight. These are the ones that cause all the bad reputation for us amongst the regular humans, and cause the fear and myths that are known in popular culture. These are the ones I combat. I also have had the chance to reform a few vampire hunters, and now they hunt those that I hunt. Those are the ones that need to be stopped. Anyway, I was allowed to go to school again, but I have moved from place to place. I was able to get the inheritance that was due me, and just recently, I have received the funds that will now let me live independently.”
“What brings you to Japan?” said Calera.
“This was a really fresh start for me,” he answered, “because I knew there were many vampires that lived here, and I could find a niche. However, I also had come to learn of the blood maker in Japan, and I also knew that there was trouble upcoming dealing with that, so I was sent here to try to fight the renegades, and then settle down and just protect one area if I could, all while trying to have somewhat of a normal life.”
Henry took note of this, and said, “What is it about my daughter?”
“First,” he answered, “I had no idea I would run right into her. Second, there are some out there that think the blood of a blood maker, mixed in with the right chemicals and rituals would turn vampires into something godlike. That is highly doubtful. Yet, because legends persist, there are those that would love to try and put it to the test. Thus, I have come to help put a stop to them.”
“That was the conversation that you and Victor were having a few days ago, wasn’t it?” asked Karin.
“In fact, you are correct,” he answered, “I need all the help I can get.”
“I must get word to the council,” said Henry.
“Wait,” said Jean-Claude, “Do so, but not just yet. We cannot let on that we are aware of someone’s intentions. We have to know exactly what we are up against before we act. Once the time comes, we can put an end to things.”
Strangely enough, Anjou asked, “Do you have anything left to remind you of your family?”
Jean-Claude went up and retrieved the saber, and said, “When I went back to the house, there was nothing left that survived it but this.”
He tossed it on the table for all to see. He said, “It is a Marine Corps officer’s saber. This was not some replica dress blade, but the real thing. Its watered steel, laser and diamond sharpened. It has been the sword that represented swift justice against evil and tyranny for over 200 years. This is all that I have to remind me of my father or mother.”
Everyone was at a loss for what to say. He had faced a cruel life, and was able to keep from being bitter. Guessing at what may have been the problem, Jean-Claude then said, “Life handed me a bunch of lemons, so I have done all that I can to make lemonade out of it. I cannot change what happened then, but I can change things from this day forward.”
Henry felt that it was only proper for him to say what he was going to say, “Son, on behalf of all the good vampires in the world, I extend my deepest condolences, and I truly apologize for all that has happened. I know that won’t ever change what happened, but I want you to know that you have friends here,” and he hugged him.
Elda came up, still in tears, and said, “I have been such a fool all these centuries. Thank you, son, you taught me how to love again,” and she embraced him. Anjou was around his waist, and Ren stood up and said, “Just keep your word. If you are the man you claim to be, I know that this family will be safe with you around.”
Jean-Claude did not push it knowing that this was as close to an apology that he would ever get from Ren. However, he knew the man had potential. By this point everyone was in a group hug around him. Karin knew that it was he that she had linked up with mentally in that nightmare, and realized that he needed what he had now more than anything. For the first time in years, Jean-Claude felt a warmth and love he had so dearly missed. He did not know if it was the case, but he felt he may just have the family he always wanted.