Jean-Claude is welcomed as a Marker.
Once all was done, Jean-Claude said, “Well, I have to go and get some rest. I have to break camp and prepare to get a normal place to live, and then there is the Rugby match tomorrow night.”
“Break camp?” asked Henry, “Have you been living outdoors?”
“Well, that was just until I could get a place, once the money came in,” he answered, “Oh, that’s right, I have to go to customs and get my animals. Man, its going to be a long day tomorrow.”
“What kind of animals, big brother?” said Anjou.
He chuckled a bit, and said, “You’re going to love this Anjou: bats!”
Everyone said, “Bats?”
“Yep,” he said smiling, “I have about four, and three are trained. I use them to give presentations about how beneficial an animal they are. One of them, though, is my personal pet, and familiar.”
“What kinds, big brother?” asked Anjou.
“I knew that would catch your attention,” said Jean-Claude, “I have a large brown, a small brown, a Mexican Free Tail, and my buddy Bruce—an Australian Flying Fox!”
“I would like to meet Bruce,” said Anjou.
“And, if I am permitted to come again,” he said, “I will most certainly let you meet him: he is such a love!”
“You are most certainly welcome here,” said Calera, “as is Yuriya. By the way, where have you been camping out?”
Jean-Claude locked up, trying to figure out how to answer without lying. Before he answered, Anjou “manned up,” and said what had happened. “The night he saved me,” she said, “he needed a place to stay. I already knew what he was, and he had indeed earned my trust. I knew he needed the safest place possible, so I let him up here, off the property.”
“He’s been up here the whole time?” snapped Calera.
“That’s why I was able to respond so quickly,” he said, but Calera was now angry. “Why didn’t you say anything?” she thundered, ready to bring a slipper down on the head of Anjou.
“After what I have seen tonight,” she said, “my reasons were justified. If he came and went without you ever knowing, then no harm would have been done. As it is, if he had not come, how would it have gone tonight?”
Anjou always had a way with words, and now they hit like a ton of bricks. To better defend her, he said, “When she spotted me up here, she took a stick and marked the limit to the property, she told me that far and no further. I honored that request. I am also thankful that I had a place to stay, and could save some funds until the money came in.”
“Well, what’s done is done,” said Henry, “It seems our little one had our better interests at heart.”
Jean-Claude slapped his thighs and said, “Well, I guess I’d better call it a night and get some rest so I can break camp early…”
Henry stepped up and put his hand on his shoulder and said, “No, you are breaking camp tonight, and sleeping here. I owe you that much.”
Jean-Claude looked around, laughed, and said, “Okay, I’m sleeping here!”
He then looked at Kenta, and said, “Hey, do you want to help me break camp?”
“Sure,” he said, and they went out.
As they were tearing down and packing, they talked, and Kenta said, “I should have noticed those things.”
“What things?” asked Jean-Claude?
“You know,” said Kenta, “The sunglasses, the fangs, though they are not as prominent. I’ve been around this for a couple of years.”
“Funny about that,” said Jean-Claude, and then he asked, “So, how much of your powers have you learned about?”
“My powers—what do you mean?”
“Well, you are Karen’s G’hul, aren’t you?”
“Ghoul?” asked Kenta, “What do you mean by that!”
“Not g-h-o-u-l,” said Jean-Claude, “g apostrophe h-u-l.”
“I’m not sure I follow you.”
Jean-Claude smacked his forehead, and said, “Ah, that’s right—g’huls are rarely used anymore by standard vampires.”
“Do you want to try that in Japanese?”
“At one time, vampires, that wanted to protect their turf and havens during the day would find one, or a few, humans they could trust, and used them. What they did was fed them vampire blood, which allowed enhancements of the human in order to protect the vampire during the day. It did not take much.”
“They drank blood?”
“They drank vampire blood—big difference! However, they never let the human get more than what was necessary, lest they become as powerful as their masters.”
“What’s your point?”
“Well, normally, the g’hul was not altered outwardly, and was pretty much normal. Yet, if the vampire was evil, his blood had a tendency to mutate the blood receiver, and make them hideous. However, that is not the case with you. Yet, in either case, there was a great benefit that could help you with your relationship with Karin.”
“What is that?”
“You know that she is very nearly immortal, as long as she can get—or in this case—distribute blood, right?”
“Don’t remind me! That hangs over me like…how do they say it in English…the sword of Damocles?”
“That’s what they say, all right.”
“Are you saying that there is something to that?”
“Well, it is an advantage, with one slight drawback. As long as you receive vampire blood, you will live forever as well. The drawback comes when you have well passed the age where you should have been dead. If you are cut off from vampire blood, and you run out of it in your system, like a vampire would, you would shrivel up and die. If you were so cut off, it would be about 48 hours or so, and you would be gone. However, as long as you receive the blood, you live. In Karin’s case, the odds of that happening are slim. Thus, if she dies, you die, unless another vampire takes you in. However, if she does, then you going would not be such a bad thing anyway. I mean, I would not want to go on without my ladylove.”
“So, Karin and I could be together forever?”
“That’s the potential. Plus, because of the amount of blood in your system, you are actually quite powerful. In fact, because of what she is, you have more of her blood running in your veins than your own! You have established a symbiosis. You two cannot live without each other.”
“We’re going to have to tell them that.”
“We can take care of that once I get settled in for the night.”
Kenta began to ponder this, and as far as he was concerned Karin was now the best thing that ever happened in his life in many wonderful ways.
Once they got inside, Henry said, “Well, we moved…something…into Ren’s room, because it was the only thing we had. We have no spare beds.”
“What is it, then?” asked Jean-Claude.
“Um…it’s a coffin,” said Henry.
“Oh,” said Jean-Claude softly, “Well, I guess it will have to do. I can just leave the lid off, and stuff my bedroll in there. Still, kind of creepy, though.”
Jean-Claude then had to ask, “So, am I to assume your homeland was France?”
“What gives you that impression?” asked Henry.
“It’s your younger daughter’s name,” said Jean-Claude, “I’m sure that, here, in Japan, her name is pronounced ‘Ann-Jew.’ Yet, I do believe that the letter ‘J’ is pronounced like the ‘J’ in my first name. C’est correct, no?”
“Oui, c’est tres correct,” answered Henry, in French.
“That’s what I thought,” said Jean-Claude, “Thus, it’s not Henry, and it’s Henri, (as he dropped the “H””)
“And I could deduce that you are French as well?” asked Henry, “I mean, your name is very French.”
“French-Canadian,” said Jean-Claude, “Though I was born and raised in America.”
Jean-Claude snapped his fingers, and then said, “Oh yeah! Kenta and I were talking…” and he relayed all of which they had spoke. This caught the attention of everyone else. Karin then said, “So, what you are saying is, because of him volunteering his neck to me…”
“You have made him quite powerful,” finished Jean-Claude.
“G’hul—that’s a term that I haven’t heard in ages,” said Elda, “Then, he ends up being more of a benefit to her, and us, than we realized.”
“Give me some time,” said Jean-Claude, “and I can teach both him—and Karin—how to use their abilities.”
“I don’t have any,” said Karin.
“Nonsense,” said Jean-Claude, “Because your blood is so different, you just have not learned how to use it right. I can help you.”
“You can?” said Calera, anxiously.
“I can start anytime after tomorrow, if you like,” said Jean-Claude.
“It’s a deal,” said Calera, very quickly.
He looked around and said, “Well, it’s been a fun evening, so, I am going to retire for the night, and I’ll see you tomorrow. I hoe that you all come to the match tomorrow. We need all the support that we can get.”
“It’s a night game?” asked Henry?
“We shall be there,” said Henry, and they all said good-night.
As Ren helped get Kenta’s mother home, a family discussion began to break out. While this was going on, Jean-Claude went upstairs to Ren’s room, and saw the coffin. He rubbed the back of his neck, feeling real awkward. “I feel like I’m preparing my own funeral!” he muttered to himself, as he laid out the roll inside the coffin, and slipped in. Surprisingly, it felt comfortable enough that he fell asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow. As all this was going on, Ren was returning from Kenta’s place, getting ready to get involved with the discussion before he went out to feed. However, as he was going up the hill, he saw a somewhat grotesque little man trying to amble off after being caught on the hill. Before he could run, Ren had him by the neck, and brought him above the fog line. He brought him to the now smoldering pile of bones on the lawn, and set the thing down, still restrained. By reading his aura, he realized that this was an altered human. By Jean-Claude’s description, this was someone’s g’hul, and, more than likely, the one that worked for the one that sent them. He then looked the thing right in the eye, and said to him, “Have you ever wanted to see your own heart?”
With his enhanced vampire strength, he plunged his hand right into Nikoli’s chest, and ripped out his still beating heart. He handed it to him, patted him on the head, and then set him on fire, all before he could scream. He then kicked the burning body on the fire in disgust. There was no way that he was going to give any word on what happened here. Too many lives were at stake.
The next morning, Ren came in to rest in his own coffin, saw Jean-Claude asleep in the other coffin. He found the sight amusing, and watched as he awoke. “Let me tell you something,” said Ren, “you have no idea how natural you looked in that thing.”
Jean-Claude laughed and said, “I don’t know whether or not I should feel insulted or complimented.”
He then said, “Did Yuriya get home alright?”
“She’s fine,” said Ren, “and my father is soon to go to bed, but he and mother would like to have a word with you, if that’s possible.”
“Fine,” he said, “I’ll try not to disturb you when I get my things.”
He went downstairs, and saw the couple sitting there, waiting for him. “You wanted to see me?” asked Jean-Claude.
“Yes,” said Calera, “Please, sit down.”
He sat down, and she said, “We had a long discussion while you slept. You have never had a family or a real home, have you?”
“Only for those four years I spoke of,” said Jean-Claude, “and that was shaky at best.”
“Well,” said Henry, “since we are the chiefs here in Tokyo, it is our discretion on who stays here in the city, and where they are allowed to live. Son, you have seen pains and trials that not even vampires could dare to speak of. You only move because of persecution, right?”
“Persecution,” he answered, “need, or both, really.”
“Son, it’s time you stopped running,” said Calera, “You deserve better than what you have gotten. You need something stable. You may be as immortal as us, but you are still too young to be out trying to make it on your own. Because of, well, not only the good you have done us, but also because of how you have awoken us to the truth, and because of the good news about Karin and her beau, how could we put you out?”
“What are you saying?” asked Jean-Claude, a bit trepadatious.
“When we next see the council,” said Henry, “we are going to see about making you Jean-Claude Marker.”
“Are you saying you want to adopt me?” said Jean-Claude, with tears of joy just beginning to well up.
“Welcome home, son!” said Henry, and embraced him.
“Father, mother!” he said, and began to cry like a baby. Calera, not known for emotional outbursts, joined the embrace, and kissed him. Karin, who had just awoken, watched through the crack of the door, smiled, and wiped a tear or two. Calera said, “Karin should be up soon, and she can make you some breakfast. Then you can go retrieve your bats. We do have a spare room, and you’re welcome to it.”
“Thank you,” he said, “although I hope you don’t mind me getting a bed. Yet, odd thing is, it almost felt natural to sleep in that coffin.”
“That’s instincts for you,” said Henry, “And now, if you will excuse us, we shall be retiring.”
“Sleep well,” said Jean-Claude, and they went to bed. Meanwhile, Jean-Claude began to grow in joy every instant, but stifling his joy lest he awaken everyone. He resolved himself to just jumping around the room, feeling wanted and truly loved for the first time in his life. He then went to get cleaned up, and ready to face the day.
They were able to retrieve the bats with no problem, and they were very glad to get out of their cramped cages. Bruce took to Karin right away and really proved himself to be as affectionate as Jean-Claude had said. They returned to the house, and allowed them to roost with the rest of Anjou’s bats. He knew that they would come at his call. They then caught up with Kenta, and they were able to secure a bed. That night, he was so pumped up for the game; he was practically the entire team. The opposition did not know what had hit them. He was extremely vicious on defense, putting a couple of players out of the game. His team had the lead with moments to go, but the opposition was inching closer and closer to the goal line with each phase of play. The ruck then formed one yard from the line, and the scrum half decided that he was going to try to go over the top. Unfortunately for him, this reminded Jean-Claude too much of an American football game, and he met the scrum half partway. It was not just that he hit him hard that dislodged the ball. He was so pumped up for the game, he actually vamped out a slight bit when he went for the tackle, putting the fear of God into the opponent, and he did not so much as lose the ball as it was that he tried to throw it away—anything to get away from what was coming! When this happened, Jean-Claude’s comrades scooped up the loose ball and went coast to coast, sealing the victory. The whole family was in the stands, as well as Maki, Kenta, Wiener, and Yuriya, who was wearing the home team jersey. When it was over, he met up with everyone as they congratulated him on a fine win. For Jean-Claude, he was on cloud nine, and not just because they had won. For some, this would be a normal Norman Rockwell kind of moment. For Jean-Claude, he dreamed of moments like this, and savored them, because they had been few and far in between. He was ecstatic that there would be more of these in time.
Meanwhile, Boris awaited word angrily. Nikoli had not even returned from the probing mission. Perhaps he underestimated Marker, and that which he was capable. There was no way of knowing. He would have to take his time. As long as vampires lived, he knew that, if it took centuries, he would get the blood cow. He would milk her for all she was worth.