A lone hunter was engaged in battle between the narrow back alleys of New Lidway. His hair was a mop of crimson, stark against the dark shroud of nightfall. Vampire claws fell upon a blackened blade, a magnificent katana that boasted superb craftsmanship.
The wielder that beheld such a gem was equally striking in appearance. Aside from his vibrant hair, his eyes were sharp with luminescent blue around the iris that stood out against his ivory skin and eastern features.
The coat he wore was equally pristine, a shocking white that caught the shine of nearby neon lights. He was a tall man with a handsome face, sharp chin, and tall nose-bridge. Another one of those flashy fellows that Han Li preferred to ignore.
But unlike Saint Graham who was blessed by the divine, this fool boasted no special power. At least none that could be readily observed. And while he was on his feet and swinging that beautiful blade of his, none of his strikes landed true. None of his attacks bore any weight. His footwork was clumsy and Han Li wasn't even sure how he was still magically standing after being driven into a corner by his vampire foe. Time and time again. Han Li watched from above, somewhat intrigued and somewhat horrified.
"Die! Fiend of the night!" the redhead shouted, swinging his katana wide. His voice dripped with a heavy Housian accent but there was something wrong about it. The vampire's movements were a blur to the normal eye, weaving out of the attack before stepping toward him, claws outstretched at his face.
The redhead jolted backward, his clumsy advance shifted to expect escape, narrowly dodging his opponent's attack, sharp nails only managing to sever a few strands of hair.
The hunter clicked his tongue, "An opponent that is worthy of me."
…What was this fool on about?
Han Li was momentarily stupefied as he contemplated the option was walking away and ignoring the scene as he should have from the very beginning. But for a rogue hunter, this man was obnoxiously clumsy, even more so than the fools Han Li hunted with during his last year as a licensed freelancer. Rogue hunters weren't supposed to be this lacking in skill.
While normally, hunters were delegated to specific jobs by commissions, rogue hunters operated outside of the system. They were granted permission to intervene and claim rewards should they happen in a state of emergency and responded to anything that might require their calling. Though teams were recommended, it was more common for rogues to work alone compared to regular hunters.
It only made the scenario more baffling.
The vampire chased him into a dead end. Her eyes shining with a reddish glow, fangs protruding from her lips. Han Li held his breath, he'd stalled out his non-involvement long enough. He inhaled deeply, eyes closing as he willed down dark thoughts and the faint stabs of apprehension. He would deal with that later, once everything was over.
It all unfolded in brief seconds. The vampire dashed forth, the red-haired hunter reached into his coat. Han Li dropped down from scaffolding overhead and barreled into the vampire. Her eyes snapped towards him, catching his gaze in but a split second. Luckily, she was too slow to react and Han Li was able to knock her out of the way, her body slamming into a nearby wall.
At the same time, there was a small bang. A cloud of mist simmered at their feet and consumed the whole of their surroundings. Han Li felt his throat itch and eyes water and he cursed lightly, it had to be a holy water smoke screen.
Annoying, but he could bear his allergies. More importantly, that stupid redhead was still standing there like a fool. Han Li could practically hear his heartbeat.
"Run, you damn idiot," he hissed.
"This fight is mine. I need not your interference!"
Han Li, flabbergasted, was not in a mood for bullshit and idiocy. "Are you dumb? I don't want your damn paycheck but at this rate, you'll just get mauled!"
"Don't tch me." Han Li, like the gentleman that he is, reached out for the red idiot's wrist with full intentions of dragging him out of danger like he would a petulant child. But this rogue hunter was as slippery as an eel, twisting out of the way just enough to avoid Han Li's approach.
"I shan't let you steal my thunder," the red-imbecile said with a silky voice, "For I, the Guardian of Night, Defender of Light shall smite the plague this wretched world—"
"Speak like a normal human being! I can't understand gibberish!" Han Li cried. He stepped forth, engaging in an awkward dance with mist saturating the air but every time he thought for sure that he had captured that red monkey, he failed. The guy was constantly slipping just out of his grasps.
"Come here, you dumbass!" And just when Han Li found success, his fingertips clutching the edges of a white sleeve—
A clawed hand cut through the shroud of mist. Coming between them. Han Li acted on instinct, kicking the red monkey aside and catching the brunt of those nails with his forearm. Blood flowed and his bones creaked from the inhuman amounts of pressure. He gritted his teeth but endured, waiting for the perfect moment.
The vampire's eyes drifted towards his flowing blood and in an instant, reason dissipated from her red-rimmed gaze. She lunged forward with her extended fangs. Only then did Han Li make his move, ducking low and briskly stepped forward, using the momentum to elbow her right in the gut.
There was a small 'oof' sound. The vampire was knocked back. But she would unlikely stay down for long. The red fool, being the imbecile that he was, used the opportunity to rush forward, sword brandished and aimed vaguely at her head. Vaguely, because the trajectory of the blade did a poor job at following the red idiot's gaze and Han Li was starting to believe this was all one terrible hoax.
"Your opponent…is me!" The redhead boldly declared, the katana came down but only clanged against solid concrete, the vampire rolling out of the way. She was back up on her feet before the red fool could even recover.
Han Li had about had it with this idiot but he wasn't going to let the man die so easily, even if he was missing a functioning brain or something. Maybe this was simply Han Li's fate. Maybe it was his punishment for exiting. Cursing his own luck, Han Li threw himself between the vampire and the idiot hunter.
But while he was anticipating the blow, a hand came down on his shoulder and threw him out of the way.
What came out of Han Li's lips was something akin to gibberish, eyes wide in disbelief as he watched time unfold in slow motion.
Long, hardened nails caught the man's biceps, slicing through the thick fabric of his white coat with ease. Blood spilled along with the sound of a sharp crack and Han Li felt his heart drop down into the pit of his stomach.
The red imbecile fell to the ground, his body rolling till his back smacked right into the alley wall, his sword clattering as it fell from his grip. Han Li scrambled forth, scooping up the black-bladed katana from the floor. It was unexpectedly heavy but Han Li was still able to heave it up.
And though he might not know how to use this type of blade for he was more used to a jian than anything else. But Saint August's was thorough in their education and Han Li knew how to handle most weapons with at least some basic skill. Gripping the hilt with two hands, he swung it at the vampire woman, successfully using the opening he won a step between her and the redhead.
"What the fuck was that all about?" He shrieked with fuming annoyance. It'd been long since someone voluntarily took a blow for him, and Han Li was bristling at the very thought. It felt wrong.
The red-haired man scoffed. Sweat was beading on his brow as he clutched his injured arm but otherwise maintained a countenance that reflected calm composure. Perhaps it was madness, "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. With this, my debt has been repaid. This one's reputation escapes the mar of debt."
"…You're using that expression wrong," Han Li pointed out, feeling winded from the absurdity of the situation.
But the guy just rambled on as though he hadn't heard a word uttered from Han Li's mouth. "However the ire of duty still grips my heart and I, Abe no Seiji, grow restless. Your feats have been commendable even when your charity remains unrequired. This Abe no Seiji has but one humble and righteous request, that you return the tool that smites those foul from our pitiful earth—"
"…" Han Li stared. This guy…didn't even deserve a response.
"…" This Abe no Seiji guy stared back with his unnaturally blue eyes. They looked like contact lenses, Han Li noted absently. A long sigh. The man dropped his Housian tilt and spoke with a clear, local Merrivan accent. "Kid, I want my fucking sword back."
Han Li was so stunned that he almost failed to notice the vampire had used that precise moment to make her escape.