Assholely flashed across his phone screen and Han Li was unthinking when he clicked it, excited even.
The feeling was fleeting and fast transforming. Rock seemed to form in the back of his throat. Annoyance took its hold.
[ There has been an update on the commission. I need you to make due caution; the rating has changed. I have received information that the primary target may have consumed the blood of a sorcerer. Please make the necessary preparations to deal with the situation appropriately and — ]
Han Li's eyes glazed over. Simone's voice drifted towards him from up ahead, "Hey, what's up with you, Li Han? You're going to get left behind at this rate."
He didn't bother reading the rest of the message, clicking his phone off and shoving it into his pocket, "I'm coming, geez! Is it really that hard to wait two seconds? Oh right, you're like five, I forgot."
Simone rolled her eyes at his pathetic attempt at humor but luckily she was a good sport deep down and kept the tone between them light and airy.
And yet there was a seed of annoyance planted at the pit of Han Li's stomach. His mind was heavy and thoughts dark, the smile on his face difficult to keep. He didn't want to be angry at Graham but at the same time, he was.
Why was the man still pushing him onto the case despite everything that happened? After Han Li opened up and revealed his struggles. After proving how his demonic powers are without mastery. Han Li, by all rights, should not be a hunter. He shouldn't be on the field. And he believed that Graham understood—
—that he cared.
But maybe Han Li had been the one delusional.
"Stop giving your strawberry fondant the death glare, what did it ever do to you?" Simone poked him lightly in the shoulder. Despite it being so late, the desert bar still found patrons, most of them couples and youngsters hanging out late. A snazzy pop song echoed with the background noise of chatter, complimenting the dessert bar's graphic and bubbly baby pink, red and white motif. They even had paintings of strawberries and chocolates all over the walls, completely contrasting Han Li's mood.
"…" He stabbed the offending strawberry on his plate and shoved it in his mouth.
Across the table, Kevin frowned, "Li…? Is something bothering you?" All that remained of his chocolate mousse cake was but crumbles and he was eying the fruits on Han Li's plate with intent.
"Hm? Not at all! Maybe it's just the weather or something." He shrugged it off and smiled, sliding the plate over as offer. "I was just stressing out over my stupid printing project that you two so woefully stole me away from."
"Please," Simone rolled her eyes. "As if you care about printing. But it's okay, we got you, Li Han. Kevy-boy and your girl Simone's up and armed to cheer you up with alcohol and chocolate. Speaking of which, did you know that this place has a chocolate martini? Want to try it?"
Han Li raised a brow at her and grinned, "It's Han Li! And are you paying?"
He nudged her and laughed, "Right, because you're such a great friend and everything."
Kevin bit his lower lip, "Um…I can pay for it. I don't mind…"
"What?" Han Li froze, there was no way he'd let Kevin foot the bill, "Absolutely not! Wait, let me go order one, and one for you too. Simon can get her own."
Laughter erupted with friendly chaos. The itch of annoyance grew distant thanks to his friends and Han Li decided that he could deal with Graham on a different hour, a different day.
They only left the dessert bar when the waitress had to awkwardly shoo them out. Kevin was mortified while Simone won the waitress over with big smiles and a fat tip despite claiming to not have money.
It had gotten chilly outside since they were holed up indoors. The wind picked up and needled its way into their thin autumn coats. Han Li wasn't cold but he pretended to be, just so he had the excuse to glue himself to Kevin's side for warmth.
But the warmth didn't last, nor did the laughter that rang in the air.
It happened suddenly, with the way the hair on Han Li's neck stood up. Caution came with the wind, something in the city brewed. It was dark, that was likely why.
That was hardly out of the norm, New Lidway was a city sprawling with supernatural activity, from countless witch covens and warring clans of vampires and weres. Hauntings were even more common, spirits abounding with at least half a dozen roaming Han Li's own apartment building.
However, this particular scent carried with it a sense of familiarity that teetered along the side of copper and charred flesh. The bracelet around his wrist burned. Even if he didn't want to remember, his demon part did; the taste of a being he had recently fought.
That vampire bitch—
The thought was suspended in his mind and he stood there frozen while his two friends engaged in banter. He was like an awkward stranger that didn't belong. His eyes veered toward a dark alley. Somewhere…in that direction…Surely…
His prey was lurking.
"Han Li?" Kevin's tentative tone did little to win his attention.
Simone had to poke him in the arm, "Earth to Li Han. Seriously, my dude, what's wrong with you today?"
He blinked slowly, looking at her rouged tinged face. The bracelet on his wrist was burning and reminded him that the vampire had nothing to do with him. It wasn't his responsibility to quell some stupid vampire bitch from her ravenous rampage, not when he was retired. Not when he wasn't even mentally sound to fight.
He smiled at her wryly, "It's nothing. I was just—"
A blood-curdling scream echoed from down the dark alley. The three friends flinched in unison, their eyes flicking down the dark alley. Han Li's hearing seemed to sharpen, the sounds of honking car horns and footsteps grew distant and he could hear the commotion, the banging, and the distant echoes of a call for help.
Something tugged at his sleeve. Kevin's voice was trembling, "Let's get out of here…"
Simone cursed under her lips, fumbling for her phone in her coat pocket, "Wait, let's call the police just in case—"
It would be too late, Han Li could feel his blood singing and there was the taste of blood in the air. The silly bracelet around his wrist amounted to nothing and his demon blood was rumbling. Han Li needed to leave.
"You guys go." He tugged his sleeve out of Kevin's grasps. "I…" he laughed nervously, taking a step back. Han Li ran his hand through his hair. He didn't know what he was doing. "I forgot something back at the dessert bar. Um. It's important so I'll go back to see if the workers are still there. Go home quickly. Be safe. Text me when you get home—"
"What the hell, Han Li!" Simone cried at him, stepping towards him to grab his wrist. It was so easy to step away from her reach. Han Li didn't let her approach.
"I'll see you guys tomorrow." He smiled before twisting on his heel and dashing off.
"Get back here, you idiot!"
His friends' calls echoed behind him but Han Li didn't turn around. At the end of the street, he did not head towards the dessert place and made a break for the weaving alleys where his blood was calling for his attention. With his heartbeat in his ear, Han Li wasn't thinking and only running towards the place that he knew he needed to be.
It happened in one of those dingy back streets. Things always happened there, where unlawful things unfolded behind the shadows cast by the flashing billboards and neon lights.
A woman was running for her life. Her bare feet padded over waste-littered pavement, heels long discarded in the fray. Her breath was heavy, sobbing ruined her carefully painted face. In this part of town, police didn't often patrol, not even the bigger streets. And she was being hunted.
She tripped over a rolling beer can, her bare elbows and knees scraped the ground. Uncontrollable sobbing ripped out of her throat, desperate and pleading, "Please, please, someone…" Scrambling to her feet she made a run for it but there was an inhuman shrill behind her, fast approaching.
An ear-piercing cry rang out, the woman ducked her head beneath her waifish arms, waiting for the death blow that never came.
A sharp clang, a shadow loomed over her with her eyes screwed shut. It took her a moment to realize she wasn't dead. Tentatively, her eyes peeled open. Stood before her was a broad back, a black sword, and the vampire's claws trapped on the other side.
The man had hair that was fire red and visage ghostly pale. "Run," he hissed at her with a thick Housian accent.
ahhhhhh my vacation is coming soon!!!