Exalted: The Sun Also Rises

Session 10.5: Extracurricular Activities

"I have something I need to do."

Session 10.5: Extracurricular Activities

Tonight’s the night.

For the second time I find myself under the cold moon, seeking prey. Too soon. Going out again, the same night, ignoring my wounds; it’s sloppy, dangerous.

I’m still bleeding, still sore from my fight with Dahlia. My shoulder brushes a wall, leaving a smear. Blood looks black in the moonlight. Sloppy; I’m never this careless.

Regardless, the need is too great to go back without hunting first; it thrums inside my head and inside my chest. I need another kill, I need it now.

I try not to think about Dahlia, but I know she’s right. I failed her. Instead of protecting her, I drew the attention of the ones who killed her. It should have been me. They thought it was me. Dahlia died and it was my fault.

I killed my sister.

Vesper was so desperate to grab onto the slightest hope. That we could save her, and in doing so save me as well, of course he leaped at the idea. I didn’t have the heart to tell him we may both be beyond hope. I know the desperation, the need, the anger she’s feeling. Even killing me won’t be enough. I have to kill every monster in the world; she won’t stop with one.

I slide among shadows, following the song of blood that draws me among the alleys. My prey is here, close. My earlier carelessness fades as the thrumming tension increases. The monster doesn’t even notice me creeping up on him, observing the blade in his hand as he stalks up to the sleeping child’s room, his dark eyes empty in his broad, doughy face. I nearly feel sorry for the murder spirit of this city, if this is the best he has to work with. I’m doing him a favor.

The flat side of my billhook knocks him cold before he even knows I’m there, and I drag him away to more private quarters where we won’t be disturbed.

Then I wait for him to wake up. Wait to see his eyes as he realizes he’s never leaving the room, and that his death will not be quick.

Dahlia was the gentle one, content with her flowers, with making sweets. Always ready with a kind word or deed. She didn’t have the same fire as I did; she had no interest in roaming at night and thwarting crimes. She had nothing but encouragement for me, though. She worried, of course, but couldn’t hide her approval when I told her of the things I’d prevented, the good I’d done. Not once did she fear for herself. She trusted me to protect her. And I failed.

It’s some time before I realize the screams have long stopped, and I stumble back, dropping my billhook with a loud metallic clang on the stone floor. The smell of blood is overwhelming. The thing on the floor is almost unidentifiable as human. Slowly my vision resolves as I blink away the strange blur. Blood glistens darkly in the moonlight, across the floor, the walls, even the ceiling hasn’t escaped being coated in crimson. The body is nearly pulped, the bones cut to splinters. It’s never been this bad before. I’ve left ruins, pieces, spattered remains in disarray but always at least identifiable as parts . . . this is an artist gone mad with red paint and chunks of flesh. My wounds throb, and I lean, dizzily against the wall, heedless of the congealing blood and splinters of bone embedded in the wood.

My skin is red and sticky, my clothing stiffening as it dries, my hair adhering to my shoulders. I wipe my face and my hand comes away wet, but not with blood. The thrumming need is gone, but my calm hasn’t taken its place as it usually does.

Sudden rage wells up, hot and sour in my chest, and I scoop up my blade, slashing at the ruins, scattering them more, screaming my hate until the blade hits the stone floor, throwing up sparks. I stumble away, out into the cool night air, hoping to escape the charnel house smell of blood, but I’m carrying it with me, on my skin, my clothes, my hair.

So sloppy tonight. I leave a trail of red and unidentifiable bits as I walk, stumbling to the fountain I bathed in before, turning the water crimson and murky again. Finally, calmer, I begin the walk back, concealing myself, keeping to the shadows, seeing no one.

The night is warm, the breeze sweet, lifting the scent of blood away from me, drying my hair and clothing as I make my long way back to the Five Seasons.

I cannot blame her for hating me. I’m a monster. What I’ve become, Dahlia could have never forgiven. Now, in death, knowing that her twin failed her, her twin became a monster, how could she do anything but find me vile?

Vesper hopes for the best in everyone, of course he would see a chance at saving her, at redeeming me. I wish I could also hope for that, but I learned long ago that wishes are wasted breath and thought.

My room is dark when I enter it, silently, avoiding anyone else in the hallways or the other rooms. I know I’m not alone as I lean my back against the closed door, my wounds and exhaustion pulling at me. He must know where I’ve been, what I’ve been doing. And still, he waited for me.

He comes to me, holds me, and I cannot bring myself to pull away.

“You’re crying.” He whispers, his hand touching my cheek.

I look up at him, into his aquamarine eyes, glowing faintly in the gloom, and shake my head. “Impossible.” My own rough whisper sounds strange and hollow to my own ears. “I—Snapdragon doesn’t know how.”

He looks down at me, sadly, silent but holding me close, and I wish I could say something to comfort him.

But we both know wishes don’t come true.

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