Harmony Piece

Noises all around: A set of 3 stories describing an incident in the Tunnels

by Adrian Manson [agm6morr@gmail.com]

Disclaimer and standard legalese: This is part of a series of alternate universe (AU) I am writing in which canon characters interact with characters I have created to re-frame how certain events transpired. The timeframe is roughly "now" but the characters are different ages than they would be if I had followed the 1989-1990 canon (for example, Vincent is a mature adult, but not elderly in this "now" setting, and ages going forward from "now"). Beauty and the Beast is the property of Ron Koslow and Republic Pictures. I do not own the characters or make any profit from this story.

This is the second in a series of flash fictions based on the five senses. If I feel confident enough, I will flesh out the backstory of this alternate universe.

Rating: PG-13 (contains language and sexual content)

5 senses prompt: sound

Time period: A week after the episode No Way Down (airing order). Father is having a private moment in the Tunnels This is an Alternate Universe, so some things in the episode have been changed.

      1. Canto Triste – Father's point of view

Jacob Wells (otherwise known as Father) examined the plans for making a new food storage chamber one last time. Even though Father trusted Mouse, it didn't hurt to have someone else who was actually in the construction business to give their input.

Taking off his eyeglasses to rub his eyes, Father saw it was 8:30 pm on the digital clock that was on his table. Forcing himself to roll up the plans and secure them in his desk drawer, Father headed over to an old stereo system and reached for a vinyl record.

After putting the old record on the center spindle, Father activated the system and let the tone arm head over to the groove. Father tried to remember who had found this system; it certainly hadn't been Mouse. Maybe Mary or Winslow from their excursions above?
Either way, Jacob was soothed as the speakers first crackled, then the relaxing voice of Vera Lynn sang, “When two lovers meet in Mayfair/Or so the legends tell; Songbirds sing and the winter turns to spring.

As the song played, Jacob thought of the woman he missed, Margaret Chase. When both of them met so long ago, Jacob Wells had wondered how he had existed without her. Meeting her was the best moment of his life.

Jacob Wells forced himself to experience the memories as he had sat in the halls of Congress in those secret hearings of the 1980's, struggling to explain to those thick-headed politicians that their intent to weaponize certain things should not have been undertaken. He remembered his confrontations with John Pater, both in the hearing chamber and in private over the telephone, as the Senate Select Intelligence Committee wondered which witness was telling the truth.

As the siutation unfolded, it became Dickens' Great Expectations. John Pater's sophisticated demeanor (contrasted to Jacob's ingenuous manner) had convinced the senators that this disaster was not his fault. Some, but not all. At least, Jacob had the satisfaction that his testimony convinced the senators to place a moratorium on that testing for 30 years.

But the cost had been immense for him. Margaret's father, hearing the rumors swirling around Washington (Jacob idly wondered if John Pater or any of his ilk had helped in the character assassination), annulled their marriage. Only his true friend, Alan Taft (a lawyer), had been there to comfort him as he fell from grace.

Every winding street in Mayfair falls beneath the spell/I know such enchantment can be/'Cause it happened one evening to me,” Vera Lynn's voice warbled, unaware as Father wondered if Margaret still wanted to see him. Every day, Jacob waited for a message in the newspapers from her.

As Vera Lynn continued to sing, “That certain night, that night we met/There was magic abroad in the air. There were angels dining at the Ritz/And a nightingale sang in Berkeley Square,” Father remembered the first time he had met Margaret. How much he had enjoyed her company at that dance! How much he would give to have the time back with her.

As Jacob dealt with that reverie, he heard the thud, thud of Vincent's leather boots as he headed to his chamber. Although Jacob wanted to check the digital clock, he forced himself not to. Vincent was probably very tired and wanted to rest. Sometimes, Father marveled at Vincent's nearly limitless resources of energy. He could get up, help around the Tunnels, then go to kickboxing with people who understood him, then spend time with Catherine before going to bed.

One day, Father would have a cautionary talk with Vincent about this burgeoning relationship. It had been bad enough that a vigilante tried to frame Vincent (and conveniently died in the Tunnels), but he was getting more and more reckless trying to help this Catherine Chandler. Hopefully, the encounter with the Silks (and being nearly blind) should put cold water on his forays above.

Suddenly, Father saw a red fox staring into his eyes. He idly wondered how this had appeared in his chamber without him noticing. Then, for a brief second, he saw the fox's black eyes turn a peculiar shade of green.

Before Jacob could react, the fox turned around and headed outside. Jacob immediately felt tired, but as he rubbed his eyes, he wondered if the fox was real or a figment of his imagination. Because as the fox turned around, he swore that he saw three tails.

Deciding that he had been up too long, Jacob retired to his bed. But as sleep claimed him, a small nagging voice (that would eventually be extinguished) knew that what he saw was real.

      1. Leitmotif – Yui's story

To most observers, Yui Watanabe was a strikingly beautiful Japanese woman long black hair who lived with her father, Nishio, in a building where they owned an I Heart Kickboxing studio.

In reality, Nishio was the owner and Yui was his assistant, but Nishio accepted that he was getting older. He had let Yui learn how to manage their franchise, not to mention handling other paperwork with both the franchise and the government, so as to remain profitable.

Today, Yui had been buying some bleach wipes, germicidal sprays, and other items to deal with the recent opening of the studio. So far, no members had come down with the new exotic virus as described by the media, but it didn't hurt to be careful. It had also changed the routine as well. Now, members had to put their stuff in a bag in the respective locker rooms, not leave it out in the common area. Second, everyone had to bring a container with a straw for their water. If a member took of their boxing gloves to drink one of the studio's bottled water or do anything else, they had to immediately put hand sanitizer on them. Finally, members could only use one punching bag and do all of their exercises at that bag.

Trying to operate a business in this era was omoshiroi jidai ni ikite moraemasu ka. (May you live in interesting times, an ancient Chinese curse). But as Yui was about to find out when she reached the front door of her studio, her life was about to get more precarious.

When the elevator hit the third story, Yui effortlessly picked up the box of supplies from the floor of the elevator. As she headed for the door, she saw a taped note written with Japanese characters. She ignored it as she got her key, opened the door, then put the cleaning supplies up in the combination staff break room/storage area. Once she had secured the items, she went to check the note on the door.

As she tore the note off the door, her eyes froze in horror at the bottom of the page. There was a fox's paw with the Japanese characters for a name, Haia. Now, Yui turned her full concentration on the writing.

Hiashiburi, Yui. Anata ga watashi o wasurete inai koto o negatte imasu. Chikashitsu ni purezento o oite kimashita. Soshite, Vincento-kun mo wasurete imasen.

Koun o! – Haia

[Long time, no see, Yui. I hope you haven't forgotten me. I've left you a present in your basement. And I haven't forgotten your Vincent-kun, either. Good luck! – Haia]

Wondering what Haia's twisted mind could have come up with, Yui reached for her belt and dialed Adrian's number on her smartphone. It was a long shot, but hopefully he hadn't gone to bed yet. After three rings, she heard Adrian pick up.

“Yui, can this wait until morning...” Adrian began.

“Adrian, do you have your Jerusalem crucifix and holy water?” Then Yui heard a long pause, wondering if Adrian had already hung up. 

“Uh, yes,” Adrian said. “Mind if I ask why?”

“Just bring them over here to the studio,” Yui said. “I'll explain when you get here.”

“Yui, just what the hell-” only for Adrian to hear her cut the connection.

Yui headed to her father's room and began to wake him up. Haia was the supernatural equivalent of Harold Shipman, a serial killer. Whatever she planned for Vincent and Catherine couldn't be good.

After feeling his daughter's distress (and seeing Haia's note), both Nishio and Yui headed to the basement. As they opened the door, both of them saw a trail of yellow post-it notes with only one word in Japanese... attakai (warmer). They both saw it led to the bookcase. Using the secret lever to open it, both father and daughter followed the trail down the stairs until both came to Vincent's temporary room.

On the floor was an unconscious Catherine Chandler with an orange crystal on her head, lit with a pulsating glow. Next to her left hand was a yellow post-it note saying in Japanese, Atsu ine. (You're hot.)

“What do you think Haia is doing to her?” Yui asked, her features a mixture of horror and concern.

“I can't be sure, but I know she is trying to lure you into her world,” Nishio replied. “Let me see if I can remove the crystal.”

As Nishio extended his right hand to touch it, he felt a searing heat as his fingers touched it. He pulled back in pain.

Suddenly, a mocking female voice said, “Anatade wanaku Yui, ga hoshi. Soretomo eigo de hanashitaidesu ka?” (I want Yui, not you. Or would you prefer I talk in English?) 

Then the voice began again, “As the Westerners say, I've got a bone to pick with your daughter. I thought I would get her attention by holding two of her friends hostage. Or really, one friend... and one romantic rival for the friend's hand. Vincent is very attractive, isn't he? I can see why you lust after him.”

“Get to the point, Haia,” Yui barked. “What do you want?”

“Revenge, Yui,” Haia said. “Revenge. So far, Catherine and Vincent are in my world I've constructed for them until two hours before sunrise. If you do nothing, my slow curse will activate. As those two hours pass, the curse will eventually drain their life energy until they die.”

Haia paused, “Oh, yes, Nishio. I did read your mind when you touched my crystal. As you can see, doing nothing means certain death. If your daughter enters my world and if with the help of her two – friends – defeats me, then I will let all three go.”

“But you won't fight fair,” Nishio answered.

“Of course not, Watanabe-sensei,” Haia said in an ironic tone. “I'm now a kitsune, not a mortal. To take a tired cliché, the word 'fairness' is not in my vocabulary. And in the case of your daughter when she loses, neither is the word mercy.”

She paused. “Now, would you like a few moments to debate your next course of action? But don't take TOO long. Lives are at stake.”

Nishio and Yui stepped a few feet back from Catherine.

“I have to help them,” Yui said. “I don't want Vincent to die. Vincent would not be able to live with himself if Catherine was harmed.”

“And I don't want you to die, either,” Nishio retorted. Then, seeing the iron resolve form in Yui's face, Nishio became weary. “You're determined to go ahead with this, aren't you?”

“But not without help,” Yui said. “Adrian is coming here. Maybe you two can come up with a plan based on his ability to research and the knowledge from your library.”

“Well, Yui,” Haia's voice retorted. “I'm waiting for you to play.”

Genki de, otosan,” (All the best, father) Yui said. “If I fail, sayonara.” Then Yui turned and yelled at the crystal, “I'm ready to play your game, Haia.”

“Not so fast, Yui,” Haia answered. “Remove it.”

Yui tried to play dumb. “Remove what, Haia?”
Then Catherine's body twitched in pain, though her eyes remained firmly closed. Eventually, Catherine became still again.

“That is a small sample of what I can do to Catherine,” Haia stated. “And if I can do that to her, I can also do it to your precious Vincent. So, remove it.”

Yui cast a murderous glare at the crystal as she reached for her silver necklace where she wore her silver crucifix. Then she opened the catch and threw the item to the floor.

“Much better, Yui,” Haia replied. “You're really going to like my game.”

“I doubt it,” Yui shot back. “Just let Catherine go.”

“Sorry I can't respond with a witty comeback,” Haia said. “And, no, I won't let Catherine go. I want to enlighten her about you and Vincent.”

Before Yui could react in horror, a large orange orb formed out of the crystal and hovered over Catherine's head. Then it grew to a large size (Nishio estimated about six feet in diameter) and engulfed Yui. Nishio, chanting a few Buddhist sutras, attempted to penetrate the sphere, only to be pushed back.

“Oh no,” Haia mockingly replied. “This is a private party. But don't worry. When Yui and Catherine both die, I will return their corpses to you for a decent burial.”

Terrified, Nishio began to head upstairs and search through his archives (and Yui's journals) for a means to defeat Haia.

Meanwhile, Yui found herself on what appeared to be a deserted, nondescript street, standing in an alley. Then she heard a female voice sing, “When the only sound in the empty street/is the heavy tread of heavy feet/that belong to a lonesome cop/I open shop.”

Yui wondered what song that was from when a voice from behind her said, “It's from a musical called 'The New Yorkers.'” Yui whirled around to see the source of the voice.

She was a young woman that looked to be in her late teenage years, but Yui knew she was older. The strange woman had black almond shaped eyes with pale white skin that appeared to have a reddish tint. Her hair appeared to be black, but Yui could see that there were strains of auburn mixed in. She wore a yellow bead on a black cord necklace.

“What do you want with me, Haia?” Yui said. “And where are Vincent and Catherine?”

“They will be along shortly,” Haia replied. “Do you know what the title of this song is?”

“I don't really care to learn about your taste in music,” Yui shot back. “Nor do I want to have a discussion about aesthetics.” Then Yui began to chant a Buddhist sutra... only to have Haia throw an orange bolt that hit Yui's mouth. Yui then felt an iron gag cover it.

“If only you had kept your mouth shut,” Haia taunted. “Pity I had to do it for you. The song is 'Love for Sale' by Cole Porter. And I think you'll be interested in who I have singing it.”

As if on cue, a light appeared. Catherine Chandler stood under a lamp post. Except, instead of being dressed in demure business attire, she wore red spike heels, a provocative red dress, and dangling earrings. Her eyes glowed with a sickly green glare, obviously possessed by Haia. Although gagged, Yui began to murmur.

“Wish I could hear you. Or take the credit for Catherine's new look,” Haia retorted, “but I didn't do that. That is what will happen to her a few months in the futre, courtesy of one of my master's human servants. Let's listen to her, shall we?”

Catherine sang, but whether it was her own voice or Haia's, Yui couldn't tell. Then Yui heard, “Love for sale/Appetizing young love for sale. Love that's fresh and still unspoiled/Love that's only slightly soiled. Love for sale.”

She was horrified at what Haia was doing to Catherine. Then, to make matters worse, Vincent appeared.

But Yui saw that the sickly green glow that was strong in Catherine was flickering in Vincent's blue eyes, sometimes resuming their normal color. That was a vital clue. Somehow, Haia (being a kitsune or fox spirit) was using her energy faster by bilocating (being in two places at once). Haia obviously wasn't with Catherine, so the only logical place must be in the Tunnels with Vincent. 

However, Yui couldn't say anything to him. But there must be some way to shake the trance Haia placed on him. Then Yui realized that she had her mind. She would send a memory Vincent could remember.

Haia, thoroughly concetrating, realized Yui's eyes had a hard, determined focus. Whatever that human kunoichi was about to do could harm the plan. But it was difficult trying to keep whatever this Vincent was under her control. Then, before Haia could react, Yui shot a white beam from her forehead to Vincent's head. Haia screamed in pain as Vincent reacted to whatever that memory was.

As Vincent remembered, red tendrils snaked from him to Haia, causing her to scream as Vincent began to break free of her control.

Vincent sat in the darkness, dealing with the shame of hurting Lisa. He felt his guilt say, 'You shouldn't have hurt your closest friend.' He felt his anger say, 'Why do you hope for a romantic relationship? You are a beast, not a man. Lash out at them!' His fear said, 'You must flee!'

Suddenly, Vincent heard someone enter his chamber. Instinctively, he turned around... only to see a young Japanese woman.

“Do you mind if I sit with you, Vincent-san?” she said.

“Leave me alone,” Vincent snarled, a mixture of hurt and anger in his voice.

“I know you're in pain, because you are a young man and care for Lisa,” the young woman said. “I know what it is like to have a power that can become dangerous as well. Like you, I have had to learn how to control myself with others.”

Vincent listened to this woman with a combination of puzzlement and fury. A young slip of a girl, barely a teenager, had a power that was dangerous as his? Vincent wondered if she was sincere or completely insane.

“I see you don't believe me,” the girl said. “Do you mind if I tell you my name?”

“Well, that would help,” Vincent retorted in a sarcastic manner. “So just who are you? And what makes you think you can help me where Father can't?”

“I'm Yui Watanabe,” the girl said. “My father, Nishio Watanabe, helps some of your Tunnel dwellers get work experience before they move on to other parts of the world Above.”

“And just what do you and your father do?” Vincent asked, partly wondering where this conversation was going.

“We teach kickboxing at a studio in Hell's Kitchen,” Yui replied. “But there is a secret that has been passed down to each generation of my family. My father and I are ninja; our mental techniques may help you with what you deal with.”

If Vincent was perplexed before, he was utterly flabbergasted at Yui's admission. After realizing his mouth had been open for a few moments, Vincent said, “Look, I'd like to believe you, but I'm not in a good place right now. So please leave.”

Vincent knew he had been rude, but Yui's face remained stoic. Now, Vincent's rage was turning to complete confusion. Instinctively, he knew this girl would not be scared of him. She was afraid, but not cowering in fear. If Vincent could describe his feelings, it was like stepping on a stick with his foot. Instead of cracking, it remained firm and unbroken.

Both stared at each other like two statues. Vincent didn't know how long they had been staring when Yui said, “I want to help you.”

“But I don't want your help!” Vincent said.

“I can't leave you in this state to hurt those you love,” Yui said. Now, Vincent could feel the undercurrent of steel resolve in her voice. She wasn't leaving.

“Do you see this?” Vincent held up his claws. “Do you see my fangs?”

“I do.”

“Then why do you want to help me?” Vincent shot back. “I am more monster than a man. I hurt the things I love.”

“You are not that,” Yui said. “You are a samurai, Vincent, a potential warrior who needs to learn how to channel his power into the virtues of benevolence and honor.”

Now, Vincent was completely dumbstruck. No one, not even Father, had that much courage to confront Vincent like this woman. What was she considering?

“I propose this,” Yui said. “A no-holds barred sparring match between you and me for ten minutes. If you can harm me, I'll walk away from you and never bother you again.”

“And what's in it for you if YOU win?” Vincent asked. Although his bravado wouldn't admit it, he felt like a muscular stallion being confronted by a deadly scorpion. Her appearance was petite, but her attitude made it clear she wasn't a pushover.

“If I win, you let me train you how to channel your rage,” Yui said. “I can make it so that you will be able to better defend those you love in the Tunnels.”

Vincent fought the urge to laugh in Yui's face. She was offering to fight him, no holds barred, for ten minutes? And if he won, she would leave him alone? What had he got to lose?
As if she read his mind, Yui took out her smartphone and set the timer to ten minutes. Then she put the timer off to a small alcove in a cavern.

“I don't know if you're being sincere or a complete fool,” Vincent said. “I just hope Father can patch you up after I'm through with you.”

Instead of retorting, Yui just put her left foot forward and right foot at an angle. Her fists were raised to the level of her chin.

Feeling the rage of that memory, Vincent's eyes resumed their normal blue color. Confusion reigned in his consciousness for a few moments. 

Where was he? What was Yui doing here? And why was Catherine here and dressed like that?
“Aarrrgh!” Vincent saw a strange woman with black hair and auburn coloring mixed in screaming in pain. 

“I should have known to be more cautious around you, Yui Watanabe,” the stranger said. “But just because you've won a round doesn't mean you will be victorious in the end.” And after she said that, Vincent and Catherine saw the woman disappear in a halo of orange flame.

“Vincent, just where are we?” Catherine asked. “And what was that?”

“A kitsune,” Yui answered after removing the iron gag. Seeing Catherine's blank look, Yui continued, “It's the Japanese term for a fox spirit.”

“But those are just creatures of myth,” Vincent exclaimed. “They don't exist!”

Vincent-kun ga anata kara kite,” Yui moaned. 

“What did Yui just say?” Catherine queried.

“A bit rich coming from you, Vincent-kun,” Vincent replied. Seeing Catherine's puzzled expression, Vincent continued, “I'm multilingual. Because I read ancient Latin and Greek textbooks from Father's library, I know all the Romance languages. I also learned Russian from one of our helpers above and Japanese from Nishio and Yui.”

“Oh,” Catherine said, her brain trying to comprehend everything, but failing. Then she looked down at herself. “Just what am I wearing? And why?”

“From what Haia said,” Yui began. 

“Haia's that... thing?” Catherine remarked. “How do you know her name?”

“It's a long story, too much to explain at this time,” Yui continued. “We need to get you and Vincent out of this mental nightmare. If I don't, Haia will activate a slow curse to drain your and Vincent's life energy until you die.”

Both Vincent and Catherine stared in complete shock after Yui said that. Then, Yui began to explain their situation.

Meanwhile, in the physical world...

“Nishio,” Adrian rapped at the closed door of the building. “Yui?” 

Adrian rapped one more time, only to see the haggard figure of Nishio Watanabe come toward the door. He rapidly opened the door and let Adrian in.

“What's going on?” Adrian asked, rapid-fire. “Where's Yui? Why does she want holy water and a crucifix?”

“Come down to the basement,” Nishio said. “Catherine is there. We need to hurry. My only daughter is in danger.”

At that last statement, Adrian shut up. Whatever trouble Yui was in had to be deadly. As both men hurried down, Nishio brought Adrian up to speed.

In Haia's mental prison...

Yui began, “Haia is a kitsune, or fox spirit. But she is not a true fox spirit.”

“What do you mean by that?” Catherine asked.

Catherine saw Yui visibly hesitate. Then Yui said, “Most yokai are born from other yokai. Haia is different because she was once a mortal. From the Meiji era when the samurai were abolished to the postwar Showa era, most of the ninja, including my clan, remained law abiding and supported the government. But there were a few clans – and some of our own students – who decided to sell their skills for the highest bidder during the Cold War and afterwards, with no thought to how much chaos they caused. Haia... is one of those.”

Both Vincent and Catherine digested that information. Then Catherine said, “Haia lost her humanity to become that? But how?”

Yui continued, “She was one of our best students but she was more interested in the mystical side of our arts. She fell in love with a Yakuza, tempted by the allure of easy money. Eventually, our family expelled her from our clan's temple.”

“So speaks the sculptor's side of the story,” a familiar mocking voice said. Yui, Catherine, and Vincent saw their familiar tormentor return. 

“Missed me?” Haia teased. Seeing the angry gazes on all three faces, Haia feigned a contrite look. “Bad moment?” 

Then she turned to Vincent and expressed, “But look at the bright side, Vincent. You're stuck with the two women who love you as long as you live. Which is slowly slipping away. Who will win in this literal death match? The reigning champion, Yui? Or the up-and-comer Catherine?”

Vincent growled in response. Haia ignored that. 

“Vincent, such ingratitude!” Haia continued. “Especially coming from you. I thought you would thank me...”

Then Haia turned to Catherine, “I certainly want to thank YOU, Catherine, for taking her down a peg. She certainly needed a lesson in humility. Too bad you couldn't have done to Yui what she was wanted to do to you with her kunai.”

Catherine replied. “What's a kunai?”

Haia said, “It's a short dagger.” Then she paused, “Oh, it has been a while for you, Catherine, hasn't it? Let me jog your memory.” Haia lifted up her hands forming an orange orb. As all three of them formed their fighter's stances, Haia replied. “Settle down, you zodiac menagerie. I just thought Vincent would want to know what Cathy did.”

Looking up, Catherine saw Yui remove something like a pointed arrowhead from her right sleeve.

Acting on instinct, Catherine aimed her left leg as if she was trying to kick the item out of Yui's hand. As Yui instinctively stepped back, Catherine brought her left leg on the inside of Yui's vulnerable left thigh.

That fierce pain forced Yui to her knees, dropping the item. Pushing herself away, Catherine used her hands to leap into a crouching stance. 

“For a warrior who improvises, Chandler-san, you are impressive,” Yui said, resuming her fighter's stance. She tried to ignore the pain in her thigh.

“Coming from you, that's a notable compliment,” Catherine retorted. Then she lunged at Yui as if to tackle her. Yui stepped to the right side only to see Catherine stand erect and move her left knee back... hitting Yui's face with a left front kick.

As Yui fell to the mat stunned, her vision swam. When it resumed, Yui could see Catherine holding Yui's kunai, her short dagger, at her neck artery.

“I don't know what this is,” Catherine said. “But I know it's sharp. I think I've won this match. Don't you?” 

“Hai,” Yui said. Yes.

“As you can see,” Haia continued, “Yui wanted to return Catherine's face to where it was before. Didn't you, Yui?”

Vincent stared at Yui in horror. Then he asked, “Why did you want to do that, Yui?”

Yui looked down, ashamed. Then Haia interjected, “Do you want to hear the rest, Vincent? Yui hates Catherine so much, she wanted to kill her. But Yui can't, because Kami forced her to swear an oath. But that didn't mean she couldn't beat Catherine up.”

Catherine now stared in shock at Yui. “You did? And who is Kami?”

Yui spoke in a downcast tone, tinged with guilt, “I was blinded by passion, Vincent, because I have romantic feelings for you. But Kami, the Divine Emperor, has plans for you and Catherine. Even though I love you, Vincent, I realize that I was just here to demonstrate you that someone from Above could love you as well.”

Catherine felt both Vincent's anger and confusion, but she also felt another presence. It wasn't as strong as the Bond she had with Vincent. Following this second sensation, Catherine saw it was coming from Yui. 

Yui was feeling remorse for what she had done. And from what Catherine knew about Yui from Vincent, she was dealing with the recriminations of her conscience for hurting both of them.

Suddenly, Catherine felt something in her brain. Forgive her. 

On instinct, Catherine knew who had sent that to her. Moving over to Yui, Catherine hugged her as Yui began crying. Then she lifted up Yui's head.

“Yui,” Catherine began. “I can see why you love Vincent. He's kind, cultured, and compassionate, something few men Above are. You wanted to help him deal with the beast that is within him... and for that I'm grateful. I forgive you, Yui, because if I loved someone that much, I would fight anyone for them too.”

As Yui wept in Catherine's arms, Haia's face became even more frenzied.

“You are NOT following my direction!” Haia exclaimed, waving her arms. “You and Yui should be at each other's throats, not doing that! What the Hell is happening?”

Then Haia's nose twitched furiously. She screamed, “I smell someone from the world of the dead! But how?”

“Because He knows I can help Catherine.”

All four figures turned toward the source of the voice. She was an aristocratic Caucasian with Catherine's green eyes and brown hair.

“Mother!” Catherine exclaimed.

“What are you doing here?!?” Haia screamed. “You have no power in my world!”

“The one who sent me does not allow me that power,” Caroline Chandler says. “Because if I could do so, I would tear you limb from limb for what you have done to my daughter and her friends!”

“But He places limits, doesn't he?” Haia taunted. “My master is VERY generous 

with his gifts. If I wish, I could kill all three of these animals on a whim.”

“You're a sadist,” Caroline retorted. “You don't want them to die a quick death, but 

make them give in to the anger and rage within them since the Fall. But they are better than you.”

Then Caroline turned to Catherine, “I cannot break you out of your prison, but that does not mean I am not helping. Give me time and I will provide Adrian the solution. Before I go, remember what happened before Haia took possession of you.”

“Mother?” Catherine screamed. “What do you want me to remember?”

Then Catherine's mother disappeared in a gold haze. If Haia had been angry before, now she was furious. 

“I just wanted ONE uncomplicated torture session!” Haia ranted. “Just a hassle-free moment of afflicting Yui and her friends before I kill them! And what do I get for this evening? One annoying kunoichi, one East Side debutante that has as much hatred as an amoeba has a skeleton, and you...” Haia's gaze and accusing finger pointed to Vincent, then she stopped ranting as she sniffed the air around him.

“You...Your scent's really interesting, my friend,” Haia continued as Vincent stiffened under her gaze. He growled back at her. Haia ignored him.

“One part of you is yokai,” Haia claimed. “But there's a part of you that's human. Pity Yui neutered some of your dark side, cat. You and I would have been a fine pair.”

“Too bad Yui couldn't have spayed you,” Catherine shot back. “Then we wouldn't be here.”

Haia eyes' widened in complete shock at first. Then, they became narrow slits. Finally, to the puzzlement of all three, she began to laugh maniacally. They didn't know how long Haia laughed, but she struggled to get herself under control.

“I can...” Haia tried to remain composed, but still giggled. “can... (heh heh heh) see why (heh heh heh)...this big oaf (heh heh heh) loves you.” (heh heh heh) 

She continued, “For a girl who's traveled on (heh heh heh) her daddy's coat tails (heh heh heh) all through life, (heh heh heh) you've got a sense of humor! Certainly better than Debbie Downer over here.” Haia pointed at Yui when she said that.

“Just get within range of my fists,” Catherine growled, “and I'll give you a punchline.”

Instead of scaring her, Haia chuckled again. Then she composed herself.

“You know, Catherine,” Haia said. “It's a good thing Marty Belmont's safely in my master's cells. I need to thank him for bringing out your inner badass. But I'm getting tired of you upstaging my performance. Now, time for my standard evil motivational speech.”

Then Haia aimed two orange bolts, creating gags to cover Yui's and Catherine's mouths.

“I should rethink my strategy,” Haia began as Vincent stared at her in anger. “I really thought Catherine or Yui would prove what William Congreve once quoted, but they're not getting with the script. So, with any triangle, you want the 

one wronged to kill the paramour or the unfaithful betrothed. But what if I focus on you, Vincent-kun?”

“Don't ever call me that,” Vincent snarled. “Only MY friends have that privilege. You are not one of them.”

“Touchy, touchy,” Haia remarked. “But what if I could give you what YOU truly wanted, Vincent?”

“Catherine is the only one I want,” Vincent said.

“Your words say that,” Haia retorted, “but you are also a mortal. My magic is discerning the deep-seated desires of your mind as we speak.”

“Leave us alone,” Vincent screamed.

“Touched a sore spot, did I?” Haia replied. “I think it's time for us to have a tete-a-tete, Vincent, just the two of us.”

Before Yui and Catherine could react, Haia engulfed Vincent in an orange orb. Then Haia and the orb disappeared with a flash of yellow light. As Yui felt Haia's influence ebb, she used her hands to remove the iron gags from Catherine and herself.

“Catherine,” Yui explained in a rapid-fire tone. “I know you have little reason to trust me. But you need to remember what the events that happened to you before Haia possessed you and took you to my basement. Your mother said that is a clue to her weakness!”

As Catherine began recalling the events, Yui wondered if Adrian and her father were having better luck.

Meanwhile, in the physical world...


After Adrian had heard Nishio's incredible tale, both men had been poring through old ninja scrolls, Yui's collection of articles and journal entries of Haia's attacks, and any  book from Nishio's library for the past few hours. It was slow going for Adrian, as he switched between the Japanese hiragana and his online Japanese dictionary. Although Adrian had taken a few Japanese lessons in his youth, he hadn't practiced in a while... and it showed.

After this is over, I will take an online course... Adrian thought. But I need to focus to save Yui!

Nishio said, “From what I gathered, the first time our family had met these kitsunes, they had used a blessed Buddhist sutra to drive them away. But the priest who also made the sutra said that the kitsunes had a fear of the food of the gods.”

“That's a great help,” Adrian said sarcastically, only to feel the searing look from Nishio. Embarrasssed, Adrian said, “Sorry. Did he give any clues to where to find this food of the gods?”

“Only that it was from the land of the barbarians, beyond the east of what you call the Pacific.”

“Well, that narrows it down to North and South America,” Adrian said. “So that's something. But what food could this priest be talking about?”

“Well, it could be peppers, chocolate, squash, tomatoes...” Nishio began. 

“Something Yui said comes to mind,” Adrian looked through his notes. “Yes! Yui made an entry about following Haia to a Mexican restaurant three years ago. Seems Yui was amazed that Haia liked food with jalapenos, chipotle, and poblano. So, we now know Haia has a tolerance for capsicum, the chemical in peppers.”

As both men wondered what to do next, the clock in Nishio's study chimed 1 o'clock.

“When is sunrise?” Adrian inquired.

“6:30 a.m.” Nishio said.

Both men came to a grim realization. If they couldn't come up with a solution in four hours or less, Yui, followed by Vincent and Catherine, were dead.

      1. Catherine's story – Stringendo (Getting faster)

Catherine took a deep breath, then started explaining the events from the past few hours up to now.

“I had just come home at 5:40,” Catherine began. “I was trying to complete a few cases. After microwaving a lasagna, I turned on the kettle to make something.

“What were you making?” Yui asked.

“Well, I had a peppermint mocha,” Catherine said. “Then after I made it, I sat down to eat and began working on my legal briefs. I finished the lasagna and made another cup of peppermint mocha. I had been working two more hours when I heard a knock at my door...”

“And you answered it?” Yui said.

“Yes. That's when I saw...” Catherine began to choke, probably remembering with terror the events of Haia's possession. Then she had a panic attack, whether from the trauma of being possessed by Haia or something else, Yui couldn't know.

Yui had to calm Catherine down. But she had limited options.

“Catherine, I'm going to do one of my ninja skills to help you focus on the past memory, not the fear you're feeling,” Yui explained. “I've done a variation of this with Adrian, but that was in the physical world. I don't know what it will do in this world. But just focus on my fingers and my voice. OK?”

“Okay,” Catherine said. Forcing tears from her eyes, Catherine focused as Yui did her kuji-kiri, bringing her deeper into a trance.

Vincent found himself in darkness, disoriented in the stygian shade. Then as if a light turned on, Vincent found himself standing in front of what appeared to be a hostess booth, something he had only seen on movies or television.

“Hi,” a young brown-haired woman said, dressed in a flannel low-cut blouse and blue jean shorts said. “Welcome to Twin Peaks. Your usual server is waiting for you, Mr. 


Before Vincent could question the hostess about what she meant, she led the way deeper into the restaurant.

Vincent, unsure of what to do, began to follow her. As he looked around what appeared to be a combination of rustic camping lodge and a bunch of televisions showing sports, he focused his eyes on the other male customers.

Then Vincent realized he was in an illusion. His inner beast could see the vacant expressions of the other men pretending to be watching the TV screens or talking. There eyes were, for lack of a better word, glassy and lifeless. They certainly didn't react to his bestial form.

As the hostess sat Vincent down with a pair of menus, he wondered who his usual server was when he got the shock of his life.

It was his Catherine, but dressed in the same flannel low-cut blouse and blue jean shorts. It took him an obvious effort for Vincent to focus on her eyes instead of her bosom.

But when he saw her green eyes, yet feel no connection via the Bond, he said, “You can cease this illusion, Haia. I know you're not Catherine.”

Then Haia, in a perfect imitation of Catherine's voice, said, “What are you talking about, silly? I'm YOUR Catherine. Perhaps I can get you your usual drink...”

Angered by this mockery of the woman he loved, Vincent reached up his left hand to scar this impostor. But before he could scratch her, 'Catherine' put up an opaque barrier, blunting the attack.

“I'm very impressed,” the image of Catherine said before morphing into the form of Haia. “Most men I've dealt with become my mental slaves, trapped inside my illusion.”

“What do you want with me?” Vincent growled. “You have no right to imitate... HER.”

“Vincent, even though you're sheltered, you must know what the people Above do for amusement, even to the ones they call celebrities,” Haia mocked. “They like their on screen flickerings. These humans are so depraved they manipulate video images to put their favorite female celebrities or the political leaders they dislike on the bodies of other people. But your mind is so refreshingly different.”

“How so?”

“If most men had two women chasing after them, the man would try to play one against the other to dominate them and keep them under his control,” Haia explained. “But you're different. Even though you love this Catherine Chandler, you still wish to protect Yui Watanabe's heart from being broken. You could take either by force, if you so wished, but you prefer to let them seduce you. I wish I had found an honorable man like you instead of the one that made me choose this.”

Vincent sensed a change in tone as Haia spoke the last sentence. Whereas the the first paragraph Haia spoken was one of mockery, she had a more wistful tone as she said the second paragraph.

“What did you refer to when you said to Yui, 'the sculptor's side of the story'?” Vincent asked.

“You're familiar with Aesop's fables?” Haia began. “One day, a sculptor invited a lion to see his latest work. As the sculptor unveiled it, the sculpture was of a man with a  spear killing a lion. The lion, seeing it, said, 'Very impressive. But if we lions could sculpt, it would be a lion killing a man'”.

“So what's your side of the story, Haia?”

“Perceptive, aren't you?” Haia retoted. “Like Mick Jagger, you're showing sympathy for this demon? Well, I should tell you a bit about myself... because I know you probably would tell your own origin story, if you could remember it.”

Then Haia clapped her hands. Suddenly, Vincent found himself in what appeared to be a dark room with a center stage. He could see dining tables and chairs in the room, but just what was this place? Some sort of theater?

“You're correct in a way,” came the mocking voice of Haia echoing in his head. “It IS a theater, but not of high culture. It is one of human flesh.”

As if on cue, Haia appeared on stage, dressed in what appeared to be an evening dress. Then, as if to mock Vincent, she assumed the lithe form of Yui Watanabe.

“Besides both of us being of Japanese descent,” Haia spoke in Yui's voice, irking him, “we were both born in this country. But Fate decreed I would be born on the West Coast, in Los Angeles. Both Yui and I are family, learning every one of the Watanabe clan secrets from our respective clan teachers.”

Then Haia paused. Vincent's intuition sensed she was recalling something traumatic.

“Yui was lucky,” Haia began. “Her father and mother accepted her small compromises to American culture. My mother always loved me, but my father... did not like how I wanted to conform to American ways. Would you believe, Vincent, that he wanted me to return to Japan for an arranged marriage?”

“I want to believe you are genuine, Haia, but you have given me little reason to trust you,” Vincent said.

Then, to Vincent's astonishment, she laughed. 

“Whatever you are, Vincent, you're rare because you are so refreshingly honest,” 

Haia replied. “Although my father wanted me follow the Japanese way, I found others who were American-born Japanese. One of them introduced me to what you see here, a strip club.”

Vincent's eyes widened. Even though he had never been inside one, he had heard the stories of women who chose that lifestyle. Finding his voice, Vincent said, “Were you coerced into this?”

“I wish I could tell you the sob story of being the naive victim of the manipulative male and how this caused my downward spiral, but I would be lying,” Haia began.

“And you weren't before?” Vincent shot back.

“You really are an enigma,” Haia answered. “You're both truly honest and not afraid of me. After most men encounter me, they're either my willing puppets or screaming for mercy from my depradations.” She paused. 

“I have little reason to fear,” Vincent said. “I know Catherine and I know Yui. We will find a way out of this prison.”

“Stone walls do not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage,” Haia quoted. “But don't think you can bluff me with your words. Right now, I'm in your chamber in the Tunnels. The only way you can break out is if Nishio can find me and destroy me. And I'll make sure that doesn't happen. But let's get back to my story, Vincent...”

As Vincent wondered what Haia was going to tell him, he wondered if Yui and Catherine were faring any better.

 Yui deftly manipulated her fingers while Catherine fell into a trance. Gentle as ever, Yui looked into Catherine's memory.

As Catherine sat at her kitchen table, poring over the latest deposition, the microwave dinged. After getting her lasagna out of the microwave, she began eating it. Maybe next time she was Below, she could let William teach her cooking.

As Catherine ate her lasagna and sipped her white wine, she pored over more depositions. After finishing her meal, she threw away the dish into the trash. Wanting something else, Catherine looked into her freezer.

She had forgotten to get some ice cream. Well, what other sweet thing could she have? Looking on her counter, she found a tin of peppermint mocha. After putting the kettle on, Catherine waited until it finished.

After making herself a cup of peppermint mocha, she heard a knock at the door. Carrying her cup with her to the door, Catherine opened it to see a Japanese woman that resembled Yui Watanabe, but there were subtle differences.

First, her oval eyes were bigger than Yui's. She also had a reddish tint in her black hair.

As Catherine was about to ask what the woman wanted, she saw the woman's black eyes start to become green and luminous. 

“You will let me in,” the strange woman said.

As Catherine struggled to resist the hypnosis, she threw the cup of mocha in the woman's face. As the liquid hit her, the strange woman's face turned an unhealthy shade of green. 

Catherine ran to her bedroom to get her handgun. As she opened the drawer and pulled it out... she saw the green sickly skin of the woman with an angry gaze on her face.

“If I didn't need your memories and your bond,” she said, “I would mentally manipulate you to kill yourself. But I want Yui to suffer. You and Vincent will be my instruments of vengeance.”

Then Catherine screamed as this woman-thing began to glow orange...

Then Catherine screamed, breaking her out of the trance Yui created.

“Catherine, I'm sorry you had to relive Haia's possession of you, but we know what her weakness is,” Yui explained.

“What is it?”

“Well, the mocha you threw at her affected her,” Yui explained. “Mocha is coffee and cocoa along with the peppermint. I have seen Haia eat peppermint and drink coffee...”

“So Haia's vulnerable to chocolate?” Catherine said. “But how do we relay that information to your father and Adrian?”

“I think I know how,” Yui said. “But if you didn't like what I did before, you probably won't like what I'm going to do next.”

As Yui explained her plan, Catherine admitted Yui was honest. She didn't like what Yui was going to do, but she fervently hated the idea of dying also.

Meanwhile, Nishio and Adrian were still looking through Yui's journals and any other information about kitsunes. 

“From what my daughter said about Haia, when she was trying to follow her when Haia was a kitsune, she stayed away from Grand Central Terminal and also near Madison Avenue,” Nishio said.

“But what could be there that could scare a kitsune away?” Adrian said. “Given that Yui tried to get any scrap of info on Haia, especially what she ate, we know Haia can tolerate potatoes because she ate them as french fries. She can tolerate coffee because she drinks it...”

“But wasn't there something where she refused a cup,” Nishio said. Then pointing down the page, Adrian followed Nishio's finger.

“She refused a cup of coffee after she smelled it,” Adrian read. “Yui tried to find out what it was; it seemed the waitress had brought Haia a vanilla mocha instead of the customer it was for.”

“So Haia is afraid of vanilla or chocolate,” Adrian mused. “That narrows it down. Too bad we don't know where Haia is to test our theory.”

Slowly, the clock chimed 2. Both men cast worried looks at each other, realizing time was running out.

Vincent listened as Haia told her story.

“You probably know what it is like to be between two worlds, Vincent, because from what I've read of your mind, you have the educated man you call Father and the realm of books... and the world you see as an outsider at night, a world of violence, apathy, and greed.

In my case, my father raised me as if we were still lower middle class in Japan... but going to school, I saw Americans have possessions that only the very rich in Japan could have.”

Haia paused, “You're probably wondering where I'm going with this. Well, I was one (of a group of four) that followed true crime and mysteries. Every day, we would come from school to read the old American crime writers of the 1920's and 30's or watch the latest police procedurals from Japan or America. Some of us took the literary route by submitting short stories under pen names. 

But as graduation approached, we four realized that we wanted to do something besides read and write about crime... we wanted to commit one.

One of our number, Harry (his real name was Hitachin) entered the Drug Enforcement Agency first. As he worked there, he used Facebook to learn the whereabouts of Anna (real name Ahmiya) where she worked in the U.S. District Attorney's office.

It was through George (Giichi) and his Yakuza connections that we came up with the crime. George ran a strip club in San Francisco. His information said a large quantity of cocaine was coming into San Francisco, but he didn't know when.

Harry, through his contacts in the DEA, found out when it would arrive, but not where. I decided to lure one of the lower level employees of the syndicate that had the cocaine to the strip club by being a dancer. After drugging his drink, and using some mystical arts, I provided the information to Anna. Her sources were able to find the exact location and we stole the cocaine.

However, there was a small problem. Harry fell in love with me and wanted me to  flee with him to Dubai, because he knew the DEA would suspect him. I had other plans. I think you can guess what happened next.”

Seeing Vincent's impassive face, Haia continued, “I thought George loved me, so I helped him lure Harry to a deserted warehouse where I killed him, making it look like a suicide with a conveniently written note. As I did that, George had a few thugs waiting with guns to kill me.”

Haia paused, “I don't know how my cousin Yui Watanabe figured out where I was. She was always more perceptive about people, but I wanted to kill George by myself. As you can guess, we both fought the three thugs and killed them, but George had a backup plan.

He brought a flamethrower and set the warehouse on fire,” Haia continued. “But she was a ninja. She pursued George while I got trapped in the warehouse, hit by a burning beam. As I died, that was when I met... Him.”

“Who was that?” Vincent asked. “And Yui is family to you?”

“You know him, Vincent, because he's your dark side,” Haia explained. “Satan, Asmodeus, Beelzebub... I could go on, but he never reveals his TRUE name. He gave me this chance to be a kitsune... and I took it.”

“But you should be glad that Yui punished your killer,” Vincent said.

“Yes, but it was her being so smug that I didn't know what I was dealing with that I hate,” Haia retorted. “I had a perfect plan, but George didn't care that I loved him and Yui said 'I told you so.' And it's because of losing what I loved that I wanted Yui to suffer... so I waited around and stalked her, trying to find out more about you and Catherine.”

“Just because you were unlucky in love,” Vincent said, “does not mean you should punish your cousin Yui and us. Let us go.”

“Repent, Faustus, and the devils will not raze your skin,” Haia teased. “But it's a little too late for me... and at the way time is passing, your doom is coming. But I find you very interesting, so I'm offering you one of three things you want, Vincent. Agree to one of them, and you will live.”

“What is your first offer?” Vincent asked, immediately wary.

Haia snapped her fingers and Vincent found himself in an opulent apartment. Vincent saw this room had a flatscreen TV, a powerful desktop computer, and other items he had only seen in books and thrown away catalogs.

“Agree to serve my master and he will give you wealth to help yourself and those in the Tunnels,” Haia said. “My master will give you the knowledge – and a few of his servants – to provide the wealth your community needs.”

“What about Yui or Catherine?”

“Vincent,” Haia urged. “Look at the big picture. Once you have wealth, you can have any woman you want. I'm afraid the price for this wealth will be the death of both of them, but just imagine what you will be to the Tunnel community. Your community can have money to afford food, medicine, and maybe a few luxuries like electricity. Certainly that is a better testament than being where you are now.”

Vincent looked at this amount of material excess. His heart felt envy for those who could afford it. But as he did, he felt the gentle tug of Catherine's pain through the Bond.

“I wish I could, but I'm afraid the Gospel of Mark said it best,” Vincent said.

“For what shall it profit a man, if he should gain the whole world, yet lose his soul,” Haia mocked. “You may turn this down, but my next offer is MUCH better.”

Haia snapped her fingers again. Then she said, “Look down at your hands.”

Vincent did so... and saw that they were human. Instead of claws, they were well-manicured nails. With a snap of her fingers, Haia produced a mirror and handed it to Vincent.

Vincent, expecting to see his bestial self, saw a man with sandy hair and a horseshoe mustache.

“See, Vincent, my master is very generous,” Haia said. “You can become human and walk among them without fear. However, if you do take this offer, we may have need to access your bestial side to do some... removals.”

Vincent caught her meaning, “Assassinations.”

“Vincent, you know nothing in existence is ever free,” Haia taunted. “Of course, you will lose Catherine and Yui as well, but think of what you can gain. The ability to walk in the sunlight, enjoy a meal at a restaurant among others, and probably gain the heart of a woman you can make love to any time of the day. All you have to do is agree.”

Vincent looked longingly at his now human hands. It was so very tempting to become human. As his mind thought of accepting Haia's offer, Vincent felt Catherine's feelings.

Vincent, I love you because of WHO you are, not for WHAT you could give me, he felt from Catherine's heart. Don't give into this. Although Vincent wanted to be human, he knew the price was too high.

“But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of Your hand,” Vincent said. “Your master can only imitate, never create.”

If Haia had been miffed at Vincent's first rejection, her eyes became angry at the second rebuff.

“Oh, I see,” Haia replied. “You're turning me down because of the Bond you and Catherine share. Looks like I'll have to do some shredding.”

Then Haia raised her left hand and a beam of orange light began to burn Vincent.

He felt an excruciating sensation... and could not feel his link with Catherine.

“Now that I've removed your virtual ball and chain,” Haia said. “I think you will want to accept my final offer.”

Then Haia snapped her fingers... and Vincent found himself in a room that he had only see in pictures and in videos. It was the Oval Office in the White House.

Vincent found himself standing behind the Resolute desk. It got that title because it was made from timbers of the British Navy ship HMS Resolute, as it was rescued by American sailors after the British Navy tried to sail to the Arctic.

“Vincent, think very carefully, because this may be your only chance to save your own skin,” Haia said. “Ever since the Fall, my master has dominion on Earth. There are a few who know personally know him in government service; the rest follow along because of the rewards he provides.”

Haia came close to the other side of the Resolute desk, her face only inches away from his.

“Vincent, if you accept my final offer, you will have the ability to have power – and knowledge – beyond your wildest dreams,” Haia said in a seductive tone. “All you have to do is show obeisance to my master.”

“But your master is second only to God,” Vincent responded.

“True, but just imagine what he can promise you,” Haia countered. “He can make you a President of the United States. And when your time is over, you – and certain like minded souls – can lead the way to world unity.”

Haia paused and Vincent felt a dark miasma emanate from her.

“Of course, there is a price besides losing Yui and Catherine,” Haia said. Before Vincent could ask what that was, the image of the Oval Office changed into a room with a raised dais and a stone altar. There were hooded figures, chanting an obscene version of a Paternoster in Latin. Then Vincent saw what would be sacrificed.

There were ten infants, each lying in a common crib; five were males, five were females.

As Vincent stared in horror, Haia said, “One of those will be your first born from the woman we ask you to marry. Consider it a down payment for all the privileges my master is ready to reward you.” Haia, sensing Vincent was about to hesitate, began to use her trump card.

“You cannot feel Catherine,” Haia taunted. “For all you know, she is dead already along with my troublesome cousin. And if you refuse this offer, you will be dead, too. Would your precious Catherine want you to join her in death... or live life to the fullest?”

While Haia had been tempting Vincent, Yui forced herself to make psychic Japanese characters on Catherine's body. 

“You sure this will work?” Catherine asked out of fear. After feeling the agonizing pain, her mind that the Bond with Vincent was broken. Yet her heart knew he was still alive.

“Better to take a risk than not to try,” Yui said. “Although you feel the Bond is broken, it is probably one of Haia's tricks. I will share my chi with you, you must open your chi – and Vincent's – to send a message to my father.”

Catherine heard Yui close her eyes and chant something in Japanese. As Yui chanted, an large white halo came out of her body. Then it headed over to Catherine.

Catherine, frightened but determined, began to think of the memories she and Vincent shared.

Haia could sense Vincent was weakening. As she held out her hand, she saw a white halo of energy slowly cover Vincent. Then as the energy covered him, he screamed in pain.

That damned kunoichi! Haia thought. Whatever her cousin was doing certainly didn't bode well. But what was she doing? Haia, reaching out both hands, grasped Vincent's hands.

As Nishio and Yui began trying to search for any more information, Adrian heard the clock strike three. He was about to tell Nishio to call it quits and looked up at him... only to see Nishio covered in a white aura.

Nishio, seeing Adrian's alarm, only said, “Do not touch me. I think this is a message... from my daughter.”

As Adrian looked on in fear, he reached for his Jerusalem crucifix and held it in front of him. Then the aura faded as soon as it started. Before Nishio's face was befuddled; now it was certain and determined.

“Yui, Catherine, and Vincent are still alive,” Nishio said. “My daughter combined her chi with Vincent and Catherine's. She says Haia can be weakened by chocolate. She also says Haia is in the Tunnels in Vincent's chamber.”

Adrian was burning with curiosity, but that could wait later. Then he said to Nishio, “Let's get to my Camaro. I have something at my apartment that can do the trick.”

“Before we go,” Nishio said, “let's get something.” Reaching into a desk drawer, Nishio removed a book. “This is a map of the Tunnels below. As we're heading to your apartment, I can look to see if we can find somewhere above to get closer to Vincent.

Haia felt the sting of Yui's, Catherine's, and Vincent's bond sending the message to Nishio. Looking at Vincent, Haia saw him lose the forlorn look.

“Even if you promised me power,” Vincent began, “I must refuse. I would rather have one last moment with Catherine than an eternity without her. And you know God is love.”

Haia was completely furious. 

“You will get YOUR wish, Vincent,” Haia replied. “You will have one last moment with your beloved Catherine. Unfortunately, I will make it the most agonizing you have ever experienced!”

Then Haia snapped her fingers. Vincent now found himself between Haia and Catherine. All three of them were strapped to a table that looked like a medieval torture rack.

“I admire your improvisation, cousin,” Haia said in an ironic tone. “And you, Catherine can be proud of Vincent. He has resisted all my blandishments. If only I could have met a man like him in my life... But this moment is not about me. It's about YOU three. And when I kill all of you, I will have you begging to take me back, Vincent.”

Then Haia shot out beams of energy, slowly draining their life force away.

Heading to his apartment, Adrian found a bottle of chocolate wine. Next, he scraped off some shavings from a dark chocolate bar and put them into hollow point bullets. Satisfied that he had filled a few, Adrian went under his bed and pulled out a Heckler and Kock G36 assault rifle. It smelled of gun oil, after doing a recent check of it early this afternoon. Putting the clip with chocolate filled hollow point bullets into the rifle, Adrian heard it click as it loaded.

“Now, Nishio,” Adrian said. “Have you sent the message to the Tunnels?”

Nishio nodded. “While you were loading your weapon, I tapped a message saying to get some people near Vincent's chamber to help you.”

“I wish we had more time,” Adrian groused. “Hopefully, they should be enough.”

Both men exited the apartment and headed to Adrian's Camaro. Adrian sped through traffic lights, heading straight to a building near the Prince Street Metro Station.

It would be too much trouble to carry the assault rifle into the Metro station; a stray transit cop or an onlooker could see them. Hopefully, Nishio's map was on the money.

After speeding like a jaguar, Adrian found Nishio's location. Outside the building were two Tunnel sentries, Jeremiah and a black-haired youth, Kevin. After Adrian parked the car in a nearby alley, he and Nishio headed over to the two youths who asked rapid-fire questions.

Adrian said, “I have no time to explain. Take me straight to Vincent's chamber! Now!”

Jeremiah and Kevin led the odd couple down the Tunnels and directly to Vincent's chamber where they saw an eerie sight.

Vincent was asleep, but a three-tailed red fox was sitting on his chest, emitting a sickly green glow.

Knowing he couldn't shoot Vincent, Adrian took out a corkscrew and opened the chocolate wine while Nishio held his finger in the universal sign for silence to the two youths. Then Adrian threw some on the kitsune.

As Adrian poured the chocolate wine on the three-tailed kitsune, he knew he was on to something as the kitsune's skin began to sizzle and burn when he threw the liquid on it. Unfortunately, if the kitsune's eyes had been closed before, they were now wide open and glowing pale white. Then he heard an unearthly howl of rage.

At that moment, Adrian felt like his kickboxing friend Isabella Gutierrez had just  thrown a jab/cross combo against Eric Esch's jaw in the ring. The first two punches had been too weak to incapacitate him; now, the opponent was going to retaliate... and not in a good way.

On reflex, Adrian reached for his Heckler and Koch G36 rifle and fired two shots.

Before Adrian could tell if the shots hit, the kitsune enveloped him and Nishio in an orange orb.

As other people came out of the Tunnels heading toward Vincent's chamber, Jeremiah and Kevin were both completely stunned at what he had seen. 

Where had this monster – along with Vincent, Adrian, and Nishio – disappeared to?

Meanwhile, the crystal on Catherine's forehead began to brighten. Then it levitated off Catherine's head and threw itself against the wall.

When the crystal was removed, Catherine Chandler began to awaken.

Suddenly, Vincent, Yui, Adrian, and Nishio were violently flung out of the crystal and thrown to the floor. Then it began to break into shards, only to reform into a bleeding, but very angry, Haia.

As both captor and captives struggled to recover, Yui was the first one to snap out of being stunned. Then, reaching into her sleeve, she threw her kunai straight for Haia's head...

Only to have Haia instinctively raise her paw. Though it didn't hit the target, Haia yowled as the kunai sliced one of the toes of her fox paw. Then the kunai hit the wall while a bleeding human finger lay on the floor.

As Adrian recovered, he brought up the rifle for a shot, only for Haia to hit him with a ball of light in his eyes. Blinded, Adrian dropped the rifle.

 “Sorry to blind your friend,” Haia said. “But I'm just not ready to die.”

“Pity Adrian didn't kill you,” Yui retorted. “Then we wouldn't have to listen to you.”

Haia gave a smile that would have frozen the heat of a hibachi's surface. Then she said, “I congratulate you on surviving my game. You have won this time, but just remember that Halloween is coming.”

“And what does that mean?” Adrian asked.

“Oh, I'm not the movie villain who is going to reveal all of her plans,” Haia said. “But I have something very interesting for Vincent and Catherine.”

“Leave them alone, Haia! They've suffered enough,” Yui yelled. “Your quarrel is with me!”

“It's because you care for them that I torment them, Yui,” Haia answered. “And next time, I might decide to let Catherine's friends on her little secret.”

“Go to hell!” Adrian retorted as his sight returned.

“I have to, because I need to replenish my health,” Haia said. “But to take a song from Vera Lynn, 'We'll meet again.' Vincent-kun, sore o ate ni shite.” Then Haia disappeared in a halo of orange flame.

“What was her last remark?” Catherine asked.

“She said, 'Count on it',” Vincent replied wearily. “And Halloween will be coming soon.”

“We will deal with that when it comes, Vincent,” Nishio said. “For now, I think I will try to get some breakfast for all of you from McDonalds. And I think all of us need to make our excuses with our employers.”

“Can't argue with that,” Adrian said. “Wish I could say, 'I can't come to work because I was up all night fighting a fox spirit'. But if I do that, then they might put me in Manhattan Psychiatric Center and throw away the room.”

“Go get some rest, Adrian,” Yui said. “Thank you.” Then Yui said, “Father, before you go... thank you for allowing me to rescue my friends – and helping to save us all along with Adrian.”

“You are welcome, daughter,” Nishio said. “But maybe you should have a private moment with Adrian first.” Leading Vincent and Catherine upstairs, Nishio said, “For both of you, I have a spare futon...”

As the odd trio went up the stairs, Yui looked at Adrian. Adrian, seeing Yui stare at him intently, then said, “Just what is it, Yui? Have I got something...”

Instead of answering him, Yui just took Adrian's right hand and kissed the top of it. While Adrian was wondering what that was about, Yui then said in Japanese, “Anata wa Vincent wa arimasenga, watashi wa anata o ki ni shimasu.” 

Seeing that Adrian had a blank look, Yui said, “I just said, 'Even though you're no Vincent, I care for you.” After saying that, she looked away and headed up the stairs.

Curious, Adrian reached for his smartphone and activated his microphone on Google Translate. As he repeated what Yui said and the machine repeated it, Adrian allowed himself a small smile.

“One day, Yui, you will consider my love,” Adrian said to himself. “I just have to be patient.” 

After putting down his assault rifle and securing it, Adrian headed up the stairs. Only Vincent and Catherine wondered why (after the previous events)  Adrian had a wide smile on his face.

The end.