Run With The Hunted

Run With The Hunted

It wasn’t intended to be anything more than a brief stroll along the forest's edge. She was never meant to stray from the cover of the treeline, but the city calls to her, as it tends to do. When faced with the unmistakable signs of humanity and mortality, she is filled with a strange, indescribable longing; a tangible pull from deep within her ribcage. It is in her nature to follow it always, asking no questions. 

 

Mei Lian’s velveteen cloak is pulled tight around her body, the hood obscuring her tall fox ears and the base obscuring her nine rose-colored tails. Narrow eyes scan the empty dirt roads, quietly observing this piece of Klamath city she hasn’t set foot in before tonight. It is quiet in an odd, unsettling sort of way, somehow managing to be far uglier than the inner city (which is quite an impressive feat, she must admit.) Still, she admires the ugliness. Each decrepit home and rusted vehicle charms her. Not an inch of land appears to be untouched.

 

As she continues down this aisle's lightless building, the sky grows darker and darker as the sun gradually disappears from the cloud-splotched sky above. Eventually, she finds herself inexplicably stopping before the only distinct building on the strip: a church, adorned with crosses and forged from old, crumbling stone. The twin doors hang wide open; a wordless temptation. Within lies a beautiful labyrinth of stained glass murals, all illuminated by the golden light of the setting sun.

 

Typically, she would not invade such a sacred space, especially one which pays respect to a deity she does not comprehend, but this feels like such a blatant invitation. So, she walks up the steps, through the front doors, and down the long, narrow passageway between the seats, eventually making it to the dusty, unkept chancel and sorrowfully empty altar. 

 

This place of worship has been neglected, and that saddens her.

 

She finds herself thinking about how this church must’ve looked when it was first erected, however long ago that was. The architecture rings true to something she would’ve seen way out West toward the end of the 19th century. Could this piece of the city be that old? Was the metaphorical giant that is Klamath once naught but a humble mining town home to the families of good, honest, working men? What an absurd thought, to think that this city could’ve ever been something pure.

 

Mei Lian's dreamy, idealistic nature can get the better of her sometimes. She doesn't realize that something is off—very off—until she is gazing quietly upon the stained glass mural that depicts a holy display of angels ascending to the heavens. Instead of feeling awestruck by this magnificent piece of art, she finds herself becoming suddenly overwhelmed with feelings of dread. Her ears lay flat against her head, every inch of fur across her body standing on end.

 

She isn't alone.  The realization comes mere moments before a man's voice rings out, seizing the huli jing's attention. 

 

“I hope you ain’t come here lookin’ for repentance. The big man don’t take kindly to folk like us.”

 

She whips around, eyes wide with surprise, lithe hands clutching at the front of her cloak. She is shocked, yes. but only for a short moment. Soon, she calmly exhales, regaining her composure, gaze softening as it lands on the other's face.

 

The man who stands before her isn’t human, that much is very obvious. She can tell in part because of the wild, far-away look in his eye that all immortal beings possess, but also because of his obvious vampiric features. His skin is very dark, but it is ashen and washed-out. His sunken eyes are a harsh shade of crimson, the same shade that clings to his protruding fangs. Black, unkempt curls fall over his face, obscuring the rest of his features. He appears unhinged; dangerous. Instantly, Mei Lian feels comforted.

 

"I’ve sought absolution elsewhere," she answers vaguely. Her tone is gentle and honey-sweet, a knowing smile blooming on her plush lips. "What about you? You strike me as someone who thinks he has much to repent for."

 

The man lets out a huff of laughter, shaking his head at her. “Think?” It’s more growl than speech, a futile attempt to intimidate the woman before him. “I know full well that I should be on my knees right now, begging God for forgiveness.” His posture is nervous, fingers twitching as he talks, back hunched over, almost as if he’s trying to curl into himself. “Unfortunately, catholicism ain’t a huge fan of immortals.”

 

She recalls her teachings of Christianity from when she first arrived in America. In all honesty, she retained surprisingly little of the philosophy, but the intense prejudice many modern practitioners have toward anything and everything different from them has stuck with her. It also becomes worse the further into civilization she goes. 

 

However, she knows that there is no such thing as a wholly evil god, nor is it possible for worship alone to turn a person evil. The outlaws she rode with during the years of the infamous Wild West nearly always had crosses hanging from their necks, but not one held theirs out like a ward when she came around. Even when she flashed her claws and showed her fangs, they still stood beside her, always wholly unwavering in their decision. Even when they should've feared her, they never did. They were good men. They treasured their faith the same way they treasured companionship. Sometimes, she wishes they were immortal, too. She misses them.

 

She wonders if the creature before her was once a good man, too. She wonders if he’ll ever learn that he still has the capacity to be good, even now. Perhaps she could teach him. Perhaps they, two ageless beasts standing against the fray, can find solace in each other on this strange evening.

 

"That isn’t necessarily true," she responds to him with a light chuckle. "You might simply be mingling with the wrong people, jiāngshī."

 

Jiāngshī. The Chinese word for vampire. She is aware of the English equivalent, however, this is one of many cases where she much prefers the sound of her mother tongue.

 

He gives her a curious, almost spiteful look, and she snickers at him.

 

Jiāngshī. Blood-eater. Cannibal. Vampire. It's been ages since I've met one of you," as she speaks, she absentmindedly pulls her hood down, revealing large, fox-like ears, coated in soft fur that matches the rosette of her hair. "You aren't very old, though. I can see it in your eyes. You hold an uncertainty that all fledgling beasts do."

 

His expression softens, a sorrow flickering across his dark eyes. To be recognized by another like yourself is an odd feeling, Mei Lian knows.

 

“Why does that matter?” His tone now lacks a notable amount of bravado. “I am old enough.”

 

The vixen laughs outright at that. A sweet, angelic sound passing through a fanged maw, echoing throughout the empty cathedral. She truly lets herself go in this moment; her cloak hangs loosely around her shoulders, failing to conceal anything of import. Her nine long, bushy tails are now very visible, curling around her body like a plume of cherry-colored smoke.

 

"That was a good answer," she smiles at the man, taking a careful step forward, dark eyes remaining fixed on his face. The way she scrutinizes could be interpreted as frightening, or predatory, if he were someone—or something—else. 

 

"What is your name, jiāngshī? I'd prefer it if I was speaking to an acquaintance. Perhaps I can give you my name in exchange.” 

 

Young beasts always have a certain air of entitlement about them. Having not learned the cruel ways of the immortal world, they view themselves as the largest fish in the ocean, wholly untouchable by anything or anyone. Mei Lian watches with satisfaction as the man suffers the realization that there are, in fact, things older and stronger than him in this world. A blood-water to a nine-tailed fox is what a human is to a god.

 

“Francis,” he eventually answers, sounding just a little breathless.

 

“I am Mei Lian.” She says, half-dipping her head as a show of courtesy. “It is nice to meet you, Francis.”

 

“It is nice to meet you too, Mei Lian.”

origami5432

VT

14 years old

foxsilk

VT

17 years old

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