Title: Beautiful Death (The Uruwashi Series #1)
Series: The Uruwashi Series
Book Length: 361
Publisher: Uruwashi Publications
His life is in a monster’s hands but he may be one himself.
The only thing about Tristan’s typical American life that’d been even slightly atypical was that he was adopted. The Blum’s raised him, loved him as if he was their own. But they never knew who Tristan really was, about the stigma his birth surname carried. Everything changed after their untimely death. Suddenly monsters are after Tristan and all because of a few words spoken by a remarkable stranger.
After carelessly stumbling into the arms of the enemy’s servant, a rotting jikininki, the one silently watching over Tristan is forced to intercede. Ash claims to be a hunter, but that’s not the whole truth. Whatever Ash is or isn’t, it’s neither good nor evil. And Ash is the only one who can save Tristan now. But can someone who can’t even accept the unwavering truth that maybe they never were really human to start with be saved?
EXCERPT (Chapter one)
1: Clubbed to Death
THERE were dead bodies everywhere. Skeletons, zombies, mummies, something hairy with fangs… Odoru Shikabane was one of the stranger clubs Tristan had been to. He wasn’t sure what the name meant in English, but the theme was clear: death. He half expected a real bat to fly by or find a guy dressed in a black cape with red lining telling all the girls “I vant to suck your blood.” Yep, it was just weird.
Tristan gave a soft oomph as someone plowed right into the back of him. “Hey pretty lady,” he said with a great big smile, looking down at the petite girl gawking up at him. “How’s it going? Ah… genki ka?” That was pretty much the extent of his Japanese right there. Well, plus a few curses, but she was too cute to curse at just for running into him.
The girl gasped and then was being dragged off by her friend, saying loudly in Japanese that she didn’t need to get mixed up with a gaijin. The small town was more than a little weary of foreigners and as gaijin went, Tristan stood out more than most with his towering height and handsome European features. At least he wasn’t in a skirt like the dude at the bar—it was only a kilt, but still, it wasn’t something you saw every day. At least not outside of Tokyo.
There was one who wasn’t intimidated by the American’s presence though as she wiggled up against him. That would be Shizuka. Her name meant “the quiet one.” Tristan wondered how someone like her ended up with a name like that. Seriously, the woman never shut up. She did a little dance, moving against him to get his attention. Her silly expression clearly said she had something to say—because she never did, right? Tristan bent down with a weary sigh. He wasn’t tired of her company really, but he was tired of her going on without being able to understand a thing she said. Even the English bits. Shizuka leaned in close, pressing as much of her front to his, a hand against his chest for support. The other found its way over his hip and grabbed a handful of American ass.
Tristan grinned at the new development, tilting his face into hers and met those gorgeous dark almond eyes. She had been getting all touchy feely with him from the start, but this was more forward, more demanding than before. Maybe she was tired of waiting for him to make a move. He wasn’t shy when it came to flirting, but somehow, he just wasn’t into it tonight. It might have had something to do with the reason he was in Japan to start with. He didn’t belong here. He knew he didn’t, but still he tried to force it. He had to find something normal in his life again. Flirting, drinking and the fun that came after was normal enough he supposed. Somehow though, it wasn’t enough. Not nearly.
“I get more drink,” Shizuka breathed into Tristan’s ear. She’d been feeding him drinks all night. If it was her plan to get him loaded, she’d have to try a hell of a lot harder than a handful of beers. She shot him a grin full of teeth and danced off towards the bar without another word—small miracle. She made sure to prance around so that her dress bounced up to show virgin white panties, now bright purple thanks to the black lights. Tristan grinned hard and found himself swaying with the pulse of the room, mesmerized by the music, the mass of bodies in endless dance and the sway of Shizuka’s cute little ass. The music picked up, a fast, frantic beat and he was lost to the pounding. He caught himself quickly and stopped, wondering what he was doing. He hated dancing.
Shizuka leaned over the front of the bar and flashed the entire place her rear end and those sexy glowing panties. Everyone was watching her. They were thinking primitive sexual thoughts—well, the men anyway. The women, they all looked like they were about to claw her pretty little eyes out. Tristan chuckled, studying Shizuka’s exposed backside, moving his gaze down the smooth line the back of her legs made all the way to her shiny red heels. She had a great set of legs.
An ashy voice cut through the din as if searching Tristan out, drawing him out of his admiration of the saucy Asian. “That is no woman.”
“S’cuse me…?” Tristan drawled, turning. “What the f—” His next words were cut off when he saw the person standing behind him. “The hell are you?” he asked, eyeing the soft-faced, shorty with long pale hair that glowed purple in the lights. Dude was wearing a cape. Yep, just like Dracula. But his question wasn’t to the costume. He had no idea if he was talking to a young woman or an older teenaged boy. Guess he didn’t really care. “Look, Count. I’m not interested in whatever you’ve got hidden in that cape, so scamper off and hit on someone else.”
If only the loudmouthed American knew all that was hidden within. Maybe he wouldn’t have been so quick to snap. “You misunderstand, Tristan.”
The young stranger’s voice made Tristan flinch back. It was strange, but he felt like the voice touched him, tickled his face. Or maybe he was drunker than he realized. “Howdya know me?” The words fell out of his mouth jumbled, tongue slow and uncooperative. He stopped and clutched his head feeling disorientated. He was sweating, though it had nothing to with the oppressiveness of the club. “You know what, forget it, I’m leaving.”
He turned to go, but the other man grabbed his arm, forcing him to stop.
“I am afraid it is for something rather more urgent than sex. I will only ask for you to come with me once politely.”
Tristan made a rude noise, giving him the look to go with it as he felt a little more himself and jerked his arm away. “Look, sweetheart. I’m not going anywhere with you. So why don’t you go find someone else to take home and play your silly vampire game with.”
“You misunderstand,” the stranger repeated sternly. “I could care less about games. I am here to help.”
“Ahuh. Help. I’ve heard that before. Seriously, piss off.”
The stranger let out an annoyed sigh, looked down, brought long fingers up to pinch a thin bridge of nose. Another sigh. “Looks like things must be done the hard way. Again.” When the wannabe vampire looked up again, he was grinning so that Tristan got a flash of press-on fangs. “But the hard way can be more liberating now, can it not?”
Unlike Shizuka, the stranger spoke perfect English and yet Tristan didn’t understand a word of their bizarre conversation. He blinked down at the stranger, wondering what in the hell he—yeah, Tristan decided that kind of arrogance had to be a dude—was rattling on about. He opened his mouth to ask just that when the guy reached out and grabbed his upper arm again.
“You do not have time for this.”
“Wha—” Tristan’s words turned into a small yelp of shock and he stumbled into a girl, spilling her drink all over them both. “Hey!” Tristan yelled over the music as he tumbled along, lead around by his arm like an indignant toddler. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”
Cries of surprise and groans of anger echoed around the pair as Tristan was dragged through the dense throng of hot, thrashing bodies. He tripped over his own feet, over other feet, over nothing fighting to keep up with the quick pace. He glared at the back of the short man’s head, willing his gaze to burn a hole through him. When that didn’t work, Tristan jerked his arm but it was as if the guy anticipated the movement seconds before it happened and tightened fingers into Tristan’s flesh. He groaned in frustration and tried to plant his feet against the floor, faintly aware that his arm hurt. He pulled back with his full body, thinking the smaller man couldn’t possibly hold on against his larger weight and his sneakers lost traction causing him to fall into a slender back, fingers tangled in silken hair.
“What the fuck?” Tristan muttered under his breath, arm still in the guy’s bruising grip.
The other man looked back, past Tristan. Green and blue lights reflected off his pale skin giving that fucking stupid smirk a sickly complexion. Tristan followed the other man’s line of sight and found Shizuka standing where he had been moments before, a drink in both hands, watching him being dragged off. She didn’t look very concerned.
Tristan huffed at her indifference and stumbled again, almost falling. There was a hard jerk on his arm and then he was being propelled forward. Hands slapped down onto his back and he went stumbling head first into a door painted blood red. His free hand went up to catch himself but he slipped, falling against the cold metal. He cursed loudly when his thumb pulled back at a bad angle—it was a miracle he didn’t dislocate it. The slurred words were barely out of his mouth when the stranger kicked in the long push bar with his heavy boot, making the door spring outward. Tristan was falling forward again, only to come to a sudden stop. Hard fingers dug into his ribs from behind as the guy grabbed him. Just as he thought the short shit decided to play nice, there was a deep grunt and then Tristan was airborne. He had seconds to think that the cold outside air felt good and then his right shoulder slammed into a dumpster. He cried out and tumbled backwards onto his ass. The ground was cool and wet through his jeans. The tang of blood filled his mouth where he’d bitten into his cheek.
He shook his head and mumbled, “Pretty strong for a scrawny little bitch.” He wobbled to his feet, turning to face the man who was now standing outside too, back to Tristan. “Look, asshole, I don’t know what the fuck your problem is, but you don’t need to be a fucking prick about it.” He was talking to the back of his head. The jerk hadn’t bothered to face him while he was speaking. “Hey, I’m talking to you.” He grabbed the thin shoulder in front of him and spun the shorter man to face him. Tristan’s fist was balled and moving towards that stoic expression before he had a chance to think about what his body was doing, a reaction that’d gotten him into trouble more than once recently.
Brilliant white flashed past Tristan’s vision seconds before his head snapped back, his body following the movement. After a moment of disorientation, Tristan realized he was on the ground against the dumpster, again. A tickle above his lip brought his hand up to find blood. He stared at the red dripping down his fingers for a moment, unbelieving and then up to the stranger. “You son of a bitch, who the fuck do you think you ar—”
The back door squeaked and they both jerked to attention. Tristan sighed to himself, thinking that sumo-sized dude who was doing crowd control had seen them and decided to follow them out. He was no stranger to a bar fight, or two, or the inevitable that generally followed. And who knew if the cops around here even spoke English. Guess it wouldn’t really matter either way since Tristan had no idea what the hell was going on. He didn’t have the faintest idea why he was sitting outside on his ass, in a filthy alleyway with a bloody nose, staring up at the short man who gave it to him.
“Shit,” Tristan said with a sigh. He was having a fairly decent night too, that was until this guy showed up. Now, it looked like he was going to end up in jail. Perfect.
The door opened and a beautifully shaped almond eye framed by smooth white porcelain appeared around the edge. Tristan let out a long breath, only half relieved. Shizuka stepped out into the alleyway, her heels making two sharp clicks against the ground. She watched with a cynical sort of smile while Tristan inched to his feet using the dumpster at his back as a crutch. Shizuka slid her hands behind her, leaning against the door as she glided across the front of it to make it click shut under her weight. She grinned broadly, too broadly. It was then he realized she was mirroring him, mocking him. He pushed off of the dumpster and took a step towards her, but not before tripping on his own feet again.
Shizuka stood off the door immediately, mimicking his movements, less the clumsy trip, and took a step towards him. Tristan’s expression shifted into anger as she gave him a huge shit-eating grin. He just about had enough of these two. He wanted to get the fuck out before he really did find himself in serious trouble.
“That was unnecessary,” Shizuka said to the stranger, amusement heavy in her voice as she fought off a laugh.
“It got you outside…,” he answered, “you disgusting filth.”
Now Tristan was just confused. He thought that maybe the guy wanted the girl, but now it looked like that couldn’t have been farther from the truth. Maybe it was the beer. Wouldn’t have been the first time it confused him.
“So rude.” Shizuka put hands to her slender hips. “Master teach you no manner?”
The young man grunted a crude laugh, as if it were some terrible joke. “Pitted against that man, I would be the one to teach manners.”
In her native tongue, Shizuka responded, “What do you want, fucking traitor whore?”
The stranger answered in perfect Japanese. “Now are those Shizuka’s words or his?”
“You know very well that answer.”
The man gave a heavy sigh. “I am here to stop you from doing this.”
“This one is special.”
“There was a telling,” Shizuka snapped. “He must die.”
“You are wrong.”
“He’s dangerous, As—”
“You have always been wrong,” he snapped, returning to English.
The creature laughed, all giggly and girly.
Tired of being left out of the conversation, Tristan took a heavy step forward, reaching for the stranger. “What, the fuck are you two—”
The shorter man’s head jerked around to glare at Tristan. All he could see of the look was those intense pale eyes but it was more than enough to shut him up, snap his hand back. He couldn’t explain it, but there was something dangerous and wild about this strange man who came barging into his life like a bad superhero in that silly cape and press-on fangs.
“Enough,” Shizuka said, returning to her version of English, “you bore and I have pet now. No hard feeling.”
Tristan smirked, wondering if he was the pet. Then he thought that sounded like a lot of fun, in the right situation. God, what the hell was wrong with him, thinking about sex at a time like this? “Look, it was nice meeting you both,” he said with a sarcastic tone that even the dead could hear. “But I’m done. I’m going home. You two have fun without me.”
Tristan pushed past the shorter man, bumping into his shoulder harder than he intended and tripped. He fell into the stranger and felt something hidden within the cape that he was sure he didn’t like. “What the fu—” The same moment he realized what the hard object was, Shizuka shot forward and decked Tristan. He never saw the hit coming and for such a tiny little thing, she packed one nasty punch. Tristan lost his footing and fell, timber, all six-three straight back. He only just managed to save from cracking his skull open on the pavement like a watermelon. When he looked up again, Shizuka was swinging at the stranger. Despite the absurdity of the whole damn situation, Tristan had to smile. The loudmouthed girl had more fire to her than he realized. He loved a woman that could kick his ass.
She took another swing at the stranger that went wide when he ducked and he countered, delivering a hard blow to Shizuka’s plexus.
“Hey!” Tristan shouted at him, stumbling to his feet again. “The hell is wrong with you… hitting a girl?”
Tristan threw his own punch that never made contact. He wasn’t sure how, only that the stranger was holding his fist in a cold, hard hand, blinking at him. “That is no woman.”
He said that before too, didn’t he? Tristan jerked his hand back, glanced at Shizuka then back to the man. “You’re a bit of an asshole. Or fucking blind.”
The other man gave a small nod. “I accept the former. However, the latter is far from the truth. It is you who is blind.”
“What the fuck are you talking about? You know what, I don’t give a shit. Come on Shizuka, I’ll take you home.”
“Stop!” The man darted out and grabbed Tristan’s wrist when he reached out to the woman. He started to argue, ready to punch the short shit’s lights out when there was a loud laugh echoed in the alleyway. They pair stopped grappling and looked up.
Shizuka looked… different, though Tristan wasn’t sure exactly why right away. “And that is not man.” She laughed again. “I think animal. Hai, hai, inu-chan…”
“Yogore,” the man hissed back.
Shizuka burst into laughter. Her flesh rippled from top to bottom and the smooth porcelain was replaced with dark, shriveled leather. The surface flaked, sending leaves of dead flesh to the ground like dirty brown snow. Voids opened, revealing knots of raw muscle and dark jelly. Silken black hair came off in thick clumps, taking chunks of scalp with it to fall to the pavement with a wet, sticky noise that echoed off the close walls.
As her body changed, so did her voice. Her laughter turned shrill. The short little black dress sagged on her frame as dark fluids poured out from under it and down spindly legs. She started to wobble on her feet, splashing up dark liquid as she took tiny steps to steady herself in her high heels. Finally, it was clear she couldn’t stand in those dangerous shoes anymore. She kicked them off, sending them towards the club exit and stepped bony feet into the body fluid collecting under her in a murky pool.
“Oh my god,” Tristan whispered and sucked in a sharp breath, catching a whiff of decay. He gagged and stumbled backwards until his back hit the dumpster, jabbing an elbow against the side. He sank to the ground against the bin, cradling his elbow to his chest, though the pain wasn’t enough to matter. Nothing mattered now except for the awful thing standing before him that he knew as Shizuka. The stranger made no movement that Tristan could see from his low seat. Somehow though, he knew the guy wasn’t surprised. That he knew exactly what this woman was.
The man sighed, shaking his head and reached inside his cape. “I had preferred that it not come to this.” The soft reverberation of metal rubbing against something solid sounded from under the fabric moments before the katana that Tristan felt earlier emerged.
Shizuka’s laughter finally subsided as she rolled cloudy brown eyes down to look at the others. She grinned broadly showing the muscles of her jaw in thick leathery strands. When she spoke again, it was the voice of a cartoon snake, all hiss. “Silly toy for silly—”
“Damare!” the cloaked stranger shouted and darted forward, blade aimed right for Shizuka’s head.
Totally thrown off guard, lost and confused, Tristan gave a small cry and jerked back in shock, hitting his head on the dumpster. He lifted a fist and banged it into the side. He was angry that he hadn’t high-tailed it out of there while he had the chance. He was angry that all he could do was sit there and watch, trapped between a stinking dumpster and a man with a sword fighting a zombie.
A fucking zombie.
He thought briefly of getting up, trying to sneak away. Maybe of evening helping the guy he was ready to punch out only minutes before. But he fell into a trance, staring at the spectacle before him. It was a dance these two performed. Somehow, despite one being short, the other short and dead, they both moved with a delicate grace, and it was completely mesmerizing. He was shaken out of the trance though when Shizuka landed a hard blow to the man’s stomach that made him give a low groan and shudder. But, he didn’t go down.
Zombie Shizuka stepped back, shifting into a stance that would have been appealing if she had her skin. Her chin started to jiggle in a movement that was the beginning of her trying to speak, but then her lower jaw fell off. The man gave a crude grunt and a little leap, aiming for Shizuka again with that sharp, shiny blade. But he was swinging at empty space. The blade whipped through the air, pulled downward as gravity brought man and metal back to the earth. The tip chipped into asphalt with a loud metal ting. Tristan had only a moment for his lethargic brain to think about why it was wrong before the man spun on his heel, lifting the sword towards Tristan.
He put his hands up. “Whoa, hey—”
Shizuka appeared between them and reached out, grabbing the man by his neck with those disgusting decomposed fingers. He let out a long breath and lowered his arms, letting them hang lifelessly at his sides as she held him in place. The sword almost slipped from his fingers, but he didn’t seem to notice one way or the other. There was no fear in his eyes as a dark, closed-mouth smile curled his lips, not quite reaching those pale eyes.
A blaze of bright metal flashed up past Shizuka’s side and the arm gripping the stranger’s neck was suddenly on the ground. Shizuka wailed and reached for him again with her remaining arm as he jumped away. His toes barely touched asphalt and then he was airborne again moving towards Shizuka. Towards Tristan. Tristan sucked in a sharp breath through clenched teeth when the guy suddenly appeared directly in front of him, toe to toe. The young man stared down at him, calm and relaxed as if he had been there all along. As if there wasn’t a zombie trying to kill him.
Tristan blinked up at him for the longest ten seconds of his life, not a single tangible thought making its way to the surface to help guide him to something close to sane. He finally tore his gaze from the stranger. Shizuka was standing behind him with her back to the others. Tristan looked up to the man again, confused and whispered, “What happe—”, but never got to finish his question. Shizuka’s head broke away from her neck and hit the ground with a loud crack. Seconds later her body crumbled to the ground with a heavy weight that said she was more than skin and bones. The stench of death doubled as a breeze brought Shizuka’s scent to the others. It seemed to seek Tristan out, tickling its way into his sinuses, making the back of throat itch. Tristan’s stomach tightened and the blood drained from his face so fast it made him dizzy.
The cloaked man blinked slowly, his eyes coming into focus on Tristan’s. Expression utterly blank, he gave his blade a quick flick at his side. Tristan flinched at the sudden movement and wished he hadn’t. Expression still impassive, the stranger flung his long hair over his shoulder, turned away, and brought his sword down onto the mass of bones and rotted flesh that was once Shizuka.
The first piece of zombie was tossed over Tristan’s head to the dumpster and a warm glob of something squishy, wet and stinking of rot fell to his forehead and stuck. That was all it took. Tristan’s stomach twisted and he scrambled to his knees, retching on the pavement.
When his stomach was empty of all of its contents Tristan sat back on his heels, his back to the guy. He took in a deep breath past his burning throat and hung his head in hopes to ease the pounding. He could hear the cutting of rotted flesh and bones. He wasn’t ready to turn around and see that again. Not just yet. He sighed, shutting his eyes and his head spun again. When he opened his eyes, something to his right caught his attention in a dark corner between the dumpster and a wall. Stomach spinning, head feeling even worse, he decided standing wasn’t an option at the moment and pushed to hands and knees to crawl forward a few paces.
“Oh shit!” he screamed and fell back onto his ass, damp gravel cutting into his palms.
“What is it?” the zombie slayer asked, annoyance lacing his words. The cracks of breaking bone echoed loudly off the walls as he deftly finished his work.
A new nightmare, the crumpled body of a naked woman shoved in the corner like a pile of trash. Her stomach cavity had been ripped open and emptied, leaking stinking bile and other vital liquids on to the pavement. The edges of the hole were torn and jagged like an animal had at it with its teeth. Bloody scratches ran down the length of her face stopping at lips frozen in a frightened scream. Two dark, cavernous holes stared blindly up at nothing where her eyes had been ripped out.
“Ther—there’s a dead girl back here.” He didn’t think he even spoke loud enough for the guy to hear. He swallowed hard against the tang of his regurgitated dinner and alcohol. He was sure he was going to lose it again. God, what was wrong with him? He never got sick from just drinking. And as his head spun he was sure the reason had more to do with Shizuka than he realized.
“Ah yes, I had almost forgotten about that. The jikininki I just disposed of did that. It needed the—” He paused and Tristan looked over his shoulder to him, disgusted. He was twirling his hand in a small circle like he was searching for the appropriate word. Finally he settled on, “Sustenance, from that poor soul there to appear as the exquisite woman she was.”
“I—I don’t understand…”
“I know.” He strolled forward, boots silent on the pavement, and extended a hand.
Tristan gave the pale hand a long, slow blink and whispered, “You askin’ me for a dance again?” A heavy, dark fuzziness was creeping in on the edges of his vision. He shuddered, suddenly cold and let out a long sigh. “You’re pretty sweet, for a weird lookin’ dude.”
The “weird lookin’ dude” gave a dismayed sigh. “Come, we must go.”
Tristan met those strange eyes and gave him another long look. “Go… with you? Why?”
The offer of a hand was rescinded with a scowl. “Did you not figure that much out?”
Tristan shook his head, immediately regretting it. Thick lace covered his vision, blurring everything and he swayed, even though he was seated firmly on the ground.
“That jikininki knew me,” he said, voice steadily rising, “but it was summoned to hunt you.”
Tristan could only manage to answer with a long, drawn out, “Oh.” Someone was looking for him? That was nice. He dropped his face into his hands and toppled over. Something dark and warm was coursing through him. He was certain of it now, that he’d been drugged. It was whispering promises of sweet sleep to him. His eyes had shut, though he couldn’t remember when. He was losing against the drug. It was better to not fight it anyway.
“Who—what… ?” He couldn’t even finish his sentence. What was he even trying to say? Guess it wasn’t important.
“Everything is okay,” came the stranger’s creamy smooth voice, like a distant whisper. It was strangely comforting. “I am here now to—” His voice broke. “Just… sleep.”
Tristan let out a long groan, the drug finally claiming victory over him. He thought he heard the stranger again in his last twilight of consciousness whisper something about ashes.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
SOMETIMES known as Stinna (pronounced Steena), Christina Moore just so happens to be her real name. Her writing career started under a pseudonym in the romance genre. But her true love has always been the paranormal. Vampires, werewolves, demons, faerie and everything in between, she loves them all—the allure of the unknown. The birth of the Uruwashi series started many years ago with a daydream sparked by a very special voice of a certain bad-ass vampire in her favorite anime. Little did she know then that the story of the Uruwashi would morph into what it is today.
When not writing or chasing her toddler, Christina loves to read, garden, cross-stitch, and play video games. A Maryland native, she lives just outside of beautiful historic downtown Annapolis with her husband, daughter (a.k.a. Tiny Boss) and two Australian Shepherds, Deunan and Aydin. Growing up riding horses to show in dressage and cross-country, later moving on to racing Volkswagens and then finding a career in the architecture industry as a graphic artist/mother hen, she’s never been a real expert in any one thing. Christina has a passion for diversity and enjoys many types of music, film and literature that sometimes clash with the norm. She’s often said she’s going to marry Spike Spiegel when she grows up—her husband understands.
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