Chapter XLV: Kindred of the East
Chinatown was a breath of, if not fresh, at least less stagnant air. Brightly lit streets and Chinese lanterns bobbing overhead gave the district a feeling of life that the run-down section of Hollywood had lacked. I didn't imagine that snuff movies, flesh-crafters and mouths-with-legs would be bursting out of every shadow here. At the end of the street was a small Chinese temple. It was time to make myself known to the Kuei-Jin. Time for this agent of the prince to pay his respects.
I walked up to the large double-doors which sealed off the temple from the main street, pushing them open without so much as the squeak of a hinge. The doors were well-maintained, the hinges carefully oiled, the goldwork polished.
Behind the gate was an equally kept garden, the small lake clean, the trees pruned. I crossed the bridge to a small pagoda, opening the door. Inside was a cold yet beautiful woman, startling red paint spreading from her eyes, perfect white teeth glinting in the light, partially hidden by a pair of full lips. Power radiated from her, different from other vampires, yet familiar. Perhaps my ability to sense such things had heightened, perhaps her aura was so strong it was impossible to miss...I was unsure. What I knew however was that it would be very important to watch my step.
The woman's voice was cultured, with no hint of accent. Tone even and polite. I responded in kind.
'No, no tea, thank you.'
Tone condescending, and amused. I cooly regarded the woman, refusing to let the jibe affect the conversation. If she felt I was another one of LaCroix's pawns, ineffectual and quick to anger, she was mistaken.
'Your kind can? You enjoy such things?'
Again, the tone was contemptuous, showing an obvious distaste for the 'western' vampires. Unspoken was the apparent belief that the children of Caine were a meaningless parasite. I bristled slightly, yet kept my tone polite.
'Surely we have some similarities?'
Let her believe I was polite, curious. What I really wanted to know, what the Beast inside me desired, was to know how easy it would be to grant her final death.
'I see', I murmured. 'And how are you born? Is it like our embrace?'
The Beast snarled, pulling at the restraints humanity placed upon it. Arrogant bitch! Our curse is her 'awakening'. Spare me the spiritual bullshit. You're a predator just as much as we are...
'Interesting', I replied innocently. 'So, you choose to become a vampire then?'
Ming-Xiao's eyes widened in surprise momentarily, her lips parting. Annoyed, perhaps at the question, perhaps at her own reaction, she replied in a cold tone.
I'll bet. The urge to smirk at her rose inside me, yet I kept it as tightly controlled as I did the Beast. If I was to work here, I needed her nose out of my affairs.
'And the purpose of this 'awakening'?'
She doesn't know...she's just as clueless as the rest of us.
'No offence intended, but that doesn't really sound much different to our existence.'
'I'm hardly burdened by what may or may not be a fairy-tale', I retorted, watching Ming-Xiao's surprise at my response with amusement. 'I assume, of course, you are referring to the sarcophagus?'
I fantasised then, fantasies of cleaving her skin from bone, of watching her decompose, trapped outside with the dawn. Of pulling her head back by her raven-black hair, sinking my teeth into her throat, draining the 'essence' contained in her blood. Proving to her, in her final moments, that Kuei-Jin existence was just as bloody and pointless as ours.
'You don't have it then.'
'Just thought I'd ask. Onto more pressing business. I'm looking for a Nosferatu working for Gary. He appears to have gone missing here in Chinatown.'
'Wong Ho? Another Kuei-Jin?'
If there was one area where the Kuei-Jin were more forward thinking than the Kindred of LA, it was recognising the usefulness of contacts amongst the mortals. Not just ghouls, but those that could be relied upon for information. Perhaps that was why I was having so much luck keeping myself alive; I didn't care who I went to for information, for the things I needed to survive. If it was true that pride comes before the fall, I intended to make sure that LaCroix was leaning over that impressively high balcony of his. I muttered a brief pleasantry at Ming-Xiao before leaving the building, closing the gate to the temple behind me.