This page is rated G+ for Light Violence, Light Horror Themes, and Mention of Substances.
Rane sat on the front step of her parents' house, waiting for her father to come home. It didn't matter that the sun had long gone from the sky and that her mother expected her to be in bed, nor did it matter that she might well get no sleep as she waited for what she knew might not happen until the dawn. Rane would wait, for hours if need be, just to see what her parents had been hiding from her all these years: where her father went while she slept.
Rane never quite understood why she needed to sleep when it was dark and be awake when the sun shone. To her, the dark was more comforting and approachable than the light, almost like another friend. Except for the peculiar tedium of school, she saw no reason that, on moonlit nights like this one, she should be in bed instead of pursuing the same activities she would on any sunlit day. The light was all the same to her.
As Rane sat, pondering patiently on the peculiarities of the pattern that she was perforce obliged to withhold, a scraping sound in the street took her by surprise, and she had scant time to react before the source of the noise had nearly struck her. A man and his cart loomed into view above her, and had she not heard its approach and thrown herself to the side away from the cart, she might well have been run over by the cart's careless driver.
The rustle of Rane's movement alerted the man with the cart to her presence, and he hastily pulled his wagon to a halt, bending over to ensure that he had not hurt her (with a generous admixture of ensuring that she was not, in fact, some creature of the night stolen away in a hole nearby about to leap upon him and tear him to oblivion). After a short look, he was assured that Rane was no more than an ordinary medium-sized girl, and he reached down to help her up.
"My apologies," the man said, staggering a bit under the abrupt force of Rane utilizing the full leverage that his arm afforded to drag herself back to the stoop in a split second. "I 'ad no idea ye were out 'ere." He looked at her with mild concern. "What're ye doin' out 'ere at this time o' night, li'l lady?"
Rane did not respond. She blinked at him a few times, hoping that he would dismiss her silence as obfuscating stupidity and continue on his way, expecting no answers from her.
This did not work as planned.
"Does yer mother know yer out here?" the man said. "Dangerous t' be alone out 'ere by yerself at this time o' night. All sorts of things might attack a li'l girl such as yerself."
"Like a cart," Rane offered.
The man scratched his head sheepishly. "Well I 'ad no idea ye were out 'ere."
"You should look where you're going more frequently," Rane suggested. "Are there things that attack men such as yourself out at night too?"
The man sighed and backpedaled. "All I'm sayin' is, it's not a time t' be outside. I'm only out here 'cause of tryin' t' get this cart home so I can get some sleep too. My son's around your age, and I know if I found 'im here at this time I'd give 'im what for."
"My mother didn't say I couldn't go out here," Rane said. "Maybe she knows something you don't? There might be a magical ward over the door protecting me."
"Well, I'll be off," the man said, looking spooked. "Best of luck to ye." He drove off in a hurry, glancing over his shoulder every so often until he was out of sight.
When the man left, Rane heaved a sigh of relief. She did not like being obnoxious to anyone, but then again, she didn't like strangers either, and she didn't want the man staying for so long that her mother would hear the racket and bring her back in. After all, the whole reason for Rane's vigil on the doorstep was to wait until her father came home. Until that happened, she'd do whatever she felt necessary to keep her position safe.
On safety, Rane was also extremely aware of the fact that there was nothing keeping her safe, no wards over her door to heal her or defend her from harm. She'd been acutely aware of a pain in the leg that came down beneath her when she dodged the cart. Though investigation revealed that the damage incurred was little more than a scratch, that itself was enough to show that she had no safety. Well, no physical safety. She liked to believe that the refuge that audacity brought her gave her some safety in her position, a theory bolstered by the encounter with the cart-pushing man. After all, if she hadn't done whatever came to mind, she might well have been indoors and never known what her father was up to. So, she justified, this was certainly well worth the potential cost in reputation that her nastiness had brought her. She could always pass it off as having been under the effects of some malady, at any rate. It still made her uncomfortable to think about—she didn't want to have to deal with it later—but she would, as she always did. As far as Rane was concerned, she could handle anything.
The minutes passed by, lengthening into hours, and Rane found herself with an all-consuming feeling of ennui. In order to pass the weary seconds, she felt around her environment where the shifting moonlight did not cover. Within minutes of this search, she felt a sudden sense of elation when her fingers revealed a diminutive circular object. Holding it up to the light revealed it to be a small silver coin. Feeling satisfied with her new possession and the efficiency of her resourcefulness, Rane was composed until a sudden shock hit her: the coin had not been there when she returned home from her studies that day. Hence, the most likely occurrence was that the coin had been dropped by the cart man, something made all the more plausible by the clink that she believed she'd heard when he came by just before the near-collision. This left her in quite the quandary: If she kept the coin, she might be considered to have stolen it, yet if she returned it, that would merely raise more questions about all that had transpired that night. As she intensely desired for none to know of her illicit adventures of the night, she resolved to keep the coin's presence a secret from all for as long as she could. Holding it tightly in the palm of her hand, she kept it there until she could finally go indoors for the night; her attire of the moment had no pockets, so her hands were all she could conceive of to keep small, secret stashes.
Rane's train of thought was abruptly interrupted by the sound of a woman's voice. Suddenly in fear of her mother's wrath, Rane was assured of the fact that it was not her mother by the fact that the man's voice that accompanied it was not her father's, and he spoke to the woman as if she were his wife. As far as she knew, her mother was not the wife of the man she now heard: none other than the cart man.
The cart man had, by this time, congealed into her mind into something monstrous, perhaps something like a man who was, in fact, half cart, some type of unholy Effigy that none had yet heard the likes of. The observance of the mancart's further adventures was thus something of the gravest import. Never in her 10 years had Rane seen or heard of something like it. Her vigil now was the most dire mission, and the careful observance of every line of the ensuing dialogue had become something to turn her full attention to. Ceasing to distract herself with the seemingly important yet less urgent thoughts that occupied her, she began to listen to the couple speaking with the full attention of her powerful mind.
"…an' I don't know what was up with that girl," came the voice of the cart man. "She was sittin' out there like there wasn' no darkness at all."
"Ye sure she isn' still out here?" the woman's voice came, now clearly not her mother.
"Surely her mother's taken her inside by now," the man said. "It's the dead of night. Who'd still be out here by now?"
"Fair point," the woman said. "Everyone's surely asleep by now."
Rane grinned at the darkness, a living defiance of all reason as espoused by this couple. She imagined her grin hanging in midair by the man and woman, a taunt that he was too obsessed with his cartman dealings to realize was mere inches from his presence. Then she realized that this was extremely creepy, and she would hardly like a grin hanging by her, so she dismissed the thought.
"Girl reminds me of her father," the man's voice came again. Rane had missed little with her thoughts; apparently the man had lit a pipe in the interim. Pipes were useful devices for giving convenient pauses in conversation. "Ye ever think he might not be what he seems t' be?"
"What could he be, dearest?" the woman said, some dubiousness and tension in her voice, as though she feared Rane's father to be something more monstrous than her cartman husband.
"Ye ever notice him during the day?" said the man. "Or ever seen him anywhere but the one li'l building on the far side of town, scuttlin' to and from there like his life depended on it?"
The woman remained silent. Rane could imagine why, but wasn't sure how accurate her imagination was.
"Ye ever think he was a Vampire?" the man said.
The woman gasped. "A Vampire? He couldn' be a vampire! I seen him out at dusk once, helpin' his wife take down somethin' off a clothesline in the front yard! Vampires don't go out before it's all dark out, do they?"
The man chewed on his pipe a bit. "Most don't, but there're the Halfbloods. They don't burn in the dusk like the Fullblood Vampires do. Girl looks human enough, so does her mother. He could be a Halfblood and we'd never realize it."
"Now, dear, don't go off on wild guesses," said the woman, who sounded quite frightened. "He's prob'ly just a normal person, just as you 'n' I are."
"That's as might be," the man said skeptically. "He's no more normal than the other blokes in Crimson Lightning, that's fer sure."
"Isn' that a legend?" the woman said. Rane was starting to become annoyed at just how clueless these people were. They were at least thrice her age, by the Dwimmery's sake. They should have known more about what was actually going on in their own small town.
"…goin' in and out at all hours of the day an' night, so they say," the man was saying. Rane had really missed something this time. "But that's nothin' for us to worry about, I suppose. If they exist, it's for protectin' us, and if they don't, there's nothin' to worry about. Nothin' to worry about at all."
A bird tweeted. The sky was no longer black, but was instead the deepest conceivable blue.
"We should go inside now," the man said. "Folks'll be stirrin' not too long from now. We'll talk more there."
The voices withdrew. Rane was once again alone in the darkness; her mission to spy on the occurrences of the strange man was complete. Her secondary mission, to wait for her father, was hardly complete. Rane closed her eyes in boredom as she continued waiting.
When Rane opened her eyes seconds later, she was lying on her back in a most uncomfortable position, and the sky had become a far more recognizable blue. Rane felt rather stupid for having given into such a childish thing as falling asleep when it was not convenient to do so. Within her full ten years of age, she should have left such things behind as unfortunate relics of the past. She pulled herself up, shook herself groggily, and noticed that her leg had completely healed.
That last was quite the surprise to Rane when she stared at it further. She was not used to scrapes disappearing quite so quickly.
She thought over everything that had happened that night, dwelling on her father perhaps being a Vampire. If he were even a Halfblood one, as the couple had said, that would mean she was a Vampire too, perhaps a Quarterblood or whatever denomination those would have received in Vampiric circles.
She'd also heard a legend that Vampires healed in moonlight with the aid of silver around. She wasn't sure if it was true, but if it was, she was suddenly ecstatic at the prospect of what it entailed. If she could heal in peculiar cases and thus was a Vampire, that would open the door to a world of magical occurrences that she'd thought were all sheer fantasy. She jumped up in excitement and nearly collided with her father, who had suddenly appeared on his way in.
Her father was not surprised at her presence. He was never surprised by anything. It appeared that he always knew everything before it would occur, an impressive feat of precognition that was, realistically, most likely more a matter of temperament than an actual magical power. Still, that didn't preclude the fact that her father, perhaps, did have magical abilities. Rane decided to ask him about that possibility the moment that she was no longer outside.
The possibility occurred precisely four seconds later, when they were indoors. Her father was in the act of opening his mouth to say something that would be forever lost to the mists of time, for Rane took this opportunity to ask the question that she had been wondering since the beginnings of twilight before the dawn.
"Father," she said, "are you a Vampire?"
The faintest hint of surprise displayed in her father's eyes.
"Why do you ask?" he said.
"I heard this couple saying you were a Vampire and were in some legendary organization called Crimson Lightning," she said, having trouble concealing her excitement. "Is that where you always disappear to when it gets dark out?"
Her father sat down. That was generally a sign of unusual occurrences.
"I'm not precisely a Vampire," he said. "My mother was a Vampire. My father was a human like the couple who lives nearby."
Rane's hopes were momentarily dashed by the fact that monstrous mancarts did not, in fact, exist in the neighborhood, but they were restored by what she realized her father had just said.
"I'm a Halfblood Vampire, to be specific," her father said. "Your mother is fully human, like my father, so you're technically a Quarterblood Vampire."
"So that random denomination I came up with on the spur of the moment is an official name?" Rane blurted out before she could stop herself. "That is really neat!"
"Your mother and I never mentioned that you were a Quarterblood because we didn't want you worrying about being a magical creature of some sort or having any trouble from others for that reason," her father said.
"Why would I worry about that or have any trouble?" Rane said, nonplussed.
"Don't worry about it," her father said. "Just don't tell anyone that you're a Vampire, and you should be all right." He stood back up and put his hand on her shoulder reassuringly. "Now you should probably go back to bed."
"Can I ask you one more thing first?" Rane said. "I don't know if I should tell anyone this either."
Her father nodded. He looked very tired.
"…Are you in that legendary Crimson Lightning organization for protecting people?" Rane asked.
"Yes," he said. "Please don't tell anyone about that, either."
"Can I be in it too?" Rane said.
"This has exceeded the one-question limit," her father said, heading towards his room, "but I'll consider it."
Rane looked disappointed. "I'm really competent for someone my age. I was able to sit out there all night just to find out what was going on, I spied on a mancart who wasn't a cart but could have been and escaped safely, and they don't mind you being a Vampire so they probably wouldn't mind me either, right? I could definitely handle this and help you save the world!"
Her father gave her a small smile of amusement. "Don't gain any feelings of chūnibyō," he said. "I'll consider letting you into the group. Just go back to sleep. I'll have an answer for you not too long from now."
He closed his room's door. Her primary mission accomplished, Rane returned to her own room, feeling as though the night's escapades were absolutely worthwhile. With a world of adventure that might be at her doorstep, Rane looked forward to the day she'd walk into the world outside her home as something far more than she'd ever dreamed.