Author's Note: This story is going to be a series of one-shot continuations of Tsukihime, each of them pursuing one ending of the possible heroines. I may or may not write a Ciel chapter, depending. (No offense to Ciel fans, but she's my least favorite.) I plan to write a chapter for Arcueid, Akiha, Hisui, Kohaku, and perhaps Sion. All will be told in the first person from the perspective of Shiki. Generally I prefer third person as it allows for better descriptions of the characters as a whole. However, first person perspective, while limited in scope, allows the reader to use their imagination a bit more to fill in the blank spots. I think the story will stay truer if I let Shiki tell the story as well. Read, review, and most of all: Enjoy!
I also want to extend a big thanks to everyone who read my Elfen Lied story, and a bigger thanks to everyone who left me some love. Thanks for the support! Hope you enjoy this one too!
I place my silverware down upon the expensive china and pat the corners of my mouth lightly with the pure white handkerchief that had previously rested in my lap. Folding it properly, I set it aside on the dark mahogany table, careful not to spill any crumbs that might have clung to the cloth. I carefully extend my right hand, taking a light grip on the wine glass half-filled with a well aged Merlot.
It is a beautiful spring afternoon. I can hear the muffled chirping of sparrows outside. It is still a bit frigid, but not in an oppressive way. Rather, it is a cool, refreshing breeze that blows just beyond the walls, carrying with it a slight hint at the warmer weather sure to come. The wind also carries the overwhelming scent of flowers beginning to bloom, the kind that is delightful and hopeful to some, while devastating to those with sensitive allergies. I, as fate would have it, am of the former. Even if I had terrible allergies I think I could still enjoy it. Maybe I'm just a romantic, but the feel of the wind in winter is dead and desolate, sending shivers up your spine, and not just from the temperature. Spring's air has something much more alive…if I had to give it a word…hope.
Sunlight filters at a low angle through the tall windows of the dining hall, giving the dark wood of the elaborate room a tinge of color. I glance at the vibrancy of the wine in my glass, the sunlight refracting through the dark liquid. But only for a moment. I take a large sip, letting it lay on my tongue, allowing my palate the opportunity to truly appreciate its taste before swallowing. I suppose living in this extravagant mansion has rubbed off on me in some ways. For one, I certainly appreciate my food more and try to take my time in enjoying it. Don't misunderstand though, I haven't become bourgeoisie. The way I dress is largely the same. Clean and kempt, but I like to keep things simple.
"Brother, are you finished?" My counterpart asks, before placing a cut of meat into her mouth and making slow and precise chewing movements, her jaw hardly moving at all. From across this elongated dining table, she truly does have the aura of nobility. That aspect of her has never changed. She maintains an air of sophistication about her in most situations, but her fiery temper sometimes gets the better of her. Fortunately, or maybe unfortunately for her, I'm one of the very select few who get to see that display.
She's aged a bit as well, and her features have developed more fully. She's taller by a few centimeters, and her raven black hair is a little longer, but ever straight and well maintained. She's abandoned her trademark headband, and replaced it with a slightly new hairstyle. Rather than keeping her bangs restrained, she's let them grow out, tucking one side behind her ear and allowing the other side to fall down the side of her face to her shoulder. Since she graduated high school, she of course no longer parades around in the required uniform, but in designer fashions. Lately, she's taken a liking to tight, form hugging pants of dark colors and various sweaters that leave a bit of her shoulders exposed. A gutsy move for sure, but somehow it fits her. Akiha….she's really grown into a beautiful woman, I muse inwardly.
"..yeah, I'm full. It was delicious, as always, Kohaku."
I glance past Akiha's shoulder to Kohaku, who is standing faithfully behind her employer as always, awaiting any possible requests that need fulfilled. She gives me a bright smile and bows slightly.
"I'm glad you enjoyed it, Master Shiki." Ugh. My brow furrows a bit at that. She's acting the part perfectly, but the emphasis she placed, or seemed to, on the Master part. I'll never get used to that.
Akiha raises an eyebrow but continues to eat regardless. She had really let into Kohaku one day after a Tohno family meeting that was held at the estate. Kohaku, who had been kind enough these past few years in honoring my request not to call me "Master" had let it slip out during the meeting when she asked me if I would care for a glass of water. It seems that Shinjiro Tohno was rather outraged at the notion of a "mere servant" calling her employer by his first name with no honorifics. Since then, Akiha laid down the iron hammer, and from that day, I was Master Shiki, and she was Lady Akiha, no exceptions…except when we are in private. Albeit, that doesn't happen too often, but Kohaku, as if in an unspoken understanding still just calls me Shiki if we happen by each other and neither Hisui nor Akiha are around.
Kohaku's playful eyes catch mine in an awkward fashion: she seems to pull them from their sockets with her gaze. She covers her wide grin with her hand, and quickly composes herself before Akiha turns to glance at her (God forbid.) She hasn't really changed much, looking at her from here. She still dawns the same style of clothing, dark kimono with an apron overtop, and a dark indigo hair ribbon. I glance over my own shoulder, confirming Hisui still behind me. She hasn't really changed either. Both of the twins have kept their hairstyles the same length and style, on top of their choice of clothing. Not that there are a lot of options as a maid anyway…She looks down to me momentarily, silently asking if I need anything, to which I shake my head lightly and return my eyes to Akiha.
Her stare is even worse…if Kohaku can pull my eyes from my sockets, Akiha simply stabs them out! I guess this was inevitable…I'm completely lost in thought. Moreover…I keep reminiscing; about each of us, how much we've changed, how much we've stayed the same….since when did I turn into an old man?
Akiha sets her silverware down upon her plate and signals for Kohaku to begin cleaning up after her. She complies.
"Well then, I suppose you should be off to your studies for the rest of the afternoon?" she says, eyes closed, wiping her delicate mouth with her handkerchief before placing it down upon the plate now being lifted away by Kohaku. Hisui follows suit, and begins carrying away my soiled dinnerware before I've even realized she is doing so.
"Actually, I don't have any studying to do." I respond flatly.
She eyes me momentarily, then crosses her arms in front of her chest.
"Nonsense, you have finals coming up."
"I arranged to take them last week. The semester is over for me as of yesterday."
Akiha eyes me suspiciously with those icy blue eyes of hers. She's been giving me that look for the past few days. As much as I hate to admit it, my little sister has always been frighteningly good at telling when I'm up to something she doesn't like, and dawns this personality of hers. It's kinda scary…
She's normally so sweet, at least around Kohaku, Hisui and I. But when something goes wrong outside of her routine, there's hell to pay. I knew this was coming, but how can you prepare for this properly?
"Kohaku, Hisui, would you please join us? …I…have an announcement to make."
The red-headed sisters had just returned from the kitchen to gather the remainder of the dinnerware, only to be flanked by such an unorthodox request. They both nodded silently and took opposing seats on the sides of the long table, halfway between Akiha and myself. As they settled in, I suddenly had three uneasy gazes on me: one plucking my eyes out, the other stabbing them out, and one pouring salt in (that'd be Hisui.) I drew in a deep breath and sighed, slumping my shoulders slightly as I folded my hands across the smooth surface of the wood. I smiled, in spite of myself, fighting back further temptations to see them as they were years ago.
"…as I just told Akiha, I arranged to take my final exams last week, which is why I haven't paid much attention to the three of you these past few weeks, and for that, I am sorry."
Hisui's guilt-inducing gaze softens into something more like worry, which of course, makes me feel even worse. Kohaku's interested look goes somewhat blank, and Akiha keeps her poker face. She really should put that to good use…it doesn't really matter what, as long as it doesn't involve me.
"…I have a personal errand to run…and I will be leaving the country this evening. I...don't know how long I'll be gone."
The panorama of facial expressions continues. Hisui looks even more worried; the sort of twisted face that says "How could you?" Kohaku looks to Akiha in amazement, but probably also in anticipation of what was sure to be an entertaining reaction, if nothing else. This entertainment could only be enjoyed by an outsider I think, not someone in my shoes. Her expression darkens.
"…Brother…what kind of…errand could be so important to sacrifice your studies and leave your only family behind?"
"I'm not sacrificing my studies; I simply took my finals a few weeks ahead of time. And I'm sorry I have to leave you three, I really am. This is just…it's just something that I have to do. Please understand."
"Like hell I'll understand!" Akiha interrupts the timid Hisui with a loud outburst, causing her to jump slightly. She's leaning forward in her seat now, her hands pressing roughly onto the table. Kohaku just rotates her head like an oscillating fan, taking in all of our words and expressions. Kohaku…quit distracting me…this could get dangerous!
She continues to glare at me, prodding me to give her some other kind of explanation, but I've already given it. I don't even really know where my final destination is, so I can't tell them where I'm going. Even so, it could get dangerous, I'm not about to risk them following. Akiha must have felt that she's lost this long-range glaring contest, as she bolts out of her chair and strides powerfully towards me.
I stand out of my chair as well, suppressing the urge to put up my hands in defense. Hisui is standing too, prancing over to us on the opposite side of the table, one hand clutching the fabric of her apron at the chest, her face configured in worry. Kohaku remains in her seat, continuing to watch with a dumbfounded expression. Akiha comes within proximity, her hands on her hips, her eyes demanding.
"Where are you going then?"
"..I don't know for sure…"
"Unacceptable! You are the eldest son of the Tohno family, and you're not a child anymore! You're twenty-two! First you tell us you're leaving in a few hours, now you refuse to tell us where you are going, what you are doing, and with whom!?"
"…I didn't say anything about anyone else, Akiha."
"Am I wrong?"
This isn't going very well…not that I expected it should.
"Why?" She asks me. Plainly. Her anger seems to be fading into something else... something more…
"…why are you…" It's pain. Pain painted across her beautiful features.
"..I thought that those days were over. I thought that I could finally live a happy life with my brother…so why? Why are you leaving again?" Intense pain, betrayal.
"Answer me Shiki!" she yells, holding her palms to her chest.
I do the only thing I can think of. Her expression, riddled with this paranoia, this perceived abandonment, there's only one thing I can think to do. I step forward, and pull her into my arms. I give my little sister a strong, supportive embrace. She lets out a painful sigh, which is a relieved sigh to my ears, as it signifies the release of her frustration…hopefully in a non violent way.
"Akiha…I'm not leaving you. I don't know how long I'll be gone, but I promise I'll be back as soon as I can."
She doesn't say anything, but daintily returns my embrace, placing her hands under my arms and onto each shoulder blade.
"Didn't I promise you? I can't leave my little sister alone anymore. I don't know what kind of irresponsible things she'll do if I'm not around." I say half-jokingly. She chuckles lightly. It seems that she at least understands that I'm not leaving her in the sense she had thought. It's not what I wanted, exactly, but I'll accept that. I really wanted a smooth sendoff, but reality isn't always that kind. I glance over to Hisui, who seems a bit relieved, having returned her hands to their usual, clasped position at her stomach. Kohaku is still seated, eyeing the situation with a slight smile.
"That's right…I'll have all kinds of strange men over here and do uncouth things if you're not here, Brother, so you better not be gone long!"
I can't help but laugh. She pulls away from me, eyeing me with intensity.
"What? You don't think I will?"
"…I don't doubt you for a minute Akiha. I'll be back soon." I respond with a genuine smile. That look on her face is feared by some, but from my perspective, the word "pouty" describes it best.
I let go of her and approach the twins. They both simply nod, as if to say 'You don't have to explain.' Kohaku finally rises from her seat, pushing the chair in carefully. She brushes off her apron lightly before saying "Well then, Master Shiki, I'd better prepare you some food to take. Anything in particular you would like?"
"If you're making it, it'll be delicious no matter what. Surprise me."
"Fufufu..." she snickers, covering her mouth with one sleeve-covered hand. "Ok." With that, she vanishes across the dark carpeting into the adjacent kitchen.
"Um…Master Shiki? Shall I prepare you a suitcase?" Hisui asks, having come a little closer, still obstructed by the table that divides us.
I give her a warm, reassuring smile. "No, I've already taken care of it, but thank you, Hisui."
She looks a bit dejected at that...she really hasn't changed much at all…but in her case, I'd say that's a good thing. I scratch the back of my head nervously.
"…but I don't think I packed enough underwear, come to think of it. Do you think you could check to see I have everything I'll need?"
Hisui's eyebrows raise slightly, and a faint blush appears on her stoic face. Strange, is she embarrassed?
"U-um…of course, Master Shiki! I'll take care of it now, please excuse me." She bows courteously and shuffles out of the large dining hall, leaving Akiha and I alone. Faint sounds can be heard from the kitchen some ten meters away as Kohaku begins preparing some type of meal for me. I suppose they took the news as well as I could have hoped, realistically. I expected a motherly lecture from Kohaku, and chastising and accusation of irresponsibility from Hisui, and maybe a few bruises from Akiha. It's almost hard to believe none of them were maleficent.
"Brother…" Akiha begins from behind me. I turn, finding her gaze to be uncharacteristically worried.
"…it's because of that woman isn't it?" she finishes. My face no doubt has a surprised look. I can't believe she even remembered that. I've never spoken about her, ever since she left. Akiha only met her once, albeit on bad terms but how could she possibly…?
"That foreigner…you're going to find her, aren't you?"
"..is she…that important to you?"
"…yeah…more than anything."
"More than me?"
A silence descends. An awkward, insidious, all pervading silence. I find myself trying to think of something, anything to say to break this binding field that had fallen over us…but I can't. Ironically, Akiha was the one to break the spell.
"…I thought you'd forgotten about her." Almost regretfully, she says this.
"I could say the same about you." She casts me a glare that tells me that this isn't the time to joke about such things. She wants a real, sincere answer. I owe her at least that much.
"I love her, Akiha….even though she told me to forget about her. Even though she told me it was for the best and vanished from my life. Even though I tried as hard as I could to forget her…I just can't. I can't explain it…if I could choose how I felt, life would be much easier…"
Her eyes become distant, as if already seeing my back, walking off into the unknown from which, at least in her mind, I may never return.
"…but…" I place my hand on top of her head. "…don't forget that I love you too. You are my beloved little sister. Nothing will ever change that." My words are heartfelt, but somehow I have the feeling that they won't mean much to her right now. Oddly, her expression seems satisfied. She bats my hand off her head and runs both hands through her long hair, trying to fix it, even though I hadn't disturbed it at all.
"Hmph…if you're not back before fall semester, I will hunt you down, Brother."
See? I told you…scary.
"So. Are we close yet?" I ask in an annoyed tone. We've been traveling since sunrise, and it's late afternoon. The sun will be setting soon. It's not quite frigid, but it is certainly not pleasant by any means either. The barren plains of this land, dotted occasionally by a boulder or a patch of forest have an intense wind about it. It's relentless, no matter which direction you walk the wind seems to find your face, numbing it with cold gusts. It is overcast, but the sun tries in vain to shine through the shroud. The gray overtone makes this already dreary land all the drearier. The rolling hills, its valleys accumulating a little snow, its crests abandoned of all life, I guess it would make sense that the place I seek would be here. I had an idea of what the Western wilderness of Russia would look like. This wasn't it. I carry my duffel bag on one shoulder, and it's getting heavy. My shoulder is sore from where the strap has been digging in under the weight of its contents for so many hours. I'm hungry, and my thighs are killing me from the constant climbing and descending of hills.
"It's just another mile or so. Stop your bitching." The old man called Nicolai answers. We're speaking in English, which I'm pretty fluent in. Unfortunately, I don't speak German or Italian, his preference and native languages, respectively. He is a man of about 70, with a wild and unkempt white beard. He wears heavy boots and a simple outfit of slacks and a sweater, covered in some type of thick wind bracer that resembles a cloak. A 'mantle' I believe he called it.
"You said that three hours ago."
"I said quit your bitching! Do you want to get there or not!?"
I scoff. This old bastard was hard enough to find as it was. He's an ex-Vatican intelligence officer in the secret organization, referred to as "Iscariot" by most. It goes by many other names as well, but I think Iscariot fits it well, for it is made up of sinners punishing heretics through the rationalization of divine will. As a product of an Eastern culture, the notion of God is hard enough for me to understand, let alone people acting out His will. Although, Japan fought for the emperor, so it is not so outrageous, but the sheer hypocrisy of the Vatican is truly something to behold. Killing in the name of God? How absurd.
I got his name through a friend of mine, a member of the current Iscariot, Ciel. We remained in contact, even after she left Japan. In turn, I became a sort of informant for her, reporting on any possible vampiric happenings in the area. It has been relatively docile as of late. When I asked her for a certain piece of information, she could tell me everything I wanted to know… except where to find it. The only person who knew is one who had been there almost forty years ago, an ex-intelligence officer turned priest named Nicolai Sintradi. It took me almost three months to find him. He never stays in one place for long. It seems he still has many enemies.
"Sweet Jesus, you injure an old man, demand this favor of yours, and on top of that you have the balls to-"
"I didn't injure you; you jumped off that balcony yourself." I cut him off in a cool voice.
"Pfft. Anyone who knows anything about arcane things would run, seeing those God-forsaken eyes of yours!"
"What happened to your fighting spirit? You really ran like hell." I give him a conceited smirk. His eyes glaze over, and he looks back to the landscape before us.
"Young man, I didn't stay alive this long by fighting just for the sake of valor."
Before I could respond, we'd reached the top of yet another crest in the rolling wavelength hills of this foreign land. I could see it now in the distance, still several miles away, but at last I'd found it…the…
"Millennium Castle Brunestud. Just as promised, but I still say this is suicide." The elderly man scratches his white beard and pulls the dark, heavy mantle around his body tighter, trying to block out the cold winds.
"Thanks for guiding me. I can manage from here."
"…just a warning, there is a large magical barrier surrounding the castle. It won't let anything through; even some of the True Ancestors were unable to break it."
"…yeah, I can see it. It won't be a problem."
He turns on his heel, rather gracefully…too gracefully for a man of his age. What kind of training did these Iscariots go through anyway? He begins to walk back the direction we came. He stops and gives a loud 'hmph.'
"Eyes that can see the death in all things with physical existence…your eyes truly are an abomination upon this earth."
"I owe you one, Nicolai." I respond, choosing to ignore his foreboding comment. He looks over his right shoulder slightly, but not enough for his eyes to lock onto me, only enough for his voice to carry better against the wind.
"Don't bother. I want nothing more to do with you. I only helped you because I owed a favor to Ciel."
"I see…then at least let me give you my name. It's-"
"I don't want to know that either. Some things…." He catches himself, and takes a deep breath, sighing heavily. "…some things are better left unknown."
With that, he swiftly left me standing alone in the field. I watched him until he disappeared over another hillside. A strange man, but I get the feeling that he's just become bitter. I think he's a good person, but maybe he's lost a lot of loved ones…or maybe himself somewhere in the past.
"Thanks anyway, Nicolai. Take care." I say to the wind.
My footsteps echo loudly in the dark halls, despite my rubber soles that normally would not make even the faintest padding. Night fell about a half hour ago. The marble flooring is cold and uninviting, yet the entire castle is beautiful and elegant. The gothic style architecture really is awe-inspiring, even in this darkness. The multi leveled, indented doorways, the pointed archways adorned with pillars and relief sculptures protruding from the walls, the long, estranged hallways belying years of history, they were all gorgeous.
The castle is of a single floor, despite my stereotypic view of them. This one follows a basilica floor plan, similar to that of an old church. The many hallways seem to stretch for nearly a mile on the outside, with more rooms than I care to count, each adorned with elaborate recessed doorways with heavy chamber doors. I finally reach the central area, which has a high dome in the ceiling, a centralized, circular theme. Ribbed groin vaulting holds the dome together, extending several stories above my head. There is an oculus, or oval window at the very top, allowing moonlight to filter into the dome and illuminate the entire foyer.
There is a large staircase from here, leading down into what I presume to be the beginning of the basement. This foyer must extend down even further. As I approach the stone railing and look down, I see it: a large ivory throne. Heavy chains descend from the ceiling and walls, converging on the throne. And there, sitting on the throne at the center of this room below, bound by chains, unconscious, and looking more beautiful than I've ever seen her, is Arcueid.
How much time has passed? A few minutes? An hour? I'm not quite sure. For the longest time, I've been stuck to this spot. I can't take my eyes off of her. I just gaze at her in partial disbelief, regret, and excitement. She looks absolutely beautiful. Her hair is much longer than I remember; her golden locks descend to the chair. It's hard to tell from here how long they really are, but it'd be accurate to say down below her waist. She is dressed in an elegant white and blue dress, the top half being mostly white, adorned with golden lines that extend across the breast and down along the sleeves. The torso is only covered up to the armpits, showing quite a bit of skin. Her white shoulders seem to glow faintly in the moonlight, her large breasts fill out the front nicely, causing it to be rather form-fitting. The bottom ruffles out much like a bell, covering her legs completely. Somehow she seems familiar this way, despite this novelty. Have I seen this before?
I rend myself from my trance and head for the stairs hurriedly. I can't wait any longer. I've waited for almost six years. Objectively that may not be very long at all, especially to someone like Arcueid, but to me it seemed like a long weekend in Purgatory. I descended the large two adjacent flights of stairs quickly, dashing into the main chamber below. My shoes clap against the marble flooring loudly, echoing in the deadened halls. As I near the throne, her eyes open, and she lifts her head slightly to view me. I stop cold. Her eyes are half opened slits. Is she tired? She looks me up and down with an uninterested look, and opens her mouth to speak.
"…Human. How did you pass the barrier?" her tone is indigenous, superior, even callous. There's something almost dangerous about the way she just spoke. A horrible sinking feeling reverberates in my stomach.
"Arcueid? It's me, Shiki! I've come for-"
"So it's you." What? What does she mean by that? I don't understand…this isn't right.
She stands slowly, and with the slightest effort, breaks the chains from her arms and from around her torso. She takes a few steps towards me, closing the distance to only two or three meters. This woman in front of me…I bow my head. My hands are shaking. I can't control the sinking feeling in my stomach anymore. That look in her eyes… it's not her….
"She told you to forget about her, did she not?"
She's not Arcueid….
"Why did you not listen?"
You're not the Arcueid I know…
"And now you come to this castle? You must truly despise your life."
"Answer me human, what did you think you could accomplish here?"
"…who the hell are you?" I utter.
"I asked you a question, impudent one. What did you-"
"I said who the hell are you!?"
She stops her superior babbling. My eyes lock with hers. She looks angry, as if she were looking at a dog that refused to go outside rather than defecate on the carpet. She adjusts her position, moving one hand to her breast. Some of her long bangs fall over one shoulder, and she gives me a suspicious side glance. As if I care for her display. To hell with this. I can't explain it, but somehow I know this woman. She is Arcueid, and yet she isn't. This must be what Ciel told me about, this is the Crimson Moon. Whatever she is…I'm not leaving without Arcueid.
"…I get it now. You're her alter ego. You're the real Crimson Moon, aren't you?"
Her blood-red eyes become even more suspicious. My speech is slow and methodical, almost demeaning to her. She's focusing on my face, and on my words, just as planned. Someone with such a dominant and authoritative personality as hers can't endure any subjugation. It was an easy prediction. She hasn't even noticed my hand taking grip of the concealed knife in my waistband at my back. Maybe I'm jumping the gun, but my instincts tell me differently. I've learned to listen to my body. I can already tell, if I don't handle this properly, I'll be dead before I can say another word.
"…correct. I am Brunestud."
"Where is Arcueid?"
Without changing my footing, I slightly adjust the placement of my feet against the floor, my right digging down in preparation for any evasive movement. My hand finds the grip of my knife.
"She is asleep of course. Your coming here was for naught. Leave here at once, and apologize for your abhorrent behavior, and I may yet let you leave here alive."
She shifts her standing to face me completely. She does not have her claws ready, but merely gazes at me with a full-on stare. Her eyes warn me to leave. She's already declared her attack to me, however. She'll use her mystic eyes of suggestion. I never did like the term 'suggestion' in this context though. It implies that she merely recommends that her target do something, but that's not the case. She can invade the mind, force it into submission, or force the body to do something…like be torn into countless pieces. A more applicable term would be destruction. It doesn't matter though. I can tell by her eyes, her body language; she sees me as nothing. A grave mistake. Underestimating your opponent like that…
I let out an audible sigh. I begin to bow my head in apology. "Alright then…I…" To her, it must have looked as if I actually vanished. Drawing her attention to my feigned apology gives me the opportunity to dart sideways and out of her vision momentarily. I dash in the reverse direction with all the speed I've managed to train my body to be capable of. My eyes seem to somehow augment my body. I've always been fast, and flexible, but these past few years I've been training rigorously. Ciel has helped with that as well. If I can keep up with Ciel's agility, this won't be a problem. If her gaze can kill me, then I won't let her see me. Before she can follow the image of my backwards dashing, I've already closed the distance and gotten behind her. I've got my left arm wrapped around her waist, pinning both arms to her sides forcefully, my knife is held against her throat. Not just her throat, but the convenient 'line' that runs horizontally across her entire neck. Checkmate….
"…I see…impressive for a human." She says in that same calm demeanor. She knows this would have been over had I wanted it to be.
"However, you cannot kill me, can you?"
This is dangerous. Even though I'm pinning her arms down, she could easily throw me off and dice me to ribbons with her claws. I knew that. This is a high-stakes gamble. I've always had amazing luck. I hope it holds out…
I slowly remove my knife from her throat and release her. I take a step back and return the blade inside the handle, placing it back in the waistband at my back. Meanwhile, she's turned to face me once more, placing her palms on her abdomen. She cocks her head slightly to one side, long elegant golden locks falling over her bare shoulder. From here, I can see the moonlight reflected in her dangerous eyes. Despite the potentially mortal atmosphere, I can't help but admire her overwhelming beauty.
"Foolishness, even had you used your death perception, it would not have ended my life."
"I know that. I can hardly see any lines on you as it is. Even so, surprise is the only advantage I had. I can't match you physically. I knew I was walking a fine line."
"Then why did you? Because you wanted to selfishly wake her up?"
She scoffs loudly. "Have you still not realized why she left you?"
Come to think of it, I never did understand why. I had an idea, but…I could never really place it. My expression must be communicating something similar, because her features adopt more indignation.
"She was weakened severely. First by you, then in battle with the Serpent of Akasha. In that state, she had two options for survival: Sleep, or to feast upon human blood."
"Given the choice, she decided to rest to regain her strength. This would take many years in her state, so she entreated you to forget about her, as much as this surely pained her."
The nauseous feeling in my stomach returns with full force. That was why? She was afraid of becoming what she hated most? Being close to me meant that it probably would've been me she'd have feasted on too…Arcueid…why couldn't you tell me?
"And yet you, in your impetuousness return here despite her pleas? Realize your folly, and leave here by my mercy. If she had not cared for you so, I would rend you without hesitation. Begone."
She turns and glides across the dark marble flooring in smooth strides, her elegant dress flowing behind her. Her golden hair flows slightly as she walks. Moonlight from the oculus in the dome falls down upon her. I feel discomfort in my head, pressure. I realize I haven't had my glasses on for quite some time. I took them off before entering the castle. I've also trained my body to tolerate literally seeing death. Not so much my body, but my mind. The ego starts to break down upon seeing death. I've extended my limits, but not enough to discard my glasses. I pull them out from a protective case in my coat pocket and replace them on my face quickly, and try to readjust my vision. She's still striding slowly away from me. Regaining my composure, I pursue.
"I will not tell you again." She says warningly.
"And I won't tell you this again either, so listen carefully! I'm not leaving here without Arcueid!"
She stops moving.
"Do you so desire death?"
"She's not as weak as you think. She wouldn't have given in to the temptation. Besides, she's been resting for several years, I'm sure that she's strong enough now. Let me talk to her."
"That…is not up to me. She relinquished control to me when she rested. She is either too weak to regain control, or she does not want to. Either way, the result is the same. Leave, human." She says so coolly, and less menacingly. She seems at odds with herself, despite her obvious resolution. She does not turn to look at me; she simply speaks, staring straight ahead at the gaudy ivory throne some few meters ahead. The chains hanging from the ceiling and walls still sway slightly, scattered about.
"…There must be something I can do."
She turns her neck slightly, regarding me over a silky white shoulder.
"…You wish to see her again that badly?"
I only nod in response. After all, there really aren't any words I can use to describe how I feel. That's the problem with language. As soon as you begin to speak, you're already being used by it. You have to contort to fit the language, and thus limit yourself. She seems to be understanding to a degree now. Perhaps my good fortune isn't dried up yet after all.
"What do you hope to gain?"
"It's not just about me. Yes, I want to see her again, be with her, to see her smile again….but it's more than that…it's for her."
She turns again, facing me with a look of confusion that quickly turns back to her more typical suspicious transmission.
"It's hard to do that. Arcueid…she…she's always been alone. She's only known the life she was given. Sleep, hunt, kill, repeat. When she was with me, she began to see the world for what it was, and she was…happy. She got to experience new things, important things, and even mundane, useless things. She just seemed to be very repressed, locked away in this cold place. I want to save her from that."
"…and you actually believe that you can…'save' her from her fate?"
"No…I don't believe I can."
"What? Then for what pos-"
"I know I can." I cut off her ensuing question laced with disregard. Her expression gave me a small feeling of satisfaction. Her sanguine orbs widened in shock, and her mouth formed a small "o" upon hearing my words. Her eyebrows furrow together, and one of her hands moves to above her breast. For a moment, she looked just like Arcueid whenever I said something surprising. Strange how the same face can portray such different personalities.
Having regained her composed stature, she closes her eyes in thought for a moment. After a few awkward anticipatory minutes, she slides her eyes open and speaks.
"You…are an interesting human. Very well, I shall let you remain at this castle for the time being. During this time, you are free to attempt to…'save' her, as you worded it. How you intend to wake her, I am uncertain of, but I am wasting my breath lecturing a fool on the matter, am I not?"
"Thank you, Brunestud. But that won't do. I'd like you to come with me."
I almost laugh. She makes that face again. She looks so much like Arcueid with that stupefied look.
"Out of the question!" She storms.
"I don't know how to wake her either, but I don't think I can do it here. It'd be better to take her to places that she would be more comfortable in, places she would remember going to in the outside world. That is logical, right?"
"…Well…I suppose that is a more logical undertaking, but what reason have I to comply with this?"
"…Do you have a reason not to?"
I give her a few moments to come up with a response. I wait for her to give me one valid reason why she should not come with me, even if it is something such as "I don't want to", which I expected her to say outright. She stays silent instead. I take her by the hand, and begin pulling her toward the staircase. She quickly wrenches her wrist from my grasp, uttering a "Do not touch me!" I let out a long sigh.
"It's better for you if she wakes up, isn't it? I'm not a magus or anything, so it's hard for me to tell, but you are definitely weaker. Even after I killed her, Arcueid had more presence than you do now."
She remains silent. I'm right then. I thought that the moment I saw her. Arcueid has…or had…an aura about her, even in her childish moments that stayed in the back of my mind: if she wanted to, she could tear me to pieces. She was far beyond any human. With Brunestud at the helm, maybe she has more resolution, but her ability is clearly not even close.
"I know you want to stay here, but it's best for both of us if she wakes up right? Just come with me for the time being. If I can't wake her up within a few months, I'll concede to you. How's that?"
She just stares at me silently, apprehensively. Is she really this stubborn?
Then it hits me. The reason she left in the first place. If Brunestud is weaker than Arcueid, that means she doesn't have much control either.
"…I live in a mansion that is somewhat isolated from the town it is in. You won't be around anyone except myself for the most part, give or take my sister and two maids….you won't be tempted."
Still, she stares.
"…and, I have faith in you. You won't drink blood."
"And how is that? How can you have such faith that I will not? I am not she, if you have forgotten."
"…let's just say I have a feeling about it. I'll take responsibility if you do, but I'm not worried."
I extend my hand welcomingly. We stared at each other for what seemed like ten minutes, but it was probably only a few seconds. Then, she tentatively placed her delicate hand in mine, and I led her out of that dreary castle, and into the frigid winds of the western Russian wilderness.
My plan was haphazardly concocted from the beginning. I had no idea who my contact was, only a slight idea of where to find him, no idea where the castle was, what to expect there, or even if I'd leave there alive. Of course, I hadn't counted on taking the true Crimson Moon from her throne and back to Japan. Travel became my immediate concern. I couldn't very well bring someone as odd-looking as she on a plane, train, or even a city street without some kind of commotion. After all, she looks like nobility from the 15th century in that elegant dress and absurdly long, yet beautiful hair. Her demeanor wouldn't help either. As soon as some unfortunate employee would ask "Miss, I'm going to have to see some identification and your passport." She would not doubt begin a string of derogatory comments, something along the like of "Pathetic human! How dare you address me in such a crude manner?"
…Fortunately, I was able to avoid all of that. I must really have good luck. As soon as we exited the castle, she asked me precisely where the mansion was, and after some strange incantation, I found myself transported to just outside town. I couldn't believe it, but I suppose Arcueid had to follow Roa somehow. I suppose it was more cost effective, but still weird. Whatever, I won't question it. It saved me a hassle right? 'Don't sweat the small stuff', as Arihiko always told me. I didn't even bother to ask her how in God's name she pulled off a miracle like teleportation, much less over thousands of kilometers.
It took about forty minute to get to the mansion's front gate. It was late, so of course the streets were empty. I check my watch. 4:22 A.M. I'll have to sneak her in quietly so I don't disturb anyone. I used the key for the gate Hisui had given me many years prior. It had really been a blessing. I chuckle in spite of myself. All these years, and I'm still sneaking back home in the dark.
"So…this is your abode?"
I nod to Brunestud and motion for her to be quiet. She doesn't seem to understand.
"Do not silence me! I merely asked you a question, there is no need for such rudeness."
"Brunestud…please." I whisper. "I don't want to wake anyone. Let's just go in quietly alright?"
She scoffs before falling silent and following me inside the gate. I close it carefully behind her, then lea the way to the front door. I use my key for that as well, and we scuffle inside, apparently undetected. Whew. It is warm inside the foyer, but very dark. Everyone must still be sleeping. So far so good. But now…where can I take her? I don't think she'll like my room, and I'm sure she won't sleep in the same room anyway. That's going to be a small problem….
Suddenly, the lights flick on.
I hear a quiet, pensive voice behind me. I turn to behold Hisui, apparently freshly awakened and beginning her morning routine before Akiha wakes at 5:30. Well, I suppose it's alright if it's Hisui. It could have been worse…it could have been Akiha.
"Hi there Hisui. I'm back." I say quietly.
She fixes her posture and bows deeply.
"W-Welcome back Master Shiki."
When she returns to her upright stature, she glances over the out of place Brunestud, who oddly seems to fit in here more than she should.
"Um…is this your acquaintance?"
Nice way of putting it Hisui, very tactful. "Yes, this is Arcueid. Eh...well…for the time being please call her Brunestud. It's a little hard to explain."
"I see. Welcome to Tohno manor, Miss Brunestud. I am Hisui, Master Shiki's personal attendant. I will prepare a room for you, if that is alright."
"Please do, Hisui." I reply. She bows again and begins to shuffle towards the stairs of the foyer.
"Hisui." She stops and turns to me.
"Yes? Anything else I can do for you?"
"…It's good to see you again Hisui, I missed you." Her face widens in surprise, and a blush beginning at her cheeks spreads even to her ears. I don't know why, but I guess that's Hisui's nature. She's always been very shy. Sometimes it's fun to mess with her, but that's cruel. I'm not doing that now, I actually did miss her.
"U-um…t-thank you for saying so Master Shiki, but you are too kind." She stammers.
"No, I'm serious. My days haven't been the same since I didn't have you to wake me up in the mornings. I really did miss you."
Her blush turns a few shades darker. I give her a hearty smile, but I'd be lying if I said a part of me wasn't enjoying this.
"T-then…please do not leave like that again Master Shiki." She says something so sudden, bowing and then padding up the stairs.
I glance at Brunestud who is observing, no, evaluating the mansion. Her head moves back in forth, her eyes moving across furniture, the walls, and the woodworking. She seems satisfied. I'm sure this is by no means as glamorous as her castle, but it sure as hell is warmer. After noticing me, she returns my glance.
"This will be satisfactory for the time being."
"Well, what a relief, your highness." I tease. She raises an eyebrow and ignores my comment. "Your attendant seems quite taken with you."
"Hisui? Not really, she's always like that."
She stares at me blankly for a few moments. "You are…quite dense aren't you?"
"Huh? What's that supposed to mean!?"
I hear a low murmur coming from my left side. Sigh. Why didn't I notice sooner? Of course she'd be up if Hisui is. She's as foxy as ever. I turn toward that direction, projecting my voice outward.
"Isn't this usually where you slide out from behind something and start teasing me?"
As if on cue, Kohaku slides out from just behind the curved staircase on the ground level, taking a few steps to meet me in the center of the foyer. She's got that devious look in her eyes, and her overwhelming grin is covered by a sleeve-covered hand. She chuckles.
"You knew I was there, Shiki? I couldn't help it."
"Yeah…you never can." I say with a sigh. "I missed you too Kohaku. How have you been?"
She adjusts herself and smiles warmly.
"I've been well, thanks. And you? Oh? Is this your guest?"
"Uh, yeah. Kohaku, this is Arcueid Brunestud. For the time being, please call her Brunestud, alright? I'd appreciate it."
"Sure." She bows lightly. "Pleasure to meet you, Miss Brunestud. I am Kohaku. I do all of the cooking here. If there is anything you would like, or don't like please tell me so I can accommodate you." She finishes with a bright smile. Brunestud nods in response, but vocalizes no such courtesy.
"Oh! Shiki! I have to begin cooking breakfast before Lady Akiha wakes. You'll be joining us?"
"I'd like to sleep actually, but I have a feeling Akiha would come drag me out of bed anyways, so yeah, I'll be there."
She gives me a blank stare before dawning another bright smile. She leans in, half covering her mouth with her kimono's dark sleeve. "Too bad, Akiha would've sent me to wake you up. I kinda wanted to be the one to wake you up, just once. Ahh…one day."
"Fufufu…well Hisui says you look 'um..very…adorablewhen you sleep." She says, imitating Hisui's voice and mannerisms, which are frighteningly good. I think that if she dressed up like Hisui and put on that act, I'd probably never know it was really Kohaku. I maintain a straight face until she walks out of the room towards the kitchen with a big grin. Sigh, she's always teasing me like that.
"…Are you also unaware of that one's affections too?" A sudden haughty comment from beside me.
"It's not like that, Kohaku is more like a sister the way she scolds me all the time."
I let out a heavy sigh. She can't be right. Kohaku and Hisui? Yeah we're close, but it's not like that. I think Brunestud is just uncomfortable and looking for a way to maintain her dominance in a new environment.
"C'mon, let's go find Hisui and see where you'll be staying."
It's been over a month, and I haven't made much progress. It was hard getting her royal highness Brunestud to settle into the mansion, but we made it somehow. Akiha does not get along with her. That's putting it lightly. To be blunt, they hate each other. I think that's because they are too alike. I don't think the mansion can contain both of their egos. Both believe themselves to be a princess. At first I thought they'd get along, but their first meeting nearly ended in some collateral damage. Akiha inverted briefly encounter because she was so upset.
Their first meeting was already ill fated. Akiha awoke to the surprise that I had come home, and brought probably her least favorite person (save for Arihiko) into her home. After a chillingly silent breakfast, and a shrewd comment from Brunestud, Akiha ignited, and almost literally ignited her. With a lot of convincing, I was able to allow her to stay, but it hasn't been without conflict. She refuses to leave the grounds, which is fine I suppose, but it makes it hard to keep her entertained. She also refuses to change out of that elaborate dress. She has taken a liking to Makihisa's extensive library, and has been reading fervently. Akiha and Brunestud have little if no contact with each other. I suppose they came upon a silent agreement to do so. Agree to disagree, or in their case, agree to despise each other. Honestly, I've never seen anyone argue to heatedly before.
Brunestud seems to like Hisui. I think because Hisui is so passive. Kohaku seems to annoy her with her upbeat nature, but she can't express this for fear of not having dinner. She is still a guest, after all. I've been spending as much time with her as possible, but she seems uninterested. Sure, she agreed to come here, but I suppose she didn't agree to help me try and wake the sleeping beauty inside of her. It's difficult for me. I complain to her, but she shrugs me off, continuing to read the many classics the old bastard had accumulated.
She also has a very difficult sleeping pattern. Like Arcueid, she isn't awake much of the day. Her peak hours are at night. As such, my sleeping schedule is really messed up. I've become almost nocturnal to keep up with her. Of course, this means Akiha has been complaining to me a lot. Even Hisui and Kohaku have been worried. Even though I've come home I'm still not seeing much of them.
She has been saying she's been bored recently. Sure, we've taken walks on the grounds, admiring the trees, the stars, the gardens, but it only goes so far. She's been asking a lot of questions about me lately. I was surprised to learn that she doesn't have much knowledge about me, except that she knew I was someone close to Arcueid. She honored me with that perplexed look again when I told her Arcueid and I had been lovers. I told her about my past, my origins in the Nanaya clan, and what Arcueid and I had been through. She seemed to understand me better, and accept this situation a bit more, realizing that I wasn't some schoolboy with a crush, as she must have seen me. I was chiseling away at that cold exterior of hers, hoping to break it and uncover Arcueid. I found myself second guessing myself sometimes as I spent time with her.
As I said, Brunestud refuses to leave the grounds. I'm not making any progress this way. If I leave things the way they are she'll get irritated and return to her isolation. But I have a plan. Kohaku and Hisui have been in on it, making the preparations, so it'll work out fine.
Unfortunately, I haven't been able to get her to come out and enjoy the sights around town at all. That was something I really wanted to do. Maybe I'm being too cynical. Despite how things sound, I have grown a bit closer to her. The problem is, it isn't Brunestud I'm trying to get closer to. It almost feels like I'm using her. I don't like it.
I shake my head of those thoughts and straighten the collar of my formal attire. It's odd to see me of all people dressed in a black formal suit, but it's all part of my plan. If she prefers the finer things, I'll have to meet her on her own terms. She's not going to level with me until I can see eye to eye with her. Maybe she'll even indulge me once she sees the effort I'm making. I look myself over in the mirror, making sure I've attended to all the details, even down to the cufflinks and shoes. A knock at the door.
"Excuse me, Master Shiki, but my sister has told me that dinner will be ready shortly. Shall I go retrieve Miss Brunestud?"
"Ah, please do Hisui. I'll be to the dining hall in a minute."
I see her bow out of the corner of my eye and she closes the door behind her quietly. I give myself a final once-over in the mirror and take a deep breath. Here goes….
There are only a few times in a person's life when they are rendered completely, and utterly speechless. It only happens in chance circumstances, when things are unexpected. Sometimes, it is out of shock, or out of happiness. I'm hoping, if it is a combination of them, that it is mostly the latter.
Brunestud is in this state right now. I've led her into the large dining hall by the hand. It's late, probably around midnight. The room is dark, save for the pale moonlight filtering through the drapes near the white clothed table. The room is lightly accented with several candlesticks along in the surface of the elongated table. Two sets of dinnerware have been set out across from each other. Various dishes have been set out on platters, all western foods. Filet mignon, a fine aged bottle of champagne, some type of mushroom based appetizer, freshly baked bread; all foods suited to a refined palate. Kohaku really put a lot of thought into this. I remember she told me that mushrooms have a natural ingredient that dilates the blood vessels, including the taste buds, similar to monosodium glutamate. She said mushrooms make great appetizers because they can then make the entrée taste better.
Shadows of the table and the backs of the chairs descend to the carpet and flicker occasionally with the candles. Maybe I overdid it a little…I'm a little embarrassed, now that I think about it. Although, who could regret seeing her face like that? In this candlelight, orange fire reflects from her red orbs. Her flawless skin is illuminated by the flickering, and her dress seems to glow. Even in this kind of darkness, she stands out. I can't help but admire her. Absolutely gorgeous.
"Come on; let's eat before the food gets cold."
I lead her to the table and seat her, as a gentleman should. Akiha would be proud to see this right now. I take my own seat, and after placing the cloth napkin on my lap, I begin to eat. Brunestud follows my example after a moment, sheepishly taking small bites silently. I glance up to her from time to time, and, maybe I imagined it, but I think I saw a slight smile on her usually stoic face. We continue eating for several moments, until…
clink I look up.
"Shiki…may I ask you something?" I kinda want to ask why she stopped calling me 'you' or 'human'.
"This is…very… considerate of you. Why are you going to such lengths to please me? I can't imagine that 'she' would have tastes like these. Surely she would prefer simpler foods and atmospheres."
"Hmm…you're right. I guess she's in the back of my mind, but to be honest I did it for you."
"Well, yeah. You seemed unhappy. If I can do something about that, then why not? Besides, trying to make someone happy definitely can't hurt anything." I say honestly. I can't deny that part of me hopes to establish a deeper connection with her so I can get to Arcueid, but this is really just for her.
I couldn't stand it. It made me sick. She could only sit around this mansion, feeling trapped by its walls. Sure, she could leave, but she doesn't trust herself enough to go into town to get some kind of enjoyment. She could always go back to the castle, but for some reason she doesn't That part perplexes me. Why? If she's so unhappy here, why doesn't she just leave? She doesn't owe me anything. She has no obligation to help me, really. Yeah, it's better if Arcueid wakes up…but to be honest she would do that anyway, just not for a few more decades. Thinking back on it, I really didn't have much of an argument to have her come here, did I?
So then…why did she come?
"…I see. You are a kind person, aren't you?"
"It doesn't bother me if you want to think that." I say half jokingly.
We continue the remainder of dinner making small talk for the most part. She did seem to open up a little, so I thought that this wasn't a complete loss. She told me a little more about herself, but there isn't a whole lot to tell. She is, after all, a living weapon. After about an hour, she said she was growing a bit tired, and wished to go back to sleep. Of course, I agreed. I show her back to her room. She's been acting differently towards me ever since...in a good way.
Things have been different between Brunestud and I ever since a few nights ago. I think setting up that elegant candlelight dinner really made an impact on her. Perhaps she was intentionally keeping emotional distance, or perhaps that's just always been her way. I can't be sure, but what I am sure of is that we're closer. We talk much of the evenings now, I've even been able to make her laugh on a few occasions.
Despite all that...I'm not any closer to my goal. Brunestud has come out of her shell, but Arcueid seems to have gone into that shell and sealed it. The more I bring out Brunestud's nature, it seems to have an adverse effect on Arcueid. Maybe I'm just being cynical again...
Here we are once again. I'm sitting with the elegant princess of the moon in Makihisa's study, in front of a light fireplace. She is not reading for once, but merely enjoying my company. She really is fun to talk to. She's very witty, despite her demeanor, and even more intelligent than I ever thought. She's much more knowledgeable about the world, or at least the 'old world'. Probably because she was there...
We converse about random things, politics, religion, philosophy, food. Food is one of her favorites. She can't get enough of the various styles Kohaku can prepare. I just recently found out she's quite good with Thai and Indian food as well.
It's getting late. We've been talking for hours. I think the sun will rise soon. Checking my watch nonchalantly, I see that is in deed the case, it is almost 6 AM. I suggest that she retire for some sleep. She agrees.
I show her to her room as usual, but there's something that's been on my mind for quite some time. I haven't been able to come to terms with it. I've tried to bring it up in conversation many times, but it always seems to catch in my throat. I can't hold it in any longer. As we reach her door, before she can see goodnight, I ask her.
"Can I ask you something, Brunestud?" I had said those words before I even realized it. She nods.
"Why did you come with me? You really had no reason to." She averts her eyes, with a solemn expression. I wait a few moments, but she doesn't answer.
"I…took pity on you."
"To be so infatuated with someone that you would search all that time, and enter willingly into a near death experience, even to try to fight me knowing you could not win…to do such things for another is…well…I admired it."
"I suppose I was curious." She continues. "I wanted to see if you could realize your wish. Besides, had I turned you away, you would not have given up, correct?"
"Yeah…that's right." I smile dryly.
"I had an enjoyable evening, thank you Shiki."
I lightly take her hand and bow slightly, kissing the back of her hand, in character with my gentlemanly allure that this evening required. Did people really do things like this? It's almost like a bad movie.
"I am glad you enjoyed yourself, m'lady."
I rise with a slight chuckle at the corniness of such a line. I really need more coaching on this gentleman thing, if tired old lines and gestures are the best I can come up with.
Her eyes catch mine for a moment, and we simply stand there awkwardly.
"I believe…that I can see what she saw in you."
"You truly are kind."
That's when I realize. I'm not sure who moved first. I'm not sure if anything was said, and I don't know how long we've been like this, but it's definitely happening. She's in my arms, both of her hands are cupping my cheeks. Our lips gently caress each other. When? How long?
I move forward, forcing her back into the door. The kiss intensifies, and she lets out a small whimper. Her hands place themselves on my chest suddenly and she pushes me away forcefully. Her eyes shift nervously, and she covers her chest with both arms. What was I doing? Was I so lost in thought, or in the moment? I wasn't kissing Arcueid…I was kissing Brunestud…as much as I wish it was, she isn't Arcueid. I can tell by that look on her face. Maybe I thought that somehow through an action like that I could wake her. I should have known it wouldn't be that simple. Even had she not rejected me as she did, and I had taken her to her bed, it wouldn't have changed anything. I don't know how I'm so sure of this, but I am. I get a bad feeling. Brunestud composes herself, and begins to speak in a low voice.
"I think that both of us know by now that this isn't going to work. I am sorry for your loss, but there's nothing that can be done. I've indulged your endeavor, but…"
What is she saying?
"I am sorry. I cannot act out this role any longer. Please do not follow. Forget about her, as she told you to do. She…would have wanted you to just be happy, I am sure."
She leaves me standing in the dark hallway, stunned and alone. My mind is racing, my breathing is ragged. What just happened? I have to think…ok…she's leaving…She's given up on me. She's decided my attempts are in vain. She's going to go back to that dreary place and chain herself to that throne, and sleep. Who knows if she'll ever wake? I'll never see her again….I'll…never see her again.
I can't let it happen. I haven't tried everything yet! It's too early! I don't care if she thinks I can't wake her, I can. I have to! I'll never be able to live with myself if I leave her in that hell. I dash down the hallway and into the foyer. She's not here. I run down the stairs and throw open the front door. I see her. She's headed for the front gate, down the concrete walkway. I was right…she really is leaving. It can't end like this. I'll just end up following her back there.
She does not wait. She merely continues walking, uninhibited. Her long blond hair sways behind her, her dress flutters in the light wind. The courtyard is very dark. The moon is only in a quarter stage, so there is little light. It's getting colder, with the approach of fall. A cool wind blows freely through the courtyard. I dash out after her. She's still walking, so with little effort I catch up to her.
"Please, just listen to me!"
She continues heading for the gate…only another few meters…
I get between her and the gate and hold my ground. She does not stop. I reach to my lower back and draw my knife, the blade extending with a click. Why am I wielding this knife against her? She stops.
"…you are that determined?"
"Yeah. I have to have her back."
"…I suppose if you cannot live without her, then death is the only other option. I do not wish to hurt you, but perhaps that is the real act of pity I can show you."
I flip the blade and take a reverse grip. I slide my glasses into my coat pocket. I was careless. I took too much time doing that, thinking she wouldn't attack me yet. Once engaged in battle, it's like she's flipped a switch. She's ruthless, efficient. She's already slashing at me with her claws. I block them with my knife, using my forearm as a brace on the back of the blade. I kick low with my left foot, trying to buckle her knee. She's already moved behind me. I leap forward and roll, feeling the gust of wind as she swings her claws at my back. I narrowly avoided it, my suit is shredded and I can feel light scratches on my back.
I remember her eyes, and dash to the right. I then roll backwards onto my back and spring up with my empty hand, half turning mid air. I kick with the other leg coming up. As predicted, she had tried to close in, and I connect with her stomach, causing her to reel slightly. She's still weak. I have a chance. I can't see any of her 'lines'. Even though she's this weak, I can't see them. Why? She has a physical body. Why can't I see them…there has to be a reason. We're now fully engaged in this deadly encounter. I don't think about that. I flip a switch inside, too.
I slash with my knife. She guards with her arm and slashes at me with the other set of talons. I turn in their direction, absorbing most of the impact and spinning around to reduce it further. She caught my in my left bicep. It's not very deep, but blood is already soaking into the sleeve of my coat. Damn thing. It's impeding my movement. I dash forward, allowing my senses to take over. A flurry of slashes comes from my knife that I can't even follow. It moves almost of its own accord. She's dodged it easily. She leapt high into the air, and it coming down upon me. I jump back a meter and move left. I can't let her use her mystic eyes.
She falls to the ground into the shade of a nearby tree cast from the moonlight. I shift my weight to prepare to attack, and I notice. Her 'lines'. I can see them now.
I get it.
The Crimson Moon. Of course the moon is significant to her. Why didn't I see it sooner? Under the moonlight, she is rendered almost impervious. It's not that she doesn't have points of death, the moon hides them. She must become more powerful under the moonlight. I make a mental note of the position of some of them. I don't have to worry about killing her. Even if I decapitate her, she won't die. I close in. I jump into the air and kick downward. She blocks my kick and tries to impale me with her claws. I block with my knife and parry her blow. I use her shoulder as a fulcrum and shift my weight around her. I have a clear shot at her neck. This is it.
She leaps into the air taking me with her. I'm completely taken by surprise. She turns and swings her talons, they penetrate my chest deeply. Before I can hit the ground, she's already dashed in again. I try to cover my vitals. She wasn't aiming for my vitals. She impales my shoulder with her entire hand. She twists her wrist and pulls it out before grabbing my body and throwing me several meters. It hurts. I don't even know where I am right now.
"…Shiki…just concede. If you do that, I can let you live. Please, I don't wish for this." I hear her voice, calm and collected. It's as if she's performing surgery.
I can't concede….how can she ask that?
My body orders me not to move. I don't care. If she leaves now, then I…
I stand, despite my body's warnings of pain. I find myself instantly on the ground again. I'm not sure what happened, but I've got another wound. My left arm dangles lifelessly by my side. I see…she slashed my other arm. It's torn, and more importantly, broken. It doesn't matter anymore.
"Please…just…stop." She pleads.
I stand again, and again I am flung to the ground in agony.
"Stop you fool!"
I stand one more time. This time it takes me a few moments. One of my eyes closes at the oppression in it. Oh…that's why. My head is bleeding too. I hadn't noticed until now. Maybe my mind has shut off the pain. Blood has fallen into my right eye. Both of my arms are almost unusable, cut and broken. My chest bleeds profusely, and I think my back as well. There are nicks and bruises in my legs, I can already tell. My breathing is ragged, I can hardly stand. My head hurts, I must have hit the ground head first.
I see…I'm going to die here…aren't I? My instincts tell me that I can kill her still. A part of me says 'this is nothing, you can still fight. You can kill. Kill. Kill. Kill her. Kill her!'
Yet…I can't. It must be the Nanaya blood taking over. This time…I won't let it. Maybe it means my life…but…maybe it's for the best. Maybe this is the only thing I can do for her now.
Arcueid…it looks like I've failed you. Don't hold it against me ok? It's better if a monster like me dies. Without you…that's all I'll be. You were all I really had. If you hadn't been there…who knows if I'd have kept my sanity or not? I might have become just another killer. If I can't be with you…then my life isn't worth living.
I rush her. It is over in a moment. She pushes her claw forward. It's slower than the rest of her attacks. Maybe she thought I would dodge it. Maybe she's going easy on me. It doesn't matter. I don't make any attempt to evade. Her claw pierces my chest, and my heart. I feel her arm extend out of my back. My body goes limp, and I vomit blood. My limp body is only supported by the arm piercing my torso.
I can't even feel the pain. I almost laugh, if I had the energy. My senses start to falter. I think I hear a scream. Maybe Akiha or Hisui heard a commotion and came to see. I can't imagine the sight they are greeted with. Sorry…you shouldn't have to see this. I'm being shaken. I think I'm on the ground now, but I can't be sure. My blood is standing still. I feel my heart desperately trying to work. It won't last even a few minutes.
Huh? My name? Someone is calling me? I think …yeah…someone is definitely calling me. I focus all my remaining energy to hear it.
"Shiki! Oh God!"
Brunestud? Why is she so surprised? She must not have been trying to kill me. Maybe she thought she could avoid it and reason with me.
It's too late for that.
I don't have the energy to say anymore to her. This is for the better, I think. Understand, Brunestud.
"I…I did this to you!?"
What the hell kind of question is that…of course she….
Then it hits me. This isn't Brunestud…
I try to say something, but I only cough up more blood. I think she's holding me, but I can't be sure. My body has gone numb. I can't see anything. Are my eyes even open? Yeah…they are. I think all I see is red. Ah…it's blood. Blood has filled both eyes from the wound on my forehead. Arcueid is shaking me, crying out my name, desperately trying to figure out what happened.
How cruel. I was able to wake her…and all it took was my life. The first thing she sees when she awakes is her dying lover, her hands covered in his blood, and no recollection of it. I guess all I've managed to do is hurt you, Arcueid. Forgive me.
"…sorry…Arc…" I manage. Hmm…'Arc'…that's a good nickname for her…it suits her. I smile weakly.
I think she's crying. I think I can hear heavy sobbing. Is it her, or is it my ragged breath? Maybe both. Death is…a strange thing. Even though I've always been able to see death, experiencing it is completely different.
I feel warmth on my lips. She's kissing me? Is it warm because it's her, or warm because my body is getting cold? She wants one final kiss…I suppose that's as good an ending as any. A tragic death in the arms of the woman I love huh? Kinda cheesy…but I'll take it. I think Arihiko would be jealous…
Saliva accumulates in my mouth. I swallow it. Why is my body still doing this? I guess I can't blame it. It's frantic. But how can it be so frantic when I am so accepting of this? A metallic aftertaste, it must be mixed with my own blood.
A sharp pain racks my nerves. Why? I thought you had numbed yourself. The pain spreads, and my muscles tense. I can feel sensation somewhat returning…but I don't like it. With sensation coming back, all I feel is intense pain, inside and out. My awareness is becoming a little more clear…this doesn't…make sense.
My heartbeat becomes a little stronger, it palpitates. I feel snakes of pain shooting through me, extending throughout, like an electric current eroding all my nerves. My vision, although blurred, becomes apparent.
No…that wasn't saliva. That was…
I try to say. I'm choked by my own pain. No. This can't be. Why? This spreading pain…it's just like when Yumizuka…when she bit me.
"This is all I can do to save you! Please…live Shiki!"
I realize now. She drank my blood. She broke her oath one more time, and drank from me. How could she? She transferred some of her own blood into me in that kiss. This can't be happening…why? Why for me? My vision goes dark, my hearing fades, and my body goes limp. I pray that this is the end.
I awake to the sound of gusting wind. It's muffled, so I must be inside. I open my eyes, taking a few moments for them to focus. My glasses are off, I can see the 'lines' in the ceiling. I take in my surroundings. I'm in my room. More importantly…I'm alive. I move my arms, finding that intense pain awaits, in the form of a dull soreness. They're not broken anymore, and all the wounds in the flesh have healed. I feel tired, but that's just an after effect. It's late afternoon, judging by the tint of the sunlight creeping on the edges of the drapes of my window. How long have I been asleep?
My body tells me to just stay here, but I sit up regardless. I'm sore all over, and my head is a bit fuzzy. I rub my right shoulder, placing my right hand down on the mattress. I feel weight on the bed besides mine. Arcueid is sleeping next to me. It seems Akiha has loaned her some clothes, but they are much more form fitting, since Arcueid is a much larger woman than my sister. Her hair is still of a very long length. I never thought that I'd feel bitter about seeing her, much less in my bed, but her figure makes me feel disgust. Not at her; this is self hatred. She stirs, and after writhing around a bit rubs her eyes and turns to me. A gasp and a surprised look.
She bolts up and hugs me with such ferocity that I think she might break all my bones in their soreness.
Thank God? Thank Him for what? If he had any mercy he would have let me die. He wouldn't have let Arcueid wake up. She could've stayed asleep for years, and finally, when she did awake, assume that I had forgotten about her, just as she'd asked. But this…this is too cruel.
I know. I know by the look on her face, by that guilt mixed with relief, by the way her hands are trembling, by the way she still hasn't let me go, by the way she laid here with me for however long it's been…I'm not human anymore. She only had one way to save me. In her despair, she broke her oath and drank from me. I'm a dead apostle now…or will be once I'm healed.
I'm racked with fear suddenly. I'm…a dead apostle? I need blood to sustain myself now. More than that…I have mystic eyes of death perception. A vampire…with my eyes. My only limit before was that I had a frail body. I now have an immortal's body…Arcueid…what have you done? If I lose my sanity…will anyone be able to stop me? I'll kill countless people!
"Arcueid…why?" I whisper into her ear. Her shoulders begin trembling. She's crying. I can't do this to her…as bad as I feel, she must feel a thousand times worse.
"We'll…manage somehow. Ok Shiki?" She says in a cracking voice, holding me tighter.
"Your sister said she'll get you transfusion blood, so you won't have to feed. I can resist it, even with this…so don't worry…we'll manage somehow…we'll…we'll..."
I return her embrace, sitting against the bed board. She puts more power into her arms, holding me even tighter. It hurts my aching muscles, but I don't care. My first thought was to just die….but I can't do that now, not when she's put this burden on herself just for my sake. How can I let myself die when she's broken her oath so that I can live?
"I trust you, Arcueid."
I'm sure she's already thought of all the same things I just have, and yet she still decided to help me. She wants to live together like this, despite both of our sins. I guess there is one plus side to this, the only other worry I've had. Even if I could be with her, even if I could love her like she deserves, I was still human, and I would die. She would have a few decades with me, and then I would leave her alone again. This way…at the least…we have all eternity.
"Good…I'm glad. Because I love you too much for you not to." She whispers. The pain dripping from her words plucks at my stomach.
"I love you too." I respond quietly.
She wrenches her arms from my back and strokes both of my cheeks, and kisses me forcefully.
She looks at me with an innocent smile, despite the two streaks of moisture down her now reddened cheeks.
Author's Note: Whew. That turned out to be much longer than I initially planned. None of the others will be that long, I just had a lot of scenes to describe with this one. Not my best work by any means, and I had to graze over some things to maintain the ambiguity, but hopefully you like it! Read and review, no flames please, constructive criticism always welcome. I'll be doing Hisui's version next. God knows when that'll be but I'll get around to it. Take care!