A/N

It seems that I am currently incapable of writing anything that does not contain Kuran Rido in it. Seriously. While it's a nice feeling and all of that –because I never thought that I would write anything based on him- it's also somewhat frustrating when I can't get anything else done, when all I think about are things like, "what would he have done when that happened?", or "when would he have realized that he would have to do something to... (achieve whatever he wants)?", or "when could he possibly have started to show signs of losing his sanity to become the...not quite right person we see in the manga?" And the list goes on.

Hehe, if he were really alive, I do hope that he would appreciate what this is doing to me.

Anyways, the only reason why I had to post this piece in two chapters was because it was much too long to post as a single chapter. I sincerely hope that that doesn't take anything away from the story...

Disclaimer: It all belongs to the wonderful Hino Matsuri, who has given us a wonderful 'world' and equally wonderful characters.


Chapter One: Family

He strode tiredly towards his parents' rooms, his travelling coat slung over his arm as he battled against the exhaustion that was making its presence known in his body.

Being a Pureblood did not mean that he was impervious to everything –exhaustion being a good example that he had only gradually learned over the last two weeks, having deprived himself of any proper rest for that long.

In his defence, he had had to make sure that the negotiations and meetings he had been attending went well; it was what his father had sent him out to do, after all, and he knew that the elder Vampire royal had been testing him. He had been testing him for the last number of years after all, waiting, just waiting for him to falter, so that he could swoop down on him with more disdain than usual.

Coming to a halt when he reached the sturdy door that led to his parents' rooms, he groggily shook his head free of his thoughts and raised a hand to knock on the door, only it was opened before his fist met the wooden panelling. Blinking, he belatedly relaxed when he realized that it was one of his mother's maids, and not some foolish individual or the other who was seeking the chance to catch him off guard and erase him from existence.

No, he was not overreacting or being paranoid; things had changed over the course of the last few years. Changed to the extent that he had to constantly meet with those loyal to him, to arrange...matters, should the time come for him to truly exert himself as a Pureblood powerful enough to challenge –and perhaps win against- his father.

Or, he thought with a sneer, to challenge and win against anyone who stood with his father, and against him. That included other members of his family.

Oh yes indeed. Especially if they were male.

But that was only if it came to that.

Coming back to the present as he sensed movement, he growled something as the maid –a Vampire, of course- carefully tugged the coat from where it was hanging over his arm. He did not get the chance to rebuke her for daring to do so, for daring to touch him without his permission, for he was ushered inside before the door was closed behind him.

From the time he had set foot on the grounds of their home, he had known that his father was not present, having been unable to sense the powerful aura of the royal. And he had been grateful for that, as it meant that he would possibly have an opportunity to get some rest before having to report to the Vampire who, above all else, was his lord King –as he constantly liked to remind him. He was King first and father second –and when it came to him, he was King first, aggressor second, and father...well, he had not been acting in a very fatherly manner towards him recently, had he?

It was with a slightly relaxed countenance that he cast his eyes around the large room, before his eyes landed on the regal woman seated on one of the comfortable armchairs, conveniently placed by the closed balcony doors.

"Rido." A smile blossomed on the Pureblood royal's lips as she gazed at him, and he idly wondered if she was pleased to see him, as the smile suggested. It was not an easy thing, to decipher the mind of a Pureblood, especially one as practiced in the art of diplomacy and politics as his mother and father.

"Okaasama." He inclined his head at the older Vampire in the customary formal greeting.

Straightening after a moment, he remained perfectly still as he saw her dark, deep blue eyes observe him silently. It was unnerving, but it was not as if she was going to attack him –and besides, his father would do the very same thing when he met him later, so he might as well get adjusted to it. Although his father's gaze would be highly disconcerting and not...motherly.

As his mother held her arms out to him, he allowed himself to move, automatically allowing himself to fall to his knees when he reached her seated figure and letting her wrap her arms around him. The beautiful, dark haired Pureblood was unusually frail for a Pureblood, and it had been that way ever since she had carried her last child.

"You look tired," she commented, running cool, gentle hands through his rich, dark hair. He said nothing as he lowered his head, allowing it to rest against her knees.

Yes, he was tired, but he was still above admitting it to others. He was, after all, loath to show signs of weakness to anyone. And speaking of weakness...he found it highly amusing that the only person who he would willingly kneel before without being told to, was one who was confined to her rooms or to a well-placed chair most of the time –one who was undeniably weak.

His mother raised his head to meet his unique, mismatched eyes –one a deep, rich brown like his father's and the other a deep blue like hers- with her own. "Your father will not be home until later tonight," she commented, softly.

Even though he was exhausted, he did not allow any relief to show on his face at the news.

It was possible that his mother knew of his...reluctance to meet with his father, and that the royal discomforted him, but he saw no reason to admit it. For that would be giving whoever heard him some form of power over him, and he was never one to give anyone, or anything, such a hold over him.

Even if it was his mother.

He had only ever allowed one person to have such a hold over him... and that had turned out simply brilliantly; so brilliantly, in fact, that he never wanted to do it again.

"I had hoped to get some rest before reporting to him," he said instead, disallowing his thoughts from pulling him into the dark portal that always revealed itself when his thoughts strayed to that topic.

"Of course." His mother lightly stroked the side of his face with her hand, her lips pursing a little as a faraway gleam shone in them. It was an unusual thing for him to witness, simply because his mother was always composed and was not of the type to let her attention wander away.

Yet he made no comment on it, choosing instead to lower his head once more onto her lap and allowing her to continue stroking his head.

He remembered, distantly, the many times she had done that in the past. When he had been nothing but a young child with strange, frightening dreams; when he had been slightly older and in slight shock after having been introduced to the harsh reality of Purebloods and what was expected of them; and even when he had grown into an adult and had frequent disagreements with his father, which resulted in him receiving the short end of the stick... or in his case, the short end of his father's powers.

Again, it was something that he would never confess to, but the action...soothed him.

And it was even more pleasing to know that she did not take that liberty with her other son. Even if it was only because said son refused to be coddled, and did not like being the main focus of anyone's attention. Hah, how things had changed from what they once were!

For the quiet, unremarkable son had only recently shown those who knew him how very much like his father he was –for he got what he wanted.

Even if it was not his to claim in the first place.

As his thoughts wondered over to the only topic to ever cause a wave of pain to wash over him, he quickly stopped them in their tracks.

Ever since the day his siblings had received their father's blessings, he had learned that there was really only one effective manner in which he could deal with the pain; and that was to avoid thinking about it.

To avoid thinking of her.

He had only been somewhat successful with the matter, as he was –unfortunately- related to the recently bonded couple, and therefore, it was almost a given that he would be asked about them wherever he went.

Although the fact that the...couple did not live in the main Kuran manor did help relieve the anger and other emotions within him, at least for a while.

Hearing the soft sigh from his mother, he raised his head, catching a glimpse of the unreadable expression that flashed across her face. A frown tugged the corners of his lips downward at that, for she was acting in a most strange manner.

"Is there something the matter?" he queried, his brows quirked in a questioning manner as they locked gazes. This time, he saw her furrowed brows and immediately knew that something was not quite right.

A foreboding feeling suddenly washed over him, causing his kneeling figure to tense.

What...? What could have possibly happened to make her act in this manner? Surely, it must be something...distressing...

And the way she was looking at him...

His stomach knotted in steadily rising anxiety.

The last time she had looked at him like that had been when their father had –happily- informed him of the betrothal of his siblings, which had happened when he had conveniently been 'away' on his father's 'orders'.

The last time she had looked at him like that was when his...brother had taken something from him, when he had won over what should have, could have, been his.

And there was really only one other remaining thing that he had a claim over; the position of being his father's successor as the eldest Kuran son.

Despite his exhaustion, his aura flared to life.

Had he, had that backstabbing, treacherous, dangerous little upstart taken that too from him? During the time he had been gone –again on his father's 'orders'- had the usurper been passed on the title of the Kuran heir? He would not put it past his father, whom he knew did not test his younger son like he tested his elder one.

I will not, he thought, unaware of the flaring of his mismatched eyes, let that go by unchallenged. That is mine. I am the eldest son; I am the next in line...the heir...not Haruka...!

Feeling the slight, gentle tug on a handful of his longish hair, he forcefully brought himself out of his thoughts. His mother was definitely troubled, he could see that from her eyes and the small frown on her lips, and it did not reassure him in the least.

Okaasama, do not...make me hear what I most certainly do not want to hear...

"We...will be having a family dinner together this evening, Rido," said the older Vampire, her hands still on her son's head. "Har –your brother and sister will be joining us." She held firmly on to her son's head as he attempted to move away from her, displeased.

"I am afraid you will have to excuse me from the...event, Okaasama," he said, bitingly, "for I am quite exhausted after my taxing journey."

His mother shook his head, catching her lower lip with her teeth.

"Even if you were to stay away from this meal, Rido, you will not be able to avoid it, to avoid them, forever. They will...be staying with us for a while." His mismatched eyes narrowed as an all too familiar feeling rose in his chest.

Would he never be free of the knowledge that they were happy while he still pined after a lost love? "Rather, Juuri will be staying with us for a while...for a fair number of months, to be precise."

That caught his attention. Juu –she would be staying, alone? Without her beloved husband?

How...odd.

For surely her husband knew of his continued presence in their parents' manor...? He would have thought he would do anything to keep his precious wife away from him.

Or perhaps he wanted to show him, to tease him with what he could not have...?

Seeing, however, that his mother was still staring at him, he only nodded.

"I see," he said, through gritted teeth, as his mind turned towards exactly his brother would be doing while Ju –his wife stayed with their parents.

Was he planning something? Had their father given him some important task or the other, a task that he was not supposed to know of?

Or was it their father's sick and twisted attempt at testing him by playing mind games with him, knowing what his...one weakness was, and would, probably, forever be?

"Rido." His mother searched his eyes once more, before averting them. "I do not want to be the one telling you this, my son. Yet I fear that, if I do not do this, you will only be in for another unpleasant shock -the consequences of which, I am sure, we would be better off without."

Silence fell upon them for a moment when, quite suddenly, the vase that stood on the table behind the kneeling young Pureblood exploded, sending sharp porcelain shards scattering around the area, some even hitting the male on his back. "Rido-"

"-So that is it, then. Otousama has deemed me worthless. He had finally released his true desires...and has done the...unforgiveable..." His eyes were soon changing colour, becoming shrouded in a crimson mist, as he lost some control over himself –which had been happening more and more frequently over the last few years; his control being tested by thing he had never thought could test it. "I had long since guessed that Otousama disliked me, but really, to go this far...? Is that not too cruel, Okaasama?"

"What are you speaking of, my son? What has your father done, what has he taken too far?"

He paused, staring hard at his mother. Was she trying to tell him that she did not know any of this? That she knew nothing of what was happening to their family? To him?

"You claim to not know-" But he had to stop when she held up a hand, effectively bringing him to a surprised halt. His shoulders shook lightly as he stared at her for a moment longer than was necessary, before turning to fix his gaze elsewhere, reminding himself that this was his mother, and that she had not stabbed him in the back yet. Nor had she done anything to help him, but...he supposed that there had to be at least one member of his family who he could...tolerate, at the very least.

"I know not what you are thinking, but I can assure you that it does not concern your lord father." There was a pause. "Rather, it concerns Juuri, Rido."

His eyes narrowed.

What about her? He doubted that his mother was going to say that she had left her idiot husband. If she had been the type to do so, she would not have consented to their bonding in the first place; a fact which only served to affirm that this piece of news was nothing for him to look forward to.

"What about her?" he asked, his voice coming out in a hiss. It was not his fault; he merely disliked speaking of...her. Of thinking of her. Of seeing her. For it only made him ponder on what he had lost, to ponder on what could have been –but never was- his. And he had fortified his mind against such thoughts in the first place, had he not?

So he concentrated instead on the mixed light in his mother's eyes as she, once more, caressed his face.

"She is... Juuri is--"

But he never got to hear what she had to say as he sensed, as they both sensed, the...familiar yet...somewhat off presence outside the door, a mere moment before it was pushed partially open with the confidence that only his father or one of his family would dare to possess when approaching the rooms of the Pureblood royal.

"Okaasama, Haruka sends his apolo... Ah."

He was not aware of the expression on his mother's face as he stared at what he could see of the cruelly familiar female, but he could feel her eyes on him. "Forgive me," said the young, female Pureblood, as she moved her hand back to the carved door handle. "I would not have come if –ah, that is... Forgive me. I will come back later, Okaasama." She moved away, attempting to pull shut the small sliver of the door that she had pushed open.

...Juuri...

He had known that this would be his undoing, that seeing her, in the flesh, would strip him of the defences he had built around him when it came to her and the...emotions she brought out in him.

"No, Juuri, there is no need for that; come inside, dear." He barely heard his mother speak out, for his eyes were fixed on what little he could see of the beautiful Pureblood, through the small gap between the door and its frame.

"There is no need to hurry, I have no qualms with waiting and-"

"Juuri."

He found his lips pulling back in a sneer as his sister sighed –a sound that was perfectly audible to their superior Vampire hearing- out of displeasure, for he knew what she was displeased about.

She did not want to see him –or perhaps, she disliked the idea of him seeing her. It had been that way since a while before her...betrothal; the chocolate haired Pureblood who had once looked at him with affection...had instead begun to distance herself from him, looking upon him with disdain not dissimilar to his father's.

Once more he found himself dragged out of his thoughts when he felt the hands threaded in his hair grasp his head tightly, causing him to turn his attention to his mother. "Please, come inside Juuri," continued his mother, her eyes fixed on her son's red ones. "And shut the door behind you."

For a moment, the tall, short haired Pureblood continued to stare at his mother, wondering at the pointed look she was sending him. Unable to decipher what she could possibly be trying to impress upon him –for really, his mother should know that he always behaved before his youngest sibling?- he turned back to the third Pureblood when he heard the door being closed.

His expression softened despite himself, he could feel it, and as much as it might have angered him –for it was a sign of weakness- he found that he could not find fault with himself.

It was Juuri after all; beautiful, intelligent, witty, lovely Juuri. Her mere existence both tortured and soothed him, much to his chagrin, for above all else, it meant that she had power over him. The same kind of power he was very, very careful not to give anyone else.

And still, despite this, he found that...he did not mind her having that kind of power... although it would have been sweeter if she had been his and not...Haruka's.

As he looked over her face, he quickly dismissed the somewhat agitated light in her lovely rich eyes as she stared at him and their mother –for she was no doubt uncomfortable with his presence, and he ignored the pang that the thought caused within him with practised ease. Her hair had grown, somewhat, and, he had to admit that she looked beautiful.

With an inward laugh, he realized how absurd the observation was, for of course she was beautiful; had Kuran Juuri ever been anything but? How lucky her husband, her bed-mate, her bond-mate, was! And she would only get more beautiful as the years dragged by, with maturity and time sculpting her slim hips and slender figure to a more womanly and--

Time seemed to come to a standstill as his eyes were drawn away from his sinfully beautiful sister's face.

Her slender figure...

...was not so slender anymore. Not...at all. It was...larger, more curvaceous...and it –it...

Bore all the signs of bearing a life within its confines.

A life other than that of her own.

He felt his mother's sharp nails on his scalp, but found that he could not take his eyes off his sister's slightly, yet visibly swollen belly.

He sensed his sister's discomfort, but her figure continued to hold his attention.

Juuri...his Juuri –for she could very well have been his if...Haruka had been removed from the picture, far-fetched though the fantasy might have been- was with...child.

She was with child.

Haruka's child.

That was why her presence had seemed somewhat odd, moments before she had entered; for she was fostering another within her.

Kuran Juuri was going to become a mother.

And just like that, his only recently fortified mind, his only recently fortified world, came crashing back down on him.

Again.

Again.

...A-Again...

Darkness rose within him, bubbling up his throat, and he laughed. He tilted his head back lightly, and laughed.

Through his half lidded eyes, he saw the bemused look he was receiving from the beautiful brunet, before her eyes flitted to his mother, and he could only laugh harder.

He laughed until his throat was sore, until the darkness had risen to invade his very mouth. Only then did he manage to sober, to regain his composure.

"I see," he said, breaking the tensed silence that had descended upon them. He tilted his head to a side to stare at his mother, enduring her probing gaze but inwardly dismissing it like the weak fly that it was. "I see now, Okaasama." And he did see indeed; that was what his mother had been trying to inform him of, that was what she had tried to prepare him for. And it was not because she cared for him...rather, she cared about what he would do to his sister, upon discovering her condition.

But he did not feel...betrayed by the realization. He was not new to the experience of betrayal by family after all.

Pulling his head sharply out of his mother's hands, he stood effortlessly, smoothening down his shirt. He absently noted the shards of the shattered vase lying around him, and averted his gaze as he felt the surge of power within him.

He turned his gaze to his beautiful sister instead.

"Rido-"

"I believe congratulations are in order," he commented, easily ignoring his mother's somewhat concerned utterance. His sister's eyes narrowed, but he was far too used to it to be seriously troubled by it. "Does our father know?"

He patiently allowed his sister's analytical gaze to probe his face before watching her shake her head.

"We wish to surprise him," she said, coolly, squaring her shoulders.

He smiled cordially, unaware that his mismatched eyes were glinting once more.

"It will be a welcomed surprise indeed," he said, with a nod of the head, before he turned and inclined his head to his mother. "Forgive me, Okaasama, but I believe I should retire to my rooms. I have had a trying few weeks after all." He straightened. "Please be so kind as to send a maid to wake me up when our father returns."

Without waiting for his mother's answer, he turned and stalked towards the door, which his sister was standing before. He smirked as he saw her tense at his approach, but made sure to keep his hands, powers and fangs to himself. Not that he had ever...not done so where she was concerned. "I offer you my congratulations once again," he said, as he came to a halt before her apprehensive figure. "And now, I will let you enjoy our mother's company."

Smiling at the beautiful Pureblood, he sidestepped her still, tensed figure and opened the door before closing it behind him half a moment later.

The smile he had given his sister was still on his face as he headed down the corridor, and it widened when he saw the maid from earlier standing at the end of the long passageway.

Dismissing her curtsy as she spotted him, his mismatched eyes travelled to the travelling coat she had in her hands. His travelling coat. Gracefully snatching it from her, he headed towards the stairs, for his rooms were on the floor below where his parents' rooms were situated.

Shrugging on the long, dark coat as he descended the stairs, he did not stop when he reached the floor below. Instead, he continued until he reached the ground floor once more.

He would most certainly displease his father if he were to be away when the royal returned to his home, and he would displease him further if he were not present at the 'family dinner' to be held later that night.

But the arrogant, hateful Vampire was already displeased with him, so he did not think it would make any difference.

Besides, it was imperative that he leave his home. That he be away when his dear brother decided to turn up. That he be away when his father saw that his sister was... When he saw his sister's...condition.

Fuelled by the darkness that he could now taste, the darkness that was so very tangible to his senses, he knew exactly where he needed to go.

For the Kuran manor had slowly, but surely, begun to suffocate him.


A/N

I took quite a few liberties here, with Rido's mother –hope no one minds that. (But then again, writing fanfiction in the first place is taking a few liberties, isn't it?). It was difficult to write her without giving her a name, but I didn't want to give her a name that wouldn't...fit. If that makes any sense.

That's about it from me here!

To the next chapter...