Disclaimer: Vampire Knight © Hino Matsuri
A/N: Hello, hello, and welcome to Never Assume! This has been on my mind for a long time (trust me, I have bits and pieces of it written in four different notebooks), but I've never really had the courage to post it. So . . . here it is. Enjoy! (Oh, and I apologize for the length. I've never been good at keeping things going.)
Last Re-Post Date: Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011
Second A/N: Okay, so it's been over two years since I've started this thing, and I'm nowhere near the end. For those of you who were around when I posted my author's note at the end of '09 or the beginning of '10, thank you so much for your support (and your scolding). I've really appreciated it. I thought I gave Never Assume up for good, but—thanks to one very spirited friend—I'm proud to say I'm making my comeback! Please support me and keep me accountable. Thanks so much!
"This won't hurt one bit, Emi-chan. I promise."
I knew this adolescent was a monster, a bakemono —the sadistic pleasure in his voice was obvious as he bent over my arm—but I kept trying to persuade myself he was still the sweet newspaper boy. The one who smiled at me with that kind little grin when he biked to my uncle's driveway before the sun even awakened. The one who picked flowers for me because he knew how they made me smile. I wanted to believe he was still the angel his name said he was.
People used to joke about his name, Tenma Tenshi—angel demon. They said his mother named him "angel" to counteract the curse his father's family name would no doubt bring upon him. After all, what good would it be to call yourself and your family "demon"? His being an academic prodigy didn't help either; they thought it was unnatural for someone so young to be able to calculate mathematics so quickly. They had no idea how right their suspicions were.
"It'll be over in a little while. Just a few seconds, then we're done, okay?"
A desperate whimper escaped past the dirty gag over my mouth. No, I begged. No, please. Not again . . .
The needle came closer, a clear liquid sloshing lazily around inside the transparent vial. Sterilized metal glinted off of a flickering lamp on the far side of the room. I watched with wide eyes as his thumb positioned itself to send the chemical flooding into my body. As much as I wanted to turn away, to hide in the furthest corner of the earth, I watched.
The twelve-year-old genius blinked his deep red eyes, a moist tongue darting out to catch the dewy drops of perspiration edging down his sharp cheekbones. His dark hair was matted to his forehead, the humidity in the room sweating dark patches on his shirt.
I blinked, my eyes working furiously to contain escaping tears. No, I scolded myself. You will not show fear. His concentrated gaze met mine, and I thought I saw a flicker of emotion flash across the red abyss. Pity, maybe? Or remorse? It disappeared before I could put my finger on it.
A gentle smile turned his pale lips upwards. His eyes warmed as he stroked the side of my face with the back of a cool hand. Under any other set of circumstances, I would have blushed and shyly turned away, especially from someone as handsome as he, but there, it was different. I flinched and tried to push his affectionate gestures away, my futile actions restricted by worn leather restraints that bound me to the metal table top.
He noticed, sadness creeping into his eyes as he pulled his hand back, suddenly seeming more like the boy he would have been had someone not bitten him. Being the naïve little five-year-old I was, guilt immediately hit me: Don't be sad, Tenshi-kun. It's okay.
"Emi-chan . . ." I noticed then how he still called me by my birth name. My father changed it to "Kumori" a few weeks ago, but he, this boy I was renamed after . . . he still called me "Emi".
A tired sigh released itself from his body as he looked down at the table, avoiding my gaze. Regret and shame emanated from his lanky self. "I'm sorry it has to be this way. I'm sorry I made you afraid of me. I'm sorry for using you and for the experiments and . . ."
His voice trailed off in anguish. It was quiet for a few moments, the air thick with uncertainty. I laid on the table, not daring to breathe: I didn't want to break this defining moment silence. Let me go, I thought. Please. No one has to know about any of this. Just let me go.
He found his resolve a few moments later, his voice shaky and sounding on the verge of tears.
There was a light prick in my arm. Then fire.
"Shhh . . ." He tried to quiet my muffled screams and convulsing body with gentle words. "Emi-chan, I know it hurts now, but later it'll feel like nothing happened."
It burned. My body was burning, but I was drowning. There was so much rage in those few drops of clear liquid: rage and jealousy. They seemed to be shrieking, "How could you? How dare you?" My soul left my body, came back, and left again. Then I was numb. An ocean crashed onto my back, but my clothes were dry. Music sang up from the underworld, screeching dissonant cries until my ears bled. Fire sprung from the music, but I didn't singe.
Nothing made sense anymore—I didn't even know if I made sense.
Heart beating erratically, airway closing, vision fading and room spinning, I knew he was no longer my sweet little newspaper boy.
". . . chan! Ku-chan!"
Someone was shaking my shoulder. I mumbled something incoherent—Do I look like I'm not exhausted? I wondered briefly—and turned my face away from the noise that someone was creating, hoping she would get the message.
That someone was very persistent, though. I was starting to miss the days when she was terrified at even the thought of waking me up. Now she will shamelessly dive into my bed in the evening to get me to "Rise 'n shine."
"Ku-chan! Wake up!" Her voice was high and whiny, like a schoolgirl's out of one of those anime shows.
My white flag went up when my head almost ungracefully hit the tinted glass window, thanks to her furious shaking. "Yes, Suzune?"
Cracking open an eye, I took in my live-in friend's worried appearance: creased brow, upside-down smile, and a short lock of hair that had been twirled one too many times around her jittery finger. Quite the opposite of her usual lively, carefree self. "What's wrong?"
Watering gold eyes popped into my line of vision, unnervingly close to my face. A childish pout forced itself onto Suzune's glossed lips—cherry flavored, from what I could smell.
"What d'you mean, 'What's wrong'? You were, like, hyperventilating in your sleep! That's what's wrong!" After a few more moments of worried staring, she sat back into her leather seat, easing into a more serious expression. Her pout was replaced by a thin frown. "You okay, Kumori?"
I closed my eye, settling back into the comfortably sleepy darkness. My body relaxed and my breathing slowed, but Suzune knew I was thinking.
Am I okay? The thought ran through my head, weaving silently through the fresh memories of the past few weeks: having dinner at that fancy restaurant with the flirtatious waiter, Suzune falling into the pool in her favorite cashmere sweater, paying off some fines of various grossly overdue library books . . .
"I—" Something caught at the answer I was going to give.
The party my father hosted.
The sudden return of my nightmares.
"I'm fine, Suzune."
She gave an unconvinced huff, crossing her arms over her nonexistent chest. The pout had come back. "You always say that."
I opened my eyes and shot her a small smile. "Stop worrying."
Her lips curved into a bright grin at my rare show of emotion, perfectly aligned teeth gleaming. Outside the luxury car, the sun moved directly behind Suzune's head, highlighting the shine of her short orange hair. She looked completely thrilled, like a little kid at her first circus.
A comfortable silence fell. Only the soft purr of the car engine could be heard as I was allowed a few moments of peace. Gazing out the tinted windows, my eyes flickered over the landscape. Towering pine trees whizzed by at about ninety kilometers an hour, nothing but dark green blurs to human eyes—not that I was human. The impossibly bright sun was just starting to set, staining the sky orange and yellow.
Sheets of paper fluttered as I caught Suzune in my peripheral vision flipping through the information packet we were given. The rules and regulations listed in there were strict and enforced by a two-member "disciplinary committee". I knew why the headmaster took special precautions with his academy, but I couldn't help but think he was going just a bit overboard with the Guardians. Just how uncontrolled did he think we were?
Suzune tugged out something glossy she had stuck between two pages. "So Ku-chan, what do you think of the school?"
I threw a brief glance at the colorful brochure she held in her hands, scanning over the text yet another time. The Bookman Old Style print made the school seem very cozy and really bookworm-y. It seemed nice enough, certainly very extravagant from what I could tell from the pictures, but a certain kind of doubt lingered inside of me.
Time and time again, fate has always brought me to wherever he is, I thought, an unnoticeable frown making its way to my face. Fate or some god up there who really hates me.
"Well?" Suzune gave me an expectant look one would expect from a loyal golden retriever. I half expected to see a tail wagging behind her.
All I offered was, "It's safe," and left it at that, turning a blind eye to the disappointment rolling out in tidal waves from her petite body.
"Oh." The single syllable she let slip between her lips echoed her crestfallen expression, but I couldn't afford to tell her the real reason why my father sent us here.
Another pregnant silence fell, this time awkward. Several long moments passed, and I did nothing to fix it. To explain would take too long, and to comfort Suzune would be completely out of my character.
I hated this. I hated myself. Why can't I be nice? I internally fumed. Why can't I be as good a friend as she is?
Fortunately, Suzune didn't think twice about my slight. "Wow . . ." She pressed her face against the window, unaware her nose was going to leave a smudge. "Lookit that . . ."
An iron fence at least three times my height loomed over out little black car as it rolled to a stop, gravel crunching lightly underneath the tires. Beyond it stood a building that looked like it belonged in fifteenth century Romania, not modern-day Japan. Its white bricks were tainted pink by the setting sun; tall, ornamented spires reached up to the darkening sky, the tips only breaths away from the first shades of faded blue.
I got out of the car, Suzune clambering out quickly behind me. The air was clean and crisp, the sun now low enough where I didn't have to squint. My fingertips tried in vain to touch the tips of the spires as I stretched, working out the kinks in my back.
Suzune stood only a few steps away from the gate, gaping up at its size. She had to tilt her head all the way back just to get a glimpse of the top. I could hear her murmuring, "So tall . . ."
The good natured chuckle I was about to release dissipated as soon as I glanced at the land behind the gate. A slight frown crossed my face. The foreboding aura surrounding the school grounds didn't sit well with me. Something about the way the trees casted long shadows over our little group and the way a breeze moved my hair sent a lasting chill down my spine. I pulled my scarf up over my nose as I glanced around warily. Call it women's intuition if you want, but I somehow knew I had stepped from the place where I was safely hidden behind stereotypes to a world where my very essence would be unraveled and put on display for all to see: