Because it seems like he knows something. Because there is a connection that needs to be divulged. And because, I may be the only one who can...
Kaien lowered the rod in Yuuki's open palms. She hissed in pain, but clenched the handle despite the burning sensation. "I—" Cringing in pain on the couch, Yuuki slung the rod on the rug, rasping. "I can't!"
Kaien knelt on floor ponderously and sighed. "I'm not the only one to notice your spell can be penetrated. It consumes more energy than you have."
"Oji-sama is helping me." Yuuki replied.
He sat up inquisitively. "Your…Uncle?"
She eyed the weapon. "He taught me how to create a force-field around myself to ward off vampires and humans alike."
"Weren't you sheltered by Asato?"
"Ichijo-sama took great care of me. I learned to master many spells with his help too. Occasionally, oji-sama visited me and promised that when I'm of age I'll live with him freely, without a boundary spells to hide my identity. He promised me no one would dare attack me again."
Kaien picked up the small rod. "That's right, the reason your family was ruined and why Artemis—a Hunter's Weapon came into a vampire's hand was from the battle eleven years ago."
"You've heard of it?" Yuuki looked up sorrowfully. "How my parent's died?"
"I regret to say, Yuuki," Kaien's eyes hardened as his fingers clamped the rod. "Artemis was one of the weapons used to kill your parent's. This very weapon was sent to you. It's almost cruel to hold the object that laid the fatal blow on your mother and father." Her soft gasping didn't break his resolve and he continued. "This weapon is lethal to fellow vampires. You must understand now that this being sent to you was so you can undermine a target."
She scowled. "Why would I want to kill someone?"
"Are you not rid of resentment for the one who started it all?" Kaien asked suddenly. The dropping of her gaze and averting of the face supplied him the answer he sought. "Your coming here was planned. Your possessing Artemis on your stay here against your will was planned! If Asato feels you deserve the weapon, then I hope you surely will wield it for his sake. Whatever objectives he decides to incur on you, I'll be the judge of its influence in my association and academy." With glaring eyes, he offered her Artemis. "No matter if you choose to oblige his tyrannical gambits, Artemis will be handy to you the most, depending on how you use it."
Once upon a time, amidst a war in the Kuran family, Artemis was used to kill my parent's.
She clumsily prepared for the inevitable pain as her hands wrapped the handle and resisted dropping it like she had done before. Tears tickled from her ruby eyes but she held Artemis tighter, accepting the combustion of electric and fire coursing directly through her hands and into her body.
It killed my parent's. Someday it may kill me too, but if I don't try wielding Artemis, I won't be able to determine the reason it was given to me.
From the corner of her minds eye, she beheld an ancient pair of heterochormic eyes, blue and crimson narrowed pointedly. These eyes!
'It's not the weapon...But the intended. You know it. That you can surpass the resistance and make it your own.'
Her eyes opened to stare at the instantaneous force writhing burning sensation in her hands subside. Yuuki widely gaped at the submissive weapon in her clutches. "Oji-san!" She murmured in shock, "What did I—"
Kaien was already walking back to the kitchen. "It's a good thing, isn't it, Yuuki? Use it wisely."
Stunned, she turned around to object. "But I don't want know how to use it."
Casually, Kaien poured tea in two identical cups before delivering them to the living room coffee table. "I'm sure you'll come to grips with it after a series of tries. Artemis evolves into a scythe in its ultimate form. It will move with your energy to reach your target, not too difficult."
Yuuki delicately held Artemis and flung her hand to the right. Kaien spurted tea over the table as the rod slid into an elongated shaft.
"Of course, she can." He chortled in the dark of the commodious room. Flinging the long strings of light hair backward, he tipped her neck sideways and licked the warm pulse beating feverishly under the skin. "Beneath the fair façade, the blood of her king streams in her body. Years of patient preparation, she has finally turned into my perfect little instrument. Fit for my enjoyment."
"Rido-sama," Asato bowed gracefully to the floor in front of his king. "I have sent the weapon. She will receive it soon." The sound of gulping circulated the room, a controlled shove of his arm and the maid collapsed unconsciously by Rido's shoes.
"She already received it." Rido informed melodically, "The link I share with her has strengthened perceptibly. She would've given up if I hadn't reached out to her. But now that Artemis is in her grasp, she can use it to fulfill her desires." Rido chuckled at the derisive stare from Asato. "She is a pureblood, the ravenous kind in the world. Don't you think she knows how to kill?"
"Yuuki-sama hasn't paid attention to eliminating vampires. She was always burdened to protect herself and maintain the spell you taught her."
"Killing is her nature." Rido smirked.
Asato climbed to his feet. "Why did you ask me to send Artemis?"
"She has bloomed. Keeping her distant can end here. Her exciting resemblance to Juuri, hm-hm-hm, she will fulfill my desires exceptionally. Judging by her liberation at the association, the president doesn't suspect her for the explosion."
"I sent the underling like you asked." Asato replied. "In exchange for your blood, he has sworn to do according to your will."
"Hm-Hm Hm." Rido grinned sinisterly. "Sending her to the association was a good idea. My ridiculous servant will try to sway her from her responsibilities if she roams in our society. The Hunters Association is ideal to keep her out of reach where it's limited to contact her in hunters vicinity."
"Kuran Kaname will meet the Hunters Association today."
A blue iris flashed in Asato's direction. "Then, you understand why I put Artemis in her disposal."
Asato swiftly nodded. "Yes, Rido-sama."
"At the time of the new social gathering, she will be weaker, in greater need of blood."
"Everything will go as you planned." Asato echoed. "Yuuki-sama hasn't received replenishment. Though her spell is penetrable, she will continue to keep her guard. Ultimately her lack of nourishment will drive her into a corner." Asato met Rido's hungry eyes. "At that moment, I will personally make sure to send her to you."
"Her hatred shimmers like daylight, brighter than ever. If she strikes now, she won't be accused. Only purebloods can oppose each other."
"How do you design the fray between Yuuki-sama and Kaname-sama, whom she hasn't met for over a decade?"
"You've served me satisfactorily, Ichijo." Rido hummed, "Fusing drops of my blood in the human blood you gave her since she's been in my captivity, my memories, desires, wishes, and accomplishments—all encompass her. She doesn't explicitly remember the death of her family. Tampering with her mind and letting her live in the illusion of the murder—she will agree to what I tell her. A docile thing, isn't she?" He prided.
"You saved her from agony, Rido-sama."
"Agony…" Rido contemplated. "Heh-heh-heh, agony, thy name is Juuri. I can at last obtain what I desire for centuries. Juuri can no longer escape me."
"Yuuki-sama won't disobey you at all." Asato murmured, "And like you predicted the association is willing to help her. She will stay there for a quiet a time."
"Then be sure to retrieve her before the social ball."
"Yes, I will."
"Good little nephew you have there, very innocent and respectful to his grandfather…. Heh."
"Takuma will stand by watching Kaname like he is told." Asato confidently replied.
It's getting late. Yuuki glanced at the clock on the living room wall. Kaien had stepped out without telling her where he headed.
"It's dangerous out. Stay here, Yuuki." Kaien waved over his shoulder at the door.
She curled on the couch and closed her eyes. If the city attached to the association was protected like it was believed, the Level Es couldn't possibly cause damage. Majority of the humans had modified memories, various intermarried and started families with tamed vampires while others decided to help the association sanctify human cities from voracious vampires. If the pacifism were to continue, it needed stricter guidelines, but how in the world were the Level E vampires able to overcome the repellents around the association and city? They appeared invited it seemed…
'Listen close, Yuuki, don't go anywhere…' His encouraging smile felt forced, causing an anticipation of peril settle heavily in her stomach. She didn't dare refuse his word.
Brushing her left cheek with the back of his hand, he sighed. 'Stay in this room and wait for me.' He strode out and closed the door.
Raising her hand in midair, her lips quivered, tears dripped on her cold cheeks. 'Onii-sama…'
Don't go, onii-sama! Don't leave me here!
Bolting up, Yuuki patted her freezing cheeks. Wearily sighing, she clenched the cushion seat under her thighs. "Onii-sama?"
Nine years. I survived nine years without dreaming about him.
Hungrily scanning the empty apartment, Yuuki sprinted to the door. Her hands braced the lock and she lingered for a moment. 'Stay in this room… Wait for me…'
Shaking her head, she plunged open the door and marched out. Get out of my head. I don't want to remember!
Surprise stung his soft voice as he looked up astonished at the man. "Haruka… Just now, did the sword reach your heart?"
His smile didn't waver at the young boy in his arms. "It's ok. We know everything and still you never became our cute child? Even though…" His skin was brittle to the touch, cracking against the forceful wind and disintegrated altogether like flakes of soft pedals.
Gone… Kaname's fingers tingled from the lingering sensation of his otou-sama. Haruka too…
Growling he glared at the looming man two feet ahead. In the whirls of crimson substance, he remained vigilant of the boy grasping the hunter's sword. "Rido…" Kaname hissed as his blazing eyes narrowed, "Did Haruka cut your head off? Now if I use the hunters sword to destroy your ability of rebirth, the wound on your head will be the Death Wound." Murder sizzled fiercely in his crimson eyes. "If possible I wish to not kill you softly but because of Yuuki—"
"Hahahaha!" Rido cackled, joyously waving his arms about, "The pureblood princess—hm-hm-hmm….Will become my sweetest sacrifice."
"Rido…you!" He charged the sword impatiently above the shoulders but felt his arms and legs freeze unexpectedly. What is this? Kaname's eyes widened in shock.
"Look closely at the face of the blood-shedder." Rido whispered.
"Onii…Sama…" Trembled a voice behind Kaname. He swung alertly in her direction to find her held fast by the insect servants of Rido.
"Don't—" A single movement of his arm sent the servants to miniscule pieces in air. Their dusts flooded the region and decorated the top of Yuuki's head who trembled on her knees. Kaname steered toward Rido but the man leaped over him and stooped behind Yuuki, snaking a bloody hand around her narrow throat and clawed his nails into her skin. "Get that low-life hands off of Yuuki…!" Kaname snarled, clenching the sword handle tighter.
"Try and stop me." Rido chuckled excitedly.
"This was your wish and I shall make you disappear forever." Kaname spat under his breath.
"Do you dare point that sword at your darling princess?" Rido tilted Yuuki's face up. Shakily, she squinted her eyes shut. Averting was impossible as Rido forced her chin in Kaname's direction. "There… Look at him. That sword will drive you to your death one day."
"NO, no, NO!" She quivered insistently. "Onii-sama won't." Suddenly, she flapped her arms in an effort to fling away but Rido's arms restrained her insufferably against his person. "Let me go! Onii-sama—help me!" Yuuki screeched.
"What's the matter?" Rido pushed his nose under her ear, "Don't like your oji-sama?"
"Onii-sama! I'm scared!" She screamed.
The sword trembled from fury in Kaname's hand. "Release Yuuki." He breathed.
"The final blow can't be delivered by you either way." Rido smirked crudely. "Even without her in my arms, you can't kill me…hahahahahah!"
The approaching field of servants loomed on the side. Kaname glared at the malignant crew once and turned to Rido. He climbed to his feet with Yuuki in his arms. She wrestled in the pressure against her ribs that made breathing difficult. Her weary ruby eyes met Kaname's.
"No…" He darted forward. "Yuuki!"
"Onii-sama…" The corners of her eyes shrank and the slight movement of her mouth was another whisper justly for his ears. "Help me…"
I told you to wait for me.
"I anticipate a battle in the future, when you've regained your original ascendency. In the meantime, I will delight in the richest Kuran blood." Rido gestured to the unconscious Yuuki. "My next sacrifice." His form altered into soluble state, carrying Yuuki along. Her face shimmered in specks of dust until it disappeared.
I told you to stay there. Kaname waited for the attacking league of servants. Yuuki…I told you not to leave.
Takuma glanced nervously at Kaname's studious silhouette merging once again into the shadows of the sidewalk building. He was an expert in disguise and many abilities were limited to noble birth vampires unlike the purebloods, who could control any form of vampires. Several powers helped them surge force fields for protection, another ability he recently learned after meeting Yuuki who was borrowing power from Rido even though he wasn't physically near the association. Only a blood relation was necessary to borrow and exchange powers between purebloods.
"Kaname, can't you use your blood to track her?" He spoke for the first time during the endless walk. "You do share the same blood."
He had tried in the past. Whatever blocked her from sensing him in fact repelled him mentally and physically. The barrier fortified if she continued to drink Rido's blood. He sensed a long time ago Rido was trying to discourage contact between them. Focusing solely on Yuuki was no avail, he learned the hard way. In turn he needed to concentrate on Rido's presence in the association—the place he detested and wouldn't dare appear.
The store windows shattered across the street, causing Takuma to halt and stare as Kaname continued fleetingly through the shocked crowd of humans.
"Oh my god! What is that?" Gasped a pair of humans by Takuma.
"All the glass broke!"
An aching noose tightened around his dry throat, Takuma swallowed loudly and rushed after Kaname.
His ruby eyes scanned the running army of terrified humans. The front roof of the café on the street corner collapsed, followed by another stinging draft of chilly wind that shattered the windows. He had witnessed the destruction of fragile structures such as glass, furniture, walls, and mirrors before—anything within proximity would be shattered as a result of fury or uncontrollable emotion. The strange thing was that Takuma recalled only vampires had the ability to do it. To tackle mountainous buildings at once with stupendous force could only point at one type of vampire, a pureblood.
"Something's going on. Everyone get out of here!" Shrieked the humans. "We're being attacked!"
Resolutely, Kaname approached the café with Takuma at his heels.
"Can you tell?" Takuma asked desperately. "Something perturbing must've happened."
"We're headed in the correct direction." Kaname observed, eyeing the mall on the transversal corner with ample windows.
"Everyone, please, kindly clear the road." Called a voice from a microphone. "We are from the Hunters Association, please, clear the road!"
Kaname swarmed around as Kaien quickly approached the two. "You are here! Was it—"
"Not us." Takuma cut him short. "I beg to differ, we are gentlemen who can compose tactfully. We wouldn't dream of releasing our frustration in such endangering fashion!"
Kaname glared silently at the blond, who immediately retreated with a bow of his head.
"Uh, Kaname, why don't you stay for a while? There are things we need to discuss." Kaien gestured to the streaming humans departing the region. "This will be taken care of in no time. I think you can tell what force is behind this." The amusement in his eyes vanished, "And I think you know who has the power resembling yours."
Kaname's narrowed eyes skipped over the streets. "Why did an army of Level E attack the association today? Was it to sully my name and return to the association? Don't you suppose the city of Peace and Kurosu Academy is becoming the nest of bloodshed and crime between vampires and humans? How contradicting things have become."
"I knew you'd say something in the order," Kaien smiled emotionlessly. "But you already know who wants you to resign more than ever. After your return to the council."
"The council and I were never congenial." Kaname remarked. "The continuation of the war will only drag me to do the unthinkable..." He looked up at the darkening sky.
'… Just fine ok? So don't make such a scary face, onii-sama.'
'I'll always be with you.'
'Yeah, if Kaname onii-sama is with me, no matter what happens I'll be ok.'
Yuuki threaded her fingers into her hair. Groaning, her knees slumped harshly on the sea of broken glasses. Stop…. Please.
Another row of windows and bricks slammed against the alley walls.
Startled, she gazed at the boy cowering on the glass floor and darted to his side. "I'm sorry!" Yuuki helped him up with shaking hands. "I'm trying to control my emotions but it—"
"Ah," He groaned at the large shard of glass piercing his leg. "It hurts!" He whimpered.
Helping him against the wall, Yuuki knelt to examine his leg. "It's all my fault." She ran her finger on the enticing trail of blood. A throbbing sensation coiled at the back of her throat. She looked up into his tearful eyes and guiltily looked away. "I wasn't paying attention." So many humans got killed because of me that day.
"Ah!" Tears streamed along his cheek and throat.
"Don't move, please?" She straightened his leg, "I'll help you." The removal of the embedded piece was done with extreme caution. He struggled momentarily until she discarded the glass and touched the open tissue with her warm palm. Yuuki smiled at the teary boy. "Don't tell anyone, ok?"
"It hurts, it hurts, please!" He sobbed, throwing an arm over his eyes.
'It's ok because I'm here, ok?'
She clenched her eyes shut as a spiraling pain pulsed through her head.
'I'm definitely going to make sure, so that when Yuuki is scared I will always be there wherever you are.'
Yuuki clasped her temple and turned her head away. Stop, no more! Please.
"Please… Please… hurry!" Sobbed the injured boy. "It hurts."
Wiping her forehead on her shoulder, she turned back. "It's ok because I'm here, ok?" Yuuki blew on the wound and watched the tissue close slowly. "I'll make your wound go away, don't worry." She whispered soothingly. The treks of blood dripped on the floor and on her knee. Yuuki wiped away the last traces of warm blood.
His sobs silenced and he looked up in soft sniffles. "It...stopped hurting…"
Patting the skin, she lowered his leg on the floor. "There. Now go home and wash that off, ok?"
The boy smiled eagerly and nodded. "Thank you, onee-sama!" He sprang to his feet. "I won't forget your help!"
Steady footsteps crunched the broken glass of the alley. She looked away from the entrance to her right where he loomed sardonically. Piercing blue-crimson eyes narrowed on Yuuki's solemn expression. Her bottom lip quivered but she dipped her head shamefully, pressing her chin against her chest.
A long hand slid through her hair to lift her chin. "Hm-hm-hm." His eyes widened in amusement. "You aren't a vampire if you resist such fresh blood."
"But oji-sama forbade me to drink other's blood." Yuuki kept her eyes closed.
"Eternally obedient." His thumb feverishly brushed against her soft lips. "I favor obedience more than anything."
"I won't do anything to disappoint you, oji-sama." Yuuki whispered.
"Open your eyes and look at me." The ruby eyes that peered at him were dark, as if returning from a funeral. A smirk twisted the flat line of his mouth. "Your powers have weakened and you've been envisioning unusual things. Don't let it overwhelm you..." His fingertips trailed to the hidden pulse on the neck. "Should I seize you from the association?"
"But I'm," Her protest waned under his burning stare. Sullenly, she lowered her gaze, "If you wish, oji-sama."
"I will retrieve you in time, my jewel." He grinned. "Remember, nothing is possible without you."
"I will wait."
"I sensed your troubled mind because of your visions." Rido brushed back her hair, "Shall I erase your plaguing thoughts to help you rest?" Under the weight of his moving hand, she felt her eyelids drop and darken her world. The aching taste of remorse and guilt turned bland, into an empty black imaginary water drop. The tear falling out of her corner of her eye soaked the cuff of his sleeve.
Her head tipped back in her insensate state. Lifting her singlehandedly, he strode in to the streets and whisked within shadows to avoid scrutiny.
"Somehow, it quieted down." Kaien found himself frowning and blinked, catching himself off guard. "You were urgently tracing the source but, uh?" He watched Kaname hover the mouth of the dark alley. "What is it?"
He stepped over the pile of glasses and knelt. Gentle hands brushed the lingering warmth on the gravel. Was it you?
Takuma rubbed the dot of blood with his fingertips on the wall. "Fresh human blood, very young."
"A victim?" Kaien alertly scowled, "In this city?"
"Strangely the Level Es didn't attack humans. They retreated for now." Takuma studied Kaname's back and bowed head. "Now do you believe it? He kept her silent all this time."
Kaien lowered his glasses slowly. "Kaname, I request you come see me frequently. Even with your limited schedule, you must." He folded his arms and smiled handsomely. "If you agree, I'll let you see Yuuki."
Inertly, Kaname brushed his dark brow with a finger and swiftly turned. The whipping of his coat provoked the once lazy plates of glasses to elevate around him, aimed directly at the president.
Kaien pedaled back in trepidation. "You really don't joke." The glasses forked at him as he shielded himself with his arms. The shards unthreaded several portions of his coat, leaving his arms and elbows exposed from the cut clothes. The length of his hair had chopped significant inches. Kaien flushed dark red, "Don't be angry, Kaname-kuuun!" He waved anxiously, "Now, now, please!"
Another angry tide of glasses floated around Kaname.
Kaien stiffened and screamed. "She is in my apartment!" He could only watch the ruby eyes flicker with instant relief and desperation. Wordlessly, Kaname's figure warped into empty air. The gliding glass pieces splashed to the floor. Squawking, Kaien covered himself again.
Takuma rubbed the back of his head. "You should know by now," He wandered out of the alley with a pitiful stare toward the president. "He is intensely short-tempered. And you may wonder how he managed to persist searching for Yuuki for more than a decade."
Kaien cleared his throat and rearranged his stripped sleeves. "If he had only asked…"
"He was guaranteeing Rido-sama was the one putting the force field around Yuuki. Today it weakened gratefully, and it's Kaname's only chance to reach her before it reinforces."
"This all has to do with energy." Kaien followed. "The trinket I put on her wrist will also absorb her powers. She hasn't had nourishment yet and I can tell, daily her spell isn't getting any stronger." Kaien met Takuma's green eyes. "Come to my office, Ichijo-san, there are things your grandfather wants to do and you can't gallop with his plans like a moron. If you do, you will be in Kaname's way."
Takuma paled drastically. "I don't understand why jii-sama wants to hurt Kaname in the lowest ways. He has hurt enough."
"I know." Kaien murmured solemnly. "And I will do my best to bring the two together."
"So that's why Yuuki is under your care?"
Kaien covered his secret smile with a hand. "That's a long story. If you have time, I'll tell you one day. But Yuuki's stay in my city has more to do with the explosion at the Rouen Gala. She risked indictment if the culprit hadn't stepped forward. As a result, I'm obliged to keep her here for punishment—according to the Elders Council, Yuuki shouldn't be faced with charges and I've decided that it was simply a matter of 'being at the wrong place, wrong time'."
"In short, you purposely helped her and kept her here for the convenience of Kaname coming to speak with the Hunters Association and wanted to arrange their meeting?" Takuma predicted.
"To put it romantically, it had to be sudden and without Yuuki's knowledge!" Kaien hollered.
Takuma frowned at his shoes. "Why mustn't Yuuki know that Kaname is here?"
Kaien regarded the streets casually, adding with an air of somberness. "Her expression darkens when I mention him. The last thing we need at a time like this is Yuuki running away. But away from the vampire society, she can't get lost here. With Artemis mobile in her grasp, she will listen to her guardians diligently." Kaien gave Takuma a sidelong glance. "The time I talked about her parent's, she insisted I stop as if pushing away a dark, painful memory. To her, Kaname falls in the same category."
"He is using her." Takuma whispered.
Kaien halted. "Hmm?"
"Rido-sama." The name made his lungs heavy and breathing constraint. "Kaname's pacifism is honored by most council members but it's only an amount of time before they turn their back on him. Rido-sama and jii-sama will like that. If the leader of the pacifism movement is out of the way, Rido-sama can attain his desire to govern and create havoc amongst humans and vampires." Takuma shamefully hid his eyes. "Kaname knows already. But he will accept anything from Yuuki. Her devotion or hate, he won't stop her and he wouldn't have it any other way. The one person who can cleanly dismantle him is Yuuki. And Rido-sama wants it to be gruesome. Eventually, Yuuki is his tool that will submit her life to him."
"If you understand this much," Kaien glared, "Then why do you help the despicable Head of Elders Council?"
"Because." Takuma evenly met his eyes, "The reason all of us are like this is because of the purebloods."
The body lay motionless on the street. A wrecked ship in the middle of nowhere, sinking and oozing in the familiar crimson river. Her gliding footsteps stopped in the moonlight and the fall of her dark hair shadowed his shoulder when she bent forward to examine the harmless creature that had ceased living mere moments ago. If only she had arrived sooner and not been stuck in a lifeless dream where colors and faces disturbed her tragic reality.
Soft hissing tickled her sensitive ears. Her head straightened at the brisk movement. Raptly, she flung the silver scythe upon her springing assailant. Silk dust slipped on the floor on her right. Yuuki rose to her feet and turned, almost fleeing the gory scene.
"Too daunting?" Said the shadow by the trees in the park.
Her hand clasped Artemis tighter and her eyes glowed austerely in the blackness. "You're a hunter." She accused, "Couldn't you save him?"
Curiosity didn't provoke him to review the corpse on the sidewalk. Toga rested the rifle on his shoulder on his smooth march toward the pureblood. "I see the weapon accepted you. How did you learn to use it?"
"Oji-sama." Yuuki rubbed her bottom lip in contemplation. Briefly she lay asleep in the halls of the council building and woke up at the exhilarating scent of blood. Artemis was at her side and to her extreme surprise it had been turned into an enormous scythe, suitable to harm anyone within proximity. She acknowledged it was her uncle's encouragement and putting it to use had been easy.
"Your scent has changed." Toga's assessing eyes fell to her grip on Artemis. "Do I have to lock you in the cellars like that good-for-nothing cute kid of mine because you can't control your hunger?"
"I'm not a fiend." She rebuked silently.
"Hmph." Toga smirked, "Then I'd really hold a grudge against you, little girl." He strode to the dead body and nudged it with a boot.
Scaling shadows dripped across the walls of the council building. Movement tugged breezes from the corners of the courtyard. Looping over the trees, the pair steered above the deserted road and landed in the shelter of an apartment roof.
"Ah, so you recently moved here, Yamagachi-san?" Toga flipped through the wallet, "Shame to die so soon. Too bad…" He dipped a finger in the warm crimson puddle. "You were guiding them into the council house. Once your part is done, I'm afraid, you're as good as nothing." He kicked the head and scoffed.
"You knew him?" Yuuki asked.
Toga slung the rifle off his shoulder. "Little princess, wandering at night lures them to our dungeon." He loaded two bullets and clocked the gun. "Guess this means you're also helping them come here." Toga aimed the rifle at her, spitting repugnantly. "I hate your kind. Every last one…"
Stiffening, she stepped back. "Toga-sama." Yuuki kept Artemis to her side. "You've got it all wrong, I—!"
"What's wrong, princess?" He smirked coldly. "Still sticking to your fake pacifist role? Our city is in no need of defectors. You see, it's easy to use the weak and fun and discard them whenever you choose. You probably haven't even realized your nature yet but let me remind you—regardless of what Level you are, you're all...Filthy." His finger set grimly on the trigger.
"I'm not their accomplice! I don't know why they are here!"
"Oh yea?" Toga tsked. "What is it, aim for the heart or a good shot to behead you so you never come back?"
Artemis burned her hand. Her vision blurred with tears. "I haven't…haven't…"
Hot tears moistened her cold cheeks and chin, but even the silhouette under the hooded trees felt imaginary like the voice that made her heart skip a beat. Who said it? Her eyes targeted the shadow behind the tree trunk. The voice calling my name endearingly...
BANG—BANG! She turned back at the time of the roaring bullet raking past her hair and shoulder, piercing the sequestered vampire that frizzled to dust with a groan.
"Pests." Toga muttered, clocking his gun again and set the barrel over Yuuki's head. "Duck or I'll really blow your head off—BANG!"
She dropped to the floor at the echoing bullet. There was another pound of dust falling to the ground from the aperture.
"You're alive, Yuu-ki… You're safe…"
She glared at the breezing trees. Who is that?
"Quit day dreaming and giddy up." Toga barked. "Stay close to me tonight. They are drawn to you because you're weak."
"I have Arte—"
"Then use it and make my work easier. Get rid of the shit stinking up the city." He grunted and raised a brow, "But don't get caught, understood? You're still in our custody and you have hours of service to complete—no slacking off tomorrow!"
Hurriedly, she followed him out of the courtyard, whipping her head back once in a while at the dark trees. "I…" She clenched her teeth determinedly. "There is someone watching me."
He pretended not to hear but his sour grumble made her wince. "Conceited purebloods…"
"I'm serious!" Yuuki glanced awkwardly over her shoulder.
"Don't tell me I gotta hold your hand?"
"I never hunted vampires before."
"Mayyybe." Toga scanned the park, "Your prey is waiting for you." Effortlessly, he shoved the rifle at the shadowed park and shot in every direction possible.
Yuuki watched in pure disapproval and remarked when he began striding away. "That was reckless. What if you shot a human?"
"Don't worry, little girl, vampires are the one that need to watch out. Our arsenal is not dangerous to humans. Same goes to your reaper-like-thing." He gestured clumsily at Artemis. She remained quiet like a shadow for several minutes. Toga glanced skeptically at her bowed head. "Say, what do you think of the mosquito?"
She looked up, dumbfounded. "Mosquito?"
"That good for nothing blood-sucker, heh."
Emptily, Yuuki stared at the swaying trees in the distant.
"Is he mean to you?" Toga wondered in slight curiosity.
"No. You should feed him."
"So you're aware of his condition?"
"His heartbeat, I hear it often. Whatever you're doing for him is useless. It's the base craving for blood, any type of blood not necessarily of the one who turned him into a vampire. If you don't supply soon, he won't be able to distinguish the error in drinking blood from victims." Yuuki bit her lip. "You know already."
His stared stonily at the street lights. "The Vampire Hierarchy was ingrained to your head. Must be easy to be at the top, considering how fast he'll plummet to Level E."
Her knuckles blanched under the pressure of her clammy grip around Artemis. "Toga-sama let me offer you some advice, Zero is at his limit. Do you want to know why Level E's haunt every living creature?"
Toga stopped and swung around, "His enzymes are confused."
"Please, this is for his sake," Yuuki whispered, "He won't do it for hunger but to escape what he has become. Drinking blood is the outlet from the horror of his reality and will calm his mind."
He smirked thoughtfully at the ground. "Convince him to drink blood."
"That idiot rejects blood, he curses himself for wanting any." Toga admitted and pointed the rifle handle at Yuuki. "If you convince him, I'll do anything to get you out of this dump and close your case. And… More. Whatever—name it."
"You've tried hard it sounds."
"He's a stubborn dog howling in my ear every living second—and I want to put him down."
That's an awful metaphor. Yuuki wisely kept her silence.
"He is a pain in the ass and if he dies before me, I'm never forgiving him."
"His ear must be itching right about now."
Kaien ushered them inside the apartment, sneaking glances at the empty hallway before locking the door. "Only the two of you, did you meet someone on the way, Yuuki?"
She closed Artemis and quietly removed her shoes. "No. Toga-sama asked me to help him kill Level Es."
"She's got a lot of work ahead of her." Impulsively, Toga rubbed the back of her head, "But she'll get the hang of it."
"Yuuki, your seat one day in vampire society will require you to lead vampires, not kill them." Kaien reminded, "Didn't I tell you not to leave the apartment?"
She looked away quickly. "I, uh, needed fresh air. I went for a walk."
"Hmm." Kaien stroked his chin, "With Zero-kun staying overnight at the Hunters Association, I guess this means I have to look over you tonight!" He clapped gaily, "For our first time, what do you want to do together?"
Toga whacked the back of his head, annoyed.
Disconcerted, she walked to her current room. "Sorry, but I'm tired. I think I'll go to sleep. Good night."
He looked a little hurt but nodded. "Oh ok! If you wish." Kaien turned around to scan the living room hopelessly. "I can catch up on some reading, perhaps. Let me know if you nee—" SLAM. Kaien gloomily gaped at her locked bedroom door, howling in his hands. "Awh, I have a feeling she doesn't like me!"
"She was stalked all evening, give her some space." Toga started back to the door.
"Was there anything unusual?"
"No." He undid the lock.
"Did someone follow you?"
"Level Es." Toga clenched his teeth impatiently. "Spill it!—Smack!"
Kaien rubbed the back of his head. "I met someone."
Toga instantly reverted to the door. "What's that got to do with me? Meet whomever—date whatever! I don't care."
"Not like that! What do you take me for?"
"You, Kaien…are…a questionable entity."
"Peh. I'm not touched." Kaien spat. "I asked Kaname-kun to come over!"
Toga's hand fell from the door lock. "The Kuran prince… Here?"
Kaien discarded his glasses on the coffee table. His legs trembled next to the couch and he sank tiredly, rubbing his aching temples. "I want to clear the misunderstanding and impertinent distance between the two. She was locked away for years, hidden from the truth."
Toga smirked humorlessly. "If he didn't do it, then why was he on trial for five years?"
"The Elders Council wanted to ruin him completely." Kaien glared blackly at the ceiling, "Holding a grudge against him for years and twisting Yuuki's memories—she doesn't know a thing about the reality of her parent's death. They were killed, yes, but not by Kaname!"
"Did she tell you?"
"She was under Asato's care. Surely he filled her head with various illogical scenarios."
"He was here to discuss the case of the Gala today. She'd have eventually seen him."
Kaien threw his head back and rumbled with laughter. "Hu-Hu-huuu! The Level E attack was well timed, don't you think? If it never happened, Yuuki'd have confronted Kaname by now." His smile turned bitter. "Almost like someone had the upper-hand at diverting their meeting."
"If it's Asato…"
"Toga," Kaien regarded his comrade, "Have you taken a good look at the Level Es? Don't they reek of the similar blood as Genki in our cellars?"
"We are on to the same thing." Toga's eyes gleamed.
"One bite of Yuuki's blood would be treason and an attack is calling for death. They are after something else."
3 months have gone by… Yuuki slashed the leering vampire out of her way. The cowering students of Kurosu Academy looked up fretfully.
"Thank you!" The students bowed deeply, "You saved our lives!"
She returned the gesture. "Be careful of the Level Es."
"We will!" They darted toward the campus in a hurry. "Thank you!"
Watching them disappear past the entrance gates of the school made her heart sting with longing. Of course home schooling was different. She was taught by some of the strictest and intelligent vampires that had a part in the developing of history centuries ago. Yuuki let the blades of Artemis retract.
I feel I can live here freely. She blended in the streets with the humans.
This city is different than the ones in vampire society. All of the vampires here are tamed and regulated from drinking human's blood unless an agreement is established. Heading into the homeless shelter, Yuuki pulled off her hood, put Artemis aside and made her way into the back rooms to retrieve her apron.
"Oh, Yuuki-chan!" Yori hailed from the tables.
"Sorry, I came a little late." Yuuki apologetically bowed.
"No, don't worry." Yori leaned over the counter to whisper in her ear. "As long as your bodyguard doesn't know, right?" She playfully nudged her shoulder.
Yuuki began changing the food trays. "He is not my bodyguard. He was sent from the association to monitor how I do my work."
"Isn't that the same thing?" Yori dumped steaming curry in a plate. "It's his job to watch you."
Yuuki cringed, "Yori-chan, please."
"I'm guessing you don't want to work here much longer." Yori observed her working hands intently.
"Yes. Because I want to do more." Yuuki slammed the spoon in the tray fiercely. "I was assigned to help the children at the shelter, at the hospital, and recently Zero and I went to work at Kurosu Academy—gah! There just isn't enough time to do everything!"
Yori blinked at her serious expression. "You really have a humanitarian streak, princess. Well!" She shrugged, tipping the ladle to her ear, "Royalty do need to devote their time to the people. It's only right to feel this way."
"More curry!" Shouted a large man behind the counter.
"I was once accused of killing humans in an explosion. What's so humanitarian about me?" Yuuki poured the food in his bowl and watched him march back to his table.
"But I know you don't have the heart to kill people." Yori stated.
"I think you trust me too much."
Yori scrunched her face. "I do, don't I?" She giggled and tipped Yuuki's chin up. "But I can read you easily."
Blushing, Yuuki pulled away. "Please, Yori-chaaan."
"What?" Yori snorted, "My mother fell in love with a man who said, I can see people's atma. Yours is actually very warm and tender, like a cute puppy. Even when my mother tried to hide his true identity, I knew he was a vampire beforehand."
Yuuki watched her in astonishment, "Were you ok with the arrangement?"
"I was!" Yori grinned, "He made my mother happy. Although, we don't get to see him often, he is a kind vampire."
A vampire who is kind… Something in her heart stirred and popped. She bit her lip. I hate this feeling. Yuuki released the spoon.
"And your bodyguard isn't too bad." Yori murmured in Yuuki's ear. "He may act cold, but they way he looks at you is something else."
Yuuki looked up from her daze. "What do you mean?"
"I can sense it," Yori thrust a finger at Yuuki, "Something is rousing between you two. Deny it now and regret it later!" Triumphantly she swung her arm around Yuuki's shoulders, "Trust me, I can 'read' people and your body guard's-"
"Can I get some food please?" Requested a timid customer.
"Ah, yes, sorry." Yuuki helped the woman with food.
During break, Yori glanced at Yuuki from the corner of her eye. "Why don't you enroll at Kurosu Academy?" They were standing at the back of the food shelter, at the entrance of the alley, watching the passing cars. "I've been volunteering at the shelter for a year, Yuuki-chan, what do you think? We can work and go to school together."
Her grip around her coffee compressed, branding her fingers on the tin. "I-" She stared at Yori's honest brown eyes and glorious smile. What have I been doing?
Yuuki glared at the gravel. These few months while doing community service, living with a smile on my face with Kaien oji-san and going on patrol with Zero…
She pressed a hand on her rapid beating heart. "It's a good idea, Yori-chan."
Right now, I feel like I can live here forever. With Kaien oji-san, Yori-chan and even tolerate Zero's rudeness. "I'll consult oji-san, I think he'll approve."
Yet… Her fingers knotted on the collar of her jacket. My heart feels like it will burst. The coffee can slipped out of her hands and rolled across the gravel, splashing the matter on her shoes and pants. She didn't react at first, if it weren't for Yori's concerned hissing and briskly swatting the stain.
"Why did you drop it? Huh?" Yori frowned at the empty expression on Yuuki's face. "Are you ok?"
"Sorry." Yuuki darted into the alley. "I need to clean the stain."
"Just go ins—"
"Please, don't be concerned about me." Yuuki smiled peacefully over her shoulder. "I'll be ok."
Yori scowled as she dodged her tearful gaze. "You liar." She spat, watching Yuuki turn at the alley-corner. "You're not ok. You haven't been ok at all, lately."
I hate this feeling. I'm full to the brim. She strode briskly across the street, head bowed to avoid spectators. These last few months, I've been lying. She brushed away her miserable tears. But the dreams do not stop. I haven't heard from oji-sama yet. I've been trying to evade it for a while but I can't anymore… Yuuki turned into a street and leaned against the wall, flinging her arm to mute her sobs.
Her breathing hitched, Yuuki slumped to the floor, pressed on the wall. That… voice!
Bowing her head in her arms, she trembled. Oji-sama, what is it you want me to do? Her hand slid onto the cool appendage in her pocket. I've been waiting. You said, you'd get me out of here soon, but when? Quivering, she pressed her fingers to her warm lips.
"I'm so stupid." Rubbing her eyes dry and looked up at the sky. Her eyes didn't hurt against the sunlight anymore. Yuuki scrutinized Artemis intently. Oji-sama, come quick…
A soft rustling boomed from the rubble across the yard. Steadily Yuuki regarded the calm milieu, detecting nothing out of the ordinary. Her gaze fell on the slithering dark shape emerging from the pile of rocks.
"Why is it," Yuuki smiled, "That you always know where I am?"
The dog stopped to sniff and approached her quietly.
She welcomed him in her arms and held him tightly against her chest. "Ever since I healed your wounds two months ago, you follow me every where I go." Yuuki rested her cheek on the dog's pate. "Thank you."
If you don't get me out of here, oji-sama, I won't ever want to go back.
Kaien stood stifled in the presence of the creature. He rubbed the corner of his eye, "Yuuki, are you sure about roaming the city with the…dog?" He tilted his head at the stark black coat glistening in the light. "He seems healthy but taking a stray—"
"He is attached to me." Yuuki informed, playfully running her fingers across his coat.
Appears she doesn't suspect a thing. Kaien cleared his throat. "Bizarre, don't you think? For the dog to be solely attached to you?"
"Oji-san!" Yuuki frowned, "I saved him, so I'm certain he considers me his caretaker now."
"Then you've considered the role with interest?"
"I… guess, yes." Yuuki smiled at the dog. "Can he stay with me?"
Kaien turned on his heel. "Evidently, my decision is of no importance. You've made up your mind already." He stiffened. "Why aren't you at the community center? You're supposed to be working."
"I." She ducked, "I skipped, tehee."
"You skipped to come see me?" He hugged her tightly, "Oh Yuuki! You're so sweet!"
"Num..." She shoved away. "You have the wrong idea. I was on break and I met him, and I didn't want to go back."
"So." Kaien's observing eyes narrowed. "You came with an ulterior motive?"
"Well, I was-" Yuuki blinked, her cheeks reddened, "I'm getting accustomed to daylight and working at the shelters. The city is not strange anymore, plus, I have my own pet, and I made a friend. I was thinking, if…if… Zero wouldn't mind and if it was ok with you… I…."
"Yes, yes?" He nodded eagerly. "I'm listening!"
"Let me attend Kurosu Academy!" Yuuki screamed. The dog's ears twitched at her loud tone. Apologetically, Yuuki rubbed its pate. "Sorry, boy, I felt very pressured."
Kaien stared blankly, "Did you…Just…?" He whipped off his glasses. "Kurosu Academy?" His chest tightened. "My school?"
"Along with my community service, will it be a problem to attend the school?"
"I'd like to say," He squinted his eyes, "You've made me extremely happy!" Trembling shoulders and eyes downcast, he rubbed his forehead, "Yuuki-ki-ki-ki…."
"Oji-san…" She paled. "Are you—"
Tears spurted out of his eyes as he screamed, "You made my dream come true! Yuuuuukiiiii-chaaaaan!" Bawling, he clung to her desperately, "I have always wanted you to stay with me, and now—now—you want to attend my academy too! Yuukiiiiii-chaaan!"
Juuri would be so proud, if only she could see!
Struggling in his embrace, Yuuki kept her head averted. "Oji-san, please, don't hold me too tight! I can't…" She gasped, "Let me go!"
"Please, accept my fatherly love, Yuuki-chan!"
"No, thank you." Yuuki flung back.
He sputtered helplessly. "Yu-yu-yu-Yuuukii-chan!"
"And stop crying, you're a grown man." She returned to the front door, "I'm meeting Zero to go on patrol."
"Take Artemis with you." He studiously rose to his feet, automatically composed.
"Yes, we'll be back soon."
As Yuuki departed, his gaze transferred to the immobile dog in the hallway. Kaien eyed the animal critically. "I requested you over but not in this form."
The dog blinked in silence as Kaien turned his back.
"You may have predicted my intentions. I admit no fault, and I only wanted to help, but noticing you like this, can I assume you're hesitating because of her reaction? Or is there something else." He glanced over his shoulder. "Kaname?"
In the thicket of the night, he strolled the somnolent streets that was inundated by humans during the day. As was inherent of vampires, many refrained from wandering in the sun. Takuma's strides slowed and he made another turn toward the grass field. He was not out of breath, but he found himself panting at the sight of Kaname's outline amidst the dark trees.
Ever since learning Yuuki's location, he hadn't been able to leave the city.
"He wanted you to meet her." Takuma started, "Why don't you?" Instead of tormenting yourself in the dark, like you've always done, now is your chance.
Kaname shifted a shoulder and turned his head to scrutinize Takuma. His ruby eyes weren't calm but feral crimson. One review of the cool and composed pureblood, Takuma felt his lungs constrict with ache. "Kaname, you… can't!" He reached for his arm but weakened instantly, "I'm sorry, don't mind my impulsiveness but you…"
You are already starved.
"She is guarded by the association," Kaname whispered, glaring at the birds latched on to the trees.
"Spies." Takuma growled, "What are they doing here?"
"Now that Rido is aware I know her location, he is daring me to make a move."
Takuma stepped toward Kaname worriedly. "If you don't seize her, Rido-sama will take her away again."
"You asked why I don't go to meet her?" Kaname's eyes turned piercingly red and immersed with sorrow, "Now that I've seen her, I long to touch her. If I meet her, I'll do something deplorable. She is not ready for me."
"Give her a chance, Kaname." Takuma persisted, "Trust her to accept you."
He chuckled, "How caring of Rido. He has put her at a place where I'd see her, knowing I can't reach her."
"But you mustn't keep waiting in the dark."
Waiting? Kaname closed his eyes. "Yes, waiting." He could almost feel tears seep at the corner of his lashes. Yuu… Ki.
She gazed at the looming trees in the distance.
"Stop spacing!" Zero alerted, adding more bullet in the Bloody Rose, gaze planted on her profile.
Her fingers clamped the rail as she leaned over to inspect the distance between her seven story elevation and the ground. Was she a vampire hunter? Her service was ample and many Level Es were drawn to her scent. They were a menace to humans. After witnessing countless attacking kids, she decided to be useful to help minimize them, with Zero's help, of course.
"Doesn't the city have a barrier?"
"There is, but if barrier is potent, all vampires will be as good as dust." Zero moved his back. "Including tamed ones."
Her eyes lanced the center of his back and tuned to the leaping heartbeat tucked deep in his chest. Zero still hasn't consumed blood. Yuuki exposed Artemis to the night. Even now, his heart beats irregularly.
She was becoming accustomed to the sound but a growing uneasiness made conversation awkward. Yuuki sternly preceded him and leapt over the stairway to the second floor. My presence must frustrate him. She scanned the halls thoroughly. A faint movement cut a leaf from a branch on the left, Yuuki held her breath.
Zero shot over the banister from above Yuuki and shoved the inscrutable shadow from reaching her. Artemis transformed and pierced into the vampire, reducing him to dusts. Zero reached over in time to grab a rail. She hurriedly clutched his arm to help him up.
"I'm fine." Zero yanked his arm out of her grip.
Yuuki recoiled obediently, "Oh, ok." Creating distance was the only way they could work together. Yet every now and then, she would wonder how much pain his body was under. If he admitted desiring her blood, she wouldn't be surprised. Yuuki gasped under her breath.
I need to stop thinking about it already. He rejected my blood before. Slowly, she looked over her shoulder at the silver-haired.
His gaze turned threatening. "What?" Zero snapped.
Yuuki moved away from the rail toward him, "Zero." She balanced Artemis on both hands, "Do you mind if I ask you a personal question?"
He whipped his head away. "Don't pester me."
"Like you, I need blood too." Yuuki murmured softly.
He seemed surprised at her admission. "Why are you—"
"Isn't it better to have a blood-bond to understand each other's need?"
Zero's eyes widened. "Are you out of your mind?"
Her eyes narrowed, "Don't try to hide it."
"Shut up." Zero raised the gun, "Or I'll shoot you."
"How will you react after you see my blood when you shoot me?"
His brows furrowed, "Kuran Yuuki, using your blood unlawfully, I won't allow it."
"It's your choice." She whispered, pulling Artemis higher, "Blood is thick. Don't you think it'll be fitting for us both?"
"I don't know what's gotten into your head." Zero muttered. Her lips tightened, and her eyes were almost bewitching in the dim light, Zero stepped back.
"If I cut you, you'll lose blood and have no choice but to take mine."
He was willing to sidestep but felt himself submit, waiting for the strike. The blade sharply sliced a body of fluid. He felt substance moisten his shoulder and neck. Yuuki whipped Artemis at the second vampire hanging over Zero and beheaded it singlehandedly. A snickering one grabbed her shoulder. Zero's bullet snapped the pale hand in two.
Yuuki backed away, glaring at the shadowed ceiling. "Why so many?"
"This building is the backbone of the insects." Zero drew Yuuki to his side stiffly.
She felt his hand tremble on her sleeve. Slapping his hand away, she glared. "I was serious."
His face darkened, "Kuran," He hissed without moving his lips, "You should really learn to shut up." Bang! Another vampire dripped to dusts at their feet.
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