The Lost Rose

''What was that all about?'' Cain asked after his breathing levelled out.

Aidou was still too stunned to react in any way. Holy shit! That was a confirmation if I ever saw one. Instead of slowing down now that he wasn't exerting himself anymore, his heart actually started to beat faster. That was definitely someone of the Kurosu bloodline, no other vampire family has that kind of colouring. And it could only have been the young princess, as at the time of their fall only three purebloods were left of the entire family. The deaths of the king and queen have been confirmed, only her death was speculated about. The death of an innocent child, the princess Yuuki Kurosu.

He snorted, almost tempted to start laughing altogether. Of course she would have been declared dead, there were no signs indicating otherwise, no evidence. And escaping such overwhelming odds was considered impossible. It's still considered impossible! But… somehow she escaped, defied everything and lived on. And she's here now.

He laughed then, startling his cousin and Seiren. Both swung inquiring eyes his way, but he just waved it off, still chuckling but not answering their unspoken questions.

Incredulity and a kind of elation filled him, their saving grace was here all along. She was there all along. And now all that remained is for her to show up, to show herself and… I was right, she is alive! And with her the House of Rose still lives.

''What is it, Hanabusa?''

He turned too look at his cousin, a smirk on his face. ''Nothing.'' And she didn't even use the charm this time. There is no way I could ever mistake what she is now.

Cain looked like he absolutely didn't believe it was nothing. ''Who was that?''

''I don't know.'' But, maybe it just doesn't work on those who know. Judging by these two, they probably didn't see it, or they did but didn't register it.

''Don't mess with me , Hanabusa. You obviously know who that was.'' His glanced in the direction the girl disappeared in for a split second and turned his eyes back on Aidou. ''You wouldn't be so smug otherwise.''

''It's not yet time for that, Akatsuki. Trust me.'' Though it seems they definitely did feel something.

''And be patient.'' He added when it looked like his cousin might argue with him. ''Now is not the time.''

Cain looked at him for a long moment, but decided to let it go. His shoulders loosened a little and he raked his hand through his hair. ''Looks like you found the answer to your puzzle. But, what's all the secrecy about? I've never seen you not brag about your accomplishments.''

Aidou looked a little miffed at that last comment. ''I said that it's not yet time for that. You wouldn't believe me even if I told you.'' Probably no one would.

Cain rolled his eyes.

''Still, this is important enough for you to have to tell us.'' This time it was Seiren that spoke.

''No.'' Seiren narrowed he eyes at him. ''The only one I would have to tell this to is Kaname-sama. And I'm pretty sure even he wouldn't believe me.'' It's too far fetched for anyone to believe, especially without proof. The only evidence I have is what I've seen with my own eyes. And they wouldn't believe me because I would be the one telling them the discovery. And with their opinions of me, here he clenched his jaw for a second, they wouldn't truly believe anything I say without at least another person telling them they figured out the same. He gazed at his two companions. ''And these two have seen only a glimpse of her, and absolutely don't know who she is. Plus, they wouldn't believe me even if I tell them. Or they would, but it wouldn't be enough for them to second my statement for others. And, she seemed to care that her identity not be revealed. So, no, I can't tell anyone about my discovery…

. at least not yet.

''Besides,'' he added when her glare turned frosty. ''I have a feeling I won't even have to say anything. You'll all find out soon enough without me telling you.'' At least that I hope… hope that she will come on her own.

A few tense seconds passed, but finally Seiren seemed to let it go as well.'' Let us return to the House of Ran. We have to give reports on what we saw.'' Her eyes swung to the other side of the clearing. ''We won't be able to catch her anymore, I can't even feel her.''

One by one they turned and left, Aidou last, and with a last somewhat smug look in the direction Yuuki disappeared.

Yuuki flew through the trees, her cloak billowing behind her. She moved at such speeds that each trunk, each leaf or branch blurred by her. Her companions were pretty far off, she left them quite some time ago in order to see what their pursuers wanted with them (or her, as usually everyone that came after them was after her… another proof that her charm had flaws, people shouldn't give her a second thought otherwise… or perhaps her power had grown so much that the charm couldn't possibly cover all aspects of her being). And, knowing them, they were almost certainly worried by now and debating whether to turn and follow her, despite her orders to keep going in their original direction at top speed. Seemed they worry about her whenever she met with someone on her own, without them there to protect her. And they do know that she didn't need it, that if push came to shove it would most likely be her protecting them.

Still, their concern was adorably endearing.

But, in situations like these, her abilities were the most suited for dealing with unforeseen trackers. She could easily lead them on a false trail and evade them, thus enabling her and those four to keep going on their route in peace.

Though this encounter was quite different than the usual ones. Mostly people who went looking for her were low level vampires who saw more than they should or wanted someone as mysterious as her with them on whatever insane and cruel quests they wanted to accomplish. Or they were hunters that sensed the danger she posed and went after her to investigate… she always took care to lose those the fastest and without being seen.

But this time, those following her trail were nobles. Honest to goodness nobles. And not just any nobles, but those from the House of God. Vampires like those do not do anything big like inviting some rogue vampire to the Godhouse on their own, mostly since they wouldn't even dream of bringing some uncouth lesser bloods anywhere near their revered lords, or king and queen in this case. This could only mean that she caught the attention of the Kuran family.

That is obviously the fault of that little temper tantrum I threw back in that pub. The blond one most certainly spilled everything that happened there to his lords and got their attention.

And she did remember seeing him there that night. He stuck out like a sore thumb, his demeanour so blaringly different than everyone else's in the entire place.

But to think that they would deem it so important to send someone to search for her. Not to mention that they had actually found her. Losing control like that had been a huge blunder on her part. And it seemed that her charm had definitely lost some of its effect, she'd have to up the level of energy she put in maintaining it soon.

And that blond. He'd figured something out. He seemed far more surprised and astonished than his companions when she'd let the see a glimpse of her face. It looked like he knew. But what he knew is the real question. Maybe he figured out she was pureblood and had the power of the ancients. People would consider her a threat then, when they knew nothing about her but she had so much power.

She could live with that. But he may have figured out who she is, the might of whose ancients she possessed. And if that was the case, then there would be an uproar, and her anonymity would come to an end, as well as her wilfulness. Though, him figuring that out is a bit farfetched, and unlikely. She was considered dead after all.

But… maybe it was time….


She came to a stop in the middle of a small meadow.

''There you are, we were starting to get worried.''

She raised a single brow at him. Then swept her eyes over the group, three of them were there.

''Where is Yori?''

The silver male answered her ''She went back to the citadel, to see her uncle and get the feel of things. The tension is rising and she wanted to get specific information. She said she'd be back soon.''

''And how will she find us?''

''She'll just come to our next destination.''

''But, there is a possibility I may decide to change our destination.''

That made them all look at her.

''Why?'' asked the bored female voice of the only other girl there with them now. ''Did something happen?''

''You could say that.''

''Are you alright?'' asked the silver haired one as he began looking her over for injuries.

''I'm fine'' she shooed him off of her. ''Do you thing you would find anything even if I was injured. Hello, pureblood healing here.''

''Yes, but I'd find holes in the fabric if someone did manage to hit you.''

''You know that is next to impossible.'' Added in the other male. His bluish tinted grey eyes peered at Yuuki from under his hood. ''Getting a hit on Yuuki-sama is a feat even some purebloods wouldn't be able to accomplish. You'd be able to catch her only if she let you.''

Yuuki beamed at him.

''Why thank you for your faith, I really appreciate it.'' She started walking and the others moved in step with her. The silver one walked by her side, eyeing her speculatively. The other two walked together to the side and a step behind them.

''So, what happened?'' the girl asked, her blue eyes trained on Yuuki.

''I met with our pursuers.''

All three glanced sharply at her, tensing a little.

''Now, now, don't look like that, they whished us no harm-''

''A first.'' The silver one commented.

''- I think.''

He levelled an incredulous glance at her. She shrugged.

''Seems they were looking for me-''

''Another first.'' Interrupted the other girly boredly, but with a touch of sarcasm.

''They were looking for us because of my little slip back in that pub.''

''That isn't anything new, people seek power all the time. And you have it. It would only be natural they look for you.'' The silverhaired man said. ''But what I don't understand is how could anyone have traced it back to you. As far as I know you're untraceable and no one can truly pin point your aura… and they can't sense you as the source when it expands.''

''The had someone who was there that night with them, and he looked quite perceptive. I'm sure he'd figured out that only the vanished hooded figure, out of all the ordinary vampires and humans there, could have done something like that.''

''How could he have figured it out it was you? To a normal vampire you're no different than them, easily overlooked.''

''But that's it. He was no normal vampire. Not an ordinary one, but a noble.''

The two hooded companions behind her hummed, but the silver one stopped walking altogether.

''A noble? What was a noble doing in a place like that?''

''I don't know? But he was most definitely a noble, as were the two other vampires he followed us with now.''

''But,'' she added when he looked like he was about to speak again ''they weren't any ordinary nobles either.''

The silver one's eyebrows pulled down in a frown and the other two stiffened.

''What do you mean?''

''They were nobles of the Kuran court. The ones directly under the king and queen of Ran.''

His lavender eyes widened a fraction and the other two didn't move.

''What did they want?'' asked the one with the grey eyes, coming to stand next to her. His hood rustled slightly and a mahogany coloured lock of hair fell in his face.

''They wanted to know who I am'' She said as she turned and started walking again, this time the only one in front as the other three followed behind her.

''Did you tell them?'' inquired the blue-eyed girl.

''No. how could I tell them? Do you think they would believe me?''

''Well…' she trailed off. ''They would.'' Said the hooded male. ''I have a feeling they would, even without you showing them. No matter how impossible it may seem, they would have known should you have told them.''

''It doesn't matter now.'' Yuuki sighed as she lifted her gaze to the treetops.

Grey eyes narrowed on her back. ''That wasn't all, was it? I don't think they would make all this effort to find you just to know your name.''

''No.'' she answered. ''That wasn't all.'' She looked back at them over her shoulder. ''They asked me to come to the House of Orchid with them.''

This stunned them. Their steps slowed until they were standing still. She stopped as well, and turned around to face them.

''Will you go?'' the girl asked.

''I told them I'll think about it.'' She looked off to the side. ''But I don't think I'll come .''

''Why not?'' demanded the silver haired one. ''This is your chance to come and to take what belongs to you. You could stand by the side of the Kuran family and avenge your parents' deaths. With you there, the chances will be stacked on their side.''

''But my freedom will be limited.''

''You know as well as I that nothing could limit you. But there, you would have access to a lot more resources than like this. And those purebloods that have taken to roaming the land after the fall of the Rose will return to you, and come to your side.''

''I don't know.'' She sighed.

This time it was the hooded one with the grey eyes that spoke. '' I understand you and your wish to be free, but think about these times and what your arrival would mean to the people and to the balance, you really could take the Lotus down soon. But only if you go to the Orchid.'' Here there was a ghost of a smirk in his voice. ''And I know you want to go.''

She chuckled at him. ''I do. But will it be for the best? You know what the majority think about my family.''

''And, since when are you one that cares what other people think about you?'' the silver one asked, raising a brow.

Yuuki turned around and started walking, but her direction changed al little from her previous one. ''And what will you all do then?'' she fought to keep the smile out of her voice.

''Follow you.' The two hooded ones said in unison.

''Of course.'' the other one added, rolling his eyes at the others.

''Yes, yes,'' Yuuki laughed, ''lets go find Yori first.''

Aidou was just about ready to drop when they arrived at the Kuran mansion. Three days, three gruelling days of walking with little rest and a lot of hurrying. All he wanted by now was just a nice, comfortable bed, and a lot of time just to sleep. Preferably a week.

But no. He had a report to give, and, by the look of things, a meeting to attend. The halls were teaming with people, vampires and hunters alike. Some were on the side talking, some on their way to the great hall, but you could see the divide between vampire and hunter. Both stayed with their own.

''Hanabusa, lets go find Kaname-sama.''

He nodded to his cousin in acknowledgment. Cain looked just as haggard as himself, faint dark rings circled his eyes indicating their lack of sleep and exhaustion. His clothes were worn and wrinkled, perfectly displaying that he hadn't changed out of them for days. Though, he was sure he looked nothing better himself, the woes of travelling in a hurry. They had gone on longer escapades and had come back looking far better than this.

Right there, at that moment, he swore never to do something like this again.

''Right.'' He turned, and went up the stairs, Cain right on his heals. He found it a wonder he could even move his feet anymore, but lo and behold, he could. He'd be staggering by now if it weren't undignified.

They passed quite a few people even on the upper floors. Mostly vampires though. They caught snippets of the conversations as they passed. There were rumours of some border skirmishes on the side nearest to the residence of the Shirabuki clan, seems normal class vampires were defecting to the territory of the Lotus with more frequency now and the level E's were becoming bolder. Also, there was talk of a mysterious figure, seemed the word of their interest got out and made others interested too.

He smirked. Well, they didn't seem too worried, or deemed it too important. If only they knew just who that figure was.

''Do you know where we should start looking, Akatsuki?'

His cousin hummed noncommittally behind him, he could almost picture him shrugging. He sighed, so it was time for another hunt.

''Well, he could either be in his study, or in his room, or the sitting room, or who knows where.''

''I'm pegging my bets on the study.'' Drawled Cain behind him.

''Good going, yes, pick the farthest room.'' He groaned as they made a turn to the right.

Then he got a heart attack.

''You are here. Good'' Spoke Seiren as she leaned casually on the wall in front of him.

''God, how do you do that?'' he whined, clutching the fabric of his shirt right over his pounding heart. ''You always scare me out of my mind, are you trying to give me a heart attack?''

She ignored him. ''Kaname-sama has requested your presence as soon as possible, follow me.'' And with that she turned and strode down the hall. Aidou sighed before following her and Cain was sorely tempted to roll his eyes at his cousin.

Seiren had left them only a few hours after they'd met the princess, not that those two knew she was the princess, saying that she would hurry to report to Kaname-sama and that they should move with haste also. She was gone not a second after the words had left her mouth. Not that her speediness surprised Aidou, she was Kuran Kaname's bodyguard of sorts and the one he gives most trust to, aside from his parents, and Takuma. And she lived her life to serve him… at least, that was the impression he got.

''Does he want to hear our reports?'' Cain got out around a yawn.

''He heard all that I knew.''

Aidou waited for her to continue, but she stayed silent. ''That's all?! You know, I'd heard animals more talkative than you, and that's saying something, since animals hate us.''

She ignored him and Cain snorted somewhere behind his back. Aidou suddenly felt his blood pressure rising.

They passed the beautiful antique halls of the House of Orchid, its walls made out of magnificent wood carved with intricate, mesmerising patterns. Quite different from the white marble walls of the Rose, this wood had withstood thousands of years of time, and it still looked brand new, it would probably take still thousands more for it to even start to show the signs of aging and decay. And every once in a while they would pass doors with the insignia of the Kuran bloodline. Eventually, Seiren led them to a double door, one leading to the family's impressive library.

Huh, so we'd have both been wrong, and would have gone on a wild goose chase. Though, the library should have been an obvious choice too. Aidou was suddenly happy to have been dragged here by Seiren, who knows how much energy they would have wasted looking for the pureblood.

And they met Luca outside the doors. How lucky, thought Aidou sourly. All he needed now was this annoying woman to make his mood plummet more than it already had, not to mention how much she would help his exhaustion.

''Oh, so you two are back.''

''Obviously.'' He replied dourly. He didn't see Cain roll his eyes behind him.

''You would do well not to take that tone with me.''

''Really.' he replied in monotone. He really was in no mood to deal with her. ''Move, Luca'' he sighed. ''We have some business with Kaname-sama.''

''Then don't let me interrupt you.''

''I wouldn't, if you would just stop blocking my path.''

Luca visibly bristled at that comment, but, amazingly, didn't say anything and walked in the other direction.

The cousins had to do a double take at that. Aidou had his mouth open and hanging while Cain's eyebrow was precariously high on his forehead.

''Well'' started Cain, ''That's a first.'' Finished his cousin.

''Enter.'' Stated Seiren as she opened the door for them, then followed them in.

The room was rather dark, illuminated by several candles. Books upon books lined the walls, with two or three divans placed here or there for people to sit on and read. They found Kaname lounging on one of them with a book on his lap; he looked dark and divine sitting in the scarce light, almost like a painting. His gaze didn't lift from the book as they approached.

''Kaname-sama.'' Seiren addressed as she bowed, Cain and Aidou following her example.

''Cain, Aidou, so you are back.''

''Yes, Kaname-sama.'' Aidou confirmed.

His wine gaze lifted to look at them. ''You look rather haggard. Was the journey rough?''

''Like you wouldn't believe'' groaned the blue eyed vampire.

Kaname chuckled lightly. ''There will be a kind of conference in the great hall several hours from now. Quite a bit of people are attending, am I to believe that you will be there as well?''

''Yes, as soon as we clean up and rest a little.''

''Of course.''

''But, we saw some heading to the hall already. You said the meeting was hours away''

''Ah, yes, they probably went to hear the topics sooner and gossip amongst them. People never change in that aspect.''

''And what will be the topic?''

''There were some lower vampires attacking humans on the border closest to the Shirabuki family. The hunters had to deal with them, and I hear that it was not easy. The incident will be discussed and related to the current situation. There is also talk of a ball being held months fro now, one attended by both fractions of the vampire world. The Lotus is organising it and it will be held in a border town. '' Both vampires stiffened when they heard that. ''That raised an uproar on our side so it will probably get some attention. And the hooded one you were hunting has been brought to knowledge to a few, so naturally it spread around like wildfire. It will be talked about as well.''

Aidou and Cain stayed there while Kaname stared at the book lined wall. Eventually they couldn't wait any more.

''Was that all, Kaname-sama?'' Cain asked.

''Do you maybe need our reports on the hunt?'' that from Aidou.

''Ah, no. Seiren already told me all she knew and all you told her. I don't think I'll need more. Besides, you will probably have to tell your account in the meeting, so I will hear it then. What I wanted to know about is your reaction to that conversation when you caught up with the girl.''

Damn Seiren and her mouth. Aidou thought irritably.

''I was nothing, speculation on my part.''

''Still, Seiren said you acted strangely. Like you knew who you were talking to.''

''It is just speculation on my part, Kaname-sama. Nothing you need to worry about.'' Yet.

Wine eyes narrowed. ''Still, I would like to know.''

''Even you wouldn't believe me yet, Kaname-sama. It can still wait for little longer, if nothing changes soon I will tell you then.''


''Trust me on this one, please.''

Kaname eyed him for a long moment, debating whether not to push it. Aidou seemed pretty decided about this, and it must be something for him to deny the pureblood answers.

''All right, I'll give you until tomorrow evening and then you tell me everything.''

Crap, not nearly the amount of time I'd been gunning for. ''Isn't that a little to short notice.''

''No. Either then or now.''

Aidou found himself in a pickle of his own making. ''As you wish,'' he bowed ''Tomorrow it is then.''

''Hm'' Kaname returned his gaze to the book and flipped a page. ''Didn't you extend an invitation for her to come here?''

''Ah… yes, but I'm rather certain she will not come.'' And hoping against all hope that she will. Rather pointlessly too.

''She must be pretty remarkable, for you to choose her over me.'' Kaname was playing dirty here, and he knew it.

''N-no, of course not! You always come first, Kaname-sama. And it will benefit you, and the entire House of Ran, greatly if I'm right. But I need time to think it through thoroughly and see if maybe I had jumped to conclusions too soon.'' Though, I doubt it.

Kaname sighed. ''You are free to go and rest some.''

An expression of pure undiluted joy crossed Aidou's face. ''Oooooh, I get to see a bed… and a bath. I've been craving for a good bath.'' He promptly turned on his heel and power-walked out of there, a 'Bye, Kaname-sama.' trailing behind him.

''What was that all about?'' asked Takuma as he emerged from behind some book shelf.

''I have no idea.'' Answered Cain. ''But I don't believe his last line. I've known my cousin for a long time, and when he has an expression on his face like the one he had in that meadow, he is certain.'' And now, curiosity is eating at me too. What a fine time you pick not to brag, Hanabusa.

''If you excuse me, I'll be going too.'' He dipped his head towards the other two occupants of the room, Seiren having long ago disappeared, and left.

Takuma stared after him, trying to make sense of what just happened. He wasn't getting anywhere. Turning his emerald eyes toward Kaname, he shot him an inquiring look. ''I've never seen Aidou like that. What's gotten into him?''

''I have no idea.'' Answered the pureblood, flipping another page. ''But se certainly seems to have hit a gold mine.''

Takuma came to him and leaned on the backrest of the divan, his back to Kaname. ''What do you mean?''

''You know how Aidou is, don't you, Takuma?''

Ichijou glanced at him a little incredulously. ''Of course I do! I've been here for seven years, and most of those he was here too. I know he seems all loud mouthed and bratty, what he mostly is, but I also know there's more to him than that.''

''Yes, now try to think why he would not tell me what I ask of him.''

''He would always tell you what you ask of him. You're the one he's practically in love with!'' Kaname shot him a dangerous look. ''Sorry, sorry, '' he smiled sheepishly, ''this is probably not the best time to make such jokes. But I don't get why. He always tells you. The only time he doesn't is when he deems it beneath your acknowledgment and unworthy of your attention, which this is obviously not, since you are already involved.''

''Hm, and you can't think of any other possibility?''

''No.'' he shook his head. ''Maybe if someone he respects asked him not to, he'd be able not to talk for a little while in that case. But that isn't what's happening either. He didn't meet that girl, nor does he know her for her to have earned his respect.''

''Yes.'' Conceded Kaname, draping the book over his knee and raising his gaze to the ceiling. ''and that is what is amazing. She has his respect without even doing anything. It makes me all the more curious about her identity, for it must take a truly remarkable person to capture Aidou's respect without even doing anything. She must be someone highly valuable. It makes me wonder…'' he trailed of, staring into nothing as thoughts of illusive shadows danced in his mind. And his heart yearned for something he did not know.

Takuma stared at him for a minute or two, noticing the subtle change. He was very rarely interested in something to this scale. Seems you and Aidou are no different.

''Well,'' he said cheerfully. ''that's something to be thought about when all this unrest is hanging a little less precariously over our heads.'' Kaname glanced at him.'' You should rest a little as well, I can almost guarantee that you slept little last night, since you spent it in the library, this very library. The conference is going to be long and boring, better get all your strength up so you don't fall asleep.'' He winked at him.

''Hmm.'' Kaname picked up his book and started reading again. ''And are you coming?''

A light grimace took over Ichijou's face. ''You know I can't. they view me as the delegate spy from the Lotus.''

''But you are not. And you will come, by order of the prince.''

Takuma laughed. ''And with that you use your authority. But I'm not fooled, you just don't want to be the only one bored in there.''

Yuuki looked at the cute little blond hunter scurrying the street. She was a petite little thing, easily more than a head shorter than her, and positively dwarfed by the sword she carried. How she could go one on one with vampires remained a mystery to the pureblood. But, she mused, that's the charm of hunters. You never know how dangerous they are till the last second.

''Yuuki-sama, let's go.'' Her tall companion grabbed he upper arm, albeit gently, and proceeded to drag her behind him. ''Those two have, amazingly, found an inn for us to settle in. So we shouldn't attract attention.''

''This place is dangerous at the moment.'' He sighed.

The went by the edges of the roads, in the periphery, so that most people walking the streets wouldn't recognize them. It was still day out, sundown not too far off, explaining the number of people still on the streets. And it was a safe city, with so many hunters mulling around. Yuuki noticed her silver haired companion looking around with interest as they walked. Houses and walls were made out of bricks, not red but grey, and the streets were paved with stone. Ant the town itself was situated in the foot of a big, steep hill, surrounded by evergreen trees.

Eventually, the two of them came to a rundown, two story house and entered it. Passing by the gnarled old receptionist, they made their way to the second floor and entered the last room.

Their brown haired companion was currently sprawled all over one of the two beds in the room. His bored grey gaze swung their way as they entered. ''Where is she? We've been waiting for a day, longer than that even. She should have found us by now and came here. This town is uncomfortable, there are too many hunters here and they are always watching us when we pass.''

''I don't know. You know Yori, she'll do everything at her own pace. Though I do agree with you that she should have been here by now. maybe something's amiss.''

She crossed the room and then leaned against the wall, right next to the window. The blue eyed girl was sitting on it at the moment, her hood down for once, revealing her beautiful strawberry blond hair. She turned her head to look at the pureblood, making her pigtails swish against her shoulders. '' Ne, Yuuki-sama, we heard that there was some unrest and that the lord and lady of Ran have called a conference to discuss about it.''

She sighed. ''Yes, the two of us have heard snippets here and there as we were passing people on our way here, enough to picture what is happening.''

''Then,'' called the brunette sprawled on the bed, a yawn interrupting him mid sentence, exposing one fang. ''you know you'll also be one of the topics.''

Yuuki snorted. ''Lucky me.''

The silver one chuckled at her and sat down on the other bed, his lavender eyes peered at her. ''Well, better for them to get off their asses and look, since you refuse to resurrect yourself from the dead.''

She rolled her eyes and looked out the window. The sun was just setting, free of the clouds that have been hiding it, now nothing more than a red half ball falling behind the horizon of mountain peeks. The light didn't hurt her eyes overmuch, only offered some discomfort, certainly nothing like what it usually does to vampire eyes. Her blue eyed companion had to avert her gaze for a while before she could stand it.

''Where is she?'' groaned the vampire from the bed. ''I don't feel like waiting much more.''

Yuuki turned and sat on a chair ''Hmm, I don't like waiting either.''

Kaname had the urge to yawn as he walked down the hallway. Perhaps he should have gotten some sleep, the meeting was bound to be long and boring. As much as he would like all of the problems they face to be solved, they wouldn't be solved by talking about them. They needed to take action, but they were too afraid. His mother and father were too peace loving to go with violent solutions, and would only turn to violence if attacked. Plus, they didn't want to scare their people by taking radical measures.

And the people were too scared to do anything proactive. They fear what happened to the Rose, its sudden fall that happened in mere days. They are afraid of it happening here. And it tied their hands, making them weak. Thus weakening the whole land. And they didn't even realise that the land of Orchid had more than enough power to match the Lotus. Actually, they were stronger, but it is fear that tied them down.

He had half a mind to take it all into his own hands. But, he'd let his parents deal with it. They were more experienced after all, and the folk trusted them.

And truth be told, he didn't feel the need to do anything yet.

Aidou walked up to his left and greeted him. He had cleaned up. Wearing fresh clothes – a black suit, teal shirt with white tie, freshly out of a bath and some rest had done wonders for him. But he still had dark circles under his eyes. So did Cain. But he too looked worlds better as he walked towards them. His messy orange hair still a mess, but the pale blue shirt (unbuttoned, of course) and emerald tie (loosely worn) complimented it nicely.

''Kaname-sama, is this going to be long?'' You could see he was fighting a yawn.

''Yes, I believe it will be.''

The tall vampire groaned.

''Now, now, show some enthusiasm.'' Chirped Ichijou as he turned a bend and fell in step behind them. ''It's going to be very interesting after all.''

''Of course.'' Replied Aidou with a healthy dose of sarcasm.

''What's with your bad mood, mister Aidou?''

''I'm sleep-deprived, Ichijou-san, it makes me cranky.''

Takuma hummed. Than he added happily ''Cheer up, at least you have a reason to be cranky. Not like some of us,'' he turned his head and pointedly stared at Kaname. ''who were born cranky.''

''Now, that's just plain rude, Ichijou-san.'' Murmured Cain.

''And very disrespectful.'' Said a female voice suddenly. Luca Souen had joined them on their way to the hall, her peach coloured long-sleeved dress flowing around her knees as she walked.

''I believe we had this conversation, Luca-san''

''And I still don't approve.''

''Fine with me.'' Shrugged the green eyed blond.

She narrowed her eyes at him, but didn't say anything else.

The surrounded the pureblood like a guard team, Kaname in the middle and the others around him. Cain, as the biggest, was in the front in case they needed to get by anyone, Luca on Kaname's left and Takuma on his right, with Aidou in the back. But they didn't need it, since there were no people in this specific hall. They went down the great stairway and passed an open door, at which point Kaname stopped and entered the room. The others followed him, but stayed by the door.

Lady and lord Kuran were in the room, along with Kaien Cross, they'd just stood up to go when Kaname came.

''Why, hello there, my son.'' Juuri smiled and embraced him. ''I'm glad you decided to come.''

''You were thinking I wouldn't be there, mother?''

''Well,'' she put a finger on her bottom lip and winked at him. ''With your track record and personality, I was thinking you'd be in your study.''

''Hardly.'' He smiled indulgently.

''Truth be told, I'd been thinking the same, Kaname.'' Laughed Haruka.

''Are you teaming up against me?''

''Of course not, my dear.'' Chuckled his mother. ''But you can't blame us for thinking, you didn't give us any material that says otherwise you know.''

''Yes, yes.'' He sighed and then spotted Kaien. ''Are you going to have a go too?''

''Nope.'' The hunter beamed.'' It's good to see you, it's been some time since I last did. I wonder why?''

Kaname was sorely tempted to roll his eyes, no teasing, absolutely not. ''I as well.''

''Aww, spoil sport.'' The man cried. ''I'd hug you, but I'm afraid of being frozen solid by your glare.''

''Or mister Aidou's.'' he added and smiled at the blond vampire in question.

Kaname fought the urge to sigh, the dirty blond hunter was as hyper as ever.

''Ah, yes, how was your journey?'' asked Haruka.

''Tiring.'' Replied Cain. ''But informative'' furthered Aidou.

''We heard a bit from Kaname, but I suppose you'll have to say it again in the meeting.''

''Yay.'' Muttered Aidou in obvious reluctance. Juuri smiled at him sympathetically.

''You have all dressed well. Especially you, Kaname.'' She turned to her son. ''I don't think I've seen you in a suit in a long time… have you ever worn one?''

''Yes, mother.''

''It looks good on you.'' And it did. Fitted to his physique perfectly, it hugged him very closely, showing his wide shoulders and powerful chest without actually showing them. The tie was wine red, a match for his eyes and the shirt underneath as black as the suit, giving him sort of a dangerous edge.

''Well,'' Kaien suddenly became serious. ''I'd better get going. Since I'm a famous'' the word stressed sarcastically ''hunter, I can't stand by your seats.'' He looked at Juuri and Haruka here. ''I'll have to be with the president. So have luck.'' He made a small half bow and left. But not before adding ''And don't fall asleep from boredom.''

The vampires stared after him for a few seconds before Juuri spoke. ''Let us go then, shell we?''

They filed out of the room, Juuri and Haruka in the front, arm in arm, followed by Kaname and the rest. The way to the great hall wasn't long. They met lord Aidou at the doors at which time the nobles separated with the pureblood family and went with him. As soon as the purebloods entered the entirety of conversation stopped, and the vampires in the room bowed low. The Kuran's kept on walking to the end of the room, where, on a podium elevated by a couple of steps, two antique chairs were placed by each other for the king and queen to sit in. Haruka escorted his wife to her chair, then sat down himself, Kaname chose to stand leaning on the wall behind his parents' seats.

The hall was quite full, both nobles from not just the palace and the citadel and quite a few hunters were here. None of the purebloods loyal to the House of Orchid were in presence, though they didn't need to come. Even if the Kuran bloodline was considered above theirs, the purebloods still retained a lot of autonomy, in both lands. A pureblood can never truly rule another pureblood, only keep them in line. That was one reason why some purebloods that had acknowledged the Rose were wanderers or simply refuse allegiance to either royal family.

The centre of the room, right in front of the ruling lord and lady, was an empty circle, so that the people could see each other when they talked. And the space in front of the doors stayed empty, in case there was an emergency that needed to quickly be reported to the pureblood rulers.

The four young nobles associating with Kaname were rather close to the pureblood family, and Takuma's appearance had raised a few brows and started some whispers, but no one had said anything directly. Kaien was across the hall, with Yagari and most of the hunters. He even spotted Zero in the back, leaning against the wall, Kaito standing with him. And someone was tapping him on the shoulder, he turned. ''Yes?''

''Hello, uncle.''

''Aaah.'' A smile split his face and he drew the young woman in a tight hug. ''Hello there, Yori-chan.''

She hugged him back warmly, then said ''You don't have to almost suffocate me every time we see each other, you know.''

''I'm sorryyy.'' He drew back. ''I'm just happy to see you.''

''The ones I asked back in the citadel told me you were here. I wanted to say hi and maybe get some news before I go again. But,'' she looked around herself ''now doesn't look like it's a good time.''

''So you only wanted to see me to get some information. I'm hurt.'' He clutched his heart to emphasise. ''But, '' he winked ''you can get all the information here if you stay long enough to hear it.''

She looked to be debating it for a moment, then shrugged. ''It couldn't hurt. A few hours more or less isn't a big deal, though that isn't a particularly patient bunch.''

''What bunch?''

She waved her hand in the 'nothing' fashion and he let it go.

''So, when is it going to start?'' she asked.

''Soon. Well, now actually.''

And as he finished his sentence a blond, noble vampire lord stood up from across the room and started speaking. ''This conference is being held because there are a few critical things that are needed to be made known and solutions to them that we need to talk about. Our king and queen'' here he inclined his head to the royal couple ''have agreed that solutions have to made fast to avoid crisis. Firstly, I open the topic of the recent uprising of the lower vampire classes near the border situated in the subtropical regions. They have attacked humans, and killed quite a few of them. Though I have not all the information, so those of you that know should speak up.''

A rather tan caramel haired vampire around the middle of the room raised his hand. ''I live in that area so I know some about those happenings. It was mostly the turned humans, not yet level E's, there that committed the attacks, though the were joined by quite a lot of normal class vampires. The are emboldened by the Lotus, as the family has recently sworn the protection of all vampires that have embraced, as they call it, 'their true nature'. I'm afraid that they do not respect the Kuran clan's authority and rules anymore, they have almost fully renounced them. They care not anymore for the coexistence of our two species, thinking themselves above humans. They don't even fear the hunters any longer, as the Shirabuki family has also announced their intention to 'cleanse the world of the interfering pests' as they put it.'' This earned an angry murmur from the side of the hall where the hunters were. ''Though, I have not been to the exact locations of the unrest, so I don't know exactly what the conditions have been on the field. I believe the hunters association would know that best.''

Yagari nodded and started talking. ''Yes, we've been there. The vampires in that part are far more aggressive and violent as the reports of the hunters that have been there say. They even killed two of our operatives, and severely injured four. And not only that, but vampires from the land of Lotus were there with them. Some, we believe, even noble class.'' This started murmurs in the entire hall. Such a serious breach of agreement between the two sides was indeed dangerous. This meant that the Shirabuki family was starting to make its move, especially if it were nobles that were inciting the masses to rebellion.

''We have- '' Yagari continued '' –here one of the hunters that were there.'' He turned to the back ''Talk, Zero.''

In the back, Zero sighed and raised his hand. ''It's all as you say. But they are also taking human children '' he ground out through his teeth ''and shipping them over the border.'' There were some gasps and murmurs at this. ''Also, as we were fighting them, some of the ones we identified as nobles were repeating ''take them alive, don't kill them''. Though they did not succeed.''

One noble asked ''Why alive? And especially hunters?'' and that comment started a short discussion that Kaname interrupted.

''They want-'' Kaname started and the conversation abruptly died out as everyone turned to see him leaning against the wall with his arm crossed. Even his parent's heads tilted a little. ''-the anti-vampire weapons.''

''With all due respect, Kaname-sama.'' Spoke lord Aidou. ''Vampires can't wield anti-vampire weapons, we can't even touch them. So why would the want them at all?''

''That is why they wanted the hunters alive, so that they could wield them.''

''There is no hunter alive that would betray us like that!'' yelled a scarred, middle-aged, hunter next to Kaien.

''Yes. '' Kaname conceded. ''But after they find that out what do you think they will do?'' he paused a little after the question, then continued. ''They would turn them, then their pureblood 'parents' would control their minds and turn them against us.''

There was a hush for a few seconds then the hall exploded into voices, questions and arguments flying here and there.

Someone yelled ''But the would be vampires then too, rejected by their weapons like the rest of our kind!''

''Well,'' said Kaname in answer, and the volume turned down to hear him speak ''not quite. It would take them some time to fully settle into their new vampire blood, so the weapons wouldn't reject them immediately. And purebloods can control them almost instantly after their turning. Also, even now, there are some turned hunters that can carry anti-vampire weapons on them, and the weapons themselves permit them to hold them.'' His glance briefly touched Zero, who clenched his jaw.

That was like a splash of cold water to the entire room.

''What should be done to prevent that?'' asked a black haired, middle aged female noble.

''We should have the hunters patrol in groups around the borders.'' Answered Haruka, speaking for the first time. ''And increase the number, as well as the skill of the groups that go into the territory of the House of Lotus. If, indeed, they still want to go there.''

''Absolutely.'' Yagari gritted out. ''As if we would abandon our duty and the humans we protect because of some danger.''

''So be it then.'' Haruka nodded. ''But be careful.''

''But, Haruka-sama,'' spoke the noble that opened the meeting '' won't the Shirabuki clan read the hunters' presence on their territory as a sign of our aggression.''

''I don't believe so.'' Answered Juuri for her husband. ''The Hunters' Association is a separate entity, not under our control, we merely have a pact with them. Thus we cannot give them orders. Have you forgotten that?'' Some of the hunters present smirked at the queen's reminder. ''And their actions cannot be used as a trigger to attack us.''

Lord Aidou raised his hand. ''I agree with that. But what concerns me now is the reason for the uprising. The lower classes are restless, unsatisfied. The cases of moving to the Lotus's territory are getting more and more frequent. People are leaving the land of Ran and crossing the border. And it is not only because they agree with the Shirabuki family's views, but more and more are moving simply because they think it is best for them, that they would be safer on that side. People are loosing faith in our strength, spurred by our inaction against the threat that is posed to us. Something must be done soon. We need to act.''

Kaname felt approval at the lord's words. It seemed not everyone was afraid. Kaien, the hunters and quite a few others' in the hall seconded his sentiments, his friends being among them.

''But, lord Aidou, you can't be suggesting that we fight them. Remember what happened to the Rose!''

''I do not suggest we fight them. I suggest we not let them push us around. Why are you so afraid of them? The only reason they managed to defeat the Rose is because they ambushed them and acted only against the rulers, then scattered the rest. They behaved cowardly, attacking without even a warning or declaration. But they cannot get us in the same manner, we know their threat and should be prepared for it. Not sit around and cower. We should be united and proud, because the House of the Orchid is strong, and so are its people. We do not have to bend to their will.'' And the hall dissolved into conversation once again.

Yes, Kaname decided, Aidou senior was a smart man.

The murmurs and arguments continued for some time after that. There were enough people that approve of fighting back (excluding the entirety of the Hunters' Association) that the majority of the vampire body present, those that were too afraid to act, could not avoid this matter any longer. The nobles debated amongst themselves, sometimes even hunters talked with them, but their indecisiveness wasn't any closer to being resolved. The four noble young vampires that surrounded Kaname stayed silent in their place next to lord Aidou. They observed how the first inkling of their rebirth grew. Things wouldn't change immediately, but it only took one step, one that Hanabusa's father had taken, to get it started. They hoped their people would realise it soon, and stop being cowards. They were the land of Ran, what the Lotus does should not have any impact with them anymore. If they pose them a threat, then they should answer them and without fear.

Kaien approved too and caught the astonished expression on his niece's face. And he thought he saw a strange light shining in her eyes. ''About time.'' She muttered. ''She would want to hear this.'' And Kaien had to wonder who she was speaking about, he'd have asked if he didn't have the feeling that he wouldn't be getting an answer.

Haruka and Juuri Kuran stayed silent. They also recognised the monumental change that just started. Though they were not happy that there wasn't a peaceful solution to the conflict, they understood the need for force. After all, the Lotus wouldn't hold back for them. And they had quite some resentment still for the other royal line. The Shirabuki clan had destroyed their treasured friends, and ravaged their legacy, none of the Kurosu were still alive. Not even a child. And they'd hoped that that little girl would grow up to be one of Kaname's closest friends, like her parents had been to them. They had even thought about engaging the two to each other. But that future was all gone now.

''But, there is a peaceful solution!'' someone yelled, cutting through all the noise.

The conversations fell quiet as they turned to see who spoke. The speaker was a rather old, pale blond noble vampire. ''We all know that Shirabuki Sara has unofficially expressed interest for Kaname-sama. Why not answer her? And have a union of the two royal houses?''

This comment made Aidou and Luca bristle, Luca especially. Kaname showed no reaction and neither did his parents, but the hall dissolved in murmurs.

''You would throw our prince to the viper?'' asked a strawberry blond man, lord Souen. ''And do you think they would leave this land alone if that happened? What of the hunters? You heard what they wanted to do to them. What of the humans then? Do we let them be treated as merely livestock?''

''And what of our own consciences ?'' added lord Aidou. ''To abandon our prince to such a fate?''

''But what of our lives?' inquired the black haired middle aged female vampire. ''How many of our lives would be lost in fighting?''

''So you would rather save your own skin but sacrifice everything else, including our revered pureblood lord.'' Commented the leader of the meeting.

''Instead of growing a backbone.'' Murmured Yagari quietly, but Kaien still heard it.

''But, Kaname-sama is to be our leader.'' Answered the old blond vampire that started this debate. ''Is it not just for us to think that he would do what is best for his people, even if it is marrying that woman?''

''Are you out of your mind!?'' came a yell from somewhere near the purebloods. An old vampire, possibly the oldest here (excluding the king and queen) stood up from his chair and leaned on his cane. His hair was pure white and his face had a few lines. ''It is not our esteemed pureblood lords and ladies that should have to do anything for us. But it is us that should do everything we can for them!''

''You decide our prince's fate for him and cower and shake, instead of fighting for him.'' He continued. ''How can you dare to ask for anything from him, if, as your blind fear has shown, you are unworthy?''

That silenced the ones approving of the marriage. They still thought it would be the best solution, but knew they had no right to ask. They were even starting to see the point others had about that fear and cowardice in front of the Lotus.

Finally, it was Juuri that broke the silence. ''While I see the point of such a union, I would never ask my son to condemn himself to millennia of a loveless marriage. Nor do I think their union would prove a solution to our problems.''

''On the contrary,'' continued Haruka. ''it might even prove detrimental. The two families would be bonded together then, and they might use that bond to push their demands and will onto us. And I believe that is what they will do should the marriage happen.''

''Whatever is to happen is my son's decision.'' Said Juuri. ''What do you say, Kaname?''

All eyes turned to the pureblood prince leaning against the wall. His eyes were closed and his arms crossed, but some in the hall were, for the first time, truly struck with his presence. His wine eyes opened and looked at the hall first, then at his parents. ''I do not wish to go to that scheming woman, as I most certainly view this as one of her schemes. I will not marry her.'' His deep, low voice reverberated through the room.

Again, murmurs started in the hall.

''But,'' Kaname sighed and the hall quieted once again. ''if there truly proves to be no other solution, then I will think about it.''

People began talking amongst themselves again. Juuri glanced at her son with pained eyes and Haruka merely gave a curt nod.

''Of I may.'' The tan noble raised his hand. ''There was talk of the Lotus trying to organise the Flower Ball this year.'' There were outraged exclamations all around the room, Juuri and Haruka tensed. ''As we all know, the Flower Ball was held every ten years and attended by all three God Houses. The last one was held over seventeen years ago in the, now former, land of Rose. The one seven years ago was cancelled as Rose had fallen. Now, they are looking to resurrect it and have the two royal families attend again. Rumours are that it will be held six months from now.''

Kaien thought he saw Yori-chan's eyes suddenly narrow.

''Hmm,'' spoke up lord Aidou. ''I could be a plan for Shirabuki Sara to come closer to Kaname-sama. She might even formally announce her interest then.''

And we're all screwed if that happens, thought Aidou Hanabusa. Buuuut, there is hope, he smirked.

''Well,'' spoke Juuri sharply. ''whatever happens, we have no intention of going.'' And that was it, the final word on the matter.

The vampires talked a little to each other, exchanging opinions and thoughts on what should be done next. The hunters stayed mostly silent, only a few whispering amongst themselves.

''Well, that was informative.'' Said Yori as she turned to her uncle. ''Things are changing quickly now. I should better be off now. They'll chew me out anyhow.''

''Who will chew you out?''

''Ah, not important.'' She chuckled.

''Well, you shouldn't leave just yet. There is still one thing that needs to be talked about.''

''hmm?'' she raised here eyebrows ''And what is it?''

At that moment Yagari cleared his throat and spoke. ''Excuse me.'' The conversations quieted as the people turned to look at him. ''There is still one matter that we need to breach. There is a hooded vampire roaming the lands with an unknown level of power. Some say her power could even rival a purebloods.''

Yori suddenly started and looked sharply at Toga. Kaien frowned, wondering at her reaction. The room started getting noisy again.

''Yes.'' Kaname started talking. ''One of the nobles working with me came to inform me of an unusual incident happening in a pub in the vicinity of Illama. Aidou?''

''Hai. My cousin, Akatsuki Cain, and I were on an errand and have stopped in a little town in the vicinity of the town of Illama. I waited for my cousin in a pub while he was finishing talking to the vampire in charge of monitoring the local vampire population. In the pub I noticed a hooded figure, female by the looks, sitting alone at a table. She seemed quite relaxed for that sort of place. I couldn't pinpoint her aura and rank so I was about to go over there and see who she was when I overheard some normal vampires slandering the name of the Kurosu family. Then, suddenly, everything exploded. A massive aura filled the space, I couldn't find its source but it was powerful, as powerful as a pureblood vampire's. It disappeared as suddenly as it was there, people were still on the floor as a result of its strength, but the hooded figure was gone.''

Yori narrowly eyed the speaking young noble.

''And then Aidou came to me to report what he saw.'' Continued Kaname. ''I told them to find out as much as they could about the figure, and track it if possible'' Yori's eyes widened minutely at this revelation. ''They found out she was a traveller, and travelled with four other people.'' Yori stiffened, but went unnoticed by her uncle. ''It isn't known, but it is speculated that some of them may be humans, but one is certainly a vampire noble.'' That caused a few exclamations from the crowd. ''There are two females travelling with her, one hazel eyed girl most likely with light brown hair,'' Yori had to control herself not to inhale sharply in surprise, she cut a look to her uncle to see if he picked up on anything. He seemed as clueless as ever. '' and one with blue eyes, she wore a hood so more couldn't be seen. A brown haired vampire male, with grey eyes that was identified as the noble, and a silver haired young man with lavender eyes.'' Kaname's eyes quickly darted in Zero's direction again, as he matched the description perfectly. His were not the only ones, as most of the hall had heard of the powerful young hunter.

''It seems that the people that have met her are afraid of her, or at least have a very healthy dose of respect for her. And, we also speculate that she has a charm cast on her that prevents people from noticing her, or, to better put it, it makes people that look at her see exactly what they expect to see and no more.'' This had the people whispering once more.

''What kind of person is that?''

''Someone who has the same power as purebloods, how terrifying.''

''But, think about it, she could be an asset against the Shirabuki clan.''

''Why is that kind of person on the loose? Think about what a danger she poses.''

''Yes, she may be a spy from the Lotus.''

''A spy!? Why hasn't she been caught yet. She is a danger to our safety.''

''Kaname-sama, do you have her in custody?'' asked lord Aidou.

''No.'' the pureblood answered. ''They have been able to track her down and find her. But she evaded them, she has too much skill.''

''But, my lord, she is too dangerous to be left on the loose. As someone already brought up, she might be a spy from the Lotus.'' Yori snorted at the ridiculousness and Kaien turned to look at her, noticing her reactions to the talk for the first time.

''You may have a point there. But, somehow, I doubt it. Your son had seen her and does not believe she is a threat.''

''No.'' added Aidou. ''I truly believe she is not a threat.''

''But how can we trust the eyes of a young man?'' asked the dark haired noble woman. ''He has not yet even seen the world as it is. His eyes could be clouded.''

''No.'' Yori spoke up and caught the attention of both the hunters around her, including her uncle who was looking at her incredulously, and the vampires in the room. ''She most certainly is not a spy.''

''And how do you know that, young woman?'' Asked the vampire sharply.

''I've… met her.'' This admission got the full, undivided attention of everyone in the room. ''In fact, she hates the Shirabuki family about as much as she is capable of hating anything. And though some that meet her are afraid of her... that is a mask she puts on to protect herself and those around her. In truth, she is rather kind.''

''So you know her, miss… ?'' Kaname inquired, noticing almost with a start that she had very light brown eyes, hazel. And an inkling was born in his mind.

''Sayori Wakaba, Kaname-sama.'' She dipped her head. ''And yes, I know her.''

''She neglected to tell me that.'' Muttered Kaien.

''Do you perhaps know who she is? Her name?''

Aidou's gaze was riveted to the girl, seeking verbal confirmation for his find. He was almost leaning forward in excitement.

She hesitated for a second, then squared her shoulders and answered. ''Yes I know who she is, and I know her name.'' she said.

''And?'' Kaname raised and eyebrow. ''Would you be so kind as to tell us?''

Her eyes were determined as she looked at him. ''No.'' the vampires in the hall were brimming with incredulity. Haruka and Juuri were hard pressed not to smile at her spunk. ''That is something she asked me to keep a secret for her. And that I will do. The only one who may answer that question for you is she herself.''

Kaname's eyes cut briefly to Aidou at that statement, then returned to the girl.

''How outrageous!'' cried a middle aged vampire close to her. ''Who knows what she is capable of! From what I've heard she is dangerous, she shouldn't be allowed to roam free.'' Yori twitched a bit here. ''And you dare to deny us, even our pureblood lord, her name!''

''She would not hurt anyone innocent. The only ones she fights are vampires that prey on humans without cause and take from them without consent, and level E's.''

''And how can you be so sure, girl? If you know, you have to tell us everything!''

''I will not!'' she said fiercely, stunning the vampire and half the people in the hall, including Kaname and Aidou. ''I will tell you what I know and am comfortable with telling you, nothing more. Do not dare try to order me! She is not a danger to you, if you are not a danger to her, that is how it is.'' She crossed her arms in front of her and stared the man down.

Kaien was truly amazed, this was the first time he saw his gentle, mellow niece show her teeth. Just what was going on here?

''All right.'' Said Haruka. ''We will trust your word on it. You are a hunter.''

She nodded ''Thank you, Haruka-sama.''

''But do you know where we could find her?''

''I might.'' She said, eyeing him speculatively. ''It would depend on what you wanted to find her for?'' Incredulous murmurs sprang up around her, they couldn't believe she was bargaining with the king.

Juuri had to hide her smile behind her hand, but Haruka chuckled freely. ''Nothing bad, I assure you. We merely want to speak to her.''

She looked at them for a few seconds. ''Last I heard, they were heading to Illama, and then to Tauros. But that was some time ago, they might have left Tauros already.'' Especially if they grew bored, it'd be a bitch to find them then. ''And even if they were there still there, it would be extremely hard to find her, almost impossible. She's an expert at disappearing.''

''And yet,'' Said Aidou, bringing her attention to him. ''we were able to catch up to her and see her just fine after they left Illama.''

This obviously surprised her, as her eyebrows rose high in astonishment. ''Then that is quite a feat. You were able to see her because she allowed you to.''

''Allowed us to?'' he frowned.

''Yes, if she didn't want to meet you, you wouldn't have met her.'' She confirmed, then her eyebrows furrowed. ''You said 'after we left Illama'?''

Cain answered for his cousin. ''That's when we caught up with her.''

Huh, she thought, so they were the ones following us.

''Is there a way you might know that we could get her to come here?'' Juuri asked.

''I don't think so. She seems pretty adamant in keeping low.''

''I don't know, there is a possibility she might come.'' Said Aidou. Yori looked at him questioningly. ''We talked to her a little when we met.''

Yori's eyes grew to the size of saucers, and from the back, Yagari was heard. ''You didn't tell us that.'' His eyes were narrowed on the blond. ''What did you say?''

''Well, she commented on our persistence, and asked what we wanted from her. We asked for her identity and she refused to answer. We also asked her to come here…'' He paused for a few moments. ''And she said she'd think about it… and to have faith and wait.''

Man, you could have heard a fly in the room from the quiet. Then Yori recovered. ''Well, that is amazing.''

''Well, it still doesn't mean she will come.''

''Ooh, she might. The fact that she said she would think about it says a lot.''

''And how do you know that?''

She shrugged. ''I do.''

''And why are you so surprised?''

''That is not something she had ever done before.''

''Come to think of it,'' Aidou was suspicious now. ''You know a lot for someone who'd only met her.''

''I do?'' Aaaand, she was playing innocent.

''Yes, you do.'' And he was reeeealy getting suspicious now. Behind him, even Cain and Luca knew something was up. ''You know her well, don't you?''

Busted, thought Yori. Well, not like it's that important to remain secret now, since she is thinking of coming here. She stayed quiet though.

And Aidou had an epiphany. ''Y-you'' he stammered ''Brown hair, hazel eyes… you know her, know where she was travelling the last few days… '' Kaname put it together too and pushed away from the wall to stand directly behind his parents'. ''You are one of those four that travel with her, one of the girls.'' Now his eyes were as wide as saucers.

Bullseye. ''Maybe.'' She said, eyes looking anywhere but him.

Why this little… Aidou felt his blood pressure rising. ''Maybe?!'' he screeched. ''I've been hunting you all through heinous conditions, sleepless nights who knows what else.'' He pointed at her theatrically, a fang flashing as he spoke. ''And you, a gold mine of information, just waltz in here, under our noses, without us even knowing it. And then when I finally figure it out, you have the gall to say 'maybe'!''

Kaname couldn't help but smirk at the noble's little tantrum. But, they finally have something solid. It seemed that the girl wasn't any more talkative than Aidou about the identity of the girl she was travelling with. And that really piqued his curiosity. Just who was that person?

''Yes, yes, fine.'' Yori sighed, what a drama queen. ''I travel with her.''

Aidou took a deep breath to compose himself and a strange light gleamed in his eyes.

Uh-oh, Yori was starting to contemplate a hasty getaway.

Kaname interrupted whatever Aidou had opened his mouth to say. ''You could have said that from the beginning.''

She transferred her gaze to the pureblood. ''No, I really couldn't. I didn't know your intention, you could have been after her for an assortment of harmful reasons.''

''Hmm, you really treasure this person, don't you?''

Yori looked confused. ''Of course I do. Y-'' she stopped herself before she said her name. ''She is an amazing woman, I've never seen anyone like her. She is a walking contradiction, nothing I say could even begin to describe her. She… is just a person you have to meet to even have a chance to understand her.'' She had a half smile playing across her lips and a fond light in her eyes. ''I say, I've known her for over two years, and I still don't know if I understand her or not.''

So her name starts with a Y, thought Kaname while Aidou was doing a victory dance in his head, I knew it, I knew it, it so is her.

''She saved my life, you know.'' Yori said after a lengthy pause, raising her eyes to look at the three purebloods. ''I'd been sent on a mission to kill a level E in a village not far from the citadel. It was my first solo mission. It went rather well, the village was small and the target wasn't so hard to find. He was fast, so I missed a few times before I managed to shoot him in the heart. But what I didn't know is that he had two others there with him. They ambushed me and managed to overpower me easily, the last I remember of the struggle was a painful blow to the back of my head. I don't know why, but they didn't kill me and feed from me after that, instead they took me to somewhere. I remember waking up tied up in some ruins, there were a lot of vampires there, I'd managed to count at least twenty, but I'm sure there were a lot more. I never managed to get the exact number from those three.'' She mused.

'' I still had my weapons with me, they couldn't touch them so they left them where they were. But my hands were tied behind my back, my legs were bound as well and I was gagged. They held me like that for three days, I don't know why they didn't touch me sooner, maybe they enjoyed my fear or wanted to save me for something. But on the third day, just passed sundown as the sky was still a fiery red, two of them came, the two that took me. They leered and said that dinner had finally arrived, and as they were walking towards me I was so terrified, tears were running down my cheeks.''

She paused for a second and clenched her hands at the memory. Some of the vampire women present held their hands to mouths. ''I remember thinking that that was the true nature of vampires. That they were cruel, horrible monsters only interested in killing… And then she came, a small figure illuminated from the back by the fiery sky. Truth be told, I thought her an avenging angel then. In a second the two vampires were dust and she was the only person there with me. She smiled at me and said 'You poor thing. Relax, you are safe now.', and the next instant all my bounds were gone and I was free. But I was mesmerised by her and I couldn't move. She must have thought I was in shock, because she knelt by me, still smiling kindly, and started petting my head. And all the while she was saying 'there, there, it's okay, they're gone now'. Then I broke down and hugged her, crying my eyes out. She must have put me to sleep, because the next thing I remember is waking up in a bed and seeing her sitting by me and smiling, she seemed ethereal. It was then that I'd seen her fangs, but I don't know why I hadn't been afraid of her.''

Yori stopped talking then, staring into space as her thoughts turned inwards.

''You know,'' she laughed suddenly ''she was also the person who taught me that not all vampires are monsters.''

There were a few moments of silence in the entire hall as people soaked up what she said.

Yagari spoke then. ''That wasn't in the report you gave us.''

She turned and smiled apologetically. ''She asked me to keep her a secret. And after what she had done for me, I didn't even want to refuse.''

''Well,'' breathed Juuri ''she sounds like a remarkable person.''

''That she is.'' Yori chuckled, turning to them again. ''If a little quirky.''

''It makes me want to meet her all the more.'' Admitted Kaname. ''Me as well.'' Added Haruka.

''Well…'' she looked a little hesitant, but seemed to decide on something. '' I could probably convince her to come here.''

''You could?'' asked Juuri with interest.

''Most likely. She trusts me. And it would be for her own good.''

''For her own good?'' mused Haruka. ''How so?''

She waved her hand. ''You'll see when… if you meet her.''

Kaname hummed but regarded her with some interest. ''And when could you get her here?''

''I don know.'' She thought for a second. ''It would take me four or five days to get to our meeting point, provided they didn't get bored and moved off, then I'd have to track them.'' She groaned. ''But I think they'd wait for me.''

''Then in five days?'' asked Kaname.

''Well… give me a day or two to harass her into agreeing to come. Count on about a week's time.''

Juuri's brows came up when the word harass came into play, but she didn't comment. ''How about we send someone with you?''

''That… wouldn't work out too well for you. Even if she had met the blond over there.''

''All right. Then we will see you in a week.'' The queen smiled.

''Yes.'' She nodded. ''I should go soon too.''

''But not before you say goodbye to your dearest uncle.'' Called Kaien, and crossed his arms in front of himself. ''And keeping secrets from me, how cruel.''

''Aaah yes.'' She scratched the side of her face sheepishly. ''Sorry uncle.''

''Hai, hai, we'll still talk about this when you come back. But, now you will hug me before you go.''

Yori sighed and started walking towards him.

''Yoriii!'' a somebody yelled. Everyone in the hall was stunned for a moment.

''Wait,'' Yori commented, whirling around. ''I know that voice.''

The doors were open and a lithe cloaked figure was walking towards her. ''Making us wait that long and leaving without even telling me. How cruel of you.''

''Speaking of the devil.'' She said, her voice easily heard in the mute room.

''Devil?'' the melodic voice of the person heading towards her inquired.

''Nothing.'' She shook her head. ''What are you doing here, Yuuki-sama?'' she slapped her hand over her mouth a second too late, having already said her name. And somewhere in the background, if you were looking for it, you would have seen Aidou fist pump to himself.

''What?'' the figure humphed, coming to stand in front of her. ''No 'hey', nor 'hello', neither a 'have you been well' or 'I missed you'. Nope, you just jump to 'what are you doing here'. You really are cruel.'' She said ''Well, for your information, I had gotten bored of waiting for you and came to get you… obviously.''

''Fine, fine.'' Yori groaned. ''You don't have to be so rude about it.''

''Oh, I'm the one that's rude, huh'' She countered.

They stood staring at each other then, though the hooded one's face couldn't be seen because of the hood. Everyone in the room took in the sight of the newcomer, stunned. There was certainly something about her, but to most she didn't seem al that remarkable. Although, some of them remembered there being a word of a charm cast on her.

Kaname drank her in. He'd known there was something about her the moment he heard her voice. Looking at her now, he could see there being something off with her energy, it wasn't behaving normally. That was probably the charm… or she was suppressing herself, something even purebloods had a hard time doing. And it looked effortless with her. She was hiding something, and Haruka and Juuri recognized it too.

It made her all the more intriguing.

''Seriously, Yuuki-sama, you have to stop leaving us behind all the time.'' A male voice called behind the staring duo. And a tall young man passed through the doors, his silver hair swaying as he walked and his lavender eyes narrowed on the cloaked girl. He carried a katana in his left hand and had the muscle mass to show that he could use it. He also seemed highly miffed.

His appearance sent a shock buzzing through the gathered hunters. Whispers and stares started, people talking frantically in hushed tones. He looked exactly like Zero, and they noticed it. Beside a doubly stunned Kaien, Yagari's eye was wide and his face had gone pale. By the wall, Zero looked no different, wide eyed and paler than usual, one couldn't be sure he was even breathing. A lot of people were darting glances between the new newcomer and him.

''Ichiru.'' Yagari called doubtfully.

The young man's head turned in his direction, then lit with recognition after a second. ''Sensei!''

Both Zero and Yagari felt like they had been kicked in the gut. The one eyed hunter stayed riveted in place, but Zero started pushing his way forward through the hunters.

Ichiru started walking in the hunters' direction, towards Yagari, a small smile on his face. Yuuki and Yori had broken their staring match and were looking after him.

''You… you're alive.'' Yagari stated disbelievingly after the young man had stopped before him.

''Yes.'' He nodded, looking at his one time teacher. He opened his mouth to say something when a voice interrupted him.

''Ichiru!'' Zero had made his way through and stood just in front of him.

Ichiru looked stunned at seeing his twin, but shook it off soon enough and smiled. ''Brother!'' and suddenly, he hugged him. ''I missed you so much.''

Zero was frozen in his arms, but awkwardly returned the hug after a few seconds.

''Where were you?'' he asked hoarsely. ''We thought..'' his voice broke a little right then. ''We thought you were dead, after that pureblood took you.''

''Well,'' he withdrew a little from his brother, enough to be able to properly look at his face. ''I'm obviously not. And I haven't been turned, if that's what you're thinking.'' He eyed him then Yagari speculatively. ''So you shouldn't worry about that.''

''Aaaand, as to where I was. Well, I was with Yuuki-sama all this time. She kind of saved me from the Madly Blooming princess a year after I was taken, and I stuck with her ever since.''

The two stared at him incredulously, as did most of the hunters there. After a minute he started to get really uncomfortable. Not to mention that the vampires in the room were darting glances between him and the cloaked girl.

''What?!'' He couldn't take the silence anymore.

''Why'' Yagari grit his teeth ''didn't you come back 'after' you were supposedly saved? At least to tell you were, I don't know, among the living!''

Yuuki raised an eyebrow beneath her hood, that man has a shooort temper.

''Heh heh'' Ichiru scratched the back of his head sheepishly ''Ah, sorry?'' Now Zero too, along with his teacher, looked ready to spontaneously combust. Kaien was looking at the three of them with a nervous eye, ready to either initiate damage control or hightail it out of there at a moment's notice.

''Sorry?!'' Zero got out between clenched teeth.

''Whoa'' His twin brought his hand up in a gesture of surrender and to calm him down. ''Yes, sorry.'' He repeated, firmly. ''I know it was stupid of me, and I realise that now. But back then I thought that since you already consider me dead, and, well, since I wasn't exactly the best hunter material, it would be better if I remained dead.''

''Oh, you're right, brat!'' Yagari had a sizeable vein throbbing on his forehead. Ichiru eyed it nervously, still knowing his former teacher's formidable temper. ''It was damn stupid! What the fu-'' a hand suddenly slapped over the one eyed man's mouth, silencing him. Ichiru looked at his would be saviour, setting eyes on the one and only Kaien Cross, though he didn't exactly look his legendary reputation right now. In fact, the man looked rather fearful of having his hand bitten off.

Damage control it is, thought the very man and prayed to still have his hand by the end of things. ''Why don't you all settle this out later? In private, where we won't have to fear having casualties.''

''I rather agree with mister Cross.'' Came the voice of Kaname, he'd moved to stand right by the side of his mother's chair, resting one hand on the backrest. ''There are other things we need to clear up first.'' He added, bringing his gaze back to the two girls, only to see two new hooded arrivals by them.

That also brought the focus of the rest on them as well. And, with a jolt, they realised that the other two were both noble class vampires.

''May I inquire as to who might all of you be?'' the king asked the three, bringing their attention to the royal family.

That was the first time Yuuki truly looked at the three purebloods. She had to admit, they were truly a stunning sight, ethereal and magnificent, each in his and her right. She remembered the stories her parents told her about the Orchid's ruling couple, and Juuri and Haruka Kuran were exactly as she pictured them as a child. She remembered glimpsing the king once, when he was visiting her house. Though, it was the third one, the prince, who caught her attention as well. She had a feeling like she'd seen him somewhere before… and something drew her to him, she couldn't explain it. He was most definitely a handsome man, and it seemed like the air itself was bending to his presence. His wine eyes were looking directly at her.

'Aaah'' She heard from her side, the taller of her two vampire companions, male obviously by the sound of his voice, was the first to speak. ''I apologise for being so rude, uncle.''

Haruka raised an eyebrow at the title, his wife was surprised as well. The rest of the hall disintegrated into angry murmurs. But the man ignored them, instead reaching his hand up and pulling the hood of his head. He revealed an aristocratic face, brown hair and piercing grey eyes. The two monarchs subtly stiffened in recognition.

''I am Senri Shiki.''

And his revealed surname sent a jolt through the crowd, for the Shiki family was one under the authority of Rose… before switching their loyalties to the Lotus after the house's fall.

''Our little nephew.'' Juuri smiled a little strained, eyeing him curiously.

''Only by blood though. Kuran Rido never married my mother, so I was born a bastard child.'' His face remained stoic as he spoke.

Neither Juuri nor Haruka showed any reaction to the mention of their older brother's name, though Kaname eyed the young man speculatively.

''That doesn't matter to us.'' The queen answered his statement. ''But, I am rather surprised at seeing you here. From what we know, the Shiki heir is considered dead… yet here you are.''

He blinked, then glanced back to his companions. Turning his eyes to them again he spoke. ''I have… chosen to travel with Yuuki-sama a while ago, and have broken off contact with my family. They weren't pleased with that, so…'' he left the end of his sentence hanging, but his meaning was still generally understood.

It was then that both Haruka and Juuri wondered just how amazing a person that Yuuki girl must be to have such complete loyalty and trust from her companions. Status and blood ties mean a lot to vampires, for such a high ranking young man to be ready to completely sever his ties with his family, just to travel with her...

''So you have no lingering connection to my uncle?'' Kaname tested him. He would have nothing to do with that man.

The young man shook his head. ''No. I haven't seen my father for over a decade.''

It was then that the second of Yuuki's companions stepped forward. She pulled her hood back, revealing two strawberry blond pigtails and a pair of deep blue eyes. Her face was just as stoic as her companion's as she introduced herself. ''Good evening, my name is Rima Touya.''

And that most certainly stirred the people in the hall. They started murmuring with concern, and some in contempt. One vampire yelled ''Touya!? What is one of those doing here? Leave! A family so closely allied with the Shirabuki clan has no business being in this land!''. Most agreed with his words, eyeing the young woman in anger. She, however, remained unmoved.

Kaname raised his hand. ''Quiet.'' And he was obeyed, his soft command heard over the din, the authority behind it unquestioning.

Haruka gazed at the girl for a moment, then he chuckled.'' Going by the example of my young nephew, aren't we? Am I excused for believing that you too have no contact with your family?''

''Yes. I haven't heard from them since... that time.''

''That time?'' he raised an eyebrow.

''Good grief, this is starting to feel like an interrogation.'' Murmured Yuuki to herself, entirely forgetting the enhanced hearing of purebloods, thus having the three other purebloods in the room, excluding herself, hear her. Two of those had to fight smirks appearing on their lips.

''Not important.'' Rima replied. ''I have no connection to them anymore.''

''But how can we trust her words, heikas?'' called the old, pale bond vampire from previous discussions. ''She could be lying for all we know.''

''Rima is most certainly not lying.'' Yuuki had had just about enough of things, so she defended her friend. ''And even if she still has a connection to her family, what is it to you?''

She seemed to have stunned the vampire, as well as the pureblood family, those were the first words directed at someone other than her companions. No one expected her to talk quite so suddenly, and well, they didn't know what to do when the 'mysterious figure' they've been so careful of was directly in front of them and speaking to them. It didn't last long tough.

The man composed himself and narrowed his eyes at her. ''It is a lot to us, since we do not want spies from that wretched place on our lands.''

''If you don't want us here, we will simply leave. You could have told us such.'' And with that, Yuuki turned around, with all intention of leaving the palace.

''Wait!'' the man called. ''You are a risk as well, you cannot leave yet.''

''Uh- oh.'' Ichiru murmured quietly, making the hunters around him glance at him strangely.

Yuuki whirled back to him, and the man was suddenly terrified, though he didn't know why. Sweat started forming on his brow, and it didn't escape the notice of the Kuran family, nor Aidou.

''I can do whatever I want.'' She said quietly, but her words had more of an impact than if she yelled them. ''Who are you to tell me otherwise?''

He seemed to have no words.

But someone else did. ''And who are you to present yourself here with such an attitude?''

She was silent, but the lower part of her face, visible despite the cloak, slowly broke into a grin. ''Oh, who am I indeed.'' Her words were quiet, even their vampire ears could barely hear her. But a tremor ran down their spines nonetheless, this was definitely not a normal vampire.

Yuuki turned to leave but was stopped by the voice of the queen.

''Wait, please.'' Juuri called after her, shocking almost all present. Purebloods rarely said the word please.

Yuuki stopped and turned to her.

''That was rather rude of us, but I implore you to understand, times have come when such suspicion is necessary. I would really like to meet you, and learn who you are. From what I've heard, you seem like a remarkable person, someone worth meeting.''

Yuuki stood, silently gazing at the beautiful lady, almost like sizing her up.

''Alright.'' She said, lifting her hands to the hood ''My name is'' and pulling it down, exposing her face to the eyes of others. Her auburn hair gleamed in the light, and her copper eyes were focused solely on the Kuran family. ''Yuuki Kurosu.''

And there was silence. Absolute silence. It was as if a ghost was among them, like they were looking at the living dead. And they were, in a way. Yuuki Kurosu was supposed to be dead. And yet, there she was, standing and breathing in front to them. Even the ruling lords had wide eyes, signs of shock showing.

Then... ''Yes!'' and all eyes swung to Aidou. ''I knew it. I'm a genius. I knew it!'' he laughed and pointed at her. ''I was right! You are the princess.''

Yuuki looked at him blankly. ''Oh, you are that blond.''

''Could've done with some warning there, cousin.'' Murmured Cain.

''Yes.'' Added Kaname. ''You could have told us beforehand, Aidou.''

''Hey,'' he shrugged ''I wasn't sure.''

Wasn't sure, my ass, snorted his cousin beside him.

''B- b- b- but, how can we be sure?'' someone cried from the side. ''I can't feel her aura.''

''Oh, easy.'' Smiled Yuuki, and let her charm drop. Freed, her aura enveloped the room, and it was like a film being lifted from their eyes, they could really see her now.

And there was no doubt left.


Takuma was running at full speed, crushing her in a hug the instant he reached her. ''You're alive!'' Yuuki could see his eyes glinting suspiciously.

She smiled and hugged him back. ''It's been some time since I've seen you, Takuma. You've grown up well.''

''You are alive!'' he repeated, and hugged tighter.

''Yes, I am. Though I might not be if I don't get some air in my lungs soon, you're suffocating me.''

He ignored her.

''Yu- Yuuuukiiii'' she turned her head a bit and saw her old playmate crying his eyes out.

There were literally waterfall of tears running down his face as Kaien Cross launched himself at the girl, thus ripping her out of Ichijou's arms and bowling her over. Her back hit the floor rather painfully.

''Yuuukiii, you're here. You're alive. I've missed you soooo much. Why didn't you come sooner? Why didn't you contact meee? How are you alive? Wha...'' and he continued to ramble on and on, sobbing all the while.

It got a bit irritating after some time, so Yuuki kicked him off, he was heavier than he looked, and stood up. ''I'm fine, I'm fine. But I doubt I'll be if you all keep this up. My back hurts now.''

Kaien kept staring at her with comically teary eyes and she didn't know whether to feel annoyed or to melt. ''Fine, I'll tell you later.''

He perked up. ''So that means you're staying.''


''She's staying, right?'' he looked at the Kuran couple.

''Of course she is.'' Answered Juuri.

''She is the daughter of our old friends, it is the least we can do.'' Haruka elaborated. It was a miracle in itself that the girl still lived, it would be the wisest if she were to stay with them.

''Then it's settled.'' Kaien nodded to himself.

What, pray tell, have I gotten myself into?!

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Finally, this chapter is DONE! You lot have NO IDEA how much I slaved over it. First I wrote it whole, then accidentally deleted it from my computer. Luckily I had it on my stick, that was with my brother, so I had to wait for him to return it to me. And when he does return it, do you know what happened? No? HE DELETED EVERY SINGLE THING ON IT TO MAKE ROOM FOR HIS SHIT! (I swear, I was this close to grinding his damn nose to effing dust!)And theeen, I had to write the whole thing anew. It turned out longer than when I originally wrote it, and it is bloody long (15800ish words, or 35 pages).

I have to give special tribute to KF2104 for hounding me for this chapter and cracking that whip! And ya'll should know that this chapter wouldn't have been done nearly this soon without it (the whip, I mean).

I hope you enjoyed it ^^

Oh, and have a happy New Year (feel free to think of this chapter as a NewYear present)