A/N: Ahhh... LuanRina. If I have time to update for no one else, I do for you. I always look forward to reading your reviews, because they're the sort of driving material that every writer needs to continue on. You always tell me what you like, what you'd like to see happen, and I appreciate that to no end. So far in ATWK, you've reviewed every chapter, as well as every chapter in the prequel, Two Heartbeats and the Red Sin. You've been dedicated since the beginning. So, this chapter goes out to you.
I also appreciate the dedication of Irmina and Ben4Kevin, who have also been reviewing since the beginning. I thank ForeverLoveless00 for being the first to review, and everyone else who's read, favourited, and alerted!
Now let's talk about this chapter, shall we?
And Then We Kiss
"What's wrong Zero? You don't seem like your usual self tonight." Kaname moved his ivory knight to take my ebony bishop — after that one time, Kaname had claimed that the black pieces would always be mine when we played, no matter what. That was okay with me; I played better with the black pieces anyway.
I looked up at him, then back down at the board, rubbing my side nervously as I swept the board with my eyes. That same bishop that he'd taken was the same one he'd used on me four years ago, and I know because he'd used it on me several times after that, and the finish had begun to wear off. He'd made reference to me as that bishop once as he took it; it had only been a few days ago. "See this bishop, Zero? This is you. The third most important piece in the game, you are below the King and Queen, but above the Knights, Rooks, and Pawns." I remember him pausing and holding up one of the pawns. "Your brother, Ichiru is a pawn; nothing more than a piece expendable to me as there are so many just like it on the board. You're a bishop because I can't afford to lose you even though you only perform one specific function and really only benefit me once in a little while." I asked him who the other bishop was, and he told me it was irrelevent, but... "If you must know, it's Takuma. And just to answer the rest of your questions, the knights would have to be Yagari and Kaito, and the pawns are everyone else." But why were they knights? What function did the knight play? "They're difficult to use because of the L-shape they move in. Occassionally there's no other piece that can do the job, some of the time they're actually useful. Mostly they're only double-edged swords. Having them here only brings the enemy closer." The enemy, I assumed were the Vampire Hunters, and yes... I suppose that was true. I'd never looked at that way before, so I had to admit I was taken aback by that sudden outburst... if you could really call it that. It had been random and a little startling; mostly it just told me exactly how intelligent and thoughtful Kaname really was.
"I was just thinking about Ichiru." It was dangerous ground to tread on, but it was the truth. I couldn't lie to Kaname. There was no point, really; whenever I lied to him, he saw right through it and told me so. Apparently my lying skills, which worked on everyone else when I had need of them, were useless with Kaname. But that's just the way it was, and it kept us very open with eachother. At least... I was open with him. Still, he had no reason not to tell me things when he had already admitted to trusting me more than his own wife. Of course he would. I'd never betrayed him until the night before, so there was no reason to distrust me.
"Were you? Hm. And what exactly were you thinking, Zero?"
"I was just wondering how he is."
There was a short pause and I didn't look up to see where Kaname had moved the piece that he'd been fingering previously. I recognized the sound of the felted bottoms of two pieces sliding against the cherrywood and oak veneer, and knew he'd taken one of my pieces. He didn't say anything for a long time and I felt my chest tighten. What if he knew what I'd done, or what I was planning? What then? Would he kill Ichiru? Would he kill me? I clasped my hands under the table and stared at the board, pretending like I was searching for a move. I took a breath and was about to say something to correct the situation, but he finally spoke and it relieved me greatly. "Ichiru is well. He asks about you often, and I can also assure you that he's neither harmed nor unhealthy."
It struck me. He was lying, and he'd done it so easily. I felt torn inside, almost heartbroken. It occurred to me that if he could lie about this right to my face, then he could do the same with any and everything else. But I tried not to show how I felt so as not to give rise to any suspicions he might have. "That's good."
"He talks about you often." I looked up at him, not sure whether this was true or not. But before I could gather a single comprehensible thought, he continued. "He asks after your wellness. I've told him that you're perfectly happy and quite content... unless there's something wrong with that."
"No. It's perfectly fine."
I looked up at him and he was frowning. Definitely a bad sign. I breathed a heavy sigh and looked up at the clock, mostly to keep from staring at Kaname, but I realized that it was nearly time for lunch. I informed him of this, he nodded, rose, and excused himself. I was left alone in his room, staring at the chess board blankly, my mind completely empty. I couldn't tell whether or not I was breathing, or if I was even awake at that point... not until another presence entered the room and I looked up. Yuuki had entered with an armload of sheets for Kaname's bed which she had earlier stripped to wash the bedding. I rose to help her, taking her by surprise. A flurry of sheets and pillowcases were scattered on the floor around the bed, and Yuuki stood there trembling, staring up at me like she'd seen a ghost.
"...Are you okay?" I asked her, and with a long sigh, she relaxed, punching me in the shoulder as hard as was possible for her.
"I'm fine; don't scare me like that!" She harped at me for being silent for a few minutes, told me she didn't need my help, and then shooed me off out of the room. I didn't know where I should go to wait out the rest of the night until Kaname called for my presence again, and told her so. She just stared at me for a moment before reaching up and tracing her fingers down the side of my face. "You haven't been getting much sleep lately, have you? Why don't you take a nap?"
It sounded as good an idea as any, and I began to make my way through the palace toward my own room. It was scary how I had awoken the other day in the middle of a snowstorm with no idea where I was or what was going on, false memories clouding my mind and skewing my vision... Now, they were beginning to fade off and I was beginning to remember things that I had previously forgotten. Some of them stuck and held fast, like the memories of Kaname being my lover, and of Yuuki's death. Things that didn't make any sense... Things that couldn't possibly be true. I was whirlled away by my thoughts, not paying attention to where I was headed, and by the time I found myself in the entrance hall, I also realized that I was being followed. How had I missed it? I was Human now, and it seemed that a lot of my natural Hunter abilities were either supressed or removed entirely, and this was the obvious proof. I turned to come face-to-face with someone who seemed vaguely familiar, and when it hit me I actually stumbled back a few steps. "Kaito?"
"If you want to know the truth, come with me." He turned and began to walk away, down the stairs and toward the kitchen. Not knowing what else to do, I followed him blindly through the house and wondering all the while where he was taking me. For all I knew this was a set up and at the end was Kaname waiting to kill me for attempting to betray him again. But was I really? I just wanted to know the truth. The truth about what? That I wasn't even certain of. So why was I following him? It didn't make sense to me, but I felt like I... like I had to. Like there was some force compelling me to go with him that I wasn't strong enough to fight. I felt like I... like I had no choice. And really, I didn't. I tried to turn away once, but he called out to me and my body immediately answered to him. It was strange... The feeling was like a tingling all over me, like dust settling on my skin, like a thousand butterflies taking off where I was their perch... and then it repeated. Like being gently squeezed. It continued like this until we'd come to a large greenhouse and I was pushed in by that feeling, the doors closing behind me automatically. I turned, feeling more trapped than ever and just stared as I felt the colour drain from my body. "Don't freak out, Zero. It's to keep the heat in."
Now that I thought about it, it was rather warm and self-closing doors would be a useful touch if you found yourself too busy to do it yourself.
"What's going on, Kaito? I just want—"
"Alright, alright. No need to be so pushy." His smirk was rather irritating but that didn't seem too out of place. I turned to look at him and found him pruning a rose bush with a pair of hand trimmers, cutting a white rose close to the branch and holding it out for me to take. I did, tentatively. "Give this to Ichiru for me, okay?"
"But what about—"
"If you don't stop acting the way you are, Kaname's going to kill you." It hit me hard and I sat on the nearest overturned bucket to catch my breath. Kaname loved me. He wouldn't kill me. He wouldn't. "He talks to me all the time. He rather enjoys spending his time here with me; so you should know I'm not lying. He thinks that you've finally snapped under the pressure of having Ichiru taken away from you and he is sorry for that loss... After all, he's trained you so well. I also happen to know that you're planning to run away with Lady Shizuka and your brother. If you're going to do it, tonight is the only night that you will have even a fleeting chance. If you time it perfectly you can escape forever. If you time it perfectly." There was a long silence where I had nothing to say — I couldn't even form a proper thought. I was too — dare I say it? — scared to think straight. What was even going on? Everything had almost been normal and then... and then this.
But I had made my decision, and when I had gathered myself, I was instantly off to find Shizuka, regardless of the time of night. We were getting out of there. Tonight.