Water was so nice. When it was running over your body it felt as though it could clean away everything.

Too bad it wasn't true.

Water could clean away the dirt from a normal day.

But it couldn't clean away memories.

Kaori knew all about that. Standing under the shower in her small apartment she closed her eyes, leaning on the wall behind her and allowing the water to flow across her face and down her body. She knew that she should try to move on, to not think about her past, but… it was just too much.

She silently counted how many years had passed since the tragedy had occurred in Sotoba, the small town where she used to live.

Where she had lost her parents and friends.

Where she had been made to kill her own father.

She could still feel his blood on her face where several drops had landed. She had hammered a stake into his head after all, there had been blood everywhere. No matter how many times she bathed and soaked she still didn't feel clean.

She tried to talk to herself about it. Telling herself that it hadn't been her real father there, only his body – taken over a bloodthirsty monster – that had killed her mother. A monster that would have killed her if she hadn't stopped him. But still…

She shook her head. She knew she had to stay strong.

She wasn't a naïve fifteen year old girl anymore. Now nineteen, after going through the battle against the vampires she knew that the world wasn't as safe a place as she had once believed it to be.

Kaori sighed, straightening up and turning the water off. Akira would be back from school soon and she knew she couldn't show him such a sad face.

She stepped out from the shower and wrapped herself in the towel which had been hanging next to it. Turning she looked at herself in the mirror.

Brown eyes blinked back at her, just like when she had been fifteen. But now they lacked the spark that had been forever present in her eyes. When she was younger they had been full of humour, kindness and life. Now they were mostly sad and guarded, hiding the terrible truth in their depths. Kaori had changed through those four years. She had cut her hair so that it hung just below her shoulders, though it was shorter at the front. She no longer clipped her fringe back, instead allowing it to cover her forehead. Her face was more mature than it had been, although much to her annoyance she had barely grown. Her height had changed by a mere inch at the most. Akira was a different case. He was now taller than her by nearly a head.

She glanced at her watch and quickly got dressed. There wasn't much time left until her brother was due back home.

After leaving the bathroom she went to the kitchen, grabbing the letter from the table. She opened it and started reading.

'Kaori and Akira

I hope that my letter has found you in good health as always. Recently I heard some news about strange occurrences in a village in Korea, so I have travelled there in the hopes that I can find some clues there as to how to find Seishin. I'm sending you the address and phone number of the hotel where I'm staying. Contact me any time you need to, it doesn't matter what the time is.

I will contact you when I get back to Japan.

Congratulations on getting into the team Akira.

T. Ozaki'

Kaori put the letter down and glanced out the window. Toshio Ozaki still couldn't get over the fact that his best friend had willingly decided to join the Shiki. Every single time he heard about strange occurrences he would head there to check it out. Twice already he had found signs of vampires, but fortunately there hadn't been anything as big as the incident in Sotoba. He had been reluctant to share his information with Kaori, but the girl was stubborn and he had eventually relented.

Ozaki was the only person that the siblings were in contact with from Sotoba. The others who had survived had gone into hiding after changing their names, and a few of them, from what Kaori had heard from the doctor, had committed suicide so they wouldn't have to be burdened with their memories. Truthfully Kaori had also contemplated ending her life, but she couldn't leave Akira alone. He needed her just as much as she needed him, and as an older sister it was her job to protect him.

Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of a door opening.

"I'm home!" The voice of her brother echoed throughout the small apartment, accompanied by the sound of his bag hitting the floor.

"How was your day?" Kaori asked as her brother entered the kitchen, sinking down in the chair opposite her own.

"Good, although nothing really happened." He shrugged his shoulders, glancing at the paper on the table. "Is it from Ozaki-senpai?" He asked curiously, looking at his sister and snatching the letter once she nodded. "Korea?" He asked incredulously after a moment. "That's pretty far away. It's the first time he's travelled such a long distance." He stated.

"It's important to him to check everywhere, regardless of the distance." Kaori answered, standing up. "Hungry?"

"Hai!"

Kaori smiled slightly and moved over to the cupboard to grab some ingredients for dinner. She threw a quick glance at her brother who was rereading the short letter. She knew that he wanted to accompany Ozaki in his travels, but she had been glad that the older man had been against it. If something happened to Akira… she shook her head to get rid of such morbid thoughts.

"Something wrong?" Akira asked, seeing her move.

"No, I was just thinking about something." She replied, starting to make dinner for them.

It wasn't long until they were sitting together at the table, eating.

"Nee-chan…" Akira started hesitantly in the middle of dinner, pausing for a moment. Kaori looked up at him, waiting for him to continue. "I thought I saw someone when I was coming home."

He watched her, unsure whether he should continue or not.

"Who was it?" Kaori asked, feeling her muscles tighten slightly but making sure not to show any of her agitation on her face. Surely it wasn't… No, it couldn't be. She had been checking the news constantly, there weren't any strange disappearances happening in their area.

"I think it was… nii-san." Akira added the last part quietly, watching his sister closely.

Kaori frowned. There was only one person who Akira addressed as 'Nii-san' that would earn such a reaction from him.

Natsuno Yuuki.

The very person who had helped them to survive the massacre in Sotoba. The only person Kaori knew to have retained his human thoughts and state of mind after becoming a shiki. The only person whom she would have secretly been glad if he had survived.

But that wasn't possible.

More importantly, if he was alive and here then… some of the remaining shiki could also… No! She couldn't allow herself to think about that. There was no evidence to prove that it had really been Natsuno.

Akira was watching his sister with worried eyes. He knew very well that Kaori wouldn't take the news well, but he had still thought that it had been something important that he needed to tell her.

"Nee-chan?" He asked as the silence began to stretch on.

Kaori snapped out of her thoughts.

"Don't be silly Akira." She said, adding a quiet laugh that even sounded fake to her own ears. "There is no way that Yuuki-san could be here. It was just someone who looked similar to him."

Akira watched her for a moment before nodding his head.

"Yeah, you're probably right."

The rest of the meal passed by in silence, both of the siblings lost in their own thoughts.

=S H I K I=

She was alone. Everything around her was quiet; the only sound to be heard was the wind blowing through the leaves. Kaori shivered. Even knowing that she was alone she still felt as if someone was watching her. Watching from behind, waiting for her to do something, for her to move.

'Kaori…'

Something whispered behind her, making her shiver in fear.

'You know you deserved it…'

Now something was behind her, almost touching her back.

'But don't worry my dear, now it's your turn.'

Megumi appeared in front of her before she even had a chance to scream or attempt to run.

Red eyes.

Sharp fangs.

Kaori shot up in her bed, sweating after her nightmare. She took a deep breath, trying to calm herself down. It wasn't the first time she had had a dream like that, although it had been a long time since they had felt so… real. She looked out over the city through her window. Deciding that some fresh air would do her some good she climbed to her feet and walked over to the small balcony jutting out from her bedroom. The spring night was warm, so she didn't bother putting anything else on over top of her pyjamas.

Stepping out into the fresh air she glanced at the protective charms she had placed near the doors and leant on the railing, taking another deep breath. She closed her eyes, beginning to calm down after the unwanted nightmare. Slowly she relaxed. It was only a dream. A bad dream, but nothing more.

She nearly had a heart attack when a hand covered her mouth.

Her eyes snapped open, fear overwhelming her. She was living on the ninth floor, so how could anyone attack her there on her balcony?

She felt her attacker's face coming closer to her ear and then something hit her.

If someone was that close to her she should be able to hear them breathing, but she couldn't sense a thing…

Fighting back tears she struggled against their grip, but her attacker grabbed her around the shoulders from behind, trapping her.

"Kaori, calm down." The attacker whispered to her and her eyes widened in shock.

She knew that voice…

"I'm not going to hurt you, do you understand?" He waited for her to nod. When she did he continued. "I'm going to let go of your mouth, but you have to promise not to scream, ok?"

She nodded again, too shocked and terrified to oppose him. When she was released she turned around to look straight into their red eyes.

"Y-Yuuki-san…" She whispered.

Natsuno nodded, watched her quietly, waiting for her to get used to his presence.

"Akira was right…" Kaori whispered before her vision began to fade, leaving her trapped in the blackness.


edited: Dark Akuma Hunter