Epilogue: Carpe Diem
She was wearing the latest fashion from Paris – a one-shoulder pearl-white satin piece that shimmered as she glided across the dance floor. Her long hair was twisted up into an elaborate chignon and decked out with dozens of glittering jewels. With diamonds around her neck and wrists, she was positively glittering as her partner twirled her through the elaborate steps of the Viennese Waltz.
Her partner was no less devastating to the eye. Dressed to the nines, he appeared to have just stepped off the cover of a men's fashion magazine. Together, the two of them dipped, turned and twirled. Their love was obvious for all to see but they only had eyes for each other. Rumour has it, engagement and marriage was in the not too distant future.
The couple looked absolutely stunning together and no one in their vicinity could take their eyes off of the pair.
"Will we ever be like that?" Up from her vantage point on the second floor balcony, Ruka wondered out loud as she watched the couple continue their dance.
"Hmmm?" Beside her, Akatsuki Kain stirred as he looked up from the report he was reading.
Ruka turned and gave him a glowering look, trying to squelch the part of her that sighed at the way he looked with his unruly hair and unbuttoned shirt. They were at a party and he was still focused on work. That could not go unpunished.
"You know, Akatsuki," Ruka sighed as she walked over and sat down by his side on the couch. "It's a crime to ignore your girlfriend."
It still gave her a thrill whenever she thought about it.
They are together. A true old-fashioned gentleman at heart, the first thing Akatsuki did after everything settled down was to seek permission from her parents to court her. It was one of the few issues that Akatsuki refused to budge on, no matter how much she tried to dissuade him. Ruka's cheeks still warmed at the memory.
"You sure this is necessary?" Embarassed, Ruka asked as the pair of them stood in the foyer of her house, waiting for the butler to fetch her parents.
Akatsuki nodded solemnly as he stood by her side. He had even dressed up for this occasion with a dinner jacket and his shirt neatly buttoned and tucked in. However, no amount of effort could tame his hair.
"They have known you for years," Ruka whispered when her butler came back to take them to her father's study. "They know you almost as well as they know me. How could they not approve?"
He turned and grinned at her. She had never seen him look so carefree and now that she has, Ruka didn't want that look to disappear. It was amazing that despite knowing him for so many years, there were still aspects of him that she was discovering.
"Ruka," he continued smiling at her. "This is more than a formality. This is ..." Here, he visibly hesitated. "This is for keeps. I love you so I want – need to do this right."
Well, when you put it like that, Ruka thought as she sighed and reached up to sneak in a kiss before they entered the study.
Who could say no to that?
But just as Ruka had predicted, her parents had approved without a moment of hesitation. There were no signs of surprise. It was almost as if the two of them had seen this coming. Her father had beamed with quiet pride and a hint of amusement. Her mother, on the other hand, had emitted a quite unladylike squeal as she rushed around the table to embrace the two of them. That was followed immediately with her dashing out, claiming that she had to call Akatsuki's mother straight away.
Ruka was certain that her cheeks had never been that red before.
That was two months ago. And during that time, Akatsuki had been who he had always been – a constant reassuring presence by her side who was always looking out for her. He bought a car, insisting that from now on, they should travel together instead of always getting driven around by a chauffeur. He was even starting to teach her how to drive. They shopped around for an apartment to move in together. Hanabusa had insisted on tagging along, of course, demanding that they get one with a spare bedroom for him. That had almost led to an argument had Akatsuki not stepped in at the last minute and played the peacekeeper.
It was almost as if nothing had changed.
Eyes still on his report, Akatsuki slung an arm across the back of the couch and gathered her close. Automatically, without giving it much thought, she leaned into him and rested her head in the crook of his shoulder. Breathing in his familiar scent, Ruka resisted the urge to snuggle in closer. And just like that, all thoughts of punishing him went out the window.
Well, okay, there were a couple of changes...
"What are you doing?" She asked as she peered down at the papers he held in his hand. She wasn't really upset at him. God knows how he hated dressing up and attending parties. The fact that he even bothered attending was a feat in itself. Plus, he had a lot on his plate at the moment. They both did.
"Looking over the enrolment list for next year," Akatsuki answered as he absent-mindedly brushed his hand through her hair. "Plus, Hanabusa wanted me to go over the syllabus as well."
At the thought of their cousin, Ruka sobered up. After the end of the battle, the person who had changed the most would have had to be their cousin. He had grown up his entire life believing in the ideals of the pureblood lords. He had looked up to – no, practically worshipped Kaname-sama ever since they were little kids. They all had. But somehow, looking back, Ruka thinks he had been hit the hardest by Kaname-sama's betrayal.
"So what are your plans?" She had asked him a few weeks ago. In the space of days, the hunters had managed to clear up all traces of the battle. The bridge had been repaired. Zero had relocated the Hunter Association to a new temporary headquarter. And everything was seemingly back to normal. The humans were happily oblivious to what had transpired and simply went on with their daily lives.
Ruka wasn't sure whether she should be relieved or sad at that thought. Was there no one to mourn their passing?
Hanabusa shrugged, his baby-blue eyes solemn and lacking its usual twinkle of mischief. Though his clothes and hair were as immaculate as ever, Ruka could see the inner turmoil and grief inside the blonde.
"Akatsuki and I are heading back for a bit," Ruka prompted him when Hanabusa remained silent and pensive. "He wants to see my parents about something and then, I think we'll stay for awhile, rest and figure out what we want to do, you know. You should come with us."
Hanabusa turned to look up at the Moon Dormitory. "No," he said finally. "I think I'm going to stay."
"And do what?" Her confusion was evident in her voice.
"Rebuild the school and teach the future generation of vampires about coexistence." Turning back around, he shot Ruka a bittersweet smile. "This place holds a lot of memories – some good, some bad. But they are there nonetheless. We should keep their alive. And keep his legacy alive too."
Ruka mulled over it in her head, nodding slowly in response. Perhaps she was wrong after all. No matter what happens, there will always be someone who remembers and mourns. No one should fade away into the obscurity of time.
"I'll help," she said, smiling back at him.
"We both will," Akatsuki spoke as he walked up to join them.
Quick as lightening, Hanbusa's eyes creased up into a smile. Slinging an arm around each of them, he teased. "Nah, you guys just missing hanging out with me."
Ruka thought about it. "No, that can't be it."
"Hey!" Hanabusa's indignant voice rang through the air.
The three of them. Together. Like the way it has always been. Like the way it should be…
And true to his words, Hanabusa had thrown himself into re-establishing the night class. He wasn't a child prodigy for no reason. Within a few weeks, the groundwork for reopening the school had been laid down. The teachers have been hired. Students were enrolling in. And in another few weeks time, Chairman Cross will be starting the new academic year with two cohorts again. Hanabusa will be the acting Dorm Leader. Akatsuki and herself will join him, mostly to keep an eye out for him. Because that was what cousins do.
And Zero will once again play the role of the suffering Prefect.
As for Yuuki-sama…
She had woken up from her coma like a newborn, blinking with confusion and bewilderment at the world around her. With no memories of her past life – lives, she would have to start afresh. It was perhaps Kaname-sama's final gift to her.
But with Zero there looking after her, Yuuki-sama will be fine, Ruka thought as she gave up to temptation and snuggled closer. Instinctively, Akatuski's arm tightened around her, holding her close. It was a little strange that after all these months, Ruka still thought of her as the pureblood princess. She had spent years thinking of her as a pesky human and only a couple mentoring her as a Kuran. Yet she still couldn't drop the suffix from Yuuki-sama's name. And she doubted she was the only one. It would be weird going back to school and having to consciously remind herself that Yuuki-sama didn't remember her or any of them.
And it was probably for the best.
"Penny for your thought?" Akatsuki gently asked.
It took her awhile for her to realize they were still at the ball. Ruka shook her head as she took the sheets from him to have a browse herself. "Just thinking about the future."
Ruka shook her head again. She tilted her head up and smiled at him. "No. I know where I'll be in five years time." Together. Somewhere. With you.
Akatsuki's twinkling gaze was answer enough that he knew what she was thinking.
They sat there for awhile in comfortable silence while the rest of the crowd continued to dance and socialize on the dance floor below them. One of Ruka's favourite pastimes used to be down there, revelling in the festivities and the crowd. But now –
"I like this," she murmured quietly without moving.
"Me too." Akatsuki replied. Ruka smiled when she felt his lips brush the top of her hair.
"There you guys are," Hanabusa exclaimed as he hurried up the stairs and spotted them. "Have you guys been hiding up here all this time? Wait, don't answer that. I don't want disturbing mental images crowding my brain when I go to bed tomorrow morning."
"Hanabusa!" Ruka flushed as she sat up. "It's nothing like that!"
"La-la-la," Hanbusa sang as he reached them. Grabbing ahold of both of them, he dragged them off the couch and ushered them down the stairs. "Go, go downstairs and socialize like normal vampire nobles."
Before they realized what was happening, they were pushed onto the dance floor. Hanabusa then magically disappeared into the crowd.
"Shall we?" There was a small smile on Akatsuki's lips as he bowed elegantly before her.
"Oh, stop it," Ruka rolled her eyes. But there was an answering smile on her face as she accepted his hand. "You don't think this is a waste of time? I know how much you hate dancing."
"No," Akatsuki shook his head as he twirled her out and then catching her back into his arms.
"But you are always about making every count."
"Every moment spent with you already counts," Akatsuki said with a twinkle in his eyes as he dipped his head down to cover her mouth with his. Ruka sighed blissfully and wrapped her arms around his neck, dragging him closer.
Seize the day.
Live every day as if it were the very last.
Author's Note: Well, this is truly the end. Even now, I've got mixed feelings. This baby was originally meant to be a mini-winter project for myself before I commenced my clinicals. That was well over one and half a year ago. There were moments during this year when I thought I would never be able to finish this story. But here we are, at the epilogue.
Thank you so much for taking this long and interesting journey with me. :)