Chapter 1: Knowing is Frustrating

Maki hurried down the dark path. She knew there was nothing to fear, in fact this was probably the safest place in the city, but with all the dead trees and the thick, eerie fog she felt a little creeped out. Maki wished that Karin's family would do something about the greenery. It couldn't be that hard to install sprinklers just to perk up the trees a little. Maki wondered how the bats would feel about having a more lively home. Her answer came in the form of having her face swiped by a nearby bat.

Maki let out a little shriek and crouched back. "I'm sorry bats. I'm sorry bats." She repeated over and over in her head in the event the bats were actually reading her mind.

"You should know he wont hurt you." A quiet voice whispered in Maki's ear. Maki was neither expecting, nor prepared, for such a thing and managed to display her surprise via a graceful shrieking midair one hundred and eighty degree turn with a perfect ten point crouched landing.

Before Maki there stood a small girl. She was petite, wearing the kind of frilly white dress you would expect to find on a porcelain doll and carrying a parasol to match it. Maki figured the parasol to be a rather odd accompaniment given the near lack of sunlight in the dense fog.

"Anju . . ." Maki squeaked, then gathered her composure and yelled at the girl. "you nearly scared me half to death!"

Anju was Karin's little sister, and the youngest member of the Maaka family. A family Maki only recently discovered was comprised solely of vampires. Anju had the uncanny ability to appear randomly in any given situation, though Maki didn't know if this was a vampire ability or just one possessed by younger children and she didn't much care to ask either way. All Maki did care about was the fact that Anju had chosen to capitalize on her ability by scaring Maki every chance she got, and it was becoming rather frustrating.

"Big sister is waiting for you." Anju emotionlessly stated in a voice hardly more than a whisper. "Come this way."

Maki hated to admit that she preferred Anju's company as opposed to walking alone. Though, that didn't stop her from wishing Anju would stop picking on her so much. After all, Maki was older so she should be shown a little more respect. Maki closed her eyes and her head gave a little bob as she pictured a polite and courteous Anju.

That wasn't what she discovered upon opening her eyes. Instead she found Anju standing, or more so floating, almost nose to nose in front of her face. All Maki could really see was Anju's eyes and at that range, for just a millisecond, she could swear they flashed red. Maki let out a little girlish squeak and fell backwards on her butt. The pathway was stone and the fall smarted just enough to cause Maki to winch on impact.

"Are you ok Maki?" Karin yelled as she charged off the steps toward her friend.

Charging towards ones friend is common practice for most and safe in almost all situations, but Maki knew Karin was, how to put it, a bit lacking in the coordination area. Maki barely had a chance to shout "Wait . . ." before Karin face planted into the walkway.

"Are you alright big sister?" Anju asked in the same barely audible dead tone she always used.

Karin pulled herself up to a sitting position. "I'm fine Anju." She said holding her hands over her nose. "I'm pretty used to this kind of thing." Karin added her trademark embarrassed laugh to the end and Maki couldn't help but smile. How did she ever manage such a clumsy and awkward friend?

"I think we had better get inside before there are any more accidents." Maki stated as she rose to her feet and dusted off her backside.

"Agreed." Karin chimed in response.

The Maaka house was huge by Japanese standards, and Maki figured it must be pretty large by any other countries standards as well; though she had no basis for that assumption. The front door was similar to the old castle homes and was comprised of two large wooden doors. This led to the excessively long and cluttered main hall, which passed the kitchen and most of the bedrooms. Karin's room was up the stairs and at the far end of the second hall. It was the only room in the house that got complete sunlight and this made sense since Karin was the only vampire in the family who wasn't bothered by the sun.

Maki appreciated the fact that the fog barrier was lifted just enough to let sun into Karin's room. This meant that she wouldn't have to worry about the rest of the family bothering them until after dark and, as much as she hated to abandon her friend, Maki had no intentions of sticking around that long. Karin's family could be a little scary to outsiders. Her parents still weren't fully accepting of Maki knowing their secrets and Karin's older brother had a tendency to be just plain mean. And then there was Anju.

"That girl, I swear." Maki mumbled.

"You say something Maki?" Karin asked.

"Oh, no, No. Nothing." Maki responded a little embarrassed. "We had better get to it don't you think?" She added as she pulled out the homework she needed to finish.

"Do we have to?" Karin whined.

Maki drew upon her most convincing scolding voice and responded. "Listen. You're the one who can't seem to finish one piece of homework by yourself."

Karin lowered her head. "I know Maki. It's just so hard to focus with everything that has been happening lately. I mean there is the extra shifts at work and the problems with my family and my grandma has been real active lately and then there's . ."

"Usui" Maki interrupted.

Karin's face was still lowered but Maki knew it was beet red. Maki rather liked picking on Karin using her relationship with Usui as a tool. It was kind of a mild form of payback for being so lucky. Compared to Maki, Karin had it all. She was well liked, had freedom at home, had nifty vampire powers (though Maki had never seen them she was pretty certain they were there) but mostly she had a successful relationship.

Usui was the only boy Karin had ever shown any real feelings for. And he shared her feelings in kind. From what Maki had managed to pry out of Karin the relationship was really serious. But that didn't matter to Winner. Regardless of the blatant nature of the relationship between Karin and Usui, Winner simply viewed it as an obstacle in the way of his beautiful life with Karin.

This circumstance was truly unfortunate since Winner, Karin's number one fan, was also Maki's first and biggest crush. It was difficult for Maki to hide her anger toward Karin over this fact. But they had been friends since they were both in elementary school and that kind of a friendship wasn't worth wasting over a boy, at least Maki didn't think so. Still, she had to admit a little spot deep down in her heart was brimming with hatred for Karin. And every once and a while that hatred would build up until Maki felt like she could burst.

"Never mind about all that," Maki added in a cheery voice. "Which part did you need my help with tonight?"

Karin's head sunk even lower and Maki knew what that meant.

"Don't tell me you didn't even start it." Maki shouted.

"I'm sorry Maki." Karin bellowed, her eyes welling with tears. "I've just been so busy lately I completely forgot we had homework at all."

Maki simply shook her head. What else could she do? Ever since she had known Karin the poor girl had been scatter brained. The only part that was dumbfounding was that fact that the condition seemed to be worsening with age. Maybe it was because Karin's huge boobs were hogging all the blood that was supposed to be for her brain. Maki chuckled at the thought.

"What's so funny?" Karin asked wearing a truly pitiful look on her face.

"Nothing." Maki chimed, suppressing another chuckle. Being with Karin was like babysitting a ten year old. Maki forced herself to gather composure and the effort required she let out a long sigh. "Well I guess it can't be helped. We start from the top."

"Okay!" Karin agreed in an overly enthusiastic voice.

The two spent the next couple hours on math. They had been taught only basic equations up till this point, and Karin seemed capable of handling those. But occasionally there was a problem requiring a more compound approach. This is the reason Maki was at Karin's. Karin got the concepts just fine, but implementation was Maki's specialty.

"So you see, you just take the X away and then distribute the S until you find the value of E. Then you add that back into the equation and repeat for X. See it's just that simple."

"Ooooooh." There was a long pause as Karin's mind digested what Maki had just shown her. "I don't get it."

Maki's head hit the kotatsu so hard she actually took a minute to recover.

"I'm sorry Maki." Karin said bowing her head with her hands clasped in a manner similar to prayer. "I don't mean to be such an idiot. It's just all these steps are confusing."

"You're not an idiot, big sister." Both girls jumped back startled at the sudden appearance of Anju at the kotatsu.

"Anju," Karin exclaimed, "what are you doing here?"

Anju motioned to a small teapot and cups that had found their way to the kotatsu between the two piles of homework. "I made some tea to help you study."

"No, I mean shouldn't you be worried about the sun?" Karin fussed.

"The sun set fifteen minutes ago." Anju pointed out.

Maki glanced quickly toward the window. Sure enough, the only light making its way inside was from the crescent moon. Maki began to panic. She hadn't intended to be at Karin's after dark. Though it was not like she hadn't done it before, but that was back when she didn't know the Maaka family were vampires. Now everything was different. Maki just couldn't bring herself about to trust Karin's family. Especially after what happened with Karin's older brother's reaction to Maki's knowing their family secret.

Ren practically killed Winner for telling Maki and after the rest of the Maakas managed to pull him off, Winner was so badly injured that he had to be taken to a hospital. When his family found out about what happened they had Winner shipped back to his home in England. Maki hadn't seen him for a month since then and he was terrible at returning her phone calls.

". . . Maki . . . Maki . . . Maki" Maki snapped out of her trance. Karin was shaking her worriedly. "What's the matter Maki? Speak to me."

Maki didn't know what to say. She needed to tell Karin that she was worried about her safety if she stayed, and even more so if she left. She needed to tell Karin about Winner and Ren. She needed to . . . . find a way to get Anju to stop staring at her with that weird look in her eyes.

"Karin," Maki finally managed the courage to speak. "I think we need to talk. I have some questions I want to ask you about vampires."

The room went silent and all heads that weren't on Maki to begin with now turned to her. Those heads being only the head of Anju's macabre stuffed doll Boogie who she insisted on carrying everywhere she went. This motion from the inanimate startled Maki even more. She knew deep down it must have been Anju moving the dolls head, but then again she knew a month ago that vampires didn't exist. It was all just getting to be too much.

"I suppose it can't be helped." Said Karin as she slumped down, "So what did you want to know?"

"Well, I guess for starters, is it true you drink blood." Question one out of the way.

"Yes. All real vampires drink blood." Karin responded.

"Real vampires? You mean there are fakes running around or something." Maki's question was innocent, but Karin's reaction to it looked pained.

"Well for starters," Karin began, "I'm not a real vampire."

Maki was taken aback. She was pretty sure that Karin was a real vampire, what with the reaction from her family and the resemblance to her father and grandmother. She couldn't possibly be adopted or anything.

"What do you mean?" Maki had no choice but to ask.

"Well," Karin's face reddened, "I'm an un-vampire."

"An un-vampire?"

"Yeah, I don't drink blood. I produce it. And when it builds up too much I get a

horrible nose bleed."

"So that's what was causing it. We always just used to think you were sick or something."

"Big sister is a special kind of vampire." Anju chimed in, "As far as we know she is one of a kind. Not even grandma can figure out why she is what she is."

"Okay, well that answers a lot of my questions. I guess I just want to know more. Like why do vampires drink blood? Does it have to be from a live human or can it be, like, donor blood? If you bite a human do they become a zombie? Can you control people's minds? Are all those bats outside your relatives?"

This time it was Anju, instead of Karin, who answered. "We aren't like the vampires you see in the movies. We don't turn into bats; at least none of the vampires I know do. We can drink blood both fresh and stored, though fresh tastes so much better. No you won't become a zombie. And yes we can control minds but the rules are strict and it is difficult."

Maki paused and digested the information she had just been given. It made her feel a little bad to have been so horribly wrong about her assumptions on vampires, but that was to be expected since she only had the movies to go off of. She only had one question left on her mind now. "How do you pick who to bite?"

This time Karin answered, though it was a delayed whisper. "Affinity."

"Affinity?" Maki repeated.

"It's an attraction." Anju stated, "We have no control over it and it varies from vampire to vampire. Mother likes liars, brother likes stress, and Karin likes unhappiness."

"No I don't." Karin objected, "Just my blood does."

Karin put on a confused face as she mulled over what she had just said. Maki smiled a little at the expression and for a brief second she forgot her worries. Then, just as suddenly as the peace came, it vanished. A vital tumbler fell into place and Maki's heart skipped a beat.

"A . . A . . Anju" Maki fought hard to muster the courage to ask the question on her mind. "What is your affinity?"

Karin's dopey expression left and was replaced with a stern, remorseful look. Maki became afraid.

"I'm rather fond of jealousy." Anju answered with a frighteningly doll like smile.

As the words entered Maki's head the blood there made an exquisite exodus. Maki's face became white as a ghost and she suddenly felt very ill.

"I'll walk you home," Karin spoke as she stood up, "if you don't want to stay."

Karin's face was sullen. For an instant Maki ceased fearing for her safety and actually felt guilty for abandoning her friend under such awful circumstances. Of course the thought of Anju's sharp fangs biting into her neck and draining her blood quickly dispersed any compassion she felt for her friend and shored up the flee aspect of her subconscious survival network.

"Thank you Karin. I don't like walking alone in the dark." Maki's voice was a little shaky as she spoke and she hoped she wasn't giving away her fear too much.

Maki packed her things back into her bag and she and Karin began to head out.

"Don't you want your tea first?" Anju asked as the two headed out.

"Maybe later." Maki responded. That was a lie though. Maki had been slowly piecing the events of the past month together and she was coming to a conclusion she wished she had never thought of. And if she was right, this would be the last time she ever came to Karin's. Maybe even the last time she ever spoke to Karin at all.

The rest of the journey out of the house was quiet. Maki took the lead and Karin straggled behind a step or two. The events of the day weighed heavily on both girls, though Maki found herself being burdened by more than just that.

"Karin" Maki stated once they reached the edge of the fog barrier.

"Yes Maki." Karin answered; an air of hope in her voice.

"Did Anju bite me?" There it was. Maki felt as though a little weight lifted off her. She had been stressing over that question all night. Some time before Maki found out about the Maakas from Winner she had been planning to meet Karin in the park. She ended up falling asleep before Karin showed up and when she awoke she felt funny and there we some small marks on her neck.

Maki assumed they were bug bites until tonight. Now she wasn't so sure. She vaguely remembered seeing Anju in the park before she fell asleep, but she couldn't remember if it was a dream or not. Now all Karin had to do was say 'no' and Maki would know it was a dream and she could move on. Maybe even grow the courage to stay at Karin's overnight. All she needed was a no.

"Yes." Karin began bawling. "I didn't know she was going to do it. If I had known I would have stopped her. But it was too late. When I got there she had already finished. I was so mad at her I didn't know what to do. Then all the weird stuff happened with the Sinclair family and my family and I just thought if you didn't know then it wouldn't matter."

"Shut up!" Maki grew angry. "JUST SHUT UP!" She screamed at Karin. "How could you? You were my best friend and you used me as some sort of snack food for your little vampire sister. I hate you!"

"Maki . . ."

"I HATE YOU!" Maki screamed as she took off running for home. She didn't care how Karin felt about it; all she cared about know was the sense of rage and betrayal that was building inside of her. She would never speak to Karin again. She wasn't even sure she could face her after this. The tears streamed down Maki's face as she ran.