The carriage rocked steadily back in forth over the cobblestone streets, the people inside swaying with it's weaving moments. The horse-drawn carriage was filled to it's absolute limits, riddled with scowling pot-bellied old men and mean horse faced women, one very nice couple stuck in the midst of the tobacco smoke which drifted from pipes and very potent ladies perfumes. Shoved roughly against the carriage's padded walls by a large man who was discussing the bible with a rat-faced gentleman, was a certain lord, Mr. Kaname Kuran. Because Kaname was much more humble than other lords, he refused the private, expensive carriage offered to him, and instead chose to ride with commoners, not really minding them at all. Perhaps that was why he was being sent away, Kaname thought absent-mindedly, because he refused to hold himself higher than others when it was not needed. Yes, he would if someone needed disciplining or at a party of some sorts, but he usually treated everyone fairly well, and equally of course. That was most definitely why he was being sent away, no doubt, Kaname decided. His parents -bless their souls- thought he should learn to treat others by their rank amongst people, thus why he was being sent to the famous Kiriyuu mansion, to learn the ways of a proper young lord.

A very bony older woman roughly pinched his cheek, snapping him from his thoughts as her chipped red claw-like nails almost shredded his face. "My, aren't you handsome?" she cackled, yellowed teeth grinning unabashedly between made up lips. The rancid smell of a pipe was overbearingly strong as she roughly shoved the large bloke who had been cramming Kaname into the wall away and taking his seat, causing many complaints to erupt around the carriage. Her wrinkled face was spotted, and Kaname had to force his usual polite smile. "Thank you, Miss. It's an honor to be complimented by someone as gorgeous as you." he lied through his teeth, his smile never lighting his wine-colored eyes. She blushed blotchily and scooted closer. "Ah, handsome and polite! You surely are a married man, yes?" she asked, squinty eyes scanning his hands for a ring. Uncomfortable, Kaname answered quickly that he was not yet married before excusing himself and feigning sleep for the rest of the ride.

An hour later, a harsh rapping came from the roof as the gruff carriage driver knocked. The riding department halted abruptly with the horse, making everyone jolt forward, a thin, tiny thing of a man even falling to the carriage floor. He picked himself up quickly, beyond embarrassed. "Kiriyuu mansion!" the driver barked around his pipe. Gracefully slipping out of the hard wooden seat and around the other passengers, Kaname exited the carriage and received his luggage from the driver. He eyed Kaname warily. "Keep ye' head above water 'ere, bad stuff goes on a' the Kiriyuu estate," he warned gruffly, eyeballing the house before leaving quickly, leaving Kaname curious and hesitant to step towards the manor's gates. What sort of bad happenings did he mean, Kaname thought. He simply reasoned that the old man was batty, and there was nothing bad of sorts happening at the house, trying to ignore it's eerie nature. The house shadowed everything in path, the long winding walkway to the house dark and gray. The manicured bushes rustled harshly in the almost non-existent wind, the gate that had alarmingly opened on it's own, slammed shut behind him. It was early winter and frost and light snow dusted everything. The trees were already barren, branches reaching out like long willowy fingers towards the dingy sky. The grass and flowers were dead in their pots, Kaname noticed as he stood in front of the large doors. Straightening himself up, Kaname shifted his luggage to one hand and grabbed the knocker, knocking gently on the front door.

Seconds later the door was opened by a silver haired woman with astounding beauty and piercing lilac eyes. Kaname stood there, on the verge of gaping. He had heard of the Kiriyuu family's amazing beauty, but the woman who stood in front of him was magnificent. Shizuka smiled kindly at the boy in front of her. His handsome features led her to conclude that this was the young lord who would be in her care for awhile. "I assume you are Kuran Kaname?" she said, her voice like bells in the wind. Kaname nodded dumbly. "I'm Shizuka Hio, I believe you will be in my care for awhile? It will be an honor to serve as your host." she smiled slightly, pink lips curling upwards. Kaname regained his senses quickly and bowed to the woman before him, taking her hand and bringing it to his lips and kissing it softly. "It's a pleasure, Mrs. Hio." he whispered into her skin. She gave a tinkling laugh and airily waved with her other hand for him to rise from his bow. "Please, do call me Shizuka. I am no longer married, and calling me by my last name is so entirely stuffy, no?" she gestured for him to come inside, "Please, you must be freezing out there, come in. I'll fetch a servant to start a fire in the sitting room at once."

With a quick thanks Kaname entered, idly dusting gathering frost off his shoulders and respectfully removing his soaking shoes. Two servants approached quickly, the blonde boy smiling cheerfully and taking his luggage, saying he'd place it in his room, and the other, a woman, face stoic for the most part immediately heading towards the fireplace and starting a fire, stoking it afterwards and leaving a small pile of wood by the hearth. She blushed as she made eye contact with Kaname, leaving hurriedly. Shizuka delicately settled into a chair, where steaming tea already waited for them. Kaname followed her example and sat across from her. Brushing long silvery strands out of the way, Shizuka sipped delicately at her tea before asking, "So, Mr. Kuran, your lovely parents didn't inform me of how long you shall be staying in my household."

Looking her in the eye, Kaname calmly replied, "I'm afraid I do not know myself, Shizuka. They wish for a letter from me every week to see how I have progressed so far. I am terribly sorry for my inconvenience on the situation. And please, call me Kaname." he replied graciously, returning quickly to his tea afterwards. Shizuka smiled at the picture of elegance in front of her, she couldn't imagine why the boy was here for learning manners, she could see nothing wrong with his actions and the way he spoke to her. "It's not an inconvenience at all, stay as long as you like. However, we do have some rules here," Shizuka said seriously, demeanor changing suddenly. Kaname nodded, "I expected so," he said, glancing up at her from his cup of earl grey. Shizuka acknowledged his nod with one of her own.

"I assume you will follow them. I am very strict when it comes to the rules around here," Shizuka said. When Kaname nodded again, politely gesturing for her to continue, she went on. "Firstly, we will all sit down for dinner , including my staff. No one, not even the servants are pardoned from this unless they are ill. Understood?" she asked. Kaname bobbed his head once again, internally smirking. His father was slightly disappointed every time he sat or talked to the staff freely, as he had taught him they were below him, and now sent him here to learn to not do that, yet the woman in front of him told him he would not be excused if he did not accompany them all for dinner. Shizuka treated her staff like family, so they all sat down at the large dining table for dinner.

"Secondly, we don't go in the attic or basement; you could catch something and it's quite dusty in both places." she explained. "Thirdly, we do not go into the second room on the second floor without my permission." she said, leaning forward and steadily looking Kaname in the eye as she said this. Shifting, Kaname uncertainly asked why. "I have a son, he is unfortunately very sickly and rarely leaves bed. I do not wish for him to somehow come to harm and become unwell if we were to bring a cold draft or a disease in." she informed him. Kaname couldn't help but be interested, there was another boy staying in the house? He made sure to remember to get Shizuka's permission of course before visiting him, he wouldn't want to make the sickly boy fall even more ill so. " And finally, Kaname, this rule is to be followed in every respect. I warn you now. Finally, we do not ever, go near the pond in the gardens. Is this understood?" confused but not daring enough to ask why, Kaname nodded, disturbed by the dark and sad look in Shizuka's lilac eyes.

She sighed and sunk back into her chair. "Very good. You must be tired from your long carriage ride. I'll have Takuma show you to your room." she said almost wearily. At this, the young blonde boy from before popped up again, peeking around the corner. "Are you in need of me, miss?" he said cheerfully, emerald eyes sparkling. A small smile wormed it's way onto Shizuka's face. "Yes, please show Kaname Kuran to his room." she said simply, dabbing her mouth daintily with a laced handkerchief. Takuma nodded eagerly and bounded into the room. "Right this way, Mr. Kuran!" he said happily, gesturing to the grand main staircase. Kaname stood and followed the boy, who seemed to float up the steps he stepped so lightly in his cheer. Kaname proceeded behind him, faintly amused with the blonde's antics. As he reached the middle of the staircase a large gust of wind blew past him, making goosebumps appear on his skin, a child's laugh surely heard in the faint wind. He paused and looked around, searching for a child, but saw none. He shook his head, puzzled. Perhaps it was just his imagination.

He quickly began climbing again when he noticed that Takuma was at the top of the staircase,waiting happily for him. When he caught up to him they continued to his room. Takuma flung open the thick door, gesturing inside with a wave of his arm. "And this is your room, Mr. Kuran!" he said joyfully, already starting a fire to warm up the room. Kaname nodded and sat on the silk sheets of the bed. The room was extravagant, and decorated finely, with heavy silk curtains framing large windows that looked out upon the frosty gardens. He could even see the forbidden pond from it, lightly frozen over. He did a double take though, when a shadow moved across the ice. For a second, Kaname though, peering intently, it looked like a human….

"Lovely view, isn't it?" Takuma asked, folding his hands behind his back, staring out onto the frosty grounds as well. Kaname looked away and towards the blonde servant, nodding in agreement, before turning his eyes back to the pond. The shadow was gone. "Takuma?" Kaname spoke to the cheerful boy. "Yes, ?" he replied immediately. "Are there any children staying here at the moment?" he asked, watching carefully for his reaction. Takuma paled and his eyes widened slightly, before he looked away. "N-no sir. None a-at all." he said hurriedly, his bright and happy-go-lucky spirit diminishing. He quickly made his way to the door. "I-I'll leave y-you to rest n-now. Someone w-will come for you for supper." he said, before shutting the door behind him forcefully. Kaname's sensitive hearing picked up rushed footsteps as he made his way quickly from Kaname's room. He looked back out to the iced pond. He could have sworn he had seen a child lingering around the edges of the pool.

Kaname shook his head. Surely it was just his vision playing tricks on him. The pond was forbidden, and it seemed this was one of Shizuka's most enforced rules. He stripped off his clothing into night wear. As he took off his shirt, a cold breeze ghosted though. He whipped around, expecting to see an open door, the cause of the draft, but was met with a door shut tight and a merrily crackling fire. His shuddered at the goosebumps traveling up his spine. He faintly heard the noise of a young child laughing. The wind gushed past him again. His eyes widened as the chill left the room suddenly, his heart thudding in his chest. Just as the wind had passed, he was sure it had whispered to him. A tiny voice, a sigh really. As Kaname settled back into bed, head spinning, his final thought before his head hit the pillow was this: Who on earth is Ichiru?


Thus ends the first chapter of my story. I was bullied by my friend to post this. Therefore, I dedicate this to her, ojdelight56! You slave-driving, wonderful person you!

Reviews pleassseee? Please?