When Taura Harugichi's father is drafted to teach overseas, she is invited to stay with her aunt in Japan. Their home, situated across the river from the sprawling Ichijo Manor, is the perfect place to begin anew. After accidentally discovering a terrifying secret at her new school, Taura is enlisted to work with Takuma Ichijo to strengthen the bond between a world she grew up in and one she never knew existed. Takuma X OC.
Disclaimer: I don't own Vampire Knight in any way.
Chapter 1: The Stranger On the Pier
I'll never forget the year I spent at my aunt's house in Japan—I was seventeen then, a mere child, but capable of so much more than I ever would have thought possible. My father had gone to teach in the village where my mom was born in South Africa, so he sent me to live with his elder brother's widow. People say that certain memories are made never to fade; so many became clear to me as time passed, carving intricate passageways through my mind and soul, weaving a web of impossibilities visible only to me. Above all, it is the recollection of a certain boy that takes precedence over my lapse. I know I'll never forget him for as long as I live... but no romance begins with a passionate kiss or beautiful, moonlit dance. There are things much more important than love, as I discovered that year. Life itself is the most legendary romance—a romance of love, laughter, friendship and hope.
Childhood has long-since left my body, but the touch of snow and the scent of water still remind me of the world I've experienced. It all began in a modest home by a wide, gentle river—it was the day I arrived at my aunt Lin's house for the first time since I was very small.
My heart quickened as I looked over the bedroom, a small space constructed from the attic of my aunt's house. It had been an office at one time; my uncle's, before he passed away. He had worked as an artist in life, and the room was littered with implements and utensils, brushes, canvases and dried bottles of acrylic, but no paintings. The spaces where they had once hung appeared only as pale marks on the weathered walls, yellow with age.
The room had once belonged to my father's brother, Aki, but that was many years ago now. There was a fine layer of dust on the windowsill, beyond which my aunt's property stretched: her driveway, her vegetable garden and tool shed. Birdsong wafted through the open window; I'd pried off the latch in order to air out the room. It had been empty for a long time, but it was mine to live in now, at least for a while.
I ran my fingers over the wood bureau, peering at a small photograph that my aunt had left there for me, a framed picture of my family in Japan. In it, I beamed beneath wild black curls, my smile made asymmetrical by missing teeth. I could still remember the day eight years ago when it had been taken—a balmy, Summer's day, when I'd stayed with my aunt for my father's brother's birthday. He had died shortly afterward.
I was woken from my thoughts by a woman's voice, delicate and unfamiliar, from downstairs.
"Taura? Taura, where are you—?"
"Up here, aunt Lin," I called. Aunt. The world felt so foreign to me now, like the aftertaste of some foreign food. I wasn't sure if I enjoyed it, and found myself wondering how long it had been since I'd last uttered it—for years? Five?
"Oh, Taura, I see you've found Aki's study—I mean, your room."
I inclined my head, trying not to see the sadness in my aunt's eyes. I could tell how much she missed my uncle. He had been my father's older brother, but I'd never known him particularly well. I'd been told once that after someone dies, all that remains of them are memories shared by those they loved. I was reminded of this as observed my aunt. She took a step into the room, gazing at the empty walls, just as I had.
"I regret taking the pictures down sometimes, but I didn't want them to just gather dust up here like forgotten relics. Art is meant to be shared with the world, you know. Still, it looks so sad up here…"
"I like it," I said with a smile. "I never knew him, so it feels nice to be here. I know he must've spent a lot of time working in this room."
My aunt laughed. "He did. There were times when I wouldn't see him for days on end. That's the sacrifice of an artist's wife, I suppose. Oh," she uttered when she noticed my suitcase, which I'd already unzipped. Its contents spilled all over the floor. "Don't tell me you unpacked already…"
"Not yet. I tried, but there are still some of Aki's things left in the drawers. I didn't want to touch anything until you told me it was okay."
She nodded, "Good. That's good."
Good? I cocked my head, looking at her carefully. She only smiled and crouched down, fumbling to put my clothes back on my suitcase. I suppose she didn't like the mess. I would have to remember that.
I followed her downstairs when she had finished, and she gestured towards the living room. It was beautifully decorated, like the rest of the house, with paintings. I could tell which ones my uncle had painted by the complexity of their frames. Some were simple wood, while others were beautiful things carved from silver or plated in gold. My eyes lingered on a specific portrait of a young woman hanging above the fireplace. She was tall and graceful, wearing a deep plum colored dress as she danced on a dock. It was the dock outside, I realized, which meant this was…
"That's me," Lin said with a chuckle. "You don't have to look so shocked. I don't look that different now, do I?"
I nodded, and she smiled again.
"Oh well. I don't really think of myself as being old, but looking at that picture, and looking at you, it's hard to deny it. I remember when you were just a tiny thing. You weren't a big crier, you know. While you were with us that summer you only cried when your father left the house. It was like you could feel his presence."
"I don't remember," I admitted. I hated that I sound reluctant. I was just a baby back then, so nobody could've expected me to be able to recall anything about previous summers I'd spent here.
Lin checked the clock above the mantle. "I've got to check on dinner now, but it should be ready in around half an hour. Until then, go look around. I'm sure you're anxious to see the river again."
I got up from the couch and brushed my skirt with my hands. I agreed to come back when supper was finished, and went the stairs. Lin called to me one last time before I went all the way up to Aki's study.
"Don't get unpacked again, okay?"
She must really hate messes, I thought as I inclined my head in her direction. I should have known that, considering the appearance of the rest of the house. It wasn't especially large, but there was something very tidy and homey about it, like a log bungalow in the mountains or a seaside cottage.
At the top of the stairs, I found myself glancing at the balcony. I hadn't checked it out yet. Curiosity taking over, I opened the doors and stepped into coolness of the night.
I thought I had a sudden recollection of standing here as a child, but I might have imagined it. Gripping the banister, I looked out across the property to the very edge of the river, where the pier floated in the distance. As my eyes traced the dark yard, they were suddenly drawn to a light twinkling far across the water—a window, I thought. The window of an enormous manor. I squinted, trying to see more of it, but it was much too far away.
"Taura? I thought I felt a draft downstairs. What are you doing out here?"
I turned around, only to find my aunt standing in the doorway. She was holding a steaming bot with oven mitts. The apron wrapped around her waist looked like it had been white once, but had splashes of paint on it, like someone had rubbed their dirty brushes on it repeatedly. My uncle of course, I thought.
"Aunt Lin, I don't remember seeing that house when I was little. Who lives over there?"
She followed my gaze across the river, her hand resting my shoulder. "Oh, why that's the Ichijo house, of course. They're a rich family in these parts."
"Mmhm. It was built after you stopped coming over, so you wouldn't remember it. I don't see them very often, though I guess you could say they're my neighbors. We share the dock. Is something the matter, Taura?"
"No, I'm fine. I'll be down for supper soon, okay?"
"What do you mean I won't be staying here? Didn't you tell my dad you would look after me during his internship? You can't just ship me off to some boarding school on my first day!" I huffed, glaring at Lin. We had been sitting at the dinner table when she'd chosen to break the news. There I'd sat, struggling to eat mashed potatoes with chopsticks, when she'd blurted out that I wouldn't be staying at her house after all—that I would have to attend Cross Academy instead!
"I'm sorry you feel that way, Taura," she said calmly. "But I really think you misunderstood my invitation. I said you could stay here during the weekends and holidays, but during the school week you'll be expected to sleep at the Academy. I assure you, you'll be perfectly fine. The Headmaster is a close personal friend of mine—"
"That's why you didn't want me to unpack. You were plucking up the nerve to tell me! What is this Cross Academy anyway?" I interjected. It sounded like some fancy, preppy boarding school to me—basically the kind of place I wanted little, to nothing, to do with. "You can't do this to me!" I said through gritted teeth.
"I can and I will. You need an education, and I'm too busy a woman to look after a teenager every hour of the day."
Look after? So that's what she really thought of me? I was nothing but useless baggage after all.
"You didn't really invite me, did you? My father begged you to take me in, right? That's the only reason you would've."
She took a deep breath and closed her eyes. "I'm not going to lie to you, Taura. Your father did ask me to take care of you while he worked, but he didn't beg. I agreed completely to the arrangement. I want to spend time with you, but I also think you need to grow up. School on your own is the perfect place for you right now—"
"Just be quiet! Everything you say now sounds like a lie—!"
"You will not raise your voice to me in this house, do you understand!?"
My eyes widened. There was absolutely no way she was going to talk to me like that. I hadn't even seen this woman in five years! She had no right to tell me what to do, regardless of who's house it was. "Leave me alone," I snapped, collecting myself and stomping towards the front door. I slammed it as hard as I could; the sound probably reverberated through the whole house.
It was cool outside, but fresh. The air nipped at me as I trudged down the rocky hill that led to the river. My aunt's house was built on a series of crags overlooking a wide expanse of water. It was a beautiful place, I had to admit. Even in my frustration, I couldn't help admiring it.
I took a deep breath, inhaling the cold air that wafted from the water. It chilled me, so I wrapped my sweater more tightly around my shoulders, closing my eyes in thought.
This wasn't the first time I'd been abandoned like this. I didn't know my aunt well enough to resent her, but my father was a different story. He'd been offered a job in Africa, and because he didn't want to bring me with him, he'd called my aunt and begged her to take me in temporarily. I'd yelled at him just as I'd yelled at Lin now—I knew neither of them deserved it, but I was tired of this. I just wanted to grow up.
Flopping on the dock, I slipped my bare feet into the water. It stung briefly, but I allowed the cold to invade my skin and work its way up my legs. Lying back against the wood, I looked into the sky. It was so dark tonight. A new moon, I guessed, or maybe the cloud cover was just thick. Either way, I was blinded by the darkness of the night. I didn't notice when tears started spilling silently from my eyes.
"… Oh, good evening."
I sat up stiffly, suddenly aware of the presence of another person. I feared for a moment that it was my aunt, but realized that my aunt was a woman, and therefore couldn't speak in a man's voice. It was dark, but I could just make out the figure of a person on the expanse of dock before where I sat.
"I didn't expect to find somebody else out here at this hour. Honestly, you're the first person I've ever seen here. We share the dock the house across the way, so you must be from there."
I didn't argue with him, though he seemed to be thinking aloud anyway. I squinted through the gathering blackness, trying to get a better look at the stranger who had so abruptly disturbed me.
"Are you all right?" He asked, walking a bit closer. The dock creaked beneath his feet.
"Yeah, sure." I finally spoke, rubbing the wetness from my eyes with a few swift motions. He sounded young, maybe even as young as me. Somehow, that made me even more skeptical. "Who are you?"
"How rude of me!" He said. "But I really don't see the need in telling my name to a girl who can't even see my face. Anyway, I live in that house over there… but I suppose you can't see it right now. It's so dark."
"My aunt's your neighbor," I said with a sigh. "Lin Harugichi."
He wet his lips in the dark. "I've never seen her before. I always think it's strange nobody's out here. The dock is so beautiful. There's nothing quite like reading in the moonlight, don't you think?"
I snorted, "Sure, if you can see."
"I can." He said it so matter-of-factly that I believed him immediately, and smiled. He seemed to take my happy gesture as a summons to come nearer. I couldn't see his face at all—I could only hear him breathing, and the swish of his clothes as he crouched beside me.
"Do you mind if I sit here?"
I shook my head.
He took a seat, and I heard his feet splash in the water next to mine. He swished them around for a few moments as if growing accustomed to the temperature. When he stopped, I felt his gaze leave me and turn to something else.
"What are you doing?" I found myself wondering.
"Like I said, reading."
"What are you reading?"
"A manga. You wouldn't know if you looked at me, but I'm quite the young Otaku. Do you read manga?"
I shook my head. "Not really. It's like a comic book, right?"
He laughed again, "Something like that, I suppose. They're generally more complex, and they're in black and white as well. Honestly, I find it difficult to believe that you're from Japan, but know nothing about manga."
"Well that's because I'm not from Japan…"
I shifted my feet in the water, curling my toes as the cold washed over them once more. It felt so good, and even though this strange boy had surprised me originally, I was thankful for his company.
"I'm sorry for being so serious," I said, though I wasn't actually sorry. There was nothing he could do about it, or so I thought. As the words escaped my mouth, I heard him laugh very loud. A sound more beautiful than bells filled the night air, and I was left speechless.
"I like you! You remind me of a friend of mine, but don't worry, I won't ask for your name. How old are you?"
"I'm Seventeen. I'm still in High School, though. In fact, I would normally be there right now. I only returned home because my grandfather came to dinner tonight. He's a bit of a grouch; that's why I decided to read on the dock tonight, rather than in the house with him.
My heart jumped a bit when he said that. Somehow, I knew the answer to the question I asked next.
"By any chance do you go to Cross Academy?"
"I do, but how did you know?"
"I just figured. I'm starting at Cross Academy myself tomorrow morning. I'll only be staying with my aunt during weekends…" my voice trailed away as I realized what I was saying. Had I really accepted it so quickly? I didn't want to live by myself. I wasn't ready. I clenched my fists, anger boiling in the pit of my stomach once more—I really didn't know why I was acting like this again. It was so childish. I wasn't a child, despite what my aunt seemed to believe. I was a growing woman...
"Why are you so upset, if you don't mind me asking."
My eyes widened. I turned away, my breath sharp in my throat. I wondered if he thought me distant—probably, even though he couldn't see me. I hated being so weak. I wouldn't let him hear me in such a horrible condition. But sitting there under the blankness of the night, I found myself strangely compelled to speak. I had no intention of spilling out my heart to this strange boy, but as I opened my mouth, I discovered that a part of me wanted him to listen. Once I uttered a single sound, the entire story erupted from me like a waterfall. I was breathing quickly by the end of it. It was so easy to talk when I could see his face—I didn't even know who he was.
He exhaled softly, and I suddenly felt a warm hand on my shoulder. I didn't understand why, but as soon as he touched me my heart calmed. I forgot about my anger and my frustration, and focused only on his voice as he said, "Cross Academy is really a lot of fun. It's hard to get used to at first. I didn't like being away from home so much, but I think you'll grow to like it there. I know I did."
"Well at least I'll know somebody tomorrow," I murmured. I felt he boy's arm tense beside me and my expression transformed to curiosity. "You did say you went to Cross Academy?"
"Yes, but I don't think we'll be in the same class."
"How do you know?"
He shrugged, "Well, the classes are split into two factions, you see. There's the Night Class, where I am, and the Day Class, where you'll be. It's a bit confusing, but that's just the way it is." He brightened. "Come to think of it, you don't even know what I look like."
I nodded, yawning. "Yeah, is that bad—"
"No," he interjected, his voice a happy chirp. "Don't you see? It could be wonderful! This could be like a game. You won't know who I am, and I won't know who you are. All we know is that we go to the same school. We'll have the whole year to figure it out."
"I don't know..." I said, my voice surprisingly low. I wasn't even sure if he'd heard me, but he must've because I heard him chuclkle again.
"Come on, it it could be fun. I've never had the opportunity to do something like this before, really. Please?"
His voice sounded so pleading I nearly gave in right then and there. I sat there, legs in the water, and thought about it. Eventually I came to the conclusion that although I didn't think it would be a good idea, I had nothing to lose. He was the only person I would know at school tomorrow. I wouldn't know who he was, what his appearance was or even his name. It took me another few moments of him saying 'please' and 'come on' repeatedly to finally give in. With a sigh, I told him that I would think about it at school tomorrow.
"I'm so excited!" He said, and I believed him. "This is going to be fantastic, I guarantee it. Soooo I thought up some rules while you were sulking. Okay, one rule. Once one of us knows who the other is, they aren't allow to do anything to make the other one realize too. That would only spoil it. And rule two," he announced, "We're not allowed to ask questions to anybody. We work alone. We already both know one thing about each other—I know your aunt's name and you know I'm in the Night Class. Agreed?"
I heard him raise his hand, and with another deep sigh I grasped it tightly.
Even many years later, I wouldn't be able to say what made me agree to indulge this boy's childish games. I shouldn't have been so forward; I was never the forward type, but somehow the mere thought of it made me so much more willing to accept my new life, even if it did include Cross Academy. Thus the greatest adventure of my life would begin, though at the time I wasn't any the wiser. I didn't know what destiny had in store for me, or for the boy with whom I'd spoken on the pier...
Good evening/morning, whatever time it is where you are. I really hope you enjoyed the first chapter of my new OC fic. I thought I'd give it a whirl. I really wasn't sure what type of personality to give Tuara, so I made her something of a Tsudere. I thought it would make for better interactions with calm, peaceful Takuma. Anyway, I hope she isn't too irritating. In my own writing, I worry about my female characters much more than I do my males; I know how much I judge the girls of other author's.