I'll start off by officially welcoming you all to my first fanfiction, Going In Blind! If you're new here, I can only say that I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Now, to give you a bit more information on what you're about to experience, the first thing you should know is that this story completely deviates from the canon Vampire Knight storyline. I can't say it's set in an Alternate Universe, but events that normally would take place have been "pushed-back" in order to serve my plot—Yuuki remains human (for now) and neither Shizuka nor Rido Kuran attack Cross Academy. This is essentially an alternate version of Vampire Knight centering on Takuma Ichijo and my OC, Taura.
Without further ado, please enjoy! ^_^
Disclaimer: Vampire Knight belongs to Matsuri Hino.
The Stranger on the Pier
My heart was heavy as I looked around the cramped attic. It was once my uncle's art studio, but I could tell it had been deserted for a long time, probably since his passing three summers ago. He had been a successful painter, and this room was very much a testament to his hobby. The space was still littered with his old tools—brushes of all sizes, unused canvases, bottles of long-dried acrylics, all untouched since the last time he had stood where I was standing. Something had been touched, however. There were no paintings. The walls were all bare, pale imprints on the yellowing wallpaper the only reminder that art had once hung here.
I set my suitcase down, shuffling across the wood floorboards. The room wasn't much, small and plain, but I couldn't deny how glad I was to have something that was my own in this big, empty house. It was full of history, sure, just not mine—nothing like the apartment I shared with my dad back in Jersey.
But he's gone, I told myself absently. Again.
The drama in my mind betrayed me. My dad would be back soon, but for now he was off doting on other kids. He scarcely loved anything more than packing a bag and running off to some desolate third-world country to teach. He had a perfectly sound reason for not allowing me to accompany him. He simply didn't want me jeopardizing my own education for his sake. There was nothing for me by his side. As a result, I couldn't feel too torn up about the whole situation.
Change always sucks... I reminded myself as I ran my fingers over the bureau.
There wasn't much furniture in the room, just this dresser, a small bookshelf and a bed, already laid with new pillows and comforter. I looked with interest at the only decoration my aunt had left me, a framed photograph of my dad's branch of the family. A dozen people I didn't recognize beamed back at me, all black-haired and fair-skinned, a stark contrast to my mom, who stood next to my dad, her mocha skin and dark, curly hair an obvious indication of her African heritage. I smiled at the girl at the very front of the group, recognizing my own wild black curls and dark eyes. I looked so young. I still remembered quite clearly when this was taken, a hot summer's day when I'd visited the Harugichi household for our one and only family reunion.
It was hard to believe ten years had passed since then.
"Taura? Where are you, dear—?"
I was pulled away from my memories by a woman's voice, delicate and unfamiliar, from downstairs. At first the sound of Japanese didn't register, and it took me a moment to gather my thoughts to respond.
"Up here, aunt Lin!" I called back. Aunt. The wood felt so alien to me, like the aftertaste of some foreign food. I wasn't sure how much I liked it, and found myself wondering how long it had been since I'd last said it in a context like this—ten years? Surely not since the day that picture was taken.
"You found Aki's study, I see. Your room, I mean. I'm going to have to get used to calling it that."
I inclined my head, finding it difficult not to focus on the sadness in my aunt's eyes. It was obvious to anybody—whether they knew her personally or not—that Lin Harugichi was a woman who had lost something important. She had been married to my uncle Aki before his untimely death five years ago. Nobody had ever let me in on the details of just what had happened, but it must have been very sudden.
"I regret taking the paintings down," Lin remarked, staring at the empty walls. "But I didn't want them to gather dust up here. Art is meant to be shared with the world, you know. That's what Aki always wanted. Still, it looks so sad up here..."
"I like it," I said, smiling. "Even without the paintings. I never knew him, so it feels nice to be here. He must have spent a lot of time in this room."
Lin laughed. "He did. There were times when I wouldn't see him for days on end. He would vanish up here, lock himself away. That's the sacrifice of marrying an artist, I guess. Oh," she uttered a small noise of surprise when she noticed my suitcases, already unzipped. Clothes spilled onto the floor at my feet. "Don't tell me you unpacked already..."
"Not yet. I tried, but there are still some of Aki's things in the drawers. I didn't want to touch anything until you said it was okay."
"Good, that's good," she nodded.
Good? I cocked my head, staring at her. She was acting kind of strangely, but she only smiled and crouched down, fumbling to put the clothes back in my suitcase. Maybe she didn't like the mess.
I followed her downstairs when she had finished, and she gestured in the direction of the living room. It was a gorgeous space, decorated with paintings of all sizes. Most were the handiwork of Aki, and Lin had taken the time to bundle them all in ornate frames. My eyes lingered on a portrait of a young woman hanging above the fireplace. She smiled back at me, her eyes twinkling like two stars as she stood on a wooden dock overlooking a serene river. It was the dock outside, I realized, which meant this woman was probably...
"That's me," Lin confirmed with a chuckle. "You don't have to look so shocked. I don't look that different now, do I?"
"N-no. You just look so happy."
"I had a lot of reasons to be happy. It was a good day," she shrugged. "I don't really think of myself as old, but looking at you it's hard to deny it. I remember when you were just a tiny thing. Kuro and Sasha brought you here right after they got out of the hospital. They wanted to show everybody. You weren't a big crier. You only ever let out a sound when Kuro went out. You were always close with your father."
"I don't remember," I admitted reluctantly.
I was just a baby, so it's not surprising.
Lin checked the clock above the mantle. "I've got to check on dinner now. Everything should be ready in about a half hour. Look around until then, there's a lot to explore I'm sure. You can go down to the river if you want. The path is in the back."
I nodded in agreement, gathering myself to go back to the study. Lin called to me one last time before I climbed the stairs.
"Don't get unpacked!"
She really hates messes, I thought, my lips curling into an uneasy frown. I couldn't imagine anything that would account for her weird behavior. I would have to unpack my things at some point if I was going to be ready to start school. School. I had barely thought about it since arriving, but now that it was fresh in my mind again I started wondering where I would be enrolled for the semester. A nearby high school probably. I'd always heard Japanese students were expected to work very hard, and they even had classes on Sundays. Let's hope that's a joke.
I was about to enter my room when I found myself glancing at the balcony at the end of the hall. I had some time to kill, so went by Aki's study door and pushed open the double-doors that led outside. I was immediately greeted by the coolness of the night. I shivered. It was pretty chilly. Cold air wafted off the river onto the grounds. I had a distinct feeling of déjà vu. Maybe I'd been out here before when I was a kid. It was likely. Gripping the balustrade, I looked out rocky beach to the very edge of the river, where the pier floated off into the distance, separating my aunt's property from the estate across the river. As my eyes traced the dark yard they suddenly drawn in that direction. A light flickered—a window—I guessed. The window belonged to an enormous mansion. I squinted, but it was too dark to see anything else.
"Taura? I thought I felt a draft downstairs. "What are you doing out here?"
I turned around to find Lin standing in the doorway to the balcony. She held a steaming pot with oven mitts. The apron wrapped around her waist looked like it had been white once, but was covered in splashes of paint, as if someone had rubbed their dirty paint brushes on it repeatedly. Aki, of course. It was probably his old painting smock.
"Lin, I don't remember seeing that house when I was little."
She followed my gaze, taking a moment to prepare a response.
"Mmhmm, I think it was build a few years ago, after you stopped coming over. You wouldn't remember it. I don't see the family often, though I guess you would call us neighbours. We share the dock. I-Is something the matter, Taura?"
"It's nothing. I'll be right down, okay?"
"W-what do you mean? I won't be staying with you? Didn't you tell my dad you would look after me during his internship? You can't just send me off to some boarding school on my first day!" I huffed angrily, glaring at Lin across the table.
We had been sitting together in the dining room when she'd decided it was the right time to break the news. There I was, struggling to eat with chopsticks when she'd blurted out that I wouldn't be living with her after all—that I would be attending Cross Academy instead.
"I didn't think you would feel so strongly about this," she began calmly. "Did you misunderstand my invitation? I said you could stay here on weekends on holidays, but during the school week you'll be expected to stay at the Academy like all the other students. You should be thankful. I had to pull a few strings to get you admitted. This is an expensive private school. You were only accepted on such short notice because the Headmaster happened to be a close personal friend of Aki's—"
"This is why you didn't want me to unpack!" I interjected. "You were plucking up the nerve to tell me..." What is this Cross Academy anyway? Sounds like some fancy, preppy boarding school—basically the kind of place I wanted to avoid. "I agreed to come here because I wanted to spend time with you, Lin. I was away from my dad's family for so long... I thought it would be nice to get to know you again. But shipping me off after I spent the past month stressing about coming to live here. You can't do this to me."
"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 week."
"What am I, some big nuisance?"
"Not at all! Why would you think that? Taura, I really think you're overreacting—"
"You didn't invite me, did you? My dad probably begged you to take me in because I had nowhere else to go."
She took a deep breath, closing her eyes. "I'm not going to lie. Kuro did ask me to take care of you while he worked, but there was no begging involved. I volunteered this arrangement. I want to spend some time with you too, but I also think you need to continue growing up. You don't need another mother. Both your father and I think that attending school on your own would be perfect for you right now."
Anger flooded me and I stood up, clenching my fists. "Another mother!? You're kidding, right?"
"You will not raise your voice to me in this house, do you understand?"
My eyes widened. There was no way I was going to have someone talk to me like this. I hadn't seen this woman in ten years! She had no right to tell me what to do, regardless of whose house we were in. I still couldn't believe she'd mentioned my mom like that. It was rare for anybody to speak of Sasha Harugichi around either me or my dad, and for good reason. It was like bringing up Aki to Lin. There were some things you just can't say. "Leave me alone," I snapped, rushing toward the front door. I slammed it behind me as hard as I could, the sound reverberating through the house.
I couldn't remember the last time this much anger had flooded me. I could barely see straight as I trudged down the rocky slope to the river, wrapping my sweater tighter as the cold air nipped at me. I came to a stop at the edge of the pier, and frustratedly kicked a rock. It landed in the water with a plop, and I sighed, letting the cold wind buffet me. It whipped my hair out of my face.
I'm being abandoned, I thought, and as soon as it crossed my mind I knew how ridiculous and childish it was acting. Lin wasn't out to get me, and neither was my dad. Still, I couldn't help but feel that I had always been a burden on my relatives. That was my dad's fault of course, not mine. So many times my he had dropped me off with my grandparents or cousins, explaining in a few short words that he would be back soon. This situation was no different. He had received an offer to work in Africa again, and despite my intense desire to accompany him he had implored my aunt to take me in. Maybe if I'd put up more of a fight I would be with him right now, I thought sadly. He didn't deserve my resentment; he loved me, but I missed him. I wondered sometimes if he understood just how much.
Walking across the pier into what seemed like the middle of the river, I finally flopped down, slipping my feet into the water. It stung briefly, but I barely noticed how cold it was. Lying back against the wood, I looked into the sky. It was pitch black outside. A new moon, or maybe the cloud-cover was just thick. Either way, I was totally blinded by the darkness of the night. I sniffed, and I realized only then that there were tears in my eyes.
I sat up stiffly, suddenly aware of the presence of another person. I feared for a moment it was Lin. I wasn't ready to apologize to her just yet. It was a man's voice, I was reminded then, and I looked around. I could just make out the silhouette of another individual, standing a few feet away.
"You startled me. I don't usually find people all the way out here."
I didn't answer. Squinting through the blackness, I tried to get a better look at the strange boy who had so abruptly disturbed my festival of self-pity, but it was just too dark.
"Are you alright?" He asked me then, moving a bit closer. The dock creaked beneath his weight. "It's not every day I find a young woman in tears. I would ask what the problem is, but you might be the type who doesn't like talking about your feelings."
"I'm fine," I finally said, rubbing the wetness from my eyes. He sounded young, maybe even as young as me. Somehow that made me even more skeptical. "Who are you?"
"Oh, how rude of me!" He gasped. "Though I don't see much of a need to introduce myself to a girl who can't even see my face. I live in the house over there, right across the river."
"My aunt's your neighbour then," I sighed with relief.
"I've never seen her out here before. The dock is so beautiful too. There's nothing quite like reading in the moonlight, wouldn't you say?"
I snorted, "Sure, if there's actual moonlight. It's a new-moon. You can't see."
He said it so matter-of-factly that I nearly believed him, and smiled. He seemed to take my happy gesture as I summons to come nearer. I still couldn't see his face, but I heard him breathing, and the swish of clothes as he crouched down next to me.
"Do you mind?"
He didn't wait for me to respond before splashing his feet in the water. After a few moments I felt his gaze leave my face and turn to something else.
"What are you doing?" I wondered.
"Like I said, reading."
"What are you reading?"
"A manga." He paused deliberately, as if waiting for me to ask another question. When I didn't he went on himself. "People always say I don't look like the type, but I'm quite the budding Otaku. Do you read manga?"
"N-not really. They're like comic books, right?"
"Something like that. They're in black and white most of the time, though. Honestly, I find it difficult to believe you're from Japan, but know nothing about manga."
"I'm not from around here..."
I shifted my feet in the water, curling my toes as the cold washed over them. It felt good, and even though this strange boy had surprised me initially, I was actually thankful for his company.
"Sorry if I'm boring," I said. "I'm not usually this serious. Or maybe I am. I don't really know." As the words escaped my throat I heard him laugh once more, and a sound more beautiful than bells filled the night air. I hadn't noticed it at first but there was something about his voice that reminded me of music.
"I like you! You remind me of a friend of mine. How old are you?"
"A few years older myself, but I'm still in high school too. In fact, I would normally be there now. I only returned because my grandfather decided to come to have a family dinner tonight. He's a bit of an old grouch, you see. Very traditional. That's why I came out here. I'd much rather read on the dock tonight than listen to him complain about how I'm not fulfilling the role he wants me to. It sounds like such a classic story, doesn't it? I guess I fit a few clichés."
My heart jumped a bit. Somehow, I knew the answer to the next question I asked.
"Do you go to Cross Academy?"
He paused before answering. "I... I do. How did you know?"
"You said you would normally stay overnight at your school. Cross Academy is the only nearby boarding school I know. I'm actually starting there myself tomorrow morning. I'll only be staying with my aunt on 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 after all. I wasn't ready. I hated feeling this way. It was so childish, and I wasn't a child anymore.
Then why does everybody insist on treating you like one?
I bowed my head.
"What's upsetting you, if you don't mind me asking again?"
I turned away, my breath sharp in my throat. I probably thought I was distant—how did he put it? "The type of person who doesn't like talking about their feelings." That sounded like me, surely enough. But did I really have to be like that? I hated feeling weak, but sitting there under the blackness of the night I found myself strangely compelled to speak. I didn't want to spill my heart out to this boy, but as I peered into the darkness where I knew his form was I opened my mouth, wanting him to listen. Once I began I couldn't stop. The whole story erupted from beginning to end—my dad getting called in for a new job, sending me on a plane to Japan, seeing my aunt for the first time in over a decade, only to realize I was being sent away again. My pulse was racing by the time I finished.
He exhaled softly, and out of nowhere I felt a warm hand on my shoulder. I couldn't explain it, but when he touched me my heart calmed. I forgot about my anger and frustration, and focused only on his voice as he said, "I know it seems like everything's going wrong for you right now, but Cross Academy isn't a bad place. It's hard to get used to at first, but you could say the same of anything new. I didn't like being away from home so much either, but I think you'll grow to like it there. I know I did."
"I'm just glad I'll know someone tomorrow," I admitted, smiling a bit. I felt the boy's arm tense then. "You said you went to Cross Academy, didn't you?"
"I do, but we won't be in the same class."
"How do you know?"
"Well, the classes are spit into two different factions. There's the Day Class, where you'll be attending, and the Night Class, where I am. It's a bit confusing, but that's the way it has to be." His voice became more cheerful. "Come to think of it you still don't know what I look like."
"Is that bad?"
"Not at all," he chirped. "Don't you see? We can play a game! You don't know who I am and I don't know who you are. All we know is we go to the same school. We'll have all semester to figure it out."
"I don't know..." I said, my voice surprisingly somber again.
He chuckled, "Come on, it could be fun. I've never had an opportunity like this."
There was something strange about his voice. I couldn't put a finger on it, but the imploring tone made me want to give in immediately. I sat there, legs still dangling in the water, and gave it some thought. It was a strange idea, that much I couldn't deny, but I would have no friends tomorrow as it was. Anyway, it could be fun, I thought. At least it'll give you something to focus on other than schoolwork. It took a few more minutes of the boy saying "please" and "come on" for me to finally nod my head in agreement. "Fine," I said. "I'll do it."
"I'm so excited!" He blurted out. "This will be fun, I promise. I thought up some rules while you were sulking. Okay, rule one: once one of us knows who the other is, they aren't allowed to do make it obvious who they are too. We have to find out on our own. And rule two: we're not allowed to ask questions to anybody. We work alone. We already know one thing about each other—I know your aunt's name and you know I'm in the Night Class. That's all the information we have to work on for now. Agreed?"
There was a swish of material as he raised his hand in the dark, and I reached out, an amused smile working its way across my face again.
As our hands clasped, a warmth began to spread through me. His grasp was strong, but his skin was softer than silk.
He released when a call echoed across the river, forcing me to turn my head in the direction of the Harugichi house. The back porch lights were on, but they weren't strong enough to illuminate this far out. Silhouetted in front of the house was a small form.
"Are you there! Please come back!"
"Guess it's time," I sighed, and he helped me up. "Thanks for listening..." I said, and with a small farewell I raced back along the dock. I was still upset, but I couldn't help but feel a bit more confident about leaving Lin's house for this new and unfamiliar place—Cross Academy. And the boy's game... what would that entail? Curiosity wracked me all the way to the house, and as I finally stopped running, staring at upstairs window of Aki's study. This was all new to me, all foreign—both metaphorically and literally speaking. As I greeted Lin and entered the house, one thought remained fixed in my mind.
Looks like I'm going in blind.