Greetings all! Here's Chapter 16… finally. I'm sorry it took so long. I had an exam on Thursday and homework to do yesterday. Anyway, I've noticed that the number of reviews on my chapters has been significantly decreasing with each update… am I doing something wrong? I don't want to be one of those people who begs on the floor for reviews (sooo undignified), but if I'm doing something you don't like, please tell me. Enjoy!

How do you guys feel about weekly updates from now on? It'll either be weekly long chapters or bi-weekly short ones. You decide :)

Disclaimer: I don't own Vampire Knight in any way.

Chapter 16: Resolution

The next month swept by with more swiftness than a summer's gale, bringing with it all the tidings of the holidays. I may have been gloomy sometimes, I may have disliked attention and thrived on practicality, but that didn't change the fact that I irrevocably adored Christmas. I knew it wasn't such a grand occasion in Japan—families generally celebrated together with meals and gifts, and decorated their houses with white lights, but that charming essence I'd grown up with simply didn't exist here. Christmas wasn't even a national holiday.

That was why I was so surprised on Christmas morning to discover that my aunt had left me a stocking and wrapped presents at the bottom of the stairs. I smiled to myself as I knelt down on the living room floor with a frothy mug of hot chocolate, tearing wrapping paper from a bright orange parcel. Inside were a gorgeous matching paisley scarf, hat and mittens. She'd also given me two new pairs of pajamas, hair clips, socks and chocolate—lots of chocolate. After I'd finished I rummaged through the paper, I was a bit disappointed to see no gift from my father. He'd already told me he was going to send me something by courier, but I guessed it hadn't arrived in time.

I lay down against the carpet, staring at the ceiling fan as it rotated round and round. I was distracted by the sound of footsteps as my aunt sauntered into the room, staring down at me from high above with her hands on her hips.

"What are you doing, Taura?"

"Nothing, much," I said with a yawn. "Thanks for all this. It really does make me feel more at home. Did you get my present?"

She padded the new apron she was wearing with a smile. I knew it couldn't replace Aki's old painting smock, but this one suited her. It was dark blue with a delicate rose pattern and white lace trim. It was the sort of thing that was really meant for decoration. I knew she was just wearing it now to reflect her gratitude.

"Reminds me. There's a little something for you in the kitchen."

She helped me up and I followed her into the next room. I was very pleased to see a large package on the table, and immediately towards it to read the print on the top. It was just standard shipping information. I tore open the box with a knife and went for the card.

I looked everywhere, but there was nothing perfect for my little Tiger, so I decided to send you a box of things I've collected in this village. Some of them were given to me by my students. I talk about you all the time, and some of them wanted to make you gifts for the holidays. I love you. Your father, Sota Harugichi.

I heard Lin laughing and noticed that she'd been reading the note over my shoulder. I folded it, blushing profusely.

"He still calls you Tiger? You don't have to look so embarrassed. I was only joking! I think it's really cute!"

"No you don't," I said, sticking my nose in the air indignantly. We both started laughing after a few seconds. 'Tiger' had been my father's nickname for me forever; I didn't mind it when we were alone, but it was the kind of thing I would never reveal to anyone. My name is actually a more feminine, less cultural version of the Japanese word for 'tiger'.

I proceeded to remove the contents of the large box onto the table. There were all sorts of little knickknacks—beaded necklaces, earrings, pieces of poetry—I adored everything I picked up. The final present was wrapped up in newspaper. I tore it off slowly, taking my time to guess what it could be. I felt my eyes grow warm when I pulled a watch from the inside—it was a delicate, silver thing with tiny roman numerals and the name Sasha engraved on the back. It just about melted my soul to see it here, because I recognized it. It had belonged to my mother.

I put it on immediately, flexing my fingers to adjust to the new sensation. Deep down, I was already fully aware that I would only remove the thing to take showers and sleep.

I went to the window with a smile, planting my elbows on the sill and looking through the frosted glass. Outside, there was only a light layer of snow—it didn't snow as much here as it did in America either—but I appreciated every flake. This might not have been the half month break with slush, nipping weather and snow-days that I was used to, but I found myself more thankful in that moment than on any other Christmas. I loved my new life here, truly and undoubtedly loved it. I knew now that there was nothing that could change that.

School didn't last long afterwards. There were only four days between Christmas and the beginning of the holidays, in which time I completed my exams; I completely failed my math course despite countless hours of studying with Yuuki and Saya, but I was very proud of my literature and history marks. I even managed to pass gym, which was a pretty big step forward for me because I'd hated it since early childhood.

Takuma and I saw less and less of each other as the days progressed, until there came a time when we hadn't spoken face-to-face in over half a month. I received calls often from him on the cell phone I'd bought myself with my Christmas money. I was always very glad to hear his voice, even if we only talked about inconsequential things, most completely irrelevant to our duty. He always wanted to know more and more about me, and I about him. The topic of the New Years' holiday would come up every now and then. He asked me a few times if we could get together at some point, but I always declined his offer.

I was being illogical, but I couldn't help myself. The Chairman had wanted us to become friends, and every day I wondered whether or not we had achieved his expectations. It dawned on me at some point that there were no 'expectations' when it came to friendship; either you wanted to be around a person, or you didn't; either you loved talking to them, or you dreaded each moment alone with them. I knew what the situation was for Takuma and I, but I couldn't confess it to myself, let alone him.

I hoped he wouldn't feel like I was avoiding him—I really wasn't, but the situation with Michio, the sleepover and our new assignment had forced me to long for quiet days on my own. I managed to gain a few of them on the weekends. Takuma always stayed at school except on very special occasions, so I didn't need to worry about him travelling along the dock to my aunt's bank of the river… until the beginning of the holidays, of course.

Lin came to pick me up at the start of the break—we only had a week off here, but it would be one well-used. I needed time before subjecting myself to more difficult assignments with the Chairman and Takuma. That time in my life was fast approaching, while this one—this simple, peaceful one—was coming to an indefinite conclusion.

I was a bit melancholy for the first few days; my aunt had told me we were postponing New Years' a few days because she was 'busy'. I was inclined to sit alone in Aki's old study and watch movies, empty my aunt's kitchen of snack foods and wear pajamas at all times. That's exactly what I did.

"Taura," my aunt announced when we were eating breakfast one morning. "We're celebrating tomorrow evening if all goes as planned. I'm going to a staff party tonight so I might not be back until quite late; I'm having the Kadomatsu delivered so when the truck arrives, just sign your name for me, please? Oh, it's going to be so exciting. I found some really lovely ones in a friend's shop the other day."

Kadomatsu? I supposed she was talking about Japanese Christmas trees—well, bamboo and pine decorations I should say, because they have nothing to do with Christmas. They're spirit wards dating back to the Edo period. My father had made them for New Year's when I was younger.

"I'm sure they'll be gorgeous," I told her in a singsong voice. I honestly wasn't very excited, neither for the Kadomatsu nor the New Year's meal my aunt would be providing. I dreaded eating such a festive dinner alone with her, not because I was reluctant to spend time with her, but because I knew it would make me think of my father again. He'd been coming to mind a lot lately—I knew it was just because of the Holidays, but I couldn't deny how much I missed him anymore. He wasn't able to call very often from the village he was staying in, so I was oftentimes left without word of him for weeks on end. It had been almost three weeks since I'd heard his voice.

I hoped that he was doing all right.

In the middle of the night, a hand pressed against the flat of my back. I hardly reacted to the new presence at all; I already knew who had come over and didn't feel like getting up yet. I'd known for a while that it would only be a matter of time before he decided to make his way across the river. He was as persistent as ever, and started poking me in the back of my head. I planted my face in the middle of my pillow and squeezed it. "I thought you'd stopped waking me up, Takuma. I'm tired. Go away."

"New pajamas?" He remarked, his enhanced sight enabling him to pick up details even in the darkness of Aki's old study. I pulled the covers up again and with a heavy sigh, flipped onto my back so I could look at the young vampire who had come to call.

"Why are you here?"

"I was bored."

"And you felt the need to bother me at 2:00 in the morning? It's not m fault I sleep during the nighttime. If you want to come visit me, come during the daytime like a normal guy."

"You're not glad to see me?" Takuma's voice had a teasing quality to it that worried me. "I've just spent the last three nights with my family, the least you can do is ask me how it all went."

I huffed, indulging him. "Fine, Takuma. How did it go?"

"Just perfectly! We only had three fights, which is practically a once-in-a-lifetime occasion for the Ichijo's. Normally we have to hold-off inviting certain people, but everything went so well this time I just had to come over and tell you about it."

I hint of a smile traced my lips and Takuma laughed. I didn't think it was amusing, but was very interested in the idea that his family—his noble, wealthy non-human family—would spat during Holidays just like everyone else. In that regard, there was nothing even remotely unique about the Ichijo's—my family was just the same. When my grandparents had been alive, they'd despised each other so much that they'd moved their two sons apart. Familial connections were difficult to maintain everywhere. I thought of Lin and myself, and dreaded eating alone with her once more.

But it didn't have to be that way.

I suddenly had an idea. "Takuma, are you free tomorrow?"

"During the day?"

"Early afternoon, evening and night."

"Um… I guess I am. I would normally be sleeping, but if it's really important I think I could help. What do you need me to do?"

"Celebrate New Year's with my aunt and me."

I was quiet for a moment, terrified that Takuma would think the idea less-than-perfect. I wasn't sure about how people here usually treated family gatherings. Would it be considered rude to invite someone else? I knew it wouldn't in New Jersey, but this was a completely different matter.

"N-never mind," I said. "It was a stupid idea."

"Not at all, Miss Taura. I'll probably be tired, but I'd love to come. I hope you're not just inviting me to avoid spending time alone with your aunt. She seems like such a lovely woman."

"She is, but…" I wasn't sure how to continue, and was glad when Takuma didn't urge me to. Instead, he asked what time I wanted him to come over. "Around 4:00, I guess. You can help me set up the Kadomatsu at the front gate. Those things are heavy."

"Of course!"

I felt myself blush. He was so much more eager for this than I'd anticipated. I'd been certain that he would be sharing a meal with his family, but apparently he wanted to come celebrate with mine as well. I curled up against my cushions and yawned—I hoped it would make him realize that I was exhausted, but he only leaned closer to me.

"What's wrong?"

"Nothing," I lied, closing my eyes. Takuma didn't seem convinced. "It's… my dad," I eventually admitted with a deep sigh. "We always celebrate together. It's going to be pretty weird without him."

That was all I needed to say. Before I knew it, I felt Takuma's hand on my cheek. It was intrusive, irresponsible and inappropriate, but I allowed his small gesture of comfort because despite my reluctance to confess my feelings, it felt right. I wouldn't deny myself his consolation as well as his friendship. I found myself somehow drawn to his touch, almost as though a current had run through his fingers and forced my skin to crave contact with his.

I sat up, and his arms wrapped around me. I felt like pushing him away at first—the sensation of his form so close to mine caused me to remain still. The warmth of his body was not what I had anticipated. In my culture, vampires were animated corpses, and as such, possessed cold, hard skin. He was soft and just as warm as any human being I'd ever embraced. It was easy to forget that he wasn't human, but of course, I'd already decided as soon as he'd held me, that it didn't matter whether he was human or not. I could feel his heart beating, and he could hear mine. It was a moment that could only be described as unparalleled… a moment that made me realize how much I appreciated him, for everything that he had already done for me. This wasn't the first time he'd comforted me in a time of need, and it most certainly wouldn't be the last. I would do the same for him when the time came, several times over if I must, because I was he was my friend, and I his.

Thank you, Takuma, I thought, closing my eyes.

I wanted nothing more than to remain like this until morning's light penetrated the window. I didn't anticipate falling asleep in his embrace.

"Lin, do you mind that I invited someone for supper tonight?" I asked the following morning, not particularly worried that she would be against the idea. I wasn't surprised; she seemed quite ecstatic when I told her a boy from school would be celebrating with us. She already knew who Takuma was… sort of. I'd told her a while back that his name was Kaname, but Takuma had given me a simple fix to that problem. 'Kaname' would be his last name from now on, allowing 'Takuma' to remain his first name.

He arrived around 3:00, just as I'd told him to, and helped me set up the Kadomatsu in the front yard. There were two of them, one slightly larger than the other. Takuma told me that one was meant to welcome male deities, and the other, female. They were large, decorative things constructed with straw, pine branches, bamboo stalks and colorful rope.

My aunt, very eager to meet Takuma, came outside to introduce herself. She'd already see him once before, but she seemed only to notice his beautiful appearance, because her voice choked as he bowed before her. "A handsome one, aren't you?" She said, circling him, eyebrow cocked. "But you look nice enough. Come help me with the decorations inside, both of you."

"Yes, ma'am," Takuma and I said in unison. In the house, we worked together to set up my aunt's holiday decorations—lights, statues and other small trinkets used to brighten the atmosphere of her home. My aunt led me into her bedroom and presented me with a box.

"I-it's beautiful, Lin!" I exclaimed as I removed a cotton Kimono from the box—it was emerald green with a yellow bow and a pattern of white and black flowers. "Do you want me to wear this?"

"I expect you to," she said with a chuckle. "It was mine when I was your age. Come on, get dressed. Normally we would go to the shrine up the road, but because we're technically a day late for the proper celebration, it'd be better if we just stayed here."

"What a beautiful Kimono, Taura," Takuma said after I'd changed, spinning me around in a manner that suggested we were dancing. I took a few steps back, not wanting my aunt to see us. "I guess your aunt's a real stickler for tradition, but it looks lovely on you. Come on, give me a bow."

I rolled my eyes in embarrassment, but obeyed. I was do happy to have him here with me on this day—nothing could make it better. At least that's what I thought before I heard the door creak open and was almost swept off my feet by a rush of cold air from outside. It chilled me so suddenly that I couldn't help but look around, and when I did, my heart almost stopped beating.


"D-dad…" I said, my throat tight with shock. I glanced at Takuma very briefly, who looked about as surprised as me. He held the handle of his teacup, and his green eyes were very wide. "Dad, what are you doing here? I thought you were teaching until spring…"

"Someone called me," he said, his eyes flitting subtly behind me, where I knew my aunt was standing. I felt so thankful to her as I ran forwards, my arms outstretched. He caught me.

He was a tall, angular man—much more intimidating than his brother had been in life. He'd read me the Jungle Book as a child, and ever since then I'd related him to Bagheera, the gentle black panther. My mother had even called him Swart on occasion, which I knew meant 'dark' in Afrikaans. I thought of this as he enveloped me in a bone-crushing hug, pressing my face to the front of the dark suit he wore.

"It's so good to see you, Tiger." He said, and I swore I could hear his voice choke. He really was happy to see me, and I him. I'd forgotten about how much I'd missed him as the months had passed, but this reunion had brought every sentiment back the forefront of my heart and mind. I refused to cry, but I almost felt like I might.

I pushed him back after a few seconds, shaking my dark curls from where they'd gathered in front of my eyes. He flattened them with his hands son either side of my face, and then together we went into the kitchen where Lin was still waiting. I acknowledged Takuma as we went by, but he only nodded his head in support. He wasn't about to get involved in this very personal family matter.

"Nice surprise, hmm—?" My aunt said.

"Thank you, Lin!" I said as I leaped forward to hug her too. This was the first time I had ever been so close to her, but I'd felt such a desire to do this that I'd practically ran in her direction. "This is the best present anyone's ever given me. I… I love you, Lin."

And in that moment, I really did.

After perhaps half an hour of greetings I returned to the living room, where Takuma was still waiting. I sat down across from him in my chair. My father, who had followed me, leaned against the doorframe, staring at the straw-haired boy with a mixture of surprise and amusement. I never saw it, but Takuma must have, because he swept off the couch and bowed before my father.

"My name is Takuma Ich—" he stuttered as I elbowed him in the ribs. "I mean Takuma Kaname. I go to school with your daughter—"

"Are you going to shake my hand, Kaname?"

Calling him by his last name was a bit harsh, considering my dad hadn't lived in Japan since he was a teenager. My grandparents had divorced and split he and Aki apart; I guess they'd hated each other so much they'd felt the need to move to opposite ends of the earth.

Takuma grasped my father's hand and I noticed him flinch a bit. Something I'd never thought of before suddenly came to mind as I watched their minimal interaction. I'd never considered my dad the overprotective type, but perhaps I'd never encountered a situation that he'd felt demanded his protection. He'd met my friends before, but never a boy so close to my age. I had a feeling Takuma's appearance had something to do with this as well. It was silly, but knowing how much he cared made me feel glad.

"Er… my hand's getting numb, Sir."

"Just ignore him, Takuma," said my aunt, who had apparently given up calling him by his 'last name'. "He's just worried because you're so adorable. He doesn't want you corrupting his little Taura. Now everyone come to the dining room. Dinner's going to be served as soon as Taura gets the good china from the cupboard."

"Why me—?"


I rolled my eyes as I went to the kitchen. I had to use a chair to reach the top shelf. I took down my aunt's beautiful set of floral pattern dishes with as much care as I could muster. They'd been a wedding present from Aki's mother.

I didn't notice that someone had followed me until I heard the door close behind my back.

My dad leaned against the counter and said through gritted teeth, "Should I even bother asking what that noble is doing in my sister-in-law's house?"

I almost dropped the dish I was holding, my eyes opening as I turned slowly to face my father. As our gazes met I found myself praying that I'd heard wrong—his expression told me otherwise.

"How…" But I needn't bother asking. I should have realized before that my father would be aware of all of this—he was Aki's brother, and had therefore known the Chairman and perhaps even Eiji and Miki Sato, the Purebloods. He hadn't been so forceful with Takuma because he was a boy, but rather, because he could sense his true nature. I guessed there was no point lying, so I spoke shakily. "I can't believe you knew all this time, but never told me anything."

"It was for your own good! I didn't want you to live in fear. I leave you alone for a few months and you go and bring that thing home—"

"H-he's a friend."

"He's a monster—"

"Don't say that."

Was I seriously arguing with my father about this? I didn't want to, but I hadn't been able to control the angry words that had escaped my throat after he'd used that word to describe Takuma. It felt strange, but I could no longer deny that, vampire or not, Takuma was my friend. "He's a student at Cross Academy. We study together."

"Student, huh?" My dad crossed his arms, his eyebrow raising ever so slightly as he looked me up and down. "At least he's not one of those damn Purebloods—then we'd have a serious problem. Still, they're all dangerous. I don't want you hanging around him anymore."

I gawked at my dad, then turned in the direction of the dining room, where the aristocrat vampire sat at the table, arms folded, looking as sweet-tempered and benevolent as a downy rabbit. When he noticed me he waved frantically.

I smirked at my dad.

"Dangerous? Really, dad?"

My dad stared at the vampire too, biting his lip the way I always did when I was embarrassed. "Yes, I see your point. I-is he mixing jam into his tea? Anyway, that's not the point at all! He must still feed on human beings. He's one of them."

"He doesn't. They invented special pills to help with that, not that it should really matter to you. Now come on. Lin's going to think we broke all her plates if we stay in here any longer."

My dad grasped me by the shoulder, stopping me from leaving. "Promise he you'll stay away from him."

I took a deep breath, looking my father in the eyes with as much tranquility as I could. "I can't do that, dad. You have to understand, when I found out about all this I promised that I would keep it a secret. It's my duty now to protect them."

"So he's here to make sure you don't tell anyone?"

I shook my head and explained the Chairman's duty to my father in an undertone. As he absorbed the information he seemed to grow even angrier, and glared in Takuma's direction. I told him that we didn't have time for this and left him in the kitchen.

Takuma's expression when we finally entered told me that he'd overheard the entire conversation—damn enhanced hearing! He would definitely want to talk about it with me later. I wondered if my father would dare leave me alone with Takuma. I seriously doubted it.

I set the dishes down in front of him, creating a very noisy clatter. Lin spread them out along with the cutlery.

I was about to take my seat next to Takuma when my father sat down there instead. I sighed and sat down beside my father, who looked quite pleased with himself. I nearly hit my head against the table in exasperation. Men

My aunt had prepared a variety of traditional and non-Japanese dishes for the occasion. There was chicken and mashed potatoes, pea soup, fish cakes, a mixture of seaweed, potatoes and chestnuts called Osechi and a plate of homemade sushi. I let my eyes feast on the over-abundance of food, glad that my father would have something to abstain himself from potential war with Takuma.

Takuma filled his plate after thanking my aunt. As my dad helped himself, his eyes never left the vampire's. I kicked him in the foot to distract him, but he only flinched a bit. He was so stubborn. I was third to fill my plate. I went for the more familiar dishes at first, but made sure to nab some sushi—the avocado ones were my favorite, despite their simplicity.

"This is all wonderful, Miss Harugichi," Takuma exclaimed with a respectful bow. "You're a very talented woman."

"Really?" My dad cut in. "You don't think it's a bit too dry?"

Takuma blinked at him for a few seconds, then disagreed with a short and surprisingly polite 'no'. I kicked my dad again, but it was my aunt who delivered the fatal blow this time. She glared daggers at him, cleaning her palms on a perfectly folded napkin.

"Kurohyou, did you say something about my cooking?"

"No," my dad responded without hesitance, returning to his meal. Lin winked at me and I smiled, my gaze returning to Takuma. He used his chopsticks with such finesse that I was almost amused. They were simply extensions of his own nimble fingers. I appreciated how courteous he was being, even in the face of such utter rudeness—not that I would have expected otherwise.

Lin went to the kitchen to collect desert, a beautiful stack of cakes and tea. Takuma immediately poured himself another mug of tea. He looked tired, which wasn't surprising considering he'd been awake since midday. I felt a bit guilty for asking him here at a time when he clearly wasn't comfortable, but still, selfishness forced me to push away thoughts of regret. He didn't look entirely unhappy, even if my father was still glowering at him over his cake.

As I dried dishes for my aunt in the kitchen, I made sure to listen to my father's interaction with Takuma. I wouldn't allow him to blindside the young vampire with words of hate. That wouldn't be at all fair. I was so concentrated with the duty I'd designated for myself that I didn't notice that my aunt had dropped a dish until I heard the china shatter in the sink.

"Oh no..." she said, putting a hand to her mouth. "Those were my favorites."

"We can fix it, Lin," I reassured her with a smile as I reached to collect the broken shards. "The pieces are big enough. Ouch—!" I winced when my finger came in contact with the pointed edge of a particularly jagged piece. Blood seeped from the wound. I turned on the sink immediately, worried that Takuma would smell the fluid. I was too late, however. He appeared in the doorway with my father just as I was dabbing the wound with a tissue. I looked at my father, who's eyes had widened. He stared at Takuma, clearly under the impression that the vampire would become lost in bloodlust. As if...

"Are you okay, Taura?" Takuma asked me, and reached out to take my hand. Fear rippled through me but I refused to move away. I knew he wouldn't do anything stupid—if he did, I would never forgive him, and my father would most likely find some way to murder him. He only cleaned and bandaged the cut. I looked away as he worked, blushing despite my calm expression. I was relieved to see only the slightest hints of hunger in his eyes. My father would never notice it, but was a slightly reddish sheen to his emerald gaze. It didn't startle me in the least; I'd seen him in this condition countless times before.

"You have to stop this," I snapped at my dad when we were alone after supper. It had been a few hours; late night had come, and the house would have been entirely dark if not for the decorative lights. My father stood near the window, his eyes shadowed with anger. I felt terrible for yelling at him after all this time had passed—I'd yelled at him the night of my departure too. But this had to be said. "Takuma doesn't deserve this. He's been nothing but good to me since we met."

"But he's a monster. Did you see how he was looking at your injury. There was nothing human in his eyes, Taura."

"Are you kidding me? All he did was put a bandaid on it!" I crossed my arms and sighed. "I used to think they were monsters too, but trust me, they aren't like that—"

"They? What do you mean 'they'?"

I rubbed my eyes as I explained the existence and purpose of the Night Class to him—naturally, he was furious. "You don't have to worry about me anymore. I'm fine. Just go back to Africa; we all know that's where you'd rather be right now anyway."

I hadn't meant to say it, but once the sentence had been emitted, I took none of it back. I furrowed my brow as my dad's eyes changed from angry to indescribably forlorn. He stepped forward and tried to hug me, but I backed away from him.

"I'm sorry, Taura…"

"You don't trust me at all."

I ran into Takuma just as I was trying to make my escape. He let me go, but I only leaned against the door, suddenly desperate to hear the confrontation that was sure to occur between my father and he. I felt like I would need to protect Takuma, as ridiculous as that sounds.

Takuma spoke first.

"I know you think my mind is riddled with sick thoughts—that I want nothing more than to devour your daughter, because I'm a monster. I'd love to tell you that my kind has changed over the years, but unfortunately that isn't the case. Some of us are still as bloodthirsty as ever. I won't even tell you that I'm different. I've seen so many humans die brutal deaths at my brethren's hands. I've seen them beg and plead, but it never made any difference, perhaps because of the 'evil' some people believe gnaws us from the inside out. But regardless of all this, I swear on my life that I won't let any harm befall your daughter. I value her life very much, you see. She's my friend."

There was silence at first. My father's voice shook when he finally spoke. "Y-you expect me to believe that, vampire? You say you've witnessed the brutality of your kind? Well, I've experienced it. You'll live for a long time; promises you make today might not seem so important tomorrow. Even if you mean what you say now, how am I supposed to know that there won't come a time when you no longer care about keeping your word? Nothing will ever change the fact that you are a 'beast in human form', a monster with the skin of a human. Someday you'll tear her limb from limb and drain the life from her veins. I've seen it all before…"

I heard a sharp intake of breath and a small sobbing sound—was my father crying? I was afraid to open the door again, but curiosity urged me to wrap my fingers around the knob. Neither Takuma nor my father looked at me as I entered.

"Dad, he won't hurt me. I know he won't." I suddenly murmured, and he bit back more sobs. "He's my friend too."

Despite the situation, Takuma smiled at my declaration. It was the first time I had ever said it out loud, and the impact of it on both my father and Takuma was monumental.

"Don't do this, Taura."

"You lied to me my whole life..."

I couldn't be upset with him for this, not when I'd spent the last four months of my life biting back falsities to all of my friends and my aunt. I was no better than him, but still, the thought that I'd been connected to all this when I was younger brought a certain stillness to my heart. I remembered when I'd told Yuuki that neither of us was really involved, not like Zero or the Chairman, but that wasn't the case at all. My father and my uncle had both been caretakers of the secret long before me.

"I had to lie, Taura. It was for your own good, and your mother's."

"I know that. I don't resent you for lying, but you need to understand that this is going to be a part of my life from now on. I'll always be your little girl, but this secret is going to change things. It already has. It'll change the whole world someday..."

"And you think that's a good thing? Are you insane, Taura? You don't know what these beasts are capable of—!"

"Enough of this," spat my aunt, who had finally appeared in the doorway. I was glad she hadn't overheard any of this, not that she would have understood so much as a word of it. "Do you even realize how immature you're all acting? I know this wouldn't be the holidays without a little drama, but really Kurohyou, this is ridiculous. Get over all this protective nonsense. Your daughter's a very responsible girl; she knows what she's doing. And Takuma's a very good boy. Now, the sun's going to rise in a few minutes. I know that it isn't technically New Year's anymore, but I would like to treat it as such. We're all going out to the porch to watch."

She practically dragged the three of us onto the back porch, a wide balcony that overlooked the river. I could see Takuma's house in the early stages of dawn. Somehow, the sight of it made me feel better.

And so the sun rose over my aunt's little cottage house, illuminating the rooftops with a golden shimmer that brought tears to my eyes. Even Takuma, who's eyes must've been burned by the sun's brilliant light, never averted his gaze. There was just so much to see and experience in this world, so much beauty and so much love. This would not be my last sunrise, nor would tonight be my final sunset. It was the beginning of an entirely new year... a year in which I would be the caretaker of a secret, Takuma Ichijo would be my friend and my father and I would think of each other differently. He would come to forgive me for the choices I'd made. He would grow accustomed to my new life, and to the non-human who habitually remained by my side.

My mind drifted to a much more American tradition at that moment; a New Year's Resolution. I closed my eyes and swore to myself that I would be different from this day on. I wouldn't just try to strengthen the vampires' bond with humans... I would do it, even if it took the rest of my life. My future would be different from my parent's. It had to be. Takuma and I would be leaving in only a few days for our first real assignment. I knew it would be dangerous, but I was prepared to face it now. I was ready.

Sorry for the choppy chapter again. There were probably a lot of typos because I didn't have time to edit well. I feel like this one wasn't great, but I'll fix it at some point. I just wanted to get the update up before my dad came to pick my sister and I up. We're celebrating Christmas on Monday because my grandparent's are going out of town later in December. I guess that was part of my inspiration for this chapter. Anyway, there's more action to come. The next two chapters will be a sort of side story.