Ren-sama's Note:

Once again, thanks for the reviews, everyone! Your comments give me more inspiration and really lighten up my mood! Thanks!

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Chapter 12

The two hunters, Yuzuru and Yagari, knew that the vampires immediately knew they were in the vicinity. It felt to the two males as if they were being watched from all sides. And they hated that feeling so much, especially because they didn't have their guns with them at the moment. Aside from that was the obvious fact that Cross was leading them to a place were only human students were supposed to be staying, and yet they could definitely feel the unmistakable presence of a vampire inside. Although no human was inside the dorm at the moment, that didn't mean that vampires could just go and randomly visit the place. Not to mention that the presence was somehow familiar.

"Remember your words, Yagari, Takano-kun." Cross looked over his shoulder to see them. "Don't go attacking anyone. And by anyone, I mean anyone." Yagari's eyebrows only creased at the words, and he couldn't help but light another cigarette, while Yuzuru's dread somehow escalated.

The moment they entered the place was the moment the cigarette on Yagari's mouth dropped to the floor, shock written all over his face as he stopped from his strides. He knew there was a vampire inside the Dorm. He knew that the vampire was not a pureblood or a noble because it felt slightly different, not quite a Level E but not quite a Level D either. He knew that the presence of the vampire was familiar. He knew all of that, and yet… and yet, he never knew he would see his beloved student in that state…

Yuzuru's breath hitched and he unconsciously reached out for the gun on his belt, only to realize belatedly that it was confiscated from him. He stared instead, wide-eyed, at the obviously vampire student in front of them who was standing by the staircase, cold and unmoving. "Z-Zero..?" He was trembling in so much anger, shock, fear, and confusion. Everything seemed to have quieted for him, and now he could only feel two things – the heavy and fast thumping of his heart… and the vampire presence in front of him.

He stared at those amethyst eyes, so familiar and yet so foreign now. That silky silver hair, that pale complexion, that stance, and that gaze... Everything was so familiar and yet so foreign to him now… Zero was different from the kouhai he knew from two weeks ago. Right now, he's so unmistakably… vampire. And all the things that he thought he knew about his kouhai started to vanish from his grasp just as the light in his vision started to disappear. Everything was starting to turn darker… and darker until all he could feel was his own heart.

And the next thing he knew, his silver knife was already in his hand and he was attacking with all his might.

Far from their first impression, however, the person Yuzuru tried to attack wasn't the vampire at all, but the Chairman who was in front of him, with his back so visible to the young hunter. "WHAT DID YOU DO TO ZERO!?" He attempted to strike a killing blow, but he was shocked when two people immediately appeared in front of him, blocking the despicable excuse of a Chairman from his eyes.

Yagari blocked his attack with his knuckles while holding Yuzuru's other hand. His master was the one who blocked his path the moment he attacked. Yuzuru's eyes showed hurt and betrayal as he looked at his master and at the other student, who purposefully blocked the Chairman and let himself be in the way of the attack – Zero.

It had been too fast. Zero was only starting to gaze at the shocked and horrified expressions of his co-hunters before his senpai immediately lost it and attacked Cross of all people. He would've been less stunned if the one Yuzuru attacked was him. But it was the Chairman and it had been too late before he managed to recover. All he was able to do was blocked the attack with his own body in an attempt to save Cross, the kind person who helped him gain his lost will to live all this time. And yet, the moment he was in front of Cross was the moment the Chairman circled his arms around Zero and tried to get him out of the way. That same moment was also the time when Yagari, seeing that Zero tried to protect Cross, immediately got in Yuzuru's way and blocked his attack.

Yuzuru panted, eyeing Cross with sudden hate and Zero with unmistakable anguish. "Why..? Why are you trying to protect him..? Even though he was the one–!" And even before he could finish his sentence, he already received a loud and strong slap on the face, courtesy of one pissed Master who was also shocked at the turn of events.

"Calm yourself down, Yuzuru!" He scolded in a loud voice, slightly uncomfortable that he had his back on a vampire, even if that vampire was his former student.

"But Zero..! He's..! He's now… He's now a monster!" He shouted in front of his master's face and Yagari thought one slap might not be enough for a stubborn idiot like Yuzuru at all.

Cross felt Zero flinched at his senpai's choice of word and he couldn't help but held the silver-haired teen's shoulder and squeeze it tight for comfort. Zero relieved a shaky sigh because of that.

Zero could feel Yuzuru and Yagari's more quiet rage and he knew that the two were still far from being calm. And it hurt him so much, how they saw him as a monster now, someone whose existence should be erased from this world. He could see his master shaking slightly and Yuzuru shaking so much. He wanted to comfort them so badly, an act that he never knew of prior to his transfer to Cross Academy. He wanted to tell them that he's okay, that he hadn't changed, at least not that much… But he knew that it would only sound to them like he was lying to save his own skin.

Yagari's loud growl brought him out of his musing so forcefully he almost jolted. "Explain yourself, vampire. Now." His back was still on Zero and the younger male couldn't help but gulp, forcing down the lump in his throat that seemed to have stuck itself there.

"We should all sit down in the kitchen." Cross's quiet voice echoed throughout the entire living room and he was glad that no one was inside the dorm right now except them. He ushered Zero in the kitchen by putting his hand on the young hunter's back. They passed by the two hunters who were still very much shocked and wary of the whole situation.

Zero sat down in one of the chairs in the dining room, waiting in nervousness and dread for the time the two hunters in the living room would recover and go to the kitchen. Zero could hear them talking to one another in hushed voices and he was glad that he couldn't hear much of what they were talking about because the walls were soundproofed even though the door leading to the kitchen was open. Cross had his back to Zero, busily preparing a glass of milk for the silver-haired hunter and two black coffees for the two other males. He brewed some tea for himself before he took the cups and a glass to the table, just in time for Yagari and Yuzuru to go to the kitchen.

The two hunters quietly sat beside one another, facing Zero who was more inclined to look at his milk than the two hunters who were obviously burning holes on him with just their intense gazes. Cross sat beside Zero and the latter couldn't help but feel a lot calmer due to the comforting presence of the older male.

Yuzuru sighed, obviously a lot calmer than earlier. "Do you remember the joke I told you about two weeks ago, before you left the Headquarter?" Zero unconsciously looked up, just in time to see a strained smile on his senpai's face.

"Please don't bring a vampire with you as a gift or souvenir, okay?"

"Yes…" He answered quietly, though all of them heard it quite clearly. "I'm not about to bring myself back to the headquarters as a gift though." He also smiled, though somewhat forced. The three older males' grip on their cups tightened at the implication of his words and Yagari couldn't help but grit his teeth.

"You mean you won't go back to the Headquarter anymore?" Yuzuru voiced, a little shaky from pent-up emotions. "You mean you want to live your life as a bloodsucking monster from now on and just accept it as a fact!?" His last statement was almost a shout and he sighed once again to calm himself down.

"…Do you really think I like what happened to me?" Zero asked calmly although frustration and bitterness thick in his voice. "Do you think I like it? Do you think I wish to live my life as a bloodsucking monster, as you conveniently called it, and feed on just anyone? Do you think I want to live my life at all after what happened to me?" He breathed hard before he continued. "Do you think I want to even meet you earlier? Do you even know how much I tried to think of some plan just so you won't see me like this? Do you even know what I feel right now?"

Yuzuru's mouth immediately opened but no sound came out. He closed his mouth again and looked away, obviously hurt by his kouhai's words. He knew that Zero had a point in not wanting to return to the Headquarters and receive not only deep humiliation but scorn and hostility as well. He knew that, and yet he felt so bitter to just accept it like that.

"Kid, what do you want to do from now on?" Yagari started, not wanting to ask the question that had been bugging him yet. He started lighting another cigarette when he saw Cross narrowed his eyes at him. "What?"

"Smoking is prohibited inside the Dormitories, Yagari." He pouted childishly.

"Tch." Yagari grunted before he put out the light of the stick and put it inside his trench coat's pocket again.

Zero fidgeted in his seat for a while before he decided to answer, and truthfully this time. He knew that the males in front of him would know it if his answer was half-assed anyway. "I initially thought of killing myself." Yuzuru's head perked up at that, obviously wanting to butt in. "But then I was in the middle of something… and I want to at least die as an honorable hunter." He let the others decipher what he meant. He still didn't want to talk about his mission in front of Cross just like that even if he knew that Cross already knew about it.

"If it comes that I won't be able to kill myself, I asked the Chairman to be the one to do it." Zero said before he looked at Cross just in time to see the sorrowful expression on the older male's face. He looked down and hid his eyes from the rest of his companions. "I was blaming my weakness for everything. I was so caught up in the bitterness and regret that I wanted nothing but a silver bullet in my head to just end it all."

"Zero…" Cross's voice brought comfort for the young hunter and he looked up and smiled at the older man before he looked at his glass and sipped a little from it.

"But someone told me that changing isn't so bad once you learn to accept it." He voiced again. "She said that if I learn to forgive myself for my weakness and accept everything as a fact, then my burden will lessen… and I will be able to move on."

"But that doesn't change the fact that you're a bloodsucker now." Yagari interjected and he immediately received a glare both from Cross and his much insubordinate older student Yuzuru. He ignored the both as he waited for his younger student's reaction.

"Yes, I know." Zero looked at his master in the eyes for the first time, determination could be seen deep in his eyes. "That's why I asked Cross-san to kill me before I lose it. But as long I can handle my thirst, then I will continue to live on." He looked down before he mumbled, "And besides, I want to know something…" The three waited for his continuation but he never did.

"Can you tell me what happened that night?" Yuzuru asked, a little unsure of his question in case it brought so much bad memories to his kouhai. And much to his fear, Zero immediately stiffened at the mention of the question.

"Zero." Cross immediately intervened, not knowing what would happen if the young hunter disclosed that information off-handedly.

"I know, Chairman." Zero answered. Yuzuru and Yagari exchanged meaningful looks before the raven asked him again, though this time with much authority.

"Tell me what happened, Zero." It wasn't a request. They all knew he wanted a full-detailed report. And he wanted that right now.

"Then the two of you should promise us that this information will not come out of this room, for your sakes and mostly for Zero's sake." Cross said as he looked at the two hunters in front of them with a serious expression. "You have to promise not to do anything unnecessarily." Both nodded, though Yuzuru somehow couldn't help but give a weak glare at Cross. He still thought that the older male was at fault for what happened to Zero. Cross couldn't blame him. After all, he was supposed to pick up Zero at the station that night.

Zero drank his milk again, much to Yagari's annoyance and impatience, before he talked – in detail. Cross's hand trembled slightly as it gripped the cup. He never really knew what happened that night in full story, just some little details that Zero told him. Yagari and Yuzuru had already forgotten their coffees by the end of the story and the two stared at Zero as if the latter had grown two heads.

"What I want to know is…" Zero trailed off. "Who that hunter is and what his reason was for doing that to me." And he finished the story. "I just thought of it and I find it very unreasonable for a hunter to truly sell out their comrades. And thus, I refuse to die until I know what really happened that night."

Yuzuru cleared his throat when he recovered from the shock. He smiled at Zero before he talked. "You've changed." He knew his kouhai wasn't the type to tell anything private to someone, especially if that private thing consisted of how weak and vulnerable he was. It also seemed as if Zero had gotten stronger in the two weeks that they hadn't seen each other, not physically although that was also a fact, but mentally and emotionally. The young hunter was a lot more open to others now and a lot warmer than the last time they saw him.

It seemed that Yagari also had that same observation, though he'd never admit it. He kept his indifferent expression even as he saw how much Zero had grown up or was forced to grow up by his environment and the things that happened to him. "So you think that the Association set you up?" Even to the speaker, it sounded like an accusation. So he cleared his throat and immediately rephrased his question. "Do you think the Association set you up?"

At that time, Cross excused himself, knowing full well that the conversation might become a little hard for Zero if someone who wasn't a hunter anymore was listening. "I'll go to my office for a while." He smiled before he excused himself, and everybody understood what he was trying to do. And for that, all of them were grateful.

Zero waited until Cross was gone before he spoke. "Truthfully, I don't know anymore, master." Zero said, though not in a confused way. He looked determined when he said the words. "That wasn't the last time I encountered that hunter." All of his companions' ears perked up at that. "I was given a mission by the Association to kill a Level E vampire. But the moment I arrived at the scene, that hunter was also there. And more than twenty Level Es were waiting for me. Not to mention that they're formation looked more of a hunters' and I was their vampire prey. I felt that they're mocking me." He gritted his teeth as he drank the rest of his milk in one go.

"What do you mean?" Yagari asked, seriously disturbed at the implication of the events.

"I feel that I was the one being spied instead of doing the spying." The silver-haired hunter whispered so quietly that his two companions almost didn't understand what he said. "The Association said that I'm withholding information too… I think maybe it's because I didn't report to them about seeing another hunter in the vicinity… Or that I have become a vampire myself."

"So they know what you're doing, huh." Yagari voiced, more to himself than his companions. "It's like they brought you here on purpose. And the timing of your arrival wasn't just a coincidence to the fact that a rogue pureblood was in the area. Not to mention that even the Level E vampires knew you would come and had waited for you…" He sighed, hands slightly twitching at the lack of nicotine stuck in his mouth.

"That's it." Yuzuru growled. "I don't care if I won't be having some good night sleep in the next few months too. But I'm staying here and see for myself what's really going on!" Both Zero and Yagari scowled at that, not wanting to have more trouble than necessary.

"By the way, master. What happened to your eye?" Zero asked. He already noticed the eye patch the moment the two came in the Dorm but he just finally decided to ask since the events earlier prevented him from doing so.

Yuzuru chuckled and Yagari looked away while muttering under his breath, and not even Zero, in his superb vampire hearing, could understand it.

"Don't think too much about it, kid." He said instead, after recovering his voice. And he changed the topic so suddenly though subtly. "But are you sure it's not that pureblood's doing?" He asked instead.

Zero blinked, not knowing where the question came from, until he realized it. He thought about it for a while before he answered. "She's too weak that time too. She couldn't have been the mastermind behind everything. And she said that there were enemies that night, though she didn't say who. But I think the enemy she was talking about was–"

"No, I don't mean 'her'." Yagari pointed, and the silver-haired teen immediately knew who he was referring to.

He was about to indignantly say something rude but held himself at the last minute, feeling too annoyed at the fact that he had almost defended the annoying brunette. "I believe that Kuran is not the one behind it." His voice was firm and confident, making both Yuzuru and Yagari arched an eyebrow and gave him a glare. But Zero held his ground. If it was Kaname, he was sure that the pureblood would have finished the job properly and didn't let him live, especially so close to Yuuki of all people. And besides, Kaname would attain nothing by turning him into someone who could destroy the peaceful life he had with his sister.

"And where did that confidence come from?" Yuzuru asked, a little annoyed that Zero was defending a vampire, and a pureblood of all things. "Don't tell me you've become quite close to them as well?"

Zero heaved a deep sigh. He was about to answer when the door to the kitchen, which Cross closed when he walked out, suddenly opened with a bang and Yuuki came inside wearing a pouty expression. "Zero-kun! You're not doing your duties as a prefect again!" She immediately blurted out before she saw that there were other hunters in the dining room. She immediately reddened before looking apologetic. "S-Sorry for barging in." She bowed deeply before she ran outside again.

The corner of Zero's lips twitched into an unmistakable smile at the fact that Yuuki looked so red she was almost a tomato.

"Is that your girlfriend, Zero?" Yuzuru grinned, knowing full well that she must be Yuuki.

Yagari snorted. "You mean that ex-vampire girl?" Zero's eyes widened at the fact that his master knew who Yuuki was. "Don't look at me like that. I'm not that idiot Cross's friend all these years for nothing."

Cross's head popped up from the door at that moment, just in time to hear Yagari's words, much to the latter's horror because Cross looked like a child given lots and lots of candies. His eyes were gleaming with happiness and he looked like he was floating in the air. "You… really mean that, Yagari..? This is the first time… you called me… a f.r.i.e.n.d…!" He asked, teary-eyed.

"What do you want now?" Yagari barked in annoyance and embarrassment, much to his two students' amusement.

Cross chuckled. "I need to borrow Zero-kun for a while." And then he turned to the young hunter before he pouted in his childish manner. "Zero-kun! You shouldn't let Yuuki do all the work!"

The latter sighed as he stood up from his seat, but not before Yuzuru stood up too. "I'm coming with you." His expression was so serious that the silver-haired teen knew he couldn't do anything about it at all. He just hoped nothing bad would happen.

Females, and a male, were swarming the area in front of the Moon Dorm's gate as usual when Zero and Yuzuru arrived. At the sight of their gorgeous crush together with another gorgeous male they haven't met yet, the girls immediately let out an ear-splitting squeal before lining up properly, much to Yuuki's chagrin who was trying to make them do that for a while now without much success. Well, excuse her for not being a cool and gorgeous male with a snobby attitude.

Yuzuru whistled at the reaction of the females on their arrival, much to his kouhai's annoyance. The older hunter knew that Zero was annoyed at the attention, but it seemed he was already used to it. He couldn't help but chuckle at that fact. Zero gave him a glare but he ignored it, much too used to see it in the past. He watched as his kouhai walked in the middle of the lined up girls, who could only squeal at his presence, and leaned on the wall beside the gate of the vampires' dorm.

The older hunter couldn't help but feel that Zero didn't change much, and yet he did. He was still the same grumpy hunter who liked drinking milk, the one who got flustered every time the older male gave him some porn books and videos, and the aloof and cool kouhai who could only scowl to hide his embarrassment, his anger, his frustration, his happiness, and his every other emotions.

And yet, the mere sight of Zero, leaning on the wall while looking so relaxed even though the place was reeking with so many vampire presences, was unsettling. It's as if Zero didn't mind them now. It's as if Zero had become one of them now. And if that's the case, then Zero's account of not wanting to go back to the Association would really be permanent, not to mention suitable what with his current situation.

Zero arched an eyebrow at his senpai for stopping in the middle of the screaming girls while staring at him. It was unsettling to say the least. He knew that Yuzuru still wasn't that comfortable with his presence as a vampire, but it hurt to know that the older male was looking at him as if seeing him for the first time. Did he really change that much?

Yuzuru walked towards him and leaned on the wall just beside him. "You've really changed, Zero." He mumbled, though his face had a smile on it which puzzled the younger male. "And I don't mean only physically, but also emotionally and mentally. And not only that… I didn't think you'll have a change of heart so swiftly just after being mere two weeks here." His voice had a bitter tone but he was starting to accept everything.

"If you keep on thinking about other people's problems and situations, you'll end up a grumpy and scary old man like master." Zero voiced just as the door to the Moon Dorm opened and the presence of the vampires inside it only heightened. "Don't go attacking anyone, Yuzuru." Not even Zero thought something like that would come out of his mouth, but it did. And he realized that just now, he knew that he would be the first one to stop his senpai in case Yuzuru did attack any of the students – not that a single hunter, and young at that, was in any way up to many noble vampires and a pureblood.

Kaname and the others walked out of the gate and all their eyes immediately darted towards the unmistakable presence of a hunter just beside their favorite silver-haired teen. Aido scowled at the sight of another hunter while all the others seemed curious as to what it could mean.

"Good afternoon, Zero-kun." Takuma greeted the hunter with a smile, which Zero only returned with a nod because the blonde's lover was obviously glaring daggers at him. And then the blonde's eyes darted to the hunter beside him. "Your friend?"

"Something like that." Zero answered, feeling totally annoyed at the fact that he felt Takuma was doing that on purpose to make Senri jealous. He then saw Aido scowling at him for some reason and he couldn't help but smirk at that, which made the blonde stuck out his tongue at him, much to everyone's amusement.

"You're a lot closer to them than I thought." Yuzuru's voice beside him somehow wiped the smirk off his face and he chose to look down the pavement instead, not choosing to meet anyone's eye anymore.

Yuzuru sighed when he felt that he was the one doing the bullying now. He didn't mean to accuse Zero every time but his voice just turned out that way after it came out of his mouth. He was just pissed that those monsters were being treated as celebrities by those ignorant humans. Moreover, those vampires were acting like the hunters weren't people to be wary of, what with the casual way they asked about him. It pissed him off to no end.

Everyone watched as the Night Class went to their classroom before they decided to slowly go back to their dorms, at least for those who were staying in the Sun Dorm. Yuuki tried her best to make them leave the premises, though her words were not needed anymore; because as long as Zero was in sight, the squealing girls would behave themselves just so their gorgeous prefect wouldn't get angry at them.

"Sorry, Zero. This whole ordeal is just making me a jerk." Yuzuru voiced as they watched Yuuki do her best.

"No, it's okay. And you're wrong, you're always a jerk." Zero smiled a little, which caused his senpai to gape in exaggerated manner. 'Zero' and 'smile' was just too far-off from one another that the older male didn't think there would be a time when Zero would do it. Heck, he didn't even know if Zero knew what the word 'smile' meant. But it seemed there really was a silver-lining in everything.

"I knew my decision is right." Yuzuru nodded to himself, much to Zero's perplexity.

"About what?" He asked, scowling at the fact that he looked so curious right now. And yet, the moment his senpai opened his mouth and answered in a straightforward voice, he wished he shouldn't have asked.

"I will study here from now on. I'll make sure to protect you at all times too! I will never let those bloodsuckers get close to you and I will make sure to make that girl you like fall in love with you too, Zero!"

No, forget it. He knew Yuzuru would've still told him that even if he didn't ask. And now he had a more pressing problem than the vampires and the Association.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

"How long will you stay here?" Cross asked the man in front of him, who only arched an eyebrow at his bluntness.

"I just arrived here this afternoon and you already want me to leave?" Yagari asked in an obviously teasing tone, though with his serious face, the joke somehow died. He sat in the sofa quite comfortably inside Cross's Office. He had a cigarette stuck in his mouth even though Cross pouted cutely while telling him not to smoke inside the dorm.

"No, no." Cross chuckled nevertheless, being the cheery man that he was. "I didn't mean that. I mean, do you plan to stay here for some days? Or weeks perhaps?"

The raven sighed as he shook his head. "No, I plan to leave tomorrow. But I think Yuzuru will stay, what with that idiot's stubborn attitude. I bet he will take it upon himself to protect the kid too."

"Hmm…" Cross mused. "It seems Zero is really the type to make others gather around him, may those people or vampires be good or bad." The other man looked at him meaningfully with that comment.

"…Have you told him?" Yagari asked, diving into a different though also relevant topic.

Cross sighed as the question he was waiting for was finally voiced by his companion. "No, I didn't." His face turned from serious into anguished. "I can't…" The raven puffed smoke in the air, watching the whiteness of it until it disappeared. Silence stretched for some time between them because no one wanted to talk. Yagari crossed his legs while shifting to have a more comfortable position while Cross remained unmoving in his seat in the Chairman's table.

"He asked me earlier this morning if this mansion has a fire alarm." Cross chuckled bitterly. "I feared then that he would bring up that incident ten years ago. I'm glad he didn't."

"You know that kid will become even stronger after some time and I feel that that time is already near." Yagari puffed out smoke again. "Not to mention that he's now…"

"Yes, I didn't think someone would dare turn him…" Cross gritted his teeth as he looked down at his hands on his table, clasped with one another tightly.

"Turn him..?" Yagari arched an eyebrow. "Don't use such words, Cross. It's grammatically wrong. He wasn't turned into a vampire. He just…"

"… reverted back to being one." Cross finished as he closed his eyes and let his pained expression have its way on his feature. "Even though his parents personally sealed his blood…"

"We can't do anything about that now, Cross." Yagari voiced in seriousness. "His blood back when he was born was still weak so his parents were able to seal the vampire inside him. But he's older now, not to mention a lot stronger. Such method cannot work anymore, especially since his blood has been awakened by another pureblood."

And when the silence seemed to have stretched for eternity, Yagari spoke again. "Do you think the Association is behind everything?"

"…I'm not sure, but most likely." Cross answered, sighing at the heavy burden that was placed on Zero's shoulder. "For them to send him here of all hunters even though they know I am here…"

"I don't think they really planned to let him live in the first place though. If they really were the ones who planned everything, that is." Yagari said, eyebrows creased. "The time of his arrival in that station that night had been two hours later than the time you were informed of, right?" When Cross nodded solemnly, he continued. "Don't tell me they're planning to dispose of him…"

"We can't be sure about that." Cross said, though even to him his voice seemed so unsure.

"The mere presence of a hunter in that forest together with a pureblood that was supposed to be in custody is proof enough to me, Cross." The raven crushed his cigarette with his hand while he lit another one. "Not to mention that no vampire activities were reported that night. No pureblood escaped from prison and the like…"

"You mean Zero-kun was actually supposed to die from Shizuka Hiou's hand that night?" Cross asked, his expression pained and angered. "Now that you mentioned it, Zero said that Shizuka was so weak and thirsty."

"Exactly. Whoever planned this made sure that Shizuka Hiou was so weak she needed more than the usual amount of blood." Yagari almost spat out the words. "They planned to let her drink from Zero and dry him up, not let him live as a vampire. They didn't expect her to not only let him live, but also give him her blood. She… awakened him."

"…That can explain the emergency mission that was sent to him that afternoon just after he went here." Cross looked thoughtful for a while.

Yagari looked at the other male thoughtfully before he decided to ask what had been bugging him for a while now. "Cross, you know about Zero's secret mission, don't you?"

Cross actually looked surprised for a while, before he smiled sheepishly. He didn't think Yagari would ask him about it so directly. "I don't know the details, but I know it has something to do with me and/or Kuran-kun."

"I knew it." The raven grunted before he decided to ask further. "How?"

"How did I know?" Cross went back to his childish self, much to his companion's annoyance, before he answered. "Well, first things first. No hunter in their right mind would want to study here of all places. And besides, even if Zero suddenly had the inkling to see me so suddenly and study here, I doubt you'd let him, what with all your over-protective tendencies. And if there is something what can make both you and Zero obey without complain, then it can only be the Association." He grinned when Yagari's eyes widened. "So, see? I immediately knew he was not here for simple studying. And besides, the Association sent its answer to Zero's report directly to the Sun Dorm's address, which they knew would directly fall into my hands."

"What?" Yagari was suddenly confused. "Why would they?"

"I don't know." Cross shrugged. "They suddenly decided to mail their letter using this Dorm's address. I felt pity for Zero when he saw me giving the black envelope to him. His expression was that of deep fear and guilt, another reason to think that the mission is about me."

"Hn." Yagari didn't want to ask anything anymore. It seemed Cross had figured everything out anyway. He really wasn't called the legendary hunter for nothing. He's as sharp in everything as always.

"Something just doesn't add up though." Yagari said after a while. "There wasn't anyone deployed here aside from Zero. If that guy who shot Zero with hunter bullets was indeed a hunter, then there should've been a hunter missing in the Headquarter that night."

"What are you getting at?" Cross asked, though he had the nagging thought inside his mind that he already knew what his friend would say.

"Do you think that the Association is somehow being framed by someone else?" The raven asked seriously.

"If there's someone out there who is stronger than the Association, then I shudder to think who it would be." Cross answered, before he thought of the primary candidate for such actions. "Do you think it's the Council?"

Yagari's eyebrows furrowed once more at that question, though he doubted it. But somehow, they both knew that whoever it was, that person, or group of people, was strong enough to control even the thirst-driven and mindless Level Es and, of course, the pureblood by the name of Shizuka Hiou. And the two hunters also knew that whoever it was, or they were, they would surely strike again soon.

"One thing is for sure though." Cross closed his eyes again as he breathed deeply. "Whoever shot Zero with that hunter bullet knew that he's not human."

"This is perhaps more dangerous than I thought." Yagari gritted his teeth in silent frustration and worry. He could only wish that the Association really wasn't the one behind everything. Or there would be no way out for any of them.

"You seem to easily doubt the Association, Yagari." Cross appeared serious, though Yagari could almost see a hint of smirk from the corners of his lips.

"I just don't have any other suspect yet." The raven answered in his grumpy voice, glaring at his friend's implied tone. "And I don't doubt the Association. The ones I doubt are the people running it." Cross pouted when he easily got out of that one. "And how about you? What will you do about Zero's situation?"

Cross's eyebrows creased. "What do you mean?"

"He said he made you promise to kill him if he ever lost it." Yagari voiced, scoffing at the rude joke. Turning into Level E shouldn't be in the list of Zero's problems at all. "What will you do if ever that time comes sooner than you expected? Not that there would really be a time like that, but… Will you be able to pull the trigger and shoot him if he was to ask you to? Or rather, will you be able cut him with your 'legendary sword skill' after he finished his mission?"

"You know there's no way he'd lose himself… since he wasn't Level D to begin with…" Cross scowled before he looked away, and both knew that that was an answer enough. He couldn't and wouldn't be able to do it, no matter how much Zero suffered. He wouldn't be able to draw his sword… just like back then.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

"Hunters are really scary!" Aido mused aloud in a mocking tone just as he looked out the window beside them. He could see Zero outside the classroom that they were in, walking rather idly with that brunette hunter.

"He's the one we felt earlier, wasn't he?" Shiki stood beside the blonde, also looking at the particular brunette. "The one with the enormous killing aura." Kaname merely looked at the two hunters outside before going back to the book he was reading. Most of their classmates were peering from the window and the pureblood wasn't the type to forbid them.

"I wonder who he tried to kill earlier." Takuma also looked out the window. "Since the two of them look like they're in good terms, I doubt it was Zero-kun."

"Who cares?" Ruka voiced indifferently, not even wanting to have a peek for herself. She thought that looking out of the window like everyone else was just childish. And besides, she'd rather sit beside her lover Kain who was taking a nap than look at some hunter she didn't even know. And as she looked at her lover's red wavy hair and his strong but relaxed features as he slept, she couldn't help but wish she could just continue to gaze at him while he's like that. But alas, the teacher came and all of them were forced to look in front. Even Kain who was taking a nap was forcefully woken up by their other noble classmates. Ruka glared at each and every one of them for disturbing her lover's sleep, not that they were really the ones at fault.

Kain just smirked at his lover's attitude, but didn't comment anymore. He knew he'd probably just embarrass Ruka if he ever teased her in front of their other classmates, especially in front of their leader Kaname.

Zero looked up at the window of the classroom just as everyone started to seat down in their chairs. "It seems you're pretty popular with them too, Yuzuru." He voiced.

Yuzuru growled, not in anger at his kouhai's words but at the fact that the silver-haired hunter was actually right. He had done his best not to look up earlier and glare at every one of them for rudely looking at him like he's in some kind of freak show. He'd only managed to maintain his coolness earlier because Zero warned him about those things, and also told him not to cause any kind of trouble. "How can you even manage to maintain your coolness with all these creatures lurking around the place?"

"Careful, they might hear you." Zero smirked. "Though when you say coolness, there are only a handful of vampires who probably has the ability to make me lose my patience. And Aido is one of those creatures who can make your skin crawl–"

"I'm not!" A growl from the second floor window caught their attention just as a wisp of blonde hair followed by the scowling face of its owner peered at them. "Kiryuu, you jerk!" He huffed just before the two hunters heard the teacher called the blonde's name and also attention. Aido glared at them before returning to his seat.

"It seems they can hear us after all." Zero mumbled, mostly to himself than the hunter beside him.

"You did that on purpose, didn't you?" Yuzuru looked shocked. "Are you truly my cute and innocent–"

"Shut up." Zero growled. "Let's just continue patrolling."

The older male couldn't help but feel that Zero was truly feeling comfortable even with the presence of those bloodsuckers. Not to mention that he also seemed close to many of them. Was this school really the kind that made coexistence between vampires and humans possible? If this was the effect of the so-called coexistence to Zero and also the other vampires, then Yuzuru doubted that his kouhai was really reporting everything in his secret mission. Not that he doubted Zero's loyalty. It's just that he felt Zero wouldn't say anything bad, at least not that much, about Cross or even these vampires if he really was close to them. That's the kind of person he was… so kind and loyal to those who were important to him.

And as he looked at his kouhai's back, for Zero was walking in front of him, he could almost blurt out the question that was bothering him. And he knew that he would hurt Zero if he ever voiced it out. Where did Zero's loyalty belong now? Was he still loyal to the Association, the one he called family all these years? Or did he have a new loyalty, the race in which he was now part of?

"Yuzuru, if you keep burning holes on my back like that, I'll be nothing but holes by the time our patrol is over." Zero suddenly voiced and Yuzuru was forcefully taken out of his musing. The brunette chuckled at his kouhai's words, though his earlier questions still rang inside his ears.

He could still remember their first meeting some years back… but it seemed so long ago to both of them now…

.

.tbc.

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Ren-sama's Note:

Yosh! Review please~! ˆoˆ