The bus that came out of the dark, ominous stone tunnel looked old and aged, but drove with surprising speed through the countryside. It was completely empty save for two people. One was the bus driver—a middle-aged man with eyes shadowed by the brim of his bland, navy-colored cap and a cigar in his mouth. The other was the single passenger that accompanied him, a young Japanese teenager by the name of Tsukune Aono—he was no older than fifteen, dressed in a green blazer trimmed with white, a red tie, and green slacks.
As the bus passed through a wasteland of dry, dead trees, Tsukune looked out at the gloomy landscape and sighed, running a hand through his messy shock of black hair. His mother had warned him that the place he was heading off to wasn't quite what he was used to, and he'd gradually become accustomed to weird things happening to him since "the incident", but he couldn't shake the strong feeling of dread chasing behind him.
It wasn't often that a "human" wound up at an academy where monsters went to school, after all.
"You've been awful quiet, young man," the bus driver said, talking around the cigar. The smile on his lips pushed his neat mustache up slightly. "Something on your mind?"
"Nothing really," Tsukune said, still staring out the window. "Just...wondering how the year's gonna go. I've heard that Youkai Academy is a one-of-a-kind place, and I'm not really sure how I'm gonna fit in there."
The bus driver chuckled. "Well, you heard right. But as the saying goes, forewarned is forearmed. You should be just fine if you know what you're getting yourself into."
I only think I know, though, Tsukune thought. I know what I can do, but if this place is anything like what Mom said it was, then how am I supposed to measure up to werewolves and orcs and whatever else shows up here?
He turned his attention forward and realized that the bus was coming to a slow stop. Off in the distance he could see an ominous, Victorian-looking building with tall walls near a steep cliff. He looked down at the pamphlet in his lap, which had a similar looking silhouette on the front, and shrugged, then grabbed his suitcase with his right hand. His parents were sending along the rest of his stuff later; for now, his uniforms, underwear, undershirts, and toiletries would be enough to get him through his first couple of days of school.
"So that's it over there, then?" he asked, standing up.
"That it is, young man," the bus driver replied, slowly pressing down more on the brakes. As he did, the bus rolled to a total stop right next to a sign that said "Youkai Private Academy." Tsukune stretched his neck slightly, then moved to the front of the bus with a calm stride.
As he stepped down into the stairwell, the bus driver watched him go, then said, "By the by, young man..."
Tsukune stepped off the bus completely before turning around to meet the driver's eyes, and for the first time, he "saw" them. "Saw" was the operative word because the driver's eyes were more like glimmers in the darkest of night. Though the sight was bizarre to say the least, Tsukune's manners kicked in, overriding his shock, and he replied, "Yes?"
"I think you'll do just fine, even in a frightening place like Youkai," the bus driver said, chuckling darkly. "You're not the type that scares that easy. I can tell. And that thoughtful look in your eyes...yeah, you'll do just fine."
Though Tsukune wasn't quite sure why the bus driver was so confident, he nodded politely, and the bus driver's smile widened before the bus doors closed and the bus turned around, heading back toward the tunnel that had brought them into this empty new world. Tsukune squared his shoulders and stared forward, looking to the school in the distance and listening to the crows caw from the barren trees around him, then picked up his suitcase and began to jog down the path.
Not more than five minutes later, as he slowed his jog to a walk, the tinkling of a bike bell broke the eerie atmosphere, followed by a girl crying, "Watch out!"
At that point, Tsukune turned around to see a figure with long reddish-brown hair barreling toward him on the bike he had just heard, and by pure reflex, he raised his left hand in their direction.
It came out shortly after that, and obeyed his will.
The girl on the bike blinked suddenly when she was jerked to a stop right before crashing into Tsukune, and instead of pitching over the handlebars, she was held in her seat by a force that seemed to push against her shoulder. For a moment, she could have sworn that something blue was hovering right in front of her face, holding her back. However, the strange flash of color soon passed, and she saw a sighing Tsukune lowering his hand, then wincing; the sudden stop had kicked up a rock from the ground, and cut Tsukune's cheek slightly.
"O-oh, I'm sorry," she said, getting off of her bike and putting up the kickstand. The scent of his blood, slight as it was, set off a sudden drumming in her chest that she was hard-pressed to ignore. "I must have startled you. Did you just use your powers to stop me from getting hurt?"
For whatever reason, her words made Tsukune flinch again, and he looked away from her as if he was ashamed of her noticing. "Sorry. I don't use them a lot, even at home. I used to go to school in the human world, and there were a few accidents."
The girl sighed, and tried her best to avoid tackling him on the spot. The blood from his injured cheek just smelled so good that it was getting harder and harder to resist. "Oh...so you used to go to school in the human world, too?"
Tsukune nodded. "Yeah. Youkai Academy is the first school I've ever been to for monsters. I'm not quite sure how I'm going to fit in. Mostly because my powers are kind of weird."
The more he spoke, the more the girl could feel a connection between them. They'd both gone to human schools, and both had to suffer through what sounded like some very awkward times in the process. It could very well be that she'd made her first friend at Youkai Academy before she even made it to the campus.
But that was not making it any easier to ignore his delicious scent, and after a moment, her self-control gave out.
"I'm sorry. This is terribly rude of me, but...I can't hold back anymore," she said, inching closer to him. "That cut on your cheek...that blood...it's irresistible."
Tsukune blinked, but before he could respond, the girl was pressed against his body, with her mouth nestled into the right side of his neck. In the next second, a gentle pinching sensation came from that same spot, and a sound like slurping followed after it. The girl moaned in delight as Tsukune's blood flowed straight into her mouth, and despite himself, Tsukune found himself feeling oddly relaxed by the whole sensation.
Huh. Wait. If she's talking about how my blood is irresistible, and it feels like she's sucking my blood...this is a school for monsters, so she's probably a vampire.
That thought floated idly in his mind until the rest of his brain caught up with it.
SHE'S A VAMPIRE!
After about three seconds or so, the girl detached herself, flushing bright red and bowing her head. Tsukune, for his part, continued to stare blankly at her, then rubbed the spot where he'd been bitten, feeling nothing there except the moisture from her lips. Then, his eyes widened and he held his hands up in the shape of a cross. "Back up, back up, back up! What the hell was that all about? We just met and you're trying to turn me into a vampire or something? Come on!"
The girl shook her head rapidly. "My bites don't do that! Really, they don't! That's not the way it works at all!" Then, she gasped. "Wait, you could tell I was a vampire just from my bite? Have you been bitten by one before? There are other monsters that do like to taste blood, you know."
"It was kind of a lucky guess," Tsukune replied. He lowered his arms slowly; he could see that the vampire girl was clearly shocked at the suggestion that her bites could turn people into vampires. He was still a little freaked out, but when he tentatively touched the spot where he'd been bitten, there was nothing there. Save for feeling slightly lightheaded, he was fine. "And, no, I haven't been bitten by any other vampires. You're the first one I've ever met."
Tsukune's less defensive posture caused the vampire girl to relax a little bit too, but she still bowed her head again. "I'm really sorry. I've never been around someone bleeding before, so I wasn't prepared for the smell. I'm used to...blood transfusion packs, so I'm really sorry if what I just did scared you." She raised her head, and smiled at him. "How about we start over and do this properly? I'm Moka Akashiya. It's a pleasure to meet you."
Tsukune nodded, and returned the smile, albeit with some nervousness. "Tsukune Aono. It's good to meet you too, Akashiya-san."
Moka giggled. "A gentleman, and you have very nice tasting blood. I think I might be in love~"
With the atmosphere at least partially lightened, Tsukune could actually take a moment to really look at Moka. She was wearing the same green blazer that he was, with a white shirt underneath and a khaki checkered skirt that ended right at the middle of her thighs. Black socks and sensible brown flats completed the uniform. Most curious, though, was the collar around her neck. Two rectangular chain links dangled from the center of it, and a rosary was attached to the bottom of the second link, wit a red core at the center of the cross itself. Additionally, two strings of metal beads, one on each side of the rosary, trailed from the front of the collar—they disappeared under Moka's shirt, so Tsukune didn't know whether they connected to the back of the collar or not.
Then, as usual, his brain finally processed what she'd said, and he blushed violently, but couldn't quite articulate himself afterward. L-Love? This girl's got a penchant for just saying whatever comes to mind, huh?
Moka could feel a strange heat spreading through her again, but unlike when she'd smelled his blood, this was less primal and more...manageable, comfortable. Rather than continue to stare, she turned back toward her bike. "Well, um...we should probably get going. The opening ceremony will be starting in about half an hour, I think. If you're a first year student too, then we'll probably see each other around a lot more often, right?"
Tsukune nodded. "Yeah. So, go on ahead. I'll be right behind you, Akashiya-san."
Moka walked over to her bike and put up the kickstand, then turned to look at Tsukune again with a soft smile. "All right. See you there, Aono-kun."
With that, she pedaled off, and Tsukune grabbed his suitcase. He rubbed his neck again with his free hand, then sighed and began to walk forward. "Moka Akashiya...she's a little strange, but she's a nice girl too." Her radiant smile flashed in his mind's eye, and he couldn't help but smile back at it. I think this place won't be so bad, Mom.
Tsukune saw Moka again not at the opening ceremony but during homeroom. He arrived there a few minutes ahead of everyone else, and took a seat near the middle of the room. Behind him, a blue-haired girl in a white shirt and yellow sweater vest was attracting the attention of most of the other boys; he didn't pay her much mind, though, and kept staring at the front of the classroom, drumming his fingers against the desk, thinking about the events of the last thirty minutes or so.
The headmaster, Tenmei Mikogami, had put in an appearance at the ceremony to greet all of the new students. Much like the bus driver, his veiled eyes were glowing within a deep darkness covering his face; however, unlike the bus driver, he was dressed in pure white robes that covered even his head and a rosary around his neck, making him appear to be some kind of priest. Aside from his generic opening words, he said something else that Tsukune found quite interesting: "Remember that you have come to this school to understand what generations before you would not, or could not. If you're not willing to learn those lessons, then you won't make it far here."
Tsukune then remembered what his father had said about receiving the information packet for Youkai Academy from some strange priest that had dropped it in the street. Considering the history that his mother had with Youkai Academy in the first place, Tsukune began to wonder just how much of a coincidence that was, then put the thought out of his mind. The implications of being brought to Youkai Academy on purpose didn't sit well with him.
It was at that time that Moka came walking through the door, and every male eye in the room locked straight onto her, including Tsukune's. And Moka, in return, looked only at Tsukune, with a bright beaming smile that melted the hearts of every other boy in the room. Said hearts soon went up in flame when they realized that Moka was already moving to sit down at a desk next to Tsukune, seeming to glow as she did so. "It's so good to see you again, Aono-kun!" Moka said. "You have homeroom with Miss Nekonome too?"
"It looks that way," Tsukune replied. He took a slight glance behind him, and upon seeing the expressions on the faces of pretty much every other boy in their class, he quickly turned back around with a paper-thin smile and a laugh that was a bit too nervous to be real. That one guy in the back had way too many teeth in his mouth and he was looking at me like he was kinda...kinda hungry. Must have just been a trick of the light, though. Yeah, totally a trick of the light!
"Aono-kun, are you OK?" Moka asked, frowning at Tsukune's crooked, panicked grin. "You seem distracted by something."
Reflexively, Tsukune jumped and blurted out the first words on his mind. "Teeth!"
Moka blinked. "What?" She rubbed her mouth and looked surprisingly downcast. "What's wrong with my teeth? Earlier...did I hurt you? When I...you know..."
"No, no, you didn't, I'm fine," Tsukune said quickly. "I just...there was a thing my mom was telling me before I came to school, about making sure I brushed my teeth every day and stuff." He laughed, but it came out in a high-pitched tone that probably would've doubled nicely as a dog whistle. "It was kind of dumb, but she was just looking out for me, you know? So I kind of just sucked it up, but...I miss her a little already."
Moka nodded, and her confused look faded. However, it wasn't to her usual smile, but to a pensive frown that made Tsukune look at her in legitimate concern. When he did so, though, Moka seemed to recognize what she was doing, and immediately put a smile on her face. "Oh, I see," she said. "Your mother sounds like a nice woman, Aono-kun."
Any further conversation stopped when their homeroom teacher, Ms. Nekonome, came into the room. She was a petite strawberry blonde, dressed in a white blazer, black miniskirt, and black halter top. She wore a bell on a chain around her neck, and her nearly closed eyes were hidden behind a pair of ovular glasses. When Ms. Nekonome stood in front of the blackboard and began to write, the other students moved to desks and faced forward obediently. However, the blue-haired girl that had been attracting all the boys before Moka arrived stared coldly at the vampire girl's back, then turned her attention to Ms. Nekonome as well.
Once Ms. Nekonome was finished writing, she took out a pointer and stood on the right side of the board. "Hello, hello, everyone! My name is Shizuka Nekonome and I'm the homeroom teacher for class 1-3. I know that Headmaster Mikogami already welcomed you to Youkai Academy, but I'd like to do so again." She gave them a catlike smile, then pointed to the header for the list she'd written on the board, which said Youkai Academy's Purpose and Rules. "Now, as you all know, Youkai Academy exists for one reason and one reason only—to teach monsters how to live in the human world. To that end, we've organized our teaching models after human ones, and will be teaching human subjects in addition to going over cultural boundaries and differences. However, that means there are two rules that you have to keep in mind!" She briskly pointed to the first rule. "First of all, you are only allowed to take human form on campus, except in certain circumstances." She then moved her pointer down to the next rule. "Secondly, don't reveal your true form to other students! This is all about practicing with maintaining a human form, so if you go around revealing who you really are, then it defeats the purpose of trying to look human!"
"Trying to act like humans is boring, anyway, teach," one of the students mumbled. He was a tall, muscular type with semi-long, messy brown hair and a number of piercings on his ears, as well as a prominent stud on his bottom lip. "We might as well just eat all of the stupid little weaklings and call it a day."
Ms. Nekonome reached over to her desk and grabbed a folder. After flipping through it for a while, she nodded. "Well...Saizou Komiya, right...? You see, Komiya-kun, what humans lack in physical strength, they more than make up for in cunning and resourcefulness. At this point, attempting to dominate them wouldn't do much except wipe out both sides. Therefore, the only option we've got is to coexist. If that's a problem for you, you should transfer out of here now."
Saizou grunted and sucked a tooth, then leaned back in his seat. He ran his tongue over his lips, but for a second, Tsukune's stomach nearly dropped out of his body; Saizou's tongue seemed to get slightly longer than normal before it went back into his mouth. "Heh. Whatever. I do know that I've been smelling something really damn human around here...maybe even since the opening ceremony."
"Well, that can't be right," Ms. Nekonome said. "This school's under a barrier specifically to keep humans out. If one made it in here somehow, they'd be killed on the spot."
Though he knew from what his mother said—and from her own yearbook from this very same academy—that he belonged here, Tsukune couldn't help but feel a chill run down his spine. His own abilities, and their eventual effects on him, would be the only thing that brought him closer to being a monster than a human. Otherwise, he qualified as human in all the other ways that counted. The fact that I don't have any other "forms" to hide or change into doesn't really help, either, he thought. The only real mark of monster-hood that he had was his powers, and even though he had been practicing with them with help from his mother, he wasn't particularly keen on using them unless he had a reason to. That, and no one would be able to even see how his powers really worked. Only people that could do that would grasp that he wasn't quite human, no matter how he looked.
As if sensing Tsukune's nervousness, Moka quietly cleared her throat, causing him to look in her direction. When they made eye contact, she smiled and nodded at him, easing some of his fears.
Still, though, the danger of being discovered lurked in the back of his mind.
The rest of the day passed by in a blur, more or less. Between classes, Tsukune and Moka just hung out with each other and made lots of natural small talk. Mutually or not, they avoided the topic of family and family life, as well as previous school experiences, leaving them mostly to discuss the school itself. As they spent more time together, Tsukune couldn't help but feel more at ease. Vampire or not, Moka was warm and friendly to him, and seemed genuinely interested in what he had to say. Most people back in middle school displayed a marked tendency to ignore him—or, after the incident, avoid him outright, thanks to the rumors. It was refreshing to speak with someone that at least kind of understood what it was like to be ostracized like that, even if they didn't talk about it.
Eventually, the two of them wound up alone on the roof, looking out over the campus after a nice, fulfilling lunch. Tsukune was resting his arms on top of the railing, while Moka was leaning against the railing itself. There was still some time left before they had to go to class again, and Moka broke the pleasant silence between them with a question. "So, Aono-kun. I know that Ms. Nekonome told us we couldn't reveal our secret identities to each other, but since you already know I'm a vampire...maybe it wouldn't hurt to share."
Tsukune's good mood evaporated like water in the sun. He drummed a nervous beat on the back of his right hand with his left index and middle fingers, then sighed. He looked over at Moka, and saw that she looked almost hesitant; it was likely that his displeasure was written all over his face despite his efforts to keep it under control. After another moment, he replied, "If I tell you, you have to keep it secret. It's...a little weird, and kind of embarrassing to talk about. Okay?"
Moka nodded, and felt something uneasy in her stomach at how dead Tsukune's face looked as he kept his eyes on her. "Of course, Aono-kun."
He let out a soft sigh from his nose, but before he spoke, a rough—and familiar—male voice interrupted him. "Hey, girl! You're Moka Akashiya, right?"
Tsukune turned around to see Saizou Komiya open the door to the stairwell that led back down to the Academy's third floor. Moka shifted uncomfortably as he approached, and for good reason; he was looking at her like a side of meat, and his over-long tongue was sliding out of his mouth again. At that point, Tsukune literally felt it scratching at the edges of his brain, and he had to clench and unclench his fists several times to stop himself from lettingit loose on Saizou. He could lose control fairly quickly if he did, and that would end badly every single time.
"I am, yes," Moka replied, frowning in both discomfort and disapproval at how impolitely he'd addressed her. "Can I help you?"
Saizou grinned. "Yes, you can, babe." He patted his chest. "The name's Komiya. Saizou Komiya. I'm one of your classmates in 1-3. I was thinking that you and I need to get to know each other better, so I want you to come and meet me after school today. We can have a little chit-chat—and some fun, while we're at it."
Moka gently shook her head, and unconsciously held her hands close to her chest. Saizou's lecherous intentions were all too clear, and it was making her palpably uncomfortable. "I'm sorry, Komiya-kun, but I'm not interested. If that's all you wanted, I think it might be best if you leave."
Of course, Saizou didn't hear a word of this, and came closer, prompting Tsukune to step in front of him, blocking him from Moka. Instantly, the playful expression on Saizou's face disappeared, replaced by a thunderous stare. "What are you getting in the way for, meat?"
"Akashiya-san told you that she wanted you to leave," Tsukune said with a calm that he did not feel. It was still bubbling in the back of his brain, restrained only by the memories of what would happen if he lost control. "You should listen to her."
Saizou clenched one of his large hands into a fist, and Tsukune saw the swell of his biceps beneath his sloppily-buttoned blazer and shirt. "And if I don't? What are you gonna do about it, meat?"
The insult, as well as what Saizou had said about humans earlier, was just enough for Tsukune's willpower to falter for a split second. In that second, it emerged again, and hit Saizou hard enough to knock him flat on his back. Moka gasped, as she'd seen a blue blur literally rise from the air around Tsukune and strike Saizou down, but it disappeared as quickly as it had appeared.
"That was a taste," Tsukune whispered. "I'll do a lot worse if you don't take the hint and scram, Komiya."
Saizou slowly got back up to his feet, and for a moment, Moka's heart stopped at the hateful gaze that he directed toward Tsukune. "That wasn't a bad shot. But for whatever reason, the stench of human just got stronger when I got closer to you, and it smells just like the scent I got in the classroom." His eyes narrowed. "Something you hiding from me, meat?"
Tsukune just stared at Saizou without saying a word. The naked, fierce hostility in Tsukune's eyes only increased Moka's apprehension about the whole thing, and for a moment, she didn't know if it would be better to be afraid of him or Saizou. Then, Saizou snorted, and walked back towards the stairs without saying anything else.
It was not until Saizou opened the door and went downstairs again that Tsukune's tense body relaxed, and he let out a low, annoyed sigh. Moka took a step or two toward him, and raised her hand uncertainly in his direction. "Aono-kun. That's the second time Komiya-kun has said that with you nearby." She swallowed. "Are you really..."
"Yes, I'm human," Tsukune replied, cutting her off without preamble. As he looked at her, Moka could see from his furrowed brow and grim frown that he was upset, but she couldn't tell why. After a moment, though, that expression gave way to a kind of despondence. "But that'll eventually change a little bit. As my powers develop, my body will age more slowly, and I'll slowly get stronger and tougher. Probably never good enough to match real monsters, but enough to hold my own. Going by what my mother said, though, I'll always look and be human in all the ways that matter." He sighed, and turned away from her. "If you had to compare me to something you know, think of me like something similar to a witch—not quite human, not quite monster."
Moka's heart felt like it was shattering in her chest. For Tsukune to so casually admit to being human, and yet not human...she didn't know what to think. He had been of the same kind that mocked her for talking about monsters back in the human world, the kind that laughed and jeered at her 'wild fantasies.' But this entire day, he'd done nothing but listen to her and talk to her. He treated her like a friend and not a freak, and she couldn't get that thought out of her head. She felt betrayed, but at the same time, didn't know why she should even feel that way. He had been nothing but kind to her, human or not, and even her dislike for humans couldn't stand against the fact that one of them had been so nice to her.
"So, you're like a witch, but not a witch," she whispered, forcing herself a little closer to him despite her fear. "Then, what are you, Aono-kun?"
"Just a novelty," Tsukune said. "A human with psychic powers."
And with that, he walked off to the stairs, leaving Moka behind to stare at his back while struggling with what she wanted to say to him.
Neither of them noticed the blue-haired girl from their class peek out from behind the stairwell as Tsukune opened the door and headed downstairs. The yellow star ornaments on her purple lace ribbon shined slightly in the sunlight, and her violet eyes narrowed as she smirked at what she'd just heard. "Prime blackmail dirt—the oh-so-beautiful Moka Akashiya made friends with some human claiming to be a border monster like the witches," she murmured to herself. "Tsukune Aono, the psychic...hmph."
Tsukune and Moka didn't speak for the rest of the day after that, and the students of class 1-3 noticed. Whispers fluttered through the class for the rest of the day at how the seemingly golden couple had already split up, and a number of the boys in the class could be heard planning out how to approach Moka and when.
Once the last bell rang, Tsukune grabbed his backpack and made for the front gates of the Academy. He wasn't going to drop out of the school or go home or anything; his mother had managed to survive here, somehow or another, so he could too. He did need a quiet moment to clear his head, though. He could remember how fearful Moka had been of him shortly after his fight with Saizou and the truth about his heritage, and frankly, he didn't blame her for it. They hadn't talked about it, but just from the way Moka had been trying to pluck up the courage to ask him if he was human, Tsukune knew that she must've had trouble with them once before in the past.
Considering the incident that had exposed his own powers to him in the first place, he didn't blame her for being afraid of them at all.
"Aono-kun, wait a second!"
Speak of the vampire and lo, shall she appear, Tsukune thought, managing a dry smile despite himself. He turned around to see that Moka was jogging up behind him, a slight flush to her pale skin as she clutched her schoolbag in one hand. Once she caught up to him, she bent over a bit, taking a couple of breaths, before she straightened up and hit Tsukune with the most worried look he'd ever seen in her green eyes. "Aono-kun...are you still upset about earlier?"
"Upset at Komiya, yeah," Tsukune said. "Not at you." He scratched his head, noting that Moka's worry only seemed to magnify after he said that. "Look, if you don't like humans...it's all right. To be honest, sometimes I don't either. Some of us can be real jerks, and if those are the only ones you ever had to deal with, then of course you wouldn't like us." A memory of his powers awakening flashed in front of his eyes, and he let out a short breath from pursed lips. "Let's just say that I had to deal with people like them up until my powers came in."
Moka felt some of her holdover fear disappear. "So...you haven't always had your powers?"
Tsukune shook his head. "There was an incident in middle school. Some guys had me cornered and were trying to get some money out of me. I wouldn't play ball, so they beat me up, and then I...lost control. The next day, there were rumors that the weird kid from class 2-2 that had beaten up a bunch of punks bullying him, and it all went downhill from there." He looked around a bit, then sighed. "Can we walk and talk or something? I don't want to talk about this where other people could hear us."
Moka nodded, and followed behind Tsukune as he went into the deadwood forest around the academy.
And behind them, the tall figure of Saizou Komiya followed, muscles swelling past the normal limit for humans.
The walk went on for only a minute or two before Tsukune began to speak again, raising his voice slightly to drown out the loud caws and cackles of the crows flitting through and above the leafless trees, or sitting on a few of the odd gravestones that were planted all over the forest. Moka kept her eyes locked on him, listening to every word with a focused intensity that Tsukune never would have expected out of her.
"When my parents found out about what happened, Dad freaked out. Mom had to step in and calm him down, then explain to me what exactly happened." He scratched his head again. "According to her, these powers come from her side of the family. Hers came in at around the same age as mine, but it wasn't in such a...desperate situation. She wanted to grab something from a shelf one day, and the next thing she knew it was floating down to her."
"So is that all her family's power really is?" Moka asked. "Moving things with your mind?"
Tsukune shook his head. "I wish. It'd make things a lot simpler. Being able to move things is just a side effect of the powers. My mom can set things on fire, while my grandma can make bright flashes of light. As for me, well..."
A loud footstep crunched in the dirt behind them, causing Tsukune and Moka to whirl around. Saizou stood there, panting like a dog as his tongue lolled out well past his chin, almost to his chest. "Hey there, meat. How about you step away from Moka and go take a long walk off a cliff? If you don't, I feel it's only fair to warn you that I'm not going to hold back. In fact, I might just eat you instead...human."
Tsukune didn't even bother to reply to Saizou's taunt. Instead, he let out a low, quiet breath, and stared Saizou right in the eyes. "I already warned you, Komiya. When you have to drag your sorry butt back to the infirmary, you'd better not cry about it—you brought it on yourself."
Saizou roared in reply, and his body swelled up, ripping apart his uniform. Bony ridges appeared along his muscles, and his teeth grew into long fangs set in a way too large mouth. He stared at a frightened Moka and a resolute Tsukune with both hunger and lust in his beady eyes. "You think a weakling like you can beat an orc? How stupid ARE you humans, anyway?"
Tsukune took a quiet breath, then closed his eyes and let it out from behind its restraints.
When he whispered those words, the air around him shook for a brief moment as if something had suddenly popped into existence where he was standing. Shortly afterward, Moka saw a blue haze hovering over his shoulder. It was vaguely humanoid in shape, and flickered like a flame. She soon realized that it was the same blue color that she'd seen when Tsukune had stopped her from falling off her bike and when he had knocked Saizou down on the rooftop. Shortly afterward, the blue haze lashed out and struck Saizou in the face, sending him into a nearby tree. However, the orc boy got right back up, with a nice shiner forming right under his eye.
"What the hell was that, Aono?" Saizou yelled. "How do you keep doing that shit!?"
"Oh, good, you can't see it," Tsukune replied. "That'll make this fun."
The way Tsukune said that confused Moka even more, but she had no time to ponder it as Tsukune slowly marched toward Saizou. The orc yelled and swung a massive fist at him, but the haze moved toward the attack and blocked it with ease. For a moment, it flickered and resolved itself into a more humanoid form, making it look as if it were actually holding the punch back with its hands, but when Moka blinked it was back to the way it had always been.
What's going on, Aono-kun? Moka wondered. She put her hands to her rosary in an unconscious motion, and was surprised at how warm to the touch it was. The red jewel at its center was glowing brightly, but for what reason, Moka didn't know.
The orc attacked multiple times, but each time, the haze blocked the blows. Tsukune himself barely flinched, but after a while, Moka noticed that he seemed slightly more irritated—or fatigued—with each blow that he took. Saizou, however, didn't seem to realize this, and his attacks got more and more frantic, making it easier and easier for Tsukune to avoid them as he got closer to Saizou.
When Tsukune was within arm's reach of Saizou, the haze struck again, this time hitting Saizou in the right arm. This time, though, there was an effect that made Moka shriek in fright and Saizou roar.
As soon as it was hit, Saizou's arm split cleanly in two at the elbow. There was no blood, nor any exposure of bone or muscle; it simply split off and floated in the air. Saizou stared in horror at how the front part of his entire arm just floated there on its own, while Tsukune stared up at his face without flinching.
"I can leave your arm like that for about three minutes before it becomes impossible for me to put it back on the way it was," Tsukune said quietly. "I want you to make me a few promises before I fix you. You will leave me and Akashiya-san alone, you're not going to tell anyone what I can do, and you're not going to tell anyone anything you overheard me and Akashiya-san talking about. Otherwise, next time, it'll be your head I pull off."
Saizou whimpered and nodded, unable to speak as his stare flickered between the stump where his arm used to be and the spot in the air where it was floating now. Tsukune snapped his fingers, and the arm jammed itself back onto the stump where it belonged. After flexing it a few times, Saizou nodded and turned away, beginning to walk off with his head lowered.
However, he was secretly seething.
That little bastard! How dare he embarrass me like that in front of Moka! There's gotta be a way to get around that... His eyes narrowed in thought. He always hit me from pretty close. That power of his seems to have a range limit. So maybe if I nail him from outside it or distract him, then I can get in the shot I need to take him down!
Then, he saw a pair of random gravestones a little in front of him, and in a flash, he grabbed one in each hand, whirled around, and threw them at Tsukune, rushing in behind them. On reflex, the haze struck out at both of the tombstones, but not until they were about ten feet away from him; by the time both tombstones had been broken, Saizou's elongated, gigantic fist was too close for Tsukune to dodge or for the haze to hit—and with a sickening crack, Tsukune was punched past Moka and into another gravestone, kicking up a cloud of dust.
"Aono-kun!" Moka cried, running over to him. "Aono-kun, answer me! Aono-kun!"
By the time Moka got to where Tsukune had landed, he was sitting up, but it was clear that the hit had done its damage. His eyes were unfocused, and blood was trickling down his face from a cut somewhere under his scalp. He managed to stagger to his feet, and after a few woozy shakes of his head, he looked toward Moka as if he'd just woken up from a long nap. "Get out of here, Akashiya-san. Get back to the school and tell the teachers what happened. I'll buy you some time."
Moka clenched her fists and crossed the last few steps keeping them apart, then slung one of his arms over her shoulder, helping him to stand. "No, I can't. I'm not going to let you die here, Aono-kun." She bit her lip as Saizou began to approach them with manic laughter. "Komiya-kun isn't going to win. I won't let him hurt you any more. Even if my power's sealed up by this rosary, I'm not going to let him hurt my only friend."
Tsukune looked at the rosary in question, and with how close he was, he could see that there was a small semi-circle attaching it to the square chain links. However, the semi-circle was only directly attached on one side, making it more like a clasp than anything else; with a good enough pull, it just might come off without breaking the clasp.
"Akashiya-san," he whispered. "Does the rosary come off?"
Moka looked at him in confusion. "Yes, it does. But I can't take it off, and I don't know how to."
Tsukune grunted, and the haze appeared again, this time blocking Moka's view. It enveloped the rosary, wrapping it in blue mist. "I don't know if this is going to work," he said, coughing slightly. "But if it doesn't, I want you to run, Akashiya-san. I'm not worth dying for."
"Don't be stupid, Aono-kun!" Moka shouted, unable to keep the pain and the fear from her voice. Saizou would be on them any moment now, and as his hand reached toward them in slow anticipation, tears fell from Moka's eyes. "I just said it, didn't I? I'm not going to leave you behind. You're my friend. Human or not, you're the first person that really likes me for who I am. And I really like you too, no matter who or what you are! So you're more than worth dying for!"
The haze seemed to twitch at that statement, then began to form into a humanoid shape again, this time clearly forming a "hand" around the rosary. With a single jerk, the haze yanked at the rosary with all its strength, and it came off with a ringing snap, leaving the clasp unbroken.
Moka's eyes widened, and she looked at the rosary floating in the haze's "hand" with an expression of amazement.
"The rosary...came off."
A roaring maelstrom came to life at that moment, blasting Saizou away from them.
Tsukune didn't quite register the magnitude of what he'd done until after the winds died down. He'd been knocked off his feet by the sudden explosion, but managed to get back up right away, unlike Saizou. As he did so, though, he noticed that the afternoon sky had suddenly gone blood red, and the moon had somehow risen in place of the sun.
What was most overwhelming, though, was the chill in the air that seemed to shake his very bones. Every part of his body was screaming in fear, telling him to run as far away from this place as he possibly could and never look back.
The source of that chill, that fear, was none other than Moka Akashiya, undergoing a strange transformation of her own right before his very eyes.
Her brown hair changed first, draining into a silver color from the tips to the roots. Her nails lengthened slightly, then sharpened, becoming almost like claws. Her body, too, changed—she seemed to gain an inch or two in height, and her body filled out a little more, making her look far older than just a high-school student.
Then, she opened her eyes, and instead of the green human eyes he'd gotten used to over the day, they were red, with slit pupils like a cat's.
Despite himself, despite his fear of her, and despite his utter confusion at what the hell was going on, Tsukune couldn't help but stare at just how much she'd changed. The physical changes were obvious, but the way she seemed to carry herself as she stepped forward made her a different person altogether. She was staring forward and smirking with an arrogance and superiority that Moka had never displayed until now.
"Akashiya-san?" he said. "Is that really you, Akashiya-san?"
Moka's gaze turned to him at last, and he was left breathless at how intensely she regarded him. Unlike before, there was no hint of affection in her expression; simply hard, severe judgment. After a moment of silence, she spoke, in a cool, mature voice that was the opposite of her normal youthful one. "Show me your power again, Aono. My outer self is too weak to see it as it really is."
Tsukune blinked, then paled. If Moka could see it, even partially, then that meant that she could—and maybe would—wind up being like him. But as far as his mother had told him, that was impossible. Humans were not the only beings capable of developing psychic power, but their family's power was so far exclusive to humans.
Still, he complied, and concentrated.
Moments later, it appeared, but when Moka looked at it, she no longer saw the blue haze from before. Instead, what she saw was a humanoid figure with blue skin and short black hair, done in a spiked-up style. It was about Tsukune's height, with modest muscles and black, white-fingered gloves covering its hands. Its feet were covered in black boots with white toes, and a red, transparent star floated in front of its face, showing a piercing pair of dark eyes that met hers without fear.
"You're possessed by a spirit, Aono?" Moka asked.
Tsukune shook his head. "It's a manifestation of my psychic abilities that looks like a spirit. It's called a Stand, and I named it Shooting Star."
An angry roar drew both Moka and Tsukune's attention back to where Saizou had been knocked down. The orc had gotten back up with murder written all over his face, but soon lost that when he looked directly at Moka. He could feel the same fear that Tsukune did just at a glance, but unlike Tsukune, he knew what the cause was.
"This can't be right," he yelled. "How the hell is your monster aura so strong!? What the hell are you, Akashiya!?"
"I'm a vampire, you simpering fool," Moka replied, showing her scorn with a disgusted sniff. "And you dared to lay hands on the only person in this academy to be of any interest to me. Come here. I'll let you touch me as badly as you've desired this whole time, and make you suffer for it!"
Saizou charged with a bellowing roar, veins popping out on his forehead and enlarged biceps. "You haughty little bitch! You think you've got what it takes to beat me!?"
Moka chuckled darkly, then bent down a little bit. In the span of time that it took Tsukune to blink, she was already running at Saizou, keeping her body low to the ground and letting her arms sweep out behind her. Once they were about four or five feet away from each other, Saizou slammed both of his fists together, then brought them over his head and swung them down at her.
Moka slid to a stop, going into a crouch as her momentum died, and raised her right hand upward.
Both fists landed smack against her palm, and simply stopped.
Saizou then gaped in astonishment as Moka stood up, still holding both of his hands back from squishing her flat. Worse yet, her hand had clenched around them, digging her nails into his flesh. "I was wrong," she said, her eyes narrowing as the amused smirk faded from her face. "You're not a fool. You're an imbecile. The first thing you noticed was my aura—and if you can sense it, surely you know how weak yours is in comparison to mine. And yet you still ran in to attack me. Let me say it again for you, slowly this time. I am a vampire. My power and my aura are one and the same!"
Carelessly, she flung her right hand upward, releasing Saizou's hands and throwing him off balance. Then, without hesitation, she delivered a spinning roundhouse kick to the lower part of his ribs, followed by another to the area just below his armpit. When he reeled back in agony, she jumped forward, twisting around like a top, and delivered one final kick to the side of his head, sending him flying for the third time in the entire fight. This time, though, he did not hit anything but the ground, and slid for several minutes, carving a trench with his own body until he finally stopped.
Without even bothering to look at what she'd done, Moka walked away from where she'd landed from her final kick. "Know your place, you insignificant imbecile."
Tsukune stared blankly in Saizou's direction, and though Shooting Star followed his gaze, its face remained blank, set in its usual determined frown. When Moka stopped in front of him and cleared her throat, both Tsukune and his Stand turned to face her at the same speed and at the same time.
"I have heard of these Stands before," Moka said. "Normally, I would say that it is impossible for a human to even have a Stand. Stands are not just the manifestation of one's psychic powers, but also a concentration of monster energy and the individual monster's willpower, their drive to fight and survive. However, in this form, I can sense the aura around it and around you." Her smirk widened. "It's likely too far back in your family tree for your mother to know, but you are descended from a monster of some sort. It's in your aura. Otherwise, you would not be able to host a Stand. Its power would rip you apart at the seams." She let out a tiny laugh. "I suppose you do belong here, after all. Though there are fools who would say otherwise, a monster is a monster no matter the type—even if they were raised as a human."
Tsukune seemed to crumple a little at that, and he slowly sat down, gingerly cradling his injured head in his hands as he tried to make sense of what he'd just heard. One of his ancestors had been a creature like Moka—something otherworldly, inhuman. The realization was frightening—not because he didn't want to think about it, but because it made so much sense.
"Your Stand is actually fairly impressive, but its range is limited," Moka said, bending down to pick up her discarded rosary from the ground. After a moment of staring Tsukune in the face, she leaned in and lapped some of the blood off of his face, sending a chill both pleasurable and frightening down his spine as she stood up. "Aside from that, you were too soft on Komiya. You should have split his arm permanently as soon as your Shooting Star hit him. It would've been a good reminder not to trifle with you or with my outer self, and he wouldn't have found the nerve to attack you if you'd resolved it like that."
"I don't want to hurt people with Shooting Star," Tsukune replied, raising his head to look at Moka. He shivered at how coldly she'd made her suggestion, as if Saizou wasn't even worth considering as a sack of flesh, let alone a sentient being. "I never did. Not even when it first woke up and I used it beat up those bullies at my school. And my mom told me that those who use the power of Stands selfishly always pay for it in the end."
Moka clicked her tongue. "A foolish sentiment, but I doubt you'd care to change your mind." She snapped the rosary back on with a flourish of the hand, and offered one last smirk to Tsukune. "Your blood is healthy and nourishing for my outer self's true potential, and your Stand's power woke me up within the rosary. You, Tsukune Aono, are a very interesting person. I will entrust you with my outer self's well-being for now."
Then, just like that, the world went back to normal; the sky changed color, the moon faded, and as Moka's eyes closed and she fell toward the ground, her hair became that reddish-brown color once more. Without further prompting from Tsukune, Shooting Star rushed forward and grabbed her before she could hit the ground, then brought her over to him, placing her against his body and lap. Once he grasped her, Shooting Star let go, and vanished.
Moments later, she opened her eyes, and stared up at Tsukune. "Aono-kun."
"Are you all right, Akashiya-san?" he asked, still not quite believing that the rosary was the only thing separating this Moka from the other Moka.
Moka's smile was almost too radiant to look at. "I'm fine. Because you pulled off the rosary...I was able to save you. My first friend...Aono-kun." She closed her eyes. "And your Stand...Shooting Star...it's amazing. I never thought it would look like that."
Tsukune slowly stood up, helping Moka to stand as he did so. "You remember everything?"
Moka gently shook her head. "Only bits and pieces. The things that I remember best are what my unsealed self said about Stands, what you said about Shooting Star, and Shooting Star's name. Everything else is blurry." She put her rosary into her hand, staring at the red gem in its center. "I can't believe that you were able to take it off, though. Did you put it back on, too?"
"No, Um, 'you' did." Tsukune waved his hands about with a sheepish grin. "The other you, I mean. I don't know why, though."
"I remember being told that my powers were dangerous when they were unsealed," Moka said, tapping her chin. "If my other self knows that, then maybe she sealed herself back up on purpose to be safe. At least now we know that if things get really bad, Shooting Star can pull off the rosary to let her back out." She blushed, and hugged Tsukune close to her, causing him to flush red as well. "Thank you, Aono-kun. And...pardon me."
Before Tsukune could ask "for what?", Moka nestled her head into the crook of his neck and bit down.
"I'm sorry! The blood on your face a-and your heartbeat were...I was going crazy, Aono-kun!"
And so it was that three things were set in motion that day.
The first was the eventual unification of the human world and the monster world, under a banner of tolerance and fairness for all.
The second was the gradual creation of a group of monsters that would surpass all previous labels to simply be called stand users.
The third was Tsukune Aono's many romantic travails before he won the heart of the girl he wanted the most.
Stand and Vampire
A Rosario + Vampire Fan Fiction
Written by Zero-Sennin
First Spirit: Awakening Plus Stand
Had to get this plot bunny out of my head, so where it stops up above is where it's stopping for now. It was keeping me from writing the next chapter of Azure for the longest time.
If this ever got expanded past a one-shot, you could expect to not see any Jojo characters show up. Referenced as part of the backstory, perhaps, but Tsukune is not secretly a Joestar nor is anyone else that he knows or will get to know.
Once things settle down RL for me, I can finish up the next chapter of Azure. In the meantime, enjoy this little taste.