She was my first memory.
Of course, at the time I didn't realize it. One never knows what the mind will choose to preserve, fickle thing that a mind can be. But somehow we have a way of remembering either the most important or the least important things. I may never know which one is the reason I subconsciously chose this moment to keep locked away in my heart, but all the same, I did.
I must have been barely over four years old. My parents had dressed me up for yet another fancy gathering of aristocrats. They were the same each time. Though I now can't recall any of the previous gatherings, I know that I had been to too many to count before I could even walk. We would go to some mansion, greet other aristocrats with their children, eat very little even though there was a ridiculously abundant amount of food, and pretend to be the perfect family.
Not that we weren't. I was the only child of an extremely wealthy aristocratic family. My father was the wealthy owner of many business ventures and my mother was a beautiful, poised woman who was an exceptional mother. I had never known hardships, and I had certainly never known suffering. But living a sheltered life, one without pain, can only last so long.
Then, Ruka stepped into my life, quite literally, wearing an emerald-colored velvet dress that seemed to pool at her feet. She conducted herself with such grace, even at the young age of five. Chin to the sky, she stopped and faced my family as hers did the same. Her eyes focused on me.
"Akatsuki, this is the Souen family, including their daughter Ruka Souen. She is around your age. This is her first soirée," my mother explained to me. Though that seemed very odd for a noble, I didn't think much of it.
"Pleased to meet you," I said, just as I had been trained to do practically from birth. I reached out to take her hand and kiss it, noting the way she wrinkled her nose at me.
"Yes, a pleasure," she said, sounding less than pleased. Her voice had not been what I was expecting. It was more deep and rich than most girls her age, but somehow it suited her.
As our parents continued conversing, having been satisfied by our polite, but meaningless exchange, we looked away from each other, not wanting to make eye contact.
I felt a tug at my shoulder. Turning around, I looked to see my cousin, Hanabusa, smiling playfully at me. Though I know there must have been a time that I had first met him as well, I could never remember it. We had simply just been best friends as far back as I could remember.
"Come on Akatsuki, let's go play! I heard that the basement level of this mansion is haunted!" he said, tugging at my sleeve again. Looking up at my parents for permission, I waited silently for their consent. As soon as my mother nodded at me, I was ready to bound off with my cousin, but then I caught sight of Ruka, watching us and looking like she would give anything to be free from the constraints of high-class behavior.
Cautiously, I approached the Souens and politely said, "Lord and Lady Souen, may I inquire as to if your lovely daughter can accompany us?" just as I had been taught. Any vampire who was an aristocrat or higher was referred to as Lord or Lady, and a Pureblood could be addressed as Prince or Princess.
Ruka looked at me, a question in her eyes. Her parents' eyes widened and I saw them grip tighter onto her shoulder, but my parents nodded reassuringly to them and they eventually loosened their grips, freeing her. I offered her my hand. As she took it, I smiled. This was going to be the start of a wonderful friendship.