Chapter 9: Ruka
…Three years later…
I sat at the table, taking small bites of the gourmet meal that was in front of me. I chewed silently, my mouth closed and my eyes downcast.
"Ruka, dear, what's on your mind?" my mother inquired, probably seeing that I looked to be deep in thought.
"Nothing, mother. I was just thinking of how lovely Hanabusa's Ketsueki Yudo tomorrow night will be," I lied to her, referring to the Blood Induction that all vampires who were aristocrats or higher received once they realized their individual power. These powers often surfaced during the early teen years or before. Once they were established, a young vampire then became a contributing member of the vampire society. In ancient times, this would also be when a young male would choose his mate and consecrate the engagement with sharing of blood; however in these times it was rare to hear of such engagements at so young an age, though not unheard of. (My own parents had been engaged when my father manifested his powers at age 14, though the binding ceremony hadn't been until they were in their early 70's, a common time for vampire couples to be bound.) More common in these times for the Ketsueki Yudo was for a young male to inherit one of his father's businesses or for a young lady to inherit a sizable dowry that would make her acceptable for a mate in the coming years of her womanhood.
"Yes, it will be quite lovely," she mused. "Don't worry about not having your gift yet dear, I was a late bloomer as well," she told me, perhaps seeing the worried look on my face and putting two and two together. I blushed. I didn't need to be reminded that my cousin, younger than me by almost a whole year, had already realized his gift. Not only that, but it was an elemental gift, one of the more powerful of the aristocrats' special powers.
"Thank you mother," I said, though her words really didn't help.
"Maybe Hanabusa will be betrothed soon. Wouldn't that be wonderful? That boy needs someone to steer him right," she said, making me roll my eyes.
"Vampires rarely get betrothed at these things anymore. Besides, he's definitely not ready for being bound to someone," I told her.
"You're right, I suppose," she said, smiling faintly back at me.
The next evening, I stepped into the carriage with my parents to head to the Aidou Estate. I had woken up early so I could have breakfast and begin getting ready for Hanabusa's Ketsueki Yudo before my tutor lesson. As it was, I wore a soft pink satin dress and my hair was mostly down, with a couple intricate twists.
The carriage lurched into motion, and we sat silently next to each other, not talking. I enjoyed the time to think, as I always did on the short ride over. I was not so eager to arrive. I knew I wasn't the only one to not have manifested powers yet, Akatsuki hadn't either, but I still felt uneasy somehow. Especially if Lord Kaname turned up, it would be an embarrassment. I felt the subtle blush rise in my cheeks as I thought of him.
After what seemed like much too short of a ride, the carriage began to slow to a halt and I knew our driver was pricking his finger for the gate, and then we proceeded to the front of the mansion. Stepping lightly out with the help of the driver, I stood waiting for my mother and father to follow. When they emerged, I followed behind them, walking up the steps to the entryway and taking a right to the ballroom.
"Lord and Lady Souen, and their daughter the young Lady Souen," said the drab voice of the vampire announcing us tonight. Continuing to walk I reached the bottom of the stairs to find Akatsuki and Hanabusa waiting for me. I scanned the crowd, searching for Lord Kaname, but to no avail. It looked as if he hadn't arrived yet.
"Lord and Lady Souen, so glad you could make it," Hanabusa said smoothly, kissing my mother's hand. "Mind if I take your lovely daughter for a drink?" he asked smiling flirtatiously.
"I suppose, young Lord Aidou, that to object would be rude," my mother said and I resisted the urge to roll my eyes while they were watching. Smiling despite my mother's insult, Hanabusa motioned for me to go first as I nodded at my parents' demand that I be back at the carriage at the usual time.
"It's like they think taking you for a drink is a privilege or something," he said into my ear and I could tell he was smirking.
"Shut up and get me a drink like you said you would," I told him irritably. Sticking his tongue out at me, he headed in the exact opposite direction of the drink table for some unknown reason. Apparently he had more important places to be.
"You know he's only trying to irritate you, Ruka. Don't let him. He means well," Akatsuki said from beside me.
"Well he has a very poor way of showing it," I said, crossing my arms.
"So do you," he said simply, and I was taken aback as I looked at him. He was a boy of few words but somehow he always seemed to know the right ones.
"So when do we get to see his demonstration?" I asked, changing the subject.
"Lords and Ladies, please gather around to see the young Lord Aidou demonstrate his gift," said the announcer, answering my question. We turned to see what he would do.
"As I'm sure you've heard, I have been graced with the control of ice. You may doubt that one as young as I, only 13 years of age, could possibly master this skill already, but I will show you that indeed I have," Hanabusa said loudly.
"He's certainly mastered the skill of boasting," Akatsuki said, leaning over to whisper in my ear, and I covered my mouth so as to not laugh out loud.
The sound of squeaky wheels caught our attention, and we looked to the left of where Hanabusa was standing. A cart with a large block of ice was being pushed towards him. Akatsuki and I exchanged dubious looks.
With slight movements of his hands, Hanabusa's control over the element gently molded the block into a beautiful ice sculpture, a girl wearing a flowing dress. I had to admit that his craftsmanship was exceptional. When he had finished, the room broke out into applause. Smiling pridefully, Hanabusa took a sweeping, if not over exaggerated bow and sauntered down the steps once again where he was met by a crowd of girls. After getting through them, he headed for Akatsuki and me again.
"That was great, Hanabusa," I told him sincerely. Before he could respond, a voice came from behind us.
"Truly, she is right. It was very good," Kaname agreed with me, causing me to blush at his inadvertent praise of my opinion.
"Lord Kaname! It's wonderful to see you. How are you doing?" I asked him, practically giddy, unable to contain my girlish babble.
"I'm doing quite well, thank you Ruka," he said before turning back to Hanabusa. Without conscious thought, I found myself studying the way his jaw curved, the way his dark hair shone in the dim light, the way his long eyelashes perfectly framed his beautiful eyes.
I heard someone clear their throat and felt an elbow jab me gently in the side.
"Akatsuki, what are you—!" I started to whisper, looking over at him, but the look on his face said that he had caught me looking at Kaname, and I blushed scarlet.
Of course he knew of my feelings for Kaname, after all Hanabusa loved to constantly tease me about them; but somehow being caught in the act of staring at him was still embarrassing. Straightening up and pridefully tossing my long hair over my shoulder, I turned, intending to head towards the refreshment table.
"Ruka," Kaname's voice stilled my motion. "I need to speak with the three of you," he said. I looked to Akatsuki and then Hanabusa, and each seemed as confused as I was.
"Of course, Lord Kaname," I said as I walked back over to where he was standing. Without a word, he turned and walked to the edge of the large ballroom where a door to a small equipment room was. We silently walked in and shut the door behind us.
"We may speak freely now; no one will bother us here," Kaname told us, though I wasn't sure how a room full of vampires wouldn't notice when their Pureblood leader stepped into a broom closet along with Hanabusa, the center of the celebration tonight. I decided to trust him, though I couldn't control my sharp intake of breath. This was something that Kaname clearly didn't want just anyone to hear, and he had allowed me to be one who heard it. I didn't even care what it was he was going to tell us; I only glowed as I waited for him to tell us whatever secret this was.
"There will come a time somenight soon when I will need you by my side, following me. However, this can only be done if I can trust you," Kaname told us cryptically.
"You can trust us—" Hanabusa started, intending to appease him right away, but Akatsuki's hand on his shoulder made him stop. I looked over at Akatsuki who had a complicated look on his face. This was his way of telling Hanabusa to be patient, I knew.
"Lord Kaname, if you are telling us this, then it stands to mean that right now you do not trust us," Akatsuki said, always reasonable.
"If that's really the case…what can we do to earn your trust, Lord Kaname?" I asked, Akatsuki's words hitting home as I remembered a time when Lord Kaname had asked us if we were friends or foe.
"More importantly…why us, Lord Kaname? And why will you need followers in the first place?" Hanabusa said, recovering from his outburst and now attempting to get to the heart of Lord Kaname's request.
"Why you? Because you will have your own roles to play in the future. And as to why I will be seeking followers, the answer is the same: in order to play the game, all of the pieces must be present," Kaname said cryptically, leaving me more confused than before. "If you wish to earn my trust, your task is simple. You must infiltrate the headquarters of the Hunter's society and make certain that a young hunter by the name of Kiryu is brought to live with a hunter by the name of Kaien Cross. You must do this by changing the records of the society," Kaname explained.
"Kiryu? The name of the family of some of the best vampire hunters out there right now? And isn't Cross the name of a vampire hunter as well?" Akatsuki asked skeptically. "Sorry, but why would we care about the hunters?"
"And furthermore, if we are going to all the trouble of changing records for this purpose, how can it be a good thing to place the child of powerful hunters in the care of another powerful hunter?" I asked, stunned at what the Pureblood was asking us to do.
"The child's parents have unfortunately passed away. In the records, it is said that should this happen, he is to be left in the care of a hunter by the name of Yagari. However, it is imperative that this boy be put under the care of Cross. And as for why, it is safer for all of you if you don't know. Do you accept this task?" Lord Kaname asked solemnly.
"I accept, Lord Kaname," Hanabusa said, his voice serious.
"I accept also," I told him quietly.
I looked to Akatsuki. Though I would have given my life right then and there if Lord Kaname had asked it of me, I knew that this task was something that Hanabusa and I could not do alone. If Akatsuki refused, I would need to find another way to convince him. However, he surprised me.
"I guess I have no choice then," he said, looking from Hanabusa to me and then back at Lord Kaname. "I accept."