Chapter 11: Akatsuki
"Honestly, how long do these people hang out here each day? It's gloomy enough just having been here this long," Ruka complained.
I had to agree with her. We had been here in this alleyway for hours, waiting for Shiroma to come out of the hunter's society.
"My parents are so going to kill you," Ruka laughed softly, smiling evilly up at me.
"Me? Why? You're the one who left the party without telling them," I reminded her.
"Yeah, but they know I was with you and Hanabusa. They already call Hanabusa a "bad influence" a lot…but they actually kind of liked you. They always say how "responsible and mature" you are. Too bad that's over," she teased me.
"Damn. Impressing your parents was always my goal in life," I mock groaned, putting my hand to my forehead. Ruka laughed at my sarcasm, jabbing me lightly with her elbow.
"By far the most amusing thought is how long Hanabusa will be grounded for leaving his own Ketsueki Yudo," Ruka snickered.
"You're both ridiculous. I just told my parents I was leaving for the night," I told her, trying to hold back my smile.
"Well good for you. But some of us don't have nearly as much freedom as you. They wouldn't have let me go, so I knew I would get the most amount of time by not telling them anything. And Hanabusa's parents would never have let him leave his own party either," Ruka defended herself.
"Speaking of Hanabusa…I wonder how he's doing. He must be so bored," I mused, thinking of my cousin hiding alone in an alleyway for hours. We had decided that in order for this to work, Ruka and I had to provide the distraction when the hunter emerged from the building. That way, the hunter would think that the vampire presence he sensed was the two of us, and Hanabusa could easily sneak up and tamper with the man's memory. But that meant that we had to be in different places. Though it had been hours, Ruka and I had each other, and I truly couldn't say that I was bored. We almost never had time to just sit and talk. But I could only imagine how Hanabusa was passing the hours.
"Yeah, he's probably thinking of all the girls he left behind at his par—" Ruka started.
"Wait, shh—I think I hear someone coming from the building," I told her, putting my finger to her lips to silence her. She didn't protest, but instead nodded and sat quietly, listening for footsteps.
"It reeks of leeches out here. This town is practically crawling with them these days, like something is drawing them here," a man's voice said near the entrance to our hiding place.
"It doesn't just smell like them…I can sense them. There are some nearby," a woman's voice spoke now, and the sound of a sword being unsheathed could be heard.
As the pair passed by, I looked at the man, checking his face against the picture Hanabusa had showed us earlier that was Shiroma. Realizing it wasn't him, I went completely still like only a vampire could, Ruka doing the same next to me. Though hunters could sense if we were present, they didn't have the power to deduce our exact location. This had proven extremely useful in the past couple hours, as hunters trickled out of the society building. Most had sensed us, but none had found us.
"Come on, we don't have time to search every shadow for a vampire. Let's go home," the man told the woman, who was still on high alert. Sighing, she nodded at him and sheathed her weapon once again. As the pair disappeared down another street, Ruka let out a breath.
"Another false alarm. Where is this Shiroma anyway?" she said, her exasperation beginning to reach her voice.
"Be patient," I told her.
"You always say that!"
"That's because you never take it to heart."
Crossing her arms, she glared at me. "I can be patient."
"I know you can. I wouldn't tell you to do something I didn't think you could do."
That gave her pause. She cocked her head at me, looking at me as if I were a mystery. After a moment, she sighed and tilted her head up, probably to look at the night sky again.
"You're always looking up," I noted. It wasn't really a question, but she answered anyway.
"Seeing the sky…it feels like freedom. Such a vast expanse…it goes on forever. Can you imagine forever, Akatsuki?" she asked quietly as she seemed to study the patterns in the stars.
"No, I can't. I think the only ones who really can are the Purebloods," I answered her.
"Hmmm," she hummed, and her cheeks turned rose as she smiled faintly.
"Thinking of Kaname again, hmm?"
"C'mon, Ruka. Just admit it."
"Fine. Yes. He's just…so wonderful. Don't you think?"
To be quite honest, I really didn't. I didn't trust him. And it was obvious to anyone who cared to look that Ruka was completely infatuated with him. It wasn't completely unlike the undying devotion that Hanabusa seemed to have for the Pureblood. Though it was clear by the fact that Kaname had sent us on this mission that he didn't trust us yet, I knew that Ruka trusted him completely. That in itself was such a rare thing, and the Pureblood had done nothing to earn it. He had simply existed and found that Ruka was inherently devoted to him.
I hoped that he realized this. I knew Ruka better than most, and I knew that if anything happened, if he somehow betrayed her trust, it would break her.
"Sorry, what did you say?" I said, Ruka's voice pulling me from my thoughts.
"What were you thinking about?" she asked me, but I never got the chance to answer her because just then, a sound came from beyond our alleyway.
"Yeah, I'm walking. It's a little creepy out here. Would you…keep talking to me?" It was a woman's voice. There was no answer, but the woman continued to have a conversation. She must be on the phone. A sharp intake of breath beside me made me look at Ruka.
"So that's…a human…" she said in awe, trying not to breathe as her eyes turned crimson.
"Yes," I told her. Not that I had seen tons of humans either, but I was at least aware of the bloodlust that would come over me when they were nearby. I had seen enough humans to be able to control my bloodlust, but I wasn't sure Ruka would be able to. The first human a young vampire came face to face with often did not live to tell the tale. However, I knew without a doubt that if Ruka killed a human, she wouldn't forgive herself.
So when I saw her fangs descending as she stood up, seemingly in a trance, I stood up too, quickly encircling her in my arms and putting my hand over her nose in an attempt to block the smell of the woman's blood as I leaned against the wall. Ruka stiffened for a moment, but then relaxed as she came back to herself and realized what I was trying to prevent. I stayed like that for a few more minutes, to make sure the woman's scent would be completely gone, before releasing Ruka.
"…I…" she started, eyes concerned, face flushed.
"Don't apologize Ruka," I told her, knowing she was about to. "It's who we are."
"I just…never imagined I would lose it like that…I mean, the hunters are human, but they don't smell like that woman did…I was completely unprepared…"
"The hunters have small amounts of vampire blood running through their veins. They aren't completely human," I told her.
"If you hadn't…" she started, her mind already formulating what could've happened.
"We are vampires Ruka. Killing is in our nature. We are biologically designed to hunt. Yes, we are beings with emotions just as humans are, and just as hunters are. And that is why we are able to stop ourselves. But humans are our food source. That will not change."
"Akatsuki…have you ever killed someone?" she asked.
"The first time I saw a human, I ended up killing her," I said quietly. She looked up at me, eyes wide, waiting for me to continue.
"It's not something I'm proud of. Though the life of a human to us seems so fragile and short, I don't believe that gives us the right to kill them. But Ruka, many vampires do kill without a second thought for human life. You must realize this."
She nodded at me, taking this in. Though most vampires were quite familiar with this, she didn't seem to know anything about it.
"I think…I don't want to kill humans," she told me. I had guessed as much; she was soft-hearted, even if she didn't let that side of herself show often.
Footsteps silenced our conversation. We stilled, watching to see if this was the man we were looking for.
The footsteps stilled.
"Come out, vampires. I can sense you," the man said. Ruka looked at me. This hadn't happened before. Shrugging, I decided to improvise and stepped out into the dim light of the streetlights.
"We're looking for Hyuuga Shiroma. Do you happen to know where he is?"
The man narrowed his eyes, but just as he was about to answer, another voice came from behind him.
"I'm Hyuuga Shiroma. What are a couple of vampire children doing out here?" he said suspiciously. Ruka and I exchanged a glance. I supposed we were about the size of human children, though we were a lot older than we probably looked to them.
"We…well…" Ruka stuttered. Truthfully, we hadn't thought this far ahead. Hanabusa should have been here by now.
"We—" I started, desperately trying to think of something as the suspicious hunters were now pulling out their weapons, but I was interrupted by a loud and cringe-worthy crack as the neck of the man beside Shiroma snapped. Hanabusa lowered the lifeless body to the ground, and I heard Ruka gasp as she stared at him.
"I'm sorry you had to see that…but it had to be done," Hanabusa said, a hard look in his eyes as he looked at Ruka. "I don't have the strength to erase both of their memories."
Before any of us could react, Shiroma shot a flare into the sky. Ruka startled, and Hanabusa grabbed the hunter's hands, binding them, and stared into his eyes.
"Go inside, and change the records to say that should something happen to the Kiryu family, their child should be left in the care of Kaien Cross. Wait there for a while, and then go home and forget any of this ever happened," Hanabusa told the man, who stared blankly into Hanabusa's eyes. When released, the man began to head back to the door of the hunter's society.
"Well done, Hanabusa—" I started to say, but Ruka's gasp cut me off. I whipped around to see what was the matter, only to find that there were a group of vampires—level E's—surrounding us.
There must have been fifty of them. Where had they come from? The only explanation I could think of was that the flare that Shiroma had shot somehow triggered these vampires to attack.
"Stand back," Hanabusa said as he glared at the vampires. Ice started to form under his feet as a shower of ice chunks seemingly came from his palm, stabbing one of the level E's. The creature screeched, turning to dust right where it stood.
Hanabusa shot more ice at the encroaching vampires, but there was only so much he could do, without any sort of practice or proper training. There were too many of them. As the mob came closer and closer to us, six of them ran at Hanabusa at the same time, trying to take out the only one of us who was a threat.
They caught him off guard, surrounding him and subduing him. He fought valiantly, even freezing one of the level E's to the ground, but they soon had him on his knees, unable to move or use his ice.
"Get the other two," one of the creatures snarled, ordering its fellows. As they closed in on Ruka and me, I looked down to find her tiny hand curled into a fist, grasping my shirt as she stepped closer to me. She looked up at me with alarm, and I stared down at her in panic.
"Akatsuki, get her out of here!" I heard Hanabusa yell from under a pile of the creatures. But I knew that it was too late for that. There was no way we would make it out alive. More and more of the creatures were coming out now, joining their fellows. I couldn't even guess how many there were, all jeering and hissing at us.
I assessed my options, realizing that there was no solution. Even if I grabbed Ruka and ran, the beasts would take us down without a hitch. Not to mention, I would never leave Hanabusa to fend for himself. There were too many of them for me to distract while Ruka ran for it.
Hearing a growl, I looked over to see that the monsters had Hanabusa on the ground, and they were drinking from him. I stared, disgusted, as the blood-thirsty beasts all crowded onto him, sinking their fangs into his flesh.
I whipped around just in time to see a group of the disgusting creatures coming for Ruka. She gasped as I pulled her roughly against me with one arm and punched one of the creatures square in the chest with the other. It stopped for a moment, the wind knocked out of it, but it didn't matter, because there were so many more encircling us.
As one, the creatures seemed to reach for us, grabbing Ruka and tearing her from me just as they pulled me away from her. I couldn't move as they latched onto me, anchoring me in place, their fangs and rancid breath on my skin.
I watched in horror as Ruka screamed, her neck wrenched back by one of the level E's as he yanked her long hair. She struggled valiantly, but there were too many of them.
Time seemed to stop as I watched the creatures' fangs descend, so many of them as they all surrounded her, about to pierce her flesh.
And just like that, my fear turned to rage. How DARE they. How dare they lay a hand on her. How dare they try to hurt her. My vision blurred red as the urge to annihilate them overpowered me. A vicious snarl escaped my lips.
She screamed. My eyes shot in her direction instinctually—
A raging inferno blazed around us. The light was blinding. The smell of burning flesh was thick in the air and the tortured shrieks of the level E's as they were incinerated was deafening. I could feel the fire licking at my skin but no pain followed. I gaped in awe at my unharmed skin, as if in a trance.
I heard a crack and looked up in shock as the wall of one of the buildings near me collapsed, imploding on itself and causing a shower of red-hot sparks to surround me.
"Akatsuki! Akatsuki! AKATSUKI!" Ruka screamed, desperately trying to get my attention. My head snapped up to look at her.
Tears were escaping her eyes as she stumbled towards me. My eyes caught on the red patches of raw skin covering her body, her formal dress reduced to scraps and her long hair singed black at the ends.
"Akatsuki. Listen to me. You have to stop this," she pleaded, taking my face in her hands as she stared up at me. "Please. We need to get out of here."
Her words made no sense. How could I stop this?
Ruka screamed again and recoiled from me as her hands caught fire where they touched me. That was when it hit me.
I had done this.
As the realization hit me, something clicked in my mind and I snapped out of my trance. We needed to get out of here NOW.
In a flash I grabbed Ruka's hand, pulling her behind me as I searched for Hanabusa. I began to panic as I scanned the piles of ash that were formerly vampires and didn't see him.
"I see him!" Ruka yelled over the roar of the flames, pointing to a body half-covered in black piles of ash. I ran over to him, hoisting his lifeless form over my shoulder with one arm as I dared not let go of Ruka's hand.
Whipping my head around, I quickly saw that there was no way out. The flames formed a wall on all sides of us. I looked up again as the sounds of crumbling building foundations reached my ears.
Without another thought, I began running at the fire that blocked our path with Ruka in tow. Just as the building behind us came crashing down, we cleared the barrier of flames blocking our way and Ruka screamed. We emerged into the open air, gasping for breath, and I kept running, refusing to stop, and refusing to look back.