Chapter 13: Akatsuki
I must have stood at the door to the Souen mansion for hours. I simply couldn't bring myself to knock on the door. I knew what I would see on the other side.
I could live with her father's hatred of me, her mother's fear of me. I could live with the title of irresponsible or any other thing that they wanted to call me. I could live with the feeling of guilt that crushed me right now, as I stood at her door.
But I could not, would not, live another night without making sure that she was okay. I knew she probably didn't want to see my face ever again, after what I had done to her. But I needed to see her.
So I knocked.
It was her mother who answered.
"Oh…young Lord Kain…I…" she trailed off, clearly knowing what I was here for, and clearly not wanting me to do it.
"Lady Souen…please. I just need to see that she is okay. I'll stay away after that if she wishes it…but please just let me see her," I pleaded, ready to get on my knees and beg if that's what it took. She looked around nervously, as if she was doing something she shouldn't be, and sighed, looking at me.
"Okay. But I'm not responsible for my husband's actions were he to find you with Ruka," she told me solemnly. Nodding, I turned to head up the stairs to Ruka's room.
I couldn't help but think how ironic it was that I was here, climbing the stairs to the highest room in the tallest tower of the mansion. In fairytales, whether invented by humans or vampires, it was always the savior who climbed the stairs to save whoever was trapped inside. However, I was the villain. The monster who would beg forgiveness of the maiden and hope that somehow she would eventually be able to forget about the horrific thing I had done to her.
I didn't give myself time to second guess when I reached her door. I simply opened it and strode in, a determined look on my face.
She was sitting on her bed, and she looked up, startled at the intrusion.
And then her arms were around me.
"Akatsuki. Akatsuki," she said my name over and over again, as if trying to make sure it really was me. Then she broke free, looking up at me curiously when I didn't embrace her as well.
"Akatsuki…what…is this?" she said, reaching up to touch the small ring in my left earlobe. "You…got a piercing…?" she looked at me, raising an eyebrow.
"It's a limiter Ruka; a hunter's trinket. It helps to contain…the power…" I struggled, trying to tell her without bringing back traumatic memories that no doubt existed for her.
"Why…" she asked me, looking up at me in confusion. How could she feign this innocence? She had to be terrified right now of me. What kind of cruel joke was this?
"Because I could've killed you Ruka!" I shouted at her, gripping her shoulders and shaking them a little in my anger.
"Killed me? You saved my life! And Hanabusa's too!" she yelled at me, and I released her shoulders, a little shocked that she was defending me.
"And if I hadn't—"
"But you did. Look at me. Do you see a single burn or singe? No. I've already healed. But I can tell you that I sure as hell wouldn't be here right now if those level E's had drunk me dry. The same goes for Hanabusa," she told me defiantly, her tone implying that I was being ridiculous.
"I couldn't control it, Ruka. It just happened, and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I couldn't even stop myself from burning you when you touched me. This power…I'm not fit to wield it, Ruka."
"Akatsuki," she said softly, and I looked up, wondering what she was going to say. "You are the only person I would ever trust to have such power."
I stared at her, stunned.
"It's true, Akatsuki. If Hanabusa or I had that power…it would be destructive. But…in your hands…it can be gentle, Akatsuki. Like you are."
"Ruka…" I said her name, not believing what I was hearing.
"You are patient, and you are always in control of yourself. I can't imagine a better person to have inherited the power of fire," she finished seriously.
"Thank you, Ruka," I murmured, touched by her words. It wasn't often that she was the one telling me that I was being dumb, it seemed. She was the impulsive one, the one who acted with her heart instead of her mind. But right now, her words rang with truth.
"You're right, Ruka. I'm sorry…I just…I was so worried about you…you are…okay, though?" I asked her.
"Yes, I'm okay…but…" she trailed off.
"Well, I don't think I'll be allowed outside the house for a while. My father…made it clear to me I wasn't to leave this room. He's not happy with me…or with you…" she said reluctantly.
"Ruka…I'm so sorry…it's my fault you were caught up in this. It's my fault you're not allowed to leave—"
"No, Akatsuki. I wanted to do this for Kaname as much as you did. You aren't to blame. Not for your method of saving my life, and not for my confinement," she said stubbornly.
I sighed, not sure I believed her, but knowing I couldn't win either. "I'm sorry. I was just…really worried about you."
"I know," she told me, putting her hand on my shoulder before she turned to walk to her bed again and sat down, indicating that I should do the same.
"What…happened, exactly? Have you spoken to Lord Kaname yet?" she asked me.
"Why yes, Hanabusa is fine, he'll be glad to know you were concerned," I said sarcastically at her asking every question except how her cousin was, and she rolled her eyes.
"Well obviously he is, if he wasn't okay you would've told me by now," she said as if it was common sense. I supposed she was right.
"That's true," I said, and she looked at me, waiting for more. Sighing, I told her what had happened.
"After we escaped the fire, you passed out, and Hanabusa still hadn't woken up. I walked for a while with the two of you, and then he woke up. He was dazed and a bit weak still from the blood loss, but his burns were less severe than yours due to his gift of ice, and they had already begun to heal. I…was afraid that if I touched you for too long I would burn you, so he carried you most of the way…but his parents intercepted us near his mansion. He was escorted home while I carried you home," I told her, recounting what had happened when she had passed out.
"And the mission? Was it a success?" she asked me eagerly.
"Yes…the Kiryu boy was taken to Kaien Cross…" I hesitated, not wanting to make her worry.
"But…?" she asked, hearing the pause in my voice.
"But…the fire took out a good section of the town…there's a lot of property damage and…also some human deaths associated with it," I told her quietly.
"Did they…link it back to us?" Ruka asked, concern radiating from her. She seemed to be holding something back from me.
"No…" I confirmed, and she looked away, not making eye contact with me.
"That's…good. In fact, it probably works to our advantage. Now the man that Hanabusa killed and all the level E's will be looked at as a tragic side effect of the fire instead of the work of vampires. What of Shiroma? Did he survive the fire?" she reassured me, then moved on to the next part of the interrogation, still avoiding eye contact.
"What is it Ruka?" I asked her.
"It's…my father…he suspects…that we were involved with the fire. I fear that it's only a matter of time before…they realize your gift and link it back to us. And then…who knows what they'll do…"
An opening door interrupted our conversation.
"You're late," Ruka said moodily as Hanabusa walked through the doorway, as if she had simply expected he would be there.
"Oh excuse me, I didn't realize that coming to see you was more important than talking with Lord Kaname," he replied haughtily.
"You've talked to Lord Kaname?!" she immediately took the bait, all insults forgotten.
"I have," he replied.
"For heaven's sake, just—" Ruka started, but I put a hand on her shoulder to silence her, wanting to get to the bottom of this.
"What did Kaname have to say?"
"Lord Kaname was concerned when he heard about the fire at the Hunter's Society. However, when the Kiryu boy ended up with Kaien Cross as planned, Lord Kaname saw fit to testify against our involvement to the Council as well as the Hunter's Association. He sends his regards to the two of you, and wants you to know that we have his trust. He said that when he needs us again, he will call upon us," he relayed the message formally.
"That's wonderful!" Ruka cried, overly ecstatic at the supposed acceptance of her precious Pureblood.
"Yes, it is. And also, it turns out that Shiroma survived the fire as well…but just last night he mysteriously died of no known cause.
"Do you think Kaname…" Ruka asked, admiration in her eyes.
"I don't know, but I do know that with Shiroma dead, there's no way that he can recover his memories and realize that they were tampered with," Hanabusa told her.
We sat in silence for a moment, probably thinking the same thoughts. What was so important about this mission that Kaname would kill an innocent to make sure that everything went according to plan?
"Speaking of Kaname… my father…may have linked us and the incident of the fire to Lord Kaname," Ruka told us quietly. "He asked me why I had gone to the Hunter's Society…and when I didn't answer, he said he already knew."
"We will have to be extra careful to not reveal anything to him for the time being then," Hanabusa decided.
"We should probably just avoid him in general for a while…I hear he isn't exactly pleased with us right now…" I warned Hanabusa.
"Great. How are we going to get out of your house without being seen by him?" Hanabusa asked, exasperated.
"I may be able to help with that," Ruka told us, smiling slyly.
"How could you help us? You can't even leave your room," Hanabusa snickered.
"I won't need to. Watch this," she told us cryptically. She closed her eyes and her brows furrowed together as she concentrated.
Without warning, we were standing in a dense forest, the canopy of trees blocking out the rays of sunlight as tropical birds chirped and sang. We stood in a sea of all different species of green plants and tiny rodents and insects seemed to scramble under our feet. Hanabusa let out a girly scream as he jumped closer to me and Ruka.
"What is this?!" he squealed, sounding utterly alarmed.
"It's an illusion. I think it's my gift," Ruka told him, smirking at his reaction. "I've been working on this since earlier tonight when I accidentally triggered it."
As she told us this, the picture faded and we found ourselves again sitting on Ruka's bed together.
"I can try to make an illusion around you so that anyone who looks in your direction won't see you," she told us.
"Are you sure you can do that?" I asked her skeptically, preferring not to run into her father.
"Well it's worth a shot," she told us, standing up and shoving us out the door, eager to test out her new gift.