Chapter 19: Akatsuki
As soon as the Pureblood had acknowledged my acceptance of the deal, I was gone. He could find his own way out of my room.
I needed to clear my head. Or maybe I just needed to fill it with thoughts other than that of Ruka with that damned Pureblood.
I mentally scolded myself. I shouldn't even be thinking these thoughts about him. As far as vampire society was concerned, we practically existed to serve the Purebloods.
Those creatures, so unlike even us aristocrats…
Why did he want my loyalty this badly anyway? Wouldn't it be much more logical to use this invitation to the academy to weed out those he didn't think were loyal enough? I just couldn't wrap my mind around his motives.
"I like you, Akatsuki. You aren't like the other aristocrats," I remembered him telling me long ago, one time when I had accepted a mission to hunt a rogue level E. When I had asked what he meant by it, his response had been just as baffling.
"Because you look at me with the eyes of an equal. Others see me as a beautiful work of art or a terrifying presence or a god, even. But you judge me under the same principles as you do anyone else."
Could that have something to do with his insistence that I earn his trust? Because I was able to see things with a level head? It seemed a petty reason.
All these things aside, the most pressing question in my mind was how the hell did he believe that manipulating someone I cared about would ensure my loyalty of its own accord?
This above all things, I couldn't understand. The Pureblood wasn't stupid. He should have had the leadership skills and knowledge by now to know that the way to ensure loyalty was not by manipulation and coercion. What motive could he possibly have for doing this?
I had told him the only thing I could: that my loyalty, though it would serve him well, was not to him. Though this answer seemed to satisfy him, it still didn't make sense to me why he would go about getting my "loyalty" in this way.
I slowed as I suddenly recognized the giant sakura tree near Ruka's hidden balcony. All of the guests had long since left and all was quiet now. Maybe I had subconsciously ended up here because I had wanted so badly to talk to her, even though I had just realized it.
But what to tell her?
I fidgeted. No doubt she was in that room, locked away like a prisoner. I knew I needed to speak to her. However, I didn't know what exactly it was I wanted to say.
A sound from behind me startled me from my thoughts.
"Akatsuki," someone said, and I immediately recognized it as the voice of my cousin.
"What are you doing here Hanabusa?" I asked, having not expected to see him around here at all.
"I always come here!" he replied cheerily.
"…What? I mean…why?"
"Remember that fort we had when we were kids? Right in these woods, just a short walk down the path?" he asked me randomly.
"Uh…yeah?" I said skeptically. Smirking evilly, he glanced around him as if to make sure that there was no one around and leaned over to whisper in my ear.
"Well, I never wanted you to find out, but I built a secret trap door with a special mechanism for camouflage to keep all my pocky in! I go there and eat it sometimes," he told me gleefully. I stared at him.
"Why did you never move it somewhere closer to your house?" I asked him, dumbfounded at his revelation.
Out of the blue, he became serious, turning his eyes on me and watching me closely as he replied, "Because I knew that was the best place to protect it from someone who would try to take it." My eyes snapped up to meet his. Was he trying to tell me something, or was that my imagination?
"Why did you decide to tell me about your stash now?" I asked, trying to get a more solid answer from him, but staying with the topic just in case I was imagining things.
"Akatsuki. There is a right time to reveal everything. Sometimes, we need to tell someone things that are on our mind, even if we would rather keep it to ourselves," he told me, blue eyes still watching me. Okay, now I knew he was trying to tell me something.
"Spit it out, Hanabusa. What is it you're trying to say?"
"It's really not about what I'm trying to say, is it?" he said, and when I gave him an exasperated look, he sighed, rolling his eyes.
"Look, Akatsuki. There are some things that I understand you would rather not tell people. But I think it's time you admit what is really going on here," he told me.
How did he know? Had he somehow overheard my conversation with the Pureblood, or perhaps heard of it from him? Did he know of my deal with him? Did he—
"You've finally decided to come to Cross Academy!" Hanabusa chirped.
"…What?" I asked him, now more confused than ever.
"That's what's really going on here! Come on, you can't hide anything from me! Lord Kaname told me that you made up your mind to go there!"
"Wait…that's…what you were talking about?" I asked incredulously.
"Of course! I am a boy genius. Nothing gets past me!"
"Nothing indeed," I mumbled, rolling my eyes. And here I had thought he was on to something.
"Anyways, I'm going back to my secret stash. But Akatsuki, remember that though it can be good to tell someone the truth, it can also be very harmful," he told me seriously, "…which is why I'm not going to tell you where my secret trap door is!" he smirked as he flounced off into the forest. Face palming, I couldn't help but smile, just a little.
Whether or not he knew what he was doing (and I was pretty sure I would never know), he had been right. There were definitely some things that Ruka needed to know, but there were also some things that I needed to keep from her for her own protection. Steeling myself, I picked up a tiny stone on the ground and tossed it at her window, trying to get the attention of a lonely girl locked in a tower.