"This place is barely livable!" Hanabusa complained, looking around at the average décor that surrounded us. We had just stepped into the building that was to be our dormitory for the time that we were here, finally escaping the invasive scent of human blood. As we waited for someone to come and give us some directions, I couldn't help but notice that this place did look quite a bit less formal than the mansions we had lived in our entire lives.
"Oh, hush. If Lord Kaname, the most noble and exalted of vampires can live here, than so can we," Ruka scolded him.
"Hmpf. There aren't servants here. How are we supposed to get dressed at night? How will we remember to comb our hair? Do they intend to starve us to death without servants to cook our meals?!"
"There are plenty of people, both human and vampire, that live in conditions even less than these. We'll be fine," I told them. Though Ruka was trying to be positive about it, I could see by the look on her face she was doubtful of living here too.
"Are you even looking at it?!" Hanabusa squealed.
The front entryway was sealed from outside by two very large and very plain wooden doors. The floor had only a single rug and a couple of pieces of furniture, two couches and a cluster of chairs, all with rather dusty looking fabric. The only light in the room came from a large, plain chandelier above us. Towards the back of the entryway, a staircase led up to a second floor where it looked like the bedrooms might be.
"Hello! So sorry to keep you waiting, I was helping another student get settled!" said someone who had just appeared on the top of the stairs. He was walking down towards us as he talked.
"I'm Takuma Ichijo, and I was instructed by Lord Kaname to welcome all the students," he introduced himself.
"Ah, yes. Your grandfather plays a part in the senate, if I remember correctly. He's also a very prominent businessman. It's nice to meet you," Hanabusa remarked, stepping forward to shake the vampire's hand. "I'm—"
"Hanabusa Aidou, no doubt. You resemble your father greatly. And the two of you must also be from the Aidou faction," Takuma supplied, turning to Ruka and I now.
"Ruka Souen. And yes, we are. How did you figure that?" Ruka asked him as she shook his hand.
"Most of the vampires from the Aidou faction have lighter colored hair, so it was a guess, since you all arrived together," he told her with a wink. I cleared my throat.
"I'm Akatsuki Kain. Nice to meet you," I said, shaking his hand.
"Yes, it's a pleasure to meet all of you. Please, follow me and I'll show you to your dorm rooms," Takuma said, turning to walk back up the stairs. "As I'm sure you know, each of you will have a roommate. The two of you will be rooming together," he said, motioning at me and Hanabusa, "and you will be rooming with Rima Touya," he told Ruka. She seemed surprised by this.
"Isn't she—?" she started.
"A famous model? Yes!" Takuma squealed. This guy was almost worse than my overdramatic cousin.
"No…I was going to say part of the Aidou faction…?" Ruka said, blinking at him.
"Ah, yes, that too," he said, not seeming to be embarrassed in the least. "Here we are!"
We had stopped in front of a rather small room with two single beds in it. There were two windows in the room, and both had thick curtains that could be pulled down to block out the sunlight. The nightstands had small containers of pills sitting on them, which I guessed were the blood tablets; we would all need to start taking them right away if we were going to avoid problems with our bloodlust. A girl sat on the bed on the right side of the room.
"Hello. I'm Rima Touya. You must be Ruka. It's nice to meet you," the girl said as she stood up, walking towards us and holding out her hand to Ruka.
"Yes, a pleasure," Ruka replied. "So you're a model I hear."
Their conversation grew fainter as we continued on towards our room, leaving Ruka to unpack and get to know her roomate. A couple minutes later, we stopped in front of one of the plain wooden doors that lined the halls.
"This is your room. I'll leave you to get settled now, but meet at room 206 in an hour."
An hour later, Hanabusa and I made our way over to the room to see what Takuma wanted. It appeared we weren't the only ones; Ruka was here, as well as many other students, some of whom I recognized as belonging to distinguished families.
"Hello everyone! Welcome to Cross Academy! The Chairman of this school, Headmaster Cross, has asked that we each fill out one of these surveys. They're due back here by the end of the night, so please take one and get started! I'll be downstairs to await any late arrivals if you need me, and don't worry Lord Kaname should be here shortly as well!" Takuma told us before rushing off towards the front entrance.
Taking one each, Hanabusa, Ruka and I proceeded to walk down the hall to one of the common areas, thinking we would fill them out together.
"What is this? There are a thousand questions on this survey! And Headmaster Cross wants it filled out by the end of the night? How twisted is that guy?!" Hanabusa complained.
"Stop trying to answer them like you actually care," I advised him.
The sound of a soft tinkle of laughter reached my ears and I looked to the sound. A young, obviously human girl stood at the bottom of the staircase in the entrance hall. She stared at us with large, dark, innocent eyes for a moment before hastily bowing. I glanced at Ruka, wondering if she had her bloodlust under control. Though it was hard for all of us, Hanabusa and I definitely had more experience being around humans. However, she seemed to be doing fine. Perhaps she had already taken some of the blood tablets.
"Why is a human child in here? And she's staring…is she my fan?" Hanabusa asked dumbly, apparently assuming that his looks alone had the power to steal any girl's heart. It was true he had been ranting about how much the human girls were going to love him for the past week or so.
"She's laughing at you. Don't cause trouble before school even starts. I don't want my experience here with Lord Kaname to be ruined by some foolish act of yours," Ruka shot at him as we continued walking down the hall.
"Hey! I didn't even do anything!" he yelled back at her.
"Not yet. I give it until tomorrow," she taunted him.
"Stop it, both of you. We all need to be on our best behavior while we're at this academy," I told them.
Finding the common room, we sat down at a large wooden table and worked on the surveys, pausing from time to time to vent about the long assignment. In a short amount of time, we were interrupted by a knock on the door.
"Ruka. Would you come with me right now?" the Pureblood asked Ruka, all the while keeping eye contact with me. I steeled myself, knowing what was about to unfold.
"Lord Kaname! O-of course! Whatever you need!" Ruka said, her chair clattering behind her as she stood up a little too quickly. I watched as they left the room.
I was torn. There was a sick part of me that wanted to go to them; to stand outside while the deed was done. I couldn't fathom why. Maybe I wanted to make sure he didn't hurt her, or maybe I was hoping in vain that she would decline his offer. However, that was selfish. For her own safety it would be better if she accepted it. I knew that it wasn't as if I had made this decision for her, since she ultimately was the one who would accept or decline the Pureblood drinking her blood. But there was no doubt in my mind that she would accept. After all, she had told me some years ago that she would give him her blood if he only asked for it. I knew that as much as I loathed this, it was what she had always wanted.
"Akatsuki, what is it? You look terrible," my cousin blurted out untactfully.
"I'm fine…I just need to…I'll be back," I told him, making a snap decision to go to where Ruka was.
It wasn't hard to find the Pureblood's room. The scent of Ruka wafted from an ornate and slightly cracked open door. Cursing myself even as I did, I peeked in to see.
To my surprise, the first thing I saw was that same young human girl that had been sitting on the steps earlier, and she was lying in the Pureblood's bed. I stared at her, trying to figure out what she was doing here. When I thought about it, I had heard some racket from a couple of the vampires down in the entryway, talking about how Kuran had brought a human child to his room and then a young female vampire.
"I'd only meant to watch her protectively from afar as much as possible, but…" the Pureblood's quiet voice drifted out of the room from somewhere near the bed. Then, he was upon the small girl, his fangs almost touching the girl's neck.
"Lord Kaname! Do you intend to turn this child into a vampire?! You seem to have been protecting her for so long! Are you sure you want to do this? I don't know much about the situation but…there's one thing I understand so very painfully well…Lord Kaname…all this time you were starved for this girl's blood, weren't you? Right now…if it might appease your hunger even a tiny little bit…please take my blood," Ruka said solemnly.
I gasped. So this was his plan. He would lure her in and make her believe that he truly needed her blood in order to protect his dignity. I knew Ruka didn't care about this human child. She lived only to serve Kaname. He knew it too. He had used her willingness to serve him to make her think that this was her decision.
Not that I thought he was staging the entire incident. I could tell by the way he looked at this girl, with a mixture of sorrow and hunger, and something deeper, that this was no act. He truly did desire this girl's blood. However, I also knew what Ruka seemed to have overlooked: If the Pureblood had one thing, it was restraint. He could have easily kept himself at bay. But, blinded by her feelings for him, Ruka had offered herself to him without a second thought.
I stood outside for what seemed like hours, listening to the Pureblood's greedy sucking noises. Even worse were the tiny sounds escaping Ruka's throat. Each one seemed to drive another dagger into my heart.
A sudden sound caught my attention. The sound of soft footsteps came towards me. Watching the doorway, I saw the human child run lightly out of the room, looking scared. I felt sorry for her, knowing what she must have witnessed. The temptations of vampires were nothing an innocent human girl should have to see. I watched her until she disappeared. Then, stepping towards the slightly open door, I peeked inside.
She was slumped against him, looking unconscious. Her long hair obscured her face and her cheeks were pale. Her lips were coated in blood. Her eyes were closed, but her fist still held onto his clothing, as if she would not let him go until she had completely slipped into unconsciousness.
"Lord Kaname…," I said, walking into the room, but stopped what I was about to say as I sensed a presence approaching from the hallway. I immediately recognized it as Hanabusa. He must have been worried by the way I left him and come to see what was keeping me.
The Pureblood turned around, having noticed it too, and I was able to see the crimson on his lips as he held a finger to them, signaling that Hanabusa was probably listening, and Ruka may still be able to hear us as well.
"I did…something unfair to Ruka…" he lied, acting brilliantly. My eyes widened as I listened to his flawless deception. He smiled the tiniest smile, seeing that I understood what was at stake if I were to say something off.
"No, you didn't…this is what Ruka wished for….even if she could not partake of your blood in return, she still wished to give you hers," I lied through my teeth, hating myself for it, seeing the blood, Kuran's blood, on her lips, yet having to pretend that he hadn't forced her fangs into him when she was unconscious to complete the blood bond. I took her in my arms, my heart heavy and turned to leave before I said one last thing to the Pureblood.
"I don't mean to say that I want you to reciprocate her feelings Lord Kaname, but if in the future you end up causing her unhappiness, then I will not forgive you," I said, both boldly and quietly at the same time, before walking away with a sleeping Ruka in my arms.
I walked back to her room, noticing that Hanabusa's presence was gone. He must have believed the Pureblood's lie and left the two of us alone.
It was done. The blood bond with her father was now broken, since this new blood bond with the Pureblood was formed, albeit without Ruka's full knowledge. She was safe. This was the worst torture I had ever had to endure, but she was safe.
I knew that now that a blood bond existed between them, Ruka would be even more hopelessly entangled in the Pureblood's charms; that was simply how these things worked. Blood sharing was something that brought two vampires closer together than they had been. I also knew that Kuran would not look her way. Seeing the way he had looked at that human girl, I was convinced beyond reason that she was who we had been fighting for all these years and the one he desperately wanted to protect, so much so that he gathered followers to surround him. That human girl, and not Ruka, was the reason for the Pureblood's existence. I couldn't really explain how I knew this, besides that this was perhaps the only thing about the Pureblood I could understand. I knew what it meant to want to protect someone with every fiber of your being.
And I also knew that everything that Ruka was now involved in was partly my fault.
The guilt crashed down on me, as did the anger and the sorrow and the jealously and the hatred. I couldn't believe what I was feeling at this moment as the negative emotions seeped out of me. Without realizing it, I had reached Ruka's room.
Relieved to see that her roommate was nowhere to be found, I set her down gently on her bed before going to grab a damp towel from the bathroom. Sweeping her hair back from her face, I gently wiped the Pureblood's dried blood from her lips, forever discarding any evidence of what had really happened tonight. And somehow, just looking at her was able to calm the torrent of emotions raging inside me while simultaneously causing all new ones. How could this girl, the only thing in this world that could cause daggers to slice through my heart, also be the only thing that was keeping me alive? It was a paradox. I truly couldn't comprehend it. Against all odds, I had fallen for Ruka.
"…You're an idiot, you know…?" I told her, though I knew she couldn't hear me. Taking a strand of her hair, I found it wrapping around my finger in a silky ribbon.
"And so am I…" I whispered, leaning down to touch my lips to her porcelain forehead in a stolen kiss, knowing that it was quite possibly the only one I would ever get.
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