Chapter 8: Hanabusa
They were late. How rude. But then, I supposed they weren't usually very punctual. It was still annoying though. I wanted to get going so we had as much time as possible.
As if on cue, a black carriage pulled by black horses rolled up my cobblestone driveway, and Akatsuki stepped out, holding his hand out to help Ruka who was surprisingly also in the carriage. However, she took one look at his outstretched hand and crossed her arms, giving him an irritated look.
"Finally!" I yelled, running over to them. "What took you so long? And why were you in the same carriage?" I asked, curious.
"I had to finish up my lessons before we left. And when we were headed here we saw Akatsuki walking and offered him a ride," Ruka said simply.
"If you aren't back in half an hour, I'm sending the maid after you," Ruka's mother called worriedly from inside the carriage, looking like letting her daughter go off alone for a half hour would be the death of her.
"Yes, mother," she said obediently. I was truthfully a little surprised her mother was letting her go at all, but that no doubt had to do with the fact that my parents had asked them. The Souens and the Aidous were business partners after all, and each tried their best to keep the other happy in order for good business.
"Then let's hurry!" I said, running ahead of them.
Reaching the edge of the vineyard behind my mansion, I started running through the planted columns until I reached the forest. I turned, impatient to get to our destination but apparently my cousins were not. I crossed my arms, tapping my foot to make it clear to them that they should be moving faster. Finally they caught up.
Going ahead again, I found the worn path that lead deeper into the forest. Akatsuki and I had been here many times, and even my sisters and I constantly went here, but Ruka wasn't often able to come with us, for one reason or another; she wasn't feeling well, she hadn't finished her studies, she needed to practice her harp more…when I thought about it, besides the rare times she decided to disobey and stay out without permission, whenever we were together it was at official functions where her parents were present or else we always had to be at her house. Her mother seemed very adamant on keeping her closed off from the world for some reason I couldn't fathom.
As I was consumed by my thoughts, it surprised me when we were suddenly at our destination. The pond was still. There was no wind this night. The moon was a crescent in the sky, and the water was its mirror. It had always seemed there was something special about this place; maybe it was the way that the canopy of trees was not existent over the pond, or maybe it was the way the sounds of the night creatures echoed across its surface, or the many nooks and crannies where I could hide my secret treasures.
"I'm jumping in!" I yelled, ecstatic after I had shed my clothing to make way for the swimsuit under them. Landing my cannonball, I turned around to see if the slowpokes were ready to get in yet.
They were just standing there. Simply standing, with their faces close together, whispering quietly. I could've heard what they were saying if I wished, but truly I didn't. The moment looked intimate, and somehow I knew I didn't belong there.
Sometimes, someone close to you knows something before even you yourself do. This was the case with my two closest friends. I was with Akatsuki every night, and Ruka many of those nights as well. I could see what they could not; that she needed him to keep her sane and he needed her to have something to live for.
Not that I ever felt left out. They rarely did this, separated themselves to talk alone, and I was glad for it. But on these rare moments when they did, I let them. It was the same as when I wanted my time with Akatsuki, and even some rare occasions when I wanted my time with Ruka.
"Go on in without me," Ruka told Akatsuki, standing there hesitantly. He looked at her for a moment, but then shrugged, taking off his clothing as well and jumping in, causing a wave to head towards me. Not wanting to be splashed, I quickly dodged it.
"Why aren't you getting in Ruka?" I asked her, slightly teasingly.
"I…nothing. I just want to get used to the water slowly," she said, sticking just her toes into the water.
"I bet if Lord Kaname were here, you would get in without any fuss at all," I taunted her, and had a moment of satisfaction as she blushed at my teasing.
"Shut up! You don't know anything!" she yelled, crossing her arms in front of her.
"I know you like him. Come on Ruka, just admit it. You were so nervous at my party when you were talking to him. It's completely obvious," I told her, matter-of-factly. "You saw it too, right Akatsuki?"
"Leave me out of this Hanabusa," he said, crossing his arms and looking away.
"Fine…you're right. There's…something about him. I just…he's different. I feel like I would do anything he asked me to," Ruka told us, finally letting her best friends in on her feelings.
"I knew it! See Akatsuki?...Akatsuki?" I asked, seeing him still with crossed arms, looking away. Well someone was in a bad mood.
"Ruka hurry up and get in!" I yelled, changing the subject.
"Well…I don't—Hanabusa!" She squealed as I jumped up, grabbing her and pulling her into the pond. She came up for air, sopping hair covering her face and arms crossed, still in her clothing. I heard a snort from beside me and saw that it was Akatsuki, trying to cover up his laughter.
That was a mistake. The enraged girl moved towards him, murder in her eyes as she jumped on him, pushing him under the surface of the water. They came up moments later, Akatsuki laughing at her anger as she came after him. I started to laugh at the scene as well. "Wow, I'm the one who pulled you in Ruka, leave Akatsuki alone!" I taunted, splashing her. She turned on me, finally smiling, even if it was a little wickedly as she moved towards me. I hid my relief. I was glad she appeared to be having fun.
When we were all tired from our game, we stood in the water, laughing and talking as we caught our breath.
"You're pretty slow Hanabusa. I can barely tell you're a vampire. I bet humans move faster than you," Ruka taunted me.
"Shut up! I would've gotten away if you two hadn't ganged up on me!" I defended myself.
"Please. You're just a sore loser."
"I am not!"
"See? You can't even accept that I'm right,"
"Because you aren't!"
"Knock it off you two," Akatsuki said, breaking off our petty argument as I glared at Ruka from under my wet bangs. She turned away from me and stepped towards the shore.
"We should be getting back…" Ruka tried to fill the beat of silence that followed. "My mother will be worried if I'm not at the carriage right on time."
She stepped out of the pond, clothes dripping wet, and Akatsuki followed.
As we trudged back through the woods, I was reminded of how long the three of us had been together, and how normal it felt to just be with them. Ruka and I bantered, and I taunted her playfully, and Akatsuki reprimanded us. But by the time we arrived at the front of the mansion where Ruka's mother waited impatiently, we were laughing again.