A Fleeting Existence
The first memory I can ever remember is being in the freezing cold, holding tightly to a mitten clad hand and watching the snow fall. I acknowledged the little girl standing next to me and as I turned my head to look at her, she did the same, looking at me with a blank look as we caught snowflakes in our free hands. There was a chilling wind passing through the area and we heard footsteps approaching. So we turn our heads to face the tall man with glowing red eyes. We see his fangs and I wish to run so I try to pull the girl with me in an attempt to escape this monster. She falls into the cold snow and I fall with her as the creature lunges for us, he goes for her first. I want to stop him but as I reach out to pull the demon's hand away from her face, I feel something warm splash onto me.
The fiend is suddenly not hunched over the little girl but is paralysed with somebody's blood covered arm impaled through his neck. I feel what this warm liquid is on my cheek and see red blood on my mitten, mixing in with the snowflakes, tainting them pink. I look up at the newcomer as he drops the body and licks the blood off his hand. His eyes are glowing red too and I don't want to go anywhere near him. The other girl has different thoughts as she takes his outstretched hand. She helps me up to my feet as our hands are still firmly locked in a tight embrace but I loosen it. I don't want to be anywhere near this young monster, he was no different than the dead creature that was now dust.
"It's alright," he croons as he holds out his free hand and the girl stares at me, expecting me to take it.
But I don't want to. I didn't want to take his hand but I didn't want to leave this girl either. I miss her hand already and as if reading my thoughts she holds out her abandoned hand for me to take again. I won't take his hand but I will take hers. Then the three of us left the scene, silent as the snow.
"I will come to kill you."
Yuki looked shocked at Zero's statement. Don't be, Onee-sama, you knew that was what he was going to say. I look away, waiting by the door as they stared at one another silently before Yuki began walking away, towards me. She paused by the doorway and stretched her hand out for me. She wanted me to come with her and Kaname on this journey he mentioned earlier. I stare at her outstretched hand, remembering the days when I would gladly take it to follow and protect her. Even if I was the younger of us two, I always had this feeling that I needed to protect her. But now? It existed no more. So I turn my head away from her pleading gaze and fold my arms firmly across my chest.
"Someone," I cut her off with a firm glare "needs to clean up after you."
She withdraws her hand, looking hurt. She opens her mouth but closes it before walking away from me a couple of paces then turning to me one final time.
"Do you want…?"
I glare her down. No, I don't want to be reverted back as a Pureblood. I don't want… My thoughts trail off as Yuki glanced down sullenly.
"Are you sure?"
"I don't want to be a third wheel anymore."
Finally she got the hint and left. It hurt to let her go but it would be too selfish of me to beg her not to leave with Kaname, stay at the Academy and have the old days come back. I watched my twin leave who didn't turn once to look back up at me then I approached Zero who was standing and staring at the sunrise.
He glanced down at me, his eyes widened slightly but he didn't comment. I lift my arms, wrap them around his shoulders and hug him. His arms come around my torso reluctantly.
"I won't be a replacement."
We both need to be emotional buffers for this day. I didn't want to cry but big fat tears began streaming down my face nevertheless. Zero let me cry into his bloodstained shirt as we stood silently, embracing awkwardly in the light of the dawn.
Why was this blood so hard to get off?! I scrubbed my face harder over the sink which was full of water and the dried blood I managed to peel off my face. I don't even know how I even managed to get in such a state, I wasn't even sure if it was my own blood, if it was Rido's blood or if it was anybody else's blood! I couldn't exactly ask one of the vampires to taste it and check, that would just be weird and creepy. I sigh softly as I examine my face, seeing where I had scrubbed my skin raw and where the dried blood still was, growling when I realised that there were still remnants stuck in my eyebrow. You know what? Enough! I give up! I nod to myself as I get changed into a clean set of uniform. I step out of the bathroom and notice Zero leaving the building. So I follow.
He stops at the gates to the Moon Dormitories and I stand a little behind him, making no attempt to hide myself. He was too deep in thought to notice me. So I wait patiently for him to notice me, watching him step forward a bit then take his gun out. He then turns and looks down at me.
"How hard were you washing yourself to end up as scary as that?"
I flinched and scowled at him.
"It wouldn't come off!" I whined and stomped my foot "We're also out of conditioner because it won't come out of my hair either!"
"I can see that," he snorts as he approaches me then takes a handful of long hair to look at "It's hideous."
I glare half-heartedly at him as he manages to get some blood on his hand and sniffs it, probably out of curiosity.
"It's your blood."
"How would you know it's my blood?"
He stares down at me and shakes his head.
Zero never drank from me. It was only Yuki and Kaname. Never me, the one who doesn't get looked at twice. Maybe my blood smells similar because I'm their little sister. Zero places a hand on my face and examines the side of my face carefully.
"How much blood did you get on you?"
"I don't know, three, maybe four hundred layers or something?"
Zero smirked softly as he plucked the remnants out of my eyebrow, making me twitch slightly in pain. The smirk fades as he directs my head to face certain directions and steps away.
"You don't have any wounds that I can see," he said "Are you sure you didn't get bitten?"
"Wouldn't you know if I was bitten or not?"
There was a pause and Zero frowned.
"I heard you scream in pain."
I shook my head helplessly.
"I keep telling you, no matter how much you ask," I insisted "I don't remember anything after finding…after finding…"
I feel sick and cover my mouth. I don't remember anything after finding Rido in that room and sucking all those women dry, the scent of blood strong in the air. Then he looked at me and suddenly I was on the roof with my face covered in blood. I shivered as I tried to remember what had happened but I could only shake my head. How I got there was a complete mystery to me. Zero hesitated briefly before looking away.
"Let's go back and see if we can get the rest of that blood out."
Zero and I looked up from the blood covered sink to see Kaien zoom across the room and hug me tightly.
"You're still here!" he cried as I scowled at him "I'm so glad you're alright!"
He then spotted my hair in Zero's hands under the tap, still getting the blood out and letting it drain in the sink. We both braced ourselves as he looked closer.
"Is that your blood, Mana?" he asked slowly and we didn't respond "Zero, is this Mana's blood?"
We remained silent and had a brief eye contact conversation with one another before grimacing.
"It smells like it," Zero confirmed quietly.
"I don't know how it got everywhere though," I said before I was hugged tighter.
"My Mana is hurt!" he cried "My poor baby girl is hurt!"
"Not a baby," I breathed under his crushing grip.
"She isn't hurt."
"But the blood! My baby Mana is bleeding!"
"It's only in my hair," I wheezed as I shoved a hand into Kaien's face and pushed him away slowly "I'm not injured unless you squeeze any tighter then I might get a broken rib!"
Kaien was soon shoved to the floor and Zero kept helping me wash the blood out of my hair. Kaien got up and saw my face where I had scrubbed raw.
"Ah! My beautiful daughter's face!"
"Shut up, you're annoying!" Zero and I shouted together.
"And I did it to myself," I murmured whilst rubbing the raw skin tenderly.
"Why?" Kaien asked suspiciously as he slid over to us.
Zero and I had another eye conversation.
"It was kind of all over my face…" I replied and held up a stern finger when my adopted father's jaw dropped open to scream "Don't ask! I don't know how I got in that state."
"But why were you scrubbing so hard that you nearly bled again?!" he wailed as he enveloped me in another crushing grip.
"It had dried out by the time I got into the shower," I shrugged "Oh yeah, we're out of conditioner by the way."
"This is taking too long, can't we cut your hair instead?" Zero suggested.
"NO!" wailed the headmaster as I glared up at him.
"Wash or you won't have any hair left."
I ignored the pang of hurt as Zero glanced away, continuing to wash the blood out of my hair.
God damn it! I hissed and threw the snapped hairband across the room. Maybe I should cut my hair! It was a bloody nuisance! But I loved my hair and if I cut it like Yuki had hers… I shook my head and sat down on the bed. All I want is a nice warm bath without getting my hair wet and I can't even tie my hair up into a simple bun! I drummed my fingers on the mattress then glanced at my box of hair things. I set my jaw before grabbing it and heading out. I jogged with a light step towards Zero's room and knocked on his door tentatively.
"Um, Zero?" I called nervously "Can I come in?"
There was a soft grunt and I let myself in, watching as Zero turned in his bed, where he had been hibernating for the past few days. Yuki leaving was leaving more of an impact than I had anticipated. This wasn't Zero, where's the proud, grumpy hunter who's my adopted brother? I suddenly feel nervous as I step forward, holding my box out to him.
"Could you tie my hair up for me, please?"
"Can't you do it yourself?"
I hesitated and hunched my shoulders.
"You've always been better at tying it up," I said.
Zero was always quiet when tying my hair up unlike Kaien and it was always neater than when Yuki would do it. Eventually it stopped and I did it by myself for the past year. I miss Zero handling my hair, it relaxed and comforted me. Would he feel the same if he tied it now? I waited for Zero to respond again and he sat up, supporting himself with an elbow and he held out his free hand for the box. I try not to look too eager as I sit beside him, back to him and smile to myself as his hands gather my hair up, separating, twisting and binding it into a neat bun.
"It looks heavy."
My head bobs when a bony finger pokes me in the bun and I turn to glower at the hunter who was lying lazily in the bed, avoiding my gaze to stare at the bedroom door. My eyes soften and I reach out and brush his hair out of his face.
"…You stink, you should have a bath."
Zero grunted and turned away from me. I shake my head slowly and stand.
"Zero, she's gone," I murmured "I understand it's hard but that doesn't mean you should mope."
I didn't get any response but I wasn't expecting any because I left straight after to have my bath.
Zero grunted as I launched myself onto his back in pure happiness when I smelt his cooking the moment I walked in after shopping in town.
"I smell that you took my recommendation of having a bath," I grinned cheekily as I nosed his back.
"Hn, enough hot water for you to wash your hair. By the time you finish, dinner will be done."
I hugged him tighter, still not letting go quite yet and sighed.
"One step at a time, Zero," I whispered as I gently yanked on one of his piercings with my teeth and let go.
Zero just let out an annoyed grunt as I sauntered into the bathroom to wash my hair. It was when I came out in a towel, with one wrapped around my head tightly, that I found Zero collapsed on the floor, fighting what looked like his bloodlust. I suddenly feel cold and step back slightly as his glowing eyes glare up at me.
"Your body is still rejecting the pills…" I whimpered.
No, it was always Yuki who came to give him blood! I look around, trying to think of something to stop Zero's hunger. But what could I do? Giving him my blood would mean… My shoulders immediately hunch at the thought of those fangs sinking into my neck and I tuck my wrists under my bosom at the next thought of the fangs sinking into my veins. There has to be some part of me that I don't mind getting bitten… I glance over at the knife collection in the kitchen and reach for the biggest one. I wince as I quickly and sharply slit my palm and watch Zero rear up at the scent of my blood. He looks at me in a daze and I hold the bloodied hand out to him.
"Mana…" he rasped.
"If pills won't work then you can have it," I say a little shakily "Just in case nothing else works. Holding yourself back won't do you any good, you know that."
He looks restrained briefly before he launches onto me. I wince as we hit and slid against the kitchen cupboards down onto the floor and watch as he greedily licks every drop before sinking his fangs into my palm. It's a sharp pain at first which forces out a whine from between my lips but eventually it fades to a strange, dull pain as I watch him drink. He's trembling, was this normal? Was he taking too much? Did my blood taste bad? I began feeling uncertain and insecure then suddenly my heart leapt as he opened his eyes and stared down at me. I suddenly felt vulnerable as his lips and chin got stained with my blood and he pulled away, licking away every drop. He then dropped his head onto my shoulder with a tired groan.
"How much sl-sleep have you been getting?"
Zero shrugged dismissively as he closed his eyes, sighing tiredly. I place my non-bloodied hand over his head whilst raising the other to avoid making a mess of it.
"I should get a bandage…" I murmur as I eye the red streams.
Another tired grunt.
"Can you get off me?"
"Zero, I know you're pretending to fall asleep so get off!"
He smirked and I glowered at him.
Ah, shit. I looked up as Kaien waltzed in with a goofy smile on his face which immediately turned sour when he saw us.
"…What is this?"
I suddenly remembered that I was in nothing but a towel and the position Zero and I were in looked rather suggestive. I swallow uneasily.
"Now, Chairman, it's not what it looks like."
"My baby Mana is being molested by Zero and he's drunk her blood!"
I pale at the sight of him pulling out a frying pan.
"Chairman, it's not what it looks like!" I scream in alarm "Zero! Zero, wake up! God damn it, Zero, WAKE UP!"
"Can't walk a little faster, can you?"
Zero glared at me and I smirked playfully as he balanced the shopping bags and prizes we won from the carnival games in his arms.
"I don't understand why we needed to go," he said and I shrugged.
"Wasn't it fun?"
I walked over to him and picked the large teddy bear out from his arms. I hugged it tightly and smiled shyly at him.
"Thanks for winning me this," I said.
"I only played because you said my shooting wasn't good enough for it," Zero grumbled.
"Zero, if you really think you're such a good shot, you don't need to prove it," I grinned.
Zero looked away as I took one of the bags he was carrying to rummage as we continued going back to the Academy. I took out some pocky and began eating it thoughtfully as the sun just dipped below the horizon.
We sidestepped in opposite directions as the Chairman landed in between us after trying to glomp us.
"It's just past sunset, we're home, calm down," I said.
"I was so worried," he pouted "And why did you leave without me?!"
"You were up to your neck with paperwork for the new students for the year," I replied as I shifted my grip on Rosebud, no Marigold, yeah, Marigold's her name "But we got you something."
Zero looked at the collection of bags in his hands blankly and gave me a look. I smiled and pointed it out which Kaien quickly snatched.
"Oh, it's a pretty music box!" he exclaimed and I smiled wider as he opened it.
He spun around for a few seconds before putting his serious face on and faced us.
"Speaking of which, the new Night Class students are arriving tonight~!"
"So soon?" I exclaimed softly as Zero blinked in surprise "The term doesn't start until next week."
"It's a surprise~!"
"I don't like surprises," Zero and I said together.
So we waited with the Chairman by the entrance of the Academy and I was nearly falling asleep. I sidled up to Zero and plonked my head on his shoulder, closing my eyes.
"You can't sleep at this time," he said and poked my head off but I dropped it back.
"I hate sleeping in classes," I yawned.
"You need to be awake for patrol."
"I have an idea."
"Lock the damn girls up in their dorms then set up traps around the classrooms so the vampires stay in one place."
Zero might have smirked but he didn't push me off his shoulder again. I kept on using him as a pillow and I was just going to drop off to sleep…when a shrill shriek of joy pierced the air. My eyes flew open, slowly adjusting to the darkness of the night and Zero's body shifted a little which I didn't expect it so down the stairs I fell. I landed at the bottom with a soft huff. Pain flared through my butt and I whined, sitting up slowly with a slow hiss.
"Mana, are you OK?!"
I looked up and I felt my heart tighten.
"Onee-sama…" I whispered slowly as I saw Yuki then behind her "Onii-sama…"
What were they doing here?! Yuki just grinned and held her hand out.
"We still have a few years to go until we can graduate," she said brightly as I shied away from her hand.
I stood by myself as Kaien stormed down and hugged me tightly as he blubbered with worry then launched himself onto Yuki. Zero came down to say hi, or stand in the middle of the stairs to watch the scene and I felt paralysed. It had been, what, three months? And still it had felt like longer. But still, being able to spend this time with Zero it had felt like they'd just gone quickly. Now the rug had been pulled out from under my feet and here was Yuki, sparkling, cheerful and bright as always, shoving me in the dark again.
My spine froze as Kaname called my name to attract my attention and he offered a small plush black cat toy.
"We got you a gift from our travels," he said with a fake, I'm pretty sure it's fake, smile and I automatically cupped my hands to have it placed in them.
"I thought you would like it!" Yuki chirruped as I stared at it blankly "You were always a cat person."
No, I was a dog person but it's not like I advertised it. It doesn't matter, Yuki and I sort of drifted when…Zero came along.
"Thank you, you're too kind," was my automatic response.
Kaname's burning gaze unnerved me, Yuki's return uneased me and everything was just happening so fast so I turned and bolted out of there and straight to my room.
The cat was set up on my bookshelf as I lay on the bed, holding Marigold to my chest, visibly shaking. I never expected her to return, heck, I was expecting her to leave the Academy forever and maybe we'd get a wedding invitation in like six to eight months. But what is going to happen now? Was Zero going to relapse now? Had he gotten over her? How long does it take to get over a girl that one has loved for over a good four years? My heart twisted in pain again and I curled up into a tighter ball. It wasn't fair, Yuki was always the centre of attention, it just wasn't fair! A knock on my bedroom door drew my attention away from my darkening thoughts.
"Mana? Can I come in?"
Kaname?! What is he doing here?! The door handle's turning, quick, evasive action! I did what every other sensible and refined girl would do: hide under the covers of my bed. I squeezed my eyes shut and faced the wall, hugging Marigold close that her light brown fur tickled my nose. I listened to Kaname's nearly silent footsteps approach my bed and stop by the side. Could he see that I was wearing my uniform underneath my blankets? Could he feel my blood pulse under my skin with my elevated heart rate because I know he's in the room? Could he read my mind? I heard something being placed on my bedside table then more footsteps until the door opened. There was a pause then eventually the door closed. I poked my head out of the covers and looked at my bedside table. There was a plush toy of a silver wolf. I reached out for it subconsciously before snatching my hand away and I hugged Marigold tighter, closing my eyes to will myself to sleep.
I glowered as Sora, one of the new Night Students, winked and sent a few seizures through the crowd of girls I was keeping at bay. I spotted one of them sneaking out of line.
"Back into line or I will make you cry until your eyes will feel so dry, you won't be able to cry in front of chopped onions for weeks!"
The girl stumbled back into line and a chorus of complaints about how mean I was erupted from the crowd. I felt my head throb with this bloody headache and sighed sharply through my nose. A hand placed itself on my shoulder and I glared up at Kaname who smiled.
"Thank you for your hard work."
I shoved his hand off my shoulder.
"Don't touch me," I warned.
Stop treating me like you treated Yuki. She's in the limelight now, like she's always been. Focus on her. Kaname pulled away and joined his fiancée to go to classes.
"It's past curfew, get back to your dorms!"
Zero's voice calmed me somewhat as the girls screamed and charged back to their dormitories. I glanced over at him and offered a warm smile. His lips twitched as he walked over to me before grabbing my collar.
I let myself get dragged along and swallowed down the tinge of pain that was pooling in my throat. Yori joined us and we went about covering the area.
It's been two weeks since the Kuran clan returned. I got back from patrols, it was early morning and I needed sleep then go to classes then nap between the classes then sleep before the next crossover then patrol, maybe hide in the trees to sleep a little bit more then start the whole cycle again. I opened my room and my hand was on Pearl Beauty when I saw someone in my room with Marigold in their hands.
"Put her down and nobody gets hurt, if you are a Day Student get to your dorm and if you are a Night Student then you should be in class!"
Lack of sleep makes me uber cranky… The girl turned and I lowered my hand slowly.
"Onee-sama, you're supposed to be in class," I said tiredly.
"Mana, you've been really cold towards me," Yuki said as she placed Marigold down onto my bed "I just want to say I'm sorry for leaving you behind like that…"
"I'm not the one you should be apologizing to," I said coldly with narrowed eyes "I chose to stay here. I told you, I hate being a third wheel."
Yuki frowned and laced her fingers together, shifting on the spot slightly. She glanced at the teddy bear.
"I didn't realise you cuddled bears," she said.
"Hugging the pillow got boring."
"Zero told me that he won this at the carnival."
"He won it for me."
Yuki tilted her head and I glowered at her clearly oblivious look.
"Get out, you should be in class."
"Get out, I need sleep!"
"I can't afford to start this year with horrible grades, so please let me go to sleep while you run back to your beloved Kaname-nii-sama!"
I don't normally blame other things for my actions but when it came to this moment, I couldn't help it. It was the stress. It was the lack of sleep. It was the frustration. It was the heartache. It was the confusion. Or maybe it was all of them combined. But my body moved without my brain really thinking about it. I grabbed Pearl Beauty, pressed the button to release the cord of the whip out from the handle, tossed it up into the air and swerved to avoid backlash, grabbed the cord again then cracked her. The cord struck her right in the face and her startled gasp brought me back to my senses. It left a mark and it seemed that this crack had been one of my stronger cracks because I had cut her skin and there was blood. The stress swelled.
"You're a Pureblood, you could have easily dodged that!" I bellowed at her, not once caring about any eavesdroppers "You…you…you're pathetic, Yuki! Pathetic!"
"M-M-Mana…" Yuki stuttered as she stumbled back and my mind was buzzing, I couldn't think straight.
"Everything was going smoothly and then you came along! I can't be happy, can I?! It's always about you, Yuki! You, you, you! Look, here she is! Her Royal Highness! All bow down before her mighty Pureblood supremacy!"
The buzzing got to a higher pitch and all reason was thrown out of the window.
"And what about me?! The twin sister?! Oh no, she was born after Yuki so all she is to the Kuran family is an inside bodyguard! I've been doing nothing but watch over you with Zero, serving as knights for Kaname! You want to know something, dear Onee-sama, I've cut the cord since you walked out! I no longer serve as your knight but it looks like Zero is more than happy to fill that void for the both of us!"
My eyes were burning and she was already crying. I wanted to cry with her but no, the bond as twins doesn't call to me like it used to so I opened my mouth to fire one more shot.
"Stupid, pathetic, little YUKI!"
I retracted Pearl Beauty, turned tail and ran away. My head was spinning, all those months', maybe years' worth of emotions had just bubbled over like a volcano. Then suddenly I felt horrible as I stumbled out into the night, finding a suitable spot to cry, sleep or pass out because that's how I felt when I took a few steps into the woods. The dizziness grew, the grass beneath my feet was suddenly becoming vertical and my vision blackened. I landed into a pair of arms and relaxed, reaching out to weakly grab the coat of the uniform and lean on the person's shoulder, sobbing pathetically. I thought it was Zero but then I saw that the coat was white and I smelt roses. Zero smelt of lilies. Kaname smelt of roses. I wrinkled my nose and tried to push him away but I blacked out completely.
I woke up quite refreshingly and very late into the morning judging by the way the sun was shining into the room. Wait, this isn't my room. I'm sleeping in my uniform, not my pyjamas. I felt my face, expecting to feel salty trails of tears because I remember crying. Then I remembered why I had been crying. I had attacked Yuki, I drew blood. I looked around the room and by the way it was furnished I guessed I was in the Moon Dormitories. I slid out of the extremely and way too comfy bed, stumbling a bit whilst my vision blurred in and out. I looked around, still a bit disorientated, my outburst still affecting me and my leg gave way. I fell into the plush carpet and the door opened as I propped myself up.
"Good morning, Mana."
I stared blindly up at Kaname as he crouched down to offer his hand to help me up.
"Why am I here?"
"You collapsed so suddenly and seeing Yuki and Zero in your room…"
Zero found Yuki like that?!
"…I brought you here instead."
I began moving away from him, fear gripping my stomach. I had struck his fiancée, he wasn't just going to let that slide. My back hit the bed and I closed my eyes to brace for a slap or something to smack me in the face. But nothing came. I gingerly peeked and saw Kaname had come a little closer but he wasn't in an aggressive stance as I had anticipated. I shied away from his outstretched hand, shivering.
"I wasn't thinking," I murmured "It just happened but I'm not asking for forgiveness."
"Mana, I think you've forgotten," Kaname said as he reached out and squeezed my shoulder "You're my sister too."
I felt all my insides churn and I glare up at him.
"I am not your sister," I hissed and tried to shove him away but my muscles wouldn't respond to my wishes and Kaname squeezed my shoulder tighter.
"How long have you been trying to deny that?"
My glare wavered because my vision blurred again and I relaxed. I don't like lowering my guard around him. I have never liked Kaname. The fact that he was my brother made me feel sick. And Yuki loves him and they're engaged, vampires really were animals. To think I used to be one of them… I slumped against the bed, closing my eyes in the hopes that my vision would relax.
"Mana, I don't want to force you."
I wanted to glare at him again, he was starting to sound sad. Stop manipulating me, that's all you Purebloods are good for. Manipulating to get everyone to do your bidding.
"You can't deny your heritage for much longer, Mana."
"Ha!" I barked and opened my eyes to look at him "Heritage! Let's see where following heritage has gotten the family! Oh look, Mother, Father and Uncle Rido, all dead!"
His face didn't give any of his thoughts away as usual when I shakily got up to my feet.
"Now if you excuse me, I am late for class."
But as my stupid legs seem to hate me, I fell again and right into his arms. I tried to push myself away but I still felt drained from last night. I slouched moodily as Kaname brought me into a gentle hug.
"You've seen it too, haven't you?" he said "How close Zero and Yuki have been getting."
My heart twisted and I closed my eyes, shedding more tears.
"It's not fair," I whined and covered my face "You didn't need to come back. Zero…Zero was just…"
"I came back for you."
I pulled my hands away and looked up at Kaname as he pulled away slightly. He picked me up and sat down on the bed with me in his lap.
"Mana, for Zero's happiness, would you switch places with Yuki?"
Like my mind wasn't in such a mess in the first place. I don't know how I managed but ever since Kaname proposed, was it a proposal, I suppose it was but I think the word offer is better… Anyway, since Kaname offered the switch I just couldn't help but think about it as I left the Moon Dormitories and headed to my room. But when I set foot in it, I realised Marigold was gone. She wasn't on my bed where Yuki had placed her. I began searching the room for her but she was nowhere to be found. My heart lurched. I glanced at the clock and began running to the kitchen where I found Zero eating. He snapped his head to me when I came in and I felt sick.
"The bear you won at the carnival."
Zero placed down his utensils.
"Is that your biggest concern?"
"Do you want to hurt me?"
Zero looked at me icily.
"Why did you hurt her, she's your twin sister."
"Why did you kill Ichiru, he was your twin brother."
Zero bristled as he reached for Bloody Rose and I arched an eyebrow.
"Not a vampire."
He hesitated and narrowed his eyes.
"Mana, what's wrong?" he asked "You've been acting strange lately."
"Just tell me where Marigold is, she was on my bed and now she isn't."
"Gave it to Yuki."
My heart squeezed painfully again and I bolted out and sprinted back to the Moon Dormitories. I was suddenly bursting through the doors and screeched to a halt before the sofas where Marigold was sitting, facing towards the doors. As if she was waiting for me. She hadn't been here before. Then again all memories of my journey from where I had rested for the morning to my own room were gone. My legs were shaking again as my mind began buzzing softly. I walked over to Marigold and reached out for her then spotting that she had a ribbon on. Marigold didn't come with a ribbon. I shakily reached out to smell the black satin and smelt roses. So I abandoned her there.
I probably blacked out again when I reached my room because I was in my bed again, uniform still on and I felt horrid. I noticed that the sun was probably setting judging by how the colours of the light were making my room amber. I was clutching something to my chest and when I saw that it was the wolf Kaname had left me, I threw it across the room. I felt sick so stumbled, my legs feeling a bit stronger than this morning, towards the bathroom. I locked the door, stripped and ran a nice hot bath.
But as usual, my mind began to wander and to my horror, I began considering becoming Kaname's fiancée. Would I be happy? Of course not. Did it matter? Doesn't look like it. Will it have its benefits? Possibly. Was I willing to be turned back into a Pureblood? My hands flew to my neck. Debatable. Will I be a good wife? Again, debatable after all, I'm fifteen going on sixteen. Was I aware of what marrying Kaname would involve? I blushed brightly and shook my head, ducking my head under the water before surfacing with a soft gasp. Yes, yes, I was painfully aware. But what did it matter? There must be a reason Yuki and Kaname didn't click and why Kaname wanted us to switch.
It disgusted me, he was supposed to be my older brother. And I have never liked him, not even when he saved us from that vampire on that night from so long ago. Did I like him before then? Did Yuki and I compete for his affections? Surely not, we were only like what, four years old? And even if I did accept, Kaname is only switching me for Yuki, he doesn't harbour any feelings for me. All I am is a mirror image of her, no-one cares about who I am as a person. Not Zero, not Kaname, no-one! It wasn't fair, it just wasn't fair! Just thinking about her makes me want to tear my face off, deform it, just do anything to make myself look nothing like her! I refrained from hitting or lashing out at something, my body obeying my brain for the first time in the past twenty-four hours. If I accepted then I wouldn't be able to torture myself any longer by being with Zero. But if I left, I know that I would miss him so much and it would be a horrible mistake if I don't end up being the Pureblood Princess everyone wants. Then I came up with one of my most stupid ideas ever.
It was late into the night when I reached the rosebushes. I plucked one and twisted the flower off sharply, dropping it in the grass as I headed to the fountain. I sat down and glanced over to where the classrooms were. I knew Kaname was in class and Zero was hovering outside, probably watching Yuki. This was fair. Yes, completely fair.
I held the thorn covered stalk carefully between my hands, making sure not to prick myself just yet. I took a moment to realise the insanity of the situation. Here was attention-seeking Mana making a life decision by drawing blood and waiting to see who would win the race. There has to be a simpler and less complicated way to make this decision. I suddenly felt completely pathetic, I mean really, a rose stalk was going to decide my fate? That's just asking for Kaname to come running and drag me off to get hitched. Maybe I could use a less symbolic way of making this decision?
I sighed to myself and shook my head. I'm here now, might as well do it. And it surely doesn't matter who comes running, does it? Both see me as the same, both will most likely treat me the same when Yuki and I part once more. So taking a deep breath, I squeezed the stalk so hard and the thorns enter my palms deeply.
I was right, it's the most stupid thing I've ever thought about. Pain flared through my hands as I let out a sharp whine of pain, hunching over but keeping my hands out in front of me, blood dribbling down onto the stone. Now all I had to do was wait. Who would come running to see if I was OK?
I panted softly, mentally scolding myself for how stupid I was. This wasn't me! I wasn't thinking straight! It's because you bottle your emotions up for the sake of others to the point that they just explode that you're in this situation right now! Stupid, stupid, stupid Mana! Stupid, pathetic, little Mana! Really?! A rose stalk?! A rose stalk to decide your future?! Idiot!
Although I really began to feel the full force of my idiocy when I waited. How long was I supposed to wait for? What if neither of them showed? What if one of the other vampires appeared? Damn, I'd feel even more stupid if that happened. Or worse, what if some Level Es got attracted by the scent and came to prey on me? Well good thing I have Pearl Beauty in my pocket.
My heart suddenly leapt as hands enveloped my own and I looked up excitedly, my face lit up with hope. But then all of a sudden, I could image my poor little heart being torn into two when I saw who had arrived. Kaname. Of course it was. He watched my face turn from full of hope to absolute misery and I slipped off the fountain edge. I fell into his waiting arms as he yanked the stalk out of my hands and examined the puncture marks.
"Is it too late to accept?"
Kaname hesitated as I looked up at him glumly.
"May I take you up on your offer?"
I felt my whole body shaking as I straddled Kaname's lap in his room on his desk chair, flinching as he pulled my collar back to expose my neck.
"Mana, are you sure you want to do this?" he asked softly.
I smiled painfully.
"I could have decided on a coin flip," I shrugged "But I had to see which one of you two would come through for me."
Why didn't Zero even just show up? It would have soothed me to know that he still at least cared. And yet it would have still been painful to know that he cared but he still hurt me. I flinch and shiver as Kaname reaches out and places a cold hand on the side of my neck.
"I'll be as quick as I can."
So just do it! Don't keep me waiting until I suddenly regret and pull away! This is my decision, I need to see it through. I began to pace my breathing as his breath tickled my skin, his lips pressing to my warm pulse and…
Pain flared through my body but it didn't last as suddenly I began recalling forgotten memories much to my surprise. But it wasn't the memories of my past, no, this was three months ago. When I found Rido in that room… His mismatched eyes glanced over to me and he grinned.
"Yuki," he said as he stood "No…no, not quite."
I activated Pearl Beauty and braced for an attack as he grinned wider.
Damn, so much for being a decoy to protect Yuki. I twisted my wrist as I readied to crack my whip. He sent his Level Es at me and I remember the panic I felt as I desperately fought them off. Then he took off, draining life after life after life from the other Level Es who were willing to give themselves up just to power him. I chased, fought and ran until I reached the roof where he was making a little throne for himself of bodies. The stench of death had me retch and Rido turned to me with a sadistic grin.
"Mana, your dear big sister isn't with us just yet," he purred whilst dumping a body carelessly to the side "Let's have some fun, shall we?"
I knew that at this point I could only buy time but it was OK. Sometimes pieces needed to be sacrificed to win a game of chess. So I lunged forward, cracking Pearl Beauty which he dodged. Then his claws came towards my face…
I was shaken out of my daze as Kaname grabbed my shoulders tightly.
"Mana, you need to drink my blood now."
What? Oh yeah, I was in Kaname's room, I'm being reverted back into my Pureblood form. I blinked a couple of times before nodding and leaning up to his neck. My throat burns as nothing but the thought of blood fills my head. As I grazed my slowly growing fangs against his pale skin, I hear a faint buzzing but take no notice of it.
I was screaming in agony. Rido had torn out my eye! The right side of my face was covered in blood and I was on my knees, holding my wound and howling in pain. I could hear him laughing and the pain blinded me, I felt weak and vulnerable. I was at his mercy. I wanted to cry, I wanted to cry so much. I couldn't see anything, my other eye was squeezed shut, scared that it would get gouged out too, but I heard something squelch above me and warm liquid landed on the back of my head. I tried to swipe at the person who grabbed my wrists with one hand and yanked them away before letting them go and holding my face steady.
"Ssh, ssh, you'll ruin my surprise of hearing Yuki scream."
"You bastard, you bastard, I won't let you harm Yuki!" I screamed at him.
I writhed in anguish as something was pressed into my empty socket and…the pain faded away slowly. My shrieks died down to whimpering as my good eye fluttered open curiously. Then my right eye fluttered open but my vision was completely red on that side. Wait, I could see? But didn't my eye get ripped out not a few seconds ago? I looked around, feeling completely disorientated and saw Rido grin as he cupped my cheeks and pressed a kiss to my forehead.
"My legacy," he purred as his right eye socket began to heal and replace it with another eye "Come give your uncle a hug."
To my disgust I obeyed him. I reached out around his shoulders and hugged him tightly, my body moving on its own as I cleaned the blood off him with my tongue.
He hugged me back and sat me down before his throne, running a hand through my bloody hair then climbing up the body pile to sit down. And we waited. I just sat there like a doll and when I heard footsteps from the stairwell…Rido must have erased my memories then.
"Hindsight is beautiful but not so forgiving…"
Oh God no! No, no, no, no, no, no, no! No! No, no! NO! Suddenly understanding what was happening, I pushed myself away from Kaname, flew across his desk and landed on the floor heavily.
I covered my ears but the buzzing wouldn't stop. It grew louder and louder as my whole body burned. Rido put a piece of himself inside me! He still lives! Oh God, he still lives! I began writhing in despair as Kaname rushed to my side, asking what was wrong, where was the pain, what was going on but I didn't know how to answer! Then I heard Rido's laugh, oh God, that laugh! I hunched over as tears fall to the carpet. Kaname's blood has awoken him…
I don't know what happened between then and now. But when I began feeling aware of my surroundings, my stomach churned. I had no idea where I was or what I was doing or why my clothes had changed but what scared me the most was the body rising from the casket in front of me. Rido, in a newer, fresher and younger body and yet he reminded me of Frankenstein's monster, like I'd just been out gathering body parts of vampires to sow together. I could smell his pure blood and whimpered as I scrambled backwards, trying to get away from him in vain, my back hitting the wall behind me as he stood, looking at his new body before smirking at me. Dread clawed at my insides. I was going to die.
His hands grabbed me by my biceps and I went as limp as a ragdoll as he pulled me up to my feet, accepting my fate. I flinched as he bit down on my exposed neck, drinking loudly as I gazed ahead, my vision blurring in and out. A hand was gripping the back of my head still whilst the other arm wound around my back to grab onto the opposite shoulder. I closed my eyes and waited for death.
Only death never came. I woke up in a bed that again was way too comfortable and I looked around the room. Everything was so white and for a moment I felt like I had passed into the land of the dead. I pushed the sheets off my body and propped myself up with my elbows. My neck ached and my throat burned, making me groan at the alien sensation. Memories slowly returned to me as I remembered that Kaname had turned me then I remembered Rido sinking his fangs into my skin.
"Mana-sama?" came a soft croon from the foot of my bed and I snapped my head over to see a young woman crawling towards me with a happy smile.
I pulled back my lips to snarl at her, she was a Level E. Then I realised what I'd done and covered my mouth in horror, this wasn't me!
Good girl, good girl! Don't resist…
"Rido-sama will be pleased that you're awake…"
Are you thirsty, my little Mana? Do you want to feed?
This was thirst, I realised as the burning continued to swell up in me. I needed blood for it to go away. My mind began to buzz.
Yes, that's right! Drink her blood! Drink her blood, Mana, tear her throat open! Feast on her! Eat her! EAT HER!
I blacked out as I lunged for the Level E.
Then I woke to find the whole lower half of my face covered in blood, dripping down my neck and staining the nightgown I was wearing. I heard doors open as I came to the realisation that I killed someone. Not with Pearl Beauty but with my fangs and judging by the state of my bloodied hands, they had something to do with the death of this vampire too. I lifted my head to the sound of clapping and Rido stood before me, a massive grin and proud twinkle in his mismatched eyes.
"Well done, Mana," he praised as he wiped some blood off from my face with his thumb and licked it clean "Well done."
I stepped back as he opened his arms…and embraced me tightly. The buzzing in my mind faded and I felt myself relax against him but I was still processing the fact that I'd killed someone so violently…like a wild animal. I didn't notice when Rido picked me up completely so I was in his arms like some bride but I noticed how he looked at me differently from Kaname and Zero. It's as if…he didn't see Yuki in me but saw me as my own person. He cupped my cheek tenderly and smiled. Then my voice decided to work.
"Why am I still alive?"
"Do you wish to die?"
Suddenly dying didn't seem like such a bad idea but before I could answer, Rido hugged me closer, leaning his head against mine.
"Mana, why would I want to kill you?" he whispered "You're my favourite niece."
"Why do you want to kill Yuki then? We're practically the same person."
"Oh?" Rido pulled away with a raised eyebrow "I think not."
He wiped some more blood off my face before kissing my head.
"Mana is Mana and Yuki is Yuki. Mana isn't Yuki and Yuki isn't Mana."
I yawned softly as he rocked me gently. My mind had never felt so clear before and I felt at peace. I nuzzled Rido lightly before closing my eyes and drifting off to sleep.
Kill him, Mana! KILL!
When I came back to my senses, I was covered in blood again writing my name with my foot on the wall. I don't know how much time has passed since I began living here with Rido. But I didn't care. I had never felt happier and my mind was just as clear as the sea after a mistral. I happily made bloody footprints around my name on the wall and when the doors opened, I couldn't contain myself.
Rido laughed as I jumped to my feet and leapt into his open arms.
"My dear Mana, did you have a nice supper?"
I nodded happily to which he chuckled and kissed me delicately on the lips. I nuzzled his nose gleefully as I offered my neck but he placed a hand over it to say no.
"We have company."
I looked over to the doors and my heart tightened. Kaname. I gripped Rido tighter, whining in fear and he wrapped his arms around me.
"Don't worry, he won't take you," he whispered to me.
"Mana," Kaname called as he stepped forward, prompting me to hug Rido tighter "Mana, it's time to go home."
But wasn't this my home? Rido kissed my cheek softly and set me down.
"Mana, it's going to be alright. Stay here."
And they left, Kaname giving me a lingering glance before the doors slammed shut. Suddenly my mind wasn't as clear any more. Kaname was here to ruin everything again. I was happy here, wasn't I? Wait, why was I afraid of Rido in the first place? I shook my head and huddled myself in the corner, rocking back and forth as terror clutched at me. I ducked my head and held back my tears. I didn't want to leave here. I didn't want Rido to die. But I couldn't do anything but stay. So I stayed. And the doors opened again to which I looked up hopefully. My heart leapt.
What was he doing here? Zero looked down at me with wide eyes and I began hurting again. He hates me. I try to retreat into the corner as he advances towards me and crouches down before me.
"Come on, we have to leave."
I look up at him disdainfully.
"Rido said I have to stay here."
Zero grabbed me by the wrist and pulled me up to my feet. I pulled back, resisting against him.
"No, leave me alone, I'm sorry!"
Zero's grip was tight on my wrist but he stopped pulling, watching as I broke down.
"I'm sorry, I didn't want to hurt Yuki, I didn't want to turn back, I didn't want any of this…"
The buzzing was starting up again and I collapsed into Zero's chest.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry…"
Something cool was draped over my shoulders as Zero gripped my wrist tighter.
"Mana, we're leaving now," he said "We're going back to the Academy. You'll be safe."
I knew I could trust him but at the same time…
Kill him, Mana! Stay where you are and kill him! KILL HIM!
…so I ran with him.
We travelled for a long time. I didn't know time anymore but Zero looked tired so it must have been a very long time. We went on trains, went by foot and went on boats. How far had Rido taken me? How long had I been with him for? Was Kaname going to rendezvous with us? Is Rido coming after us right now? The only thing I knew for certain was…
Come back, Mana! Kill him and come back to me! Where are you?! Don't run away! Come back to me!
The buzzing grew worse the further we went. It was becoming more and more unbearable. But somehow being with Zero made it better. I felt better whenever we would hold hands when walking or whenever I would lean on his chest when I want to sleep. He made the buzzing go away, even though he didn't feel the same about me, I knew I could rely on him to take the buzzing away.
We were walking through some woods when Rido made a very loud and powerful demand which had me finally whine my pain. Zero stopped and I swayed on the spot, holding my head.
"He keeps calling for me," I whimpered "I can't go on…"
"We have to keep moving, Mana. You can ride my back."
"No, Zero!" I barked at him "I can't go on! No matter where we go or what happens, he will keep calling for me and coming back! No, this has to stop."
"Mana, if you go back then you'll be caught up in his possession again."
"I'm not saying to go back!"
I reached out to where he kept Bloody Rose.
"I'm saying you need to kill me."
Zero reacted sharply by stepping away as the buzzing reached a new frequency.
NO! Kill him now, Mana and come back to me! KILL HIM!
"Just existing is pure torture for me, Zero!" I shouted over the buzzing "Do you know how long I've just been in the background, being unnoticed for my whole life?! I've watched you pine, I've watched Yuki pine, I've watched Kaname pine while I just keep all my emotions inside me because adding a fourth person pining would just make the drama too much to handle for everyone! I've been ignored again and again and do you want to know why Rido possessed me so easily? He took advantage of my vulnerability because all everyone ever cared about was for Yuki to live. No-one even considered about me because despite being twins, Yuki was the one who looked like Juuri more!"
I covered my mouth and squeezed my eyes tight.
"I'm sorry, this is so bratty of me," I whimpered.
Kill him and come back to me, Mana! I will take care of you, so come back! Come back, Mana! COME BACK!
I covered my ears and tears streaked down my cheeks.
"Zero…just kill me, please…"
Zero placed a hand on my shoulder, looking down at me before pulling his gun out. He gently pushed me against a tree and stepped away.
I nod and watch the blossom petals fall around me. I look up at the beautiful branches and hold my hands out to catch the pink petals and smile happily. It's like the time when Yuki and I were out in that frozen wasteland. But petals are so much more forgiving and beautiful than snowflakes. Warmer, softer, prettier… The buzzing faded in and out as I hear Zero's steps retreating and the gun clicking.
What are you doing, Mana?! Kill him! Don't let him kill you! He's filth, FILTH! Kill him and come back, everything will get better!
"Zero?" I called out hesitantly to the silver haired hunter who had his gun aimed for me, his face made of stone.
Kill him now! You're a Pureblood, dodge the bullet and tear him apart! Feast, eat, kill! KILL!
My heart skipped a beat. I was going to say it.
"I love you."