A/N: This chapter took more time than expected. It turned out so hard to describe their feelings. I kept deleting and re-writing the paragraphs. At last, I ended up writing over 11,000 words! Hix, please don't give up reading in the middle!
Zero didn't celebrate the New Year's occasion, though Aimi usually came to tidy and decorate his apartment before going back to Okinawa.
Since that fateful night, she often came to his place to help him with the houseworks, and considerately paid attention to take care of his daily needs, though she had never required him to spend time with her, or take care of her, never knitted her brows for his ignorance, never made a complaint. Their engagement started since she was born, but he had a feeling that his past self hadn't accepted such arrangement and had fallen for another person, who he slept with, possibly as an attempt to convince his family to acknowledge them. Unexpectedly, a tragedy fell onto them, his lover disappeared, and it was Aimi, his rejected fiancée, who stayed by his side.
Aimi used to say she wanted an equal partner, who loved her, respected her, worried for her as much as she did to him. She objected the hunter traditions which endowed many privileges to the men while belittling the role of the women. Kaito supported her by persuading their parents to let her live with his family. In fact, he also thought having Zero as his brother-in-law would be a big pride. So he took advantage of the younger hunter's memory loss to create another opportunity for him and his sister to develop their relationship.
Interestingly, Zero had always been an old-fashioned, conservative man, yet Aimi still chose him. Perhaps she admired his strong will to survive and grow up in difficulties, admired his endless efforts to catch up with, then overpass the other people of his same age, she liked his calmness and gentle behaviors, she felt appreciated in the way he treated her, though he had never shown her his love interest.
Because of his conservativeness, he felt obligated to maintain their relationship, and for all she had done, he couldn't find a reason to reject her, so she tried to do more, to make him feel in deeper debt. In their society, a man who had lost his birth mark wouldn't have a chance to marry a daughter of a famous hunter family, because he couldn't create the sacred bond with his wife to tie their lives and deaths together. Contrary to their opinion, that weak point made Zero her ideal match, and with her brother's encouragement, she was more convinced it was a right thing to pursue him.
When Zero returned with blank, exhausted eyes, Aimi grabbed her arms around him tightly. Tears uncontrollably fell down, though it's hard to say if the feeling was happiness or relief. She thought she would pass out after a whole night of waiting, sleeplessness, worries and fear. She had seen him off, it was the worst moment she had ever experienced in her life. They had said goodbye to each other, when the sole wish in her mind was they would be able to say goodbye for many more times. Thanks to the grace of God, she finally, fortunately had the chance to welcome him back.
As her arms wrapping around him, Zero realised he had returned to his own life, returned to the debate between his mind and his heart in responding to her feeling. Embracing her, he unintentionally felt a deep awareness that his arms were following a rational instruction from his mind, as it was a right thing, which at least he could do to soothe her emotion. Aimi was the only woman in his mind since he lost his family, and he had accepted her as a part of his life, however, the frozen area in his heart prevented him from falling for her. He saw her continuous efforts, but love wasn't a conquer, he wasn't in the right mood to give it a serious thought in this moment. He wasn't relieved. For years he had wondered how it would feel like after the fight, and now, all he was feeling was a definite emptiness.
Aimi went to bed right away, and slept very soundly. Zero didn't wake her up when leaving for the HA headquarters early in the morning. As looking at his familiar furniture, his accustomed toiletries, all clothes in the old wardrobe, the same view outside the windows, he took in a better comprehension that he had finally returned. There was no Kaname Kuran in his life.
"Could you please forget it?"
He won't appear at my door. Zero didn't know why he had such an odd idea when walking out, and an empty space of serenity greeted him.
Today marked a new period of his life, he should probably stay with Aimi, and started thinking about their future, especially when she had skipped her trip back to Okinawa this year for his fight. Yet a part of him, which wasn't controlled by his mind, still wasn't ready. Elation soaking in the air couldn't shade the hard time he had been through five years before, when he was suffering a high fever, with injuries all over his body, having no clue of what had just happened, and failing to remember any detail of the things which everybody else would treasure deeply in their heart. In a day which was supposed to be feastful and enjoyable, he lost his family, lost his love, lost his dreams, lost himself to an ancient pureblood's vengeance.
There was a truth that Zero hadn't told anyone, he knew his lover had followed him to his home town at that time. Three days after the funeral, he found a hotel keycard in his trousers' pocket, and went there to figure out why it had been in his possession.
A hotel receptionist let him know he had come alone to rent a room for two in the previous week. The room was later checked out and paid in cash by a young, short, silver haired lady, right on the first New Year's day, ten day earlier than its due date.
Five years had passed since, Zero still couldn't forget the fact that his lover had left him when he was in calamity. He used to think she was scared of Shizuka Hio, and wanted to cut off all connections with her enemy, he used to think she didn't want to support him in misfortune, he used to think their love wasn't strong enough, but a part of him couldn't move on from that oblivious past. He wanted to meet her once, to hear her reason, to seek a closure for his unsettled feelings.
Winter in Hokkaido was freezing, yet it was extremely stuffy in the HA library, not because of the temperature, but the unresolvable knots inside him. Last night he confronted one of the most important persons of his forgotten memories, Shizuka Hio, his sworn enemy. She was the reason of his miserable life, however, it was so unfeeling after her death. He had hoped for peace, or at least a bit of relief, he hoped the ice in his heart would melt, and maybe he could gather enough encouragement to move on.
The truth was last night opened up a new disturbance. Before he was totally ready for a marriage which everybody was waiting to bless with their best wishes, things went beyond control and he found himself sleeping with a male pureblood. He wasn't held responsible, he was even suggested forgetting it, but that suggestion only made him uneasier.
For a full day he stayed in the HA library searching for information of Kaname Kuran. In this "Pureblood" room, there were hundreds of books writing about the highest rank of vampire kind, however, he didn't find any other details of this particular pureblood, beside the general ones which he had already learned out. Looks couldn't say it, but Kaname was in the same age with his father.
Humans and vampires grew up similarly in their first twenty years, then a vampire's aging decelerated, which made his youth last much longer, and for a pureblood, it was forever, though his mind continued maturing with time. Most of vampires didn't settle down before they were a hundred years old. With lots of time in hand and lots of money their families had accumulated in their long lives, they became dissolute. It was one of the reasons hunters considered them a lower race, though their appearance was similar to human and in fact, more attractive.
Kaname Kuran was among the minority of vampires who had taken his study seriously, built his successful career and become financially independent in his young age. He hadn't gotten any stains in personal life, except a rumor that his uncle had dishonored him since he was twelve, before trusting him to Asato Ichijou, the head of Vampire Council at that time. From then on, he became the lover of this noble's grandson. Their relationship was published and the Ichijous gained a lot of benefits in their society and business for becoming his second family. However, there was no record of his relation with Hanadagi, the infected pureblood, which Zero purposely searched for, nor any details of his current situation.
Finally the hunter started checking the virtual gallery in their database. No new photo of Kaname in the last five years. Most of them were in his time with Takuma Ichijou, since he was a young boy, until forty three. The pureblood had already been an alluring gentleman when Zero hadn't been born. Each of his features was perfectly captivating, each of his gestures was delicately charming, but he never had a smile. In countless photos Zero had skimmed through, none of them caught a happy moment of his. Being in a steady relationship with Takuma for thirty years, and having his company in all events, there was still something lacking, Kaname looked lonely even when surrounded by many people and with his boyfriend's hand holding his. They had been a respectful couple. However, thirty years still didn't mean forever, they separated at the end, never disclosed who was at fault, Takuma was now living happily with his new lover, while Kaname isolated himself, and from Zero's personal knowledge, suffering a discreditable disease.
His mouse dragged to the last folder, which consisted of one photo only, the most recent one, after the break-up. It was a Christmas party at Cross's residence six years ago, and surprisingly, Zero found himself in there, together with Kaname and Cross. The pureblood's appearance didn't reflect a slightest hint of his real age, though different than other photos, his beautiful lips were flashing an elegant smile, his head inclined a little toward Zero, and somehow his expression emanated a feeling that he wanted to record this moment. As for the hunter, he wasn't smiling, but to his own amazement, he was also leaning on the pureblood's side, so naturally that he wasn't really conscious of. Those features embellished an exceptional element to this specific photo. Kaname hadn't had this radiant look with his boyfriend, had never smiled as though his introversion wouldn't let him openly express his feelings, but that moment seemed to encompass a special meaning which he had been wishing for, and he failed to repress such overpowering sentiment from glowing on his face.
The photo was zoomed in until there were only two of them on full screen, Zero suddenly got a very weird thought. No ones ever told him they had met before, was it because they were merely casual acquaintances or everyone was hiding something between them? He scrolled the wheel on his mouse down to reduce the photo's size, to remind himself that they hadn't taken that photo as a couple, chairman Cross was right beside them, and he had better brush such weird idea away.
However, it was the only reason Zero could think of to explain this whole confusion. Last night Kaname caught him when he was collapsing, held him protectively in his embrace and assured him with gentle words. Those scratches shaded his mind, he couldn't realize exactly what's going on, but in a situation which was supposed to be puzzled and panicky, he was overwhelmed with a safe feeling. Kaname used his blood to calm him down and heal his allergy, then brought him out of the cold, deserted forest, even allowed him to release his after-effect by violating his own body.
It must have a deeper meaning than a lust for young guys, unless the pureblood was that type of person, and chairman Cross intentionally covered those disreputable activities to keep his profile clean. Now looking at his once-fascinating appearance, Zero couldn't help feeling sorry. Male or female, nobody could easily accept a body deformation, let alone purebloods, who were born with a thought that they were the most beautiful creatures. Kaname had been regarded as inactive in the last five years, and become the least vampire that Zero thought about. Then why did he interfere in his fight with Shizuka? Why did he give him his blood?
Solid footsteps echoed evenly on the outside corridor, the sound got closer and clearer until chairman Cross's voice shattered the serenity of his shelter. "Found you finally. Have you stayed here all the time?" He snorted from the threshold, his glasses laded on his straight nose, displease and relief were mixed on his face.
Zero looked up, not really happy with the interruption, but answered him with composure "I called you right after the fight." Right after he got home to be exact, he called chairman Cross, Yagari-sensei and Kaito to briefly inform of his victory. It had already been an exception that the Vampire Council approved a challenge from a hunter to one of their purebloods, even forced her to agree it. They requested nobody else of either sides to participate in that duel, which the HA found reasonable enough for acceptance. Zero came there alone, but several persons stayed sleepless for him last night.
"I thought you would come to meet me in the morning." Cross was unsatisfied with the young hunter's cold-hearted attitude "You should have paid me a visit on New Year's day, especially when I'm deadly worried for you."
"I've never paid you a New Year's visit." Zero said nonchalantly "The ambiance doesn't suit me, and your place is crowded and noisy during these days."
"That's how people spend their holidays. You must learn to mix with them for your own sake. It's time to break the seclusion you have created all these years." Cross was unmarried, but he had never been lonely. His outgoing, open-minded character let him easily get close to many people and have a lot of friends. He owned an academy, an orphanage, and at the same time he was the HA president, so many people whom he had helped came to visit him during New Year's holidays. Cross counted his charities as his successes, one day he would like to give his position to someone who was also charitable, sympathetic and understanding. Zero used to be the person he aimed at, for his extraordinary strength, his tolerance, his senses of discipline and responsibility. However, the young hunter's personality remarkably changed after the unfortunate upheaval which he had been through. He forgot his past, he deviated from the path he had drawn out for himself, he struggled to find his lost ego, nobody could really help him to figure out who he used to be, because they either didn't know it, or in his case, couldn't tell him. Nonetheless, from some trivial deeds, Cross knew the young hunter was still very kind and caring from the bottom of his heart, but it seemed to protect himself from mistakes and hurt, he was mistrustful and hardly put his guard down to show anyone his sympathy.
"What are you doing here?" Cross looked around the untidy room with disorderly piles of books all over the sofa, the chairs, and lots of opening books covering the desk where Zero was sitting.
"I'm searching for some information." The young hunter replied "You've created a list of HIV positive vampires, but you missed out one important person. Kaname Kuran is also infected."
Cross knitted his brows for a second, wondering why Zero had to spend his New Year's day for such issue, but immediately retorted when his sentence was finished "Who told you that nonsense? He isn't."
Zero carefully observed the chairman's reaction. Of course he would like to hear Kaname was clean. He hated to think about the pureblood as a callous, lustful person, he didn't want him to get involved in those infected ones, either sleeping with them or drinking their blood. Nowadays, all of vampires were on artificial blood tablets, however, blood donation was still an honor and obligation which lower vampires sometimes did to their superiors, and that activity often followed by sex. Since they did it in private and it didn't affect the human world, the HA couldn't control it. For thirty years, Zero assumed Kaname had had Takuma for those needs, but in the last seven years, he didn't have a partner. Yet the chairman's denial sounded too defensive, as if he knew the truth behind it or absolutely believed in the pureblood's dignity.
"How to explain his deformation?"
"How did you know it?" Cross was amazed, in a sudden instant, his words accidentally admitted that he did know it, his facial expression became tense, and even though that question was very simple, he raised it with cautions.
"He came to my rescue last night."
The chairman was bewildered. On one hand, it shouldn't be a surprise that Kaname wanted to be there with his lover. Last night Cross and Toga let Zero go alone, because they had agreed on that condition with the Vampire Council, and he had confidence in the young hunter's ability, which kept improving with time, even without his memories. He and Kaname had had a long conversation on the phone before the pureblood was convinced to request Takuma to approve his lover's challenge. On the other hand, Cross didn't expect to hear Kaname make a presence, especially where Zero was. He had been isolating himself because he didn't want to attract the young hunter's attention, though it's unlikely that his lover would have a slightest clue of what they had been to each other.
"Did he get injured?"
Zero kept silent, calmly looking at him with unruffled eyes. He actually wanted to hold the chairman down for his slip of tongue and get all the answers he had been wondering at, but Cross wasn't someone he could be insolent to. Since the first moment he walked in his room five years before, Zero believed he knew more than what he had shared with him. While Yagari-sensei tried to re-transfer the knowledge of a hunter and helped him to practise his skills, Cross spent a lot of time to tell him about their culture, their customs, what people expected from them, and what his personal view of life was. He seemed very thoughtful and contemplative on what issues he wanted him to think about. He encouraged him to nurture his own opinions, and sometimes Zero felt that he was trying to imply something, though it had never been clear what he wanted to say.
Kuran didn't get injured from the fight. The young hunter thought silently, but wasn't willing to share what had happened between them after that. "He wore a mask." His hand rose up to cover half of his face, imitating how the pureblood's mask looked like "He told me he was infected. His face and his body have been deformed. I've checked everything we have here, there is no record of his participation in any fights or getting any injuries. His profile doesn't say a word of his real condition. I'm surprised that our information is so outdated. But what I can't imagine is you did know about it, but deliberately ignored those important details."
It was a serious neglect of responsibilities which the chairman understood better than anybody else what consequences it could be. They had built up this "Pureblood" room and wrote a detailed profile for each of them for a reason. Those creatures were considered mysterious and dangerous as soon as human race figured out their existence. They carried the best attraction to seduce anybody they liked, they possessed unlimited powers to execute whatever they wanted. Although they were supposed to live forever, there was only a few of them who were still alive nowadays. Being ranked higher than the others, treated differently, and respected greatly since they were born, loneliness and unbalance became their grave and chronic problems, many ended up having thought deviations and destroying other people together with themselves. Hanadagi had been closely watched to make sure he wasn't planning any harmful thing to the societies, out of frustration and despair from his disease. If Kaname had the same problem...
Cross stared at Zero. He wasn't upset for the young hunter's accusation to himself, but his heart arose a very ironical feeling. If Kaname had to fall into disrepute, he just hoped it wouldn't be Zero who brought him in. For years he had played their match-maker, though his first intention wasn't to hook them up. By sending many photos of the boy and updating how he was doing at school and in training, Cross only wanted to cheer the pureblood up as Kaname seemed very delighted with the lovely baby who got overexcited each time seeing him. Almost forty years ago, Ichiou took Kaname and his grandson, Takuma, to the school, the pureblood was just a little boy at that time, paying no attention to the surroundings, there was only Takuma in his eyes, full of trust and dependence. That look disappeared after a couple of years, he became more quiet and lonelier. Takuma was keen on expanding his social relations to support his future position, he often brought Kaname along to impress the others, and the pureblood never opposed his lover's wishes.
It was too obvious that he was being taken advantage of, but if it wasn't Takuma, who else would make a better match? Who else would love him without thinking about what benefits he could bring to them? Cross felt deeply sorry for him when happened to see the young noble having an affair with a human behind his back, but with more observation, he realised Kaname was actually aware of his lover's betrayal. So telling him about little Zero, he wanted to give him something else to think about, to show him another life, to guide his contemplation out of the impasse which he was confining himself in.
And Kaname was really interested in Zero. He listened to any stories related to the boy with amusement, he asked more about the hunter culture and customs, eventually he wanted to meet Aimi, after hearing about their engagement. Cross might have sown a seed of love in his heart and inadvertently watered it with time. When introducing them to each other, he didn't really expect them to start a relationship, their distance was too far, their differences were too large, he didn't question the pureblood's feelings, didn't try to find out how they were going after their first meeting.
Five years ago, he hastily flew to Okinawa together with Seiren on Kaname's plane as soon as receiving a horrifying phone call from him informing of the Kiryuus' incident. He was the first one who arrived, and the one who wiped off all traces of another pureblood, beside Shizuka Hio, at the scene. Kaname gripped his hand tightly, half of his face covered by blood, half of his body unmoved.
"Please promise me, chairman! Zero doesn't need to know it. This is my own decision."
Maybe it was a mistake to introduce them together, or maybe fate arranged their meeting just for that night. Cross sadly looked at the young hunter. "You said he saved you last night. Could you repay his favour by overlooking this issue? Don't dig in his past, don't change his profile with your supposition. The last sentence of his page will say 'He was alone after the breakup with Takuma Ichijou, and finally committed suicide.'"
Tsubasa clenched his hands involuntarily as sensing the uncomfortable atmosphere around. Takuma considerately held his fist, but it took him quite a while to realise the noble's warmth. He glanced at him, and once again his vision was submerged into the classic elegance of this large living room.
Tsubasa was born in a middle class human family. Though Takuma usually tried to give him the fine things since he was in his cradle, he had only been introduced to the high society in the last seven years. After Asato passed away, Tsubasa moved in with his lover. While the Ichijou's residence and the other places he had visited with Takuma were in a hue of luxury, this room held an aura of glory. It wasn't a new renovation that followed the vintage style, it was a real antique interior which had been furnished hundreds of years ago, with exquisite hanging lamps on the ceiling and a marble fireplace under a large portrait of a gorgeous man. Tsubasa didn't know this pureblood family well enough to recognize who exactly was in that portrait, but those alluring features obviously followed them from generations to generations.
He used to feel terribly jealous of Kaname Kuran. Twenty six years he had had to live in a shadow, and see his lover going out with him, twenty six years being the third person, though deep inside all three of them understood who was really redundant. Many people thought Takuma wasn't in his right mind to choose a human over a pureblood. Indeed, it was the only thing Tsubasa overpassed Kaname, and for it he had received many disdainful looks, even now, seven years after they published their relationship, people still considered him his lover's mistake, and believed Takuma would leave him one day to get back to Kaname, especially when the pureblood wasn't interested in looking for a new lover.
As an insider, Tsubasa knew better and felt extremely unfair that he and his lover had to bear the fierce fire of public opinion, while Kaname had ruined his own relationship by betraying Takuma to sleep with Asato. After their breakup, it wasn't true that he was hoping to reconcile with him, he fell for Zero Kiryuu, and requested the noble to support that hunter several times in the last five years. He even asked him to use his authority to approve the duel which Zero challenged to Shizuka. Takuma had to make a volte-face to the other noble families who were loyal to the Hios, and abandon all advice against such dangerous decision to fulfill it. Had Shizuka won, it would have been the end of the Ichijous.
Tsubasa still remembered they had spent a full night in their bedroom, holding each other tightly while the fight was taking place out there. They laid their own lives in this bet, with a faith that they would forever be together, despite of the consequence, because it was the only opportunity for their future, the only opportunity to tie Kaname into this deal. Fortunately, luck had smiled with them, and that's why they were sitting here, in front of the person who Tsubasa never wished to meet.
The pureblood looked quite listless as if he had been through a great obstacle which had squeezed out all of his energy. His elegant black suit and the dark metal mask were trying to hide his exhaustion, but it was too apparent in his single eye, which didn't seem to reflect anything within his sight. He had spent all day staying in the conservatory, inanely gazing at the empty chair which Zero had sat earlier. His beloved looked a little older than the time they were together, a little thinner, and gaunter, probably worn out by his inner struggles to deal with memory loss, and adapt to the life of a disciplined hunter as everyone expected him to be.
Since their separation, Kaname had been following his lover's recovery, however, they had never met once. Last night he didn't intend to interfere in their fight until Shizuka scratched the hunter's neck to awake a part of his which had been sealed and nullified. It reluctantly created a chance for Kaname to be with Zero, though it also exposed his repulsive situation to him. Oh how much he wished to tell his lover he wasn't infected, because he had always been faithful to him. Since Zero had trusted him enough to give his recognition, and he treasured their love more than anything else in this world, he would never betray him, though it was now only him who still held their passionate memories, only him who was in love. There was no other possible explanation of his deformation that he could tell him, then no matter how painful it was, he had to tarnish himself, and sank into deep remorse when his lover ran out with anger. He might not bother what people judged him, he could tolerate anybody else's disgust, but it must not come from Zero, because only his lover's attitude could hurt him, only his lover's words could reach his heart.
"I didn't plan to delay our deal. I was getting ready to go to your house."
"I didn't mean to rush you, Kaname!" Takuma said, but ceased in the middle of his own sentence when his special way to address the pureblood echoed in his ears. It hadn't changed after years, he was the only person who called him by his first name. In their first meeting almost forty years before, he had greeted Kaname "Kuran-sama" as a regard which his rank must show to their superior. However, as his grandfather's instruction, he managed to get close to the pureblood, and in a not-very-innocent day, he went further than his usual flirtation to sleep with him. "Call me Kaname!" The pureblood told him after that day as his word of acceptance. They had grown up together, they had been lovers for thirty years. Ironically, he didn't love him. He knew Kaname would never call him "Takuma" again, but he didn't want to change how to address the pureblood, not because it was like a special privilege, but thirty years, who could easily relinquish a habit of thirty years? "Tsubasa's heart is falling. I'm afraid he can't wait much longer."
People said he was the most stupid vampire for leaving a pureblood to be with a weak human, but he could only be at ease and happy by his little lover's side. Tsubasa gave him a pleasant feeling that he was the leading one in their relationship, which he couldn't have with Kaname, plus, the boy put his mind at peace since he was his first and only. Tsubasa had never known any other men beside him, totally depended on him, totally submitted to him.
"He isn't ready." Kaname said after observing the human. Five years ago, they made a deal. When Zero found Shizuka and wanted to kill her in a duel, Takuma would convince the Council to approve his challenge, and expose the pureblood princess's crime to oblige her to accept it, Zero would take no accusation if she died in his hands. In return, Kaname would convert Tsubasa to a steady level D. This conversion consisted of two steps, biting him and giving him his blood. However, blood of a pureblood would arouse the receiver, and nothing but sleeping with him could release it, unless that pureblood was dead.
Takuma embraced his little lover "Didn't we talk through it already? It's our only choice to lengthen your life. It won't hurt. It'll be like how I bite you."
Although Tsubasa was human, Takuma was a vampire, who instinctively had a strong desire of tasting the blood of the person he loved. Now and then he would take a small sip from him when they were making love, and Tsubasa never refused him, knowing how meaningful a bite meant to vampires.
"It's different." The human clutched firmly at his lover's shirt.
"No. It won't hurt." Takuma murmured, laying a gentle kiss on his hair.
"It's different." Kaname suddenly repeated Tsubasa's words "Because it isn't his lover who is biting him."
Takuma looked up, astonishment quickly filled in his expression. Why hadn't he ever thought about it before? Of course he understood it wouldn't be a love bite, he understood it wouldn't give pleasure to any of them, but it must happen for another purpose. No matter how to look at it, he was forcing his lover to receive a bite from another person. And why did it sound familiar?
The noble embarrassingly remembered he had forced Kaname to let his grandfather bite him again and again, threatening to break up if the pureblood refused his request. Then each time they were together, he felt so vexing and uncomfortable, his initial feeling faded away, he concluded that Kaname wasn't the right person for him, yet never once he wondered how the pureblood was feeling. "It isn't his lover who is biting him." Tsubasa wasn't the only person who thought that way...
"You knew it, but you still betrayed him." The human gazed at his lover's ex "Had you determinedly rejected it, Takuma would have left the family to go with you. I'm sure you have blamed him for leaving you, everyone laughed at him, but it's all not his fault. You didn't realize one thing, Kuran! Your lover is a man. A man has his own pride, he wants to protect his lover, not to be protected. He wants his lover to rely on him, not open his arms for him to rely on. He wants his lover to treasure his own body, not ruin it and force him to be grateful for it."
Everything drowned in a stunning silence. Tsubasa didn't want Takuma to feel more guilty than he had already been. There was a pressure which they had to suffer since publishing their relationship. The more generous Kaname acted, the more derisive people treated them. Tsubasa strongly believed he and Takuma didn't deserve it, their love was sincere, they should be acknowledged and respected. His lover affectionately tightened his arms around him, trying to calm his emotion down.
"You understand Ichijou very well. You're indeed his other half." Kaname said gently, those words were much more effective than the noble's effort as Tsubasa straightened up, looking steadily at his ex rival.
He was taking it as the pureblood's admission of defeat. He was pleased, yet a part of him was still disgruntled "If you really thought so, why didn't you leave him sooner? You made it thirty years, and got me a bad name as a home-wrecker, Takuma became a traitor, while you took all sympathy from everyone. Even now, people don't change their mind on us."
"Tsubasa..." The noble squeezed his hand to stop him. It wasn't a right time to talk about that, all those had become the past, and nobody questioned what a pureblood wanted to do. He knew his little lover had been deep in those thoughts, he himself didn't understand why Kaname had had to take it for thirty years, it wasn't like the pureblood didn't realize there was no love in their relationship.
"I loved him." Kaname whispered "I hoped he would respond to my feeling if I was patient a little longer."
Tsubasa was dumbfounded. It was the least answer he expected to hear, especially now, when all of them were well aware of what reason the pureblood's appearance had been deformed. Zero had never asked Kaname if he used to love Takuma, but the hunter was smart enough to know his answer without making such question. What else could it be that made him accept any requests the noble asked, and persistently waited for him thirty years?
Kaname met Takuma when he was totally lonely and broken. He tied himself to him, and clung to that frail hope. There was time Takuma was his entire world. As a latecomer, and compared to Tsubasa, Zero was a generosity of a man. Kaname wasn't afraid of admitting his old feelings now, because his lover had forgiven his incestuous sin of sleeping with both Asato and Takuma, had accepted his impure body, and accepted that his heart used to filled up with love for another person. Tsubasa could criticize him for overshadowing Takuma's pride of a man, but his reasons only made it clearer that Zero was a better match. The hunter was strong and confident enough to accept who his lover really was. Kaname wasn't a girl either, he was a powerful pureblood. He would as well have a desire to protect his lover, to give him the best things he had. On one hand, he ceded the leading role in their relationship to the hunter. Zero said he would stay unmarried and no children, but would never admit their relationship, which Kaname understandingly agreed. Zero said he would spend the rest of his life with him, but would want to have his natural death as a human one day, which Kaname also resigned to comply with. On the other hand, the hunter didn't feel inferior when his lover offered assistance, didn't mind following Kaname, if it's better for their future. "You can't relocate to Okinawa, so I will move to Hokkaido to be with you." There was nobody else, who could truly fall in love with Kaname despite of his past, and take him as an equal partner as Zero had done. Then no matter how long it lasted, twelve months since his confession, or only a day in that year, it was worth it.
"I should have told you how I felt." Takuma's voice was out of tone. He hadn't believed the pureblood loved him. At first he presumed Kaname was emotionally weak, later he presumed he didn't really care. The Ichijous were the most powerful noble family, Takuma didn't think Kaname could find a better source of support elsewhere. It might be ridiculous, but sometimes one just failed to realize people of other ranks and other races also had a heart, also had their own thoughts and feelings, also yearned for love and happiness. Sometimes one was too absorbed in his own problems and was misled that he was the only person who could get hurt. All those years Takuma remembered he had terribly suffered, had desperately wished the sharing would somehow end, and they could somehow get back to each other, only two of them, as in their first two years "Would you leave everything which were supposed to belong to you for a simple life with me?"
"I would." Not necessary to think, it was what Kaname had many times dreamed for.
The noble almost cried. Too late. Why hadn't he understood his feeling earlier? Something was breaking in his innermost, something he hadn't had enough courage to hold. He had been given a treasure, but his inferiority complex overshadowed his desire to cherish it. An ordinary, simple human as Tsubasa brought him more comfort and solace. He didn't regret for falling in love with him and choosing him over Kaname, but had he known, he would have... or... he would not have...
"I'm sorry... I didn't know you had already found out about our relationship. I was worried you would make difficulties for Tsubasa, I..." I attempted to kill you. Takuma couldn't finish it. They hadn't talked it through when decided to break up. The pureblood simply moved out, they stopped making their appearance as a couple. Asato was too shocked of his grandson's careless action and forbid other vampires to ask about their separation. Time passed by, all of them eventually retrieved their composure. Takuma knew Kaname didn't intend to punish him, otherwise, he would have gotten it done on that very day.
"It was you, Tsubasa Aiba! You induced him to kill me." The pureblood uttered, though there was no resentment in his voice "I sensed his reluctance when pushing the athame into me. I wanted to go along with his plan, but then I realized it wasn't what he really wanted, I realized my love for him had wilted, my heart had started yearning for another person. While you were jealous of me, I also suffered from your existence. I wanted to be loved as much as you were. Ichijou chose you over me, but Zero has made all my wishes come true, he has given me so much more than I deserved to have, that I will never be able to betray him. You won't receive my blood directly from biting me, there will be no arousal, I promise. All you have to do is let those old bad feelings go. Are you not ready to live for your love?"
Tsubasa buried his face in the noble's chest, managing to repress his big relief after hearing the pureblood's words. Not wanting to admit it, but it's too obvious that Kaname could see through him. Their positions didn't give them a nice feeling to each other, yet their positions made them understand each other more than everybody else. It wasn't that he wasn't ready to be turned, it was he wasn't ready to sleep with another person. He and Kaname were oppositely different. While the pureblood was willing to do anything for his love, including staining his body and destroying himself, Tsubasa wanted to stay pure for his lover, and protecting their life was solely the noble's responsibility. Takuma was a very possessive type, Tsubasa was afraid of losing his love if getting tainted by another person, no matter what he said. So having those words took away the burden laden in his heart. He disengaged his lover's embrace, resolutely standing up, walking around the coffee table, and sitting down next to Kaname on the long coach. "I'm ready."
Takuma was after him, tenderly held his cold hand, carefully guided his neck to one side, as trying to wipe off the melancholy pestering his mind. He had just said sorry to Kaname for his ruthless attempt to kill him in the past, but now he was pushing him to another dead end. As making this condition with him, he prepared himself to overlook what Tsubasa and Kaname would have to do to complete the process, however, he was so much scared that the pride, the contentment, the happiness which he had found in his current relationship would fade out. So now, while feeling terribly bad for the pureblood, a larger part of him was overwhelmed with joy.
Kaname gazed at the human who was shaking perceptibly before him, yet his mind had been made up. If being turned against his free will, one couldn't complete his conversion to feel at ease with his new condition, so would never be happy, even if he got his master's blood and was free from falling into level E. That's why Kaname allowed Tsubasa to dig in his long gone issues, to talk to him about the man they had shared over twenty years.
Human flesh had a very typical scent, which could also be sensed in his lover's aroma, however, Zero carried an additional odor of hunter essence and exuberant strength. There was no craving in this moment, though he could clearly smell the fresh blood running in those veins. He bent down, fangs were about to brush on soft, exposed skin...
Unexpectedly, a strong pull lifted his collar, yanking him out of the human, and deliberately throwing him at the floor. Tsubasa clutched his lover in panic, yet the intruder insistently gripped his wrist, tempting to drag him out.
His call stopped the sudden aggressor's attempt. Bloody Rose was taken out.
"What are you doing here? Drinking human blood to heal yourself?" Zero shouted, his muzzle turned to aim at the collapsed pureblood "I can arrest all of you for violating the pact."
His anger frightened the weak human. Takuma felt his lover's grip loosened, he looked down, worriedly rubbing his whitened face "Tsubasa..." Someone should have prevented this hunter from disturbing them, but he didn't have a heart to think whose fault it was right now. Lifting his insensible lover up into his arms, Takuma was about to run out in a hurry.
"Make one more move and I'll shoot you." Zero said sternly.
Kaname struggled to roll up with difficulties, using both his hands to cover his damaged face. "Don't you think he's a victim? Let them go! He needs help urgently!" He stuttered as looking further, seeking for his fallen mask.
Zero hazily reckoned who the person in Takuma's embrace was. Everyone knew the noble's lover was a human with a serious heart problem. It's weird to meet all three here, in such a situation. At first sight, Zero thought Kaname was drinking blood to speed up his recovery. All hunters were programmed to think that way. In his very first thought, all he saw was an innocent human being attacked by a vampire, and his very first reaction was to stop that vampire.
Takuma gazed at the furious hunter, waiting. As soon as catching a glimpse of hesitance in those amethyst eyes, he rushed out with his beloved, leaving Kaname alone, assuming the pureblood was going to be fine on his own. For thirty years, he had always believed Kaname was more powerful than him, therefore, could take perfect care of himself, could handle any situations without his assistance.
"Let me know if I hurt you." It could only be Zero, who would concern about him. The pureblood didn't expect it from Takuma. Not before, and definitely not now. He crawled up, reaching to the solitary mask which were a few inches farther. A sudden shot callously destroyed it in a blink. The tips of his glove singed, heat burnt his fingers. Hunter poison was in that fire, he clenched his teeth to suppress a groan of pain, but no blood was shed. Flesh and blood had been depleted in the damaged part of his body. Under his clothing, it was only dried bare bones.
His lover could no longer recognize him…
Kaname desolately used both trembling hands to shield his malformed face. He didn't think Zero would come back that soon, especially to witness him biting another person. It was a serious disobedience, a disrespect to his lover's ideals, a betrayal to his trust. Ironically, he couldn't plead for forgiveness, he couldn't submit himself to punishment, because he didn't want Zero to have a gleam of sympathy for him, didn't want him to lessen his aversion, or to get a feel of sorrow when hearing about his death some day in the near future.
The exquisitely-carved door from a side of the room was opened, Seiren walked in with another metal mask on her hands, totally ignoring the hunter's presence. She passed by him, going straight to her master, carefully helped him to put it on, and fixed the black strings behind his head. The pureblood leaned on her arms to stand up, his movements were oddly slow and clumsy as though most of his strength had left him since last night. Seiren didn't say a word, but quietly guided him back to the couch. After being settled, Kaname grabbed her hand "Leave, Seiren!"
A glint of protest quickly subsided on her face, she nodded, then stepped backward to disappear behind the door where she had come from. As his bodyguard, it was her duty to protect him from anyone who had the intention to harm him, regardless of who that person was or how strong he could be. She should have stopped the hunter from entering this room earlier, but this morning, after he left, Kaname ordered her not to obstruct him when he came back. Moreover, she wanted Zero to break the deal between her master and Takuma Ichijou. She had lived with Kaname long enough to understand what he was going to do. Unfortunately, she wasn't in a right position to stop him.
The heavy door was closed, blocking all sight and sound from the outsiders.
Zero lowered his gun. That shot was unreasonable, but he was fervently angry. Witnessing a vampire biting a human was the most infuriating scene to any hunter. His fear made him react before he could seriously think it out. Had it been another vampire, he would have fired right from the entrance, instead of rushing to pull them out by his bare hands.
After leaving the HA, he was supposed to go home, however, he turned around and drove out of the parking lot again when it was time to get out and went up to his apartment. Aimi was waiting for him there. She had sent a text earlier, saying she would like to have dinner with him. But he wanted another drive first. It wouldn't take too long, he needed a bit more time to cool down from a long day in the library.
He didn't mean to avoid her, just didn't long to meet her either. As far as he remembered, nothing had ever been able to excite him. Toward anything he usually showed an absolute composure to cope with. It's probably a trauma after that night, he was lack of passion.
An unpremeditated drive led him to the Kuran mansion. When getting conscious of where he was heading to, it was already very close. Hard to say it was a habit since he only came back from there once, and it was pretty far from the HA. Was it a subconscious? All his mind had been occupied with thoughts of Kaname Kuran, for the first time he got a clear emotion, an intense anger. The pureblood seemed to rouse his bile each time they met. It's not that he had never got displeased, but those previous times weren't too bad to lose his temper. Perhaps he held a grudge against vampires, which made his irritation to Kaname become worse, or what the pureblood did affected him deeper than the others, and as a result, he couldn't handle it well? When seeing him biting another person, he didn't view it as a crime, he viewed it as a... betrayal.
That weird perception startled him. Maybe he had been moved by those beautiful, gloomy eyes in the photos, he seemed to feel his lonely soul, he expected better from him. After last night, Kaname wasn't just a vampire, but a vampire who had saved him and slept with him. He was angry because the pureblood didn't attach importance to it, and because… he touched another person. To re-think about it carefully, that person was Takuma's lover, the noble hadn't simply brought his beloved here to feed his ex.
"You were not feeding on him. You were turning him."
Kaname managed to glimmer a smirk, hopefully his unregretful attitude would drive the hunter away before his fake facade fell down and his deep longing reached out for him. He was so pathetic, but it's too painful to reject the man who he had ceaselessly craved for. Last night he held Zero with fervency, blood from his injured wrist stained over the hunter's shirt. He didn't restrain his true feeling when his lover was highly in heat, he kept telling him over and over how much he loved him. He chanted his name in ecstasy, he begged for more and more, despite that his wrecked body was unable to take that much.
Because when that moment finished, he lost him again. Now face to face, as the hunter was fully in his clear mind, all he could say to him were loathful words "It doesn't matter anymore, because you have ruined it."
"Are you a fool? When you give your blood to him, you have to have sex with him." Zero yelled, his eyes widened with shock, while struggling to refuse his own nasty supposition that Kaname was the lecherous type who loved seducing other men, he refused to think his intuition had been wrong, and he was merely one of them.
The pureblood stiffened. It was a shame to be told like that, especially by his lover. Since that night, Zero was his man, his life, his love, and as a matter of fact, he was legitimately his husband. The Kiryuu crest on his right arm was a firm evidence of the hunter's love and trust. But right after that night, he abandoned him. One day Zero would acknowledge another person as his official wife, would give her the tattoo of his family's crest, would... love her.
Kaname felt like his heart was being crushed up. For Zero, he didn't have thirty years of patience to wait for his coming back, for him he didn't expect anything in return for what he had given. If the hunter was a flame, then he was willing to be a mayfly, to burn his body in that fabulous flame and be happy that his silent dedication could make that flame a bit brighter. After leaving him, he continued carrying out his promises. Two of them had been fulfilled, Zero had established a steady standing in their societies, and had had his revenge upon Shizuka Hio. However, turning Tsubasa was a condition which the pureblood had to accept in exchange for Takuma's support. He wanted to prevent any accusation against his lover after that fight. He wanted him to be safe and maintain all privileges as well as relations he had worked hard to achieve. The after-drink arousal could only be released by the pure blood giver, but it wasn't how it was going to happen. Kaname managed to pull himself together.
"It is within my intention." Ironically, words were contrary to what he was truly thinking, the burgundy in his single eye darkened with base sarcasm "If a human accepts it at his free will, my act can't be judged as a breach. You have no right to intervene in my personal issue. Or... are you jealous... Kiryuu?"
Zero stared at him, sincerely not expecting for such bad manners, but the moment he thought his fury had been up to its highest, he remembered chairman Cross's incomprehensible words. When Kaname died, the last sentence in his profile would say he was alone after breaking up with Takuma, and finally committed suicide. Cross wasn't a biased person, and definitely not dull. He respected accuracy, and as the HA president, he would never bend his pen to write a wrong thing in history. But why was he hiding the truth of Kaname Kuran? Why did he intend to say the cause of his death was suicide? Why did he know the last sentence of his profile was going to be written?
Zero felt so frustrated. Last night was like a bad dream, but in that bad dream he felt a warm, affectionate embrace, and a melodic voice lovingly whispered his name. "Don't worry, Zero! You will feel better soon." Perhaps it was an illusion produced by his brain, yet those illusive words obviously encouraged him to overcome the fear of uncertainty and disorientation. He wanted to thank Kaname, wanted some kind of connection to repay his favour. However, he couldn't hold a decent conversation with this secluded pureblood. Was it because of their age gap, their different thinkings, their unalike lifestyles, or the upheaval which resulted in the pureblood's current situation, whatever it had been, had changed his attitude and made him fail to communicate with the others properly? Zero knew he was trying to defend Kaname, and hoping to see the elegant side of his personality, which he seemed to have touched while looking at his photos.
"Why did you come there last night?" He asked in perplex. It's undeniable that the pureblood had been with him in the lurch, though his real motive remained unknown.
"To assist you. Does it sound sweet?" Kaname chuckled "I had an old score with Hio, but I can't settle it on my own in my current condition. Luckily, you're so eager to fight with her."
"You used me?" Zero asked distrustfully.
"Come on. Both of us benefited from it. You can't deny that I saved your life."
The pureblood's answer seemed rather logical, there was hardly any other possibility to explain his interference. Zero couldn't pick holes in what he said, though somehow it was unconvincing to him, because there were vague, jumbled images in his mind of a tender, caring Kaname, or maybe he was just too stubborn to admit his misconception.
Up to last night he had never questioned about his own sexual preference, never supposed his first lover might be a male. Since the hotel receptionist told him it was a woman who made the check-out procedure, and the fact that he was engaged to Aimi Takamiya, he assumed he was straight. Nevertheless, he had just had sex with a man, and a very strange mix of feelings had conceived in his heart. There were a confusion, a gratitude, a blindness, a sense of responsibility, a compassion, a regret on a perceptive background of loneliness. Both of them were lonely, though Zero kept a distance with the others because he wasn't sure who he was, while Kaname stayed distant because he was hiding his true self.
"You didn't have any score with Hio. You've never met her." The hunter mumbled. After spending a full day in the library to read about this pureblood, he at least could tell that much.
Yes, Kaname was lying. He had come there because it was his lover's fight, he couldn't stay at home, calmly waiting to hear the result. He wanted to be with him, to see his victory, and in case something unexpected occurred, he could support him, or at least, die together with him. From the beginning, he had known they couldn't live together, he was ineligible to be the hunter's official spouse. Another person might think loving someone else more than his own life was a blinded, silly, premature point of view, however, different people valued life in different ways, depending on what they wanted to live for. Kaname had had his naive, blinded, premature period, falling for Zero hadn't happened at that time. He realised his love for the hunter after a long lasting relationship, and having seen enough how humans and vampires struggled for their happiness. He broke down his original intention of anonymously supporting him to pursue his love, understanding it could only be his own death at the end, because Zero strictly followed the traditional customs of his family. Nevertheless, the hunter had given him an amazing experience of being passionately loved and cherished.
If only he could fall into his embrace right now, to tell him all about his agony, his suffer, how hard to live without him, how much he longed for his touches.
Miss him with every single cell of his whole being...
"Young man, don't be so naive. How can you be sure? You think your hunters can record each detail of my life? I bet they have no clue of my love adventures after Takuma, and do you think they have found out about our romantic night?"
A sardonic, arrogant tone slyly struck the ache of agitation in the hunter's heart. Zero couldn't see his tears, because Kaname was desperately struggling to hold them back. Bursting into crying now would defeat all his exertions so far. On that night, it had been decided that his lover would have a proud, happy life, would be praised and respected by the others, nobody could find a reason to look down on him, nobody could say a bad word to him. If there was a relation between them, his lover would immediately become a target for denigration.
"I could have left you there to struggle for your own survival. But I have to admit that I'm attracted to your looks."
Please stay away from me, Zero!
My selfishness is growing more and more.
Please go, before I ruin your life.
"Looking at you give me a lot of indescribable desires, because you... I at least gave you a chance to get even, didn't I? Though I was sure you wouldn't kill me. Your people absorbed strict rules and severe trainings that can't be flexible anymore. It's very easy to guess what your next step would be. I knew you would come back, just didn't expect that soon. Last night you squeezed me and thrust into me with no restraint. I'm still trembling to think about it. As you can see, I'm not completely healed yet. But if it's you, I'm always ready for more."
"I would rather die than have you as my savior."
This time Zero wasn't sorry. What he thought, what he felt might be wrong, however, he was hearing those obscene words by his own ears. There was no way he could misunderstand what Kaname was saying. That's right, the hunters couldn't be aware of everything going on to those vampires, they just tried to gather as many details as possible. This pureblood's profile in particular hadn't been updated for a while, it didn't mention his deformation, nor say he had isolated himself from the society. Even if truth was skulking somewhere, Zero was completely disheartened to find it out.
Since waking up on that day, he had been living to pay for a past which he had no clue of. A Kiryuu hunter must be responsible to his association, must work hard to reach the supreme level and be respected by the others. A Kiryuu man must think about his lineage, his family's reputation, his next generation before his own life. Everyone said Zero had strictly followed those teachings, and been his parents' pride. They expected him to continue it, to accomplish what his past-self had planned, however, they didn't know the struggle in his forgotten past-self's inner feelings, or the current frustration of keeping up an image which he didn't believe once belonged to him. There was a frozen area in the bottom of his heart, where he couldn't touch, no matter how hard he tried, and a deep, unfilled gap in his soul, which was dripping an incomplete feeling to haunt him all day and night. His mind couldn't be at peace as long as he was unable to remember who he had been. Beside that, the marriage with Aimi was another responsibility which his past left for him. And when all those remained unresolvable, he fell in debt to Kaname Kuran, the most nasty, lowest person he had ever known. It was impossible for him to tolerate such a person. What he said was involuntary, yet it was what he was honestly thinking about him...
-to be continued-
Posted: 19 April 2013
Please let me know what you think about this chapter.