A/N: Thank you for your reviews! There are 2 chapters left. But I'm thinking about combining them into a long chapter :-) Enjoy reading and wish you all a nice weekend!
- CHAPTER 3 -
Snow kept falling heavily, putting one more layer on the ground which had already been thick in its frosty coat. Life seemed less in this season, with denuded trees, frozen lakes and an endless immensity of white. It was the first Friday after people getting back to work from the holidays, his colleagues were going out for a drink, but Zero made an excuse of having dinner with his fiancee to politely refuse their invitation. As a matter of fact, he wanted some private time for an important issue.
The car ran smoothly on the road, traffic was pretty light, and driving home had become a habit which he didn't need to pay much attention to keep track of where he was going to. His elbow rest on the windowsill, hand neglectfully grabbed forehead as his mind was floating on an earnest, gentle voice from the cd player. He often listened to symphonies while driving, this interest had followed him since he was much younger, and it explained the good collection of symphonies in his car. However, he was now listening to a speech which had been directly recorded in a medical seminar several years before, though what he was hearing wasn't the knowledge that speaker was transferring, but a feeling of an oblivious, vague connection between them.
Weird. Yes. He had never lived through a minute without wondering what type of person he had been in the first twenty five years of his life. The older age one was when amnesia happened to him, the harder he struggled to deal with it. He had found a hypnotist to help him search for his forgotten past, despite of Cross's disapproval. Unfortunately, there wasn't any result, no matter what methods they used. His past was completely erased, as if the day his family were murdered was the first day he was born.
His car parked at the usual place in the parking basement, but he lingered to finish the cd, before taking it out, and starting to gather the books and some other disks on the passenger chair. Tonight he was having dinner with Aimi. At this time she must be completing the dishes in his apartment. Her cooking talent was great, especially since her sister-in-law was a renowned cook, who owned a famous Japanese restaurant in Sapporo. Every Friday Aimi came to cook for him, then they spent some quiet time together as a couple of old friends. They hadn't slept with each other yet, he even rarely had physical contacts with her. If having to define what relationship they were in, he honestly couldn't find a correct word, though wouldn't deny that she was a steady part of his repetitive routine, an important part of his monotonous life, something he gratefully accepted, but regretfully failed to develop into a more beautiful and significant sentiment.
As the door was opened, a head turned around from his sofa to greet him "Hi, Zero!"
"Kaito-san?" He was a little surprised, the older hunter often stayed with his parents a couple of weeks on New Year's occasion. This year he returned quite early.
"Welcome home, Zero-san!" Aimi smiled from the adjacent kitchen. She's wearing a light pink apron, and was preparing fruits for their dessert. "Oni-san came back this afternoon. He couldn't wait to congratulate your victory."
"It's a miracle." Kaito chuckled "I thought I would come to visit you in a hospital or something."
"Yes." Zero stuttered. "Excuse me!" He showed the things in his hands to imply that he needed to put them down and get ready for dinner before they could talk more.
All of them had had confidence in his fight, however, they didn't expect him to get it over without serious injuries. In fact, he didn't know how the result would have been if Kaname hadn't come to help him. It had been five days since he left the pureblood's house in anger for the second time. He hadn't heard from him since, yet his mind sank deeper and deeper in thoughts about him. Instead of the bedroom, he went straight to his study. A book was carefully put down next to the other on his desk, the cds were in separate cases with neat, upright labels on each. They were the pieces of his forgotten past, which had finally returned to him. What was their hidden meaning?
Maybe he missed the light knock on his door, because Kaito decided to get himself in, and once again announce of his presence "Zero! Dinner is ready."
The older hunter ignored his future brother-in-law's answer to take a look at his desk. All were medical materials. "Kaname Kuran." Those two words were repeated on each book cover and cd label.
"We have just had a new-transferred doctor, he happened to be my old classmate." Zero explained "He said he didn't have a chance to return them to me before moving to another province for his first job after graduation."
"This pureblood was an inviting lecturer at your university." Kaito said thoughtfully. As a hunter, he remembered each pureblood's background. Moreover, Kaname was familiar to his family as the generous sponsor for his sister's study since their family had been in financial difficulty. Kaito was a typical hunter. The Takamiya ancestress was one of the strongest hunters in history, however, his father was a disgrace since he couldn't reach the supreme level, no matter how hard he tried. His entire life was spent on training, he totally ignored the role of a husband and a father in his family. Luckily, his friends didn't turn their backs on him. Kaito's father-in-law was a dignitary in the HA, who preserved a good position for him in the headquarters. He was married to a kind, caring wife, as arranged by his parents, had lovely kids, and constantly tried to improve himself to regain his family's reputation. His strength grew faster than other hunters of the same age, and was expected to reach the supreme at his early forties, though certainly couldn't be compared with Zero, a super exceptional case, who achieved it at twenty five. As for Aimi, Kaito had been cultivating her relationship with the young, powerful hunter. Having her next generation mixed with the Kiryuu's blood would secure their status in the highest rank. Many times he reminded her of not ever telling Zero that he once terminated their engagement.
"I never missed a seminar where he was a speaker, and recorded his full speeches each time. I had all of his books, and books he co-wrote with other doctors." Zero didn't take his eyes off the books which were kept in good condition as his friend knew he highly valued them. "But I had found none in my book shelf. There was no trace of Kaname Kuran in my home."
"What do you mean?" Kaito was confused. In fact, he had no clue of their relationship. They hadn't been close before, the younger hunter had never told anyone about how he truly felt for Kaname.
"Why did his books disappear? Why did nobody tell me I had planned to start my job at Kuran General Hospital?" If his old classmate knew about it, it wasn't a secret, the others such as chairman Cross or Yagari-sensei should be aware of it as well. They all said they told him as much as they knew to help him continue his life, but it seemed there was information purposely concealed.
"You've thought too much. It's probably an idea that you decided not to follow. I don't think your father would agree you to stay here after graduation." Kaito knitted his brows, some bad prediction suddenly popped up in his mind.
"Probably. I was the heir after all." Zero nodded. "I should've known that too, but I was seriously considering staying. It frustrates me that I can't remember what I thought." Perhaps it's because of his lover, who was very likely to live in Hokkaido, he wanted to stay close to her. "I haven't come back to Okinawa for years. I didn't have the courage to visit my family's grave before revenging for them. Why did death spare me on that night, while all my uncles, my cousins fought those heartless creatures to their last minute? My father failed to several fatal injuries, and my mother committed suicide by an athame next to him."
Kaito gave Zero a gentle squeeze on his shoulder "You should take some time to visit them soon, and visit my family. They really miss you."
The younger hunter turned to look at him. Kaito was like a good example of a big brother. He honestly respected him, and appreciated his kindness, but it only made himself feel worse for his lack of love to Aimi "Can you trust your sister to me? Do you think I deserve her?"
"Definitely. I also believe she will make a perfect wife."
"I have no doubt." Zero smiled sadly, then lowered his face "But I'm afraid I can't be a good husband."
Those words sounded like a threat to Kaito. He understood this young hunter had never fully committed to the marriage arrangement, and he wouldn't allow him to step out of it once again. "Was it a trauma after the fight? You two have been in perfect harmony. Aimi has relentlessly worried for you all these years."
"She has done a lot to me, but what have I done to her?" Zero sighed "You don't know what I used to be. I'm afraid when my past is revealed, all of you will regret. I wondered why none of my injuries were serious. If Shizuka was killing my father, shouldn't I try my best to protect him, or used my body to shield him? Did I just stand aside or... I actually wasn't there at the beginning?" He bitterly criticised himself. Those suspicions tormented his mind incessantly. He had expected to find peace after the vengeance, however, even Shizuka's death couldn't reduce his irresponsibility as a son. "I lost my birth mark before getting married. Was it right for a hunter? Was it fair to Aimi? Was my lover a bad person for leaving me or because I had never treated her well?"
Not that Kaito had never considered those facts. He was too traditional to accept what Zero had done. In other hand, nobody was aware of them, and his desire to have the younger hunter as his brother-in-law made him overlook everything else. "Who cares what you used to be. What matters is how you are now. We're proud of you. All I want is you and Aimi have a happy family together."
"Zero-san, oni-san! Dinner is cooling down." The girl's voice echoed from the other side.
"We're coming." Kaito answered.
Zero looked at his future brother-in-law's back when he was walking toward the door, and imagined a cosy dinner awaiting for them out there. It felt like he was taking advantage of their kindness. Fixing some problems for her computer and electrical appliances, taking care of her when she got a fever, giving her a ride now and then weren't big things to count. He could continue doing them for the rest of his life, but was it enough? Would it make their marriage a happy, successful one? He still hadn't told them the fact that he had slept with a male recently. It's not something before his amnesia, it's what he was now, regardless of how to look at it, he cheated on Aimi again.
"I think I know who my ex lover is."
Kaito squeezed the door handle, but managed to calm himself down before turning around "Who is it?"
It's laughable if he heard it yesterday. But not now, after seeing the stuff on the younger hunter's desk. "Impossible. He's as old as your father, and he was in a relationship with Takuma Ichijou. As far as I know, you're straight."
"Had we been lovers, I wouldn't let anyone know it." Zero didn't know he understood his past-self thoroughly. For a young, promising hunter who fell in love with a pureblood of his father's age, he would surely never expose it. It's kind of selfish, however, public opinion wasn't easy to ignore, especially when it's not only about himself, but also about his family's pride and reputation. "If someone can confirm it, I'm afraid it's just Kuran himself."
Kaito curved his lips in a complicated snigger. Where was their conversation going? He hated to think his sister and Zero were simply not meant to be. At least it's still lucky that the young hunter trusted him enough to confide in this issue, so he could guide him back to the right track in time. "Do you love him?"
Kaname used to be gorgeous. Zero remembered his old photos which he had seen in their database. In any aspect, the pureblood's natural beauty stunningly attracted his full attention. He was a man, but he didn't carry a strongly masculine impression, each of his gestures was elegant, and his look was so delicate. Maybe Zero wouldn't fall head over heels in love with him at first sight, but if he had someone like him confessed, and if he believed that feeling was true, then it's only a matter of time until he gave in. Such assumption suddenly made him think about some romantic novel or a soap opera where a handsome man and a beautiful woman started their relationship out of gratitude or arrangement, then gradually learned about the other's good points and fell in real love at the end.
"No." It's not going to happen in their case. Zero was unable to feel love, because that ability had been locked in the frozen area of his heart. If he could, he would have already fallen in love with Aimi. "But I possibly did. I had a feeling that our relationship was deeper than it looked. These stuffs are the evidence of my admiration to him. There's a photo of us in the database, and I wanted to work at his hospital. You know, he assisted me in the fight." It was kind of a surprise, yet the next was going to be a real shock "I slept with him after that... He fed me his blood to heal my allergy, and..."
"What allergy?" Kaito didn't remember how long it took until he could open his mouth to ask that short question, after Zero left his sentence unfinished. He hadn't estimated this issue properly. Now he was feeling it's a trap. That pureblood was trying to take this young, innocent hunter away from his family.
"He should've brought you to the HA." Kaito snapped, then sighed. Of course Kaname wouldn't do it, he wanted sex with Zero and tie him with responsibilities. Totally unexpected, yet he wouldn't lose to this challenge. "Did he imply he's your lover?"
"He told me he's infected." Zero shook his head "He wears a mask to cover the deformed half of his face." This was the second time he exposed the pureblood's current situation. Cross and Kaito were two persons who he trusted at most. In confusion, he would like to seek for their advice. The chairman seemed to know about his past, but for some reason wanted to conceal it. Now it could only be Kaito. It's contradictory since the older hunter was his fiancee's brother. However, Zero believed he wouldn't give a subjective opinion for his own benefit. As men to men, as true brothers, he hoped Kaito would tell him a right thing to do. "I want to search for my past, to fill up the void in my soul."
Wasn't it the responsibility of his fiancee to tell him what had happened in his life? It meant he and Aimi hadn't been close to each other, despite of their engagement. This whole problem was giving Kaito a headache. If Zero had slept with Kaname, it wasn't a trifle anymore. Even if not worrying about he had possibly been infected as well, it's very likely that he would take responsibility for their night and leave Aimi. At this point, Kaito decided to give Zero a solution. In one hand, it looked like he was unbiased. In other hand, it would eliminate this threat once and for all.
"Why don't you test him to find out the truth?"
Kaname had come. Zero heaved a sigh to brace up his courage before walking down to see him. This restaurant belonged to Kaito's wife. Today they were their only customers. All waiters had been informed that they were going to have a special dinner reserved for two. The first person came quite early, and the second wasn't any close to their imagination. He was wearing a white suit which was perfectly designed to cover his skinniness. His tall figure and serene countenance presented the grace of his high social status. The left hand was hidden in a white leather glove. Shining chestnut hair gently obscured the half-faced metal mask, yet it was still visible that he got a very straight bridge of nose, and his pale lips were somewhat seducing. Nevertheless, 'attractive' wasn't the proper word for description. If attending a masquerade, he could be appealing. However, it was pretty bizarre to dress that way in normal life. He must have already been used to what people thought about his appearance, because his single eye only focused on the young man walking toward him.
"Thank you for coming." Zero said as ceasing his steps in front of him..
"I can't say no when you insist it." Kaname replied. Indeed, he hadn't planned to take the hunter's invitation, but Zero didn't accept his refusal. After their unsmooth conversation on the New Year's day, he thought his beloved would never contact him again. It would be better if they stopped seeing each other, and returned to their unacquaintance. However, it seemed Zero needed this meeting. Unlike the previous times, he didn't run to his house, but asked him out.
This restaurant was totally empty, Kaname could smell the eaglewood scent right in the first instant stepping in, though it was subtly mixed with other fragrances. His healing ability had been significantly weakened, as a result, his body was vulnerable to all externally harmful elements, and eaglewood was a poison to vampires. Of course it needed a good amount to cause a real damage, but to one whose immune system had been infected, it was dangerous. Kaname could turn around and leave immediately, however, this was the danger his beloved had arranged for him. Even if Zero wanted to kill him because hunters couldn't sleep with anyone else except their spouse, he was willing to go along with.
"Follow me!" The hunter walked to the staircase, then held a hand out for him, implying that he would like to help him go upstairs, where a private room had been prepared for their dinner.
It was weird in the waiters' eyes as it's not that difficult to use the staircase. Each step was large and low. If Kaname was a woman, they might understand that Zero wanted to be polite to his girlfriend. But he was not. Their winces unhesitatingly showed a deep compassion to the person who was accompanying that peculiar man.
The pureblood's hand was soft and warm. While Zero just held his own hand out, Kaname squeezed it lightly to steady their contact. He wasn't anxious. Zero wondered if he realised anything. The staircase had been executed an anti-vampire charm, without touching a hunter, Kaname couldn't step on it.
After entering a small room where eaglewood was sharper in the incense burner, he released his hand. The pureblood sat down at a low table, staying silent when all of dishes prepared for their dinner were brought on at once. The door eventually slid close. It was also sealed by the same magic which hunters used in their buildings. Door charm was one of their strongest weapons, since it was the first protection against vampires, also the last in case they needed a shelter when unable to continue their fight. Kaname wouldn't be able to get out by himself.
Now it was only two of them.
How long would his beloved stay with him before leaving him alone here? He didn't want to think about what arrangement Zero had done, but the one thing he absolutely believed in was the hunter had truly loved him. Unexpectedly he recalled his plea for a three year time with Zero, even if he had to pay by his own life when it finished. Had it gone that way, then a dinner with him at the end, instead of a death penalty in front of his family, was definitely a good conclusion.
Zero poured hot sake into the pureblood's glass before filling up his own one. "Please finish our glasses!" He stammered, and hastily emptied it in one gulp.
Kaname also finished his glass. There was no strange taste, but it's obviously... different. The liquid vanished right in his throat, no hot feeling, but his whole body became slack. Everything suddenly turned blurry. As if he was drunk, except that he had never been drunk.
"What did you want to talk to me?" Kaname stuttered, referring to the excuse his beloved had used to ask him out.
"I'm sorry." The hunter's conscience was gnawing fiercely at him for such an obnoxious act "You've been locked. This whole floor is sealed by anti-vampire magic. With your condition, you aren't able to escape." Those words were like stabs in his own flesh. It's definitely not a right thing. Kaname was his savior. He couldn't treat him as a vampire criminal. However, it was his only way to reach the truth. As Kaito said, one was absolutely honest in a life-threatening situation. He must try to be tolerant for a little longer.
So it is the end. Zero wasn't going to have dinner with him. Kaname had imagined the worst scenario as soon as stepping in this restaurant, yet he expected to have some more time with his beloved first. Wasn't it ridiculous? How should a disciplined hunter as Zero want some time with him? The pureblood bitterly mocked his presumptuous wish. They were opposite to each other, they were a hunter and a vampire. Even worse, in his beloved's eyes, he was a wanton. He had created that bad impression to push him away, and would keep doing so to his last breath. Sitting had become too much for his overtired body. His mind drifted into haziness, after a dizzy instant, he collapsed on the cold floor.
Zero was astonished with his fall. Sensing something wrong, he rushed to the pureblood's side, and checked his glass. There was a smell-less, tasteless poison. "All preparations have been done. But I want to be more careful. This is your only chance, I want to make sure it'll work. When you get the result, we'll let him go." Kaito had gone too far. Zero had repeated many times that they weren't causing any real harm, yet the older hunter decided on his own to poison Kaname. A part of him wanted to jump out to yell at Kaito and immediately get the antidote. But another part was shamefully hesitant. It's indeed a lifetime opportunity for him to get all the answers he wanted.
"I will bring you home safely, if you reply my questions honestly." His voice was hoarse. It was the first time he threatened someone. Their peace treaty had been signed for decades. Even as a hunter, he had never imprisoned any vampires, but tonight he arranged to trap a pureblood, who hadn't committed any breach. The back of his mind suddenly wondered how Kaname could fall into his trap easily? Did his senses become too dulled that he was unable to recognise their arrangements?
"So it is an interrogation." The pureblood managed a scornful smirk "Shame. I thought you were going to rape me."
"Don't be ridiculous." Zero snapped. When one was at his enemy's feet, he should know better than provoking him. Nevertheless, Kaname didn't change his nasty attitude. His lips had turned too white, face totally colorless. How could one at this state, in this situation, still think about sex? The hunter knelt down, shortening their distance. With a gentle voice, he tried to get it done fast between them "I have an amnesia. I have forgotten all the things before my family's murder. There's one thing I want to know… Did we date each other before?"
Kaname vaguely looked at his beloved. Why was he suspecting it? Because he hadn't played well enough, or Zero had found out something? It's not dating. You are even more important than my life. But it was useless to spill it out. Sometimes being abandoned was better than being accepted and becoming a burden. He used to think for himself first, he used to selfishly court the hunter's love and stimulate his compassion to keep him. Thirty years with Takuma had misled him about the meaning of love. Loving someone wasn't to tie that person with himself. In fact, loving someone was to give him the best things he deserved. "You told me not to be ridiculous. I don't date anyone, I just bed them."
"Did we sleep with each other?" Zero felt his cheeks getting hot. Even at his age, sex was still something unfamiliar. His body might know it well, but his mind had never seriously thought about it. Despite of how touched he felt for Aimi's kindness, he never once desired to make love with her, never once desired to see a naked body or think about intimacy. It seemed like a frigidity. Too much pressures over years had taken his sexual instinct away. Who knew, he might be quite contrary before, the loss of his birth mark while he was still single was a firm evidence.
"We have." Kaname uttered. "You can't forget it already."
Of course Zero remembered they had done it recently, however, he was asking if they had before his amnesia. Kaito said one was absolutely honest in a life-threatening situation, but Kaname was pretty calm. Wasn't he scared? Wasn't it threatening enough? The hunter started feeling discouraged. How could he get the right result if his method was wrong? It was a mistake from the very beginning. Kaname was losing his consciousness, the poison took effect very fast on him, because he wasn't in a good health for starter. With his condition, he would never wake up if he passed out. Zero sighed "You're not only my savior. You've been sponsoring for Aimi's study. She will graduate this year, then we will get married. No matter how you live your life, both of us are in debt to you. I'm sorry."
It felt like he was falling into nothingness when hearing his beloved whispering by his ear. Kaname struggled to open his single eye, Zero had given up, his heart ached seeing the frustration on his lover's face. It wasn't easy to deal with an amnesia, it wasn't easy to let go of all the good and bad moments one had been through. Maybe his decision in that year wasn't completely right, but nothing could be perfect, they had to take the more important and sacrifice the other. Zero was going to marry Aimi, they were going to build a family together. With time they would make a lot of happy memories, when his children were born, the hollow in his soul would gradually disappear. "No need to take it personally. I've sponsored many children in Cross Orphanage, not only her."
Zero nodded. "I'll get you the antidote." He stood up, walking out to slide the door open.
Kaito had always stood in the other side. "I thought you determined to get the truth out of him."
"I can't continue a minute longer." Zero whispered "We've agreed not to harm him."
Kaito showed him his open palm with a white capsule "Here." but immediately closed it when the younger hunter was about to snatch it "Now I use the right of your fiancee's brother to ask you leave, Zero! Let me take care of it! I will detoxify him and make sure he will go home safely."
"I want to do it myself." Zero insisted. It was his responsibility. Kaname had been intoxicated because he trusted him. He had come to save him when his life was in danger. In turn, Zero couldn't leave him in this moment.
"Let me do it!" Kaito was even more resolute "Don't give him any hope that you care for him. You're engaged to my sister. You should not ever be distracted by any other persons."
The hunter was reluctant. It was true, he couldn't have any argument with Kaito's rational reasons. If meeting Kaname and some weird feelings for him, which were reeling in his heart, were a type of fate, it was definitely not a blessed fate.
"Did we sleep with each other?"
"We have. You can't forget it already."
They should never meet again. So separate now or after bringing him home didn't make a difference. As a matter of fact, Zero didn't know what expression he would be showing on his face if walking back in. People thought he was too calm, but he actually just hid his emotions in front of the others. He didn't want Kaito to see his weak moment, more than that, he didn't want Kaname to see it. Amethyst eyes gazed at the senseless wall, trying to pick up an image of the pureblood lying on the floor waiting for him. "Please take care of him."
Kaito waited until sound of the younger hunter's treads down the staircase disappeared, and entered the room, carefully shut its sliding door close again. He walked around the low table which was still full of food, to take a better look at the poisoned pureblood. "Zero isn't coming back. My name is Kaito Takamiya."
Kaname opened his single eye after hearing the newcomer's brief introduction. The figure which was towering above him seemed menacing. He knew his beloved hadn't arranged all those alone. It was reasonable that Kaito was his accomplice, however, his heart sank to know Zero had left. He wanted to see him once more. Though they couldn't have a future, he still wished their time together would never end. What a silly thought! Perhaps one was never mature when thinking about love. It remained unchanged since the first time he held Zero in his arms, thirty years ago, when the hunter was a six month baby, he wished to hold him forever.
"Don't be panicked. I'm not killing you. I'm not interested in questioning you about my brother-in-law's past either." Kaito continued "I just concern public opinion on what you may tell the Vampire Council."
Yes, if Kaname left this place alive, in theory, it's very likely that he would relate everything to Takuma and require him to press the HA into punishing the two hunters who had abducted and tortured him, an honorable pureblood. It meant their careers would be ruined. The HA wouldn't promote someone who was undisciplined, and disrespected their peace treaty.
"You can rest assured what have happened will be in silence forever." The pureblood murmured "I don't wish to be the center of all attentions."
"You've misunderstood again." Kaito smirked "I'm not forcing you to keep silent. I just want to make sure what you are going to say becomes ineffective to us. Zero is pretty hot tempered. But we are true hunters. And as a true hunter, it is my duty to report what I have seen to my superior. I see..." He sat on his heels, with the smirk retained on his face, stretching a hand out to lift up the pureblood's metal mask. "Kaname Kuran has been hiding his deformation."
Who would listen to a discredited pureblood?
-to be continued-
Posted: 4 May 2013
Please let me know what you think about this chapter.