Black and Violet

Beginning in the Middle

As far as I'm concerned there has always been evil in the world, my life is enough proof for me. I can't help but wonder at my own existence, to marvel at the pain that kept me here, the cold grey eyes and the merciless smile that left me here alone to make my way in confusion. The stars glitter over head, but their light is just as icy as the winter air that encircles me and entwines itself through my very being. I fear that the ice may consume me completely someday; perhaps that is why I have decided to write this, a record of my life, my memories. I can only hope that as you read my recollections that you do not judge me harshly for what I am and what I've done. I suppose the beginning is a good place to start so I shall start at the beginning in the middle of my tale. The beginning of a puzzle that would later help make sense of my erratic past and my first beginning. So onward we go, back to a silent winter night in a deserted quarter of distant city.

A thin scream disrupted the silence that pressed on my ears. A few steps and I felt the air rush past as I hurtled from the roof top toward the ground. I landed lightly, catlike, and running less than an instant later. The smell was strong and rich, metallic bite stinging my nose. It was a lighthouse beacon shining in the dark, leading me to the source of the terrified pain-filled cry. I knew what I would face and how to take care of it. I knew I wouldn't lose this one.

I struck quickly. The bloody-eyed beast dropped the child, staring into space with shock as it slowly began to disintegrate. The dust dispersed quickly in the midwinter wind, leaving only the small girl and myself in the snow. The few feet of white that separated us seemed miles to me, as I took my first cautious step toward her. She turned large blue eyes up at me, shivering with cold and terror. Her thin night gown soaked up the blood that still trickled down her throat. I stopped and waited. She came to me, arms out stretched, recognizing me as a savior. I gathered her up, a sad smile on my face. She was lucky; she would never have to face what I did. She would live out her life never remembering this night. I rested my forehead against hers; cutting off her whispered 'thank you.' I felt her slump in my arms, fast asleep and without any memory of the last few hours of her life.

"Another one? I would almost think you were responsible for some of this, if I didn't know any better," the chief of police sighed, taking the child from my arms. "Thank you for finding her. What shall I tell her parents?"

"What do you always tell them, Sawyer-sama?" My own voice was hoarse from lack of use. I rarely found reason to speak any more. "Tell them whatever you always do."

"Will you never take credit for your good work? Have you considered going back home yet?"

"Sawyer-sama, stop asking questions to which you already know the answers. I will not return to Japan and I have done nothing to warrant any attention to myself. Until the next time I m called upon, oyasumi." I replied before slipping out of the window of his office.

I stayed out on the sidewalks as I roamed away from the police station. As late as it was, no one would disturb me. Unless of course, they were the monsters I sought. They would see me as a comrade, until they fell, fading into dust. Their last realization would be that greeting me was a mistake. I would repel anyone else, any human that strayed from the bright lights during the city's night life.

I saw myself, a shadowy reflection in the windows of darkened, sleeping shops. I could see the pale skin of my face, the jet black of my waist length hair was in stark contrast. What I hated the most in my reflection was the sight of my own eyes. Large, gentle and the oddest shade of red-brown, they would draw people. They were made to draw them, to bring them to me as my victims. I glared into my own reflection, lost for a moment. A moment disturbed by the cracking of glass. I had released too much power. Damn it. I clenched my fists, turning away with eyes cast to the ground. The only sounds now were the soft crunch of my boots on snow and the rising wind. My long duster billowed around me and my hair was swept back. An ominous feeling tingled in the pit of my stomach. The wind was not of natural causes, and I could feel his approach. I stood rooted to the spot, hands in my coat pockets, staring coldly ahead.

The world seemed to spin as my head flashed through memory after memory of the past. His cold eyes, the feel of his harsh grasp were painful reminders of the past. The truths of his words, however, were what hurt the most. The man represented every ounce of evil I had ever known. The blood dripping from his gleaming fangs would haunt my thoughts for eternity. I had never wanted to awaken. I had never wanted to live like this.

I could smell the scent of fresh blood, but it wasn't human. It seemed he had fed off his fiancé, I noted with grim satisfaction. I prayed it hurt like the fires of hell each time they shared blood. Those vile creatures that stalked the night and haunted my dreams deserved a slow death.

"Vampire," the word was a whispered curse in icy Japanese. His gaze made my skin crawl as he came into view through the cloud of snow swept up by his wind.

His low chuckle was poisoned honey, "Doushitano? You seem unhappy to see me after all this time Yuuki-chan. It also seems 'gentle princess' no longer suits you. Perhaps I should call you Yuki instead, to fit your snowy complexion and heart." (A/N: Yuuki and Yuki have two different meanings. The first means 'gentle princess' the second means 'snow').

"Watashi-" I paused, switching to English. "I do not give a damn what you call me. I would hunt you to the ends of the earth-"

"Alas, ai, you cannot. Not and continue to protect these petty humans you are so fond of."

"You seem to be quite fond of your 'fodder,' aho." I snapped back. Perhaps calling him an ass hole was not one of my more brilliant ideas in retrospect. Nevertheless, I did and found myself caught by the throat.

"Sayonara, Vampire." I choked out, vanishing into smoke between his fingers.

By now you have surely figured out what I am and what I do. I haunt the night killing my own kind. Ironic and oddly clichéd isn't it? A vampire hunting vampires, ha . . . It sounds like the plot of a TV show, ne? Well, that is my life. Though the contact that night was brief, it was important. The monster was a pureblood named Hisashi and that was far from the last time we would meet as it was far from the first time we had met. Hisashi Tanaka-head of the pure blood Tanaka clan and one of the most dangerous vampires in existence, his fiancé is the beautiful princess of the pureblood clan Ichijou, Aimi. He could have stopped me and forced me to return against my will that night, such is the power of the purebloods . . . except on other purebloods. . .

I entered into the window of my apartment, not having bothered to reform elsewhere. I lived in an old, rundown, empty warehouse in one of the many deserted quarters of the city. The room was sparsely furnished: a low cot, a folding chair, and a wooden box that served for a table. There was a small bathroom in the corner as well, though it was nothing more than a sink, a toilet and a little 3'x3' patch of space for a shower-separated from the sink only by a 2"ridge on the floor and a curtain. The crate that stood as my table also held my few possessions. There was a small pendant containing a tiny dried rose on a black ribbon that I had had as long as I could remember, a Wakizashi with blood red Itomaki (the thread wrapping on its hilt), two changes of clothes, and-when I wasn't hunting- a telescoping metal bo (a bo is a staff about 2m long) with magic seals carved into it that I often used to strike down rouge vampires. I grabbed one of my changes of clothes-a pair of dark wash jeans, a square necked shirt with long kimono-sleeves and a low scooped back with a thin ribbon criss-crossing the opening twice, and a pair of knee-high socks- and made my way to take a shower. I washed my dirty clothes in the sink and laid them out across the crate and folding chair to dry. I was about to lie down for the day when a small noise caught my attention. Immediately, I snatched my bo and snapped it to full length.

I bared my fangs and snarled, "Who's there?"

The light of sunrise began to filter through the window I had recently entered and hurt my eyes, but I remained still. I glared into the shadowed area where the sound had come from, slowly adjusting my vision to the dawn. A sickeningly familiar laugh floated in silvery tones to my ears.

"Shiki Tsukiko. What in the seven hells are you doing here?" I lowered my bo slightly, but didn't drop my guard. The pathetic excuse of vampire flesh was Hisashi's lapdog. Had Hisashi moved his entire clan and entourage to America now?

"It would seem that Milord has taken quite the interest in you, particularly since your idiotic outburst earlier. He called it brave." She gave an obviously jealous scoff. She ran thin, delicate fingers across the back of my chair and looked up at me. "I don't see why he sees such intrigue in you. You live in this filthy little rat-hole, protect what should be your prey and would clearly leap at the first chance to take Milord's life. You disgust me in every way imaginable, but that doesn't matter. That isn't my purpose here today."

I looked into cold, hate filled eyes, "Then just what is your purpose here?"

"I am here to extend an invitation to you. My Lord is having a ball for every vampire of blood in New York City and for some reason he wants you there as well. Dress accordingly, the ball starts at eight o'clock promptly. You'll be able to find it easily."

"Yes, I'd just follow the stench. Sadly I have no appropriate clothing. So tragic." I smiled icily.

"I had hoped that would be the case, but Lord Hisashi already considered that. Here." She threw a moderately sized gift box my way. "He expects you there and intends to drag you there himself if he has to. See you this evening." She growled and disappeared. I bent and opened the box. Inside it was the most beautiful black and purple silk I had ever seen cut into a dress perfectly my size, beside it a pair of black stilettos to match. I sighed. It would be a long night tonight.

I could not ignore the pull any longer. I crawled into bed and pulled the thin blanket over my head and sleep came swiftly.

My dreams that day were blurred and twisted after the rapid and shocking visit of Tsukiko. The black and purple silk would remain in its box for several more hours, as I hadn't even taken care to view the light garment at full length. Thinking back, it was almost like I was afraid to, like Hisashi would have done something to it to hurt me. It was foolish, but none the less was how I felt. That evening I would rise at five, almost a full hour before sunset. I remember that even though I was wide awake, I felt completely unrested. The thought of being near Tanaka Hisashi two nights in a row set me on edge. It was at this point, everything seemed to slow down when in all actuality the wheels were only just being set into motion.

I found myself staring at a sunlit ceiling before I was fully conscious of what was going on. I rolled onto my side and sighed, directly in my line of sight was the gift from last night. Grumbling, I jerked the blanket over my head and closed my eyes. It was of no use, of course. I was hopelessly, fully awake. I cursed angrily, throwing the blanket back and myself out of bed. I glowered at the clock on the far wall of my apartment. Five fucking o'clock. I cursed again, more violently. I paced in the still relatively bright sunlight, grateful that not all vampire tales were true. Yes, there was sensitivity to light, but it was much more similar to the light sensitivity of a raccoon or a bat. Though I did tend to sunburn rather more easily than a human, the light mainly just agitated my eyes. My pacing took me into my small bathroom where I looked into the mirror. I had sleepless bags under my eyes and my hair was all over the place. I looked like death… Or an unkempt lion… Either way it was rough.

I splashed water in my face and brushed through my long hair. I sighed again. I knew I would go to his stupid party later. I had no doubt that when Tsukiko said that he would drag me there, she wasn't joking. The bitch wasn't the joking type. I hung my head in defeat, any fleeting thought of defiance gone. Hisashi was a pureblood, a powerful prince among my kind. His will would be obeyed, whether or not compliance had to be forced.

Of course, I wasn't exactly a "normal" vampire. I, like every other bloodsucker that would be in attendance, was of the noble, upper class of vampires. My blood was nearly pure, far closer than about 90% of the noble class. I was only about 1/32 human, one generation away from being considered pureblood again and having all the powers. To Hisashi, now that he had found me again, meant that, if he wanted it, my presence was mandatory. And to top it all off, because of my history (of course), he would be the only reason that I wasn't killed on sight. It seemed that the upper class community frowned upon "self-genocide." Still, I couldn't help but wonder, given how I lived and what I did, why I had been so forcefully extended such an invitation.

When I finally broke my contemplations, it was dark. I looked at the time, seven. It was time to get ready. Once more, I sighed.

I brushed my hair again and fastened a violet rose-clip into it on the left side. I had found the clip next to a bottle of black nail polish in the box Tsukiko had left. As I coated my nails, I gave a bitter laugh. 'The ass,' I thought coldly, 'at least has a sense of humor.'

I had no makeup to put on, so once my nails were dry I slid on the dress. Even out of the box and on, it seemed to mock me because of my humble surroundings. It was off-the-shoulder and clung to me to the hip where it seemed to fall like black water to the ground in a delicate cloud of skirt. The main portion of the dress was black, but the detailing at the seams and a single rose at my right shoulder were purple. The shoes matched perfectly: plain, strappy open-toed stilettos in a satiny black. I had to give credit where it was due, he had good taste.

The last thing I did was tie on the pendant I kept put away in my crate. It fit in too perfectly. Like I said, the ass had a sense of humor. I dissolved into a wisp of smoke and left my home, not a moment to late.

Though it doesn't seem like much and it probably seems stupid that I would react with such bitter humor over roses and black nail polish, there was-to me- a great significance. It took me back to a past I scarcely remembered. These little snippets I saw as bitter humor would be tossed at me on more than one occasion that night by Hisashi himself and even by the icy Tsukiko. I would also discover something about the not-so-bright Aimi Ichijou. She was just a pawn in his game of chess, a fact both of us would discover too late.

I ignored the chill of the wind as I lighted near the entrance of the hotel that I had traced Hishashi to. Despite the ice on the ground, I kept my balance well and despite the snowy air, I did not shiver. I walked up to the door with my head held high and my eyes full of fierce pride. The eyes of the others there for the affair shot icy-hot daggers at me, but I paid no mind. Their whispers followed me, but I only smiled. The man just outside the ball room eyed me with surprise for I had no coat or stole. I laughed softly and smiled.

"Don't worry; I simply left it in the car.I won't be freezing anytime tonight." I lied quietly, well half lied. I wouldn't be cold. The man just gave a light laugh and nodded. He was probably the most pleasant person I would meet all night, "If you could please hold this purse here though?"

He nodded and I thanked him then went inside.

Just inside the door was a kind of receiving line. At its lead was the head of the Ichijou clan Senri and his wife, following them were, of course, Hisashi and Aimi. Since both of his parents apparently 'committed suicide,' Hishashi had assumed roll as head of the Tanaka clan. This meant that, even at what was clearly his own engagement party, he must present himself as a host. I held back a bitter laugh at his uncomfortable position. Of course, the look on Senri's face was NOT helping. The poor old thing look as though he was about to choke. My presence was apparently unexpected.

"Ichijou Senri-sama, Ichijou Mika-sama." I muttered softly, retuning a bow that was slightly more inclined than the one I received. I was decidedly going to be proper and polite on that night. It would surprise more people.

"Welcome, Yuuki-chan." Mika's soft voice was pleasant in my ears. "It is good to see you again."

"Arigatou, Obaa-san." I replied quietly. Her smile told me my answer was welcome.

"Well, here is our replacement, dear. Now we may enjoy the wonderful party set up by your parents." Hisashi's voice struck into my happy moment. I nearly swore out loud. I knew it was a trap.

"WHAT??" I wasn't sure who was louder, but it was pretty close between me and Senri.

"You said if I found a close relative to receive guests, I could be spared on the eve of our engagement ball." His smile was sly. He was toying with limits, limits he clearly knew well.

"A close relative, Tanaka-san, not any relative." Senri replied more calmly. Mika then leaned over and whispered in something in her husband's ear, too low for anyone else to hear, but Hisashi clearly knew what she said for his grin expanded. Aimi looked utterly confused and her father's eyes widened for a minute. He sighed, "I had forgotten, it's been so long-"

"Shhh, now. Guests are starting to line up; you two run along and have fun. Yuuki-chan, come stand by me. We won't be long doing this. Thank you, dear." Mika was a compelling woman. I pasted a smile on my face and complied. She was one of the few vampires I liked and I liked her too much to upset her. Damn it.

"Welcome, Fujiwara-san." I inclined slightly to the night's final guest, a tall vampire from somewhere around Kyoto. He smiled spitefully at me, but nevertheless, as everyone else, responded respectfully.

"Thank you so much for your help," Mika hugged me lightly. She was a pretty woman, slim with grey-streaked black hair swept into an elegant knot. Her dress was a pale peach that accented her skin tone beautifully. That was when I began to take notice of the room. Everyone was in pale, light-hearted colors. I was one of four people in black out of the two hundred or so there. Senri, Hisashi, Tsukiko, and I were the only people in black of any kind. I by far wore the most. There had clearly been a what-to-wear memo that Hisashi had joyfully ignored when choosing my wardrobe.

"You are very welcome, is there anything else I will be replacing Hisashi for?" I smiled warmly, unable to be agitated when talking to her.

"Oh, no dear, you'll just sit on his other side when we sit down for the meal. I'll be within saving distance, don't worry. I'll be by Aimi. So it will be something like you-Hishashi-Aimi-me-Senri and so on." She tried to be pleasant, but understood my discomfort. "Go on, enjoy some of the pre-dinner dancing, Yuuki."

"Of course, I will try to enjoy myself. I just fear that too many of those in attendance here are not my biggest fans." I sighed, looking out across the room. Mika patted my shoulder comfortingly before being whisked away by the wife of one of Senri's partners.

I felt alone. It wasn't that I didn't know anyone there. Oh, believe me, I knew almost every single vampire in attendance. It was an awkward feeling of alone, the one you get when you know you don't have a single friend in a place crowded with unpleasantly familiar and unfamiliar faces alike. I folded my arms as though struck by a sudden chill. I moved as discreetly as I could to the other side of the room to stand against the wall and watch the dance floor. It was of my opinion that the less attention I received, the more smoothly and quickly this nightmare would pass.

The vampires on the dance floor swirled gracefully in time with the music from the miniature orchestra hired for the occasion. It was a beautiful, unearthly sight to behold-more like floating than dancing. I was rather unimpressed by this. It disgusted me to know that it was this unearthly beauty that helped make us apex predators. Still, the gentle flow of the music made me want to dance as well. I had always loved music. Almost any kind would do. The simple melodies and beats existed consistently over time. Just like me, they would likely never die off. After a song or two, I even caught myself swaying with the rhythm. I smiled softly, no one was bothering me and I had the melody of a wonderful foxtrot ringing in my ears. I was finally beginning to enjoy myself.

"Excuse me?" I turned at the sound of an unfamiliar male voice.

"Me?" I asked, glancing to see if there was anyone near by.

"Yes, you. Would you like to dance? You look kind of alone, swaying by yourself. My name is Ari." He was tall and handsome with tan skin and black hair. His accent was Israeli and he seemed sincere enough as he stood with his hand out to me. His dark eyes held no false kindness, only gentle curiosity.

"Ah…" I hesitated a moment. "I would love to dance. I'm Yuuki."

I let him lead me out to dance, trying ferociously to ignore the stares of hatred. We began a slow waltz and he looked down at me, "There is something bothering you." It wasn't a question.

"You haven't heard of me then? I was certain everyone here would be disgusted by my presence. Clearly, my reputation precedes me less than I had thought. I was born a part of this world and I turned my back on it. I hunt down vampires who harm the humans I live among. The fact that I am here surrounded by these particular individuals and their haughty glares bothers me." I found myself sighing before I could catch my tongue. I had never had trouble keeping anything to myself with anyone other than Hisashi; what was going on?

"I see. So you are the one they all whisper fears about." His smile was relaxed. "You don't seem all that scary or unstable to me."

I laughed bitterly, "Unstable? That is a new one. I am assuming it is being used to lobby for my eradication? I am unstable therefore I will turn around and violate all our laws to kill someone like Senri or Hisashi?"

"That is the general sum of it. I was expecting someone a bit more, well, insane looking than you. Or perhaps someone with a more frightening or harsh aura, however, yours is quite soft." He continued to pull me through the next waltz, this one a bit quicker than the last.

"Amusing," I muttered, almost to myself.

"Your name, Yuuki, what does it mean?" He seemed to sense my mood change and changed topics.

"The characters that create my name mean 'gentle princess,' but my name can mean 'snow' when written another way. Our name meanings depend on how they are written instead of how they are said, unlike most other languages. What does your name mean?" I replied, unsure of both why I was still dancing with him and why I was trying to continue a conversation with him. It was out of character for me.

"How fitting for you. Ari means lion. One of many names in Hebrew that has that meaning." He smiled warmly.

A more modern song was struck up next, a slow dance. The swirling of skirts stopped and the dancers that were on the floor drew close to their partners and began revolving in small circles. Ari and I stopped where we were, still in a waltz hold. I felt my self blush when he looked down at me. The silent question of whether to continue dancing or to sit this one out hung between us. I was about to agree to continue our dance when an irritating voice drove me back into reality.

"May I cut in, Ari?" Hisashi gave a half bow. I knew Ari could sense my immediate unease, seeing as it would have been obvious to a blind human, but the note in the pureblood's voice told us both that it was not a request. The hair on the back of my neck stood up the moment my new acquaintance released me and a shiver of hatred threatened to over take me when Hisashi took his place.

"Come to gloat, Hi-chan?" I hissed.

"Hmm, that is something you haven't called me in a while, 'Hi-chan.' I had thought you'd forgotten." His smile was smug.

"Forgotten? Hisashi, you send me this dress, black nail polish, and the rose clip and you think I would forget? I remember every moment-painfully- that I lived near you. I remember the first time I called you Hi-chan. The nail polish assured that." I kept my voice low and the anger in my tone high. I could remember every detail of that day. It was before my guardians' deaths, back when we lived on the grounds of Hisashi's family estate. I had gone out for the weekend dressed as girly as any rich snob would deem appropriate and changed into my favorite colors of black and violet the moment I was out of sight. Black nail polish was the only thing that gave me away when I returned. My aunt freaked out and searched my bag, finding all of my 'contraband' clothing. Hisashi had come to my rescue and told her it was for a play-naturally it was mysteriously canceled for odd reasons. I had been so happy that later that day I kissed him-square on the lips- and accidentally called him by the nickname I had given him in my diary. I hated that memory, more than words could describe.

"I had hoped you would recall that day. I know I still recall that kiss." His words, words that were meant to cut, did their job well. I let out a sharp breath.

"Shouldn't you be with Aimi? This is a song you should dance to with her, not me." I resisted the urge to tell him exactly where he could go and what he could do when he got there.

"Why would I do that? She's occupied at the moment." His smile was cold and spoke volumes. I could guess what it meant, but I was hoping for poor, sweet Mika's sake that it wasn't true.

"Hisashi, what did you do?" My words were so low only the two of us could hear them.

"Nothing." The rest of his thought hung silently in the air between us as one simple word. Yet… I glared hard at him.

"Hi-sa-shi-ba-ka," I hissed through gritted teeth a bit too loudly, and then lowered my voice considerably. "I don't know what you are up to, but mark my words: if you don't leave me out of it, you will regret the day you were conceived."

"I look forward to it, ai," he bent down to whisper in my ear just as someone exclaimed at my not so kind naming of him. Hisashi drew me closer, so that my body was flush against his and laughed, "Now, now, calm down. Marion, it was simply a conversation between old friends. No disrespect was made."

The young blonde vampire's green eyes were skeptical, but never the less she smiled and curtsied, "Of course, Lord Hisashi."

I felt my heart flutter, and I cursed myself. I reminded myself of how cold and unfeeling those stormy grey eyes had been. I reminded myself that I hated him. I tried to, at any rate. My heart decided to remind me I loved him in spite of myself and my common sense. I pulled back, away from him, and practically ran to the open balcony. Damn it!

I look back on that particular moment and can't help but call myself a complete fool. Running out like that only seemed to serve his purpose there, only seemed to feed his ego. Running like that let him know that he had gotten to me. It, perhaps, would have been better for me to swallow my feelings and keep the mask I had adopted so well over the years. Of course, as you will come to notice, the pattern of keeping my cool, icy exterior near Hisashi was essentially non-existent. It would seem that I am a weak person and, though it is more to the detriment of your opinions of me, I fear, I will continue through the fiascos of that night, for they were far from over.

"Shit, shit, shit, shit! What is wrong with me?" I muttered, taking deep breaths of the night's wintry air. A soft breeze caught my hair and pushed it away from my face, despite the fact that I hung my head.

"What is wrong with you indeed, Yuuki?" Tsukiko appeared by my side, her black-trimmed red dress fluttering slightly. "Stealing Milord away like that and then running out on him… You really have no sense of decency do you?"

"Get over him, will you? He is not all that." I snapped back. "He interrupted my dance and goaded me. At any rate, don't you still have some ass kissing to do tonight? Surely you haven't already reached today's quota?"

"Aren't you the funny one? Nothing is ever Lord Hisashi's fault; you should know that by now."

"Ha! If you'd pull your head-"

"Yuuki! It's time to come take your place at the table!" Mika's kind voice drifted to me.

"I'm coming! And you, if you don't intend to become my next practice dummy, you'll back the hell off." I added coldly to Tsukiko.

"When and where, worthless mutt?" She smiled back at me, insulting my heritage like I would care.

"Enjoy what's left of your night, it'll probably be the last one you see." I replied, finally regaining my mask of composure.

"We shall see." I heard her murmur as I walked away. I resisted the urge to destroy her right then, if only for the sake of Aimi's sweet mother. At least, I thought, I can look forward to ridding myself of one bane of my existence tonight.

Snarling under my breath, I stood behind my seat on Hisashi's right side. A few more of my least favorite vampires joined us at the head table to my right and Senri's left, leaving Aimi's father at the center position of the long table. Hisashi grabbed my hand, I was short enough even in the stilettos that it wouldn't be seen by anyone because of the table.

I cringed when he gave my fingers a gentle squeeze and whispered, "It is good to see you being so cooperative for once Yuuki-chan. It becomes you, very much like the dress I chose for you. Do you like it?"

"Far more than your rotten sense of humor towards me, Hi-chan." I kept my voice pleasant, as he had. We both knew very well, despite the fact that we were whispering, most of the guests at the front tables nearest us and at the head table with us could hear every word.

"Come now, we both know it suits you far better than any spring color would. Even your aunt Aiko knew it." He slid in a subtle reminder of the past, a past that confused and upset me.

I lowered my voice so much that he would almost have to strain to hear me, that way I knew only he would. "Tanaka Hisashi, you are crossing boundaries that ought not to be crossed."

"I don't think so. I can still hear your heart fluttering rapidly. I believe I am still within my limits." He lowered his voice to match mine and squeezed my hand again. It sent my heart racing a bit faster for a moment and I had to fight back a blush.

"That, you arrogant fool, is out of hatred and disgust. It has absolutely nothing to do with how I used to feel about you." I hissed, almost certain he would find my lie obvious.

"Liar." He smiled, just before everyone fell silent for Senri to speak. Damn it. I pulled my hand from his and gripped the back of my chair so hard it left indentions.

When we took our seats, I glared at Hisashi, "You are far too smug and certain of yourself. Do not be so sure that I would not help the vampire hunters if it came right down to the greater good for humans and vampires alike. Make no mistake Hisashi, I despise you with everything I am."

"And yet every time I speak to you or touch you, you soften for a moment. It seems you do not agree with your own words, Takemi Yuuki." His words were calm and confident.

"Don't trick yourself into seeing what makes life easier for you, baka." I answered coldly. I took up my wine glass. Inside there appeared to be red wine, but in reality I knew the liquid was thicker than a bloody mary. "Human blood. Your humor continues, Hisashi. I have had enough."

He genuinely seemed shocked when I rose from my seat, repeating, "I have had enough. I am done here, Tanaka Hisashi. Done with this and dealing with you."

Faces around the room turned from their glasses and the coming plates of human food. I had made sure to speak in a clear, calm voice that carried around the room. I looked down the head table, "Mika-sama, Ari-san, I am sorry. I must leave. I will not continue to allow this pig to throw silent insults in my face."

I could see my ringing words had shocked them, if not so much hurt them. "Gomen-ne, I do have my pride. Aimi-sama, I wish you good luck."

With that, I stepped out from in front of my chair, slid it up, walked down the head table and through the hall to the exit. I left. With every eye on me too shocked to hold hatred, I left the meeting hall/ballroom. As I left, I handed the doorman that had been concerned for me a large tip, all the money I had carried with me in the purse he now handed me, "I wish you well."

"Is-is everything all right, miss?" he asked, unsure of what to think.

"I have never been better, sir. Your wife, she is still alive?" I asked, noticing his wedding band.

"Y-yes ma'am." He answered, still confused.

"There is a couple thousand dollars there. Take her somewhere, buy her something, or just pay off what needs to be paid. Either way, do something to make her smile and make you happy." I answered. "This evening has put me in a very good mood and it started with you. I'm not trying to seem snobby or holier-than-thou. I promise, it's just a thank you."

"Of course! This will mean so much! We can go see my daughter in Hawaii now! Thank you, so much. Have a wonderful night." He smiled brightly. I smiled back gently and left the building.

I had walked several blocks down the street in the direction of home when a blur of red caught my eye. Tsukiko appeared in front of me, furious. I only smiled.

"You will regret that. You made my lord look like a fool." She snarled. "No one defies Tanaka Hisashi. No one."

"Making him look like a fool is not difficult, Tsukiko." I answered calmly, already reaching into my purse for my bo. I never left home without it.

"I do not care any longer what the council says about blood. You have been a thorn in the side of lord Hisashi and the whole vampire community for far to long, Takemi Yuuki-han." She hissed (A/N: -han indicates a kyotou dialect).

"Still so polite. I guess that's what happens when you're raised a slave, ne?" I smiled, snapping my bo quickly to full length. The sutras carved into it began to glow. It was as ready as I for this fight. "Do not, underestimate me Shiki Tsukiko. If you do, this fight will not last long."

She bared her fangs and launched at me claws first. I could see the energy crackling around her finger tips and side stepped the attack. I had almost forgotten lightening-like energy was the medium her powers took on. That was ok, aside from the sutras' power on my bo, my powers manifested in fire and I could channel it through my bo for an extra umph of spiritual power to strengthen it.

Tsukiko continued to barrel at me in the same manner repeatedly, which told me she was underestimating me. Exactly what I told her not to do. All she had to show for it was a shallow, cauterized cut the top of my shoulder. I shook my head. It almost didn't seem fair toying with her like that.

"I told you Tsuki-chan. I told you not to underestimate me. I wasn't going to kill you, but it's clear you're determined to kill me. And- if I know you as well as I once did and I am certain I do- I know you will hunt me to the ends of the earth until you see me dead. Well, frankly, I have no urge to play cat and mouse for any amount of time with you. So, my dear, sweet Tsuki-chan, I leave you to die with the memory of how we used to be and what you have done fresh in your wicked mind." I said as she stared at me wide eyed. I sounded cold and blunt, down to business. The tone obviously told her it was all over. She froze. Her short dark hair ruffled slightly in the wind when I gently tapped her forehead with my bo. True to my word, memories flooded her of what once was. She hit her knees crying, hurting as she had made others hurt and as she saw her previous happiness.

"Gomen-nasai… Do it now." She cried, begging for justice against herself.

"Gomen, Tsuki-chan. Sayonara." I murmured before striking her with my bo, leaving a wound from shoulder to hip. Her eyes widened again and her lips parted in a silent scream as she began to crack and disintegrate into ash and dust. "Gomen Tsuki… Ashes to ashes, dust to dust…"

I put my bo back into the purse I had dropped while dodging my former friend/enemy's attacks. Sliding the strap back over my shoulder, I began to walk toward home again, so many thoughts and memories flooding my head that only muscle memory carried me to my destination.

So now it should have become clear to you that the people I hate are also ones that I once cared deeply for. The fiascos with Hisashi, during dinner, and with Tsukiko had left me drained. I recall simply wishing to go home, crawl under my blankets and pretend not to exist for the next fourteen or fifteen hours. Of course, that was not to be just yet. I would go home to find that one more troubling surprise was in store that night. I can only look back and wish some things had happened differently…

"Ah…" I choked out as I was immediately caught by the throat when I entered my apartment. I was almost as quickly slammed into the door that was shoved closed when I entered. The strength and scent were familiar. I squinted through the suffocating pain as I held onto his wrist, "Hi- Hisa-shi…"