Chapter 19

When Nathan reaches his classroom, he finds that Scarlet is gone. Her seat is empty and those who were surrounding her earlier have dispersed throughout the classroom to their regular places during lunch. A few give him shifty glances and he can hear them dropping little bits of gossip about him. Nathan balls his fists to control the anger that is quickly resurfacing.

"N-Nay-chan?" comes a rather feeble call.

"What do you want, Shiyo?" Nathan snaps as he turns on her.

She flinches and moves away from him, almost as if she fears he'll strike her. Feeling horrible, Nathan takes a deep breath and asks his question again in a much lighter tone.

"W-Well… Are you looking for Scarlet-chan?" She twiddles her fingers and refuses to look him in the eyes. Nathan grimaces, wishing that she wouldn't be like this. After the incident with Hikari, he knows he is lucky that she speaks to him at all.

"Yes. Do you know where she is?"

"She went to the library to speak with Melody-chan I think. Not too long ago. But Nay-chan, please, I must know."

Shiyo suddenly grabs his collar and forces him to stare into her eyes. Nathan is caught off-guard. Shiyo is never one to assert herself this much. He feels worried about what she wants from him. He fears that she has figured out what activates his vampire powers.

"About what happened on Saturday. Are you and Hikari… like that? You and her…"

He should have known. From the look in her eyes, he could see that she is close to tears. Out of the corner of his eyes though, he could see everyone's eyes were on the two of them. From what his sensitive hearing could pick up, many rumors had started about his and Hikari's relationship. He figures most of them came from Hikari herself. He has to tell Shiyo that nothing is going on, but if he did, would that cause Hikari to react in some unreasonable way? He doesn't like the position he is in.

"Of course not! What happened was a complete accident! She… uh… she slipped is all. Everything was just being blown out of proportion," Nathan says, feeling that was the most logical course of action. Hikari wouldn't do anything too irrational while at school, at least Nathan hopes she won't.

"Really? Nothing is really going on between you too?" Nathan could almost visualize the relief flooding from her voice as her grip loosened. Those listening in start to lose interest, but he notices some had mixed feelings about his response. Maybe they think he lied to Shiyo, which would work out in his favor.

"Really. Nothing is happening between us in that way," Nathan says.

Shiyo's expression quickly reverts back to her worried one. "So something is happening?"

Nathan clenches his teeth while refraining from hitting himself over the head. He needs to choose his words more carefully.

"Listen, we don't have time for this. Come with me, we need to talk with Scarlet and Melody."

"About what?" Shiyo asks.

"I don't want to explain myself twice. Just come on," Nathan says, grabbing her wrist.

The moment my fingers wrap around that thin part of her body, my heart throbs hard against my chest. My vision goes all fuzzy and I can't think of anything other than a swirling red liquid. I want Shiyo's blood again. I really can't wait any longer!

"Nay-chan?" Shiyo speaks up when Nathan remained still for a few moments.

Nathan shakes his head to clear his mind. He looks down at her wrist and instantly lets go of it. He rubs his hand as though her wrist was burning him only seconds before. Shiyo continues to stare at him inquisitively, making him feel uncomfortable. He also notices the others in the classroom looking at him strangely again.

"Forget it. I'll talk to you later." Nathan says, quickly turning his back to Shiyo and heading for the door.

"Wait, Nay-chan!" Shiyo calls after him.

He doesn't answer her. His pace is faster than usual due to his anxiety, so Shiyo has to jog to catch up to him. He grinds his teeth together, trying to shake those thoughts from his mind but they are constantly returning with her so close to him.

That fantastic taste of her blood. I wanedt it so bad. Was this what Scarlet meant by her blood being so irresistible? It was all I can think about.

"Nay-chan, what's wrong?" Shiyo asks, "What's happening to you?"

"It's nothing," Nathan says.

"No, it's not. Nay-chan, I know this isn't the usual you. What's going on? Is something wrong?"

Nathan grinds his teeth harder. The desire is just too much now. He fears that if he relaxes for a moment, he'll turn and clamp down on her neck.

"Don't stand so close," Nathan says even though he would rather she just leave entirely.

"Why? Tell me why?"

"I want your blood!" Nathan accidentally blurts out.

Both of them freeze in their tracks, shocked by what came out of his mouth. He didn't say it that loud, but he knows Shiyo heard him. Even with all the sounds in the school hall, the only thing he could hear was his own heartbeat, as if it had moved into his skull.

"No, Shiyo wait. That's not what I mean. I don't want your blood. I… I…"

"It's okay Nay-chan," Shiyo says. Shiyo's hand was clenched over her chest and she doesn't dare to look at him. Resentment washes over him until he realises that her face is flushed with embarrassment and she appears to be struggling to stay still. For some strange reason, she doesn't even appear to be scared..

"You want my blood. I understand. Scarlet-chan did warn both of us about it. It's not like there's anything you can do about it. I think that if I were the vampire and you were the one with the magical seal, I wouldn't be able to resist either."

Both of them are silent after that. Nathan doesn't know how he should respond. All he sees before him is a friend who he originally thought was only a coward and couldn't handle the nightlife behaving completely out of character. After all this time knowing her, he wonders if he had her down all wrong.

"If… if it is you, Nay-chan. I think I can allow you to drink a little of my blood once in a while," Shiyo finally whispers.

"What? Shiyo, no. That isn't right," Nathan protests.

"If you want it so bad, the urges will only get worse, won't they? I don't mind giving you some of my blood. It won't bother me… After all… it is you."

Nathan is speechless. A beautiful girl willing to go to these lengths for a guy is something he thought only existed in stories and games. If it were any other time and he was never affiliated with vampires, he would have surely fallen for her.

"Can you promise that you won't kill me when you drink my blood?"

Nathan swallows hard, feeling how dry his throat had become before answering, "Yes Shiyo, I promise. Thank you."

Shiyo smiles and Nathan feels his own face burning from embarrassment. He scratches the back of his head and looks away, trying to hide his own feelings.

"W-Well, we don't need to do it right now. I think I can survive a little longer. After all, knowing that you will allow me has set me more at ease here already. We still need to talk to Scarlet and Melody so let's go. Okay?"

He hears her giggle and happily agree with him. His head is still in a daze as he continues towards the library with Shiyo walking beside him. Glancing towards her, he sees she is still smiling with a hint of red to her cheeks. She stares at the floor between her feet with her hands clasped together resting over her skirt. Nathan thinks that she is really cute like that.

"Hmm? Something wrong Nay-chan?" Shiyo asks when she catches him looking at her.

"I-It's nothing," Nathan stammers, quickly looking away. He shouldn't be thinking about these things at a time like this.

To his relief, the library is already before them. From the moment he opens the doors, Nathan can tell that it's quieter today than it was on Saturday. Only a few tables are occupied and those students are all ones Nathan doesn't recognize. He thinks they must be the more bookish students who hang out in the library all day. He can't see Melody or Scarlet anywhere.

"Isn't that Melody's thermos?" Shiyo asks, pointing to a table where no one is sitting at.

Nathan spots the thermos Shiyo was pointing at, the one full of blood from this morning. He is sure that the scarlet red liquid inside is still warm. Thankfully, that doesn't allure him as it did earlier thanks to Shiyo's promise.

Pushing that thought aside, he walks up to the table and looks at the other papers and books lying across it. Melody's glasses rest on the table with a cloth next to them, indicating she was cleaning them before she left. Nathan's head hurts by just looking at all the thick textbooks. He wonders if Melody is another one of those people with genius-like attributes.

"Are you insane?"

Nathan's ears pick up a hushed voice from behind one of the bookshelves. He instantly recognizes it to be Melody's. Now that he has been a vampire for a while, he is utilizing his enhanced senses better than at first. He nods to Shiyo and points in the direction he heard the voice come from.

"Why would you do something like that?" Melody snaps. Nathan realizes she is speaking to Scarlet. "You're going to get yourself killed!"

"Why are you criticizing me?" Scarlet asks, "It's not like he is that dangerous of a familiar the way he is."

"They're talking about me?" Nathan wonders. He hangs back with Shiyo, trying hard to pick out every word they are saying.

"I can't believe you!" Melody continues, "Hasn't that despicable, lust-filled piece of trash proved it already? He isn't protecting you at all! Why would he? He thought he was hunting your kind before now. You're lucky he hasn't just killed you despite the life-link. Some hunters would rather kill themselves than live on with vampiric abilities. Can't you just redo the spell already?"

"Contracts aren't something you can just redo," Scarlet snaps, "Magic isn't like that. Besides, I don't want to bite him again. I almost swallowed his blood the first time. Gross!"

"Then now what? Just leave it as is? This can only get worse from now on you know. I know I'm not one to talk but this is just utterly stupid on your part. Isn't there something you can do to at least get him to listen a little? Maybe cast the same spell on him as you did on me?"

"No one is casting a spell on me and that's that," Nathan says as he emerges from his cover.

"Wah!" Scarlet shrieks. Her face turns bright red as she stares at Nathan while others in the library shush her. Melody doesn't seem to care, or at least she is hiding it well. "H-H-How long have you been there?"

"Long enough to hear that I haven't been behaving well enough as a familiar," Nathan says, then asks, "Just what went wrong with the contract?"

"When Scarlet bit you, she-" Melody was cut off when Scarlet jumped up and covered her mouth with her hand.

"You're not allowed to speak of this to him. Not a single word! Okay? And don't you dare ask about it, stupid familiar or I will punish you! I'm going to add to her spell later just for safe measures for when I'm not around." Scarlet says.

Melody sighs in defeat. "Whatever. What are you doing here anyways?" she asks Nathan and Shiyo.

Nathan knows he can't get anything out of their conversation anymore so instead, he takes out the pamphlet Hikari handed him and gives it to Melody.

I then explained to them what Hikari told me about a trap for Scarlet but the big opportunity it presents. Since we know it's a trap, we can take extra precautions to avoid danger while we're there and try to lure out Hikari's master. Scarlet shouldn't be in trouble if she knows she is deliberately walking into a trap and prepares for it. I explain it in a way that wouldn't make Scarlet suspicious of me mistrusting her. I felt that she'd take offense and object immediately if she had a feeling I didn't trust her story. I hate to admit it, but I'd need everyone's cooperation because without Scarlet's magic, Melody's assassination skills and Shiyo's magic seal, we cannot possibly pull this off.

"That sounds really dangerous even for those of us who aren't targetted," Shiyo says. Nathan knew there would be mixed feelings involved in this.

"You really must be insane," Melody adds, "But you are right. We can learn some valuable and concrete information to strike back if we can interrogate the vampire. We would be fools to pass this up."

"Scarlet?" Nathan asks, turning to her for her input. She has been silent since Nathan started to explain. From her expression, she appears to be thinking hard about her choice. He has never seen her so deep in thought before.

"I want to do it," she says at last. "I know it's dangerous, but it could be fun too!"

"You can't be serious," Nathan sighs. He knows he should have expected an answer like that but he wishes she would at least take something like this seriously.

"We all get to dress up and go dancing. We haven't had a single night out of your apartment you know. There's only so much you can do cooped up in that room all the time. I want to go out and enjoy some of these human activities!"

"Don't go putting our lives on the line for sake of entertainment!" Nathan snaps while looking to Melody and Shiyo for help.

"Don't look at me," Melody says. "You're the one who brought it up and I'm forced to follow her thanks to her spell."

"It won't be that bad Nay-chan," Shiyo says, finally subduing Nathan, "We'll all prepare so nothing will get out of hand, right?"

"So it's decided!" Scarlet cheers, "We're going to The Shining Night Ball!"

With another shush from the other people in the library, Scarlet quiets down with a giggle. Nathan sighs and shakes his head. Maybe he should have just declined Hikari's offer without consulting the others.

"I'll have to put in my own say on this though," Melody says, "None of you are prepared to go against a real vampire."

"What are you talking about?" Nathan snaps, "If I can beat you, a vampire assassin, then I am perfectly able to go against a vampire thank you very much."

"No, what I mean is, Shiyo has never faced a vampire before with her seal, has she?" She says, turning to Shiyo. She shakes her head in response.

"Scarlet fainted the last time she ran into a vampire too from what I've heard," Melody continues.

"Hey! No fair, I was just… tired. Yeah, tired. I'm not tired now so it won't happen again. I'll be okay against vampires now."

Ignoring Scarlet's protests, Melody turns to Nathan and says, "And you don't have any defense against a vampire's magic now do you?"

Nathan struggles for words to defend himself but can't find any. "Well neither do you!"

Melody surprisingly smiles in response. "You're right. I don't. I underestimated the power of magic, Scarlet proved to me that I am not ready which means I should be training to combat magic. We all will. Until this Saturday, all of us will be training hard to fight in the most dire situations. Scarlet will be practicing her magic on us while we do whatever we can to defend ourselves. I'll also teach you some of my techniques and how to defend yourselves from them should the need arise.

"As we are, we are simply no match for what we are going up against. We have no Intel on the target and no real means of getting any without seeming suspicious, so we must be prepared for anything. After all, we can't just walk in expecting things to go our way . It would be better if we had more time, but we aren't blessed with that. We'll just have to make do without it."

Melody's evaluation sends shivers down Nathan's spine. He never thought about how much they would be at a disadvantage. However, he suggested the idea so he knows he will put as much effort into this as anyone else.

"Wait, what about dresses?" Shiyo asks, dissolving all tension instantly with just those few words. "I don't own one and this is a formal ball."

"Oh right. That could be important," Nathan says, thinking about his own wardrobe. They can't get into a formal event if they don't dress the part.

"Can't we just take one from one of those store thingies?" Scarlet asks.

"No!" Nathan snaps, "You're not stealing any more clothes!"

"She stole clothes?" Melody asks.

"It's a long story," Nathan says.

To tell the truth, I had forgotten about the clothes situation as well. I certainly don't have any money to rent a tux for the event, so I definitely don't have any to lend out to the others. Luckily, I can handle myself since I still have the suit from when I graduated from the trainee ranks and I haven't grown much since then. It should be presentable enough for the event. I don't know what to do about the girls though.

"Well we don't have to really worry about that," Melody says, "I have over two million yen in my purse. We can go buy dresses later. Preferably at night though."

"Two million?" Nathan shouts. Now it was his turn to be shushed. "How do you have so much?"

"Night Hour always makes sure its assassins are prepared financially as well as physically for their job should any undercover work or unforeseen circumstances arise," Melody says. Nathan feels he got the short end of the deal of that one.

"Cool! We get to go shopping!" Shiyo says, "This'll be fun! We can all bond together! I wonder what size you are Scarlet-chan!"

"Huh? Size? What's that supposed to mean?" Scarlet asks. The other two girls start laughing, even Melody. In spite of everything that is going on, they're all still teenaged girls at heart.

The bell rings then, indicating it being time for students to head back to class. "Come on, stupid familiar," Scarlet says and eagerly skips ahead of everyone, "We don't want to be late, do we?"

Nathan sighs and shakes his head while Shiyo and Melody continue to laugh. He wonders how he got caught up in this whole fiasco in the first place.

Oh right, I took Scarlet into my apartment and got bit by her. What I'd do to take that moment back…

"Seems she's adjusted to school life rather well," Shiyo says.

"You don't know the half of it," Nathan complains.

He was just about to follow her out when something occurs to him, "Oh wait, about Scarlet using magic-"

He stops himself before he can go any further. Scarlet turns to him, her expression showing signs of confusion. "What about using my magic?"

He can't tell her that she can't use it too much while training as that would cause for further questioning. No matter what, he has to avoid telling her that he tricked her into drinking his blood yesterday. Considering her loath of blood, she won't forgive him if she found out and he knows that she might even go as far as killing him for it. He must keep it a secret that she really does need blood to survive, even if doing so puts her at risk.

"Nothing. Forget about it," Nathan says.

"That's right! I'm an amazing witch! Just wait until the end of the week. That other master won't know what hit him!"

I only smiled in response. Was it really the right thing not telling her? If worse comes to worst, I could always trick her into drinking more blood if she needs it. All that mattered now was that we need to get as ready as possible for The Shining Night Ball.