Episode 00: The Lone Blood Warrior

Ching! Ching! - A red bladed sword and a blue halberd collided. The wielders both jumped back creating a fifteen metre distance.

The swordsman swung his blade, that unleashed a stream of fire, the halberd wielder countered with his own ice stream. The two attacks neutralised each other and veiled the wide arena in a thick layer of steam.

"OOOHHHHH!" The crowd cheered dramatically from the coliseum's stand every time the two boy's clashed.

They had exchanged blows on the long stone battleground for over ten minutes, but one of the teens was clearly dominating the fight. The halberd wielder, Akira Saito, hadn't even broke a sweat. Even though as individuals their powers were equal, Saito had something, or rather someone, that gave him the edge. His Vampiress, who stood a distance behind him.

If the swordsman, Kotaro, just thought about winning the fight, targeting Saito's Vampiress, whose very presence shifted the balance of power, would be the optimal strategy. But this fight was a personal one that started from an argument between Kotaro and Saito. As such Kotaro did not wish to involve Saito's Vampiress, thus he focused his attacks purely on Saito himself.

Duels were typically fought 2 vs 2, with a Blood Warrior and a Vampiress on either side. In order to win the fight both members of the opposing side had to either surrender or be incapacitated, killing the opponent was strictly forbidden. However, due to certain reasons, Kotaro was fighting solo.

"It takes more than tenacity to win a fight, Kotaro!" Saito shouted as he gazed at his bloodied adversary.

"Hmph! Big words considering Nora is the only reason you're winning!" Kotaro wiped the sweat and blood from his forehead, gripped his sword with both hands, and steadied his breathing.

"I won't deny it, but you've merely proven my point. It's your own fault for challenging me to a duel without bonding to a new Vampiress."

Kotaro narrowed his eyes at Saito's remark and declared. "I have only one partner." Kotaro gathered what reserve power remained in his body and charged at Saito. A normal man would have known he was beat, yet Kotaro continued to swing his blade.

Ching! - The attack was blocked effortlessly. Saito forced Kotaro's blade aside with only one hand gripping his weapon.

"GUHHH!" Kotaro yelped in pain as Saito's huge fist smashed against his stomach.

"A lone Blood Warrior can only go so far without a Vampiress backing them," Saito stated.

With the last of his strength Kotaro gazed at Saito's blond haired partner. Saito had requested her not to fight directly. This could have been due to confidence, or some sort of honour about double teaming Kotaro. But even if she wasn't fighting, she still supplied Saito with mana through their Blood Bond. This alone created a power gap between the two sides.

Kotaro's body fell to the ground as darkness swallowed his conscious. His red blade reverted to its steel colour before dissipating into the atmosphere.

"Winners, Saito and Nora," the judge announced.

Kotaro found himself floating in a world of pure white that had no ground or sky, mere nothingness. How far had he floated? How long had he been floating? An hour? A day? A week? A month? A year? The endless void robbed Kotaro of all sense of distance and all feeling of time.

Slowly, in the infinite nothingness, a girl's figure manifested before him. It was a girl he recognised, and it was a girl he knew he couldn't be seeing in reality. Not since that incident took her from his side.

"A dream," he surmised.

"Say Kota-chan," The girl smiled angelically that contradicted her next words, "Don't you think it's time to let the past go? Why not just forget about me?" Kotaro knew she wasn't real. She was just a mirage created by his mind. A spectre of his conscience, a manifestation of his inner doubts.

"Because I can't, do you really think I can forget about the only family I have?" He responded, her words would not sway him. If only on this one thing, he would not give up.

"But Kota-chan, you have no proof that I'm even alive. Won't you be happier if you let it go? Just forget me, the source of your grief." The long dark haired girl floated until she was directly in front of Kotaro, she gently moved her palms against his cheeks.

"Neither I, nor Keisuke, have considered forgetting. If it requires me to give up on you to live happily, then I will forever embrace the sadness." The boy floated out of the girl's touch and glared determinedly at her. He would not lose to his doubts, he would not lose to his grief, so that one day they will regain what they lost.

"The real me must be so happy, and so very troubled to have a brother like you," the girl smiled cynically, as her figure slowly turned transparent. With no doubts to power herself, she slowly faded into the void. "I pray to see the day when you, Keisuke, and I can be together again," she said before completely vanishing.

"So do I," Kotaro stated into the nothingness.

"Urghh," Kotaro groaned as he slowly opened his eyes. He found himself inside the infirmary welcomed by the strong smell of disinfectant that assaulted his nose. He exited the bed and walked over to a nearby mirror as he patted his body, checking himself for any injuries. They had all gone.

As he gazed at himself in the mirror, he noticed the droplets leaking from his brown eyes, he swiftly wiped them clean.

"I lost," Kotaro brushed his dark spiky hair out of his eyes and glared at himself angrily in the mirror. Curse you, Saito. Kotaro pound his fist into a table.

The sharp sound of the slide doors opening forced Kotaro out of his monologue.

"Oh, you're finally up, Kotaro." A teenage boy with brown straight hair and blue eyes called. He was fairly good looking but gave the image of a bad boy with his piercings and the looseness of his dark uniform. The fact he always carried a Katana with him didn't help. "You okay, you look pale."

"I dreamt about her." Kotaro solemnly admitted, the boy in front of him was one person he couldn't lie to. "If only I..."

"Kotaro! It's not something you should beat yourself up over. At that time I was just as helpless." His friend tapped him on the shoulder.

"Keisuke..." You saying that just makes me feel all the more worthless. I failed both my family and my best friend.

Knock knock! - The sound at the door drowned the awkward silence. A blond haired girl poked her head through the door. She instantly smiled the moment she noticed Kotaro was awake.

The duo both knew her. She was the Vampiress of the halberd wielder Kotaro had lost to. She had semi long blond hair that reached just below her shoulders, blood red eyes, a trait shared by all Vampiresses, and a youthful face. She was clad in the school's standard pure white Vampiress uniform.

"Nora?" Kotaro called. The Vampiress stepped in, closed the door, and hastily approached the two boys.

"I'm sorry," she said as she lowered her head, "Akira said some things that he shouldn't and he's too proud to admit it, so I'm sorry." Nora was probably the only one who referred to Saito by his given name. Despite his power, Saito was not well liked.

Kotaro scratched the back of his head awkwardly. "Why are you apologising? It's not your fault Saito was being a douche."

"Why is such a sweet girl like you paired with Saito, Nora-chan? Does his blood taste good or something?" Keisuke asked, genuinely interested. Nora gazed at the duo with a smile.

"Because no matter how rough his exterior, he's still one of the two kindest boys I know." Nora pokes Kotaro in the chest, "I just wish the two kindest boys I know would get along."

For as long as he keeps up that attitude, that wish will just remain a wish. Kotaro thought as he gazed out the window.

For some reason Kotaro and Saito had always been at each others throats, but today was one of the rare occasions where it escalated as far as Kotaro demanding a duel.

The cause was Saito's insults stating that Kotaro was clinging to the dead. This alone caused Kotaro to get hotheaded and smacked Saito with his shoe (as a replacement for a glove).

"Listen Kotaro, although harsh, not everything Akira said to you was wrong. You'll really only be able to accomplish so much with your Blood Weapon alone. You really should bond to another Vampiress. You saw during the match just how much of a difference we make."

Kotaro glared at Nora. "I already have a partner." He stated once again as he rubbed his shoulder, the hidden tattoo there was the proof of his bond to a certain Vampiress.

"I see, but either way. The next time a Vampiress asks to bond with you, and you have to break her heart, try and do it a bit more gently."

But that was the third time she asked me. How else could I have put it so that she'd understand? Kotaro thought.

"You really are a sinful guy, you!" Keisuke gripped Kotaro in a headlock.

"You're one to talk," Nora stated as she shook her head before sternly glaring, "What was the last excuse you used? You're afraid of being bitten, was it? There's no way someone who enrols in this school would have such a fear!" Keisuke sweated slightly under the interrogation, Kotaro used the chance to escape the headlock.

"Uh, well, ya know..." Keisuke stared to his friend for help, Kotaro ignored the plea. Damn you, Kotaro. He cursed.

"If you don't allow a Vampiress to drink from you, you'll never get a Blood Weapon or become a Blood Warrior. Do you intend to carry around that regular Katana forever?" She asked. Keisuke's expression clouded over, Nora instantly noticed the change. "Sorry, I went too far." Keisuke shook his head and his smile returned.

"Okay, I'm heading back. If you're feeling better already then make sure you turn up for class," Nora stated as she left the infirmary.

"She's really a diligent girl, way too good for Saito." Keisuke said with a smile that seemed to imply how much of a shame it was.

Kotaro slowly walked back to the infirmary bed and placed himself within its sheets. "You know what they say: The best girls have the worst tastes."

"Well, she did say how she thought you were nice," Keisuke joked.

"I rest my case," Kotaro seriously answered as he waved his friend away with hand motions.

Keisuke shrugged his shoulders then obliged. After closing the slide door, Keisuke leaned against the wall. "The only one who thinks that, is you, Kotaro." He whispered to himself before casually walking off.