Straight after Akai-san and Lord Yamamoto left, the Count leaves for his room. While I was left alone yet again. Not moving yet, I silently contemplate where I would go next. Since I had finished the book I'd taken from the library on the second floor I decided I would return it and choose a new book to read. After grabbing the said novel from my room I made my way up the stairs to the second floor and towards where I knew the library was. I had been there several times while the Count was away on his business trip. I didn't think his anger was mostly on my being in the library, I think it was because I had found the photograph.
I slowly walked down the halls, passing door after door when suddenly all the candles went out in the hallway. Drenching the floor, ceilings and walls in darkness, seeming to devour all the little light left. As the temperature drops I can feel myself shivering, bringing my hands up to my arms as if to keep the heat I had in. Then the silent sound of whispers creep in, children's cries echoing quietly off the walls. Chills run down my spine as I feel as if someone is watching me from inside the darkness. I stumble in the dark as I reach my hand out to find where the wall is. Hearting beating so loud, I'm sure that it can be heard. Slowly the sound of accelerating footsteps grows from behind me.
I can feel my palm shaking violently against the wall. When trying to move I found I couldn't move my feet. Feeling stuck my heart beats even harder to the point that it hurts. I feel like it's going to stop and I'll die here in this dark hallway. As if possible it seems like the darkness grows darker, taller and menacing. Quickly I hold my breath, trying to calm my racing heart. Saying a quick prayer to the kami for protection against whatever this darkness was.
The darkness draws nearer and nearer until it stops to what it seems like is right behind me. I can hear it pant in fast breathes and a fear I'd never felt before clutches me in its grip. Involuntarily I turn my head back, hoping that this is all just a really bad dream. That none of it's real and it's all my imagination. Out of the corner of my eye I see a pale skinny hand with the longest nails I've ever seen slide over my shoulder and squeeze. I gasp and it takes everything in me not to let out a curdling scream, placing my other shaking hand over my mouth.
My body moved on its own accord, turning me to face the terrifying creature behind me. I choke back a scream as my eyes widen and my brain desperately cries at me to run away. Hanging its head it leans against the wall, it's hand still clutched strongly on my shoulder. Barely noticeable in the sparse light that still remained, it tried stepping into the little light.
"Tanaka?" It hoarsely calls, voice so deep and rough. As it raised its head I could feel my knees begin to give out beneath me, threatening to let me collapse right there and then. Standing there in light was the Count, yet it wasn't. He seemed like a stranger, a person I didn't know.
His deep brown locks had turned into a wheat golden shade of yellow. Having grown it went from its original short above neck-length to falling almost to his waist, lingering just inches above. Sprouting from underneath the golden hair were two dark red horns, sharpened to points. The long pointed ears that were partly hidden by his hair weren't hard to notice either.
"Fuyu….?" I could see some sort of look of recognition pass over his eyes. In place of his dark green eyes, now glowing a bright lime green eerily in the darkness. Even the pupils of his eyes had changed their shape to tiny slits, almost cat-like. They were just so unnatural, nothing seemed to make sense. Feeling queasy my stomach did flip-flops inside me and what I saw next did nothing to help.
I must have had a look of pure terror on my face, though in such circumstances who wouldn't?
"Fuyu" My eyes glanced downwards and everything in my body wished I hadn't. As he continued to speak I could only stare in the horror of what I saw. "Do not be afraid. Please don't scream. I will not hurt you, I did not want you to know what I really was." Shiny razor-sharp point teeth peek out from behind his lips. I could feel my blood curl as my legs finally gave away underneath and I fell to the floor, nervous cold sweat running down my back. At this point he had already let go of my shoulder.
I knew what he was, even if I didn't know exactly he was. An Akuma, a demon, something from folktales told by the townspeople. I had only ever heard stories about them as a child, but never had believed they were real. My body trembled as he leaned crouched down to me and before my eyes, changed back into the Count that I knew. Brown colouring starting from the top and flowed down, consuming the golden looks. Eyes darkening and pupils widen, bringing them back to the colour and shape I was used to.
"Count…..?" I felt the question die on my lips. As he reached for me I flinched and closed my eyes. Opening them I could see a look of hurt play across his face as he stood back up. He left me there sitting on the floor, still slightly shaking from the knowledge I now knew. He probably knew that there was nothing he could do for me without me pushing me away.
Not long after he left slowly the candles came back to life, wicks lighting themselves. Tanaka-san found me still huddled on the floor and helped me back to my room, not saying a single word to me. I don't think I would have wanted to hear it anyways. I could barely keep my eyes open as I dragged my heavy body over to the bed and threw myself into it. Tears overflowed as I hugged my blankets around me tighter and tighter. How could things have turned out this way? When everything seemed to be getting even a little better, when I was getting used to the Count, everything seemed to fall apart. How could the nightmares of childhood become a reality here?
I could still hear the moaning, crying, whispering and screaming that had encaptured me back in the darkness. Even pulling the covers tighter and over my head didn't block them out completely. There was no way this night was going to be easy.
It seemed like endless hours had come and gone by the time I was finally able to fall asleep. I only wished that what I had seen tonight was just a figment of my twisted imagination.
The next day and the many days after that I refused to see him, never leaving my room for anything other than to go out to the gardens. Meals were brought to my room and I kept everyone away, everyone that is except Tanaka-san, who I felt the closest to. All the hope and feelings I had towards him were gone. I cursed myself for believing that everything would work out and where had gotten me? Nowhere. I thought that I could be strong, that I would be brave, but this went beyond anything I could have imagined. Never could I have thought in a million years that this would be a situation I'd be in.
Returning from a long walk in the gardens I see him. Standing in front of my door, alone and hand posed as if to knock on the door. The area around him seemed alive, energy shimmering in the air. I shrink back, not sure if I wanted to confront him yet. As he turns, I should've known that him being what he is would probably know that I was there. When he sees me he drops his hand from where it was hanging in the air. He looks as exhausted as I feel mentally drained. The dark purple bags under his eyes don't do much to help his look. He's moving towards me before I can any words off of my tongue and out of my mouth. His footsteps are so quiet I'm not sure I even heard anything at all.
I take a gulp, pushing my nervousness down and bring myself to ask him the one burning question on my mind. The simple question that could shatter everything I knew, the only life I had. "Did my father know? About you? About your other side?" To be honest it was three questions but they all really linked into one big question. The words barely make it through my lips and as I wait, I grow scared of the answer. I almost regret even asking as fear takes over me.
Yet as quickly as I ask it, I get my answer. "Yes," and my heart sinks. My life seems to stop as his answers sinks in. "Yes, he did, that is why he sent you. It's why he agreed to the arranged marriage proposal I sent him." He steps closer, placing his hand gently on my arm. My knees weaken, giving out under me. I almost hit the floor as he catches me in his arms, sliding one under my legs and hoisting me up. I don't have the energy to push him away as he shifts me in his arms, my head resting against his chest and my arms limp in my lap.
A million thoughts are going through my head as he turns and walks back to my room, being careful not to drop me while opening the door. How could father not tell me this? How long did he know that the Count was an Akuma? Why? I felt so betrayed by the only one I had in my life. Father was the only person I had loved and the only parent I had.
My heart is in so much pain with this new revelation, and I begin having a hard time breathing. Seeing this, the Count pulls the covers back and gently places me on the bed. He quickly tugs the sheets back up to my shoulders and draws the curtains, cloaking the room in light darkness. I can feel myself starting to relax, sinking deeper into the bed. Half-asleep I barely feel the sensation of the Count brushing my hair away from my face. Instinctively my head leans into his hand, sucking the refreshing cold temperature of his hands. But it's only for a brief moment, as the touch pulls away quite quickly after I lean into it, leaving my skin feeling too hot.
The doors close softly behind him as he leaves me to sleep. I sigh deeply and let myself be carried off to dream where I hope none of this exists.
It was probably the most sleepless night I've ever had. Not in the idea that I wasn't sleeping, I was for sure sleeping but my mind just seemed to not want to stop. It went over every memory of father. To see if there was ever an inclination or moment he had ever maybe dropped hints about the Count and his nature but I couldn't find a single time. I couldn't understand no matter how much I thought about it. Why would someone give away a daughter, their only daughter to someone who wasn't human? My father had no sons so it made no sense for him to choose the Count, someone who wouldn't marry into the family.
I sighed and rolled back over. This continued for what seemed like forever. Eventually after a lot of thought my mind seemed to drift off, leaving me in total darkness. That night I dreamed of yokai, of ayakashi, of Mononoke, of him and what he was. I could vividly see the paintings I'd seen from traders while a child, depicting the dreaded creatures. Deep blood-red skin and horns of the oni, the long twisting floating necks of the rokurokubi, the not-quite-human aspects of many of the beings that came under those names.
I could feel those bright green eyes narrowed and staring at me from behind the darkness. Fear gripped me as I tried to push the darkness away, starting to run forwards. The haunting voices continued, as if invisible children surrounded me, crying, screaming, whispering and speaking in hushed tones to me. I couldn't block them out, even with my hands covering my ears pushing hard. Mixed in with them was the sem-quiet panting, the sounds of someone, or something taking in haphazardly changing breathes.
Everything I knew about him seemed like a lie, I wasn't sure of what to believe anymore. It was just like the first day. Not knowing anything about him. While now I knew things about him, I wasn't sure what was true and what was false now. Why he was crying in the halls, why he chose me even though he had never met me and why he acted the way he did. I didn't know the answers to any of these questions and I wasn't sure if I wanted to know. Some may say that knowledge is power, but is it really when it brings so much pain, sadness and uncertainty? With everything that happened since I got here swimming in my mind I was lost, I didn't know who I could trust and who I could turn to.
The next few days pass quickly by, leaving me up to my devices to past the time without the company of others. Not so unlike when I first arrived. If I was trying to simply avoid him in the first place, now it was more like a full-on game of hide-and-seek, as if I would lose if I was found in my hiding spot. I'm not sure if he had even tried to come to look for me if he even wanted to talk to me after what I had seen. I'd never been at reading other people, and this would probably have been a moment where I wished I did know.
I had so many questions I wouldn't even know where to begin. It's not every day, that you learn your husband is not human, is a demon and that your father knew and didn't do anything about it. What would mother have said? Would she have agreed with Father in regards to our marriage? If she was still alive I would know. I wanted her to be here, to be able to wrap her arms around me tightly, warmly and say 'It's all right. You'll be alright." But it can't be, can't happen. Because she died, I killed her with my birth. Through that I can only say that I'm a selfish human being. What kind of killer wishes that their victim could be still alive to comfort them?
Someone who doesn't deserve the life they have. Maybe I didn't do it on purpose, but it still happened and I'm still responsible for her death. Maybe being married to the Count is my punishment for all that I've done, and all the pain and suffering I've caused father.