Vampire Knight: Bonds of Fate

Vampire Knight: Bonds of Fate


[ Private Role-Play ]

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"Actions are the seed of fate deeds grow into destiny." - Harry S Truman

The year is 2113. The Third War has raged for nearly half a century, and it does not seem to be slowing down. Advances in technology have been slow, as humanity has poured all of its resources into one thing: killing the vampires.

Nearly a century ago, the existence of vampires was revealed to human populations as a whole with an attack on Cross Academy, a school that had been home to both species since its inception. Though the vampires were separated from the humans and took their classes at night, nobody was aware of what they were, at least not until they were exposed by one of their own. When that happened, all hell broke loose, tensions spiking between the Vampire Council, the ruling body of supernatural governance, and the Hunters’ Association, special humans gifted with abilities beyond the norm and special anti-vampire weapons, made of a substance called the One Metal. It was not long before that tension, pushed to a breaking point by an ancestral vampire named Theodor von Nacht, erupted into a full-scale war, with the world being divvied up as both sides fought to claim territory and strategic resources. The Hunters had skill, but even they were not enough.

Masses of vampiric servitors, mad creatures with little will but that to feed and destroy, were brought together into organized units by Lord von Nacht’s extensive mind-control abilities, forged into an army capable of untold destruction. Conventional human weaponry and heavy artillery was effective enough on these weak ones, but it took much more than most were capable of to kill the higher-level, subtle vampires, the Nobles, Pure-bloods, and Commons. For that, humanity turned to the Hunters, and the mass production of One Metal began.

This initial conflict, known as the Second War, was quelled by a group of neutral vampires and Hunters, let by Vincent Kuragari and Jasper von Nacht, the latter Theodor’s own grandson. With the death of Theodor, the world entered a period of peace and repair, but it was not to last. Slowly, deliberately, members of Theodor’s secret organization, called the Pantheon, began to stir trouble once more, releasing data regarding Theodor’s genetic experiments and the horrors he inflicted upon human children in his pursuit of something known only as the Aegis Effect. Of thousands of experiments on human children, only one was successful. The news of what was done to this girl, as well as extensive data on Theodor’s plans for the subjugation of humanity and the support he had from other, still living, still active Council members, one again inflamed humanity’s rage, and what started next was a war of attrition.

The world is once again divided, as the Hunters spread their techniques and weapons to more and more of their kin, and vampires, as ever, remain low in number. This time, the outcome of the war, this Third War, is far from certain. Desperate to crush the humans and assert their dominion once and for all, the Council and the Pantheon have formed an alliance, and seek to do what was once thought impossible. To regain their power, and their mastery, the vampires seek to revert to their former ways of life, ways that call for one supreme ruler of them all, the King. The Council plans to wake the previous King from his slumber, but the Pantheon’s own plans may call for a younger, more impressionable, puppet-King.

As grand plans are set into motion, one family, tightly bonded by blood and fate alike, finds themselves at the very epicenter of the Third War, and their choices will shape the future of the world itself. Destiny is in their hands, the red string woven tightly about them all. Whether it will weave them together into a grand tapestry or strangle and unmake them remains to be seen.


Alarica Alistair | Dhampir | Played by | Nephilim

Leora Kuragari | Vampire; Pure-Blood | Played by | Dynamite

Yuki Alistair-von Nacht | Vampire; Artificial Pure-blood/Noble | Played by | Naga's Shadow

Helen Trist | Vampire; Pure-blood; Experiment | Played by | Dynamite

Emrys Alistair | Dhampir | Played by | Naga's Shadow
Balthasar von Nacht | Vampire; Pure-blood | Played by | Dynamite

Keir Alistair | Dhampir | Played by | Naga's Shadow

Zero Kuragari | Vampire; Pure-blood | Played by | Nephilim

Aryan von Nacht | Vampire; Pure-blood | Played by | Naga's Shadow

Alden Kuragari | Vampire; Pure-Blood | Played by | Dynamite

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The Story


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Balthasar von Nacht Character Portrait: Alarica Alistair Character Portrait: Leora Kuragari Character Portrait: Zero Kuragari Character Portrait: Keir Alistair Character Portrait: Aryan von Nacht Character Portrait: Yuki Alistair-von Nacht Character Portrait: Helen Trist


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A hundred years.

A whole century has passed since the incident. An incident that had forever changed the lives of everyone involved, directly or indirectly. A new day arose, the sun peeking gently over the horizon, glancing through the leaves of the trees. The breeze blew by softly, carrying cherry blossoms as it went by. The day in question was Monday, the beginning of the week, and the echoes of Cross Academy's bell resonated through the area. Slowly, it came to life, students passing each other, greeting each other, and conversing with one another as if they hadn't seen each other in years. This day was no different for one Alarica Alistair. She opened the door to her room, blinking owlishly at the basket of apples laid in front of her door. She frowned, Mihkail landing softly on her shoulder as she glanced towards the white owl.

"Every Monday there is a new batch. I wonder, do you have a secret admirer?" Mihkail stated, mischief laced in his tone. Alarica merely rolled her eyes at her familiar, picking the basket up and setting it on the table to her room before leaving. She had to find Keir. He said there was something that he had discovered and he wanted to show her what it was. She glanced back at the apples on the table, a vague scent of something familiar lingering about, before shrugging her shoulders and continuing on her way. Zero, on the other hand, the son of one Vincent and Ava Kuragari, lounged lazily in a tree, his arm dangling as he glanced up.

It was his place, where he spent most of his time during the school hours. There wasn't much for him to learn anyways, and the only reason he was attending was at the behest of his mother and father. The things they were learning were already covered in the books and information Vincent had drilled into him as a child, and more so as he grew. Sighing softly through his nose, he pushed himself away from the tree, landing gracefully and elegantly as a cat, upon the ground. He turned his attention towards the school, shoving one of his hands into his pocket and bringing out the book that had occupied his attention moments ago.

As he neared the school building, a smile formed on his lips as something ruptured through the air. "And it seems Keir and Alarica have started their fun without me," he stated, the rumbling of the earth signaling a strong explosion just took place. Zero glanced about, stepping to the side to avoid a javelin that fell from the sky. He spotted a few basketballs, volleyballs, and even the shinai the kendo club used flew from the sky. "Of all the had to be the storage building."

A cackle of mad laughter split the air, Keir practically doubling over as supplies rained down from the sky over half the campus. He grinned at his twin, ice-blue orbs meeting pale-pink. "I told you this was an awesome idea!" A white wolf stood not far off, shaking his head. Keir stuck his tongue out at his familiar. "Oh, buzz off, Lulu."

On the other side of campus, one of the only other students with hair as white as snow sighed, exasperated. The Twins just never knew when to quit, did they? But, then again, considering who their father was...

Yuki Alistair-von Nacht stood up from her chair, intending to go assess the damage. She could only imagine what Keir and Alarica had done this time. She loved them, of course, and sometimes even joined them, but...sometimes she just wanted a peaceful day. She glanced over at her younger brother, Aryan, who was asleep at the desk he'd been sitting at all night. She smiled fondly. Not even an explosion could wake him up when he was tired enough. She wasn't surprised, he hadn't slept in three days.

She shook her head, pulling one of the blankets over him, and let him be. He needed the rest. She left the library, heading towards the source of the explosion. Kiba met her at the door. She pet him lightly, and then continued on her way. A few more thigs were still raining from the sky, mainly sporting equipment, and without even thinking about it, Yuki threw up a wall of telekinetic energy above her head. She rounded the corner, running almost smack into Zero. She blinked once, and then smiled slightly. She pulled the javelin from the ground that he'd side-stepped. "Really? They blew up the storage shed? Honestly..." She shook her head, a small smile on her face nonetheless.

The explosion was enough to rattle the windows of the school building proper, and Leora glanced out of the nearest one in the music room, shaking her head with a secretive grin when she noted a deflated basketball falling through the air. She was actually a bit disappointed she hadn’t been let in on the fun this time. Ah well—there was always tomorrow, after all. Smoothing her face out, she regained the cool impassivity she was known for displaying and turned back to what she was doing, drawing the bow back over the strings of her violin and releasing the first note once again. She needed to stop by the library later, to pick up a few books—mostly to write Zero’s next English assignment. She did it for the experience, really; unlike him, she wasn’t almost a century old, and having been home-schooled all her life, actual homework was something of a novelty for her. Plus her brother’s grades were now immaculate, despite the fact that he never went to class.

In that selfsame library, Helen Trist did not even glance up from the book she was reading, at least not until Yuki moved. She was always very aware of what her friend was doing, but she was not overprotective to the point that she felt the need to follow. Instead, she glanced back down at the novel she was reading and turned the page. She wanted to see how it would end… A slight stirring made her look up again, and she noted that Aryan had a piece of paper stuck to his face. She debated removing it, but decided that was probably something he should do himself. It wasn’t like she was going to laugh at him for it. In fact, she dismissed the thought from her mind and went back to reading thereafter.

Balthasar, on the other hand, was perhaps not ten meters from the storage shed when it blew up, and he yelped with surprise as various pieces of debris flew around the area. His reaction was instantaneous even so—in the area of his immediate proximity, the grass flattened, and any chunks of wood or sports equipment that entered the field smashed immediately to the ground as though magnetized. The double-tailed fox-kit on his head giggled, resettling herself in his dark locks and blinking over at the ruins from which his cousins emerged. Sighing through his nose, he picked his way through the remaining splintered two-by-fours and ducked under the partially-collapsed roof, placing the orange cones in the usual spot. It looked a little absurd, given that they were the only things currently in the right spot, and the building was basically gone.

This was no easy repair, either, though he did use his fields to move a few things back into order, and bolstered the missing half of the ceiling for a moment while he recycled another piece of wood to support it in the meantime. At least what was left wouldn’t injure anyone coming to survey the damage now. “Those two…” he murmured, more to himself than anything, though Ilyana, being her helpful self, did not hesitate to reply.

“But you love them!” she sing-songed in a lilting soprano. Balthasar only sighed again.

“Of course I do. That doesn’t mean I approve of wanton destruction of school property.” Even if it was a bit funny, and even if he was smiling, just slightly.

"Better the shed than the actual Academy. I don't think they'll go that far...yet," Zero replied, a smirk pulling at his face as he turned his attention towards Yuki. "Besides, they were planning on remodeling the building anyway. They just did the construction workers a favor, really," he added with a light shrug of his shoulders. His eyes traveled to the javelin in Yuki's hands and took the weapon from her, spinning it in his hand in the process. "And it's been awhile since they last blew something up. The gardening shed was the last victim if I do remember correctly. Luckily, Hel had Sven and he was able to help restore some things," he added as an after thought.

His smirk turned into a smile at that thought before shaking his head. School was about to start for them, and they should be returning to the classroom. The smirk returned to his face as he stared at Yuki, tapping his chin thoughtfully before slipping behind Yuki. "I think this will be easier and more convenient," he stated, slipping his arms around her waist and hoisting her over his shoulder, laughing all the same in the process.

Alarica stood, smudges of dirt covering her face as a large grin was painted across her face. "Have I ever doubted you before, dear brother?" she stated as she turned to grin at him. Her face, however, pulled into that of a frown as Mihkail followed her line of sight. If he could smirk, he would have. Immediately, the air went a little chiller than usual and Alarica abruptly turned to walk away, Mihkail letting a light laughter in the process. He turned to his brother, glaring lightly with a strange tint to his blue eyes before following after his master. "Not a word Mihk" she stated towards the white owl.

"My, you wound me so, Lala," he spoke, the last word coming out with a bit more emphasis that he barely dodged an icicle headed his way. Laughter rang out merrily as he perched himself upon Balthasar's shoulder, glancing up towards Ilyana. "Master seems upset with me, shall we share yours?" he stated as he turned his blue eyes towards Balthasar, a strange glint of mirth shining behind his eyes.

Yuki laughed, the sound like bell chimes. "Yes, it was the garden shed. Oh my. I'd forgotten about that." She shook her head, but stiffened when Zero stepped up behind her. And when he threw her over his shoulder, she blushed redder than the apples on the trees. "Z-Zero! Put me down!" Kiba, on the other hand, simply chuckled, slipping off to find a quiet spot. Yuki would be fine, he felt no need to be glued to her side when she was with any of the family, especially Zero.

Aryan had woken when Yuki left, picking his head up and looking blearily around, as if he was lost. Indeed, it took him a few seconds to realize he was still in the library. He yawned, feeling something stretch his skin, and looked sideways to find a piece of paper stuck to the side of his face. He frowned, pulling it of slowly. With the paper gone, he could see Helen in his peripheral vision. He looked at her, his voice soft. "How long was I asleep?"

Keir had finally seemed to recover from his laughing spell, looking over at his cousin, a manic grin on his face. "Bally! Aww, Lala, don't run away." He pouted slightly, shaking his head. His sister was so thick-headed sometimes. He shrugged it off. If she didn't want to face her feelings, whatever, it was her loss.

Helen looked back up, tilting her head faintly to the side and running a mental calculation. “Two hours and thirty-seven minutes,” she replied promptly, though her voice was flat, and slightly husky, as though she did not often use it. This was, in fact, the case. “Yuki left sixteen minutes ago.” She blinked, nodding slightly, then returned her eyes to her reading. It wasn’t that it captured her overmuch—it would be nice to know the ending, but it wasn’t particularly arresting. She just didn’t know what else to say or do. Hel was not skilled in the arts of small talk and socialization, and even if she were, she might feel uncomfortable exercising them here.

She just didn’t see why anyone like him, like any of them, would want to talk to someone like her. She was a discarded tool belonging to an evil man, and part of her still belonged to him. The part she could do nothing about. They allowed her to remain, and for that she was grateful, but she could not and did not respond to the overtures of friendliness from them. Yuki was an exception, but even that was… strange, for Helen. It was easier to see herself as a vassal, for they should always love the ones they served, and that made things less complicated.

Balthasar, meanwhile, smiled over at Keir as he emerged from the wreckage, squinting slightly against the light of day, though it faltered slightly upon noting that Alarica was already walking away. He just didn’t understand why she despised him so. He was trying to give her the space she seemed to want, but… they were part of the same very close-knit family, and it was difficult to do.

He was a bit surprised, then when her familiar landed on his shoulder, but he reached up to stroke the owl’s feathers all the same, the smile returned to his face, if only a slight one. It was a fairly commonplace expression for him, actually. “Hello Mikhail,” he greeted warmly, then turned a raised eyebrow on Keir. “You just couldn’t help yourselves, could you?”


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Leora Kuragari Character Portrait: Keir Alistair Character Portrait: Aryan von Nacht Character Portrait: Helen Trist


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Aryan had to stiffle another yawn as he stretched. No wonder he felt so lousy. Two and a half hours asleep on a desk was not good. He rubbed at the side of his face where the paper had stuck to it, turning his head away from Helen as a scent entered the premesis. It was his cousin. Well, one of his cousins. Keir, to be exact.

Aryan looked up at him tiredly. "And what brings you here, Cousin? You're not here for a rematch, are you? I'm afraid I'm not in the best state of mind for that."

Keir snorted indecently, causing a few of the other students around to glance at them. He ignored them, sitting down in the chair that Yuki had previously occupied. "Actually, no. Got this, figured you would want to see it first. Our cousins seem to have dug up something interesting, and not in a good way."

Aryan frowned, taking the envelope that Keir handed to him. It was not addressed to anyone, simply to Cross, but it was undoubtedly Alden Kuragari's handwriting. Aryan should know, he was in contact with his cousin the most. He slid the envelope into his bag. Better such things were done in private.

Keir's ice blue eyes held Aryan's purple ones. "Just a warning, you're not going to like it."

Aryan sighed through his nose, looking more tired than ever. "Of late, I have liked little of Alden's news. I am not surprised to find this will be no better."

Her music practice finished, Leora stowed her violin, a gift from her father since Zero had inherited their mother’s Stradivarius, stretching her arms over her head and lacing her fingers together, rocking back a bit on her heels until she bent to touch her toes. She loved playing, she really did, but it was maybe time for something a little more active. At least after she retrieved those books for her brother’s history essay. Flitting upstairs to the library, she could tell by scent that Keir, Ary, and Helen were already inside.

She let the tiniest of smiles tilt her lips as she sauntered inside, since they were her family and she was allowed to be a little more expressive around them, and she entered just in time to hear the tail end of the conversation. Sitting herself on one of the desks (rather than in the chair, Leo crossed her legs and leaned back on her palms. “News from the superspy in the family, hm?’ she inquired, raising a brow slightly. Her tone was not as flat as Hel’s, but it was certainly unreadable, beyond carrying that same vague touch of coyness that everything she did naturally seemed to have. “Who wants to kill us this time, I wonder?” She rolled her eyes a bit, not really expecting an answer.

“Would you like the list of current contracts on your life alphabetically by last name of contractor or chronologically by date put out on the market?” Helen replied, not even glancing up from what she was reading.

Leo’s smile grew, though she didn’t quite show teeth. “Why am I not surprised you would know that, Lena?” she asked with a minute shake of her head. Then, an idea came to her, and she flashed a brief look at Keir, the nature of her expression morphing into something considerably more edged than it had been before. One might wonder where the wickedness of the smile came from—neither of her parents was known to possess such an expression. “Whose list is longer, mine or Keir’s?”

Helen tabulated it for a second, at last looking up and glancing between the three of them. “That depends. The number of straightforward assassination orders is higher for Keir, as far as my data goes. But, if the kidnapping contracts are added, yours grows significantly longer.” It was not unknown to the vampiric community that Leora had inherited the Aegis Effect from her mother, and Ava was too well-protected, with someone like Vincent Kuragari practically glued to her side for a century. Those who wanted to obtain it would have better luck with the daughter… or so they thought, anyway. Hel thought they were all stupid for even thinking it.

Leo sighed theatrically. “Tied again.”

Keir snorted. "How the hell do you call that a tie? I have more killing orders, I totally win. And yes, the Super Spy has contacted us."

Aryan could only roll his eyes. Leora and Keir and their contest had gotten so old to them all by now...

The von Nacht's eyes lit up suddenly, a glint in them that belied his Alistair blood. One would know, it was the same look Keir wore on a daily basis. "You know, we could figure out who was better once and for all..."

Keir looked boredly at his cousin. "Oh? And what exactly do you propose? We've done everything we could possibly think of, even Rock-Paper-Scissors."

Aryan's eyes sparkled. "You've never seen who's better at mind games, right? And you're both skilled in espionage. Not as good as your truly, of course, but still...why not compete over that?"

Keir perked up a bit, clearly interested. "Okay, say we do this. How would we know when someone wins? The number of people we can screw over?"

“Well, then there’s a separate category for most kidnapping orders, and I win that one,” Leora replied, but she sat up a little straighter at this proposal of Aryan’s, pushing off her hands and bringing them around to grip the edge of the desk where her legs were. Her eyes narrowed just slightly. She was pretty sure she smelled a rat here, and Ary was considerably more experienced in the methods of manipulation than either herself or Keir. He wouldn’t have brought this up without a reason.

But then her cousin, big dummy that he was, went ahead and agreed without hearing the terms. She could have smacked herself in the forehead, but she didn’t. It was go along or refuse and wind up essentially forfeiting the lifelong rivalry, and there was no way she could do that. Not least because what it would leave was a confused mixture of feelings that would make her more awkward and vulnerable around him than she was willing to be around anyone. She played games because serious was beyond her, and she didn’t want to be the only serious one.

Pursing her lips, she appeared to consider it for a moment, then shrugged one shoulder in a careless manner. “All right, once and for all. What’s the challenge, Aryan?” If it was a trap of some kind, she was going to kill him.

If Leora smelled a rat, Helen was looking right at him, and she knew it. That look in his eye meant trouble; she’d seen it often enough during his childhood. They both orbited Yuki like satellites, after all—she’d have been remiss if she’d not learned some things of this nature. Still, she didn’t say anything. They were his relatives, after all—it was probably going to be benign, even if she was not likely to understand the point of it.

Aryan's grin only got wider. As he'd suspected, Keir had gone ahead and agreed. Leora was nothing if not head-strong and prideful. She'd never walk away, not knowing it meant forefit. And if secretly he was also playing matchmaker, well...

That was just a bonus. "Well, no, not exactly, Keir. Normal people don't really stand much of a chance. So, in order to see who is truly the have to see who can manipulate the other. In other words, it will be between ourselves. The first rule is that no one, aside from the four of us, will know about it. I can act as referee, to make sure no lines are crossed, of course."

Keir almost scowled. What was his cousin playing at? "Okay..." he said slowly. "What exactly do we have to manipulate the other into doing?"

Aryan paused for a moment. He was enjoying this far too much, really. "One of the best and by far the most successful tricks in espionage is seduction, as I'm sure your father can attest to, Keir. The first one of you to willingly kiss the other will lose. Now, this is seduction. Nothing physical, and nothing beyond mind games. Powers are out, too, and because no one else will know, you cannot enlist the help of anyone else. And just to make it interesting, the challenge will officially start at midnight tonight, and you each have a year."

The man leaned back in his chair, crossing his arms with a rather pleased grin on his face. "Do you find the terms acceptable?"

Keir was staring wide-eyed at his cousin. He looked over at Leora, masking the turmoil in his head with his usual snarky grin. "Sounds like fun. I'm game. What about you, Leo?"

It was official. Screw Bathasar’s powers or Rica’s complete mercilessness. Aryan was the most dangerous of all of them, no damn contest. It wasn’t as bad as she’d thought it might be—it was worse. He could have picked literally anything else, and she would have been more confident that she’d win. Not without a good fight of course, because it was well within the realm of possibility for her cousin to challenge her; he always did. It was why they were thus far tied. But this… she was going to lose, she was pretty sure of that much.

Of course, she was a very bad player if she’d ever let it show on her face. Maybe there was still a chance. She knew how to seduce someone for information; she was Alden’s sister, too, after all. So, all she had to do was accomplish this before anything got out of hand… whatever that meant. Leo tipped her chin up a little, something mischievous dancing in her eyes, her mouth tilted into a smirk to match her cousin’s own. “Challenge accepted. I look forward to your loss, Keir.” Standing smoothly, she tossed all three of them a wave, picking up the books she’d come for and striding out of the library.

Oh. Oh shit. Just what had she gotten herself into this time?


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Aryan von Nacht Character Portrait: Helen Trist


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Aryan smiled, rather pleased with himself as Leora and the Keir both left. They had both walked into that one, and they had both taken the bait. He did love it when plans went correctly. He then returned to what he had been doing before, shuffling through the papers in front of him.

"Helen, has Roran Edyta gotten back to us about the Council's treaty with the Pantheon? I was execting to hear back from him last week. I have a meeting with the Council next week, and I would not want to show up without the right information."

Of course, if Roran failed in his end of the bargin, Aryan had many other contacts to draw upon, though Roran had been his closest one to the source of the matter. "Also, if you do not mind, I would like both you and Yuki to accompany me. I trust no one in that Council, not even Edyta, and I would feel better if I had the two of you there, as it were."

It was fortunate that he’d brought it up, because she was about to do so herself. Finishing the last paragraph of the book, she closed it and reshelved it before returning to the table at which Aryan sat and assuming the place across from him, folging her hands together on the smooth wood of the table. Something flickered behind her eyes for a moment; she could have almost sworn she heard the sound of familiar, malicious laughter. But it wasn’t there. It was never there, at least not in any way that anyone else could hear it. That didn’t make it unreal—on the contrary, to her, these phantoms were sometimes more real than anything in the physical world had ever been.

But the shadow passed, and she met his eyes, though even seated, she had to tip her head up to do so. Pale blue-violet looked into amethyst, and she tilted her head vaguely to one side, shaking her head just minutely. “Roran Edyta was found dead this morning,” she replied quietly. “His throat was slit, from the amount of blood left behind. I can only suppose someone discovered who he worked for.” He’d probably slipped up, trusted the wrong person somewhere along the line. It was known to happen.

As for the request, she only nodded. She did not ever do any speaking at Council functions, but she wasn’t going to talk—that was something Aryan could do quite well on his own. She would go in case things got hostile. And if the measures they were willing to take against a simple informant were that extreme… then things may very well become hostile. Helen frowned slightly, her lips thinning for a moment, but the expression returned to simple neutrality within a few seconds.

Aryan sighed, setting down the paper he had been holding and rubbed at his temples. Edyta was dead...fantastic. The fool had not covered his tracks. It was a good thing Aryan covered his. There was no way that they could trace his path to him, Aryan had made sure of that. Still, that did not mean that the man did not talk. That was the risk in every transaction, every deal.

The von Nacht passed a hand over his eyes, collecting his thoughts. "That is troubling news. Would that I were not called to appear, I would not go in front of the Council at all. This smells of Pantheon, I do not like it." The last thing he wanted was to put Yuki and Helen in danger, but it was tantamount to suicide if he went alone. It was not his wish to put any of his family in danger, but perhaps he would be better served putting up with Zero's company. Even the Council would be hard-pressed for answers attacking the Kuraguri Heir.

"What of the Hunter Association? Has anyone contacted us from their ranks?" Despite the escalating war, there were still some who desired peace, though they were getting thinner by the year.

“No,” she replied without hesitation. “Not since the overture from the Dissidents last month. I expect they are still laying low—they are not yet strong enough to be of any real help.” The Dissidents were a small group of Hunters who wanted above all else to end the war. They had taken the Hunter’s mandate to preserve human life to mean that a war that killed this many humans was unacceptable. But they were small, and many of them were still afraid of going too public. It was entirely reasonable—Helen understood strategy very well. Theodor was a master of the craft, and not everything he’d left behind in her was malevolent. At least, she chose to believe it wasn’t.

That her aptitude for such matters might be her own and not his wasn’t something she’d ever even thought to consider. She was what she had been made, and anything extra had simply been allowed. She blinked slowly, watching him think. He was very adroit, Aryan was—if his deft manipulation of his cousins was not sufficient evidence for this, the fact that he was the one who handled the Council was probably proof. His father was broadly in charge of coordinating the family’s effort in the war, where they chose to intervene. Vincent Kuragari was also involved there, and Morgan Alistair ran the larger-scale spy network that included the middle five Kuragari brothers. Ava Kuragari kept all the moving parts working in sync, and Erys Alistair and Nikki von Nacht were frequent leaders of the larger-scale ground operations. But Aryan was younger than they were, and sometimes his jobs were the most insidious of them all.

“Do not think it,” she said simply, though it had more the feel of a request to it than an order. She didn’t presume to tell any of them what to do, after all. He was contemplating leaving her behind, she could tell. “My name may not carry much weight, but my sword speaks at sufficient volume.” She was ruthless in a way that those like Balthasar and Zero were not, but more judicious in the application of such force than either of the Alistair twins. She was also disposable, unlike any of them. They were important, she was not. It made her the ideal choice, though she would not protest if he chose not to take Yuki.

Aryan nodded, that was not very surprising. The Dissidents were formidable, but small. He sighed through his nose, his eyes closing. This was getting worse and worse, yet he had little choice but to comply. He opened his eyes, returning his gaze to Helen when she told him not to think it. The girl was so perceptive, enough so that it scared him at times.

He offered her a wan smile. "I have never doubted your prowess with a blade, nor will I ever, and I rue those that do. However, you misjudge your station. As far as I am concerned you are family as much as Balthasar is my brother, and I will not allow for needless harm to those in my family." He could see her point though, and that was why he cose her and Yuki in the first place. They both had underlying tendancies to not hold back, and their sheer ruthlessness rivaled that of his Aunt Erys, if not outran it completely. His brother was far more inclined to peaceful approaches, as was Zero. Though it may not be such a bad idea to bring the Twins along.

No, no, in the end, it was not a good idea. As deadly as they could be, they were also far too high on the watch list, being what they were. In the end, his only real soultion was the original plan. He stood, taking the papers and stowing them in his bag once more. "I'm expected at midnight on the 17th, a week from tomorrow. The three of us will leave the day before." He had turned to leave when he turned back to her, a small smile on his face. "Thank you, Helen. I appreciate you coming along."


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Zero Kuragari Character Portrait: Yuki Alistair-von Nacht


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The smirk that had been plastered upon Zero's face, only broadened when Yuki began to protest. She told him to put her down, however; he did not oblige his cousin, instead, choosing to keep her over his shoulder. "And tell me why, dear cousin, I would wish to do that?" he stated, glancing over his shoulder to stare at Yuki. He will admit, he loved teasing her to no end. Her reactions to his actions were simply something he couldn't resist, and it didn't help matters much that he found his half-cousin distracting.

"Besides, class is boring. You can only learn the same thing so many times before it gets boring. And I hear that the roof of the school is exquisite this time of day," he stated, his smirk still brightening upon his lips. Though he wouldn't truly take her away from her studies. He knew, without a doubt, that Yuki enjoyed taking the classes. Whether it was because it was something normal, or if there was another reasoning behind it, he didn't know. And pretty much didn't care. If she liked it, then she had every right to be there. It was just something he did not favor, hence why Leora was the one who did most of his school work. She wasn't as aged as he was, and really, it was more-so for her benefit than his.

Oh, why did he have to be so difficult? She could practically feel her heart thumping against her rib cage. She had no idea why it would chose to do so, but there it was all the same. When he turned back to look at her, she hid her face in her hands. The roof? They were going to the roof? It wasn't so much that she minded, she loved being outside, even more if it was somewhere high.

It was more or less the fact that she was going to be alone with Zero. Though why that should bother her so much, she did not understand. She didn't understand anything about her reactions to him. They made no sense, and she was too terrified to ask anyone about them, or she probably would have gone to her mother by now. She let out a shaky sigh as her cousin continued to carry her. She couldn't form coherent thoughts at the moment, and she found herself tongue-tied.

Though, in all honesty, she didn't mind missing this particular class. It was English, which was something she had no aptitude for, at all. She was better with history and science, and math. Give her grammar, and she was absolutely lost. Maybe she should ask Leora for help. Oh, and now her mind was wandering, as she was startled suddenly when Zero set her back on her feet. She looked around, and then promptly turned away from her cousin, trying to get her face to cool down. "Oh, why do you have to be so stubborn?" She muttered, though it was more to herself than to Zero.

"Stubborn? Oh you must give me more credit than that my dear cousin," Zero replied, a hint of feigned hurt lacing in his tone. "Stubborn would be me actually taking you to the roof. I am not so heartless that I would make you miss your classes," he continued as he tilted his head to the side. He sighed softly though and placed Yuki down, though his hand laced with hers and he held her hand. He could never truly describe the sensation he felt, the passing of chills through his skin at the mere contact.

It was something akin to what he felt when he was with his mother, though this was something completely different. He would not lie and say he didn't know what it was, because he certainly did, he just wasn't sure if he was exactly ready to say something like that. Especially to Yuki. His mother and father had told them of their history, of the war that had transpired, of what had happened to his Aunt Nikki and his cousin Yuki. Of what his Uncle Jasper did to Theodor, and what had happened to his mother.

He sighed through his nose a little harshly before running a hand through his ginger locks. "You know, if you need help, you could always ask Bal or myself. Rica and Leo both said that you are having trouble in English," he stated, stopping momentarily from his walk to glance over his shoulder at Yuki.

A small tremor ran through Yuki at the contact of their hands. If only she understood why he made her feel like this. Still, when he looked at her like that...

She found herself glancing between him and the door, which was still closed. She glanced back at Zero, and then, without giving herself time to think, she walked toward him, looping her arm through his and dragging him with her.

"Well, I guess I'm the one being stubborn." She said softly, and dragged her cousin exactly where he had originally said, the roof. Still, the time would not be entirely wasted. She had her English books with her.

Zero chuckled at Yuki's response, and allowed her to drag him towards their previous destination. He couldn't lie, the view from up here had its pros, and he certainly didn't mind viewing it up here with her. He didn't mind that their arms were still looped together, and it was he who initiated the releasing of said arms, though with a bit of reluctance. He sighed, taking a seat down upon the concrete roof and patted at a seat next to him, pulling out one of her English books in the process.

"Although you didn't officially ask, I am taking this as a sign that you do need help," he stated, flipping through her books in the process. "Hm, okay I see your problem," he stated as he began shuffling through the problems with her, writing a few words out and sentences so she could practice on her own. He barely missed the bell signaling it was time for lunch.

For once in her life, some of it began to make sense. She also could not remember the last time she'd actually enjoyed English, in any sense of the word. Still, the time passed all too quickly, the bell ringing, signaling that it was time for lunch. She glanced up, a little surprised. Was it that late already?

With a small shake of her head, she packed up her things, and stood up. She stretched languidly, and then glanced back down at her cousin, a coy smile on her face. She didn't even really think about it, it was more natural to her than breathing as she reached out, touching his mind with her own. She didn't dig, she never did, it was the connection that she was after.

Thank you, Zero.

You're welcome, Yuki.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Balthasar von Nacht Character Portrait: Keir Alistair


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Keir snorted, Alucard nudging him slightly as the Dhampir sat up. He shook his head at his cousin, quirking an eyebrow at Mimi. "Lala is always upset with you, Mimi. You do it to yourself, really."

He shrugged as he stood up, his grin matching that of his father's. He surveyed the damage, rather pleased with himself. "By now, you shouldn't even have to ask that question, Bally. It's not a matter of being able to help ourselves, more or less a matter of knowing when not to." His logic was utterly flawed, but it wasn't like he cared. The blue scales on his upper arm and exposed chest glimmered in the sunlight. Keir had long since abandoned the uniform of Cross Academy, and anyone who tried to get him in one did not end up a happy person.

"Besides, they were renovating the shed anyway, I just helped them out a little."

Balthasar sighed. The question had been largely rhetorical. He knew there was little point in arguing with his cousins about any of this, and really, he didn’t even want to. He was one of those people who chose to let others be as they were for the most part, and he wasn’t inclined to try and change either of them. Well… admittedly, he’d like it if he could change the fact that Rica refused to be in his presence for more than five seconds at a time, but he was pretty sure that was something he needed to do differently, not a problem with her. Why would it be?

“Yes, well… remind me of this if I ever ask you to help me with anything,” he said, glancing back at the shed and shaking his head. He didn’t really understand the necessity of this, but then, they obviously didn’t do it because it was necessary. Though the enjoyment was also a bit lost on him, really. Nevertheless, he was content to let the matter drop. Though the Headmaster of Cross was not the same one his parents had known, the man was clearly related, and had a similar practical streak—there were specific provisions in the budget for damage caused by “Alistairs and Coconspirators.”

Keir shrugged, a smirk on his face. "Hey, at least I don't run around breaking beds. This is much more fun." He rolled out his shoulders, turning when someone called out to him, and handed him an envelope. Keir looked at it, and sighed. "Well...looks like I have a date with your brother. It seems Alden dug something up."

He turned from his cousin, raising his hand in a wave as he did so. "Just tell old man Cross I did him a favor. He understands."

Alden had dug up something else, had he? That rarely boded well, and even Balthasar knew this. He wasn’t too deep into the informational sides of this whole thing, at least not any further than his father bid him be, but he wasn’t out of the loop, either. Mostly, he saved catching up for the briefings Ary arranged before all their operations, so that he knew everything that was necessary about where they were going, what they were doing, and why it was important. He trusted his brother and his cousins to know what they were doing and not send him into a fight he could not win or one that wasn’t for the right reasons.

“Very well,” he said, entirely defeated and well-aware of it. He didn’t put up much of a fight against his relatives. It was a miracle they hadn’t somehow killed him by now. He’d chased after the majority of them when they were still children, trying to keep them from hurting themselves or breaking things. The twins had been particularly challenging, but then, he was a fairly experienced babysitter by that point. Still, he didn’t know how their parents dealt with them the rest of the time. Probably with heavy bribery.

He watched Kier head off and returned his attention to the owl now on his shoulder. “Did Rica get the apples I left her this morning, Mikhail?” He was sort of asking because he wanted to know if she’d liked them, but mostly just to make sure. Sometimes, when the Alistairs had a plan, they forgot to notice other things going on around them. Like the time Uncle Vincent had watched them try to ice the floor of his foyer. There was no blaming that one on him. He wondered if Keir was still afraid of their uncle after that. He wouldn’t be surprised… Vincent was kind of terrifying.

Mikhail only leaned into Balthasar's fingers that rubbed against his white feathers as a soft humming noise escaped his throat. He frowned, or at least would have, when Balthasar turned his attention to Keir and they began their own conversation, leaving him to close his eyes. It was then a question fluttered into his ears and he cracked one eye open. He studied Balthasar's face, reading it for anything he could possibly use later to tease Rica with, however; he found nothing and only sighed, softly though as to himself.

"'re her secret admirer. She doesn't know who keeps leaving those apples at her door, and though she loves apples, she doesn't know who they're from. She throws them away," though that was a lie. Those apples lasted her the whole week if they were lucky enough. "She said something about poisoning, or something of that sort," and that was a lie too. Given their vampiric blood, human poisons wouldn't work on them, but Mikhail was having the light of his life at the moment, glancing up towards Ilyana in the process.

"Though, I'm sure if you at least left her a note, she'd love you even more," he stated the last part a little faster than usual, and could perhaps be heard more of a jumble of words together than a complete sentence. Mikhail was well aware of his masters feelings for this boy, however; that didn't mean he couldn't have a bit of fun with it, even if she could hear what he was saying and was currently sending him a colorful array of words.

Oh, he hadn’t thought about that. It had never occurred to Balthasar that his dhampir cousins might be susceptible to poisoning—he’d simply assumed that, like vampires, they had no need to worry about such things. If he was wrong, he could certainly understand her caution, and he nodded sagely to Mikhail’s advice. “I see. I wasn’t aware of that. I should make sure to write one…” He was busy enough trying to think of what to say in such a note that he entirely missed the last part of the sentence, garbled as it was, but Ilyana was not so distracted, and her tails lashed with amusement.

Balthasar, silly man that he was, had no idea what Mikhail was playing at here, but Ilyana was smarter than that, even at four years of age. Perhaps that said something elegantly enough on its own, but even so, she really couldn’t resist. “Hey Bally?”

The nickname drew his attention, and he rolled his eyes as high as they would go, as if to look at the creature still perched atop his head. “Yes, Illy?” he asked politely, removing a pen from his pocket and a small notebook from inside his uniform jacket. He gave it a few more seconds’ thought, then, in small, precise masculine handwriting, penned the following. Rica, The apples are from me. Please don’t let that stop you from eating them. I just thought, Mondays are kind of the worst, and it would be nice if they were better. Balthasar. He folded the note over once and held it up to Mikhail, silently asking the familiar if he would take it. It was unlikely to ever be read if it came from him directly, after all-- if she let him get that close, he’d have just told her.

Ilyana sighed. “You’re kind of stupid, aren’t you?”

Mikhail stared dumbfoundedly at Balthasar, blinking in succession, very slowly. He glanced at Ilyana before shaking his head, taking the letter from Balthasar's hand, but not before responding to Ilyana. "I don't think stupid defines it," he replied before taking the letter and flying off to find his master. Though he knew she was aware of whom the apples came from. She wouldn't have eaten them so slowly otherwise.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yuki Alistair-von Nacht Character Portrait: Helen Trist


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Hel had not been in school as long as the rest of them—this was only the start of her very first year at Cross Academy. Regardless, however, if it could be said that anyone knew far too much about what was being taught, it was probably her. Half the time, she couldn’t remember learning the information, she just knew things. She didn’t even realize what she knew until the situation came up that she needed to either. It was, on some level, disturbing, and probably would have shaken someone else greatly, but it was so far from the worst of her problems that she didn’t even spare it much thought. Someone else might worry that another had been “messing with their head” as the expression went. Hel knew that was what had happened, and there weren’t many people less merciful about it than Theodor had been, if any at all.

She’d had another episode, in class, but she’d been quiet about, folding her arms on the desk and leaning her forehead down into them, as though tired, It had hidden her face from view, and she’d clamped her mouth shut to keep from saying anything, the tense line of her shoulders and the way her back muscles went rigid the only sign that anything was wrong. It was mild, as far as such things went—sometimes, she could not help the screaming, but that was usually only in the ones that came to her in sleep, when she was less able to regulate her own thoughts and her unconscious ran wild.

It had been mostly jumbled fragments of things, and as usual, she was having difficulty making any of it out in a sensible way. Shaking her head faintly, she pulled at the cuff of her uniform shirt—she wore the boys' one rather than the girls’, and nobody bothered to protest. At least she wore one, even if the green argyle sweater-vest over the shirt and under the jacket was not standard. It was an odd piece of personality for a girl who seemed as rigid as Hel did, but it had been a present—her very first Christmas present, from Ava Kuragari, of course. She’d only ever been given one other object before, and that was the black velvet ribbon that only left her hair when she slept. It could be said, perhaps, that when she accepted something, it became dear to her in a very rare way.

A noise from the copse of trees near where she was walking drew her attention, but it was only Sven. The great silver-white stag didn’t say anything, just fell into step beside her, and she reached up to rest a hand on his shoulder. Even her familiar was a bit too tall for her, honestly. The whole world was always a bit too… something. Large, bright, vibrant, cruel, tall, open… it varied depending on the situation, but left her with the lingering impression that she simply wasn’t enough, and never would be.

The scent carried to her on the breeze was familiar, and without bothering to ask herself why, Hel changed directions a bit, a few more minutes of walking taking her to Yuki, who was sitting under a tree. The leaves were falling this time of year, but they were a bright explosion of flamelike colors in the meantime. Her familiar was also there, which meant that Helen herself was not strictly necessary, but… she moved to sit down all the same, crossing her legs underneath her and draping her arms over her knees to hang loosely in front of her. There were slightly-darkened circles under her eyes that had not been there that morning, but then… Helen usually looked like that by the end of the day. Being around so many people wore on her after a while. Not that there was anything wrong with most of them. But still…

You were not in English class, the girl remarked, as flat-toned mentally as she was when she actually spoke. From the way Yuki smelled, Hel knew she had been in close physical proximity with Zero Kuragari recently—touching, most likely. That was not so unusual, really, and she said nothing about it.

Yuki absentmindedly stroked Kiba's fur, smiling as the only person in the world that she considered to be her best friend sat down next to her. The telepathic link between them was open, and really, in some sense, it was never really closed between them. Helen's statement, however, sent a jolt of surprise through Yuki. She couldn't help the heat that rose to her cheeks, and she forced herself to focus on breathing before she answered Helen.

No, I was not. Zero was helping me with the work.

She looked at Helen out of the corner of her eye. She remembered a time when she had been about the same height as her, but in the last one hundred years, Yuki had grown. Then again, when they had first met, Yuki had only been twenty-two, and Helen had already spent almost two centuries alive. Yuki would never call what Helen's life had been living, any more so she would call her own first twenty one years living.

She could also almost always tell when Helen had had an episode. They were utterly at random, though there were certain things that triggered them. Are you okay?

Hel sent Yuki the mental equivalent of a raised eyebrow, but she did not comment further. There were many things in life that she did not understand, that Theodor had removed her ability to ever truly comprehend, but she could still observe, and it was rather obvious to her where that relationship was going. One had only to see the two together to know. Actually, knowing Zero alone could provide a pretty decent guess. Yuki, however, was oblivious to the fact that her feelings were what most people would call love, and that they were shared. Helen might have almost found it funny, if she understood humor. That was something else he’d taken away.

But it was not her place to push, and it probably wouldn’t help anything anyway. Better to leave things be, so she did, not pursuing the topic any further. Not that the one they ended up with was any better—in fact, it was considerably worse. Helen’s mind was a dangerous place, and for this reason, she kept the majority of it shielded, even from Yuki. There was a chance someone could go in and never make it back out—as Helen often found herself tempted to do. But she shared more of what she saw with Yuki than anyone else. I am fine. It was nothing new. The eyes again, mostly. Many of Helen’s visions centered around a very specific image- a pair of eyes opening. That in itself was nothing so bad, but… the eyes were entirely white, but even without discernible iris or pupil, she knew she was seen, and the look they gave was full of such revulsion it actually frightened her.

There was also the persistent desire to submit to whatever owned them, and she usually felt herself on the cusp of helpless capitulation before the vision moved on or she woke up. It was a feeling of being rendered utterly useless, nothing more than a puppet on a string for the person’s use… and that was a feeling she knew well. Every time she saw them, it was for a moment like she’d never broken free of Theodor at all—only… the owner of the eyes was much, much more horrifying than Theodor could ever have been. There wasn’t even any effort on the person’s part, just a dominance so complete that submission was the only option. She was afraid of what that might mean for the people she had come to protect.

Needing to talk about something else instead, she switched topics. One of Aryan’s contacts is dead. He wants you and I to attend the next Council meeting with him.

Yuki let out the mental equivalent of a sigh, banishing Zero from her mind, at least for now. She'd told no one, but her cousin had been occupying her dreams of late, that in and of itself unusual, as Yuki rarely dreamed, unless it was nightmares of when her father was still alive.

Helen's news was...unsettling, at best. She hated it that her brother refused to not go, so, she did the next best thing. I was planning on going whether he wanted me to or not. Someone has to keep an eye on him, and it's always better to have two pairs than only one. Yuki hated going to the Council, but she'd rather have people stare at her than let her brother go alone.

For all they could do, her mother and step-father had not been able to keep certain things about Yuki silent, and there had been...offers. This usually did not end well. There were plenty of sadistic vampires that would love to pick her apart, and see just what had been done to her, even if she was a failed experiment. Like her cousin Leora, she, too, had a list of kidnapping contracts that was just as long. Sometimes it only made her wish she had not killed Kisuke all those years ago, if only so she could kill him now.

Helen blinked, having expected something along the lines of that answer. There was a lot the both of them didn’t say, but unlike with other people, it never damaged their relationship, because they didn’t need to say things, sometimes. They simply understood one another. Much about what they had endured was different, not least among these things duration, but… the most important things were shared. Without saying anything else, Hel picked up Yuki’s free hand in one of her own, lacing their fingers together, and leaned sideways until her head contacted her friend’s shoulder. Inhaling deeply, she released the breath quietly and slowly.

As a rule, she didn’t touch people. But rules didn’t apply with friends. She could sense the discomfort behind the mental communication, and so she did what little could be done to ease it. Sometimes, it was enough that someone else was there. And, whatever else may come, Helen would always be there for her friend, until the day she died.

Yuki smiled slightly. She, like Helen, was for the most part against physical contact, at least with those outside of her immediate family. Even then, it was rarely outside of the casual touch. Indeed, being slung over Zero's shoulder this morning had been the most physical she'd been in a week.

As it were, between the two of them, little more need be said, at least until Medusa came slithering up to them, the golden python looking annoyed. Probably because Aryan had managed to get the familiar to actually do something other than sleep.

"Aryan requessssts your prescensssssse. He needs to sssssspeak to the two of you and your brother. I suggessst you call him, Yuki."

Yuki shook her head lightly, a smile forming as she picked up the snake, draping her around her shoulders. Without any effort, she formed a mental link with Balthasar, telling him that Aryan was looking for them. With that, she, Helen, and Kiba made their way back to the school. Yuki wasn't sure if she wanted to know what Alden had found.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Balthasar von Nacht Character Portrait: Aryan von Nacht Character Portrait: Yuki Alistair-von Nacht Character Portrait: Helen Trist


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Aryan did not glance up when he smelled the approach of his siblings and Hel. He was still looking down at the map in front of him. The town that Alden had mentioned was indeed, the one right outside of Cross Academy's borders. His brows furrowed slightly. It was a bold attack, so near neutral territory. He glanced over at the two profiles, the people in them well-known for being hitmen. Indeed, Yuki had come across them a time or two.

His brother sat down across from him, along with Hel, while Yuki leaned against the table next to Aryan. The three of them waited patiently, they'd all learned a long time ago that Aryan was not to be rushed.

Finally, he looked up. "Alden has uncovered what appears to be a very large attack plan against this town." He pointed to the map as Medusa slithered off of Yuki and onto his shoulders, resting her head on top of his. "There will also be two rather well known hitmen present, I'm sure you'll recognize them, Yuki."

The snow-haired girl glanced down at the sheets. Indeed, she did recognize them. She didn't know their names, but she'd run across them before. "So, is it just an attack, or an assassination attempt?"

Aryan leaned his head against his hand. "We're not sure, it could be either, or it could be both. We also have another problem. The date of the attack is the same day that myself, Yuki, and Helen will be at the Council."

Yuki raised an eyebrow. "Divide and conquer. Smart, efficient. So, what exactly is the plan?"

It was hard to focus past her discomfort. Helen had nothing against Balthasar, but she was especially sensitive to his presence. It was hard not to be, given all that power she could feel under there. But it wasn’t that—she had known plenty of powerful people before and now. It was the fact that this man, before he’d even been conceived, had been the focus of so much of Theodor’s attention that traces of him were all over her mind. Aryan actually caused something similar, but not as badly. Mostly because she’d been able (or forced, it was hard to tell) to get to know him more, since he spent so much time with Yuki. Balthasar, on the other hand, knew he made her uncomfortable, and let her have her space because of that. Even now, he sat several chairs down from her, which gave her just enough room to feel like she wasn’t suffocating.

She glanced at the map and then the files with deadened eyes—she knew the faces as well. Her brows furrowed together slightly, and she blinked. “They haven’t been hired against any of you before—I could not provide you with any information as to who the target or targets is or are.”

Balthasar sighed through his nose. “Does it matter?” he asked quietly. “Every time they target one of us, they target us all, and it’s us all they have to deal with.” Still… he knew that he was not infrequently the person in question, and it made him feel guilty that he put his family in danger that way. He’d been fending off assassins since he was a boy. Once, when it had been only himself and his mother, traveling ahead of his father and sister to the family’s home in Ireland, a team of them had almost killed her. His powers had manifested on that day. Balthasar had been seven years old, and he'd killed them all. He still couldn’t let go of that one.

“Be careful at that meeting, you three. Just because the rest of us are the ones dealing with the known assassins doesn't mean we’re the real targets…” They all knew that, of course, but… he felt he should say it anyway. It rankled him that they were always at so much risk. They were family, even Hel, and he couldn’t bear to lose them. But he could not be in two places at once, and much as he might try, he could not protect everyone himself at all times.

Aryan nodded, a placid look on his face. "Frankly, I think that's what they're banking on. With the rest of you occupied here, it puts the three of us at a disadvantage, if one or all of us are the intended targets."

His eyes swiveled to his sister, who scowled at him. "If you even think it, I'm going to beat you bloody. Let them try, they'll be hard pressed getting through Hel and I, even if I'm a target. I've been a target all my life, for varying reasons. One more day isn't going to change anything."

Aryan smiled wanly at his sister. As headstrong and brash as ever, it would seem. "Dear sister of mine, I would never dream of it." He leveled his gaze with his brother. As often as the assassination attempts were on Balthasar, they all had their own hit lists, as Helen kept ample record of. As guilty as he was, it was not entirely his fault, and Aryan hated to see his brother like this. "The same goes for five of you here. Don't be a hero, Bal. And if you do, make sure you let me know first so that I can steer clear of mother."

There was a glimmer of a smile on his face. Nikki von Nacht was well known for her temper, especially when it came to the welfare of her children. She may have been only a Noble, but she was not to be tested. The woman would do anything to protect her children, and she had proven so more than once. Aryan could still remember the time when he had been about ten years old. He himself had been attacked, and he'd stood there and watched as Nikki tore the Pure Blood assassin limb from limb. It wasn't as if he'd ever disrespected either of his parents, but after that, he'd certainly seen his mother in a new light.

They’d all been targets all their lives. Hel would know; she’d been there for most of that. All of them had been watched like specimens in a petri dish, vultures circling always outside the protected safety of their family homes. She doubted it would ever change. Balthasar and Aryan were Jasper von Nacht’s sons—that would never go unremarked upon. That family was the closest thing vampires had to royalty, anymore, even if there wasn’t one of them who wanted anything to do with it. The twins were, well, twins, which was unusual in and of itself, the genetic manipulation their father had undergone and their mother’s unique nature notwithstanding. And the Kuragaris were what happened when you mixed an experimental pureblood with a trueborn one. That the youngest had inherited the Aegis was only the icing on the proverbial cake.

She hated that idiom—cake was nice. This was not.

Bathasar returned his brother’s subtle smile, and Helen thought for a moment that they weren’t as different as everyone took them to be. She wasn’t sure how that made her feel, but her feelings were irrelevant here. “And leave no one to stand between she and I, with her temper in full swing? I think not, Ary.” His father had told him once that people most often attacked either of the children when they were with their mother because they perceived her as weaker somehow. Then he’d chuckled and shaken his head. Al had asked if this didn’t concern him, how he could bring himself to ever leave her side, and his sire had regarded him for a moment with uncanny eyes and raised a brow.

Of course I don’t like leaving her, he’d said simply, but anyone who thinks she is weaker than I am has the wrong understanding of strength. Balthasar had learned a very important lesson that day about the difference between power and strength, and between power and danger. It was one he carried with him always… especially when his mother was upset with him.

Aryan's subtle smile widened slightly. If anything, their mother was scarier than their father ever could be. Though, considering what she'd been through, it was not overly surprising that she would be so protective. Aryan raised an eyebrow.

"So, instead of facing her wrath, you would hide behind your younger brother?"

Yuki rolled her eyes, but was smiling all the same. "You're both knuckleheads and I love you, but up against mother, I'd throw you both to the wolves."

Aryan feigned being hurt. "Ouch, Yuki."

Yuki smirked. "Come on. You should let the others know about the attack, and I have a blade that needs whetting. Coming, Hel?"


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Zero Kuragari Character Portrait: Aryan von Nacht


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Aryan sighed through his nose, allowing his sense of smell to guide him to where his least favorite cousin was. He had no wish to go to him, but at the moment, he was avoiding Leora. While Keir was a bit dense when it came seeing that he'd been manipulated, Leora was a bit sharper, and as such, Aryan was going to avoid her wrath, for now at least.

So, in order to relay the news of the attack coming, he had to tell one of the Kuragari's, and then the Twins. He found his cousin on the roof, a place that did not surprise him at all. His temper flared almost immediately, but he quashed it. There was no time for such petty matters, and besides, it was not as if anything had been done to Yuki. As it were, Zero had actually helped her with her English, and that was a good thing, even if it did rankle Aryan that they were spending time alone together.

His cousin, as it were, was laying on his back, his hands laced together behind his head, staring up at the sky. Aryan stopped about five feet from him, his hands in his pockets. His face was placid, as was his tone.

"The town on the outskirts of Cross Academy's borders is going to be attacked in a week's time. Yuki, Helen, and I will be at the Council, leaving my brother, you and your sister, and the twins here to defend it. There are also going to be two rather highly skilled hitmen present. We are unsure of the intended target or targets, so just be on your gaurd."

Zero sighed softly, the gentle breeze caressing his skin as he closed his eyes to the world. He had opted to skip his classes again, spending the rest of the day upon the school roof. Even when the bell chimed to return to the dorms, he remained where he was, arms laced behind his head. His eyes, though closed, displayed a sense of boredom, and his mind wandered to what the twins were currently doing. Usually, at this time of day, they were either beating each other senseless, or blowing something up. He had to say it wasn't the latter since there had yet to be another explosion. He sighed through his nose, a familiar scent laced with the breeze.

"Always the dutiful cousin, Ar," he replied as he cracked one eye open to stare up at his cousin. A frown laced his face before he sat up, stretching his arms until he heard the satisfied popping of his shoulders, and turned to fully face Aryan. "Is that what Alden has sent? Information of an attack? You should know fully well who the intended targets are. If it's not Leora, it's one of the twins, your sister, or your brother. They are not fully interested in either you or I," he stated with a casual shrug of his shoulders. Which was partially untrue. Being he son of Ava and Vincent Kuragari had had him on plenty of hit lists, and Aryan himself would perhaps rival that number as well simply by just being Jasper's son.

Aryan raised a delicate eyebrow. If anything could be said of Balthasar being the mirror image of their father, Aryan was definately the male version of their mother. Really, the only trait he had that was not really either of his parents were his eyes. A deep violet hue, they matched none of the family, at least, insofar as Aryan could tell.

He sighed through his nose. "Actually, one of my contacts was found dead the other day, one of the members of the Council. It would seem someone found out that he'd been leaking information. There is a very real chance that this attack and my summons to the Council is a planned effort on my life, though nothing is certain. And people are more interested in kidnapping your sister, not killing her. I think they would have better chances at convincing a rabbit it is a dog."

Zero sighed a bit more harshly through his nose than he intended. He rubbed the side of his temples at Aryan's response. "You know what I meant about my sister. The same goes for the twins and your sister. A genetic experimentation is all that they are to those bastards. Leora because of mom's ability being passed onto her, the twins thanks to Erys and Morgan's altered DNA making them what they are, and your sister being the sick, twisted experiment of Kisuke. They are all valuable in that way. We are just liabilities in the way of preventing either of them from being taken," he responded as he laid back down on his back.

He closed his eyes briefly again before re-opening. "And didn't you know? They already have rabbits believing they're dogs. The beauty of hypnosis, it's a wonderful thing really," he stated in a nonchalant gesture. He was mostly kidding about the latter part of the sentence, but Aryan would perhaps miss the humor in that.

The stone beneath Aryan's feet cracked in response to the violent flare in his temper. His purple eyes narrowed to slits, and he had to reign in his shadows, realizing that the tendrils had suddenly sprung up around him. His mouth was a hard line, and he hissed through his teeth, "If anyone was sick and twited, it was that pathetic excuse of a man who all but tortured his own daughter." He forced himself to stop. That hadn't been what Zero had meant, and he knew it.

He turned on his heel, leaving his cousin. "Just make sure my brother doesn't do anything stupid."


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Alarica Alistair Character Portrait: Leora Kuragari Character Portrait: Yuki Alistair-von Nacht


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Leo stretched her free arm over her head, relishing the way her back popped into place and letting out a satisfied sigh. She wasn’t much of a clothes shopping girl, but everyone needed to go sometimes, and it was infinitely more fun with her female relatives. There was something about being totally anonymous—nobody in town knew their family names or about her blood or Yuki’s dad or Rica’s status as a twin… actually, Leo was trying pretty hard to forget that Rica had a twin, too. The challenge had begun last night, but she’d been a complete chicken and tried not to see Keir at all today. Maybe he was trying to avoid her as well, because she’d succeeded.

“Well, ladies?” she said with the subtle lift of an eyebrow. “Where to next?” This little excursion had proceeded under the term reconnaissance, as it was in the town slated to be attacked in a few days, but actually they were just enjoying themselves. It was tradition for the three of them to try and get away from the boys and the school at least once a month, and they always found different ways to do it. They’d been to the arcade, a beach a few hours away, the nearest large city… once, Rica had even dragged them along to try something humans called “cow-tipping.” It was a very strange thing, and Leo almost felt sorry for the poor cows, but it had been new to her.

Some humans walked by them on the sidewalk, and Leo could feel the eyes on them from behind her. Okay, so maybe they weren’t totally anonymous—vampires were still a bit… noticeable for their looks, and three of them clustered in one spot was not going to go without notice. Leo rolled her eyes and turned around, catching the eyes of one such ogler and smiled—maliciously. That seemed to render the person confused, but he was at least aware of what he was doing now, and cast his eyes away. She sighed through her nose. She was aware that they had evolved this way because it made feeding easier, but it really got annoying when you didn’t want to feed on humans anyway.

Yuki shot a slight glare at one of the younger men who she felt staring at her, the ice in her gaze enough to make him blush and quickly move on. She knew she often didn't help matters by wearing what she wore, her stomach exposed, but she wore what she did because she liked it. She glanced at her cousins. "Well, we could always get something to eat."

Like her twin cousins, Yuki had a more human-like digestive system, though the reasons for this were largely speculated. Yuki didn't want to know, either. There was a lot about herself she was more comfortable not knowing about, and she knew exatly how Helen felt in that regard. She still had nightmares sometimes, memories she thought she'd buried cropping up every now and again. She'd learned some more darker things about herself that she didn't like, but tried her best to ignore.

Alarica sighed softly through her nose, her eyes roaming about as she tilted her head to the side, popping and stretching her neck in the process. Somehow, she managed to be dragged into town with her cousins, Leora and Yuki, to go shopping, something the three of them were not particularly fond of, but necessary nonetheless. She glanced towards Leora through the corner of her eyes as she asked for their next destination. She thought about it for a minute before Yuki suggested a place. Something to eat? Now that she thought about it, it was getting roughly close to lunch time and she hadn't really eaten anything (besides an apple) that morning.

"Sounds acceptable. We can go to the restaurant that just opened up a few blocks from here," she stated, choosing to ignore the looks they were being sent. She was aware of their genetic make-up, and that alone made them appealing to humans, however; it was something that irritated her to no end. She wanted to maim the nearest human that was still glancing at them, something dark flashing behind their eyes. She sent them a glare, void of everything, but that did not seem to deter the group. She rolled her eyes in the process.

"Humans are lucky enough we are not allowed to harm them, otherwise a few of them might be missing eyes," she stated in a low enough voice so that only Leora and Yuki could hear. She wasn't in a particularly good mood at the moment and she wasn't feeling very reserved, however; she knew her place and it wouldn't be good to draw unnecessary attention to her matter how much she wanted to punch someone.

Leo shrugged—eating sounded fine. It wasn’t necessary for her to do so, but her mom had never been able to give up cooking, and especially not baking, so her system was a little more used to food than that of most vampires. She even enjoyed it, in small quantities. Spotting something new across the street, she gestured to it. “Italian?” There seemed to be a consensus that it was at least worth a try, and so the three made their way over to it, and they were just sitting down when something fluttered to the ground—a folded piece of paper, it looked like.

“Oh hey Rica, I think something fell out of your…” Leo bent to retrieve the object, but had trailed off upon recognizing the handwriting. “Pocket,” she finished, her tone rather more gleeful than before as she scanned the words. Her smile, which had been slight, morphed into a foxlike thing, the mischievous twinkle in her eye making her cousin quite aware that she’d read the whole note. As soon as they sat down and the waiter had taken their order for drinks, she read it again, and couldn’t stop the laughter that bubbled up from her diaphragm.

“Oh my god, he’s so hopeless. And you, Rica, you’re worse!” she exclaimed, trailing off in another fit of giggles.

Yuki had sat down, Leora between her and Alarica, and had been sipping her water when Leora suddenly dissolved into giggles. Yuki raised a slight eyebrow, leaning over to read the note in her cousin's hand. Her brows furrowed as she recognized Balthasar's handwriting.

She then looked at Leora. "I don't get it, what's so funny? And why are they...hopeless?" She knew very well that her brother sometimes had difficulty with others, but then, it was the same way she herself was, and their father, too.

Alarica shrugged her shoulders at Leora's suggestion, and the three of them made their way towards the restaurant. She had failed to notice the note that Balthasar had given her, peeking out of her coat pocket before it fell out completely. Alarica stopped in her spot as Leora stated something, and as she turned with a raised brow, her face immediately drained from its color. Leora held the note in her hands, her lips quirking up into a mischievous grin. Immediately, Alarica's face was a light pink color. When they sat down, their orders taken, she immediately snatched the note from Yuki's grasp as it found its way to Yuki.

"That is none of your business Leo! And I am not worse," she stated, unable to stare her cousin in the eye as her bottom lip puckered out a bit,the equivalent of a pout forming on her face. She could hear the whispers around her and immediately she sent the nearby customers a glare. It wasn't their fault really, but Leora was touching a subject that was extremely sensitive to Alarica. "Besides, it's just a letter about the damn apples that were outside my room that morning. There's nothing wrong with that," she added, folding her arms against her chest.

Her eyes traveled to Yuki when the snow-haired girl popped the question about what was funny. "It's nothing Yuki, Leo's just having a bit of fun," she stated, shooting Leora a look in the process. So help her, she loved her cousin, she really did, but if she told Yuki about Balthasar...the restaurant might have a bit of an accident, so to speak. Leora was the only person who knew of Alarica's feelings for Balthasar, and it would only make things more awkward if his sister knew as well. She would have told Yuki herself, but there was a light fear that she would tell Balthasar, though she knew Yuki would never do that.

Oh, she was a horrible person, but she was having just as much fun as Rica was accusing her of. And at least she was going to spread it around. “Well, Yuki… you know how you kinda feel funny flutters in here when my brother’s around, or get embarrassed when he’s just a little too close to you?” The smile was still there, and she raised a hand to place over her heart, to indicate the here she was talking about. Nodding with false seriousness, she found she couldn’t keep it up for long and smiled again anyway. “It’s a little bit like that.” Seriously, though, she was doing them a favor by pushing like this. Sure, Zero might take care of the pushing on his own, but he was kind of stupid, and if Yuki didn’t know how she felt by then, things could go poorly.

Rica’s problem was the opposite: Balthasar would never guess how she felt about him, and even if he did, he wouldn't do anything about it as long as she continued to act like she hated his guts. For someone who was so direct about everything else, Alarica was so obtuse about Al, and Leo knew exactly why that was. The reason was even dumber than Balthasar himself. Somehow, Rica had developed a single-target inferiority complex. Leo didn’t get it—her cousin was amazing, but sometimes amazing people needed to be reminded. Far be it from Leo to do this in the normal way—oh no, she’d prod and tease until they got it themselves. That was much more her style.

Yuki looked absent-mindedly at Rica when she snatched the note back; Yuki had barely read the first line. Her face remained quite placid as Leora began to speak, however; the longer her cousin spoke, the more horrified her face became. Soon, Yuki was almost as red as the cherry, gloss-finished wood of the table they sat at.

"I-i...I don''s n-not like....oh..." She wasn't able to do much more than stutter a bit before burying her face in her hands, trying to hide. Why did Leora have to bring up Zero? It had been bad enough when Aryan had actually left the room earlier when she'd entered after her English session with the aforementioned male. Her brother's behavior was also something she did not understand. She really was not good with emotions, she'd never been. Even now, after one hundred years, she sometimes had difficulty expressing just how much she loved her step-father. That, at least, was easily delt with, she knew that Jasper understood, so it was unnecessary for her to say so.

Still rather unable to speak, Yuki did the next best thing as she blushed furiously behind her hands. Please stop, Leora...

If it were possible, Alarica would have found away to dissolve into a puddle of water and just disappeared. Her face, once a light pink in color, had turned a darker shade. Though her face was one of embarrassment, her lips were tilted down in a frown. "Leo, don't," she started to protest, but it was far too late. Her cousin began explaining it to Yuki, and for once, Alarica tilted her head with a raised brow. Yuki liked Zero? She covered her mouth with her hand slightly, stifling the laugh that was threatening to escape her. It seems she wasn't the only one who was having difficulty with that.

"Well, at least you don't have anything to worry about then Leo," she retorted to her cousin. She didn't know if Leora had anyone in mind, and if she did, Leora hid it well. She sighed softly, her face cooling down in the process as she played with the straw to her drink. "Maybe it'd be best if I just...," she started but shook her head. How could she pretend that she didn't like (was that even the right word?) Balthasar? At least with Yuki, though the girl might not realize it, Zero's feelings were reciprocated. That much she knew. Her cousin had confided in her once about it, and she had returned the gesture.

Leora sighed. It wasn’t fun anymore when Yuki said it like that. Honestly, was her entire family emotionally stunted? It seemed like she was the only one who saw clearly the threads connecting them all… the red strings, if one wanted to use such a metaphor. It was a good thing, too—with how completely incompetent all of them were with their own emotions, they were going to need the help. Still, she shook her head and smiled.

“Fine, fine, I’ll stop. Just don’t blame me when your silliness doesn’t work out for you. Both of them are rather popular with women, you know.” She doubted it was a legitimate concern—Zero wasn’t interested in anyone but Yuki, though his mouth might occasionally make someone think otherwise, the way he teased. And Balthasar… it would take a very forward woman for him to even register that someone was interested in the first place. Though she did worry about that a little. As far as she could tell… he was not actually in love with Rica, and she couldn’t blame him for not falling when the girl avoided him like it was her religion.

Still… red string, right? It would all work out in the end. She glanced over at her cousins, blinking speculatively. …Maybe.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Leora Kuragari Character Portrait: Zero Kuragari


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Zero combed through the empty court yard of the Academy, his hands laced behind his head as he watched the clouds roll by. He didn't pay much attention to where he was going, only to the sky, and it's not that it mattered. No one was around at the moment. He had the place almost all to himself really, though it was getting a bit boring. The twins were off on their own again, doing only what they do best, and Balthasar was tending to something with his brother, Aryan. His face pulled into a frown at the thought of Aryan and their little conversation. It was obvious enough that Aryan had taken what Zero said out of context, and really he couldn't blame him.

But still, he didn't have to react the way he did. He sighed softly, slumping his shoulders lightly as the sound of something connecting with something caught his ears. A light sniff of the air, and he smirked. Slowly, he made his way towards the source, finding his sister sparring with a punching bag. He leaned against the door frame of the gym, watching as her hands connected with the bag in flawless succession. Shaking his head softly, he pushed his way off and made towards her, clapping all the same.

"So, who's the unlucky bastard to be plaguing your thoughts? There has to be someone bothering you, otherwise you wouldn't be hitting that back so hard. Poor bag, didn't do anything to you and you're just pounding away on it," he stated, smirking lightly as he crossed his arms against his chest.

Leora smirked at her brother’s entrance, landing one last hit on the bag that tore it from its hook on the ceiling and sent it flying across the room. Opening and closing a few times the hand that had delivered the blow, she observed that she’d actually cracked a knuckle, though it was healing even as she examined it. Shrugging, she glanced up and back at Zero, the smile still tilting her lips. Leo was not a grinner—in fact, her smiles rarely if ever even flashed her teeth. But there was a lot that could be conveyed more subtly. “Oh, nobody,” she replied casually, which was not exactly true. She was definitely frustrated, but she couldn’t decide if the person she was displacing her anger for was Aryan, for putting her in this stupid predicament in the first place, or Keir—for being confusing enough that the challenge even bothered her at all. It wouldn’t have bugged her if it was Ary or one of the girls the challenge had been against. If it was Al, she might have ceded just to be merciful, and if it was Zero, they both probably would have laughed and picked a different challenge.

So… it was literally the worst-case scenario, somehow. But she was far too headstrong to give it up. Maybe it was just the stakes—she’d gotten a lot of mileage and amusement out of her little rivalry with her cousin over the years. She didn’t really want this to be the end of the game. And yes, she was quite attracted to him, so there was definitely a chance she would lose. That was probably it. Such reasons were enough to feel as much dread as she did about this, right? Leo definitely hated losing, so probably.

Padding across the gym to pick up the bag, she slung it over a shoulder, and carried it back to the supply closet. “Bored already, dear brother? You know, maybe attending class would give you something to do. You wrote your English essay on Whitman, by the way—you were very deeply moved by some of his works, and traced his influence through American literature all the way up to the twentieth century.” They were in the twenty-second now, of course, but literature and poetry didn’t really expire.

"If you say so, but know I do not believe you," he replied casually, smirking at her in the process. He reached a hand over, ruffling her hair a bit before placing his hand against his own head and rubbed a bit. "Was I? I can't recall anymore," he said simply, allowing his hand to fall back to his side. Attend class? Perhaps he should, but then again, he'd just perhaps end up lecturing his teachers rather than being the one lectured. He'd lived long enough to learn most things, and there was hardly anything new that needed to be learned. Really, both he and Leora benefited from their mutual relationship. While she did his homework, she could catch up on history and the likes, whereas he would be able to keep up his grades.

Granted his grades would still be pristine should he ever desire to attend class, but that was a thought to entertain for another time. "If I ever attended class, it was because something interesting and worth learning would be happening. As it is now, there is nothing quite like that yet," he added. "So, are you going to tell me what's on your mind, or should I go find Keir and Alarica to drill it out of you?" he stated, the light smirk returning to his features. He wouldn't actually go to the twins for help with things such as this. He might actually go to Balthasar if he needed help with his sister, but at the moment, he just wanted to know what was bothering her.

"You can't wear a straight face in my presence and you know it. So, kido, are you going to tell me?" he continued, waiting patiently for her reply as he took a seat on one of the bleachers, folding his hands across and laid his chin upon them.

Leo rolled her eyes when her brother mussed up her hair, setting about straightening it with her fingers. Not for the sake of appearance, as she hardly cared for that most of the time, but because her reputation was for a person who walked around without a single hair out of place. Her neatness, like her mother’s, was actually a kind of shield. Rumpled meant vulnerable, and that was something she was not allowed to be, not in front of anyone. Except maybe her brother or Al sometimes. Taking the seat beside him, she sighed theatrically. “Dammit, Zee, mess up your own hair. Oh wait, you already did.” she said, looking at his wind-tossed auburn strands. Reaching over a ways, she tugged on his forelock, but not hard enough to hurt, of course.

It was hard to keep things from him, but in this case, she had to. The rules of the challenge stated that nobody was allowed to know about it, and she didn't intend to lose on a technicality. She didn’t intend to lose at all which was why she was here. She let her aggravation and confusion out on the equipment, and then she was in a much more solid place to deal with it later in a more controlled way. She supposed this much at least she could convey without breaking any rules. “There’s just some stuff I have to handle later, and I wanted to be at my best. I’m always at my best after I’ve punched a few things.” As if to prove the point, she socked him lightly in the arm. “Though hitting a poor defenseless bag isn’t quite as fun as hitting my poor defenseless brother. How about it, huh? Spar?”

Zero, being much older, was a better fighter than Leo was, but he wasn’t a specialist in hand-to-hand like she was, which made it so that, while he still usually beat her, it wasn’t so unbalanced that it was useless. They could go at it for days, probably, and they actually had once, until their mother had their dad interfere because she wasn’t sure how much more structural damage the house could handle. They tended to keep it a little tamer than that, now, but she still learned something every time she fought him. And he didn’t hold back on her like her dad did.

"My own hair?" he stated, glancing up as if he could see the state of his hair, only to wince when Leora pulled a strand. He chuckled softly, rubbing his hair line in the process. "I wear the messy look better than you do anyways," he stated, running a hand through his hair in the process, messing it up again. He rose an eyebrow at her next statement. Poor, defenseless brother? He was anything but, and they both knew it. His lips tilted into a light smirk as he stared at Leora, leaning a bit closer to her face than necessary.

"Loser has to go streaking Friday night," he stated, the smirk growing into a grin. "And you've got yourself a deal, dear sister of mine," he stated. He wouldn't mind a bit of practice anyhow, given that they were going to be defending the town and Academy in a few days time. They could both use the practice, and they usually did. Though they always did it in the confines of the forest. The last time the two sparred, their father had to step in and their house had nearly been destroyed. He would never go full out on his sister, however; the both of them still managed a heap of damage to the Kuragari estate.

“Across the whole grounds, at a speed the humans can see you if they look,” she added, cracking the knuckles still under the boxing tape she wrapped them with. She gave him a moment to do the same—though the extra protection wasn’t a lot, it would at least soak up any blood from split knuckles and so on. When the Kuragari siblings went at it, they really went at it. Broken bones and all. The gym was a little small for this, but it had been built with the vampiric students in mind, so at was about as reinforced as anywhere would be. Last time they’d done this, more than a few trees had been collateral damage, and she honestly felt a bit bad about this.

Settling down into her stance, Leo smiled, holding out one of her hands and beckoning her big brother forward with two fingers.

“You know, this is really much less punishment for you than it would be for me,” she said about an hour later, removing her knee from his back to let him stand. She’d fought damn hard not to be the loser of this particular match, because hell if she was going to run across the grounds with no clothes on. She actually had some sense of modesty, though she was far from a prude about it. She’d probably be there when he made his run of not-so-much-shame-for-Zero shame, laughing at him all the while.

“I probably should have made you eat an entire cake instead, but I guess it’ll do.”


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Leora Kuragari Character Portrait: Keir Alistair


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Keir's mouth pulled into a slight frown. His cousin was avoiding him, it seemed. The challenge had officially started two days ago, and they had yet to cross paths. That in and of itself was very...odd. It was not an overly large school, and they were cousins. Was it possible Keir shook his head, banishing the thought.

He knelt like a gargoyle on top of one of the spires of Cross Academy, scanning the grounds. Suddenly, ice blue eyes zeroed in on a shock of dark hair, and he grinned. There you are. He stood up, stepping forward into open air, allowing gravity to do its work. He latched onto the side of the building to slow his fall, using his claws, and landed lightly on the ground near the courtyard, where his quarry was. Sticking his hands in his pockets, he walked up behind Leora, knowing full well she probably smelled his coming.

"So...any particular reason you're avoiding me? You're not thinking of forfeiting, now are you? I mean, I know I'm going to win in the end, but...still, at least give me some sort of challenge."

Fresh from her workout, Leo had showered and changed, and was planning on taking a walk around the grounds for a while. Much as she loved her family, she liked her moments to herself as well. The youngest Kuragari was headed to the forest when his scent hit her like a wall, a bit too late for her to do anything about it. Well, that was all right—she was in a better place to deal with it, now that she’d mostly sorted through what was going on. So when she turned, it was with the same coy half-smile as ever, and she simply raised an eyebrow, tipping her chin up a little to meet his eyes. She was quite tall, but he was taller still, if only by a pair of inches.

“You know I don’t understand the word ‘forfeit,’ Keir. I was just giving you a chance to contemplate your own surrender, since it would spare you the inevitability of your loss.” She winked, falling naturally into the playful banter that so often characterized them. She’d have to step up the game, so to speak, if she had a shot at winning this thing, but she was trying to get a read on the situation first. She did her best work when rebounding off the reactions of others, after all, and she was curious as to what his strategy would be here.

Keir raised a snow-white eyebrow. "Oh? That would mean that my loss truly was inevitable, if my choices are lose or forfeit. But, you forget...I, too, have no idea of the meaning of that word, dear cousin of mine."

His smile was there, but only barely. He could smell the faint traces of soap and shampoo on her, and he would be hard pressed to lie to himself that it did not affect him. Luckily, he was not so inclined to let it show.

He gazed into her eyes for a second, before turning away from her, taking a seat on the bench, draping his arms across the back of it, languidly relaxing, looking very feline-esque. He leaned his head back, looking up at the sky.

"So, why do you think Aryan chose this particular challenge?" He himself had a pretty good idea, but he was inclined to hear her answer. Keir often acted like an idiot, if only to hide just how sharp he actually was. He was not Morgan Alistair's son for nothing.

Part of Leora, thankfully a very small part that was well under her control by this point, was seized by the sudden desire to crawl into his lap and see just how far their stubbornness would carry them both. But, though there was always a physical element to seduction, this was first and foremost a mind game, and no touching was definitely a rule. Probably fortunate. So she shrugged. “Suit yourself,” she replied nonchalantly, taking a seat next to him, so that they were just barely not touching. There was an inch of space there, maximum, and she could feel the heat radiating off his body. Maybe not the smartest decision she’d ever made, but sometimes to win, you had to take risks.

She rolled her eyes at the question. “Because he’s horribly sexually frustrated and completely unaware that we all know it? And he wants to see if he can possibly make anyone else as miserable as he is?”Leo shrugged diffidently. She had not admitted her attraction with the statement, she was very careful about that. But she wouldn’t be surprised if Aryan had figured her out and done it just to torment her, the little bastard.

Keir smirked, looking at Leo from the corner of his eye. "Possibly, but Aryan is not really the type to make others miserable. He fancies that no one else knows of his little problem." He shifted his position, standing so that he was standing in front of her, one hand on either side of her.

He was leaning forward, so that there was perhaps half an inch between their noses. "Aryan isn't the only one with a little problem, though. And my guess is, he saw right through someone. He's not a von Nacht for nothing. But, just who did he see through, I wonder?" There was a smirk on his face, his eyes turning to pools of molten ice, an odd combination of blue and silver.

And then, as quick as he'd leaned in, he stepped away from her, straightening to his full height. It had taken a surprisingly large amount of his self control to not give in right then and there, but the game had only just begun, and he was looking forward to playing it through to the end.

Gods above, his eyes. They sent a chill right down her spine, and she had to fight not to shudder. Fortunately, she succeeded, and her face remained carefully impassive, her breathing steady. If his were ice, hers were fire itself, gold-ringed red, and when he straightened, she followed, not at all inclined to let him get comfortable in his personal space again. Leo had taken a half-step, so that they were barely a hairsbreadth apart, and smiled wickedly. Now this was the part of the game that she knew how to play, and she could make herself forget that fact that part of her kind of wanted to lose. Everything in time—the chase was fun on its own.

Since things had clicked into a paradigm she understood, she showed absolutely no hesitation, peering up at him through her thick lashes, the smile still in place. “You think so?” she asked, drawing out the words a little so that there was the faintest hint of a purr behind the tone. Rising onto her toes, she leaned forward just enough to whisper into his ear. “I guess we’ll just have to find out, won’t we?” When she pulled away, it was slow, as if inviting him to follow. But of course, they were both only just getting started, so instead she winked at him and turned away, tossing a casual wave over her shoulder.

“Until round two, cousin.” And if she put a little extra sway in her step, well… who could blame her, really?

Keir raised his eyebrows slightly, and he had to fight not to shudder when he felt her breath on his neck. He did not move, indeed, he didn't speak as she walked away, but as soon as she rounded the corner, he let out a sigh, running a hand through his hair. He grinned, staring up at the sky.

No wonder he loved her. This, this was going to be so much fun, really.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Alarica Alistair Character Portrait: Keir Alistair Character Portrait: Aryan von Nacht


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Keir yawned, sitting across the table from Aryan, moving the pawn two spaces forward, and watching as Aryan took his knight. He was, in a word, bored. His eyes roamed, Aryan looking at him with an amused smirk.

"You seem distracted, cousin. Something bothering you?"

Keir raised his eyebrows. "I'm not sure I like this whole attack business with you, Hel, and Yuki being gone. The eight of us should be together."

Aryan's grin only widened. "My dear cousin, have you lost faith in us? Yuki and Helen are good at what they do. Besides, even the Council will be hard-pressed to attack us so openly. And if they do...well. There is a reason I'm taking the two of them."

Alarica sighed, rubbing Mikhail's feathers as she trudged along, ignoring the people around her as she wandered about. The day of the restaurant incident still had Alarica fussy with Leora, but she'd get over it eventually. Besides, she shouldn't have taken that letter with her in the first place. She should have thrown it away like she had originally planned but...she sighed softly, releasing her familiar and watched as he flew ahead of her. She didn't need to be thinking of such things at the moment, and needed a way to just forget about it.

"Where are you Kiki," she mused to herself. She should find her brother, and the two of them could perhaps do something to get her mind off of things. She wasn't really counting on it, however; it would be a start. Soon enough, she found his scent and smiled slightly, following it until she found him playing chess with Aryan. She tilted her head gently to the side before setting it right again and walked up to them, sitting in the middle as she watched on. She had caught the last tail of their conversation and gave them a quizzical look.

"Arty's leaving? Huh, who ever is going to be my dance partner now," she stated, feigning a mock hurt look in the process. She rolled her eyes at the notion though and sighed a bit softly. "I take it there is a planned attack, and no one cared to inform me? I feel left out of the family guys," she stated, though in all honesty, she could care less about it. If there was something truly important, then she would have found out either way. She, too, was Morgan's daughter, and a bit resourceful when it came to information.

Aryan's violet eyes swiveled to Alarica. "Actually, I only just told Keir, he was to relay the information, but since you are here...yes, there is an attack, on the town here in three days time. In two days, Yuki, Helen, and I are going to the Council, I've been summoned. There is, without a doubt, no mere coincidence that we're separated like that. There are also two hit-men coming to the attack, so stay on your guard. Two hit-men generally mean two targets, and what better way to take out twins?"

The warning was unnecessary, of course, but Aryan would still say it. The twins were some of the youngest in the family, aside from Leora, but that did not mean they were to be taken lightly. Indeed, the twins, while together, were probably some of the most frightening forces the family had at their disposal.

Keir rolled his eyes. He'd been watching over his shoulder since he was five years old, when he'd watched his father tear through an entire five man team of hit-men, along with an army of Level E's. He'd been a little surprised, honestly, that someone would want him dead, but then, at five, he hadn't really understood just how...odd he and his sister were.

"Now I feel as though you lost faith in us, Ary." He glanced at his twin. "Tell me you have an idea, I'm bored as hell over here."

She sighed, slumping her shoulders in the process. Of course there would be hit-men, there were always hit-men sent to either kill, or attempt to kidnap, someone of the family. Leora perhaps had a higher count of kidnap attempts than all of them put together, but still, it was nothing new. Alarica waved a hand in front of her, dismissing the notion in the process. She and Keir had always lived as such, watching their backs and waiting for someone who was foolish enough to try and attack them. Their father was a bit scary when it came to his family, but their if there was anyone Alarica was afraid of, it would be her mother.

She shivered at the thought before banishing it. "Well dear brother mine, I do not. I was hoping you had an idea," she replied in an equally bored tone. She wasn't necessarily bored, but she did need something to vent on. And if that required blowing something up again, or terrorizing one of the pure-bloods of the Academy, then so be it, however; her eyes wandered towards her cousin and she smirked. "When was the last time we did something, Arty?" she stated more than questioned. There was a hint of something playful behind her eyes when she stated those words.

Aryan blinked owlishly at his cousin. "Well, that would be entirely dependent on what exactly you mean by something. If you mean the last time we destroyed something, it certainly has been a long time. If you mean more domestic matters, it's probably been even longer."

Keir cocked an eyebrow at his cousin. The guy had such a weird way of speaking. Though, he supposed that was why he handled the paper side of the war. He was good at what he did.

Alarica rose an eyebrow at his statement and frowned just slightly. He was right, the last time they did something destructive, it was about a few months ago. His next sentence sent a smirk across her features as she stood from her spot, walking so that she was next to Aryan and abruptly placed herself in his lap, not before pulling the chair out a bit so that they both could fit. Her grin only grew as she wrapped both of her arms around his neck and held him at an arms distance. His statement could be taken in so many ways, and they were both well aware of it. Smirk still plastered on her face, she leaned in close, so that their noses were just a hairbreadth apart from each other.

"Well, Arty," she began, drawing small circles across his chest in the process. "If it's something more domestic, I'm sure we could find something to occupy ourselves with," she finished. She was merely teasing, she did not think of Aryan that way. As a matter of fact, there was no one she ever thought of that way besides him, and that thought alone caused her frown to replace her grin. As it faltered, she removed herself from Aryan's lap and grasped his hand, pulling him up in the process.

"A dance will have to do. Kiki, you can join too," she stated, grabbing her brother's arm in the process and pulled the two of them along.

Aryan smirked at his cousin when she crawled into his lap. He looked at her in amusement, even more so when her smile suddenly faltered. Ah, he knew that look. Still, for the moment, he kept his mouth shut.

When she dragged him and Keir out of the room, he chuckled softly. "Now, wouldn't you rather dance with my brother, Lala? I know he's not quite as adept as it as I am, but still...we are both Jasper's sons."

Keir let out a bark of laughter. "She doesn't have the guts to say anything, she has to make do with us. Though, three-way dancing tends to get kind of awkward." At that, he spun away from his sister, avoiding her fist. He waggled a finger at her. "Ah, ah, ah. You just enjoy your little dance, Lala."


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Aryan von Nacht Character Portrait: Yuki Alistair-von Nacht Character Portrait: Helen Trist


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Aryan von Nacht sighed through his nose. He stood with his arms crossed, Helen on his right, Yuki on his left, both slightly behind him. Currently the three of them stood in front of a large, heavily solid oak door, intricate symbols and various patterns carved into the ancient wood. They were waiting to be let in, and finally, a young woman, a high-ranking Noble, from what Aryan could tell, came over, opening the door for them after saying, "The Council will see you now, my Lord."

Aryan had to fight not to flinch. He hated that title, given to him simply because he'd been born. Still, as the door opened slowly, his face became a solid mask, his mouth nothing more than a line, his eyes dark, unreadable. He walked forward, the room inside dark and circular. There was a single chair in the center of the room, in which Aryan sat. Directly in front of him was the Head of the Council, Balron Baelor, one of the eldest Pure Bloods alive at the moment. There had been rumors that he was an Ancient, but Aryan knew better. He was not, and was actually an off-shoot of the von Nacht line, if distantly at best. Flanking him were the Minamoto sons, brothers born about a year apart, also Pure Bloods. Trevor and Tyler, if Aryan had his information right. The remaining six were mostly pawns of the others, some Nobles, one or two also Pure Bloods. Two of them were members from back when his own father was on the Council.

Balron looked down his nose at the von Nacht. "Aryan von Nacht. Thank you for coming, however; we did not expect you to come with others."

Aryan kept his face the same stoic mask. He inclined his head slightly. "One can never be too careful in such times. I can ask them to step out, if you would so prefer, though...I would feel so inclined to ask that you do the same." The Pure Blood reffered to the men who were lurking in the shadows. They were well hidden, but Aryan himself was the shadows; they would brook no hiding place from him. Balron's eyes narrowed for a fraction of a second, but then returned to a stoic mask similiar to Aryan's.

He waved his hand, resuming his seat. "No, no, of course not. They may stay. Now, let us begin, shall we?"

Helen kept one of her hands on the hilt of her wakizashi, which she wore at her waist. Her odachi was so long (and she so small) that there was no other way to wear it save at her back. She was dressed, as usual, in the fashion of a male, in this case in a suit, as were most of the Council members. The women, of course, wore gowns for the most part, but she unlike Yuki found no preference for articles in any way feminine or skin-baring. Even this was not ideal, but at least it was easier to move in than the alternative. Had it not been for the very delicate structure of her face, she might have even been mistaken for a boy, if a child.

Her eyes were the only part of her that was not perfectly still. She watched the shadows occasionally shift, and located the people inside them, but most of her time was spent observing the Council proper. The soldiers would not move without some kind of signal from one of them, after all. Of all those present, only two were not outright hostile to the von Nachts and the rest of their extended family—Deirdre Florina was an old friend and ally of Jasper’s, and she was showing some signs of strain under her neutral expression. With Edyta’s death, she knew her own life was in danger as well, but she would not leave the Council. The other was Edmund Snowe, a noble of high rank, who curiously had yet to express any opinion at all on war-related matters, as though he were still making up his mind. He was a wild card, but unlike most of these people, he had a child at Cross, a very young one named Elizabeth.

He probably disapproved of the fact that there was to be an attack so close to the place, if indeed he even knew. Mostly, she watched Baelor and the Minamotos, as they were by far the most dangerous of the lot, and the most likely to hire mercenaries to do something like this. Her face betrayed nothing, blank as an empty canvas. Few of these people knew who she was—the Pantheon did not advertise its failures, not even to its allies.

Baelor’s glance did flicker to her, though, and then to Yuki, though he seemed fundamentally disinterested in both of them. Why should he be? They were weapons, really, and he had plenty of those already. Instead, his wine-red eyes settled on Aryan, and he tilted his head faintly to one side, smiling just faintly, though it was hard to say what was behind the gesture, save that it was nothing kind. “I’ll not mince words, Lord von Nacht. What we want is simple, and what we have always wanted: the cessation of your extended family’s involvement in the war effort with the Hunters. The Council was elected for a reason, and that reason was to handle the affairs of our species as a whole. Our will represents the will of our kind, and though we do not wish further hostility with such as your family, we cannot and will not abide their efforts to thwart us.”

He raised one shoulder in a lofty shrug. “I realize, of course, that this decision is not wholly yours to make, but I do understand that you can be convincing when the occasion calls for it, and I don’t think I need to waste the breath expressing upon you just how beneficial to your family it will be if you turn that talent to this purpose.” Helen tensed, easing her sword just a little out of its sheath with her thumb, too subtly for anyone who wasn’t directly watching her to notice. That was a threat—if Aryan refused (and she had no doubt that he would refuse), this was not going to end well.

Yuki tensed just as Helen did. Aryan had hit the nail on the head with this one. She kept her eyes on Baelor as her brother spoke. His posture was relaxed, his head resting on his hand, propped up by his elbow on the arm of the chair. He listened placidly, his eyes just barely narrowing.

This was not the first time that they had made this request, however; the was the first time with such an open threat. He allowed a small smile to grace his face before he banished it. "Councilman Baelor, I believe my father made it more than clear that we, as a whole, would not remove ourselves the first time you asked him of this, nigh on a century ago." He was acutely aware of the spark in Balron's crimson eyes, however; Aryan continued. "One might wonder just what exactly is the reasoning we have to acknowledge your request? Surely there must be something else you would be willing to offer other than cooperation."

It had not been said, of course, but by saying it himself, he'd put Baelor in the position that he would look rather foolish -if not outright making a declaration of war against the von Nacht family- if he denied any form of cooperation. Yuki's eyes flickered to her brother, wondering exactly what he was getting at. She then glanced to her direct left, at the vacant seat. Edyta's seat. He couldn't possibly...

Helen imagined that if the devil smiled, it would look something like Baelor’s did in that moment. It was actually reminiscent of Theodor’s, and she did not like it at all. Her jaw tightened, the only evidence of her discomfort with this. She could tell what was going on—Balon and Aryan had just simultaneously sprung their traps, each believing that the arrangement would end up being more beneficial for himself than the other. It was hard to tell which of them was a mastermind and which a fool—perhaps both were each. She didn’t like where it was going, but it was not her decision to make, nor was it hers to question.

“As a matter of fact, there is. Councilwoman Florina proposed something quite interesting at our last emergency session, though I admit I did not think it would appeal. Your father did insist that the von Nachts do not seek power, after all, but perhaps if his son is more reasonable, then the Councilwoman will have been correct after all. Deirdre?” The slight on the family was not unnoticed, but then there wasn’t really anything they could do about it.

Lady Florina looked slightly uncomfortable, and certainly not pleased to be addressed by her first name, but she knew the steps in this dance as well as anyone. Indeed, better than most. “As you may be aware, Lord von Nacht, one of the seats of the esteemed Council was recently most tragically vacated. I have suggested that, if indeed the von Nacths and their family wish to have a greater amount of influence over the way that the governance of their people is run, then one of them should assume the empty chair. I do believe it would be most to your talents than those of your relatives, and to this end, I formally nominated you for the position yesterday. The Council is in agreement for the posting, should you want it.” She honestly wasn’t sure if she’d done the young man a favor or condemned him, but it was all she could do for them.

Aryan's eyes flickered over to the councilwoman. So, she had put his name forward. She'd been a family friend since his father was a boy, though she'd been hard-pressed to help them of late. That was nothing Aryan held against her, she had her own family to look after. Silently, Aryan considered his options. To refuse was almost tantamount to a declaration of war, but to accept was almost tantamount to suicide. Silently, he counted no less than thirty men lurking about the shadows. His eyes narrowed, a bare flicker of movement.

Neither of them had the upper hand, and Aryan was not fool enough to think that he did, but also, neither did Baelor, though he did have a slight advantage. Still, much could be gained if this was handled carefully, and Aryan von Nacht was nothing if not cautious.

Aryan leaned forward, placing the tips of his fingers together as he brought his hands in front of his face. "Perhaps then I should reiterate what my father said before. The von Nacht line, as it stands now, does not desire such power. I cannot, however, speak for those before my father." He paused, knowing that he danced a dangerous waltz, but he was not yet finished. "As for you suggestion and offer, I believe that much can be gained by such an arrangement, and as such, I accept your offer, if it stands true that no one holds any objections."

He chose his words carefully. Let Baelor believe he had the advantage, that he was walking in blindly. It would make his task all the easier when the time came, and also make him less likely to be watched. Still, it was not overly concerning if he was watched. Aryan had plenty of methods at his disposal. "As for our withdrawal, if you truly wish, I can try to speak to my father on behalf of the Council. Was there anything else, Councilman?"

Yuki's mouth tightened. She didn't like this, not at all, but she had to trust that Aryan knew what he was doing. She had to, and besides, he would never be alone. If she was not with him, the Helen would be. Of that, she was positive.

“Nothing, Councilman von Nacht,” Baelor replied simply, still smiling, though the glint in his eyes was hard. “Welcome to the Council of Ten.”


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Balthasar von Nacht Character Portrait: Alarica Alistair Character Portrait: Leora Kuragari Character Portrait: Zero Kuragari Character Portrait: Keir Alistair


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The day had been relatively peaceful, Zero was out sitting underneath the tree with his head resting against Alarica's lap. She had went to find her cousin for a conversation that lead to one thing and they had sat in silence for the remainder of the time. She combed her fingers through his hair, and if one were not part of their family, it would seem as if the two were quite intimate. This was far from it actually. The two just had a common interest, or rather common interest in the same von Nacht children. He sighed softly through his nose, his seafoam blue eyes opening in a half-lidded gaze as Alarica kept her Amaranthe colored optics closed.

"We're hopeless are we not?" he stated, chuckling lightly in the process as he sat up, removing himself from his comfort and rolled so that he was sitting next to her. Mikhail sat in the tree branch above them, glancing down at his master and her cousin, humming softly to himself as he puffed out his feathers a bit. This form was growing weary on him, but he couldn't shift into his true form. Not because he would expose a secret, because by now most humans knew of the vampiric world, but more-so because Alarica had told him not to unless absolutely necessary. And right now, there was no reason to do so.

"Possibly," Alarica replied, finally cracking one eye open before opening the other one. "At least you don't have much of a problem. Yuki, she..." she paused stopping herself in her sentence and shaking her head. It wasn't her place to say anything about Yuki's feelings; that was for the snow-white haired girl to do at her own leisure. "Zero," she was about to say something else when a scent hit her nose, both she and Zero's face turning towards the source. There was a large cloud of smoke rising from the area of the town not too far from where they were, and the town she and her female cousins had just visited.

"Mikhail," was the only word spoken as the snow white owl descended from the tree, his form twisting and contorting until he was about half the size of the Academy. Alarica glanced towards Zero, he nodding in understanding as they both jumped upon Mikhail's neck. The dragon flapped his wings, sending a gust of air coursing through the grounds as he took off. It was only a matter of minutes before they reached the town, people screaming and running wildly amongst each other. Alarica frowned at the scene. There were vampires, Level E's to be exact, attacking humans, draining some of them while other vampires, like Noble's were also attacking.

"Well, if I didn't say this looked like a banquet, I'd say it looks like a feast. Shall we indulge, dear cousin?" he stated, pulling out Ragnarok in the process. He knew with the rumbling of the explosion, and the black smoke littering the air, the others wouldn't be far behind. Alarica merely smirked, pulling her mother's trademark weapon from her back, and pointed Ulrik at the first vampire that came their way. Mikhail by this time was crunching away on Level E's, trying to keep a majority away from the humans.

Alucard raised his head as he watched Mikhail fly towards the direction of the town. He looked up at his master, who gave the barest flicker of a nod. With almost something akin to glee, the wolf shifted, matching a form of the snow white dragon, but with scales the color of topaz and sapphires.

Keir himself turned to his cousins before going to stand on Alucard's head, his arms crossed. "Looks like it's showtime." Alucard gave them enough time to climb on if they so wished before taking to the sky himself. The dragon let out a roar as he descended upon the town, taking out a few level E's as he stepped on them when landing. Keir let out a mad cackle, leaping from his familiar's head. When he hit the ground, he rolled, coming up with a clawed hand in the face of a Noble.

Keir squeezed, the man's windpipe bursting. Blood splattered into his snow-white hair, his eyes gleaming silver. His grin grew wider still as he licked his hand clean, taking off to take out more Level E's.

When the smell of smoke hit Leora and Balthasar, they were both outside, in a tree, actually, playing cards of all things on one of the branches. They were usually doing something else while they talked, and Leo had gone through a bit of a card-shark phase as a child, when she was still trying to find her niche in such a big family. He’d indulged every one of these weird new hobbies with a rare patience, and this one at least had stuck. She’d just beaten him again at a modified two-person poker, because he was hopeless at lying, and she was very, very good at it.

She swooped the cards up and stowed them in a pocket just as Keir arrived, standing on Alucard’s head, and she smirked when he gave them the opportunity to ride. She actually would have enjoyed it, but she enjoyed doing the unexpected more, and so she shook her head. “Thanks, but I travel by human bullet. Balthasar?” She glanced at her cousin, who shook his head and sighed slightly, but nevertheless, when she ran to the edge of the branch and jumped off, he followed immediately after, catching her in midair and warping several gravity fields around them so that they did, indeed, take off like a shot.

The feeling of flight was utterly euphoric, but sadly it was not to last long, and as they approached the town, they adjusted positions so that she hung beneath him vertically, held in place by a mutual grip on one another’s forearms. “There!” she told him, and he swept in low, dropping her right on top of a knot of level E’s about to tear into some frightened humans. The fall didn’t even halt her, and she broke into a smooth run, throwing her hand forward and smirking when the ambient static in the air coalesced into a bolt of lightning, hitting several level E’s and making them extra crispy. The fire would have to be dealt with though, and even as she was thinking it, the storm clouds started to gather and roll in over head. She loved being able to decide the weather.

Balthasar, on the other hand, swept himself into the middle of the largest knot of vampires he could find, his mouth set in a grim line as twin bursts of flames erupted from his arms. The flames, unlike the more conventional kinds of pyrokinesis, were perfectly white, and it didn’t take them long to eat through anything that wasn’t him, even considering the soft rainfall that was now pouring down over the town—Leo’s work, no doubt.

Zero had just managed to snap a Level E's neck in half when the cavalry arrived, a smirk adorning his features as the rain began to fall. Mikhail smiled a bit, using the opportunity to freeze a few vampires in place as Alarica swung her blade in a wild like manner, though it was with precision that she wielded the blade. Zero cracked his neck before twisting his body away from a pair of clawed hands, glancing into the eyes of a Noble vampire. Something like a scoff escaped his lips as he grabbed hold of the arm, twisting it until he heard a satisfied pop, and dislocated the vampire's elbow before ripping the arm from its socket.

He then swung the arm at the vampire, smacking the noble in the face with his own hand before kicking him to the side and attacking another vampire. Alarica managed a downward swing, cleaving a Level E in half in the process. A spark filtered through her eyes as she watched the others arrive, momentarily forgetting her inferiority complex and smirked in their direction. She executed a roundhouse kick towards a vampire that lunged from behind her, breaking their jaw in the process. The vampiress hissed as she clawed at her broken jaw, trying to place it back, however; Alarica did not give her the time nor pleasure of being able to do so.

"Come now, and here I was expecting more of a challenge," she stated, a hint of malicious glee coating her words. Mikhail merely sighed at his master's enthusiasm for the battle, and tried to keep the humans he coralled safely tucked behind him. He managed to create a barrier between them and the vampires, allowing the surviving humans to retreat and escape with their lives. The humans unfortunate enough to lose their lives were being burned and mangled due to the overwhelming number of vampires ascending the field.

"Don't jinx yourself there, cousin," Zero stated as he fired a shot at a vampire that had managed to come up behind Alarica. She merely smirked before taking off towards another vampire. Zero shook his head, jumping so that he was beside his sister now and helping her clear out some of the vampires. "It's a good thing we sparred," he chided alongside Leora as he twisted his body, bringing his leg behind him and kicking a vampire away from Leora. "Ah, I don't think so. My sister is not on the menu," he stated as he ran after the vampire.

Across the battlefield from his twin, Keir was a veritable demon, tearing through his enemies with his bare hands. The boy had never taken to weapons, much prefering hand-to-hand combat. The blue patches of scales on his body had shifted, covering his entire upper torso and arms, stopping at his neck. It gave him a very lizard-like appearance, and his maniacal grin only made it worse.

Keir spun, his enemies dropping around him like flies, the Alistair laughing madly all the while. Alucard, on the other hand, had been keeping an eye out. He was still munching on quite a few level E's of course, but there were hitmen on the prowl, and Aryan had surmised that they were after the Twins. Too late, he saw something go after Alarica. The blue dragon lifted his head and roared, mentally connecting to Keir, Alarica, and Mikhail.

Alarica! Behind you!

Keir spun, his ice blue eyes immeditely zoning in on his sister, his lips pulling back in a vehement snarl. He made to go to her, however, his path was cut off by the second assassin. Keir had dropped to all fours, a hiss escaping him. This vampire was preventing him from going to his twin, and he did not like that, not one bit.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Balthasar von Nacht Character Portrait: Alarica Alistair Character Portrait: Leora Kuragari Character Portrait: Zero Kuragari Character Portrait: Keir Alistair


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Mikhail was satisfied once a majority of the humans were safe, turning his attention then towards a pack of Level E vampires with a Noble leading them. With a swing of his tail, managed to knock them back, sending the group into another in the process, however; Alucard's voice fluttered through his mind, his blue eyes zoning in on his master. She was too far, and he was too large to move quickly enough to reach her. He did the only thing he could. His body shifted, contorting and twisting until he was but a small white owl once more. He shot off like a bullet train, his mind desparately trying to reach Alarica in time.

Alarica had been busy fending off a Noble vampire. He was a bit stronger than the rest, and if one were not able to distinguish between them, would have mistaken the Noble to be a pure-blood. She twisted Ulrik so that the flat of the blade had blocked his claws, however; she was startled slightly when he jumped back and ran. She made to follow him, however; she found herself paralyzed, glued to the spot she was in as Alucard's voice echoed through her mind. She turned, slowly, gazing into a pair of vermillion eyes. The vampire raised his Kusarigama. Her eyes widened, anger fluttering across her eyes as he brought his weapon down.

Blood splattered across her face, a wall of ice forming between her and the vampire that had attacked her. It was warm against her face, and the scent was somehow familiar. There was a sharp pain in her shoulder, climbing all the way down towards her chest, and blood pooled in the fashion of the mark. She fell to her knee's, clutching at the white creature in her hands as tears pooled into her eyes. The pain was unbearable, however; she chose not to focus on it right now; chose not to focus on the blearing of her vision nor the shouts and screams that came after it.

"Mikhail...Mikhail," she whispered, his blue eyes gleaming with happiness into her own amaranthe colored eyes. "Mikhail...what have you done? You stupid fool," she choked out, burrying her face into the plumage of his feathers. Mikhail smiled softly up at his master. He had no regrets, none if it meant he at least saved his master. He loved his master, he truly did, as he did the rest of her family. And dying for her was, and would be, his greatest honor. Nothing she could do now would be able to help him. His body was mangled, his blood, their blood, was pouring from his wounds.

"You wound me so," he joked, the light never leaving his eyes. "But, Alarica, I do not regret it. My life is but a mere flicker of a flame. Your's is much brighter than mine and will always be so. Do not grieve for me, I will be with you always," he spoke, reaching out with his good wing and placed it upon her face, wiping away the tears that were falling from her eyes. "Take care of the others for me will you? I love you my master. You are my master, my," he spoke, his voice fading as his body glittered, bursting into a ball of golden light.

Alarica held onto him as tightly as she could, feeling his life fading as was hers. She was growing weaker every passing second, and the blood that poured from their shared wound continued to flow from her. She was shaking, her body trembling as she pulled Mikhail closer to her. "Don't leave me Mikhail, please don't leave me," she chanted. "I'm sorry Mikhail, please, don't go," she continued, rocking her body back as she stopped at his final words. Her eyes wide, tears falling freely of their own accord, she watched as his body disappeared from sight. He was gone. Mikhail was gone. Her familiar, her friend, was gone.

There was an ache in her chest, not from the wound, but from the fact that he was gone. She wouldn't be able to create him again. She wouldn't be able to see him again, argue with him, play with him, love him. He was gone. Mikhail was dead, and she would never see him again. "MIKHAIL!" she shouted, her anger, her sorrow, laced in every syllable of his name as her eyes rolled back, her body lurching forward as she fell to the ground. Her tears never stopped falling.

I'm sorry I couldn't get to you quick enough, Lala

To say that twins had some sort of physical link between them that allowed them to feel each other's pain was simply absurd. Keir could not feel it when someone pinched his sister, but he always knew when something was wrong.

And something was certainly wrong. He heard her cry, her shout, the pain and sorrow laced through her tone, and he snarled. His vision blurred red, and he didn't bother to focus his sight on his oncoming attacker, instead allowing instinct to guide him, his claws swiping across the other vampire's eyes, sending him howling backwards. With a leap, the Alistair was on him, and he tore out his throat with a soft squelch.

Keir's silver orbs once again found his sister, this time, to see her lurch forward. While he had no major physical wounds himself, Keir could feel himself being drained. The dhampir took off, taking out any level E's that got in his way, finally making it to his twin. Mikhail was already gone, Alarica's wound healing, but slowly. Keir shut his eyes, his vision blurring. "I'm sorry I wasn't there to protect you both." He whispered, a sharp pain in his chest as he, too, slumped over, the fingers of his hand on his twin's cheek.

Alucard's massive head swiveled over to his master and twin, the pain from both of them fiercely burning through him. However, he had little time to mourn. They were both unconscious, and there were still many vampires about. Alucard let out a snarl that turned into a howl as he, too shifted, and took out two level E's that had made for the twins. His lips pulled back in a bloody snarl, his wolf form standing protectively over his fallen master and twin.

For a second, the familiar bowed his head. Goodbye, my brother. I'll look after her, I promise.

Leora was honestly glad for her brother’s help. This was her first official battle, and it was no mere skirmish, either. Once the initial high of it had worn off, she felt herself faced with a very grim reality: she was ending lives. That, and the lives of those she loved most were in danger. These things alone would have been more than enough to curb her enthusiasm, but the fact that she was elbow-deep down a Level E’s throat didn't help matters any, and even when she tore out his windpipe through his mouth, she wondered if it was not perhaps the wrong thing to be doing.

But honestly, there was precious little time for contemplating. She had to survive, and so did they. So Leora jumped, scissor-kicking a Level C trying to make stealthily for Zero’s back. “And my brother is nobody’s victim,” she said, by way of reply to Zero’s comment to one of them that had been after her. She actually managed a wan smile, but it disappeared immediately afterwards when she heard Rica’s scream. Her eyes widening, and her expression shifting to one of horror, Leora snapped her head in the direction of the cry, just in time to see her cousin collapse, followed rather quickly by her brother.

The vampire that had nearly killed Rica was still nearby, and just about through the ice wall that Mikhail had generated in his last moments. She could see that Shiranui was there, but there were a lot of Level E’s around in addition to that mercenary. There was just no way she was going to let that go. Without really thinking about it much, Leora took off like a shot, leaving Balthasar to fill in her spot next to Zero, still focusing on keeping the main line of invaders at bay, though their ranks were thinning fast. He, too, was worried, but he trusted his little cousin to handle it. If she needed help, Leo was smart enough to ask for it, and they needed to cut off the flow of vampires.

Leo’s stride carried her right into the mercenary with the kusarigama, and she lowered her shoulder to hit him square in the chest as he made to swipe for Alucard, carrying him off his feet. Her teeth gritted together, she jumped back as he regained his feet, and they circled each other warily. He was pureblood, that was clear, and much older than she was, probably. Most of them were, after all. He was also considerably larger than her, but that wasn’t an advantage unless she let it be. He sniffed the air for a moment, then locked eyes with her and smiled hungrily. Damn, that got old fast. She was a person, not food, dammit! She sometimes wondered how her mother had ever gotten used to this.

He swung the chain part of the weapon, which she ducked, but the follow-up strike with the sickle was expert, and he was able to anticipate where she would be. It laid open a deep gash in her arm, which started to bleed immediately, the crimson liquid dripping to the ground in thick rivulets even as she healed. Even the short duration for which she bled was enough to kick the Level E’s into a frenzy, and she hoped Alucard had her back, because this was going to take all the focus she had. Overhead, her anger thickened the clouds, darkening them to a color almost black as pitch and darkening the town completely, but the lightning was in her eyes, and the red color of them was luminous even as it flashed above them, followed by a deep rumble of thunder.

The chain came at her again, but this time, she raised her hand, letting it thud into her palm. Hoping that she wasn’t about to kill herself, Leo did something perhaps best classed as reckless and possibly even stupid: she called the raw lightning to herself. It struck her, and set her nerve endings on fire. She screamed, but the chain she was holding was made of conductive metal, so she wasn’t the end point of the current, only a channel. Her foe was not nearly so lucky, and with nowhere else to go, the electricity discharged inside his body, effectively roasting his insides beyond the sort of repairs her own body was now putting her through. He burst into lights and floated away on the breeze.

Swaying but still standing, Leo tried to shake the black spots from in front of her eyes as her nervous system repaired itself. Eventually, the twitching died down, and she could see that the battle was doing the same. Her legs gave out, and she ended up on her rear end in front of her unconscious cousins. Sleep sounded like a really good idea right now, but she wasn’t about to let herself lose it until they made it back to Cross.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Balthasar von Nacht


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Balthasar sat in one of the chairs just outside the infirmary, his elbows on the arms of it and his fingers steepled together in front of him. The expression on his face was caught somewhere between concern and pensiveness: his brows were drawn together, and he frowned slightly, but his eyes were out-of-focus, their color unusually pale and vague. He was staring into the middle distance, but he wasn’t really seeing anything.

It went without saying that he was worried about his family. Ary had filled him in on what happened at the meeting via message already, and while Balthasar could not say he was particularly fond of the idea of his brother joining the Council, he could at least understand what the advantage was. If any of them could pull that off, it was Ary. He himself was a terrible liar, Zero was too impulsive and mischievous, and Yuki too direct, when she spoke at all. Leora might be able to do it, but she was young, yet, and it might do her more harm than most of them to be thrown to the wolves like that. The twins…

He sighed as his thoughts were redirected to their current state. While it appeared to be mostly mental strain from Mikhail’s untimely death that had knocked both of them out, it did not seem to have released them yet. If Al had to guess, he would say that perhaps the odd circumstances of their genetics and their birth had given them a psychological link that went beyond the common case with twins, and that this bond had caused Keir to experience the death of a familiar in a very similar way to Alarica. He supposed there might be a more precise explanation, but without access to all the medical results Yuki was running on the both of them, he wouldn’t know what it was, and he trusted his sister to do the work. She was the expert, after all, trained for nearly a century by Freya.

So he gave them their space, and he worried. Leo hadn’t left the infirmary itself since they all got back, and he could understand that. She and the twins had grown up together, after all—it was natural that she didn't wish to leave their sides. He honestly didn’t, either, but he had no wish to crowd anyone, and so out here he remained. He wasn’t even sure if he should go in when they woke up, but… no, he would. They were his family. Whether she liked him or not, he had to make sure they were okay. He’d just… leave quickly.

He realized dimly that something in his field of vision was moving, and for a moment, he thought it might be Yuki, with news. But as soon as he blinked and cleared his vision, he realized that it wasn’t her at all, but a classmate of his, laden down with what appeared to be a basket of items. It took him a second, but he placed her name almost immediately. “Miss Snowe?” he asked, clearly confused by her presence here. She was a relatively new classmate, and he knew her father was on the Council, but…

She glanced up from what she was carrying, blinking a bit owlishly for a moment and then smiling wanly. She appeared to be under a bit of strain, though it was hard for him to tell why, exactly. “Oh, Lord von Nacht. I, um…” she seemed to be casting around for the right words, and her smile dimmed into a thoughtful frown. “I heard about what happened to your cousins… I’m sorry.” She looked down at the floor, but raised her eyes when he spoke again.

“Thank you, but there’s no need to apologize. What happened wasn’t your fault, after all.” She seemed to relax a bit, and shifted the basket so that it was balanced on a hip. That drew his attention back to it, and he raised an inquiring eyebrow. “Is there something I can help you with?”

She looked slightly surprised to hear it, and then looked down at the basket. “I was… actually, I was thinking I should be asking you that question. You and your family protected Cross and the town, and… some of you got hurt because of that. I know some of us aren’t very good at expressing it, but the other students know that you’re helping them, I think. Even the humans. I guess… I guess I just wanted to do what I could to help, too. I’m not much of a fighter or anything, but… my father runs a pharmaceuticals company, and I thought maybe you might have a use for some medical supplies, now or in the future.” She drew a couple of steps closer, stopping about five feet from him and holding out the basket, which did indeed seem to contain a wide array of clean and sterile medical supplies, of the kind that were useful for particularly bad vampiric injury.

He smiled; there was even what appeared to be a thank-you card on top, and he could see that she’d collected several signatures from other students to go on it. It was a small thing, but thoughtful, and he was sure Yuki could find a use for the supplies. “Thank you,” he said warmly, closing the rest of the distance by standing and moving towards her, accepting the basket from her outstretched hands and placing it under one arm. “I’m afraid the kind of injuries my cousins have isn’t really treatable in the usual way, but I’ll pass these along to my sister—I’m sure we’ll be able to make good use of them. Tell the other students we said thank you, as well. I know it’s not always easy to show support when one’s parents might want something different, so it means a lot. You have my gratitude, Miss Snowe.”

She smiled, shaking her head slightly. “It’s the least any of us can do, really, given all your family does for us. If it’s all right though… call me Elizabeth? I’d like to be your friend, Lord von Nacht, if you’d let me. Regardless of what my father decides.”

That was… direct. But Balthasar didn’t mind—he wasn’t always that good with the subtlety, anyway, and she didn't seem like one of those people that wanted to be around him for the power or position. Her father was already a Councilman, and besides that, she seemed honestly concerned about his family. It was hard not to respond positively to that. So he nodded, and stuck out his free hand for her to shake. “All right then; Elizabeth it is. But if we’re going to be friends, you have to call me Balthasar, not ‘Lord von Nacht.’” He pulled a face, and her nose crinkled in amusement.

“It’s a deal, Balthasar,” she agreed, taking his hand and giving it a firm shake. “Please, if you find the time, let me know if your cousins wake up. I’d like to thank them, too, if I have the opportunity. And if not… it would be nice to know they’d recovered at the very least.” Her smile faded, and she released his hand. He found that it had been strangely warm, and now he felt a little… cold? How odd. Shaking his head, he resumed his seat, laying the basket next to him so he could give it to Yuki when things slowed down a bit. In the meantime, he supposed there was little to do but wait.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Balthasar von Nacht Character Portrait: Aryan von Nacht Character Portrait: Yuki Alistair-von Nacht Character Portrait: Helen Trist


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Aryan had a finger to his temple, his elbow resting on the arm of the car door. Yuki sat in the middle, with Hel on the far right. There was a frown marring his features, but his eyes were out of focus. He'd already sent word ahead, informing his brother of what had transpired, along with his inclusion into the Council of Ten. He was certain that one of the others, if not Baelor himself, would inform his parents. He would be expecting to hear from his mother, he was quite certain that Nikki von Nacht would not be pleased finding out that her youngest child was now on the council. He wasn't entirely sure how his father would react, but he would deal with that later.

He was more worried about what Yuki had told him. Over the last century, she's perfected her telepathic abilities to the point where she could always detect even the smallest flicker of all of the others in the family, no matter how far apart they were.

She'd lost contact with the Twins. That bothered him to no end, and to that extent, they had left immediately, with no stops. With that, they arrived back at Cross Academy eight hours ahead of schedule, and Yuki wasted no time in getting to the infirmary. It was worse than she expected. Even with everything that her family had done, there were still quite a few wounded. Yuki quickly pulled her hair back and set to work.

She'd been working for nigh on an hour and a half before she finally made it to her cousins, and she busied herself in checking them over. Their vitals were good, healing had checked, and for the most part, it seemed that it was only a matter of time before they woke up. Unfortunately, there was no way to tell when that would be. Yuki sighed, sitting in a chair at the foot of Alarica's bed. Before she even realized it, the girl had fallen asleep sitting up.

Aryan, on the other hand, had joined his brother in the hall. "You got the message?"

Inside the infirmary, Helen worked as Yuki’s assistant, more or less. She knew quite a bit about injury and medicine, being Freya’s sister, however, she had not learned in the same way Yuki had, and her primary methods of accomplishing things like helping the injured were not available to her. She would not use that power, the one he had savored about her. She would not be the thing he wanted her to be. Not ever. Even if she sometimes felt she already was.

Yuki had fallen asleep, and Leora was curled into an armchair between her cousins’ beds, but Hel continued to work quietly around them both. It was obvious that the other girls needed the rest, and Yuki had already done what little work Helen could not complete. Most of the injuries required nothing more than standard triage and emergency care, and that at least, she was fully capable of. She found a few minutes to peel out of her suit and into mint-green scrubs, but other than that, she kept up a constant working pace.

Outside, Balthasar glanced up at his brother’s approach, nodding wearily when Aryan sat in another of the chairs. “Yes,” he replied simply, but then he sighed though his nose and shook his head a bit. “Mother isn’t going to like it, but… for what it’s worth, I think it was a smart thing to do, and if anyone can manage it, it’s you.” His smile was wan, but genuine. Reaching up with a hand, he rubbed at the back of his neck for a moment.

“Rica and Keir should be fine. Mikhail… fell, on the field. My guess is it rebounded through their connection. Physically, they’re both fine. Just… be careful with her for a bit when she wakes up, I guess.” Not that he’d really need to take his own advice, since he doubted she’d even talk to him… but he let the thought go. It was an unhappy one, and right now all he wanted was for them to wake up.

Aryan sighed through his nose, wondering how his brother could be so blind. Still, it was not his place to interfere on that one, he was already playing matchmaker for his cousins. He returned his brother's wan smile all the same. "I have the underlying feeling that I'm going to be regretting this decision when it comes to mother. But, as it were, Baelor thinks he has me in his pocket, and I intend to keep it that way."

The news of Mikhail was not good. As much as he and Medusa bickered, Aryan wasn't sure just how he would handle losing her, if he could at all. he nodded in response to his brother. "Well, they do still have each other. Though, I'm not sure if that's a compliment in Keir's case."

Balthasar managed a chuckle in reply to that, shaking his head. “Come now, brother. Keir’s not such a bad person to have at one’s side. Certainly better than having him against you.” He was already apparently ‘in the doghouse,’ as the expression went, with one of the Alistairs; he’d fear for his sanity if they both disliked him. Well, he feared for his sanity already, but that was for different reasons. Al pushed the lingering pressure to the back of his mind, as his father had taught him to do, and sighed through his nose.

“Well… I guess just make sure he continues to think so, then. We’re playing with fire here, Ary, and while I trust you not to get burned, there are a lot of other people he could try to hurt if he gets suspicious.” Baelor was a dangerous man, and while the Council may not be as straightforwardly powerful as the Pantheon, there were still a few people on it that even he would hesitate before confronting directly. And their rumored alliance with the Pantheon was just dangerous, from any angle.

Aryan scoffed softly. "Why is it everyone seems to be losing their faith in me? You wound me, dear brother, and deeply so." Aryan had tried keeping a straight face, and had failed rather miserably. However, his face became placid again. He stood up, a sigh escaping him. "As much as I would prefer being here when they awoke, I'm afraid that I find myself with much more paperwork than I am used to. Keep me posted on their condition. I already have to contact Father, I'm sure Uncle Morgan will want to be told as well." While Aryan was not particularly for telling his uncle that his son and daughter were currently comatose, he was more or less terrified that Morgan would disembowel him if he did not at least mention it.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Alarica Alistair Character Portrait: Leora Kuragari Character Portrait: Keir Alistair


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Leora sighed quietly, bending in the chair so that her elbows hit her knees, glancing sideways first at Keir, then at Rica. A whole week, and there’d been no change. She knew that things like this happened sometimes, especially in the middle of a war, but… it was the first time it had hit so close to her heart. She hadn’t been alive the last time one of her family members was gravely injured, and she'd not realized until a week ago just how lucky that made her. With another sigh (she seemed to be doing a lot of that lately), she sat up, pulling her knees to her chest in the chair and winding her arms around them.

“Please wake up, you guys. I miss you.” Propping her chin on her knees, she let her mind drift back to their shared childhood, and all the insanity they’d gotten into. She was no expert at the craft of havoc like they were, but it had always been fun to tag along and watch the masters at work. She’d admired them so much, and that indefatigable spirit they shared, and perhaps it was her envy of that quality that had initially sparked her bizarre rivalry with Keir. With Rica, it had always been more of a partnership, for some reason. Her lips tilted into a small smile as her eyes closed.

One day, she had to believe. One day, life would be that easy, that effortless, again. For now… she just wanted her cousins back.

Alarica felt empty; she felt cold. A part of her felt like it was missing, and she couldn't understand what it was. All she could see was a blank void, darkness, and then a searing amount of pain in her shoulder that rendered her still unconscious. She could see blue eyes glancing at her, the joy, the happiness radiating from them and at first, she was confused as to who owned such eyes. There were only two possibilities, and the first one was practically impossible. He would never look at her with such eyes, and it left only one conclusion. Mikhail, her mind whispered in the darkness as the large dragon appeared before her.

Where, did you go Mikhail? she tried to question, but he merely shook his head, fading into the black veil behind him. She reached out for him, trying to call for him but her voice would not come out. She could feel something burning at the back of her eyes, and as she raised a hand to wipe at them, she saw red. Her hands were coated in red. She furrowed her brows, confused as to why that was, and she glanced to her side. They widened in horror as she reached out towards Mikhail. He had been cleaved in half, almost. From where his neck connected with his shoulder, he had been cleaved down to his chest, and it was the same area that she felt that familiar pulsing from.

The vision faded, her amaranth eyes snapping open to the world and immediately she shot up. She was immediately assaulted by lights, and scents fluttering about. Her mind went dizzy and hazed as she fell back into her bed. Her breathing was labored, as if she'd been running for days, and she could feel the familiar sting at the back of her eyes as she glanced up at the ceiling. "Mikhail," she whispered so softly that it could barely be registered as said at all. He was gone, and there was no getting him back. She tilted her head to the side, a frown etched upon her face as she spotted Keir in the bed next to hers, and she reached out for him, only to stop when Leora's scent hit her strongly.

"How long, Leo," she asked, turning to face her cousin through a half-lidded gaze. She wanted to know how long it has been since she's been out, how long he's been dead. The pain still caused her heart to ache, and she wanted nothing more than to cry, however; she couldn't. The dried crust around her eyes that she managed to rub off had only told her that she had been crying while she was unconscious, and the tears would not fall any longer. "What happened to Keir?" she threw in. She knew that she and her brother shared a sort of bond, but for him to be knocked out as well, she could only assume it had something to do with her as well.

Leora snapped right out of her doze as soon as Alarica jolted upright, the violent awakening not entirely unexpected from her cousin. Then again, she hadn’t given any sign of a change in condition before then. Her heart broke for the fractured whisper she could barely hear—Leo couldn’t imagine the pain of losing a familiar, and she didn’t want to. Even if she called hers a useless lump and he never did anything helpful, she still loved him dearly.

But Rica was addressing her, and so, Leo, trying very hard not to convey just how worried she’d been, reached down and took her hand, lacing their fingers. “Just about a week,” she said quietly. “Keir, he… we think it was part of the connection. He passed out a little while after you did.” She paused, searching for something she could say that might make her cousin feel better, and in the end, she could think of only one thing, but it was cold comfort, and not nearly enough. With a sigh, she reached her free hand down and brushed Rica’s tousled white fringe back from her eyes. It was a gesture she’d picked up from her mother, who sometimes did it to her brother, especially when he was feeling down about something.

“I got him, just so you know. I got the bastard that hurt him.” How was it that all she could offer in reassurance was news of another death? It felt horrible, but she needed to say it anyway. Rica needed to know that he wasn’t still out there. That he’d not hurt anyone else in her family ever again.

There was a part of Keir that recognized his twin, his sister, had woken up. That part of him wanted to wake up, too. The rest of him did not, still torn between utter sorrow at the loss of Mikhail, and the guilt he felt at not being able to protect his sister. But staying in the dark would not help matters any, and he knew that. He needed to face that reality. He knew that Alarica wouldn't blame him for what happened, but there was still that little part of him that was afraid she would. Keir was closer to Alarica than he was to anyone else, feelings for Leora aside. He wasn't sure what he'd do if she hated him. He wasn't sure he could handle that.

Slowly, his eyes opened. Scents mingled in the air, those of his family, and Alucard as well, but the two that were most prominent were Alarica and Leora. The latter surprised him somewhat, yet, the more he thought it over, the more realistic it seemed. Leora had grown up with them, the three of them were practically best friends. Keir initially thought of some snarky comment, but swallowed it as he sat up. At the moment, he didn't have the heart to say it. He glanced at the two females, but said nothing. There was nothing to say. Saying he was sorry did no one any good, not now. His eyes, normally such a bright crystalline blue, were dark, clouded almost.

Alarica frowned at Leora's comment. Keir passed out after she had, and that thought alone caused the frown to deepen. There were times she hated being his twin, not because it was him, but because of this twisted bond they shared. If it wasn't for her, he would at least be awake, and she would be the only one comatose. They had been out about a week, that means...she quickly banished the thought. Mikhail, she knew he would not want her to grieve for him, but that did not make the pain in her chest cease from growing. He was her familiar, her friend. She let out a slow sigh, closing her eyes momentarily and enjoying the strange warmth Leora's hand was providing at their laced fingers.

"Thank you, Leo," she managed to choke out. Though she would have preferred to have torn the vampire apart herself, the fact that he was dead, and by the youngest of the family, brought a soft smile to her face. "Mikhail would have laughed at you," she joked, sitting up slowly this time as to not overwhelm herself again. That was the least she could do. She could joke for him, be happy that his death did not go unavenged. She turned her head towards Keir, her eyes brightening as she saw him stir. She immediately released Leora's hand and removed herself from her bed. She collapsed on the floor, but forced herself up and climbed into Keir's bed with him, wrapping her arms around his neck as she burried her face into his chest.

"I'm sorry Kiki," she whispered against him. "It's my fault you were hurt, and it's my fault Mikhail's dead," she stated. She knew it wouldn't do any good to blame herself, but that was how she felt. If she had paid more attention to her surroundings, to the battle ground, that vampire wouldn't have caught her off guard. He wouldn't have slashed at Mikhail, and Mikhail would still be alive today. Survivor's guilt. That was what she had, and what she felt. "I'm just glad you're okay now," she spoke removing herself from him and crawled so that she was now beside him. Granted it was a tight fit, but they squeezed through tighter situations before.

A slight look of surprise flashed across his face when Rica threw her arms around his neck. What was she apologizing for? It just...didn't make any sense to him. If anything, he should be the one apologizing. He'd failed to protect her, to be there for her, to watch her back. That was what siblings were supposed to do, that was what older brothers were supposed to do, and he'd failed.

That caused an almost bitter smile to cross his face. Like father like son, he supposed. How poetic. He glanced at Leora again, but drew his eyes away when they made contact with hers. He sighed softly. "I wasn't hurt, Rica...and I'm the one who is sorry." he murmured softly.

Leora grimaced; it made her heart hurt to see them both like this, and she knew without asking that they both blamed themselves for everything that happened. Well… that was stupid. It wasn’t either of their faults, and it wasn’t any of the rest of her family’s fault, either. It was those jerks’ fault—the Pantheon or the Council or whomever else had been behind this latest attack. It was always one of them. Breathing a sigh through her nose, she sat herself at the foot of the mattress, crossing her legs underneath her and regarding them both for a moment.

“Hey. It wasn’t anybody’s fault but the people who attacked us. And I don’t want to hear otherwise from either of you.” Her words were gentle, because she knew they were both in a vulnerable state right now, but they were still firm. “I learned a long time ago that blaming myself for the bad things that other people do only makes it worse. And… it hurts the people I care about, the ones that have to watch me do it.” Growing up with the Aegis had been hard. She’d lost track of the number of times people had tried to hurt her family for the fact that she was just unlucky enough to be born with the Effect, and for a long time, she’d thought that every injury, every near death experience, every hardship that came about because of that, was her fault.

But it wasn’t. She could only ever do her best, and what other people chose to do was on them. She kept her defenses high because she rarely ever liked it, but all the same, she could not continue to take the blame for what others did. And she never, ever wanted them to feel like they had to, either. Because she knew exactly how miserable it was, and that hurt her, too.

Leora was right, there was no point in blaming themselves for something that they had no control over. She was also right that the fault lay with the ones who attacked them, and the hairs along the back of Alarica's neck stood. Even though the one responsible for Mikhail's death was dead, the ones responsible for the order, the ones who held that hit-man's leash, needed to be executed. And Alarica was not feeling merciful at the moment. Her eyes hardened a bit as she turned to face Leora and nodded her head in understanding. Zero had spoken of the attempts at Leora, so perhaps she understood more than any of them did, really.

"I wonder what we'd do without you Leo," she stated, her lips tilting into a grin in the process as she grabbed her cousin's arm. "Now come lay with us," she stated, pulling Leora with her as she shifted so that the three of them were truly squeezed tightly upon the small mattress. It was truly a sight to behold for anyone who walked in on them, but Alarica didn't care at the moment. The only thing that mattered was that her family was okay, at the expense of her familiar whom she would miss terribly.

Keir raised his eyebrows at his sister, but in the end, a small flicker of a smile flashed across his face. They were right, of course. But that didn't mean he was going to stop feeling guilty about it. But that also did not mean that he was going to openly say that, either. He sighed through his nose as Rica pulled Leo onto the bed with them. "You know, these beds were only made for so much..." Nonetheless, he wrapped one arm around either of the girls, laying down again. Rica was, for the most part, on his right, with her head on his chest, while Leora was on his left, her head on his shoulder. It was also taking a very large amount of effort to not start tracing patterns on Leora's arm. Silently, he thanked whatever gods there may be that Aryan was not present. He glanced down when he felt something furry lay over his legs, meeting a pair of silver eyes.

"Now, I'm not normally one to complain, but how did I end up on the bottom?" He had a girl on either side, and a wolf over his legs. This had to be the strangest set-up, ever.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Alarica Alistair Character Portrait: Keir Alistair


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Alarica shifted in her spot in one of the trees on the school ground. It was a weekend and a majority of the students had left to the city. The city had been repaired somewhat, at least most of the damage had been. The last few months had been tiring and a bit boring for Alarica, though her mind still managed to roam to Mikhail. She released a strong sigh, something she found she was doing more often than most. Not even the antics her brother and herself caused seemed amusing any longer, and she felt herself withdrawing a bit more. Whether it had to do with Mikhail's death or not, she didn't truly know. The only thing she did know was that there was something bothering her.

Rolling, she fell from the tree gracefully, landing on both feet as she took off slowly in a paced walk. She allowed the wind to play with her hair, tugging at the hem of her dress as she fixed her appearance a bit. Not that there was anyone around who would notice anyways, and not that she was trying to be presentable for someone, which she wasn't. Everyone was off doing their own thing, however; a familiar scent caught her attention as she smirked. It seems Keir was still on the school grounds, and with that in mind, she followed the trail to where he was. In the back woods of the Academy, she found her brother and Alucard, Keir training with Alucard laying not more than a few feet in front of him.

"Don't you ever get bored of watching him train?" she spoke towards the familiar, situating herself so that she sat a few feet away from him, legs tucked neatly beneath her as she leaned back with her arms. "And don't you ever tire of training? Isn't there something we could blow up?" she stated towards her brother. The amusement never reached her eyes though, but her voice conveyed it all. Though the fun had all been drained from her lately, she could still appreciate a well-thought out plan, and Keir seemed to be the mastermind behind them as of late.

With a loud crash, the tree fell, the scales covering most of Keir's body glimmering in the sunlight as he turned to his sister. "Not really, it tends to keep me out of trouble."

Alucard snorted, rolling his eyes. "I shudder to think of the trouble you'd cause if you didn't train, then." The wolf looked over at Alarica, slightly skittish, it seemed. Alucard had not really known how to act around her the last few months. Whereas the two of them used to bicker, now it was mainly the familiar avoiding his master's twin. He had no wish to make her uncomfortable, and was painfully aware that in some ways, he did.

Keir rolled out his shoudlers, ignoring the wolf. He shrugged in response to his sister. "Well, they did just order the remodeling of the boathouse," [why Cross Academy had a boathouse, but no boats, was beyond Keir] "Or, we could gift wrap the headmaster's office. He's out for the next two days, it would give us plenty of time."

While it was true, over the last few months it had been difficult to be in Alucard's presence, Alarica had found it a bit more tolerable now. The second day after awakening from their week long coma, Alarica had burst into tears at the mere sight of Alucard, startling not only herself, but the familiar as well. Now, it was easier to look at him, and she reached over and scratched the wolf behind his ears. She did not wish for him to avoid her any longer, and though they would probably still bicker, she was no longer afraid to be in his company. She sighed softly at Keir's response.

"The boathouse? That's not fun. Why remodel it if it doesn't get used? Do they actually plan on giving us a reason to have one?" she bantered softly, sitting up straight and crossing her arms across her chest in the process. "And trouble follows you every where you go dear brother, training or not," she chided before giving into another sigh. She turned towards Alucard and then towards Keir, the feeling of loneliness creeping up her spine again. She hated that feeling really, and she pulled her knee's to her chest in the process, laying her head against her arms.

"I miss him Kiki," she muttered out, pulling her arms tighter around her.

Keir let out a sigh, mirroring his sister. He sat next to her, leaning so his head was resting on hers. "I know, we all do." Even Alucard moved, placing his head on her shoulder. It had not been easy, for any of them. Mihkail had been just as much Keir's familiar as Alucard was, even if he was not the one who'd created him. He'd still felt it, when the dragon had died. Keir could only assume that it was because of the bond he shared with Alarica.

"I know, doesn't hurt any less," she stated, rolling her head so that it was comfortable against her brothers. Her mind began to churn, thinking of something that had at one time appalled her. "It wouldn't be the same, but...what...what if I could create another?" she stated. It was certainly a thought she had entertained for quite some time already, and it was something that was weighing heavily upon her mind. Mikhail had been with her for fifteen years, basically since the day she was born almost, but if she created another, it wouldn't be quite the same. Plus, Alucard would probably be objective to it, however; this was for her, not for him.

And with that in mind, she removed herself from both her brother and his familiar. She took a deep breath, biting into her wrist enough so that she drew a large amount of blood from it. She knew her blood was perhaps not as potent as Leora's or her Aunt's, but it might as well have been just the same, however; she was not bleeding for the intent of drawing attention. It was far from the fact. Instead, she spoke something, drawing the blood from her hand and setting it down upon the grass, molding it into a shape and watched as the blood-ball solidified.

She watched in mild awe as the ball began to glow, shifting so that it began taking on the form of something, and watched as two long tails were produced. The awe was beginning to fade from her face as she watched the ball unfold itself, producing a small, twin-tailed white fox, and Alarica felt her mouth press harshly into a thin line. " this a joke?" she stated, poking the fox-like familiar as it mewled up at her, bright blue eyes. She continued poking its cheek until it swatted at her hand with a single paw. "Tell me this is a joke," she stated, turning her attention towards Keir and Alucard.

Keir cocked his head at his twin. Honestly, he'd thought the same thing, but he'd been hesitant to say anything. Alucard, on the other hand, flattened his ears but said nothing, instead choosing to look away as the deed was done. But once it was...

Keir blinked once. Twice. Three times. And then, the white-haired vampire buckled at the waist, practically howling with laughter. "Oh you have got to be kidding me. This is just too perfect!" He had to it down, he was laughing so hard.

Alucard, on the other hand, looked at the creature, and then sniffed at it, jerking his head back when it swiped a paw at his nose. He looked at Alarica, an almost sour look on his face. "What the hell is that thing? It looks like lunch, to me."

Alarica frowned at her brother's laughter. Apparently this was funny to him, that her familiar would so happen to look almost the replica of his, and she pursed her lips together. "You look like Yuri," she spoke, referring to her mother's familiar, avoiding the fact that she almost spoke his familiar's name. Her lips, however, pulled into a light smile as she picked the white fox up, watching with amusement as the creature swatted at Alucard's nose. The fox familiar stared up at Alarica, for a moment, both holding each other's gaze before Alarica turned towards her brother and his familiar.

"I am not on the menu, you twat! You even think about trying to eat me, and I will see to it that you suffer from third degree burns," the fox stated towards the wolf, hissing at him in the process and producing a small amount of flames from her mouth. Alarica smirked at her familiar, however; the sadness was still lingering behind it. It was obvious enough that the little spitfire of a familiar would be nothing like Mikhail, but perhaps it was for the best. After all, no two things should ever be the same.

"Welcome to the family, Angelus."


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Balthasar von Nacht


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Balthasar stretched his arms over his head, looking up at the sun and squinting against the brightness. Things had been relatively quiet for the past two months—apparently for now Ary had the Council convinced that he was under their thumb, and the Pantheon had been unusually quiet. It was almost like they’d been waiting for something, though honestly, he couldn’t say what. That was the worst part, the fact that a slight cloud of foreboding hung over them even now. But… it was better than the war being right at their doorsteps. According to his dad, things were mostly quiet on the fronts, too, as though everyone had just taken September and October to be some kind of unofficial rest period.

Well, he wasn’t going to complain. The fewer people that died, the better, and they were honestly no closer to ending this thing than they had been when it started. The resources on all sides seemed limitless. In a way, that ate at Balthasar, with a guilt he could not fully explain. He’d always known, on some level, that Theodor had intended certain things for him, and that he’d been willing to start this war in the first place to achieve these things. His father had told him as much, because there was always a chance that the Pantheon would try again. But his whole life, they’d seemed more interested in killing his family than anything in particular to do with him. Yet… something just told him that it was all related.

But that felt kind of arrogant to think, so most of the time, he just didn’t let himself think it. Settling down at the base of a tree, he let out a breath and leaned his head back against the trunk, closing his eyes and letting his mind wander. Ilyana was in the forest with Sven—though he could sense that Keir and Rica were not far away, either. Hel was off on some kind of business for Freya somewhere, and last he’d known, Yuki was still working in the infirmary, though admittedly he hadn’t checked since yesterday. He hoped she wouldn’t overwork herself, but there was precious little that could stop her once she’d decided to do something.

An increasingly-familiar scent entered his awareness, and his mouth ticked up into a smile. Not two minutes later, she was there, a parasol in one hand to shield her from the bright sunlight, and in the other, another basket, similar to the one he’d first seen her carry. From the smell of it, though, this one held cookies. He wasn’t sure how she knew, but she did—he had something of a weakness for sweets. “Hello, Balthasar,” his friend said, smiling softly down at him. “May I share your shade?”

He huffed half a laugh and nodded. “I’d never say no to a friend with cookies,” he replied honestly, and she laughed, a light sound that carried across the field before fading, settling down beside him and placing the basket on one of his legs and one of hers.

“Well… all right. But you have to share with me. These are oatmeal chocolate chip—my favorite.”

Honestly, Balthasar didn’t see the need to discriminate when it came to cookies, but that might just be because his Aunt Ava was a masterful hand with them all. These were almost as good, though he doubted anyone would ever truly match his father’s former assistant. The addiction was inherited, he was almost certain. For a while, the two of them sat in silence. Elizabeth didn’t seem particularly inclined to force him to talk, or anything really. They spoke when it came naturally, and were quiet when that did. This, an almost daily meeting of around an hour, had quickly become routine for him, and he’d learned a lot about her in the process.

She was, among other things, an accomplished singer, and had hopes to be part of the Italian opera circuit one day. Like so many other things, though, those dreams were put on hold, waiting for a world without war. She’d been raised primarily by her father—her mother was an early casualty of a Hunter raid. She was herself quite young, for one of their kind, but there was a brightness to her that he appreciated. She didn’t seem to let much of anything get her down, and despite what had happened to her mother, many of her friends were humans. He thought it was an enriching experience, having a friend like her. He didn’t often get the opportunity to know anyone outside his family, and though he loved them all more dearly than his own life, sometimes, he wondered if they only put up with him because he was their brother or their cousin or whatnot.

Though he might ordinarily not have thought so, sometimes, the way Rica acted made him wonder. She’d always been more direct than most, and if she was the one that didn’t like him, was it possible that the others might feel a little similar, and just be too polite to say? He felt like a bit of an outsider sometimes, among the closer-than-blood bonds that many of them had created. He’d never lose his love for them, but… what if their suffering really was his fault? What if they knew it too? Maybe it was better not to interfere anymore than he had to, as he’d taken to doing with his cousin. They loved him, he would not doubt that, but did they really like him at all? He was so… dull, compared to most of them.

In a sense, this was why he enjoyed his time with Elizabeth. She didn’t have to act like she was his friend unless she really wanted to. He hadn’t just already been there when she was born, to become part of her life whether she wanted it or not. She chose to be around him every time she was, and that was… comforting, he supposed. He’d found himself telling her just as much as she told him, and she always seemed to have something funny or insightful to say. It was easy, their rapport. Was this how it was always supposed to be? It was a little like his rapport with Leora, or maybe Keir or his brother, but also different somehow, in a way he couldn’t explain.

Her voice broke him from his thoughts. “You’re doing it again,” she remarked. “Overthinking it.” Red-brown eyes bored into his blue ones with some mixture of her usual friendly concern and something else, something that showed up sometimes but left him entirely unable to identify it.

He smiled uneasily—his thought had not been the most pleasant, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to share them. “Sorry,” he said sheepishly, running a hand through his hair. “I didn’t mean to zone out on you; sometimes I can’t help it, I guess.”

She sighed with obviously-false exasperation, but then donned a smile with a hint of mischief, not unlike the one Leo wore a lot of the time. “Let me do that for you,” she said, rising onto her knees. She leaned forward so that they were almost nose-to-nose, but her eyes were quite intently focused on his hair, which she ran her fingers through, setting it to rights. Balthasar was not a person particularly averse to touch—one could not be so and survive in his family. Indeed, sometimes he forgot that others were not as tactile as his relatives and invaded their personal space on accident, but he had not been the subject of such ministrations before, and wasn’t quite sure how to react.

“Uh, Elizabeth?” he asked, hoping perhaps that some kind of explanation was forthcoming. Instead, she only shifted her eyes so that they looked right into his, and he was suddenly very conscious of the soft fanning of her breath on his cheek. Balthasar swallowed, and his face started to heat up a bit, especially when her smile changed to one he didn’t quite recognize anymore. Nobody had ever shown him such an expression before, that he was aware of.

“Hey Balthasar,” she asked lowly, voice quiet, so much so that he could barely hear it, even with his kind’s senses. “Has anyone ever told you how clueless you are?”

He frowned a little, and would have pulled back slightly, except he was pressed to the tree, so that wasn’t an option. Still, it was a little hurtful—that was all anyone ever seemed to tell him. “Only every day,” he replied, and made to move aside, but her hand around the tie of his uniform stopped him. He turned back, a bit confused still, and she smiled a little wider.

“I think it’s cute,” she told him bluntly, and before he could even adequately process the statement, she’d closed the remaining distance between them and pressed her lips to his, the motion surprisingly tender for all its suddenness. Her mouth was warm, and soft, and he was rather unsure what to do with himself, but she didn’t seem to mind, coaxing patiently until he responded, placing his hands tentatively at her waist and returning the kiss. Elizabeth smiled against his mouth, pulling back and giggling when she noted just how red his face had become. “Yep. Adorable.” A shadow seemed to pass over her eyes then, deepening them to an almost maroon color, and she reached up to place the tips of her fingers over his lips. “This is mine now, right? That doesn’t bother you, does it, Balthasar?” She tilted her head to the side, and a lock of her hair fell in front of her shoulder.

He hesitated for just a moment. He felt very… strange about this. Elizabeth was his friend, and he obviously cared about her, but… he wasn’t sure if it was that kind of feeling. He wasn’t even sure what that was supposed to feel like. But, she was looking at him expectantly, and he couldn’t think of a reason to tell her no, just a general unease. She was nice, and easy to talk to, and seemed to understand him as he was, not as he needed to be for anyone else. As little as it mattered to him, she was also beautiful, and he couldn’t deny any of these things, so… what was holding him back?

Surely nothing sensible. So he swallowed thickly and nodded slightly. Her expression lost all but the faintest trace of mischief, and lit up with obvious happiness. “Good,” she said with a grin, and then she laughed at herself a bit, standing and offering her hand to him. He took it, and she laced their fingers, picking her parasol up with the other hand. He carried the empty basket, and they made their way back to the school hand-in-hand. Though he smiled, he could not seem to shake the weight that settled in his chest.

Elsewhere, Ilyana shook her head, glancing up at Sven. “That big dope,” She said with a sigh. “This is going to make things complicated…”


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Zero Kuragari Character Portrait: Yuki Alistair-von Nacht


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Yuki sighed, dropping the pencil back on top of the stack of medical charts. If there was one thing that Freya had always gotten right about her, it was that she really didn't know when to stop. It was one of her biggest problems. She saw work that needed to be done, and she just dove into it head-first. She ran a hand over her face, checking her watch, and flinched. She'd been sitting there for over thirty-six hours.

She stretched, rather satisfied when muscle and bone snapped back into place. The back of her throat burned slightly. She'd gone too long without feeding again. She smiled slightly. Her mother was always hounding her about that. Yet another side effect, she could not take blood tablets, and she had to feed more often than other vampires. It was a hassle, really, but she put up with it.

At the moment, the thirst was not overly unbearable, and she didn't feel like feeding at the moment anyhow. So instead, she went to her favorite place at night: the roof.

Zero lay with his arms behind his head, his eyes focused up at the thick sky that had once been colored a bright blue. It was now a dark, midnight blue, for the night time had descended upon the Academy. He had felt no need to go back to his dormitory, and instead stayed upon the rooftop, a place he enjoyed being because no one ever seemed to like it up here. Perhaps they were afraid of heights, or perhaps it was something else. Not that he minded either way, it just meant more privacy for him. He released a content sigh, closing his eyes momentarily until he heard the shifting of the door and tilted his head to glance at who would be disturbing his peace. A smirk fluttered across his face when he saw who it was.

"Late night studying I take it?" he stated, chuckling a bit before sitting up right and turning so that he faced Yuki. "Or is it that you enjoy my company so much you had to seek me out for it? Personally either is fine for me," he stated, the smirk never leaving his face as he shrugged his shoulder in a nonchalant manner.

Yuki frowned slightly. In retrospect, she probably should have known he would be up here. He liked it just as much as she did. She sighed, pointedly breathing through her mouth. In this state, being around someone so alluring was not the best of situations, at least not for her. Control was something she sorely lacked at times, no matter how much she tried to exercise.

"You flatter yourself, cousin." She walked over to the edge of the roof, leaning against the railing. "Do you just stay up here all day?" She'd wondered at times. She knew he was not one for going to class, and that Leora did his homework. His scent assaulted her, and she gripped her arms slightly. She shouldn't be here.

"Oh, but it is you who does all the flattering, cousin," Zero countered, standing from his spot and walking over so that he too was leaning over the railing of the roof. He glanced out a head of him, his eyes piercing through the darkness in the process. Perhaps it was a good thing they were vampires, their sight was that much better than a humans, and he could see a nest of a family of crows, something he found rather ironic. "Do you know what they call a flock of crows?" he stated, tilting his head to the side as he noticed her clench her arms slightly. A frown pulled at his face as he moved closer to her, moving the back of his hand against her forehead.

"Are you feeling well Yuki?" he questioned, absolute concern lacing his tone. She didn't feel warm, and he highly doubted vampires of their nature could become ill, so perhaps it was something else. He took a deep breath before releasing it. "If you are not feeling well, you shouldn't be out here," he spoke, slumping his shoulders in the process. He allowed the wind to blow behind him, pushing his hair slightly forward in the process. His eyes still shone with concern. He may have been who he was, but he always knew when to be serious and when to take precaution. And right now, he was being serious for the welfare of his cousin.

Yuki found herself staring at Zero, his hand on her forehead, wide-eyed. At first, her mind couldn't discern why he was touching her, and for some reason, all she could hear in her head was his first question. "A murder." she whispered softly.

And then, his scent hit her again. That dark, twisted, ugly thing she kept buried deep inside of her, the part of her that wanted only to destroy, burned fiercely in the back of her mind, her throat. It was the part of her that would take what it wanted, without fear of the consequences, without care for who it harmed. Her eyes shimmered a deep red, and she hadn't even realized she'd moved until her fangs had slid down, her hands at Zero's shoulders. He was backed up against the railing, her body pressed into his. She was so close, she could hear the blood running through his veins, just beneath the pale skin. She opened her mouth...

...and shoved away from him, gripping her arms tightly across her chest. If it wasn't for the agonizing effort she was exuding to keep herself from attacking him, she would have run away. She lowered her gaze to the ground, fear laced into her features. What had she done? What had she almost done? She gripped her arms tighter, whispering, "I'm sorry...I'm sorry."

Had the situation been a bit different, Zero would have smirked at his cousin, however; it was fairly obvious now to him that she was not quite alright. He did nothing as he found himself pushed back into the railing, her lips so close to his neck that he had to contain the small shudder that wracked through his body. "Yuki," he spoke, his seafoam colored eyes flashing a hint of vermilion in the process. They returned to their normal coloring when Yuki pulled away, the heat still lingering where she once was. He sighed softly, grabbing her wrist in the process and leaned a little further towards her, exposing his neck to her.

"Aunt Nikki is not around, and it is apparent you need to feed. I will tell no one of this incident if that is what you wish, but I am not letting you leave until you feed," he spoke, his hands tightening a little around her wrists to emphasize his point. "But do not apologize for something that is in your nature, something that makes you, you," he continued, releasing her wrists somewhat so that he wasn't hurting her. That was the last thing on his mind, and he would never intentionally hurt his cousin.

Yuki couldn't think straight, but she knew she didn't want to do this. At least, not like this. But she knew, if anything, that Zero meant what he said, she was going nowhere. Hating herself all the more for wanting this, she found herself leaning into him again. Fang pierced skin, warm sweet liquid rolling over her tongue. It made her think of summer and oranges. Her fingers curled reflexively into his shirt.

When she released him, she did not step away, but instead rested her forehead on his shoulder. "You really are your father's son, Zero. That's one of the things I love most about you." She said softly.

Zero allowed a small smile cross his lips as she succumbed to her desire to feed. He relaxed his muscles a bit, shifting so that the intake would be easier for her and their height differences not hindering anything either. When she finished, his eyes softened a bit, however; a smirk crossed his face at her words when she stated them. That could be taken in many different ways, but he would allow his silly notion that his cousin did not love him that way, and instead feigned a mock hurt look.

"Are you saying you'd prefer my father? Oh how you wound me so dear cousin," he spoke, chuckling darkly before he slid his lips across her forehead in a friendly manner. There was nothing sensual about it, just from one friend to another. "Though I am afraid you'd have a very angry Aunt Ava after you if you ever tried taking him from her," he joked lightly, shuddering slightly at the thought of his mother being angry. He had only seen her upset once, and it was enough to cause him to fear her just a bit.

"But then again, you did say I am my father's son," he stated, tilting his brows up at her in a playful gesture before laughing at the redness of her cheeks. He truly enjoyed teasing his cousin...even if it was just that.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Balthasar von Nacht Character Portrait: Alarica Alistair


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The first day she found out about it, Alarica felt something akin to rage burn beneath her skin. It felt like fire had replaced itself in her veins, and it took every ounce of control for her to not destroy the object that had him. She wanted nothing more than to shred the woman who held...she paused in that thought, blinking as she focused on a tree that had been uprooted thanks to her, and she sighed. She shouldn't feel so angry about it. She shouldn't. This was what she had wanted, wasn't it? That he would find someone who wasn't her and be happy with them? She couldn't explain the feeling that fluttered in her chest, the feeling of not being able to breathe, and she hated it. Besides, it's been a little over two weeks.

"What troubles you, master?" Angelus stated, her tails swishing back and forth. Alarica turned to her familiar, blinking down at her in the process. She sighed, shifting so that she lay in the grass next to her familiar. "If it bothers you so much, why have you not told him? The worse he can do is reject you, Alarica, and would that be so bad?" Angelus stated, jumping upon Alarica's abdomen and peered down upon her with those same blue eyes. Alarica sighed harshly, closing her eyes as she laid one hand behind her head, and used the other one to softly stroke Angelus' fur.

"You don't understand. It's not the rejection I fear. I don't fear his rejection," she started, Angelus just giving her a dull look. "I am not the one who can make him happy, and he deserves that much. Look at his family's history, what they have been through. I cannot be the one who can make him forget all of that. If this vampire can, this Elizabeth, then let her have him. As long as he is happy, I will not interfere," she spoke truthfully to her familiar, listening to the sharp exhale of air Angelus released. She frowned as she felt her familiar shift in her spot until she was sitting upon Alarica's chest.

"And are you certain of this? Are you certain that you couldn't make him happy? How can you be so sure if you've never tried?" Angelus spoke. "It doesn't hurt to just at least talk to him, tell him, and if he does not feel the same, then you can move on in your life without ever being held back," she continued, watching for a reaction from Alarica. Her master merely closed her eyes, sighing heavily through her nose. In a way, Angelus was right, but that still did not stop that little bout of fear from creeping up inside of her.

"I won't tell him, but...I can at least stop avoiding him now," she replied, sitting up from her spot and placed Angelus so that she was curled along her neck. "I will go talk to him, but do not say a word or so help me I will make you disappear, familiar or not," she stated, her eyes fixed on Angelus who merely smiled a mischievous smile. Alarica merely rolled her eyes at her familiar as she set out to find Balthasar. She picked up his scent, it was always easy for her to find. But her face twisted into a frown. There were faint traces of her mixed in with it as well, and she wasn't sure if she could handle that right now.

Well, she wouldn't back out of it now. It was far too late for that. She followed his scent and found him out in the court yard, sitting at one of the tables. Taking a deep breath, she forced her legs to walk over towards him and sat in the chair opposite of him. "I never told you thank you, for the apples I mean. Mikhail, he...gave me your letter. I...I appreciate it," she stated, pulling the letter from her pocket and handing it back to him. It's not like she needed it any longer. She wouldn't.

Balthasar sighed slightly, looking down at the sheaf of papers laid out on the table before him. Actually, they were covered with blank music bars. He held a pencil in one hand, and tapped the eraser of it against the pages with a faintly-troubled air. He’d been trying to compose, but wherever his muse had gone, it wasn’t with him at the moment. Elizabeth had been by, but he’d been kind of… bad at talking today, even more than usual. She’d seemed to understand though, and had left him to his own devices. Not that he was accomplishing much of anything. He scrubbed a hand up and down his face, running it back through the thick mass of his hair before he recalled something and blushed slightly, clearing his throat and dropping the arm, trying to refocus on his presently nonexistent composition.

He’d caught his cousin’s distinctive scent on the passing breeze, but he’d simply assumed that she would detect his nearness and adjust her trajectory away from him, like she always did. Leaning forward, he propped his chin, placing his elbow in the table and staring at the blank spaces between the lines, as if they had the answers to all his problems. As though they would explain to him why he’d felt so…odd lately, like something wasn’t right in his life. Sure, it wasn’t perfect—there was a war on, and his family was always in danger from that. But it had been that way for most of his life, and the conflict was actually quieter than usual. Add to this the recent circumstances in his personal life, and he should probably be in a state of permanent euphoria.

But he wasn’t. Maybe that was just the reality of relationships—he had no experience with which to gauge things. Should he talk to Leo about it? His father, maybe? Was he just overthinking again? Somehow, he’d pictured such relationships as the kind of thing his parents had, where they were just so instinctively in-tune with one another that they could communicate a world of meaning with a single look. It was like they were magnetized to each other, and every time one of them came into a room, the other knew it first, and they’d already made eye contact and smiled before anyone else realized anything at all, be it by sight or scent or sound. The way they just fit. But… his parents had been together for basically a century, and they’d known each other long before that. He was expecting too much. There was no magic there, no so-called red string binding them together—it was familiarity, and love learned. He shouldn’t expect it… and somehow, he wasn’t sure he wanted it.

“Maybe I am as stupid as everyone says,” he mumbled to himself, shaking his head. He was just about to give up for the day and go train or something when someone sat down across from him. Balthasar looked up with startled bluesilver eyes, blinking dumbly at his cousin when she spoke to him. She was… speaking to him now?

Yeah, he was definitely stupid, because he didn’t get it at all. Alarica wasn’t a frivolous or shallow person—it shouldn’t have been that simply leaving a bushel of apples at her door every Monday forgave him whatever transgression he’d committed against her. That hadn’t been the point… he’d really just wanted to make her day better was all. It took him a few tries, and he was sure he looked a bit like a fish, the way his mouth opened and closed as he searched for his voice, but at last, he shook his head and offered a warm smile, holding up a hand as if to decline the proffered sheet of paper.

“Keep it. Well, uh, I don’t mean you have to keep the note—you can get rid of that or whatever you wish. Just… they were the right kind, weren’t they? Learning to tell one apple tree apart from another was kind of hard, and I might have messed it up a bit.” He’d once stared at a tree for half an hour, trying to decide if it was fuji or gala. One was apparently vastly preferable to the other, after all. He’d picked them all himself, of course, every Monday morning, but… he blinked again. Part of him wanted to ask if this conversation meant they were okay again, but he wasn’t sure how to put it to words without sounding stupid or desperate or possibly both.

Alarica blinked a bit slowly at his reaction. Trying her hardest not to laugh at him. She really did want to though, and she sighed softly, folding the paper a bit smaller than it originally was and placed it back into her pocket. She'll put it somewhere else for now, but she would never throw it away. His question brought her out of her thoughts as she tilted her head to the side slightly, raising a brow. Honestly, she hadn't cared what the apples were that he had given her, even though they were her favorites. She smiled a half smile, something caught between a choked smirk.

"They were fine," was the only response she gave him. She tried to keep the frown from appearing on her lips as she folded her hands in front of her. She took a deep breath, closing her eyes and released the held breath slowly. "I'm sorry I ignored you," she finally stated, opening her eyes slowly in the process. "I didn't mean to, it's just..." she paused. She was usually a direct person, never beating around the bush, and yet; here she was doing what she hated most. She allowed her gaze to meet his, and she pursed her lips into a thin line.

"I was just trying to sort through a few things, and I'm sorry that it meant ignoring you," she stated truthfully. While she was trying to sort through a few things, she wasn't exactly telling a lie about it. Angelus rolled her eyes at her master, but kept quiet as she was instructed to. "So, Balthasar has a vampiress at his side now? You don't have to answer, and you don't have to tell me, but," she began, pausing as she thought the statement over. It wasn't her business to know, but she wanted to know. She wanted to know if she made the right choice in never telling him.

"Does she make you happy?" she finally stated, pulling her hands together as they rested against the table. She wasn't expecting him to answer, and she wouldn't hold it against him either. She wasn't exactly the easiest person to talk to, that much she knew. But that never stopped her before from trying. This, however, was personal.

“Oh,” was his articulate reply to the apology, and the explanation. What was she sorting through that she’d had to ignore him specifically? He wanted to ask, but he didn’t. It was probably rude, and if she wanted him to know, she would tell him. Somewhere in his head, he felt Illy shake her head in something like frustration, but for the moment, he ignored her. She was always too nosy anyway, insinuating herself into other people’s business where she didn’t belong. “Oh,” he repeated, but then he shook himself a bit, and grinned. “Well then, I’m glad you were able to work it out. Though, uh… if it’s not too much to ask, next time you need to ignore me for something like that… could you maybe get one of the others to tell me at least? I was really afraid I’d done something to hurt you…” Not that he’d had any idea what that might be, of course.

He blinked owlishly at the change in topic, but he supposed this must be her way of trying to regain something like the rapport they’d had, one that had been completely derailed three years ago, when she’d just stopped talking to him. “Who… Elizabeth? Oh, uh… yeah. I guess you could put it that way. I mean… it’s a bit… different, knowing someone who’s not really part of this, you know? I wasn’t really expecting it or anything, but… she’s really nice.” He raised a hand to rub at the back of his neck. Was he happy? It should be an easy question, but it wasn’t. He liked talking to her, and he’d admit, having someone interested in him was flattering and quite new. Most people looked at him and saw the von Nacht heir. She at least seemed to see Balthasar, and actually liked him. It was honestly strange.

“I guess? I don’t really know how it’s supposed to work…” The thing was, aside from the flattering part, being her boyfriend wasn’t really much different from being her friend, for him. Sure, they kissed sometimes, but he felt no real impulse to do so. It was maybe a little weird, but he just didn't have a frame of reference for it.

She smiled softly at his first response. "I can't make any promises, but I'll do my best if it comes to that again. I hope it does not, it..." she was about to say something that she would have regretted, and she did not want to do that. It hurt that she had ignored him on purpose, because of her own insecurity about him. He was Balthasar von Nacht, heir to the von Nacht family and she was merely Alarica. That was all she would ever be, and she was fine with that now. Elizabeth, she seemed like a nice person from what Alarica could see from the distance. She never approached the girl for fear of doing something stupid. And she knew she would.

"You could never hurt me Bally, I love you too much for that," she stated, a frown marring her face before she realized what she said. Her eyes widened slightly but she passed it off as nothing. They were family after all, and it was natural that family said such things. Besides, he wouldn't get the underlying meaning to that. She shook her head, the smile returning to her face as he spoke of Elizabeth. "I guess it's different for everyone. Not everyone can be as lucky as our parents I suppose," she replied, sinking a bit in her chair. It was true, not everyone could have what their parents had, and at times, Alarica believed it was merely a fairy tale.

"But, then again I suppose you are fairly new to it as well. Just...just give it some time and I'm sure it'll fall into place. People adjust to things differently," she stated, reaching over and fixed a loose lock of his hair, tucking it so that it was out of his face as he had liked it usually. Angelus just shook her head. Her master was hopeless. "And like you said, someone who isn't part of whatever this is, whatever you could call it, might be a good thing. Not everyone knows how it works the first time you know," she stated, removing her hand from his hair in the process.

He smiled gently, slightly startled when her fingers in his hair produced an irregular thump in his chest. What was that about? Mentally rolling his eyes at his own strangeness, he nodded thoughtfully. “You have a point,” he said with a touch of relief. Maybe he wasn’t doing this wrong after all. Maybe, like she’d said, he just needed to give things time. Like she’d needed time to work out whatever she had to think about, perhaps it was best if he gave himself that time as well, to decide just how he felt about things.

“Thanks, Rica,” he said, catching her hand as it pulled back. With a smile, he flattened his palm so that it rested a mirror to hers, something he’d done often when she was a child. She’d been adorably upset when her own hardly seemed to gain size compared to his, and though she was no longer a child, her hand was still small next to Balthasar's, and her fingers slender compared to his long ones, the insides roughened from nearly a century with a sword in his hands.

“I love you too.”


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Zero Kuragari Character Portrait: Aryan von Nacht


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Aryan let out an irritated sigh. It had been a month and a half since he'd joined the council. There had been some interesting changes as well. Alarica had a new familiar, and his brother had, of all things, a girlfriend. Even better, she was Councilman Snowe's daughter. That in and of itself made Aryan tired. His brother was inexplicably oblivious. Then again, he was also undoubtedly Jasper von Nacht's son.

He glanced back down at the paper in front of him. It was a threat, addressed not specifically to him, though he did get his share of those, now more than ever since becoming a council member, but rather, to his family in general. He was not the only one, they'd all been receiving these threats. As much digging as he and Hel did, they couldn't figure out who was sending them. Everything came up to dead ends, and no path led to the same one, either. Whoever was behind this was undoubtedly a mastermind, and Aryan did not enjoy being beaten in such games.

And then, there was the matter of Yuki. Aryan sat back in his chair, a frown marring his features. He'd been wondering about that lately. He'd long thought his feelings for his sister to be akin to love, however; of late, he'd realized that they were in fact something quite different. He'd often gotten angry at Zero, but it wasn't because he wanted Yuki for his own, it was often just out of a sheer necessity to protect. That was as far as it went. You didn't grow up around parents like Jasper and Nikki von Nacht and not understand a concept like love, at least not when you were as perceptive as Aryan was. And what he felt for Yuki was not love, that much, he was quite certain of now.

That still did not mean he was overly pleased with the object of his sister's affections being Zero. It wasn't that he didn't trust his cousin, but Yuki was...not someone to be taken harshly. One hundred years had opened her up quite a bit, but she was still not at what one might consider a normal level of social interaction. She still hadn't even realized what her feelings toward Zero meant. Aryan found himself sighing again. Gods, he was turning into his father.

Though, that may not be the worst thing in the world.

"You know, one of these days, you're going to run out of sighing and then what will you do?" Zero stated as he leaned up against the door frame, arms crossed against his chest as he stared at Aryan. He rose an eyebrow at Aryan, wondering what the von Nacht was thinking, however; he let it slide off of his features as he glanced at the paper in Aryan's hands. So it seems that everyone was getting those letters. Alarica had said the other day that she felt like someone was watching her and the others when she was with Leora and Helen, and Zero himself had received a very interesting letter. He, of course, had crumpled the letter and had Angelus burn it.

"Any idea who could be behind these letters?" he finally stated as he removed himself from the door frame and took a seat across Aryan. He folded his hands in front of his face as he leaned on his knees. These letters were becoming more and more abundant, some of them being recieved almost every other day. Sure, he was used to the assassins, the death threats, but threats from letters? Someone wasn't trying to be creative enough about how to go about these things. Alden hadn't sent any news as of late either, so either this person, or people, who were sending the letters were not a apart of the Pantheon, or they were a part of the Pantheon or council they did not know of.

Aryan rose his eyebrows slightly. Speak of the Devil... His face remained quite placid as his cousin questioned him. "Not a one. No matter how far we dig, everything comes up empty. Uncle Morgan has reached the same conclusions. Whoever is sending these..." He almost sighed before remembering Zero's statement. "Is incredibly skilled at covering their tracks."

Aryan's eyes narrowed slightly, catching Zero's scent. He smelled like Yuki. He supposed it was none of his business, but he'd also noticed that she'd been acting...odd since the previous night. "One can never run out of sighs. Is there something going on between you and Yuki?"

Zero himself sighed this time, releasing it slowly as he processed the information. If Morgan couldn't even find out who was behind the letters, then perhaps this person was extremely talented at keeping their trail hidden. Morgan wasn't the best in his field for nothing, and if he couldn't find information, then there was little they could do about it. They would just have to be more careful, and try not to travel alone. They would be easy targets for just about anyone if they were alone. Aryan's next statement, however, caused Zero to tilt a brow upwards, and a small smirk appeared on his face.

"What concern of it is yours if there is?" he spoke, a hint of mischief behind his tone, however; he paused and sighed, running a hand through his chestnut locks. "I assure you, Ary, that there is nothing going on between Yuki and I. She had a bit of an incident the other night, and since your mother was not around," he paused in that sentence. It wasn't exactly a secret to the family that Yuki's body rejected the blood pills. It was why she was often supplied blood by one of her family members, particularly her mother.

"I just helped her out is all," he spoke as he ran a hand across his face and released another sigh. It seems that sighs were contagious.

It was Aryan's turn to smirk. It would seem that everyone in his family was oblivious. "Right, and the fact that she's been avoiding you all day means nothing, of course." Yuki had only ever fed off of her immediate family, and even that had only been limited to their mother, and a handful of times from Aryan and Balthasar. As far as he knew, she'd fed off of their father only once. She was...rather conservative when it came to such things.

"And it is my concern because she's my sister, and I intend to look out for her. I'm sure you can relate, with Leora, no?" He leaned his head on his hand.

"Well, she did drink my blood, Ary. I'm sure she's just trying to recover from that. She's only fed off of her immediate family, which is basically you, Balthasar, and your mother. I am not sure if Jasper's ever let her feed from him seeing as Aunt Nikki takes care of it," he replied, raising a brow at the statement he gave. Sure he could relate to that, but Zero wasn't exactly inclined to butt into Leora's life like that. She would always be his little sister, and he would do anything to protect her. But she was capable of taking care of herself as well, and she was capable of choosing whomever she wanted to spend the rest of her time with.

"Sure you could say that, but Leora's a big girl now. She can take care of herself and she is more than capable of choosing whomever she wants for a partner. I will not interfere with that as long as he, or she, makes Leora happy. Though I can't say the same for my father. I would feel bad for the unlucky soul she falls in love with," he replied in a nonchalant manner, waving his hand in front of his face to dismiss the thought. He knew his father wouldn't be exactly...pleasant with the unlucky person. He sighed softly.

"Do not misread me Aryan, Yuki is far older than the both of us, though her emotional state is perhaps still relatively new. I will not do anything that would jeopardize that for her. She means as much to me as she means to you," he replied, his voice losing all playfulness and was replaced with something unbecoming of him: seriousness. He meant every word he said. He would never put Yuki in a situation that would harm her physically, emotionally, or at all. He wasn't that type of vampire.

If he was any other vampire, Aryan might have laughed. He was who he was, and there was no changing that. What Zero said had a ring of truth, to be sure, but he was lying, and to himself more than anyone.

"She fed off our father once, out of necessity. Even so, that is not quite the reason she's avoiding you. Taking someone's blood, whether she wants to or not, would not be enough to cause this sort of behavior in my sister, I know her far too well for that."

He stood up, his hands resting on the tabletop as he regarded his cousin. "I would also suggest you stop lying to yourself, and figure out what you want. How you feel about her far exceeds what I feel, even I can see that. And I expect you to protect her, her heart is not something to be taken lightly." Aryan left his cousin with that cryptic comment. He was actually a bit curious to see what Zero did with the information. Everyone needed a push in the right direction, it seemed.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Zero Kuragari Character Portrait: Keir Alistair Character Portrait: Emrys Alistair


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Zero stared up at the open sky, his hand in front of his face as he stared at it. Aryan's words echoed through his mind as he played them over, a smile covering his face in the process. He knew exactly what Aryan was referring to, however; was he actually lying to himself? Aryan was a perceptive person, that much he had known, however; Zero was not lying to himself. Yuki meant a great deal to him, so much to the point that he could say he loved her. He released a content sigh as he closed his fist.

"Now if only," he paused mid-sentence. Only what? If only he could tell her, could show her? He couldn't do either of those. If he did, it might have negative results on her mind, and as she was, she was already very fragile. She was avoiding him, and he was inclined to leave her be. He was, after all, a patient man when he wanted to be. And they had a very long time for things to be sorted through. He could wait. He was brought from his thoughts as a familiar scent entered the area.

"Bored?" he stated, addressing Keir as he came into sight.

Keir had been wandering, Alucard at his heels. He'd smelled his cousin, but really hadn't made it a point to go over to him, though he wasn't really avoiding him either. It was just a matter of where he ended up. He shrugged at his cousin's question. "Not really. I think the correct word is angry. Perhaps frustrated."

He sat down on the grass. "You look like you're is a deep well of thought. I thought only Aryan could look like that."

"Well you do know that we are related," he replied, chuckling softly before siting up. "It wouldn't surprise me if we all had similar traits, but then again, it probably would," he added as he rolled his shoulders, listening and waiting for each one to pop before closing his eyes. The morning breeze tousled his burnt locks, caressing his face as he sat in silence for a few minutes, just enjoying the company of his cousin and the morning breeze. Finally, he cracked his eyes open and rolled his head so that he was facing Keir, a smirk tugging at his features.

"So," he began, propping his elbow upon his knee and rested propped his chin upon his hand. "When is Em supposed to be back? I miss the tyke," he questioned, referring to the eldest Alistair child. The two were born roughly the same month with Emrys being the oldest by a few days. Not that he cared much about age, he actually missed his cousin. He and Emrys were a handful as children, and even so when they grew older, however; Emrys had taken off like Alden had, opting to stay out on the field. It's been a few years since he last saw Emrys, and he had spent a majority of his time following the twins around because of the absence.

Keir's eyebrows rose slightly, a smirk crossing his face. "Where do you get off calling Emrys a tyke?" Em was anything but: a veritable demon on the battlefield, more so than even Keir himself, and more skilled with guns than their mother was, Em was a force to be reckoned with, especially with his ability.

They didn't call him the Ghost for nothing, after all. In response to his cousin's question, he shrugged. "I couldn't tell you. Em comes and goes as he pleases, really. Though, he'll probably pop back up here soon. It has been a few years now." That was more than true, the last time Keir had seen his older brother, he'd been nineteen.

"The last I heard he was up north with Mom and Uncle Vincent."

"Perhaps because he acts more of a child than I did? And still does?" Zero responded with a light shrug of his shoulders. "Ah, dad said Em was headed back towards Russia, I thought he would have at least informed you of that. I mean, you and Lala are his baby siblings," he spoke, the smirk widening in the process. He was well aware of his older cousins ability and why he was called Ghost for a reason, however; that was where a majority of their fun came from.

Keir opened his mouth to respond when Alucard picked his head up, the wolf's ears pricking forward. Keir looked at the familiar, and then looked around. He saw nothing, heard nothing, smelled nothing...and then a voice reached his ears. A very familiar voice.

"Wow, Z, if you're only just getting that information now, then Uncle Vincent's getting out of touch. And since when are you any less childish than I am? You wound me, Coz."

Keir glanced up at the tree looming above him, an expectant smile on his face. Sure enough, his older brother materialized out of thin air, blonde hair and crimson eyes. While using his ability, Emrys could not be touched, and with more focus, he couldn't be smelled. The matter of staying out of sight and not being heard were just tricks he'd picked up over the years. "Emrys, you bastard, why didn't you tell us you were coming back?"

Emrys shrugged slightly. "Well, Z had it half right. I had been on my way back to Russia, but I stopped when I got wind of what happened here. I was worried about my baby brother and sister." He stuck his tongue out, teasing the other Alistair, but he was completely serious about being worried. When he'd heard the Twins were comatose, he'd changed course immediately, and that was what brought him here. He was a few months late, of course, but well, traffic in a war zone did not make for the best travel time.

Zero's eyes snapped up to the tree, his smirk turning into a large grin as he spotted his long time partner-in-crime. "Well you know dad, there are other pressing matters at hand," he stated, watching as Emrys "Since, I don't know, forever? Face it, you're more of a child than I am. I think you got that from your mom," he responded, the smirk still lingering on his face. He stood from his spot and walked closer towards the tree Emrys had perched himself on and tilted his head so that he was staring at both of his cousins for a few minutes.

"Well then, how about we show the school the combined efforts of the Kuragari and Alistair family?" he stated, the smirk growing into a wicked grin. It's been awhile since he and the older Alistair did something productive, and he wasn't going to leave Keir out of the fun. If Alarica was around, it'd be just as entertaining, but from the wind, she was apparently with Balthasar, something that caused his grin to spread into that of a Cheshire cat's.

Keir cocked an eyebrow, and Emrys grinned. "Now, if I know that grin, you've got an idea." He pushed himself off of the tree branch, landing lightly in front of Zero. He stood up straight, his grin matching his cousins'.

"What do you have in mind?"


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Alarica Alistair Character Portrait: Leora Kuragari


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A few days passed since Alarica reconciled with Balthasar. She had spoken to him at least once every other day when she'd seen him, and when he wasn't around her. Part of her was glad that he was willing to take her advice and approach his new situation delicately and with more patience. The other part of her was disgusted with how she let those words escape her mouth and instead tried to focus on something else. He was happy, that was all that mattered. Angelus blinked owlishly at her master, flickering her tails back and forth as she laid on top of the piano. Alarica pushed a key, listening to the sound it elicited before she sighed.

She had not touched the piano in quite some time, perhaps she should? It was long overdue to begin with, and she didn't want to get rusty. "Are you going to play something?" Angelus spoke as Alarica turned to her familiar. "Or are you just going to sit there and mope? I'd prefer it if you'd play something to distract your mind. Though, I'd probably be easier if you just went out and found someone to distract you for a while. You made your decision, it was clear," Angelus continued as she closed her eyes. She would say nothing more of the matter to her master. It was evident that she had made her decision, and Angelus was not going to press the issue further.

"There is no other. There will never be another, but you are correct," Alarica finally spoke, gliding her fingers over the piano, producing an atrocious sound. Angelus flinched at the noise before glancing back at her master. "I made that decision and I plan on standing by it. There is no room for me. Now stop being so nosy and leave the subject alone," she snapped, perhaps a little unintentionally, but nonetheless. She sighed slowly, releasing the breath as if she had been holding it for a period of minutes. "I'll play something if that's what you want," she finally stated. She pulled her hands in front of her, popping her knuckles in the process before she went to work on the keys of the piano.

She honestly couldn’t believe it. Part of Leo wanted to punch Balthasar, and the other part wanted to force the two of them in a room, and just lay everything out for the both of them, freaking idiots. The problem was… while she knew what Rica’s feelings were… she couldn’t actually say how Balthasar felt. Looking at it from the surface, it should have been obvious—people didn’t just get up at stupid-early in the morning to go picking apples for people they didn't like. Except… except Balthasar. He would have done it for all of them, if he’d thought it would have a significant impact on their happiness. He’d do anything for any of them, and not just the big things. Al was a little things kind of guy, too, and honestly? It would have been so damn perfect if she was just sure he had feelings for Rica.

She’d seen him a few times, with Elizabeth. Honestly, if the girl didn’t insist on holding his hand and walking close to him, she’d have never been able to tell that they were even dating. It seemed that her cousin’s ineptitude with his own feelings might well be deep. She might not be able to tell what Balthasar felt because Balthasar didn’t know, and that was just… well, if it had been literally anyone but him, she’d not have believed it possible.

So changing things from his end was going to be damn impossible. Especially if Alarica just gave up, which appeared to be the case, from what Ilyana had relayed of the last conversation between the two. Presently, her older cousin’s fox familiar was hitching a ride on Leo’s shoulder, intent on being part of this conversation as well, and Leora was pretty sure she was going to need the help. Because it wasn’t just him that was dense—Rica might actually be worse in some ways.

She tracked her cousin to the music room, and smiled a little when she heard the piano music coming from underneath the door. Still, she didn’t stand on formality, and pushed it open, taking a seat on the empty end of the piano bench, facing the opposite way from Rica. She waited until her cousin finished the piece, and Ilyana jumped from her shoulder to go sit next to Angel. It was honestly a little sickening, how adorable the two of them were, sitting next to each other like little siblings or something. Leo couldn’t say she was surprised that this was the form Rica’s new familiar had taken—they tended to reflect something about the deepest part of the one who’d made them. Bad news for her, because Elliot was freaking lazy and useless. She hoped that was just a reflection of her reluctance to create him in the first place. At least he gave good advise, when he could be arsed to put in the effort. She’d need that skill herself, right now.

“So,” she said when the music had died to a stop. “On a scale of one to 'burning compulsion,' how badly do you want to punch Elizabeth right now?” It wasn’t that Leo had anything against the girl specifically—it was just that she didn’t want anyone who wasn’t Rica dating Balthasar. And she totally got to have an opinion on that; he was practically her brother, after all. Gods, why couldn’t everyone be as obviously adorable and right for each other and making progress as her brother and Yuki?

Alarica had been blinded by her intent on playing the piano and ignoring the way something tugged at her. She knew the feeling, knew it all too well and she hated it. Envy, jealousy, these were all present, and it was conveyed through her music. She took a deep breath as the last note echoed through the air, sighing heavily when Leora appeared and popped the question. She turned so that she was facing her cousin, reading her face for a moment's time and pursed her lips together in a fine line. Why was everyone so adamant about this? Why could they not leave well enough alone? But, she would not take it out on her cousin, and instead, decided to answer the question.

"Truthfully? Do you wish to know the answer to that cousin?" she stated, her jaw tightening just a bit before relaxing. "On a scale from one to 'burning compulsion', I'd say," she paused, thinking it over for a minute before giving her answer. "It's a reflex. When I see her, I have to restrain myself from doing the actual deed of destroying that face of hers. Is that what you wanted to hear?" she continued her eyes losing a bit of luster in the process. She took a sharp intake of breath and held it for a few seconds, releasing it as slowly as she possibly could.

"I am not going to lie, I am very irritated by the fact that Elizabeth has him, but I am not going to interfere with that. If she is making him happy as he says, then what right have I to take it away from him? He deserves to be happy with someone who isn't me," she declared almost a bit angrily. Why couldn't they see what she saw? That she wasn't the one to be at his side. He deserved to have someone like Elizabeth at his side. She was beautiful, smart, and though she was only a noble vampire, she was still more of a vampire than Alarica was. Alarica was neither of those things, though beautiful was in her genetics, she didn't feel like it.

"I am fine with that, really I am. It might take me a while, but...I'll get over it. He's my cousin, just as you are, and I love all of you. Maybe mine is just an admiration that I am confusing for love for him," she spoke, her voice losing it's resolve, as if she were trying to convince herself that that was what she truly felt. That she didn't love her cousin like that, and it was just something she thought since she grew up by his side. "Why can't anyone see that?" she finally released the last statement before glancing at Ilyana and Angelus. She pursed her lips together as she saw the two, mirroring each other almost perfectly save for the different shades of color and eyes.

Leo listened without interruption as her cousin flung out all the excuses she could think of, but she didn’t grow up around her for nothing. Rica was deeply upset by this, and her talk of mere admiration was probably even less convincing to Leora than it was to Alarica herself. Sometimes, being the observer allowed you to see things that the actors did not, and Leo had seen the effects of how Rica felt about Al. It was plain as day. She wondered if this was how Ary felt all the damn time, but no, he had his blind spots as well. They all did—it was why they had each other.

“Silly Rica,” Leo said, smiling sadly and sighing through her nose. Her cousin may have said whatever words she chose, but what Leora heard was heartache and sorrow. Did she think Rica would be able to get over him? Maybe, with lots of time and practice, but she doubted that the girl would ever be able to love someone else like that. Alarica was… intense, in pretty much everything she did. People like that didn’t attach to others for no reason, and once those bonds were formed, it was hard to relinquish them, and no two were ever really quite the same. Even if she could love someone else, the would not love them like this.

Maybe that was for the better. But, stubborn as she was, Leo didn’t think so. Leaning sideways on the bench, she wrapped her arms around her cousin’s shoulders and squeezed, hugging her tightly. “You deserve to be happy, too, you know. And you don’t want to be happy with someone else, you want to be happy with him.” Leo couldn’t say she fully understood the feeling—honestly, to her, relationships were dubious at best, and most of them were more like games of manipulation than anything else. But Rica wasn’t like that, and Balthasar definitely wasn’t, so…

“You’re allowed to be sad, you’re allowed to be angry, and you’re allowed to be jealous, you know. It’s not something you have to push away. You’re allowed to feel, just like everyone else is.” She’d come here to scold her cousin, honestly, to tell her she was being stupid, that she couldn’t just roll over and sacrifice her chance at happiness for something that might not even be right for the one she loved, but… she just felt so miserable, like maybe what Rica was feeling was rubbing off on her.

She smiled softly at her cousin's words. She did want to be happy, with him, but it wouldn't be the case. He had her now. She was with him making him happy, not Alarica. As much as she wanted to be in Elizabeth's shoes, she just couldn't be. And that was the lie Alarica would keep telling herself. Perhaps it was silly of her to think that way, perhaps even a bit dense. The smile faded a bit when Leora hugged her, telling her that it was okay to feel the way she did, and Alarica couldn't help but scoff softly at the notion. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn't. The only thing Alarica knew for certain was that her future was bleak and would continue to remain so without him.

"Yeah, well I'm also allowed to do this," she spoke, the amusement returning to her tone as she leaned to the side a bit, pushing Leora softly as to not cause her to fall off the bench, but with enough force to push her a little off of it. "Thanks Leo, I needed that," she spoke with a softness that she wasn't quite used to. It only appeared around her younger cousin, who for some reason, always seemed wiser than them all. "How about we play something together? We haven't had the time for that in a long time and I miss it. Besides, Keir isn't around and I can't poke his mind when he's not around," she stated, the mischievous smile returning to her face.

Leo blinked when she was moved about half way off the bench, and if her balance had not been so good, she probably would have tipped right over. “Hey!” she protested, but not in any serious way. Rolling her eyes, she stood, thinking it over for a moment before nodding and moving to retrieve her violin from one of the lockers. Zero had the one that used to be their mother’s, but Leora’s was almost as good. Didn’t mean she wasn’t sometimes jealous of her brother, but that was all in good fun. Besides, he was a total mama’s boy and everyone knew it.

While Leo was over at the lockers, Ilyana hopped up onto the top of the piano, regarding Alarica with a steady red gaze. She blinked slowly, tilting her head to one side, unsure if she should say it. But then, in the end, her primary concern was the same one Rica seemed to have: her master’s happiness. “He’s going to fall down, one day,” the familiar said matter-of-factly. Her master was so used to standing on his own, to bearing all of the weight by himself, but sometimes, he got things wrong. Like he was getting his own feelings wrong, right now. Ilyana hadn’t told him this directly, because she knew that wouldn’t do any good, but she could sense it all the same. Something was going to give eventually, and while Balthasar’s body and mind and spirit were strong, his heart was surprisingly delicate. She now feared that it would break first.

It had never been a worry, before he’d let anyone near it. But if he offered it to Elizabeth… Ilyana didn't know why, but the prospect made her uneasy. “I hope that you will be there, to help him stand up again.” Love was not the pretty words. It wasn’t even the feelings. It was the things you did, the things you were willing to give, and the things you would let yourself accept. She had learned this, from watching her master’s parents, and the others of their generation, who seemed to understand what none of their children quite yet grasped. Well… they had time. At least, she hoped so.

Alarica smirked at Leora's response as she watched her go to retrieve her instrument. Her attention was taken, however, when Ilyana appeared on top of the piano, both of them holding each other's gaze as the familiar tilted her head. If Alarica was inclined to speak out loud, she would have noted it was rather cute in a way, but she kept her mouth closed when Ilyana opened hers to speak, giving the familiar her full attention in the process. She frowned at the familiar's words. He would fall down? Balthasar did not seem the type to fall down so easily, however; perhaps that was just her one-sided affection for him. To her, there could be nothing in the world Balthasar couldn't do. She did, however, nod her head.

"Should that day ever come for him, I will be there. This, I promise," she spoke, her voice firm and unwavering. She would be there for him if he ever fell, and part of her felt a creeping fear that he just might. How soon, she couldn't say, but it did not stop that fact escape her. If, and when it came, she would deal with it accordingly. " have a favor to ask of you Ily," she spoke, her voice somewhat hesitant as she tried to form the words. "Will...will you let me know if something happens to him. If she does anything to jeopardize him?" she spoke. Though that would be up to Ilyana, and she would bear no grudge against the familiar if she decided not to. The rest of the day passed, the sound of a violin accompanying a piano, filled the empty air.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Leora Kuragari Character Portrait: Keir Alistair


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Keir Alistair was decidedly not in a good mood. He did not take well to people threatening his family, and they had all been targeted in the last month, by the form of letters. On top of that, Keir had felt...odd, like someone was watching him, but he could never sense anyone's presence or smell anyone, just empty air. It rankled him that no matter what they did, no one was found. Aryan had come to nothing but dead ends as well, when the man had time to look at all, the Council was wearing him thin.

Aryan von Nacht was a hell of a good liar, but even he had his limits. Keir let out a frustrated growl, the late October breeze mussing his hair slightly as he lay on the grass, leaves the color of fire raining down around him. One such leaf landed on his forehead, but he made no effort to remove it. Absentmindedly, his thoughts drifted to Leora. That brought at least a ghost of a smile to his lips. Their last encounter had been rather interesting, he'd had to admit. It made him wonder what she was planning next.

This had to stop. She felt it constantly, this prickle on the back of her neck like she was being watched. She was sensitive to the sensation—she had been watched for most of her life, and her father had impressed upon her at great length the importance of being aware of one’s surroundings. As such, she’d learned to distinguish this particular unease from all others. A few times, she’d been almost certain she’d seen or heard or smelled something, but every time she had attempted to follow that fleeting sensation, she’d turned up entirely nothing. Not even the traces of a presence. If the others hadn’t been experiencing something similar, she’d have thought she was crazy. Balthasar described it as almost constant. When she’d tried to talk to Hel about it, the girl had seemed the slightest bit surprised it wasn’t simply a conjuration of her own mind, but then she’d narrowed her eyes slightly, and shook her head. In the end, she’d said nothing further.

If it wasn’t that, it was the letters. Leo thought she understood the real reason the were sent. The threats were vague, and rarely anything she hadn’t seen or heard before, but the point was that no matter how hard they looked, it was impossible to figure out where they came from. Someone was taunting them, not with the threats themselves, but with the fact that they were so ignorant of where the letters even came from. She knew Ary and Uncle Morgan had both been working diligently to find the source, but nothing, and her brothers hadn’t turned up anything either. It was like the person they were dealing with was just… a ghost.

It had quickly become the reason for her rather harsh treatment of the gym equipment, and the last time he’d seen her, the Headmaster had joked he’d need a new budget line just for her pretty soon, could she please just go back to helping her cousins destroy school property? That had wrung a small smile from her, but she was finding it honestly difficult to be cheerful these days. Well… she knew something that would take her mind off of her foreboding feelings, and she lifted her chin, catching his scent on the air and smiling secretively to herself. Time for another round in the ring—but this one was very different from the boxing one.

He had to have smelled her by now—hers was not the kind of scent one could hide, which worked at times to her disadvantage. Nevertheless, he allowed her to approach without comment, perhaps to see what she would do. She sat just beside his shoulder, legs folded underneath her, and plucked the leaf from his head with evident amusement, tilting an eyebrow. She moved though, leaning forward so that her hair curtained their faces from outside view, a smirk tugging at her lips, which were perhaps eight inches at most from his. “Trying to become one with nature, Keir?” she asked, light amusement clear in her tone.

Keir looked up at Leora through half-lidded eyes. He reached up and touched the leaf she'd plucked from his forehead, the thing instantly becoming frosted. "Are you kidding? I'm already one with nature, in some sense."

He'd smelled her approach, but had said nothing, waiting to see what she'd do on her own. "This is a bit backwards. Normally I have to seek you out. That desperate for my company? You could have just asked, you know. How could I ever say no to my favorite cousin?" He smiled coyly at her, looking like a coyote.

“Well, the game wouldn’t be much fun if the players were always predictable, would it?” Leora asked by way of reply, cutting a mischief-laden glance at her cousin. She turned the leaf about in her fingers, twirling it by the stem, then shrugged and tucked it behind an ear, as though it were now some kind of strange hair accessory. Given that the colors of it were similar to her eyes, it contrasted sharply with the darkness of her locks. She chuckled softly, almost under her breath, at his assertion that he was one with nature, after a fashion.

“Oh? Shall I make it snow? Then you’d really be in your element, so to speak. I wouldn’t want you to feel too thrown off by my sudden change in tactics.” It was odd, but sometimes, it was easy to forget that she was trying to seduce him and just fall back into the way they’d always treated each other, like everything was a competition. But some part of her would never forget, and that despite the fact that she was close enough to feel his heat she did not touch him was evidence enough of this. The last time she had was quite not of her own intending, a couple months ago when Alarica had pulled her into a strange, extended three-way hug session. She’d not been oblivious to their proximity, and she’d rather enjoyed it.

Perhaps it had only made things worse. But if it was worse for her… she supposed she could only hope that it had made things a little more difficult for him as well.

Keir raised his eyebrows slightly. "Change of tactics? Hmm, it sounds interesting. But what would you do If I told you I didn't really care if I lost or not?"

That in and of itself was true, he really didn't care if he won or lost; either way, in his mind, he won, whether he had her in the end or not. If he did, well, that was just a bonus. And she didn't have to know that what he said was completely true. She could take it however she wanted, really. He rolled over, propping his chin up with his elbows. His ice blue eyes bored into hers, just watching, waiting, like some wolf watching its prey.

That predatory stare was almost enough to shorten her breath, but she feigned indifference to it, though she could almost feel it, even when she wasn’t seeing it. “I’d say you have a very strange way of acting like it,” Leo replied without missing a beat. Inwardly, she was a little more confused than she let on, however, because she detected that the statement was more or less honest. Surely she must be imagining that, because there were very few things that statement could possibly mean if true. It could express a painful level of indifference to her presence, or… it could express something almost the opposite—that he didn’t care, because the important part of the end result was the same either way. But the only thing a win and a loss had in common was a kiss…

So, detected honesty or not, she was going to treat the statement like it was false, and another maneuver in the game they were playing. Because she wasn’t too sure she wanted to contemplate either of those two possibilities at length, for what they would reveal about her. Leo had very clear personal boundaries when it came to things like this, and one of those boundaries was that emotions, real, powerful emotions, didn’t get involved. Because if anything ever went wrong, a break with her would never be clean. Her mother had told her about Fenrir—their shared blood created addicts. She would not do that. Not to anyone. And the best way to avoid it was to avoid entanglements of the sort that made the offer an option.

It was ironic, that she disliked shallow attachments, but they were all she’d ever let herself have. “And maybe I’d be a bit disappointed. We’ve been rivals for how long now? I rather count on a challenge from you, Keir. Unless you think I should take my efforts elsewhere…”

Keir feigned a hurt look. "And leave me all alone? Now you're just making me sad, Leo. I never said I wouldn't give you a challenge. I just said I don't care what the end outcome is. I mean, the bragging rights would be a nice thing to have, of course."

He stood up, crouching next to her as he whispered, "Come now, when have I not given you a challenge? Besides, the game is only half the fun, in the end." He stood up, leaving her. The game had taken a few different turns, and Keir, for one, was thoroughly enjoying himself.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Balthasar von Nacht Character Portrait: Emrys Alistair


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Emrys stretched slowly, the punching bag in front of him leaking sand at the hole he'd punched through the canvas. It really hadn't been his intention to bust it, but that was what ended up happening none the less. He shrugged, winding his way back through the Academy, finding his way back to where he was staying.

He busied himself by taking apart his guns, one by one, piece by piece. He was half-way through cleaning his second one when he felt his second eldest cousin approach. "Hey, Balthasar. Long time no see, yeah?"

Balthasar had left his own greetings until Emrys had at least been back long enough to make himself comfortable. There was no mistaking that he was one of the more popular relatives, and for good reason, perhaps. But everyone needed a bit of a break now and then, so he’d simply staved off his own approach. It wasn’t like there was a shortage of things for him to do in the meantime. Slow period in the war or not, Balthasar never ran out of things to do. Much like most of the rest of them. But in the end, he did want to speak to his cousin—though the were not as close as Emrys was with, say, Zero, they were certainly friends, being a bit closer in age than most.

“It has been a while,” he agreed amicably, taking a seat across from Emrys but far enough back from the table that he wasn’t taking up any of the space his cousin was using to clean his weapons. His usual slight half-smile adorned his face, not for any particular reason, but just because it was usually there. “How have you been? I understand things are slowing down a bit on the front.” Though he wouldn’t admit it aloud, Balthasar knew that Emrys knew that he often desired to be there himself, at the forefront of the battle rather than here. The fighting was the part he was good at—the strategy he could help with, but the espionage and politics, he was entirely useless with. Ary had inherited all of their father’s talents in those regards, and Balthasar, oddly enough, had wound up with their mother’s disinclination to play mind games.

But he’d been specifically asked to stay here and do this, for whatever reason, and though he sometimes wondered if it hadn’t been done just to keep him out of the way, he still took his task very seriously. He was to defend them, and nothing he could think of was more important than that.

Emrys grinned wider. "Slower than a turtle, really. You still got your pants bunched about being stuck here? Someone had to stay behind with Z, and let's face it. You're a bit more important than I am. Besides, be grateful. Good at fighting or not, it takes its toll on you, being on the front lines, and it ain't easy to pay." Emrys would certainly know about that. He'd killed more than his fair share, and frankly, no matter how much he loved battle, it was wearing him down. Fighting was one thing, killing was another.

Losing Ryvrn really had been the last straw. During the last two years, Em had pulled out of the fighting for the most part, helping behind the scenes and only taking part in the minor battles. It was also partially the reason he was here at the Academy now, the Twins being comatose only gave him an excuse to come.

He snapped the top back on the gun, the weapon making a mechanical click as he did so, and he set it to the side, picking up the third one. "And, you won't be completely alone anymore. It seems I'll be sticking around for a while. Apparently I'm getting put on protection detail for Aryan. Bet he'll just love that."

“And that toll is precisely why we should all be taking a turn at it, not leaving half of the ones our age to languish around here,” Balthasar pointed out, his eyes narrowing slightly. He didn’t like it when he was called more important than any of his relatives, because he wasn’t. They were just as important as he was, every last one of them, and to him, they were moreso. It wasn’t right that Emrys had to be out there all the time, dealing with the killing, paying the toll, while he just sat on his hands and did absolutely nothing. It was against his nature to be indolent while other people were in danger. It was true that not all of them were fighters, but the ones who were should be doing more of it, to take the pressure off everyone else.

He caught himself, though, and sighed through his nose, letting his eyes fall closed for a moment. He was still, of course, painfully aware of everything that was going on around him—he never ceased to be, not in this sense. He might not understand everything, but he noticed basically all of it. A muscle in his jaw jumped before he eased it, and he shook his head. “I’m sure he won’t, but if he’s dealing with the Council on a frequent basis, he needs the help, regardless of what he might think.” Sometimes, it was hard to tell that Balthasar was the oldest brother among the lot of them, but other times, like now, it was perfectly evident. He hated that he was stuck in a situation where he was useless, and no amount of levity or teasing was going to change that.

He managed to find the smile again, though, even if it was edged in melancholy this time. “I’m sorry about Ryvrn,” he said sincerely. It was a guess, actually, but a very good guess. He hadn’t smelled or sensed the familiar at all since Emrys arrived, and that was so far from normal it could really only mean one thing. He wasn’t one to push the topic any further than that, however, and would let the matter drop without a question if that’s what Emrys wanted.

It was Emrys's turn to sigh through his nose. "It's been two years, I'm fine." His tone was a bit harsher than he intended, but he'd already spoken about Ryvrn once today, he was not in the mood for more.

"When it comes to asking for help, Aryan's worse than anyone else. It'll be fun, I haven't gotten to mess with the kid for a while." Speaking of the council...

A rather knowing grin etched its way onto the eldest Alistair's face, and he cocked an eyebrow at Bal. "So...what's this I hear about you and Snowe?"

He obviously wasn’t fine if he was that waspish about it, but Balthasar, as he did with many things, simply let it go. He managed some amusement at his cousin’s assessment of his brother, as it was more or less true. The both of them were pretty bad about asking for help, actually. Perhaps it, like so much of what they were, was a family trait. Regardless, he gave a little shrug, at least until the conversation turned to Elizabeth. Then he frowned slightly.

“I suppose I should expect by now that people would talk,” he murmured. Eventually, he’d get used to living under a microscope, but not quite yet, perhaps. “It’s probably what you’ve heard, really. She, uh… we’re… dating? It seems so strange, to say it that way.” He wasn’t really sure what his cousin wanted him to say here. This was almost as confusing as yesterday, when Leora had walked right up to him for no reason at all and punched him square in the jaw. It had cracked, actually, though the healing was almost immediate. She hadn’t even explained, either, just huffed at him and walked away.

Honestly… he was getting a little tired of having no idea what the hell he’d done wrong, but nobody seemed inclined to tell him, either.

Emrys was amused at his cousin. Perhaps he should be a bit more angry, like Keir, but then, these things had a way of fixing themselves, Em wasn't really one to meddle much. Still, Balthasar's utter lack of what was going on in the situation perhaps required a bit of counsel. In that regard, he set the last gun to the side. He propped his head against his fist, an odd mirror image of his father.

"So, is it that you are dating, or is that simply what you're telling everybody because you have no idea what's actually going on? Rumors fly, each one crazier than the last, and you know me, Balthasar, I don't follow rumors. I go to the source, and right now, that's you. Do you like her?"

“Of course I do,” Balthasar responded, perhaps a little too quickly. Realizing his own error, he shook his head ruefully. “Look, I… I don’t really get it in about ninety-nine percent of cases, as everyone seems perfectly happy to remind me. But stuff like this isn’t supposed to happen overnight, right? She’s a good person, and a great friend. I’m just… giving things a chance.” That had been basically what Rica advised him to do—to let things be as they would be for a while and see what happened from there. Plus… Elizabeth seemed to be really happy, and he couldn’t deny that he enjoyed seeing her like that. It even brought him a little bit of strange satisfaction to know that he was the person responsible for that happiness.

“She makes me feel like I’m doing something right for once, like I don’t need to be anybody but me.” And when he was acutely able to feel the ways in which he was never enough, that was really a gift. Did he love her for it? He didn’t know, because he didn’t know how love was supposed to feel. Sure, he knew things from watching his parents and relatives, but… seeing his mother happy made his father happy. It wasn’t all there was to it, but it was part of it, right?

Emrys chuckled slightly. Jasper's son, indeed. Still, he wasn't going to push the subject any farther than he already had. It really wasn't any of his business. "Just remember, Coz, there is a big difference between giving something a chance and leading someone on. Just make sure you know what you want. I don't want to see you get hurt, is all." And that was utterly true, because he knew for a fact if something got screwed up, Alarica and Leora would probably pulverize him. Leora had already gotten a head start on that, as well.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Alarica Alistair Character Portrait: Emrys Alistair


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Alarica pursed her lips together, staring straight at the bright blue eyes of her familiar. Angelus merely swayed his tails back and forth, amusement crossing his features as Alarica blinked slowly. This staring contest had been going on for ten minutes, something Angelus found very amusing. She placed the black disc across the red one, taking the red one in the process. If he could have, Angelus would have smiled wickedly, instead, settling for the small little smirk his lips could make. This was perhaps the reason why Alarica was not the strategist of the family. Or perhaps she just wasn't good at playing Checkers. Whichever it was, it was still very amusing.

"Perhaps you should have chosen another game?" he stated as he used the last of his red checkers and claimed a spot. "King me," he spoke as Alarica rolled her eyes. Before she could retort to his statement, something in the air caught her attention. She knew that scent. Oh she knew that scent. Abruptly, she stood from her chair, almost knocking it over in the process. Angelus jumped from the table, trailing behind her as she walked, perhaps with a bit more fervor than most usually walked. He tilted his head slightly as he watched her face, studying it for any sign of discomfort or perhaps a feeling of danger, but there was none.

"Why didn't you tell us you were back?" Alarica stated, staring up at a tree that seemed apparently empty. Angelus tilted his head slightly, staring at the tree for a moment, and was about to ask if his master was going insane. "Uncle Vincent said you were supposed to be in Romania right now," she spoke, her lips pulling into a frown as she crossed her arms over her chest. She knew he was there. She'd always known where her brothers were. She was as intune with them as they were any of her other family members.

A laugh answered her, a loud, ringing tone, one that was both calm and jolly all at the same time. As the laughter sounded, Emrys shimmered into view, losing the ghost-like quality to his appearance. The bracelets on his wrists jingled as he lept out of the tree, landing lightly in front of his sister. "Now how is it I can hide from Keir and everyone else, but not you?" There was an easy smile on his face, something reminiscent of their father, but not quite as...cold.

His red eyes lighted on Angelus, and he bent down, offering his index finger to the little familiar. "So this is the little guy who's been driving Luke up the wall, huh?" He smiled, but the look softened when he glanced back up at his sister. "I heard what happened to Mikhail. I'm so sorry, Rica. That's why I came back, I heard you and Keir were comatose. I'm late, as always, but, you know how traffic can be. There wasn't time to send word ahead of me, really, and I didn't let anyone know where I was going till I got here. Mom'll be pissed, I'm sure, but I'll deal with that later."

"Because you are my brother? And they aren't as perceptive?" she replied with a nonchalant shrug of her shoulders. "And you forget that I inherited mom's ability. I always know where you're at," she replied, the smirk returning to her face. It was perhaps the reason why when they played hide-and-seek, Emrys could not hide from her. He could hide from the others, but never from her. She'd just nullify it a bit so that she could sense where he was, and over the years, it just came to her. Angelus, however, leaned into Emrys' hand as he purred softly. Alarica then frowned at the next statement.

"Mikhail," she began, pausing to release a deep sigh. "Mikhail died protecting us. He died protecting me," she began, pursing her lips together as she remembered her familiar's words. She banished them from her thoughts as she turned towards Angelus, scooping him up in her arms in the process. "And yes, Angie here has been terrorizing Lulu ever since she was born," she replied, a small smile returning to her face. Angelus merely smirked when Alarica referred to him as she but said nothing about it. He'll tell her one day, but for now, he was biding his time.

"Speaking of which," she paused, glancing around, half expecting something to materialize out of thin air, but nothing happened. "Where is Ryvrn?" she questioned, half expecting the familiar to pop out with the mentioning of his name. Ryvrn and Emrys were as close as Mikhail was to Alarica and Alucard was to Keir. For him to not be by Emrys' side, it was a little startling, and Alarica could not stop the hairs along her neck to stand, nor the chill that ran down her spine at the silence.

Familiars had an uncanny way of protecting their masters, and they were all fiercely loyal, without a doubt. Emrys, and now Rica, knew that all too well. He'd been petting Angelus when his hand stilled at her question. There was a dark shadow across his eyes, hiding them from his sister, but the familiar could see them. Two years, and it hadn't gotten any easier. It had only been a couple of months for Alarica, and she'd created a new familiar. She had more guts than her older brother, he should be ashamed.

There was a sad little smirk on his face when he spoke, though it was not a direct answer. "You're a lot braver than me, Rica. You were able to create this little guy, even after losing Mik. But I can't. It's been two years since I lost Ryvrn, and half the time I can't even speak his name, let alone think of creating a new familiar."

Alarica frowned at the first choice words that Emrys spoke, and it wasn't until his full statement crossed her, that she realized exactly what had happened. Ryvrn was gone, just like Mikhail was. Her brows knotted, furrowing before she reached out, placing a hand on her brother's shoulder in the process. Mikhail's death still affected her, she still cried when no one else was watching, and to have just lost him a few months prior, she couldn't possibly fathom how it would have felt losing him two years ago. Angelus merely glanced up at the darkened eyes of Emrys and jumped upon his shoulder, rubbing his face against Emrys' in an attempt to soothe.

"I'm sorry, Em," she stated, finally slipping her arms around his torso and leaning against his chest. She felt her breath still, her eyes burning as she tried to keep herself from crying. "At least he has Mikhail to keep him company. Those two were just about as inseparable as our family," she stated, trying to convince herself that her familiar was somewhere in the afterlife humans were so fond of speaking. Did familiars even get an afterlife? In a way, they were merely carbon copies of their master, something created from them. They were not born, they were not given life, only by the blood of their master.

"I know you won't do it, so I'll do it for you," she replied solemnly. With that, the tears that she held back finally loosened themselves upon her face, cascading like the autumn rain, hellbent on falling no matter the restraint on it.

Emrys smiled sadly at Angelus and Alarica, his arms wrapping around his sister. He wiped away some of her tears with his thumb. She knew him all too well. He never had been one to cry, he couldn't even remember if he actually cried when Ryvrn died, he was pretty sure he'd just sort of stared in some dumbfounded shock.

"Thank you, Rica." He whispered softly.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Zero Kuragari Character Portrait: Yuki Alistair-von Nacht


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Yuki sighed through her nose. For once, the roof was her own. She found herself in a position much like the one Zero usually occupied when he was here. She was lying on her back with her fingers laced behind her head. Her feet were propped up on the bench, and her hair, for once free of the black and purple ribbon she kept it pulled back with, was fanned out around her. The breeze ruffled the ends of her hair every so often, sending a lock or two shimmering over the flat expanse of her exposed stomach.

It had been about a week now, since she'd fed off of Zero on this roof. It wasn't that it had been bothering her, because it wasn't. What was bothering her was the fact that, ever since she had, she'd become increasingly aware of his presence. She knew when he entered a room, when he left, and was always able to tell how far or close he was. It....unnerved her, and she didn't know what to do about it. She was quite sure she understood what it meant, as you didn't spend a hundred years around two people like Nikki and Jasper and not understand at least something about love.

She was also well aware of her cousins' tendencies, but familial love and unrequited love were two very different things, and she was fairly certain that Zero Kuragari felt nothing other than familial love for her. Besides, she couldn't be that way with anyone, especially a Pure Blood. She closed her yellow eyes. She shouldn't be thinking about this. What was the point? There was no way to stop it, she'd known that for years.

Zero had laughed, the look upon Alarica's face had been priceless and it was well worth the bruise he currently sported on his left bicep. He sighed softly, mussing his hair as he tried to get the sticks and leaves from it. He'd fallen out of the tree laughing so hard and had hit a few branches along the way down. He chuckled still as he wandered the halls of the Academy, adamant about skipping his classes and not attending them as per usual. It wasn't at all odd, and it wasn't like his grades were dropping anyway. It was an understanding between him, Leora, and the Headmaster. The Headmaster was aware of Zero's absence from the classes, but as long as his grades didn't slip, he was usually left alone.

A familiar scent on the wind caused Zero to stop momentarily in his tracks, and glanced up at towards the roof of the Academy. She was up there. A smirk crossed his face as he thought for a moment. It was night time anyways, and no one would have a problem with what he was about to do. So, without further hesitance, Zero jumped, landing with a soft thud upon the roof. His eyes zoned in on her and he made his way quietly towards her, though she would be able to sense him or smell him at least.

"So, care to tell me why you've been avoiding me as of late?" he stated, plopping down beside her, assuming the same position she was in with his hands resting behind his head as he stared at the sky. The stars were shining brightly above them, and he was inclined to turn his head to face her. "Was it because of something you saw?" he spoke, a hint of concern lacing his voice before disappearing.

She'd been well aware when he was walking across the courtyard, and even more so when he jumped. She didn't move as he positioned himself next to her, and at first, she didn't answer, she simply stared upwards. When she finally did speak, it was in that flat tone she'd used back when she'd first met her mother. It was one she didn't use very often anymore, but it did crop up every now and again, especially in situations that she really didn't want to deal with.

"No, Zero. Frankly your memories are not that different from Balthasar's or Aryan's, save for a few instances. Though I will be having a few choice words with my little brother at some point."

She sighed through her nose. No, it was not his memories that bothered her. It was the fact that she could not ignore the feeling in the pit of her stomach, no matter how hard she tried. She wanted to believe with every fiber of her being that by not addressing her feelings, she was protecting him. But what if she wasn't? But telling him, and being rejected, or worse, having those feelings reciprocated, was not something she was willing to risk. She wouldn't do that to him.

"I wouldn't say I've been avoiding you. Our paths simply have not crossed." That was a blatent lie. She had been avoiding him. She knew it, and he knew it. She sat up, her hair curtaining around her head. Her eyes were almost golden in the moonlight. "Why do you ask, anyway? Does it bother you, what I did?"

Zero quirked an eyebrow at her first response. A few choice words with her brother? About what? He didn't say anything that would have offended her, did he? Zero searched through his own memories, the most recent one of Aryan's and his conversation. "If it is anything to do with what I said, I meant every word of it Yuki," he spoke, watching as she sat up and continued speaking. At that, he merely smirked. She was lying; they both knew she was lying. She had been avoiding him, though he did not know the reason why. He too sat up from his spot, turning to look at Yuki in the process.

"And if I said yes? If I said that it did bother me that my cousin was avoiding me?" he spoke, the smirk merely remaining as he stared, golden eyes captivating him as they usually did. There was something about them, the molten color mixing with the light of the moon. He sighed softly through his nose before reaching a hand out towards her, grabbing her arm gently as he pulled her towards him, placing her so that his arms were wrapped around her torso and his head resting in the crook of her neck.

"Yes Yuki, it does bother me because you are family. If I did something to upset you, I want you to tell me so that I can make it up to you. I do not need my family avoiding me, especially you," he spoke, his tone low, his breath warm against her neck. He truly didn't like it, her avoiding him. There was an ache in his heart when she did, and he would rather her not avoid him for something that couldn't be helped. He wasn't his cousin, Balthasar. He would not sit back and let his family avoid him, not if he could do something about it. Though Alarica seemed to have returned to speaking with him, he'd rather not have Yuki avoid him like Alarica had avoided Balthasar.

Yuki blinked at Zero slightly, not entirely sure what to do when he wrapped his arms around her. The teasing, the jesting, she could all take, but...this, she didn't know what to do with this. Still, she did what she always did. She sorted through the statements, and she answered them. If her pulse was racing slightly at their close proximity, well...she would just have to ignore that.

"It has naught to do with what you said, it has to do with Aryan sticking his nose in where it doesn't belong." That, was true, at least. Her brother needed to mind his own business, and not try and shove them together when--

She forced herself to stop thinking about it. She had been dwelling on it far too much lately. At this rate, she was liable to tell someone. So, she switched topics, instead addressing his last statements. "I was not referring to my avoidance of you. I was referring to my feeding from you." She admitted it then, though she didn't want to think of the reason behind his not liking it when she avoided him. He'd said it was because they were family, but there was a subtle undertone, one that she was not at all comfortable with. Or rather, she was too comfortable with. There could be nothing between them, not of that nature. She couldn't do that to him. She wouldn't do that to him.

"It's a brother's job to stick their nose where it doesn't belong, especially in regards to their sister, older or not," he responded, though the frown that marred his face twisted into a light smile. At least she wouldn't avoid him, that was all that mattered, however, she had avoided him because she fed from him? Why did that seem...wrong? It was as if that was what she was trying to convince herself of, that the reason she wouldn't speak to him this week was because she fed from him. He shook his head softly, releasing a held breath as he closed his eyes.

"There is nothing wrong with you feeding from me. You were in need of blood and I was the only one who could provide it. It did not bother me at all that I could do that for you Yuki. I would do anything for you," he stopped himself there at that sentence. He was about to say something he wasn't quite ready to, not yet. He smiled once more, however; it faltered shortly there after. "Is something bothering you, Yuki? You do know that you can come to me for something, I've told you this once before," he spoke, his tone reverting to something a little more serious.

Yuki looked at him, something flashing through her eyes, something caught between hesitance and sorrow. She shouldn't tell him. She shouldn't tell anyone. But she wanted to tell him. Even if he never found out how she felt about him, this, at least, was something he should know about. They all should know about it.

But she didn't want them all treating her differently, knowing that she was going to die. She didn't want them wasting their time trying to figure out how to save her when they couldn't. She'd been searching for a way for almost a century now, there was no way. Yuki was going to die, and that was the end of it.

She let out the breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding. "It's one thing to bring a problem, it's quite another to..." She sighed. Perhaps she should explain a little. "Kisuke tried to turn me into a Pure Blood, and in the end, he did the exact opposite. I'm more or less human, and because of that, my body can't stand up to the strain of being a vampire. As such, the experimentation severely shortened my life span. Most Nobles live for at least five hundred years, if not longer." She pulled her knees up to her chest, wrapping her arms around them.

"I've got fifty years left to live, at best."

Zero blinked, confusion evident upon his features. He knew Kisuke experimented on Yuki, but he did not think it was to that extent. He was trying to create a pure-blood, by the means of experimenting on his own daughter. He felt his jaw clench, tightening, constricting before it locked in place. He had not known what rage felt like, to feel the pulsing anger that burned through his blood at just the mere thought of Kisuke. If he wasn't already dead, Zero would have tortured him, denied him death for as long as he possibly could until Zero was finished with him. Then, a bout of fear crept upon him. Fifty years? She only had fifty years to live?

That...didn't seem fair. Why had she never told him? Any of them? If she had...his eyes glazed over as he stared at her. His cousin, this woman, who he grew so fond of over the years, was going to die. Fifty years time, that was a blink of an eye for a pure-blood. But for humans, it was relatively normal. Fifty years of life was plenty for most humans, while some of them were able to reach the delicate age of one hundred. But Yuki wasn't a human. She had been correct, Nobles only live for so long, the oldest ones living to be a little over a thousand. He knew one such Noble, but he hadn't spoken to him in years. His arms shot out to Yuki, grasping her so that she was turned to face him.

"Why?" were the only words that seemed to leave his lips. Nothing seemed to make sense to him and he was confused. "Why didn't you tell me?" he spoke, his voice laced with anger, sorrow, regret? He didn't bother to hide the fact that he left out the whole family, that he had addressed himself, and none of the others. The others didn't matter. He wanted to know why she didn't tell him. With one fluid movement, he pulled her to him, his lips descending upon hers.

Yuki wasn't really sure what she'd been expecting. Anger, perhaps, or sorrow, but not...not this. This shouldn't be happening. He couldn't love her. There was no future with her, and Zero deserved so much better than that. He deserved better than her.

Even so, she made no effort to fight him as he kissed her, her arms entwining themselves around his shoulders. When they parted, she answered him, but she couldn't meet his eyes. She was afraid of what she would see, of what he would see. "What would be the point? Nothing can be done about it, and if you didn't know then...I could have gone off and died in some attack, no one had to know. You could move on, forget about me. You deserve better than me."

She hadn't realized she was crying until she stopped speaking. "I have no life to offer you, what right do I have to tell you how I feel?" She whispered.

Zero unintentionally coiled his fingers tightly around Yuki's shoulder, the anger still shining behind his eyes. She...thought that of him? That he could possibly forget about her? That he could move on without her? He couldn't do either of those. He loved her. He had loved her for as long as he could remember. He couldn't deny that fact. To simply forget the first woman he's ever loved, was not something he could do. He couldn't do.

"Because we can still make a life out of it. That is why. How could you possibly ever think that I could forget about you? What I deserve is for me to decide, no one else, not even you. And what I deserve is to know that the woman I love, loves me as well. If she does not, that will mean nothing to me, because I cannot love another. I will not. Dying in an attack is not the same as dying regardless. If you died in an attack, I could avenge you, but this...I cannot avenge you for this."

Each word he spoke, felt like he was ripping himself apart. How could she think so lowly of him? Perhaps it was partially, if not all, of his fault. But he had never known. She had never told anyone. What...what were her parents going to say when they found out? He sighed softly, running a hand through her snow-white locks. "I love you, Yuki. I really do, more than I can even understand myself. My life would have no meaning without you in it," he spoke, releasing himself from her and standing behind her. He glanced at her, giving her one final look before he fell from the top of the Academy, landing with all the grace granted to his kind, and made his way to his dormitory.

Yuki shut her eyes. He loved her. He loved her. It didn't seem to matter whether she loved him or not, she'd already stolen that from him. And for that, she hated herself. The tears streamed silently down her face as he left, leaving her unable to speak. She clutched at her chest as she fell to her knees, her shoulders shaking in an effort to keep the sobs from tearing themselves from her throat. She wanted desperately to run after him, to tell him, but she didn't. She stayed where she was.

He would forget her. He would forget because he had to.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Balthasar von Nacht Character Portrait: Yuki Alistair-von Nacht


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Balthasar exhaled in some degree of wry frustration, the general upward motion of the air current he produced propelling his stubborn forelock almost horizontal for a moment, before it flopped back down in front of his nose like always. Shaking his head, he stood smoothly from his lotus position, rolling his shoulders and pressing the tips of his fingers into his left deltoid. It wasn’t sore—he had to undergo a lot more physical exertion than was usually possible to start experiencing muscle ache, but it was a bit stiff, probably because he’d been sitting like this for four hours.

Meditation was a practice his parents had encouraged in him, to help him with his control, which could often be… dubious, at best. There was something always there, in the back of his mind, that whispered to him in a voice that was not his, attempting to lure him with the promises of his own blood. For all that anyone knew, Balthasar was a somewhat-dense, but well-meaning fellow, who was perhaps a little too beholden to the whims of other people. But somewhere, deep down underneath that, was something else, something dark and quite possibly wicked. He didn’t understand it, but it was like all his desires and his temptations were bound up with his power, and he kept it contained in the smallest ball of untouchable things possible and tried to lock it in the furthest possible corner of his mind.

The metaphor was a little too spatial, but it was close enough. There was a part of him that needed constant restraint, and he didn’t like it. But he couldn’t indulge his own whims like other people could, because there was always a chance that something would go horribly wrong. He had no idea what he’d become, if he allowed that power to overtake him, but he was pretty sure he wouldn’t like it. Pursing his lips, he sighed softly and decided to go do something productive. That usually helped when meditation did not.

He found himself walking towards the infirmary, and he could smell that Yuki was there, probably working as always. There hadn’t been nearly as many patients lately, but there was always something to do. He found her sorting through paperwork, perhaps test results or patient files, and took a seat across from her, smiling kindly. With a look, it was easy enough to figure out how she was sorting things, and he took to doing the same. Many hands made light work after all. “Hey sis. How are you?”

It had been three days since her encounter with Zero on the roof, and she'd not spoken to him since. She wasn't sure of what to say, anyhow. What right did she have to tell him she loved him when she'd caused him such obvious pain? As far as she could tell, he hadn't said a word to anyone, either, and for that, she was grateful.

As it were, she was so absorbed in what she was doing, for once in her life, she had no idea that Balthasar was even there until he spoke. It actually made her jump, and for a second, all she could do was stare at him. She blinked, her eyes falling back down to the papers and charts strewn across the table, and she sighed. There were dark circles under her eyes.

"Hey, Bal...sorry. I'm...not my best, at the moment." It wasn't an outright lie, but it wasn't the whole truth either. She quickly scooped up the charts that had been in front of her, specifically, her charts. For some unknown reason, she had the sudden desire to go over them again, and see if she'd missed anything. Whether it had anything to do with Zero or not, she didn't care. At least, that was what she told herself.

He glanced down in time to see what she was holding, and wondered what she was doing with her own medical files. But this, like everything else, was something she would tell him if she felt so inclined, and he wasn’t going to bring it up. Instead, he helped her sort them, mostly by what kind of data they contained, and he noted she’d been doing a lot of bloodwork on herself over the years. Curious, but he stilled his tongue even so, stacking the papers neatly and straightening the corners with his thumb until they were precisely in alignment. He had a few weird tics like this, but he just couldn’t help himself.

In the end, though, he did feel the need to make a more general inquiry. It was not like Yuki to be so… skittish, especially not around him. They’d known each other for a long time, after all, and their relationship had always been deep in its simplicity. He was her brother, and she his sister. It was purely that, and that lack of complication allowed for much to be spoken freely between them. “Do you need to talk about it?” he asked softly, folding his hands onto the table in front of him and tilting his head slightly to one side, meeting her eyes with his own. He didn’t ask if she wanted to, because he was pretty sure that she didn’t. But there was a difference between wanting to discuss what was bothering her and needing someone to hear it.

Yuki sighed softly, looking at her brother with a half-hearted smile. "Is it that obvious?" She looked down at the files in front of her, the most recent on top. It showed various data, but the most important was the fact that it showed that her body was breaking down, and rapidly at that, to anyone who could read them. At first, she wasn't sure she should tell him.

And then the words tumbled out of her without her consent. "You're aware of what Kisuke did to me. He wanted to make me a Pure Blood by accessing our Grandmother's blood line through me. But, he failed. The problem is, he made me..." She paused, unsure of exactly how to explain it.

She set her mouth in a grim line. "You remember the story of what happened to Uncle Morgan? How he basically fell to Level E status and then came back? Essentially, the same thing is happening to me. But, it's a lot slower. And...there's no coming back from it. Not for me, at least." She looked down at her hands. "Give or take, I've got about fifty years left."

For a long moment, Balthasar did not say anything. He simply processed. And then, he took one of the medical charts off the top of the stack and read it over properly, still in silence. He was no expert, but he knew enough to understand what the data meant, and he realize with a heavy hit of dread that she was right. A deep breath expanded his chest, and when he let it out again, he seemed to deflate a little. Fifty years… that was almost nothing at all, and yet… any of them could die, on any day. The difference was that this was a hard deadline, not merely indeterminacy.

Some small thing, a fragment of the light inside his heart, flickered out, and his eyes seemed to dull in their color, just a little. When he looked at her, it was with open sadness, as one who has just endured something unspeakable. He swallowed, setting down the little piece of the chart, and for a moment, he considered making her an offer—humanity was not the same as being a vampire, but… He shook his head then, mostly to himself. That would give her, at most, ten more years than she had. And even if it did, they would be ten years in which she was no longer the same person she had been. He knew he would never want that, and he knew enough of her to understand that she would not, either. Besides, it would demand another life in exchange, and while he knew that the list of people who would willingly give theirs for that if she wanted it was quite long, it was also full of people she would not allow to die for her.

Bracing his hands on the desk, Balthasar pushed himself into a stand, moving around the table to be beside her, then he took her hand and tugged her up as well, mostly so he could wrap his arms around his sister’s back and hug her tightly. She had difficulty expressing her feelings, he knew this very well, but that did not mean that she was without them. “I love you, sister,” he said quietly, “and when you are gone, I will miss you every day. But I have had eighty-five years by your side, and every one of them has been a gift. In this, the next fifty will be no different. It is like Aunt Ava has always told us: it is not the years in your life, but the life in your years. And you have lived well, Yuki. So… all I can ask is that you keep doing that. Live until you can’t live anymore—and put as much into those years as you can handle. If you can do that…” he trailed off, his voice cracking faintly with the emotion he was holding behind his words.

“Then you’ll have defeated him, once and for all.” It would seem that killing Kisuke Sou had not quite managed to erase him from their lives, but this, if Yuki could do this… then she would have won, in the end, and all he wanted was for her to be as happy as she possibly could.

For the first time in three days, Yuki actually smiled. Granted, her face was currently buried in her brother's chest, but still. His words had been exactly what she'd needed to hear. He was right, of course, she needed to make the most of what she had left. And she intended to do just that, starting off with an apology to a certain Kuragari.

"Thank you, Big Brother." She whispered, wrapping her arms around him.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Alarica Alistair Character Portrait: Zero Kuragari


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She was avoiding him again. For three days, she had ceased to talk to him, to come to him, to interact with him. And he hated it. Was this how Balthasar felt when Alarica was avoiding him? He couldn't fathom the feeling if Yuki avoided him for three years as Alarica had, and that was a thought he did not want to entertain. He sighed, running a hand through his hair as he released a rather harsh sigh. Had he done the right thing by telling her? Or did he just make things worse for her by telling her? H couldn't discern the difference, and as he was lost in thought, failed to notice a presence trailing behind him.

"If I had been an assassin, I would have killed you already," Alarica stated, the cold sensation of metal being pressed upon Zero's neck. He glanced at her through the side of his eyes, noting the smirk that littered her features, but he couldn't bring himself to return it. She rose an eyebrow at this. "So, Zero would have preferred to die?" she spoke, the question being stated carefully as she kept her brow raised. Zero visibly flinched at the word, causing Alarica to purse her lips together. She removed Ulrik from his neck, shifting the blade so that it retained its smaller form. "Something is bothering you," she stated in a matter-of-fact tone.

"I'm just tired, Lala," he stated, the tone of his voice stating otherwise. Alarica rose an eyebrow, placing Ulrik away before crossing her arms across her chest, tapping her foot. "Really, I've had a lot on my mind," he spoke honestly. He did have a lot on his mind. If Yuki's sudden declaration was considered a lot. Alarica merely sighed, keeping up with his long strides until they found themselves underneath a cherry blossom tree. She sat, cross-legged and motioned for him to do the same. He lay, his head in her lap as she ran her fingers through his hair. He closed his eyes and sighed heavily through his nose. "How do you do it? How do you stay the way you do seeing him with another?"

Alarica paused in running her fingers through his hair before resuming the gesture. She sighed at the question, musing it over a few times before forming the right words. "Because I cannot be selfish. His happiness is the only thing that I want, and if he is happy with another, then I too am happy. It doesn't matter how I feel about it Zero. If he chooses to love her...then what right do I have to take it away? He deserves--" she was cut off by the harsh glare he sent her, amaranth meeting sea-foam green. There was that word again, deserve. What made them think they knew what he and Balthasar deserved? The only people who could ever know that was themselves.

"What makes you so sure of what he deserves? You don't know what he deserves because you are not him, Alarica. You cannot presume to know what other people deserve," he snapped, sitting up abruptly to turn and face her, however; he was stopped when Alarica's hand pushed him back down. "I'm sorry Lala," he stated softly as she continued running her hand through his hair. She had matched his glare with one of her own, but she knew her cousin meant nothing by it. It was obvious enough that whatever was bothering him was making him extremely volatile. And she could only guess that it might have something to do with Yuki. He always reacted this way when it involved her.

"You are right, I cannot assume to know what other people deserve, but I do know that I do not deserve him. And if I do not deserve him, someone else does. I cannot say I know how Yuki feels. I do not know how she feels about you, but I do know how you feel about her. You have to understand, Zero, it's not easy. Telling someone that you love them, is not an easy task," she stated softly. Zero sighed softer this time, closing his eyes again. Perhaps it was, perhaps it wasn't. But then again, Alarica didn't know what he did. She didn't know that Yuki was going to die. For a moment, he contemplated telling her, but shook the thought from his head. He couldn't tell his cousin that, not unless Yuki wanted to first.

"Sing something for me Lala," he spoke, dropping the subject and leaving it where it stood. Alarica smiled softly, shaking her head before humming a soft tune. She began to sing, allowing the melody to soothe him as Zero lay still, his mind flooded with thoughts of her. Zero had a chance, or so Alarica thought. He had a chance to tell Yuki how he felt about her, and to see how she felt about him, but Alarica did not. She didn't have that chance simply because she was too late. And they both knew it, but the others refused to accept it. Was it really all that bad?


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Balthasar von Nacht Character Portrait: Aryan von Nacht


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Aryan frowned. He seemed to be doing a lot of that lately. There was a lot going on, and none of it he was very fond of. Something had happened between Yuki and Zero, and the way they were avoiding each other like the plague over the last few days, whatever it was, it wasn't good. On top of that, Emrys had just left him, informing him that, as of now, the eldest Alistair was to be joining him whenever he was on Council business.

Aryan was not stupid, he could see the pros of having Emrys around, however...the man was not very tactful, and Aryan was not sure he could keep his mouth shut. Aryan sighed through his nose. This was going to be interesting, to say the least.

Medusa repositioned herself on his shoulders. "You are troubled, no, massster?" The golden snake hissed in his ear. He glanced at her with purple eyes. "That is one way of putting it, Dusa, yes...I'm worried about Yuki."

"Ssshe doesss seem a little...ssstresssed of late..."

Balthasar sighed, cracking his neck first in one direction and then the other and rolling his shoulders. Elizabeth had just been over to his dorm, something that he occasionally managed to find a bit… awkward, but then, knowing him, it was bound to be. He was in the rather unfavorable position of someone quite obviously wanting more of him than he was willing to give, at least at this stage of thing. Flattering, but… very uncomfortable. He might have upset her, actually, and that made him feel bad. Shaking his head at himself, he moved the thoughts aside for the moment and left the premises. He had a couple of books to return to the Library.

Upon reaching it, he discovered that his brother was already within, wearing a troubled expression that was rare, at least publicly. His familiar was draped over his shoulders, which was usually the only time Balthasar ever saw her. He managed a bit of a smile, sighing inwardly. It seemed like nobody was having a good time of things lately, even compared to the way things usually were. Emrys and Leora had basically torn apart the gym between them, Yuki was… well, he hoped she was doing a bit better, but it was hard to see the positives in a situation like that. The twins seemed most all right, but then, they usually weathered the storms with that indefatigable spirit of theirs, even if Rica was still mourning for Mikhail.

Turning a wooden chair backwards, Balthasar sat in it, facing his brother with his arms folded over the back of it and his chin resting atop them. He didn’t say anything, really, rather waiting in expectant silence for Ary to do that first.

Aryan raised a slight eyebrow as his brother sat down. He always did seem to know when to show up. Sometimes it was a bit unnerving really. Aryan was absent-mindedly stroking Medusa's head, the familiar's deep green eyes dropping closed. There were actually a great many questions that he would have asked, but over half of them he expected his brother to be incapable of answering.

"Do you know what is going on with our sister? Yuki has been...avoiding me." That was true, and that troubled him to no end. It didn't help matters that he was fairly certian the reason she was avoiding him was because there was something she wasn't telling him, telling them, and she knew he would be able to get it out of her.

It hurt because that meant she didn't trust him, and Aryan wasn't sure what to do with that.

To the heart of the matter as always. Some people might find this tendency of his brother’s irritating or at the very least unnerving, but Balthasar was just proud of him. Ary was sharp as a knife, and he had a way of seeing through deception that, while not as literal as what their cousin Alden could do, was nevertheless impressive. Naturally, it would be useless to attempt a lie, and even if he could have succeeded, Balthasar would not have tried. So his answer was a straightforward and genuine as they always were.

“Yes,” he said simply. He did know what was wrong. “But it’s not something I can talk about. She… it’s something she has to do on her own. Just give her time, Ary; she has a lot to sort through, but I’m sure that, when she’s ready, she’ll tell you.” It was right there on the tip of his tongue to tell his brother, and part of him desperately wanted to. But stronger than that was Balthasar’s honor, and his need to protect Yuki. Not from Ary, because he knew his brother would never hurt her, but from having to deal with too much at once. She’d trusted him with this painful secret, and he would not betray that trust.

While he wouldn't lie to himself and say that it didn't hurt somewhat that Yuki would tell Balthasar and not him as well about something that was a problem, Aryan could also understand it. His brother just had a way about him, people usually felt rather inclined to speak about things that they otherwise would keep to themselves. Half of the time, Bal didn't even ask. And if Bal said that she would tell him in time, then she would.

So, he left that at that, instead switching to a different topic, this one albeit lighter, though still just as annoying. "Were you also aware that Father has assigned Emrys as my bodygaurd?" Aryan did not try and hide his annoyance at this; he loved his cousin like all the rest, but...he just was not sold at the idea of having two people with him at the Council meetings. So far, Helen had been all that he needed, and he was rather inclined to keep it just so.

Balthasar was relieved that Ary wasn’t inclined to press, though he hadn’t expected him to. His brother was perceptive, yes, but he was also more sensitive than most people assumed, and had a lot of tact when he wanted to. The change in topic produced a small smile from him, and he shook his head. “Not until Emrys told me himself, no. Though… he did mention something about Helen. I’ll let you ask her yourself, though, because I’m not sure if she ended up agreeing or not.” He shrugged.

“I know it’s probably inconvenient, but it’s a nest of vipers in there, Ary, you know that better than I do. Er... no offense, Medusa. And father knows it better than either of us.” For as clever as his brother was, their father was nearly a thousand years old, far and away more experienced with this sort of thing than Balthasar could even really conceptualize properly. It was hard not to trust his judgement, considering. “And… you never know. It might have been mother’s idea. You know how she feels about you and the Council.”

If pythons could smile, Medusa would have at her master's brother. "None taken, Balthasssar. I am a python, not a viper. We do not asssssosiate with our lesssser cousins." For a second, Aryan cocked an eyebrow at his familiar, shaking his head slightly. He had to smile though, Bal was probably right, it may very well have been their mother's idea. He'd recieved a very strongly worded letter from her about a week after he'd joined the Council. He'd expected no less.

"Inconveince is not the right word. Unless Emrys learns to keep his mouth shut, this is going to be a fiasco, one that I doubt even father would be able to fix." The problem with Emrys was that he, like his father, was compulsive, and he tended to speak without thinking. "Still, if he can keep quiet, having the heir to the Alistair line around would not be such a bad thing." Especially not with his ability...

Balthasar smiled a little wider, shaking his head. “You know, if you’re really worried about him running his mouth, I bet you could get Helen to talk to him.” She didn’t speak often, but there was a certain undeniable force about what Hel did bother to say… and there was no mistaking that if she put her mind to it, she could keep someone in line. Actually, being on the wrong end of that sword would be pretty frightening, for anyone. But he could see the wheels turning in Ary’s mind already, and so he left his brother to the scheming, tossing both he and the familiar a wave before he stood and departed.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Aryan von Nacht Character Portrait: Helen Trist


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Helen stared into the mirror for a moment, blinking slowly. It was strange, how she changed not at all, not even with a century between then and now. Would she always be like this? The thought was… uncomfortable, and tugging at the bandage tape that bound her chest, she tied them off and sighed, turning from the glass and sliding into the sleeves of her shirt, buttoning all of them save the last two, then pulling the sweater-vest over her head. This one was blue, actually, and if she’d have bothered to look back at the mirror, she would have noted but not cared that it made the slight hint of that color in her eyes more prominent, so that they seemed to hang suspended in hue between it and purple.

The white jacket of the Night Class was last, and she smoothed the trousers down as well, tying the black ribbon off in her hair and picking up her blades, sliding the shorter one into her belt. For now, however, she left the longer one in her room—the Headmaster was not especially fond of students carrying weapons on the premises, but he’d made her this concession, at least. Her hand on the hilt, she folded the letter into her inside jacket pocket, observing once again that the male uniform for Cross was honestly much more convenient than the girls’ one. Inside jacket pocket and pants. Considerably better than the alternative.

Proceeding to the other side of the dorm, she knocked twice on Aryan von Nacht’s door. The contents of the letter, and the subsequent video communication, did pertain to him, in a sense, and she wanted his consent before she proceeded with the necessary arrangements. Stepping back a pace so as not to be right there when it opened, Hel let her free hand hang at her side, her right palm still braced on the end of the wakizashi’s handle. It was a gesture of wariness, to an extent, but more than anything, it comforted her, centered her. She was made to be a weapon and to wield them, and whether she liked it or not, she was still most comfortable in this capacity. What Jasper von Nacht had asked her to do would be in some sense stepping outside of this limited comfort zone, but she could see the necessity, and she had the required skills.

Aryan was stirred from his musings [or his drifting sleep, though he'd not admit to it] by a soft knock on his door. Medusa slithered from his lap onto the floor as he stood, stretching slightly and running his fingers through his hair before he went to answer it. He could already tell who it was, Helen had a certain aura about her.

Appearance-wise, Aryan was not what he normally looked like. He had on the white uniform pants, but he only had the white button-down shirt on, and it was untucked. He hadn't really been expecting anyone, so he'd been caught a little off-guard. Still, he was no less than curt as he answered the door.

"Good evening, Helen. Did you need something?" He asked her softly as he offered for her to come in.

She had been expecting to accompany him out, rather than going inside, as such, but her face did not change—she simply inclined her head and stepped inside, picking a wall to lean on, because she wasn’t sure if she was comfortable sitting, and she’d not been told to do so besides. Placing one foot back against the wall, she crossed her arms. To most people, it was a rather defensive position, and perhaps it was still so for Hel—but it was less defensive than walking around with a hand on her sword, so perhaps it was a sign of something different. She did not bother to contemplate it.

“I do not, at present,” she said, “but your father believes that you do. He has made a request of me, as I understand your mother has made one of your cousin. He asked if I would not mind handling some of the more mundane organizational aspects of your affairs.” The way she said it, the comparison was obvious—Lord von Nacht had essentially asked her to fill the same roles for Aryan as Lady Kuragari had once filled for him. He’d filled her in on what those were, and while some of them were a little outside her experience and her known practices, he’d assured her that they would be easy enough to learn, were she so inclined to take on the task. Assistant, shadow, valet—whatever one wanted to call it, it was the same idea.

“I… see the logic in it, but we agreed that it was ultimately your decision to make.” She stopped, her brows drawing together faintly. She felt like she should have said something else there, but she did not know what, so she simply ceased to speak. She wasn’t one to say anything that didn’t have a purpose, after all.

Aryan's eyebrows rose, and he pinched the bridge of his nose. He, too, could see the logic behind it, and Helen was probably the best choice, but...Helen was family to him as much as Yuki was, and as such, he was well aware of her "episodes", and just how sporadic they could be. That wasn't to say he was ashamed or he was afraid of what the Council might think, more so he was worried about the effect the Council would have on her.

He did not want her to do anything that she was not comfortable with, and he would not make her. Still, in certain areas, Helen was worse than Yuki when it came to things, so he chose his next words carefully. "While I agree there is a certain logic behind it and it would be highly beneficial, I would have your take, Helen. Frankly, would you be comfortable, in such a position? I do not care whether you think that you must simply because my father or I ask it of you, because you don't. What I want to know is, will you be alright, in doing this?"

She blinked slowly, a flicker of something unreadable passing over her face for just a moment. He was quite a lot like his father, actually—the Lord had also made sure to impress upon her that this was not something she should do out of obligation. But just because they said she was free of it did not mean she was. Even so… “I hope you never understand what it is like,” she said solemnly, locking eyes with Aryan, “to be something like me. But if you ever did, you would know that the worst part is the dread. The not knowing when something will hit you, and having to hope that it does not come at an inopportune time.”

Something in her eyes hardened, and her chin lifted. Pride was not something Helen felt for herself, but she did have a certain amount of it for the work she did. “I cannot say that I will never have one in a Council meeting, but I can say that I will not allow it to affect anything you do. I will not allow it to get in the way.” She was so tired of being afraid of her own mind. She wanted, for once, to be able to do something that would serve a use, would help those that had helped her most. “I will be… all right.” Her pale lips pursed, and she might have said something else, except, at that moment, an eerie, low chuckle filled the room, and it was not issuing from either of its occupants.

“And that, dear girl, is where you are so very wrong.” The voice was moderate in timbre, but uncannily smooth, like honey. She recognized it, somewhere deep in her memory, and Hel’s hand flew immediately to her wakizashi, because there was no way she could be hearing that voice.

It was halfway from the sheath when he materialized, appearing as if from nowhere. And when he did, his scent came with him, hitting her with familiarity she was not prepared for—the sword clattered to the ground. He smiled, the gesture not at all mirthful or pleased like she remembered it, but the facial features were a perfect match for her memory. He looked like a male version of Freya, in a lot of respects, though where her hair was tawny, his was silvery. Their eyes were the same olive green, save that his were lit in malicious red as well, as he deactivated his cloaking ability. “B-brother?” The word was choked rather than spoken, and his smile widened a bit.

“None other. Please forgive the interruption, Lord von Nacht, but I am afraid this little diversion is entirely necessary.” he shrugged slightly, but under his light demeanor, there was something ponderous and dark. Hel swallowed thickly. She didn’t like it, and part of her was screaming at her to grab the sword on the floor and run him through. But she couldn’t bring herself to do it, not to him.

“I have to say, Hel. I’ve been watching you for a while now, and I’m a little disappointed. You’ve gone soft, sweet sister, but we both know that means you’re lying to yourself.” She tried to say something—what, she had no idea—but he cut her off with a shake of his head. “I’m afraid there’s no time to argue the point. I need exactly one thing from you, Hel, and that is for you to remember.” Her eyes went wide as he disappeared, appearing again mere inches from her face, and he raised a hand to either of her temples, digging in painfully hard with the first two fingers of each.

That pain was easily dwarfed by the way her head lanced, as if a bolt of lightning were rebounding around in there, and even as her brother vanished, Helen fell to her knees, her field of vision swimming, She didn’t even notice that her hand landed on her fallen sword, slicing deeply into her palm. Things swam in front of her eyes at a speed she could not fully comprehend, but certain things stuck more than others, and she was slowly piecing together what he wanted her to understand.

“No… Yuki…” she slurred, but then the sensations became too much, and she collapsed, losing consciousness and still bleeding on Aryan’s floor.

Aryan smiled slightly. He wasn't overly pleased by the strong sense she had to serve, but he could also sense that she truly did want to help, and that was something he would never take from her. He opened his mouth to say as much, but he was interrupted by a voice, someone he could not see or hear, not until he materialized. If he hadn't known any better, Aryan would have sworn it was Emrys, but no, it was not his cousin.

His violet eyes snapped to Helen as she spoke a word, calling him 'brother'. That made his eyes narrow. She had a brother? This so called brother spoke a few things, and in the confusion that followed, one thing stuck clearly in Aryan's mind, though the sheer absurdity of it made him cringe. The man called him Lord von Nacht. He hated that title.

The man then vanished, and Aryan was up and at Helen's side in an instant. There was little he could do, and he felt powerless. He hated it. But her words rang in his head like a siren. Yuki? What about Yuki? He could only guess that Yuki was who Helen's 'brother' was after, but he was also loath to leave Helen alone, not like this.

He couldn't send Medusa after Yuki, she'd never make it in time. But he could do the next best thing. "Medusa! Go find Balthasar! Tell him what's happened, and tell him to find Yuki!" The python shot off faster than most people would think a snake could, winding her way to where she smelled the eldest von Nacht. Once the familiar was gone, Aryan gently picked Helen up, laying her on the sofa. And so, he waited, pacing, his eyebrows knit together. He wasn't sure this could get any worse.

Oh, how wrong he was.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Zero Kuragari Character Portrait: Yuki Alistair-von Nacht


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Yuki sighed, once again questioning if she really wanted to do this. She shook her head. This wasn't a question of want. It was a need. She needed to tell Zero how she felt, and apologize for hurting him. It didn't matter if he rejected her or not. He at least deserved to know. And Balthasar had been right. She deserved to live whatever life she could in the years remaining.

The breeze carried his scent to her, along with Rica's, though the latter had since left him. Kiba trailed along at her heels as she approached him, finding him sitting under a tree. For a second, she watched him, standing off a ways, a hand held up to her chest. When she spoke, it was almost hesitant.

"Zero?" She almost flinched, her voice sounded terribly small. Why was she so afraid?

Alarica had left about half an hour ago, leaving Zero by himself underneath the cherry blossom tree they had both occupied. He had kept his eyes closed, his mind working overtime as he tried to sort everything out. There had to be a way to save her, to undo the mess that Kisuke did, however; if she couldn't find something...he banished that thought from his mind. He couldn't think like that. He just couldn't. Even if it took them the rest of the fifty years to find a cure for her, he would find it. He was startled out of his thoughts by the whisper of his name, and he tilted his head to spot Yuki standing a few feet away from him, clutching at her chest.

"Yuki," he greeted, sitting up and allowing the cherry blossom petals to fall from his person. He dusted the remaining petals off as he stood from his spot. For a second, he contemplated leaving her, however; the look in her eyes compelled him to stay. So, instead of walking away, he walked so that he was standing a few feet away from her, hands kept to his side. "I'm sorry...about the other day," he began, trying to apologize for his actions, his words. Part of him felt as if he'd just made things worse by telling her that he loved her, and part of him didn't care. He wanted to know if she loved him or if she didn't. And that if she didn't love him, it wasn't because of the reason of her dying. He would take any reason other than that for her not loving him.

Suddenly, everything that her mother ever did when she was around her father made sense. For once, Yuki understood. The gestures, the glances, the words, the touches. It made sense because, she wanted that. What her mother had with Jasper, Yuki wanted with Zero. And she had been a fool to think otherwise. So when he apologized, she shook her head.

"No...I'm the one who's sorry, Zero. I shouldn't have said that, about forgetting me. I...I know that hurt you, and a part of me wanted to, because if maybe...if maybe you didn't love me, if you hated me, then I could pretend like I didn't love you. But..."

She met his eyes then, yellow meeting seafoam. "It was wrong and I'm sorry and I do love you. I've loved you for so long, even though I never really understood it...I still don't, really..."

She loved him. She loved him. He was tempted to believe that he was dreaming, that she had not said those words, and that his feelings were not being reciprocated by her. But they were, and he wasn't dreaming. She spoke to him, the words a little hesitant, but understandable. She loved him, and that was all he needed to hear. He closed the distance between them with a speed only possessed by his kind, his right arm hooking behind her neck and his left hand pressing against the small of her back. His lips descended upon hers, tipping her slightly back in the process.

"I could never hate you, Yuki. To hate you would be like hating the life that was granted to me, to hate the air I breathe. It is a necessity that I need, because I wouldn't be alive without it," he spoke when he pulled away from her. "Nothing you do or say could ever cause me to hate you, or forget about you. I would rather cease to exist than to ever hate the woman I love," he continued, the smirk returning to his features as a hint of playfulness flashed behind his eyes.

Yuki was not hesitant in returning the kiss, and when he pulled away and looked at her like that, it sent shivers down her spine. She loved him, this ridiculous, insufferable man, God help her, she loved him. She wondered how she couldn't have seen it before.

"I'm sorry it took so long for me to realize it." She said softly, her arms looping around his neck. A part of her just wanted to stay like this forever. "Believe it or not, it took Balthasar to talk sense into me."

Zero blinked owlishly a few times. "The dope? He talked sense into you?"" he stated, almost tempted to believe he truly was dreaming. "The world is coming to an end if that is true," he added with a light chuckle. How was it that the dope could talk to someone...he paused in that train of thought. This was Balthasar he was thinking about. The man, granted had a gift for listening and offering advice, but was just as dense and stupid about his own feelings. Though Zero really couldn't say where the von Nacht heir stood with those feelings. But those thoughts were for another time. Placing one last kiss upon her, Zero let her up and released her, however; his fingers were still laced with hers.

"Well, I suppose Bal's always had a way with words," he added.

His years as a ghost had given him a certain flair for recognizing just where to enter and what to say to cause maximal pain. And the entire point of this particular exercise was pain. He’d caused quite a lot to his dear sister already, but that was merely the beginning, a little reminder. This was designed to shatter them a little more. Slowly, exquisitely. And he’d start by crushing the fledgling blooms of happiness here. That was always especially interesting, in the end.

For just a moment, Freyr wondered when he’d begun to derive pleasure from the pain of others. But of course, like everything else, it had begun with Theodor, and would survive well past the man’s demise. This was just a part of his conditioning, as Hel’s subservience was part of hers. He was actually standing no more than three feet from the happy couple, having just arrived, but he was utterly undetectable even at that distance, unless he chose to make himself otherwise.

In this case, it was a capacity he exercised only on the girl, speaking directly into her mind, as he knew she would hear. Yuki Alistair-von Nacht, he said, his mental voice laced with something equal parts malice and amusement. You cannot see me, hear me, smell me or even touch me, but I am closer than you think. I think it goes without saying that I could wipe the smile from that boy’s face right now if I chose, perhaps by slitting his throat. You will leave him, and you will head west for seventeen miles. You will allow neither he nor anyone else to follow you. Am I understood?

If Yuki truly did hear the voice inside her head, there was no outward sign. She didn't recognize the voice, but she did recognize the malice -and truth- behind it. Whoever this was, whatever they wanted, they would kill for it, and then were threatening Zero.

And there was nothing she could do to stop it. You could not engage an enemy you could not sense, to attempt so would be suicide, and both she and Zero would be dead. She would not allow Zero to die. Getting off campus undetected would be easy. Getting Zero not to follow her would be the harder part. She quickly ran through her options. None of them were very good, most of them were dangerous, but she had little choice. She went for the least risky plan.

She centered herself with a breath, sending a telekinetic wave through Zero's mind, pressing down on his frontal and orbital lobes. It would hurt, but the pressure would cause him to black out; he wouldn't be able to follow her. She saw the confusion flash through his eyes, and there was a sadness in hers. Before he blacked out completely, she did say one last thing.

I'm so sorry, Zero...I love you.

She did the same thing to Kiba, the wolf whimpering slightly before collapsing onto his side. After that, Yuki shielded herself with her telekinetic energy, and just began walking. Whether or not she would get out of this alive, she still didn't know. She also did not try to contact whoever had touched her mind. There were very few people who could break through her barriers so easily, and she was not looking forward to meeting this person.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Balthasar von Nacht


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Elizabeth was not at all uncertain of her abilities when it came to manipulating people, especially men, and in some respects, Balthasar von Nacht had been the easiest of targets. He was still so painfully naïve in some ways that she’d almost believed it must be an act. But it wasn’t—he was just that oblivious. She’d never had to be so forward with a target before, but she really rather enjoyed it, in a way. He tasted like the best kind of sin—the defiling of something pristine. And she would know, as her tongue was currently in his mouth.

She’d always been assertive when she needed to be, so while he repeatedly seemed vaguely surprised when she came onto him, she wasn’t at all shocked to be astride his lap, her fingers in his hair, smiling against his mouth. It was really strange, actually—how were people not doing this to him all the time? His locks were soft and thick and entirely touchable, and his kisses, well… he was certainly a quick learner. If only he could lose the hesitance. Perhaps it was for the best, she thought, disentangling her digits from his hair and running her hands down his chest, parting the sides of his jacket and encouraging him to shrug out of it. If he were as forward with her as she was with him, she might have been able to forget who was supposed to be seducing whom here, and that was a very dangerous proposition.

Sigyn might not have Freya’s abilities, but if father and son were anything alike, she could understand how the traitor had fallen for Jasper, all those years ago. There was something about Balthasar that made her feel incredibly important, like she was delicate and entirely in control all at once. There was power here, underneath his skin and in his aura, and it was heady, especially in combination with the nearly-gossamer gentleness of his touch. Maybe it was just because she could feel it, in a way that surpassed what most of her kind could do, but spending too long in his company was a bit like being drunk. She might actually miss this, when it was done.

But his hands were creeping up her ribcage, and it amused her to realize that he was getting a little adventurous; he’d been nothing if not reserved before. It meant that her methods, straightforward as they were, were working. It would appear that direct, honest people responded best to a direct, obvious approach. The smile on her face grew a little wicked. Maybe a piece of parting advice for that cousin of his, since the girl couldn’t seem to spit it out. Sigyn had been worried about that one, at first, because it was blatantly obvious to everyone but Balthasar how the little dhampir chit felt about him, but when it became clear that the girl wasn’t going to say anything, the rest had been easy enough that she almost felt bad.

But then… being bad had never felt quite so good before, and for her, that was rather saying something. It was almost a pity it had to end, but she wanted to see just how far she could push him first. Walking out of here having slept with him would be the icing on the cake, after all, but he was proving a tough nut to crack, and seemed to have arbitrary boundaries that baffled her. “Balthasar…” she murmured into his ear, and felt him shudder just a bit, his body naturally responding to hers. It should—she was playing him like a finely-tuned instrument, and it was a skill she’d worked for.

It entirely mystified her, therefore, when she went for the hem of his shirt, only to feel his hands, large and warm, on hers, pulling them away. He pulled back as far as their positioning on the sofa would allow, and she read a mixture of things quite easily from his expression—that ever-present hesitance, a faint hint of desire (too faint; she just didn’t understand it), and guilt. The last was perhaps the most confusing of all.

“Balthasar,” she repeated, and this time, she injected a little hurt into the tone, letting her face shift into a pout. If he already felt guilty about something, she might as well use it to her advantage. Honestly, why couldn’t he just act like a normal man? She was practically throwing herself at him—she was. Sigyn was not falsely modest, and she was well aware of how well-off she was in the looks department. And it seemed to move him not. Or at least, no further than the base physical responses of biology demanded. He blushed, he shuddered, and occasionally, he sighed, but he did not want her the way he should. If she hadn’t known better, she’d have suspected that he preferred men and was in denial about it.

He swallowed, the guilt increased, and she waited with more patience than she really had for his capitulation. “I’m sorry Elizabeth, I just…” he shook his head, and she watched the uncertainty starting to dominate his expression. Internally, she was screaming in frustration and tearing her hair out, but outwardly, she forced her expression into one of understanding.

“I had hoped it wouldn’t bother you, that I… know a bit more about this than you do,” she said, laying the wounded eyes on a bit too thickly for most people. But Balthasar, silly, sweet, innocent as a puppy Balthasar, soaked it in like a sponge.

“No! I mean… it’s not that. It’s nothing to do with you. It’s just that I don’t…” He was apparently unsure of what he wanted to say, but she knew, and if she hadn’t felt so much like weeping (from some combination of frustration, disbelief and a tiny flicker of actual hurt that she would never acknowledge), she might have laughed. He was trying to find a way to tell her that she was just his friend. That he wasn’t into her, to put it colloquially. She could have died, though she wasn’t sure in which sense she meant the phrase.

Elizabeth, stop playing with your toy and do what you were instructed to do, Freyr’s voice was entirely in her head, of course, but she just barely avoided rolling her eyes, anyway. Stupid bastard. Well, at least she got to go see Baldr soon. He never said no. The thought didn’t bring her the reassurance it would have normally, and she may have found it… distasteful, even? She really needed to leave.

She sighed, using both of her hands on Balthasar’s chest to push herself arms’ length from him. “It really is a pity,” she sighed. Well, for now she would deal with it. When the time came, one of the Pantheon would be Queen, though which one, and who the King would be, was as yet undecided. If she had her choices, it would be she and him, but… to be honest, she’d take anyone, to be Queen.

“Elizabeth?” he looked adorably confused again, and she smiled a little. It didn’t look like any of the ones ‘Elizabeth’ had worn in his company—this one was entirely her own.

“I’m afraid not, loverboy,” she said wryly, reaching into her pocket and extracting a clean syringe. Balthasar tensed, but he was too confused to react quickly enough, and she plunged it into his arm, the paralytic agent within starting to work immediately. It was formulated for use on vampires, which basically meant it was enough to kill an elephant, but even so, she could feel him fighting it, and she knew her time was limited. “My friends call me Sigyn. Or they would, if I had any friends.” She withdrew another syringe, and this one, she used more carefully, extracting a full pint of his blood into a hospital bag she’d stashed under her bed. Having a pharmaceutical company owner for a fake father really was convenient at times.

He was still motionless by the time she was done, though he was already starting to regain movement in his fingers. “Extraordinary,” she murmured, shaking her head. “All the best science in the world, and none of us is even close to you. If you weren’t so softhearted, you really might just be perfect. A word of advice, Balthasar: don’t expose yourself like this. Not to anyone. It just makes you vulnerable, and there are more people like me in the world than there are people like you.” She frowned, something with a touch of melancholy entering the expression.

Leaning forward, she pressed her lips to his, one last time. She’d have told him not to forget her, but she knew he never would, and that brought her some satisfaction as she headed out the door, letting Freyr touch her shoulder to render her as insensible as he was. No point in giving away their direction after all—he’d had the Yuki girl go to a meaningless spot from which the same would be done to her.

Medusa found him just as the last of the paralytic was wearing off, and Balthasar immediately set out in search of his sister—only to find Zero unconscious and a trail that suddenly stopped nearly twenty miles from the school. Yuki was gone, Elizabeth was Pantheon, and Balthasar was pretty sure this was officially the worst day of his life.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Balthasar von Nacht Character Portrait: Alarica Alistair Character Portrait: Leora Kuragari Character Portrait: Zero Kuragari Character Portrait: Keir Alistair Character Portrait: Aryan von Nacht Character Portrait: Helen Trist Character Portrait: Emrys Alistair


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Aryan was, by his very nature, a patient man. He could wait as long as he needed to for something to happen. It didn't matter how long it took, just so long as the end results were what he expected.

But not for this. He was currently pacing, back and forth across the library floor. He continued to do so until finally, Emrys grabbed him by the back of the shirt and all but slung him into a chair, saying, "Sit down, kid, that won't help anyone. Even your mind can only move so fast. We need everyone here, and we're still waiting on Rica and Z."

Aryan glared at his cousin, but in the end, he said nothing, and stayed in the chair. Balthasar sat across from him, looking worse than Aryan could ever remember. It wasn't like he could blame him. So much had happened within the last twelve hours...

Helen sat the farthest away from everyone, over in a corner. If Aryan had to guess, it looked as if the girl were about to be sick, though considering what she went through, he wouldn't be surprised. But he also knew better, and knew her state of mind was a fragile thing, at best. The appearance of her brother, along with the disappearance of Yuki, had probably done a great deal of damage, and Aryan was a bit surprised she was functioning, let alone awake.

Emrys was leaning against the wall, messing with one of his guns. There was almost a bored expression on his face, which would have pissed Aryan off if he didn't know his cousin better. Anyone who knew him knew when he had a gun in his hand and he wasn't cleaning it knew that he was, indeed, a very angry man. And indeed he was. Emrys was not happy, and for the man who usually took everything in stride, that was saying something.

Em glanced over at his little brother, who was sitting next to Aryan. His hands were folded across his chest, his face placid. The only thing that let on that he felt anything at all was the fact that his eyes had gone from ice blue to a pale, moonlit silver. Yeah, Keir was definitely pissed, and with good reason. Leora sat across from Keir, her face...far from what one would consider happy. It made Emrys wonder, was she angry for Yuki, or at the girl...? Knowing Leo, it was probably both.

Yuki was gone, and what was seemed she had left willingly.

Angelus had been wandering the grounds, his tails swishing as he strolled about. His master was somewhere on the grounds, patrolling on her own accord. She wouldn't say, but something had felt off, and she wanted to make sure that the school was safe. Angelus had taken one side of the Academy and Alarica the other. He was quite sure his side of the grounds was completely safe, until he came across the fallen form of Zero and Balthasar. He immediately sent word to Alarica, who was immediately there in a few seconds, gazing upon Zero and Kiba's unconscious forms. Without a word, she took Zero and Kiba to the infirmary, letting Balthasar take care of whatever had happened.

And hence where their current location was. Zero had a pained expression upon his facial features, and Alarica couldn't discern where it came from. The slow rising of his chest signaled he was still at least physically okay. But she could see that he wasn't mentally. That pained her to see her cousin in such a way, and she ran her fingers through his hair as she always did, in a comforting manner. It wasn't more than five minutes later that Zero's eyes opened, his senses being flooded by a dim light and the faded scent of Yuki. His eyes met Alarica's as she tried to coax him back down, however; he pushed her arm out of the way and rolled his feet over the side of the bed.

"She's gone Zero," she spoke, her voice soft and laced with concern for her cousin. Zero's fists clenched tightly together. He knew she was gone. He was there when she rendered him unconscious. Though he knew not the reason why she did so. The only thing that rang through his head was the parting words she left. "The others are waiting on us, we need to go," she continued as she saw his body tense. She sighed, standing from her spot and laid a hand on his shoulder. "Don't worry Zero, we'll get her back. But first, we are needed by the others," she finished as she removed her hand.

"Alright," was his only response before following his cousin out of the infirmary. Angelus situated himself on Alarica's shoulder as Zero glanced to his side, spotting Kiba there, and a frown marred his face. It wasn't long before they reached the area where the family was, and Zero allowed the frown on his face to deepen. Yuki's departure took a toll on everyone, and they did not bother to hide it. He took a seat, watching and waiting for someone to address the situation. He could not, for he couldn't find his voice. Alarica took a seat by Leora and allowed her eyes to drift around the room. Everyone was accounted for.

With the arrival of Zero and Alarica, the meeting contained everyone that should be there, and though his tongue felt heavy in his mouth, Balthasar broke the silence first. He hadn’t told anyone about Elizabeth—no, Sigyn—yet, but right now, they needed to sort out what had happened to his sister. Everything else, even the appearance of a new member of the Pantheon, was secondary to that. He watched for a moment as Leo, her expression thunderous enough to match the storm brewing outside (probably her doing anyway), took Rica’s hand, a gesture of mutual comfort, and as Helen’s eyes flickered momentarily from their spot on the floor to those assembled, stopping only briefly on Aryan before they returned to where they had been.

“By now, we all know at least the basics of what happened last night, but there are missing pieces, and perhaps things that only some of us can tell in full. In order to figure out where to go from here, we all need to know everything. From what I can tell, it starts with the run-in Aryan and Helen had.” He wasn’t really sure how to ask someone to recount something like that, and he was hoping that maybe what Ary knew would be adequate, considering the drawn, sickly-pale state of Helen’s face. The girl always looked a bit delicate, but at the moment, it seemed as if any of them breathing too hard would accidentally shatter her.

As if she knew what he was thinking though, she raised her eyes again, and addressed the room without further prompting. “We were confronted by a member of the Pantheon. His name is Freyr, and he was once my brother. Not by blood, though he is Freya’s genetic twin. We both believed that he was dead—but it seems not. I… do not know the full extent of his capabilities or his conditioning, but what I do know is that he is capable of rendering himself completely undetectable to any of the ordinary senses, and he’s a more powerful telepath than anyone I’ve ever met. He could have killed any of us, and we would never have even known he was coming.” That was why he’d always been Theodor’s shadow hand—because there was no skill set more suited to assassination than his.

Leora understood almost immediately. “But even if we couldn’t know where he is, he could have spoken telepathically? Perhaps to Yuki?” There was a loud crack of thunder overhead—Hel almost flinched, but managed to hold her musculature steady. It reminded Leo, however, that her anger was getting away from her, and she contained the storm as well as she could.

“Yes,.” Hel replied flatly. She’d seen, among the other things that he’d brought to the fore of her consciousness, his intention to take Yuki specifically, though as far as she could tell, the only purpose for it had been to hurt. It was so at odds with the man she’d thought him to be that she was having trouble reconciling the two. Was this really what his conditioning had made of him? If so, how much longer did she have before she broke as well?

Aryan's hands clenched themselves together, the shadows in the far corners of the room flickering in response to his anger. He allowed Helen and Leora to finish speaking, before voicing his own question. "But why take Yuki?"

It was Emrys who answered his question, by dropping a stack of medical files in front of him. Aryan leafed through them, raising an eyebrow. Emrys explained, "One of the things Kisuke did to your sister was create a special type of serum that, in the event that he was unable to brainwash her, he could control her. She'll be aware, but unable to decide her own movements outside of the orders that she's given. Ultimately, she's the perfect soldier."

Aryan's jaw clenched, but Keir spoke before he could. "Then if they send her into battle, she's not going to hesitate to kill us." Emrys shook his head. "She won't be able to."

Kiba's ears flattened against his head as he sat next to Zero, his mood dropping with every word. He'd been as confused as Zero was when he woke up, and what he was hearing was not making things any better. He also could not feel her, at all. Her mind was completely closed off from him, and no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't pinpoint her location, or speak to her, or anything. It made the familiar very uncomfortable.

Zero listened to the words being thrown around. Each word that passed, he could feel the anger boiling inside of him. Why did she knock him unconscious though? He could have helped, he could have done something, and Zero tightened his fists. She said she loved him, but did she not believe in him? Did she truly think that leaving would be best for everyone? He could feel his heart breaking a little, and for a moment, he wondered if this was how his father felt when his mother was taken. Perhaps it was, and the words she had spoken before rang through his ears. He truly was his father's son, and if there was any truth in that, then he would not hesitate to rip apart the one responsible for Yuki's departure.

Alarica rubbed her thumb in a comforting manner against Leora's hand, which was currently in her own for comfort. She was angry, more-so than she had ever been before, or at least that is what she thought. Though not by blood, it mattered not to Alarica; Yuki was her sister. Her sister had left willingly to protect them from Freyr, a member of the Pantheon who seemed as dangerous as they came. If his ability was like Emrys' in a way, then it was even more so that he was to be feared. Alarica could sense her brother because of her own ability, but if she couldn't even use it to sense Freyr...she banished the thought from her mind.

"And they will send her against us, knowing that we will not fight her. That is what they are planning, and banking on. They will assume that we will not harm her because she is our sister," Alarica finally spoke, her voice laced in a dark tone, one that she was not often used to using. Her hand coiled a bit tightly around Leora's and she released it once she had realized her grip was tightening against the other's hand. That is perhaps where they were wrong. Alarica loved her family, but that meant nothing when it came to their lives. She would do anything to protect them, even if it meant hurting them. And if she had to hurt Yuki to save her, she would not hesitate on it, however; her eyes shifted towards Zero.

He wouldn't be able to. She knew that he wouldn't be able to, no matter how hard he would try. He just couldn't. "What are our options?" he spoke, the words almost too quiet to hear. It was taking a lot of restraint for him to not leave his family here and now to go searching for her, however; he also knew it would be a foolish thing to do. Searching with no leads would only render him lost, and he couldn't allow himself to be lost. He needed to find Yuki. That was the only thing that mattered at the moment.

Leora didn’t mind Alarica’s grip on her hand—it was keeping her grounded, even when it became a bit painful. She sighed softly when it was released, her eyes flickering to her brother. She was having practically the same train of thought that Rica was, though she didn’t know it, and she also knew just how tempted he was to do something stupid, like go out looking for her when he had no idea where to even start. She couldn't blame him for that impulse, but all the same it would exhaust him, and do no good.

“If you want to know the vibrations in the web, you ask the spider,” she said simply. “We’ve got the best information networks in the world. I’m sure Uncle Morgan will be on it as soon as he knows, and that means Alden will be, too. If anyone can figure out where she is, it’ll be them.” She had faith in her brother’s ability to track down any thread of information, however small, and she could only assume that since he was the best, Uncle Morgan would put him on the task instead of someone else.

“There will likely be no need,” Helen said from behind her, and Leora adjusted in her seat to more properly see the girl. She shook her head, disheveling the lank hair there, which, normally a shining silver, was presently dull grey at best. The usual ribbon was also missing, and so it obscured her eyes and the sides of her face. “The Pantheon is not in need of more weapons. He did not take her because he had any real use for her capabilities. He just wants to hurt you. And to do that, he will make you confront her… probably more than once.” She would not let this end the way she saw Freyr wanted to end it. She would change that foretold future, the vision he’d left in her head. She would save her friend. Even if it cost her her life.

With that announcement, it seemed they had come to an impasse, and Balthasar knew what he had to say now. “Not to make matters worse, but I'm afraid I have to. Last night… the Pantheon took my blood. I don’t know why, but it seems to have been coordinated with what they did to Yuki. You should all know… Elizabeth is one of them. Sigyn.” He warned them because they needed to know, but no part of that came easily. Leo’s eyes went wide, and he saw the barest start of a snarl forming on her face, but he dropped his eyes to the table.

“I’m going to inform father of everything that has happened.” So saying, he pushed himself into a stand and departed, the hollowness in his tone translating into a slump to his broad shoulders.

Something in Alarica's jaw tightened. She didn't know what it was, but there was the sensation of mutilating something building up in her system. Elizabeth, Sigyn, was a Pantheon member. Something burned beneath Alarica's skin, something that felt akin to fire peeling away at her flesh. Her face remained void, her breathing even and stilled all at the same time. She almost appeared doll-like, just sitting without even blinking an eyelash. In honesty, she was trying to contain the rage that boiled inside of her. How could...she paused in her thoughts. It was partially her fault that it happened. But then again how could she have known?

She was so intent on keeping him happy, making sure that Elizabeth was the one for him, had she been blinded by that? Her fists tightened, the popping of her knuckles indicating just how tightly they were being closed before she bit the bottom of her lip, trying to keep from snarling aloud. Two in one day. That was all she could think of. This Sigyn, she was going to pay. She was going to pay for betraying Balthasar, for deceiving him, for hurting him. Alarica would see to it herself that this woman paid for it with her life. She would demand blood, and only that woman's blood would be required. Zero glanced upon his cousin at the mention.

He could see the anger seething from her, though she made no face of it. He knew because he was currently feeling the same thing, though this might have been a bit different for her. At least he knew Yuki loved him, but this...part of his heart went out to his cousin, sending her a private glance as he returned it to the others. He glanced towards Emrys, who looked like he was about to jump out and head straight for Morgan to inform him. He wanted to go with Emrys, however; he remained in his spot, instead, choosing to close his eyes momentarily as the information still rolled around in his head. Leora was right, their brother and their Uncle were the best at what they did. If anyone could find a lead, it was either of them.

"Keep me posted Emrys," were the only words Zero spoke, using his cousin's full name for once to convey just how serious he was. Alarica, almost immediately as Balthasar had, stood and stared out into nothing. She said nothing, instead, grabbing the hilt of Ulrik and abruptly turned. Something, anything would do right now as a replacement. She felt the strong urge to maim something, and she would do so where she could. Without a word, she turned on her heel and left, speaking not a single word to the others. She was pissed, and nothing was going to stop her from venting it out.


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“Thank you, Balthasar,” Jasper said quietly. His son nodded, and the video screen flicked off until he was staring at his own reflection on the blackened surface. Physically, he’d changed scarcely at all from the man he’d been a hundred years ago, but the events had effected him, and it was evident in his eyes alone. There was a light there, one that came from his family and the wonder that was having children of his own, but more even than that, there was weight. A ponderous, heavy weight that he could see already reflected in the gaze of his oldest son. Sometimes, looking at Balthasar was a little too much like looking into a mirror. Not only were they physically almost identical in some ways, but…the war had shaped them similarly as well, no matter how he’d tried to shield all three of them from the worst of it.

And he had, but… the worst of it was beginning to shift center towards them, and if his son’s news was anything to go by, it would not be long before they were right in the thick of things, whether he wanted them to be or not. Some of them already were, and his thoughts flickered for the briefest moment to his nephews Emrys and Alden especially, but he moved the thoughts aside. There were too many pressing matters to spend much time thinking in such an abstract fashion.

He sent a quick message to Ava, in case she had not already heard through her own children, and then another to Morgan. Between the two of them, they would inform anyone that needed to be informed. Save one. The task of informing his wife that their daughter was missing would be his alone. He did not relish it, but he would never let anyone else take it on, either. Whatever he and Nikki did, they did as one—that was the promise he had made her, the day he married her, and between them there were no secrets.

The two of them and their household were currently stationed in their home in Ireland, because recently, the conflict over the British Isles was the worst in what was otherwise a lull period in the battles, and someone always needed to be close enough to deal with things if they became too grave on the front lines. By this point, he and Nikki could sweep and entire battlefield by themselves, but it was better when they didn’t. The goal was to prevent death, not dole more of it out, but sometimes, there was no other choice, like when the armies moved too close to civilian settlements. His sharp ears picked out the lilting notes of a piano, though he would not need it to find her. He always knew where she was, with a consciousness of her presence that could only come from a bond as deep as the one they shared with one another.

When he found her at the instrument, he bent at the waist, sliding his arms around her own and resting his chin on the crown of her head. “Nikki,” he said softly, drawing her from the music, which was something he almost never did if he could avoid it. But this needed to be said right now, as the undertone of concern in his tone would well suggest. “There is something I must tell you.”

The piano had always been the one thing that was able to keep Nikki grounded, other than Jasper. Almost a century of war and death, and killing, it took its toll on everyone, her included. But, she did what she did so that her children didn't have to. She could already see that look in her son's eyes that she saw in her husband, and a part of her heart broke. She didn't want to see Balthasar like that.

She was well aware of Jasper's presence as he approached, sliding his arms around her waist, a small smile lighting her face, however; her fingers stilled abruptly at his tone. The last note she played still hung in the air, but the hairs on her neck were raising. There was only so much that would make Jasper stop her before she finished playing, and the first and foremost was their children. She twisted halfway around in order to look her husband in the eye.

"What happened, Jasper?"

He sighed. The alarm in her tone was not unwarranted, but that didn’t mean he liked hearing it from her. If he’d had his way—when he had his way—she would never need to use it again. None of them would. But now was not that time, and there was still much work to be done before it would come. He moved to sit down on the bench beside her, taking both of her hands in his and looking her in the eye. She’d be able to see the concern in his, he knew, but he didn’t mind that much, at least.

“I just received a call from Balthasar,” he said softly, moving the pads of his thumbs in soothing circles over the backs of her hands. “Last night, Yuki went missing. It’s believed that the person responsible was Helen and Freya’s brother, a member of the Pantheon, and that she went willingly. Based on what is known of his abilities, it is likely that she went to prevent harm from coming to the others.” There was the faintest hint of irony at the edges of his tone—it was not so unlike what he had done, a hundred years ago, when he believed it was the only way to save the ones he loved most.

That did not, of course, mean that he thought it had been the best action to take, but he could clearly see Yuki’s reasoning, and the way Balthasar had explained what Freyr was capable of, that she had gone willingly seemed the most likely conclusion, especially given the way she’d rendered both Zero and her own familiar unconscious.

To her credit, Nikki's composure was held, even if the color did drain from her face. Her eyes darkened the longer that Jasper spoke, but her face remained rather neutral. While she feared for her daughter, the muscle in her jaw twitched as she clenched it. More than anything, she was angry. She was angry that her children were being manipulated, she was angry that Yuki thought she'd had to go to protect the others.

She could certainly see the parallels in what Jasper had done all those years ago. She let out the breath she'd been holding, staying quiet for a few seconds. She knew how her daughter's disappearance was going to affect her sons. Within seconds, her decision was made.

"I'm going, Jasper. Balthasar and Aryan are going to need one of us, and they need you here more than me."

He watched the progressive lengthening of the shadow in her eyes, and it broke his heart. But fortunately, even when things got bad like this, she was always there to put it back again, as well, and he had trust in their family. They would conquer this problem as they had conquered the rest. They were never alone, after all. He could understand her desire to be with their sons, and he nodded silently, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear.

“Though it pains me as much as it always does to have you other than beside me, I understand, and I agree that they will need you.” His fingers moved gently to trace the line of her jaw, and he leaned forward until his forehead rested against hers. “Go to them, my love, but do not forget that if any of you need me, this can wait. You need only ask, and I will come.” It was true that what he did here was important, and it would be damaging to their efforts for him to spend an extended period of time away from the field of battle, or the strategy room. But even such momentous concerns as these were secondary to his concern for his family, including the extended one.

He closed the distance between them and kissed her softly, holding her to him with one hand to the space between her shoulderblades and the other at her waist, drawing strength from the contact. He was serious regarding his hatred of her absence, but sometimes, this war demanded things of them all that they did not want, and he knew that she was right to go.

Nikki smiled, returning the kiss. She remained in his embrace, her arms entwined about his neck before speaking, "I'll be back as soon as I am able, love." That was true, she would return as soon as she was able, but she didn't plan on being able until they recovered Yuki. Still, she would not prolong it. As much as her children needed her, Jasper needed her, and she him. It hurt physically to be away from him.

But her first priority was Yuki.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Balthasar von Nacht


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The long, sleek black car pulled up to the front gates of Cross Academy, carrying with it a woman who had not been there for many years. The valet opened the door for her, and Nikki von Nacht stepped out. The man offered to get her bag for her, which she ultimately refused. One hundred years, and she still wasn't used to the treatment that came with her surname. She took a deep breath, and then started walking. This was not the time to be nostalgic.

She easily found her way to the dorms, and she smiled at the young Noble who answered the door. The boy's eyes went rather wide when he saw who it was, and he could only nod slowly when she asked for her eldest son. She was slightly amused at how little the setup had changed over the years, glancing around as the boy went straight to Balthasar's room to inform him of his visitor.

Balthasar was an honest man, even with himself, and he knew that his behavior for the past two days had been somewhat unbecoming of him. He was… the word for it was moping, honestly, but there was little else to do. As always, the others had the information side of things well handled without him, and there was nothing to go fight at the moment, so he was about as useful as a sack of stones. It gave him too much time to stew in his own thoughts. How could he have been so easily fooled? He knew he wasn’t the sort of person who saw deception wherever he looked. He knew he tended to want to see the best in people, to give them the benefit of the doubt. Just as he knew that he was forgiving enough that it was sometimes a problem.

He was forgiving her now, little by little. He believed that she thought she had to do what she did, or that it was for the best, because he had to. If he didn’t, the world simply ceased to make any sense at all. That she was mistaken about the right thing wasn’t so great a crime… he was sure most of them had been, at one time or another. It didn’t make things hurt any less, mostly because he still felt burdened with his own intense guilt. Balthasar had learned a long time ago how to forgive other people. But he’d never quite learned how to forgive himself. He could still name every one of his failures, large and small, and at times like this, he was inclined to dwell on them.

The knock at his door stirred him from his ruminations, and he ran his hands through his hair a few times so that he looked presentable at least, and when he opened it to see the head of the residence hall, he managed a wan smile, at least until the man explained that his mother was here to see him. Part of Balthasar was happy about this, and the other part… just wasn’t sure he could handle any more right now. So it was with reservation in his tread that he made his way out to see her. “Er… hi, mom.” he stood there a bit awkwardly, unsure of how to handle this, because he knew she was here for Yuki, and probably really upset, as she had every right to be. He’d never been good at dealing with that sort of thing, though.

Nikki's eyebrows rose slightly, and despite the situation, she found herself trying to hold back a smile. She only somewhat failed, causing a slight smile to creep over her face as she regarded her son silently for a second. Her hands were on her hips as she stated, "Now, really, Balthasar, is that any way to greet your mother?"

She walked over to her son, pulling him into a hug. It had been too long since she'd seen him last, and she found herself wondering [yet again] where her little boy had gone. He'd been forced to grow up far too fast in this world, and she didn't like it. Still, she had other matters to attend to. She stepped back from her son, running a hand through his hair.

"Oh Bal, you look like Hell. Do you need to talk about it?"

Nikki was well aware of her son's tendency to let others use him as a venting outlet, someone to listen to them, but he never did it himself, at least, not to his siblings or cousins. She smiled slightly. Of course, that was what mothers were for.

He swallowed thickly, returning his mother’s embrace gently. It wasn’t exactly that he was afraid of breaking her, only… he kind of was. Everything was delicate to someone like him, at least on the days like today, when the dark part of him simmered so near the surface, the part of him that called for the submission of all else and the free exercise of his power. He’d never been like that—his parents had raised him to be kind and tolerant and understanding, to respect others and life itself. But sometimes, it felt like there was another him, living somewhere deep in his bones, that didn’t care about any of that. It was harder to keep away when his usual self felt so weak. That part that wanted to destroy, to possess… to rule. It scared him half to death.

He smiled tightly, but it didn’t reach his eyes, and they both knew it. “There are more important things to talk about than my state of mind, mother.” He didn’t have any right to think of or do anything else until she was back with them. His sister… and her secret, one which weighed heavily on his heart. How hard would she fight Freyr’s control, knowing what she knew about the duration of the rest of her life? He thought he’d been able to get through to her a little, when they spoke, but how long could that really stand up against whatever this serum was supposed to be able to do to her?

Balthasar wanted to tell his mother, just like he’d practically needed to tell his father during their conversation two days ago, but he couldn’t. He couldn’t do that to Yuki. She should not have to come back only to be confronted about it—and she would come back. Gods above, if it cost him everything he had, she would come back. He sighed softly through his nose, leading his mother to the guest quarters that had been prepared for her. “Alden thinks he has a lead, but it’s more likely that she’ll come here before we can find her wherever they have her,” he said quietly, pushing upon the door to the suite of rooms.

Nikki sighed through her nose. Ever Jasper's son...Still, she'd learned a long time ago not to push him. When he needed to talk, he would. So instead, she nodded to his final comment. "I know. What Kisuke did to my daughter has not gone unnoticed to me. We also had contemplated the use of the serum against her, that's why we kept her here. Sadly, it would seem that we underestimated the Pantheon, and it wouldn't be the first time we've done so."

She sighed again, looking tired. "Yuki will return, and not by her own volition. She won't have a choice. There is always a chance that someone could break through to her, but..." The end of her statement hung unspoken in the air. It was the last thing she wanted to suggest was that her daughter die, but at the same time, she knew how Yuki was. Yuki would not want others to die for her, or by her own hand.

"If it comes down to it, there can be no hesitance, Balthasar, by any of you."

“It wasn’t only the two of you that underestimated them,” Balthasar said sadly, but he went no further into the topic. He’d given even his father only the most basic details on Elizabeth, including who she claimed to be her father, but other than that, he had spoken of it to nobody. Everyone knew enough. Besides, there really wasn’t any reason to do so, not when more important matters still needed to be resolved.

His mother’s words were not the most reassuring, but he knew they were honest, and he sighed, the look on his face switching to a deep, open woundedness. “I know, but… I wouldn’t be able to do it, mother. Zero wouldn’t either, and I’d be surprised if Ary or Leo could.” It wasn’t the best news, but it was the truth, certainly. It was, as it so often seemed to be, all he could really give.

It did not surprise her one bit to hear the Kuragaris' names thrown in there. Leora was still inexperienced in the ways of war, and Zero...well, that was quite a different matter altogether, and Nikki certainly understood it. Nikki reached across the expanse between them, taking her son's hand in hers. She looked at it for a second silently, remembering a time when it had been smaller than hers. That was true no longer.

"Your brother has never been made for battle, he simply doesn't have it in him to physically wound another person, even when faced with a life or death situation. Raising a blade against someone is never an easy thing, even less so if it is someone close to you. But think of it this way. If she is not stopped, and she ends up hurting, or even killing, one of you, and then is able to regain control, how do you think she would feel? Yuki would not be able to handle that, regardless of whether or not it was her fault."

She stopped then. It was a discussion for another time, perhaps. She smiled at her son ruefully, adding as an afterthought, "If you ever need to talk about her, you can come to me. I understand that well enough to know what you're going through. And do me a favor, Bal. Stop blaming yourself. And tell Zero that I would like to speak with him."


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yuki Alistair-von Nacht


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There was a great deal of pain, and darkness. That was normal. It was what she lived with, every day of her life, after all. When she opened her eyes, it was dark. It was always dark. Her head ached, and her muscles were sore, but she didn't even notice it. She did not react to pain. There was no crying out, or any sign of discomfort on her face. Pain was easy to deal with, easy to ignore. It was what her father had taught her to do since day one, after all.

You are my weapon, nothing more, nothing less.

His voice came to her out of the darkness, but he did not appear. This also did not surprise her. More often than not, his voice was only in her head. Why should it not be? She was, as he said, a weapon, and weapons did not feel surprise or pain. They did not feel cold or hatred, or love. They were simply tools to be used.

The pain and the darkness were easy to deal with.

It was when she slept, and dreamed, that she did not know what to do. She could not fight phantoms inside her head. She could not kill them, as a weapon was meant to do. So many faces flashed before her eyes, faces of people she did not know and yet...they were all somehow familiar.

A woman with dark hair and eyes the color of steel, and a man, taller than the woman, but with much the same coloration. There were two dark-haired boys with them, and they smiled at her. She felt an urge to go to them.

But why?

A boy and girl with white hair and eyes the color of ice and amaranthine, a man, blonde with blood-red eyes, a dark-haired male with the same eyes, and a woman with hair the color pink sunsets. They were there, and they smiled, and they vanished.

A girl who looked like a child yet was much older, her hair as white as the snow, with a black ribbon. She did not smile, but there was something there in her eyes. Another woman, with fawn-colored hair stood beside her. She was smiling.

A man with dark hair and red eyes, a small woman with light hair, and six children all around them. The woman smiled, the man did not. All of these faces flashed before her eyes, and she felt a sense of familiarity with each one, but she did not know them, she did not know them.

And then she saw him. Eyes the color of sea foam and hair dark, yet with light streaked through it. He always appeared last, and he would smile, and reach for her. The sense to go to him was overwhelming, but she did not reach back for him. He spoke a name. But she had no name. She was a weapon, and weapons had no names. She would wake up then.

She would always wake up with a hollow feeling inside of her chest that she did not understand. She was a weapon, and weapons felt nothing. They could not love or feel pain, or become cold or sad. They could only kill.

You are my weapon, nothing more, nothing less.

Yes, she was a weapon. She was his weapon. She felt nothing, was nothing. She was no one, nameless, faceless. There was no one to become, and no one to be. She had only one task, and that was to kill.

The pain and the darkness were easy to deal with.

The faces were not.

She did not sleep.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Zero Kuragari


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Zero shifted uncomfortably. He had passed by Balthasar who had informed him that Nikki wanted to see him. He wasn't even aware that his aunt was on campus. She must have came due to the news about Yuki. He released a soft sigh, running his fingers through Kiba's fur before standing from his chair. Though he had no desire to see her, he could not refuse his aunt. When she called, he was obligated to go. A part of him slightly knew the reason she wanted to see him, but another part of him was terrified all the same. The two days that passed after the meeting had been torture. She wasn't around, nor was she near him, and he found himself staying up on the roof often.

"I guess I should go find out what Aunt Nikki has to say," he spoke solemnly to the wolf, moving so that he was out of the door and headed towards where he could smell his aunt. He feared Nikki in the same way he feared his other Aunt, Erys. Both women were frightening, especially when it came to their children. That much was evident when Erys nearly tore up the battle grounds searching for Emrys that one time he went missing. Though Emrys wasn't truly missing, Erys didn't know that and had instilled a fear in Zero which caused him to shiver even now. His Aunt Nikki, though, was perhaps the worst one.

"Bal said you wanted to speak with me?" he spoke, glancing down at the woman that was his aunt. His tone came out rather calm, nothing at all what he was truly feeling, but he didn't need to convey it all at once. Nikki was exceptionally perceptive, this he had learned over the years as well.

Nikki had to fight not to sigh through her nose. They were all so jumpy around her, and she could only guess it was because of Yuki. Did they really all think that she blamed them? Perhaps she wasn't the one acting right. Still, it didn't matter, she supposed. She nodded in response to her nephew's question, motioning for him to sit. As he did so, she noted Kiba sitting next to him, and a wry smile could be seen on her face.

Had she not known already, that would have been proof enough. The wolf apparently was sticking to Zero like glue, and Nikki did not have to guess why. She returned her gaze to Zero.

"I won't ask if you're alright, because I already know the answer to that question. I will, however, ask you if you are willing to do whatever is necessary to save the woman you love."

Zero gave his aunt an unintentional flat look. She knew how he felt? Perhaps she did. He could not say for sure, however; he will not deny that she was right. He wasn't alright. He was far from alright. The woman he loved knocked him unconscious after telling him that she loved him, and then she left. She left because she thought it the only way. He sighed, running a hand through his burnt locks in the process. His aunt was truly too perceptive of things. Her question ran through his mind as he thought of the best way to answer it.

"I am willing to go to any lengths to save her, though if you are referring to if I must kill her to save her," he began as he paused, focusing his full attention back on Nikki. "Then no, I cannot do that to save her. If she died, I might as well be dead. Life would have no meaning without her by my side. Even..." he paused. He knew that his Aunt and Uncle had known about her condition, but did they know the length of life she had? He wasn't willing to take that risk. "Even with her condition," he finally stated before sitting further into his chair.

Nikki pursed her lips, her eyes narrowing slightly. She had not missed the way her nephew hesitated. His final sentence was not what he originally intended it to be. Perhaps it was nothing, but even so...

She put the thought aside. While she was not overly fond of having information withheld from her, she was also not one to begrudge anyone their privacy. If Zero felt inclined not to tell her, then she would not push the matter. Instead, she remained on the original topic.

"Then you would allow her to kill you, knowing that, she would not be able to handle living with that knowledge, knowing that she killed the one she loved? Do not misunderstand me by thinking that I believe this is the only solution, I know it is not. However, it is still a possibility. Yuki did what she did because she saw no other way out. If I had to guess, I would say that Freyr threatened you. While I do not believe that it was the best solution, I think it may have been the only solution where no one died. At least, not yet."

Zero flinched slightly at the tone in Nikki's voice. He hadn't meant it that way, but he could see her logic. Either way, there was no way he could ever bring himself to harm Yuki. If she had to kill him for it, then he would gladly die by her hands. "Freyr threatened all of us, not just me," he spoke, his voice a little firmer than what it once had been. "And you are correct, it wasn't the best solution, but it was the only solution she could see. I just...," What? Had known? Sensed Freyr so that he could have protected the others, warned them? He sighed once more, leaning further into his chair.

"I just don't think I could kill her if it came down to it. I don't think any of us could, perhaps the twins though. They love her, and they would do anything for as would I, but I couldn't kill her. It's not even a thought I can entertain the notion of. I love her. I've always loved her, I just wish it didn't take so long for me to have told her," he spoke, placing a hand over his face as he brought it down his face slowly. "I will do whatever I can to save her though, just not that," he responded slowly.

Nikki nodded slowly. "I can both understand and sympathize with that. It does not surprise me that you couldn't. Your father could not raise a hand against your mother, after all. I apologize for the questions, Zero. You are the man my daughter has chosen, and while we are not in the best of situations, I simply had to make sure she chose wisely."

A light smile touched her lips. "Believe what you will of yourself, blame yourself even, I cannot stop you. But you will get her back. In that...I have faith in all of you."


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Aryan von Nacht Character Portrait: Helen Trist


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Aryan sighed through his nose. He, unlike everyone else, it seemed, was not at all surprised to learn that his mother was on campus. He'd spoken with her, mainly about Yuki. Now was not the time to bring anything up about Emrys, and frankly, he was perfectly fine with letting the matter drop. He knew that she was only trying to protect him, and he would never begrudge her that.

Even so, a few things weighed quite heavily on his mind, and he was almost startled to find that it was not Yuki, but Helen that he was thinking most of. He could only surmise that it was because Helen was here, and he could perhaps help her, while Yuki was not, and he could only wait until they found her, or a lead.

But even that was half a lie. Even when Yuki was here, he'd found his thoughts drifting more and more towards the other girl, wondering if she was alright, wondering if there was anything he could do to help her. It was a slightly unnerving revelation, as it could mean very few things, and one of them, he did not think was even an option, not for her. He shook his head. He needed to stop thinking about this.

Even so, it still could not hurt, going to see how she was doing. Perhaps then he could set his mind straight. Helen was not hard to find, she was like Yuki in many ways, either in the library or the infirmary, if not her room. This time, it would appear that she was in the infirmary, and Aryan could only guess that she was picking up where Yuki left off, with the other girl not being here at present. Aryan knocked on the door frame softly before speaking. He was well aware she probably already knew he was here, but still.

"How are you holding up, Helen?" There was some slight concern laced through his voice that he could not hide, and a part of him didn't want to. He wanted her to know that they cared, that he cared, and that she was more than just some servant to them. She probably already knew it, but sometimes Aryan wasn't so sure. She was family, especially to himself and Yuki.

This was a situation where most people would use the idiom ‘I do not know how long it has been since I last slept.’ Helen, however, knew exactly how long it had been, down to the hour. Fifteen days and twenty-one hours since she’d had anything more than a short nap, and slightly less than a week since she’d even been able to manage one of those. What Freyr had done to her mind was more than a simple memory trigger—it was like removing the one stone that held back the river. The dam, or at least a large part of it, had burst, and all of the things she’d been holding back inside herself had simply been released. Visions and memories were the worst in her sleep, and so it was that which she’d ceased first, but it was becoming so bad that she was walking around in a waking dream, hearing his voice as though his lips were right at her ear, sending an uncomfortable shudder down her spine.

Sometimes, the things she was seeing in the present overlapped with ones she had seen in the past, or memories that had been implanted in her mind without her knowledge, things that were not even hers. She was beginning to understand the extent of what she had been made. She wasn’t just a tool, because that would have allowed her some chance to recover, to fill her life with people and things that would convince her otherwise. She was a repository, for Theodor’s knowledge and his will and everything he decided he wanted to put in her head for safekeeping. Sometimes, his moods even colored things, and she would find herself feeling a detached, irrational anger upon sight of something that would have upset him. Like humans mingling with vampires, for example.

It was worse when she looked at those who were related to him, however distantly, or to one of his projects. It was hard to make sense of everything she was getting, but that only made it worse, because if she’d at least been able to divine something useful… but no. The repository was not for her use. She thought she might be close to understanding her purpose. But it terrified her, and she could not bear to search too thoroughly. So she occupied herself. She thought of Yuki, her friend, and the need to rescue her, because even the agony of being unable to be with her, to help her, was less than what would happen if her thoughts remained idle. She moved about the infirmary, binding wounds and dispensing medicine like a mechanical doll, and the little light her eyes had ever held leaked from them until there was nothing left, and she was a shadow of herself, who had only ever been the shadow of another to begin with.

Her eyes were a flat, soulless, indistinct lilac, and while clean, her hair was limp and lank, having lost most of its silvery lustre and receded to a straw-textured dull grey. She’d grown even thinner, if possible, especially in her hands and the hollows of her cheeks. She’d never had much to spare in that department, so it hadn’t taken long at all to lose what little kept her healthy. There were deep shadows under her eyes, and to say that she looked like a ghost would not be entirely inaccurate, save that maybe a ghost would have been more energetic. Still, she moved with unerring precision, and that alone kept the infirmary running.

She was just removing an IV from a patient, who was himself readying to leave, when the knock at the doorframe came. She’d been expecting it, in a distant way that had only instinctively and not consciously registered, but even so, when she turned to answer, she froze momentarily, as a startled rabbit might, her dull eyes wide. She saw him, but she also saw something that was not him, the images overlapping until it appeared that Aryan had eyes of the palest white and wore a malicious smile. She knew that look, but from where?

Helen blinked, and the false image disappeared. Along with this came the realization that she was shaking, and she looked down at her own hands with dull surprise. Where had that fear come from, all of a sudden? The man that had just left had been the last patient for now, and so she sank down into a chair with as much control and grace as she could muster, raising a hand to her temple. “I am functional,” she said hollowly, and then she pointed for a moment, towards the smaller of the two infirmary desks, the one she occupied. “There are new reports from Lady Florina. I sorted them by relevance and summarized each. I can resort by date, if you prefer, but I wasn’t sure which to use.”

Aryan had to fight not to flinch when he saw Helen's reaction to him. He hated that look, knowing that, no matter what, a part of him was the cause. It didn't matter what he did, he would always do this to her. It was things like this that made him second-guess seeing her at all. The last thing he wanted was to cause her discomfort.

Watching as she shook, he had the sudden desire to pull her into his arms. Physical contact, however, was not a good idea with her, and Aryan knew this. So he kept his arms at his sides, and kept his distance. He thought of asking if she perhaps would be more comfortable not being his assistant.

He said nothing on the subject though, knowing it would only make things worse. Instead, he turned his attention to the table to which she pointed. "By relevance, if you please. The important matters come first." He said gently.

Helen nodded, rising from the chair and crossing to the desk. “I thought so, too,” she said slowly, picking up the stack and using the edge of the desk to straighten them to a frankly unnecessary degree of neatness. It was why everything that might have even a shred of pertinence to Yuki was on the top of the stack, and everything else was beneath it. In this, at least, she knew that their priorities were the same. Yuki was the important thing, the most important thing, and she—

Hel frowned slightly, setting the papers on the edge of the desk and bringing her hand closer to her face. It would appear that the side of her index digit had just been sliced open by the paper. She would have been entirely incapable of receiving such a small injury, were she healthy. It was a sure sign that she wasn’t, but she figured that was obvious enough already. Absently, she licked the little bead of blood from her finger and watched as the wound closed, if more slowly than it should have. “Thank you,” she said suddenly, and her eyes flickered up to his for a moment. It was quite a distance to travel, considering how tall he was. “For letting me do this. I do not…” she pursed her lips faintly, unsure how to end the thought. She did not what? Like feeling useless? That was part of it assuredly, but she wasn’t sure it was what she meant.

She did not deserve it? That was possible, also, but she knew better than to say such things, even if she felt they were true. Yuki had repeatedly attempted to disabuse her of such notions, as had anyone else who got an inkling of them. Maybe it was just that she didn’t think she could keep functioning, if she didn’t have something to do, and this work gave her that. Either way, she proffered the stack of reports, her summaries attached.

Aryan watched her slowly, frowning slightly when she thanked him. In the end, however, he smiled softly. "It is I who should be thanking you, Helen. I can now say that I completely understand why my father had Ava as his own assistant, because frankly, I could not have gotten this far without you."

He slowly leafed through the papers before giving each one closer inspection. The first was a report, Florina suspected that the Pantheon would be deploying Yuki soon. There was nothing about a location, of course, but then, he didn't expect one. His eyes narrowed sharply at the second paper.

"The council was unaware of Elizabeth's position in the Pantheon? It would seem that the Council and the Pantheon stand on shaky ground. That may be used to our advantage at some point. For now, however..." He trailed off, focusing on the next set. It was of little interest to him, other than there was more talk of unease between the Council and the Pantheon.

His main concern was Yuki's "deployment". If this serum worked the way it was supposed was highly likely that one of them may end up dead. It was only a matter of who. It was an unsettling notion at best.

Hel busied herself cleaning various parts of the infirmary while Aryan went over the reports, pausing only once to nod an acknowledgement of his observation about the Council and the Pantheon. “Someone in the Pantheon has extensive memory modification abilities,” she pointed out, shelving various anitbiotics for the human patients and ignoring the part of her—him—that would rather crush the plastic and leave them to their frailty and weakness. “It is possible that Baldr is responsible, because he could have acquired the ability elsewhere, but it is more likely that someone was created with such capability. I do not think it was Sigyn, else she probably would have demonstrated on Balthasar.”

It wasn’t to her knowledge anyone she had worked with personally, but then she was kept isolated from the others more often than not. Theodor did not desire that she form bonds with any of them, though that had not stopped Tyr from training with her. Nothing stopped Tyr when he really wanted to do something, after all. She wished she was more like that. But she was not, and wishing achieved nothing.

“The Council attempts to restore his memories, from hope that it will give them an edge over the Pantheon, but it does not look likely. For now, other avenues are best pursued…” A pause. What she wished to say next was difficult, and the girl wasn’t honestly sure she had the right to ask, but… some things simply needed to be said. “I know that everyone has very good reason to want to try and get through to Yuki, but it is not something that can simply be forced. If possible, I would request the opportunity to try.” It was preposterous, really, to ask her actual family to step aside so that she, a peripheral side note in their lives at best, could take on such an important task, but Helen had reason to believe that she could succeed. She knew what it felt like, to be a mindless killing machine, and she knew that no such conditioning was ever complete, serum or no serum.

Aryan nodded absentmindedly while listening to her and continuing to go through the files. He put them down, however, when she mentioned Yuki. He gave her his full attention as she spoke, and when she was finished, he laced his hands together. He chose his words carefully.

"I am aware of what transpired between you and my sister all those years ago, and frankly, the only person who even has the mental capabilities to get through to her aside from Alden is, in fact, you, Helen. You do not need to ask permission. I would rather be asking you to do so. You are our family just as much as she is, and you may be the only one to get through to Yuki."


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Zero Kuragari Character Portrait: Emrys Alistair


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"We still have nothing, it's like...she just dropped off of the face of the earth. The Pantheon have been hard to find before, but this....this is something else entirely. Though I can say I'm surprised, with this Freyr's abilities. I'll keep searching, and so is Alden. Let me know if you find anything before we do."

Emrys nodded, his features tight, his eyes molten rubies. The screen went dark, and Emrys stared at his reflection. He looked....worn out. And he was, really. It had been two weeks, and they still had turned up neither hide nor hair of Yuki, not a scent, not a sighting, absolutely nothing.

Two weeks that he'd had to watch his best friend become increasingly more and more depressed and frustrated, and he could do nothing about it. He wanted to say something, to talk to him, but what could he say? There was nothing to say, and the only thing that could help Zero was getting Yuki back, and that was out of their reach right now. He sighed, running a hand through his hair. Sitting around thinking about it wasn't helping, either.

Emrys stood up, shoving his hands in his pockets. The more he thought about it, the angrier he got, until finally, he found himself out on the grounds, and he hit the closest thing he could find. That turned out to be a tree, and with a resounding crack, the old oak tree fell over. Not that he cared. It was all he could do not to just go on a rampage. He sat down roughly next to the felled tree, touching it with his palm.

The effect was instantaneous, and the whole thing began to wither and turn black as he drained what life it still had within in. Soon, he was looking at nothing more than a large pile of ash, the power thrumming through his body like electricity, his eyes glowing in response to the extra energy. There was a dark look on his face as he sat there, and he was well aware of the presence coming towards him. He knew without looking or smelling that it was Zero and Kiba. Emrys grit his teeth. He didn't like this power, and he'd let his anger get the best of him.

For that, he felt ashamed, and yet a part of him didn't care. What was the point, if he couldn't even find Yuki, and he couldn't help his best friend? Some friend he was. He was useless. Kiba trotted up to him, the wolf pressing his nose to his hand. Emrys looked at him, the power still thrumming underneath his skin, and it would until he released it, and he pet the wolf slightly. "I'm sorry, Z." He said softly.

Two weeks.

Two weeks had passed since the disappearance of Yuki, and Zero could think of nothing else. There was no news of her, no sighting, no nothing, and Zero couldn't help the emptiness that crept upon him like a thief in the night, stabbing him in the back. He couldn't defend himself against it, couldn't prepare for it, and as such, he was at the mercy of this thief that repeatedly stabbed him. He sighed through his nose, running a hand through his hair in the process while closing his eyes. Her disappearance had taken its toll on him. His eyes were bagged, dark circled, and practically almost lifeless. The spark that had once been there was gone, all because she was gone as well.

His eyes flickered to the sound of something breaking and crashing, following the sound until he came upon Emrys. He destroyed the tree, caused it to dissolve before it faded to ash. He frowned merely, glancing down at Kiba at his side before taking a deep breath. He hadn't wanted to speak to anyone, not after he spoke with Nikki, but it seemed that he couldn't avoid his family. With that in mind, he walked, albeit slowly, towards Emrys. His cousin's words echoed through him, causing his frown to deepen. Why was he sorry? It wasn't his fault. Was he apologizing because they couldn't find Yuki? He sighed at that thought and laid a hand on his cousin's shoulder before removing it.

"You shouldn't be, Em," he spoke, his voice cracking just slightly due to fatigue. "I know Uncle and my brother are doing everything they can to find her. It's not easy, and I didn't expect it to be. You shouldn't be apologizing for that, but thanks," he continued before taking a seat next to his cousin, leaning back so that he was resting upon his forearms and staring up at the sky.

Emrys winced at his cousin's words. He looked terrible, not that Emrys could blame him. There was a feeling in the pit of his stomach that told him it was only going to get worse before it got better. The question really was, how much worse would it get? He wasn't sure how much more any of them could handle, especially Zero.

He knew it wasn't really his fault, but that didn't stop him from feeling like there was something else he could be doing, something he should be doing. But in the end, there was nothing to do but wait, and Emrys hated that. For a long time, he said nothing, he just allowed the power to continue humming in his head, because it was a distraction from his thoughts. But keeping that power pent up inside of him was dangerous, so with a heavy breath, he let it go. The grass within thirty feet of them turned bright green, returning to its state when it was in summer. It wouldn't last, of course, but for now, it wasn't half-dead and brown.

It did nothing to quell the hollow look in his eyes. It wasn't just Yuki's disappearance causing it, either. Being out on the front lines, the death, the killing, everything he'd done, Ryvrn's had taken a heavy toll on him, and it was finally starting to show. He couldn't just sit back and pretend that it didn't bother him anymore. Not after Yuki, too.

"I don't know how much longer I can do this, Z." He said softly.

Another sigh escaped him. He wanted to feel like a hypocrite. He had told Aryan not that long ago about sighs, and a subtle quirk of his lips tilted upwards. He leaned back so he was fully upon his back and continued to watch the clouds roll by. He could understand, perhaps a bit, where his cousin was coming from. Zero would have been in the same situation as Emrys if Vincent hadn't had other plans. That left one of his brothers, if not all of them, to man the front lines and participate in whatever suited them and their abilities. Like Alden. He was good at what he did for his ability alone.

"You know, it wouldn't be so bad to have another. Alarica managed, and though she still mourns for Mikhail, Angelus has brightened her up a bit. It won't be the same as Ryvrn, but..." he paused, sitting up and dusting the leaves from his person before turning towards Emrys. "At least give it a try. I'll do it with you," Zero spoke, hovering a clawed hand over his wrist in the process. He'd never wanted a familiar before, but he could understand somewhat how Alarica felt. There was an emptiness, and though it wouldn't fill the hole that Yuki left, it would keep him from descending any further than what he'd gone already.

Something painful flashed across Emrys's eyes. Create another familiar? He wasn't sure if he could do that. It had been two years since Ryvrn's death, and it was still hard, but...

There was a ring of truth to what Zero was saying. Maybe it would help, having something there. He was slightly startled at Zero's declaration that he, too, would create one. That...was unexpected, to say the least. Zero had never wanted a familiar, but...he could also understand where he was coming from. Resolve hardened in his eyes, and he nodded once.

"Together, then."

As he spoke, he slid a claw down his wrist, just as Zero did the same. His blood pooled on the ground in front of him, solidifying into a glowing ball. Before long, the blood had turned into a grey and black wolf. What was odd about her were her eyes. One was a bright yellow, and the other was an ice blue. It only took one look to know her name. "Solaris." The wolf cocked her head at him. "Master?"

Zero nodded his head as he slit his wrist, allowing the blood to pool from his wrist before, in the same fashion as his cousin, molded it until it was but a small ball of solidified blood. He watched as it expanded, grew, and contorted. His eyes went fairly wide at how large the ball kept growing, and for a moment, it appeared that it wasn't going to stop. Dread filled Zero as he watched the ball grow until it finally stopped, rolling out and producing a very odd creature indeed. It was shaped and molded like a wolf, though there were some characteristics that suggested it was a tiger, however; it was neither.

The familiar rolled, tumbling as he fell upon his back, and golden eyes met sea-foam green. "Zero!" the familiar stated, rolling till he was on his feet and bounded after Zero. An uncharacteristic scream tore through Zero's throat, running away from the familiar in the process. This was precisely why he did not want to create a familiar. It could crush him if it wanted, and he did not want to be crushed by an over grown dog.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Alarica Alistair Character Portrait: Keir Alistair Character Portrait: Emrys Alistair


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Alarica stared at Angelus, watching as his tails flickered beneath the morning sun as she dangled from a tree limb. The back of her knees were currently tangled in the tree branches as she allowed her snow-white locks to fall towards the ground, barely grazing it in the process. Angelus merely looked up at her, amusement flashing before his eyes as he folded his arms underneath him. She blinked, and if he could have, he would have smirked. They had been having a staring contest, one that had lasted for merely thirty minutes, and Angelus walked up, tangling himself in Alarica's hair.

"I win, master," he spoke as Alarica sighed. She twisted herself so that she swung from the branch, plummeting down and landed on her feet. "What do I win?" he spoke, amusement still laced within his voice as Alarica raised a brow at him. They didn't agree to prizes. She furrowed her brows, choosing to ignore her familiar as he merely feigned a hurt look. "You wound me so, master," he spoke as she continued to walk away from him. She shot a glance towards her brother, Keir, and nodded towards him.

She waited for him to fall in stride with her as they walked in relative silence. There was nothing that could be said between them, and it was an understanding that the both of them had shared. They could spend hours in each other's company, and not say a word. And yet, all that they needed to say was spoken in that silence. Alarica had not paid mind to where her legs were taking her, and found herself staring at the oldest Alistair child. A slight smile tugged at her lips, however; it morphed into something akin to a frown. She walked over to him, peering over his shoulder, not noticing the two-toned eyed wolf laying but a few feet away.

"Still no leads?"

Emrys let out a frustrated sigh, Solaris laying just off to his right, her two-toned eyes watching her master silently. The wolf did not move as two others approached, though she did notice that they smelled of him. Ah, she knew who they were. They were the Twins, master's younger siblings. Her eyes swiveled over to Alucard, the wolves locked in a stare for a second. Alucard trotted over to her, sniffing.

Solaris picked her head up, letting out a low growl in the process. She was not overly fond of being approached so, and Alucard registered that immediatly, backing off slightly. That cause Keir to chuckle. "And here I thought the male was supposed to be the alpha." Alucard glared silently at his master, and it was Solaris's turn to chuckle.

"He is no wolf, he simply dresses like one." Alucard huffed, but otherwise ignored her. It at least earned a slight smile out of the eldest Alistair. "Still nothing, I'm afraid. But, Rica, Keir, this is Solaris. You're what, five hours old now?"

"Four hours, forty-seven minutes, and thirty-eight seconds, actually."

Alarica blinked slowly at the familiar to the side. Angelus tilted his head slightly as Alarica turned towards the familiar. "Solaris," she spoke, allowing the name to roll in her mouth as she tested it. A subtle smile appeared on her face as she glanced back towards her older brother. It appears that Emrys finally created another familiar, though the reason as to why, did not bother her any. "Welcome to the family, Solaris," she stated as she nodded towards the familiar.

She glanced then towards Emrys as he spoke. They had found nothing on a trace of Yuki, and Alarica clenched her fists tightly. She had vented her anger out before, but right now was perhaps not the best time. Instead, she shook her head softly. "I'm sure dad and Alden will find something soon," she spoke, pulling a lock of white to the front and tugged at it.

Emrys smiled wanly. "One can only hope, sister." He watched his younger siblings closely, not missing the way Rica balled her fists. Keir, too, was barely holding back his anger. Emrys glanced back at the files that Alden had sent him. Well, if they really needed to vent...

"So, the two of you feel like coming with me to tear off a few heads?"

Keir cocked his head to the side, something of a malicious grin crawling across his face. "Oh? And whose heads are we tearing off, hm?"

Solaris, too, picked her head up again. She didn't like fighting, but she would go where ever her master went. "You mean the skirmish, right? Isn't it a horde of level E's?" Emrys nodded. "I'm thinking of asking Balthasar and Aunt Nikki along. The more power hitters we have, the better, and between the two of you and Aunt Nikki, we've got a dream team."

Alarica rose a brow at Emrys before Keir spoke. "Well, if tearing off a few heads will make others sleep better at night, I'm game," she spoke, a slow smirk crossing her features. She could do that, tear off a few heads. Besides, it's not like they'd be horribly missed. Level E's causing skirmishes, yeah, she could do that. She placed a hand on the holster of Ulrik, brought it out and glanced towards Angelus. "I have my own ride," she spoke to the others as Angelus nodded his head in understanding. He left the room momentarily as Alarica turned towards her brothers.

"Besides, something needs to die," she added, the smirk transforming into a rather large grin as she took off after Angelus. She'd wait for her brothers outside, and wait for the others to arrive. Besides, it would help to know exactly where it was they were heading towards. She didn't get that information from Emrys.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Zero Kuragari Character Portrait: Aryan von Nacht Character Portrait: Yuki Alistair-von Nacht Character Portrait: Helen Trist Character Portrait: Alden Kuragari


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It still had that certain je ne sais quoi about it, didn’t it? Or so he thought, at least, sweeping red-violet eyes over the grounds, as viewable from the entrance arch. He could feel them all on the grounds (well, save the ones who had left two days prior to deal with a skirmish near the border), exerting next to no effort to pinpoint the few students he was concerned with, even the ones who fancied themselves good at hiding. Well, they were, he was just better at finding what was hidden. It was, after all, his job. Alden sighed, shaking his head faintly and sending a few stray locks of wisteria-colored hair in front of his eyes, something he did not bother to correct. It wasn’t like he was in danger of running into something because he could not see.

He might have allowed the nostalgia to subsume him for a while, but unfortunately, there were more urgent matters to attend to. As it happened, his siblings were together at present, and though perhaps his first instinct might have been to seek out the von Nachts, he knew exactly how involved Zero was in this series of events, and so it was with he that starting made sense. There was very little Alden did not know about any of them—Leora had to have learned her ways from someone, after all, and it certainly had not been their parents.

With a slight sigh, Alden popped a piece of pocky into his mouth, letting half of it stick out haphazardly from between his lips and teeth. It was always a bit hard, hanging around Leo for any length of time, but that didn’t stop him from doing it. Sliding his hands into his pockets, Alden shuffled his way to where they were, which at present happened to be under a tree. They both leaned against it, Leo’s arms both wrapped around one of Zero’s, and she leaning into his side. It was a bit cute, actually, and if he hadn’t known the reason for it, he might have teased them both. He bit off the pocky as a way of announcing his presence, because his scent was still the same one he’d been using for his last assignment, and thus not familiar to either of them.

The noise made Leora glance up, but before she could say anything, Alden spoke. “You have twenty-four hours before Freyr deploys Yuki. Here.” He reached up with one hand, straightening his black-framed glasses on his face. Completely unnecessary, of course, but he liked them.

Kiba's ears pricked forward at the newcomer, a low growl leaving his throat as Yuki was mentioned. As usual for the familiar, he'd not left Zero's side since he'd woken up, even with the birth of Xenos. While his own master was missing, he would stay with the one she had chosen as her own.

Aryan was well aware when Alden arrived, and it was to him he currently found himself headed. While he did not recognize the scent, it was easy enough to sense the presence of someone new on campus. His pace was brisk, and Helen was right behind him, as silent as ever. As it were, they arrived just in time to catch the end of Alden's scentence.

"So we were right, they are sending her after us. But does she have a particular target in mind?"

Zero sighed softly, leaning his head against his sister's as they sat, arms laced together. His breathing was stilled, shallow almost, however; he was completely content at the moment. Though, he wasn't entirely, he was still nonetheless happy. Their efforts in finding Yuki were intensified and they had spent no expense at finding her. He popped an eye open, glanced down at his sister, and ran his free hand through her hair. Her scent filled his senses, and he sighed. He was used to it by now. Being one of the first born, growing up around Ava, it instilled a sense of control in him. Though perhaps he wasn't as controlled as his father was.

His attention, however, was taken by the subtle growl of Kiba. Xenos lifted his large head, glancing at the newcomer, however; his tail wagged happily. "Then we have to prepare," he spoke, moving so that he unhooked himself from Leora's arm and stood. He straightened himself out so that he stood on par with his brother, staring at Alden as he shook some of the dirt from his clothes. "The twins are gone with Emrys, it'll be just a handful of us here," he spoke. If she was going to be here, then he had to prepare himself. He would finally be able to see her, though part of him was terrified.

His eyes drifted to the arrival of Aryan, his eyes narrowing slightly though they held no malice towards the younger von Nacht heir. "The target matters not. The only thing that does is that she will be here after someone. We cannot afford for any of us to stray too far from each other. Though, their intentions will probably be to separate us while she goes after her intended target," he spoke, his voice unusually calm.

Alden returned his brother’s scrutiny with a flat stare. He was a rather straightforward person, when he wasn’t busy being deceptive, and so his eyes flickered for a moment towards Aryan and Hel—he was careful not to do more than break the surface of that one’s mind. Some things could fuck you up just in the seeing, and he’d made the mistake of trying to read a bit deeper into hers once. It had given him a profound respect for the fact that the girl was even still capable of basic function, though she looked a bit worse for the wear now.

“Think about it, Ary. Helen’s informed you all that Freyr’s only intention is to hurt us, so he’ll aim her at what’s going to hurt the most.” His eyes slid back to Zero. “Namely, Rocchan here.” Like many little brothers, Alden exercised the right they all shared to give the older ones rather annoying nicknames. ‘Rocchan’ was derived from ‘Ro-chan,’ something he’d been calling his brother since he was old enough to speak. “There’s also less chance of her being incapacitated against someone who won’t fight back. She won’t be alone, but whomever they send with her will be just a distraction. I wouldn’t be surprised if the schemer himself decided to put in an appearance. Some people like pain.” He shrugged lazily, a gesture that made it seem almost as if he didn’t care much either way, though nothing could be further from the truth.

Over Alden’s shoulder, an enormous pair of eyes set into a fuzzy rodent’s face peered at them, and his familiar scrabbled up onto his shoulder. Alia was presently a bush-baby, though she was just as capable of being anything she wanted as he was. “And don’t forget the diversion,” she squeaked, and he sighed.

“I would have thought it was obvious, but yeah. That Level E attack was intended to draw away the more…ah… combatively-inclined half of the family.”

The pain was still there, in her head. And the voices. But there were no faces, not while she was waking. Her yellow eyes skimmed over the campus. There was a certain person she was looking for. The male with the sea foam eyes. He was her target. If anyone got in her way, she was to kill them. That was what weapons did. They killed. The wind tousled her hair, which was free of any restraints. That alone was enough to cause one to do a double-take.

She never wore her hair down. Oddly, she was also barefoot. Coupled with the light flames that were rising from her body, it gave her a wild, feral look. Suddenly, she picked up on his scent. He was with the younger von Nacht boy. How odd, she'd been told he didn't like fighting. No matter, it would make killing him all the more easier. Her eyes slid to the others with her for just a second, but she otherwise ignored them.

She had a job to do. The Katana at her back slid from its sheath with a metallic sound, and she began walking. At first, one could only see her eyes glowing in the darkness as she stepped out of the shadows, but Aryan had been able to feel her. Nothing hid in the shadows from him, save for perhaps Freyr and Emrys. But not her. Not his sister.

His purple eyes narrowed as she came into view. He'd never quite seen her like this, and his hands clenched at his sides, the shadows responding. He was only further angered by the grin that spread over her face as his shadows flared. It was her voice, but it wasn't her. Her voice was flat, monotone; the blade in her hand gleamed in the moonlight.

"You are not my target, Lord von Nacht. But I will kill you if you get in my way."

It was from the same shadows that Hel darted, her own odachi ringing free with a soft chime. She would not let her friend do this. She would not let her hurt the people she loved. The girl came in fast on Yuki’s left, but she was intercepted in turn, her blade clanging off a three-pointed spear. Freyr. He smiled at her, nothing in it resembling the one he’d used to wear, and his greater strength tossed her backwards. She landed lightly in a three-point crouch, her blade held out to the side, and in a rare display of emotion, her lip curled upward slightly, into the faintest of snarls.

“You will move, brother, or I will not hesitate.” He chuckled, low and dark, and stabbed for her again with the spear, driving her backwards another few steps and clear of the engagement between Yuki and the others.

“All you are is hesitation, Hel,” he said, only to be cut off by a pair of flying daggers. One actually managed to nick him in the cheek. Odd—he should have been gradually becoming imperceptible to anyone but her… ah. “The Spider,” he murmured, running a thumb along his cheekbone and examining the red liquid there as though he’d never seen it before. “And here I thought you never left the center of your web.”

“I don’t,” Alden replied bluntly. “It’s you who’s in the wrong place, pest.” He moved to stand beside Helen, who nodded to him slightly. Freyr was not a run-of-the-mill opponent, and it would take subtlety and power in equal measure to even have a hope against him.

Leora, meanwhile found herself as usual in the middle of a horde of hungry Level E’s. “It never fails,” she muttered dryly, though this time, she’d let her blood intentionally, to distract them from her family. This meant she got to deal with them all herself, but there were only about twenty—she could handle it. Settling back into a pugilist’s stance, she drew her fist back and slammed it into the nearest one, tearing its head from its shoulders with the force of the impact. “Not a snack, assholes,” she growled, launching herself at the next.

The day passed swiftly, and Zero found himself along with his family standing outside. His eyes sweeped the field, noting the Level E's assembling around, their eyes glowing like ravenous starved dogs. His lips pulled into a viscious snarl, revealing white fangs that glistened like the moon does in the middle of a winters night. He watched as the scent of Leora's blood beckoned the lower vampires towards her, and a flash of worry crossed his features. Leora could handle herself, but it was still dangerous to use such a notion to call attention towards herself. He merely kept his eyes glued to the battle field, trusting his sister knew what she was doing and allowed himself to charge into the fray.

He was, however, brought from it when he spotted someone. It was her. She stood a few feet away from Aryan, and he could hear her speaking. He couldn't make out the words over the loud snarls of the others, and his eyes momentarily fled towards Hel and Alden. It appeared that there was another on the field, however; the aura this one produced was different than the level E's, and Zero couldn't help the hairs along the back of his neck from standing. He couldn't understand why, but part of him pulled to attack this man, to harm and maim him for some crime he did not know he committed. Instead, Zero refocused back on her.

"Yuki," he murmured softly, as if her name was a delicate piece of glass already on the cusp of breaking that if he said it any louder, it would shatter completely. He ran towards Aryan, his speed a little slower than what he was trying to exert. It was as if a part of him was afraid to be near her, to go to her, to help her. But that is what he desired most. He wanted to help her, though he knew he wouldn't be able to. He was by Aryan's side in seconds, staring down at the woman he loved. "Yuki."

Aryan's lis pulled back in a silent snarl. He hated that title, even more so that she was the one who said it, however; Zero was at his side, speaking before he could. He said her name, and her yellow eyes swiveled to him. She raised the blade slightly. There was no recognition in her eyes.

"Yuki." He needed a reaction from her, anything. Something so that he knew his sister was still in there. The answer he got was one that gave him chills.

She raised the blade, leveling it with her face. "Do the Lords Kuragari and von Nacht deem fit to name me? I am not yours to name. I am a weapon, and therefore, I have no name. I have only one purpose, and that is to kill."

With the last word she spoke, she moved, nearly as fast as a Pure Blood, her katana leveling with Zero's throat. She had spoken truly, Aryan was not her target. Her target was the man in front of her.

Aryan's eyes widened, realizing that Zero wasn't moving. The idiot was just going to let her kill him. He didn't think, he just moved.

Self-sacrifice was not something Aryan would have ever guessed was in his nature. He had no love of battle, he wasn't good at it like his parents, his brother, his sister. His fight was on paper, in dark rooms. Not this, not out here. So when the blade connected with his forearm as he stood facing Zero, at first, he was confused. Blood ran down his arm, dripping onto the flagstones beneath his feet. Then it made sense, what he'd done. He'd saved his cousin.

While it was not a particularly alluring scent to her, there was something about his blood, something that drew her to it. That, and the fact that she hadn't fed in almost a month. She twined her fingers in his hair, wrenching it so that his neck was exposed to her, and with no ceremony, she sank her fangs into the skin. The von Nacht's eyes went wide, and the fight-or-flight response his body induced only made his blood run faster. If she could have, she would have smiled. The more he struggled, the faster he would be drained.

What little color that was in Aryan's face drained as soon as he felt his sister's mouth on his neck. That had been entirely unexpected, and his fingers were instantly at hers, trying to pry her off of him, however; he couldn't. What little struggle he'd been putting up was ceased when she brought the blade up to his throat, the cold steel bitting into his neck. His vision was already fading, the light leaving his eyes as she drained him.

She wasn't just feeding, she was devouring him. He didn't even realize when she'd released him. His body felt numb, an odd sense of warmth spreading through him, starting at his neck. He felt her lips move against his ear, but he couldn't make out the words, not yet. The blade was drawn across his throat, slicing it open. He didn't feel that either.

"Goodbye, Lord von Nacht." She told him, her tongue removing some of the excess blood on her lips. She watched silently as the man his the flagstones, what little blood he had left in his system leaking from the cut she'd made. Nothing flashed across her face, nor in her eyes, which were now glowing a deep crimson as she set her gaze on Zero once more.

A strange gasping noise came from Aryan. The only thing he could think was, I hate that title.

Even between the two of them, Freyr was not at much of a disadvantage. Really, they were saved by dent of Helen’s superior reflexes and Alden’s foreknowledge within his zone, neither of which got them past the Pantheon member in enough time to do anything to save Aryan from having himself nearly drained. Sometimes, being able to sense intent really fucking sucked. Though apparently not as much as Yuki did in this particular state. …His dark sense of humor was really getting away from him these days—he should probably work on that.

Ducking away from Freyr, he used himself to conceal a lunge by the much smaller Helen, and she succeeded in scoring a gash along her brother’s side, one that would have been a lot deeper had the lack of sleep and recent malnutrition she’d been undergoing not weakened and slowed her considerably. Nevertheless, he seemed to be inclined to leave now, and Alden felt the shift in his intentions and thoughts in time to stop Helen with an index finger to her shoulder. To her credit, it took no more than that. She was ruthless, but consummately rational, and she understood as well as he did that the real priority right now was saving his cousin.

Alden was not capable of that. Nor was Zero. Leora might have been, if she’d allowed him to take her blood, and he could hear the thought cross her mind. But that was far too risky—they didn’t need an addict on their hands. That left one option. He knew the girl did not like this ability of hers, as she had been conditioned to enjoy the taking of life at one point, and this fashion was the way in which she had most often done so. He hoped, or rather knew, that she would be willing to set that aside for the moment, however. If her general willingness to sacrifice anything for this family were not enough, her guilt at not being able to stop Yuki would drive her to it. Not the ideal motivations, but Alden didn’t have the luxury of being choosy. Ary’s life was on the line.

And help him Helen did, kneeling beside him and placing one hand over the slit in his throat—she was doing much better than he would be at exposure to so much blood—the von Nachts were pretty potent, if not in the same way as Leo or his mom, and he would not have had such an easy time of it, which explained why he was standing well back, his arms crossed, and watched Leo dispense with the last of the Level E’s as Freyr and Yuki disappeared. Not from his perception, at least not until they left his zone of influence, but from everyone else, anyway. The girl whispered something, and though he was not close enough to hear it, it did escape into the mental space between them.

“I won’t let you die…”

All around her, the grass and trees began to drain of life, losing their autumn colors and fading until they were crinkled and brown, the trunks withering as she absorbed all the life that was to be taken from them. It was like watching time-lapse footage of the natural process of decay, until eventually the molecular bonds holding everything together just broke, and they were standing on a wide circle of barren soil. The energy seemed to light her skin from beneath, making her glow like some kind of fantastical spirit, or, thin and small as she was, perhaps a faerie. The wound she held to stem its bleeding closed, the flesh becoming smooth and whole once more, and the color returned in large part to his cousin’s skin, but the primary difficulty was blood loss, and she knew it as well as he did.

From his pocket, Alden removed a cherry-flavored hard candy, laying it against his tongue. It almost wasn’t enough to distract him from the smell that entered the area as she drew her own wakizashi up to her throat, laying it across the paper-thin flesh of her neck and collarbone and drawing it without hesitation, flaying open a portion of her marble-white skin and causing blood to well from the wound. Smart—he’d be far too weak to bite on his own, if he could even think straight enough to do it. She slid an arm underneath his back to help him reach the wound, and cradled his head with the other, so that all Aryan had to do was figure out how to drink.

Zero couldn't concentrate. His mind was drawing a blank at he stared at Yuki. She didn't recognize them, him, and it tore something in his chest. He wanted to go to her, to remind her somehow of who she was. That she was Yuki Alistair-von Nacht, that she wasn't a weapon. He wanted to remind her somehow, but he didn't know how. It wasn't long before he was able to command his body to move, however; by then it was far too late. She was behind him, cold steel pressed against his throat as his body tensed once more. His eyes faltered, the light dimming from them, and his body surrendered.

He couldn't. He told his aunt that he couldn't, wouldn't be able to harm Yuki. He wanted to save her, but he couldn't. Her words, they pierced him in ways that even the blades that could physically do him harm, were but the fleeting illusion, and the illusion itself was the reality. Then, he was there, the scent of his blood piercing the air as Yuki took Aryan. Zero's eyes widened at the display, watching as Yuki drained his cousin, and willing his body to move to help his cousin. But his body refused. It refused to work with him, refused to move, and so he stood, watching with eyes wide at the scene playing before him.

It was like a twisted play, and the scent of blood growing stronger as Aryan bled. His eyes met the vermilion stained irises of Yuki's, and he felt his breath hitch in his throat. This wasn't Yuki, this wasn't his cousin. This wasn't the woman he loved standing before them, and as he watched her disappear, he felt a little part of his heart breaking further. He glanced towards his brother, watching as Alden and Helen appeared. Immediately, she set to work on healing Aryan, and Zero could only ball his fists in anger. He was pathetic. So very pathetic that he couldn't even protect his own cousins. What use was he to the battlefield if he couldn't fight?

He was useless, and he knew it. He was so utterly pathetic and useless. And those were the only thoughts that rang through his mind. He failed to help Yuki, to help Aryan. He failed. He turned on his heel, leaving the area as he walked away. Aryan was close to deaths' door because of him, and Yuki was gone. All because he wasn't strong enough to protect his family. How could he ever face her again? How could he be the older brother, and fail to protect those who meant the most to him? He was pathetic, and everyone would know it.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Balthasar von Nacht Character Portrait: Alarica Alistair


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It had been a day since the five of them returned from the skirmish, covered in blood but otherwise fine, only to find that the real fight had been the one pitched here. Aryan still had not woken, though Helen assured the rest of them that he simply needed time to recover. She, too, looked worse than they’d left her, and he’d caught her downing no less than four blood pills at once. That hadn’t made a lot of sense until Alden explained what she’d done. He owed her his thanks, but her discomfort around him had only increased in recent weeks and he didn’t want to trouble her unless he had to. He should probably write a note, or tell her through Sven.

For now, he steered clear of the infirmary, where she tended his younger brother. It upset him that he’d been gone when Yuki had reappeared, and unable to help his sister. It seemed, though, that even being on the scene would not have changed much, as perhaps the only ones that would have been capable of attacking Yuki had been waylaid by Freyr—probably quite an intentional move on his part. Still… he should have been there, to protect his brother if nothing else.

It seemed his life was swiftly beginning to compose itself of things he should have done, or should have known, but did not. For someone who was used to succeeding with a fair amount of ease at whatever he put his hand to, it was especially discouraging. Though he did not make it obvious, Balthasar had rarely ever had to struggle with anything. He was simply a natural hand at the things he was taught. In a sense, he’d never learned how to fail, and it was proving to be a problem now. What did one do, when one ran into an obstacle that simply could not be moved? How was he supposed to forgive himself for failing them? Would they forgive him? That mattered more than anything.

He sighed softly, turning his head to look out over the water. Deep within the forest on the grounds of Cross, there was actually a small lake, surrounded by a copse of trees. Hardly anyone ever bothered to come this far out, and he had some time ago designated it as his sanctuary, the place he went when he needed to be away from everything else. To hide, maybe, but at least to slow down for a little while. It was exhausting, sometimes, trying to keep up with the expectations, or his whole family. He felt a bit like an old man before his time, unable to sustain the extended vibrancy and vivacity of the others. He supposed there might be a few who could relate, but though he was very good at listening, Balthasar sometimes had trouble sharing his own burdens. He only really knew how to shoulder them, not share them.

So instead, he took a moment every once in a while to rest, before he picked them back up again, and he did that here, laying on his back in the grass, looking out over the water and smiling to himself at the little microcosm of life that existed here. Fish, insects, birds, frogs, and the occasional lizard. He propped one of his arms on his elbow, holding an index finger crooked for a little hummingbird, which landed without a care on the extended digit. It reminded him a little of Winston, his aunt Ava’s familiar, its jeweled feathers shimmering brightly in the stippled sunlight that the autumn leaves allowed through.

When they returned to the Academy, it was to find Aryan in the infirmary, and Helen reassuring them that he would be fine. They returned to find that another battle had taken place here, and it caused Alarica's blood to boil. She shouldn't have left. She should have let her brothers handle the Level E's, but her anger, her desire to maim something, had over come her sense of judgement. And it was a mistake she didn't want to make again. She had visited Aryan's room perhaps the most out of her family, checking in on him when she could and spending the rest of her time training. Which is what she was currently going to do. Ulrik at her back, Angelus on her shoulder, she had left down an old beaten path.

She had discovered the area by accident really, and had she known who else would have been there, she might have relaxed her tension a bit. But as it were, she was still angry. She was angry at herself for not being there when Yuki returned, angry at herself when she found out who exactly Elizabeth was, and angry at herself because she could have done something to prevent it. Though it was a different story with Yuki, she could have at least prevented Elizabeth from becoming too close to Balthasar, and she still blamed herself for that. She released a frustrated sigh as she shifted slightly, moving so that she ducked underneath a fallen tree branch until she came upon the site of where she did some of her training.

She blinked slowly, her eyes fixed upon the form of Balthasar who was gazing out over the lake. She took a deep breath and walked over towards him, Angelus jumping from her shoulder into the nearby tree, as she placed Ulrik against the trunk of another. "You're just like aunt Ava, always attracting things," she spoke, a light hint of amusement laced in her voice as she took a seat next to him. Though that statement could be taken out of context, a part of her hoped he wouldn't. She meant it out of lightheartedness. Balthasar had experienced too much for her to mean it otherwise. She didn't want to hurt him more than she already had.

"It's nice to see you smiling again," she stated offhandedly. He hadn't smiled since a few weeks ago, and she missed it. Though she would always see it from afar, the last few weeks had wiped it from him.

He’d sensed her approach, because he was unable to do otherwise. Nobody else smelled like apples and cinnamon, at least not to his knowledge. He’d certainly never run into it in another person, and something about it suited her. The hummingbird took off at the sound of another’s footsteps, though not before hovering in front of his nose for a few seconds, then zipping off to wheel a pair of circles around Alarica’s snow-colored crown before leaving the clearing. “I’m not sure why,” he admitted a touch wryly, completely missing any implications but the obvious ones. “I don’t smell half as nice as she does, and I’m a horrible baker, besides.” Well, horrible was a bit of an overstatement. He could make simple things, both sweets and otherwise, but he tended to stay away from the complicated dishes, since there were so many experts in the family. He subsisted mostly on blood tablets, anyway.

He hadn’t noticed he’d been smiling actually, though it widened a little at the observation. “Maybe I shouldn’t be, but… there’s something about this place. It sets me at ease, I suppose. It’s like… for all the troubles we endure, life somewhere goes on, and it’s no so bad.” Not when the birds still sang and the fish still swam, anyway. It was something very simple, but he took great comfort from it. Moving slowly up into a cross-legged seated position, he shook his head, mussing it with his fingers to dislodge any stray bits of grass or leaves.

“That sounds… kind of stupid, now that I say it out loud.” He sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. He was really doomed to be the one forever without the right words, wasn’t he? Sure, not everyone was Aryan or Alden, but when even Zero was more eloquent than you… you weren’t doing too well, honestly.

She resisted the urge to roll her eyes at her cousin. "There is nothing wrong with that. I'd give anything to feel like that," she stated, plucking a leaf out of his hair as he tried to dislodge the rest. Which was true. She would give anything to have that sense of mind, to find a moment's peace in all the fighting they were doing. But then again, she really wouldn't know what to do with herself if there was nothing to fight. They all grew up in the war, though silently quelled for the time being, and it was something she had only known. To be able to feel peace somewhere in a time of endless death and war, was something she envied about him right now.

"A moment's peace in a time of war is still something you should cherish. It's not often we get to have times like these, and be able to enjoy them. Maybe you're right, maybe we shouldn't be smiling during such a time, but," she paused, a frown marring her face lightly. Perhaps he was right. Smiling, laughing, these were all things best done with the family, however; their family was short a member. "Everyone deserves to smile, even in such times. If we didn't, then that means that they've won. That they managed to take away the only thing we could possibly ever have; our smiles," she continued as she sighed. She was always like this, stumbling over her words as she tried to talk to her cousin.

It probably made little sense to him, but then again, it made little sense to her. She let out a frustrated groan as she fell on her back, eyes staring up at the sky in the process. "I don't think it's ever been that bad. As long as I have you...all," she corrected herself as she realized what she was about to say. "I don't think life could ever be bad. As long as we face the hardships together, then nothing could ever be bad," she continued before releasing a small sigh. "Now I feel stupid saying that out loud," she scoffed a bit, a small smile covering her lips.

“But now you’re smiling, too,” he pointed out, his own reaching his eyes, which seemed somehow bluer in the light. “If it makes you smile, then it’s worth saying, I think.” It was true—she did not often wear a genuine smile. She had a mischievous smirk, certainly, one she usually wore when engaging in shenanigans with her brother (or brothers—all three of them scheming together was rarely good news for anyone else), but that was different. War had made them all harder, flintier people, to an extent, but sometimes, he wondered if it might not have changed her most of all. He still remembered what she’d been like as a child, after all, before it had really reached her the way it did now. He felt a little sad for that, but it was hard for him to resent it, not when the person she was was someone he cared about so much.

“I understand,” he said with a nod, his expression softening. Though her sentences may have been a little jumbled up, he could tell what she was trying to get at with them, and he agreed. They did all deserve to smile, and part of growing up as they had was learning to do so, even when circumstances were averse. He worried for his brother, yes, and his sister even more-so, but Ary would get better, and they would get Yuki back. It was all simply a matter of time. He had faith enough in his family to believe that.

“It’s not so hard, you know,” he said, referring to finding the little moments of peace. “You just have to open your eyes and really look at things. Like…” he trailed off for a moment, then stood, thoughtlessly reaching for her hand and pulling her along with him, until they both stood at the edge of the pond, a short distance away from what was apparently a nest of duck eggs. “In a few weeks, those will be baby ducks. Isn't there something a little bit amazing about that? How something so fragile can become something so alive?” He sighed, not sure if that really translated, but he thought it miraculous all the same.

“And a tiny little seed can become a whole tree! An apple tree, if you like. I guess I just… I have to care about ducks and trees and people because… because there has to be a reason, you know? A reason why everything we do is worth it, but also a reason why, even when I get it wrong… I can still bring myself to try again.” The smile disappeared, replaced with the broken expression it had been trying to repair, and he sighed softly. “And I’ve been getting a lot of it wrong, lately.”

"Well would you look at that, I am smiling," she chided back, though it only caused her smile to turn brighter. It, however, disappeared from her face the moment his hand grabbed hers, and she had to fight the sudden fast paced drum of her heart and the heat rising to her face. She tried to focus on what he was saying, however; the only thing she could focus on was how his hand still held hers. She was able to focus though when he began speaking of the unhatched eggs, how it was miraculous that they could be so fragile, and yet turn into something so alive. Perhaps it was. She just had to see it. The frown appeared once more as she thought about it. She would have to see it. Was she even capable of seeing such things?

"Because there is always a reason. If we didn't keep trying, how can we ever achieve the things we have today? How can we ever hope to protect those we care about if we didn't keep trying? How does a bird learn to fly if it doesn't keep trying to leave the nest? How does a newborn foal not know how to stand, run, walk, minutes after it is born if it doesn't keep on trying? It is a base desire in all of us to just keep trying, reason or not," she finally found her voice, the warmth of his hand slowly becoming a bit cold. She watched as the smile disappeared from his face, replaced with something that pulled at her heart. She didn't like seeing him like this. She really didn't, and it was killing her more-so to see him like this than it did to ignore him.

She placed her free hand upon his cheek, touching it softly as she stared at him. "Not everyone can get it right all the time, Balthasar. We all screw up from time to time, but that just means we have to try harder," she stated, her lips pursed into a thin line. "You can't keep blaming yourself for things that happen. We cannot be in control all of the time, and things will always slip through us, you said. All you can do is keep trying. There will come a day when you finally get it right, and until you do, I'll be here for you," she concluded, truth shining behind her eyes as she spoke those words. She wouldn't avoid him like she had, instead, she'd remain by his side so long as he wanted her to. She would be there for him, to help him along the way until the day came where he finally got it right.

She was right—he knew she was. And yet… forgiving himself had always been the hardest of tasks for Balthasar. Forgiving other people was easy—he could even forgive someone like Elizabeth, even after how badly she’d hurt him. But forgiving himself for being deceived, for letting Yuki be taken right from under his nose, for not being there to protect Aryan when he needed it most… these things rankled him like little else. It was so difficult, because he should have been capable of seeing and doing all of these things. He was capable—he just hadn’t lived up to his capability. And that hurt more than simply trying and failing ever would.

He let his eyes close, leaning for a moment into her hand. Cracking them open again, he gave her a melancholy smile, the best one he had for the moment. “You know, for a long time, I wondered what I’d done wrong to make you so upset with me. Now I wonder what I could possibly have done right to deserve your help.” His cousin had grown into a truly extraordinary person. They all had, but something about Rica was a little different. He couldn’t put his finger on it, but maybe it was just that honesty she had about her, the complete and utter frankness by which she lived. He would have expected someone like that to disdain him, who always searched for the right thing to say and so often came up short.

He moved a step closer, so that he could put his arms around her shoulders and deliver a companionable hug, enveloping her in what warmth he had to offer, which was, temperature-wise, quite a lot. His pyrokinetic talents meant that he ran a bit hotter than the average person, which was somewhat the opposite of the way she was a bit cooler to the touch than most. “Thanks, Rica,” he said, pulling back and laying a hand atop her crown. “I think we should go check on Ary now, how about you?”

She shook her head a bit. She wouldn't tell him why she avoided him. She couldn't. Perhaps one day she would, but for now, she would keep that to herself. She did, however, allow a light smirk to pull at the corner of her lips as he continued to speak. He didn't have to do anything right to have her by his side, for her to be there for him. All he had to do was remain the same. To remain Balthasar, and she would always be there regardless. She was slightly startled though, when his arms enveloped her in an embrace. If he could have, Angelus would have laughed himself out of the tree at the red color his master's face sported. Luckily for her, she was able to contain it when he pulled back.

"You're welcome," she muttered beneath her breath before she turned to face him again. "I think that would be best," she responded, the smile returning to her face, though a light pink still dusted her cheeks as she grabbed his hand, lacing her fingers with his. "Ary might be awake now, it would be nice to see if he's recovered," she spoke, trying to ignore the fluttering beat of her heart as it thrummed a bit faster beneath her rib-cage.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Zero Kuragari Character Portrait: Aryan von Nacht


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Over the next few days, Aryan would drift in and out of conciousness, but he was never really there. He would open his eyes, but he didn't respond. His mind was elsewhere, somewhere dark. He was always alone, his neck feeling like it was on fire, and no matter what he did, he could never soothe it, or figure out where he was. There were voices, memories, pain.

There was always one person he could see, but just barely. A woman with long white hair. His sister. She was standing with her back to him, and he would try to go to her, to make sure she was okay. But every time he tried to reach her, she would vanish, reappearing behind him. He would look at her, only to see that it wasn't her. Not Yuki. It didn't matter how much she looked like her, it wasn't Yuki.

Aryan's eyes opened slowly, not comprehending where he was for a second, the ceiling unfamiliar, scents of bleach and steril solution, mixed with the scents of his family flooding his senses. He was in the infirmary. He shifted his eyes downward, something golden on his chest catching his eye. It was Medusa, and the snake lifted her head as she felt her master move, her tongue flicking out silently.

"Massster." She hissed.

Aryan stroked her head lightly, not saying anything. There was little to say, really. He could vaugely remember Yuki devouring him, but he remembered little else. He could only surmise that Helen had saved him, it was the only way he would still be alive, honestly. He shifted his head to right, catching sight of Zero. The Kuragari was asleep.

"He'sss been keeping an eye on you when your mother wasss gone." The familiar said softly.

Zero stirred, his chest rising slowly. His face contorted into one of pain, but there was no physical pain to be had. His dreams, they all drifted to a woman, her hair long, white as snow, and her eyes. It was her eyes that always stilled his breath, caused him to feel as if he couldn't breathe, that he was suffocating. His heart felt that it was pulling from his arteries, trying to burst from his chest and just bleed for her. And it was. It ached every moment she was gone, and when she broke his heart even more. She didn't recognize him, her family. She recognized none of them. What did they do to her?

His eyes opened slowly, the light flooding his senses. There were words being spoken, but it took him a moment to clear his senses, and glanced towards the bed that Aryan occupied, the von Nacht woken from his deep sleep. A sigh of relief escaped Zero as he straightened his posture, popping his back in the process as he stretched. He took a deep breath, releasing it as he turned towards Aryan. "How are you feeling Aryan? You've been out a few days," he spoke, concern genuinely laced in his voice.

Aryan's eyes slid over to Zero again as his cousin spoke. There was certainly more life in them than there had been, but it still was not quite up to his usual standard. He grimaced slightly, moving various parts of his body before rolling his head around and sighing.

"If I knew what it felt like to be crushed by a compactor and then re-inflated, I would think I feel something like that. But I would not know, so I believe I simply hurt." It wasn't really so much physical pain as it was simply being sore from not having moved for three days.

"Was anyone else hurt?"

Zero sighed. That perhaps would be considered normal if that is how Aryan felt. Yuki did take a lot of blood from him, bringing him almost to the brink of death, and Zero clutched the arms of the chair tightly. He should have done something, anything, to at least save Aryan. If he couldn't save Yuki, he should have at least saved his cousin. Aryan's question brought him out of his thoughts as he turned to face him again. He sighed softly through his nose, racking his hand through his hair as he thought about the words to tell him.

"No," he finally stated, the word being drawn out in the process. "Everyone else made it out okay, but you were the one who was hit the worst," he replied. He fell silent after that. What else could he tell him? That he failed to protect Yuki, to protect him, to protect his family? He finally slumped into his chair as he closed his eyes softly.

It was Aryan's turn to sigh, Medusa slithering off of his chest as he sat up. He winced as he did so, though he otherwise made no sign of discomfort. He regarded his cousin silently once more. It was good to know that no one else was hurt, however...

Not everyone was dealing with physical pain. "I suppose it would do little good to tell you that you're being an idiot. What happened to me was not your fault. I was the one who made the decision to save you. Besides, now we know exactly how she's going to act. That gives us more information on how to get her back."

Zero scoffed silently. Perhaps he was being an idiot, but that meant nothing to him. He had failed, that was all there was to it. "You wouldn't have had to make that decision if I had acted, and for that I apologize," he spoke, opening his eyes once more as he silently regarded his cousin. He then cracked a small, broken, smile, one that he could barely muster enough energy for. It was true, they had a bit of more information now as to how Yuki was going to act around them. She wasn't going to recognize them, and that meant that she wasn't going to hold back on hurting them.

"You're right, we do. And we won't fail at getting her back the next time," he continued, his voice laced with resolve. And he wouldn't hesitate to save her this time.

Zero's tone alone produced what could be considered Aryan's normal smirk.

"Good, because I won't be saving you next time."


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Leora Kuragari Character Portrait: Keir Alistair


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A red rubber ball went flying across the courtyard, three wolves running after it. Keir wasn't entirely sure how he got stuck with Alucard, Kiba, and Solaris all at once, but here he was. He watched as they fought for possession of the round object, only slightly amused when Solaris came out the victor. He was still angry with the turn of events.

There may have been little to do, and they had known that the attack had been a diversion, but still. He couldn't help but think that there could have been something he could have done. Maybe keep Yuki from attacking Aryan...he didn't really know. Maybe it would have been the same outcome, maybe not. He sighed, running a hand through his snow-white locks, throwing the ball again as Solaris brought it back.

These were the times that he wished he were more like Emrys, to be able to act like it didn't bother him. Em was always upbeat, even when everyone around him could see just how much he hurt. Keir couldn't do that. He wore his emotions on his sleeve.

A rather potent scent entered his vicinity, and he corrected the statement in his head. He wore most of his emotions on his sleeve. His anger, anyway.

Leora sighed, running a hand through the silken threads of her dark hair. Aryan had woken the day before, but he still wasn’t at full health, which was perhaps to be expected with what he’d endured. She was just as upset as most of them about what had happened, but she refused to blame herself for it. It was unhealthy, and the person really responsible was Freyr. He was the one who’d stolen their sister-cousin, and he was the one who’d wiped her mind until only a weapon was left. Leo didn’t believe she’d stay that way, however. Yuki was strong, and besides that, she had plenty of evidence that a person could be brought back from something like that. Her mother had, once, and Helen had as well. It was possible, and Yuki would do it too. Of that, she didn’t let herself have doubt.

She wasn’t so sure why everyone else was insistent on thinking that they should have done something different. The way she saw it, nobody was dead—that was already better than most of the possible outcomes. They hadn’t done so badly, really, and it left them more prepared for the next time. They’d get her back.

Leora noted the presence of Keir along with no less than three of the growing brood of familiars, and she allowed a small smile to turn her lips. He was probably moping, too, and for once, she approached him not with their challenge in mind, but something else entirely. Gliding to his side, she watched the three lupine creatures fight over the rubber ball, and chuckled softly when Solaris came out on top—literally, as she appeared to have stood on Alucard in order to pluck the object out of the sky mid-bounce. “Hey,” she said quietly, cutting a glance at him from the corner of her eye. This time, when Solaris brought the rubber ball back, it was Leo who took it, winding back and chucking it in the fashion of a baseball pitcher. They had to run quite a distance to retrieve it, but she was pretty sure Alucard made the jump first.

“You okay, Keir?”

Keir stuck his hands in his pockets as he silently watched Leora chuck the ball, this time Alucard claiming possession of it. Something in his eyes flashed as she asked if he was okay. No, he was not okay. None of them were okay. Okay was not even a word for this situation, and yet...

He also knew that what he was doing wasn't helping anything. It would not change the past, or fix what was broken. All they could do was move forward. But the question was, move forward to what? As far as he saw it, they were no closer to getting Yuki back now than they were two weeks ago. He let out an aggravated sigh, throwing the ball Alucard brought him.

"No." He said simply, and added as an after-thought, "But I will be, as soon as we get Yuki back."

Part of her had been expecting that answer, and part of her had been dreading it, because she didn’t know what she was supposed to do about it. Though she displayed it seldom, Leora had somehow wound up with her mother’s persistent, niggling need to help people, to fix things wherever possible, and the predisposition to feel rather awful when she could not. Unfortunately, her demeanor was not even half as bright, and so it was not that her mere existence or presence was sometimes enough. She had to actually do things, and right now, there was simply nothing to be done.

So she sighed, her expression fading into something melancholy and a bit unreadable. “We will, you know. We’ll get her back.” There was absolutely no doubt or hesitation in her tone, though her hands flexed into fists at her side, tightening and loosening with some regularity as she contained her own anger, her own simmering resentment towards that man who found it somehow acceptable to walk in here and try to tear apart her family. “We’re stronger than that bastard would ever guess, all of us. He’s already beaten—he just doesn’t know it yet.” Her eyes hardened, the glint in them steel and fire, but she did manage to resist the urge to throw a fist into something. Now was not the time.

If there was one thing Keir knew about Leora, it was that look in her eyes. For the first time in perhaps three days, his usual smirk wormed it's way across his face. The scales on his arm and chest slowly began to creep over his skin, until he was covered from neck to toe, his body glittering. It truly was quite beautiful in the right light, the scales glittering in blues, greens, and purples. He shot a sideways grin at his cousin.

"You wanna hit something, right?"

It certainly couldn't hurt for the both of them to blow off steam.

“Hell yes I do,” she nearly growled, but her mouth turned up in a dangerous smile at the sight of his armor. It was certainly some serious protection, and so she knew she didn’t need to feel too bad about punching at full force. The no touching rule was about to get temporarily suspended in the least likely of ways. Well, it would have been the least likely if they were anything other than themselves.

Cracking her knuckles in quick succession, Leora prepared herself for the rather likely event that she would break a few, as tended to happen when one punched at speeds extraordinary even for vampire physiology to hit things extremely durable even for that same species. She didn’t mind—pain was just another way of being alive. It was with this thought in mind that she stepped back, smacked her fist into her open palm, and bowed slightly. There was, after all, no need to be rude about the fact that they were about to beat the crap out of each other.

Once the formalities were out of the way, though, she didn’t hesitate, launching a quick, brutal flurry of hits for his midsection, her hands flying too fast to be properly tracked. She wasn’t the strongest by far, but she could pack a lot of force by using momentum, after all.

Keir only smirked as Leora lunged for him, the succession of her blows faster than he could track. He wasn't at all surprised, she was a Pure Blood, he was not. By definition alone, she was faster. But, he was a bit more...durable. The first few blows he didn't even feel.

The two of them went at it for nearly an hour before they both lay on the ground, staring up at the sky. Without any warning, or even really knowing himself, Keir started laughing. It wasn't his normal, manic laughter, either. It was just...laughter. When he finally managed to calm down, he wiped at his eyes.

"Thanks, Leo."


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Balthasar von Nacht Character Portrait: Zero Kuragari


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Balthasar stretched—he’d been napping in the sun for a while there, trying to enjoy the last touches of late fall before winter overtook the campus in full. It was hard to enjoy anything at the moment, but he was serious when he’d told Alarica—he needed to remind himself of the good things in the world periodically in order to stay himself. Good things, like naps in the sunshine. His muscles loosened as he moved them around a little, all the aches of the previous day gone. Or well… at least the physical ones.

Yuki had shown up again yesterday. This time with a small army of Level E’s and no Freyr. At least this time, nobody had been injured to the point of near death. Leo had sustained a pretty bad wound from Yuki late in the confrontation, though, and Balthasar had been prevented from stopping his fleeing sister by the need to hold Alden back. Without any warning or preparation and in the heat of battle, the potent smell of his sister’s blood had nearly taken him over the edge of his control, and Balthasar was one of the few that understood the reason for this. Alden was nearly always starving, because of the nature of his abilities. Where most of them could switch things on and off as needed, Alden was just constantly running, and it wasn’t easy for him.

Though… even Helen had been distracted by the smell, and that was probably because she looked about as starved as a junkyard dog, too. She’d upped her consumption of blood pills, but she’d been exhausted and malnourished even before she’d given up so much of her blood to save Ary, and Balthasar knew from experience that there was only so much the pills could replace in such a short time. He was amazed that the girl could still stand and fight, let alone run the infirmary by herself and function as Aryan’s assistant.

They were slowly falling apart, and when not from the physical wounds, from the motional ones. Freyr was an adroit strategist, Balthasar had to give him that. He’d set out to hurt them, and hurting them he was, but perhaps none quite so badly as Zero. Which was perhaps why the eldest von Nacht son found himself heading to where the eldest Kuragari was—in this case, the music room. It seemed to be a common thread in their family, to take solace from such things. He found his friend plucking idly at the strings of what had once been his mother’s violin, gifted to her ironically enough by Balthasar’s own father. They were always connected, these people he loved so dearly.

“I suppose you know, don’t you?” he said by way of introduction, taking a seat facing the wrong way on the piano bench, and crossing his arms over his chest. He referred, of course, to Yuki’s secret. He could see it—though Zero was unmistakably in love with his sister, and part of that sadness was because of her current state, there was something else there. Balthasar could only see it because he felt it, too. And unlike anyone else who might observe its presence, he could actually identify it.

For what seemed the umpteenth time that day, Zero sighed, stretching his limbs out as they popped in random places. He began plucking at the violin, the one that once belonged to his mother, and it brought a mournful smile to his face. He missed playing, but most of all, he missed playing with his family. He missed the music they could all produce together, because like their fathers and mothers before them, they were all gifted in some instrument or another. He sighed, pushing those thoughts away as he recalled yesterday. She was there again, attacking her family as a pack of Level E's descended upon the field. She managed to wound his sister, and that was never a good thing.

Alden had to be restrained by Balthasar, something Zero was silently grateful for. He didn't want to have to harm his younger brother to protect his sister. Because he would have. As much as saving Yuki meant to him, he couldn't allow anyone else to be hurt because of her. He had managed to get Leora off of the field, tending to her wound before he allowed anyone else near her. The twins had control of their thirst, thanks to their human sides, but they were still susceptible to the scent. At least he thought they were. They had never shown any interest before in taking blood from anyone else, and he was pretty sure that if there was one source of blood Alarica wanted, it definitely wasn't his sister's.

He sighed once more, plucking the strings still before he went to tune the instrument. Once he set it to the tone he wanted, he pulled the bow across the strings and frowned at the sound it elicited. It wasn't the same note that he used to play, though it was. Perhaps he just needed to practice more often. He hadn't played in the last few months, and he was sure he was getting rusty. The light in his eyes were dimmed still, fading his eyes from the light, sea-foam green to a dull, almost gray color. It was starting to take its toll on him, the battle, her. And he knew most people could see it. He wasn't all too surprised to hear Balthasar's voice, and he turned to spot his cousin. He offered a small smile, but it still did not reach his features.

"It's not fair," he spoke. If one did not know the circumstances, they might have considered his statement a bit childish, and with no room to be spoken, however; he meant it. It wasn't fair that she only had fifty more years of life, that she had had whatever possibility for a longer life, stolen from her by that man. It wasn't fair that he loved her, and he was going to lose her no matter what happened. He was either going to lose her to Freyr, and his twisted mind games, or he was going to lose her to this disease, this whatever it was that Kisuke had did to her.

“No,” Balthasar agreed, leaning up against a wall and crossing his arms over his chest, “it isn’t.” He was well aware of the injustice of it all, and it still rankled him to believe that such a person as Kisuke Sou had had any influence on his sister’s life whatsoever, especially something so profound. How anyone could do such things to anyone else, let alone their own child, eluded him entirely. It was hard for him to even imagine, truly.

“But I’ll tell you what I told her: your mother is right. As long as those fifty years are the best fifty years they can be, they’ll be enough. Even I can see how much the two of you care about each other. Even if… even if your time is limited… hold onto that with everything you’ve got, because we don't all get it, Zero. It’s worth treasuring, without tainting it with thoughts of what might otherwise have been.” They couldn’t spend even a day of those fifty years being sad about how they wouldn’t have more—they just had to seize that time for everything it was worth. Most humans got less time than that, and nobody would deny that humans were capable of living full, worthwhile lives. At least, he didn’t think anyone would. He certainly didn’t think they were incapable. Sometimes, they seemed to grasp things that his own kind couldn’t see.

And whatever happiness Yuki and Zero managed to find for themselves… it would be more than Balthasar had. He couldn’t say he resented them, because he’d never even dream of it. He wanted them to be as happy as possible, and he’d give anything he had for it to be so. But… part of him ached a little, for lack of that same experience. He was still young by the standards of his kind, he supposed, but he was beginning to doubt he’d ever get something like they had. In his youth, nobody had seen anything but his name, and in the end, even Elizabeth had only wanted his blood. At least… at least Yuki got to have better than that. So much better—he’d always be grateful to Zero for that, for giving his sister that chance.

Zero listened quietly as his older cousin spoke, and a small smile tugged upon his lips. "Mom always had a way with words, and it seems that they rub off on you too," he spoke, a light scoff escaping him in the process. It was perhaps the reason why he always sought Balthasar for council when his mother wasn't around. The two were alike in so many ways, that it frightened Zero a bit to know that there was another of his mother out there. But it wasn't such a bad thing, because if he wasn't, Zero wouldn't know how to handle the current situation. Balthasar was right. Whatever time they had together, when they got her back, they should use to make it the best years of their life.

But still, the dread still crept within him. What was he going to do once she was gone? Life without her wasn't a life at all, and he couldn't imagine himself living on, a thousand years even after her death. There was just no meaning for it. He would not tell his cousin that though, and instead, allowed the smile to remain. "See, now that's where you're wrong. We all do get it. There already is someone who loves you for who you are, not your title, not your blood, but just for you. Some of us are just too blind to see that," he spoke. At least Yuki loved him, at least he loved her. That was all that mattered. And he knew with that statement, his older cousin wouldn't understand, and that was how he wanted it to be.

In due time, maybe he'd really see the one who loved him for all that he was, just as he could see Yuki and love her for all that she was. Noble or not, experiment or not, he loved her not because of her status, but because of who she was to him and what she meant to him. That was all that would ever matter. "Thanks, Balthasar. I guess that's all I really needed to hear. When we get her back, not a day will pass by that I will not cherish it, I promise you that," he spoke, determination laced with a promise, covering his voice.

Balthasar was honestly perplexed by part of what his cousin said, for he could think of no such person, at least not in the way he meant the words. Perhaps they referred to different senses in which one could be loved, or perhaps Zero was indicating something about the future. It didn’t really matter, anyway. The important part was that his words seemed to have helped his cousin a bit, and that was what he’d intended. “Well… good. Okay, then. No giving up until she’s back, and after that… still no giving up, and a lot of living. Sounds like a plan to me.” He nodded his satisfaction, and matched his friend’s smile.

“You’re welcome, Zero. Your mother’s a very wise woman—I’m glad to be thought of as like her. And I’ll be holding you to that promise. She is my sister, after all… I’d be a pretty bad brother if I didn’t.” He wasn’t going to threaten him or anything though—that seemed patently unnecessary. It was obvious Zero loved Yuki, and that they could and would be happy together. Besides, Zero was his cousin (distantly) and his friend. He was happy for both of them, and protective of both of them, in his own way.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yuki Alistair-von Nacht


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Four times she had appeared on the campus of Cross Academy. No one yet was dead, but that was of little consequence. She was doing her job. She could function on the battlefield. But in the was getting harder to deal with it.

The pain and the darkness had been easy for her to deal with, but it was getting harder. The faces were beginning to appear to her while she was awake. They began talking, saying a name, reaching for her. It was the younger ones that became the most prominent, but most of all it was him.

"Zero Kuragari."

The name felt familiar rolling off of her tongue, but she still did not understand why he knew her, why they all knew her. She knew them only through the information that Freyr gave her. So how did they know her? It made little sense. The back of her throat burned.

You are my weapon, nothing more, nothing less.

She started, looking up into the dark. She hadn't expected to hear his voice this time. What was more, she saw him approach out of the darkness. There was a scowl on his face, his eyes a dim blood-red color. Her own eyes, normally so vibrant a yellow, were dull, lifeless.

"Have you forgotten what I taught you?"


"Then why have you begun to hesitate?"

She didn't know how to answer that. The truth of the matter was, she had hesitated the last time. She'd had a clear shot at taking out the male twin, and yet...she'd hesitated, allowing the female Alistair time to head her off. She didn't understand it, this sense of knowing.

"Yuki." Kisuke said sharply, and she looked at him, a confused look on her face. Yuki? That had been what the others had called her. They all called her that. But she was a weapon. She didn't have a name. A painful white-hot spike lanced through her head, and she grasped at her temples. Images, faces, memories flashed before her eyes, strings of things she neither understood nor wanted to see.

The man before her, his eyes gleaming red as he injected her with something. There was a lot of this, and a lot of pain. Eventually, she became almost immune to the pain. He bled her, starved her, fed her, and starved her again. Patches of memories were missing. The man was in front of her again, in the snow, the woman with the black hair behind her. She killed him. There was a lot of confusion after that, faces of people that seemed to know her yet she could not place them, years and years of faces, and they all said one thing: Yuki.

"Go away." She whispered. She didn't want to be here, she didn't want to see this. Nothing made sense and her head hurt. The faces kept coming, his at the foremost. Always his, and those eyes, the color of sea foam, and he would call her by that name.

"You know what you must do, Yuki. You are my weapon. You must kill." Kisuke spoke again, looming over her in the darkness.

"No...I don't want to be here. Go away."

Kisuke's face twisted in a demented smirk. "I am as much apart of you as you are of me. You cannot banish me, I am always with you. I am your anger, your fear. I am what you hate, your thirst, your need to kill. I am not going anywhere."

"No!" She yelled, lunging at him, but hitting empty air. The apparition laughed as he dissovled into nothing, the sound like nails on a chalkboard to her, and she covered her ears as she crouched in the corner. Her eyes were wide, frightened, like a rabbit as she sat there, her hands placed on either side of her head.

"I want to go home." She whispered to the darkness.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Balthasar von Nacht Character Portrait: Aryan von Nacht


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Not five hours after he'd awoken, Aryan had been up and around, despite the protests from both Helen [though those were rather soft and not enforced] and the much more willful pushing of his mother. Aryan would hear none of it, and only allowed himself to feed from Nikki, and then went about most of his business as usual, much to his mother's annoyance.

Now, almost a week later, Aryan was making his way across the grounds. For once, there really wasn't something that he should be doing, or needed to catch up on. The actual search for Yuki had been all but abandoned, seeing as Alden thought that they were going to dispose of her soon, meaning they would easily be able to get her back, so he was not needed there. As for the Council, the general lull in the war, as well as the rumblings between them and the Pantheon had then at a deadlock. For now, there was little to do.

An idle mind such as Aryan's was wont to wander, and he did not like it, not one bit. He also found himself in the odd position of feeling almost awkward around Helen, and he wasn't entirely sure what to do about that. Frankly, he wasn't even sure of the cause. Whether it was because she had saved him, or she was uneasy around him because of his lineage and he had no wish to cause her more discomfort, he couldn't tell. And not being able to figure something out did not sit well with the youngest von Nacht.

While all of this was going through his mind, he was not really paying attention to where his feet were taking him, and as such, he had not realized that he'd stumbled upon his brother's little sanctuary, as it were. At least, not until he'd walked [and fallen] straight into the lake. After Aryan managed to drag himself back up on the bank, he simply lay on the ground, soaking wet, staring up at the sky. He was scowling. This was exactly why he hated it when he had nothing to do.

Perhaps, had Balthasar been awake, he would have warned his brother that the particular piece of ground he was walking on dropped off deceptively quickly into the lake, but as it was, the elder of the von Nacht brothers was asleep, recovering from what had been a rather large solo effort on a horde of Level E’s in Italy not a day ago. He’d volunteered to do it himself, because nobody important was going to be there, and they needed as many as possible to remain here in case Yuki showed up. He’d not missed one of his sister’s appearances, but he had run unexpectedly into Frigga, which was a drain on anyone’s endurance, even his. Hence the need for a bit of extra sleep.

The massive splashing sound that broke the usual tranquility of his sanctuary, however, woke him instantaneously, and Balthasar’s eyes snapped open, his body reacting immediately and carrying him to his feet before the smell hit his nose—along with the sight of his rather damp and bedraggled brother. To his credit, Balthasar managed to avoid laughing too much, containing it to a few chuckles, poorly masked with a cough, at which point he made his way over to Aryan, and offered a hand up.

“And here I thought you were the one who inherited all of father’s grace,” he said with a tilted eyebrow, but nevertheless he smiled, quite willing to end his teasing there, even if it was rather amusing that Aryan’s trademark finesse had rather failed him here. “Something I can help you with, Ary?”

Aryan frowned slightly at his brother's comment, though he did have a point. He sighed heavily through his nose as he made an attempt to wring out his hair; really all that did was make it stick up at odd angles. With an almost defeated look, Aryan looked at his older brother, the look on his face somewhere between utter annoyance and a kicked puppy. It was an odd look for Aryan.

"I have nothing to do, and it's driving me insane. I can't just sit around and do nothing, I wasn't made for that. On top of that, I can't be around Helen for more than five minutes without feeling completely awkward like I'm someone else in my own skin."

There was a bit of a shocked expression on his face then, as he hadn't really planned on saying anything about that to anyone, let alone his brother. Though, Balthasar did tend to have that effect on people, once they started venting, it was a bit hard to stop. Still, the realization that he had said that did cause a rather bright blush to creep across his face.

Well, whatever he’d been expecting his brother to say, it was not that. Balthasar blinked slowly, giving both of the matters some thought. The first one was a bit easier, considering that he dealt with it quite often himself. It wasn’t in either of their natures to be idle, to waste what they had on doing nothing. Unfortunately, Balthasar had kind of had to learn to deal with it—because he was not well-positioned to deal with political battles like Aryan, he usually had to wait until there was a physical fight to be had, and it was the waiting, not the battles themselves, that caused the most psychological damage. The periods in between activity were when things like doubt and guilt for the blood on one’s hands and anxiety for the others could emerge.

Balthasar didn’t know if Aryan ever felt guilt for what he did, but the general idea was the same. Activity was a way of being that did not allow for the helplessness of inertia. “I know how you feel, about having nothing to do. The best I can suggest is—and I mean this honestly—picking up a new hobby or trying to learn something you don’t already know. It keeps you busy, and it can occasionally be useful somewhere down the line. I know you prefer to avoid fighting where possible, but it never hurts to try and figure out new stuff with your abilities, for instance.” he shrugged. It was not a commonly-known fact, but Balthasar had actually picked up a few very random skills this way, driven to them by boredom. Lulls between fights were the reason he knew origami, and the names of basically every species of tree one could find on campus. “Or teach someone something; that tends to feel productive.”

The second half of the complaint, though, as well as the most uncharacteristic expression on Aryan’s face, produced a genuine grin from his brother. Even he’d known about his younger sibling’s unrequited attraction for their half-sister—if this admission meant what he thought it meant, the elder brother was happy about it. Because it had also been pretty easy to tell that Yuki had eyes for nobody but Zero, and he hadn’t wanted to see either of them hurt. Whether an attraction to Helen of all people would work out any better was hard to say—she was unreadable in the strictest sense of the word, and she’d undergone a lot of emotional trauma, among other things.

He sighed a bit, running a hand through his hair, and frowned thoughtfully. “Well… that’s a bit troubling, considering she’s your assistant and all. Seems like you should try to get comfortable in her presence again, for the sake of that if nothing else… have you considered that both of your problems might have the same solution?” He cocked his head slightly to the side. “Maybe you should spend a little more time with her, in a setting that isn’t work-related. I haven’t been around her much, but even I know she looks half-starved and like she hasn’t slept in ten years. She’s been overcompensating with blood tablets, but what she really needs is a break. So… go ask her to do something with you. Figure out why you feel the way you do, and see what happens. Not everything can be planned down to the last detail, especially people. Sometimes, you just have to let things occur.”

Zero was right, he'd been sighing far too much, because he found himself doing it again. It wasn't that simple, it never was. Sometimes Aryan wished it was, but the fact remained unchanged that it was not.

"It's not that simple, Bal. I wouldn't even know what to do with her in the first place. She's more of a workaholic than I am, it's the only thing we seem to be any good at. Neither of us are sociable people, and we don't about things, or do things. We're not like you and Rica and Leo. We're the ones that hide in the shadows, it's where we're most comfortable."

That had not been an easy thing for him to admit, to be honest. Admitting that he couldn't do something was something that wounded his pride, and Aryan did have a good amount of pride, indeed, even if he didn't flaunt it. Even so, he was completely at a loss for what to do. Balthasar was right, he couldn't very well find himself uncomfortable in Helen's presence, and frankly, they probably both needed a break, even if they didn't want to admit it.

Unconciously, Aryan's hand went to his throat. There was no scar, nor any indication of the damage that had been done, would always be a part of him, of who he was. His memory of that night was still incredibly foggy, and the only thing that really stuck out in his mind was Yuki calling him Lord von Nacht and seeing something bright. The brightness, of course, had been Helen, but Aryan was unaware of that. It concerned him that she was, essentially, starving herself, though he had little idea of what to do about that, either. He highly doubted that she would take any blood offered, regardless of who it came from.

“Are you so sure?” Balthasar pressed, if gently. “I mean, if you’d asked her to do something else, and she’d said no, I might agree with you, but…” It was his turn to sigh. “She’s not very comfortable with us, Ary, and I can understand that. But we’ve all given her so much space that she’s never had the opportunity to become comfortable. Just… ask. Tell her you’re concerned about her, and, I dunno, go on a walk or something. How would you make friends with anyone else? Shadows or not, I’d bet she’s a little bit tired of being treated like she might break at any moment. She might surprise you. You might even surprise yourself.” He shrugged.

It wasn’t like he blamed Ary or anyone else for being careful around Helen—to some degree, it would probably always be necessary. But… sometimes, the people who were the most different got tired of being reminded of it. Just like he got tired of being reminded about his powers and his responsibility every once in a while and had to come here, if only to relax for a bit. He’d have tried to make the friendly overtures himself, but lately every time she even looked at him, she seemed to have an episode. But she’d known Ary better for longer, and if anyone could help her now, it was his brother, especially with Yuki gone.

If it happened to work out even better, and gave Ary some clarity about his feelings, well… that would be even better.

Aryan stayed silent for a few seconds, finally sighing once more. He was growing weary of standing there in wet clothes, so he shoved his hands in his pockets, his demeanor more or less becoming what was usually seen from him. Perhaps later he would give more thought to what his brother had said. But for now...

"I still say that you're more dumb than a sack of potatoes, Bal." He offered as a way of parting.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Aryan von Nacht Character Portrait: Helen Trist


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Helen paused for a moment, leaning the palm of one hand against her desk in the infirmary as her vision swam. What was wrong with her? The tablets should have replaced enough of what she’d lost by now that the dizzy spells should have passed. Perhaps it was the lack of sleep. She’d drawn a few milliliters of her own blood and sent it to Freya for testing, explaining only that she was experiencing abnormal symptoms, but that alone was nothing out of the ordinary for her. She had never been like others of her kind were. That chance, if indeed she’d ever had it, was denied her by Theodor, and this was something that she’d accepted.

Her free hand pinched the bridge of her nose, and she breathed slowly, if abnormally heavily, until the spell passed, at which point she straightened and returned to what she was doing, which at the moment was nothing more strenuous than cleaning the infirmary. She’d never say it, but she was putting it back in order so that everything would be in its proper place when Yuki returned. Regardless of anyone else’s plans, Helen was going to confront her directly next time she appeared, an opportunity she had not yet had. And when she did… she would get her friend back, or she would die trying. This was her resolution.

A breath, almost but not quite a sigh, passed through her nose. Even this, little as it was, constituted more of a life than she’d ever thought to have. She had a very small niche at the periphery of an important group of people, whom she could occasionally assist in doing very important things. It made her feel useful, if not quite needed, and it was enough. She had spent some very pleasant time with them, and they had given her much more than they realized, every one of them. Sorting through a few files, she placed them in the appropriate spots in the cabinets, closing the drawers with a soft click. The dizziness took her eyes a bit out of focus, and, distinctly frustrated if not displaying it, she moved back to her own desk, extracting three more tablets, and dissolving them in a glass of water.

The taste was certainly unfortunate, but her face did not change, consuming the sludgy substance with equanimity. The mixture always became thick like that when more than one was dissolved in a glass, but she simply couldn’t stomach enough water to keep up with her need to slake her other thirst. She was well used to starvation—Theodor was not a kind man. But… it had never burned so before. If she could sleep, she might get better, but she could not do that, no matter how she tried.

What his brother had said would simply not let Aryan be. He was genuinely concerned for Helen and her well-being, but he still was not sure if that gave him the right to intrude. He wanted to help her, but had no idea on how to do so. What he'd told Balthasar was the truth: he had no idea how to interact with people truthfully.

He sighed, running a hand down his face. He was being an idiot. His appearance was a bit...unorthodox for one such as him. The clean-cut suit and uniform had been replaced by a simple black t-shirt and a pair of jeans; he looked very odd, for anyone who knew him, really. Honestly, he hadn't bothered to dress for anything, because he simply didn't feel like it. This, too, was slightly unnatural for him. He wondered, not for the first time that day, what had gotten into him.

Not having a single clue as to why he was letting his feet carry him to the infirmary other than the fact that he wanted to see her, Aryan walked, pausing just outside the door. He was caught between going in and leaving. Why did he have to be so indecisive? He was never this way, unless it had to do with her, and for the life of him, he couldn't understand it. Finally taking a deep breath, he opened the door, not noticing when an easy smile broke over his face when he saw her. Granted, she looked terrible, but that didn't mean he wasn't happy just to see her.


She was sitting at the desk by the time she smelled his approach, and for a moment, she wondered if there was something she had forgotten to do, because nothing immediately relevant came to mind when she cast her thoughts over the Council business or anything else. Other than the fact that another appearance by Yuki was imminent, there had actually been a dearth of things to do lately. It was enough that she was finishing the last of Yuki’s massive backlog of paperwork, affixing her signature to the end of the final document even as he entered.

Helen had never liked her name, really. Not when it had been Hel, because it still suited her a little too much, and not now, because it suited her not at all. But somehow… she’d never known anyone but her sister to smile when saying it, as though they were simply glad to see her. It made the cadence more pleasant, and she wondered for a strange moment if it were really such a horrible name after all. Her brows drew together faintly, perplexed at her own train of thought, and she shook it off, smoothing her face back out, mostly because the easiest expression for her to wear was no expression at all.

“Aryan,” she replied, though she did not smile. She was honestly unsure she knew how. Nevertheless, the word was light, and she was oddly conscious of the way it rolled off her tongue. There was a slight trill between the second and third letters, making it impossible to say completely flatly. She’d not often used it, before. Setting her pen down, she placed the last document on top of the stack of them and stood, moving them over to Yuki’s desk and placing them with the rest. All done—there was literally nothing else she could do here, unless she wanted to reorganize the supply closet for the fourth time. The thought was not as appealing as it had been the first three times, and that was saying something.

“Is there something I can do for you?” He looked… rather healthier than she did, honestly, which seemed to preclude the possibility that he was here because of some lingering side-effect of his near-death experience. She still felt bad about that, actually—it should never have reached the point it did, and she found herself with the oddly-violent desire to kill Freyr for making it so. Perhaps it was simply because she’d tended him in the days afterwards, and had been disturbed by the contrast of his weak and recovering self with his usual demeanor. It was… unsettling, to look at him and not see the familiar cutting intelligence in his eyes, or the self-assured facial expression, and had left her with the uncanny feeling of being… displaced. She knew not what to make of it.

For a second, Aryan felt his heart skip when she said his name. She almost never said his name. So...why on earth did it make him so happy when she did? He also had the unsettling desire to rip to shreds whoever had put her in this state. Sadly, that was not an option for him. That man was dead by way of his own father, and unless he could find some way to banish him from her thoughts, there was simply nothing about that that he could do, and he hated that.

He mentally shook himself. He really needed to get his head on straight. His brother's words echoed through his mind. A walk...did she even take walks? Did he? How odd...he couldn't remember. He had to force himself to swallow before he could speak properly.

"Actually..." He said slowly, "I came to see how you were doing. You spend all your time making sure we're all okay. Someone needs to do the same for you."

She had not expected anything in particular, but she was still somewhat surprised at the answer. Perhaps she should not have been; he was clearly very concerned with the welfare of the people around him. Even her. It was a little mystifying in some respects, but then… he was a good person, raised and surrounded by good people his entire life. She sometimes forgot that such conditions could produce enough concern to be extended even to something like her. She tilted her head faintly to one side, and when she answered, she was honest about it.

“I have not slept in weeks, and because of that, I am beginning to hallucinate in my waking hours. For some reason, probably connected, I am unable to regain the blood I lost when…” She trailed off for a moment. He did not know exactly what she had done to help him, and somehow, she was not sure she wanted him to. Though what she had done had been out of necessity, she had surprised herself with how easy the decision had been. The logical reasoning process that would have carried her to the same actions was not even required—she’d just done what she did, without thinking at all. It was most unlike her, and she was not sure how to feel about it, if indeed the proper response was to feel anything at all.

“We fought Yuki and my brother the first time,” she finished simply. Just as true, and it did not require details she did not understand. It was a rather grim prognosis, but she was counting on all of this being over soon, or rather, Yuki returning soon. Hel’s world wasn’t quite right without her friend there, because they had been a source of stability and support for one another for a very long time. Her intention was not to cause him further concern, quite the opposite, but she realized that not everyone, especially not the good people, as Aryan was, saw things as clinically as she did, so she continued. “But concern for my welfare is not necessary. I have endured worse, and I will endure this.” Her hand dropped from the edge of the desk to hang loosely at her side, and she found herself rather unsure of what to do—with her limbs, her eyes, anything, really. That she did not often talk about herself was quite evident in this moment, she was certain.

Aryan's eyes narrowed as she spoke, and he once again felt that familiar, near-overwhelming sense of desire to pull her to him, to hold her, to comfort her. But he did nothing, simply out of fear of how she would react. He also picked up on the fact that she changed her last statement. Whatever she had done to save him, it had taken a rather large toll on her, specifically. This did not overly surprise him, as he'd seen what she could do, however...

He thought back. He couldn't remember much, but he knew that Yuki had at least fed from him. His lack of memory would lead one to think that he'd blacked out, and the only feasible solution for that was an extraordinary amount of blood loss. Blood loss of that caliber would need to be replaced, and quickly, regardless of the amount of healing. Something flickered in his eyes then at the realization. It didn't take much to figure out what had actually happened, or at least have a rough idea.

Add in the fact of the number of blood tablets that she'd been taking, and it only made more sense. The lack of sleep could be from many different things, the appearance of the brother she'd thought dead and kidnapping of her best friend not the least. Still, despite the revelation, Aryan did not voice it outright. He did, however, smile once more, even if it was slight.

"Just because you have endured it, does not mean that you need to do so alone. I'm here to help you as well, if you need it, Helen. I don't like seeing you this way, and I find myself missing the woman who is my sister's best friend, and my friend, as well. At least, I like to think that she is, anyway. I know I've always thought of her as such." He said gently.

This time, her surprise was great enough that it registered on her face, flitting over her features and manifesting in wider eyes and slightly-parted lips before she regained her composure. “Your…?” she did not finish the sentence, simply blinking slowly, tilting her chin upwards so that she could look him more directly in the face. She read honesty, there, but then she also knew that he was very good at telling falsehoods when he wanted to be. She had watched him lie to and manipulate the Council with the same deft precision she used to cut things with her blades. It was a remarkable skill, and a rare one.

Would it be too much, to let herself believe that he was being truthful about that? Her fingers, so thin now as to have passed delicate and reached fragile, curled against her palm, loosely and out of some reflex she did not fully understand. It was like she wanted to reach out, and touch something. Touch… him? It was a peculiar thought. Helen generally went to great lengths to avoid contact with other people. Freya and Yuki were the only two exceptions, and even then, she was less demonstrative than most people would have been with those they were so close to. She visibly hesitated—even if he was telling the truth, what right did she have to call herself such? She was lucky to still be alive, more fortunate than she’d done anything to deserve to be able to choose how she occupied her time. Having friends… that was far beyond her place in life.

It was all on the tip of her tongue to speak, but when she opened her mouth, what came out was something far different than she’d expected. “I understand you play chess,” she said, halting for a moment when she realized where her own thoughts were going. Her eyes dropped back to the floor, and she folded her hands demurely in front of herself. “I… find that the most helpful thing is to have something to do. I have never played, but… I would not mind learning, if this is acceptable to you.”

If it had not been Helen who was asking, Aryan might have laughed. Had his brother not suggested teaching someone something? How ironic. Still, her answer was actually much better than he'd expected. He chuckled lightly.

"Well, I cannot guarantee that I will be the best teacher, but I can certainly try."


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Leora Kuragari Character Portrait: Zero Kuragari Character Portrait: Alden Kuragari


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Alden currently lay—spread-eagled and apparently asleep—on a knot of brownish grass, some distance from the main school building. Winter was upon them in full by this point, and Christmas was not long away, but the temperature bothered him not at all, and in fact, the sunlight today was rather warm on his face. He was not, in fact, asleep, but that would not be immediately obvious to an observer, given his present state of repose. At least this sort of resting position was slowing his bodily functions, including his metabolism. When he could not consume a lot, Alden had learned to sleep a lot, and to simply rest when that was impossible.

He felt them both enter his range, and his mouth curled up in a smile for just a fraction of a second before it disappeared again. He still felt a bit guilty about the time he’d almost attacked Leora, but he was not worried about doing so again if Zero was there. His brother would be strong enough to restrain him for long enough that he could bring himself back to his senses, unless perhaps she started bleeding again. He did not like this—that he posed a constant threat of danger to his mother and his sister, but at least he could cope most of the time. He had enough control that it was only an open wound on either of them that would cause him to lose it, and only if he was within a certain range of it. Anyone else’s blood, or they on a normal, non-injured occasion, and he was fine, for the most part.

He cracked one red-purple eye when they came within visual range, his vision adjusting immediately to the light and taking in the figures of his brother and sister approaching. Leora smiled as she did, taking a seat beside where he lay without hesitation. That was perhaps the thing he loved most about his sister—no matter how often he almost burned her, almost lost himself, she never stopped believing in his ability to conquer his demons. His mother was the same. “Hey Vi,” she said, using his more common nickname—though ‘Al’ seemed more direct, that had been one of Balthasar’s nicknames first, and as such, those closest to him had taken to calling him ‘Violet’ or ‘Vi’ instead, a reference to his trademark hair and iris color.

“Leo, Rocchan,” he returned neutrally, blinking slowly at the both of them. Nevertheless, he was pleased to see them. He just didn’t always do the best job of showing it. They didn’t seem to mind. “There is not much longer now,” he said with a quiet kind of certainty that was rather trademark of him. He was also highly blunt, as now. “Freyr’s network is fairly certain he doesn’t intend much more use for Yuki. We are becoming too good at repelling her attacks, and she is becoming a little more inured to the serum. I estimate that the next confrontation will be the last. Prepare yourselves—I doubt she will be quite herself for a while afterwards.”

Zero had spent most of his days in the music room. Her attacks were becoming constant, and it seemed that everytime they fought her, something always seemed different. He couldn't place it, but there was something different about her. He sighed softly, finishing the tune he was playing before Leora had shown up. He offered his sister a smile as he left the music room with her, walking by her side as they just walked in silence. It was a comforting notion, and he always found comfort from his family, especially Leora and Balthasar. Though Balthasar was more like Ava, Leora could always talk to Zero and make him feel better. And he appreciated that about his sister.

It was perhaps the reason why he was always so protective of her. She was his link to their mother when Ava wasn't around, and he would always need that anchored feeling when something was bothering him. Like now. All she had to do was walk in silence with him, and somehow, everything felt better. He sighed softly, allowing it to carry a sort of melancholy feeling to it. Though it felt better, it didn't mean it was better. He paused in that thought, shaking it free as he dissolved it. He had promised Balthasar that he would live life to the fullest with Yuki, and that meant to stop thinking this way. Sliding a hand through his hair, he caught his younger brother's scent. They were headed towards him.

When they approached, they were greeted by Alden, immediately speaking of the situation at hand. "Blunt and to the point, just like always," he spoke, offering his brother a half broken smirk. "Then we need to prepare. Is there any word of when she'll be attacking. They've been a bit sporadic as of late," he questioned, sitting next to Leora on the other side. He loved his brother, he really did, but he still couldn't take a chance of him accidentally attacking their sister.

“Mmm…” Alden hummed a contemplative syllable, pushing his glasses up his nose for a moment before rolling up into a seated position not unlike the one his siblings were using. His posture was poor, however, something which diminished his height. That and the fact that he was wearing a baggy cardigan and his hair was askew, managed to cement his impression as someone who really didn’t care a whit for how he appeared to others. It was, of course, the opposite of the truth. In his line of work, appearance was everything, just not in the same way that it was in, say, business.

None of this stopped Leo from clucking her tongue at him and immediately setting about righting his disheveled locks, which he turned bright orange in mid-process just because he could. She snorted her amusement, and the corner of his mouth ticked up into that elusive smile again, for just a moment, before it dropped back into place and his hair returned to wisteria. The touch was actually soothing, as their mother’s tended to be. Alden took care not to compare them too often, because Leora was certainly her own person, but this, they did share, and probably always would.

“I’d give it three days, maximum,” he replied blandly. “More likely two. That will be the last chance we have. If she does not return then, I imagine Freyr will dispose of her.” His sources had been quite clear that it would not be the first time the man had ended the use of a so-called tool this way. It wasn’t particularly uncommon for the Pantheon, either—they were creating Level E’s en masse, now, in lab tanks, with the intent to simply send them to die. Yuki was a fair bit more useful than that, but the inherent point was still the same. If he were Freyr—and he’d had to learn to think like these people—then he would have done the same.

“Then we get her back,” Leora said firmly. “No matter what.”

Zero's jaw tightened at the response Alden gave. Freyr would dispose of her. His eyes narrowed out in front of him, glaring at whatever unfortunate soul was unlucky enough to be caught in his sights, taking slow and steady breaths. It shouldn't surprise him that they would do that. It was like that with anyone really. Once you had no purpose for a tool, broken or not, you'd dispose of it. His fists tightened in the grass as he thought about, trying to put his mind on anything other than that. He wouldn't allow Freyr to touch her, not so longs as he breathes. His eyes traveled to Leora when she spoke, bringing a light smile to Zero's face.

"Yes, we will," he spoke, lacing his hand with Leora's and gave it a light squeeze. She was right, they would get Yuki back, no matter what. He released Leora's hand, setting his back on his lap as he continued to stare over the area. He took a soft breath, glancing back over towards his younger siblings, and for a moment, a smile crossed his features. This was nice, having family around. They were supportive, and they were here to help get Yuki back. To have such a close family, part of him wondered what would happen if they were not. Would they still be trying to get Yuki back? Would they even care?

"No matter what," he allowed himself to state after the moment of silence. No matter what, they would get her back. "How's the life treating you, Den?" Zero questioned, changing the subject matter. He had not seen his younger brother in a while, and though they were probably not as close as he and his sister, that did not mean that Zero didn't worry about him. He was the oldest, it was his job to make sure the younger ones were always safe, even if he couldn't physically do it himself.

Alden considered the question. He never told any of the members of his family the full extent of what he did, because they did not deserve to be troubled with it. If there were a more straightforward way to do what he did, he would use it, but as it was, he was uniquely capable of getting at the things that simply could not be retrieved through force or more political maneuvering. Alden’s was the intrigue of backrooms and boudoirs, the secrets he retrieved were the ones exchanged for deaths or package drops, or else whispered in drug-riddles hazes, or into pillows. It was, after all, much easier to worm into thoughts when someone was distracted, and though he could force his way through any barrier if he had to, he had to be more subtle than this, lest everyone start defending against what he could do. One did not become so easily snared in a spider’s web if one knew it was there.

Most of his family was under the impression that what he did was a lot of sneaking into private offices and clandestine meetings with informants in Italian street-corner cafes. His life was better the longer and more fully they continued to believe that. He pulled a hand lazily through the hair Leora had just finished neatening, and he heard her sigh with mock exasperation. The answer to Zero’s question was longer and more complicated than he was looking for. His brother wanted assurance, that there weren’t any bigger problems than the Yuki situation, or at least none big enough to distract from it. He wanted to believe that everything was okay, or at least would be okay, when he had her back.

And because Alden was Alden, and younger brothers were not so different from older brothers, he would lie to him about that. He would let him believe it for as long as it was possible to believe. “Same old, same old,” he replied with a vague sense of boredom, but the side-glance he cut his brother was sharp. “I’m here because my first priority was this situation, so you know I’m being treated better than you are.” Leora’s eyes flickered with something just a bit suspicious, and he’d known they would. He’d taught her to smell a lie. But unlike him, she could not detect them outright, and he was a very good liar. Even that little tinge of suspicion passed, and he heard her decide not to ask him about it. Good. There were some things his baby sister should never know.

“But we don’t have forever. I’m gonna go find something to eat. You two should… do whatever it is you fighting-types do to prepare for stuff like this.” He shrugged, stretching languidly as he flowed into a stand, tossing the pair of his siblings a wink and a small, sardonic smile. Alden was fine. Alden was always fine.

Zero sighed shaking his head softly with a soft smile. "Sure thing, Den," he replied. He was right, they should prepare for when Yuki showed up. He watched his younger brother disappear from sight and glanced towards Leora, a brow raised with a subtle smirk crossing his features. "So, shall we?" he spoke, offering Leora a hand. He was, of course, referring to a sparring match, one that they both could use. It would keep them up to speed and they could use the little time they had to the fullest extent.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Emrys Alistair Character Portrait: Alden Kuragari


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There was one day left, by his calculation. This did not move the Spider much in one direction or another—he was not known for becoming overly emotional, not even in the most dire of circumstances. The ability to think logically and objectively under any mount of strain was vital for people in his line of work, and he had cultivated it from an early age, leaving behind the tender sentimentality of his mother and acquiring a demeanor that was actually much closer to the one his father used, if a little more… flexible. He was not Zero, he did not resent the lack of demonstrativeness in his sire. Instead, he’d learned from watching the man with his mother to read even the subtlest cues the way she could, and how to close those cues off, as he could to everyone else. Both were vital lessons, and the number of times they had saved someone’s life was perhaps greater than anyone but Alden would ever know. He was not, after all, in the business of giving away his secrets.

Presently, he was sprawled sideways in an armchair, in the library. Aryan and Helen, its usual occupants, seemed to be elsewhere at the moment, and given the fact that it was the weekend, he was alone, a book held loosely on one hand, his other draped carelessly over the arm of the chair that was currently supporting his back. He appeared for all the world to be paying studious attention to it, and that he was otherwise was perhaps only apparent when he lowered the object slightly, his eyes sliding sideways and coming to rest on a fixed point to his left. It looked to be nothing but empty air, but Alden did not do his seeing with his eyes.

“Emrys,” he said, closing the book with a muted, but decisive snap. “Dare I inquire into what brings you to the library on a Saturday?” He raised an eyebrow, the arch of it lending his face a slightly catlike quality—there was the same sense of subtle knowing about Alden.

Emrys blinked lazily, a toothpick sticking out of the corner of his mouth. Solaris was trotting next to him, her two-toned eyes regarding the second-born of the Kuragari family. The was a bit ironic, really. Alden, himself, and Aryan were perhaps the most formidable three people when it came to information on the face of this planet, and they each had their own specialization. Alden, of course, was the one who used every trick of espionage in the book, Aryan was the one who did everything on paper, dancing around on puppet strings of lies and half-truths and blackmail. And Emrys...well. He prefered to let his fists do that work. An Alistair, von Nacht, and Kuragari, one from each family.

God help whoever got in their way.

Emrys took his time answering. It wasn't like either of them were doing anything overly important. He held up the book in his hand, one on the effects of memory loss, and memory wiping. He switched the toothpick to the other side of his mouth.

"Yuki's going to need a lot of help when we get her back tomorrow. You and Helen may be the best suited for that, but that doesn't mean I can't try to be useful, either."

He sat in the chair across from Alden, throwing his legs over the armrest. The library frowned disapprovingly of such harsh treatment of the furniture, but he ignored her. Solaris laid down in front of the chair, Emrys absentmindedly petting her head for a second. "There's been a lot of damage to her mind, Vi. You really think we can get her back?"

Alden read the title with some mild interest, but in the end, breathed a heavy exhale and tossed the book he still held so that it landed with a slight thunk on the nearest table. Sinking further into his armchair, he crossed his legs at the knees, one foot braced on the arm of the chair and the other running perpendicular over it, and folded his arms over his chest. If there was a place for honesty about this, it wasn’t with his brother or Balthasar, it was here. Emrys was attached to the woman—they all were. But he also understood more of the realities their younger (and occasionally older) counterparts had been protected from.

“Should be possible, but nothing’s a guarantee. You know that,” he said after a few moments’ deliberation. “The serum was designed to be a total mind-wipe, but there are those among us who can attest that nothing ever really gets there. I’m sure that book says the same.” He shrugged, which was a bit of an odd-looking gesture with his lanky frame positioned the way it was. Nevertheless, it conveyed what it needed to. “I’ve done memory reconstructions before. Giving her everything back is possible, and I’ll do it. But the rest is entirely up to her.”

Emrys sighed heavily. He'd been expecting as much, really. It didn't make it any easier to hear, though. Really, all they could do was hope that Yuki would be strong enough to handle whatever came after regaining her memories. It wouldn't be easy, but...with Zero, he had faith that she could. Besides that, Yuki was strong, she always had been.

Emrys's eyebrows perked up a bit, remembering something. He laced his fingers behind his head before turning to look at Alden. "Oh, before I forget. It looks like we'll all be seperated for this upcoming fight with Yuki tomorrow. Supposedly the Council's got a hit out for, get this, Aunt Nikki. Seems they got word she's on campus. If you see her and Bal before I do, let them know."

Not that he was overly worried, or anything. They all knew as well as he did that when it came down to defending herself, Aunt Nikki may be the best prepared for that, she'd spent most of her life as an assassin herself, so defending against them was like child's play to her.

Alden blinked. That was interesting—it must have been recent news, or he’d have come across it himself, most likely. He had his best people on personal tracking jobs for any and all information related to each individual member of his family. They intercepted the things that went out, and kept tabs on what his enemies knew about the ones he cared about. Occasionally, he even disseminated false information, though he was careful to make sure it could not be traced to his agents. This was a new thread in the web, and he wove it in with the rest of his knowledge.

“An exchange, then. I was going to tell the twins first, but you might as well do that instead. The Pantheon is apparently more interested in killing Alarica, because they’re sending someone for her. One of mine called it in this morning. It’s definitely Rica, too—not Keir.” That actually troubled him a bit. There was exactly one reason he could see that made such a choice logical, and there should be no way the Pantheon was aware of it. Unless… his lips pursed. It was possible they’d guessed, but he would have thought they’d want to let it lay for a while longer for making the move, for maximum damage. Someone was getting a tad impatient—or they’d selected her randomly. That was unlikely, though. Not with the Pantheon.

“The alliance is definitely fracturing, though. These two targets in concert will reduce the impact of each—if they were smart, they would have picked one to coincide with the sortie by Yuki and sent in a few heavy hitters rather than the mass of low-levels they’re going to use.” He shook his head. They were starting to genetically modify the Level E’s now—it was devastating on a battlefield against hunters, but barely counted as a blip on a pureblood’s radar. Or a particularly-powerful dhampir like any of the Alistairs. At least they weren’t subject to simple compulsion anymore; that had been one of the first things the Pantheon scientists figured out how to remove… though they still fell under the control of Uncle Jasper, as the reports had it. He could only assume that meant the same would be true of Balthasar.

Emrys's jaw clenched slightly. It was not uncommon for assassins to come after his family, however...they had always been more interested in kidnapping his sister, not killing her. Still, with the amount of resources being spent all at once, he wasn't overly worried. He'd be with his sister, anyway. He sighed through his nose.

"Looks like we'll all be split up for this once again. So long as you or Hel are where ever Yuki is, though, I'm not overly worried about it. She's the one who has priority. Anyone going after Aunt Nikki is just stupid, or they have a death wish."

Or they're just a pawn on a much larger board. Was the thought that flickered through his head, but he didn't say it. He turned his gaze to the ceiling, musing softly before speaking again.

"Looks like tomorrow is going to be a busy day."


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Alarica Alistair Character Portrait: Leora Kuragari Character Portrait: Keir Alistair Character Portrait: Emrys Alistair


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As it happened, all three of the attacks came at roughly the same time, converging upon the once-neutral ground of Cross Academy with a vengeance. The group had been at least somewhat prepared for this, and were, roughly, where they were supposed to be when it happened, or at least grouped in a way that would suffice. Leora found herself with the Alistairs, watching warily as someone vaguely familiar approached. The youngest Kuragari was aware that the primary target of this attack was Alarica, and she had immediately volunteered to be here, at her bond-sister’s side. Balthasar and Alden were more than enough reinforcement for Aunt Nikki, who was herself someone not to be trifled with. Leo didn’t stand any particular chance of getting through to Yuki if even her brother could not.

But this, standing here, fighting with them, to protect Rica, this she could do. She was a bit surprised to see that only two figures approached, but less shocked when she recognized both. They were both known members of the Pantheon, from the upper echelon, too, if Vi was right, and he was never wrong when it counted. Both female, one walked with the light steps and bright smile of someone much more childlike than the other. Her shock of vibrantly-red hair and the mismatched color of her eyes—one green, the other gold—gave her away as Frigga, and that alone was a daunting prospect for a fight. The mighty battleaxe that was her trademark rested casually in one hand.

The other figure was more personally known—and perhaps more personally hated. Clad in a yellow dress, dark umber hair trailing behind her in the breeze, and not at all visibly armed, was Sigyn, once known to them all as Elizabeth. If anything, Leora’s guard went up further—she knew that the absence of a weapon was not the absence of danger. She, after all, didn’t carry one, either. The two came to a stop a few hundred feet from where the other four were assembled, three fair-haired and one dark. “Aww,” Frigga trilled in a light soprano. “There’s only four. That’s hardly enough for any fun, even for just me…” She trailed off, though, a scent hitting her on the breeze, and her full, cherry-colored lips turned up in a smile.

“Oh, another Aegis! Hello, Aegis—is that adorable mother of yours still kicking? I want that one!” The last was said obviously without the expectation of a response from Leo, and directly to Sigyn, who simply nodded slightly, her face impassive.

“I honestly don’t care, Frigga,” Her voice, which would have been remembered as sweet, was curiously flat. He wasn’t here. Such a shame. She wanted him to watch his cousin die. He deserved it, for refusing to leave her alone.

Frigga sighed, hefting her axe so that the pole of it rested across her thin shoulders. She wasn’t that much taller than Helen, actually. “You’re really no fun anymore, Sigyn.” Clucking her tongue, she nevertheless launched herself forward, making a beeline for Leora. Sigyn, on the other hand, waited. Her target would come to her, and she well knew it.

Something burned beneath Alarica's skin. She couldn't place the feeling, but there was something there. She couldn't understand why the hairs along the back of her neck were standing, why she felt an insatiable itch in the palm of her hands, or why the wind seemed to be mostly absent. That, perhaps was her doing as the air chilled slightly. She knew it wasn't because they sent assassins after her, and a part of her wondered why they were trying to kill her when they had so fervently tried to kidnap her before. It made little to no sense to her, and she honestly didn't mind. They could try, but they would fail.

She had her brothers, her cousin, by her side, and she herself was adept at battle. Perhaps not as strong as her pure-blood cousins, but enough to not need too much protection. She pulled Ulrik from her back, switching it so that it was in its blade form. She wasn't going to kill her enemies quickly, no she wouldn't allow them that. They had hurt her family too much, and they did not deserve that mercy. They would die slow, painful deaths. They would beg for their lives before she was through with them. No one caused her family pain and lived to tell the tale about it. With that in mind, she placed Ulrik across her shoulders, staring out as the would-be assassins appeared.

Her lips curled almost into a feral snarl when she spotted the bitch who hurt Balthasar, who took his blood and betrayed him. It explained why her blood was boiling beneath her skin, why it was crying out in quick succession to destroy something. She could feel her own fangs elongating, highlighting her feralness as she felt her lips twitch. Before she could think clearly, the one known as Frigga attacked, heading straight for Leora. Had Alarica been in the right state of mind, she would have diverted her attention to her cousin and intervened. But she wasn't. Her mind was clouded with hate for that woman, that thing that hurt Balthasar.

"You didn't deserve him," she growled out of her mouth, charging at the one previously known as Elizabeth. She didn't have a weapon, but Alarica was no fool. She was capable of damage even without Ulrik, and this, she had learned, applied to all vampires, pure-blood or not. Her mother had told her and her siblings of the Pantheon, how they all had different abilities and strengths. If she had been in the right state of mind, she would have remembered this, not attacking and charging blindly.

The hairs on the back of Keir's neck stood on end, his lips pulling back in a vehement and feral snarl at the red-haired pixie woman who challenged Leora. It wasn't even so much as a challenge, really. He didn't like the way woman spoke to her. She called her the Aegis, like she was nothing more than a tool. That alone made his blood boil, the scales on his arms shifting, spreading, hardening. His teeth were clenched as he spoke.

"Shut it, bitch. Get through me first."

Emrys, on the other hand, sighed through his nose. He'd hoped that at least Rica would be able to keep her head, he'd long since given up on Keir. It did not seem to be of any use, however, and for the moment, he focused on taking out the level E's, keeping a close eye on his sister. "Don't be stupid, Rica..." He muttered.

Frigga’s charge was brought up a little short, but she didn’t seem to mind, flashing a brilliant, fanged smile at Keir. “Why hello, gorgeous,” she trilled, laughter evident in her voice if not quite making it into one of the usual forms. “You know, I would not have picked the scaly thing to work for me, but it certainly works for you.” She swung her massive axe right for him, intent on testing the resiliency of the aforementioned scales. Surprisingly, it glanced off. Oooh, that was going to be fun. She might have to actually apply her strength to break through that!

A stray waft of scent was the only thing that alerted her to the other woman’s presence, and she just barely ducked and maneuvered out of the way of a series of punches. She didn’t need to as such, but with skin this durable, blunt damage was actually more likely to work than blades, because it didn’t have to break skin to be effective. Something that might be worth a little field test. One of her dodges was a backbend that put her nearly nose-to-nose with Leora, and her smile only inched wider. “Oooh, you’re beautiful, too. Though I would have never guessed—the Aegis and the dark lord really did have babies! How precious!”

Leo was rather used to being hit on. She was also getting progressively more used to battle. But she had never encountered both at the same time, and it left her a little unsure of how to react. Then again, when in Rome… “Well, there you have it,” she said, throwing a few kicks in with her punches and then ducking to the side so that Keir could launch his own volley, none of which hit the woman any more than her own had. “People can surprise you.”

“It’s a most wonderful thing about them, isn’t it,” Frigga replied, sighing almost wistfully. “And how about you, Kitten? Will you surprise me? Or how about your knight in shining scale armor? Let’s see what you’ve got…” The grass and plants around their feet suddenly seemed to go berserk, growing at an astounding rate and thickening. Leora soon found her legs wrapped in tree roots all the way up to her thighs, and struggled to free herself—no easy task, when they just kept grabbing her every time she pulled free. Frigga really was laughing now, a free, chiming sound that sounded delighted rather than malicious. This was definitely weird.

Sigyn was not nearly so amused. The flare of his aura caught her off-guard. It was not what she’d come to expect of him, and she found it almost… unnerving. Nevertheless, she angled her body so that the girl’s strike passed harmlessly off to her right, though she caught Alarica’s wrist on the way by and spun with her, launching her back into the nearest tree, which cracked with the impact. Sigyn was on her again at once, hooked fingers reaching for the girl’s pale throat. “Do not presume to know what you cannot understand, half-blood,” she sniffed, but there was an unmistakably territorial edge to the statement.

She had found herself… dissatisfied with the way things had ended, and she did not enjoy the attention being called to it. What did such a filthy thin-blood like this child know of deserving, anyway? She had the benefit of standing beside her superiors every day, as though she were good enough to hold her head high among them. “It is you who deserves nothing. You have been raised alongside your betters, treated as one of them, loved and cherished, and still you cannot hold him. I may be a betrayer, but you are a coward who lacks the strength to even say what it is that she wants.”

Her mouth turned up at the corners, the gesture purely malicious. “Shall I tell you what it’s like, being with him? Touching him? Kissing him? Being kissed? Perhaps you would like to know, since it will never happen to you.”

Keir growled louder, his eyes glowing. This chick was not normal...then again, none of them were normal. He moved, pulling free of the plants, shredding them with the scales, as he could move each one individually, and they were all razor-sharp. He could easily keep clear of her plants. As such, he lunged for the woman with the battle axe. He was angry enough that he had reverted to staying silent, something that was not normal for the Alistair.

Alarica flinched, her back colliding in a tree with a soft thud, as she collapsed with it. Her back was stinging, however; that wasn't what was causing Alarica to flinch inwardly. Sigyn's words pierced her like hot knives, each one cutting deeper. What did she know of deserving? She knew that she didn't deserve Balthasar. She knew she didn't deserve to have him as a cousin, let alone as someone to love. But she also knew that she didn't deserve him either. Balthasar deserved so much more, someone who could accent his light, his innocence as she thought of it. Though she knew what her cousin was capable of, he would always be Bally to her.

"You're right, I don't deserve anything but," Alarica began, wiping at the bit of blood that appeared from the corners of her mouth where she pierced her lip. "I can admit to what I want. What I want is for him to be happy, with someone who deserves him. And that someone is not you," she spat. The last sentence, caused her to pull back her lips into a vicious snarl. This woman was truly testing her patience. She was treading on thin ice with Alarica, and with every word Sigyn spoke, a new fire burned beneath her skin. It was as if her skin would melt off if the fan kept feeding the flame.

"I do not need to know any of it. It may never happen to me, but for you, it'll never happen again," she snarled, forming a dagger in her hand made of ice. She may not have had her father's accuracy in throwing knives, but she could still use them regardless. Plus, when you could form ice from the moisture in the air, it was a good way to have an endless arsenal of them, however; the one in her hands would do for now. "Has anyone ever told you, that you are an annoying bitch? I think it's time you shut the hell up and just die already!" she stated. With Ulrik in her right hand, the ice dagger in her left, she lunged for Sigyn again.

Frigga huffed her disappointment. “You’re not as fun as your lovely lady friend,” she told Keir in something of a whine. Of course, it reverted once she noted he was clear of her plants, and she merrily swung her axe again, this time with something quite a bit loser to her full strength. It was avoided, though it took off a few of the long, white hairs that cascaded from his head, signifying a very near miss indeed. Her next hit was aimed at Leora, who managed to get herself out of the roots, though not in quite enough time.

A dark red arc of blood spattered from the end of Frigga’s axe on the backswing, the nearly-overpowering scent of oranges and something more exotic—pomegranates and cream, perhaps—flooded the area, and Leora stumbled back with a hiss, clutching a massive cut in her side. Her healing factor was better than most, due to the Aegis, but that hit had been quite nearly fatal, and she felt dizzy just from the initial impact and blood loss, to say nothing of the pain. Frigga, however, only tilted her head to one side. “Consider me surprised, Kitten—that was supposed to kill you!”

Sigyn sneered. “Do not lie to me. Nobody fights so furiously so that someone else might be happy without them. You want him, little girl. I’ll prove it to you.” When Alarica lunged, Sigyn caught the wrist with Ulrik, leveraging it up and away from her with superior strength, and somehow, the ice dagger that should have hit her abdomen didn’t, winking out of existence as though it had never been there at all. “Because if it was just about his happiness, it would not enrage you so to know that I know what it feels like to lay with him, to feel the sensation of his skin on mine. You would not be this upset to realize that all that delicious heat was mine. He certainly wasn’t complaining, after all.” She smiled slightly and took a step back, ripping a chunk from the shredded tree she’d thrown the girl against, raising it above her head to plunge downward for the woman’s heart.

Call her old-fashioned, but some things were worth doing in the most ancient, most brutal fashion.

The scent of her blood hit his nose, and something in Keir's chest burned. Rage roiled through him from his very core. His whole body tensed, his eyes burning, and he went straight for Frigga's throat, the ends of his claws aimed for her windpipe. He missed, but he quickly flipped, claws tearing at anything and everything he could get at, his face twisted in a mask of rage and utter hatred.

Emrys flinched when he smelled Leora's blood, but he remained focused on the task at hand. His sister was not doing so well, and for a second, he felt his heart stop. He reacted without thinking as Sigyn brought the stake down to meet Alarica's chest. His body glowed as he raced to her, solidifying himself as he pushed his sister out of the way.

The pain radiated from his chest, a feeling of warmth spreading through it. His vision blurred as he coughed, blood spraying from his mouth as he did so. He grasped the front of Sigyn's shirt, forcibly shoving her away from him, his claws digging into her chest deeply as he did so. His voice was barely above a whisper as he said, "Not my little sister, bitch."

He could do nothing more than allow his eyes to roll up into his head as he collapsed, the blood around him pooling on the ground.

Alarica's eyes widened at Sigyn's confession. He...did that with her? Something cracked inside of Alarica's heart, and it was painful. It was painful enough to stop her in her tracks as Sigyn banished the ice dagger from her hand and twisted Ulrik out of her other. Her mind kept playing the words over in her head. Why? Why did it hurt her so much to think that Balthasar actually went that far with that girl? She couldn't understand it. The pain was unlike anything she had ever experienced before, and she could feel her heart thrumming fast against her rib-cage. It shouldn't hurt like this. It shouldn't. What he did with this girl was none of her business, but what if...she couldn't think straight; she couldn't think at all.

"You're lying," she managed, barely a note above a whisper as if the word had not existed. She had to be lying. But there was still the fear that crept within Alarica that it might be true. And if it was...her eyes burned, the warmness falling slightly from her eyes, however; before they could fall, something of a blur caught her eyes. Something warm splashed across her face, and the scent was familiar. She could smell Leora's blood, but that wasn't the blood that was splashed across her face. "No...Mik," she spoke, almost speaking her familiar's name, however; her eyes spotted a crown of corn-yellow hair. She had been pushed out of the way, and it was then that she saw the large spear piercing her brother's chest.

"Em...rys," she managed to state, her eyes glued on his form. His eyes were closed, the spear pouring out more blood. "Emrys!" she shouted, something cracking in the back of her mind as everything around her dropped to an uncomfortable temperature. Large pillars of ice began piercing through the ground, hitting random places as her eyes flashed a dangerous vermilion. "You...fucking...bitch...," Alarica stated, her anger flaring, as she lost control of her ability. She could feel something tugging at the back of her mind, but all she could see was red.

This girl would pay...and she would pay in blood. With uncanny speed, Alarica charged after Sigyn, her eyes glowing, her claws extended. She would have her head if it was the last thing Alarica did. No one touched her family like that and lived. No one, not even if she had to die to make it so. They did not call her and her brother Terrors for nothing.

Sigyn jumped, landing lightly atop one of the ice pillars, and continued to jump, ducking away from each subsequent blow. Interesting—the chit’s rage made her faster, almost as fast as Sigyn herself. That was unexpected, and the first blow managed to hit, glancing off her side, though it did draw blood, which spattered into the ice, staining the yellow dress that she wore. Nevertheless, the wound was gone almost immediately, and she was not so foolish as to be surprised twice. Each of Alarica’s subsequent blows was avoided, but this had ceased to be anything but irritating.

“Frigga. Stop playing, it’s time to go.” The words, so similar to the ones Freyr had spoken into her mind on that day, carried a sense of irony to Sigyn, but she did not show it. Frigga, who had been laughing like a child in a toy store as she ducked and dodged around Keir’s vicious claws, pouted, sighed, and then smiled at the both of her foes.

“Well, Kitten, sir Knight, I appears that I must be off. Do say hello to your parents for me!” She and Sigyn were both gone in the next eyeblink, racing away at speeds too great to be caught by ordinary means, at least by the injured or irrational ones present here.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Balthasar von Nacht Character Portrait: Alden Kuragari


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Nikki smirked, standing on the roof of Cross Academy. The blade she held in her hand felt good; it was comfortable, like having an old friend at your side in the middle of a crisis. While this was not perhaps a crisis, persay, it was still good to have that familiarity. She would have preferred being where her daughter was when Yuki took to the field, however; fate deemed she spend this battle elsewhere.

She was honored, really. It had been a long time since anyone had sent an assassin after her specifically. She actually couldn't rightly remember the last time, they had always been after her sons, or her nieces and nephews. A change of pace was welcomed to her. The breeze mussed her hair as the sun set, setting the sky on fire. There was a shift in the atmosphere, new scents flooding her nostrils. She scoffed softly.

"They just love putting on big shows." Really, having such a large display when you were trying to pull off an assassination was just...idiotic, she thought. Balthasar stood to her left, Alden to her right.

"Ready boys?" There was a playful note in her voice as she asked.

Balthasar nodded, but Alden only sighed. Physical confrontation wasn’t hard for him; he was his father’s son, after all, but like his mother, he did not prefer it. Unlike his mother, what he did instead was nothing so innocent as smiling and making people feel better about themselves. He realized with an odd twinge somewhere in his chest that he really missed her. Perhaps he’d have to be home for the holiday this year, if he could manage it…

The rather innocuous train of his thought did not stop him from hurling three knives into the hearts of the first three Level E’s that came into range, of course, and they all burst into spontaneous clouds of ash, floating up towards the setting sun in a way he did not stop to appreciate. His senses alerted him to four more in his zone, and he ducked the overhead swing of a claw, sweeping the legs of the offender out from underneath him and spearing him in the throat with what had once been a knife—Brynhilde was just as useful a weapon for Alden as it had been for Ava, because it could be carried as a knife and utilized as a spear. It swiftly ended the other three, the bored, placid expression remaining firmly entrenched in Alden’s features.

Balthasar also favored polearms, when he had the choice, but his lances were a matched pair, and both currently on fire. These Level E’s didn’t even have humanoid shapes—or at least, not all of them did. It seemed that some of them had been spliced with animals of some kind, if he had to guess. Lizards and insects were the most prominent types, and some of them had scales not unlike his cousin Keir’s, if duller and all over rather than bright and controllable. They were not enough protection against the point of a lance, however, and that resulted in several deaths in quick succession. Balthasar was made for the battlefield more than he ever fit in anywhere else, and it showed. His movements were fluid, but also steady and explosive when the occasion called for it, and not one of the two dozen Level E’s that made for him in those first few seconds got within three feet of him. Though he had no truesight, he seemed to know by instinct where they were, flipping one of his spears and driving it backward into one that attempted to approach from behind.

He glanced over to find his mother already engaged with the assassin. He wasn’t worried—though a few had come close to getting her before, in their attempts on himself or his brother, that was always when they caught things unawares, and as she’d pointed out, they were anything but unaware now.

Nikki did not move as the first wave of level E's swarmed them. At least, it didn't look like she moved. Her movements were almost imperceptible to the eye. Her face remained rather neutral, occasionally donning a small smile. Her grey eyes scanned the battlefield, quickly finding the one who did not match the description of a level E. She scoffed silently. Did they truly expect to kill her with this?

How pathetic. Benehime was still in its sheath, and she held it, using her thumb to push it out slightly. It made a metalic hiss as she pulled it out, the weapon shifting as she did so, Benehime taking on the form of double-ended spear. The man, a Noble vampire, lunged for her. She blocked him easily, her spear parying his blade with ease. Her eyes narrowed, however, when she felt a cut appear on her cheek, the blood running down in response. She'd blocked his attack. She knew she did.

"Sorry, lovely. I don't have to hit you to be able to hurt you." She responded by grinning. "Oh really? That just makes it interesting. Benehime has been bored lately." She retaliated by increasing her rate of attack, the grin on her face the entire time.

The horde was thickening, literally hundreds of the monsters swarming over the field. There was no doubt that between the two of them, Alden and Balthasar could kill the lot, but the problem was, they weren’t all trying to attack the two men. Most of them were actually going after the school itself, and there was no mistaking that the student body would suffer for it. Balthasar knew what had to be done here. “Alden, go get the students out of there! I’ll handle this!” His cousin hesitated for only a moment before nodding and taking off towards the school building, seeming to bound between Level E monsters as he did, a new cloud of ash reaching for the sky with every jump he took.

Turning back around, Balthasar faced the oncoming mass, taking a deep breath and tightening his hold on his lances. This was far more than anyone he knew of, save his father, had ever tried to fight at once, but there was no choice. He was not expecting it to go spectacularly, but it had to be done. If his father could do it, so could he… and at least with nobody around, he didn’t have to worry about hurting them.

Something in him, that unnamable rage that seethed beneath his surface, that darkness that roiled deep in his very core and reminded him that he was not the man he showed the world, stirred. Where he usually pushed it away, locking it deep in the corner of his consciousness as his father had taught him to do, now he reached for it, allowing himself to surrender to it, and submerge everything else that he was beneath its surface. It was dangerous, but it was the only way—he knew this like he knew nothing else.

His aura, always contained, always steady, and most of the time even bright, practically exploded, washing over the entire school grounds in a dark, choking burst for just a moment, before it pulled back in towards himself. The fire at the ends of his lances turned black, and the flare of energy alone vaporized the nearest three dozen Level E’s. The rest, save those that had already made it to the school building, stopped entirely, quivering in their places. It was as though Balthasar’s pupils had bled outward, the inky darkness of them coming to encompass the entire visible portion of his eyes. His will was a pressure of its own, adding to the gravity that pressed uncomfortably heavily over them in a wide radius. When he spoke, his voice was not his own.

“…Perish.” And so they did.

Nikki shuddered, feeling her son's change in aura. The effect was rather instantaneous, but she was not close enough to have no choice but to submit. At this distance, she could fight it. Even so, it wasn't entirely easy, but thanks to Jasper, she'd had a bit of practice. At least, more so than these Nobles, who had both stopped, the one in front of her and the one who had been approaching from behind.

As such, Nikki quickly dispatched them both, sheathing Benehime as she did so. She shook then, watching as the Level E's all died. She closed her eyes, one hand clutching at her chest as all the dust scattered around her.

"Give me my son back." She whispered. This was not her son, just as Jasper was not her husband whenever he used that. She did not move, though. She knew well enough what it meant when in their immediate vicinity. She would have no choice but submit, no matter the consequences. So she stayed where she was.

Perhaps fortunately, the toll the exercise of this power demanded of him was more than Balthasar yet knew how to tolerate, and so while he might have caused untold damage to the school, himself, and the people he loved, what actually happened was somewhat more merciful and infinitely more tolerable. His aura wavered, before seeming to collapse in on itself, his eyes flashing a few times before they regained their usual color and he fell forward, without even the wherewithal remaining to break his fall. He simple collapsed into a heap on the grass, utterly spent.

It was at about this time that Alden returned, soot-streaked and a little worse for wear. The other Level E’s, the ones that had escaped Balthasar’s range, were dead now, and the students evacuated, but Cross Academy was half-collapsed, and the rest of it burned.

Nikki had moved the second she felt her son's aura shift, and she reached him before he collapsed. She caught him as he fell, cradling his head against her chest. She sighed as she sank to the ground with him. She was just happy that he was alright.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Zero Kuragari Character Portrait: Aryan von Nacht Character Portrait: Yuki Alistair-von Nacht Character Portrait: Helen Trist


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Her yellow eyes scanned the grounds again. They lacked the luster and shine they once had, underscored by heavy dark circles. Her hair was dull, with a straw-like quality to it. The faces and the voices nudged at the back of her head. She ignored them. There was only one thing that she wanted. And that was answers.

Why did they know her? Why did they feel so familiar? And why could she not forget them? Him?

Her fangs slid down as she found the one she was looking for. Her lips pulled back in a silent snarl as she approached. A horde of level E's followed her, and her eyes, wide, wild, took in the three people in front of her. The Lords Kuragari and von Nacht, and the Trist girl. She flinched as Kisuke's voice filled her head again.

You know what you're supposed to do.

Aryan was...a bit surprised, at his sister's condition. Whatever the serum had done to her, it was having a very adverse effect on her. She looked like she hadn't slept in weeks, and the look in her eyes was something dark, something feral. He used his shadows to take out one of the level E's that lunged forward, this insinuating mass chaos. Yuki, however, went straight for Zero again. What she said caught her brother off guard.

"Why do you not leave me be?"

Zero stared out into the battle field. There was a mass of Level E vampires, each one different than the next not simply by physicality, but also by scent. It appeared that they were experimenting now, and Zero's lips pulled back into a snarl as one came for the group. Aryan took care of some with his shadows as did Zero, commanding them with the ease his father had shown him. It was then he turned, coming to a stand-still with the one he wanted to protect. She attacked him again; it was like this every time they met on the battle field. Her statement, however, caught him a bit off guard.

"Because Yuki," he spoke, blocking her attack rather than allowing her harm. He had promised. He had promised Balthasar, Nikki, and Aryan (in his own way) that he would save Yuki. Though he would not resort to killing her, he would use his force now to restrain her if he had to. He needed to save her. If not anyone else but her. "You don't leave the one you love," he spoke, shoving her away from him as he pulled out Ragnarok. The weapon could be utilized much like Ulrik, Erys' previous weapon now belonging to Alarica. He switched it, causing it to become a short sword-like weapon.

Yuki looked startled at his response. It made no sense. She did not know him, how could he love her? She skidded backwards when he shoved her, one hand clasped to the side of her head. Pain lanced through her.

You are my weapon, and weapons do not love.

The faces swam before her eyes. "No." She said softly. Her eyes widened, seeing, but not what was in front of her. "No!" Him, he was all she could see. She shut her eyes. Kisuke's voice taunted her, scolded her, tore her apart bit by bit until there was nothing left.

"Get the Hell out of my head!"

Aryan took out another few of the level E's, his attention never far from his sister, and he took advantage of the situation. He grabbed hold of his sister by her wrists and ankles, and around the waist using his shadows. "Helen, now!"

She did not need to be told twice. In a move uncharacteristic of her, Helen sheathed both of her blades, applying her speed to come stand in front of the bound Yuki in an eyeblink. Reaching up, she placed a hand on either side of the other girl’s face, forcing golden eyes to make contact with mossy lilac. Something uncommonly fierce burned in Hel’s, and though she was still paper-thin and weaker than she’d ever been in her life, she was strong enough for this. She must be strong enough for this. “Yuki,” she said, the flatness of her tone somehow managing to convey a kind of sternness and a kind of softness all at once. “Remember me. Remember him. Remember this.”

It was, after all, eerily reminiscent of a time a hundred years ago, when their positions had been reversed, and it was Helen who was bound in shadows, Yuki attempting to reach her through the haze of her conditioning and her control. Theodor had let her go, she knew this, but the serum’s hold on Yuki was weakening as well, and all her friend needed was to remember, to throw off the last of the shackles holding her in place. Taking a deep breath, Helen spoke directly into her friend’s mind.

You are not a weapon. You are not a tool. You are a person, and you are loved. Remember that. Remember them. Distantly she felt a disturbance in the air, as Balthasar’s aura flared dark and terrible, but she pushed it aside. Now was not the time for an episode. This was more important than anything else. This was the one place, the one act, in which she could not fail. If she never succeeded at anything else again for the rest of her life, she would succeed at this. Even if she had to die for it. Opening the mental connection wider, Helen showed Yuki things she would know, things she would recognize, and she explained them to her, slowly and clearly.

First were the faces of Jasper and Nikki. These are your parents. They love you. They took you in and raised you into the person you are. They taught you music and love and kindness and light. The image switched, until it was a memory of Balthasar and Aryan playing one another at chess, with matching subtle smiles on their faces. These are your brothers. They love you, too. They taught you devotion and humor and affection.

The rest of the family appeared this time, and she included Freya and herself as well. These are your family, and your friends. They all love you. They have taught you many things, about yourself, and about them. About what it is to have a home, and a real life. How to be something other than a tool, other than a weapon. Taking a deep breath, Hel ignored the fact that fighting off an episode was starting to cause her physical pain—she was bleeding from the nose, and felt ill enough to collapse. She wasn’t done yet, though, and willed her shaking hands to still, refusing to give up until she was done. One final image passed between them.

This is Zero. He loves you, in a way that nobody else can. You love him, too, because you are not a weapon. He has taught you what it is to feel like the most important person in someone’s world. He has taught you complete acceptance. He has taught you that there is nothing he will not do for you. Come back to him. Come back to them. Come back to us.

Yuki was shaking, the images and memories flooding her system. She couldn't make sense of what the girl was trying to tell her, the faces, the words. Her eyes widened, a look of pain and fear crossing her features. She wrested free, the sword in her hand making an arc for Helen. Aryan, however, go there first. There were things he could let slide, he understood that his sister was not herself.

But he would not allow Helen to be harmed. This was made evident when he placed himself between her and Yuki, and caught her with his shadows again, and he snarled. "Don't, Yuki!"

Then she remembered. What she had done, the fact that she had hurt her family. She'd hurt them, and worse, she'd hurt him. The surge in Balthasar's aura made her flinch, and she managed to expel Helen from her mind, as well as slip free from Aryan. She stood there for a second, staring at them, terrified, and she turned and fled.

She couldn't face them, not after what she'd done. She couldn't face him. She ran, and ran. She didn't pay much attention to where she was going. She just wanted to go home.

Helen was conscious exactly as long as it took to confirm that Yuki was at least herself again, but she could not hold onto her waking world any longer than that, and she coughed, the harsh motion pulling yet more blood from her lungs. This was the price for resisting what he wanted to show her, and she was paying it now. She wondered, distantly, if she was going to die. But it didn’t matter. She was back—Yuki was back, and though it would take her time to recover, Helen knew that her friend would. Because she was loved, and surrounded by people who would remind her of this fact. Sometimes, that was all it took. Even if… even if she hadn’t understood it at all at the time.

For the first time in almost a month, Helen lost consciousness, falling still and cold. She was out before she hit the ground.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Zero Kuragari Character Portrait: Yuki Alistair-von Nacht


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Yuki Alistair von Nacht. That was her name, who she was. Faces, names, memories flashed before her eyes, and she swayed on her feet once more, having to stop and lean against a tree to keep from collapsing to her knees. The wind blew, the November air cold against her bare skin. Normally, she wouldn't even feel it, but as malnourished and starving as she was, everything was beginning to affect her. Her hair hung limp at the sides of her face.

Kisuke stood in front of her, yelling at her, barking orders. She simply walked forward, and through him, ignoring him this time. He dissolved. Her foot caught something, and she fell, catching herself on her hands and knees. She looked around her, her vision blurring with fatigue. Her hand came away, blackened, and confusion marred her features. It would seem that she had stumbled upon some sort of wreckage. She sat slowly, looking around her, noticing what looked like a door off to her right. Except, the door led underground.

Something pulled at the back of her mind. She knew this place. She crawled over to it, tugging at the heavy door. Whatever this place was, the fire had not destroyed it. She found herself staring down a staircase into utter darkness. Darkness...her eyes widened slightly. She knew this place. She was home. The faces of her family flashed before her eyes again, ending with Zero. She shook her head.

She couldn't go back to them. She didn't deserve to go back. She'd hurt them, and almost killed her brother. She didn't deserve them. She didn't deserve him. She was nothing more than a monster, an abomination that shouldn't have existed in the first place. He deserved better than her.

She slowly made it down the steps, her eyes slowly adjusting to the darkness. The memories of this place came flooding back, memories of pain and darkness, of cold, and solitude. Of silence. This was where she belonged. She never should have left in the first place.

You belong here, with me...

Yes, father... Her mind answered.

Kiba paced restlessly as the family moved. Cross Academy was in ruins, they could not stay there, so it had been decided that they would all go to the Kuragari household, if only because they were the closest, and Emrys wouldn't make it anywhere else. In truth, he'd barely made it there. Even now, his condition was far from stable.

Kiba felt for him, for all of them, really, but...he could also feel Yuki, and he was restless. He couldn't form a complete link with her, as every time he tried, she shoved him out, but he could pinpoint her location. He knew where she was, and he wasn't letting her get away this time.

Unable to stand it any longer, and knowing that he couldn't get through to her on his own, the familiar sought out the only person who could. His yellow eyes looked up at the eldest Kuragari. "I know where she is."

They wasted no time, the familiar leading the pure blood. It didn't take them very long, and Kiba, while he'd never seen it, recognized the location as what had once been the Alistair Estate. The wolf's ears flattened slightly, sniffing at the air. He tracked her to the solid pair of doors in the ground, and he snarled slightly. The scent of blood hung heavy in the air, the underlying scent of crushed pine along with it. That only ment one thing, and in answer, a shadow shot up in the wolf's face.

Kiba yellped, skittering backwards before racing down the stairs. Wanted or not, he was not simply going to let his master continue this. Because this would kill her. He couldn't get close to her, she prevented that. His ears flattened against his head, his tail between his legs. Yuki sat in a corner, blood slowly dripping from her nose, and her hands. Her eyes were wide, staring at nothing. It was as if she didn't even realize that they were there. She probably didn't. The fingernails of her right hand had been all but torn off as she scratched at the wall. She was muttering something under her breath, and Kiba caught it, but only barely.

"I'm sorry...I'm sorry...I'm sorry..."

Kiba let out a whine. "Master..."

Zero had taken to looking after the injured, namely Emrys. They had all retreated to his family's home not too far from the Academy. That was one thing about the von Nacht's and Kuragari's, they always had a home somewhere. It wasn't for flashy occurances, but more for strategic placements. There had to be a place for them to conduct councils and have an advantage on the battlefield. He sighed, running his hand through his burnt locks as he closed his eyes. Cross Academy had been destroyed, there was no going back to it now. It was the last neutral zone, but with the attack, it was sure to cause some hands to be forced in the war. His attention was taken when when Kiba spoke to him.

"Take me to her," were the only words out of Zero's mouth when Kiba spoke to him. He knew where she was. His heart nearly fell to the pit of his stomach that day when Hel was able to get through to her, however; the look in her eyes nearly devastated him. It was one of pure and utter horror, of regret, and it had slowly killed him. He followed closely behind Kiba, his eyes taking in the surrounding area, and something flashed behind his eyes. He knew this place...or he thought he did. This was that place, the one from his father's memories. Zero had fed from Vincent once due to an injury he had sustained that would not have healed either way. He had seen a lot from his father, but this place seemed to be prominent in Zero's mind.

It was the place he held her. It was his Uncle and Aunt's birthplace: the Alistair estate. He felt his breath hitch, his anger rising before subsiding. He ran after Kiba, only stopping behind him when they came to a room, dark as night. He need not worry about his adjusting his vision, his eyes did that on their own, and what he saw almost caused his heart to stop. Yuki, she was facing the wall, her fingers scratching along the wall. He could smell the faint traces of blood, and could only assume that she had harmed herself in one way or another. He willed his limbs to move, and as he did, he grasped her from the wall, turning her around and embracing her.

"Yuki stop. This...this isn't your fault," he spoke, his voice coming out a mere whisper as his hold tightened around her.

Yuki flinched when a pair of hands grabbed her, the shadows writhing in response, but they stilled quickly. She didn't have the energy or the control to use them any longer, if the blood now leaking from her eyes was any indication. Her fingers still scratched, even though there wasn't anything there for her scratch at. Her body began to shake as Zero held her. Finally, she seemed to focus, and realize who was there.

"I almost killed my brother, I attacked you...I hurt you...I'm sorry...I'm so sorry..." She whispered hoarsely, tears mixing with the blood in her eyes. She flinched again, Kisuke's voice echoing in her head once more.

You don't deserve him.

"I shouldn't have left...I don't belong out there."

Bloody words had been scratched into the wall, ranging from words to sentences, saying different things, in multiple languages. Most of them, however, read 'sorry', 'abomination', and 'home'.

Zero tightened his arms around Yuki as she spoke. "That wasn't you, Yuki. You cannot blame yourself for that. What you did wasn't because you did it. Aryan is fine, Hel saw to him, I'm fine. You didn't hurt any of us," he spoke softly against her hair. It hurt him to see her this way, and he couldn't do anything about it. Her words, they were like knives cutting into his skin, tearing him apart slowly, and he hated this feeling of being useless to the woman he loved. He took a deep breath, smoothing out her hair as he ran his hand down her back, combing through the silver locks.

"You shouldn't say that, Yuki. You do belong out there. You belong with us, with me," he spoke, his hold loosening just a bit. "You are not an animal Yuki. You are not something that needs to be caged. You live, you breathe, you love. None of that would have been possible if you had never left. This isn't a life, Yuki. Whatever this is, was not meant for you. You deserve so much better, and if I could give it to you, the world," he continued, unsure of if he was getting through to her or not. He wanted her to see that she was special, that she was a person who deserved as much out of life as anyone else.

Yuki buried her head in his shoulder. Why? Why didn't he just leave her? She didn't belong with them, she didn't, and she never would. He had said that she wasn't an animal. He was wrong. She was, she was wild and feral and she couldn't be trusted. She trembled again, her fingers curling into his shirt.

But then his scent hit her, and she shoved away from him, the fear in her eyes evident. It was oddly reminiscent of their encounter on the roof, but she wouldn't, she couldn't. She was worse off now than she had been when she almost drained her brother, she couldn't take that risk. Not with Zero.

"Don't," he spoke, reaching back for her arm and pulling her back to him. "Don't push me away, Yuki," he spoke, holding her at arms length as his eyes bore into hers. He didn't want her to push him away, not because of this. Let her push him away for any other reason but this. She looked so fragile, and it pained him to see her so. He could see the desire to feed, and he was the only one around. A smile played at his lips, bringing himself lower to her level, exposing his neck in the process. She had to feed, and he trusted her. He trusted her that she wouldn't let her hunger get the best of her.

"Take it, Yuki. Take what belongs to you, and only you. I trust you, because I love you," he spoke, bringing her head closer to his neck in the process. He kept one hand firmly against her wrist, reminiscent of when she first took his blood up on the roof. He wasn't going to let her go, not this time.

She couldn't do anything, not pull away, not run, she was trapped. But it was his voice that she noticed. He trusted her? It was more than she could fathom. How could he? Why did he? Even in her state, she still felt the thrum of electricity that still passed between them. She took a shaky breath.

And sank her teeth into his throat. He had said that he was hers, but he was wrong. She was his. There was no other way to put it. He grounded her, steadied her, when all else threatened to destroy her. She felt her body healing, and she was able to stop shaking as she pulled away slowly. She found herself swimming in sea foam as she leaned forward, her mouth covering his.

I love you, Zero.

Zero smiled, his lips twitching softly as she sank her fangs into his neck and took what she needed. When she was finished, he felt her pull away and stared at her, wiping off the excess blood that pooled near the corner of her mouth. "And I, you," he spoke, leaning into her kiss, wrapping his hand behind her neck before pulling away. "There are a lot of people worried about you. I think it is time we go back to them," he stated, lifting her up so that he was carrying her bridal style. Without another word, they began a slow pace back to his family's home. Yuki was back, and that was all that mattered.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Alarica Alistair Character Portrait: Leora Kuragari


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Leora sighed, running the brush through her hair a few more times, though it really wasn’t necessary. The stuff was already clean, shiny and soft, it was just… well, frankly she needed something to do. Balthasar, Emrys, and Helen were all still unconscious, though Al at least showed signs of waking soon. They were all being kept separately from each other just in case something went poorly in their healing processes or they woke up hungry, and for the same reason, she was being kept away from all of them. Never mind that her mother smelled just as good as she did—Ava was necessary for the healing, one of the abilities of her powers. Since Helen was one of the injured, her mom was basically the only choice. Besides, her dad followed her everywhere, just in case.

Twisting her hair into a braid over one shoulder, Leo tied it off with a band and shook her head faintly. Seeing her parents reminded her, in some strange way, that people were capable of happiness in the most extraordinary of circumstances, and the most dire. At least… people like them were. Their love was so utterly heartstopping, so obvious and yet so subtle, that it honestly might have ruined love for their daughter. What could she ever have that could match that? And yet… that was the only thing she would take, on a permanent basis.

Sharp, chilly blue eyes passed over the surface of her thoughts for a moment, and she shuddered, straightening and pursing her lips at herself in the mirror. “Don’t be stupid, Leo,” she muttered to herself. “It’s just a game. It always has been. And even if it weren’t… you can’t have that. Not like them.” She wasn’t the right kind of person for it, really. Huffing a breath through her nose, she decided she’d been idle long enough, and stood, throwing a long coat on over her bare arms and shoving her hands into her pockets. She didn’t need the protection from the cold, but… as far as fashion statements went, her dad and uncle Jasper had one thing right—long coats were awesome. And right now, Leo wasn’t feeling so awesome on her own, so… every little bit helped.

She’d made it halfway around the house when she spotted Rica, looking distinctly more miserable than usual under a tree. Leora frowned—she knew what that expression meant. Blinking, she shrugged and decided that stewing in her own thoughts could wait for now. Padding over to her cousin, she sat beside her, the knees of their crossed legs just brushing each other, both of their backs against the tree. “You’re wearing your ‘I’m sad about Balthasar’ face,” she informed Rica gently, for once bereft of her usual teasing edge. Maybe she just wasn’t in the mood. “What’s the idiot done now? He'll be waking up soon, so that's not it.”

Alarica sighed, running a hand through her tangled locks. Angelus lay on the bed, his tails swishing as his eyes remained closed. She glanced towards her familiar, stroking a hand through his fur as she allowed a soft smile to plague her lips. It was the first time since the attack she could muster such a thing. Sigyn's words echoed through her mind, playing over like a bad movie that never ended. At first, it only caused her blood to boil, the anger, the hatred seething beneath her skin, however; it fizzled, died out until it became as cold as the ice she could produce. It had taken her a few days to realize that it shouldn't have bothered her. It shouldn't have, but it did. To think that he would...

She sighed softly, shaking her head in the process as she grabbed Angelus from the bed, a soft humming noise escaping him as he lay limp in her arms. Alarica scoffed at Angelus as she tried to push her thoughts away. She didn't need to dwell on them, she didn't need to think of them. Angelus cracked an eye open, glancing up at Alarica before he too sighed. She would have helped Ava with the healing process. She was, in a way, a healer as well. Not only had she inherited her mother's healing blood, but she could also utlitize her ability to heal wounds. But she was weak, and she couldn't bring herself to enter her brother's room, let alone help Hel.

"You should ask him if it would put her mind at ease," Angelus spoke, yawning as he stretched himself across her shoulder, hanging like a piece of cloth. Alarica sighed through her nose, pinching the bridge of it as she shook her head. "It would confirm if it were true, and you could move on. Your mind is a haze at the moment, and it will not do you any good to be distracted should there be another attack," he continued, a frown pulling at his lips as she remained quiet. What could she say? He was right, but what right did she have to ask about his personal business. To ask a question so, intimate.

She remained quiet, causing Angelus to slide from her shoulder. He shook his head, jumping from the spot on the ground out towards one of the open window sills. "You should say something soon. With the war, not even a pure-blood has forever to live," he spoke before disappearing. Alarica pursed her lips together. He was right, the war was taking a toll on everyone. With the Pantheon members as strong as they were, anyone of their lives could end in the blink of an eye. That thought only caused her to draw her lips into a fine line. She found herself outside, sitting beneath one of the cherry blossom trees, her knees hugged closely to her chest.

"It is not that easy," she whispered softly, answering Angelus' statement. It wasn't easy to tell him how she felt because he deserved better than she. He deserved a wonderful woman, vampire or not, who could make him smile, make him laugh, and Alarica knew she couldn't do either. She would only cause him to frown, to be sad, and that was worse than death itself. She didn't want to be the cause of his sorrow, she only wanted to see him smile. She was brought from her thoughts when Leora came into sight, sitting on the other side of her. She tilted her head softly, glancing at Leora before her cousin spoke, causing her to scoff with a smile.

"Is it really that obvious? Or are you just good at reading my face?" she stated with a soft shake of her head before releasing a deep sigh. "He hasn't done anything, but.." she paused, contemplating whether or not she should speak of the matter to her cousin. It couldn't hurt, Leora was always there for her when she needed to speak about these matters, especially matters that concerned him. "It's something that Sigyn said, and I know I shouldn't believe a word she said, but," she paused, glancing at Leora before turning away, pulling her knees close to her chest and leaned her chin upon them.

"She said she slept with him, Leo. I...know I shouldn't believe it, but I can't help but feel that it is true. It shouldn't bother me what he does, and at the time we all thought she was a sweet person," she finally stated, pausing as she felt a knot grow in her throat. She was being selfish now, and she knew it. "But it bothers me. I shouldn't believe her, I shouldn't, but isn't that part of what being with someone is part of? Doesn't that usually happen when you are with someone you love?" she spoke, her voice strong at first, but then fading to a soft whisper before the last word could even be registered as a word.

Leo sighed softly, reaching over to wrap an arm around Alarica’s shoulders. She could see how clearly it bothered the girl, and she could understand. But all the same… she could also imagine what it must be like to be in Balthasar’s position right now. And the position Rica thought that Balthasar occupied. Love, so called, was a very tricky thing, which was perhaps why she’d avoided it ever since the incident, as she’d come to call it. Only her mother knew about it, and only because Leora had found herself unable to lie. She was sure Alden knew, too, but she knew he at least would never judge her for it.

“It’s normal,” she said quietly. “To want the one you love to be with nobody else, to have been with nobody else. Love is… hard. It’s at once the most selfless and the most selfish thing we as people are capable of. To let another person become the center of our world is at once a sacrifice of what we would be without them and also a very selfish thing, because by nature we desire to possess them, to take them away from anyone else, to ensure that no one who is not us will ever have them, in certain ways.” She knew that too well, and not because of whatever confusing things she was feeling for the other Alistair twin. She knew it because there had been a time when Leora thought she was in love, when she was younger, and foolish, and too willing to keep someone’s secret.

“For what it’s worth,” she said, squeezing Rica’s shoulders gently, “I think she was probably lying. You know Balthasar. You know that he’s a bit oblivious, and more than that that he’s very cautious with other people. He wouldn’t have done something like that unless he was in love with her, and I honestly don’t believe he ever thought he was. He’s forgiven her too quickly for that. If she’d left a lasting mark on his heart like that… I think even he might have had a harder time letting it go—letting her go.” The youngest Kuragari pursed her lips. Forgiveness had been a hard road for her, certainly. Especially because she’d had almost no one to turn to about it. Taking a deep breath, she went ahead and made the confession, because she thought it might help Rica.

“But… would it really be so bad, if he had? I know it would hurt—it always hurts to imagine someone you love with someone else. But it’s… I hope it’s not an unforgivable sin, to be fooled. I’ve been fooled before.” She’d relinquished her heart, and her body, to someone who’d done nothing to deserve it, though she’d thought he had, at the time. “I thought I was in love once, and I acted accordingly. But, just like with Balthasar, in the end all he wanted was what I could not bring myself to give.” Her blood. That alone, she had not given him. And she’d learned since not to give her heart either, though… what she did with the rest of her tended to depend on the day. Leo always sought a connection with others, and for some reason, she could never get it right romantically. They were meaningless relations of flesh, and nothing more. There was no heart, no soul involved, and she began to despair of it.

“I don’t think he’s like me, but if he was… I’d hope you could forgive him for being fooled. Al has a big heart, and regardless of what happened between them, he’s the same person you fell in love with, isn’t he? Don't you love him at least in part for his willingness to give of himself for the sake of other people? It’s the same trait, just… shown differently. Don’t give up on him yet, Rica.” She wanted to believe that they could be happy. Because… a part of her needed them to. It gave her hope that maybe one day, even someone as tainted as her could be happy, too.

"Love is for fools," Alarica stated, slipping her face further into her knees, clutching them tightly together. If that was what love was, the painful feeling of her chest constricting, the feeling of being unable to breathe, she didn't want it. She didn't want this feeling in her, to be a part of her. It was painful, it was disgusting. It made her feel so weak, so lost. She sighed softly, lifting her head as she turned to face her cousin. She wiped her eyes with the back of her hand, finding them dry in the process. How strange, it felt as if she were crying.

"You're right, Leo. You're always right," she stated, switching her arms so that she was wrapping them around Leora's torso. She was right, Balthasar was an oblivious moron, but that was one of the reasons why she loved him so much. She could love him from afar without risking him finding out that she loved him like that. And she always would. Even if it was painful, even if it felt that she couldn't breathe, she would love him. And it still hurt. She took a deep breath, resting her forehead against Leora's shoulder as she cradled into the girl, listening to every word she spoke.

Something more painful constricted in Alarica's heart as Leora spoke. Her heart felt like it was breaking in half. Why did her family have to suffer like this, for love. All it caused was pain, and that was something her family didn't need more of. They all suffered enough. "I'm sorry Leo. I didn't know. If I had...that bastard wouldn't be alive right now. If he knows what's good for him, he'd better not be alive right now," she gritted through her teeth, her arms tightening a fraction around Leora. Leora's last words echoed through her mind. Forgive someone for being fooled? Was being fooled an unforgivable sin?

"Then perhaps I do not deserve to be forgiven if I was fooled. It seems that we are a family of fools," Alarica spoke, a soft smile returning to her face. "And no, I do not love him for that. It scares me to know that he would give himself to others for their sake, and if it were to ever result in his death, I wouldn't know how to take that. I would blame him for being an idiot, but then a part of me would blame the fool whom he gave himself to," she replied honestly. It was true. She didn't love him because of his selflessness, she loved him because of who he was, and how untouched by everything he seemed.

"I...I won't give up on him Leo, but I still feel like I don't deserve him. He deserves someone like you, someone who is beautiful and strong, unyielding and caring all in the same," she started, burying her face in her cousin's shirt in the process. "He deserves better than me," she continued, a slight hiccup to her voice as she kept her eyes from burning. "But I won't give up," she whispered softly, finally allowing her tears to fall. Why did it have to hurt this much?

Leora ran a hand through her cousin’s snow-colored hair, combing the locks out with her fingers and rubbing soothing circles on Rica’s back. “Maybe it is for fools,” she said contemplatively, “but if so, I envy the fools, who get to know what it’s really like.” She could only imagine that love, real love, was sublime, and she really did feel jealous of those who got to experience it in truth, returned by those who loved them just as much. She’d give up all her wit, all her intelligence, just for someone to love her as she loved them. But it was not to be, not for her. She was incapable of that feeling anymore. But Rica… there was still hope for Rica.

“Don’t be silly,” she said, the words a little stern, though her motions were still gentle. “What Balthasar deserves is what everyone deserves: someone who will love him for who he is, big idiot and all. That could be you, Rica, just as well as it could be anyone else. Certainly more easily than it could be Elizabeth. And you are beautiful, and strong, and unyielding and caring as well.” Her cousin wept, and Leora could only hold her, rocking her back and forth gently, murmuring soft words into her ear and trying not to despair.

Her family was in a low, dark place right now, for many and varied reasons. The Pantheon had been attempting to break them, and in some respects, they had succeeded. But Leo would be damned if she let it stay this way forever. So as she sat there, gently caressing Rica’s hair and wiping away her tears, she resolved to talk to the one person she knew who could mend any emotional damage she’d ever come across: her mother. It was time to plan another Kuragari Christmas, and this one would have to be extra special.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Balthasar von Nacht


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Balthasar was one of those people fortunate enough to dream only rarely. When he did, he rarely ever remembered them, but they were always fragments, pieces of lives both his and belonging to someone else. The power called to him in his dreams, that darkness that he knew was as much a part of him as the face he showed the world. He dreaded his few dreams, because there were so few people in the world that could understand them. He dreamed of dominion, and power, and the submission of those around him. He dreamed of thrones and vassals and people who bowed to him, called him by exalted titles.

He hated his dreams.

Which was why, when he awoke, it was to a sense of relief, and a sense of worry all the same. He tensed upon his regaining of consciousness, until he felt a familiar hand on his shoulder, felt a presence that calmed him. Balthasar loved his mother, and he always would, but there was no mistaking that he related most to his father, of anyone else in the world. Ad so when his blue-grey eyes found his sire’s moonsilver ones, he relaxed and lay back without being bid to do so. “Father…” he murmured. “I thought you were…”

Jasper sighed slightly, and shook his head, looking down at his first son with affection and something else, something that resembled worry. “Perhaps,” he admitted. Perhaps he was busy. Perhaps he was needed elsewhere. But this was not a mere injury his child had suffered from. Nikki had told him what happened, and they’d agreed that it was he Balthasar would need to see when he awoke, and he their son would need to speak to. Because it was his fault that his child had suffered so. Or, perhaps more specifically, the fault of his genetics. What they shared was not easily understood, even by those closest to them. Most saw it as a fearsome kind of power, or a talent that simply overrode others by its nature.

Nikki confessed that it was not of them, or at least she did not feel it so. She did not feel that she was looking at her husband or her son when it overtook them, but the unfortunate fact of the matter was that she was. She saw them as they truly were, as their blood made them when it overrode everything else that they had made themselves, that they had become. She saw the very core of their natures, and their natures were dark things. Terrible things that they had to fight at every step of the way. Jasper had managed this, to a considerable extent. Balthasar had been no more than six years old when he awakened to his, and even now, had not mastered it. It was hardly surprising to his father, who had not mastered his instinct in its entirety either. He was just centuries, almost a millennium, more experienced with control in general, and that did make it easier for him.

“But this is where I most need to be right now, Balthasar.” He smiled kindly at his son, who returned the gesture weakly, before he raised both hands to his face and scrubbed down his visage with a sigh.

“Yuki,” he inquired quietly, his tone conveying urgency all the same. “Is she…? And mother, Alden… I remember being with them, and then…” Everything honestly became a little hazy after that. He remembered sinking into that dark part of him, relying on it to save them, and this filled him with a bitter shame. Had he not trained for years, for decades, so that he would never need to do that? So that he would be strong enough to protect them on his own? Was this not the explicit purpose for which he had assumed all the burdens he now carried?

Jasper watched his child with sympathy, a pang of guilt striking his heart for having, however unwittingly, passed this burden to his son. He was, in all honesty, glad that Aryan did not have it, for it made his second son all that much more able to choose his own fate. “She is back, Balthasar. They are all physically fine.” Yuki would be a bit longer in the recovery yet, but he believed that, with time, she would come to see that what she had done was truly not her fault. Jazz suspected that the young Kuragari would be most helpful in this respect, as well as, perhaps, Helen would.

Balthasar just stared at the ceiling for a long moment, and Jasper waited patiently for him to speak. They were frighteningly alike in more than just their capabilities, and he knew hat sometimes, it was simply a matter of waiting for the words to form themselves. “I just… I just gave in, dad. I didn't know what else to do, and I… it seemed so simple, to just do as the power was bidding me. I felt so… free.” It was hard to admit, but part of him honestly liked having that kind of control. Liked being perfectly capable of thinking of those Level E’s as lesser beings. Liked being able to command them with nothing more than a word and a thought. Part of him, however small, reveled in that power, that superiority, and it called to him still. He knew not how, or whether to answer.

“I know,” Jasper replied. Gods, did he know. “But Balthasar, the call defeats itself. If you allow those impulses to control you, then you are still being controlled. We must resist as well as we are able, for the sake of those we love. You activated it when your mother and your cousin were well outside your radius, and this was wise. But you must take care always to be that wise. One mistake could destroy everything.” It was the same for him, and the reason he most often took to the battlefield alone. If there were no allies to worry about, he could simply let himself rage mostly unchecked, without the need for mercy. But it didn’t mean the liked the way his enemies had come to fear his tread most of all.

Balthasar considered that for a moment, nodding. His father was right, of course. His father was usually right. At least about the important things. Sighing a deep breath, he speared his fingers into his hair, pulling it back from his face. He had to be stronger than his darkness, and if he was not, he needed to be judicious in its application. Actually doing so would not be easy, but then… so little in his life really had been. “Yeah. Yeah, you’re right. Thanks, dad.”


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Emrys Alistair Character Portrait: Alden Kuragari


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The funny thing about Emrys, he didn't really dream. His mind was nothing but a large void of darkness. He'd learned to shut his mind down when he slept a long time ago. If he didn't, the faces would haunt him, hound his sleep. The faces of those he'd killed, of those he hadn't been able to save.

And so, he slept. It was almost two days before his condition stabilized, and nearly another before he woke up. When he did, he found himself staring at a ceiling he did not recognize. He blinked a few times, wondering where he was. There was a mixture of scents in the room, two being the most prominent. He recognized them as Alden and Solaris, the latter curled up next to him, actually. Wincing, he sat up, glancing down at his bare chest, a round scar of much lighter skin now where his wound had been, almost two inches in diameter.

Funny thing, he could heal, but he still scarred. He smiled almost grimly before glancing over at his cousin. "Isn't this your room? Funny, I'd have thought there'd be more cobwebs." He sighed, running a hand through his hair. "How long was I out? How's Rica?"

Alden was chewing over a truly enormous plate of his mother’s cookies when his cousin woke up, and he sighed slightly to himself, shaking his violet-coiffed head and taking the thing off of where it was balanced on his abdomen, as he presently reclined on his own couch, and extending it towards his newly-woken cousin. Having at least the manners to swallow before he spoke, he made a nonchalant humming noise in the back of his throat first.

“Smaller mansion,” he explained. “We ran out of guest rooms, but mom didn’t want you sharing with another invalid, just in case.” With the condition he’d been in, any mistake with someone else’s waking up could have spelled disaster. “And she doesn’t let me keep the cobwebs. Your mom might be scarier most of the time, but give mine a reason, and I’d rather not be in her way, thanks.” It was a joke, of course, but delivered rather deadpan.

Alden stood, setting the entire plate down on the bedside table and stretching his long frame out for a moment before he pushed his dark-rimmed glasses up his nose and scrutinized his cousin temporarily. “Unless you count her persistent indecisiveness regarding whether she wants to let Balthasar go, punch him in the face, or kiss him senseless, Rica’s fine. Pretty sure Leo’s helping her with that issue, anyway. And before you ask, yes, Yuki’s back, no, she’s not the most stable, and yes, I plan to do something about it. Quite soon, now that you’re up.” It was just like a member of his family to inquire after the others rather than worry about themselves, so it wasn’t like he hadn’t anticipated the question. Still…

“You lost a lot of blood. Mom used transfusion because you needed it, but it’s not gonna help for long. Who’s your usual? I can go get somebody, if you want.”

A raw chuckle forced its way out of his throat. He'd expected as much, from Rica, really. It was good to hear that Yuki was back, too, and that Alden was going to help her. He grabbed a cookie from the plate his cousin offered. Emrys was addicted to his Aunt's cookies. He shook his head at Al's cobweb comment, but silently agreed about the whole mother thing. All of their mothers were scary when they set their minds to it, Ava included.

It was a good thing he'd finished the cookie when Alden asked the question, because Emrys probably would have choked had there been anything in his mouth. As it were, he sighed through his nose. "What the hell, Vi. I don't even remember the last time I fed off of anyone." That was true, it'd been at least ten years, and it had been his mother at that. Still, he had this nagging underlying feeling that his cousin was right [and he usually was], and his mother wasn't here.

Emrys had never gotten used to the idea of drinking blood to survive, if only because he'd never had to. Every once in a while he knew he needed to, if only to heal, but...he'd never fed off of anyone but his mother.

Alden snorted, raising a brow at his cousin. Really, of all the questions to make one uncomfortable, it should not have been that. Then again… he sometimes forgot that some people looked upon such matters as highly personal. Like so many other things, Violet had given up all such alternative meanings and notions of particular intimacy when he became what he was. Shrugging his shoulders lightly, he figured it might also be because Emrys was a dhampir, and as such, did not have the same pressing need to consume blood as a full vampire, unless injured, as now. Still, you’d think a man in his line of work would be grievously injured a little more often.

Well, whatever. There was an obvious solution to this problem, as Erys was not currently present. Raising his own wrist to his mouth, he tugged the elastic band encircling it off with his teeth, then used his hands to gather his hair into a small tail, which he fixed in place with the band. “Well then, you’re welcome to mine. I’m told it’s not bad, as far as such things go, though I’m not my mother or sister. Fortunately.” Aware that he was being perhaps a bit more cavalier about this than his cousin might actually be comfortable with, he donned a peculiar half-smile, caught somewhere between mischievous and wry, and shook his head.

“If you wanna wimp out about it, I could always just slit a wrist for you. Blood’s blood, Em, and you need to drink it.” He arched an eyebrow, in a fashion almost challenging, but said no more. He was consummately practical, which also meant he was practical enough to realize that others were not.

It was absurd, really. Emrys could feel the heat snaking up his face. What he didn't understand was why. It wasn't such an odd thing, really, for family members to feed off of one another, even when they were not immediate. Even so...

The Alistair scoffed slightly. "Aren't you supposed to ask me out first before laying yourself out on a silver platter?" Oh God, that just brought other things to mind, things that had no business being there. He saw Alden's point, even if he didn't like it.

He liked it even less being called a wimp. He scowled, his fangs sliding down as he pulled his lips back slightly. He slid out of bed, situating himself next to his cousin before dragging Alden practically on top of him, one arm around his back. "I never said I wouldn't do it." He murmured before he bit into his cousin. He tasted like honey, tainted with something dark, something dangerous. He released him not long after, his eyes glowing softly. He was still blushing.

Flirtation was a reflex in Alden by this point—it basically needed to be. He had to be able to come onto people he found appealing in absolutely no way whatsoever, as well as those he found very appealing, and do it all with the same amount of rational distance that allowed him to calculate his way through every step of it. It was that reflex that activated at Emrys’s words, and so, perhaps naturally, his smile ticked a little wider at his cousin’s obvious embarrassment. It was amusing, in its own fashion, because there was a little bit of naïveté to it, something truly rare in the world. For all his violence and his aggression, it would seem that there were certain arenas in which Emrys was hopelessly outmatched. Vi did hope he never ran into a situation in which that would hurt him.

This familial concern did not, however, turn out to be enough to prevent him from prolonging his own amusement by cradling the back of his cousin’s head as the fangs pierced his neck, nor indeed from exhaling in a way that might have been accidental but was definitely actually on purpose into the well-known sensitive spot between ear, neck, and jaw. “Trust me, Em,” Alden said with a glimmer of amusement in his red-purple eyes, “If I was laying myself out, as you so delicately put it, you would know. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I do believe I have some work to do on our dear Yuki. Feel free to make yourself comfortable in here. It is, after all, just us.” Grabbing another cookie from the plate, he bit halfway into it on his way out the door, tossing a languid wave over his shoulder.

Messing with someone hadn’t been that much fun since he was Leo’s age.

Emrys had had to fight not to shudder when Alden had breathed along his neck, and when he felt like Em was suffocating. He couldn't understand why this bothered him so much. He growled after his cousin was gone, Solaris lifting her head and giving him a wolfish grin.

"Shut up." He wanted to hit something.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Aryan von Nacht Character Portrait: Helen Trist


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“I need exactly one thing from you, Hel, and that is for you to remember.”

And Hel, obedient as she had always been, remembered.

The world was dark around her. She remembered a lot of this, of darkness, especially in her early life, from which massive patches of memory were missing, replaced by yet more darkness, so that she was never sure if she had actually experienced the things that came to her in the dark, or if she simply had them in her mind because he had put them there. In the end, she knew it didn’t matter. What he had put there was just as much a part of her as what she had taken in on her own. Was it not the function of a repository to collect?

She remembered voices, speaking of things she did not understand, and visions of a man with the eyes of the blind but the soul of a monster. A man who could consume her, inside out, simply by turning those eyes in her direction. She remembered the smile he wore, so full of malice and power and everything but mirth. She could hear his voice, and when she did, it echoed in her very soul. Before him, there was no choice but submission. She could fight it all she wanted, and at first, she did. She fought it so very hard, with the sum of all she was and wanted to protect, but it was like dashing a raindrop against a mountain. Nothing changed, and it was the drop that spattered and spent itself, until it was simply absorbed into the soil of them mountain, into the will, the eyes that consumed her, that burned her.

The worst part of the vision was, she could never tell if it had already happened, or if it was yet to come to pass.

She was aware, occasionally, of something warm tending to her, a person who healed and soothed with mere presence, but it was not enough to draw her from her slumber. She was aware also, of someone who spoke to her, in a voice she knew but could not name. It comforted her, like being wrapped in something safe, but that wasn’t enough, either. Because no matter what they did, they could not force back the chill that his presence caused. Gradually, she knew, his face would resolve into another, a man who shared his hair and his height and some of his majesty, but not his eyes.

It was this man that spoke to her most often, told her things and showed her things that made her tremble. It was he who lingered always in her mind, making her hate, making her fear, always fear. Helen never acted afraid, because she was always afraid. And he had made it so. She had lived at his bidding, and would have died that way, too, had he not let her go. Why… why did he still want her? He’d let her go, to those people who made her life warm again.

“Foolish girl. I never let you go at all. Your cage was opened, but you are tethered to me still. And you have not the wings to fly. You went to them, and they have kept you safe. But there will come a day when even they cannot save you. You will fulfill your purpose, as you were made to do.”

She did not know what her purpose was, but she knew it was connected to the man with the eyes, and that, too, made her afraid. He was satisfied by this, and she could feel it. He had spent so long in her mind that she knew him like nobody else knew him, and nobody would ever know her better than he did. Not until the day she met the man with the white eyes.

Helen had long curled into herself in her slumber, her eyes flickering restlessly back and forth under her lids. In the end, what woke her was the persistent burning in the back of her throat. She’d been asleep and weak for nearly a fortnight, and in the end, she needed to feed, or she was going to die. Even her dreams could not hold her against the need to live. When her eyes snapped open and she took a deep breath, she nearly choked. Ava had been here recently, and Helen was glad she was not here now. Her control was nearly peerless, but she was literally starving. What was worse, someone was still here. Someone who smelled almost as good.

She struggled to pushed herself into a seated position, her arms trembling from her weakness beneath her. How could she have ever let herself decline so far? She was dangerous, now, to them. She would rather die for truth than be that. She nearly fell back, but kept herself upright by sheer force of will. “Tablets,” she managed to whisper hoarsely. “Please.”

Aryan's head snapped up, jolted from his sleep by Helen's voice. He hadn't even realized he'd fallen asleep. He looked at her, an almost pained expression on his face, but he nonetheless got what she asked for. He only put two in the glass, however.

The family was now all holed up at the Kuragari estate, even his father was there now, because of Bal. The only ones still missing were his Aunt Erys and Uncle Morgan, but with Emrys still not stabilizing, he was sure they would show up soon. Keir had been...approachable, at best, which was to be expected, he supposed.

He sighed through his nose slightly as he handed her the glass. " need blood." He said gently. Blood tablets were really only meant as a supplement, not as a replacement. The need to feed off of actual blood would still be there, and it would only get worse. He wanted to make sure she understood that.

She accepted the glass with a low murmured thanks and tipped it back, the foul taste hitting her tongue like acid. But it was better—far better—than the alternative, and so she drank it down to the last, running her tongue over her lips to capture the last couple of droplets. It wasn’t much, but it at least made her thoughts more coherent, even if it did bring the sharpness of the hunger to the surface. She was strong enough to seek a meal in the old, conventional way now—to hunt. She would never allow herself to do that, even if he, in her mind, found nothing at all wrong with it.

Her eyes fell to her hands, still pale and thin, and she exhaled softly, seeming to deflate until she was even smaller. “I am sure Freya has heard by now. She will come, and I can wait until then. There is no need to anticipate anything unexpected from me.” She would not hurt any of them, not now that she was at least back in control of herself. Mostly—though there was no denying that her fangs distended, peeking out over her lower lip, and she had to spend a moment concentrating on retracting them, curling her hands into fists. She would need to call her sister as soon as possible, assuming she was not already on her way here.

“More importantly…” she actually turned to face him now, doing her best to ignore the fact that she could hear the blood moving through the veins at his neck and wrists. “Yuki. She has returned?” She could sense her friend nearby somewhere, but the query was in truth more general, asking after the circumstances under which she’d come back, and her current mental state as well. It was of paramount importance to her that her friend was as well as possible given the circumstances… though, given the state of Cross, all the work she’d put into organizing the infirmary was for naught.

It didn’t matter.

Aryan caught the sigh before he exhaled it, and instead, he smiled slightly. He didn't think she would attack any of them, he'd never thought that. Still, if Freya would be here, at least he knew she would be getting blood.

He frowned slightly, at her question. Yuki had returned, but she still wasn't herself, not completely. "She returned with Zero yesterday. She is stable in way of health, would seem that Kisuke affected her mind a lot more than we thought it would. Alden has agreed to work with her, he should be able to set her to rights."

He left out, of course, the part where she'd attacked Keir. That had been a fiasco that no one wanted to repeat. Of course, he couldn't really blame her, either. The Alistair did bear a strking resemblance to the man.

Helen understood the subtext of these statements, though she may not have been able to pinpoint exactly what had happened, she knew that something had. She also, however, knew that Alden Kuragari was the very best at what he did. She might have wanted to help, herself, but Yuki was obviously in a delicate state, and she did not need to accidentally access something in Helen’s mind that would make matters even worse. They were both in sorry states, in a way, though of course, it was in Hel’s nature to conceptualize the pain of others as both greater and more important than her own, so in her eyes at least, there wasn’t really any comparison.

She would just have to trust that Yuki’s more balanced, less mentally-mutilated family members could succeed where she would not be able to. “I see,” she said quietly, raising the delicate fingers on one hand to her temple. She could almost hear him laughing at her; that low, rich, mocking chuckle. Her inability to help her friend when she needed it most was stinging her more effectively than any physical lash ever could, and he knew it.

But she could not allow herself to dwell on it, nor the burning in the back of her throat. So instead, she shifted the topic of conversation, as well as her person, letting her bare feet touch the richly-carpeted floor. She was in one of the Kuragari guest rooms, she recognized. This was the smaller estate, in the southern part of Russia.

Helen lingered for a moment at the edge of the bed, her eyes closed and her breathing coming with more difficulty than it should. She hated this—how weak she had become. But anything, even this, was better than the alternative. It was not the first time she’d envied the others their health, their vitality, and their minds, whole and unfractured, and she knew it would not be the last. Envy was an ugly thing, though, and she did her best not to hold onto it for long. It was unworthy of them. And as long as she presumed to stand in their company, she had to be as worthy as she possibly could.

“You defended me,” She said quietly, cracking her eyes open and moving them up and over to meet his. This, she thought, was how purple eyes should look: like bright gems set into his patrician face. Not like wilting flower petals, as hers. “I… thank you.” You shouldn’t have, she wanted to say, but she knew the words would produce disagreement in him, and she had not the strength to contest the point at the moment. Helen was not and had never been glad or happy to be alive, but… she did not actively regret it right now, and that was something of an improvement.

Aryan smiled gently. "I figured Yuki had been through enough...I don't think she could have handled knowing she'd hurt her best friend, and besides..." He stood up slowly, his full height almost towering over hers, something not unlike his own parents. That was an interesting thought. He reached out slowly, tucking a stray lock of her snow-white hair behind her ear. It struck him that he actually missed seeing her with her hair ribbon in.

"I could not have stood to see you come to harm, Helen." He said softly, something flashing through his eyes for just a second before vanishing. He let his hand drop, turning towards the door. As his hand rested on the doorknob, he said over his shoulder, "Do make sure you get your strength back up, Helen. I miss having someone to teach chess to."


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Character Portrait: Yuki Alistair-von Nacht


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In the end, it didn't matter how much he loved her, or how happy they all seemed to have her back. It didn't matter that they told her it wasn't her fault. It didn't matter how often she told herself. He still plagued her, haunted her, hounded her. She couldn't sleep, and both nights she'd woken up from some sort of daze, finding herself in the corner. His words whispered to her, she saw his face when nothing was there.

She did everything she could think of to keep her mind off of it, off of him. She busied herself by trying to recover things that she lost in the destruction of Cross Academy, but that was not an easy process. The only thing she'd ever backed up were her own medical files, which was what she found herself looking at now. The prognosis was no better than it had been two months ago.

But then, she'd been in a completely different state of mind two months ago as well. Now, she was more skittish than a rabbit, and she couldn't interact with anyone save for Zero. She couldn't even look her brother in the eye, and she'd actually flinched when her mother had hugged her. She just couldn't understand why they were so quick to forgive her.

Because they don't forgive belong to me.

"No." She grit her teeth, not realizing she'd spoken aloud. The dark circles under her eyes had returned, a clear indication that she hadn't slept since she'd returned with Zero two days before.

Jasper hovered for the barest second outside the door before he raised his hand to knock, though it was already cracked open, and he didn’t exactly intend to go away without seeing her. He’d tried his best to give Yuki her space in the wake of the recent events, understanding that there would be things she needed to sort through, but it didn’t seem to have helped any, and he knew that Nikki and his sons were incredibly distressed by her recent reticence to interact with them. He wasn’t sure if he could help, but he wanted to. As much as he’d ever wanted anything. She may not be the daughter of his flesh and blood, but she was the daughter of his heart, and that was what counted most.

Allowing a few seconds between his knock and his entrance, he pushed the door open gently and entered the guest room she’d been given, observing that she seemed to be reading her own medical charts. Jasper was not Freya, but he had more expertise in the field than either of his sons. It was something that came with as many years as he had and an interest he’d developed a few centuries ago. But he did not pry into why she was reading them, at least not for the moment, instead seating himself gingerly at the foot of her bed, which clearly had not been used for sleeping at all, if the dark circles beneath her eyes were any indication.

He did not say anything, rather allowing her to choose how and if this conversation occurred, and by what method, for he also lowered the barriers around his mind, in case she wished to initiate telepathic contact. He knew that his mind tended to shut out everything else from hers when she communicated with him this way, so if that was something she desired at the moment, he was happy to grant it to her. But he did not press—such was not in his nature.

She didn't have to glance up to know that Jasper was at the door, and she didn't move as he came in, or when he sat down. Her eyes remained locked onto the paper she held in front of her. A part of her wished he'd say something, anything, yell at her even, but...

He was not that sort of man. He'd never been that sort of man. In every instance, he was the exact opposite of the man that she could not banish, no matter what she tried. She'd killed him, forgotten him, yet still he lingered. Instinctively, she sought out the solitude of his mind, the noise dying away instantly.

It startled her somewhat, but she also realized with a jolt that he was no longer present, either. That made little sense to her, as he was all in her head, and she knew this, but even so...

She shut off that part of her mind, forcing herself to not think of it. Instead, she posed the topic that had been nagging at her as much as Kisuke's voice.

"I do not understand why you do not hate me." The term was generalized, speaking of the whole family, and not simply Jasper, though, with what she'd done to his son, he had more cause to hate her than the others.

Jazz felt the brush of her mind against his, but he made no attempt to initiate further contact than that. If what she needed was silence there, then she would have it. His eyes softened to a dove-grey, he tilted his head to the side, regarding her with a characteristic gentleness that most knew was simply him. More than any other face he’d had to wear, this one was Jasper’s. She was clearly distraught and guilty, and he could understand why. In some ways, Yuki was like himself, and like Balthasar. All three of them tended to shoulder burdens alone that were better shared, and all of them seemed to feel disproportionate amounts of guilt for things they could not control.

These were habits he was slowly, painstakingly unlearning, with the help of his wife and his children and his friends, but he would be lying if he said he did not feel them keenly even so. He let out a breath softly, the corners of his mouth turning up into a smile. “No father could ever hate his daughter, and no brother his sister. That’s part of what it means to be a family,” he said simply. He knew, of course, that what happened had occurred as a result of the serum, and was not her fault at all, but he also knew that others had attempted this line of reasoning, and been met with her refusal or inability to believe it. So instead, he told her something else, something that was also the truth.

“Even if you had done every one of those things and worse, on your own, of your own free will, there is not one among us who would hate you. And what happened, while regrettable for its own reasons, was far short of such a thing. The only choice you made was the choice to leave us. I daresay I cannot fault you for that any more than you faulted me a century ago. And, unless I am mistaken, you did not.”

That was true, she'd never blamed him for leaving when he had. He'd done it to protect them, just as she had. She hadn't been able to fight the serum, even though she'd tried. Some small part of her knew that he was right, it wasn't her fault, even if she wanted to believe it was. She looked back at the chart she held, and realized that she didn't believe it.

She wanted them to believe it. Because if they did, if they hated her, she wouldn't have to say goodbye. She didn't want to say goodbye, she didn't want to die. But in that, she didn't have a choice. She wasn't expecting the sharp pain in her head, or Kisuke's voice.

The little Queen is a hypocrite, it seems. What was it that your brother told you? It is not the years in your life, but the life in your years? It seems even you don't believe that. You are mine, Yuki, and you always have been. You were born alone, and you will die alone.

It had happened suddenly enough that his voice was not only in her mind, but in Jasper's too, because of the link they shared. Her eyes were unfocused as her breath hitched at his intrusion, and before she realized she'd moved, she'd buried her head into her step-father's chest. She shut her eyes as she trembled.

"'re wrong." She whispered.

Jasper’s arms closed around his daughter, and he was more than a little perturbed to hear a voice from a long time ago issuing from her mind. His mouth pulled down into a frown, and he splayed his hand over her upper back, moving it in soothing circles for a while, and then stroking her hair gently. “He is,” Jazz agreed softly. “He has always been wrong.” Clearly, he had underestimated the hold the man still had on his daughter, even after his death. He wondered if this was an effect of the serum, or if it had always been so.

“Yuki? How long have you been hearing him?” he asked gently, still making soothing gestures with his hand, his other wound around her back to keep her steady. He wondered… Jasper’s mind worked quickly, trying to bring to bear all the tools he had at his disposal, and all the people who would be willing to help. Perhaps… Freya had told him a great deal about the conditioning implemented on many of the members of the Pantheon by his grandfather, and what had been forced upon Yuki was not that different. Thankfully, it was also not as systematic—if his guess was correct, what she had was one influence, a single source of the intrusion, and if so… he might have a solution.

It could work. It would work, because it would have to. “Listen to me carefully,” he urged quietly, speaking nevertheless in a soft murmur. “I think… there may be a way that I can stop you from hearing him. It will need Alden’s help… and you will have to let us both in. If you are willing to allow that… I will rid you of him, Yuki. Once and for all.” He knew even so that what he was asking of her was a lot. It was never easy to allow someone totally into one’s mind, especially not when the only person who had been there had done so much damage, but… if she could trust him enough for this, he could free her.

And that, he wanted so dearly it was hurting him.

Yuki wasn't entirely sure, there had been instances when she was still a child that she'd had nightmares, but it hadn't been like now. This really had only happened after she'd been injected. "I can only guess that it is a side-effect of the serum. I've only heard him in the last two months."

It was what Jasper said after that caught her off guard. Her eyes snapped open. She...wouldn't have to hear him again? She wanted that more than anything, to not hear him, to be able to forget. Jasper was her father, she knew that, she believed that. Not Kisuke.

It was that belief that gave her her answer. If there was even the slightest chance that this could work, she would take it. She couldn't live like this, and she didn't want to. Balthasar was right, she had to make the most of what little time she had left, and in order to do that...she had to let go of the past. Even if it meant that Jasper and Alden discovered things about her that she'd rather them not know.

There was no hesitation in her voice when she answered, pulling away from him in order to looki up at him. "Then we try."


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Character Portrait: Yuki Alistair-von Nacht Character Portrait: Alden Kuragari


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Yuki believed that Jasper could do this. She knew that he could, and she trusted him. That did not mean she was not terrified. Whether it was because he was a figment of her consciousness, or he was gaining a will of his own, Kisuke seemed to be attacking her with a vengeance, as if he could tell that he was going to lose his hold on her, and he was trying to drive her mad before they could drive him out.

She was at her best whenever she was around Zero, so she'd taken to spending as much time with him as she could, though she would have done so anyway. She'd even managed to sleep that night, if only because she'd fallen asleep in his arms. She certainly looked better than she had the day before, as she sat in the chair across from Jasper and Alden in one of the smaller studies, the door locked. They'd asked the others not to come in, but for this, privacy needed to be enforced.

Her hands were clasped in front of her, and she found her hear fluttering. Balthasar and Zero were the only two who knew, and she'd rather keep it that way, however; there was no way to be certain whether Alden and Jasper would come across it or pass over it, having every access to her mind. And knowing Kisuke, he'd lead them straight to it. But she had to be rid of him, regardless of what it cost her.

"I cannot say for sure what you're going to come across...even I don't venture into some places in my mind, for fear of what I might find. But..." She took a deep breath, exhaling slowly, "I'm ready."

Jasper, sitting across the table from his daughter, nodded once, in confirmation and reassurance both. Reaching across the interveining space between them, he took her hands into his and gave a gentle squeeze. “I will disturb as little as possible, Yuki.” It was not something anyone should desire, to have someone rooting around in their mind for an extended period of time, however good their intentions.

Alden, on the other hand, wasn’t terribly excited about this. He was willing to do it—in truth, there was very little, if anything, he wasn’t willing to do for his family, but… the last time he’d come in contact with power like the kind that was about to be used, his mental sensitivity had ensured that he’d nearly lost his fucking mind. That had been Balthasar. Jasper was at least a century ahead of his son in the development of that same power, but thankfully, it also gave him more control. Alden had explained the phenomenon as well as he could to his uncle, but so little was known about their powers that they had not discovered through experimentation that it was impossible to know what would happen here.

The way Uncle Jazz explained it, he was going to go inside Yuki’s mind and do what he was capable of doing outside of it—force another vampire to submit to his will, and then force it to eradicate itself, utterly and completely. The he was going to even be within range of that made the telepath nervous, but he knew he was needed. He had to set up, and maintain, the mental link between the two, and allow Jasper to in a sense borrow his powers, and give him a manifestation in Yuki’s mind that could obliterate Kisuke’s. It wasn’t something Violet had ever done before, but if anyone was capable of it, it was him, and everyone knew it. No arrogance, just fact. He was what he was, and it happened to be helpful sometimes. That was enough.

He’d situated himself comfortably, in case his body happened to take damage while he was messing around with minds here. “All right. No use wasting daylight here,” he said, diffusing the tension in his own way by being as blunt as ever. “Uncle Jazz, Yuki, this might be easier if you close your eyes, so the physical doesn’t make it harder to focus on the mental, and all that.” They’d need all the help they could get, if this was going to work. Cracking off the last stick of pocky he had, he finished it before he set to his task, taking a deep breath and reaching first for his uncle’s mind.

Huh. It really was a little like turning off the rest of the world. Not totally, because Alden’s awareness by nature extended beyond minds, but… things sure got quieter. Not in the you’re stupid so your brain is quiet way, either. More like the kind of quiet that you got when you stood at the shore of the ocean and just looked out at it. Because it was so absolutely massive that nothing else really mattered. It was actually a little unnerving, but he managed to latch into enough of it to sort of mentally ‘tug’ his uncle along as he sought Yuki’s mind. Mercifully, hers was more like an actual mind, if simultaneously keen and fractured. He’d touched Helen’s once—the effect was similar if not exactly the same.

“Insert tab A into slot B,” he mumbled wryly, recalling the directions for assembly of certain pieces of furniture. He much preferred to make it the old-fashioned way, of course, but there you had it—the analogy worked, and he fused the minds together with the mental equivalent of a temporary solder. Uncle Jazz was in Yuki’s mind; now he just had to keep him there.

Her mind wanted to recoil, at first. It barely had room for itself for certain areas, how could it allow something bigger to come in? Nonetheless, Jasper von Nacht was allowed into his daughter's mind, a place that was not overly bright. It was a long black and white hallway, with doors along either side.

Nothing was on any of the doors, and all of them, save for one, seemed to be closed. Inside seemed to be a memory, and it was very old. In it, Yuki was perhaps ten years old, back before she'd met her mother and Jasper. She was back in that old room, underneath the estate, in much the same position that her uncle had been in when they'd found him. The look on her face was one of pain.

The door closed, and another one opened, a barrage of memories of growing up with Jasper and Nikki, and Balthasar and Aryan, always there, but never quite belonging flickering by. There was also...quite a lot of Zero in her head too. Many more of her childhood with Kisuke were there, all dark, full of pain, and acceptance. Acceptance that this was her life, and there was nothing she could do about it.

You cannot banish what only exists in one's mind, von Nacht.

She shuddered involuntarily at his voice.

Jasper stood, not quite physical but oriented as if he had a body all the same, in the hallway, his hands loose at his sides, and his eyes sliding over the contours of the chamber he was shown. He caught the flickers of memory, some of which made him smile, some of which made it appear as though the most natural expression on his face was in fact a darkening rage. This much, he had expected, including, perhaps, her fascination with his best friend’s oldest son.

He had not, perhaps, expected to be addressed so soon, and his eyes narrowed dangerously. “I can banish you from anywhere I choose,” he said, his tone calm, but with an undertone of something unfamiliar to anyone but him, a strange reverberant echo of command. “Manifest yourself, Sou, and leave nothing behind. I can promise you I’ll be able to tell the difference.” He could, too, especially with the little mental tags Alden was placing on everything he saw through his uncle’s eyes. He was not directly appearing himself, having decided that it was best for Yuki to have to deal with as few presences as possible, but he was studiously finding the places where Kisuke’s influence still hid, and marking them down for reference.

A chuckle answered him, doors all around him opening and closing, memories flooding by, both happy and painful, joyous and sorrowful, but perhaps the worst were the ones of two months past, of doing what she had done with no control over her actions, yet being fully aware of it all the same.

I can tell you this much. You may call her your daughter, but even you cannot save her.

Parts of him were slowly coming together, even the apparition falling prey to the command given. With a wicked smile, two memories freeze-framed. It was the conversations she'd had with Balthasar and Zero.

Outside of her head, she whispered, "No..."

Kisuke was being pulled from the very depths of her mind, and he was bringing with him all the ugly things she wanted to keep hidden, and she was powerles to stop him. The medical charts, the blood tests, the results, all leading up to the inevitable conclusion: She was going to die, and soon.

Nothing can save her from the fate she must endure, and that fate is death. Not even you can change that, with all your power. You and Nikki and her precious little Zero have to watch her die, and it won't be very pretty, either.

This was not what he had been expecting, but to say he’d never considered the possibility would be to lie. It had always been an unknown, what Yuki’s history and creation would do to her, and here before him, the stark truth was being laid out: his daughter, his child, was going to die, and he could not stop that. Not even the ability to command reality itself could undo what had been done to her, for it would unmake her in her entirety, and he knew that. Yet there were still things he could do.

“You think this is it? That this is your master stroke? That with it you will defeat me, defeat her?” There was a hard thread of contempt laced underneath his voice, and Jasper drew himself up to his full and considerable height, which allowed him the option of looking down his nose at Kisuke, an opportunity he took. He was not, as a rule, a prideful man, but for his children, there was no one prouder. “Then you underestimate her, and misunderstand the nature of what it is to live.”

The air around Jasper began to crackle with some kind of contained energy, and he let his eyes fall shut. When he opened them again, they were stark white from sclera to pupil, but the faintest hint of silver remaining where the iris had been. His will, he pressed down upon the apparition of the man like a lead weight, like gravity itself. “Begone, never to return.”

Outside the connection, Alden was bleeding from his nose and mouth, but he maintained the connection, breathing slowly. It was quite nearly killing him, to keep so much power in one place when it yearned to be everywhere, but he needed to do it. Uncle Jazz’s power had to stay inside Yuki’s mind, or the command given would affect the both of them, and probably a few of their closer-by relatives as well. “Anytime now would be great, Uncle Jazz,” he said, hacking up a globule of blood and coughing it into a square linen napkin. A second was held in front of his nose. “I really wish mom didn’t like these carpets so much… I swear a man should be allowed to bleed where he wants to…”

Even with the pressure, with the weight, the apparition was smirking. With Jasper's command, he began to dissolve.

My target never was you, von Nacht. But think of what the news will do to your pretty little wife.

That was the last thing he ever spoke, and he vanished, completely, every trace of him and his influence in her mind gone. Any memory that contained him was like his image had been burned out. Something had once existed, but no longer. It was as if something heavy was lifted from her.

Had certain events not come to light, she probably would have smiled. As it were, she couldn't quite bring herself to. Jasper knew now. She hadn't wanted to burden him with that knowledge, yet he knew anyway. But even that was pushed aside for now. Right now, she needed to take care of Alden.

Thank you.


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Character Portrait: Yuki Alistair-von Nacht Character Portrait: Helen Trist


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It was as if someone had reached in Yuki's head and turned on a switch. All of a sudden, she could sleep again, she wasn't having nightmares, and she was able to let go of the guilt that she felt about what she'd done. She was smiling again. There was still the matter of talking with her parents about what Jasper had uncovered, but for now, she was just content with being able to go about her day without worrying about breaking down or hearing voices.

As far as she could tell, Alden was recovering well, if albeit slowly, but all tests ran normal, so she wasn't worried. She was also a little...surprised to find that Emrys spent most of his waking hours by their cousin's bedside, but she left it alone. It was none of her business, really. She'd been able to have a conversation with her youngest brother, which he seemed to be very pleased about, and she was currently on her way to check in on her best friend.

She owed Helen a lot, honestly. If she hadn't broken through to her when she did, Yuki probably wouldn't be here now. She smiled slightly before knocking on Helen's door.

Freya had arrived at the Kuragari mansion no more than twelve hours after she’d been informed of Helen’s recovery, and as a result, the younger of the sisters was looking a little healthier. Granted, she was still too thin, and there were still dark circles beneath her eyes, but she’d managed to sleep sporadically, waking only when the nightmares got too bad to handle. It was far from an ideal situation, but then, Hel had never really experienced the ideal situation, so this was good enough. What was more, Yuki was apparently doing much better, though Helen had elected to give her space to recover. There were plenty of people who needed to be beside her right now, and much as Hel would have liked to be there, it was not a physical need, as it would be for her parents or the one she loved.

She still didn’t really understand that, the need for someone else that stretched beyond desire, even. She had enough trouble understanding the desire, both for someone’s company in particular, and then the further step than that which was romantic instead of platonic. She’d known a few simple instances of liking being around people—she was not, after all, completely incapable of feeling. She liked being around Yuki. She liked being around Freya and Alden and to some extent any of the rest. There were few she’d seek out, though. There was a name suspiciously missing from her mental tally, but that was because she could not divine her own thoughts on Aryan at the moment. She did seek his company, occasionally actively. But that was about all that really made sense. It was enough.

She felt her friend long before the knock at the door, but waited for it to come before she stood from the chair she’d been curled up in, padding in stocking-feet over to the door and opening it wide enough to accommodate either of them. She still could not and did not smile, but something—a spark she’d lost over the intervening weeks maybe, lit in her eyes. It was a small thing, and hardly noticeable, but it was present. “Yuki,” she said softly. “Please come in.” She stepped aside to allow her friend to do so, then poured each of them a cup of tea from the warm ceramic pot resting on the low table between them.

“How do you feel?”

Yuki smiled, brighter than what was usually considered normal for her. She'd been doing that a lot lately, and with Kisuke utterly gone from her head, it was easy to see why. She was a bit concerned to see her friend so thin, but at least she no longer looked like the walking dead, that was something at least.

"I'm doing much better, Helen. What about yourself? I heard Aryan has been teaching you how to play chess?" She raised a slight eyebrow as she sat down, wondering what it was that was happening between her brother and cousin. Whatever it was, she certainly approved, Helen needed to come out of her shell more, and the more people she interacted with, the more chance there was of that happening.

Helen nodded slightly, taking one of the cups of tea and setting it in front of Yuki, cradling the other in her hands. The warmth seeped into her fingers, and she rather liked the feeling, in all honesty. “Yes,” she replied simply. It had, of course, started as a distraction, a way to take her mind away from things when there was no more work to be done. In that sense, she supposed it was not necessary anymore, but… she wouldn’t mind continuing. There were still things left to learn, after all, and Helen did not like leaving a skill unmastered. It was also, perhaps, true that she felt comfortable in that setting, strange as she found the revelation to be.

“Otherwise, I am recovering. Freya believes that there will be a need for some of my ability and relative anonymity quite soon, so I am attempting to regain my health as quickly as possible.” There was a chance she would have to be separated from the majority of them for a long period of time in the near future, and she found herself surprisingly… disappointed by that. She had grown strangely used to having them around. But she also suspected that it would not be long before the war effort fractured them in more directions than just that—Cross Academy was gone, and the conflict was dearly close to their front doorsteps once more.

As someone who had seen the previous war, she knew it would not leave them untouched, and the realization produced a curious pang in her chest. They would lose people, this family, and she did not want it to be so. It hurt her to realize it would be so, and that was something that caught her off-guard.

Yuki sipped at the tea, smiling slightly. It was good to be back in Helen's presence, though her statement gave her pause. It was true, with Cross Academy destroyed, there was no real neutral zone any longer, and that would force a lot of hands to act in the war now. She pursed her lips slightly.

"I'm sure my brother will miss his assistant dearly. As far as I can tell, Emrys will be staying with him for Council meetings. The rest of us..." She trailed off slightly. She didn't want to think about it overmuch, since it led to the possibility that she would be separated from Zero, and she didn't want to think about that.

Instead, she smiled again. [color=#21072]"I'm glad you're doing better, Helen. I'm sorry if I made you worry."[/color]

As ever, Helen seemed to instinctively sense her friend’s worry. “I am sure they will not separate you from him, if at all possible. And you are fortunate in that both of you are talented in similar ways.” If she had to guess, she’d say that they would probably end up on the battlefield together somewhere. Though she would miss her friend quite dearly, she knew enough to understand that the connection between Yuki and Zero was simply of the sort that took first priority in someone’s life. She had said it, after all—Zero had shown Yuki what it was like to be at the very center of someone else’s world, in the good way. The bad way… was one she hoped her friend never had to experience.

“Do not apologize for that,” she said slowly, taking a sip of her tea and trying to think about how to explain it. “That I can worry at all is still very strange to me, but… I consider it a gift. It makes me less like him. Though… please do not feel the need to defend us all again in a similar manner.” It was an experience that did not bear repeating, after all.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Alarica Alistair Character Portrait: Emrys Alistair


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Alarica wandered through the Kuragari estate, taking a deep sigh as she ran a hand through her hair. Emrys had woken not too long ago and she had yet to see her brother. She still felt responsible of what happened to him. If she had not hesitated, he wouldn't have been injured. He wouldn't have been harmed, and it was her fault that he was. She sighed a bit harshly, rubbing her temples in the process. It wouldn't do her any good if she blamed herself for it. The only thing that would come out of it was a headache she did not need.

Chewing the bottom of her lip a bit, she took a deep breath. What kind of sister would she be if she didn't at least check up on her older brother? A faint smirk pulled at her lips before she shook her head. With that in mind, she pushed her legs in the direction of where Emrys was. She had learned from her aunt that he was sharing a room with Alden, something she found quite amusing as Emrys wasn't one for sharing rooms. She had known. There was a point when she was still just a child, and as such, she was afraid of the monsters under her bed. She ran to Emrys' room who then took her to Keir's thereafter.

She had frowned and called him an unpleasant name (she couldn't recall it), and had opted to stick to Keir's room and her parents' (much to their chagrin). She pushed the door open to Alden's room, not bothering to knock, and found her brother still in bed, curled beneath the blankets. A bright smirk pulled at her lips as she made her way towards the bed. She grabbed the edge of the blanket and tugged at it softly before the smirk turned into a Cheshire cat grin. Pulling the blankets off rather harshly, she waited for his reaction as she crossed her arms over her chest, smirking still down upon her brother.

Of late, sleeping was the only way Emrys was able to escape his waking nightmares. He'd been thinking far too much over the past few days, and he was beginning to wonder if he hadn't developed a minor type of post-traumatic stress disorder. It was hard to say, really. In that regard, he'd been sleeping a lot more.

He jolted awake as the covers were pulled off of him, and found himself staring into the smirking face of his little sister. He groaned, propping his head up with his elbow, and scowled at her. As per usual with him, he was bare-chested. The circular scar was pale, even against his already-white skin.

"Dare I ask what I've done to deserve such harsh treatment from my own kin?"

Alarica rose an eyebrow, staring at her brother before tapping her chin in a thoughtful manner. "Hm, well let us see shall we?" she stated, removing her hand from her chin and placing it on her hip. "Well for starters, you scared the crap out of me. You almost died Em," she began, sighing softly as she situated herself on the edge of his bed. She had been worried about him, and almost afraid that he wasn't going to heal, that he was going to die because of her. Her moment of weakness almost cost her her own life, and then her brother's.

"How are you feeling anyway?" she spoke, her eyes traveling to the scar on his chest, and frowning slightly. She sighed, tracing her finger over it before pulling away. "I'm sorry Em," she murmured, laying down beside him and wrapping her arms around him as much as she could. "You wouldn't have been hurt if I hadn't hesitated," she whispered as she sighed softly.

Well, he couldn't exactly lie and say he hadn't almost died, because the truth of the matter was that he had. He let out a deep sigh. He'd been expecting this, really. He wrapped his arms around Alarica, pressing his lips to her forehead softly. "I'm your big brother, Rica. We're supposed to protect our younger siblings, especially our sisters. Z would have done the same thing for Leo just as Bal and Ary would have for Yuki, though that's a bit of a strange case, Yuyu is older than all of us."

He shrugged slightly. "The point is, I did what I had to do, and I'll do it again. I didn't die, Rica. You can't get rid of me that easily."

Alarica sighed, shifting herself so that she was wrapped tightly against her brother and took a soft breath. He was her big brother, that was his excuse. That didn't matter to her, he could have been nothing to her, and she still would have felt responsible. She pursed her lips together, pulling away from Emrys and rolled off the bed. She shook her head softly. He was right, he didn't die, and that was all that mattered. She walked over towards the door, stopping momentarily and glanced over her shoulder.

"I don't know about you, but I'd refrain from telling mom. You are her baby after all. Dad might get caught in the crossfire if you told her. Though I can't guarantee that Keir hasn't already informed dad. Huh, if he did, I think we may be fatherless," she threw over her shoulder, the smirk still pulling at her lips. She truly did feel bad for her father. Her mother wasn't exactly the most composed of parents when it came to her children, and was perhaps one of the most feared for it. A shudder went down her back, the smirk disappearing from her face.

"I really do feel for dad..." she stated and exited the room.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Emrys Alistair Character Portrait: Alden Kuragari


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The Spider dreams of the workings of its web, as things turn out. He was not so gifted as to be able to escape the magnitude of his sins in his dreams, but at least they were things he was willing to let go. The mantra of his entire life had been: the lesser evil in service of the greater good. That was what he had become, and he had done so willingly. So sometimes, when he dreamed of the things he’d had to do and to be in service of that greater good, it troubled him with startling clarity. The times he’d ripped information straight from an unprepared mind. The times he’d used his abilities to inflict subtle psychological torment on Pantheon agents or mercenary assassins. Far fewer attempts had actually been made on his family’s lives than were ever planned. The Spider preferred to nip such problems in the bud, so to speak.

And then there were the times when more subtle methods had been necessary, when simply taking the information he desired was not the best way to go about things. He’d slept his way to the top of more than one alliance, and secretly murdered his way up other hierarchies. Through them all, he’d worn countless faces, played countless characters, and none of them were him.

Or perhaps it was more accurate to say that all of them were him.

They were what he had become, for their sake. All the things he would continue to do but never speak of. All his ghosts and his demons and the little pieces of his soul he’d left behind on the way. But it was worth it, every time, for those times when he could go home and see his mother and his siblings and his family, and allow himself to be cocooned in their warmth and their light for a while. He could forget, for just a moment, that he still wore a face with nothing underneath. He had given all that up, because it was necessary to pay the toll in something, and Alden had only shreds of his soul to give. He paid and he paid and he paid some more, and somehow, there was always just enough to keep him putting one foot in front of another. To track the next lead, worm into the next alliance by whatever means necessary, wear the next face. Spin one more thread for his web.

It was obvious when he woke that his mother had been giving him transfusions, because he could tell that it had been at least a couple of weeks, and he wasn’t dead yet. He was, however, ravenous, and he could smell someone enticingly-familiar not too far away. Cracking open one eye, Alden laid an arm over his abdomen and turned his head to face his cousin. “So what’s your excuse? Could have moved in with someone else by now, wouldn’t have had to worry about the cobwebs getting out of hand.” His eyes were a tad redder than normal, but, razor’s edge or not, he was still in control of himself. He just really hoped Emrys didn’t start bleeding. It wasn’t as though he’d lost much himself, it was just that his metabolism was insane and essentially unslakeable. Sucked to be him, sometimes.

Emrys had been flipping through a book, bored, when Alden awoke. It had been almost three weeks since he'd nearly died helping their uncle and Yuki. While Emrys was sincerely glad that his cousin was alright, he was also going to miss the solitude. He rose an eyebrow slightly at his question.

"I like the cobwebs, actually. They're a nice touch. Besides, with you out of it, it was almost like having a room to myself again. Z snores and is usually with Yuki anyway, and I'd die before I shared a room with Bal, Keir, or Ary. Plus, I'm lazy and didn't feel like being bothered to move anything when I was already here." He'd returned to the book while he was speaking, but then paused and set it down. He looked over at Alden again. "It would seem our roles are quite reversed. I can give you your blood back, if you wanted it."

Alden snorted, the half-smile cracking his face anyway. And he was sure all four of his other brothers were unsuitable for various reasons also. He could sense them nearby; clearly, everyone was returned for the annual circus... or Christmas, as his mother liked to call it. “Glad to know I could be of convenience,” he said dryly, pushing himself up so that he was sitting with his back to the headboard. An extra bed had indeed been moved in here, but other than that, the décor was unchanged. There were not actually any cobwebs, of course, though sunlight did stream in through a window. Violet didn’t need to ask how long he’d been out, because Emrys had thought about it, which meant he’d heard it as clearly as if it had been spoken.

He pretended to ponder the question for a moment, running a hand through his purple hair and trailing the gesture into working the knot out of the back of his neck. Alden could be pretty lazy when he wanted to be, but he did not make a habit of sleeping in the same spot for three damn weeks. Then again, he’d contained Uncle Jasper’s power to Yuki’s head. He was surprised it hadn’t killed him. It probably would have, if it had been Balthasar making the attempt, or any lesser telepath trying to do the containing. He wasn’t surprised his brain had needed so long to repair itself.

But the mischief in his smile had nothing to do with any of that, really. “My own back? Hm… I think not. Yours, though…” He arched an eyebrow and raised one of his arms slightly to make a beckoning motion with one of his index fingers. “Yours, I’ll take.”

Emrys raised his eyebrow a little higher. "My own, huh? And what is so special about my own blood?" Despite the question, he did move over to the bed, sliding in next to his cousin. He had to wonder why when he'd been the one to drink from Alden, it had bothered him, yet now, when it was Alden drinking from him, it was perfectly fine. He didn't know. A part of him didn't want to.

He cocked his head at his cousin for a second before leaning his head over, exposing the smooth ivory arch of his neck for him. The last time he'd seen Alden, he'd been blonde, his hair cropped very close to his head. "You know, I kinda like you in purple. It suits you." He didn't even bother to take the time to wonder why he'd felt the need to say that.

Even if he weren’t a mindreader, it would have been relatively obvious to Alden just how hilariously-confused his cousin was about this whole thing. Growing up, they perhaps hadn’t interacted as much as Alden had with Aryan or Emrys with Zero, because they were closest in age that way, but then… it wasn’t like they were the same people as they’d been back then. More than perhaps any other members of their generation, this war had changed them, deeply and irrevocably. They’d both been paying the tolls since they were old enough to know how, and had run into each other only sporadically since then. It was, in a way, a lot like meeting a new person.

A new person who had absolutely no idea what he was up against.

Shifting, Alden hovered over his cousin for just a moment, that secretive half-smile still adorning his face, even as his eyeteeth extended below the line of his bottom lip. “Does it?” he inquired playfully, making his voice a little breathier than usual and leaning down so that he was within a few inches of Em’s face. “I happen to think that red is a very good color on you.” He referred of course, to the hue that Emrys’s pale face took on when he blushed. Inching closer, he diverted his course at the last moment, running his tongue along the juncture of Em’s throat and shoulder.

He sank his teeth into the same spot, adjusting a little so that he moved a leg over his cousin’s waist for a better angle. The taste was interesting—a mixture of the sweet and the spicy, like dark chocolate with chilis in it. Violet’s eyes slid closed for a moment, and he hummed a note of contentedness before extracting his teeth, licking the last drop from the corner of his mouth. “Just as I suspected,” he murmured, rising onto his knees and removing himself from Em’s person. He swiped a finger along his own lip and then over his tongue, making sure the rest was gone as well. His eyes narrowed, and the wicked smirk returned to him. “You’re delicious.”

When blood is offered instead of taken by force, there is something rather intimate about the whole ordeal. With Emrys, it was no different, even if he did not understand it. Had he not twisted his fingers into the sheets, he would have wrapped his arm around Alden's shoulders to prevent him from pulling away. As it were, he simply blushed and allowed him to do as he would, acutely aware of his body positioning.

When he did pull away, Emrys swung his legs over the edge of the bed, sitting up with his back to Alden. Al's comment about his taste sent a shiver down his spine. "Yeah, yeah. Just don't get too attached." He said gruffly.

Alden chuckled, shaking his head, but he did not immediately say anything in response, simply climbing off his bed with a sort of easy grace that seemed to come naturally to felines and vampires alike. As he’d suspected, he was quite capable of moving about now, as his injuries had mostly been to his brain and then his metabolism, and both of those were now in quite well-functioning order. “I shall do my very best, cousin,” he said, laying a hand over his heart in a mocking gesture of sincerity, “but it could be said that my family is predisposed to both ends of addiction, after all.”


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Leora Kuragari Character Portrait: Zero Kuragari


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This was, perhaps, the first time in a while, that Zero had left Yuki's side. He knew she wanted her space, and that he couldn't keep smothering her like that, though they both really had no complaints. Still, it was nice at least to give her some alone time, or time to spend with her family and not just him. As much as he wanted it to be that way, he couldn't be selfish. He glanced out the window, watching as the snow fell in small flurries, and a faint smile tugged at his lips. It was getting close to Christmas time, and that usually meant his mother would be setting up traps all over the estate. Not that he minded, he'd probably drag Yuki to one of them, or force some of his cousins under them.

It was a tempting thought really. Instead, he shoved those thoughts to the back of his mind for a later use, focusing on the snow as it fell. He pushed himself from the chair he was seated in and made his way outside, allowing the snowflakes to fall upon his face as he stared up at the sky. He almost admired the snowflakes really. Each one was unique, different in every way possible. In a strange way, they reminded him of his family. They were all connected in one way or another, but like the snowflakes, each of them was vastly different than the next. Such an odd comparison, but he thought it fit.

"What do you think mom has planned this year?" he stated, turning his head slightly to meet the gaze of his youngest sibling, his only sister. "Do you think we'll stand a chance?" he continued, turning his attention back to the sky, catching a snowflake on his tongue and smiling when it dissolved.

Leo mimicked her brother’s posture, lacing her hands behind her back and sticking her tongue out to catch a snowflake or two. Her nose crinkled with amusement at his face, though she knew she looked just as silly. That was all right though—she’d never had to worry about being anything in particular in front of her brother. So if she felt like doing silly things, she would, because it was the same for him. She treasured this bond, more than she could ever put into words, and it made her joyful to see him so happy, enough that she felt her mood lifting regardless of anything else going on.

“You know she never tells anyone,” she replied with a smile and a shake of her head. Their mother was the Queen of All Things Christmas, a title happily ceded to her by everyone who got to reap the benefits. The benefits being her delicious food, a fully decorated (and always very musical) home to stay in, the warmth of family, and the gifts. It had apparently been decided about fifty years ago that nobody really needed presents from everyone else, so they basically just donated the money to Ava, who selected one gift for everyone, and it was always basically the most amazing thing ever. Of course, couples still gave their own personal things, but other than that, it kept everyone happy to have things that really suited them, and not have to worry about trying to find space to put it all. Besides, they all found the experience of being together more important.

“But I’m betting it’ll involve food, a ton of mistletoe, and probably some really awesome music,” she said, as though it ever didn’t. Then, in a slightly more somber tone, she added. “It might be the last one we all get together, for a while. Alden says things are about to pick up again, and our parents are going to need us all, now.” There was no telling where they’d end up, and it hurt to think of being separated from the majority of her family for that long. But… perhaps it was better not to dwell on it for now.

“I’m really tempted to shove Al and Rica under some, but honestly I doubt it would help anything,” she said, shaking her head. Leo wasn’t sure if Balthasar had any feelings for Rica, and it might crush her if he refused to participate. Leora could see the potential there, but it wasn’t far enough along on his end for that kind of push. Poor Rica was so in love it hurt to look at, honestly. She was just glad that Balthasar would never be like Alexander and take advantage of that.

"True, mom's always been so secretive about those kind of things. I was actually hoping she would have told you something this year," he stated, a light shrug of his shoulders in the process. At Leora's statement, Zero almost scoffed before a smirk appeared on his lips. He shook his head lightly. "It probably wouldn't help anything. Rica's too stubborn to tell him, and Bal has no clue. And if he doesn't reciprocate those feelings she has, it'll only make things awkward between them," he sighed softly through his nose before taking a deep breath. Besides, it wasn't in their place to push things. They had to let nature take its course gradually.

If they tried to push something that wasn't meant to be, they would only succeed in making things awkward. In time, it would probably mend, but it was hard to mend a broken heart forever. He didn't want to dwell on that thought, because he knew his would never mend when she died. He promised Balthasar he would live every moment with Yuki, but the fact that she was still going to disappear from his side, would never be with him again, it had already broken his heart just a bit. He sighed softly, allowing a smile to grace his lips in the process, blinking owlishly before he turned back to his sister.

"Well, that doesn't mean we can't have a little fun with it though," he spoke, the smile morphing into a wide grin. "Though, I think the whole family would be a little fun to mess with. What do you say, Leo? Care to start a little early with helping mom hang the mistletoe?" he questioned, his eyes sparkling with mischief.

She was no empath, but all the same, she could sense her brother’s feelings, and honestly, a part of her heart had broken, too, for what would happen to her cousin and to him. But she knew that right now, talking about it wasn’t the thing that would help. Distraction was. And the form of distraction that he suggested was pretty much exactly the kind of thing she felt like doing right now. “You know Zero, for an idiot, you sure can be a genius sometimes. Let’s do it—I know which closet she keeps the stuff in.”

Maybe this time, they could actually get Alden underneath some. He always seemed to know exactly where they were, and she swore he would stand underneath some of them alone on purpose right until someone else walked over, at which point he’d move out of the way just in time. He’d usually shoot her a serpentine grin when he did, as though he knew she was trying to get him and was just teasing her with it. Knowing Alden, all of that was true. It was also weirdly difficult to get Balthasar of all people—he seemed to avoid it by dent of dumb luck. Not this year, though—Leo was determined to prank as many people as possible in this way. No matter how many times she had to move the stuff.

“Make a list, Zero. This is going to be fun.”


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Leora Kuragari Character Portrait: Keir Alistair Character Portrait: Aryan von Nacht


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