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Crimson Twilight

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Akira stared down into the mug, absently watching the cream as it slowly dissolved into the steaming coffee.

"Hey, kid. Hurry up and eat before the curry gets cold." The teen startled, glancing up at Sojiro for a moment, then down at the plate before him. It didn't look at all appealing, but he nodded anyways and reached to pick up the spoon.

"Thanks for the meal." Then, he proceeded to force the rice down, not particularly fond of the sickening gurgle his stomach made in retaliation. Sojiro merely raised an eyebrow at him, but ultimately said nothing. Once Akira cleaned off his plate, and the other man was satisfied, Akira grabbed his bag, swinging it over his shoulder as he all but bolted through the front door of the little coffee shop.

 


 

 

He squinted under the harsh glare of the sun, feeling his eyes burn under its intensity. It wasn't the worst he'd faced, thankfully, and it looked as though it may rain later. Akira let out a sigh of relief at the thought.

 


 

 

As it turned out, he didn't have to wait long at all. He'd nearly made it to the school entrance when, quite literally, the skies opened up, and the rain came pelting down. Akira had wanted nothing more than to stand in the street and bask in the feeling of the refreshing, cool droplets sliding down his face, but he knew he'd get chewed out later if he allowed his school bag to get soaked, so instead, he sighed and ducked under the awning of a store, hoping for the rain to let up long enough for him to make it to school.

It wasn't as if he cared much about his image. In fact, he'd been labelled as a delinquent many times in the past. He just didn't want to have to deal with getting lectured again, especially seeing as today was his first day.

It was such a pain.

Akira cursed himself mentally for forgetting his umbrella.

Maybe... today wouldn't be so horrible. Perhaps, if he was lucky, he'd be able to get through the day without too many problems. He scoffed. 'Unlikely'.

Akira sighed again, bracing himself for the long day ahead of him.

Chapter Text

"We have a new student who will be joining us today. He's just transferred into the city, so be sure to welcome him properly," the teacher (Ms. Kawakami, as she had introduced herself as) turned, gesturing to the dark-haired boy standing at the front of the class, "please introduce yourself."

The boy, looking a bit out of place, took a step forwards and raised a hand in a rather careless manner.

"...My name is Akira Kurusu." The boy spoke, voice soft, but neither loud nor too quiet. His head tilted upwards slightly, revealing a set of cold, steely gray eyes hiding behind a pair of thick-framed glasses.

"You can sit..." Ms. Kawakami started, eyes scanning the classroom, "over there, behind Takamaki-san." She pointed to an empty desk just behind an oddly familiar girl with blonde pigtails. Akira moved to sit down, pointedly ignoring the teacher huffing something along the lines of 'why me?' exasperatedly under her breath.

As he neared his desk, he chanced a glance at the blonde, and he suddenly remembered where he had seen the girl before...

 


 

 

That morning, while he'd been taking shelter from the rain, a girl in a white hoodie had joined him under the store's awning. She had pulled down her hood, letting long blonde pigtails fall out, coming to rest upon her shoulders. He'd found himself unable to keep from just taking a moment to stare, utterly captivated by just how blue the girl's eyes were.

Of course, she'd noticed, as she turned to Akira and spared him a brief smile before her attention was pulled elsewhere. A moment later, a white car pulled up in front of them. The driver's window rolled down, and a man with odd, curly hair leaned out, grinning at the girl.

"Good morning. You want me to give you a ride to school? You're going to be late." The man offered.

"Sure, thank you." The girl had a strained smile painted on her lips, and Akira could sense a feeling of unease from her as she reluctantly stepped forward and climbed into the passenger seat. The smell of fear was practically radiating off the girl, yet she was was going anyways? The man then turned to Akira, as if just then noticing his presence.

"Do you need a lift too?" As if the idea of an adult male teacher inviting a female high school student into his car wasn't already creepy enough on its own, the girl's attitude only served to make the whole situation feel much more unsettling.

Something was wrong with this scene.

Akira shook his head.

"No thanks." The man shrugged and moved to sit back in his seat.

"Suit yourself." And with that, the two strangers were gone, leaving the teen to mull over the exchange he'd just witnessed. There was just something about that man that made Akira's skin crawl. It wasn't as if he would've been able to even lay a finger on Akira, but he supposed there was just something about seeing and experiencing such a situation firsthand that would make even the most unwavering of people unnerved.

 


 

 

Akira walked past the girl to his desk, not missing how her calculating gaze followed him until he was out of her view. Akira flopped down into his seat, forcing himself not to let out an annoyed sigh.

"Sorry, but could those of you sitting by him please share your textbooks for today?" Ms. Kawakami's request was met with several poorly-concealed groans of disapproval. One girl rolled her eyes.

"Ugh. This sucks!" Akira slouched forward in his seat, propping his head up on his desk with his hand. 'I agree...'

This really was going to be a long day, wasn't it?

Chapter Text

Under the cover of darkness, in a remote alleyway in Yongen-Jaya, a shrill, animalistic screech rang out upon deaf ears, followed by a sickening crunch. For a few moments, everything was still; silent. Then, a teen emerged from the shadows enveloping the alleyway, leaving behind the desiccated corpse of a single rat. Nobody noticed the small trail of blood dribbling down the teen's chin.

 


 

 

The following morning, Akira woke up, feeling slightly better than he had the previous day. He was even able to somehow stomach the curry that Sojiro prepared for him this time.

"Jesus, kid, you really are way too pale. You feeling sick or something?" the man asked.

"...Not really. I'm just a bit anemic, is all." he lied. Sojiro gave a slight hum in understanding.

"Well, no matter. Just make sure you get to school and behave yourself. You know what'll happen if you get yourself into trouble, don't you?" Sojiro held a hand on his hip, sending the teen a stern gaze.

"Yes, sir." Akira responded dryly before standing up and grabbing his bag.

On the walk to the station, Akira couldn't help but sigh. Of course he knew what would happen. He'd been made well aware that, should he make even the slightest of mistakes, he'd end up right back in juvenile detention. As if that was anything new...

 


 

 

During lunch, Akira stood in the hallway outside his classroom, leaning against the wall and trying to ignore the pangs in his gut. 'Chill, you had plenty last night, and you've survived before on less!'

Suddenly, he was brought out of his thoughts when the classroom door slid open, and Ms. Kawakami stepped out, eyeing him warily. She stepped over to him, sighing.

"I almost forgot to mention, but whatever you do, just don't get involved with Sakamoto-kun." Akira shrugged at her.

"And who exactly is he?" Kawakami sighed again.

"Ugh, he's nothing but trouble;" she groaned, then hesitated before adding, much quieter, "but he wasn't like that when he was devoting his time to track and field, though..." Akira chose not to comment on this particular statement, instead choosing to simply nod.

"I shouldn't have to remind you, but you do know what will happen if you start associating with delinquents like him, right?" Again, he nodded.

"Good. Well, you'll know him if you see him. Now, if you'll excuse me..." With that, Kawakami turned and started down the hallway, her flats clicking against the floor all the while.

Once she had rounded the corner, Akira slumped back against the wall. He was really tired of everyone telling him the same damn thing again and again.

He didn't have long to let her warning sink in before the bell rang, signalling the end of the lunch period. He pushed himself off the wall and turned to head back to the classroom when he suddenly collided face-first into something hard.

He reeled back, clutching his nose and hissing in pain. He forced one eye open to catch a glimpse of the fool who ran into him, only to be surprised when he found a head a bright blonde hair mere inches from his face.

Said 'fool' was bent forward, rubbing his forehead. After a moment, he seemed to come to himself, as he snapped his attention to Akira.

"Ah, shit, sorry man. I wasn't really watching where I was going." The blonde boy fumbled a bit before scurrying off around him.

When Akira finally made it to his seat, he slumped down, suddenly feeling exhausted. He perked up a bit when he overhead a couple of girls talking about him.

"Did you see that? That creepy transfer student is already talking to Sakamoto-kun."

"Wait, really? I wonder if they're plotting something."

"It wouldn't surprise me. They're both just a couple of delinquents, after all..."

Akira groaned and sunk further into his seat. Now people were starting to spread stupid rumors about him. This was exactly the last thing he had wanted. Why did it seem as though trouble simply followed him wherever he went?

 


 

 

Akira was relieved to have finally made it back to Leblanc in one piece. He waved halfheartedly to Sojiro before trudging upstairs into the attic. Akira shrugged his bag off onto the table before all but collapsing onto the little futon he called a bed. He fell into an exhausted slumber within moments.

 


 

 

The dark-haired teen was startled awake to the sound of rain beating down against the roof and window, as well as what sounded like... meowing?

Akira bolted upright, suddenly wide awake as his eyes scanned the room. A light tap against the window had Akira turning around towards it. He stared through the glass at a figure with a familiar pair of royal blue eyes which bored into his own grey ones.

He lit up and quickly scrambled forward to throw open the window.

"Morgana! You finally made it!" He scooped the sopping-wet feline up into his arms and brought him into the dry attic room.

"Yeah, yeah. You're just lucky I'm bound to you or I wouldn't have had to come find you in this awful weather!" Despite the cat's harsh words, it leaned into Akira's affectionate strokes.

"Heh, took you long enough."

Chapter Text

"You know, it really was cruel of them to send you all the way here for such a stupid reason..." The cat looked up at Akira from under the towel, sympathy shining in his bright blue eyes. Akira sat back onto the bed with a huff and leaned down to scratch Morgana behind his ears.

"I know. The past couple of days have been... stressful, to say the least, but at least now you're here." The teen smiled bitterly. 

The black and white feline sat back on his haunches and glanced worriedly up at Akira.

"How've you been eating lately?" Akira pointedly looked away, rubbing the back of his neck nervously.

"Um... Like I did before I summoned you?" He chuckled sheepishly, and Morgana sighed.

"Rats? Again? How do you expect to keep up this little charade if you don't eat properly?"

After a little lecture, the cat finally leaped up onto the bed, curling up at the end.

"Well, come on. I'd rather not have to drag around a zombie tomorrow. Let's get some sleep."

Akira lied back and pulled the sheets up over himself. He glanced briefly down at the cat sleeping peacefully at the foot of the bed and smiled softly. Sure, Morgana could be a bit snarky at times, and he liked to lecture him a lot (especially when it comes to his sleep schedule), but he could tell that he did those things because he cared about him. Morgana was the only one he could let his guard down around; the only one he could truly call a friend, and he loved the cat deeply.

 


 

 

Before the sun had even risen over the horizon, Akira was awoken by a wet nose nudging against his cheek.

"Akira! Hey, wake up!" The teen cracked one eye open.

"Yeah?"

"You have my bandana?" The cat asked, tail swishing with anticipation.

When a vampire summons a familiar, they often bind the creature with some kind of material object, which contains their ability to use their magic. This way, should the vampire ever find themself being hunted down, they could simply remove the object, so they would, essentially, be rendered into an ordinary animal, so as to keep them safe.

Akira had been thirteen when he summoned Morgana. He'd been told about the importance of binding a familiar, and that the spell would be more effective if the object used was something that had personal value to the summoner. That was why he chose to bind Morgana with the yellow bandana his mother had given him when he learned how to use his magic for the first time. He had been so happy, and she had told him, 'Perhaps this will be of great use to you one day'. Ever since then, Morgana was never seen without the yellow cloth around his neck.

"Yep, I put it in with my clothes." Akira rose from the bed and padded across the room to a set of shelves where a large cardboard box was tucked away. He dragged the box out onto the floor and began rummaging through it. A few moments later, he reemerged with the bandana, holding it up for Morgana to see.

"Alright! Looks like our little plan worked out perfectly, huh?" He mewed excitedly.

"Yeah, you're right," he started, wrapping the bandana back into its proper place around the cat's neck, "but to be honest, I was kinda, y'know, expecting something to end up going wrong." He grinned.

"Wh- Hey! Don't say that! You'll jinx us!" Morgana cried out. Akira simply chuckled, patting Morgana on the head.

"Sorry, sorry. I just couldn't resist."

 


 

 

"Alright, let's go get you some food. I mean, look at you! You're practically all skin and bone, and you're so weak, I'm surprised you haven't died yet!" Morgana exclaimed (rather dramatically).

"I'm a vampire, I can't die..." Akira deadpanned.

"Hush, you." The two continued their walk, making lighthearted banter along the way. Finally, when they reached Shibuya, Morgana turned to look up at Akira.

"Okay, I'll help you lure someone somewhere quiet. Just make sure nobody sees you, right?"

"Yeah. We'll do it just like always."

 


 

 

The plan had worked out just like always; however, when Morgana met him in the alley, he hadn't been expecting the person trailing behind him to have been someone his own age.

He stepped forward and caught Morgana as the cat leapt into his arms.

"Mona! There you are! Oh, I was so worried." He nuzzled his face into Morgana's fur, acting like a doting child who had been looking for their pet.

"Oh, is he yours?" The stranger asked. Akira couldn't help but marvel at just how surprisingly soft his voice was for a man.

"Yeah. I was on my way home when he suddenly jumped out of my bag and ran off. I ended up losing him pretty quickly in the crowd..." Akira lied. It was the same story he had told so many times before, and each time, they always fell for it. He held back a smirk as he thought, 'Heh, I bet you're just as stupid as all of the others, aren't you?'

He gripped Morgana a little bit tighter to himself as he prepared.

'Time to finish this.'

Akira activated his Third Eye. The Third Eye was a special ability that allowed the user to entice their victims. All they had to do was look into their eyes, and the Third Eye would mess with the victim's mind and basically turn them into a slave. It was like hypnosis, or mind control, only much stronger.

"I should thank you," Akira grinned, staring deeply into a pool of endless crimson, "what's your name?"

The boy's eyes widened in surprise, and he stared openly at Akira.

"Oh, but I didn't really do anything! At the very least, I'm just glad you were able to find him." He smiled bashfully.

"My apologies, but I must be going." The boy bowed slightly and left, leaving Akira to gawk dumbfoundedly at the spot where the boy stood mere moments ago.

"You have GOT to be kidding me! Why didn't it work?!" Akira finally cried out, outraged that his dinner had just walked off. Morgana hummed thoughtfully.

"That is rather odd... The Third Eye should always work, regardless of whether or not you're low in strength."

Akira trembled with rage. How could some...kid manage to evade his spell? This was impossible!

"It's getting late. Boss will be heading out soon to open up shop, right?" Morgana cackled, amused.

"Guess you'd better go find yourself another rat."

 


 

 

Of course, he ended up doing just that. He felt like absolute shit, but he supposed it was still better than nothing at all.

Although, on the way home, he couldn't help the same thought from echoing again and again in his mind; 'Just who the hell was that guy?'

Chapter Text

The next few days went by rather uneventfully, at least, up until Saturday.

Akira was headed to school, and he noticed one of the teachers standing at the school gates, greeting students as they passed. Almost instantly, Akira recognized him as the man that he'd seen that blonde girl, 'Takamaki-san' with on his first day.

As Akira walked by, the man greeted him.

"Good morning." Akira didn't respond, instead choosing to stare directly at the man, analyzing him. For a brief moment, a look of recognition flashed in his eyes.

"Oh, you're that transfer student, right?" Suddenly, his entire demeanor took a sharp 180, his face darkening in disgust.

"Look, I heard all about what you did. You're just lucky that Principal Kobayakawa was generous enough to let some criminal like you into this school. If you cause any trouble, you'll be kicked out." He spat out the words like venom.

"Oh, and don't think anyone's gonna take pity on you, either. Look around. They're all afraid of you. After all, who'd feel safe knowing that they're going to school with a murder suspect? In other words, you're a nuisance."

Was this guy serious...?

Akira so badly wanted to punch the man in his smug little mouth, and it took him every ounce of his willpower to stop himself from doing so. He was almost shaking by the time he walked stiffly past the man.

 


 

It was only when he accidentally ran into Takamaki-san again that he made up his mind. He'd been getting off at the station when he saw her talking on the phone. He couldn't help but listen in.

"...I can't come today... What? But that's not what you promised! How can you call yourself a teacher? ...Huh? Shiho's...starting position?" Shortly after, the girl hung up and whimpered, crouching down to the ground to bury her face in her hands.

"Well, what are you gonna do?" Morgana asked from within the boy's bag.

He had a nagging feeling that he knew exactly what this was about, if the rumors about Takamaki-san dating that coach (he later found out that the man's name was Kamoshida) were true.

Without thinking, he took a step towards the girl.

"Are you okay?" Her head snapped up to look at him. She quickly stood up, furiously wiping away the tears that were pooling at the corners of her eyes.

"W-what do you want?" She asked, voice trembling.

"Well, I heard you talking to someone, and it seemed like you were upset." As soon as he mentioned it, her eyes blew wide in anger.

"You were eavesdropping on me?!"

"Not on purpose! I just happened to overhear some of it." He raised his hands up defensively. She relaxed slightly.

"So, how much did you hear?" She asked, looking absolutely miserable.

"...Something about a teacher." The girl sighed.

"Look... I appreciate the gesture, but this is my problem. Please, just leave me alone..." With that, she turned away, eyes watering, and ran down into the Underground Walkway.

Akira ran after her.

 



Ann leaned back, wiping away her tears with a shaky sigh.

"I'm sorry, I've just been going on and on all this time about my own problems. This is kind of embarrassing..." She chuckled halfheartedly.

"It's okay, I don't mind." Akira spoke softly, not wanting to end up making her upset all over again. Especially since she had just gotten done pouring out her heart to him.

Ann told him everything - about how everyone thinks that she's sleeping with Kamoshida, but she only plays along to protect her friend, Shiho, because she was the first friend Ann made when she came to Shujin as a foreign exchange student in middle school. She told him that the only reason she was even able to get through it was because of Shiho and Ryuji. Akira had been honestly surprised by that last bit. He'd never have suspected that Ann and Ryuji were friends. Akira remembered when he ran into the blonde boy the other day in the hall. Despite everyone saying that he was a delinquent, and that he was trouble, he didn't seem like a bad person.

"What am I supposed to do? He's gonna take Shiho off of the volleyball team and suspend Ryuji if I don't do something... Ugh, I just wish he'd just change his mind or something." Ann trailed off, talking more to herself than to Akira. Even so, he responded.

"Well, you never know. It could happen." Ann stared at him for a moment before letting out a genuine laugh.

"Hey, I wasn't intending for you to give me a serious response, you know?" Ann cast her eyes downwards, swirling the ice cubes around in her cup as she sighed. Then, she looked back up at him.

"Oh, I'd been curious, but... Are those rumors about you really true? Are you as bad as everyone says?" She asked softly.

"I'm bad to the bone." Clearly, Ann hadn't been expecting that kind of response, as she gaped at him for a moment, as though he'd just admitted to secretly being some kind of masked superhero like the ones you'd have seen in childrens' shows. 'Although, I suppose it's not too far-fetched, seeing as I'm actually a vampire, and people think that they're just mythical creatures.'

"Was that supposed to be a joke?" Ann chortled.

"Well, I kind of had a feeling that that might've been the case. I mean, you don't seem like a bad guy. If anything, you seem...lonely."

Akira wanted to deny it, but the fact was that he was lonely. His parents were always busy, and they never really had the time to pay any attention to him. Not to mention that he's never really had any friends (well, there was one. He'd often talk to the girl next door, Nanako-chan). He was a plain-looking boy, so he never stood out. Besides that, Inaba was a small town. People were much different in the country than here in the city.

Ann finished her drink and then stood from the table.

"Well, thanks for letting me talk. I actually feel a bit better now. I gotta go, though." She waved him off and left the diner, a small smile on her face.

 



Akira changed into his pajamas and got settled into bed. Morgana curled up on top of his stomach.

"You know, I'm surprised. I actually didn't expect you to go out of your way for someone else like that." Morgana spoke thoughfully, tail swooping back and forth.

"Neither did I. Honestly, I wasn't even thinking when I went up to her. I just felt like... I could understand her pain." Akira sighed. He hated thinking about the past, but it always found a way back into his thoughts, and he hated it.

"Well, you can't really back out now that you've talked to her. What are you gonna do?" Morgana asked. Akira thought for a moment. It was true that he wanted to help her, but what could he do? Wouldn't the school know about this stuff? If that was the case, then the school was obviously covering things up, so it wouldn't be like he could turn to anyone there.

Suddenly, an idea popped into his mind. An idea so insane that it just might work. Not only would it benefit Ann and her friends, but it would benefit Akira, too...

Akira grinned wickedly.

"Oh? It looks like you've thought of something?"

Akira patted the cat.

"I think that perhaps I was wrong. I think that this year just may be rather fun after all.."

Let's get rid of this bastard.

Chapter Text

On Sunday, Akira took advantage of the day off from school in order to go over his plan.

"Are you sure you wanna do this? What if they somehow trace it back to you?" Morgana fretted, pacing nervously back and forth on the bed. Akira grimaced.

"I'll just have to take that risk."

"Oh, but then again, what if you get him where you want him, and it doesn't work, like with that one guy? You'll be dead meat!" The cat jumped up, resting its front paws on Akira's stomach dramatically.

"Relax, Mona. I'll find a way."

Akira stood from his seat on the edge of his bed and moved to get dressed.

 



Akira stood outside the school gates. Even though there wasn't any school, there were still club activities, so the gates were left open for students. One of those clubs just so happened to be the volleyball team, which was having a practice meet today.

He took a deep breath. He couldn't afford to mess this up. Not only was he putting his own life on the line by even attempting this, but if he didn't succeed, he had no way of telling what would happen to Ann and the others.

No, this had to work.

Akira entered the building, which was unnervingly quiet. He checked the gymnasium first, just in case practice had already started. He sighed in relief when he saw the gym was empty. That meant that there was only one other logical place where Kamoshida would be; the PE faculty office.

Akira made his way to the second floor and stood outside the door to the PE faculty office.

He couldn't help but hesitate. Was this really worth it? Risking his whole life for a girl he barely knew?

Well, he had already made up his mind, so it wasn't like it mattered much now. Akira steeled his will and stepped into the PE faculty office.

 


 

 

He was relieved beyond words to find that Kamoshida was the only one there. This would make things much easier.

"Um... Mr. Kamoshida, sir?" Akira stepped closer.

The man was sitting at a desk across the room, his back to Akira. Upon hearing his name, Kamoshida turned to face the teen.

"Oh, it's just you. What do you need?" He asked, already sounding bored.

"I wanted to ask you something."

Kamoshida sighed.

"Make it quick. Practice starts in twenty minutes." Kamoshida turned in his chair to face Akira, crossing his arms over his chest.

This was it.

Akira could feel the sweat forming at the back of his neck already. Nevertheless, he gathered what courage he had left in him at the moment.

Akira activated the Third Eye and stared directly into the man's cold eyes. He watched as his pupils dilated to the point where his irises couldn't even be seen.

Got him.

"I just wanted to know if... you had any last words." A wide, terrifying smile stretched across Akira's face.

Kamoshida, under the spell of the Third Eye, gave not even a cry as Akira lunged forward and sank his pointed canines into the man's jugular.

 


 

"What? That's what you said to him? Ugh, you're so corny, you know that?" Morgana groaned as he listened to Akira's retelling of the events.

"More importantly, though, you managed to pull it off. I'm proud of you; you didn't even need my help this time." Morgana chuckled, smiling warmly at the boy.

"What can I say? You taught me well." He held back a laugh at the cat's pleased expression towards his praise.

 


 

The next day, Akira found himself genuinely glad to go to school. He rushed out of the attic, waving to Sojiro on his way through the cafe's door.

During his walk to school, Akira felt oddly satisfied when he overheard a couple of students already talking about it. He imagined that the news didn't take long to get around. After all, Kamoshida was the face of Shujin's athletic division.

"Dude, did you hear? One of the volleyball players found Mr. Kamoshida dead!"

"Yeah! What do you think happened to him? Do you think it was...?"

"I don't know, but isn't this all like one of those murder mystery shows?"

"Dude!"

 


 

During lunch, Akira sat by himself in the small plaza in the courtyard, this way, he could hear the chatter of all of the students lingering around the cross-section that connected the main building to the practice building and the gymnasium.

He stared down at his phone, checking the news, when a familiar voice called to him.

"Hey, um... Kurusu-kun, right?" Akira looked up to see Ann standing there fidgeting uncomfortably, clearly at a loss for words.

"Takamaki-san. Do you... need something?"

She looked startled, as though Akira had just slapped her in the face.

"Oh! Well, um..." She mumbled, "I wanted to ask you about something." Ann looked away. If Akira hadn't known any better, he'd have thought she was attempting to disappear behind her pigtails.

"What is it?" Akira tried as hard as possible to maintain a monotonous tone.

"It's, uh... It's about Kamoshida."

Akira pretended to be shocked.

"I heard what happened. What about him?"

Ann sighed and finally leveled her gaze to his, a fierce look of determination blazing in her eyes.

"Did you have anything to do with it?"

Akira was a bit taken aback. He hadn't actually expected the once timid girl to just come right out and ask him such a thing so boldly.

"What makes you think that?" Ann froze, eyes widening.

"What?"

"What makes you think I had anything to do with his death?" Akira shot back, leaning forward on the bench.

"Er..." Ann stuttered. It was obvious that she had connected the dots, but it seemed she hadn't quite put it into words. She deflated.

"...You're right. I'm sorry. That was a bit uncalled for, wasn't it?" Her tone softened, and she looked sincerely regretful.

"No, don't apologize. I can understand why you would think that. I mean, I practically cornered you into telling me all of the horrible things he's been doing to you and your friends, and then suddenly he's found dead? I guess that does make me seem a bit suspicious, huh?" Akira chuckled. Ann jerked forward.

"No! You didn't corner me. I mean... A part of me wanted to tell you. It was just so freeing to be able to get all of it off of my chest. I should be thanking you, but instead I'm interrogating you, huh?" Ann laughed herself.

He and Ann conversed for a while until the bell rang.

"Crap! I completely lost track of the time. Oh, by the way, we should totally hang out sometime!" Ann smiled cheerfully, catching Akira completely off-guard.

"You want to hang out...with me?" Akira pointed to himself.

"Yeah! I'll introduce you to Shiho and Ryuji, too!"

Akira flushed, feeling embarrassed. Why would she want to hang out with someone so boring like him?

"Anyways, we should get going, or we're gonna be late!" Akira nodded dumbly and watched the blonde scurry back into the building. He just sat there for a moment, mouth hanging open in clear bafflement.

Morgana peeked his head out of Akira's school bag.

"To be honest, you should have seen this coming. You didn't seriously expect her to not say anything after all of that, did you?" Morgana snickered.

"Oh, shut it, cat."

Chapter Text

He'd first noticed it on Wednesday. It was just after school, and he was headed down the hallway to leave when this overwhelming feeling washed over him. It sent tingles down his spine and made the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end.


Was someone... watching him?


He turned around and scanned the other students in the hallway, but they were all either in groups talking or just absorbed in their own affairs. Akira shook off the odd feeling and left.

 



On Friday, he felt it again. Eyes boring holes into the back of his head.


This time he whipped around in an attempt to catch whoever was watching him. Still, nobody.


Was he just paranoid?

 


 


Again, on Monday, he could feel those invisible eyes staring intently at him. Although, when he turned, he didn't see anything out of the ordin-


Wait.


Something registered in his mind, and he looked at bit more closely at the students around him.


Ah, there it was. That girl.


Each time, she was standing near the closest corner, face hidden behind a book. Akira pretended not to notice her, and instead continued to walk though the halls, and just as he thought, wherever he went, he'd notice her never too far behind.


She was way too obvious, too. The book she was 'reading' was even upside down!


Akira simply sighed.

 



A few days after that, he'd noticed that there were times even outside of school where he would notice that same girl in the least expected places. The Underground Mall, on the main street in Shibuya, even at the station. She would always be far enough away to not look outwardly suspicious but never close enough for Akira to get a good look at her. All he could see was that she was always very neatly dressed, and she had short chestnut-brown hair with a braid over the top of her head.


Just who was this girl anyways?


Maybe Ann would know...

 



Akira had practically dragged her up onto the roof. Normally he'd feel mortified for doing such a thing, but at the moment, there were more pressing matters besides his own crippling social awkwardness.


"Um, why did you have to bring me all the way up here? Is this some sort of super-secret mission, or...?" Ann cast him a curious look.


"Something like that. It's just that I've noticed this girl stalking me for quite a while now, and I thought maybe you would know who she is."


Ann stared at him for a few moments, completely silent, as if to say, 'Are you sure you haven't lost it?'


"Look, I know she's following me. Not even just here at school, either. Sometimes I'll see her in Shibuya, too. She's always watching me, and it's really starting to creep me out..." Akira trailed off, feeling a bit...small?


"Huh. Well, what does she look like?" After describing the mystery girl to Ann, she gasped, eyes wide.


"Are you talking about Niijima-senpai?! The student council president? But why would she of all people be stalking you?"


"How should I know?" Akira threw up his arms wildly.


"Um," Ann brought her hand to her chin in thought, "maybe the next time you catch her in the act, just walk right up to her and ask her why she's following you around."


"...Well, I guess it couldn't hurt to try..."

 



The next day, he sensed her watching him again just after he'd left the classroom. This time around, instead of ignoring her, he turned around, marched right up to the girl, and tapped his finger against her book. She nearly jumped out of her skin.


"Excuse me, but are you Niijima-san?" He asked. The girl merely looked away, looking like she'd rather be anywhere else.


"...That's right. Do you need something?" She asked, voice calm despite her outward demeanor.


"Uh, yeah, you could tell me why the hell you've been following me around the past week."


Niijima-san recoiled visibly at his words.


"Ah, well that's..." She trailed off.


A few moments passed by in a tense silence as the girl practically shifted from foot to foot, face turning redder by the minute.


Then, as if an idea struck her, she straightened up, looking him directly in the eyes.


"Well, it's just that you've seemed troubled lately, and as the student council president, I simply cannot ignore it."


"Uh huh, and just how have I come off as 'troubled' to you? I think I've been doing perfectly fine, actually."


Niijima flinched, deflating again. She opened her mouth a few times, as though to say something to defend herself, but each time, she'd snap it closed once again.


When it seemed as though the girl had nothing more to say, Akira turned around with a huff.


"-ave to." Her quiet voice penetrated the silence, stopping Akira in his tracks. He turned to look at her once more.


"What was that?"


She stood, face down-turned, arms trembling.


"I said, I. Have to!" She spoke the words slowly, eyes hardened in an almost glare.


"I'm sorry, but I don't have much of a choice;" she turned, "I'm going for today, but don't underestimate me. I will find out your secret. Then, I'll finally..." She cut herself off there, voice shaking.

She turned and stiffly marched out of the school, gaining quite a few curious looks on her way.

Chapter Text

School continued onward normally for a while.

Akira still had no idea why the student council president, Niijima-san, had been watching him. At the very least, though, she didn't appear to be following him anymore.

She had said that she 'had' to. Could it be that someone was making her spy on him? It was a possibility.

Of course, he did also take into account that it could have simply been something she said on a whim to deceive him, but Akira felt as though she was telling him the truth that time.

 


 

They had been walking in silence up until Akira recalled the events of the past few days, and he sighed.

"This is why I didn't want to get involved..." Akira grumbled.

"Well then, why did you?" Morgana asked, head poking out of the teen's bag.

"I don't know! Normally I wouldn't get myself all tied up in some mortals' affairs, but..." Akira paused, thinking.

"But she reminded you so much of yourself...right? From back then?" Morgana spoke softly, as though fearing one wrong word may break Akira. He sighed.

"Yeah... I guess you're right. At any rate, we should probably stop talking about this." Akira picked up his pace, shoulders instinctively stiffening.

"Right, sorry." Morgana felt bad, slinking back down into the bag. Akira never liked talking about his past, and it only ever put him in a sour mood.

'The poor guy's had a rough life. Even now, he can't seem to get a break, huh?'

 


 

 

Akira flopped down onto the bed, feeling drained from the day. Sojiro had made him wash dishes after he got home, and even then, he still had to study. He knew it was because he hadn't fed for a while, and he couldn't help but curse whatever deity made vampires become fatigued if they don't feed often enough. That only makes it harder!

Akira groaned, feeling his stomach twist into knots in disapproval of his irregular eating habits.

He pushed down the urge to punch himself, if only to temporarily take his mind off of the pain in his gut. Instead, he closed his eyes and willed himself to sleep.

 



The figure slowly approached, features masked by a contorted, wispy dark mist.

"Vino aici, băiete." It spoke, voice low and raspy.

The figure, now looming over the child, reached a hand out towards him. A sinister smile stretched across its face, seeming almost as though its intent was to eat him whole.

"Trebuie să ştiţi mai bine decât să nu asculte de mine."

He began to sob, shaking in terror.

"Vă rog... opreşte-te! Nu din nou!"

The figure chuckled, reaching down to grab him by his arm and yanking him to his feet, all the while ignoring his pained screams.

"Brats ca tine ar trebui să ştie locul lor." Then, he dragged the boy, screeching and bawling, into an empty room. His broken cries echoed out into the corridors. Anyone who happened to have heard the commotion simply blocked out the noise.

"Unchiul!"

 



Akira awoke with a start, frightened by the sounds of his own strangled wails. He bolted upright in bed, chest heaving. Morgana jumped up beside him, eyes wide.

"Akira! Are you alright?"

At first, he didn't respond, choosing instead to gape wordlessly at the cat. Morgana softly gasped upon registering the boy's face in the moonlit room. Tears ran freely down his cheeks.

Morgana gently nuzzled his furry face into Akira's side, his heart heavy with sympathy. It's been a long time since Akira let himself show such vulnerability.

Akira didn't even need to explain. Morgana already knew.

'He had that dream again...'

Chapter Text

Akira slid down into his chair, letting out an exaggeratedly-loud sigh.

"I'm stuffed. Thanks for sharing your lunch with me, Ann!"

Ann nodded, happily munching away on some sweet she had bought that morning.

"No problem. You seem like you don't eat enough anyways."

After a few moments in shared silence, Ann bolted up, eyes sparkling excitedly.

"Hey, you said you live in Yongen, right? By some cafe?"

"Yeah. Why?"

"Well, I just had an awesome idea!"

Akira gulped. Ann's 'ideas' usually involved dragging him off to buy crepes, trying to get him to model with her, or something equally embarrassing or gut-wrenching, and if he had thought eating curry for breakfast was nauseating, the sickeningly-sweet sugary delicacies that Ann all but crammed down his throat were on an entirely different level of disgusting.

"...Yeah?" Akira forced the words out, already feeling the contents of his stomach gurgle unsettlingly with anxiety.

Ann either didn't pay the sounds his gut were making any mind, or she didn't notice, but she leaned forward, practically bouncing in her seat.

"We should all go there on Sunday!"

Akira didn't like where her train of thought was headed.

"We...all?" He croaked out.

"Yeah! You, me, Ryuji, and Shiho! I've been waiting to finally introduce you to them!" Ann jumped out of her seat and placed her hands on the desk, staring pleadingly at the dark-haired boy.

"Pleeeease?"

Akira felt the sweat rolling down his collar. He swiftly wiped his brow in what he hoped was a casual manner while willing the lightheadedness to subside. It didn't.

"Uh... I dunno. I'm not really... good with that kind of stuff." He so wished he could disappear into the floor at this moment, because he just knew he looked utterly stupid in that moment. Ann's face fell slightly as understanding dawned on her.

"Oh! No, don't worry, they're all really great, I promise!" She scrambled forward to place a hand on his shoulder, giving it a reassuring squeeze.

"I'll be there too. The whole time, okay?"

Akira looked up at her briefly, nodding, but in truth, he barely heard a thing over the buzz in his ears.

He could already tell that this was not going to go well, and he hasn't even met the people yet.

He supposed that he had brought this all on himself...

 



Akira plopped down into a random booth, sighing forlornly while trying not to think about his impending doom. He could smell the now-familiar scent of fresh coffee from behind the counter.

"So, when are these supposed friends of yours dropping by, kid?" Sojiro asked, coffee pot in hand. He inwardly cursed the man for his poor timing.

"Uh... Soon."

Moments later, Akira heard conversation from outside the cafe.

"Huh? What were you sayin'?"

"Ryuji, I already told you!"

"Hehe, I guess Sakamoto-kun was too busy freaking out over that big game reveal he saw over the weekend to listen to you rant about Mika-chan."

Akira could hear lively banter and laughter flow into the little cafe as the door swung open.

"Hey, Akira! We're here!" Ann swooped in and greeted him with a large blinding smile.

She pointed to the blonde boy with the yellow tank top, who Akira recognized as that 'Sakamoto-kun' whom he had run into in the hallway back during his first week.

"This is Ryuji." The boy lifted a hand in greeting.

"Yo."

Next, Ann waved to a girl slightly shorter than herself. She had dark hair tied up in a single ponytail and kind brown eyes.

"This is Shiho." The girl, Shiho, waved at Akira, a light smile on her lips.

"It's nice to meet you, Akira-kun."

Akira stood and greeted the two properly, all the while his heart thumped wildly in his chest.

This was gonna be a long afternoon.

 



"What? Are you for real? How shittier can that asshole get?!" Ryuji (who Akira would soon come to know of as the louder of the three), practically screamed, banging his fist onto the table in anger.

As the afternoon winded down into early evening, Sojiro had eventually agreed to close up early and give the teens 'privacy', as he had put it.

Soon, the topic of interest shifted to Akira, or more specifically, how he ended up in Tokyo. So, Akira told them. He told them about the false charges of murder alongside assault, and how he'd been practically thrown out by his parents and shipped off to Tokyo on probation.

"Quiet down, Ryuji! The whole city will hear you at this rate. Still, though, that's awful!" Ann gave Ryuji a swift whack upside the head. Shiho nodded sympathetically.

"I agree. It seems like rumors about you spread pretty fast, too. Just don't mind them too much." She gestured to Ann.

"Ann had a pretty hard time when she first transferred here, too. Everyone says things about her just because of her looks, but she's a good person..." Ann smiled and playfully nudged the dark-haired girl.

"Yup! In fact, that's actually how we came to met."

"...I told you that your painting sucked."

The two girls shared a laugh at the memory.

Akira let himself be open for just a rare moment, and he found himself genuinely smiling.

"Yeah. Thanks, Suzui-san." The girl smiled fondly.

"Please, you can call me Shiho."

Although a part of Akira was screaming that he was making a grave mistake, he was being too vulnerable and letting his mask slip too far, he just couldn't bring himself to care in this moment. Instead, he simply allowed himself this one evening to just...pretend.

Pretend that he was living a normal life as a normal teenage boy.

Chapter Text

Akira found that when he woke up that morning, the thought of going to school didn't send the usual pit of dreaded anticipation sinking into his stomach. He wouldn't exactly say that he was excited for school, per se, but that he could feel a different kind of spring in his step, one that he definitely welcomed in place of his usual depressed moods.

Akira scarfed down his breakfast, called out a quick goodbye to Sojiro, and headed out towards the subway station. After he switched from the Shibuya platform, he suddenly heard someone calling out.

"Hey! What's up?" Akira turned at hearing the familiar voice behind him. Ryuji jogged up to the boy, bag slung over his shoulder.

Akira smiled in greeting.

"The sky."

The blonde playfully smacked Akira's shoulder, chuckling.

"You know what I meant, you cheeky bastard."

The two began their trek to school, chatting cheerfully the whole way.

It had only been a little over a week since Ann formally introduced Ryuji and Shiho to him, but he found that he and Ryuji got along almost immediately, despite their severely contrasting personalities. Akira just found the vulgar teen so easy to talk to. He was honest and to-the-point, he was a bit dense, but he was an incredibly loyal friend. He reminded the noirette of a turtle; a sweet and caring personality hiding beneath a tough exterior. Also, he was a bit slow sometimes...

Admittedly, when he first heard about what Kamoshida had done to Ryuji, he'd been furious. It made him glad that he'd gone through with his plan, even if his original intent hadn't been to kill him. Initially, Akira had merely planned to weaken him to the point of incapacitation, but he'd been pretty thirsty, and he ended up getting a bit carried away. Although, he supposed the man deserved what happened anyways.

 



At the end of the school day, as Akira was packing up his books, Ms. Kawakami approached him.

"Oh, good, you haven't gone home yet. Niijima-san is looking for you. Could you head over to the student council room? She said that nobody reported a lost item, so she wants you to fill out some paperwork."

For a moment, Akira simply stared at her. He didn't understand what this 'lost item' thing was about, but he at least knew enough to know that this girl had something up her sleeve.

Akira ignored Kawakami's whines about having to run errands and left the classroom.

When he poked his head into the student council room, he wasn't surprised that the only person inside was Niijima-san. She was standing by the table, and turned to look at him once he opened the door, her shoulders set straight and exuding a sense of composure and confidence.

"Ah, you're earlier than I expected," she motioned to one of the chairs behind her, "have a seat."

When they both sat on opposite sides of the table, Niijima calmly folded her hands on the table, staring straight through Akira in such a way that nearly made him squirm.

"I'll get straight to the point. Kamoshida. Won't you tell me who was behind his death?" Her question immediately made his blood run cold in his veins.

She was onto him.

At his silence, she continued.

"You can't answer that? Oh, of course not. There's no way you'd admit to such a thing." She leaned forward.

"You were the last person to have seen him alive, correct? Isn't it a bit of a coincidence that he was found dead just after you left?" Niijima reached into her bag and pulled out her phone. After tapping away at the screen for a moment, she turned it and held it up for him to see.

"Have a look at this."

What Akira found himself looking at was a video. A video of him in the PE faculty office, lunging at Kamoshida and tearing his sharpened canines into the man's throat. Akira felt his heart drop into his shoes. He'd been too careless, and now he was royally screwed. Of all the people who could have witnessed it...

"What do you make of this, Kurusu-kun?" She asked, eyes narrowed.

He opened his mouth, willing any kind of excuse to make its way out, but nothing came, and he snapped his mouth shut again. In the end, he hung his head, not having anything to say. He supposed that this was it. Once word got out, the Creed would be hunting him down.

'God dammit...'

Chapter Text

"What exactly are you?" Niijima leaned forward slightly over the table, a wild curiosity in her eyes.

"...What?" Akira snapped his gaze back to the dark-haired girl, his eyes wide with disbelief. He was fully expecting the girl to have called the police, report him to the school, anything but this. This was exactly why he found himself gaping like a fish at the girl, all words escaping him.

"What are you? I mean, I saw you look at Kamoshida, and your eyes just... changed. It was as if you were in his head. How do you do it?" The girl prodded.

"Um, aren't you going to, y'know... call the police or something?" Akira mumbled, feeling dumb.

"Well, under normal circumstances, I would. However, if I were to call the police, I think you and I both know what would happen to you. Besides, as much as I hate to admit it, and as wrong as it may sound for me to say this, I just can't honestly bring myself to hate you for what you did to Kamoshida. I had known what he was doing for a while, but... I just couldn't do anything. No, I didn't do anything." Niijima sighed, looking down into her lap. It was as though the very life had been drained of her within the span of moments during the conversation. Akira felt a slight pang in his chest.

"In the end, while what you did may not have been right, you at least had the strength to do more than I could. You helped so many people who were victim to his abuse... including Takamaki-san." At this point, her head was hung.

"So then... You're just going to let me go?" Akira was confused. He couldn't quite understand why anyone would do this, least of all for someone like him.

"Well, not exactly."

Ah, there it was. The ulterior motive.

"I actually want your help. If you can do this, then I'll keep your secret."

Akira looked at her for a few moments, internally contemplating her offer. Clearly, whatever it was she wanted from him was big if she was willing to cover up evidence of murder for it. Although, he didn't really want to die, either, so his choice was pretty obvious.

"What do you want?" Niijima looked at him, eyes set with a fierce determination.

"I want your help tracking down a criminal."

 



Akira walked back home, body numb.

It was hard to believe everything that had just transpired; the student council president, a perfect honor student with a pristine record, was willing to turn a blind eye to his crime in exchange for help targeting some kind of mafia boss. Apparently some students of Shujin were falling victim to some kind of scam in Shibuya, and end up getting themselves into some bad situations, and now the principal is expecting Niijima-san to somehow figure this all out on her own, and at the expense of her future.

He could kind of understand now why she acted the way that she did. Of course, it didn't necessarily make him forgive her, but he did pity her. Akira sighed.

'I guess I have to help her.'

Chapter Text

Akira didn't have too long to mull over his current predicament, because the next day, his class went on a trip to a television station.

"You better be more careful from here on out." Morgana warned, head barely peeking out from his bag. Akira shushed him quietly and poked his head back down, much to the cat's annoyance.

"Dude," Ryuji whispered next to him, "you seriously brought your cat with you?"

Akira nodded.

"I have to. Boss doesn't know I'm even keeping him yet, so I don't want him to get into trouble." Akira ignored the cat's protests of, 'I'm not a little kid, you know!'

On his other side stood Ann and Shiho. Ann stared ahead blankly in boredom.

"This is so boring..."

Shiho giggled at the girl.

"You'll make it."

 



After the annoyingly long lecture, the students were given the rest of the afternoon off before they would return the next day.

Akira stood with Ann, Ryuji and Shiho in the corridor, discussing their plans for lunch.

"You know, that reminds me, we get to go straight home today. We don't visit this area often, so why don't we check out some shops or something?" Ann suggested. Ryuji groaned loudly

"Of course you'd wanna go shopping. I dunno about you, but I'm freaking starving."

"Hey, I wanna go to that pancake-looking place!" Morgana piped in excitedly. Akira cocked his head.

"Didn't we pass by someplace like that on the way here?" Akira asked.

Ryuji snapped forward.

"Ohh, you mean Dome Town?" Akira could practically see the floppy ears and waggling tail on the blonde boy as he perked up at the thought of the place, and he couldn't help but grin. 'Cute.'

"Oh, I thought I heard a familiar voice."

The voice came from behind him, and he knew he'd heard it somewhere before. When he turned around and saw the boy that had approached them, he nearly choked.

"Akechi-san? What are you doing here?" Akira gaped, wide-eyed.

A few weeks ago, he'd made an attempt to lure some unsuspecting victim into an alley so that he could feed, and this boy was who showed up.

He'd been in the back of Akira's mind since that night. How was it possible that he resisted the Third Eye? Perhaps Akira had been a bit weak when he'd used it that time, or maybe there was more to this Akechi boy (he'd seen interviews the boy was in at some point after that night, and he'd almost instantly recognized him. He just thought he'd never have to run into the brunette again) than meets the eye, after all, there were only a select few types of people who could do that. Either the boy was a vampire as well and was of a stronger nature than Akira, he had some kind of protection spell placed on him, or, in the worst-case scenario, he was a vampire hunter. None of the possibilities were all too pleasing, as they all would mean that Akechi would have to know that Akira was a vampire.

"I could ask you the same thing." Akechi chuckled, a plastic mask over his face. Akira could smell the dark aura surrounding the boy. There was something terribly wrong with this guy. The scent was almost overwhelming; it stung Akira's senses and made him feel dizzy, and a bit sick. His eyes started to water, but he blinked back the wetness and faced the boy with his usual schooled expression.

"I'm here on a trip."

Akechi hummed lightly in understanding.

"Ah, I see. I'm scheduled for the second block for an interview tomorrow."

"What, you famous or something?" Ryuji cut in, as completely blunt as ever. Ann spun around, looking about ready to clock Ryuji upside the head. Akechi chuckled again, holding up a hand.

"Oh, only to the extent of appearing on TV a couple of times..."

The group continued their discussion for a few moments before Akechi glanced up at the clock on the wall, straightening up.

"Ah, I must be going. I almost envy you all, going out to have lunch together and enjoying your afternoon so carefree." Akechi sighed a bit, and Akira could tell that he wasn't actually lying about that bit.

"What are you talking about?" Ann asked, brows furrowed in confusion. Akechi looked genuinely taken aback at her question.

"Oh! Am I mistaken? I thought I heard something about delicious pancakes..."

At first, Akira thought nothing of what the brunette had just said, instead watching dumbly as he turned and walked away. It was only when a small paw nudged him, and he looked down into Morgana's alarmed blue eyes that he realized what had just transpired.

Akechi had heard Morgana.

This absolutely solidified the fact that Akechi knew more than he was letting on.

In a moment of pure adrenaline, Akira's face twisted into a wicked smile.

'You fucked up, Akechi-san.'

Chapter Text

"So, do you have any information on the guy?" Akira asked.

He decided to meet with Makoto-chan again to ask about the mafia boss, and if she had any information that could help him track the guy down.

"Not much, I'm afraid. All I know is that the students who fell victim to these scams reported that they had been approached during the day in Shibuya. I couldn't get much more than that." She shook her head, sighing. Akira wrung his hands together, processing the information.

"Oh, okay... Well, thank you, anyways." With that, Akira left the student council room and headed home.

 



The following day, while Akira ate his breakfast, he thought about ways he could get in contact with this guy. It didn't make it much easier that he didn't even know anything about this man. Suddenly, an idea struck him. These peoples' main targets were students, so it would make sense that they would lure them in during the day, because not only would that be when students would be out and about, but in such a crowded city like Shibuya, they'd be able to pull it all off and nobody would notice. Akira grinned to himself.

"What're grinning like that for, kid?" Sojiro cut into his thoughts, making him jump a bit.

"Oh, I was just wondering how I did on the test yesterday. I'm pretty sure I aced it!" Akira chuckled, trying his best to seem genuine. Sojiro simply hummed questioningly, eyeing him for a moment before going back to drying coffee mugs.

"We'll see about that, I guess."

 



After school, once Akira transferred from Aoyama to Shibuya, instead of immediately taking the train back to Yongen-Jaya, he turned out onto the central street. He decided that he would start there, since it was one of the more populated areas in Shibuya. He walked slowly, eyeing the people around him, searching for any kind of person who stood out from the rest. Then, he passed one of the alleyways and a voice called out to him.

"Hey, kid. Over here!" Akira turned to the source of the voice and saw a rather plain-looking man beckoning to him from just off the sidewalk. He cautiously approached him.

"You looking for some easy money? Vacation is coming up pretty soon and I bet you'd like more pocket money than just allowance, right?"

Akira could already see where this was going and he couldn't believe just how quickly he ended up finding one of them.

"Sure." He answered lowly, shrugging noncommittally.

"Heh, I thought so. Well, I can offer you a job, and if you do it, you'll be paid well. All you have to do is deliver something. Sounds easy, right?" The man grinned.

"Alright, but first..." Akira smirked, eyes turning from a dark grey into a deep blood-red as he activated the Third Eye, "take me to your boss. I'd like to have a word with him."

The man nodded, eyes staring unseeingly through Akira. He was completely under the spell. The man turned and began walking down the alley into a different part of the city. Akira followed.

 



The man led him to a seemingly random building, but upon entering, Akira found who he could only assume was the man behind this crime ring. He was a small person, figure round like a hog's, and he looked up at him upon his entering, eyeing him sharply. The blonde girl sitting beside him hardly regarded him at first.

"Who the hell are you?" He asked, voice smooth and low. Akira stepped forward, rolling up his sleeves.

"That's not important."

The man scoffed and uncrossed his legs. Now he had his full attention.

"I suggest you turn right around and leave, unless you don't mind dying today." He wasted no time in threatening Akira, face pulled up into a dark scowl. Akira ignored him, instead turning to look at the other people in the room.

"I'm not going anywhere. Actually, if you value your pathetic life, then make all these other idiots leave. I want to talk to you. Alone." Akira ordered. A few people chuckled dryly. The man didn't. For a moment, nobody moved or said anything, but finally, the man waved his hand dismissively.

"Fine. All of you, get out." In a few moments, everyone else filed out of the building, leaving just Akira and the man alone. The man groaned, annoyed, and stood from the couch.

"Alright, you little shit, I've entertained you with your little request. You wanted to talk, now talk. I don't have all day."
Akira smirked, eyes narrowing.

"Oh, but I think you'll have plenty of time, now."

 



It was a rather odd sight, seeing a small, chubby man in an expensive suit and slicked-back hair slinking into the police office, gaze downcast at his feet. Police were baffled when the man behind the Shibuya crime ring, Junya Kaneshiro, inexplicably turned himself in.

When the police searched the building that Kaneshiro himself had mentioned, the only thing they could find that seemed out of place was a small red calling card signed by a mysterious person calling himself the "Phantom Thief of Hearts".

Chapter Text

The next day, Makoto had rushed him in the hallway, nearly bowling him over. There was a frantic look in her eyes, but once her gaze landed on Akira, her entire demeanor shifted. A relieved smile played on her face.

"I heard that Kaneshiro turned himself in last night. This was because of you, yes?"

Akira nodded.

"I see... Thank you, Kurusu-kun." Akira waved off her praise.

"I didn't do much, really..." Makoto apparently wasn't having any of it.

"But you did. Perhaps for you, it wasn't much, but you've helped so many people in the process. I don't think you realize just how big a difference this makes." She looked down for a moment.

"Not to mention what you did before. Even if your methods weren't particularly...legal, you did a really good thing, and as promised, I will keep your secret." Makoto politely bowed and took her leave.

"What was that all about?" Akira jumped a little as Ann appeared from behind him.

"Wh- Oh, her? Nothing much, she was just thanking me for helping her out." Akira nearly fumbled over his words. Ann raised a brow, staring at him for a long moment before finally nodding, not fully convinced.

"Riiight. And just what did she want your help with?" Akira began sweating, and had to resist pulling at his collar out of nervousness. He really didn't want anyone else to find out about him; especially not Ann. She was his first true friend, and he didn't want to lose her.

"She wanted me to help her find something that she lost recently, that's all." Akira forced himself to smile in a way he hoped seemed natural. Ann was quiet again for a moment.

"Oh, I see! So, is that why she was following you around?" It was as though her attitude took a complete 180, and suddenly she was all smiles. Akira felt himself sigh a little in relief.

"Haha, yeah, maybe..."

Ann sidled up next to him, punching him playfully in the side.

"You think she has a crush on you? Ooh, I bet she does! You think she's cute, right?" Ann was giggling.

Akira flushed lightly at the thought, more out of embarrassment and slight discomfort.

"Um... No. Don't get me wrong, she's nice and all, but..." Akira looked away. Ann gave him a pained look.

"Ouch. Outright rejected."

 



During class, Akira felt his phone buzz in his pocket. He slid it out of his pocket and glanced at the new text message.

Ann: Hey, we should all hang out after school today! Are you gonna come with us?

Akira smirked knowingly at the head of blonde hair in front of him. Ann shifted her head slightly to look at him and smiled.

Akira: Sure, why not? Where are we meeting?

Ann: Let's go to your place!

 



After school, Akira headed home and changed into more comfortable clothes, then sat down in the cafe and read while he waited for the others to arrive.

About half an hour later, he could hear familiar voices fading in. He smiled as the doors opened.

"We're here! And I brought food!" Ann triumphantly held up a bag full of what Akira presumed was the 'food', a gleeful grin on her face. Ryuji held a hand up in greeting.

"Yo."

Shiho stood beside Ann, smiling politely. She waved at Akira.

"Hello again, Akira-kun."

 



"So... We should play a game!" Ann exclaimed between mouthfuls of some junk food she had brought. She was sitting on the sofa, Shiho sitting on the other end, quietly nibbling on a slightly healthier snack.

"What kind of game?" Ryuji asked, half-listening. He was sitting backwards in the chair that had been in the corner of the room, head resting on the back of the chair as he flipped through another volume of some kind of sports manga.

Ryuji had lent him one of the volumes, and he was reading it, laying on his stomach on his bed.

"How about we ask each other some embarrassing questions?" Shiho piped in, an unusually dark and mischievous grin on her face.

"Ooh, good idea!" Ann turned to her with a wide smile and gave her a high-five. Ryuji scoffed, looking up at the two girls with disinterest.

"Why, so you can humiliate me? Not happening."

Ann was quick to stand up.

"Not just you, Ryuji. All of us!"

"That doesn't sound fun." Ryuji deadpanned.

"You mean you aren't even a little curious to know if any of us have any embarrassing secrets? Like dumb things we've done or who we've kissed?" Ann fluttered her eyelashes in an attempt to look cute, but only succeeded in looking as if she had caught something in her eye, causing Ryuji and Shiho to laugh.

"Hey! Don't laugh at me, unless you have a better idea?" She put her hands on her hips, annoyed.

"Nah, actually, I am curious now. Lemme go first!" Ryuji chuckled and Ann plopped down, grumbling a bit to herself.

"Fine. Go ahead."

"So, Ann. Who was the last person you kissed?" Ryuji asked, a smug smirk on his lips. Ann spluttered, face going red.

"What? What makes you think I've kissed anyone recently?!" Ann crossed her arms indignantly, eyes not-so-subtly flickering over towards Shiho before settling her gaze on the other side of the room.

They all went back and forth, asking various different questions to one another. Eventually came Ann's turn. She bounced forward, glancing between the other three in the room. Her eyes settled on Akira.

"Akira! I choose you!" Akira straightened up on the bed.

Ann closed her eyes for a moment as she thought. Then, she opened her eyes, a devilish look in them as she pointed to him.

"Who was your first crush?"

Akira went pale as the answer to her question came to him.

Nope. No way. There was no way in hell he was telling them that his first crush was on Tuxedo Mask from fucking Sailor Moon.

"I... Haven't had a crush on anyone yet." Akira lied. He'd had a couple of crushes in the past (on actual people), but...

They were all guys.

Akira was acutely aware of his own sexuality, but he'd never really had to consciously confront it like this. It made his face heat up a little. There was no way he could tell them. Sure, people were a bit more accepting nowadays than they were back then, but there were still some people who didn't accept his kind.

Ann and Ryuji groaned in disappointment.

"Man, that's lame!"

Shiho shook her head, a smile on her face as she stared directly at Akira with a knowing look in her eyes.

"I'm sure Akira-kun just hasn't found the right person yet."

Akira nodded, perhaps a bit too eagerly.

"Yeah! You're...probably right."

Shiho laughed a little under her breath.

"Don't worry, I'm sure you'll find them soon enough."

Chapter Text

Since then, Akira made sure to be more careful; not mentioning anything about his family, and making sure when he went out at night to hunt, he always made sure there was nobody else around. Things were going relatively well, despite things being a bit boring.

The next Sunday, Akira sat at the counter eating his lunch while watching the interview currently airing on the television. Just as he expected, it was about Akechi.

"Tell me, Akechi-kun, what do you think of these recent incidents? A teacher at a local high school was mysteriously killed, and then not even a month later, Kaneshiro turns himself in! What do you make of it all?"

Akechi hummed, bringing his hand to cup his chin in apparent thought.

"Well, it's certainly bizarre, to be truthful. I haven't witnessed anything quite like this before, but I'm almost certain that these cases are connected."

The interviewer made a little sound of excitement.

"Incredible! What lead you to this conclusion, Akechi-kun?" People in the audience had noticeably leaned forward in their seats, clearly anticipating Akechi's response. Akechi chuckled.

"Well, I'm afraid I can't divulge much at the moment, but the very fact that both of these incidents happened within the same area, and that each occurred in such a small span of time to one another is suspicious. That alone means that the person or people behind the incidents operate in or near Shibuya. This would be easy for them, as Shibuya is such a populated city, so they could just blend into the crowd."

The audience and the interviewer collectively 'ooh'ed in fascination.

"Amazing, Akechi-kun-"

At that point, Akira had started to tune out the program. He bit viciously at a spoonful of curry and earned himself a scolding from Sojiro, but he couldn't bring himself to care.

This was bad. Very bad. He had to come up with some kind of plan - and soon.

 



"You wanted to see me?" Akira asked curiously as he stepped into the student council room. As usual, Makoto stood by the table, composure calm. This brought back a sense of déjà vu, and Akira internally winced.

Makoto smiled gently.

"Yes. I was a bit curious, so I wanted to ask you some questions."

Akira sat down, and Makoto followed suit. Almost immediately, Makoto's attitude changed. She leaned over the table towards him, palms smacked down onto the surface, and a fierce look of determination in her eyes.

"What is it like for you?"

Akira blinked.

"Huh?"

This was the last thing he had expected from the girl.

"What is it like, being a vampire?"

Oh. So that's what she meant.

"Well, I mean... It's a lot like what you read about vampire folklore, y'know? We're kinda 'undead' and all, and we have to feed off of blood, so, yeah..."

Makoto nodded.

"Right. Please, tell me more!"

Makoto sure was excited about this... So, Akira told her.

"Well, everyone thinks that vampires can't stand garlic, or that we burn under sunlight. This is only half true. Yes, vampires are naturally sensitive to sunlight, but it won't necessarily kill us, so long as we aren't exposed to it for so long. And the thing about garlic is just a complete lie. I've eaten garlic a bunch of times, and it's never bothered me."

Makoto hummed. Wait, was that a notepad she had just pulled out? She started scribbling something down onto one of the pages.

"Please, keep going. I want to know everything!"

Akira chuckled a bit out of awkwardness. It felt strange to be telling someone else about all of this.

"Well, I can't exactly tell you everything, but I'll tell you what I can, I suppose."

Makoto nodded in understanding.

"I see. Well, please proceed."

 



"I don't really know how vampire stories got so twisted like that, but yeah..." Akira finished, slouching over in his seat.

"Well, in any case, thank you for telling me all of this. I understand it's probably a bit weird telling someone about yourself like this, but-"

Makoto's sentence was abruptly cut short as the room's door came flying open, and two figures (who had presumably been leaning on the door) crashed down onto the floor with a loud thud.

"Oww! Dammit Ann, I told you not to push! Now look what you did." Ryuji pushed himself up on his arms and crawled out from underneath the other blonde.

Shiho stood further from the doorway in the hall, looking about ready to bolt at any second.

Ann looked up at Makoto and Akira. Akira's heart nearly stopped in his chest at the expression on her face.

"Is it true? Everything you said? You're...a vampire?" She asked, voice low. Ryuji groaned.

"C'mon, Ann, don't tell me you actually believe this bullcrap. There's no such thing as vampires."

Akira hung his head in quiet resignation.

'Guess I have no choice now. I was an idiot for thinking I could ever have friends, much less with humans.'

He sighed.

"...It's true. I'm a vampire."

Chapter Text

The room fell into a silence so thick, it could have been cut with a knife. Akira felt he could barely breathe.

This was it. This was when everything would fall apart.

"You're kidding! So it was you who killed Kamoshida, wasn't it?" Ann practically shrieked. Akira's head snapped up. Whatever responses he could have been imagining, this certainly wasn't one of them.

"...Yes. I'm sorry." Akira nervously picked at that one loose thread on his sleeve. Ann took a step forward, looking straight at Akira.

"Why didn't you tell me?"

"Well, to be fair, this isn't the sort of thing you just tell someone. Besides, if word got out about me..." He trailed off, voice breaking. Ann understood.

"Yeah, I guess that's true. But don't worry, we're not going to tell anyone. Right, guys?" Ann turned to Shiho and Ryuji.

Ryuji moved to stand in front of Akira, looking as though he were on a mission.

"Prove it."

Huh? 

Akira's jaw nearly broke when it hit the floor.

"You want me to... show you?" He practically squeaked. Ryuji nodded eagerly.

He'd never willingly shown anyone his dark form outside of hunting. The thought was a bit embarrassing, and he could feel a slight flush work its way to his face.

"I... I guess so, but... Let's go somewhere else."

The others nodded in agreement, and they filed out of the room.

 



Akira nearly shrunk back, feeling incredibly self-conscious with each of their gazes fixed on him. It was like dozens of spotlights being shined directly on him, and his anxiety began to kick in. A little voice in the back of his head started whispering degrading things to him. He couldn't help but listen.

'They're all judging you.'

'They probably all think you're a freak.'

'They'll all laugh at you.'

'They all hate you.'

'They're all going to hate you.'

Akira shook his head, bringing the morbid train of thought to a screeching halt. He really needed to stop thinking like that. After all, these guys were different. Things today weren't like they were back then...

Akira sighed, closing his eyes, and allowed himself to transform.

 



"Woah..."

"Holy shit!"

"Wow~!"

A string of surprised gasps and exclamations rang out in the dusty attic as Akira opened his eyes. He decided to activate his Third Eye just for extra measures. Makoto rushed forward.

"Can you open your mouth?" That excited look was in her eyes again.

Akira complied, stretching his mouth open to reveal four sharpened canines sticking out amongst the rest of his teeth.

"Wait," Ann cut in, confusion in her voice, "vampires have four sharp teeth? I thought they only had two. Y'know, at the top of the mouth." She gestured to his mouth. Akira chuckled.

"No. If we only had two, we wouldn't be able to bite into a person's skin properly. That's something I always thought was funny about human's perceptions of vampires."

Ryuji sighed, stuffing his hands into his pockets.

"Man, it's kinda weird hearing you refer to us as 'humans'. I guess it's a bit hard believin' that you're, like, undead and all." Ryuji winced at his own words, nose wrinkling a bit in thought.

"Yeah, I can imagine. I'd probably feel the same way if someone just walked up to me and told me that they were a mermaid." He chuckled.

"So, if you're a vampire, then how old are you, Akira-kun?" Shiho asked. Akira laughed humorlessly before answering her.

"...I'm 218 years old."

His friends' eyes practically bulged out of their heads at his response.

"Jesus! Just when were you born, dude?"

"Uh, 1797..." Akira rubbed the back of his neck.

"Jeez, I guess they aren't kidding when they say vampires are immortal, huh..." Ann stared incredulously at the raven boy.

"Actually, we're not really 'immortal', per se," Akira started, "but we just have a much longer lifespan than humans, and we also age much slower than a human as well."

"So, what exactly are vampires like, Akira-kun?" Shiho asked, sitting on the sofa next to Ann.

"Well, most of the vampires from my clan still live over in Europe. The only reason I left was because my father sent me away. To be honest, though, they haven't really changed much. They all run on a bit of a one-track mind, y'know? They're kinda like little kids." Akira chuckled fondly at the memories of his clan members.

"How so?"

"For one, most of them hardly ever leave their houses except to feed. They think that everyone they see is another vampire hunter out to get them, even though there are rarely any of them left these days."

"Wait, you mean that there are still people who hunt vampires?" Ann asked.

"Unfortunately. Although there aren't many, they are still around, and they're more powerful than ever, so we still have to be careful."

"So that's why you were so scared of tellin' people..." Ryuji stated solemnly.

"Well, it is part of the reason. The truth is, vampire hunters aren't the only people I have to look out for..." Akira sighed sadly, head lowered.

"What do you mean?"

"When I fled from Europe and left my clan behind, I was labelled as a traitor. The clan has a special group of bounty hunters, and they're all incredibly powerful vampires. If they learn of my whereabouts, they'll hunt me down and kill me just to keep me from spilling any secrets to enemy clans."

Makoto and Shiho gasped in shock, while Ann covered her mouth in abstract horror. Ryuji slammed his foot down.

"That's bullshit!" He screamed. Ann spun around to face him.

"Ryuji, quiet down!"

"I can't help it! That ain't right..."

During their moment of collective shock and anger over Akira's unfortunate situation, none of them noticed the soft padding of footsteps moving up the attic steps. Then, a voice snorted from the corner. The other occupants of the room turned to look at the source, which turned out to be Morgana, Akira's cat.

"So, you decided to tell them, huh? You sure that was a good idea?" Morgana asked, walking over and jumping up to rest on Akira's shoulder. The other teens shrunk back and Ann let out a high-pitched noise somewhere between a shriek and a cough.

"D-did your cat just... talk?"

Chapter Text

"D-did your cat just...talk?" Ann squeaked, shrinking back. Shiho gripped tightly on Ann's sleeve, while Makoto shielded her face with her hands, murmuring something about a 'monster cat'. Morgana stared longingly at the blonde girl for a moment before shaking his head. Akira could practically see the hearts floating above his head.

"I can see why you may be confused, Miss, but I'm not a cat." Morgana replied surprisingly softly, tail standing up in pride. Ryuji gaped open-mouthed.

"Well, then what the hell are you? 'Cause you say you're not a cat, but you look an awful lot like one."

Morgana glared at Ryuji in annoyance.

"I'm Akira's familiar. I simply took the form of a cat when he summoned me because it was what he was most accustomed to!" Morgana stated matter-of-factly, ears flattening a bit in apprehension.

"Familiar? Is that like a partner?" Shiho asked, no longer hiding behind Ann.

"In a way. You see, when a vampire becomes strong enough, they can use this summoning spell, which allows them to summon their familiar. They take a certain form that is unique to each vampire, and they help accompany the vampire in tasks like hunting, gathering, and spell-making."

"If you could truly talk this whole time, why is it that we could never hear you?" Makoto asked.

"That's because you learned Akira's identity as a vampire. You see, to an ordinary person who doesn't know Akira's secret, I look and sound just like a regular cat, but the moment your mind registers that Akira isn't a normal human, your perception of him changes, which also extends to myself. Think of it as a... change in cognition, if you will."

The room let out a collective 'ohh' in understanding.

"Wait, I thought spells were, like, a witch thing." Ann asked, face twisting in confusion. Akira decided he'd explain this one.

"Well, it is, but we can use spells as well." Ryuji made a choking noise.

"Y-you mean witches are real?" Akira stared at him for a long moment as if to say 'duh'.

"Yeah...? I thought that was obvious."

"It wasn't!"

 



After his friends left, Akira slumped down onto his 'bed', slinging an arm over his face. He found himself laughing with relief, and though he tried to stop it, a few tears escaped their threshold and streaked down his face. Morgana looked at him with understanding, curling up beside him on the bed.

"Did you tell them, or...?"

"They found out." Akira replied quickly. Morgana sighed wearily, clearly unimpressed, but not exactly angry either.

"You really have to be more careful about this. I know you want to make friends here, but you don't know who you can trust, either." Morgana reprimanded him halfheartedly.

"...I know. I'm sorry for making you worry, Mona." Akira smiled fondly, rolling onto his side to scratch the feline behind his ears. Morgana purred contentedly.

"W-well, maybe you should start taking me with you whenever you go out. I was trying to give you some privacy for the sake of not making you seem suspicious, but perhaps this would be for the best."

Akira nodded wordlessly. After a few moments of silence, he closed his eyes and drifted off into a peaceful sleep, accompanied only by the sounds of soft purring against his hand and his own breathing.

 



The following day was, thankfully, a Sunday, so he had some time to himself to do whatever he pleased. He supposed a walk through Inokashira Park would help clear his racing thoughts.

The breeze was nice, and allowed him to just take in the fresh air. He stretched his arms above his head, and suddenly a voice from somewhere behind him cut into his serene silence.

"Hold that pose!"

Akira turned to look at the source of the odd command and saw a boy who honestly looked no older than 18 holding his hands up, making L's with his fingers, framing Akira's image from behind. Akira flushed uneasily. Who was this guy?

"Uh, can I...help you?" Akira murmured. The boy was even squinting in deep concentration.

"..."

When he received no response, Akira fully turned to face the boy and nearly did a double-take. This guy was tall! The boy furrowed his brows in apparent irritation and lowered his hands, but the look was quickly replaced with a neutral expression.

"Oh, I apologize. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Yusuke Kitagawa. I'm a second-year at Kosei High in the Fine Arts division."

Oh. So he was the eccentric artsy type, huh?

"Oh, I see. My name is, uh, Akira Kurusu." Akira responded, rubbing the back of his neck. Somehow, this situation was incredibly uncomfortable. Yusuke practically leapt forward, taking one of Akira's hands in his own.

"Pardon me if this is a bit forward, but I knew the moment I first saw you that you were the one that I've been searching for! Your mysterious allure drew me to you. Please, won't you-"

Woah, wait. Wasn't this going a bit too fast? Akira could feel his whole face down to his neck burn in embarrassment.

"Be the model for my next art piece?"

Oh. Oh...

Akira became impossibly redder. Of course he was talking about art. Why would he be talking about anything else?

"I, uh, I'll think about it." Akira fumbled over his words, suddenly finding the grass beneath his feet to be incredibly interesting.

"Please do! Here's my contact information. I'll text you later with more details." Yusuke bowed, his lanky figure making the gesture rather awkward, and turned to leave.

"Well, that was... something else." Morgana popped his head out of Akira's bag, making the dark-haired teen jump. He'd nearly forgotten that he had Morgana with him.

"You always seem to attract the weird ones, don't you?" Morgana said after a moment, voice laced with amusement.

"And you're just enjoying all of this, aren't you?" Akira shot back.

"Yup."

Chapter Text

Akira wasn't sure how to feel about this... eccentric person he'd met. Sure, he was a bit odd, but then again, he did say he was an art student. Akira had heard plenty of things about artists. In the end, Akira decided that the guy seemed harmless, and that he'd agree to model for him. However, if he tried anything funny, he wouldn't hesitate to snap the boy's neck.

You could never be too careful...

 



The next day, on his way home from school, Akira stopped by the small second-hand thrift shop just across from the alley Leblanc was situated in. The old man tending the shop gave him a polite smile upon his approach.

"Welcome!"

Akira scanned the items lined up on the tables, looking for anything that could be useful to him. In the back, something caught his eye. An old CRT television sat under a shelf behind some boxes. He stepped closer and crouched down to examine the dusty television unit.

"Oh, you're interested in that?" The old man approached him, leaning down to pull the television out from under the shelves. He hoisted it up onto a nearby table for Akira to see and let out a strained huff.

"It's a bit old, but it works just fine." The man patted the top of the box fondly. Akira pondered for a moment before reaching into his back pocket for his wallet.

"I'll take it." The old man's eyes lit up.

"I never thought I'd see the day that I'd finally sell this thing. Nobody wanted some dusty old TV. For you, though... I'll throw in a DVD player as thanks. Does Leblanc work as your shipping address?"

Akira payed the man and thanked him gratefully before heading back to the cafe.

 



When Akira finally finished washing the leftover dishes, he trekked upstairs. Setting his school bag down on the table by the stairs, Morgana leapt out and happily stretched.

"Why do you have to carry around so much junk in there?" He cried.

"Just to irritate you." Akira shot back, smirking playfully at the cat.

Akira kicked off his shoes and flopped down onto the futon, letting out an exhausted sigh. Before he could get too comfortable, his phone buzzed, letting him know that someone had sent him a message. He pulled his phone out and flipped to his messenger app. It was Yusuke.


Yusuke: Sensei will be attending a meeting for his upcoming exhibit tomorrow afternoon, so I will have the atelier to myself. We could get started then if you'd like, however, it must be sometime before Sensei's exhibit ends.

Akira chuckled.

Yusuke spoke way too formally for a seventeen-year-old. It was almost comical.


Akira: Sure, we could start tomorrow. What time should I be there?

 



Akira gawked at the building in front of him. He turned to the mailbox, only to confirm that, yes, this was indeed the atelier that Yusuke apparently lived in. Morgana chuckled from within his bag.

"Whatever you do, don't sneeze."

Akira was inclined to agree. The building looked more like the kind of place you'd see deep in the woods where you'd likely get jumped by some creep with a chainsaw.

Unfortunately, Akira had plenty of experience with murderer-inhabited shacks hiding in the woods. Don't ask.

Akira timidly stepped up to the gate and pressed the button on the intercom. A few moments later, the speaker buzzed, and Yusuke's voice came through.

"Who is it?"

Akira rubbed the back of his neck.

"It's, uh... Akira Kurusu." He felt his face flush in embarrassment. Why was he so awkward?

Fortunately, Yusuke wasted no time in flinging the door open, a smile on his face.

"You came!"

Akira grinned back, waving awkwardly.

"Yup."

 



Yusuke led him into the atelier, and Akira found that it wasn't quite as bad as he'd been imagining it to be. The floors were bare and the air was musty (much like up in his attic). Akira winced a bit at the humidity in the building, which made it a bit hard for him to breathe.

The closer he looked, though, the more he noticed a distinct lack of anything that could be used for comfort or entertainment.

They ended up in a room at one end of the hall, lined with shelves full of books and paints. An easel and a wooden stool were set up in the center of the room. Yusuke drew back the curtains, allowing the light to flood into the room. Finally, he turned to Akira.

"Shall we get started?"

Akira nodded, swallowing the lump in his throat. He had a bad feeling about this place. Yusuke seemed fine enough, but the building... The air was stagnating, causing an odd feeling to settle into the pit of his stomach.

Akira lowered himself onto the stool. He allowed Yusuke to direct him into his desired position before he practically jumped behind his canvas, wielding a brush. Yusuke took a moment to frame Akira with his hands before finally turning to the canvas to get to work.

 



The next couple of hours passed in silence, save for the occasional grunts and hums of concentration from Yusuke. Akira tried his hardest not to move too much, abjectly staring into the corner of the room. After what felt like ages, Yusuke dropped his head, letting out a frustrated sigh.

"It's no good."

Akira turned to Yusuke, feeling slightly guilty for some reason.

"I'm sorry. Did I do something wrong?" He asked. Yusuke shook his head.

"No, you did just fine. I apologize, but I seem to be having a hard time focusing today..." Yusuke muttered, dragging a hand down over his face. He glanced at Akira for a moment before quickly jerking his gaze back to his canvas, looking almost...nervous?

"Well," Akira began, standing from the stool, "maybe you just don't have the right inspiration." Yusuke thought for a moment, then nodded in agreement.

"That's likely true. I feel as though I haven't been able to create any good pieces lately."

Akira stepped over towards Yusuke.

"Maybe you just need a change of pace; a different atmosphere." Yusuke stared at him, perplexed.

"What are you suggesting?" He asked, genuinely at a loss.

"What if we tried this somewhere else? I mean, this place is kinda...y'know, and it's probably hard for you to find the motivation you're looking for all cooped up in here." Yusuke's eyes flashed in understanding.

"I see... You're not entirely wrong about that. It is rather hard to focus at times here. Perhaps you're right."

Akira smiled. It'd probably be good to get this guy out of the house for a while. The fresh air would do him good.

"So, what do you say we try this again tomorrow? I'll text you the place to meet up." Yusuke nodded, renewed vigor shining in his eyes.

"Very well!"

 



The next day, after school ended, Akira rushed home to change into his street clothes, then started towards the park he'd told Yusuke about. The previous night, he'd spent some time looking up calm, scenic areas in Tokyo, and this was one of the best places he'd found.

When he arrived, he found Yusuke was there waiting for him, already set up beside a tree near the water. He was furiously scribbling away in a sketchbook. As Akira approached, the other male must have heard his nearing footsteps, because he jumped with a start and hurriedly slammed his sketchbook closed, tucking it away into a bag at his feet. Akira was a bit curious, but decided it was best not to pry. It wasn't any of his concern, after all.

Yusuke spun around to greet him.

"Ah, there you are!" He smiled and brushed a few loose strands of hair out of his face.

"Were you waiting long?" Akira asked.

"Not at all." Yusuke shook his head.

Akira removed his glasses, tucking them into his pocket, and took a seat on the ground, leaning himself up against the tree.

The two began again, this time with a much more pleasant atmosphere surrounding them. The silence this time was less suffocating, and was instead relaxing.

 



As time passed, Akira found himself becoming a bit drowsy. Just as he was about to drift off into a light slumber, Yusuke suddenly shouts out, nearly causing Akira to smash his head on the tree behind him.

"I've done it!" Yusuke proudly holds his sketchbook up into the air as though it were the holy grail itself.

"Wh- You did?" Akira pulls himself to his feet just in time for Yusuke to turn the book in his hands and all but shove it in Akira's face.

The image on the page before him nearly took his breath away. He was sitting back against the tree, a single knee drawn up to his chest, an arm slung over it. His hair framed his face, which appeared so much more elegant without his glasses. His eyes were closed peacefully, long eyelashes all the more clear to see.

It was, for lack of a better word, stunning.

Akira stared at the drawing, utterly captivated by the raw talent and beauty displayed within it.

"Yusuke, this is... amazing."

The other boy averted his gaze, instead choosing to stare down at the ground, face flushed from the compliment.

"I... Thank you, Akira. I think this will make a splendid portrait."

 



Akira chatted casually with the dark-haired artist while he cleaned up. Somehow, the boy seemed bothered by something, and Akira wasn't sure why. At least, not until his stomach let out a vicious growl. Akira stared at Yusuke, speechless. Yusuke slowly turned to him, eyes wide with embarrassment.

"Are you hungry?" Akira asked, still staring.

For a long time, Yusuke said nothing. After some time, though, he just nodded.

"Come with me."

 



Yusuke glanced around the small cafe, bag slung over his shoulder. Sojiro looked up as the bell over the door rang. He raised an eyebrow.

"Who's this?" He asked. Yusuke turned to Sojiro and bowed politely.

"Pardon my intrusion. My name is Yusuke Kitagawa."

Sojiro seemed a bit taken-aback by the teen's politeness. He quickly shook it off and offered the boy a cup of coffee.

Meanwhile, Akira slunk into the back, slipping on an apron and rummaging through the fridge. Once he had the ingredients he needed, he turned back to Yusuke, who sat blissfully sipping coffee.

"How do you like your curry?"

Yusuke smiled.

"I don't mind, however, I'd like to ask for extra rice."

 



When Akira finished dishing out a few servings of the curry, he slid into a seat beside Yusuke and began to eat. Sojiro also tried his curry. The three took their first few bites in silence. Sojiro set down his fork, looking at Akira, an indescribable expression on his face.

'Uh oh, did I make it wrong? Is it too spicy?'

Then, Sojiro broke out into a soft smile, leaning over the counter to ruffle Akira's hair.

"It's not bad. I can tell you've been practicing. Good job, kid."

Yusuke nodded, eyes wide.

"...Delicious. What's in this? It's a common curry flavor, yet it has so much depth."

Sojiro chuckled.

"It's a family secret."

The three of them enjoyed their meals in a welcome silence. When it was time for Yusuke to leave, he saw him off to the station.

When Akira finally flopped into bed that night, Morgana lifted his head, curled up beside the messy-haired teen.

"That Kitagawa-kun seems to like you..."

Akira nodded wordlessly, eyes closed.

"So, what made you decide to bring him over here?"

Akira cracked open an eye before answering.

"Well, to be honest, he seemed lonely. Not to mention that he doesn't seem to have great living conditions. I just felt like I needed to bring him here, y'know, just to get away for a little while."

Morgana nodded slowly.

"Just be careful, Akira..."

Akira ran his fingers through the soft fur, closing his eyes once more. He eventually drifted off to sleep with a certain eccentric artist on his mind.

Chapter Text

Akira felt sluggish, and he struggled to open his eyes. When his sight focused enough to determine his surroundings, he found that he didn't recognize the room he was in at all. Grey, unwelcoming walls and bare concrete floors. He was sitting in a cold metal chair at a table at the back of the small room.

His head spun. Just what happened? Before he could even collect his thoughts, the door opened with a click. Akira's sight went fuzzy, and a figure stepped into the room, approaching him in front of the table. Something about the person was so familiar, but Akira's mind was so hazy that he couldn't even focus on the person right in front of him. Then, the figure spoke, voice distorted.

"You look so surprised. Did you really think you could evade me forever? How naive. You took down every single target I had set up for you, and you fell right into my trap. Your own self-righteous 'justice' ended up being your ultimate downfall. Funny, isn't it?" The figure sounded almost amused.

"Although, I must thank you, Akira. You were a vital part of my plan."

The person pulled a gun out of their coat pocket and cocked it. Akira felt a sense of cold dread as he realized what was about to happen, and he was completely powerless to stop it.

"Case closed. This is how your justice ends..." They lifted their arm, pointing the barrel of the gun directly against Akira's temple, and-

A blinding white flash filled his vision as a muffled gunshot resounded in the room, and then everything went dark.

 



Akira bolted upright in bed, body soaked in a cold sweat. He heaved in a breath, eyes frantically darting around the room. His shoulders sagged in relief when he saw the dusty walls and shelves of the attic, and not the cold, unnerving walls from his dream.

'No,' Akira realized, a heavy pit forming in his stomach, 'that was no dream. That was a vision...'

Something rustled beside him, and he nearly jumped.

"Akira, what was that?" Morgana cried, eyes wide.

"I don't know. I think it was a vision, but I'm not sure." Akira stared down at his lap in deep thought, tightly gripping the edges of the blanket into a ball.

"How so?"

Akira thought for a moment.

"The person in the dream... I couldn't see their face at all, but I know that I've met them before. Their voice, too. It was so distorted, so I couldn't make out who it was, but there was something so familiar about it..." Morgana nodded.

"We need to figure out who that was, and fast. Your life's on the line here!" Morgana jumped up onto Akira's lap, his fur apprehensively standing up on end. Akira nodded in agreement. He already had an idea who was behind that blurry face.

 



Akira numbly walked to class, body running on autopilot. His mind was racing with every person he'd met since coming to Japan. Of course, they only person who stood out in his mind was that brunette boy he'd met that night in the alleyway. Goro Akechi, the Detective Prince. Akira's eyes narrowed subconsciously as he recalled that night once again. He'd found it odd that he wasn't affected by his Third Eye. Of course, he'd ultimately written it off as paranoia. There was surely some reasonable explanation for it, right? Akira wanted to hit himself for being so stupid. He didn't notice Ann turning around in her seat to greet him, her cheerful smile quickly changing into a more concerned look.

"Akira, are you okay? You look awful. Are you not feeling well?" Ann leaned in to get a better look at the raven-haired teen, placing her hand over his forehead. Akira shook his head.

"No, I'm not sick or anything."

Ann looked unconvinced.

"Well then, what's wrong?"

Akira warily glanced around the room, looking to make sure nobody was listening in as he leaned in and spoke with a whisper.

"I'll tell you tonight. Meet me at Leblanc after school. Bring the others, too."

 



When Akira finally made it to back to the cafe, he swung open the front door, prepared to greet Sojiro, but stopped dead in his tracks when he saw the one other patron sitting casually at the bar, sipping at a cup of coffee. He turned to look at Akira when he heard the bell above the door chime.

"Akechi?" Akira felt a thick knot tug at his insides at the sudden presence of the brunette. Akechi smiled pleasantly at him. The boy was clad in an almost nerdy-looking sweater vest and a pair of khaki slacks. Somehow, even though the outfit itself was somewhat annoying to look at, it actually accentuated the brunette rather well. In an odd way...

"Ah, what a coincidence. We meet again."

Sojiro eyed the two teenagers oddly.

"You know him?"

Akira nodded. He had to extremely careful with what he said around this guy.

'Morgana, whatever you do, don't say anything.' He eyed the cat whom was currently pressing himself deeper down inside the bag, careful not to let himself be seen. The feline momentarily glanced up at him, nodding.

"Yeah, we briefly met before."

"I see..." Sojiro trailed off, turning and busying himself with preparing a new pot of coffee.

Akira quickly scurried upstairs once the attention was no longer directed at himself. He set down the bag on the table, allowing Morgana to crawl out.

"Akira, he's here! This is bad!" Morgana whisper-shouted, tail swishing furiously out of anxiety.

"I know! I can't just tell him to leave though, because that'll just seem suspicious. Plus, Boss'll be mad if I said that to a customer." Akira kept his own voice at a whisper, so as to ensure that neither of the building's occupants in the floor below could not overhear him.

"What are you going to do, then?" Morgana asked.

"I'm just going to go down there and pretend to work. Maybe if I can strike up a conversation with him, I can learn something."

Morgana padded forward, standing up on his hind legs to rest his front paws in Akira's own, much larger hands.

"Be careful."

 



The cafe was unnervingly quiet. Sojiro ended up having to run out early after answering a phone call. He claimed that he had errands to run, but Akira suspected that there was more to it than that, but chose not to say anything. After all, it was better that Sojiro wasn't around, especially if his conversation with the detective doesn't go the way Akira plans.

"So, Mr. Detective, what brings you to Cafe Leblanc?" Akira asks, keeping his tone casual. The brunette took another sip of his coffee before answering.

"My coworker recommended this place to me. I guess she's a regular here." He said, voice as level and sickeningly-sweet as always.

"Oh?"

"Yes. You may have seen her here once or twice. Sae Niijima."

Akira stilled as the name sunk into his head.

Sae Niijima.

Niijima.

Was it possible that this Sae Niijima was-?

"I was honestly surprised to see you here. I never would have imagined that we'd run into one another again at a place like this. Do you work here?" Akechi asked, taking another sip of his coffee.

"Something like that." Akira answered.

The next few moments found the room filled with a deafening silence. Akechi's gaze fell to his lap as he set his cup down. A different kind of expression painted his face; a small smile. It was completely different from any of the other smiles he'd seen on the detective's face. It seemed...genuine.

"You know, I just realized that I haven't even asked your name yet. My apologies." Akechi looked a bit surprised at himself as he blurted these words out. Akira's eyes widened. Then, he smiled.

"It's Akira. Akira Kurusu." Jokingly, he extended his hand out towards the detective in a greeting. What he hadn't expected was for the boy to take his hand into his own, giving it a firm shake. The brunette laughed as he pulled away.

"It's nice to meet you Kurusu-kun. My name is Goro Akechi." Akira was stunned for a moment. Then he burst out into laughter.

"Nice meeting you, too, stranger."

After that, the atmosphere of the room lightened tenfold. For a moment, Akira almost forgot that the person sitting only about a foot away from him was supposed to be the focus of his suspicions.

Then the front door opened.

"We're here, Akira! Now we can t-" Ann trailed off as she took in who was sitting at the bar before her.

"Wait, Akechi-kun? What are you doing here?" Ann asked incredulously.

Akechi stared back at the four new teens, looking almost out of place.

He was clearly pretending not to notice the dark look Makoto was sending him.

"Ah... Well, I just thought I'd give this place a visit. I suppose I wasn't expecting to find it so relaxing here; I believe I may have overstayed my welcome. Pardon me." Akechi stood and reached into his pocket, pulling out his wallet. He fished out some coins and placed them onto the bar. Then he made for the exit. He stopped just before the door and tilted his head to look back at Akira.

"I think I'll come back again sometime. I look forward to talking with you again." With that plastic smile of his, Akechi left. The four all stared dumbfoundedly at the spot where the detective had been standing only mere seconds ago. Slowly, Ann turned to address Akira.

"So, uh... You wanted to talk?"

 



Akira herded his three friends into the attic. They all took their respective seats, all eyes on Akira.

"The reason I asked you all here is because last night, I had a premonition."

"Premonition? You mean like, you saw the future? What was it like?" Ryuji was nearly jumping out of his seat. Ann smacked him.

"Ryuji, let him finish!"

Makoto clasped her hands together, face stern.

"What kind of premonition?"

Akira hesitated.

"I saw that, if things continue the way they are now, I'm going to die."

Everyone stilled at Akira's words. Suddenly, everyone was much more intent on what he had to say.

"Die? What do you mean?" Shiho asked, voice raised.

"Well, you already know how dangerous it is for people to learn about my true identity, because unfortunately, I have no way of telling just by looks alone if someone may actually be a vampire hunter or not. This is why they have such an advantage over us, because they can often tell a regular person apart from a vampire just by looking at them."

"So, what does that have to do with you?" Ryuji asked, scratching his head.

Makoto sighed, shaking her head.

"I think what Akira-kun is trying to say is that he may have been spotted by a vampire hunter."

"Woah... That's bad, man!" Ryuji looked slightly panicked.

"Do you know who it is?" Ann asked.

"Well, I might have an idea, but I can't say for certain that it's him..." Akira looked to the side, deep in thought.

"Who are you thinking it is?" Makoto asked.

"I think...it's Akechi."

Chapter Text

The room erupted in a mixture of shocked gasps and scoffs.

"Akira, are you sure it's him? That's a very bold accusation." Makoto asked, voice lowered to a near-whisper, as though the person in question could somehow hear them.

"Well, I can't exactly say for certain that it's him, but I have a pretty strong suspicion that it is." Akira slumped back onto his bed.

"How, though?" Ann asked.

"Well," Akira started, "do you guys remember our trip to the television station? When he approached us in the hallway?" The group collectively nodded, and Akira continued.

"We were talking about where to go for lunch, and Morgana had said something about a pancake place. In fact, Morgana was the only one to mention anything about pancakes, and nobody besides myself should have heard him, but do you remember what Akechi said?"
The atmosphere in the room grew heavy as his friends all came to the same realization.

"Akechi had heard Morgana talk." Shiho stated. Akira nodded grimly.

"That's not all."

His friends all looked to him, waiting for him to elaborate. He looked away in embarrassment.

"Um... A while after I moved here, I actually took Morgana out with me into Shibuya one night." He began, face burning.

"Wait, what were you doin' out there?" Ryuji asked, brows furrowed in confusion. Akira avoided looking directly at any of his friends' faces. There was just something weird about talking about his feeding process out loud.

"I was, uh...hunting." He finally answered. Makoto perked up.

"You never did get to explain how you hunt your victims without being seen. Is it the same way you took down Kamoshida?" She asked, eyes wide in excitement. Ann turned to her and shushed her.

"Hey, he's trying to tell us something. Don't go sidetracking him!" She scolded.

"Well, to answer your question... Yes and no. You already know, but I'm not a very powerful vampire. I have a really limited range of spells and abilities that I can use. One of the abilities that all vampires have, however, is called the Third Eye. It's primarily used for hunting, but there aren't really any limitations to how it's used. It essentially allows us to brainwash our victims simply by looking into their eyes."

"What does this have to do with what you were saying?" Ryuji groaned, earning him a whack to the head.

"The thing is, the Third Eye can brainwash anyone...except a vampire hunter. They're completely immune to the effects of the Third Eye. Well, that night, I had Morgana help me lure someone into an alleyway. That person was Akechi."

Akira was met with a chorus of shocked gasps at the new revelation.

"Yeah. I tried to use the Third Eye on him, but it didn't work. At the time, I wasn't sure if it was because he actually was a hunter or if there was some other factor at work, but now I'm almost certain."

"So Akechi-kun is a vampire hunter... and now he likely knows about your identity as a vampire..." Makoto stated solemnly. A long silence filled the room as the gravity of the situation settled on them.

 



"We're going to need a plan of some kind." Morgana stared up at the dark-haired boy.

"I know. I'm just...not sure how to go about it."

"Well," Morgana started, "we don't have any definitive proof that he knows yet, so for now, just keep your guard up. Try getting closer to him. Maybe if you can get him to see you as a friend, we can get some kind of information out of him."

"Maybe..." Akira trailed off, deep in thought. Their conversation was cut short as Akira's cellphone buzzed, signalling an incoming message. Akira pulled out his phone and opened his messaging app, and stared blankly at the unknown profile displayed on the screen.

The user was someone simply named, 'Alibaba'. The profile image was of some odd cat-like face with a wicked, jagged mouth. As he read the first message, his heart dropped to his feet. It read:



Alibaba: Akira Kurusu. I know your secret.



"What's wrong? Who is it?" Morgana asked, voice rising in concern. He leaped up onto the bed and peered past Akira's hand to read the text.

"What the -?" He spluttered, eyes frantically darting back and forth between the profile's image and the message. Suddenly, he whipped his head around to look up at Akira.

"Do you think it's him?"

As if on cue, Akira's phone buzzed as 'Alibaba' sent another string of messages.



Alibaba: You don't need to know who I am.

Alibaba: The important thing is, I have a proposition for you.



'A proposition?' Akira's head spun. He felt as though he were in some kind of horror movie, what with how violently his heart was pounding in his chest.



Alibaba: I need your help, Mr. "Phantom Thief of Hearts".

Alibaba: There is someone whose heart I want you to change, and I believe you have the power to do that, right? If you refuse, or if you are not successful, I will let a certain detective know that Akira Kurusu is a vampire, and that he is the one who killed Suguru Kamoshida.



Akira's blood ran cold in his veins as he read the latest message. Whoever this person was, they knew. They knew not only that Akira was a vampire, but they knew that he was the one who was behind Kaneshiro's sudden change of heart and Kamoshida's death.

This was serious.

Hands trembling, Akira forced his fingers to type out a response.



Akira: And how do I know that you won't sell me out either way?



The response was almost immediate.



Alibaba: I suppose you can't. But in the end, you have two options. You can accept my offer, or you can deal with the authorities. It's your choice.



"Dammit. They've got us backed into a corner! We don't even have a choice here..." Morgana hissed.



Alibaba: I'll give you the rest of today to sleep on it. I'll contact you again tomorrow with more details.



Akira tried to type out a response, but all he received was an error message. There was no longer any contact for him to send the message to. Now he was left staring blankly at his message logs, no trace of an 'Alibaba' anywhere.

Chapter Text

Akira didn't sleep that night. All he could do was lie awake in bed, staring up at the ceiling with a heavy weight sitting in his gut. When the sun finally rose, he couldn't stay still any longer, and he finally sprang up out of bed and all but threw on his clothes. He made sure to check his phone again; nothing.

 



It was during his social studies class towards the latter half of the school day when his phone finally buzzed in his pocket, alerting him of an incoming message. He pulled it out, hiding it within the desk. Sure enough, it was Alibaba again.

Alibaba: Have you made a decision?


Akira: It's not like I have a choice. Besides, you still haven't told me who you want me to go for.


The response was instant. Akira could practically feel the irritation oozing through the screen.


Alibaba: I was getting to that.


Alibaba: Anyways, I've already provided you with the necessary tools. You can take the rest from there.


Akira paused.

'Necessary tools? What do they mean by that?'


Alibaba: The girl whose heart I want you to change is Futaba Sakura.


Akira read the name a few times. Somehow, it seemed familiar. His eyes widened as the realization dawned on him.

'Wait. Isn't that Boss's last name?' Akira paled as the idea settled in. He didn't want to think that this person could be related to Sojiro, but it was a definite possibility.

 



When he got back to Leblanc, he was relieved to find Sojiro still behind the counter. Akira let out a sigh to find that there weren't any customers at the moment.

"Welcome back." Sojiro gave him a curt nod in greeting. Akira stood awkwardly near the door. He knew he needed to ask, but he was afraid of coming off as rude or nosy.

"What are you standing around like a lost dog for?" Sojiro glanced at him suspiciously, eyebrows furrowed.

"Um, I wanted to ask you something..." Akira started.

"Shoot." Sojiro looked back down at the coffee pot he was tending to, likely only half-listening. Akira took a deep breath, summoning the courage to speak the words in his mind.

"Do you... know anyone named Futaba?" Akira asked. The moment the girl's name left his lips, Sojiro's head jerked up, an angry scowl marring his face.

"Where did you hear about her? Who told you?" Sojiro hissed. Instinctively, Akira recoiled back. The look in his eyes... There was rage, yes, but there was something else reflected in his eyes, too.

It was fear.

"N-nobody told me. I just... happened to overhear you talking on the phone, and I remember you calling the person 'Futaba', so I... was a little curious." Akira fiddled with the hem of his shirt, finding himself unable to even look the man in the eyes.

"It's not any of your business." Sojiro's tone was still just as sharp, but his voice had considerably lowered in volume. The man huffed in apparent relief and slouched forward, eyes casting downwards to the counter top.

"Just... go upstairs." He commanded, voice low and distraught. Akira could take a hint. He scrambled up the attic stairs.

 



"I guess asking him directly won't work..." Morgana sighed, pacing back and forth on the floor. Akira hummed, deep in thought. Then, he jumped up, startling the black feline.

"Maybe the key to finding out who Futaba is is finding out who this 'Alibaba' is. I mean, they must know her if they're asking me to target her."

Morgana thought for a moment.

"Maybe you're right. 'Alibaba' may be able to cover their tracks well enough, but they slipped up by revealing that they know you're a vampire. This already narrows down the list of candidates."

Akira nodded.

"Exactly. There aren't many people who know about me, and I think I've done a pretty good job hiding my secret. So that leaves us with the possibility that it's either someone close to me who I've told my secret to, or someone who's really good at sneaking about. There's also the possibility that it could be Akechi, if my suspicions about him are true..." Akira trailed off. Morgana gave a satisfactory hum.

"Yup. I personally don't think it's any of them, though. Especially not Ryuji. He seems way too stupid to be able to do stuff like this." Akira gave the cat a playfully stern look for the remark.

"Honestly, I don't think it's any of them, either. They just don't seem like the kind of people who would do any of that..." Akira looked around the room as he wracked his brain.

"Wait," he raised a hand as though to quiet someone (even though no one was talking besides him), and turned to face Morgana, "this is just a thought but, we know that 'Alibaba' must know Futaba, right?" Akira began. Morgana simply nodded, taking in the ravenette's words.

"What if... 'Alibaba' is Futaba?"

Morgana cocked his head to the side in confusion.

"What do you mean?"

"Well, imagine that Alibaba and Futaba are the same person. If Futaba felt like she were 'corrupt' in some way, and she wanted to reach out somehow, she wouldn't naturally do so as herself. I mean, I don't really understand why she'd use a username that sounds so much like her own name if she was trying to hide it..." Akira trailed off. Morgana's eyes lit up in understanding.

"Akira, you might be onto something!" He jumped up, perching himself onto the edge of the bed.

"Maybe you should ask about it the next time th-" Morgana's words were cut off by the buzzing of Akira's phone. He turned it on, already having an idea who it was.


Alibaba: Aren't you going to do it?


Akira wasted no time in typing out a response.


Akira: I would, but I have no way of knowing who Futaba is on my own. You're going to need to give me more details, or I can't do it.


Akira: Do you think there's a way we could meet up? I would like to discuss it with you.


The next couple of responses took longer.


Alibaba: Meet up?


Alibaba: That would be a bit difficult.

 

Alibaba: There's a reason that I can't leave. That's why I'm contacting you like this.

 

Alibaba: Wait. Let me think.

 

For a long moment, the 'typing' icon appeared on screen, disappeared, then reappeared again.

Finally, Alibaba responded.


Alibaba: Nevermind. Our deal is off. Don't look into Futaba Sakura anymore.

 

Alibaba: Forget about this incident. I won't report you either. Sorry for wasting your time.


Then, just like that, Alibaba disappeared just as abruptly as they had appeared. Akira squinted at his phone.

"That's definitely suspicious..."

Chapter Text

Akira was more confused than he'd been in a long time. Some mysterious person by the name of 'Alibaba' threatened him into changing the heart of some girl, but then at the mention of meeting up or going outside, they suddenly change their mind? Was their situation really so complicated that it prevented them from going outdoors or talking to people?

"Well, it's not all bad. I mean, they did say that they weren't going to report you." Morgana stated warily, as though even he didn't believe his own words.

Just then, loud voices rang out from within the cafe below, as though perfectly timed to a T.

It sounded as though Sojiro was arguing with someone. Akira moved closer to the stairs to get a better listen.

"So, would evoking your parental custody be okay? With the condition of your household and your daughter's current mental state, there's no way this would hold up in court." The voice sounded cold and feminine; it seemed like they may be a lawyer or prosecutor by their tone and the subject of the argument. Akira could hear Sojiro growl with rage.

"You're going to go that far? I'm telling you everything that I know!" Sojiro cried out in apparent distress. The woman sighed in defeat.

"Then I'll contact your again later."

"You won't get anything useful out of me. I've already told you everything I know."

"That doesn't matter. Whether it's useful or not is for me to decide. Anyway, the next time I come here, it will simply be to have a nice cup of coffee." Akira could practically hear the smile on the woman's face. It was obvious how she was intentionally riling the man up.

A few moments later, the doorbell jingled, and Akira knew she had left. With a sigh, he leaned back from the stairs.

It was true then, wasn't it? Futaba Sakura was Sojiro's daughter. Akira felt his legs crumple out from underneath him, and he sunk to the floor, limbs feeling like jelly. His mind was reeling.

He had to do something about this, right?

 



That was how Akira found himself outside of Sojiro's house the next day after he got out of school. Sojiro had just left to get some groceries, so he should have at least twenty minutes to do this. Akira glanced down at the box of leftover sushi in his hand. This was a backup just for in case Sojiro ended up returning early. He hesitantly brought his hand up to the doorknob and twisted it. To his surprise, the door was unlocked, allowing him to simply swing the front door open.

He peered into the dark hallway of the entrance, feeling his nerves bubble up. Maybe he should just turn around now, while it was still safe. But the other voice in his conscious wouldn't let him.

'No, you have to do this. For Boss and for Futaba. This is the only way.'

With a gulp, Akira took the first step into the house.

Everything was dark, save for a small sliver of light coming from a television in another room. Akira could barely see three feet in front of him. He used his other hand to feel his way down the hall towards the stairs.

"Eek!" A screech echoed from somewhere in the house, making Akira jump and spin around. Was it Futaba who had screamed just now? Why did she scream? A perfectly-timed bolt of lightning lit up the room from through the hall window, and it was just enough to cast a silhouette on the wall just behind him.

Slowly, Akira turned to face whatever was lurking there, only to be met with a shadowy figure with large glasses looking up at him. The figure suddenly lurched back with a start and bolted back upstairs with one final yell. That was when the front door burst open behind him.

"Futaba! Are you okay?"

Akira whirled around, heart lurching into his throat. Sojiro was back. The man's eyes landed on him, and they narrowed with a kind of feral rage that Akira had never seen before.

"Who the hell are you? Don't move!" Sojiro spat out before leaning towards the shelf by the door to grab the flashlight placed there. When the light finally flicked on to reveal the intruder, Sojiro deflated, eyes widening in surprise.

"You? What are you doing here?" Sojiro asked, astonishment evident in his voice. Akira shakily held up the box of sushi that he had completely forgotten about in the events that had just transpired.

 



Back in the warmth and safety of the cafe, Sojiro sat Akira down. Sojiro sighed, rubbing the back of his neck.

"Ah, where should I start? You see, Futaba's mother, Wakaba, was a friend of mine even before Futaba was born. She was a strange woman, but we hit it off. She was smart, looked a bit indifferent at times, but she was totally independent. She was a good person..." Sojiro trailed off, a fond smile and faraway look in his eyes as he recalled his old friend.

"I see." Akira stated quietly.

"She was always so passionate about her job that she'd stay up all hours of the night just to finish some research. I thought that would have changed when she had a kid, but when Futaba was born, nothing really changed at all. Still, though, she took care of her."

"She was a single mother?" Akira asked.

"Yeah. Futaba didn't have a father."

Akira wilted a bit. He knew how Futaba must have felt, growing up not only as an only child, but with only one parent, too?

"So, you mean...?"

"I don't know. She never told me. She had Futaba by herself and raised her by herself too. I guess the stress of having such a child must've been too much for her. She committed suicide."

Akira could already feel the tears building up behind his eyes. He always hated how he was so naturally empathetic of others. When the people close to him felt pain, he felt that pain too. Akira nodded solemnly in understanding, prompting Sojiro to continue.

"One day, she just jumped out in front of a moving car right in front of Futaba's eyes."

He couldn't help but cover his mouth in shock at the admission.

"My God... That must have been so hard for her." Sojiro nodded.

"Anyways, a lot's happened, and I ended up taking her in. At first, she just walled herself up in her room. Then, as I talked to her more, I realized... She blames herself for what happened to her mother."

"But why? Why does she think it's her fault." He just couldn't understand. Just what had happened to that girl that made her think that she was the cause of her own mother's death? Sojiro looked away.

"Wakaba...left behind a letter. She said that she just couldn't handle raising Futaba. You see, she's not just a normal child. She's different. Wakaba had to do so much just to hide that girl away."

"What do you mean she's 'not a normal child'? Just what is she?" Akira asked. Sojiro looked back to him again, a cold and serious glaze in his eyes.

"She's like you, you know?" He spoke in a low voice. Akira had to pause to think about what he had just said.

'Futaba is...like me? No, there's no way he can mean...' Akira could feel the sweat trickling down the back of his neck. Sojiro sighed.

"Look, kid, I may be old, but I'm not stupid. I know about you. What you are. You're one of them, right? A vampire?"

Akira's blood instantly froze in his veins as Sojiro's words echoed in his ears. The whole world around him stopped spinning for a moment, and all he could hear was the static in his head...

Sojiro snapped his fingers, bringing Akira back to the present.

"W-what are you saying? I-"

"Don't even try to make up some lame excuse," Sojiro interjected, "because I already know it's true."

"How?" Akira asked quietly, voice croaking.

"You think I wouldn't notice you sneaking out at night? There's an alarm system, you know? Not to mention how that teacher at your school suddenly died like that. With bite marks on his neck. The coroner said that there wasn't even a drop of blood left in his body, huh?"

Akira's face burned in shame. How could he have been so careless?

Their conversation was cut short by the sound of the door opening. Both turned to face the guest, only to freeze.

There stood a girl with long orange hair flowing just past her waist. She was small and frail-looking, skin pallor. She removed the pair of thick-framed glasses from her face and clutched them to her chest as the tears began to stream down her cheeks. She opened her eyes to reveal a set of blood-red eyes that almost seemed to twinkle back at them.

Futaba stared straight into him, and Akira felt as though his very soul was being laid bare to witness, naked to her probing gaze. Then she flashed him a weak smile, and he saw the gleaming white canines protruding from her mouth.

 


 

(This is a little image I made via Pixilart of this final scene. Yeah, I kinda skimped on the background details.)

Chapter Text

Time stood still as the two stared at the girl, tears streaking down her cheeks.

"Futaba? Wh-what are you doing here?" Sojiro asked, voice quiet and shaky with disbelief. She ignored his question and looked at Akira, a sad smile on her lips.

"S-see? You and I...we aren't so different." She choked out, trying to hold back the sobs, but to no avail. Tremors wracked her body, and she hunched over as she let out a wail of years of bottled-up anguish and grief.

Instinctively, Akira stepped forward and swept the girl into a tight embrace, her head resting against his shoulder. He rubbed small comforting circles into her back as her tears soaked his shirt. He didn't mind.

After what felt like forever, her cries settled down, and her breathing returned to a moderately normal rate. She pulled back and wiped her nose, letting out a small chuckle.

"Uh, s-sorry about your shirt." She apologized. Akira shrugged.

"It's okay."

The two teens turned as they heard the sound of a chair scraping against the floor. Sojiro stood leaning against the bar, staring wide-eyed at them both.

"I can't believe it..." He let out a breathy gasp. Futaba looked away nervously.

"Um... Should I not have come?" She asked. Sojiro shook his head vehemently.

"No, it's not that at all! I'm just...surprised to see you out of the house, is all." The older man brought a hand to wipe the tears gathering there.

Akira knew that he was seeing a side of this man that could only exist due to the love of a family member. The love of his daughter.

Futaba stepped over to give the man a hug of her own.

His arms wound tightly around her figure, as though shielding her from the very weight of the world she carried upon her soul.

 



A few days later, Futaba had stopped by Leblanc. She wanted to become stronger, to overcome her fear of people. Sojiro had her helping out by serving coffee to the few customers. Around noon, she collapsed into one of the booths.

"Ugh, who would've thought that this low-level boss would be so tough?" She mumbled under her breath. Akira sat across from her, smiling at her antics. It seemed as though she already trusted him, and Akira felt his heart swell at the thought.

"Oh, it's not so bad. Sojiro makes me help out all the time." Akira could feel hawk eyes on him the moment the words left his mouth.

"Wh- Hey, I do not! I only asked you to help." Sojiro grumbled, causing Akira and Futaba both to break out into a lighthearted laughter.

Their joy was cut short by the sound of the front door opening, accompanied the bell's jingle. They all turned to see Ann, a smile on her face, Ryuji and Shiho trailing right behind her.

"Hello!" She waved to Sojiro before turning to Akira with a sour expression. She jabbed her finger into his chest accusingly.

"Are you too good for us now? You haven't answered a single one of my texts." Ann pouted. Akira jumped up, waving his hands in denial.

"No, it's not like that at all! I've just been really tied up with something. I'm sorry!" Akira's arms flew about frantically as he attempted to explain himself. Ryuji turned to Futaba, who had backed up against the wall when the trio entered.

"Oh. Who's this?" He asked. Everyone's heads turned to Futaba. She shrunk back and gave out a little squeak of fear, practically launching herself out of the booth and jumping behind Akira to hide herself.

"Uh... Did I say somethin'?" Ryuji asked, eyes squinted in a mixture of worry and confusion. Akira shook his head.

"No, you didn't do anything wrong. Here;" Akira gently took Futaba's wrist and tugged her out from behind him, "this is Futaba. She's Boss's daughter." Akira explained. Ann's eyes lit up like fireworks set off in the night sky.

"She's Boss's daughter? Oh my goodness, she's so cute!" Ann squealed. Akira pretended not to notice the annoyed glare Shiho burned into the back of the blonde girl's head.

"I never knew Boss had a daughter." Ryuji stated, scratching his head.

"Oh!" Shiho suddenly exclaimed. Everyone looked to her, then followed her gaze. She was staring in surprise at Futaba.

"Your skin is so pale, Futaba-chan! And... Your eyes..." Shiho trailed off. Realization dawned on the three friends.

"Woah, don't tell me..." Ryuji started, voice low, "Futaba's a witch?"

Akira had to clench his fist to keep from facepalming. Ann smacked him, earning an annoyed 'hey!'. Akira could see from the corner of his eye Futaba clamping a hand over her mouth in an attempt to muffle the little chuckle she let out at their antics. He smiled.

"Hey, why don't you all head upstairs? I don't need you scaring away my customers anyway..." Sojiro interjected with impeccable timing.

The five nodded and complied, following Akira upstairs into the attic.

As they all sat down, Akira noticed someone who wasn't among the group.

"Oh, by the way, where's Makoto?" Ann flipped her pigtail over her shoulder.

"Not sure. She said she had some business at home to take care of, but she'll be over later."

"Ah, okay." Akira turned to Futaba to finish his earlier statement only to find the girl flopping herself onto Akira's bed, nearly squishing Morgana. Futaba watched curiously as the feline hopped down off the bed with an agitated mewl.

"A cat?" She observed absently.

"Well, anyways, what were you going to say, Akira-kun?" Shiho asked politely.

"Right. Well, the thing is, Futaba is..." Akira began. He wanted to say it as gently as possible.

"I'm a vampire." Futaba stated bluntly, swinging her legs off the edge of the bed. Akira stared dumbfoundedly.

"Whaaat?!" Ann exclaimed, leaning back a bit in shock. Ryuji's eyes widened.

"Wait. If Futaba's a vampire, then doesn't that mean...?" He pointed at the orange-haired girl. She sighed.

"No. Sojiro's not my biological dad." She explained quickly before rolling over and burying her face in the bed.

"Oh..." Shiho trailed off. A sort of sad look took over her eyes, but just as soon as it appeared, it was gone. It was replaced with a more neutral expression. She nodded her head in understanding. Ann brought a hand to her lips as a question crossed her mind.

"How come you look like a vampire, but Akira normally looks like a regular person?" She asked. Akira pushed his glasses up and smirked.

"That's because I use camouflaging spells to mask my appearance. Futaba can't do that because she isn't a very powerful vampire. You see, she's not a purebred; only her father was a vampire. So she has the appearance and urges of a vampire, but she ages the same as a human. I spent almost two hundred years honing my skills, but she's only had about sixteen years." He explained. Futaba sat up, hugging her knees against her chest.

"Doesn't help that I wasn't all that interested. I hated that I was a vampire. I..." Futaba started, voice shaking. Akira crossed the room, sitting down next to Futaba. He brought his hand up and patted the girl's head. Her eyes widened at the contact, but she soon leaned into the touch.
Ann looked away, face burning. She suddenly felt as though she were witnessing something intimate. Shiho choked back a laugh at her reaction.

 



After his friends left, Akira let out a long sigh. He leaned forward and stood up to make his way to the stairs, only to be stopped by a hand grabbing his wrist. He turned to see Futaba sitting there, cheeks heated and eyes sparkling with a question. She opened her mouth to speak, but snapped it closed. Akira smiled fondly. She could be so blunt sometimes, and yet other times she can't even bring herself to ask a simple question. She reminded Akira of a small, fluffy rabbit.

"Go ahead and ask."
Futaba flinched, as though she weren't expecting him to say anything. She cast her gaze downwards, head tilted far enough that Akira couldn't see what expression she was making.

"...lp me." She murmured, half audible.

"What?" Akira asked. Futaba's head snapped up.

"I want you to help me!" She said again, much louder. Akira was rendered speechless for a long moment. Futaba continued.

"I want you to help me train. So I can be a stronger vampire, like you!"

Akira knew, looking into her eyes which burned with such a determined resolve, that he couldn't turn her down.

 


 

It wasn't until later that night, while he stared up at the ceiling in a futile effort to fall asleep, that he realized that Makoto never did show up...

 

Chapter Text

Something was wrong. Akira tried to open his eyes, but it was as if his eyelids were glued to his face. He found that he couldn't even move his limbs properly; almost as though they were made of lead. After a few long moments of struggling, he finally managed to crack his eyes open.

He kept blinking, attempting to clear the sleep from his eyes so that he could see his surroundings. When his vision finally cleared and his mind was able to properly process what he was seeing, his heart sunk into his feet.

He was inside of a cell that was within some sort of circular room, lined all the way around with identical cells. The center of the room was lit up by a spotlight of sorts, illuminating a single desk. A set of loudspeakers were suspended in air above the desk. The chair behind the desk was turned to face away from him, so he couldn't tell if anyone was sitting there. He attempted to sit up, but felt that he could barely move his leg. Looking down, he could see a chain connected to an iron ball lying on the floor, with another chain connected to his wrist. Frustrated, he forced himself up and made his way to the iron bars of his cell, grabbing them irritably.

"Hey! Who's over there?" He shouted into the room. A short girl with long blonde hair stepped in from the side. He couldn't make our her face; everything was blurry.

"How strange. It seems as though we have an unexpected guest with us." The girl spoke in a soft and quiet tone. The chair at the desk in the center of the room suddenly turned around to face them, giving Akira a look at the person sitting there.

The first thing that Akira noticed was the figure's incredibly long, pointed nose. It extended straight out from his face, and ended in a crooked, rounded tip. Their eyes were odd, too. They were wide open and bloodshot, accentuated by the large bushy brows resting just above them. The hunched-over figure leaned over the desk, clasping his fingers together and opened his mouth to speak.

"Tu vei fi ucis." Its voice was deep and hollow, echoing throughout the entire room like a clap of thunder during a quiet night.

"What...?" Akira had to take a moment to properly process what he had just heard, but he wasn't even given the chance to, as the deformed figure spoke again, voice becoming much deeper and more bone-chilling.

"Nu puteți să evadați din această soartă. Cel din masca neagra va conduce miza prin inima ta." Suddenly, the long-nosed figure's message was very clear to Akira, and he could feel the terror bubbling up in his chest. He shook his head adamantly, not wanting to believe it.

"No! That can't be! There has to be some way to... change this, right?" His voice gradually became less frantic and more unsure. His question was never answered, as he chose that moment to wake up.

 



His dream was a major wake-up call. If his suspicions were correct, the 'Black Mask' his dream was warning him about was Akechi.

He'd been putting it off for too long now. He'd been avoiding having to talk to the brunette in fear of raising suspicions. After all, what if he was wrong? What if the detective wasn't a hunter at all, and he'd just misunderstood him? The only way he could ever find out is by talking to the boy. Unfortunately, that was not going to happen today.

After the initial shock of his dream, he was overcome by a strong wave of nausea. Akira gripped his stomach, groaning in discomfort. He hadn't gone out to properly feed in... Actually, now that he thought about it, when was the last time he fed? He stole a glance over at the clock. 11:32 AM.

With one last pained grunt and a silent apology to Sojiro, he collapsed back onto the bed, mind spiraling back into the dark abyss of unconsciousness.

 



Morgana awoke with a start. His nose twitched as his mind told him that something was wrong. He had to drag himself out from underneath Akira's arm, which had splayed itself out over him at some point. He looked up at the teen, only to find an agonized expression painted across his face and sweat rolling in large droplets down his face and soaking his nightshirt.

'Jeez, now look what you've done! I told you that you needed to stop waiting so long, idiot.' The cat shook his head with a sigh. He climbed up onto the boy's chest and nudged his face in an attempt to wake him up. He didn't stir. Not even an annoyed swat. Worried, the cat padded down the attic stairs to get help. If he was lucky, Sojiro might be alone in the cafe right now. He'd probably know what to do!

 


 

 

"He's a heavy sleeper, isn't he?" A familiar voice echoed in the room, though he couldn't quite place it. Maybe it was because his brain was still hazy, or maybe it was because he was still sleeping. Either way, the conversation unfolding beside him drifted through his subconscious, making its way into his dream.

"Yeah, he's really weak. Can you do something?" A boyish voice responded.

"I suppose I can... It might get a bit messy, though, since he's sleeping." The first voice said. The second voice piped in again, sounding urgent.

"Oh, please be gentle!" The first voice hushed the other. Had Akira been awake, he would have gone pale. Was this really happening? Right in front of him?

"Be quiet. You wouldn't want to wake him up, right? Who knows what he might think if he sees what I'm about to do."

Akira shot up, horror etched onto his face. Horror quite quickly morphed into confusion when he did not, in fact, see anything remotely scandalous (like his teenage-equivalent mind had been imagining). Instead, he found himself almost face-to-face with none other than Goro Akechi. The brunette reeled back in shock when Akira sat up. It was only then that he realized that the other had practically been straddling him on the bed.

"W-what were you doing?" Akira squeaked, drawing the covers up to his neck, as though he were an innocent maiden left completely exposed. The detective simply looked down at the cat on the floor, who looked equally as surprised by the sudden turn of events.

"Akira? How are you awake?" Morgana asked quizzically.

"Uh... What do you mean? Am I not supposed to be awake or something?" Akira asked slowly, eyeing the two suspiciously.

"No, that's not what I meant! It's just, you haven't... eaten for so long, so I figured you'd end up sleeping for a while." Morgana seemed a bit hesitant about something. Akechi sighed and moved so that he was standing over Akira.

"You're probably really hungry, so just hurry up and eat. You'll need the energy anyways." The boy mumbled quietly, turning his head away as he pulled up his sleeve to reveal his wrist. Akira's eyes widened in pure disbelief as he extended his arm towards him to give him access to the smooth, milky white expanse of flesh. With the other so close, he could even make out the scent of his blood. Akira's mouth practically watered at the idea of sinking his fangs into his wrist and drinking up every delicious drop that poured out. Plus, he was literally offering up his wrist to him, how could he say no?

He reached out and gently took the brunette's arm in his hands, bringing his wrist up to his mouth. He quickly bit into the boy's wrist, not surprised at the slight flinch. As his blood trickled over his tongue, he couldn't help the small groan that left his throat. Maybe it was just because he'd gone for too long without feeding, but it tasted better than usual. It wasn't particularly sweet, but it didn't taste bitter or coppery like most humans' blood.

Once his thirst was sated, he pulled his teeth out and lapped at the excess blood that seeped out from the wound, stopping it from bleeding further. He pulled the boy's hand to his chest and looked up to him, crimson pupils blown wide with an almost feral gleam to them.

"Doamne, ești atât de frumoasă." Akira purred under his breath. Akechi clearly heard him, and he flushed bright red all the way down to his neck, but said nothing.

Throughout the entire exchange, Morgana was left to gape up at the two. He eventually shook his head in disbelief and turned to leave. This hadn't gone quite how he had planned...

Chapter Text

Once Akira was full, he pulled back with a wet pop. Looking up at Akechi, he saw the boy's eyes flutter open dreamily, as though in some sort of trance.

'Ah, shit,' Akira thought, 'I must've taken too much blood.' He felt a bit guilty; he normally never drank so much from a single person. It could have a lot of negative effects on a person if too much blood is drained from their body, namely death. Thankfully, it didn't seem as though he took enough to kill the guy.

"That was intelligent." A snarky reply came from somewhere in the room, though the voice's origin wasn't much of a mystery. Akira turned to the cat.

"I'm sorry, but I was starving. Besides, you're the one who brought him up here. What the hell were you thinking?" Akira hissed. Morgana sighed."I went downstairs to try to find Boss, but I guess he was out. The only one there was Akechi. Besides, I've figured something out! Akechi isn't a hunter!" Morgana stated, surprising Akira. Akechi... wasn't a hunter? Then...

"...Who the hell is he?" Akira asked.

"Ask him yourself." Morgana said, tone rather smug. When Akira turned to the brunette, however, he immediately sensed something was off. The boy's eyes looked... different. It was as though the crimson orbs had somehow transitioned into a shade more resembling pink. Akechi stared at him, but by the intense, wordless gaze, it was more as though he weren't really looking at him, but through him. He waved a hand in front of the boy's face.

"Akechi? You still there?" Without even so much as batting an eye, Akechi responded, staring directly at Akira with a rather fond smile.

"Of course, Akira-pyon~" With that, Akechi all but launched himself onto the other teen, tackling him backwards onto the bed with his arms in a tight circle around Akira's waist.

Akira blanched. Craning his head to peer at Morgana once more, the cat looked equally as confused.

'Did he just-'

Yes. Yes he did.

 


 

 

"Akira, what did you do? He's acting like some kind of lovesick puppy!" Morgana reprimanded. Akira did try to free himself from the brunette's iron grip, but it was absolutely useless. Akechi did not appear as though he were prepared to let go anytime soon, either.

"I don't know! Aren't you the one who usually knows these things?" Akira cried out in distress. Through their arguing, they failed to notice the sets of footsteps ascending the stairs. At least until they were interrupted by the sound of someone clearing their throat. Morgana and Akira both jumped, heads snapping back to see who had caught them (Akechi apparently found the view of Akira's nape much more riveting).

"Are we interrupting?" It was Ann. Accompanied by Ryuji, Shiho, and Makoto. Akira's entire face flushed red with embarrassment at the fact that all of his friends had just walked in on what must appear to be something completely inappropriate from an outsider's perspective. Hell, even from Akira's perspective, this all looked wrong.

"No! This was a complete accident!" Akira practically squeaked, absolutely mortified.

"You sure? 'Cause it looks like you and your... friend... were in the middle of something here. We just came 'cause we heard you weren't feelin' good, but if you're busy..." Ryuji stated, eyes squinted at the scene before him. Makoto covered her suspiciously red face. Morgana, who had been silent up until then, finally burst out his observation.

"It's Charm!" The group all turned to the cat as though he had suddenly grown a third head.

"What do you mean?" Shiho asked. Morgana hopped onto the bed, motioning with his head to the brunette, still latched onto Akira.

"Akechi let Akira feed from him. But something obviously went wrong; as soon as Akira was finished, he just became like this! I think Akira accidentally cast Charm on him."

"Charm? What's that?" Ann asked quizzically.

"It's a type of spell that a vampire can cast on their victim. It might seem kind of unorthodox, but it can be useful in some situations. Obviously, Charm causes the victim to appear to be infatuated with the one who cast the spell." Shiho hummed thoughtfully.

"What other kinds of spells are there?" She asked.

"Good question," Morgana smirks proudly as he begins his explanation, "there are quite a few, actually. There's Paralyze, which causes the victim to fall into an incapacitated state; Dizzy causes the victim to feel sick and disoriented; Silence makes the victim unable to speak; Sleep makes them literally fall asleep; Confusion causes the victim to forget anything within the last three hours; Fear causes them to become stricken with terror and run away; Rage will make them lash out against whoever comes near them; Hunger will make the victim... really hungry; and probably the most darkest of them all, Despair. Despair will cause the victim to fall into a state of constant despair, and eventually, they'll take their own life."

Everyone stared at Morgana. Shiho visibly flinched at the mention of the last spell.

"Is there any way to fix the spell?" Makoto asked. Akira sighed.

"Yeah, they'll wear off eventually. Depending on the effectiveness of the spell, it could last anywhere from an hour to an entire day." He answered, his expression downcast.

"An entire day?! Isn't there any other way to stop it?" Ann asked incredulously. Morgana shook his head.

"Nope. Unfortunately, there aren't any ways to reverse these kinds of spells. Basically, Akira's just gonna have to deal with Handsy here until his spell eventually wears off..."

Akira groaned, head falling back onto the pillow. This was going to be a very long day, he could already tell...

Chapter Text

The night finally began to wind down as each of his friends dispersed to head back to their respective homes. Akira sighed and glanced over at the bed; Akechi lay face-down in the pillows, having apparently worn himself out. Hopefully when he woke up, the spell would have worn off. It was, unexpectedly, really stressful dealing with an exceptionally clingy Akechi. It was hard enough just keeping his composure when the brunette just kept touching him. Something about it made his face burn; maybe it was the fact that he'd never truly been touched that way. Akira paused, train of thought crashing to a halt as something crossed his mind. Now that everything was quiet, with no distractions to tear his mind from the subject, he couldn't help but recall his earlier conversation with Morgana before his friends' rather unexpected arrival.

'He was about to tell me something really important!' Akira grimaced to himself, biting his lower lip and wincing not at the pain, but at the fact that he had let such a thing slip his mind up until then. Why was he always so stupid?

"Hey, Morgana." Akira turned to face the cat, only to stop short when he noticed that he wasn't there. Confused, he glanced around the room, eyes darting back and forth in an attempt to locate the feline. He could have sworn Morgana had been sitting on the table by the staircase as everyone left. Before he had the chance to become worried, a voice echoed from the bottom of the stairs.

"Akira, down here. We have to talk." The cat motioned for him with his paw, eyes fixed on Akira. Shrugging, Akira complied, descending the stairs to meet the cat.

"Okay, but why are we talking down here?" Akira asked. Morgana eyed the stairs briefly before motioning towards them with his head.

"Because," he whisper-shouted, "I don't want him to hear us." Morgana's whole expression changed then, now seeming very serious.

"You were going to tell me what he is, right? You figured it out?" Akira asked, pointedly keeping his voice low. Morgana nodded.

"Yeah. You're not gonna like it, though..." He trailed off, looking away. Akira spluttered, leaning towards the cat.

"What do you mean? I thought you said he wasn't a hunter!" Akira cried, voice cracking. Morgana simply sighed.

"Yeah, and he isn't." Morgana stated simply.

"Then what is he?" Morgana glared at the raven-haired teen.

"I was getting to that! Like I was saying, he isn't a hunter. Remember when I rushed downstairs earlier looking for Boss, and I found Akechi?" Akira nodded, prompting the feline to continue.

"Well, he was sitting at the bar. I was super quiet, and yet he still heard me coming! When he looked at me, though... I knew it right away! He's a Lycanthrope!"

After Morgana's grand reveal, the room fell into silence. Akira stared dumbly at him, as though he hadn't even heard him.

"You've got to be kidding me. There is absolutely no way that the Goro Akechi is one of those mangy mutts." Akira replied dryly.

"But it's true! I saw it!" Morgana cried out, jumping up onto the table to rest his paws on Akira's chest.

"I could see it in his eyes! They weren't... They weren't human, Akira! I knew, without a doubt, that he had to be one." Akira sighed heavily, dragging a hand down over his face as his mind struggled to catch up. Was is really possible? Was Akechi, the famous Detective Prince, a werewolf? How was that even possible?

As he continued to think about it, things started to click into place. Werewolves have a number of superhuman advantages; a heightened sense of smell, stronger hearing, super speed, and shape-shifting. And that's only naming the relevant ones! If this were true, then the reasons why Akechi had been able to know Akira's identity and hadn't been affected by his Third Eye made much more sense. As a werewolf, he would have been able to tell right away just from Akira's scent that he was an undead, and likely could have pieced the rest together on his own. Not to mention the fact that some werewolves seemed to show a sort of immunity to some spells cast by witches and vampires. With a sigh, Akira slowly shook his head.

"You better be right about this."

Chapter Text

When Akira returned to the attic, it was almost one o'clock in the morning. He found the one and only Goro Akechi, second coming of the Detective Prince, in a decidedly hilarious state; coat tossed across the room and his undershirt hanging off the bed underneath him as he lay face-down in the pillows, snoring loudly. Akira rolled his eyes and bit back a chuckle. How unprofessional. If any of his fangirls were to see him in such an undignified state, they'd surely faint out of pure horror.

Akira moved across the room to the bed and gently shook the teen awake. Goro let out a sleepy huff and rolled over, almost immediately falling back asleep. Akira reached out in an attempt to try and wake him up again, but paused as his gaze landed on the marks littered all across the teen's smooth, pale skin. Dark bruises, angry red scars and cuts, and even burns were spread out all over his arms and torso. Akira lightly feathered a hand over one of the cuts, but jerked his arm back when Goro's face twisted in discomfort.

"Jesus..." Akira whispered, more to himself than to anyone else. While many of the wounds appeared to have been caused by someone else (as horrible as that was, even on its own), some of them, cuts scattered along the insides of his arms, were just too symmetrical to have been a mere coincidence. No, these kinds of scars Akira knew all too well, still having some faded ones of his own. These were self-inflicted. Feeling as though he had just swallowed a fistful of stones, Akira pulled the sheets up over Goro. It was going to be cold tonight.

 


 

 

When Goro awoke the next morning, he lazily rolled over, yawning and allowing his eyes to fully open. He stretched; was his bed always this comfortable? Normally he would wake up with an incredibly sore back because the bed in his little apartment was just so stiff. Goro paused and sat up in bed to take in his surroundings, eyes blinking rapidly to clear the last remnants of sleep. His heart raced with the (eventual) realization that this was not his room. Actually, this wasn't even his apartment. A sudden cold draft blew through the room, making Goro shiver. It was only then that he looked down and noticed his own shirtless body. Flushing, he threw his legs over the side of the bed, head looking all over for his shirt. He noticed his coat in a heap on the floor, and when he stood up, he found he'd been sleeping on top of his shirt.

'How in the hell did that happen? I don't even remember coming here last night.' Goro let out a breath of frustration as he attempted to recall the previous night's encounters, but found that he simply couldn't. All he could remember was leaving work; everything beyond that was shrouded in a thick fog. Goro snatched his coat off the floor and wrapped it over his shirt, hiding his shame. With a final huff of annoyance, he marched downstairs to face who, he decided must be, his kidnapper.

 


 

 

To his surprise, the moment his feet landed on the bottom floor, the entire atmosphere shifted. He was in LeBlanc, the small coffee shop where a certain delinquent was housed. He heard a soft humming from around the corner. Stepping past the bathroom, he found Kurusu behind the counter, humming quietly to himself as he flipped something on the stove top. He was almost reminiscent of a housewife, with an apron tied around his waist as he happily baked something for his loving partner. Goro shook the thought away and approached the counter.

"Ah, good morning." Goro greeted, feeling a bit out of sorts. Kurusu whipped around upon hearing his voice. He beamed at Goro and lifted the spatula in his hand as though to wave at him.

"Good morning, Akechi. Did you sleep well?" Kurusu asked.

"About that... How did I get here last night? I can't seem to recall." Goro sat down at the bar, staring up at the dark-haired teen.

"Ah, you don't remember, huh?" Kurusu chuckled, and Goro resisted the urge to hit him.

'Obviously I don't remember, you idiot; otherwise, I wouldn't have asked!' Goro thought.

"Well, you actually came here yourself. You were so drunk, I was worried that you'd end up passed out in an alley somewhere if I let you go back by yourself, so I just let you crash upstairs for the night." Kurusu explained, turning back to the stove to flip whatever he was cooking. Goro flushed in embarrassment. He'd been drunk?

"O-oh. I see... Well, thank you." He stammered out.

The scent of what Kurusu was cooking reached Goro, and his mouth practically watered. Was he-? Kurusu loaded up a plate and placed it in front of Goro with a bright smile.

"I made pancakes. Would you like something for them?" Kurusu asked.

Something panged inside Goro's chest. What was this? Goro was supposed to hate this person, and yet...

 

This didn't feel like hatred. It didn't feel like that at all.

Chapter Text

Akira scrubbed idly at the dirty dishes, ignoring the splashes of water and soap flying from the sink and landing on his shirt and apron. It had already been a few days since he'd seen Goro. The detective hadn't shown up since that morning; after he finished his breakfast, he gave Akira a quick 'goodbye' and hastily bounded for the door, leaving nothing but a few yen on the counter in his wake. He knew that Goro must've been embarrassed, but that much?

"I think it's clean. If you scrub at it anymore like that, you'll break it." Sojiro's voice broke him out of his reverie, and he looked guiltily at the very clean mug in his hands.

"Right. Sorry." Akira moved to place it to the side when the man continued.

"Something on your mind, kid?" He asked, voice gruff. Sojiro always sounded slightly grumpy, at least to some degree, but Akira could tell that he cared, even if he pretended that he didn't. Akira shook his head.

"No, it's nothing. I was just thinking about tonight." He stated.

"Tonight?" Sojiro raised an eyebrow. From one of the booths, Futaba paused the game on her console and looked up to acknowledge them.

"Akira's taking me to the fireworks festival tonight with his friends." She said nonchalantly, as if it were no big deal. Sojiro almost choked on the air around him.

"The fireworks festival? Are you sure? Won't that be-" He began, spluttering. Futaba cut him off with a small smile.

"It's okay, Sojiro. As long as this guy's there with me, I'll be fine. Besides, I was the one who asked him if he'd take me."

Sojiro turned to Akira, looking ready to rattle off a long list of rules, but Akira held up a hand before he could.

"I know, I know. I promise I'll stay right with her. I'm not going to let anything happen." Akira assured the older man. Sojiro visibly relaxed.

"You'd better. I'm glad that she's opening up a bit, but just be careful. It's still dangerous for her, too." Akira nodded.

"I know. Don't worry."

 


 


"Does this look right," Futaba shyly stepped from the bathroom dressed in an orange and yellow yukata, "I've never worn one of the these before." Akira and Sojiro were taken aback by the girl. Whether it was the colors of the yukata or just the yukata itself, Futaba was even cuter than before. Akira smiled.

"It looks good on you. Here, let me help." Akira stepped forward and helped the smaller girl tie the obi around the garment. She hummed cheerfully as he stepped back.

"Now I can check two things off the list! I get to wear one of these things for the first time," Futaba twirled around as if to punctuate her statement, "and I'm going to a big crowded place, and I'm not gonna lose this time." Futaba grabbed Akira's wrist and smiled, feeling proud of herself.

"I believe in you." Akira playfully added, though he meant it more than that.

"Now, if you think you can't handle it, just come bac-" Sojiro began.

"Uggghhh, I'm going to be fine." She groaned loudly, annoyed. Then she darted forward to give the man a hug.

"We'll be back soon." She smiled before happily racing out of the cafe. Sojiro sighed, but he was smiling; it made him happy beyond words that Futaba was finally able to be happy too.

 


 


"Wah, your yukata is so cute, Futaba-chan!" Ann squealed. All of the girls were fawning over the smaller girl. She simply blushed and looked down to her feet, a small nervous smile adorning her face.

"I think it looks good on you." Shiho said softly. Makoto nodded in agreement.

"The colors fit you well."

The girls were also wearing their own yukatas. Makoto's was white with flower designs in varying different shades of red and a yellow obi. Shiho's was a dark violet with white floral patterns stretched out over it with a light red obi wrapped around the waist. Ann's was a ocean blue with colorful round patterns decorating it, complemented with a bright pink obi.

Akira smiled. He had seen fireworks before, but something about going with friends just made it seem so much more significant. A loud bang sounded in the sky, followed by a bright burst of color shooting out and spreading across the night before finally fading out. Everyone turned their gazes to the sky.

Akira looked out across the large crowd of people, watching as men, women, and even children stared in open awe at the fantastic display before them. A streak of blue amongst the outer edge of the crowd caught his attention, and he turned to find the tall artist standing by himself, staring towards the sky with his hands held up, framing his dark canvas as it lit up with reds, blues, and greens. Despite his enraptured expression, Akira felt that he must be lonely watching the fireworks all by himself. Before he could change his mind, he approached Yusuke.

"Hey. It's been a while." Akira greeted, half-shouting to be heard over the sounds of fireworks and the people's excitement. Yusuke calmly turned to him, lowering his arms to his sides.

"Ah, it's you." Yusuke's face lifted in a small, gentle smile. "It truly has been a while, hasn't it?"

"How come you're here all by yourself?" Akira asked. Yusuke's expression shifted into something more somber, and he averted his gaze.

"That's because... Sensei said that I should come; that perhaps the display may give me some much needed inspiration." He explained.

"Ah, are you stuck in another art slump?" Yusuke nodded.

"Unfortunately, I have not been able to complete any worthy pieces lately. It's been rather stressful, what with Sensei's art exhibition coming up soon." Akira raised an eyebrow.

"An exhibition?"

"Yes. He's a rather popular artist here in Japan. Madarame Ichiryusai." Yusuke explained in his usual monotonous tone, face expressionless.

"Oh, that's right. I remember reading about him, actually. He's famous for being able to paint in so many different kinds of styles, right?" Yusuke's face darkened a bit.

"...That's right."

"But if that's the case, why do you need to paint something if it's for his exhibition?" He asked. Yusuke sighed, wincing.

"Sensei is just struggling from artists' block right now. He took me in when I had nowhere else to turn to and taught me everything that I know about art, so it's only natural that I should help him by lending my skills to him."

The air felt heavy. Why did this whole conversation seem so wrong? Akira tried to push back the uneasy feeling in his gut about Yusuke's 'Sensei' and decided to simply change the topic.

"I still don't think you should have to be here alone. It's much more fun when you're with a friend." Akira smiled at the taller boy. Yusuke's mouth fell open.

"...Friend?" He murmured quietly, more to himself. Akira took the navy-haired teen's hand and led him towards his group of friends, offering to introduce him. If Yusuke's face was red when Akira finally released his hand, it was certainly because of the cold, and not the kind warmth emanating from the boy. His heart most certainly wasn't pounding away wildly in his chest...

Chapter Text

The air in the bathhouse was thick and heavy, but in a way that was very calming, Akira found. He sank himself further down into the water with a pleased hum. Okay, so the fireworks festival had been a bust (mere moments after he introduced Yusuke to his merry band of misfit friends, the skies opened up and the heavy rains forced them all to make a hasty retreat to Leblanc), but the night had still proven to be fun. Akira smiled to himself. Ryuji let out a happy sigh as he leaned back against the tiles.

"Man, nothing beats soaking in the bathhouse after getting stuck out in the rain." He finished his statement with a toothy grin, to which Yusuke nodded in agreement.

"I must agree. There is something very calming about the simplicity of it." Only someone like Yusuke would appreciate a hot bath for a reason like that. Ryuji shook his head, sparing the bluenette a sidelong glance.

"Dude, you're so weird."

 


 

 

"You know what we should do?" Ann suddenly asked, breaking the silence. Everyone looked towards her.

"We should all have hotpot together!" She declared, smiling cheerfully, Shiho smiled in response.

"I think that's a good idea." Morgana leapt onto Akira's lap where he was sitting on the futon, tail swishing excitedly.

"They say bonding over hotpot brings people closer!"

"Perhaps Boss has a portable stove we can use?" Makoto stated, looking fixing Akira with a look that said, 'and you'll be the one asking him, right?' Akira sighed.

"I'll go ask. You guys can get the ingredients, right?" Ann nodded.

"Yup! Leave it to us!"

 


 

 

 

The group sat together around the small table Akira pulled out. The pot of soup was coming to a simmer, and Yusuke was the first to dig in. Everyone else (save for Futaba, who had gone home after the failed attempt at a fireworks festival, claiming that it had been enough 'social interaction' for one day) joined in, casual conversation filling the otherwise quiet attic.

"So, 'kira..." Ryuji started. Akira flushed at the nickname, whether it was intentional or not.

"You said before something 'bout having to run from place to place, 'cause if you stayed too long, people would notice, right? So where'd you come from before here?" He asked.

"Oh, I lived in this little town in the countryside called Inaba." Ryuji stared blankly at the black-haired teen for a long moment.

"Never heard of it." He stated bluntly. Akira laughed.

"I figured you wouldn't have."

"Did you have any friends back in Inaba?" Shiho asked, bringing herself into the conversation. Akira hesitated, contemplating his response.

"Well, I knew a group of people, but we were never really 'friends'. It's more like... I just kind of knew them, y'know?" Akira explained. Shiho nodded in understanding.

"I see. Well, I'm glad we were able to become your friends, Akira-kun." She smiled warmly.

"...Me too." Akira returned the sentiment.

The atmosphere was shattered as Ryuji leaned forward, asking yet another dumb question.

"Hey, man. You sure you ain't gonna eat any of this?" Akira simply hung his head and let out an exaggerated huff.

"No. I'm not human, remember? I don't eat human food. At least, not as long as I don't have to." He answered.

"Oh."

 


 

 

After his friends all left to head back to their homes and Sojiro closed the cafe to go back and check on Futaba, Akira slid his window open, motioning for Morgana to follow him. This, of course, was nothing new. Every few nights, the two would sneak out and find someone by themselves somewhere away from prying eyes and attack. It had already been two days since the last time he'd fed, and he had to get up early in the morning for school, so he figured tonight was just as good a time as any.

He hoisted himself down through the window onto the roof of the building before sliding himself closer to the edge. He shifted into a crouching position and grabbed the edge and swung himself down to the ground with practiced ease. The cat leapt off mere seconds later, landing on Akira's shoulder.

"Let's do this." Morgana grinned, tail swishing impatiently behind him. Wordlessly, Akira nodded, and the two took off into the night in search for their next unsuspecting victim.

 


 

 

With his back pressed against the rough brick wall, he silently peered out from his cover once more. Their target was in sight, standing by himself in the empty alley. The moment the man turned the corner, they would strike. The man was chattering away on his phone to who Akira could only presume was his girlfriend or wife. Finally, the man hung up and stuffed his phone back into his jacket pocket, and walked away, rounding the corner. Akira smirked.

'Now you're mine.'

He quickly pushed himself up and quietly stalked after him. He took a quick look around the corner to make sure the man was truly alone, and when he confirmed this, he launched himself out of hiding in favor of breaking into a dead sprint to the stranger. Upon hearing Akira's approach, he spun around, but it was already too late. He forcefully shoved the man against the wall, ignoring his pained groan, and pressed a hand over his mouth so he couldn't scream.

"Don't make a sound." Akira whispered, eyes already distorted into a deep crimson. He lifted his head towards the man and flashed his gleaming fangs at him before finally, finally plunging them into the man's throat. His blood was rather bitter compared to... No. Akira had to stop that train of thought before his mind led him down a spiraling rabbit hole. Instead, he tried to remain focused on the task at hand.

Once he was satisfied, he dropped the man's lifeless body and watched as it crumpled to the ground with a thud. At that very moment, a distinct 'click' echoed through the empty alley followed by a muffled gasp, and Akira's head snapped in the direction it came from.

A boy, roughly his age, stood there just around the corner, phone in hand. He had a hand over his mouth as he stared horrified at him. The boy slowly shook his head before turning and making a run for it. Unfortunately for him, Akira was faster. He harshly gripped the boy's wrist, stopping him in his tracks. He spun around, spluttering.

"I-I'm sorry... Please. P-please don't hurt m-me..." The kid whimpered, tears already streaming down his face. Akira motioned for the kid to hand over his cellphone.

"Give it." The boy stared at him slack-jawed before his expression once again morphed into that of pure horror.

"No! Do-don't break it! Please, I-I'll delete the p-picture, I swear!" He begged. Akira stared into the boy's dark eyes, gauging his expression before finally releasing his wrist.

"Then do it. Now. And don't even think of trying anything funny." The boy nodded fervently before looking down to tap away at his phone. His fingers worked fast, and in just a matter of seconds, he heard the affirmative 'beep' signaling that the image had been erased. He looked back up at Akira, frame shaking slightly.

"I-It's gone..." He stated quietly.

"Good," Akira crossed his arms, "now go." He motioned for him to leave, but the boy gaped at him, eyes not really seeing him in the dark. He opened his mouth, ready to say something.

"B-but-"

"Now!" Akira yelled, gritting his teeth to show off his bloodied teeth, and that finally sent the other teen scurrying off in a panic.

After a moment of tense silence, Morgana spoke up.

"Was it really a good idea to just let him go like that? I could've erased his memory, you know?" He stated. Akira shook his head, staring intensely in the direction the boy fled in.

"No. I'm sure he won't say anything. If it were anyone else, I'd have probably been worried." Akira stated, prompting a confused look from the black-furred cat which went unnoticed.

There was no way he would say anything, not when he knew that Akira would be at school with him the next morning.

Chapter Text

"Dude, did you read volume eight last night?" Ryuji asked excitedly. The group met up on the rooftop during lunch, sans Makoto, who was usually busy with her student council duties. Akira nodded and turned to reach into his bag. Morgana mewled in annoyance as he reached under him to grab the book. He pulled it out and handed it to the blonde.

"Yeah, it was good. Thanks for letting me borrow it." Ryuji mumbled something that sounded vaguely like 'you're welcome' around a mouthful of food, which earned him a revolted groan from Ann. Shiho simply chuckled at her friends' antics.

Suddenly, the door to the roof creaked open. The four turned to greet who they initially assumed was Makoto, but it wasn't her. Akira's cheerful greeting died in his throat. It was the kid from the night before. What was his name again? Nishima? The boy timidly approached them.

"Ah, um... Kurusu-kun? Do you, uh, h-have a moment?" He stuttered. The four glanced back and forth between themselves and the dark-haired teen. Ann cleared her throat.

"Well, we were... just leaving! Yup, he's uh... all yours." She stood up and grabbed her things, laughing awkwardly. Shiho quickly came to her aid and stood as well.

"That's right. Come on Ryuji." She shot the blonde boy a look, and he scrambled to his feet, racing after the girls.

Now alone with the other teen, Akira leaned back against the desk and leveled his gaze with his.

"What do you want?" Akira asked, ignoring the sweat already gathering on the back of his neck. He may have scared him off last night, but the fact that he's here now, even after seeing what Akira could do, must mean he has something planned. He had no idea what this boy could possibly be capable of. He waited with bated breath as the teen leaned right into his personal space and... he looked excited?

"You really are the Phantom Thief, right? You killed Kamoshida and even turned that guy Kaneshiro in, right? And last night, too! You were so cool!" The boy spoke as if he were addressing some kind of pop idol, his eyes sparkling with awe. He continued to ramble on about how cool Akira was, and he realized that the boy standing before him now was a completely different person than the one from last night. The boy from last night was quiet and skittish, but this person...

Suddenly, a phone was being thrust into his face, and he almost flinched. He blinked and looked at the screen. A website with a stylized red and black interface stared back at him, a forum blowing up with various comments. A single poll question was pulled up; 'Do you believe in the Phantom Thief?' With already a little over four thousand votes (and counting), the current majority was 'No', fluctuating between 73% and 74%.

"Uh... First of all, personal space," the boy reluctantly took a step back, "and second, what is that?" He asked. The teen grinned triumphantly.

"It's the Phan-site! I made it so that the people you've helped with what you've done can talk about it. I mean..." he paused for a moment, looking down.

"...You really helped me, too. I was on the volleyball team, and after the track team fell apart, he started getting really bad. There wasn't anything we could do about it. That's why, when even if it isn't much... I want to be able to help you." Akira simply gaped at the teen, absolutely speechless. He just couldn't believe it; this kid had come all the way here to thank him for killing a man? He shook his head.

"Do what you want, I guess..." He wasn't sure what else to say. The boy smiled again.

"You won't regret it! I promise, I'll help you out however I can." The boy turned to leave but stopped just before he reached the door. He looked back at him.

"You know, after Mr. Kamoshida died, word got out about what he'd been doing. A lot of people are saying that they're glad he's dead, that he deserved it." And with that, he left.

 



Akira later found out from Ryuji that the boy's name was Mishima Yuuki (well, he was close enough). He'd been on the volleyball team since last year when he started high school. Apparently Kamoshida had always been an asshole, but he got way worse after he managed to get the volleyball team to nationals a couple of years ago. That was when he started working the team until they could barely stand, even going as far as physically hitting them when they couldn't perform the way he'd wanted. He saw any remotely attractive girl as just some object for him to toy with, so it must've really bruised his swollen ego to not get his way for once. Simply thinking about the man made Akira's face twist in disgust. For what it was worth, he truly hoped the man was rotting in whatever hell existed out there.

By the end of the school day, it had already begun pouring outside. Rain battered against the roof, flowing down in rivulets past the windows, giving the view through them a distorted effect. Akira sighed. The forecast hadn't called for rain, so he hadn't even thought to bring an umbrella with him that morning. He stood before the front doors, bracing himself for the cold rain as he prepared to dart outside.

"Hey, man. Didn't bring an umbrella either, huh?" Came the voice from behind him. He turned to find Ryuji grinning and rubbing the back of his head. In his other hand was one of those small store-bought umbrellas.

"I'll walk you to the station." Akira smiled as they pressed outside, huddled close together under the protection of the cheap little plastic umbrella.

 



Upon reaching the station where they'd inevitably have to part ways, Ryuji offered to lend him the umbrella so he could get home safely.

"Ryuji, I'm not gonna take your umbrella. You'll be soaked by the time you get home." Akira said, waving him off.

"Like hell I'm gonna make you walk home without one!" He retorted. The two simply stared each other down for a moment, both refusing to let the other walk home in the torrential rain like an idiot. Ryuji sighed, relenting.

"Fine, but at least..." He paused to pull his jacket off, "take this. You'll at least be able to use it to get that far, right?" He grinned his trademark toothy smirk, and Akira's heart melted. Ryuji may seem like a tough delinquent to anybody else, but Akira knew just how kind the blonde was. With a smile, he accepted the jacket and saw the other teen off. Of course, by the time he made it back to Leblanc, the jacket was absolutely drenched, but he found that he didn't mind.

 


 

(Honestly, I'm not proud of this. I messed up in a lot of places, and the coloring isn't great. The first version I was working on was much better. I was using gel pens to color the umbrella, the hair, and the jacket, but then my gel pens decided they did not want to gel pen anymore, so I had to start all over. This one took me, more or less, an entire day to finish. I used pencil, colored pencil, charcoal pencil, pen, and one working gel pen to make this one. The people I showed it to thought it looked pretty good though, so I guess maybe it's not that bad? Let me know what you guys think.)

Chapter Text

Work was slow today. Goro had been assigned to investigate the Suguru Kamoshida incident alongside the police, but of course, they never found anything. Nobody could make heads or tails of it. It was as though he'd been attacked by an animal, his body drained of its blood. Obviously, though, that was impossible. His body had no outward wounds aside from four small puncture marks on the side of his neck, and the room showed no signs of a struggle. His body was found casually slumped over in his chair. It was as though he willingly gave up his life.

The police were utterly stumped. Not Goro, though. He knew exactly who was behind this. He knew that that person was likely also the cause of the boss behind the crime ring in Shibuya, Kaneshiro, inexplicably turning himself in for no apparent reason.

This was the work of a vampire. This was Kurusu. But of course, Goro had no intention of turning him in. No, there was something else he had in mind.

 



Goro sighed as he finally stepped outside; it had been such a long day. He'd been having some... problems with a certain coworker, so it was relieving to finally get away. He'd considered socking the man right in that mouth of his he seemed to enjoy flapping so much, but he had to take a deep breath and remind himself again why he was doing all of this in the first place.

He pulled his umbrella open and began the long trek to the station. There was no way he'd be able to take his bike in this awful rain.

As he made his way about, he found his mind wandering to the peculiar raven-haired teen. It'd been a while since he'd seen him. The last time had been-

Goro's face heated at the memory. The way he'd behaved was so unsightly, and he had no doubts that it had something to do with the boy in question. Still... he couldn't deny the fact that he was, to some degree, attracted to the other boy. It was odd, too. He'd never gotten as close to anyone before as he had him. Something about him made Goro want to spill his heart out, and that made him a liability. He had to be very, very careful when treading the same waters as the other from now on. Goro sighed as he approached the station. He was suddenly longing for a cup of coffee. And perhaps the company of the young, charming barista serving it...

 


 

The next thing he knew, he found himself standing outside the little cafe. He felt ridiculous. He was about to turn around, change his mind and go home before he could humiliate himself further, but then the very boy he was both hoping and dreading he'd see was running straight towards him. Without an umbrella, he was holding a dark purple jacket over his head like a canopy and making a mad dash to get under the awning. He slowed to a standstill before Goro, and, as if just now noticing him, trailed his gaze up to look at him, eyes going wide in mild surprise.

"Oh, Akechi... It's been a while." He stated bluntly.

"It has." Goro replied. The two stood there for a long moment, simply staring at one another blankly before Akira seemingly snapped out of his thoughts and moved to enter the cafe. He stopped and glanced back at the detective.

"Are you coming in, or were you planning to stay out here? Personally, I'd rather you come in, or you'll probably catch a cold." He teased.

Goro spluttered, already feeling his neck heat up.

This was a bad idea. This was a really bad idea...

Goro closed his umbrella and stepped inside the cafe, heartbeat quickening.

Chapter Text

Akira tried to wring his hair out in the bathroom as best he could but ultimately left it as just 'slightly damp'. When he returned, he threw on his apron, washed his hands, and began preparing a fresh cup of coffee. Goro sat at the counter typing away at his computer, a few random documents set off to the side.

"Having fun yet?" Akira joked.

"Oh, definitely." Goro replied flatly, not even slowing in his movements. He was dedicated.

Akira felt that, with every time he talked to the brunette, he was getting to know him bit by bit. Yet, Akira still couldn't shake off the slight unease. Ever since he'd talked with him at the TV station that day, he'd noticed a sharp, pungent scent clinging to him. It was a scent Akira was all too familiar with; blood. Of course, this would make sense if he really were a werewolf as Morgana suggested. An idea popped into his mind. He supposed there was only one way to find out.

As he poured the coffee from the pot into the cup, he quickly slipped his ring off and dropped it into the cup inside the coffee. The ring was pure silver; one of the only things Akira had left from his mother. Because Goro drank his coffee black, it would help mask the ring. He slid the cup across the counter.

"There you go. Enjoy." He said with as friendly a smile as he could muster. Goro finally looked up from his screen, a small smile on his face.

"Thank you, Kurusu-kun." Goro reached out and took the cup, lifting it to his lips. Time seemed to slow. Just as it seemed as though he were going to take a sip and prove Akira wrong, he paused. He lowered the cup again and looked down into it for a quick moment before placing it back on the counter next to him.

"Ah, it's... a bit hot. I'll wait a bit." With that, he returned his focus to his screen once more. Akira's jaw went slack as he watched all of this.

A few hours later, Goro finally packed up his things and left, leaving a few yen on the counter next to his untouched coffee.

 



Akira rinsed his ring off in the sink, mind reeling. Goro really was a werewolf, wasn't he? He slipped the ring back onto his finger. Small feet padded down the stairs, and suddenly Morgana was hopping up onto the counter.

"Now you see it, don't you?" He asked solemnly. Akira slowly turned to look at him.

"Yeah."

 



As he lied in bed that night, he found it excruciatingly difficult to fall asleep. His mind just kept replaying that one moment again and again. Normally, vampires and werewolves were bitter enemies, and there was no doubt at this point that Goro was aware of Akira's identity. But then, why hasn't he done anything? He just couldn't understand it...

With these thoughts swarming around in his mind, he finally fell into a dreamless slumber.

Chapter Text

Now that he knew the truth about Goro, what was he supposed to do? Surely he shouldn't tell him. 'Yeah, hey, I know you're a werewolf, so we're actually supposed to, like, hate each other now.'

Yeah, he imagined that'd go over real well.

He rolled over onto his side, absently stroking his feline friend behind his ears, the low purring being drowned out by his own thoughts echoing throughout his mind.

"You know, it's not like this has to change anything. I mean, there have been times where vampires and werewolves got along in the past, right? Who says you and he can't get along, too?" Morgana stated, as though it were the most obvious thing in the world. Akira's hand paused in its ministrations as the cat's words sunk in.

"...Maybe you're right." Akira replied slowly. Thinking about it now, he felt kind of stupid. He turned back to his original position, staring up at the dusty rafters lining the ceiling as he thought of asking the detective to see a movie or something over the weekend, a stupid smile on his face.

The warning dream he'd had only a few short weeks ago was forgotten.

 



Of course, he realized later that he'd have no time this weekend. It was time once again to study for exams. He'd received a text from Ann asking if he'd mind a study group, to which he accepted. No matter how many centuries passed by, he still absolutely sucked at math. Sometimes he wondered why things like trigonometry and calculus even existed. Maybe just to torture him.

The next afternoon, one by one, each of his friends began to trickle in, each with their respective study materials. Even Yusuke and Futaba showed up, despite not having exams (there's no way Yusuke would decline a chance to see Akira, not that he'd ever admit it out loud). Of course, Futaba made her wishes to finally enroll in school next year quite apparent to Sojiro, if his stressed face at the mention of anything school-related were anything to go by.

"Weren't you saying you were having trouble with this subject?" Makoto pointed out, watching as Akira visibly struggled to even turn the pages of his mathematics book. He nodded sadly.

"I can help you with it. What areas are troubling you?" She smiled patiently, and Akira practically collapsed onto the table, sobbing dramatically.

"All of it!" Makoto sighed and shook her head at his antics. From the back of the booth's seat, Morgana smiled. It was nice to see Akira finally happy, having friends that he could trust to be himself around. Morgana was happy for him.

 



Mishima texted him that afternoon about some discussions that started appearing on the Phan-site. Apparently, people on the forums were starting to make requests for people who should be 'reformed' next. Akira thought it was silly, but later that night, he found himself scrolling through the forum anyways.

Sure enough, most of them were just jokes, but just as he was about to close the website, one name popped out at him; Ichiryusai Madarame. The famed artist whose work was known all over the country. Yusuke's sensei.

Reading the request, he came to understand exactly why he had such a bad feeling about the man, despite never even having met him yet. The first request came from an anonymous user claiming to have been one of Madarame's pupils, stating that the artist not only abused and neglected his pupils, but he also plagiarized their work, hence why Madarame was so 'adept' in many different art styles.

Of course, Yusuke was still in that shack, right now. Was he being treated that way, too? The thought alone made Akira's blood run cold. He'd have to have a talk with him tomorrow.

 



When he texted the bluenette and invited him to Leblanc, he'd accepted the moment Akira asked to talk in private. This is what led the two of them to be sitting in the attic in awkward silence. Yusuke expertly avoided Akira's gaze, instead finding the floorboards to be much more fascinating.

"You... wanted to see me?" Yusuke asked, voice low and subdued. Akira nodded.

"Yeah." Akira hesitated before finally asking what was on his mind.

"Is everything okay at home?" Now Yusuke looked up at him, eyes narrowed and head cocked slightly to the side in mild confusion.

"What do you mean?"

Akira opened his mouth to answer, the words stuck in his throat, before finally finding some form of verbal footing.

"It's just... I'm concerned. You spend almost all of your money on art supplies, and you end up going hungry most of the time. Doesn't your Sensei, you know, feed you properly?" Akira winced at his own wording, but he knew if he wasn't straightforward, he would never fully get through to Yusuke. The other teen visibly relaxed.

"Of course he does. Sensei is merely trying to teach me responsibility in how I handle my expenses. I won't get far out on my own if I can't. Is that what you were worried about?" Yusuke almost looked amused until Akira shook his head.

"No. You told me before that he was going through artist's block, so you were... helping him by offering your own work for his exhibitions, correct?" Yusuke nodded in affirmation.

"Do any of his other pupils also do this?" He asked. For a moment, Yusuke simply looked away, wincing as though he'd been wounded.

"That's..."

Akira stood and moved to sit next to the boy on the sofa and gently turned to face him.

"I'm the only one left." Yusuke finally admitted.

"What... What do you mean?" He turned halfway to him, staring blankly across the room.

"When I was younger, there were still many others who lived in the atelier alongside me as Sensei's pupils. Some were not able to meet his expectations, and others... I suppose they simply couldn't understand Sensei's way of teaching. Many were willing, and even showed promise, but they ultimately couldn't contribute anything." Yusuke explained slowly, deliberately. He still wasn't being completely honest.

"Yusuke, do you know what happens to the ones who don't make it?" Akira asked. Yusuke stared at him for a long moment, eyes wide.

"I... don't."

"That's what I was afraid of." Akira sighed. He stood up and turned to face the other teen.

"Yusuke, tell me something. Why do you stay there? You know that what he's been doing is wrong, right?" He asked.

Yusuke stared at the floor. For a while, it seemed as though he wasn't planning on responding, but then-

"He's like a father to me." Akira blinked with surprise.

"What?" Yusuke looked up at him, eyes glistening with despair.

"Madarame took me in after my mother passed away. I had nobody else. He recognized my artistic talents and shaped me into who I am now. I owe him with my life, even if that does mean giving up my work to him." Akira stared in complete bewilderment at the boy.

"I see." With that, the conversation was dropped.

Akira took Yusuke out for lunch that afternoon before he returned back home. He clenched his fist with a renewed resolve. He was certain that there was more to this then Yusuke likely even knew, and he was determined to prove to the blue-haired boy that he didn't owe a damn thing to that abusive prick, one way or another.

Chapter Text

Time seemed to fly by, as before Akira knew it, exams week had wormed its way into the present. Surprisingly, the questions weren't all too difficult (although, he supposed, he does have a bit of an unfair advantage in having several centuries of firsthand knowledge on events most people only see in textbooks). Even the mathematic equations weren't nearly as difficult, thanks to Makoto's thorough tutoring.

What was making the exams difficult was the fact that he just couldn't focus while knowing that his dear friend was suffering alone. Although at times it seemed as though the words on the sheet in front of him just blurred together in his mind as he attempted to read it, he persevered and made it through the last of the exams. Finally, the students of Shujin were let out on a short week-long vacation. Akira was one of the first to leave.

 



The first thing he needed to do was get back inside the shack. If he was going to gather dirt on Madarame, he'd need to go straight to the source of it all. This was actually quite easy to do, Akira realized. With the deadline for Madarame's exhibition looming over them, only two days away, he figured he'd be able to make up a fairly easy excuse to go back that would benefit them both. He pulled his phone out of his pocket and sent Yusuke a quick message.

Akira: You said that exhibit was coming up soon, right?

Akira: Would you like some help? Even if it's just to give you some company...

After almost fifteen minutes, Yusuke responded, which jumped Akira (he had just been about to down a bottle of water, and thus nearly choked when his phone buzzed and loudly vibrated the entire table).

Yusuke: Your assistance would be greatly appreciated, though I insist you not force yourself. You did just finish your exams, yes?

A small laugh under his breath. Yusuke was always so considerate of those he cared about, even to the point of neglecting his own needs half of the time. Most wouldn't realize this, though, due to his awkward social skills and his rather blunt way of speaking. Akira assured the other boy that he wasn't forcing himself, and Yusuke accepted his offer.

Yusuke: Just let yourself in. I will leave the front door open for you.

 



Akira stopped in front of the building that he'd found himself standing before only two weeks ago. It was strange to think just how quickly his views of the eccentric artist had changed. Before, Yusuke was just some weird guy, but now he was someone very important to Akira. He raised his arm and rung the bell. No answer. Well, Yusuke had said to just let himself in, so...

Akira swung the door open and stepped inside.

"Yusuke?" Akira called out, cringing at the heavy scent of dust and mildew. The walls were barren, and the rooms barely lit. Had this place truly been this bad before, and he just never noticed? He made his way to the room Yusuke had brought him to during his first visit, ignoring the way the floorboards groaned underneath him.

When he stepped into the next room, he found Yusuke sitting in front of his easel, head lolled forward and hand resting on the canvas holder, the paintbrush in his hand appearing as though it may slip out at any second. He quickly crossed the room to stand next to the boy. Akira was about to reach out and shake Yusuke awake, but he noticed the light bags under his eyes and gave pause. He looked so peaceful right now; the quiet breathing and the way his long eyelashes fluttered against his face. Akira just didn't have the heart to wake him up.

He gently reached around his arm and plucked the paintbrush out of his hand before it could fall, placing it in the paint-stained cup of water next to him. Then he settled against the wall and pulled out a book. The paintings would just have to wait for a while...

 



Akira awoke with a start, the sound of something clattering and hitting the floor jumping him. Even though he'd been reading, he must've still fallen asleep at some point. He looked up to see Yusuke on his feet, eyes wide. The cup of water was at his feet, contents spilling out and soaking the floor.

"Ah—!" Yusuke's gaze snapped to his feet where the water was currently forming a miniature river on the floor. Akira jumped up.

"Where do you keep your towels?" The artist pointed him in the direction of the bathroom, meanwhile he scooped up the cup before it could cause any more damage.

Akira rushed back in with a towel and immediately went to work sopping up the paint water.

"I just hope this doesn't stain." Akira murmured, half to himself. Yusuke shook his head.

"I suppose at this point, it doesn't matter." Yusuke gestured to the space around them. Almost every surface was splattered with different kinds and colors of paint.

"Maybe so, but still..." Akira stood and stepped around the soaking-wet towel. Yusuke had a guilty expression on his face, and he refused to look Akira in the eyes.

"You were kind enough to give up your time to help me, but instead, I simply slept the entire time." Yusuke lamented. Akira chuckled, which finally made Yusuke meet his gaze.

"It's fine. You needed the extra rest anyways." Akira smiled, bringing a heated flush to the artist's face. He looked away.

"E-Even so, I..." He brought a hand up as though he wanted to hide his face behind it. Akira couldn't help but find this side of Yusuke adorable.

"Well, the day isn't completely over. Maybe we can still get something done." Yusuke gaped at him in awe before finally nodding resolutely.

"Yes. I will put my heart and soul into creating the most stunning portrait ever!" Yusuke clenched his fist in determination, eyes burning with the intense urge to paint. They quickly got to work.

 



It turned out that Akira made an excellent model (those were Yusuke's words, not his), so that was how he ended up helping him. Just as Yusuke was finishing up, in a moment of incredible timing, the front door opened, and moments later, an old man with aging features and white hair tied back in a small ponytail opened the door.

"Yusuke, I'm back. Have you—Oh!" The man, who Akira could only assume must be Madarame, stopped in his tracks. His face brightened.

"I see. You have found yourself a muse. He's the young man who has... inspired most of your recent works, I believe, yes?" Madarame stated. Yusuke's face immediately burned with shame at being outed so easily, and he turned away.

"Ah, yes..."

Madarame turned to scrutinize Akira, eyes lingering on his face for a long moment, an expression of abhorrence quickly passing over his features before twisting into the pretense of a humble smile.

"It's nice to see Yusuke getting along so well with someone. I just hope he doesn't cause you any trouble." The way the man spoke those words sent a sick feeling twisting into Akira's gut, but he pushed it down. He shook his head.

"No, not at all." He assured. Madarame simply nodded and turned away, waving a hand with obvious disdain as he left the room.

"Just try to finish up soon. It's getting late, and Yusuke needs his sleep." While he agreed with the man, he knew that the reason he wanted Akira to leave wasn't for the benefit of Yusuke. He cast the boy a sorrowful look.

"Well then... I guess I'll see you later. I hope I was able to help." Yusuke nodded, his small smile not quite reaching his eyes. He resisted the urge to shoot forward and grab the black-haired teen's wrist as he watched him leave.

As Akira left, he briefly noted Madarame emerging from a room. He stopped behind the corner and briefly peeked out, watching the man lock the door behind him. The door was painted with bright, vibrant colors resembling that of a peacock's feathers. He stored that little piece of information away for later as he quietly slipped out of the house into the night.

Chapter Text

That night, as Akira drifted off into sleep, he found himself once again being whisked away to that dark room. Trapped in complete darkness. Time seemed to be a nonexistent concept in this plane of reality, he realized, as he could no longer keep track of it. Just the sounds of him groaning under his breath and sucking the air through his teeth in pain whenever he accidentally moved the wrong way. Was he injured? He couldn't even tell. When it seemed as though he were going to be stuck here forever, a dim blue light appeared somewhere above him. He lifted his head and an almost luminescent royal blue butterfly faded into reality, fluttering about across his view.
The world shifted, distorted. It felt like everything suddenly shattered and splintered into small fragments before going eerily still for a moment.

And then the pieces scattered.

He felt as if he were about to vomit. It felt like his entire body was being stretched, pulled inside out and back again. Then, finally, the world stopped spinning, and everything shifted back into perfect clarity. He wasn't in a dark room anymore. No, he was lying on the cold, hard floor next to his bed, a cold sweat already beginning to cool on the back of his neck.

He'd been having these dreams more and more lately, and he could never explain them. This, however, was the first time any of these dreams had made him feel so strange. It was as though his mind had been momentarily thrust into an entirely different universe. What were these dreams trying to tell him?

 



Unfortunately, he didn't have the luxury to contemplate his weird fever dreams; he still had an old man to take down. As wrong as it felt to do, he was going to have to scope out the place. He'd spent a fair amount of the morning just sitting nearby—far enough away to not be seen, but close enough that he'd be able to see the front door in the instance that anyone left or went inside. He hid his face behind a newspaper, hoping to conceal his identity. Of course, he felt absolutely ridiculous, but he needed to be able to get in there after both Yusuke and Madarame left. The older man had already left about an hour and a half ago, but Yusuke still hadn't—

Before he was even able to finish his thought, the shack's front door opened, revealing Yusuke in a simple dark blue button-up and a pair of black slacks. He stepped out and pulled the keyring always attached to his belt loop out and locked the door behind him. Then he left, not noticing Akira's presence in the slightest. At least the blue-haired teen seemed to be in a much brighter mood today, if the pleasant scent radiating off of him were any indicator. He imagined he was probably off to buy more paint. He felt bad doing it, but when he'd saved his paintbrush from a cruel fate on the floor the previous night, he'd noticed the small bottles of paint lining the shelf next to the artist, and he hatched a plan. He needed to make sure Yusuke was out of the house tomorrow without having to draw any attention to himself. So, he grabbed the bottles and emptied as much of them as he could into the cup of water. He'd thought for sure Yusuke would've noticed it when the cup spilled, but he must have been too out of it from having just woken up. Thank goodness. He knew it was cruel, especially whereas the artist was already so tight on money, so he slipped a few bills into the wallet Yusuke had left on the clear space next to him as a silent apology before he had woken up.

Once he was sure Yusuke was out of sight, he made his way across the street to the shack. He peered up, surveying each of the windows. He definitely didn't want to have to lockpick the front door; not only would he be running the risk of getting caught, but even if he didn't, he'd just cause Yusuke more grief by leaving the impression that there might've been a break-in. Breaking in through the front was the absolute last resort. Thankfully, though, one of the windows on the first floor was open. He pushed it open further and hoisted himself up and over the windowsill, catching himself just before he ended up planting himself face-first on the floor. A quiet snicker had Akira looking up.

"Looking real cool there, Akira." Morgana teased. The teen simply stood and dusted himself off.

"Well, I see you had no problems getting in. Did you find any?" Akira asked. Morgana shook his head.

"Yeah, but they were simple low-grade ones. I just cut the power directly from the breaker." Morgana stated, gesturing with one paw towards the main hall. He'd had the feline sneak in beforehand to check for surveillance cameras. Akira nodded.

"Alright. Good job, Mona." Akira quickly made his way down the hall and stopped in front of his destination; the large locked door with the peacock design. He'd seen Madarame leaving this room last night, and if he didn't have anything to hide here, then the door wouldn't be locked, especially with such a hefty lock. Akira pulled one of the lockpicks he'd prepared the night before from his pocket and set to work. After struggling with the lock for a long moment, he finally managed to break it open with a satisfying click. He wasn't sure what he might find beyond this door, but he knew that whatever it was, it surely must be of some use to him. Tentatively, he pushed the door open. The inside of the room was dark, but with the light from the hallway filtering in, Akira could vaguely make out the figures of dozens of canvases stacked upon one another, leaned against the wall, some of them covered with sheets. Akira took a step inside and turned on the light. The bulb made a noise of disapproval, but the light ultimately flickered to life.

The room was incredibly dusty, and it irritated Akira's nose. He covered it with one hand as he approached what he could only assume was the main painting. It was significantly larger than any of the other canvases in the room, and it was one of the ones covered over with a sheet. He reached out to take hold of the sheet to reveal once and for all what Madarame Ichiryusai has been hiding. Just then, Akira heard the front door open.

He froze, hearing footsteps approaching. He turned to face whoever it may be who had returned. Either way, he still had an advantage. Although...

The footsteps stopped abruptly as they rounded the corner, likely in shock seeing the door open. Then they began to run towards the room. And the person Akira was desperately hoping it wouldn't be was standing there, a wide-eyed expression somewhere between horror and shock plastered on their face.

"Akira? What are you doing?"

Chapter Text

"Akira? What are you doing?" Yusuke asked, wide-eyed and breathless. Akira stood facing him, already having been waiting for him. Akira sighed.

"I'm sorry. I knew there wasn't any other way to prove this to you, and I'll understand if you're angry, but... I had to do this. For your sake, and for the sake of every future that man has mercilessly robbed from someone." Akira said with narrowed eyes, arms crossed.

Yusuke's gaze flickered between him, the floor, and the paintings all throughout the room. Then, with a deep, shaky breath, Yusuke stepped inside the room, slowly moving towards Akira. Together, they grabbed the edges of the sheet covering the large painting. Yusuke glanced towards Akira, hesitance clear in his eyes. Akira nodded, and they both pulled back the sheet.

"What—?" Yusuke started, eyes blowing wide. Akira was in a much similar state, rendered speechless.

"This can't be..." Yusuke took a step back. He shook his head.

"No. There's no doubting it. This is... the 'Sayuri'." He swallowed thickly. Looking around, Akira now noticed that the entire room was filled with the same painting.

"But how?" Akira asked. "Didn't you tell me before that the 'Sayuri' had been stolen?" Yusuke looked torn.

"It... It had. Or, at least that's what I had thought..."

During his impromptu modeling session with Yusuke, he'd been telling Akira about the painting, which had been his source of inspiration. It was what motivated him to continue being an artist. He had felt some kind of unnameable emotion when he'd laid eyes on it for the first time.

"What are you doing there?! Get out!" A sudden sharp voice broke them both from their confused and rather unnerved stupor. They spun around to find none other than Madarame himself standing in the doorway, an absolutely feral expression painted on his face; his lips were curled back in a snarl and his eyebrows had gravitated so far upward in rage, they had practically become a part of his hairline. Despite this, Yusuke took a step towards him.

"Sensei, what is the meaning of this? Please, tell me!" Yusuke sounded desperate. Even though his eyes were showing him the truth, a part of him still wanted to cling onto the hope that Madarame wasn't like how so many other people seemed to see him.

Madarame's expression calmed, dropping into a mask of regret and misery. He sighed.

"Now that you've seen it, I suppose I cannot hide it any longer. The truth is, I'm in debt. So I've been making copies and selling them."

Yusuke was silent, looking down at his feet at the man explained himself.

"A pupil of mine from a long time ago stole the real 'Sayuri'. He hated me for being so strict. I was in such a shock over it that I've been stuck in a slump ever since. That is why I ask of my students to provide me with their artwork." Madarame finished, eyes closed in feigned sorrow. Akira could tell, even despite his act, that he was lying. The foul stench emanating from him was like a punch in the gut; he'd have to be blind not to notice it. When it seemed as though neither he nor Yusuke were going to say anything, the man continued.

"I knew that I couldn't continue on like this, so I've been trying to replicate the 'Sayuri', but every time I try, it just turns into another of these copies. I would discreetly sell them to people, and they were willing to buy them, even knowing they were copies. This is my responsibility, but I simply couldn't escape the high demands of being famous. I'm sorry I'm such a terrible teacher." Madarame was half-sobbing at this point, and Yusuke finally spoke again.

"Please, stop this."

'This conversation isn't going to go anywhere unless I do something.' Akira concluded.

"It seems strange, though..." Akira began, drawing the attention of the other two. "If the original painting was stolen, then how were you able to make copies of it?"

Madarame straightened, jaw going slack.

"I just happen to have a collection of highly-detailed photos."

"So you're making copies from photos? I don't understand." Akira shot back.

"What's not to understand?" Madarame was becoming irritated at this point. If he could just push him a bit further—

Akira brought his hand to his mouth and closed his eyes, as though he were deep in thought, before finally shaking his head and staring directly at the man.

"This sounds like a lie to me." With that, Madarame's expression went from that of slight impatience to outright anger.

"What are you trying to say?" He all but shouted.

"I'm just saying, something seems a bit fishy with all of this." Suddenly, Morgana's hushed voice came from behind.

"Akira, you might want to check this one out. Something's different about this one." Akira turned and grabbed the painting that Morgana nudged towards him. It'd been hiding behind the rack. He pulled the sheet off just as Madarame was protesting against it.

Yusuke gasped.

"The 'Sayuri'. This is... This is the real one." Yusuke turned back to Madarame once again, who at this point must have been sweating profusely. "But you just said it was stolen!"

Madarame scoffed.

"It's merely another copy."

Yusuke vehemently shook his head.

"No, this isn't just a copy. I've made it this far because of this painting. There's no way I wouldn't know it from a simple copy." Yusuke looked almost offended before a sudden realization struck him. "No... Don't tell me, Sensei..."

Madarame began shouting.

"It's a fake! A sham! It was bothering me, so I bought it!" Madarame was clenching a fist in contempt. Akira just had to call him out on this one. This was quite possibly one of his worst excuses yet.

"So you're trying to tell me that the artist themself bought a copy of their own work? That's ridiculous."

"Sensei, you're lying to me. Please, won't you tell me the truth behind the 'Sayuri'?" Yusuke begged, voice shaking.

"You too?" Madarame scowled. He pulled a phone from his pocket and began to dial a number.

In a single blurred motion, Akira darted forward and grabbed Madarame's wrist with near bone-crushing strength. Madarame let out a pained grunt, and the phone clattered to the floor. The room fell silent as it finally began to sink in what was happening.

"W-who do you think you are? I'll have you arrested!" Madarame threatened, but all it took was Akira tightening his already unrelenting grip on the man's wrist to make him fall silent.

Yusuke came up behind him and grabbed his shoulder.

"Akira, what are you doing?" His voice was between a whisper and a shout. Akira shook his head.

"Sorry, but this can't go on like this. It's time to end all of this." Yusuke's eyes widened.

"What are you saying?!" Yusuke asked again, voice cracking. Akira turned his head slowly to meet the blue-haired teen's gaze, and Yusuke found himself stumbling backward.

These were no longer the eyes of the quiet and kind boy he'd come to know, he realized, shaking.

These were the crimson orbs of a bloodthirsty animal.

Chapter Text

Everything that happened next was a blur. One moment, Akira had a death grip on Madarame's wrist and glaring at him like he'd killed his puppy, and the next he was saying something to him. Yusuke's ears were buzzing; he couldn't make out what was being said. Madarame said something else in turn, and suddenly Akira let go of him and Madarame was... leaving? With a completely blank expression, Madarame turned and walked out. He could distinctly hear the front door opening and closing a moment later.

Yusuke looked up at Akira, his brain feeling like it had just melted and leaked out of his ear into a little puddle on the floor.

"W-what just... happened?"

Akira looked back at him, and his eyes were normal again. He gave Yusuke a defeated sigh before stretching out a hand to him to help him up.

"He's going to turn himself in. But first, he has a press conference to attend to." Akira replied simply, as though it were the most obvious thing in the world.

"But why? I mean..." Yusuke lowered his voice to a near whisper, as though he were afraid someone might be able to hear him. "Why didn't you kill him?"

"Well, after all of the things he's done, I think he deserved worse, but... I know he's someone important to you. I mean, he's like a father-figure for you, right? I don't want to do anything that'll hurt you." Akira's voice was soft and gentle, and Yusuke was certain that he was developing arrhythmia, because his heart had to have skipped several beats just now. How was Akira so kind?

Yusuke tried to think of something that he could possibly say that would do justice to the immense gratitude he felt, but then Akira was turning away from him.

"There's a safe here, right? He said that the 'real one' was in there."

'The real one?' He floundered, not sure what to think.

"Ah, yes, it's upstairs." Yusuke replied once he found his words.

Akira turned and smiled at him, gesturing towards the door. His eyes shone with compassion.

"Show me?"

Yusuke nodded and, oh, his face was surely red.

 



When Akira finally got the safe open (which was fairly quickly — did Madarame give him the combination?), the two peered inside to see a painting atop several hefty stacks of money. Akira gingerly pulled the painting out and held it up for them both to see.

Yusuke understood now what Akira had meant by 'the real one'. The painting portrayed the same woman as usual, but she was gazing lovingly down at, not a blank streak, but a child. She held a newborn baby, wrapped up in a light cloth, in her arms. Her expression made so much more sense.

But then Akira said something that broke the mystery of the 'Sayuri' wide open.

"This was... from your mother." He spoke softly. Yusuke's eyes widened as his words began to sink in.

"My mother? Then, this is..." Akira nodded.

"This painting was for you. Because of you." He elaborated.

Everything clicked into place. The reason he'd felt so strongly when he saw this painting for this first time... It was as though a piece of his mother's spirit lingered within the painting, and it soothed him. It felt like... love. Yusuke bit back the tears that he could already feel welling up and smiled softly, holding the painting close.

"I see now..." His smile faded a bit. "When you had asked me before why I stayed... When you told me of all the things he'd done. Deep down, I knew it was true, but I simply didn't want to face the truth. I never knew my mother, so he was all that I had. That's why... I was in denial, so I ran away. I'm sorry."

Akira shook his head, a small smile painting his lips.

"Don't apologize. I understand."

Yusuke brought his gaze back up to meet Akira's eyes.

"Everyone has things that they don't want to admit, about themselves or about other people. It's only whether you choose to see and accept the truth for what it is or remain ignorant that shows your inner-strength." Akira smiled coyly.

Yusuke blinked in surprise. Akira's words were surprisingly mature, even for someone his age. Yusuke found himself mirroring Akira's smile.

"You gave me the chance to face the fact that I had been deceiving myself. Thank you."

Yusuke knew exactly where the 'Sayuri' belonged.

 



"So, that went well!" Morgana chirped happily.

Yusuke looked down at the cat, a blank look on his face. He'd been aware of its presence when it followed them out of the house, but...

"What is that?" They stopped walking. Akira looked down to where Yusuke was pointing at Morgana.

"It's a cat." Akira deadpanned.

"But it's talking." Yusuke tried again.

They paused for a second before Morgana glared at him (do cats glare? This cat appears to be able to).

"You got a problem with that?" He hissed.

"No, but..." Yusuke suddenly felt like he was dreaming. He often had bizarre dreams like this when he went to sleep hungry, but even so, this was rather... unusual. He shook his head and just continued walking.

 



Yusuke sighed happily.

"To be able to drink such delicious coffee..."

"You can stay here until you figure out someplace else to stay. I know this place isn't the most 'homely', but..." Sojiro offered. His voice was a callous and gruff as ever, but his kindness was evident.

"No, it's alright. Tomorrow, I'll look into returning to the dorms." Yusuke shook his head, but smiled gratefully.

"I shut myself away in the world of art. I don't know enough about how the world works. If I'm going to try to capture the beauty of humans, both the good and bad, I need to learn more about people, and the first step is returning to the dorms and interacting with the people around me."

Sojiro let out an impressed huff.

"For a kid who's been through as much as you, you sure seem to have everything figured out." Yusuke chuckled.

"That's an exaggeration. Although, would it be alright if I stopped by for some coffee again sometime?"

"I'll be waiting." Sojiro grinned mirthfully.

Yusuke took another sip of his coffee before looking back up at the older man once more.

"Are you and Akira related?" He asked. Sojiro shook his head.

"No, more like... acquaintances."

Yusuke looked back down into his mug, ruminating.

"I know it isn't really my place to ask, but... why did you decide to take him in?" Yusuke asked. Sojiro gave a thoughtful hum.

"My reason, huh? I guess it's because he reminds me of myself when I was his age." Sojiro confessed.

"That's all?"

"Yeah," Sojiro chuckled, "Although I don't always say it, I do worry about the kid sometimes. And you know, you're former mentor, aside from stealing other people's work, he was probably thinking about you in other ways." Sojiro offered the teen a rare smile.

Yusuke nodded gravely and sighed.

"Deep down, I can't bring myself to hate him, either."

"Oh, are you sure it's okay to leave this here? It seems too nice for us."

They both looked over at the 'Sayuri', now in its new home on the wall just by the door.

"If I held onto it at the dorms, I doubt she'd like it. I think my mother would have made the same choice if it were to brighten the life of someone else." Yusuke said with a bittersweet smile.

"I see. I'll hold on to it for you, then." Sojiro nodded.

Yusuke glanced up at the clock. "Ah, it's almost time."

Just then, Akira reappeared at the door, pushing it open with one hip, both hands occupied with grocery bags.

"I got everything!" Akira announced, hurrying around the counter to place the bags down.

"Good. Just put 'em away and I'll make you a cup of coffee for your work."

Akira nodded and got to work.

"Oh, I'll make some curry, too!" Akira announced with a grin.

"Just don't put so much powder in it this time." Sojiro grumbled halfheartedly.

The artist's stomach rumbled at the mention of food.

 



Madarame's announcement had just finished, and Akira got up to turn off the television. Most of it was just him blubbering on about how he was a disgrace to the art community before breaking down, but Akira could see from gauging the bluenette's reaction that he was at least satisfied with it.

And as usual, Akira's curry was absolutely amazing.

"How did you learn to cook so well?" Yusuke asked, having just gulped down the remainder of the food on his dish. Akira hummed thoughtfully, idly mixing the food on his own plate.

"I guess I've just had a lot longer than most to practice." Akira grinned to himself as though he'd just heard a great joke. Yusuke turned to him.

"How so?"

His words hung in the air, and Akira slowly turned to him with a bemused expression, as though confirming that he was, indeed, serious.

Akira rubbed at his temple. Did he have a headache?

"What's wrong?"

Akira groaned and let his head fall down onto the counter with a resounding thud.

"You are."

It would seem that Yusuke didn't quite get it after all...

Chapter Text

With the changes of the season came the changes of school uniforms. The days started to grow hotter. Days like these reminded Akira of one of his homes in Trenarren, a small village on the south-western coast of England. It was only about a ten-minute walk from the house down to the beach. He'd sit underneath the rocky overhang just to shade himself from the blistering sun while he let his feet dip into the cold ocean water. It was an escape of sorts.

Everyone was meeting up at Leblanc once again. Futaba was already there when Akira got back. Ryuji, Ann, and Shiho were the first to arrive, the three walking in together. Then Yusuke showed up, excited to show Akira a sketch he'd been working on. Finally, the last to arrive was Makoto. As soon as she stepped into the cafe, Akira made a face.

Even from upstairs, Akira could smell the gloomy scent hanging around her. Her footsteps coming up the stairs were even slower than usual. As she made it to the top of the stairs, Ann turned to greet her, but her smile died on her lips.

Makoto picked nervously at her sleeve, and her gaze was pointedly turned away from them. She looked like a rabbit trying to recede in on themself.

"Um... What's wrong, Makoto?" Ann asked. Everyone else turned to face her as well. Makoto didn't look up.

"I have bad news..." She stated softly. Shiho gasped.

"Oh no, did something bad happen?" After a moment's pause, Makoto hesitantly shook her head.

"I never got to tell you all about my sister, have I?" Everyone glanced back and forth between one another, fearing the worst. Akira held his breath, already having a feeling as to where this was going.

"She's... a prosecutor. She told me last night that she's been assigned to the Phantom Thief case." With that, she hung her head. A collective set of gasps echoed through the room.

"I don't understand. What does this have to do with any of us?" Yusuke asked. Akira sighed and shook his head. He really was a lost cause.

Ann turned to Akira to gauge his reaction, but Akira just yawned and stretched.

"At least look a little concerned!" She exclaimed. Akira just shrugged.

"Honestly, I'm not worried about it. I doubt she'll be able to trace the incident back to me." Makoto shook her head.

"That's not the only 'incident' you've been tied to, now."

"What do you mean?" Akira asked, a twinge of fear rising in his gut.

"Madarame confessed during interrogation that he'd been forced to have a change of heart by the 'Phantom Thief', and a similar calling card to the one left for Kaneshiro was found in the Athletic office at Shujin, addressed to Kamoshida. That information was somehow leaked, and now it's spread all over the internet."

Akira whipped out his phone, and sure enough, his impromptu codename was plastered over almost every news headline. He slowly looked back up.

"Now that everyone knows that the same person that was behind Kaneshiro's sudden change of heart also caused the Kamoshida and Madarame incidents, it won't be long until the police start to question the students of Shujin. They're almost certain now that the culprit is a student." She explained, her voice uncharacteristically shaking. Akira swallowed the stone in his throat. This could be very bad. It was one thing having just a prosecutor on his tail—he could just erase her memory if she caught on to his identity—but having the entire Tokyo police force breathing down his neck? That was dangerous. There was also no denying the fact that he had not left that calling card for Kamoshida. This meant that someone had to know of his identity as the 'Phantom Thief', and is trying to frame him.

Yusuke glanced back and forth between Akira and Makoto, eyes squinted as though he were trying to solve some kind of puzzle. Then, as the dots finally seemed to connect in his brain, he reeled back, eyes comically wide in surprise.

"Wait, you mean to tell me that Akira is the 'Phantom Thief'?"

Everyone briefly turned to him as if to say "duh".

 



Akira promised his friends that things would be okay for now. Even he couldn't believe his own words, though.

That's why he found himself strolling restlessly through the streets of Shibuya that night instead of sleeping, Morgana trailing behind him. It was weird; normally he only prowled around like this when he was hunting down a victim. He never got to really take in the bright lights and fresh air quite like this. It was comforting. That is, until Akira heard a girl crying out in the distance. He glanced back at Morgana, only to find the same question reflected in his eyes. Suddenly, Morgana took off in the direction of the sound.

"Wait—! Morgana!" Akira tried to call out to him, perhaps to stop him, but it was no use. With a huff, he chased after him. The scene that greeted him in the alley was eerily familiar.

A young man with red hair had his hand wrapped around a girl's wrist. She cried out.

"Please, let go! You're hurting me!"

The man ignored her, and Akira watched in horror as Morgana pounced, sinking his tiny teeth into the guy's ankle with a valiant battle cry of: "Let go of her!"

The man let out a pained grunt and twisted around to glare down at the cat. He kicked his leg hard, sending Morgana flying backward, and Akira felt himself surge with rage as he watched his body slam into the wall and land limply on the ground. The girl gasped, and Akira marched forward and grabbed the man by the shoulder and yanked him away. He spun around to face Akira, matching his glare. The girl made a small sound and backed away, but surprisingly didn't flee.

"Who the hell are you? Get lost!" He screamed. Akira snarled, getting right up in his face. Now he was really pissed off.

"Who am I? Who the hell do you think you are, manhandling a girl like she's your toy? And," he pointed to Morgana, "who the hell do you think you are that you can get off on kicking my cat?"

The man flinched at that, but his expression didn't waver. Akira grabbed him by the front of his shirt and dragged him forward, leaving little more than an inch between them.

"Maybe I should kick you. See how you like it, huh?" Akira growled. A fist connected with his jaw, sending his head flying to the side. His grip on the man loosened for a fraction of a second, which was just long enough for him to wrench Akira's hands away. He wrapped a hand around his throat.

Oh, well. He can't be held responsible for what happens now, right?

Akira grabbed a fistful of his hair and hauled his head down and slammed his knee straight up into his face. He could hear the cracking of the man's nose breaking with the force of the blow. He staggered back with a howl, clutching his face.

"Argh! You bastard!" He bellowed. Blood was flowing from his now-crooked nose like a faucet. He shakily reached into his pocket and grabbed a handkerchief. One hand still over his face, he turned to the girl, who had at this point backed herself against the wall.

"Now you've really embarrassed me. I'll be telling your father about this." Then, he turned back to Akira. "And you... I'll remember your face."
With that, the man left. Akira sighed. Finally. The girl suddenly gasped.

"Ah! Are you okay?" Her voice sounded so light and kind. She jogged up to him and peered up at his bruising jaw.

"He hit you really hard. It looks like it hurts..." Her eyes sparkled with concern. Akira smiled gently, ignoring the throbbing pain it caused. Bless this girl's sweet soul. Why would anyone want to hurt someone like this?

"It's fine. Besides, it's probably nothing compared to the broken nose I gave him. He deserved it, though." She giggled.

"Thank you so much! I don't know what I'd have done if you hadn't shown up." She beamed. Even though this girl was moments away from being dragged off and possibly molested, here she was showing so much sympathy to a total stranger.

"I just did what was right." Akira responded. The girl stepped away to pick up the little purse she'd been carrying with her. Then she pulled out her phone.

"Um, would you like a ride?" She offered. Akira shook his head.

"That's okay. I don't live too far from here." Which was a lie, but he didn't need her to go out of her way. She paused.

"...Alright. Please be careful on your way back, then. And...thank you again." And with that, the fluffy-haired girl ran away.

Akira bent down and scooped Morgana up into his arms, ignoring the feline's groans of protest.

"Are you gonna be okay?" Akira asked.

"Probably." Morgana answered weakly.

"...Thanks for sticking up for me..." Morgana would quietly whisper to a sleeping Akira later that night. Except Akira wasn't sleeping, but of course, he didn't say anything; he found the gesture sweet anyways.

Chapter Text

"You're able to hear me, aren't you?" Morgana asked, tiny eyes narrowing with skepticism. He slid his body out of Akira's bag to stand on the desk.

Haru hesitated for a moment, then nodded, her own face hardening with a certain kind of resolve, a certain kind of determination, one that simply can't be taught.

"Yes."

Akira simply watched everything unfold. No amount of research could have prepared him for this kind of situation. Never would he have imagined that he'd happen to stumble into a person like this. And she's the daughter of the same man who founded the international fast-food 'Big Bang Burger' chain, no less! And here Akira thought that he'd just keep his head low for a year and return home without having to get involved in anyone or anything...

How did any of this even happen?

 



Akira stepped past Shujin's front gates the very next morning, and unless somebody happened to see his face that night, no-one would have believed that Akira Kurusu, the delinquent transfer student, had even been in a fight at all. He resisted the urge to rub at his sore jaw, lest he undo all of Ann's handiwork. Akira had called her after he'd gotten home and she rushed over with a bag of makeup early that same morning and helped him cover the bruise with a light cover-up. Akira really did have some amazing friends...

From the corner of his eye, he saw a girl, already in the school's gym uniform, struggling with a large bag of soil. A very familiar girl with an unmistakable head of short, fluffy hair with a distinct lack of bangs. It was the girl he'd saved last night. Without really knowing why, Akira approached her.

Coming to a stop a few feet from her, she finally looked up, accidentally dropping the bag back onto the ground once again. She gasped, eyes lighting up in recognition.

"Oh, it's you!" She beamed up at him. "I didn't realize you were a student here as well..."

Akira hummed thoughtfully. "Small world." The girl nodded in agreement, then sheepishly looked down towards the bag at her feet.

"Would you mind helping me move this?" She asked, and Akira nodded, bending down to pick up the bag. After dropping it next to the planter box, he returned to meet her gaze.

"Thank you. It's really strange, though—twice now, you've shown up right when I needed it," she stated, but she was smiling warmly.

"Magic," Akira joked, wiggling his fingers in front of him for emphasis. This, of course, elicited a laugh from the girl.

"Or maybe it's just good luck!" She concluded. Then, she gave Akira a bow that seemed just as dainty as she herself appeared.

"My name is Haru. Haru Okumura," she smiled cheerfully.

"Akira Kurusu," he offered in return a brief nod and a small smile of his own out of courtesy, but his smile quickly dropped.

"Are you alright, by the way?"

"Huh?" Haru's eyes widened, as though she hadn't ever expected him to show her any concern in return.

"Well, y'know... After last night. That didn't seem like a regular fight, I mean. Shouldn't you tell your parents?"

Her face fell, and she shook her head dismissively.

"Don't worry about me..." Haru trailed off, looking as though she wanted to say more, but her eyes glistened over, so Akira didn't push the subject any further. Instead, he made her an offer.

"Um... Would you like to have lunch together later? If you don't have anything else to do, I mean."

Akira hoped his smile didn't come off as awkward, even though he sure as hell felt awkward. He wasn't exactly used to asking a girl this sort of thing...

Nevertheless, it seemed to have worked anyways. Haru stared at him for a long moment, mouth forming a perfect 'o', and her cheeks dusted a light pink. Finally, she smiled once more.

"I'd love to. I was going to tend to my vegetables during lunch, anyway, so it's a good opportunity."

 



It turned out that the 'good opportunity' she was referring to was the opportunity to have Akira taste a couple of the vegetables she'd been growing in a little box up on the school roof. Of course, he'd been acutely aware of them, but he just never thought that a student had been the one growing them.

"The principal gave me permission to grow them up here since they'd be out of the way," she smiled, handing him a small tomato. He took a bite. It was bitter.

"I think they came out pretty good," Akira said. He definitely didn't want to offend her. Haru's eyebrows knitted together in thought as she glanced back at the vegetables.

"You think so? I thought they were rather bitter."

Ah. He was a terrible liar, wasn't he?

"Well, if you'd like a more educated opinion, I know someone who runs a cafe. If it's him, he'll definitely give you an honest opinion." Akira offered, and Haru's eyes lit up.

"Really? I'll be sure to harvest a bunch of fresh vegetables, then!" She exclaimed enthusiastically, hands clasped in front of her.

Suddenly, Morgana popped his head out of Akira's bag, which Haru apparently noticed, if the way she squeaked and covered her mouth in surprise were any indicator.

She crouched down so that she was eye-level to the feline.

"A kitty! You're the one from last night, aren't you?" She fawned. "I sure hope he wasn't hurt too much," Haru glanced up at Akira.

Jokingly, Morgana responded, bragging more to himself than actually to Haru.

"I'm perfectly fine. I'm a valiant hero, after all." The cat practically purred.

Haru froze, eyes widening like saucers. Then, she fell backward and scrambled to stand up again. With a hand held protectively against her chest, she took a small step back.

"I-It talked!" She stuttered, eyes flying between Akira's flabbergasted face and Morgana, who had an equally shocked expression.

"Then... That means..." She glanced worriedly at Akira.

"You're a vampire, aren't you? You're one of them?" Her voice wavered.

 



And that was what led up to this exact moment. Everything was going just fine, but then Morgana opened his stupid mouth, and somehow this girl was able to hear him.

"...What are you?" Akira finally asked. He'd been so shocked throughout the entire exchange that he found himself at a loss for words, but he had to steer this conversation.

Her eyes closed for a moment, head downturned, allowing a dark shadow to mask her face. Finally, she looked back up at Akira, her chocolate eyes piercing straight through him. Then, she spoke;

"I... I'm a witch."