Chapter Thirty: "We'll Carry On"
It was a bright, sunny day despite the fall chill and the encroaching scent of winter in the air. Wind rustled through the late autumn leaves, ablaze with color in the sunset of their short lives. One or two of the slowly shedding leaves drifted languidly on the breeze, landing with a sound only audible to vampire hearing.
Slightly more audible was the hushed rustle of fabric, the quiet shifting and shuffling of many feet. Here and there a soft, sporadic cough, a whispered word or the sound of someone sniffing into a hanky occasionally punctuated the respectful silence as Chairman Cross's glossy, dark coffin was lowered slowly into the hole in the ground that would provide its physical resting place.
Other than Yuki, Cross had no kin present at the funeral. All his blood relations already lay at peace in the plots beside him in the quiet, old cemetery. Yet the number of people attending his last rights were such the small cemetery currently held almost as many live persons as dead ones and those how were superstitious about such things had to step very carefully to try to avoid the necessity of standing on other graves.
The majority of the attendees were in their teenage years, but Yagari and a small group of older hunters were present, quietly keeping to their side of the graveyard, studiously ignoring and being ignored by a group of adult vampires gathered in an equally wary knot on the opposite side of the graveyard. There weren't many of them, but both Aido and Kain's parents had attended, even if mainly as a gesture of respect to Kaname.
There was less obvious separation and distinction between the younger persons present.
Even though it was broad daylight, the entire Night Class was there, quite a number of them sporting umbrellas or parasols against the bright mid-day sun, but all of them standing still and silent in their white uniforms, black armbands on both sleeves denoting their mourning. On the opposite side of the grave, the Day Class students stood in their black uniforms, equally silent. They looked like chess pieces – the black and the white – arrayed on a grassy playing field. But for once, the two sides seemed joined together, if only for now, by their common respect for the man to whom they had all come to pay their final respects.
This was Cross's dream, coming true. And the germ of co-existence would continue to be fostered and fed here, for many years to come. Legally, title of the school fell to Yuki. Yuki was not yet old enough to inherit, but after a little pressure from Kaname's quarter, road blocks had rolled away. Kaname would continue to head the Night Class for the time being, and Yuki, who had decided to pursue a degree in teaching, would take over as headmaster once she completed college in a few years. Until then, another suitable temporary had been chosen from among the very small contingent of those who had advocated coexistence since its early days.
Headmistress Wren had known Kaien Cross for a long time, she shared his vision and Kaname had finally settled on her as the best likely candidate for the present. The elderly woman had flown in early this morning and now stood silently between the Day and Night Classes, her head bowed in respect for her predecessor and long time friend.
Zero and Yuki would both graduate at the end of the year. Yuki would be looking at colleges, and Zero had spoken briefly with Master Toga this morning about the possibility of picking his hunter training back up in earnest once more – much to Kaname's amused semi-chagrin. There had actually been some serious talk the past few days about adding a third program to Cross Academy's academic offerings in the future. A class for hunters, where they could train, live and learn alongside both other humans and vampires. Kaname thought it was a good idea, but had been surprised to find out, when he overheard Zero and Yagari talking, that Zero actually agreed as well. The hunters and the aristocrats were both concerned with managing the problem of mad vampires. That was at least a little common ground with which to start.
Yuki watched silently as the coffin came to a rest, a blood red rose clutched in her gloved hands. She stood beside the grave, flanked supportively on either side by Kaname and Zero. Zero had chosen to continue on and graduate with the rest of his class – the Day Class. So he and Kaname flanked Yuki in contrasting uniforms – black knight and white, but no longer playing on opposing teams.
Two violinists, one from the night class, one from the day class, stepped forward and played a soft, haunting piece of music as the hoist was removed and a symbolic shovel of earth was turned onto the coffin.
Yuki was going to miss her father deeply, but looking around she knew that he would be proud of what he had accomplished. What all of them had accomplished. Slowly, she walked forward and dropped her rose into the grave, letting it land atop the coffin. Kaname and Zero did the same, followed one by one by the rest of the students, leaving their flowers and their respect.
Yuki kept walking. She walked away from the grave, from the graveyard, up the hill overlooking the cemetery to where the breeze was fresh and the world below seemed to fall away. She knew that Kaname and Zero had both followed her, but they remained quiet, keeping their distance and their peace in order to give her time to herself.
There were unshed tears in her eyes, but Yuki smiled quietly as she turned back towards them, the breeze blowing loose strands of her hair about her face. "I miss him," she said quietly. "But do you think it's wrong of me, to feel like I could be happy again, even now...?" Yuki asked very seriously.
Kaname smiled softly. "He was always pleased to see you happy, Yuki. I'm certain he would want nothing more."
Zero nodded as he slid a finger into his tie, sliding it loose. He was glad to be able to shed it and undo his collar. "Ichijo said that he lived to see his dream fulfilled. I don't think anyone could ask more than that."
Yuki nodded quietly, turning to look back out across the valley. Tears escaped silently down her cheeks. It was hard to say goodbye, and yet, she knew he'd spoken the truth to her. His love remained with her, and she would carry it, and him, in her heart always.
She felt, more than heard Kaname move up behind her. "It's okay to cry, Yuki," he murmured softly. "He was a good man."
Yuki turned and wrapped her arms tightly around Kaname's waist, closing her eyes and burying them against his chest. Kaname smiled softly, his arms sliding about her shoulders as he cradled her to him like a precious flower. He hesitated, his gaze sliding across to Zero. The ex-human looked on the verge of trying to find some excuse to leave, but Kaname's gaze stopped him. No words were spoken, but it felt like there were volumes said in the silent look.
It was Zero's turn to hesitate. Then, slowly, he made his way over and wrapped his arms around Yuki from behind, hugging her lightly and laying his cheek on the top of her head.
Yuki was a little surprised, but she didn't move. She didn't want to disrupt the moment. It felt so... perfect. It felt like this was where she was meant to be and where she always wanted to remain – right here, held tight between Kaname and Zero.
Kaname slid one hand free to curl into Zero's shirt sleeve as the three of them stood together, bound together by the unlikeliest of chances but the strongest of bonds. Zero glanced up towards Kaname with a crooked little smile and Kaname smiled back. It wasn't conventional or even understandable perhaps, but somehow, the three of them were meant to be together. Somehow... this just felt right.
This was home.