A/N: This has been more than two years worth of work. It took a lot longer than I expected to get here. I'd hoped to have it done in under a year, but circumstances just didn't work out that way.
Regardless, it's here. The finale. I'm glad to have finished this, but I'm also sorry that it has to end.
May 10, 2020
"Mister Cruz? Are you paying attention?"
Soma gave a start in his chair. "Yes, Sensei. Many apologies." He forced his spine to straighten, wincing as he felt the bruises on his chest rest against his clothes.
Soma didn't like school much. It was mostly boring, but it was also the place where he ended up getting into fights. Though Shinji definitely deserved his bruises, which the large bully picked up after trying to steal Mina's book from Soma.
Soma had a fair bit of satisfaction at seeing the other kid lying on his back, bleeding from the nose. All talk, a lot of bark, but not all that much bite.
Mister Robinson, a caucasian man in his fifties, nodded at the eight year old. "Do pay attention. I know English isn't the most exciting subject, but it is the most common international language. Understanding English will open a lot of doors for you in the future."
Embarrassed at all the amused stares of his fellow students, Soma ducked his head. "Yes, Sensei."
With a slight smile, Robinson turned back to the board. "Now, translation between Japanese and English is not straightforward. The rules and syntax are very different. It's all right to make mistakes, that's how we learn. Now..."
Soma let himself absorb the lesson, trying to not let his mind wander. Unfortunately, the schoolboy's mind kept coming back to more pleasant matters. Like the chance to get outside and enjoy that beautiful sunny day out there.
More importantly, Mina was coming back to Miyako. She'd been away at the Kyushu shrine at Shimonoseki, or rather what had been left of Shimonoseki. Leviathan's attack on Kyushu had been devastating, not just to the island itself but also to the rest of the country. After Ragnarok, and in honor of Leviathan's slayer, a shrine to the Lady of Darkness had been erected at Shimonoseki. Mina's whole family went to pay their respects, both to the fallen and to the Dark Lady, but it still meant that he was separated from her for nearly a week.
The bell rang, and Soma nearly sprang to his feet, grabbing his bag. He barely heard Robinson as the man spoke. "Now remember we have the next class on Monday. Make sure you do assignments three and four. Have a good weekend."
Soma hurried through the rush of students. He slammed his way out of the school as fast as his legs could carry him, a grin on his face as he rushed through the neighborhood. It was a fantastic day out, and he... ran straight into a tall foreign man with black hair who walked around the corner. Soma nearly fell, only for the fall to be stopped by a grip of steel.
"Easy there." The man with crack-like scars on his face spoke in flawless Japanese. "Where are you going in such a hurry?" He released Soma, a mysterious smile on his face.
"Apologies, sir. I'm rushing to see a friend." Embarrassed, Soma brushed off his sleeve. That grip was very strong. He looked up wonderingly at the man, a faint hint of familiarity trickling in Soma's heart... for some reason, he expected the man's blue eyes to be gold.
"I see." He laughed softly. "Well, don't let me keep you, young man. Just be wary of what's near you, not simply your distant goal, hm?"
Soma bowed his head. "Yes sir." He darted around the man, heading just up the street. When he reached Mina's house, just three down from his own, he felt elated as he saw her family's car in front of it. Eagerly he rang the doorbell.
A moment later, it was flung open. "Soma!" Mina folded her arms imperiously as she looked him up and down. "About time you got back!" She shook a finger in his face. "Do you have any idea how long I've been waiting to get my book back? You didn't forget it, did you?"
Soma grinned, slipping his backpack off and retrieving the book she'd leant him. "The Odyssey, returned in mint condition, my lady." With a flourish, he handed it over. "It was actually pretty neat. Odysseus was a jerk, but he was interesting too."
Mina laughed. "Oh, yes. I always find the old heroes of legend interesting. I'm doing a comparison of him and Miyamoto Musashi. Haruka wants to do her comparison project on Dracul and Oda Nobunaga."
Soma blinked. "Dracul's the Dark Lady's predecessor, is he not? Hasn't she stated what they have of him is fragmentary?"
Mina shrugged. "Most of the libraries were apparently destroyed, but some remained. We have a few paintings of him, and some statues. It should be interesting." She smiled. "Would you like to come in and help me on the project?"
Soma wasn't entirely sure why, but he felt very, very happy. He grinned as he stepped inside.
Alucard's voice was quiet as he walked alongside his companion. "He doesn't remember."
"You're sure it's him?" A rather pretty young woman spoke. Her hair was long and black, and she appeared to be right in the prime of her life, aside from the paleness of her skin.
"Aye. My father's soul and mine were linked. T'was the source of my immortality. Over great distances I felt little, but close to him my soul sang to his. Soma Cruz was, once, Dracul, but he need no longer be so." Alucard dipped his head. "I shall keep an eye upon him, ensure he lives free and as happy as I can. He, and my mother, deserve at least one lifetime free to make their own choices, and not have it stolen from them."
Taylor smiled and nodded. "Well, it's good he was freed. I was fairly sure I managed when I destroyed what was left of the dead Abomination, but I couldn't be a hundred percent sure. Anyway, I'm pretty sure if he did remember, he'd either be a wreck or completely insane." She flicked her hair over her shoulder, running her finger along a nearby brick wall. "Feels a little odd to be in human shape again now. Got used to the wings."
Alucard smiled indulgently. "I can imagine. My own see little use, but losing them would be odd, even if it were only temporary." He took a moment to breathe in, enjoying the clean air. "Tis strange to look almost as I did when I was alive. Grace seems to appreciate it, however." He ran his fingers through his dyed-black hair. "Interesting ways of cloaking your appearance. Although I admit I would very much enjoy being able to look at myself in the mirror again."
Taylor shrugged. "Sorry, can't really help that one. I'm barely getting used to shaping myself to look how I want. Stuck at twenty-five forever, fine. Stuck at fifteen... not so fun. Amy helped with that one."
Trying to stick to the shade, the pair of vampires walked the streets of Miyako. Some took notice of the pair of foreigners, but few spared more than a passing glance. The world was becoming more interconnected, and even fairly isolationist Japan was opening up, if reluctantly.
"How is Grace?" Taylor asked as the pair reached a pristine park, taking cover beneath the shade of the trees.
Alucard smiled. "Quite well. We have been travelling together, seeing the world. I think we shall end the journey at Paris. I'm told it is a common place to propose."
Taylor grinned. "Congratulations. I hope you two will be very happy together."
"We are." Alucard smiled sagely. "This is simply deepening our ties and our bond. I have missed her, greatly."
Once they reached a clearing out of sight, Taylor opened a portal to the Shadow Plane. The pair emerged into Castlevania's courtyard.
Alucard took a moment to look around. "It's different than I remember." The walls were smooth, as if carved from a single immense piece of black marble. The towers loomed above, studded with electric lights. The central tower that held the throne room had been rebuilt, but there were many more structures linked to it now, making it look like an immense spider's web.
Taylor shook her head. "I couldn't rebuild it the way it was. Your father built it originally, and I have a fair few of his memories, but nowhere near all of it. Besides," she smiled wryly. "The castle itself vetoed some of the changes I wanted to make. Necessary changes."
The castle itself quivered.
Taylor tilted her head. "No, no, considering what happened last time, no. It took three seconds for you to shift into the Shadow Plane when Scion attacked. We've got it down to half a second. It had to be faster. Plus, considering where we're going, more changes had to be done too."
Alucard chuckled softly as the black walls surrounding the courtyard seemed to pout.
June 3, 2020
Michael Shepard, a thirty-five year old test pilot, thumbed the communications console. "Houston, this is Shepard. All lights are green, awaiting permission to engage."
"Roger Shepard, stand by for systems confirmation."
He took a moment to look out the window, the Moon and the Earth drifting by. From this distance, they looked like a pair of blue and gray specks. If it wasn't for the FTL transmission systems made available by the portals, he'd have to wait for five seconds between transmission and reception back at Mission Control.
Magic definitely had its uses.
"This is Mission Control, you have a go."
Shepard grinned. "Roger Houston, powering up the Vista drive."
The heroine Vista, space-warper, after extensive testing of her power, allowed humanity to eventually reverse-engineer the principles of her power. Back on Earth, the drive was powered by a dedicated fusion reactor and took a ludicrous amount of fuel to provide the required electricity. If not for the portals, the ship carrying the drive would have had to be the size of an aircraft carrier to handle the required load. Instead, the Constellation test ship was 'only' the size of a train car.
Shepard read off the countdown. "FTL in five, four, three, two, one..." He gripped the controls, exhaling a breath.
The space outside the front window shifted and warped. The stars seemed to jitter, brighten, darken, spread apart and shift closer together. Then there was a flicker, and space outside the ship warped. There was no sensation of speed, no distortion, no sense of sickness. The portal at the back of the cabin that served as Shepard's emergency exit remained, thankfully, open.
After sixty seconds, the drive shut off. Shepard checked his instruments, and grinned. Aiming the cameras, he whistled as he directed the computer to take pictures of the planet below the Constellation, wondering at being the first human to be so far away from home. On a whim, he shifted the ship to flip itself around, so he could enjoy the view with his own two eyes.
"Houston, this is Shepard. Vista drive is a success. And the weather on Neptune looks mighty fine."
He couldn't help but laugh a little at the cheers that reached over his comms.
September 3, 2020
Taylor smiled. "So, how were the lessons today?"
Rose shrugged. "Okay I guess. Lessons are lessons." The eight year-old girl sounded tired, her legs swinging back and forth on her chair. She had her nose down as she scribbled on a page resting on the kitchen table, though from the shapes of it, it didn't look like she was doing anything more than doodling.
Taylor's smile turned into a frown. "If anyone's giving you trouble..."
Rose rolled her eyes. "Please, no. If anything I'm bored. I don't have any friends my age." She looked up at Taylor, seriousness in her brown eyes. "Mostly because I've got private tutors and I'm not in public school."
Sighing, Taylor nodded. "Dad's got a real problem with them, considering what happened to me. I wouldn't be happy about you going either, considering."
Rose grimaced. "Yeah. It's just..." She huffed, then looked up at Taylor. "I got to hang with the neighborhood kids for a while there. Now they're all off at school and I'm being homeschooled."
Sighing again, Taylor settled into the seat opposite Rose. "I'll tell you a secret. Dad's afraid."
Rose blinked. "But Dad's not the scaredy type. He shooed out that huge spider from my room last week."
Taylor laughed at that. "The thing is, Dad nearly lost me when I was older than you. I don't think you can grasp how bad it was for him." She shook her head. "He's afraid of losing you like he lost my Mom and thought he lost me. It's only because I changed that I came back, and he didn't know that for three months."
For Rose, three months was an unimaginably long span of time. That was like, forever! "That why I can spot unca John hanging around?"
Taylor looked suspiciously over at the kitchen sink. Almost shyly, a hand of water lifted out, waved at her, then sank back down. "Yes, I suppose that's why. That's pretty creepy, too."
"Says the vampire," Rose said smugly.
Taylor stuck out her tongue.
"Right, fine," Taylor huffed, her lips curling up into a smile. "Point is, Dad doesn't want you to be hurt. I did a lot of things that scared him. He never liked it when I went out to stop people who were trying to hurt others. It scared him when I went to fight Endbringers. It scared him when I went to fight Scion. He lost me once, and I came back from a miracle. He knows he can't count on a second one if anything happened to you, or your Mom."
Rose frowned. "But I'll be fine!"
"It's not easy to convince yourself of that. He knows that anyone who did hurt you would answer to either your Mom or me, but that won't help if you do get hurt."
Rose clenched her teeth. "But I haven't got any friends!"
Taylor opened her mouth, then closed it. Finally, she chuckled. "Right. That's not fair to you. I remember how it felt to be isolated. I'm sorry. I'll talk to Dad about it." She lifted a finger and pursed her lips. "There's some stuff you'll have to keep quiet about though. Especially about your Mom's job."
Rose nodded seriously, a smile splitting her face. "Yesem. I'll won't say nothin!"
Taylor chuckled. "Alright, my little mobster. I'm not promising anything, but I'll push for you."
September 10, 2020
Upon the surface of the Moon, Taylor walked.
There was a strange, pristine beauty about it. Airless, ludicrously hostile to human life. Barren. The Sun blazed on the horizon, unfiltered and powerful. Taylor could feel its heat and light attempting to sear away the protective coating of blood armor around her undead flesh. The only other vampire that could have possibly withstood that light was Dracul, and only when he had the Mantle of Darkness.
Still, here was a sight only a few hundred had seen, and of them, only twelve walked freely on this world, unhindered by a forcefield or walls, though encumbered by a spacesuit. Perhaps, in time, even that would not be necessary. Granted, to geoengineer the Moon into a habitable world would take many, many centuries.
Well, everyone needs a hobby, Taylor thought with some amusement.
She lifted her hand. Darkness spread forth, amplified by the oncoming lunar night. It spread open, the weather effects or the storm that otherwise would have formed from the tearing of space-time failing to occur in this airless place. The ground shuddered as Castlevania tore itself out of the Shadow Plane, settling onto the lunar surface as gently as... well, a mountain-sized object could. Not very gentle at all, but at least it didn't shatter the Moon as it settled itself in place.
Part of the damage done by Scion during Ragnarok was a direct result of Scion's attack on the castle. If it hadn't been floating in the air, a piece of it shorn off and allowed to drop into the ocean, the tsunami that devastated the coastlines of the Atlantic would not have happened. If she'd been better, if she'd thought things through a bit more, those people would still be alive.
Thus, having the Castle floating above the water, or above the ground on Earth, was not going to happen again. Taylor resolved to make her kingdom somewhere where an attack on her and her people would not cause harm to anyone else.
It also happened that the Moon was almost uninhabited, and as she'd been made aware of previously, from the Moon, you're halfway to anywhere.
The Castle took its full shape, the ground shuddering on the lunar surface, cracks of heated rock and glowing lava surrounding the immense mass as it settled in place. A haze began to spread from the Castle as it began to vent breathable air out into the void, shield generators inside the castle itself keeping enough within for humans to survive, and eventually systems would be set in place for the entire surface of the Moon to become a habitable, if small, world.
Taylor drifted forward. In the darkness, it was hard to see, but she could see where new substance joined with the old. The castle's rebuilding was imperfect, even discounting the changes that were made. Along the outer wall it was fairly obvious, at least to her vampiric eyes, where Scion's light had erased the old part of it. The new section of wall was joined and forcibly melted into the old. The throne room's tower was shaped differently, no longer standing upon a thin spire, but instead bound at the center of a great rocky web.
But it was still home. She had been rebuilt, reforged after the battle, and it was now ready to grow into the future.
Taylor hoped she would be ready for it. New designs for ships to sail the void were already being built. Humans and demons alike were going to spread out into space. Negotiations with Earth Aleph were underway to provide the same opportunities for Bet's parallel as she was enjoying. The cosmos would finally be open for humanity after a century of dreaming.
And it all would start here, on the gray surface of the Moon.
October 31, 2020
Within the center of a summoning circle, a form slowly took shape. Taylor lowered her hands, wiping her brow as she took a deep, shuddering breath. Though she wasn't capable of sweating, she could feel tired, and this task took a lot of time and effort.
Mist congealed itself, first shaping itself into bone. Then flesh and blood coalesced around it, as if the process of decay over decades or centuries reversed itself. Finally, Death stood there in the center of the circle, and the cosmic being let out a shuddering gasp. A moment later, his familiar black suit took shape around him, and he cast his eyes around the room.
Once they settled on Taylor, he sighed. "I do hope you did not murder anyone for this, my dear. I would be gravely disappointed if you did."
Taylor shook her head with a wan smile. "I know. I used cows. The soul-cords collected over the last five years on just some of them when they were brought to the slaughter. I'm running a lot of cattle ranches these days, Death."
Death took a deep breath, closing his eyes for a moment. "I see. I can feel it. The vessel is frail, fragile. It won't last long. Their substance isn't capable of handling me for long, even with a few million of them... a shame. It will only last a few minutes."
Taylor nodded. "I know. I'm sorry if it's uncomfortable. I know it's a bit selfish, but, I never got the chance to say goodbye to my mother. You were my friend, you helped me when I needed it, was willing to listen to me when I needed help and advice. I wanted to thank you, and give you a proper goodbye. I don't think I could go through this again, anyway... it felt awful just gathering up all the cords from cattle. Doing it to people would feel a lot worse... so I think this is going to be the last time we'll get to talk."
Death thought that over for a moment, then he let out a soft chuckle. "I can understand that, my dear. Though there will be one more time, I think." Stepping from the circle, he spread his arms, and Taylor took the invitation, hugging the avatar of Death.
Death patted her back, enjoying the moment. After long minutes, he broke the hug and tilted Taylor's head up, gently wiping her cheek. "I'm glad you're alright. I'm glad you've grown into the person you've become. You are the Queen of Blood, Lady of Darkness, first of your line of vampires, and yet you've managed to maintain your humanity, even while surpassing my old friend. I am very proud of you, Taylor."
Taylor smiled weakly. "Thank you. And thank you for helping me when I needed it. Without help, I never would have managed. I'd have probably gone insane over those first few days. Thank you for that." She bit her lip. "Can... can you tell Mom something for me? Tell her I miss her. Tell her I love her."
He smiled gently. "She already knows." Death's smile grew a little sad as he gently stroked his fingers through Taylor's hair. "There will come a time when we meet again, my dear. Nothing, not even the stars or universes, lasts forever. You will have the privilege of living longer than most, longer than any mortal human might. But I do hope that, before that final night, before you choose to cast off your godhood and allow us to meet again, that you enjoy your life."
Taylor nodded silently.
With a faint smile, Death returned the nod. "Good. Now... two final things. Zion, who you knew as Scion, and his counterpart, Eden, were not the only ones of their kind. There are more out there, uncountably more throughout the cosmos. If humanity stays within the solar system, you will be easy pickings for another if they come your way. If you spread out, sooner or later you will get the attention of another. There are other threats out in the void, as well. But I sense you do not believe there is much choice."
Taylor smiled at that. "We're going out there. We can't let fear rule us. And I think we've proven that the Abominations aren't invincible. We'll have to try and prepare as much as we can, even if that's simply by spreading out."
"I agree, my dear." Death smiled. "There are those you may call friends out there, too. Others who do not deserve to end as Zion threatened to do to humanity. Perhaps you will meet them." He shrugged. "The future is not my domain."
Taylor nodded. "And the second thing?"
Death smiled faintly. "A little gift. Annette just suggested it, and I am inclined to agree. Go to your quarters, you will find it." Gently, Death kissed her forehead, and his avatar began to unravel.
Taylor watched until the last bit of Death faded away, the ethereal strings that made him up dissolving into the background magic of the castle. A small amount of it shifted upwards, phasing through the stone ceiling of the summoning chamber, moving toward her quarters.
Curious, she went, taking her time to compose herself. She nodded and smiled as she passed by the castle's servants. Her golems, her succubi, her gremlins, her werewolves. Pandora suits gave her a nod as she passed by, working tirelessly to improve the Castle. Even those ordinary humans who now lived here and worked for her, helping to build a future for humanity.
When she reached her bedroom, she looked around. It was large and opulent, brought up to modern standards. Her bed was large enough, and comfy enough, to hold seven people with room to spare.
It was when she turned to the display cases filled with her personal effects, she saw it. Annette's flute, covered in and seething with the remaining magic Death released. Even as Taylor watched, the tarnish cleansed itself, the broken keys filled themselves in. The mouthpiece, which had been long-since dented and unusable, repaired itself. Over the course of a few long minutes, the damage done to it a decade before was gone, as if it never had happened.
With trembling fingers, she opened the display case and pulled out the now-pristine flute. The clean silver of its surface heated her fingers unpleasantly, irritating her skin... but at the moment, Taylor couldn't bring herself to care. It wasn't anything she couldn't ignore, anyway.
She brought it to her lips and played a soft song, even as the silver heated against her lips. It had been a long time since she played, but after a few minutes of practicing, it was as if she'd never stopped playing at all. Annette used to play it for her, when Taylor was little, and for a long moment, Taylor let herself be lost in the memory.
When she was finished, she muttered quietly. "Thank you, Mom. Thank you, Death." She went to put the flute back. Then stopped. Finally, she tucked the flute into her jacket, closing the empty display case.
The sound of a clearing throat caught her attention, and Taylor whipped around.
Amy was standing there, looking a bit embarrassed. "Sorry. That looked personal. I didn't want to interrupt."
"It's fine," Taylor said. "Just remembering Mom."
Amy nodded, a small smile on her lips. "I figured it was something like that. Anyway, night's falling in Brockton. Rose is about to go trick-or-treating. You still coming?"
Taylor smiled. "Yeah." She gently fingered the flute in her pocket. "I think I'll play for her when we're done getting candy." Then she went over to Amy, giving the other girl a hug. "Then I think you and I can come back here and talk things out... we never did pick up after Scion. Hell, not after the hospital."
Amy blushed a little, nodding. "We've both been busy. Always seems like one thing or another came up."
"Yeah, but eight years? Where does the time go?"
"To be fair, we're vampires. We've got the time."
Taylor laughed. "True, but no time like the present. I'm willing to experiment. Not sure we'll go anywhere, but I do like spending time with you."
Amy smiled. "Me too. And maybe I'll stop dating blondes."
Taylor grinned. "Hey, Meridia liked being blonde for a while."
"Yeah, but it was awkward! She wanted to get me and Vicky in bed together! 'Help get it out of your system,' she said!" Amy shook her head. "Not taking advice from the succubus."
"What did you expect?"
A moment passed, then the pair shared helpless laughter. Hand-in-hand, the two vampires went out the door.