Disclaimer: Hellsing belongs to Kouta Hirano.
Author's Notes: This story is dedicated to Pookles for all the times she did art on my behalf and is an entry for 30 romances. Edited by DaughterofSlytherin/TheLadyShiva.
Often, Integral Hellsing lost the track of time. When she had no practices and lessons with her father and her private tutors, the personal reading and homework ensnared Integral into a cocoon that set her, her books and her favourite seat in the library, apart of the rest of the world.
She had no friends anymore. After her mother's death, the few acquaintances of her age she had made inside the nobility she had lost contact with by her own choice. Integral realized that, even if it was hard, frivolity had not place into the schedule of a knight-to-be, her education was priority despite her father's insistences of social events. She only allowed herself a single hobby that consumed much of her hours. Something that managed to ease her mind with images of the heroic deeds played on the TV screen, portrayed flawlessly in pictures, told within yellowed pages.
Her heart pounded faster as her eyes devoured the words written in one of her favourite books as the girl fanatically re-read it, memorizing each phrase to never forget. It conjured the images into her mind, it played better than films there in her rich imagination.
"Le Morte d'Arthur again, milady? I thought your father had suggested you to read vampiric literature for tomorrow's class."
Integral shut the book, blushing upon being discovered by Walter. The bubble of her hermit habit burst for now. She looked up and saw the butler smiling serenely down at her, he appeared more amused than judgemental.
"I was sidetracked," Integral mumbled and opened her vampire textbook. The pleasant images of the heroic knights saving the beautiful maidens faded to be replaced by horrid monsters that roamed the night. Monsters a knight should defeat!
"It seems so," Walter said only a touch patronizing, taking one of her notebooks without warning. Integral alarmed when she saw which one he had taken. The research of her young life was contained there.
"Walter…" Integral started, nervously.
"How many times you have read those books, Integra?" he asked while he flipped the pages of her notebook.
"I don't remember," Integral answered honestly. She had looked after them since she knew how to read properly, before even.
"How long you plan to keep on this?" Walter questioned, returning the prize belonging to the avid girl. She took it jealously and brushed it with adoration.
"It's not interrupting my studies, Walter," Integral protested, her eyes were pleading. "I have to read the unpleasant side of being a knight for England, involving monsters and demons. I want to know the heroic ones too."
"Most for your knights didn't have a good end," the butler pointed out softly. He looked worried and Integral felt badly for causing him problems. Her father never paid attention to her hobby, he let it slide.
"How many people have happy endings in real life, Walter?" Integral countered with a question. Not her mother, not her father who had been diagnosed with a deadly illness she could not spell or remember yet.
Walter smiled sadly and patted her head, "Not many, Integra. Just don't confuse fiction with reality and do your homework after you are done." Integral closed her eyes and relaxed at the fatherly caress before nodding, beaming she had his approval in this.
The sky darkened over London and night fell quietly on the Mansion. Integral was born during a time of peace without the need of the Hellsing Organisation as a military force to protect the United Kingdom. The Mansion, to her, was silent and far too big for so few people. It made up for that fact in that there were so many hiding places to read and view the world. Spots the adults could not guess because they were too big and worried about the outside.
Integral kissed her father, uncle and Walter goodnight after the dinner and went to take a shower before dressing for bed. There, settled down with her navy nightgown, she turned on the light on her lamp and revised her notes, re-writing over the messy handwriting and poor grammar of years back.
"A knight is a figure of unexpected assistance, a myth for the cynical modern world whose image continues-" Integral struck down 'continues' and replaced it by 'preserves.' It sounded better. "-preserves in the imagination. The knights are always in relation to three: the king, their lady and, sometimes forgot in stories, God. And, according to several sources, Sir Thomas Mallory understood there are three representations of this ideal."
She stopped reading and rubbed her eyes, hiding a yawn lazily. The shooting routine had been tiresome. The young girl preferred fencing to her firing classes. While she excelled in both, the distinguished figure of the sword lured her over the pragmatism of a gun. Sprawling, she passed the page and continued:
"Firstly, we have the Heroic Knight who posses all the feudal virtues "courage, prowess and loyalty to one's lord" according to Kennedy. This one vows himself to his King. Another acclaimed type is the Worshipful Knight who, as Kennedy stated, has "the courtly virtues as well…which make a knight pleasing to his lady and useful to his lord in the social and political context of life at court." His allegiance is always to a woman, the wife of his King or the object of his affections…" Integral trailed off nearly dreamingly on that concept. Someone willing to fight for a woman to prove his worthiness was extremely pleasing in her opinion. The bits of Courtly Love she had studied were of her fancy.
"Finally, there is the True Knight who has all virtues of the former two but also "that loveth God and dreadeth God" over all things according to Mallory. Without God's presence the nobility of the knight could be soiled, seeking the lascivious charms on their ladies and unjustly kill in their king's names."
Integral put the notes aside to rub her eyes, they tickled and her body rebelled with her intention to stay awake. She wanted to keep reading and catching mistakes in her prose. How long would she be up if she indeed renewed her investigation? Walter's questions came to her again: How many times you have read those books, Integra? How long you plan to keep on this? She recalled now, something her mother said when she had asked what did her father for living.
"He's a knight, dear. He protects us, the Queen and the country."
She wanted to know about knights and her mother used to simplify stories before her bed, changing their ending into better ones. Where Isolde and Tristan lived happily ever after just like in fairytales, in which Guinevere divorced Arthur and married Lancelot. Then her mother died but Integral had learnt to read them by herself. She stretched her arm and turned off the light, forgetting her prayers as she clutched the books. No, her fixation had started before that. It had started in dreams.
Integral only could remember that in her sleep when the dreams began again. There were always of the same man. He had been about thirteen when she first saw him years ago, suffering in a cell. They had grown together. He had showed her his kingdom, his bloody crusades, goals she could not understand. He did not direct at her a single word but, he knew she was watching.
The battlefield was gone with the frightening Forest of the Impaled she had grown accustomed to in all it's fetid glory. Integral was still wary even if she knew that nothing could harm her there. He would not allow it. She walked on the empty field until she spotted trees with hanged men; the ground was littered with blood and skulls. An axe shone by the light of the full moon. There were guards, recently killed, eaten alive piled on the execution ground.
Integral paused, swallowing sharply at the sight and tried to search the knight and found him, staring at the sky, his chest was bare and striped with lash marks, his curly hair swung with the wind. His skin was pale, translucent. She felt herself embarrassed, blushing and feeling quivers in her stomach. Bloody puberty. Who could blame her, though? She was near a dashing, half nude man only wearing her frilly nightgown.
The girl circled the man, coming to examine his face. His eyes were red and there was blood on his mouth.
Integral's eyes widened and tried to leave fast but she could not move, her feet were glued down, as if invisible shackles held them.
"They are all dead," he whispered. He never spoke English but she always knew the meaning of his words. Dreams made no sense, their nature escaped her. If she had dominion over this, she would have guessed his identity sooner. "All died for my dreams… My lunatic dreams." He laughed bitterly and loudly, opening his mouth wide with a cruel expression.
"A-are you going to kill me as well?" Integral ventured as brave she could manage. She was not really certain what he would do next anymore. He had never spoken to her before. His eyes glowed for a second, she tried hard to conceal her fear and return his heated gaze. "F-for your dreams?"
He looked taken aback for her question and stared at her with an unreadable expression.
"Where is your armour?" Integral asked, changing subjects, hoping to buy time. To run? To awaken? Was she dreaming this? Her sweat felt real.
His response was sober, jaded. Integral looked down. "You could mend it again. You are a knight, aren't you?" He nodded. "A knight should have his armour." The vampire chuckled and approached, making her wish to be able to step back.
"My armour is stained as my soul, little girl. As this field of blood…" he gestured to the execution ground. "As my dream."
"What was your dream about?" Integral inquired, cursing her curiosity when he gave her a not friendly gaze. Quickly, she thought about another doubt she had. "What kind of knight are you?"
"Kind?" he wondered amused, his grimace had vanished. "Do we come in flavours to be sold by merchants in stocks?"
Integral bit her bottom lip and furrowed her brows. He did not know the definitions, of course, she had been foolish to assume they would be able to distinguish the ideals that lived in fiction and were barely touched in reality. She attempted to explain the branches. "I mean, who are you loyal to the most. Who is your true Master? Your King, your Lady or God?"
"I have no King to serve. I was the King myself," he said with a distant voice, "There is no ruler when the kingdom is gone. And I have forsaken the God I used to follow."
"Then you aren't a knight anymore?" Integral was disappointed. It was very insensitive of her to be so oblivious to his loss and insensible to risk his anger, but she was young and romantic at heart.
"Oh but I'm," the vampire assured her, taking a bow and falling to a knee to her surprise. "I will serve my lady. To suit your definitions."
Integral felt her cheeks flushed scarlet again. Her fear quickly became fascination. She saw him, so beautiful and savage to be tamed into courteous manners for his lady. For her. "I can't be your lady. I will become a knight," she commented, remorseful for rejecting his service.
"You can be a knight to your Master and a lady to be mine," he corrected her.
"Both?" He nodded and made her feel foolish to have such simplistic way of thinking. "Then I accept your services."
"What kind of knight do you want to become?"
Integral paused, pondering her answer. She would serve Her Majesty in an allegoric way but she would really seek the best for the Empire. Was there a classification for that brand? "I don't know. Not yet. What was your dream about?"
"What is yours?" he countered with a toothy grin, lifting his head to face her. "What are you searching for so much? Your quest, my Master?"
"I-I don't know," Integral murmured shivering to the title. Master. It brought her a great pleasure to be addressed like that. The vampire was aware of her weakness for he took her hand and kissed it dryly with his bloodstained lips. It left a red spot on her skin and an inner numbness.
"Master should think over carefully the reason of what will she fight for before the war starts," he suggested silkily. "Before I recover my armour to battle in your name."
"What do you mean?" Integral demanded to know, her voice was more courageous now she had control over him. Power over a situation. But he did not reply and everything started to fade slowly around her: the corpses, the execution field, her paralysis, the vampire and, finally, the stain of blood on her hand. She fluttered her eyes open and awoke at dawn, her heart pounded just a bit faster and her cheeks warmer than usual.
The dream vanished for most part. Glimpses remained lingering in her subconscious, they came and went according to their leisure and out of her control. "Five AM," Integral muttered, placing her glasses on her nose once more and looking at the clock with annoyance. She always stirred at that hour. She often heard Arthur coughing in the distance and Walter leaving his room to stroll to her father's and calm him. She counted the steps he gave thrice. Thirty-two, the very same amount in every occasion.
There was the cough. Integral turned on the light and rolled over to read her notes with better illumination. She studied them, deciding her future, modelling it in those pages, escaping the reality of it through fiction. It was easier that way, the knight endings, even if not they were not happy sometimes, they were heroic. She did not want to stop and remember her dead mother, rotting in a coffin after breaking her neck upon tripping on the staircase, nor in her sick father who would soon join her because he was losing a battle with his own fragile body.
Instead, Integral continued reading, hoping for a fulfilled existence and to wear her own armour one day, she was willing to stain herself to earn it.