Disclaimer: Hellsing belongs to Kouta Hirano. Dracula to Bram Stoker.
Author's Notes: This is my response for fictionhaven's July challenge (control theme) and my own vision of Dracula's defeat based in what little canon we have in this aspect (flashback of volume 4, volume 8, Alucard's opinion about his choice to become a vampire and Arthur Hellsing's speech about the Count's doom in the future volume 9). Manga set. Edited by MzMoon.
The sun was rising, illuminating the sky with shy yellow rays of light. The wind blew icily in the Carpathian Mountains, sweeping any trace of cloud out the horizon. The long, terrible night had ended. The new dawn marked the downfall of one of the greatest evils.
But dread remained; the Count could smell it on their sweat and sensed it on the rhythm of their heartbeats. One man down, they were mourning him: Quincey Morris, as they had grieved Renfield and Jonathan Harker days before.
However, he could not bring himself to lament for his losses. His enemies were able to cry for one man and yet he could not weep for his servants whose corpses covered the Transylvanian landscape, and whose blood stained the green grass.
It was if all tears had dried from his eyes. He could not even bring himself to meet the gaze of his greatest enemy who held him firmly as if he was a weak doll. Abraham van Helsing may be a strong man for his age, but the Count's strength was greater if he had any will to oppose his clenched fist.
And he did not.
"It's burning," the Professor seethed through his teeth. "Your castle is caught by the unmerciful embrace of the flames. Why did you set it on fire, Count? Answer me!"
For a minute, there was only silence and anticipation. The Count remained silent, observing with great pain as the great construction lost itself in flames. It would disappear like his servants did, like his lands. He could not stop the ever-changing political scenario that would yet again deprive a landlord from his territory. It was a human world; a monster had no control over it.
The Count had chosen to ignore it for long but he was fully aware, deep inside, he was living borrowing time.
Abraham's grip was strangulating but he did not care, Dracula did not breathe. He did not live or dream. He was dead.
"It's a nice bonfire; don't you think so, my Beloved Enemy?" He tried to smile, but it would not matter if he turned his lips up and displayed his fangs to them. He would not be smiling.
"He's a monster, Professor! For God's sake! For Quincey's sake, end his life!" Jack Seward pleaded; his voice was desperate, wretched by the loss. Dracula felt no hatred towards his outburst. The Doctor could not control his emotions like the Count could not control his fate.
"Wait, John, please. Let the Professor decide his fate." Her voice hurt Dracula. So calm, reasonable and self-confident. Even after all this slaughter and the hell he had unwillingly bestowed upon her -Wilhelmina Murray remained strong and collected. The Count stole a glance at her direction, to see her cheeks filled with grime and her long, golden ringlets undone by the previous fight. She caught his staring and met his gaze impassively.
He had to break contact. Dracula could not stand it. He could not endure her eyes, so filled with pity and understanding. He could not forgive his mistake when he could have lived happily at her side and share her mortal days with joy.
But there was a war; his appetite for destruction consumed him as it always. The rush took over him and Dracula did not care what sacrifice it took; his people, his castle or his country for a chance to feel it once more. He even used the woman he loved to keep that sensation.
"So… I'm waiting, old Nemesis. Finish me." He spat blood out, sensing his body so heavy all sudden. The stake in his chest had been more effective than the Count would have liked but he accepted defeat. Abraham won cleanly in fair disadvantage.
It was the vampire's turn to wait and become the victim: the deadly blow to finish his pain once and for all. But the Professor did not move to do it, instead he asked a simple question: "What now, Count? Are you ready, monster? Do you want to die?"
"Have you said your prayers? Asked forgiveness?"
Anger swelled inside him, ignoring the bleeding and the stake, for a moment or the weight of his stupidity.
"Prayers, you say!" Dracula barked, "Prayers are for those who are weak to accomplish deeds! I don't beg to anyone, even to Him!"
The old man did something odd in Dracula's viewpoint – he started to laugh. It was not harsh or mocking, the amusement was genuine. The vampire scoffed, not realizing his speech was comical. Clearly, the Professor was as insane as he was.
"Well said! So there's still something inside you, Count? A figment of your old self? There is, hiding in your black soul that warrior that defended Christianity and God ages ago?"
"The King died four hundred years ago," Dracula argued. He did not want to remember. It was easier to exist if he shut down all memories, if he lived in a timeless state where the only past was yesterday.
"You're certainly lying," Mina intervened, emerging from the corpses with her black gown and her neck was covered with a red scarf. She had dropped her rifle and held a silver cross between her balled up hands. "When I met you, Count, I saw a man and not a monster, not this wrecked simpering creature I have in front my eyes today. I didn't know there was a monster until he cowardly…"
Mina did not finish, he was glad she did not. It was dreadful for both to remember the night he lost control and bit her against her consent. But they freed her in the end; she had control over her choice and chose to fight against him.
"T-that man," Mina continued, her voice trembled slightly but steadied herself. "That man told me that once he had dreamed nothing else but fulfill the Lord's bidding. Was he lying? Or did the monster slain that dream for good and diverted it with hollow promises of vices?"
Dracula closed his eyes and felt his discomfort increase. He would not think of God. There was not any point to think of the Heavenly Father he would never meet. "Kill me."
"Are you ready to die truly, Count?" Abraham questioned skeptically. "Will you end it in this dawn of blood and fire?"
"Didn't I earn your pity, Beloved Enemy?" Dracula demanded, glaring at the taunting man. "You have won my respect, all of you. For any merit I should have killed you with ease, but you, humans, true humans have showed me my strength is meaningless. Now, I'm an animal who must be put out of its misery." He closed his eyes, hoping that would empathize his yearning.
"Wait, Professor," Mina called out just as Dracula felt the pressure of the stake intensifying inside his heart. "Count, what shall occur with those victims of your curse after you perish? Will they be released?"
"I can't release those who joined me willingly, Mina," Dracula answered, bitterly. He had no love for those creatures that proved to be was weak as him at the very end. "It's out of my control. It's their choice to choose real blood as communion instead of that of Christ."
"What will the Lord said about that?" Mina asked to Dracula, to everyone gathered there and the generations to generations to come. "We are about to grant him true relief of his sins by not acknowledging the responsibility of his actions. Good Heavens, we will be his accomplices in his devilry!"
"Madam Mina, please, we cannot do much else," Arthur Holmwood murmured grimly, his noble features sallow. "For Lucy, we can't allow that creature to live."
It was tempting to make a jest about Lucy. She had been a tantalizing distraction and a treat, but in the end, she did not mean anything but a pawn to sacrifice in this battle. But the Count refrained, for Mina's sake. He had wronged that woman enough.
"No, Arthur, good fellow," the Professor replied, after minutes of inner musings. His eyes were tired, showing signs of his age. "Madam Mina is right. Her brilliant observation is indeed a sign of God to avoid a grave mistake." Abruptly, Abraham released his hold on Dracula, pushing him down to the broken wooden shards of the coffin. He towered the vampire with imposing determination.
"I will ask again, No Life King. The undead ruler of nothing who lost it all: Are you ready to end your existence? Here and now in the ruins of a God-forsaken land with a growing sense of despair and self-hatred? Will you face your judgment like this? Why have you even bothered to rise from your grave?"
Dracula did not move a muscle. He forced his piercing eyes on the ferocious man who faced him, traveling to the calmed pillar of a woman behind his back. He felt the unworthy sensation souring the blood in his mouth. The cold sensation of a defeat greater than the one he just suffered. One the Count schemed against his truest self.
He could not die. Not yet. How could he face God as the pale shadow of the man he was in life, when he had conspired against His world and His virtues?
"No. I can't give up yet."
"Your life or your dream, Count? Which is?"
"Both. I live for my dream, the dead craving that will always keep me alive, and I chose to forget."
Abraham crossed his arms and nodded, and then he smiled at him. Dracula thought him more frightening that way, acting kind towards his enemy, yet he could not help but smile back. This human emotion was contagious.
"Serve me, Count. Serve my family and humanity against what you created in a moment of weakness," the Professor proposed, extending his hand down him. "Serve the country you wanted to predate by penance. Make it your new nation to embrace. Only after that, you will feel ready to end your sad life, Dracula. God is a loving Father who is willing to take back lost lambs, no matter how black they are."
It was tempting. Far more tempting than sin, virtue was for someone who had led a long trajectory of vices. The idea of salvation and accomplishing his dream crept into his mind, bathing his world with hope.
Hope was crueler than despair.
"Do I have a choice?" inquired Dracula with uncertainty. Monsters did not have choices; they just acted after they made their last bad decision.
Mina's long fingers alighted on Abraham's right shoulder and she answered with a nod: "Remorse and redemption can't be forced upon anyone, Count. They are paths you could take or not."
"Just like Madam Mina says." The Professor removed the stake out Dracula's pierced heart and tossed it to a side. He took Miss Murray's hand lightly, waiting without fear for the final response. "We can't have control over you against your will."
He could move freely after the pole was taken out. He could have seized the moment and attack, however Dracula had a code of honour and he liked the pair. They would defeat him if he attempted a treacherous move, in any case. Abraham knew it.
"Control over my fate by submitting to your bidding?" he mused, recoiling and rising with as much dignity he could afford. "To work for you, it will be like being in a mission from God."
The couple did not respond, nor did their two friends that were witness of the birth of a new era.
Dracula stepped forward - towards Mina and van Helsing - and took a bow, falling on one knee with his head low. They could master him as long he could master his fate.
"Then, I chose to serve you and your worthy descendants in the line of duty, against the enemies of humanity," Dracula swore solemnly. "I will live enough to reach atonement for my deeds. Your order, my Master?"
He would follow his promise to the end until one day, when he was ready, Dracula would seek another human enemy to finish what Abraham and Mina started.