Hellsing Manor- The Study- Evening

The gift of a vintage, leather-bound addition of Dante's "Inferno" would have been well received by anyone with a taste for literature and culture. The full bouquet of a dozen yellow roses could have been seen as a lovely gesture of friendship and admiration. Lastly, the hand-written invitation to attend the elite conference of "supernatural" forces in Italy should have been accepted with honour and pride-instead all of these fine things were met with curses-some in German, a few in Hindi and most in good, old-fashioned, enraged English.

"That miserable, conniving, bastard! How dare he! How could he, that , that-." Sir Integra fumed. There were many things in this world that riled her, but nothing could compare to the sheer wrath that a particular person could provoke with his attempts at reaching out to her. Arch Bishop Enrico Antonio Maxwell was the perpetual thorn in her side- it was bad enough that he was an advisory for the past six years of her life, but there was the constant underlying current of other feelings that she dared not even wish to conjure up in her mind. The man despised her, yet made every effort, every attempt; every planed, calculated move to become close to her-it was like being pursued by the suitor from Hell. Integra had soon learned that any time that man delivered a gift, it came with an unbelievable cost. She grabbed the vase of roses off her desk and considered smashing them, when a calm voice quelled her mood.

"You called for me, Miss?" Walter's even tone asked. She paused and looked up at the old man's slightly startled expression.

"Take these, get them out of my sight !," she exclaimed thrusting the flowers into his hands as is they were coiled snakes," I also want a steak- a rare, still bleeding steak for supper and a damn bottle of burgundy-no glass."

"Yes, Miss." He replied, exiting slowly and calmly, attempting not to excite his mistress any further. Integra returned to her desk, where she opened up the bottom drawer and threw the heavy book down into its confines-then slammed it shut. She drew a tense breath and exhaled. Integra peeled off her white gloves and tossed them down upon her desk, then reached into the right top drawer and pulled out a long, thin cigar and gritted it between her teeth before sparking up a light. She inhaled deeply and pushed out a thick trail of smoke and sat down.

"Keep calm, stay calm-remember what the doctor said about blood pressure-you don't want to have a heart attack before 30…" she reminded herself. At twenty seven, Sir Integra Regina Wingates Fairbrook Hellsing had accomplished more than some men had in their entire lifetimes, but no matter how mature for her years, or hardened her persona appeared, nothing quite scarred her so much as the thought of emotions boiling up and edging into her heart. The human heart was a funny thing- Integra's was not cold, nor made of steel as some of her critics had proclaimed. She had a passionate heart, a noble, deeply feeling spirit that had to be contained at all times in order for it not to over-rule her head. She loved her family, country and God fiercely- that is why that pulpy, easily mis-lead organ had to be constantly kept in line in order not to jeopardize all those things she held so dear. This … man had found a way to provoke the most awful, horrible reactions out of her, and she hated that he had the power to do such a thing. While it was true that others had a way of creeping into her heart- that was another story all together. She had stopped denying the strong feelings that had been gradually developing for her servant over the years, but now she wasn't quite sure what to do with them….

The young woman sighed and blew a few smoke rings above her head. Ah, battles, paperwork, meetings, weapons-these were all cut and dry things that she could manage; during a conference, you either spoke or listened, in a war you either won or lost, whilst in battle, you were either killed or did the killing, but in love… this was a terrain that she would have to master quickly- her vampire would be joining her for supper in about another thirty minutes.

Walter nearly knocked the young captain over in the hallway-the blooms were so big that they blocked his sight and he plowed right into the man as he was making his way over to the kitchen.

"Hey-watch where you go, Old Man! Want to kill me?" the Captain cried. The butler stifled the 'yes' under his breath and glared at the young man. Suddenly an idea hit him.

"Here- why don't you bring these to Miss Victoria, I'm sure she'll enjoy them." Before he could protest, the cut-glass vase was placed into Pip's hands and Walter patted him on the head before he departed to begin the meal. The Frenchman smiled and took in the heavenly scent of the roses.

"La belle fleures!" he exclaimed. They were perfect roses- sweet, full-bodied and a very pretty shade of pale gold. "Ha, just like my Vic." He laughed. When he attempted to stroke the soft curve of the petals, a hidden thorn pricked his finger, making him wince and pull away suddenly.

He sighed. "Exactly like my Vic…."

Elsewhere- Italy, The Conservatory in the Maximilian Villa

The opening notes of "Carmen" were lovely and passionate- a nice choice of opera to be represented on piano. Sister Marianna's fingers flew over the ivory keys with passion and grace, plucking each note perfectly. Her eyes swept over the sheet music and skipped not a section. The small gathered audience was very pleased with the novice's performance.

"She plays well, don't she?" the Irish priest softly noted, but his companion merely put a finger to his own lips and nodded. The young nun indeed had talent for music and was very beautiful to match. The girl was no more than seventeen and was just entering the holy life from a convent in Sienna. Her musical skills were greatly appreciated , and she was thrilled when asked to assist with the holiday chorus that the orphanage was setting up for the upcoming festivities. As she continued playing, a few strands of light, brown curls peaked out of her white habit, and her dark eyes looked intense while focusing on the notes-a lovely, lovely girl indeed.

"Perhaps she'll be able to give me a private performance latter on…" the Arch Bishop thought with a slight grin spreading across his face. Other thoughts raced through his mind as the music continued; the invitation and gifts had been sent to England and he was sure that the Hellsing director had received them by this afternoon. The conference was a mere week away and the final pieces of his little plan were being laid out like a wonderful and intricate puzzle. Soon, very soon, Maxwell would have everything he ever wanted, desired, and craved right in the palm of his hands. The piece concluded and the man rose to salute the concert.

"Brava, Brava, Sister – what beautiful music you make!"