A Game of Chess
Integra had never liked losing. Alucard had learned this the first time he played chess with the young girl.
In those days, Walter ran the Hellsing Organization. Twelve-year-old Integra was nominally in charge, and to her credit, she did take her responsibilities quite seriously. But she was still a little girl, and had to listen to her tutor and the others who tried to run her life. She very quickly rebelled against any kind of manipulation. She set her teeth and tilted her head down, so even though she was shorter than all the adults around her, she still gave the impression of looking down at them. She was stubborn as a mule, and he laughed to see her lord her position over those who were so hesitant to take her seriously. She would fight for every ounce of respect she would ever get.
Except from Walter, and from himself. He had acknowledged her as a worthy master unreservedly. She need not prove it to him; he already knew that Arthur had left behind a great heir. That was what made humans so unique; they could try again with every new generation. He never would have predicted that the Hellsing family could have produced someone like Integra, but as soon as he met her, he knew that she was every inch an Hellsing.
Not surprisingly, she had not trusted him at first. She wanted to keep him locked in the basement. But no lock would hold him, so only her word kept him confined. When she understood this, she first learned what it meant to have a loyal servant at her beck and call. He watched her mulling over the options. Alucard had little experience with twelve-year-old girls, but he doubted most of them would consider his killing abilities so frankly. She thought first of using him against her obvious enemies – those who were trying to undermine her authority over the Royal Order of Protestant Knights. But she checked that thought almost as soon as she had it, and let her thoughts shift to the possibility of using a vampire against vampires. She rejected that, too, though, to his intense disappointment. She did not seem quite ready to wield him yet, no matter the enemy. And so he would languish in the basement, sipping on donated blood, the very model of a tamed and declawed vampire. For now.
She came to visit him occasionally. At first, Walter was always present. She would take no chances with the monster who seemed loyal to her. She asked him many questions, trying to understand who he was and how he came to serve her family. His answers did not always satisfy her, but she would just frown and ask another question. The only questions that betrayed how young she was were the ones about her father. Her grief at his loss was still very close to her heart. He supposed he had once been that young and vulnerable, but he did not remember that. He spoke of her father easily, in a bored tone of voice, betraying nothing of how he missed the man as well. He knew she would resent that, and cease asking.
Finally, she gave him permission to move about the manor, but he was absolutely restricted from leaving the grounds, and he was not to interact with anyone who might come calling. Explaining the presence of a vampire would not be easy. She slept all night, and he slept most days, so he usually only saw her in the evenings. That was how it happened that one night he entered the study to find her frowning at her father's chessboard.
"You know how to play?" he greeted her.
"Yes. My father taught me how the pieces move when I was a little girl."
"You are still a little girl, Integra," he said, intentionally looming over her.
She scowled. "I was six years old at the time. I'm much taller now."
"There's no one to play with."
He took the seat across from her. "I like to play," he said, showing his teeth in his smile.
She looked at him calculatingly. "I've never played chess against a vampire before."
"The game is the same," he assured her.
She nodded. "I'm white," she informed him, resetting the board. He was amused by her self-assurance and tone of command. What a wonderful master she would be some day!
He watched her watching the board. She chose to move her knight first. He had not been entirely honest with her. The problem with playing against a vampire was that, unlike a human opponent, they were much more likely to read your mind to anticipate your moves. He decided not to this first time, just to see what type of opponent she could be.
Integra bit her lower lip. Alucard was a very reckless chess player. He seemed to have few qualms about sacrificing his pieces, if it meant he could get at hers. She'd always been a much more conservative player, making sure each piece had protection, so that it would only be sold at a cost. When she'd played her father, this meant he would be less likely to take the pieces from her. But Alucard – he took them all! And that infernal mocking grin just made it worse.
He could tell Arthur had taught her to play. She showed his caution. He grinned wickedly, and took piece after piece, sacrificing his own relentlessly. She got angrier and angrier, taking each loss as a personal affront. He did everything he could to stoke that anger, flaunting each minor victory and mocking her. Finally, he had her in checkmate, but before he could say it, she flipped the board on him.
"I'm never playing with you again!" she screamed, and stomped out of the room. He just chuckled. She was so pretty when she was angry.
She did not hold to that statement, of course. He knew what it meant to be lonely, and any fool could see that the young girl was very alone. She had no friends, and could trust few people except Walter. Giving commands to military soldiers who would as soon pat her head as obey her had to be wearing. She may never learn to confide in him, but she would need someone to share small moments with. He could be a companion, of sorts. Wasn't that what pets were for?
The next time, she invited him to play. Or rather, practically ordered him to. "I'm still white," she said, pointing to the seat across from her. She was more prepared for his onslaught this time, knowing that he would take every piece he had the opportunity to. She sold her pieces more dearly. But in the end, he still beat her easily.
"I don't like playing with you," she informed him. He only laughed.
"Why not, my master?"
"Because you beat me!"
"I could tear you limb from limb and drain every drop of blood from your body, and yet you're upset that I beat you at chess?"
"Don't be absurd. You wouldn't do any of those things. And if I ordered you to lose, you would."
"You won't do that, though."
"Why not?" she asked, curious how he knew that she wasn't intending to order him to let her win.
"What fun would that be?" He showed his teeth again. "Goodnight, master."
Eventually, she learned how to set him up. To lure him into taking the pieces she intended to sacrifice, so that she could carry out her plans. She became quite the devious little chess player, and took sadistic glee in beating him for the very first time. Seeing the look on her face, he could not be upset.
"Why are you grinning?" she asked. "I beat you!"
He just continued to smile at her. "I always win, in the end," he murmured. She now played chess like him, not Arthur. Someday, she would hunt vampires as he did, not as her father did. It was so encouraging to see her grow up like this. It made him…hungry…watching her. He longed to walk the nights again, but he would await her command. He was confident now that some day she would truly use him as a vampire. She would be the best master he could ask for.
Author's Notes: In a way, this is a companion piece to "Family Obligations," showing Alucard's POV. But it's not about the same subject, so it stands alone. I was not attempting to paint Integra as a prodigy - a six-year-old can be taught how the pieces move.