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CHAPTER 2 – TIME TRANSCENDS LOVE
"Ungh…" Mina groaned, holding her head as she sat up against the inside of the castle wall. Arikado was close by, keeping one watchful eye trained on the castle and courtyard, and one on her. After a few moments of his silence, he turned his head a fraction towards her.
"I am curious of something." He said.
Mina looked up. "Yes?"
"What does Soma Cruz mean to you?"
Mina's face slipped into the slightest tinge of red. "He's a good friend. We knew each other as pen pals from childhood, and he came to Japan as a transfer student a year ago. He's a little…rough around the edges, but he's a good person. He's helped me out at the shrine a lot, and he even protected me from a few men who tried to destroy a part of the shrine one time."
Arikado raised an eyebrow. "He is skilled in combat?"
Mina blinked, then nodded. "I suppose so. He's always been good with a knife, and I know he usually carries one with him, even if he thinks he won't need it. But he told me he's always been intrigued by medieval style weaponry, so he's good with a number of other ancient weapons. Swords and axes and such. Stuff that doesn't usually appear in terms of combat in the twenty-second century."
She saw a hint of a smile appear on Arikado's face, and the men seemed to mouth, almost to himself, "Just like him."
Soma breathed wearily. He'd only been through eleven or so rooms of the castle, but he already felt tired. Between a seemingly unending slew of rotting zombies in the first corridor, a flight of vicious bats in another room, and a host of what looked like walking fish-men in another, he'd certainly had his work cut out for him in terms of merely surviving.
Thankfully, the monsters themselves seemed to be somewhat stocked in various items – already he'd traded in his shiv for a studier baselard knife from one of the zombies, and he'd kept a few extra just in case. Add to that the three new souls in his collection and he felt like he was in good shape for a start.
Currently he had stumbled into a room wherein the majority of the space was taken up by a tall statue of a maiden in a flowing robe. She seemed to watch Soma sadly as he sat at her feet, regaining his breath.
Abruptly, from somewhere ahead and outside the room, Soma heard a decidedly female scream. Not Mina's voice, but definitely a girl. A young one by the sound. He struggled to his feet, leaning on the statue for a moment. As he did, he felt warmth from the statue and his weariness slipped away into a firm focus and a rush of strength in his body. He jerked back away from the statue, whose expression had seemingly changed from a sad frown to a kind smile, and although he didn't see the lips moving, Soma could have sworn he heard the statue speak softly; "May my feet always be a place of rest for the weary master."
Soma paused for the barest of seconds before he heard the scream again and wheeled about, leaving the room in a rush.
"Leave me alone! Ahh!"
The voice had gotten louder as Soma passed from room to room. He'd recognized the language now as English, which didn't fully surprise him – this castle had supposedly come from Transylvania, and English was undoubtedly more common there than Japanese. His feet pounded the cobblestone floor as he passed through another wide doorway into a courtyard and ground to a halt.
In the center of the courtyard, knocked back into a cringing seated position, was a teenage-looking girl, dressed fully in a pink French maid outfit. Her mid-thigh length skirt was ripped on one side, and her leg was bleeding slightly under it. Her headband was askew, her hair matted around her head as she faced away from him.
Towering over her was the remnants of what must have been a massively giant man at one time, but had now been reduced to an overly large skeleton. The skeleton from the waist down had deteriorated so that the two large, bony forearms dragged the torso and giant skull along, keeping the monster upright. Behind the creature was a man in a very expensive grey suit, a snide expression on his face as he held out a fist-sized glowing green orb towards the skeleton, which raised a massive bone in its left hand, threatening to bring it down on the girl, who screamed again.
Soma leapt from the doorway towards the scene, deciding to process the situation later and take action now. He rushed between the oncoming bone-club and the girl, raising his left hand. A quick swarm of four bats emerged from his palm, winging their way, screeching, right inside the empty eye sockets of the massive skull. The skeleton stopped its attack, shaking its head, trying to rid itself of the racket inside its skull. As it did so, Soma drew a baselard knife from his belt and flipped it over backwards in his hand, slashing at what little sinew held the skeleton's left elbow together, letting the bone club clatter to the floor, along with the arm from the elbow down. The skeleton howled at Soma, a strange, hollow, moany-growl. Then the top of its skull burst open in a shattering of weak, dried bone structure as the bats erupted out.
The enormous skeleton gave a last raspy growl, then tumbled to the ground and shattered into dust. A quick, fiery ember leapt from its ashes and planted itself in Soma's chest. He didn't flinch – he had gotten used to the feeling of a new soul quickly.
The suited man by the far door had a surprised frown on his face, and his outstretched hand was bloody – it looked like the orb he'd been holding had shattered as well, but the man made no action like he was in pain. He regarded Soma curiously.
"And just who are you?" The man said in English. His voice was tailored, eloquent, and commanding, like his presence. Soma kept the baselard gripped firmly in his hand, replying in English – he hadn't used the language in years, but it came to his lips easily as he said, "I don't feel that I should give my name to someone controlling monsters and setting them on girls."
The man laughed – an unpleasant sound. "Oh I normally wouldn't, but that particular girl is simply another monster of the castle. I have no real use for her, so I thought I'd use her as a test subject for my Subjugation spell. Of course, as you saw, that behemoth of a skeleton got in the way, so I had a slight change of plans."
The man looked down at his bleeding hand and examined it briefly. "I suppose that I will owe you for that, but perhaps I will collect later. I have more important business within this castle."
Soma remained between the girl and the man. "And if I chose to interrupt your business?" he said, pointing the tip of the baselard towards the man's throat menacingly. Something had stirred inside Soma's body, in what he felt was his very soul. The sight of the man made him want to gag, as though he knew that the man was going to do something wrong, something that he shouldn't…no, that he had no right to do.
And the girl. The image of her had brought a sharp jab into Soma's heart. He'd never seen her before; that much he knew. But something about her had made him rush to her aid without a second thought.
The man smirked at Soma, shaking away a few droplets of blood from his hand as he spoke in a condescending voice. "Please. You speak as if you could even hope to do so." He turned away and walked towards the far door of the courtyard, calling back over his shoulder as he did. "And my name is Graham Jones, by the by. You would do well to remember it in the future." Then he was gone.
Soma slipped the baselard back into a spot on his belt and sat down on the ground. The girl was staring at him oddly, her mouth half an inch open and her eyes surprised. Soma glanced at her, reverting to Japanese from habit. "Sorry, I need a moment to let my body react to what just happened – I only got into this magic and soul stuff about an hour ago, so my mind still freaks out a bit on the inside when it sees things like giant skeletons and freaky guys in suits." He sighed and let his shoulders slump a bit – calling up the four bats and controlling them in terms of strategy and slashing through the tendons on the giant skeleton and keeping a calm and confident face on when he was speaking to Graham, when in truth he'd half expected the man to attempt to kill him outright…had taken a lot out of him.
The girl had moved onto her hands and knees, not flinching in the least from her wound, as she crawled towards Soma. He glanced at her again and blushed, looking away from the fact that her crawling pose dipped the collar of her uniform enough that he could make out a good portion of cleavage. As his mind tumbled over the events of the last two minutes, he barely heard the girl speak, in perfectly understandable Japanese.
Soma turned to stare at her, confused. "Huh?"
The girl looked deep into his eyes, long blue hair falling over her shoulders and around her face, her maid headband still askew. The tugging jab hit Soma's heart again and he took a sharp intake of breath as a name jumped into his mind and past his lips before he could stop it.
"Persephone." He breathed.
The girl gasped and then nearly leapt on top of him, pressing her lips firmly against his and holding him to her so tight that it almost hurt as she squealed between gaps in the kissing, "Master! Master!"
Completely taken off guard, it took Soma a full minute to eventually work the maid off of him, holding her by the shoulders at arms length. "Just what are you doing?!" he exclaimed.
The girl stared at him again. Then her mouth opened in a slight "o" of realization and she said, "You…do not remember?"
Soma blinked. "Erm…I'm sorry, no. What should I remember?"
"Me." The girl replied, and abruptly her eyes had filled with tears as she looked away. Soma felt the pang in his chest growl at him again and he spoke quickly. "Umm, I remember the name Persephone, but…I don't know what it refers to…are you Persephone?"
She nodded, a tear falling from one eye. "I'm sorry…I should have realized…Master died so long ago…but I was so sure that you were him…you felt like him…the same commanding presence, the same aura…"
Another new feeling rushed through Soma – regret. He already felt it from unintentionally saddening Persephone, but this regret was different, and it brought more words to his lips and past them. "I…feel deep regret for leaving you alone all this time Persephone."
She looked up at him again, clearly again surprised. "Then…?"
Soma shook his head quickly. "I don't know where those words came from. I keep feeling stuff coming out of my…I don't know, I'd guess I'd have to say my soul. It's been happening ever since I came into this castle and started seeing things. It's almost like nostalgia, mixed with emotions that aren't mine…at least, I don't think they are – I don't know." He left out the part about the severe attraction that was now directing his focus on the maid as she dried her tears on her short sleeve. Soma reached into a pocket of his long coat and drew out a handkerchief, handing it to her. "Here."
Persephone took it and dabbed at her eyes. "Thank you." She moved to hand it back, but Soma shook his head. "Keep it." He reached up and righted the maid headband on her head.
A slight dripping patter caught his attention, along with the red streak along Persephone's upper outer thigh and he remembered that she was injured. "Let me take care of that." Soma said, slipping off one arm of his jacket. He drew the baselard and cut off the right sleeve of his long sweater from the elbow down and slipped it over Persephone's high-heeled shoe and ankle, sliding it up her leg and over the wound like a makeshift bandaid. As he tried to readjust it, he suddenly realized just where on the maid's inner thigh his right hand was resting and he withdrew his hands hurriedly. "Erm, maybe you'd better get it the rest of the way on.
Persephone giggled slightly, adjusting the "bandage" as Soma slipped his arm back into his coat. She stood and straightened her skirt and clothes. "Hehe, it's kind of like a garter. See?"
Soma, still seated on the floor, looked up just in time to see the sweater sleeve in position – and a hint of pink lace dainties under the maid's short skirt. He quickly stood up, trying to hide his blush again. Persephone didn't seem to notice, looking over him from head to toe. "So if you're not Master, then who are you, and how did you get to this castle?"
Soma said, "My name is Soma Cruz. I was watching the solar eclipse from a shrine near my home in Japan, and I and my friend were pulled into it. We ended up outside the castle on the grounds. A man I met there told me to find the master's chamber if I wanted to get out of here."
Persephone looked at the dusty remains of the giant skeleton. "Are you a summoner or something? You made bats fly out of your hand."
"The man I met outside, Arikado, told me I have the Power of Dominance." Soma replied. Persephone nodded, the barest of flashes of insight slipping past her eyes and then burying itself again. Soma chose not to say anything about it, instead asking, "That man, Graham – he said you were a monster of the castle? Is that true?"
Persephone looked half-offended and half proud. "I'm a proud servant of the former lord and master of this castle, Count Vladimir Dracula. Call me what you will, but I won't refer to myself as a monster."
Soma nodded. "I'm sorry – wait," his mind caught up with him. "Dracula? As in the Dracula?"
Persephone nodded. "I have been with the lord and master Dracula since the year seventeen forty-seven. I came to this castle as a servant girl in Transylvania, and I was one of the lord and master's first servants that he turned into loyal demons." She said it so easily that Soma couldn't hide his surprise. "You say it like it's nothing, but he made you a demon? Why?"
"It was the lord and master's first rise to power. He was going to control the world. Most of the servant girls just became his various subjects and soldiers along with the werewolves and undead and other monsters. But I…" she stopped, a hint of a blush on her cheeks as she continued. "I…the master was too important to me to leave him unattended, so I asked to remain with him." She didn't go on, but Soma pressed on, the easy suggestion popping into his mind.
"And you were in love with him? With Dracula?"
Persephone nodded slowly. "Y-Yes…I never told him, although I'd like to think that he knew somehow…" She put on a smile that quivered at its edges, obviously fake. "My master was often occupied and I never pressed him. He had many wives and servant lovers, but not me. I asked him once about it…he was angry, not noticeably so, but it was in his eyes. He said that I was to never ask him again, and that the fact that I would consider joining them lowered his thinking of me. They probably took up too much of his time, so he didn't want another…"
Soma spoke again, the words jumping from that place somewhere in his gut. "Perhaps he held you above all of them and didn't want to see you lower yourself for him."
Persephone glanced at Soma's face, seeing the honesty laid across it – that he wasn't merely coming up with something to comfort her with. "Perhaps…thank you Soma." She looked past him towards the door that Graham had exited through. "You said you needed to get to the master's chamber?"
Soma nodded. "Yes…although from what I've seen of this castle so far, I doubt it's really that simple…and then there's that man Graham. What he's doing here, I don't know. Between him and the monsters here, I'm not exactly looking forwards to the trip – I'm only a human after all…"
Persephone shrugged. "I'll come with you then."
Soma blinked. "Huh?"
The maid giggled again. "I said I'll come with you. I like you, Mr. Soma Cruz. And I have a feeling that you're more special than you realize in this place. I know the layout of this castle perfectly, and I know where the master's items that will let you access his chamber are. I can guide you through the monsters too – you'll probably want to collect more souls before you encounter Graham again."
"And you're all right with that?" Soma asked. "Me killing the monsters, I mean?"
Persephone paused for a moment, before saying with an honest smile. "In collecting the souls of the monsters of this castle, you're sort of becoming the new master of Castlevania." She blushed very slightly. "In honor of the previous lord and master, I'd like to help the new lord and master on his quest."
Soma kept his thoughts silent – I don't want to be master of this castle, or of these monsters. I just want to go home. I don't want anything to do with any of this.
But…do I not want anything to do with Persephone as well?
I don't know.
"Alright then. Let's go." He said, turning towards the double doors from the courtyard, Persephone right behind him.
Wow, a chapter longer than the rest of the story so far. Enjoy, and leave a review at the door please!