Castlevania is the property of Konami and they own the characters. I own the original characters in this story. This is obviously based on the Sorrow games with elements from previous Castlevania games and this takes place a few years after Dawn of Sorrow.

Forgotten

I had not meant to take the book without my father's consent. But I craved knowledge and wanted to learn what my father found so interesting in such a print.

I knew it was a coarse translation from its original Italian text, but I didn't yet know Italian though I would like to learn. But I knew my father would be most displeased at such a prospect, his daughter learning (and even knowing how to read) and so I kept my wishes to myself.

I chose a quiet recluse outside of town, a soft bed of grass under a tree on a beautiful sunny day. I flipped open the pages, allowing my eyes to adjust to the crude cursive, and read quietly to myself.

"Come on now little man, get away from your worldly occupations for a while, escape from your tumultuous thoughts. Lay aside your burdensome cares and put off your laborious exertions. Give yourself over to God for a little while, and rest for a while in Him. Enter into the cell of your mind, shut out everything except God and whatever helps you—"

"Milady?"

I started so suddenly at the interruption that I dropped the book. It fell mutely in my lap and slapped shut.

The soft, masculine chuckle caused my heart to start racing. I turned my head to the new presence, struggling to keep my voice steady. "G-Good morrow, Lord Cronqvist."

"Good morrow, Milady." He had such a handsome smile. I felt heat on my cheeks and quickly adverted my eyes. "May I ask what brings you to this fair abode when many other gentlewomen have gathered in the town square?"

His straight-forward and somewhat personal speech took me off-guard. Perhaps it was in his kind demeanor, or perhaps in my own shame, but I feel I could not speak falsely to him. "It was my wish…" I faltered, feeling my embarrassment grow. "To seek solace and…read." I held my breath, waiting for his mockery or disproval.

"Ah, one of his lordships logs?" He drew closer to me. My heart began pounding more strongly with each step he took. "And what might this volume be titled?"

"Proslogion, by the monk Anselm."

"Ah, what a fine volume this is!!" He was now standing over me. Well, not very close but a friendly closeness. He knelt down so that he was eye-level with me. "I didn't know you knew Italian, Milady."

"N-Nay, I do not," I said quickly, ducking my head. "M-My father had his volume translated. This is…such."

"I see. I didn't know his lordship taught milady literacy."

"H-He didn't!!" I blurted out before I could stop myself. "I-I learned on my own!! And I…I took this from him without his knowledge!! Oh, Milord, please do not tell him what I've done!!! He would be most displeased with me!!"

He stared at me for a long moment in silence. My embarrassment grew stronger and the urge to leave quickly grew with it. Oh, what must he think of me now? I acted without my father's knowledge and permission, and those weren't very noble traits.

Oddly though, he didn't seem displeased by my words or actions. His smile only grew wider and he shook his head slightly. "I should see no problem with the desire for knowledge. And to be able to teach yourself to read only warrants more praises on Milady's behalf."

So he wouldn't tell my father. I was flooded with relief and overcome with another emotion. One that only added to my embarrassment. "Thank you, Lord Cronqvist."

"This is a fine volume to read. I myself have taken many pleasures with such indulgence." Before I could react, he reached over and picked up the book straight from my lap. I couldn't help but flinch from such close contact and adverted my eyes again. If he noticed my reaction, he gave no inclination of such. "Language feeds the knowledge of man and helps to heighten our awareness."

He flipped open the book to a specific page. I watched him shyly, not sure of what he was doing. I had read very little of Proslogion and so I did not know all that the book detailed.

"This passage is my favorite," he said finally. He glanced at me briefly. "Might I read it for you?"

"O-Of course."

He glanced back at the book. "How in the world could he have said in his heart what he could not think? Or how indeed could he not have thought what he said in his heart, since saying it in his heart is the same as thinking it? But if he really thought it because he said it in his heart, and did not say it in his heart because he could not possibly have thought it - and that seems to be precisely what happened - then there must be more than one way in which something can be said in one's heart or thought. For a thing is thought in one way when the words signifying it are thought, and it is thought in quite another way when the thing signified is understood."

I knew he was reciting the proof of existence of God; that was the purpose of this volume, after all. But the way he recited the words to me did not seem to match the true meaning of the words. I stared at him as he spoke, and his eyes kept wandering to me between words. I simply sat there and watched him read, hanging onto each word.

Finally, he closed the book and handed it to me. "If the Lady likes, I might lend you some volumes of my own."

"W-Would you really do that, Lord Cronqvist?" I cried, overcome with joy.

"Would I make such an offer if I didn't intend on following through?" He smiled once more at me and my joy grew stronger.

"T-Thank you," I stammered, bowing my head. "You are very kind, sir. You promise not to tell on me to my father, and you offer me your own books to read. I don't know how to repay you."

"I don't expect to give them away for free."

I looked back up at him, a measure of my joy diminishing. "Oh? I-I see. And how might I pay you for this, Lord Cronqvist?"

He seemed to give my question a lot of thought. After a long moment of silence his handsome smile grew wider. "If I might be able to converse with you again, that would be more than payment for the books."

I was taken aback by his simple offer, no matter how happy it made me. "I would be pleased to, but my father must—"

"His lordship doesn't know you read his volumes. I don't see why he would need to know that we speak civilly, do you?"

He brought up a good point. Father would be furious if he knew I was alone with a man without his consent or knowledge, but I knew Lord Cronqvist to be a good man in merit and in spirit. We were speaking freely for the very first time, but I felt…I knew somehow I could trust in him.

"I agree," I said finally, returning his smile. "I don't believe meeting like this would dishonor my father in any way."

"Very well then," he said, slowly rising to his feet. "Might I see you tomorrow? I have a book in mind just for you; Gesta Normannorum Ducum."

I quickly nodded and smiled at him. "That would be fine."

---

New Years Eve. I knew how important the day was, even as I opened my eyes to a pitch black room. I rolled over onto my side to glance at my alarm clock. 5:35, in bright red numbers, glared back at me.

And, unfortunately, I couldn't go back to sleep. Not without a lack of trying though, but because I had a lot of work to do.

I got changed relatively quickly. I pulled on a pair of grey sweatpants and a tan-colored sweater before I left my room.

The cleaning of the shrine was almost complete, but I knew I still had a lot of work to do. By this time tomorrow, and in the days that followed, the Hakuba Shrine would be flooded with people like every other year.

The workload was only that much harder on me this year because it's the first year I would be doing it alone. Just yesterday, both of my parents were called out all the way out to Niigata to handle an incident involving exorcism. It seemed like a severe enough case, considering neither my mom nor dad would be back by the 2nd. I'd watched the shrine alone before, but not on New Years. It was going to be tough.

Suck it up, Mina, I suddenly scolded myself, quickly shaking my head. You're twenty-one years old. This work, although challenging, is nothing compared to what other people are doing right now. Mom, Dad, and most of all…Soma.

Thinking about Soma—more so, thinking about the amount of work he had—increased my drive. He really was working harder than I was, even right at that moment. Even so he took time out of his busy schedule to contact me a lot, whether by phone or email or even postage.

I stop mid step on the stairs and looked towards the small table near the front door. A pile of yesterday's mail was still sitting there with a nice postcard on top. I'd nearly forgotten about it in my sudden change in schedule. I couldn't resist a smile as I walked down the remaining steps to the pile and picked up the postcard. A cute sheep was on the front, signifying the animal representing the New Year, and a simple New Year's stamp. I turned it over to read what I'd barely had time to read yesterday.

Mina,

I'm sorry I won't be in Japan for New Years. Arikado-san and myself are holed up in a situation involving some…colorful characters. But I plan on being home by the end of January, so I'll tell you more about it.

I keep forgetting to mention this on the phone, but thanks for the Nian Gao. Eating them made me a bit homesick, but it was pretty funny to see Arikado-san's face when he bit into one!! I plan on buying you something more than this postcard, so have a lot of ideas when I come back. My New Year won't be full of a lot of celebrating, but at least you won't be by yourself, right?

Anyways, have a Happy New Year and take care of yourself.

Soma

I couldn't help but smile, much like anything related to Soma. I tucked the postcard into my pocket and began my cleaning. I'd scrubbed most of the floors and wall spotless, and thankfully the shoji screens were clean enough that most of the doors didn't require replacements.

Still, when eight o'clock came along I was exhausted. I dropped a pile of boxes on the floor of the linen closet and kicked the door shut, trying to catch my breath.

"This is too much," I complained to nobody in particular, wiping hair out of my face.

A stab of panic shot through me as my hand reached the back of my head. I was so surprised by the feeling and rubbed the back of my neck nervously. I went into the bathroom and looked at my reflection. I looked no difference than I usually did. My red hair was short as it'd been for years, my eyes were still brown, and my face was still my face.

What was that feeling then? I idly ran a hand through my hair again, fingers playing with the end strands. My stomach did flip flops and I made a face at my reflection. Maybe…it was my hair. The feeling started when I touched it. It was almost like I expected it to be longer.

The phone suddenly rang, interrupting my confusion. I left the bathroom and ran to answer it. The caller I.D. said 'Out of Area'.

Soma!! I quickly turned it on. "Hello, Hakuba Shrine!!"

There was dead air on the other line. I couldn't even hear anyone breathe. "Um, hello? Is anyone there?" I hazard a chance. "Soma? Is that you?"

A hiss answered me, taking me off-guard. I shook off the feeling as best as I could. "Who is this?"

"Are you ringing in the New Year alone, missus?" I didn't recognize the voice. It was definitely a man's voice, but very deep and…strange. I didn't know how to describe it.

"Of course not," I lied smoothly, feeling unnerved by the odd question.

"......I see. Sorry I disturb you." The line disconnected.

I slowly hung up the phone. What a weird phone call!! Who would prank a shrine?!

"Oh well," I murmured, shaking off the funny feeling. I still had a lot of cleaning and shrine patrons were bound to pop up at any-odd moment of the day.