Requiem: Death Shall Have No Dominion
By Darth Stitch

DISCLAIMER: Same as previous chapter


Seven – What About Love

There's a hole in the sky tonight
Did the moon drift too far from sight
I would search through this empty darkness
To see your face in the morning light

We've been lost in a sea of confusion
Got caught up in a selfish illusion
But make no mistake: I will bend till I break
Don't let fate make the choice for us

What about love that lasts forever?
What about time to see it through?
If you don't give you just don't get it
What about me?
What about you?

What about love?

- "What About Love," Meatloaf

The bells were ringing all over Albion today.

The Queen is dead. Long live the Queen!

The people of Albion had chanted these words for hundreds of years. Thus did they mourn the passing of one monarch and celebrate the coming of the next.

The people of Albion had believed, at first, that with the death of Crown Prince Gilbert, the royal line would die out. Instead, their hope had been renewed when their long-lost Princess Esther was finally restored to her throne and her people.

Already, there were whispers of change with the ascension of Princess Esther to Albion's throne. The people of Londinium were awed by her courage, as she rallied them to stand together on that terrible day that the Palace was attacked by Methuselah extremists, taking His Holiness the Pope hostage. They would never forget the image of her standing upon the roof of the Palace, dressed in her white nun's habit, a bright star on that long, dark night.

Albion's Terran subjects did not like to think of the Methuselah who lived in the Underground Ghetto. It was enough that their technology allowed Albion to live in freedom and peace. But this was always to be an uneasy coexistence. "Out of sight, out of mind," so many people thought.

And yet, it was these same Methuselah who had rallied to defend Albion and her people against her enemies, working together in an unprecedented move, with the Roman Catholic Church. Terrans and Methuselahs working together – was this the beginning of a new age? Were they all finally to emerge from the dark times wrought by the Armaggedon at long last?

All over Albion, the bells were ringing.

Today, Esther Blanchett, once a nun of the Catholic Church, would be crowned the new Queen of Albion.

***

Esther had known that Abel would say goodbye.

She knew that he could not stay with her, at least not at this point in time. She had known the enormity of the burden he carried, that desire to atone for his terrible sins. She had hoped to stay by his side, as he had by hers, on that eternal quest. But now, both of them were irrevocably bound by duty to different paths – she to the throne of Albion and Abel to his past and a promise made to a martyred saint…

Igne Natura Renovatur Integra - through fire shall all of nature be renewed

Dietrich had spoken those words to her long ago, mockingly, giving her false hopes and taking delight in her naiveté.

Cain spoke the Word and I wrote That in the flesh and bones of the humans of this world.

I wrote it in their blood, Esther and even now, I'll never wash that away...

Abel had revealed to her the truth behind Dietrich's lie, expecting that she would turn away from him in horror and disgust, as others had done before.

It was not her place to forgive him, though she gave that to him and more.

It was not her place to grant him atonement – he first had to forgive himself and she knew that he probably never would. And yet, each day, she could see hope rekindled in him. And she was glad that she could help bring that to him, as he had for her, on that long ago night in Istvan, when she in turn, had thought her world was falling to pieces all around her.

***

Esther's steps were measured and steady as she walked down the long aisle of Westminster Abbey.

The ceremonial gown, the rich robes and the jewels were heavy and stiff but somehow she managed to carry them off with grace, conscious of the eyes upon her.

There were the common people of Albion, cheering her outside. There were the peers of the realm, aristocrats from ancient and noble families and the members of the House of Commons. They would expect much of her – it was a terrifying prospect and she breathed a fervent prayer that she would not fail any of them.

There were familiar faces too. The AX Members and the Inquisition was there, in their formal dress robes and armor. Even Sister Kate, though she could only ever appear as a holographic image, somehow managed to adjust her appearance so she would be seen wearing her formal nun's habit. The Professor was beaming. Father Tres, his repairs complete, and Father Hugue were impassive as always. Brother Petros nodded solemnly at her, with Sister Paula actually managing a slight smile in her direction.

Father Leon, ever incorrigible, tipped her a mischievous wink.

Virgil Walsh, the Count of Manchester and his sister Vanessa, quietly pardoned for the role she played in the abduction of the Pope, were present as well, including many of the Ghetto Methuselah. There were even children present and one small little imp, reminding Esther of Isabel, somehow managed to sneak in her pet rabbit. She was smiling and waving happily at the young Pope, who waved shyly back.

Esther had specifically asked that they be in attendance. No longer would she ask Albion's Methuselah to hide in the shadows. Inevitably there were those who objected but Captain Mary Spencer was the first to show obedience to her new Queen and threw in her support.

But what had really shocked all of them was that the young Pope himself, shy and retiring Alessandro, had solidly backed Esther up. Indeed, he was the one who had insisted that the Lady Vanessa be pardoned. They had all been made the dupes of the Rosen Kreuz Orden and it was high time that they stopped dancing to the Orden's tune. Lady Caterina, pleased and delighted at her younger brother's new show of maturity and strength, backed him up over Cardinal Francesco's outraged objections.

"Did not the Lord Jesus bid us to forgive and love our enemies?" The little Pope had said softly, but with an underlying strength to his words. The citing of Scripture and the subtle jab at the conservative Cardinal's apparent questioning of Papal infallibility silenced the Duke of Florence and Tuscany, at least for the moment. Even Brother Petros was seen trying to wipe away a surreptitious tear at His Holiness' wisdom (no, that stalwart Knight of the Church was absolutely not crying – the very idea!).

The Pope, wearing the triple crown of the Papacy and bearing his Pastoral Staff, was waiting at the altar. For the first time in hundreds of years, he and not the Archbishop of Canterbury, would crown a Queen Regnant of Albion. It was a visible symbol of the reconciliation between the Catholic Church and the Church of Old England.

Terrans…. Methuselahs. They are all equal in the eyes of the Empress. Seth had told her once. It seemed like a lifetime ago.

The Marquis Gyula… The Reverend Mother Laura… we're all just the same. And I promise to do all that I can so we can have a world where Terrans and Methuselah can live in peace. She'd sworn that to herself, just before she followed Abel to Rome. She had so many questions… she had first believed that the world was so simple – black and white, vampires and humans, evil and good, her quest for justice and revenge. She had thought that Abel would hold most of the answers to those questions.

Instead, she had realized that she needed to find those answers on her own, as Abel was doing. But they were walking down that road together.

But now, she was alone, although surrounded by all the familiar faces of her friends and chosen family, the people she loved and cared for. Only she would make the vows that would bind her in service to throne and country. Only she would be accountable for her oath.

They were all here, to bear witness as the Pope set the crown on her head.

All except one.

***

Abel took his leave of her at dawn.

He could not stay for the coronation – there could be not one indication that he would care to stay for the new Queen of Albion. Cain must believe that Abel's only focus was on finding him and ending their war once and for all. It would be so like Cain, feed his monstrous ego, that pride that would acknowledge no other than his own self to be sole center of the universe.

Esther had promised herself that she would not weep, that his last image of her would not be a face stained with tears. She would be brave and strong, send him on his way with every blessing she could think of.

"I really am proud of you, you know," Abel told her, upon learning about her intentions towards having the Ghetto Methuselah present during her coronation. "You will make a good Queen – you've always been wiser than I have ever been."

"I wish you could stay," she whispered, the words tumbling out unwillingly. She blushed hotly, incensed at herself and cast her eyes down. "No – never mind, I know why you must go…"

"Esther." Gentle fingers tipped her chin up so she could look at him. At that time, Abel's hair lay unbound over his shoulders, the glasses nowhere in sight. He was dressed in the robes and full armor of the Catholic warrior priest that he was. But this time, he faced her with none of his usual masks.

He was just Abel, her husband and the man she loved.

"Cain and I… things must be settled between us. It has been long overdue. For all our sakes, I need to end this. And I want… I need you to be safe," And at that last, his voice broke and he drew her close and she was fiercely glad that he held on to her like he never wanted to let her go, murmuring disjointed endearments in her ear.

He had always been more eloquent than this – but she could understand this so much better somehow.

"Come home safely," she whispered into his robes, holding on just as tight. "Promise me."

"Home," he breathed softly. "Where you are will always be home. I promise."

***

The Crown of Albion was heavy, an obvious symbol of the burden Esther would bear, if there ever was one. However, the Pope smiled at her as he made his benediction, a clear reminder to Esther that this would not be a burden she would really bear alone.

She needed to have faith and to hope – was that not what their religion had preached all along?

She smiled at the young man, the latest in a long line of successors to the throne of St. Peter, the Rock on whom Christ had built his Church. She had known him as an unassuming, gentle boy – seemingly too fragile for his office, overshadowed by his stronger siblings. But now, he too was finding his own strength and she was glad of it.

Their eyes met and they smiled at each other – he liked her and had been fast friends ever since they had first met in his private gardens in Rome. Together, they held hands and faced the assembly of Methuselahs and Terrans.

All were equal.

All were human.

"For a better world," Esther and Pope Alessandro whispered together.

It was a promise.


EPILOGUE – So Beautiful Tonight

The more you see the less you know
The less you find out as you go
I knew much more then than I do now

Neon heart day-glow eyes
A city lit by fireflies
They're advertising in the skies
For people like us

And I miss you when you're not around
I'm getting ready to leave the ground

Oh you look so beautiful tonight
In the city of blinding lights

- "The City of Blinding Lights," U2

It took longer than he thought it would.

Abel had gone back to the facility where he had been created hundreds of years ago, the triumph of the British contingent involved in the Red Mars Project.

Mankind's dream of reaching the stars, the exploration of new worlds – oh how naïve they had been.

The outer building, of course, was in ruins – he would know. He himself had led the assault on it during the last Great War. Abel had taken a perverse kind of pride in the utter destruction of the laboratory and the unfeeling, uncaring scientists who worked within. How dared they play God, create an innocent child in their perceived image of perfection, only to cast him aside as a flawed tool? How dared they treat another human being as simply another object, not a person, slave to their whims?

Abel Nightlord had thought his revenge sweet then.

Now, he could only look back on those memories of death and destruction, those blood-and-gore-spattered images with horror and grief.

And the guilt was never ending.

The underground facilities were, of course, intact. Abel had taken care to wipe the computers clean of all data pertaining to the creation of the Red Mars Project's "New Humans." He had also destroyed all the hard copies of that information, taking care to leave no trace. Those long-ago scientists and doctors, had, in their arrogance, called it the Blueprint of the Gods.

Cain had once claimed, delirious with the new power granted to him by the Crusnik nanomachines, that they – the Nightlords – were indeed Gods.

Abel intended that the Blueprint of the Gods would be stored in one place only and Cain would never get his hands on it.

He knew his twin's intentions now – it should have been obvious from the very start. Cain intended to gather what he could of the lost pre-Armageddon technology so he could have his glorious war and restore his body. Abel intended to deny this to him with his very last breath.

There were other places in the world where lost technology might be found and bent to the twisted designs of the Rosen Kruez Orden. And not just in this world…

He emerged from the underground laboratory where he had been born. It was already twilight – the sun was almost gone over the horizon and the moons were rising in the sky. Absently, Abel tied back his hair, slipped his glasses on.

The Road goes over on and on…

The fragment of an old poem floated in his mind, taken from one of Seth's favorite fantasy books. He had a long Road to walk and promises to keep.

He sensed, rather than heard, the presence following him.

It would be a Methuselah – no ordinary human could move so quietly. Abel turned to regard young Ion Fortuna, the Count of Memphis, cloaked against the fading sunlight. The boy's expression was grave and serious.

"I knew that you lived," Ion told him.

Abel sighed. "Perhaps I was simply unfortunate enough to be condemned to return."

Ion glared at him. "If you love Esther at all, then you do not mean those words."

"I love Esther enough to want nothing but her happiness and her safety," Abel told him sternly. "She is my life, Ion – I need not say more."

Ion had the grace to blush and look away.

"She might have chosen you, you realize," Abel said in a softer tone. "Perhaps it might have been wiser."

"No," Ion admitted. "There was never any question of choice. Not for Esther. She has always made her own decisions, hasn't she?" A faint little smile curved Ion's lips and then, in a quieter tone: "I have my own questions."

"I do not have your answers, Ion Fortuna," Abel answered him, looking at him steadily.

"I know… my lord Prince," Ion said and there was no mockery in the way he granted Abel the title. "I know that the Rosen Kreuz Orden wishes us all to destroy each other, pulling at us like puppets on strings. I know they took away my… tovarishch." And at that his voice faltered and he bit his lip, drawing blood. "I will have justice for him. I will have them answer for what they have done."

And at this, Ion looked directly at Abel, determination in his gaze. "I wish to go with you."

Oh God. He did not want to take this child, this innocent – not on this kind of journey. There was so much blood on his hands already – he could not bear to add Ion's to that already long list of death.

There was no need to tell Ion how dangerous it was – the boy already knew and so Abel gave him the truth, nothing more. "I will let nothing stand in my way – I am prepared to do whatever it takes to destroy… the Orden." Cain's name remained unspoken but it was there, bringing with it as always that fierce, sharp ache in his chest.

"It is my choice, my lord Prince," Ion answered clearly.

Abel closed his eyes. Yes, it was Ion's choice and but for a crown, it might have been Esther who would be standing before him, asking to accompany him on this long and terrible road.

We all make our own choices and live with the consequences of our actions. Abel had read that somewhere once, recognized its truth and it was like a prayer running through his mind right now. Or perhaps it was an answer to one.

"Your choice," Abel acknowledged finally, opening his eyes and looking up at the darkening sky. The First Moon was rising, a silver curve in the sky. But Abel's eyes were riveted on the Second Moon – the one that appeared after the Armageddon.

The one they called the Vampire's Moon.

It was their space station, long ago. And Cain had sought the means to return to it when he had sent Dietrich to the Ghetto. It was the most visible reminder of his task, beckoning him onwards.

The two moons shone bright in the deep dark blue of the sky. So beautiful… like Esther's eyes.

Abel would come home – he had promised her, didn't he?

Abel tucked the memory of her close to his heart and took the first step on his Road, Ion following behind him.

- end -

AUTHOR'S NOTES:

Esther's age – The official website apparently lists her age as 17 and I know the translators have tagged her as a 15 year old. For the sake of my sanity, the timeline of events in Trinity Blood "appears" like it took place over a couple of months but I think it's fairly safe to assume it actually took about 2 or 3 years. Esther had been a novice when she met Abel and you do NOT become a full-fledged nun (at least a nun in the way the Trinity Blood universe works) and an AX agent in a few months, okay? Plus, hey, she ended up marrying Abel – she WOULD be of legal age to do that, okay?

The Pope – I like that the anime showed that the Pope eventually began growing a backbone and it's evident this kid has some brains, especially in the recent manga arc. I have plans for this kid – plans that aren't quite what's in store for him in canon. That's the fun of writing fan fiction. And I'm going to bring out the history nerd in me to play – this will be terribly entertaining… Fellow history nerds are welcome to bring in their input! Great Schism, anyone? (cue evil laugh)

Canon – the main canon source for Milk Tea is the anime, which was the first thing I saw and the one that's most familiar to me but I'm not averse to incorporating the manga and the novels where it suits. Again, I've said it before – I love tapdancing between canon and making my own fanon. I like the anime's more hopeful tone and I understand the slightly grimmer tone the manga is taking – they want to tell more stories, of course.

Kudos points to anyone who spots the Neil Gaiman (Sandman) and Tolkien references! (Okay, the Tolkien reference IS obvious….)

I'd like to welcome smcandy onboard as beta reader for the Milk Tea series. (waves to 'candy) Thanks for your interest and I look forward to working with you in the next set of stories!

The end? Are you serious? There's more stories coming up on the horizon!