I have no excuse for taking so long to put out this chapter. It's been mostly done for years, I just hadn't gotten around to polishing and posting it. It's not perfect, but meh, at least it's finished.
The two bridal couples twirled across the banquet hall floor, gazing at each other with just as much affection as if they had never intended or attempted to kill each other.
The wedding coordinator watched the dance idly, musing herself that It was a strange double wedding. Very strange. Overall, the smallness of the gathering, and the rather unconcerned attitude of the couples seemed much more like a second wedding - for divorced couples who had no particular desire to repeat the elaborate and expensive ritual of a traditional celebration. The weird thing was, the family seemed to be so well off that they shouldn't have minded the expense, and as far as she knew, none among the two couples had been married before.
The oddness of it didn't end there. The two brides were exceptionally young - ostensibly not a day over 18. In that modern day and age, most couples didn't marry until their thirties, if they bothered to marry at all. The two bridal dresses were also rather odd. One was dressed in a Victorian dress that seemed much like a costume from a period drama. The the other was an a-line white gown, covered by a cobalt-blue lace duster, embellished with iridescent beads, hair topped with a white-gold tiara - an ensemble that would have been very elegant and stylish if it wasn't so blatantly outdated by at least thirty years. The only thing that matched between the two brides were their faces - they were obviously twins.. And the roses in their hair, one wearing pink, the other blue.
The grooms were even more of a contrast, one a sparkling blond dressed in an outdated white silk suit, the other, a smoldering black-haired man in a Victorian frock-coat. The only thing the two couples seemed to all have in common were their subtle smirks, as if this was all an inside joke.
The wedding coordinator mentally shrugged and walked off to check on the wait staff, telling herself that she had no reason to care, so long as she got paid.
A middle-aged woman with highlighted dark hair stood in the crowd watching the dancers. She whispered to the young woman standing next to her.
"I think I've changed my mind about chiropterans. You are abominations after all."
"Why do you say that dear?"
"Because it is a sin against God to fit into your original wedding dress on your forty-somethingth anniversary."
"Quiet dear," Yuki snapped under her breath. "Some of the people here don't know this isn't a real wedding."
"Technically it is," Nathan chimed quietly. "After all, Saya and Haji Goldschmidt, and Diva and Solomon Goldsmith, died along with much of their extended family in that accidental plane-crash a month ago. And now in spite of this tragedy, their respective daughters, Joan and Stacy, both with a remarkable, but plausible resemblance to their mothers, and both known by their mother's names in private, are marrying their sweethearts, who look curiously like their fathers. It's all absurdly confusing and Freudian, but none of their uninformed human acquaintances are likely to ever know anything about it, since both couples are now living on the other side of the world, from their previous residences."
Some months ago, it had been decided that it was time for an identity switch, involving nearly the whole family. Even with modern youth-extending technology in mind, apparent eternal youth was still tended to draw suspicion, and their manipulating their apparent age only went so far. Virtually the whole family faked a mass death, and became "reincarnated" as their own children. Thus age incongruity was no longer such a big issue. The elaborate hoax had been accomplished with the help of the Red Shield, or rather, what the Red Shield had become. With no more hostile chiropterans to fight, the organization was run by a skeleton crew mostly devoted to maintaining the safety and anonymity of the Shield's chiropteran allies. No doubt, several Joels were continuously turning in their graves.
Max rolled her eyes. "Yeah, yeah. We know," she sighed to the middle-aged, balding man next to her. Apparently Max and Wes had reluctantly parted ways when they went to separate colleges, eventually moving on to a series of failed marriages with other people. And then, after decades of occasional, friendly meetings, they finally managed to run into each other while they both happened to both be divorced at the same time, and thus ended up married to each other.
"Shhh!" Yuki shushed them. All four heads turned back toward the dancing couples.
Saya and Haji's relationship was much as it had always been, Saya always with the upper hand, and Haji happy to obey. True, there were a few occasional disagreements, but overall it was about as tranquil as marriages got. The years didn't change either the depth of their affection or the warmth of their passion. Even the love-making was still more than satisfying. Some element of routine was inevitable after so many decades, but that didn't seem to bother either of them. It more a ritual than a routine, a ceremony of thanksgiving for the happiness they had found in each other.
Their appearance was the only thing that had changed over the years. When Rose and Lis started to near adolescence, Nathan and Yuki were finally able to talk Saya and Haji into manipulating their appearance to become older-looking. A teenaged girl as the mother of young children was a common-enough occurrence, but a teenaged girl as the mother of teenaged children - that was just plain weird.
Saya's lingering fears of her own chiropteran nature had caused considerable hesitation, but eventually, even she understood that it couldn't be put off any longer. So after spending many hours in front of a mirror with her mother and sister looking over her shoulder, Saya was able to add a few subtle crow's feet and smile lines. Strangely enough, it looked extremely natural on her. It seemed much more congruent with the world-weary stare she bore so often. Of course, Haji followed suit, and not surprisingly, a few streaks of silver in his hair suited him extremely well. So much so that Saya found herself missing them, now that they were gone... Now that both of them had changed back due to the carefully planned resurrection.
Saya and Haji's relationship may have been almost absurdly stable, Diva and Solomon were a little different. The first few years had been an idyllic honeymoon, Solomon happy to indulge Diva's every whim. But as time went on, Solomon started wanting not only an opinion of his own, but some control over their life together. This in of itself had been at the root of many an argument.
However, Diva discovered a solution to that problem relatively early on. More often than not, all Diva needed to do was threaten to tell Saya all about Solomon's bratty behavior. And that generally shut him up. Not so much because he still harbored a passion for Saya, or because he was actually afraid of Saya's threat to kick his ass if he was a jerk to Diva. It was for that age-old reason common to most people who have ever been jilted: the enduring desire to keep one's former lover under the impression that one's current relationship is flawless.
But it was Diva's strategy that eventually precipitated the most serious fight of their relationship. Ten years into their marriage, Solomon and Diva had been visiting Saya and Haji, and as usual, the twins were out having sister-time, shopping or getting pedicures or something like that. And as usual, Solomon and Haji were left behind. Strangely enough, by this point in time, Solomon and Haji were actually good friends. Possibly even best friends. Haji had grown to appreciate Solomon's frank self-absorption and cheerful cynicism, and Solomon had grown to appreciate Haji's unwavering loyalty and dry sarcasm. And that particular afternoon, Haji casually mentioned Diva's habit of calling Saya at any and all hours, to complain about what Solomon had done this time. There it was. Diva had been relating his misbehavior the whole time, regardless of whether he'd backed off in any given argument. Solomon shouldn't have been surprised, but he was.
It had all the hallmarks of something that would really bother Solomon. A blow to the pride, a lack of control over the situation, and feeling like an idiot. The worst part was that he made the colossal mistake of confronting Diva while the sting was still fresh. Things were said that couldn't be taken back. And at the same time, Diva was deeply hurt by his reaction, since it suggested that he still cared so deeply about Saya's opinion. It brought back all the insecurities about Solomon and Saya, all those thoughts that she'd repressed so deeply. Diva had by no means forgotten that Solomon had betrayed and tried to kill her to impress Saya, she just generally hadn't bothered to think about it that much.
A trial-separation of sorts ensued, with Diva inviting herself to stay with her sister and brother-in-law. A breakup was even discussed, but over the course of several weeks, and much painstaking mediation through Saya and Haji, things were patched up. Diva and Solomon were finally married later that year.
Diva and Solomon's original wedding had been a good deal more tense than the present one. The marriage itself was not the source of tension. Diva had made good on her threat not to marry Solomon until he had proved himself for a few years, and until she finished college. All of that took quite a long time due to the distraction of her grandchildren, her lackluster academic ability and his epic past bastardy. But at that point, even with such baggage attached to their relationship, Diva was ready to take the plunge. After all, it wasn't like she couldn't unmarry him, if he behaved like a bastard.
The source of the tension for their first wedding had been Diva's rather unnerving demand to have the ceremony at the Bordeaux ruins, within sight of the tower where she had passed her tragic childhood. Most of her family, her mother especially, was horrified by the idea. There was even a general concern that Diva might be losing grip of her hard-earned sanity. It didn't help that Diva didn't seem able to explain why she wanted that setting. She'd said that she wanted the wedding there because then it would feel like Amshel was watching, but even that explanation was hard enough to share with others, let alone the explanation behind the explanation. Deep down, her demand was partially because, like many abused children, she had grown to forgive and even feel some slight affection for her abusive parent. She was fully aware that Amshel was evil and deserved worse than he got, but he was still her father, even more so than Nathan. But the main reason for her demand wasn't quite so softhearted. It was because having the wedding there would make it feel as if Amshel was watching his life's work crumble before his eyes. Amshel had spent decades ensuring that Diva would grow to be a heartless savage. But what could be a greater expression of a loving heart and civilized humanity, than a wedding? Solomon was the only one who seemed to understand, and the others eventually just accepted the eccentricity of it all.
But this current wedding was a much more subdued affair, a simple renewal of vows at a upscale banquet hall. The two bridal couples were eventually joined on the floor by a few more dancers - two more pairs of twins, one set female, the other male. They appeared to be acting as the bridesmaids and groomsmen.
As Nathan and Yuki had predicted, Rosette and Lisette and turned out to be jaw-droppingly gorgeous. Both girls were apparently in their mid-twenties, both faces a faithful copy of Solomon's. His face looked even more pleasing on a woman, soft, Western-European features with wide-set eyes that turned down slightly at the outer corners. Both girls had the slender figure of a ballerina, and hair the color of black-cherries, cropped even more boyishly short than their mother's had ever been. Ordinarily both girls seemed to go out of their way to look as plain and frumpy as they possibly could, dressing in the 2082 equivalent of torn jeans and baggy sweatshirts. But today was different, both in pink sheath-dresses and white opera gloves, faces just slightly enhanced with a coat of lipstick and mascara - they could have stopped traffic.
Rose and Lis had grown up well, with personalities not unlike their mother, a shy kindness that hid a will of iron. The dad who had raised them also had a very large influence. Both girls were gifted musicians. Their dad had provided them with tutoring and patient encouragement from an early age, and now, they could play virtually any stringed instrument. The two had taken careers leading youth orchestras at local schools, but while classical music was their profession, their taste in music was quite different in their spare time. Both were remarkable guitarists with a secret passion for the contemporary equivalent of heavy metal, though they virtually never played for anyone but themselves and occasionally for close friends and family.
It should be noted that they were no longer referred to as "Rosette and Lisette" by anyone but close family. After years of having their names repeatedly mispronounced by other children due to the understandable impracticality of bearing French names in Japan, they'd made the executive decision to call themselves Rozi and Rizi.
The other set of twins was also looking rather sharp, two tall, handsome young men, dark brown hair and vaguely far-Eastern European features, face and postures that carried a distinct air of smug confidence. Three decades prior, shortly after Aka and Ruka's children came of age and moved out, Solomon and Diva began to feel the itch for parenthood. Neither of them had the opportunity to raise their own biological children. Bringing up children of their own seemed as if it would be a rewarding venture, so they began to look into adoption.
But of course, they just had to be picky. They contacted various agencies abroad, announcing that they were seeking a set of female, infant identical twins, along with the subtle but distinct promise of a large donation to the institution who gave them what they were after. With such an exacting, uncommon request, it was quite a while before anything came up. But after several years of waiting, they received word that an institution in Eastern Russia had what they were looking for.
They were on the first flight out, but when they arrived, it was discovered that there had been some sort of miscommunication. They were infants and identical twins, but they were boys. Fortunately for the babies, it was a case of love at first sight, and Diva flatly refused to go home without them.
Not surprisingly, the boys had grown up hopelessly spoiled, having doting, entitled and absurdly wealthy parents who had been waiting to raise children for decades. Diva had been the one to chose their names, and she'd chosen them based on her boundless gratitude toward two particular men: Kai, the man who had rescued and raised her biological children, and Nathan, the man who had orchestrated her own initial resurrection and given her the opportunity to have the normal life she'd always wanted. But when the boys were toddlers, their own infantile mispronunciations had given rise to nicknames. Nathan said "Tai" instead of Kai, and Kai said "Tan" instead of Nathan. Of course, Solomon and Diva thought it was downright adorable, and encouraged the nicknames. Thus, to the present day, the boys were known as Tan and Tai.
Naturally, the whole family was present at the strange renewal of vows. Julia, David and Lewis had all passed on by that time, but Kai and Mao were very much alive, sitting in chairs beside the dance floor, displaying the famous longevity of Okinawans. They were both about a century old, and still in remarkably good shape considering their age and dangerous career histories. Beside them sat their son, his wife, their granddaughter (a stern, hard-nerved woman who was being groomed to replace Mao as the head of the Jahana syndicate), and with their two great grandchildren messing about nearby, having played the part of ring bearer and flower girl.
Other onlookers included several other family members. Dave and Ruka stood hand in hand, both of them looking exactly as they had five decades earlier. Dave actually looked a few years younger, as a matter of fact. Akahana stood nearby, staring vacantly toward the brides and grooms, the slightest hint of a gloss in her eyes. Needless to say, the proceedings made her think of her own brief, disastrous marriage.
Beside her, but several paces away, was Joel. Every bit as young as he'd been when he was changed, but with a subtle frown of resigned frustration in place of an idiotic grin, eyes often shifting to the side to steal glances at the woman who at least appeared not to reciprocate his devoted love. It wasn't that she hadn't gotten over Karl. It was that she hadn't gotten over herself. She had dated a little since Karl's death, but had never gotten involved in any sort of serious relationship. And deep down, she knew that any relationship with Joel would be inherently serious.
It was a familiar story - a chiropteran Queen too absorbed by her own problematic past to notice that true love was entirely within reach. And just as it was a familiar story, it would likely have a familiar, happy ending. It was just a matter of how many decades or centuries it would take to reach that end.
On the other side of onlooking crowd was the even-younger generation. Ruka's twins watched the dance in silence. In the grand tradition of children whose paternity is supposed to be a secret, the two girls had a definite resemblance to their biological father, walnut-brown hair, and the thickly-lashed eyes of a Goldschmidt. But in terms of personality, they actually took after the dad they'd grown up with. Both of them demonstrated the disposition of a David: an aloof, social awkwardness, cloaked in stern self-righteousness.
As the daughters of both a Joel and a David, they were named after the Red Shield's most prominent female martyrs: Clara and Elizabeta. But Ruka had wanted something a little more unique and trendy, thus the girls were named Kura and Beti. They had followed all three of their parents in terms of career - they made up a good chunk of the Red Shield's now minimal staff.
It wasn't long before someone else joined the dance despite the lack of a partner. The young man moved with a sort of engaging, precise imprecision. It was Manny... Of course it was Manny. He was dressed a good deal more conservatively than usual - wearing a black suit with purple pinstripes, eyes meticulously lined in black and violet, and with his hair only slightly spiked.
During Aka's pregnancy, it had been Aka's first impulse to name the child after Jonah. Her only other idea was Diva. But it hadn't been that difficult for her sister to talk her out of both names. The child would have many different ghosts affecting their life, the last thing it needed was one embedded in its very identity. So, eventually Aka had settled on Manhattan, named for the place where she'd spent those few happy weeks with Jonah, and the place that had been so crucial in her family's bizarre history.
No one had expected the baby to be male, but no one seemed particularly that surprised that it was, considering the unusual circumstances. And that was only the beginning when it came to the oddity that was Manny Miyagusuku Wang.
Anyone who met Manny agreed that he was a unique individual, though the positive or negative slant of the statement tended to depend on who was making it. For example, to Beti and Kura, Manny was exactly the sort of insufferable person who insists on being the center of attention at all times (therefore being very distracting and obnoxious). But to Rose and Lis, he was exactly the sort of delightful person who insists on being the center of attention at all times (therefore taking attention off themselves).
But either way, he was unique. His appearance tended to be the first thing that struck people. Manny had a bizarre pallor, as a result of two relatively fair parents, and his sensitivity to sunlight. Fortunately for him, he did seem to differ from the Schiff, in that he didn't burst into flames at the first ray of sun. For Manny, more than a minute or two unprotected exposure to direct sunlight resulted in what looked like a very nasty sunburn, and a general feverish malaise for the next few hours. Protection was not that hard to obtain though, since modern medicine had developed some rather potent sunscreens. Overall, it allowed him to live a relatively normal life - though he did tend to feel left out at family trips to the beach.
In terms of personality, he tended to be outgoing, and silly to the point of eccentricity. That and he was moody, to say the least. When Manny was happy, he was very happy; when he was sad, he was very sad; and when he was angry, he was very angry. And that in of itself made a lot of his older relatives extremely nervous. Regardless of any formal knowledge of abnormal psychology, they knew there was a good chance that whatever had been wrong with Karl, might turn out to be hereditary. And Manny's mercurial nature seemed to encourage that fear.
He may have inherited quite a bit of his father's personality, but he was not mad. His issues had never jumped over the line between unique-individual and mentally ill. His moodiness had never caused major problems in his life, outside of losing a handful of retail jobs and boyfriends/girlfriends over the past few decades. But his overall normality should not have been surprising. Superficially, he came from a single-parent family. But between his mother, aunt, Dave, Solomon, Diva, Joel, and everyone else - he really came from a dozen parent family. He'd been raised with almost excessive support, guidance and love, and never met up with the abuse and torture that had fostered his father's lunacy. Even so, an executive decision had been made when he was a baby - he would never, under any circumstances or at any age, be told about his father's problems, lest the father's madness become the son's self-fulfilling prophecy.
Being born within a few months of each other, and the children of two particularly close sisters, one might have expected that Manny, Beti and Kura would have grown up like triplets, and for the first few years of their life, they had. But it wasn't long after kindergarten that fundamental personality differences began to get in the way. Manny was rather intense for the two, shy, old-souled twins. Not to mention various circumstances had fostered quite a bit of resentment from the twins, toward Manny. Between the tragedies surrounding his birth, his single-parent status, and his medical issues, he got noticeably more attention than Beti and Kura. The resentment got still deeper in adolescence, when the girls were informed of the romantic restrictions imposed on them because they were Queens. But, not being a chiropteran Queen, Manny had no such restraint - he was entirely sterile, and not subject to hibernation. He could fuck his boyfriends or girlfriends as he pleased, and took full advantage of that fact from a relatively young age. Not to mention that he was snotty enough to flaunt this in conversation with the twins, whenever possible. It was their own miniature-war, but of course, it never went beyond the passive-aggressive.
Several songs had passed, and most of the guests had either joined the dance, were mingling on the sidelines, or had moved on to an adjacent karaoke room. Manny was monopolizing the microphone rather shamelessly, but his obvious talent was drawing a small but appreciative crowd. Solomon and Diva continued to dance for quite some time.
"I am going to the dressing room to freshen up," Diva announced, as the current song ended.
Solomon leaned in to whisper, even though he was perfectly capable of communicating with her telepathically. "How about I join you?" he asked in an airy murmur, taking care to brush his lips against her earlobe.
Diva's shiver, blush and husky whisper belied her initial answer. "You wouldn't dare!" she breathed. "But if you did dare, how about you give me a few minutes to freshen up first."
Solomon made an exaggerated sigh of disappointment. "I suppose I can wait," he paused, and then switched to telepathy. His next question was far too private to risk any possibility of being overheard. "Who should I come to you as?" he asked silently.
The ability to shape-shift went a rather long way toward keeping things fresh in the bedroom. No mechanical ritual for them.
Diva smiled. "How about as yourself, today? I am rather fond of you. As long you are nice to me."
Even after so many years together, that little mistrust was still there. It was a long-term relationship that was taken one day at a time.
"Likewise," Solomon responded along with a spontaneous kiss, watching appreciatively as she walked away. A moment later, his attention was drawn to a conversation occurring nearby. Nathan was talking to Solomon's adopted sons and biological daughters, and to Manny Miyagusuku, who was apparently taking a break from karaoke.
"It's been a while since you've all seen each other, hasn't it?"
Rozi and Rizi looked at each other. "We see Manny pretty often, but I don't think we've seen the boys since they were kids."
"What a shame," Nathan stated, and turned to Tan and Tai, "You boys just graduated."
"Yep," they answered in unison.
"Still playing in jazz bands?" Nathan asked.
"When we have time," Tan replied.
Nathan turned to Rozi, Rizi and Manny, "Tan plays bass and Tai plays the drums. They're not half bad, if I recall correctly. The boy's are actually staying at one of the apartment complexes that grandma and I own in LA, while they look for work."
Nathan gave a sudden gasp. "I just had the most marvelous idea!" he exclaimed, as if he had suddenly parsed out the meaning of life. It struck Solomon as needlessly dramatic, and somehow, a little suspicious.
What is he up to? Solomon wondered.
Nathan turned to Rozi, Rizi and Manny "The resurrection left the the three of you without jobs, right? And you'll have to leave Okinawa to avoid being recognized. You can stay at our complex in LA! It's only fair; you're our grandchildren too!" Nathan gasped again, slapping his own thigh, as if he had come to yet another epiphany. "I just realized! You have everyone you'd need to start band! You could totally..."
Solomon's jaw literally dropped, and his attention to Nathan's words trailed off. He's not even trying to hide what he's doing!
"... We'll be in touch. I'll leave you kids to catch up."
Nathan finished the statement and sauntered toward Solomon, by way of grabbing another flute of champagne.
"How long have you been planning that?" Solomon asked, calm voice barely veiling his anxiety.
"Guess!" Nathan replied arrogantly.
Solomon followed the order; it was usually quicker and less annoying to obey Nathan in trivial matters. Solomon came to the necessary revelation after a few seconds.
"You were the one that gave Tan his first bass and Tai his first drum set, several years ago. The choice of gifts seemed odd to me at the time, but I never thought..."
"You weren't meant to," Nathan cut in.
"Why?" Solomon immediately asked. Nathan just grinned at Solomon. No further explanation was needed for the moment.
"Oh god, you're playing matchmaker, aren't you?!" Solomon exclaimed. "Nathan, they're- "
"Not siblings." Nathan interrupted again, "Not by blood and not emotionally, seeing as they've never really spent much time together. I know it will be a bit awkward since you consider yourself a father to all four of them, but the match is ideal. Rose and Lis are at the age where they need to start getting serious about acquiring Chevaliers. Tan and Tai are good choices because they've been raised around chiropterans, so they'll have fears or conflicting loyalties. But more importantly, if those boys grow old and die, it will break Diva's heart, and yours too, I dare say. No one is going to force them into anything. I'm just setting the stage for them."
Solomon considered this, and much as he hated to admit it, Nathan had a good point. But no sooner than Solomon had begun to make his peace with that idea, he realized that Nathan's explanation did not quite fit.
"Then why get Manny involved?"
Nathan grinned. "Why, because he's good." Nathan stated, as if it should have been obvious to anyone. "Manny may not be a proper chiropteran, but he does have something of our skill at vocal mimicry, which makes him an excellent singer. Plus, he has the sort of charismatic, non-threatening eccentricity common to most pop stars, these days."
"Oh," Solomon sighed. He was relieved, but he wasn't sure why. "You're going to get their band together for your own amusement."
"Solomon, Solomon," Nathan chided, "you know me better than that. They won't just be a garage band. Rose and Lis are drop-dead gorgeous AND drop-dead talented, your boys aren't half-bad themselves, plus two sets of identical twins will add a novelty factor, and Manny was born to be a rockstar," Nathan chuckled darkly. "With my songwriting and industry connections - they'll be the next fucking Beatles."
Solomon's brows furrowed. He was getting a bad feeling about this, to the extent that he flat out forgot about the beautiful wife waiting for him down the hall. "But, if you succeed, that will mean a lot of media attention. And this isn't the same as with Diva, all those years ago, you can't keep the five of them behind closed doors at all times. With enough people snooping around, someone's bound to find something eventually, and we'll all be exposed as non-humans."
Nathan's grin shifted from mischievous to diabolical. "Exactly," Nathan stated, tone much more flat and serious than usual.
Solomon just stared, almost unable to fathom the idea of doing such a thing intentionally.
Nathan's tone shifted to one of condescending sympathy, as if he were soothing the fears of a slow-witted child. "It's time, Solomon. We have lived in the shadows for long enough. Humans are completely capable of living peacefully with us; they've done it before. And the time is right."
"But - the danger?" Solomon sputtered inarticulately.
"Tell me this, Solomon. Imagine a woman completely alone in a dark alley. She is attacked. Now imagine a woman standing on a stage before a crowd of thousands. She is also attacked. Which one is safer?"
"That depends on whether the crowd thinks she's a witch."
Nathan ignored the retort. "The woman in the alley has no friends, no one to hear her scream or come to her aide. But the woman on stage has thousands of witnesses, and among those will be hundreds who will spring to her defense." He paused for emphasis. "We can reveal ourselves on our own terms. The children will become famous first - that way when Manny, Rose and Lis' true nature comes to light, people will have a schema on which to build their concept of a chiropteran. Chiropterans won't be frightening mysterious, shadowy beasts, they'll be something new and interesting with a familiar face. Humans fear what they don't understand, so we have to make sure they understand us before they have any excuse to fear us. The children will be our celebrity spokespeople, and will humanize us in the eyes of the world. I'm sure that there'll be some noisy nut jobs, but that will be easily outweighed by millions of adoring fans."
Solomon wanted to say something, but found he had no answer. So, Nathan just kept on. "Look, every major world power knows that chiropterans exist, and I'd be surprised if most of them don't know who and where we are. You know that Brad Archer is the director of the CIA? He may be an tottering old bag of bones, but he knows more about us than any non-ally should. As things stand, all it would take is one well-timed and executed military operation, and we could be made to disappear off the face of the Earth. And who would be there to help us? The Red Shield no longer has the influence or infrastructure to do anything about it, and the world as a whole would never even notice that we're gone. But, if I succeed in my plan, if the children are in the public eye - any organized action against us would create a prohibitive public backlash. Therefore no one can touch us. The geopolitical climate is such that -"
"Nathan!" Solomon shouted, flustered tone fading to one of exasperation. "Will you ever stop scheming?"
Nathan's diabolical smile faded back to a simple mischievous grin. "Of course I will. When everything is the way I want."
End of The Other Self
End of the Black Met Gold Trilogy.
I know, I know, kinda weird.
Writing these stories has been an interesting journey, and I have grown a lot as a writer (as you will see if you bother to reread the early chapters of Black Met Gold - god they're awful), but obviously have a ways to go. This trilogy literally started with my posting a shitty one-shot story just to explain why I thought Solomon survived the end of the anime, and because of reader's encouragement, I kept writing, and it turned into two and a half novels (Blood of Awakening is shorter than the other two). A special thanks to my Beta Lulubyes - though I didn't have the nerve to ask her to edit another chapter for me after me dragging my feet for three years!
Haters, feel free to hate. No one made you read it, and hopefully, if you hate it that much, that'll inspire you to write something of your own and your creation will be amazing. On some level, that's how I got started - reading other people's stuff and thinking - I would do this differently.
Please don't forget to review :)