He was the height of hip. The lead rockstar. The epitome of modern fashion.
Nothing was getting in Leon Belmont's way.
Nothing of course, except the barista at the local Starbucks.
"For the last time, I just want it plain!" Leon demanded.
"Do you mean plain coffee? Tea? Water?" The girl in the purposeless green visor insisted.
"Just pick something from your silly chalk-board and make it!" Leon sighed, exasperated.
"Got it," the girl with too much pep agreed, punched a few things into her register, then looked up again. "Skinny, mocha, light, decaf, double-blended, extra hot?"
Leon was at the point of pulling his hair out. "Just… anything!"
"Ok ok!" She rolled her eyes at him and muttered something that sounded like "Mr. grumpy-pants."
Leon ignored her comment and handed her cash, allowing her to keep the change, glad that the horrible exchange was finally over. Just as he almost had his beverage in hand, six horrible words echoed through the room.
"Do you want whip-cream with that?"
"AAAARRGH!" He grabbed the drink and marched out of the store.
Finally alone in the nighttime air, he paused to sigh in relief. He would never understand what his descendants saw in this place.
Suddenly, he was reminded of why he was even standing in front of this hellish cafe. He was here to meet someone.
Leon turned around, but shook his head, determined not to re-enter the store unless absolutely necessary. So, he settled for sitting on the wooden bench just outside.
He didn't have to wait long before a weight settled silently into the bench next to him. "Leon Belmont… it's been ages."
Technically, it had only been a week, but he allowed his somewhat delusional friend the mistake. "Joachim Armster, it's good to see you well, old friend."
"I'm not that old," Joachim scoffed. "I'll never understand your dislike of coffee cafes. Now I'm stuck outside without anything to drink."
Leon ignored the scoff and turned to hand the whatever-drink to his friend, noticing for the first time that evening the change in his apparel. Joachim had taken to adding colors to his hair this decade, often choosing the most bizarre hues. Today it was purple.
He had also grown fond of the "metro-sexual" fashion movement, wearing tight-fitting jeans that betrayed every slight movement, and a light pink button down with the top half buttons unbuttoned in a characteristic "yeah, what do I care? Fuck you" way.
All in all, he blended in decently well, for a vampire. Joachim had long ago started clipping, filing, and painting his claw-like fingernails and adopting the clothing of the era. The only things that betrayed him now were his skin (just a tad too pale) and his eyes (the same reason.)
While Leon admired the clothing he would never choose to wear, Joachim took a sip of the mystery drink, and made a disgusted face.
"You don't like it?" Leon asked. "I just told the girl to make anything."
"On the contrary, it's delicious." Joachim admitted, taking another sip. "It's you, Leon… did you go thrifting again?"
"I… maybe…?" Leon said noncommittally.
"Leon, what have I told you about thrifting! You can never hope to blend in with the times that way!" Joachim explained for the 100billionth time, exasperated.
"I just… you can't beat the prices…" Leon insisted weakly.
Joachim turned to face Leon squarely, extending a delicate index finger and pointing out, with the merciless cruelty of a would-be sagely aunt, the atrocities in his wardrobe. "Leg warmers went out in the 80's, tye-dye bellbottoms in the 60's, striped plaid shirts in the 70's, and… oh… the speckled fedora is so last year."
As he said the last comment, the vampire flicked Leon's prized fedora off his head, revealing his ratted blond hair. He could have sworn that Joachim almost cried. "Oh no! No no no! How could you do that to your hair?"
"It's fashionable?" Leon ventured.
"Hideous is more like it. Oh Leon Belmont, you had the hair of the GODS, and now you've given it up to punk fashion, the one fashion trend you absolutely should never follow!" Joachim cursed in an ancient language that Leon didn't exactly know and whined at his perfectly manicured fingernails. "If only I still had my old nails! I would tear your hair back into shape right now!"
Leon ducked as the vampire swiped at his hair anyway, placing the fedora back on his head. "Ok ok! I'll wash it out tomorrow."
Joachim eyed him critically. "You had better. I wish I had seen you before tonight, we could have remedied this fashion disaster before…"
"My apologies, I appear to be late." The familiar ever-late voice sat on Leon's other side, his arrival taking both men by surprise.
"Not to worry," Leon assured him, "I'm glad you could make it, Alucard."
Alucard nodded to them both, politely reasserting, "I would prefer it if you referred to me as 'Arikado' when we are out in public."
Joachim blinked at him. "Why? It's not like we're in Japan. They're the only ones who really speak that way."
"True, people will probably just think you're trying too hard to be Gothic," Leon agreed, admiring the classy black suit Alucard chose to wear in public. Like Joachim, Alucard had decided to color his hair with the times, though typically he stayed to normal colors. Today it was black, completing his goth wardrobe.
As a dhampire, Alucard had the good fortune of having many vampiric benefits, with an immunity to the sun, a gift from his human mother. Despite said immunity, Alucard's skin was still frightfully pale.
Remembering who he had actually come here to meet, Leon questioned, "Did you bring the young one with you?"
Leon looked around expectantly, but didn't see another soul in sight. "Where is he?"
"He's ordering something inside," Alucard finally offered.
Knowing that Alucard was never much for words, Leon instead turned to Joachim, who appeared to be closely observing the tips of his hair. "I knew I shouldn't trust that brand… it's already washing out."
"But you're not even wet," Leon pointed out.
"I know!" Joachim snapped back.
Deciding that he really needed to choose who he associated with better, Leon calmly sat and waited for the final member of their party to show.
Eventually, he emerged from the store sipping his drink through a green straw. The youth wore faded flare jeans, only two unnecessary belts, a long-sleeved black turtleneck, and a white fur-collared trench coat, which he had draped over his shoulders.
Leon felt like reminding the boy that it was the middle of summer, but he didn't suppose that would matter to him. Instead, he offered a greeting and his hand. "Soma Cruz, I presume? I've heard much about you. It's good to finally meet your acquaintance."
Like Joachim and Alucard, Soma appeared to be afflicted with terribly pale skin. His chin-length silver hair draped before him as he leaned down to take Leon's hand, and his cold grey eyes somehow seemed to hold more life to them than they should.
"No need to be so formal Mr…?" Soma ventured as he pulled up a chair the opposite way Leon assumed he would so that he could straddle the seat, lean forward on the backing of the metal chair, continue to face them, and sip his drink.
With brilliance like this, it was no wonder Soma had recently defeated Dracula.
"Leon Belmont, forget the Mr." Leon smiled at him, expecting the usual reaction when people in "the know" heard his full name.
Soma continued to sit in his chair sipping coffee. "Belmont? That's cool. I met Julius a while ago. Said he'd take me out if I became Dracula. You know him?"
"Both, I'm afraid, though it's been long since I've seen either." Leon admitted. He had meant to stop by for Julius's 30th birthday. He really had.
Soma grinned, "If I didn't win, you might be looking at Dracula right now."
At this, Alucard reached over and slapped Soma's hand without hesitation. "Don't speak of those things in public. It's terribly uncouth."
Soma rolled his eyes. "Yes, grandma, I'll make sure not to tell Leon-Fucking-Belmont that his great-great-great-great-great-great grandson beat my ass with his whip in MY fucking castle when I was ( temporarily) Dracula."
Leon sat aghast at the knowledge and language. Youth these days certainly were different.
Meanwhile, Joachim was grinning maniacally. "I like this one. Can I keep him?"
"No, Joachim, that's the caffeine and bloodlust talking," Leon sighed. "Go back to drinking your coffee."
Joachim pouted, not denying either point, but muttered. "It's tea."
"So Leon, it's cool meeting you and all, but tell me, why'd you drag me out here?" Soma asked.
Not wasting time, Leon leaned in closer, glancing around them quickly to ensure that they wouldn't be heard by anyone nearby. "Soma, for centuries now, I have helped my descendants defeat Dracula."
"That's cool, but ehh… wouldn't you be helping the other team by helping me?" Soma asked.
"I would be… if you didn't win," Leon strained a grim smile, wondering how Soma would take his next sentence. "If you didn't… I would be helping Julius defeat you right now."
Soma grinned at Alucard. "I like this guy, Allie, you don't fuck around with Leon-Fucking-Belmont!"
While Alucard grimaced in disapproval and Joachim dutifully drank his tea, Leon modestly replied, "thanks."
"So Leon, the day needs saving again, right? What've I gotta do this time?" Almost-but-not-quite-Dracula asked, biting his straw before taking another sip.
"I'm glad you asked." Really, Leon was. Now that he knew Soma, he wasn't sure the rebellious teen would have cooperated otherwise. He leaned in closer, motioning for the other three to do the same. "Here's what we've got to do…"
Chapter Trivia #1!
Should it be possible for these four to travel together? Why or why not? Review with your answer! The real answer will be posted in the next chapter!