Chapter 22: What is a Man?

"Leon, I cannot believe that once again, you have allowed all your homeless friends to freeload in my house after the destruction of Castlevania. I won't forget this!" Sara cried, disappearing into the house.

Leon smiled at all the others and interpreted, "that means stay as long as you like."

"Do any of us know healing arts?" Maria asked, dropping beside Isaac and Hector.

"I do!" Charlotte exclaimed. She was ignored.

"I could use Soul Steal on him?" Dracula offered.

"And kill half the neighborhood? No thanks," Maria responded dryly.

"I know the Heal spell!" Charlotte insisted.

"Your Heal spell's lame now," Jonathan pointed out. He winced as Charlotte smacked his pointing hand with her broomstick.

"If only Saccubus were around," the lord of the night lamented. "She always had potions handy."

"If only who were around?" Saccubus grinned, flashing sparkly deadly teeth as she dropped into Dracula's lap, giving Leon, who happened to be there too, a hug just for good measure. Seeing their bewildered expressions, she laughed, "I actually flew away this time. When the night garden collapsed, I happened to be near the balcony exit."

"And how did you find us?" Leon asked incredulously.

Saccubus shrugged, "I followed Alucard's aura. He really is like a giant beacon of light to us creatures of the darkness in his unreleased state. Walter wasn't lying about that."

"That is—troubling," Alucard admitted, then implored. "Saccubus, do you have any potions? Hector is no longer within the healing realm of Castlevania, and he will die without one."

"But I know HEAL!" Charlotte cried, waving her broomstick around menacingly.

"If your heal spell ends up being lame, you owe me ten bucks," Jonathan decided.

"Pick your potion," the succubus said, producing a few potions of various colors from an undisclosed location.

Isaac grabbed a green bottle, opening it and pressing it to Hector's mouth. "Bottoms up."

Charlotte continued to fume as Hector's wounds slowly closed, without her help. A few tense moments passed by, where Hector lay limply in Isaac's arms. Gradually, the silver haired man's strength began to return to him, and soon he was able to stand up on his own.

Suddenly, a flash of brown flew by, and Albus was within their midst. He eyed Shanoa cautiously as he spoke to Saccubus, "I have the goods, but is this really a good meeting place? She's here."

"My lord, I saved this one from the ruined Castlevania," Saccubus admitted. "He holds one of your keys, does he not?"

"Not anymore," Shanoa rolled her eyes then turned to Dracula. "Can you do us all a favor and send him back to his own time?"

"I hadn't realized he was still wandering about," the lord of the night confessed. In the blink of an eye, he conjured a portal beneath Albus's feet, the unsuspecting man falling into the hole and disappearing from sight. "Done."

This time, the vampire caught Charlotte as she eyed his portal enviously. Piteously, he apologized, "dear girl, I will send you all back after Leon's wedding. I'm afraid there are forces with which even I cannot trifle."

"Like Sara's wrath?" Joachim guessed.

"Indeed," Dracula agreed, then noticed Leon tugging pitifully at the remnants of his cape.

Leon, weakened though he was, managed to slowly limp up his front steps with Dracula's help, holding the door politely open for everyone. "Please, come in, and stay as long as you like."

Richter was quickly at the elder Belmont's side, opening the door and urging Leon inside. "I can hold open this door, Grandpa. Get some sleep. You look really sick."

Leon was. It took the better part of a week before he was up on his feet again. In the time before the wedding, everyone bided their, waiting for the dreaded morning. Some of them, like Joachim, even suspected that the upcoming wedding was what ailed the poor Belmont.

Leon had visitors to his sickbed every day. Sara often came by to swear about how he had better not be too ill for the wedding. Charlotte offered to heal him, but they found that nothing but time would rejuvenate the Belmont.

"Told you so," Jonathan pointed out, smirking at her. "Pay up."

Charlotte smacked his pointing finger away but handed him ten bucks.

Joachim even came up from the basement on occasion to check up on him. "Because you know, if you die then I have to find another place to live," the vampire reasoned.

Leon smiled, recognizing that his old friend was concerned, and pledged, "I'll try my best not to die."

Richter and Dracula were by his side the entire time. Richter fretted over his grandfather during the day, and Dracula worried over his oldest comrade at night.

The day before the wedding, Leon was finally well enough to come downstairs and sit on the couch in the front room. As he sat down, the doorbell rang, but before the Belmont could get up, Shanoa rushed by. "Stay where you are, Leon. It's for me. I'm sure of it."

The door was indeed for her. As were the multitude of packages she had won from ebay. Soma eyed them enviously.

It seemed Shanoa had just closed the door when the doorbell rang again. This time, it was for Soma.

A girl with reddish brown hair, the front tamed to the side by two cute pink ribbons, was at the door. Her plain pink blouse complimented her pleated pink miniskirt. The only piece of clothing that seemed oddly white were her thigh high boots, pristine despite the amount of walking and work she did while wearing them. "H-hi. Is-is Soma…?"

"Mina!" Soma exclaimed, pulling her inside and holding her head close to his chest so that she wouldn't be able to see all of the packages that he hadn't managed to win.

The girl laughed shyly. "Soma, what are you doing?"

"How did you find me here?" the pale haired youth asked, clearly a nervous wreck.

"I-I thought I told you? I'm a shrine maiden, so… so it's easy to find your unique aura," She explained, eventually wiggling from his grasp and looking around. Seeing so many people she didn't recognize, she shrunk back into his coat in fear. "Wh-who are your… friends?"

Shanoa, who had been rummaging through her things, was stunned. "Aww! She's so adorable!"

"Everyone, this is Mina," Soma introduced the timid girl beside him, then quickly gestured around the room. "That's Leon-Fuc..uh… Leon Belmont. He's cool, he lets everyone stay here. Richter's sitting next to him—"

"Hi! That's ME! Richter!" Richter declared proudly, causing the girl to wince. He lowered his voice and repeated, "hi… that's me… richter."

Soma continued, "Juste's in the corner over there. Hector's that one curled up in the chair. You can hear Isaac and Maria sparring in the backyard. That scent in the air is Charlotte's blueberry pie. She's making Jonathan help her with dinner in the kitchen. You know Alucard; it's daytime so he's sleeping. Dracula, Saccubus, and Joachim are hiding downstairs, you know, cause they're vampires."

Hearing the word "vampire," Mina gave a tiny squeak and hid deeper into Soma's coat. "Hey, it's ok," Soma said in the most tender and kind voice any of them had ever heard. "They won't hurt you. Dracula's a vegan, and Joachim just drinks potions and watches bad TV all day."

"Teen Mom is not bad TV!" they heard Joachim declare loudly from the basement.

"Who… who is that girl?" Mina asked, pointing at the girl with long dark hair, still hunched over her boxes.

"That's Shanoa," Soma said, narrowing his eyes at her. However, quickly, he gave up his anger for a wistful sigh. "I'm sorry Mina… I wanted to give you those things for your birthday today, but I couldn't win the ebay bids…"

Mina smiled brightly. "It's ok, Soma. I'm happy you thought of me. I don't need those things."

Shanoa gazed critically at the girl's boots. "Oh yes you do. Here."

Soma's eyes bugged out of his head as Shanoa gave Mina the very pair of thigh-high pink boots he had spent 20 days trying to win.

"Those are a little small on me and would look better on you anyway," Shanoa explained, then glanced at the other items in the boxes. "I'm afraid Soma was mistaken about everything else though. These other dresses and things don't appear to be your size."

The girl quickly got over her shyness and threw on the new pair of boots. "They're perfect… I love them! Thank you, Shanoa!" Then she turned to Soma, pressing a chaste but tender kiss to his cheek. "Thank you, Soma."

"Y-You're welcome," Soma stammered, a flush forming on his pale cheeks.

Jonathan decided to ruin the happy moment by tromping into the front room from the kitchen and proudly declaring, "dinner's done!"

"Not like you helped much anyway," Charlotte called from the other room.

"Hey, I can cut things with knives like a pro!" Jonathan pointed out.

"Knives? I'm great with knives!" Richter suddenly stood up, getting some knives ready. Just as Jonathan was about to duck for cover from another 1,000 blades attack, Leon calmly pulled Richter back down onto the couch.

"Not now, Richter. We're inside a house," he explained.


Jonathan proved to be right about his skills, because the vegetables in the beef stew were indeed expertly cut. Into extremely fine slices. So fine that they melted together into a giant mass of goo in the oven.

Not wanting to hurt Charlotte's feelings, everyone ate it anyway and assured her that it was delicious. Then, she brought out the blueberry pie, which Jonathan had no hand in helping her prepare. It truly was delicious.

As the sun slipped below the horizon, Joachim, Saccubus, and Dracula all came upstairs from the basement. Even Alucard decided to wake up and join them.

"Let me know what you find," Dracula's voice commanded from the front room.

"Yes, my lord," Saccubus's voice responded before shutting the front door tightly behind her.

The three took seats at the large and accommodating kitchen table. Mina's eyes immediately flew to Alucard, as he gracefully dropped into the seat across the table, his waves of platinum blonde hair spilling over his shoulders like magnificent waterfalls. The beautiful dhampire held a delicate long-fingered hand to his mouth as he stifled a yawn, his sleepy eyes yet unfocused on anything. Mina felt her own breath catch in her throat. "Who… who is that?"

"Grandma Allie?" Soma indicated with a jerk of his thumb at the weary dhampire. Seeing Mina's strange look, he corrected, "ohhhh, that's right. You haven't seen him like this before. That's Alucard."

"Mr. Arikado?!" Mina shrieked, causing the rest of the table to wince at the piercing loudness.

Sleepily, Alucard nodded his head in agreement. When Dracula insistently forced a piece of pie in front of him, Alucard dutifully and mechanically placed a fork into it, slowly bringing the pie to his perfect pale lips. Mina continued to watch, transfixed, as the gorgeous creature chewed the piece and swallowed, the lump of pie sliding down his graceful long neck.

Soma never noticed, his eyes were fixed on Isaac and Maria, who burst inside arm in arm and began devouring the remainder of the beef stew, heedless of its poor consistency. His eyes narrowed at the man's muscles. Someday, he would have those guns too, and then he'd get all the chicks.

"A real man likes a good beef stew," Isaac declared between bites.

Maria grinned back at him. "A real woman does too." They both shared a happy smile with each other for a couple seconds. Then the warrior woman asked, "want to continue outside?"

Isaac didn't respond, instead he stood from his seat, opened the backdoor, and threw Maria outside and up into the air. With a shriek of delight, she spun around in the air, dive kicking back down at him. Juste quietly shut the door back into its proper place.

Death silently drifted in, with a Hawaiian shirt clutched suggestively in his skeletal hand. Mina, seeing the grim reaper float past her, fainted immediately in her chair. Now that Mina was safely unable to hear him, Soma turned angrily at Death and exclaimed, "The fuck? You trying to kill her?!"

The grim reaper tilted his skeletal head to the side, peering at the girl carefully. "Not yet. She has many years ahead of her. You however…"

"Death comes for us all, eventually," Dracula sighed heavily as the reaper paused beside his chair, holding the colorful shirt up pleadingly. "No, Death. You can't go on another vacation. You destroyed my castle last time."

The reaper hung his bony skull low, grumbling quietly as he drifted back out the kitchen.

Joachim pulled up a seat next to Leon and patted his old friend on the shoulder. "So, are you ready for the big day tomorrow? Because I wouldn't be. Not if I was marrying that."

"What, a woman?" Jonathan asked, earning himself a quick trip to the kitchen floor as the vampire mercilessly snatched away his chair. Hector yelped and quickly caught the chair before it fell to the ground.

"I have promised Sara that I will marry her," Leon explained, poking at the remainder of his blueberry pie, which just didn't seem as appetizing anymore for some reason. "I keep my promises."

"Where is Sara anyway?" Charlotte wondered aloud, finally voicing the question she and Jonathan had shared for the past week.

"Upstairs, corner bedroom," both Dracula and Joachim offered in unison. After realizing that they were getting strange looks, Joachim explained, "vampires, duh? We can tell where you all are."

Charlotte continued to glare suspiciously at the two of them. "Why didn't you tell us that before?"

"You never asked?" Joachim shrugged. "Anyway, I told you she was trouble, Leon. Like this would have changed anything."

"What do you mean 'this'?" Leon questioned, rising slowly from his seat. "Is she in trouble?"

The vampire rolled his eyes, taking a sip of his coffee before offering, "Oh yeah, a whole lot of 'trouble.'"

"I must go to her at once," the blonde haired Belmont decided, a resolute look in his tired eyes.

"But you're sick, Grandpa," Richter protested with a woefully dismayed pout. Gingerly, he touched a hand to Leon's arm, imploring him to sit back down.

"If Sara is in any danger, I must protect her," Leon insisted, slowly making his way across the kitchen, leaning heavily on the chairs and countertops as he passed by. Before he could make it out of the kitchen, both Richter and Dracula were at his side, supporting him the rest of the way. The eldest Belmont gazed fondly at the two and said softly, "thank you, but you don't have to come."

"Leon, you have done much for us all. We shall all accompany you, regardless of our loathing for your betrothed," Dracula attested.

"Speak for yourself," Joachim said, making no attempt to leave the table. "I've already seen what's beyond that portal, and once is enough."

Hearing Joachim's disturbing comment, most of them decided to stay behind too.

"Portal?" Charlotte asked, her interest piqued. "I knew she was disappearing somewhere!"

Hearing the word "portal," Jonathan shifted uncomfortably, drawing Charlotte's suspicious eyes to him. Without her even having to ask, he knew what she was thinking. As they followed the trio up the stairs toward that last corner bedroom, Jonathan explained, "I… might have seen a portal in that corner bedroom when we searched them all the other day."

Leon arched an eyebrow at this but decided not to say anything.

"And you didn't tell me why?" the magician girl demanded.

"Because we already had such bad luck with portals that whole week! Who knew where that one would lead?" He declared defensively.

Charlotte couldn't argue with that reasoning. Her luck with opening portals had been pretty abysmal. Several times, the portals never even opened for her, despite her attempts to recite the spell as clearly and correctly as possible. And when they did open, she was lucky if they stayed open long. If this portal was indeed one of hers, how could it have remained open for over a week?

The answer became clear very soon. As Leon opened the door to the room and stepped inside, they gasped at the monstrosity that was within. Charlotte recognized the weak fabric of one of her own blue portals in the middle of the room, but a ring of Sara's sticky black magic surrounded the entire gateway, anchoring it in place.

Leon coughed weakly once, then drew a deep breath and stepped in, pulling Richter and Dracula with him. Jonathan glanced at Charlotte with an uneasy expression, imploring her with his puppy-dog eyes not to enter. He was greatly relieved when the girl shook her head and simply said, "it isn't our business. There must be some reason Joachim was so set against going. You know how much he loves drama and gossip. Whatever lays beyond that portal is for them to see, and only them."

"And Richter?" Jonathan pointed out.

Charlotte thought about it for a minute. "He'll probably be ok."

When they exited, both Leon and Dracula gasped, recognizing the site immediately. The house was quaint, yet lovely. Simple in its two story wood and stone design, it nevertheless spoke of money for the times. "Mathias, it's your house," Leon said in awe.

"I know it's my house!" the vampire exclaimed in a hushed whisper. However, it wasn't the home that got to the lord of the night. It was the carefully tended rose garden that made Dracula fall to his knees and weep bloody tears.

Richter quickly adjusted, helping Leon lean on him more for support. "Grandpa, what happened to him?"

"He's sad Richter, very sad," Leon responded, feeling his oldest friend's burden in his own heart.

"Late Summer… 1093…" Dracula murmured, wiping the tears from his eyes. "That was when I heard the news… that I lost her. I will never forget that letter she sent, telling me with all her sweetness that she was sorry but that she must move on to the next life. My darling Elisabetha tended these flowers with all her soul before she wrote that letter and died."

"If these flowers are alive, that means she probably is too," Leon murmured, placing all the facts together. "Come, Mathias, let's not waste another moment!"

Passion burned in Dracula's chest as he stalked toward the door. "Yes, I never had the chance to say goodbye to her, but perhaps now I finally can."

It pained the vampire to enter his own home. His favorite reading chair by the fireplace, the beautiful tapestries that Elisabetha had weaved herself and hung on the walls, the dining table where they had shared so many happy dinners together. It was almost more than he could bear.

"Stay strong, old friend, you must!" Leon commanded, finding a renewed strength in his own heart as he encouraged his companion.

Dracula lifted his head in silent affirmation, making his way through the parlor room and to the beautiful wooden staircase, garnished with Elisabetha's flowers of the late summer atop each of the steps, almost as if she were expecting him to come.

Suddenly, a cry rang through the air, pained and desperate. "Sara!" Leon gasped, finding the strength within him to pull away from Richter and charge up the stairs.

Richter was determined to follow closely behind, but when Leon threw open the bedroom door and stopped abruptly, the brown haired Belmont crashed into him, nearly toppling them both over.

Leon, felt his heart skip a few beats, a cold sweat creeping over his entire body as he surveyed the scene before him like a terrible bloody vision. His throat constricted and dried and he had to lean again on Richter to keep from falling down.

When Dracula finally pushed past Leon to see what the big deal was, he too paused where he stood. He was even in too much shock to fall to his knees and weep his usual bloody tears.

Dracula remembered this room fondly. He had many memories of happy times with Elisabetha in their bedroom. He would sit at the drawing table in the corner, strategizing plans into the late evening, and she would happily weave in the other corner of the room, filling their home with the multitude of tapestries that she created. The bed was largely unused, unless one of them gave into exhaustion at their work.

Richter, meanwhile, peered into the room with puzzled indifference. Quietly, he whispered to Leon, "Grandpa, is that what Simon was trying to teach me about whipping?" His only response from Leon was a quiet shake of the head.

Now, Dracula's hard oak strategizing chair was propped against the bed, its thick red velvet cushions depressed by Sara's bare knees, the entire chair creaking in protest of what was happening.

Sara wore nothing, except for several thick leather bands, which bound her wrists to the head of the chair and her ankles to the armrests. She straddled the chair, facing thankfully away from them so that could not see her pained expression. Her dark hair was a complete mess and splayed across her bloodied back as she screamed again into the thick backing of the chair. Her perky butt was raised in the air, angry red streaks across the milky colored flesh. Even her splayed legs bore telltale red markings, but as the whip cracked down on her again, something that made everyone in the room pause happened. She buried her face into the headrest and let out an unmistakably pleasured moan.

"You doth like that, don't you, bitch?" The owner of the whip cooed. It took even Dracula a moment to recognize that it was his precious Elisabetha dressed in nothing but meager leather straps, covering her nipples and her crotch.

Sara moaned in agreement, straining uselessly against the leather bindings.

"Such a filthy little leve cunt. You doth be my dirty leve bitch," Elisabetha growled seductively. Her doll-like blonde hair swirled about her in long seductive curls as she raised the whip and again brought it down on Sara's back.

Richter gasped loudly. "Grandpa, that was down!"

As if a spell had been lifted, everyone suddenly turned to Richter. Recognizing the voice, even though she couldn't see him from her vantage, Sara sighed, "fucking Richter."

"No, fucking you," Elisabetha giggled, earning a hard chuckle back from Sara as she quickly unbound her wrists and ankles.

"Elisabetha, is that really you?" Dracula asked, frozen to his place in the doorway.

"I shouldst be asking you that, mine sweet," the blonde haired woman spat back at him. "Mathias, you look a lyte worse for wear. Sara hast told me you hant aged well."

"I was so distraught by your death in a few months that I turned my back on God and did this to myself!" Dracula cried back, overcome with emotion. "Elisabetha, despite what you have done with that horrible woman, and despite the vampire I have become, can we not go back to the way things were and live in peace, at least for these last few months of your life?"

Elisabetha and Sara exchanged bored glances. "Mathias, hast thou always been an imbecile? I am not dying."

"Yes you are! I remember receiving word in the late summer of your long-time sickness and—"'

"I didst lie to you, Mathias," Elisabetha said, cutting him off. Hearing the vampire gasp, she chuckled, "during our entire marriage, you didst barely touch me but once, on the eve of our wedding. All the other eves you didst spend pouring over thine dusty tomes, strategizing until the wee hours of the morning. I didst wonder if you even knew I was there? And then, you doth run off again, to some whimsy crusade or another, often without bothering to wake me and utter a simple farewell."

"I didn't want you to fear for me. I wanted to keep you happy," Dracula said.

"Sara doth keep me happy!" Elisabetha roared. "She didst visit more in the past and now than you ever did."

Something about that statement struck a chord with Leon. He seemed to have found his voice again, though it was hoarse and pale in comparison to its usual vibrant timber. "In the past, too? Sara?"

The dark haired woman stretched lazily out, then turned around, sitting down in Dracula's old chair, seeming to not care one way or another about what everyone had just seen. "Yes, it's true. What are you going to do about it, Leon?" She smiled as Elisabetha wrapped her thin arms around her from behind.

It took a moment, but the next time Leon spoke, his voice was again rich and full, not wavering or faltering for a moment. "Sara, I take it back. I'm not marrying you."

Sara blinked, caught a little offguard by Leon's bold conviction. "What? You can't do that."

"Oh, yes I can," the blonde haired Belmont disagreed.

For once, Sara's calm demeanor faltered. "You… you're Leon Belmont. The most noble man in the realm! You would never go back on your word!"

"I am the most noble man in the realm, if I do say so myself. No offense, Mathias," Leon quickly amended.

"None taken," the vampire replied. "I did try to have Walter kill you and all."

"I agreed to marry you, despite your cruelty and knowing that we would never get along," Leon continued.

"How could you know that?!" Sara snarled, her anger rising again. "You only freed me from the whip a week ago!"

"I've sensed your hatred from the whip for centuries," the Belmont replied, his voice lowering deathly. "I knew of your intents, yet I still agreed to marry you, letting you beat me physically and emotionally. All because I am so noble."

As the woman sputtered for something to say, he continued. "It's ironic, I think, that you should end up being the one beaten. Was that what you really wanted all along? Did you want me to beat and abuse you? If that's true, then you're not the person I thought you were. I proposed a thousand years ago to a sweet innocent young girl named Sara Trantoul. You are a bitch. Goodbye Sara."

Leon, Dracula, and Richter turned around and headed silently back down the stairs. Sara began screaming at them, but Leon didn't have the heart to even listen to her words anymore. Wordlessly, they walked out the door, across the yard, and back through the portal to their time.

When the three reappeared, Jonathan and Charlotte knew they were right to stay behind. Everyone followed Leon as he immediately headed downstairs into the kitchen, poured himself a stiff drink of Isaac's whisky, and downed the entire glass.

Joachim looked up from reading the daily paper. Seeing Leon's hard expression, he grinned. "Feel better?"

The Belmont's eyes flicked over to his old friend, and he practically beamed. "Better than I've felt in a millennia."

"You manned up?" Isaac poked his head in from sparring outside momentarily to ask. "Good."

"I guess I did," Leon agreed, and then, he began to laugh. It was the laughter of a man who had been freed from centuries of torment. Having lost his own sanity long ago, Joachim had no trouble laughing along, followed soon by Dracula. The sound was infectious, and before long most of the house was laughing. Even Alucard and Juste cracked a smile.

When the laughter died down, Dracula sat next to Leon, feeling a lightness in his chest that he hadn't felt in a very long time. "Well, Leon, what do we do from here?"

"You're the strategist," Leon shrugged. "What should we do?"

It only took Dracula a moment to think of a plan. "Tomorrow, we planned to celebrate your marriage. Instead, let us celebrate freedom."

"To freedom!" everyone shouted in unison, followed by the clinking of glasses.

Despite it being long after closing time, Shanoa had opened the local Starbucks back up for their private party. Soma had arrived late, and though she had been tempted to lock him out, Mina was with him, wearing her new pink thigh-high boots. She couldn't find it in her heart to lock the darling girl out too.

While he had everyone's attention, Leon spoke warmly to them all, "thank you for being here tonight, everyone. It means a lot to me. I value all of your friendships, and though I wish things had turned out differently, I am so happy to have seen you all these past couple weeks. Many of you are from different times than the present, and I know you've put up with your share of modern problems."

There were several murmurs of agreement.

"Some of you may have felt imprisoned here, and for that I am truly sorry," he said, glancing particularly at Charlotte and Jonathan. "To amend this, Mathias has opened permanent portals in my basement to each of your times. You are free to head back home, but my door is always open to you, so to speak, if you should ever wish to visit again." His words were met with much applause and promises to visit him soon.

Leon Belmont was like a new man. It was hard to believe that he had been deathly sick in bed the past week, for he practically glowed now with angelic radiance. Dracula, too, was happier than Alucard had seen him in a very long time. The vampire discussed at length his plans to rebuild Castlevania with his son, causing the dhampire to sigh wistfully. "You see, I already have part of it set up in Egypt within this pyramid—"

"Father, why don't you just build a normal house?" Alucard suggested. "Maybe one without all the monsters this time?"

"Blasphemy!" the vampire roared. "Castlevania without the monsters is like veganism without vegetables! Besides, Ashtarte is beautiful. How could I get rid of her?"

Personally, Alucard thought she had weird legs, but he wasn't about to argue.

Charlotte, hearing mention of Ashtarte, narrowed her eyes at Jonathan, who sighed with exasperation. "Oh come on! It was like a year ago."

"It was exactly 93 days ago," she informed him. "I know. I wrote it down." She had.

"Well, at least we get to go home now! Aren't you happy about that?" Jonathan pointed out. "And this time, I don't have to fear for my life in one of your portals."

Charlotte smacked down his pointing finger and huffed angrily, "Joachim was right. You do over-exaggerate."

"I do not over-exaggerate! Don't you fear for your life even a little bit around Joachim too?" the blonde haired boy asked.

"Now that I know he's Walter-the-possible-future-president's son? A little," she conceded. Then, the girl paused for a moment, in thought. "You know, despite orchestrating the destruction of Castlevania, Walter didn't even fight us, did he? He only stabbed Hector in the back because he seemed interested in attacking Dracula's stock value."

Jonathan remarked, "clearly, he's a true politician."

Meanwhile, Maria and Isaac, who were sitting at a table for two in the corner, kept glaring at Richter with impatience. The Belmont was failing to catch several hints from Maria that they did not wish to be bothered. "Yes, I already told you Annette still loves you, so you don't have to bother me anymore. Don't you have other things to do? Why are you still here? Go away." Eventually Richter decided that he should do something else when Isaac wordlessly pushed him across the room.

So he tromped off to talk to Hector, who was lounging in a chair, tracing lines along the armrest thoughtfully. As Richter approached, he sighed with ennui, "I had thought that I could prove my love to Julia, but I realize that still, my efforts will be fruitless. Oh how I love her! More than the sun and all the stars in the sky! And yet, I can never seem to show this to her."

"Why?" the dark haired Belmont asked.

Hector glanced around, and seeing as nobody seemed to be paying them any attention, he beaconed Richter closer. Then, he whispered something quietly into his ear. Richter's face lit with understanding. "Oh! When we went through that portal in Leon's bedroom, we found Sara and this other girl doing something like that! But Sara was tied to this chair all funny."

Suddenly Hector gasped. "You can have sex… in a chair?" It all made sense. He could finally show Julia his love! "Oh thank you, Richter! Thank you thank you! I can never thank you enough!"

Shanoa and Juste, who happened to be sitting close enough to hear most of that conversation, scooted farther away. Juste actually appeared a bit offended for the upcoming chair. Wanting a distraction from that unpleasant thought, she asked, "I've meant to ask you, how did you get here anyway? I have terrible luck. One day a portal opened beneath my feet and I landed in the present day. What happened to you?"

"The same," the pale haired Belmont affirmed.

Shanoa sighed happily. "We have so much in common. Aside from you hating garlic, sunlight, and basic human interaction."

"Indeed," the silently beautiful Belmont agreed.

"You're sure you're not a vampire?" the woman asked, tilting her head to the side in question.

Juste smiled at her joke. Then he swept his dazzling eyes to her. "So?"

She knew what he was talking about. "We're both from different times in history, but I have nothing left where I'm from. Do you?"

Juste inclined his head. "Lydie awaits me in the past."

For a moment, Shanoa seemed a bit crestfallen, but she shook it away. Her expression did not go unnoticed. "I must return. If I do not, he will never be born," Juste murmured, indicating with a long finger toward Richter, who was now describing in vivid detail everything he had seen between Sara and Elisabetha yesterday. They both cringed a bit.

"I know you have obligations. It's ok, you would probably spend all day rearranging the furniture and drive me nuts anyway," Shanoa commented offhandedly. "And besides, I'm not sure what I would do without ebay."

Juste didn't disagree.

"W-what's she talking about?" Mina, who had been listening to Shanoa and Juste's conversation, quietly whispered to Soma, her glance darting to everyone around them with frightened wide eyes. She sat at a table huddled as close to the wall as possible, though she didn't have a chance of blending in while wearing bright pink.

"It's nothing important," Soma assured her. "Hey, check out this cool bag I won on ebay!"

Mina inspected the small oddly curved white bag with large round wooden handles. "Soma, that's a purse."

"Oh," Soma murmured offhandedly. "Then you can have it."

"If you don't want it, I'll take it," Shanoa said, diving in and snatching the purse away like a falcon. "It was a fluke that you won that bid anyway."

"Wow, Shanoa, you're so cool!" Mina murmured timidly, hiding behind her strawberry iced tea.

"Thank you," Shanoa said demurely. "Do you like the pink boots?"

"They're wonderful!"

Soma wanted to argue about how he was a bazillion times cooler than Shanoa, but seeing Mina actually unafraid to talk to someone was something was so rare that he didn't want to stop their conversation. Instead, he settled for watching the interesting drama all around the room.

Leon strode past them, fondly glancing at all his friends before walking outside. Recognizing the figure sitting on the wooden bench beside the window, he dropped down next to him.

"Hello, Leon Belmont," the silver haired vampire murmured.

"Hello, Clarence," Leon laughed as Joachim gagged on his coffee and sent him an outraged look.

"Never, ever call me that!" the vampire shuddered. "Ugh, what kind of father names his son Clarence anyway?"

"One that's currently winning the presidential nominations," the Belmont noted.

"Ugh, great. Just what we need, World War 3. You know he'll start that, don't you? Just because he's bored?" Joachim sighed. "Oh well, Dracula's portals are in the basement anyway. We can just leave to another time if nuclear winter comes for us."

"I'm suddenly strongly opposed to Walter being elected."

The vampire grinned at him, "Then maybe you should run for election, hmm?" He could see the gears very slowly moving in Leon's head, and before the Belmont could get any bright ideas, he decided to change the subject. "I have to ask, why Starbucks? I thought you hated this place."

"I do, but everyone else seems to like it," the Belmont answered.

"You're far too agreeable, Leon," Joachim sighed.

"Is that such a bad thing?"

"You almost married Sara," the vampire pointed out. "That would have been a disaster."

"Yes, but wait…" Ever so slowly, thoughts began to brew in Leon's blonde haired skull again. "Joachim, didn't you say you knew what was beyond the portal?"

Joachim tried his best to continue sipping his coffee casually, but he finally dropped all pretenses when the Belmont turned his hurt eyes to him and asked. "Why did you never tell me?"

The vampire sighed, "Leon, it wasn't my place to tell you that. You had to see it for yourself. Just like it probably isn't my place to tell you that I saw them again today."

"You went back through the portal to the past?" Leon asked dubiously. "Why would you do that?"

"Please. Like I'd ever subject myself to that again." Joachim gazed intently at Leon, gauging his reaction to the next statement. "I saw them here in the present."

As Leon's eyes widened in horror, Dracula bust through the door, earning a loud "HEY!" from Shanoa. The girl shook her fist at him. "You had better fix that before you go. It's so not coming out of my paycheck!"

Calmly, Alucard walked through the broken door and took a seat on the bench across from Joachim and Leon.

With a distracted wave of his hand, Dracula sent a construction worker skeleton to begin the repairs, then he quickly sat down beside Alucard. "Elisabetha is here in the present?!"

Joachim nodded. "She and Sara both are, and I'm afraid their fashion sense isn't any better now than it was then. They both have this weird gothic biker chick thing going on, but I like what Elisabetha's done with her hair. Short's a good look on her."

"She cut her hair? Noooo!" Dracula cried.

Joachim continued ruthlessly, "Sara's got this weird collar and leash thing on, and I don't pretend to understand that. It's not a bad look for them, but it's so last decade. I almost didn't recognize them when they zoomed down the road on Isaac's motorcycle."

"Oh no, poor Isaac, they stole his motorcycle!" Leon furrowed his brows in despair. "I shall have to repay him somehow."

"Isaac can build another," Dracula waved it off, then turned his attention back to the other vampire. "Tell me… did they look… happy?"

The silver haired vampire shrugged. "As happy as two fucked-up lesbian chicks can be, I guess." As both Dracula and Leon began to sulk unhappily, Joachim noted, "you know, in a way this is really sweet revenge."

"What do you mean?" Leon asked, puzzled.

"I mean, think about it, Dracula, what caused you to rage against God and tell…" Joachim shivered. "…Walter… to target Sara and Leon in the first place?"

"Elisabetha's death. God stole her from me and—" Dracula began.

"But did he really?" the silver haired vampire mused. "Or was it Sara from the present time that took Elisabetha away to the future?"

Dracula stared at the other vampire for a long while, dumbfounded by this realization. Thinking that his friend didn't know the answer, Leon whispered the answer to him, "it was Sara, not God."

Joachim shook his head at his friend's stupidity and murmured, "why do I keep hanging around you?"

Alucard picked up his train of thought. "When Sara was targeted, Walter bit her, tainting her soul and starting the chain of events that eventually lead to her thousand year imprisonment within the Vampire Killer whip," the dhampire continued. Seeing that Leon wasn't quite following him, he sighed. "The present Sara doomed her past self by stealing Elisabetha from the past and bringing her to the future."

"So she's always been a fucking psycho bitch? She's even a bitch to her past self?" Soma asked, strolling through the partially fixed doorway, free to swear now that Mina was happily chatting away with Shanoa.

Alucard frowned at Soma's poor choice of language but affirmed, "Yes. Sara's selfishness in the present caused a thousand years of torment for herself."

"Wow, Leon-Fucking-Belmont, aren't you glad you didn't marry her now?" Soma asked with a smirk.

For a moment, Leon was silent, the facts slowly sinking into his head. He was aware of four pairs of eyes watching him intently when he looked up from the pavement. The grin never left his face as he agreed, "fuck yes."

Soma's eyes widened, and his eyes quickly darted to Alucard, seeing if the dhampire would care that Leon swore. He didn't seem to care. Soma found it incredibly unfair.

Unaware of Soma's internal monologue, Leon continued, "I can't say what we will face in the near future, but I'm not afraid. Not anymore."

No sooner had he finished saying that when a loud cry pierced their ears. "My lord!" Saccubus exclaimed, swooping down from above to kneel beside Dracula, giving him a prime view of her heaving bosom. "I have done as you asked and scoured the remains of Castlevania for evidence. The castle was magically demolished wing by wing, and it does indeed appear as if Death did that himself."

"Lousy reaper. He is never going on vacation again," Dracula grumbled. "Did you find anything else?"

Saccubus nodded, "I found a strange device in the ruins of the atrium, though I am not certain what it does. I dared not press any buttons or turn any dials." Eagerly, she offered the device to the vampire lord.

Dracula gasped as his pale fingers touched the cold metal. He recognized the device, and glancing up, he could tell everyone else did as well. "This is Simon Belmont's. He used this to traverse my castle in the blink of an eye, keep tabs on all his allies, and to travel to different dimensions. How could it be here? Did you not destroy everything in your final assault against him, Leon?"

Leon nodded his head and agreed, "everything."

"Ominous," Alucard noted, after a few moments of silence. "I think this is a warning."

"From who?" Leon asked. "I know Simon is gone. Death even confirmed it. So who could have possibly sent this to us? And why wouldn't they just attack us instead?"

"He or she, not 'they,'" Joachim quickly amended Leon's grammar.

"I am not certain, but perhaps the culprit is waiting for something," the Alucard mused, then turned to Dracula. "Father, when did you say Castlevania will be finished?"

The lord of the night gulped. "At least another week. Maybe longer now that Isaac is spending more time with Maria."

"Then we have at least a week to prepare," Leon decided. As he thought about the possibilities, a smile spread across his face like the sun cresting over the horizon. "Are you all ready for another adventure?"

"Fuck yeah!" Soma agreed, rising to his feet and power-fisting into the air.

Alucard frowned at Soma's language, but he nodded his head to Leon. "If you should require it, my assistance is yours."

"Oh no!" Dracula cried with dismay, "'an adventure' for a Belmont is another way of saying 'destroying Castlevania!'"

"It does happen to be an unfortunate collateral," Joachim agreed, then raised his coffee cup to Leon. "Count me in. I need something to get my mind off the upcoming elections anyway."

Seeing the eager grins of his friends, Leon didn't mind that their modern problems were continuing; in fact, he would find it strange if they didn't. He was ready for them now that a thousand years of guilt had finally washed away.

After all, he was the height of hip. The lead rockstar. The epitome of modern fashion. He had the powers of virtue, chaos, romance, insanity, fashion, and Starbucks on his side.

Nothing was getting in Leon Belmont's way.

LateNiteSlacker's Notes:

1 – Well, this is it. The end! I sincerely hope that you have enjoyed reading this story as much as I have loved writing it. Thank you so much to those of you who read the whole story!

2 – Some of you might be thinking there is room for yet another sequel. You would be right, but sadly I have no intention of writing this. If anything, I'll add a bonus chapter or two, maybe as a separate fic.

3 – There are no more trivia questions, but if you haven't guessed already, this chapter's title comes from Symphony of the Night.

4 – Congrats to the last surviving bunch of trivia-goers! You got these right!

Chapter Trivia – Hoshi no uorufu, Hideki Hirameshi, Renuarb

Bonus Trivia – Nobody got this one?

Title Trivia – Hoshi no uorufu, Hideki Hirameshi, Heavenschoir

Chapter Trivia #21 Answer: What allows Dracula to command Death? The Crimson Stone gives Dracula the power to command Death.

Bonus Trivia #21 Answer: The title for this story (Modern Problems) actually came from another source. Can you guess what it is? Nobody got this one! The title is from a song by Quinn Fox, it's a lounge-ish remix of Castlevania songs. Listen to it and pretend there are credits rolling for this story.

Title Trivia #21 Answer: Which Castlevania game features the line "I'll Kill You And The Night!"? This quote is from Lament of Innocence, starring Leon Belmont.