Disclaimer: Vassalord, its characters and properties are owed by Nanae Chrono and are distributed in the U.S. by Tokyopop. It is not mine. This disclaimer holds true for this and every consecutive chapter.
Characters: Rayflo, Chris
Rayflo remembers love.
But it is a neglected memory. Faded and dull and covered in cobwebs like his recollection of the chaste press of lips that was his first kiss and his memory of what the warmth of the mid-day sun felt like on bare skin. Or what food tasted like, before he acquired his need for a liquid diet. None of that knowledge was necessary in his current life and so it was filed away in a distant corner of his mind; banished to gather dust and mold like so many unwanted trinkets.
He stood in a battlefield, as he had multiple times before. This, this was familiar. Oh, the methods of killing had changed somewhat over the years; swords and lances had been replaced by guns and cannons, but the end results were the same. Men left dead and dying, the metallic scent of blood fouled by the odor of loosed bowels and bladders, the hard-trodden ground turned viscous by the loss of so many bodily fluids. War was ever a messy affair.
His boots were covered with the putrid muck; his clothes stained with remnants of his nightly meals. The stench of death had soaked through his clothes, permeated his very pores until it followed him like a shroud. He didn't bother with cleanliness. Perhaps the remnants of his noble nature could not bear the hypocrisy of being clean outside but not within. Perhaps he was simply beyond caring.
He haunted the field of battle at night, a human-shaped grim reaper granting a quick demise to those left half alive and forgotten. If viewed through a rosy-colored, romanticized lens, his acts might have been called mercy killings. But Rayflo was far too practical to delude himself. He was a predator, picking off the easiest of prey, surviving off those whose deaths would not be noticed or protested.
He wasn't the only one who scavenged the field; human thieves slunk in the shadows, picking the pockets of their dead and dying comrades. Rayflo didn't judge them, but he did snack on a few that weren't quick enough or smart enough to get out of his way. Most were driven by an instinctive, visceral fear to give the vampire a wide birth.
The human child that had invaded his day-time resting place seemed to lack such survival instincts. He stood there, unmoving, mouth slightly agape. A shattered fragment of life in the destroyed ruins of a church, surrounded by death. Scared stupid, perhaps. Or, perhaps, not scared at all.
The nightwalker put on his best show, leering at the child, licking the fresh blood from this night's meal off his fingers while describing in gory details how he would eat the young intruder if he did not leave. The boy's stomach growled. And just like that, the vampire was defeated.
Rayflo remembers love. What he had forgotten was how it can take root even under the most adverse of circumstances. How its seeds were carried in the most innocuous of things. Simple things like a child's shriek of laughter, in wide, trust-filled eyes, in heart-wrenching sobs full of fear of abandonment, in a small hand clutching at his own. He had forgotten how love, once given root, can quickly spread and grow, its tendrils finding purchase in even the darkest, coldest hearts.
It had taken centuries to forget his human foibles and a mere couple of weeks to recall them. He bathed the boy, and then himself, for death was not a scent to smother a child with. His mouth was clean and his clothes free of blood when he returned home to the ruins from his nightly feedings. He kept his eyes open for human food to return with, and return he did, even though he knew he should just leave. He returned to the frantic, desperate hug of the human boy. He ignored the inner whispers of his conscience; the voice that told him that this was wrong, that the boy needed a better environment and more suitable protectors. But even if he wanted to, he could not forget the truth forever.
It came to the surface when the time came for the exchanging of names. The boy had none, a situation easily rectified. He received the vampire's name for him with pure, unfettered joy. And then Chris' small finger pointed forward as the boy declared him 'Master'. And the seed that had been growing so swiftly bloomed…
He grinned and started to correct the child. "Look", he said, "my name is… My… name… is…"
The smile faded as he remembered. He had given his name away, had traded it to an unholy demon in exchange for what he had become. He had no right to name a child, to make a pet out of a human, not even one who had been so obviously ignored and abandoned by its own kind. Happiness and affection had no place in his life. He was not his own man. He, himself, was another's pet.
Rayflo looked away, unable to meet Chris' stare. What had he been thinking, to allow things to go so far? But love is a funny thing. Sometimes it bonds both ways. The astute child launched himself at the vampire, tears streaming down his face as he declared his love for his 'master'. Clutching and begging not to once again be forsaken. In that moment, the vampire might have promised the boy anything, had he not noticed the thinness of his limbs and the protrusion of his ribs.
He had made a mistake. It was time to set things right.
He lured the child to the northern town with promises of a better life. What remained unspoken was his actual plan. Chris assumed and Rayflo neglected to correct him. He left the boy on the abbey doorstep, knocking loudly before vanishing in a whirlwind of bats. He watched from a nearby rooftop, making sure Chris was taken in. The child protested, sobbing at the top of his lungs that Master would return. The vampire turned and departed, his good deed for the century done.
He'll follow the fighting to the East and resume where he had left off. The child who had shared his coffin will be quickly forgotten. Or so he tells himself.
Still, Rayflo remembers, even when it would be easier to forget.
A/N: And so ends the first story. I hope you liked it. Most of these stories will probably be similar in nature to this one, just little glimpses into the characters' lives. Be forewarned that I'll only update as I feel inspired to, which usually happens after the release of a manga volume. And we all know how slowly those are coming out… ;)