A/N- IMPORTANT! So, in my rush to release my last chapter of this fic… I made a boo-boo. While you, the reader, know who it is doing all this… Ria wasn't supposed to know until the very end of that chapter. Um, yeah… and that's not how I wrote it. I edited it a bit back. Nothing much has changed really. Some dialogue has switched, and all mention of Joachim as, well, himself have disappeared until the very end. That being said, I'm sorry. That was completely my fault—I mean, who else would it be? My brain is slowly being overwhelmed by the number of goals I've set for myself. This wouldn't be so bad, having so many goals, except that I can't seem to focus on one at a time. And in short, I get burnt out before I even start. So, yeah, I need tips on goal organization. Anyone got any? Thanks as always for your loyal readership, I again apologize for the mistake with last chapter, and I hope you enjoy this one!
Chapter 6- Whose Past Is It Anyway?
"Joachim," Ria whispered, sure that, supernatural hearing or not, her voice had carried on the breeze to the mystical vampire.
There he was, clear as day—puns excused—standing right in front of her. The monster that had earned Sara's trust, built her hope, only to be in vain. He had been serving just himself, trying to gain Walter's favor—which had also been in vain. Ria's heart thudded against her chest, as her grip tightened on the whip she had not even realized she had drawn. She heard Isaac draw the Chauve-Souris, and she felt his eyes burn into her, though she dare not take her own off the platinum-haired monster in front of the two of them.
"Ria…?" Isaac muttered.
But, for now, she ignored him. She knew enough of this vampire from spending that time reliving Sara's memories and from what she had read from Leon's entry in her family's journals to know that Joachim was not someone to be underestimated. Now, the vampire cocked his head, his pale lips drawn in a flat line as he surveyed Ria. When he did not immediately speak again, the memory of his fate—his true one, the one unaltered by time-travel—flew through her mind.
"You're not supposed to be here."
It slipped out. So hard, so factual. She could not help it. It was factual. Now Joachim's eyes lit as he righted his head.
"So certain," he hissed like the sneakiest snake. "How do you know this to be oh-so true?"
"You know him? Ria?" Isaac pressed.
Again, the forgemaster went ignored.
"I just do. You're not supposed to be here. Leave. Return to your own time."
There was a flash of fang in that grin. Her body retreated a step before she could tell it to stop. There was a bit of silence and stillness that followed. A breeze moving stray leaves from the trees was the only thing to indicate that they had all not been frozen in this moment. Ria was not even sure if her chest still rose and fell as it should. She felt Isaac inch closer to her, some unspoken message dying to be exchanged between them. She couldn't help it. Now was not the time for explanations. She couldn't turn and give her boyfriend a history lecture on the origin of Joachim. That would just have to come much later. Now, she could only hope to kill him.
But then that presented another problem. If she killed Joachim here, didn't she, irrevocably, alter time? History? Wouldn't that undo everything she was actually trying to do right here and now? Save her future life? Her mother's? Damn you, time travel movies. If she had just not seen so many of them… maybe she wouldn't be so concerned about this. But, nonetheless, she had a problem to face directly, and literally, in front of her… and the more she thought about it—and the more she cursed her knowledge of basic sci-fi rules—the bigger it got.
Ria planted herself, brandishing her whip once. "If you won't go back on your own, then I'll just have to send you."
Joachim laughed. Hard. The longer it went, the harder the laugh got, until he was bent double, clutching his stomach. Ria's brows furrowed as she watched the crazy display, not quite sure how she was supposed to respond.
"The hell…" Isaac muttered.
Ria could only shrug.
Just as it seemed Joachim's laughter would never end, it did, and he straightened. Wiping what Ria was sure was a fake tear from his eye, he shook his head.
"Forgive me. Really, I do beg your pardon. It's just… I really fail to see how such a tiny little girl-child like yourself could hope to do anything harmful to a creature such as myself. It really is ridiculous if you allow yourself the time to think on it."
His fangs were fully out now, protruding a bit over his bottom lip. Ria changed her stance, ready for the fight that was about to erupt.
"You do an awful lot of talk, and no show. It seems to me like you're trying to avoid a fight with this 'tiny little girl-child.'"
"Ria, don't…!" Isaac began.
She got the feeling that he had been trying to warn her of the immense magical power that he could—no doubt, based on earlier talks—feel rolling off the vampire. While Isaac could not complete his warning, she got the drift as a large, blue ball of mystical energy came hurtling at the both of them. She had a split second to see it and raise her whip to deflect it. The whip connected… and went straight through. Ria's eyes widened as the energy hit her fully and knocked her back several feet, taking her breath with it as it dissolved away.
She heard Isaac call her name, yell it, just before he summoned the Innocent Devil he called Abel. The golden beast with the pinkish-red crystal in its side burst forth from nowhere and dived on Joachim as Isaac was suddenly above Ria. It was only then did she register that she had landed on her back, and that she was still in a good amount of pain.
"Ria?" he screamed at her.
She wanted to tell him to shut up, that she was fine… but all that came out was "uhh."
Isaac smiled, patting her on the shoulder as he yanked her up upright.
"You'll live, but not if you don't fight. Now."
Ria blinked, shaking her head. Whatever had been in that blue ball had done a number on her. She forced herself to focus on the scene ahead of her, which was Abel swooping and soaring over Joachim, taking aim when he could. And Joachim wasn't taking the attach sitting down either. He evaded the tombstones as if he had always known they were there, throwing floating sword over ball of energy over and over again at the Innocent Devil.
"Haven't seen Abel in a while," Ria commented, trying to clear the haze from her mind. Seriously, had she struck a rock when she landed? What had been in that ball?
"Yeah," Isaac said cautiously, like he wasn't quite sure what to do with Ditzy Ria right at the moment.
"Like a blast from the past," the huntress said, pausing for just a moment before a splutter of laughter escaped her lips.
"That's it," Isaac said, gripping her by both shoulders and shaking. "Ria!"
"Right, right!" she said. "Must have been that ball."
"Dazing magic. Works wonderfully, doesn't it?"
"For real. Let's get our vampire," Ria said, brandishing her whip once more, feeling the fog finally lifting.
"Gladly," Isaac breathed in relief.
And it couldn't have happened a moment sooner. Abel was low on energy, down to his last dregs. He could no longer soar up into the sky to achieve an aerial leverage over Joachim.
"Return!" Isaac ordered his devil as he dove into the fray.
Ria took in the scene, watching Joachim block a swing of the Chauve-Souris with just a flick of his hand. Instead of actually fighting with the vampire, Isaac was exchanging blows with the glowing swords that he controlled. The former forgemaster looked like the very picture of "going nowhere" while Joachim looked like he was hardly even breaking a sweat. It was then that Ria realized two things. One: forget about killing him, they just had to get him back to his rightful place in the timeline. And two: they so didn't have the time for this.
Her feet were running, aiming her straight for the vampire. Joachim laughed, catching her from the corner of his eye. He threw another ball of energy at her—green this time; she didn't want to know what that one did—and she managed to side-step it. She was at him in the next moment, finding dodging the tombstones around them harder than Joachim apparently did. She lashed out with her whip, grunting as she did so, and in a flash, the vampire had vanished and reappeared a foot to the left. The mystical blood-sucker flung out an arm, sending a sweeping golden trail of light out in an arch. It caught Isaac square in the chest, sending him flying back and out of Ria's sight.
"Isaac!" she cried out, not daring, once again, to look away from Joachim.
She heard a steady "ow, uhh" as a reply, and she took that as good news. She struck out at Joachim again, aiming for his feet. Maybe she could at least send him off-balance. The vampire laughed, and Ria glanced down to see why. Her eyes widened.
He was floating! Not fair! So totally not fair! Growling, she tried again, aiming for his midsection. One of his swords managed to deflect the Vampire Killer—not cutting it, though it was caught with the blade, Ria noticed. Joachim was still laughing.
"Did I miss the joke?" Ria snarled, striking again and again, and missing again and again.
"It's your weapon choice, child. Most ineffective against my kind, or did you not know this?" he chuckled.
"Yeah, well… well, at least I'm not floating around to fight! What kind of some sissy, wimpy vampire can't stand on the ground to fight?" Ria shot back.
"Very well. I'll oblige," Joachim sneered, landing on the ground without missing a beat.
He sent sword after sword after Ria, much like he had done with Isaac, followed always by differently colored balls of energy. But Ria ducked and dodged, quick on her feet but also quickly running out of breath.
"Give up. Accept your death gracefully," Joachim said gently.
Isaac was still nowhere to be seen, and Ria was beginning to get worried about it. She put her focus on Joachim.
"I'd risk killing you in this out-of-time place before I'd ever give up."
Another strike, another miss. Another sword, another duck.
"You mean, before I kill another helpless village girl?"
Fury like Ria had not felt in quite some time—not since Keisha had died, not since the discovery of a family tree she didn't know, not since the death of her father—filled her from head to toe. She struck out again, and this time, she caught Joachim in the shoulder. He cried out as if burning, collapsing to the ground, kneeling and crumpled over. Ria towered over him.
"You won't kill again," she snarled.
Joachim's gaze shot up to the young huntress. That wild craziness—that had subdued a smidge during battle—was back in full-force. His eyes darted back and forth, always coming back to glance at Ria and her weapon.
"I don't understand," he muttered. "Don't understand. Don't understand. Don't understand. Why? Why? Why? Why does it hurt so? It's just a whip? Pieces of dead cow! That's shouldn't hurt me! But it does. Why? Why?"
Ria grinned. "Because it's built to destroy monsters just like you."
At that moment, at that precise moment, Sara appeared beside Ria. The huntress could see the pain in her mentor's eyes, but the anger that filled them… the pain stood no chance against such rage. She had never seen that kind of anger in Sara. But it was all directed to one place… Joachim's hunched form. And of course it would be. He was her Hope-Killer.
"Joachim," Sara said, her voice guttural.
The vampire's eyes widened, and he crab-walked backwards several paces.
"No… no! Not her! Can't! Not her, not here!"
Ria's jaw fell. "You can see her?"
"Angel of death," Joachim muttered.
Now even Sara looked confused. "What did you call me? What did you dare call me?"
But Joachim had been repeating it this whole time. Over and over until it had just blended into one word.
He flew to his feet, and Ria readied her whip. But instead, the vampire vanished before her eyes.
"Huh," Ria said, exchanging a glance with Sara.
Sara had a tiny grin on her face, but that was wiped away as she doubled over in pain, crying out before she vanished herself. Ria closed her eyes, allowing herself a breath before opening them again. She turned, seeing Isaac just now attempting to push himself upright a couple of yards away.
"Isaac!" she called, running and dropping down beside him. "Are you okay? What happened?"
"Paralyzing magic. Took me a minute to shake it off, considering I was paralyzed. But I'm all right," he said, nevertheless taking the hand she had thought to offer.
He nodded his head toward the space Joachim had previously occupied.
"What was all that about? I couldn't look up to see what was happening, but I caught most of it, I think. And who is this Joachim, exactly?"
"Long story, but…"
Ria tried her best to sum up what she had learned both from Sara's memories and from the Belmont Family Journals as quickly as possible. After all, there was no way of knowing how much time had passed, and all Ria could think about at the moment was that they were still no closer to finding Alucard. But at the end, after Ria had explained what had just happened between her ghostly friend and Joachim, Isaac could only arch a brow.
"I remember… I remember Dracula mentioning Joachim, briefly. He waved him off. But… he's strong. Very. And he can see Sara? Why? He knew her?"
Ria shrugged. "I don't know. I'm not sure of much at this point. Well, actually, I do know one thing for sure."
"We've got to get Maria out of that forest and home. No way could she take him on. No way."
With a helping hand from Ria, Isaac was on his feet once more, and the two were headed off in the direction of Eternal Night. Hopefully, they would find the other seventeen-year-old huntress before the crazed vampire did.
End Notes: Okay, so I'm so excited. While writing this chapter, I discovered a couple of things that I had been struggling with, outline-wise, for this story. Plus, I realized a cool little something I wanted to do… which may look like another edit error right now, but this time I promise it's not. So, how did you like this? Please review!