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Embracing Sin

Chapter Text

Alucard

My old fate, yours truly,

you have returned.

Your ageless face haunts,

the fabric of time, torn.

The red door I doth enter…

for all eternity.

~~~

~

"W-where in the hell are we?"

With a dubious gaze, a tall man with tousled black hair gazed down at his fair-haired companion who was a whole head shorter than he was. "The look on your face suggests you believe me to know the answer to that question, my bride." He seemed tetchy and crossed his arms across his chest of his long red coat. "Tell me… what happened this time? Where did you bring us, Integra?"

Integra nearly gaped at the 599-year-old vampire, frowning at his accusation. "Me…?" She hissed, narrowing her red eyes dangerously.

"Well, wasn't the one that brought us here." He claimed, his voice deep, yet cultured. "This is the third time you've teleported us somewhere in the middle of, well… you know."

She couldn't help it, the corner of her mouth curled just a little at his hesitation. "You mean while we were fooling around on private property, Alucard?"

He scoffed at her witticism. "It is no longer amusing, Integra. These erratic jaunts you take us on are beginning to get out of hand."

Pfft! Integra decided right then and there that Alucard needed to lighten up a bit. However, on the sensible side of things—even though being sensible was more important to her in her human life than in her current vampire life—he did make a valid point.

If she wasn't more careful, they could find themselves facing unwanted attention.

Damn it! She needed to get control of this strange new power that recently, has been making a real nuisance of itself. It wasn't as if you just turned into a monster and suddenly understood how everything works. It takes time. And, it would definitely take more than a year to figure it all out, centuries even, and who knows… perhaps she will never figure it all out as she continues to evolve as a creature of darkness.

Sigh. There was so much to learn about being a vampire.

Yet, this particular teleportation was entirely different this time around. Frowning in thought, Integra held out her left hand, stretching out her long thin fingers, and studied it.

Only moments ago, she had cut her hand on that old sword…

The blade had sliced into her palm, but there was no trace of blood. There was no wound now. Her hand was unscathed, unblemished. There wasn't even any residual pain as if it never occurred. Had it healed so quickly? Were her regenerative powers that swift? Being undead was still relatively new to her so she couldn't be sure, she had never wounded herself like this before.

She had not yet engaged in real battle in this new skin of hers.

Perplexed with the situation, Integra lowered her hand and peered around observing the landscape. Wondering where in the hell, they were.

It seemed as if they were the only people left in the world for they stood alone, surrounded by sprawling grassy fields dusted with snow beneath a gray sky full of heavy clouds. The silence and sheer barrenness was completely unlike London, England, their home. Off in the far distance, dark hills loomed on the horizon giving no indication about where they were. There was not a single building marking any kind of civilization anywhere in sight.

The lone cry of a bone-chilling wind swept along the yellowing grasses, flattening it like strands of unkempt hair. It ruffled Integra's long grey coat and oddly carried with it a strange scent, something she was unfamiliar with, something she could not quite pinpoint.

Wherever they were, it felt like winter.

"I apologize for those incidences, but I cannot seem to control this ubiquitous ability as well as you, Alucard." Integra turned and faced the wind, which swept her long blonde hair out of her face and brought her looking at her beloved paramour.

She heaved a heavy sigh.

"This power is a gift, and a curse," she continued. "I'm still trying to figure it out, but I was not thinking myself in this place at all. I did not bring us here. I don't even know where here is." She explained. "The last few times this occurred… I will admit I did picture the top of the rebuilt Big Ben behind the clock face. And the other time at that gazebo in St. James Park near Buckingham Palace." Instinctively, she gazed up towards the sky for a moment trying to recall the third location with pursed lips and murmured, "I… I forgot where the last place—"

"It was inside of one of those red phone booths at Smithfield's Meat Market," Alucard offered oh-so charitably.

"Oh! That's right." Such delectable memories called for a tiny celebration, Integra considered. She slipped her hand into the right side pocket of her long trench coat, digging for a small pack of cigars. Placing a long, thin, brown-papered cigar between her teeth she side-smirked at the big churlish vampire who was watching her silently. "It was rather fun, wouldn't you agree? The hour was so late… I doubt anyone saw anything."

The No Life King arched a brow.

It was difficult to disagree with her.

At first, being interrupted in the middle of lovemaking was quite aggravating, but afterwards… when he was panting into her hair and coming down from the stars, he had very little to complain about. Having steamy relations all over London with the person he adored most in the world was actually hotter than he was accustomed.

It wasn't like he had a history of having intimate affairs publicly.

This new undead Integra was definitely something to reckon with. It seemed impossible, but she was more fearless than ever before, which was a daunting reality considering how headstrong she was as a human. But Alucard would not have it any other way. Now, come to think of it, perhaps he was the one that had much to learn for it has been hundreds of years since he experienced a quixotic relationship with anyone.

Perhaps the old nosferatu was rusty.

When it came to his darling queen it did not take Alucard long to cave in to her whims, within reason of course. No matter how aggravated he was with her ill-timed teleporting, as of late, he could not remain angry with her. She was, after all, his soul mate.

His everything.

Shrewdly, Alucard's lips curved heavenward at the memory… the memory of fucking her inside a phone booth in the dead of night. Indeed, how incredibly audacious she has become as a vampire, he thought with pleasure.

He could not deny the fact that she made him quite audacious these days, too.

And, he liked it.

"Fine," he answered, at last. "If you did not teleport us to this particular place, then… how did we get here? All the other times you disappeared first and I had to come find you, which is not a problem since our blood links us eternally. However, this time we have both teleported to the same spot at the same time."

Just then, Alucard's nose twitched and he raised his head abruptly. "Do you smell that? Something is approaching, something big."

Carefully guarding against the blustery wind with cupped hands, Integra lit her cigar and slipped the lighter back into her pocket. She thought about their predicament and inspected her left hand again, still wondering what happened to the wound she inflicted upon herself only moments ago inside of that old museum.

"It's human—many humans and animals. I smell them now. Do you think it has something to do with—"

BOOM!

A blast of fiery hot embers and bits of dirt pelted them before Integra could continue her thoughts aloud or even telepathically.

The explosion startled them both.

The ground beneath their feet trembled now. From all around them came a clamour that sounded as if the gods of war had awakened with a thunderous roar. Only it was not thunder nor was it any god… it was the galloping hooves belonging to that of horses and the rhythmic pounding of marching human feet against the earth.

Hundreds of them both horse and man.

The vigour of life approached like two tidal waves, waves of warm blood about to splatter over the plains as two vast armies gathered upon the opposite crests of sloping hills.

It would appear as if a battle was to take place on this barren field today.

Now Integra understood what she was sensing earlier on the wind.

Fear.

The smell of fear was coming from these people about to go to war. And here they stood, as the two armies stared each other down, caught in the middle of their nirvana, that moment of abeyance, that feeling of utter breathlessness as each man stood and faced their enemy across the plains.

She could hear their heartbeats pounding against the armour that covered their bodies like the beating of a thousand drums.

It was almost deafening to her ears.

Mindless of the strangers standing amidst their battleground, the two armies charged forth, their shouts and battle cries booming across the snow-dusted fields.

"Well…" Alucard muttered looking on at the west army hurtling towards them, "I don't think we're in Kansas anymore."

Integra blew out a wisp of smoke, her eyes on the east army and sighed. "Oh, bollocks."

Chapter Text

Hellsing Manor – August 22nd, 2031, 5:45 a.m.

 Seras Victoria never felt as if she truly belonged until she became a part of the Hellsing Organization.

Thirty-one years ago, she was a young spirited police officer with a disturbing dark past and an uncertain future. She had joined England's law enforcement to fight against the evils of the world in the only way that she could, for evil had taken her family away. It scarred her adolescent mind with horrific nightmares, leaving nothing but the pungent smell of death in its wake.

On the other hand, it would seem as if death itself were to follow her into the dark wood one harrowing evening when a man, who went by the name Alucard, saved her from the licentious grip of a depraved vampire. As it would turn out, the mysterious man in the large red fedora and long red Victorian-styled duster was a vampire himself, but not just any vampire. It was Dracula. Without rival, he destroyed the vampire that held her hostage and his group of henchmen, but in order to do so, he had to wound her gravely.

Her life would forever change from then on, for her anti-hero gave her a choice to die as a mortal or to accept his gift of unlife.

Seras chose the latter.

Accepting the fact that she became a vampire was not welcomed with immediate contentment. With the help of Alucard's master, a woman by the name of Integra Hellsing, Seras discovered that there were many reasons to keep fighting, to keep holding her head high and proud. For this strong-willed mortal not only kept Alucard tame (a creature with a harrowing past more grisly than her own), but was also the leader of an organization that eradicated monsters in the name of the monarchy and the citizens of England.

To Seras, Integra Hellsing was just the kind of woman she, herself, desired to be.

Then the world went to hell in 1999 when a madman declared war on England and the Hellsing Organization, unleashing unspeakable horrors upon them. It was a heinous plot over half a century in the making. Friends became foes. Nazi vampires of the Waffen-SS belonging to a group called Millennium painted London red with blood.

Millions of lives were lost.

And Alucard… he disappeared for 30 years.

It was during this time of absence that Seras realized how important Alucard was to Integra Hellsing. It went beyond the basic sphere of attraction and tolerance. For even the mere mention of his name caused the Hellsing woman to lash out at her wildly. It was during those moments that she discovered that Integra's strong will could falter just a little.

To Seras, it became as clear as day… Integra was in love with the No Life King.

By the year 2030, Seras's relationship with the Hellsing director became a solid, unbreakable bond. A bond that proved useful when Alucard finally did return to them and another madman decided to seek vengeance on vampires with his army of half-breeds, or as some like to called them, dhampirs.

His name was Sergiu Medrea.

The dhampir of Moldavian decent sought to rid the world of vampires—creatures that he blamed for making him into what he was a degenerate and a monster, a bloodthirsty animal that no one could possibly care for or want. To add to his selfish proclivity, he also plotted the ruin of the Hellsing Organization, ridding it of its two trump cards and feasting on Integra Hellsing's sweet virginal blood. Yet, things did not go according to plan when Sergiu discovered Integra's blood was no longer pure, but tainted with Alucard's blood, and the half-breed went into a murderous rampage that left her dying with a gaping wound in her stomach.

Once again, it came down to Alucard offering her a choice.

Life or unlife?

Thinking back on that harrowing moment made Seras's heart swell with emotion. Integra decided to close the human chapter of her life in order to open another. She chose not to give up fighting the monsters of the world.

She chose not to give up on them.

She chose to become a vampire.

She chose Alucard.

Her admiration for the Hellsing director did not diminish in the least once Integra became a vampire. The way she took to being a creature of the night was nothing less than… extraordinary. Seras had no doubt that the transition came easier because Integra was so well versed in vampire lore, she grew up in a family of monster hunters after all, especially vampire monster hunters. It almost seemed that being a monster came naturally to Integra, well… according to Pip Bernadotte that is, the familiar residing inside Seras's being.

Either way, the result made the Hellsing Organization stronger than ever before, especially now that three vampires operated it. What was it that Integra used to say? 'The most effective weapon against a vampire is another, more powerful, vampire.'

Seras could not agree more.

There was no doubt. Integra Hellsing meant everything to her. She was the closest thing she had to a mother or a sister, a best friend. Now she was one of them, and Seras wanted nothing more than to see her be happy.

Together, they would protect each other and share each other's joy and defeats.

Together, they were family.

The two of them were hanging out in Integra's spacious bedroom, the heavy curtains closed on the wide panel of windows facing the front yard of the mansion, indulging in a glass of wine and enjoying each other's company while getting ready for bed. A thoughtful smile came to Seras's face as she dutifully ran a hairbrush through her mistress's platinum blonde hair, which nearly swept the floor with its wispy tips it was so long.

The sun would soon be rising.

Certainly, this ritual began way before Alucard returned one year ago from his 30-year absence. It began while London recovered from the Zeppelin Affair, when all they had was each other, a handful of servants and Pip's disembodied voice with his French accent and colourful swear-bombs.

Suddenly the hairbrush in Seras's hand stopped mid stroke. The draculina had an incredulous thought.

Has it really been a whole year already? Wow. Where the heck did the time go?

Just then, the silliest idea entered her mind and Seras snickered at how cute and funny it was to imagine Integra as a one-year-old vampire, a small round-faced, chubby-fisted, monster-child with fangs.

"And what are you giggling on about?" Integra wondered, suspicion thick on her voice. She sensed reflective thoughts about the past swirling around in Seras's mind.

Now, the draculina was snickering.

Integra turned slightly in her seat situated in front of a beautifully crafted vanity table made of mahogany. With piqued interest, she glanced over her shoulder at the spiky blonde-haired vampire behind her. Her female confidante was wearing a pink and white t-shirt styled nightgown that depicted two cuddly kittens playing with a ball of yarn stretched across her large bosoms.

"Well…?" Integra pursued.

"Oh, it's nothing really." Seras replied swiftly even though she still twitched with mirth. "I… I was just thinking that it's been over a year since master turned you into a vampire."

"And you find this amusing how?"

"Because, sir, it makes you one year old." Seras could not stop a ridiculous sounding snort as her imagination went wild with goofy visions. "Kind of like an infant—a monstrous infant."

With slightly raised eyebrows, Integra turned back around and faced the mirror in front of her with a deep sigh. "Are you sure you haven't had too much of this wine this evening?" Of course, she was teasing the other woman because alcohol had no affect on vampires anyways. For them, it was just something to whet the palate, something to placate their persistent thirst for blood. "You know very well that I am fifty-three years old and you yourself turned fifty this year. I cannot imagine what kind of barmy visions you have going on inside that foolish head of yours."

There really was no such thing as keeping secrets from each other, not when they were all creatures with the ability to mind read, an ability granted to them by means of their blood relations to one another. Integra understood now that it was always easier to read minds of those whose blood you share.

"Hmm, it's probably best that you not invade my thoughts right now," Seras warned and gave into a few more soft peals of laughter. She couldn't help it. It was too easy to picture Integra as a baby, like in the old photo albums she saw a couple of times of Integra growing up. Only now, that cute pudgy baby with those sweet blonde curls had demonic red eyes.

It was difficult to ignore the vision. Integra saw the mental image in the draculina's head much to her dismay.

She did not see why it was so amusing. "That is quite enough, Seras."

Seras stood at attention like a good soldier and became silent. "You're right. I'm sorry, sir. I know you're fifty-three but you don't look a day over thirty-three. And just so you know… you were a very cute baby—minus the fangs and red eyes of course."

She continued to brush out Integra's hair gently.

"It feels like such a long time ago," Integra said in a whisper, thinking of her father Arthur Hellsing, her long ago deceased mother and her grandfather. It had been a while since she spoke to Arthur inside her inner world, a world she discovered while transitioning into a vampire.

"You've come such a long way." Seras reminded softly.

"We've come a long way, Seras." Integra reiterated. "You and I. Even Alucard."

"Yes, I guess we have." Seras agreed while retrieving her tall-stemmed wineglass from the corner of small dressing table. She gently tipped the glass up and swallowed the last mouthful of sweet red port. When she set the glass back on top of the table, a troubled sort of thought entered her mind before she could stop it.

Again, it was too late. Integra knew what the other woman was thinking. It came to her as flashing images, like that of a silent movie shown from an old reel projector. She also sensed trepidation in the other woman, cold and slick, it slid down her spine.

Integra's back straightened sharply. "I told you on that horrible night in St. George's Cathedral that I would never give up on you or Alucard—do you remember?"

Seras made a sound of acknowledgment.

"Well, I meant that. I do not regret a thing, Seras. I lost the battle against that lunatic. But if I were to choose again I would make the same choice, so don't even entertain such thoughts," Integra chided.

That was just the kind of reassurance the younger woman needed to hear. Seras threw her arms around Integra's neck, hugging her from behind with her cheek pressed up against the side of her head. "Oh, sir, I know I shouldn't worry about such things, but it's still good to hear you say it again. I just wanted to make sure you're all right. I know that being a vampire is nothing like being human even if we still look human. Do you miss it? You can tell me, you know."

Integra did not flinch as Seras embraced her in a strange headlock sort of hug, but she did not look overly thrilled about it either. She did however take pleasure in the floral scent coming off the other woman. For a moment, Integra wondered if Seras used that fancy bath soap she bought for her as a gift from the last time they went shopping.

"I… I don't miss it as much as I thought I would, I suppose. And, well, there are a few things I long for once in a while," Integra admitted. "Like a hot cup of tea or how nice the midday sun felt on my skin—all it does now is sting and annoy me. I can tolerate it a little better these days and I know it won't kill me, but staying alert during the day is difficult sometimes. I get tired so quickly if I get too much daylight. Truly, I still don't know how you and Alucard make it look so easy. I suppose that kind of vigour comes with time and experience. These mortal remnants clinging to my conscience are truthfully becoming harder and harder to grasp."

"Some you let go and some you never forget," Seras shared, not sounding overly concerned about it. Standing up straight, she released Integra from her awkward embrace and went back to brushing her hair. "Did you finish your work this evening?"

"Most of it," Integra replied. "After a year of restructuring, I think the Twelve are capable of handling most paranormal investigations on their own now. Of course, we will always oversee each case and offer them all the advice and manpower the Hellsing Organization can offer. The training you have given the anti-freak squad is impressive. You've done a splendid job, Seras. But never forget that you are my commander first. They can keep begging all they like, but I will not let them have you. Together with our own paramilitary forces, England's forces and King Charles' support, supernatural threats don't stand a chance."

"Thank you, sir. And, no they don't." Seras was not pretending to be smug about it. She was proud.

Integra closed her eyes peacefully. The brushing sent a course of delightful chills and prickles cascading over her skin. She let herself relax a little and murmured, "Hugh is still vexed at me for not attending this year's opera ball, though."

Seras sniffed. "Still…?"

"It's too soon after what happened last year. Even Sir Morgan did not attend this years' ball. The wounds are still too fresh." Integra thought about the young Juliet Morgan, daughter of Dagwood Morgan who was a member of the Convention of Twelve, murdered by a shape-shifting hybrid out to frame Alucard. "Seras, if anything were to happen because of me—"

"You must stop blaming yourself," Seras admonished curtly. "How were you supposed to know, it's—"

"—all part of the business… is that what you were going to say?" Integra interjected with eyes still closed. She had heard that saying so many times.

"No. That's not what I was going to say, and you know it." Seras furrowed her brows. "What I was going to say was… it's nobody's fault. You sacrificed a lot to put a stop to Sergiu and his group of crazies. You did what you had to do. Why do you have to be so stubborn?"

Integra opened her crimson eyes that now crested with illimitable warmth. "What would I do without you, Seras?"

Seras giggled then. "Well, you'd have no one but Master to show you what being a vampire is all about and frankly… that's terrifying."

Integra could not help herself, she laughed aloud, too. "Terrifying? Come now, you know Alucard is not as rough around the edges as he lets on. He's in a better place now. Not once has he encouraged that I eat another human being."

"Oh. Now that's reassuring," Seras teased, unconvinced. "He only behaves himself because of you. You know that, right. It doesn't matter if you are human, a monster or some kind of fairy… he'll do whatever you order him to do."

A wayward smirk appeared across Integra's face. "It's good to be Queen."

"Wait. Is that a line from a movie?" Seras wondered. "I know I've heard that somewhere before."

A familiar deep voice filled the inside of the room. "Yes it is a line from a movie, but the actual line goes: 'It's good to be the King'."

Alucard appeared a moment later.

Immediately, both women turned to look at the middle of the room and scowled at the deliberate interruption.

"Out!" They ordered in unison.

"B-but…" Alucard began to stammer, certain he felt his hair flutter by the sheer force of their verbal attack. "I merely stopped by in my search for a personal-effect. Integra, have you seen my…"

Seras groaned, cutting off her creator. "Can't you see that we're in the middle of something? Why do you always barge in on us?"

"In the middle of something? You mean busy nittering away like two old hens?" The red-clad vampire accused dryly. "What is this, some kind of slumber party? No boys allowed?"

Alucard stood in the middle of the bedroom looking at the ex-police girl dressed in her pyjamas brandishing a hairbrush in her right hand like a weapon. Then he glanced at the love of his afterlife seated before her in her white button-up nightshirt and sleeping pants.

"Excuse me…?" Integra spun fully around to face her unruly mate. "Did you just call us… old hens?

"Hrmph," he sounded. "This is the second night in a row that you two have gotten into the wine and holed yourselves up in this room. I'm sure I don't have to tell you that it will be daylight soon?"

"Whatever it is, Alucard… can't it wait?" Integra was almost ready to take back her 'not as rough around the edges' remark she had said about him earlier.

Lo and behold, the No Life King spotted what he was searching for laying on top of Integra's bed, his gun. There it was, cushioned in the downy blue blanket like some kind of discarded child's toy. The Professional—as he so lovingly called the weapon—named after one of his favourite movies about a professional hit man who forms an unusual friendship with a 12-year old girl, who in addition, becomes his protégée and learns the assassin trade.

The huge hand canon was a gift from Integra one year ago, a replacement of The Jackal, and it stood out like a sore thumb in its dark grey Nitron finish against the powdery blue blanket. It was like something out of this world awesome.

He strode over to the bed and snapped up the gun, slipping it into the inside pocket of his long red coat with ruffled caped shoulders. A keepsake from days long past.

"Never mind," he grumbled. "I see that you decided to indulge in target practice with my gun instead of your own. Again. Integra, you really should get a weapon better suited to your vampiric strength. It's been over a year now and you still rely on those puny human-grade firearms."

Integra conceded just a bit. "Perhaps it is time I had a gun crafted for myself instead of practicing with yours. I admit ordinary guns feel quite undersized in my hands compared to yours."

Alucard simply blinked for a moment as those words registered into something entirely different in his depraved mind. His eyes began to burn like embers. "Really…?" he started to purr.

Rolling her eyes dramatically, Seras cleared her throat obnoxiously loud. "Honestly, do you guys do this stuff on purpose? Because if you two are going to start talking dirty, maybe I should leave the room?"

It only took Integra a brief moment to figure out the joke. When she did, she turned her back on them both and scoffed. "That won't be necessary, Seras. Alucard was just… leaving," she exclaimed hotly even if her eyes did dance with devilish amusement.

"Are you sure about that, Integra? I would be honoured to hear what else you've got to say about my choice of armaments." The No Life King gave a rumbustious laugh, tossing his head back with debased pleasure.

The two women wouldn't have any of that.

"Out!" Integra and Seras snapped at him once more.

At once, the centuries old vampire ceased his frivolity and grew silent.

"Alucard, we will talk when I come to bed in a short while. Now, if you don't mind we were just wrapping up our evening before your intervallic surfacing. I shan't be long." The Hellsing director told him.

"Then I'll be in my coffin," he offered evenly and added, "I may or may not wait up for you, my love."

With that, Alucard vanished from the room without another gruff word.

"He's just salty that we kicked him out." Seras offered. "I swear he's like a lost puppy without you, sir. I think it's kind of cute."

"He'll get over it," Integra assured completely unruffled by the whole thing. "Besides, it's not like he doesn't know what we're up to. He can hear what we are saying and thinking just fine where ever he is. But, I know… that's not the point."

"No, that's not the point," Seras confirmed in agreement. "It's one thing to live together but couples need to make time for each other. Is it weird now that you are like a married couple? I bet you're both still adjusting. One year doesn't cut it. It takes many years."

"There is something to be said about being a single woman and having to answer to no one and I was a single independent woman for a long time." Nevertheless, a faint smile crept upon Integra's face as she thought about the surly vampire waiting for her downstairs in the sublevels. No, she was not technically married in the mortal religious sense, but she was bound to Alucard as his bride. "You may have a point, Seras. I suppose it takes some time to get used to the idea of depending on someone else."

"Oh, it really does." Seras was nodding as she got back to her hair brushing. Then she chuckled. "You're just used to being the boss. His boss."

"I am no longer that." Integra claimed outright. "I am no longer his master."

"And he is no longer your servant… in a way." The draculina did not veil her cheekiness. "Like I was saying before, he will do anything you tell him to do, so things haven't changed all that much. You know as well as I do that women are always in charge even if our other halves don't know it."

"Listen to you, the wise housewife giving this old granny marital advice." Integra taunted all in good fun.

"Well, I have had more practice than you," Seras quipped, "And you can't hide things from me. I knew you had something on your mind and I'm glad you chose to talk about them instead."

Integra remained silent. Seras wasn't wrong.

"Just so you know, as much as I love Pip… I can't be around him all the time." The draculina swept the hairbrush just above Integra's ear and down along her back.

Oh? Integra was not sure how to phrase her next comment. "Well, he is your familiar, so… he's with you all the time, right? Have I missed something here?"

Tonight Seras's familiar was guarding the mansion, per usual, his essence spread throughout the entire mansion as an extension of her shadow like a thin invisible skin. Even though he was busy, Seras could tell that the ex-mercenary of the Wild Geese was eager to barge in on the conversation they were having right now—dying to include his opinion on the matter. However, she warned him not to interrupt when she was spending quality time with Integra.

"Oh yes, he is with me all the time, but I have learned to separate myself when need be. Kind of like an on-off switch. It's not so different from your mental and physical connection to Master. I'm sure you both have set your limitations. And you have obtained his power of omnipresence, which I never did. I wonder what that's like. Tell me… what is it like, sir?"

Integra waved her hand casually towards the mirror, yet, a rare telltale blush blossomed on her cheeks ever so faintly. "How about you let me brush your hair now? It only seems fair." She went to stand up from the chair but Seras placed a hand on her shoulder to stop her.

"Are you trying to avoid answering my question, Integra?" Seras asked in disbelief, noticing how the blood inside Integra's undead body began to flood into her face and how her heart thud just a bit harder. "Aww! You're blushing. Oh, come on. Tell me what trouble you've gotten into being everywhere and nowhere. I can't imagine the feeling."

Integra closed her eyes for a moment and took a deep breath. When she opened them again, she said, "It's not as you think, Seras. I can't control that ability as well as Alucard does, not yet, maybe not ever. However, it has been activated once… or twice."

Ok, maybe more than twice...

When Integra did not continue and the pause grew long, Seras encouraged. "And…?"

Integra stared at the hand painted jewelry box her father gave her when she was nine resting on top of the vanity. "Well, it seems it is activated at the very worst moment. The moment when your master and I… when we—"

"—make love?" Seras finished for her, followed by a squeal of astonishment. "Oh... Oh no! That is…that's kind of awkward. Err… if you don't mind my asking… where do you go?"

"It has only been a few places around London," Integra replied vaguely, not revealing exact locations. "Come now. Let me to tend to your hair before we go to sleep. The sun is about to rise and I am starting to feel rather drained."

Seras would not hear a word of it. "You don't understand, sir. I enjoy brushing your hair. It's so long and soft. I could never let my own hair get this long without it driving me crazy—so, it's kind of fun. It's relaxing and we have good conversations when we hang out. Besides, you still work so hard… even if you are a vampire now. The Hellsing Organization is just as demanding sometimes. So let me take care of you for a change, alright?"

Integra relented. "Alright, but you work just as hard as I do, Seras. Don't think I haven't noticed. We have been fortunate in the last little while that there have been minimal threats to deal with. Thankfully, there have not been any ramifications after that Sergiu situation. All those half-breeds have gone into hiding and seem to be staying out of trouble."

"Ugh, let's not talk about that douchebag again." Seras bemoaned. "Good riddance to them. Please, let's not jinx anything."

No. Let's not jinx anything. Integra agreed silently to herself.

"Do you think Master was jealous we didn't offer to brush his hair before bed? Maybe he would like it, too."

Integra snickered softly to herself. "With him you never know. He's pouted about a lot less, I'm sure."

Seras twittered somewhat evilly at that until an idea popped into her blonde head. "Oh, I know! You and Master should go somewhere, like a vacation or something. Yes! That's exactly what you two need… some quality time away from this mansion, away from work."

Integra made a puzzled sort of face as if it was the barmiest thing she ever heard. "Go somewhere?"

"It's brilliant! It could be like a honeymoon." Seras proclaimed much too gleefully, running frantically with her idea that was getting better by the second. "It could be just the thing you both need—a time out. You know… make some time for each other."

At first thought, Integra frowned at the idea. "But what about the Hellsing Organization, who—"

"Are you serious?" Seras cut in. "I will run it while you're away, of course. The Convention of Twelve knows of your situation and as long as you tell them I'm watching over Hellsing while you're gone, I'm sure they won't freak out."

"I didn't mean to presume that you couldn't take care of the organization if I went away, Seras. I feel confident you could operate and manage things without any problems. It's just… where would we go? What would we do?" Integra never truly thought about it before.

Seras grinned. It was devilish. "Oh come on," she chastised. "There has to be some place you'd like to go. You two can have fun and see new sights, make lots of love—things like that. It would be so romantic!"

The idea was something that her old self would have denied without a moment's thought, to consider such an indulgence, ridiculous. However, that was then and this was now. A quirky twist appeared across Integra's lips and she released a small chuff of amusement letting the idea in her mind flourish into a tale of adventure.

No. It seemed absurd, utterly, one-hundred percent, preposterous.

"I think it's time for bed," Integra told the draculina while standing up from the chair in front of the vanity. She turned towards the window catching a glimpse of the rising sun through a small opening between the curtains and felt inherent repugnance.

"That's enough chit-chat for one evening. Goodnight, Seras."

Chapter Text

Hellsing Manor – August 22nd, 6:37 a.m.

The cool damp levels of the Hellsing mansion beckoned her, his beloved.

He could feel it in the marrow of his bones.

Not a day went by that Alucard could not feel his mate, whether she was in the house or miles away from it. There was a connection between them like invisible filaments, joining them together and stretching like spidery webbing, forever giving but never breaking.

He felt her agitation, her fatigue, her thirst.

That is how it was between master vampire and their fledgling, although, if he desired a harmonious relationship with Integra, he would -never- openly call her that.

Alucard was crazy, indeed, but not that crazy.

For some odd reason, his mate chose to venture along the halls and corridors the regular human way. Forgoing the use of her vampiric abilities to waft through drywall and wood studding in her non-corporeal body as a ghost would, to reminisce about her childhood and the stories her father used to tell her about Abraham Van Helsing's travels and wild exploits.

Why the sudden nostalgic sensation, why was she thinking about that?

Alucard lay in his coffin pondering her behaviour, listening to her footfalls as they drew closer to the sublevels. Her steps came so light they were inaudible to a mortal's weak sense of hearing, but to him they were as loud as a cat scampering across the floor above.

Daytime was nothing but a giant sponge sucking up the energy and power of a vampire. Therefore, it was much more pleasant down here in the basement during the day, calm and peaceful like the inside of a forgotten old tomb. They both preferred it. Even Seras preferred it, which left the Hellsing manor rather silent during the daytime. The only people milling around were a handful of trustworthy human personnel that maintained the house and oversaw Hellsing's paramilitary.

However, that did not mean that they never functioned during the daytime hours.

In fact, Integra frequently attended meetings with the Protestant Knights, who also called themselves the Convention of Twelve… watchdogs of England. For them, Seras conducted special training of a group of human soldiers willing to fight malicious paranormal villains. They were the latest installment of England's military forces, the Anti-Freak Squad; a group Integra, herself, encouraged the Twelve to initiate, since she could not be sure if the Hellsing Organization would always be there to protect them.

His queen thought like a queen, and a queen always had a Plan B.

Integra proved such talent after the way she dealt with that lunatic leader from the Crawford gang, Sergiu Medrea. She saw right through the rouse, got taken hostage in order to blow that freaks' cover and had his army of hybrids destroyed.

Sometimes it was as if she knew her enemies better than she knew herself.

But on those days when work needed attention during the day, Alucard was there. He was there, close to his two precious women, hiding in the shadows somewhere between reality and the subconscious always ready to defend his flock.

Alucard had no desire to take part in any of their day-to-day business. His time of acting the leader was an ambition buried beneath dust and misconstrued renditions of historical facts. For him, the new roles he played now were worth so much more.

Mentor. Husband. Protector.

To be loved.

To have purpose.

He was not willing to give any of those up without a fight. Anyone trying to cause Integra or Seras harm would have to face him. He would tear them to bloody shreds, feast on their flesh and grind their bones into dirt.

That was his duty now.

Alucard returned his thoughts to Integra's current whereabouts. He tracked her to the kitchen, but he did not invade her personal space with spying eyes. Ah, of course, he smiled crookedly. She was having a snack before bed like the naughty little bloodsucker that she was.

Alucard yawned deeply, thereafter.

He struggled to stay awake. The sun rising dragged a heavy blanket of lethargy, an irresistible weariness over him that, if he did not have to fight it, would eagerly succumb to the welcoming peace that sleeping brought.

But he was spoiled. Alucard longed for his mate's embrace. He longed to feel her cool breath on his cheek and along his neck, as she lay with him, cold and undead, inside of his coffin.

Even though he threatened her that he might not wait up, feeling pissy about being shooed away like a beaten dog earlier, he didn't really mean it. Each time Integra joined him in slumber he was over the moon.

These sublevel living quarters once belonging to him, were now theirs.

At times, she joined him inside his coffin and other times she slept in her own. For him, just having her close by, so he could listen to the thrum of her undead heart and inhale her smoky sandalwood scent, was enough.

It would seem when she was nearby it nullified his nightmares. He hadn't had a nightmare in weeks… or perhaps it was months, he thought. It was hard to say, he never really kept track of time.

Every so often, they slept in Integra's bedroom, with the thick blue comforter pulled up over their heads, the heavy drapes blocking out the sizzling sun, because it wasn't always necessary to rest in a coffin all of the time. Integra invented a solution pertaining to the soil vampires required to keep up their vampiric strengths. She sprinkled both hers and Alucard's soils of their birthplaces between the mattresses of her bed. It worked nicely, but sometimes the coffin was still preferable.

It simply called to nosferatu, that's how it was. Integra might be a true vampire after drinking human blood from the vein, but that was only one time!

Peanuts, Alucard thought. His mind began to drift.

With a yearning kind of rumble, he thought about how magnificent it would be to drink blood straight from the vein, straight from the vein of a supple and warm human. He licked his lips and swallowed hard, bearing his teeth. It has been such a long time. However, Integra was a vampire with strict principles, bent on the idea of never eating a human being that did not deserve it.

Sadly, there was a lack of those types these days so they lived on a healthy diet of donated blood with its preservative aftertaste.

"Wonderful," he muttered, sounding contemptuous.

But he was not complaining.

Somewhere in the crevasse of his dead heart, he was sure that this was all a wicked dream, a dream that he had no right dreaming at all. That this dream he lived in was just a desperate avouch, a plea from that fibre of humanity left dwelling deep in his soul.

Yet, he was wrong, and it never felt so good to be so wrong. Truth was… she belonged to him now. She was his No Life Queen, his vampiress—The Countess of Hellsing Manor.

Indeed, the rubric of master and servant, abolished.

Outside of his coffin, there came a voice, jarring him out of his inner monologue.

"I hope you haven't waited too long?"

Ah, yes. This was the dawn of a new age that he would not let slip through his fingers like so many of his earlier campaigns. No. Not this time—never again! The future was never so blinding before that, he thought he might need to shield his eyes from its sheer brilliance.

"Not at all," Alucard replied and shuffled over a bit without grievance, without aggravation, cracking open the lid to his coffin in affable welcome.

Integra climbed inside with him, and once settled, he let the lid fall shut above them with a soft thud.

It was pitch black inside, but they had no trouble seeing each other in the dark.

Darkness was their strength.

Integra sighed resplendently as she snuggled up to him, pressing the front of her slender frame along his side. He wrapped an arm around her, almost too possessively, holding her close, her head resting on the nook of his shoulder.

Oh, yes. For all of this, he would destroy nations.

Quietly, he sniffed at the air like a dog. "Type O negative. Hope it wasn't Seras's last bag."

"I trust it wasn't," she mused.

Her hand lay flat upon his chest, fingertips toying with the red cravat he wore often around his neck. It made him vibrate deeply in his throat as if she'd switched on a small motor within him. It always burned him—her touches—no matter how diminutive.

And it burned in such a lovely way.

When she was here, it did not feel like he was attending his own funeral every time he crawled into his coffin to sleep. He made a habit of taking off his boots, his heavy red coat stuffed with two guns and the dark grey suit jacket, before going to bed.

So she could touch him more.

Thanks to Judy Hadaway, the valiant housekeeper and Integra's loyal servant, he always had fresh clothes to change into. If he really wanted to he could just remove every last stitch by sheer will, but he had better manners than that, and it was a lot more fun when Integra took them off him herself.

Besides, there was something to be said about leaving a few things to the imagination.

At present, Integra was discovering he had un-tucked his white dress shirt from his trousers. His strategy worked—she slipped her hand underneath the cool fabric, palming across his abdomen.

…her touches burning even more.

He felt Integra grin against his shoulder. "What is it?" he whispered. "You seem rather restless. Am I still in trouble for disrupting your merry time with Seras?"

"Don't be ridiculous, Alucard… you're not in trouble." She scoffed. "Seras and I were having an interesting chat and you barged in at the wrong time, that's all."

"Then what is it?" Her mind was simply all over the place and he could not understand what was plaguing her thoughts. "You're worked up about something."

"If you're tired, we can discuss this at moonrise. I should not have kept you waiting so long." Integra insisted. "Hush, now. Go to sleep."

He felt her breath tickling the fine hairs on his neck. "You were thinking about Abraham."

She sighed and her hand stopped beneath his left ribcage. "I was thinking…" She hesitated before she decided it was worth continuing."…do you think we make enough time for one another?"

"What do you mean?"

Integra took a moment to answer. "Like quality time, away from duties. Stuff like that."

"Do you wish for me to take you out on a date?" His reply sounded so juvenile. Ugh, how disgusting, he thought with a snarl of his lip.

She twittered at his antics. "Yes and no. Do you think we've become stale?"

"Like blood past its expiration date?" Alucard's diaphragm twitched as he guffawed at his joke. "Not likely. Thanks to you, my sweet, we have become wretched exhibitionists. How is that stale?"

Once again, Integra smiled against his shoulder and her hand continued to explore the smooth rigid surface of his chest affectionately. "Alright, fair enough, but that's not what I'm talking about exactly. When I spoke with Seras this evening, I realized something I had not before."

"Oh?" Alucard prodded.

She answered him directly. "I realized that I've been stuck in this place for fifty-three years and I have seen very little of the world."

"Stuck? But you have done so much—much more than any human or monster can claim to have achieved in a lifetime." Alucard was as confused as he sounded.

"Most of which, I would rather forget." Integra muttered under her breath. She declared, "Let's go somewhere."

Alucard blinked and turned his head to look over at her, his red irises aflame. "Go somewhere… where shall we go?"

"I'm thinking Romania…" and before he could inject his two-cents she added, "then east across the entire steppe region to Mongolia. It is a beautiful area I'm told. It is rich in culture and is nearly seven thousand kilometers across many countries. It could take us weeks! And you know what? I don't give a damn, Alucard. It is my turn to see what my grandfather saw—and to see so muchmore."

She sounded breathless.

Alucard sniffed with mild astonishment. "Wait, so… travelling for the sheer sake of travelling and not to hunt down some unscrupulous vampire?"

The taunt came completely fueled by sarcasm.

Integra was always ready with a counter-offensive. "I do believe that vampire is now my hot-headed mule of a husband."

Her sauciness brought a killer grin to his face. "Flattery will get you everywhere," he assured.

Integra returned the smile, hers being less manic.

"I won't depreciate your desire for wanderlust, Integra, but you know how perilous it can be for nosferatu to travel. Indeed, you have grown a great deal over the last twelve months, but you are still green behind the ears. My homeland and any other place, for that matter, are built on superstitions, no less than that of England—there may be unpleasant contraventions to be had if you are not prepared."

"Oh, please, Alucard," Integra groaned defiantly. "We've been through so much worse than that. I can blend in among humans and I have nearly mastered the art of transformation. I can change my appearance and alter my clothing. I can turn into a bat. I don't see the problem. It's not like we'll be daytime tourists that much or anything, right?"

"Of course," Alucard agreed. "But you have yet to encounter battle. You cannot turn into mist or change the weather. You cannot regenerate from wounds as swiftly simply on bagged blood alone. You know that. Indeed, you are swift, I will give you that, but you haven't even practiced hypnosis."

"Perhaps, then, this is exactly what I need, an opportunity to learn more. I don't see myself learning all of that sitting around here on my laurels," she said.

"You? Sitting on your laurels. Do not make me laugh, Integra. Your mission to protect humanity is as devoted as ever."

She narrowed her eyes at him. "Are you mocking me?"

"On the contrary..."

"Well, then, we'll take the private jet so there is no concern about crossing running water. There are other details to think about, but we will save that for later. Unfortunately for you, there won't be any sailors on board to consume."

Alucard remained impassive at her pun regarding his past conduct, which only seemed to make her bubble up with corrupt laughter. "And they call -me- the evil one?"

The hand that was under his shirt came out and she reached towards him with it, sweeping a lock of his unruly hair out of his sultry red eyes. "Well… I am a monster. What do you expect?"

At that, he grinned, embraced his bride a little tighter and nosed into her freshly brushed hair, inhaling her scent. He whispered against her neck beneath the shell of her ear, "I expect I have no say in the matter. If you want to stretch your legs… then, I will not hinder you, my darling creature. The world is yours to take. It's been a long time since I've travelled, but the thought of travelling with youmakes it all the more interesting."

"Why is it we linger in this solitary place day after day, night after night?" She murmured. "All of this eternity. All of this… this sin. And yet… nothing! I don't want to spend it floundering inside these old walls. I have paid my dues and served this country but… I want to do so much more with you, Alucard." She petitioned with crimson eyes full of determination.

For a moment, her tone reminded him of Abraham van Helsing.

Alucard knew better than most the feeling Integra was experiencing, pining to venture out when immortality reminded you that you have nothing left but time. It felt dismal, the idea of doing nothing but the same repetitious routines in life. The soul craved for a change of scenery, for knowledge and experience.

He understood all too well.

In all absolute, Integra still had that fiery Hellsing voracity and it hungered like a nomadic beast.

Something he also understood.

"It's been on your mind ever since you peered into my past, since you saw those memories in my blood." Oh, how he loved submitting to her and letting her drink from him. "You've been growing more restless from then on. If it's what you truly want then I would be honoured to accompany you." Alucard learned long ago that he would do anything his beloved Integral desired of him.

All she had to do was ask.

"Does it bother you that we start in Romania? We don't have to spend a lot of time there."

The vampire gave a short grunt. "The past is just that: the past. An extraordinary part of me feels this unexpected desire to act as your tour guide," he admitted.

This conversation was brewing the kind of excitement Integra had not felt since she was a youth. Instead of talking about current political events or the eradication of monstrous pests, they took part in a practice she had long forgotten about: daydreaming.

And here they were, daydreaming… together.

It felt so unusual that she had to wonder if they were even doing it right.

Her red eyes glowed bright with vibrancy. "Alright, you can play the tour guide in Romania, but after that… you're just a tourist like me."

"This is true," Alucard confirmed. "I'm sure Wallachia is no longer what I remember anyways… it's probably as foreign to me as it will be for you."

"Then let's go see it, my darling count." Integra demanded eagerly. "Seras has assured me she will take care of the Hellsing Organization while we are gone, and I will inform the Twelve of my absence."

"So that's what you two were doing… babbling away like hens. Was this Seras's idea?"

Just for that complete insolence, Integra pinched a nub of flesh situated on Alucard's side between her fingers and twisted. "Call us 'hens' one more time and I'll leave you behind and go on holiday alone," she warned.

Alucard embraced his insolence. "Is this a new form of foreplay, my love? I find it rather arousing even if it did hurt a little—I'm still not used to how much stronger you are."

"Alright then, stay home."

"You wouldn't dare."

"Try me, Alucard."

Integra lay still against him, unmoving, peevish.

Alucard chuckled at her stubbornness, bringing her hand back to the middle of his chest and then he placed his own hand on top of hers. He held her tightly in his other arm and said, "I meant it in an endearing way, however, if you'd prefer I not use that term… than I will not. It amuses me how easy you are to anger. You might be a vampire but you haven't changed all that much."

"Go to sleep!" she demanded, irritated with him now.

"I'm no longer required to take orders from you," he reminded.

"I think you're overtired with all this stimulating chatter, perhaps I should go sleep in my own coffin and let you get some rest." The vampiress played the game too well.

Alucard's embrace firmed up instantly. "Alright, I'll stop the banter. You're no fun, tsk."

Integra merely smirked and asked him. "Do you think my Romanian is adequate?"

"The sound of it grates my ears. It's like the noise of a mongrel in heat." Alucard waited for it. He knew her so well. On cue, she gave an exasperated huff and shoved her hands at his side, which made the black box creak ominously under the strain.

A moment later, the coffin in the big dark room seemed to boom with muffled laughter and the sound of an angry woman within.

"You are incorrigible Alucard! It's not really that bad, is it?" She sounded like she was beginning to develop a complex.

He ceased his merriment, teasing her brought him much joy. "Of course, I'm not serious. You're Romanian is average, enough to get you by. But it's not like you'll be speaking it much. Just don't befoul the use of the term 'luggage', it always sounds like cabbage to me. People will look at you weird."

"They look at YOU weird," she rebuffed.

Alucard glanced at her adoringly. She was being such an enjoyable playmate this evening. "Indeed they do and they will do the same to you, Oh Villainous One. Do not think all humans are blind… there are those that will see you for what you truly are. And what will you do then?"

"I'll be cautious."

"Remember nothing is truly immortal, Integra. Humans with enough will, can destroy the worst of monsters," he reminded her. He wriggled around a little. Alucard dug his mobile phone out of his pocket and brought the small screen to life.

It glowed brightly causing them both to squint a bit.

Integra was tsk'ing about the wallpaper Alucard chose to use on his home screen with a roll of her eyes. It was a picture of her in an elegant cream-coloured gown, the one she wore to the London Opera Ball last year. Her hair was up and she wore lip-gloss that evening. It was the night she confessed to him, that she had swallowed some of his blood for fear that she might lose him again for another thirty years and she wanted to keep a part of him with her.

"You were so beautiful that night." His tone softened. "I stare at it all the time."

Integra remained silent, but she wore a tiny smile.

"Let's take a picture." He suggested. "These cameras cannot hide us from photos when there are no mirrors. I want to capture this moment, the moment we decided to leave our humble dwellings and seek out new worlds."

Alucard fiddled with the small device until he had it all set.

Integra did not seem keen on getting her picture taken but "…if it means that much to you," she relented.

"It does," he replied. "Now… look at the camera." He held the phone as far away from them as he could, until his knuckles touched the underside of the coffin, until it was within reasonable parameters, capturing just their faces, and snapped their photograph with a bright flash.

Click.

Chapter Text

 

Vatican City – August 29th, 11:08 a.m.

Knowing one's enemy is a very important rule in the protection of all God's children, thought Bishop Makube, leader of Section XIII, a group commonly known as the Iscariots. As a secret organization belonging to the Roman Catholic faith, they are the people in charge of destroying heretics and abiding by orders given to them by His Holiness and various high-ranking priests.

To cleanse anything deemed vile and unholy.

Of course, missions varied for an agent of the Iscariots. Such missions could include handing a one-way ticket back to Hell for an unearthly creation. It might be helping a human that has simply lost his or her way, or gathering useful information. Perhaps, it was simply teaching God's will to others.

Above all, there was no room in the world for non-believers, ecumenism or abominations—evil.

These notions were highly frowned upon by Iscariots—because if they did not control these matters, then who would? They would stop at nothing to achieve these goals, even if it meant the alteration or the enhancement of a human being to do so. The Vatican was not opposed to genetic mortal engineering, stooping to great lengths to build strong soldiers for a holy war that, they felt, would rage until the world was clean of filth.

Why, this knowledge was a gift from God himself! It would be total blasphemy not to use it.

Yet, no matter whom you asked in Rome, the surrounding metropolis wherein the Vatican was at its core, not a soul around had ever heard of Section XIII.

Because they did not exist.

To onlookers, the grey-haired, droopy-eyed bishop with a vertical scar over his right eye and cheek, walking alongside another celebrant in dark, long priest-like robes with high collars and swaying crucifixes around their necks, couldn't possibly belong to a clandestine division whose duty was to smite evildoers.

Oh. No. They were just priests strolling around; ominous priests… but nonetheless men of the cloth.

The fellow celebrant next to Makube was Heinkel Wolfe.

"So, why did you urgently request an audience today, my dearest friend?" Makube wondered, the words rolling off his tongue in fluent Italian. He glanced over at his blond-haired comrade with tendrils of frayed medical bandages trailing the sides of their face. The bandages being the result of an old wound thirty-one years ago, back when Millennium attacked London, back when they shot a bullet through the side of Heinkel's face.

Heinkel Wolfe was here because she had received some mind-blowing intel on a current rumour that has been working its way around Section XIII for over a year. It was a rumour that came with the future possibility of dishing out one of those exalted one-way tickets back to Hell.

Perhaps three tickets to Hell.

With grey-green eyes glowering with vengeance and back teeth exposed, Heinkel reported with flawed speech. "It's veen confirmed, Integra Fairbrooks Vingates Hellsing is a vampire, Your Excellency."

The revelation sunk in for a heartbeat.

Makube sighed. "So… she chose to side with that devil. Her lack of public showing has declined much over the last twelve months. Knowing Integra Hellsing, she already knew our agents were spying on Hellsing. They mentioned the Protestant Knights having late meetings, usually after sunset and how our lovely Ms. Hellsing always seemed to be wearing sunglasses in public. It all makes sense—the British Crown's new policies against heretics, the bolstering of their military to accommodate freak-hunting soldiers and the government's open sustentation against the supernatural. No wonder the amount of Protestant support has, as some say, 'gone through the roof' in the United Kingdom."

"Vis cannot continue!" Wolfe advised gruffly.

"Hmm… no, it should not continue." The bishop agreed all-to calmly. "But we are still in no position to go to war—especially not because of Hellsing." He sniffed. "Perhaps one day, when we finally put an end to those vampires of Hellsing, we'll begin our 10th crusade."

Heinkel growled irritably. "You're vasting time."

The priest simply smiled a very arrogant smile. "I'm doing no such thing, my friend. First, we must use intelligence to put a stop to them. Breaking down the door and firing off our guns will not help in the matter." Makube spoke of an old incident where Heinkel did exactly that inside the Hellsing manor one year ago, bullets aimed at Seras Victoria's head in the heat of angry passion.

"Vhat stupid girl…"

The heels of Makube's shoes clicked off the shiny marble floors of the extravagant Palace of the Governorate, echoing off the sculpted walls depicting carved renditions of renaissance saints and high vaulted ceilings. The old building was so massive and so opulent it did not feel as if man alone could have possibly built it.

The scenic building, past its hours of operation and closed off to the public, a must-see location while touring in Rome, was empty.

"You are vuch too docile… vhy do you say nuffing, Makube?" Wolfe grumbled. "Imagine vhat the Hellsing Organization is like now wif three nosferatu? She's a bloody monster!" Spittle flew past Heinkel's lips. "Not that she was much different before, Integra always vad a taste for blood one vay or the other. Hrmph! Ve all knew this day vould come. Surely she's obtained vuch of Alucard's unthinkable powers!"

Makube remained unruffled. He even placed his hands behind his back leisurely as they strolled along the elongated main hallway of the building. He replied with confidence. "You underestimate me, my arduous friend. I have an idea that you… that you might agree with. There will be no swift end to this madness, this I know, but our time will come. We have the power of God to guide us. Have faith, Heinkel. Have faith."


Hellsing Manor – August 29th, 8:08 p.m.

Gregory Penwood stepped out of his midnight blue Bentley and stood before the expansive Hellsing manor. The estate was an enormous brick and stone structure where currently the front windows facing the west reflected the orange tint of the setting sun. The old English manor sat on an enormous tailored lawn with a long driveway up the middle, and surrounding the entire yard was a line of tall cedars marking the perimeter, giving the estate its much-desired privacy.

Well, at least it was not spooky and gloomy looking like so many homes belonging to monsters, Penwood considered. Even though, he did not actually know where any other monsters lived except for here.

He knew around back was a smaller building, an indoor gun range and training grounds for Hellsing's paramilitary forces. There was even a barracks for those men and women serving the knighted proprietor of this grand estate.

No one built these kinds of places anymore. People of this modern age were not interested in stately homes, for they were far too expensive to maintain. They wanted condominiums and city suburban dwellings, closer to work and school, more affordable housing.

Indeed, Integra was in a minority of those that still owned estates like this, or had the funds for it. Then again, so was he. He and a few of his other Convention of Twelve comrades, those born into wealth and the high-ranking government and military positions they held today.

He turned and spoke to the driver of the Bentley. "I don't believe I'll be too long, Marcus."

The chauffeur nodded without a word.

Gregory went up the steps and approached the door. He reached for the heavy brass knocker and gave it two feeble knocks before landing a heavier, more confident-sounding third knock.

"That should do it." He felt good with himself and took a step back. While waiting, he rubbed his sweaty palms along the sides of his tan slacks, then adjusted his navy blue suit jacket, ran his fingers through his jet-black hair and smoothed his moustache with his index finger and thumb.

Coming here always made him feel a bit… on edge.

When the front door opened, he startled a little but tried to pretend he did not. He was quite surprised to see that Seras Victoria had been the one to open it.

"G-day, Sir Gregory!" She announced, sounding rather chipper and almost a touch too bouncy for his taste. Easily, though, she was the friendliest of the manor's inhabitants. If he had a choice, he would rather deal with her.

Gregory eyed the blonde vampire with her spiky hairstyle and red Hellsing uniform, which was a short skirt that she wore with tall stockings and a pair of black boots. Above her left breast there was a black and red crest resembling a shield stating, 'We are on a Mission from God' and she was about the same average height as him.

"Good evening, Ms. Victoria. I—I do hope you are well?" He might be feeling edgy but Gregory was always proper and polite. "Sir Integra is expecting me."

"Yes, she is." Seras confirmed. "She's in her office. Right this way."

Gregory hesitantly stepped over the threshold, feeling as though he had entered a den of full of hungry lions, rendering himself helpless. He glanced behind him as Seras closed the door.

"Follow me, Sir."

He shuffled along behind Seras, who had a marvelous behind, he thought as she led him up the stairway to the second floor. It was enough to distract him from the idea of lion dens. Quickly, Penwood lowered his gaze to his polished brown shoes. It wasn't as if he was a raging pervert, but it was somewhat difficult not to look there when her perfectly shaped bum was but a few feet away from his face.

Sweat broke out on his forehead and began pooling around his armpits.

The female vampire spoke. "I guess you heard that I'll be in charge of Hellsing's operations until Integra gets back from her trip?"

"Ah… yes. That is partly why I'm here this evening—to go over the finer details of this… excursion. Tell me…" Penwood lowered his voice a touch, "…is Integra feeling all right? Other than the fact that she's… well… a you know… vampire."

"Why do you ask that? Is this because her and master are going away?" Seras chortled with disbelief, sounding very cynical about his question. "Of course she's alright, Sir. In fact, I've never seen her more 'alright' before." Just then, Seras stopped and spun around on the step above, looking down at Great Britain's almighty Vice-Admiral. "Wait. You're not here to talk her out of going anywhere… are you?"

The vampire placed her hands sharply on her hips.

Gregory glanced up and caught Seras's erubescent eyes narrowing at him while a look of irritation took over her everlasting youthful features. "Oh. Not at all," he assured with haste. "I just… I was just enquiring." He cast his gaze elsewhere, anywhere, and fast.

"Well, if you were here to stop her then I would have to stop you before we take a step further." Her irritation morphed into genuine menace, her entire demeanor darkening, eyes narrowing. Yet her tone reflected none of that, and changed to one of compassion, something solely belonging to Seras. "You don't understand… my masters need to do this. They need to get out there and find out who they really are, who they want to be. They are not the same people you used to know, Sir."

Penwood timidly took a step back down a step, his right hand firmly holding the balustrade for balance. He shook his head in renunciation. "Well, of course… t-that's completely comprehensible." He began nervously. "I mean, Integra undertook adulthood and authority much earlier than most people should. She became a leader of a very powerful organization and had to make awful decisions no child should ever have to make."

He recalled Integra having to kill her cruel uncle Richard and the awakening of the vampire Alucard, who saved her from certain death at Richard's hands. Alucard was originally a weapon left by Integra's father, a subservient dark knight mastered only by the blood of a Hellsing… should she ever need him. Thus, it would seem, the fateful wheel began to spin.

Gregory knew the story all thanks to his deceased grandfather's journals. Sir Shelby M. Penwood left them to him in his will.

Now here they were today.

Integra betrothed to the infamous vampire that the Convention of Twelve walked on eggshells around, a vampire with an unbound passel of grim tales. Oh. And they knew Alucard's history, too, quite the sinister saga… one that made even young Gregory, shudder.

Yet, Integra accepted Alucard above all that. Remarkable. Clearly, there was something there between them that he would never fully comprehend.

"Yes. I'm sure that this change in her lifestyle is in desperate need of reconstruction and perhaps, reflection." He could admit that.

"Then you know how imperative this is for them, even if they don't know it." Seras told him.

"Trust me, Seras. I do know it. Now, I believe you have made your point, please bring Sir Gregory to the office already so we can get on with it. I have other matters I wish to attend."

Seras gave the dark-haired Protestant Knight a sneaky sort of grin. "Opps. She heard us talking," she said cheekily to Penwood. "Come along, this way, Sir."

With a mild shrug, Penwood continued to follow Seras. Once up the stairs, they headed down a long hallway towards a set of double doors.

"So, Integra can listen to your thoughts? She can hear us from all the way out here?" He wondered curiously.

Seras nodded. "That's right. She can also smell your blood type and hear your heart beating, sir. She can even smell fear, same as me and master."

Ah. Wonderful. Just wonderful, he thought dryly. He sighed internally.

They entered a spacious room with a fireplace on the right and a portrait of Sir Arthur Hellsing, Integra's father, hanging above the mantle. The office was very plain except for the range of windows behind Integra's large oak desk situated in front of them at the end of the room.

Gregory walked over the hardwood floor and approached the desk, wherein Integra was sitting behind in a large leather chair in her business attire, starring at her laptop with a smoldering cigar held between her fingers. He was amazed at how little had changed in her features after becoming a vampire. Sure, she was a little bit paler, but her skin tone was more of a latte-coloured tone rather than a tanned brown. The most prominent change was her scarlet-coloured eyes.

"You're looking as well as can be," he said to her pleasantly. "Excited for this excursion you're taking?"

The only part of her that moved was her eyes, which focused on Penwood. "Have a seat, Gregory. Shall I ring for a cup of tea or a biscuit?"

Hmm. A biscuit. It made him wonder if Integra saw him as food rather than a comrade when she looked at him the way she was looking at him now. He answered uneasily, "N-no, that's quite alright. I had supper before I came here this evening, thank you." He patted his belly that was a little round in the middle and awkwardly stopped himself shortly after.

He took a seat in one of the black leather chairs situated in front of the desk.

Integra crushed her cigar out in the glass ashtray on her desk. "To answer your question Gregory, yes, I am rather excited. Will you miss me?"

Sir Gregory began to blush a little. "Ha-ha, very funny, Sir Integra." She always had a way of making certain situations awkward at times. "I'm sure we'll be fine until you return… as long as nothing calamitous occurs while you're gone."

"Calamitous? You'll have me." Seras reminded, waving hello at him with her hand. "If there is anything our troops can't handle, I'll take care of it personally."

"Yes, yes, of course," he acknowledged, feeling somewhat comforted by that. Seras was as equally scary as her predecessor was when it came to violence, when the need arose.

"I have complete faith in Seras to watch over the house and maintain business." Integra said. "Should you request a meeting while I am away, then she will take my place. We have no secrets, Gregory. She knows just as much as I on the matters of this country and of the Hellsing Organization since we are now kin."

"Of course," Gregory Penwood replied, thinking back on their recent telepathic demonstration. Of course, Seras knew all of Hellsing's clandestine secrets. "But, I don't think that will be necessary… unless—"

"Don't even say it," Integra warned, cutting him off, "We haven't had any real trouble, nothing that we couldn't handle in quite some time. You know, I've recently discovered that if we live everyday thinking about the dangers of tomorrow… than we are not living all that much, isn't that right?"

"Easy for a vampire to say," Gregory quipped, sitting back in his seat.

At that, Integra laughed. "You're not entirely wrong about that, I guess. As I recall I said something along those lines to Alucard once when he spoke about aging, but I don't think that's all of it. Perhaps I am more lenient towards change these days, or maybe, I simply do not care anymore. All that I do know is that I need to be away from here for a little while."

Now that made a lot more sense to Gregory. That was something he could definitely relate too. He always wished for a certain kind of freedom he was never born to have, and neither was Integra, until she became undead. It seemed that being reborn into something that wasn't human came with a different set of rules.

Did that mean he would not be free until death came to collect him?

He relented. "Then we'll make our best effort to see that everything remains as it should while you are gone. Now, let the three of us discuss the matter of finances and other such matters since you will be leaving tomorrow—are you sure this trip couldn't wait another week or so to start?"

"I'm afraid not. I'm feeling rather impatient on the matter, Gregory. Let's get on with it." Integra picked up a folder with some reports enclosed."I want Seras to be updated on current matters so she feels comfortable taking the reins and operations. You did promise that she can come to you personally if necessary, correct?"

Gregory flashed a look at Seras, who flashed him a toothy grin, before returning his sights back on the mistress of the house. "Yes, of course," he said. "The Penwood household has always been the esteemed shoulder for the Hellsing family, Integra. You have my word."

Integra's eyes softened a little. "For a moment there… you sounded just like Shelby, your grandfather. Thank you, Gregory. I'm sure everything will be fine while Alucard and I are away."


Once Sir Gregory left and Seras felt satisfied that she had all the information needed to take care of the Organization while her masters were away, she devilishly leaned over the back of Integra's chair.

"You've seriously got everyone in the house up to something, sir. I haven't seen the manor so lively in a while. Judy is downstairs helping master pack his luggage. Marvin is securing your transportation details and organizing an itinerary. You've been going at this for an entire week!" She teased looking over Integra's shoulder, peering at the glowing computer screen.

Most of Integra's free time seemed to be spent doing research and making travel arrangements on her laptop.

The screen now depicted a listing of places to stay that tourists could rent while visiting any city in the world, instead of displaying Hellsing's fiscal information open a few tabs over when they were having their meeting with Mr. Penwood.

The places on the screen were people's homes, not hotels. "That's a great idea, sir!" Seras exclaimed. "This way you guys can have privacy without a bunch of nosy bellhops and cleaning personnel giving you a hard time. No one has to know you're vampires."

"Yes. Exactly," Integra replied while clicking on one particular place of interest. It was a one-story bungalow with pretty landscaping and a wrap-around driveway. "We can rest undisturbed during the daytime hours and no one will come around asking brainless questions. So far, I've booked two places in Romania and one in the Ukraine." There was no need to book places all over when they could fly as bats or simply teleport around or even drive a car for fun. "I'll make arrangements in other countries as we go along. Modern travel has changed greatly."

Seras was not about to inform her that travel has been 'changed greatly' for the last twenty years! She concluded that Integra really needed to get out of the house, the draculina thought drastically.

Looking at the screen, Seras tilted her head a fraction. "Krasnodar…? Where's that?"

"Southern Russia. It's a place northeast of the Black Sea." Integra explained. "It's just one of the cities that go along the Eurasian steppes."

"Steppes…?"

Integra patiently gave Seras a small geography lesson. "The steppes are a long stretch of temperate grasslands, starting in Hungary and going east: Romania, Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan, and Mongolia—nearly all the way to the Pacific Ocean."

"I never heard of it before," Seras admitted.

"Some used to call it the Silk Road due to the vast trading between Europe and Asia many centuries ago. My father always wished to see it for himself he would tell me stories about its ancient history. Having so much history, the region is rich in mystical tales. It used to be the home to some of the world's most fierce tribal warriors who once ruled the steppes long before Genghis Khan did."

So ebullient was she, Integra's eyes burned scarlet as she spoke.

"One tribe in particular, the Scythians, one of the earliest known peoples of the steppe, mastered horseback riding unlike any other group of people. Their women fought alongside the men as equals, drinking the blood of their enemies from cups fashioned out of human skulls. It is said that they were not only brilliant riders but extremely skilled in archery, too. So much so, that they were able to stay astride a galloping horse and still drive an arrow straight through someone's eye a mile away."

Seras gasped. "That's amazing!"

"It is," agreed Integra. "Perhaps some scholars would argue, but many claim, that these people created the first nomadic empire of the entire Eurasian steppe region."

Integra was about to say more on the topic when suddenly Judy Hadaway, her personal attendant, entered the office looking rather disgruntled. The petite woman was in her fifties, had short brown hair, and wore a long black skirt and a white blouse. Her usually pleasant demeanor was now twisted with annoyance, tiny nostrils flaring and cheeks a mild pink with anger.

"Whatever is the matter?" Integra asked her, looking up from her computer.

"Sorry to intrude, Sir, but I'm right fed up with trying to help that big lout as you instructed. I cannot get a lick of work done. Everything I pack into his luggage he dutifully takes out," she declared, planting her fists on her hips.

Alucard materialized into the room a breath later.

"Clearly this insufferable woman has it in her mind to send me away forever. She insists I need a week's worth of undergarments! It is taking up unnecessary space." The vampire refuted.

For a moment, Integra stared at them in disbelief before chuckling at them outright.

Oddly, the mansion itself seemed to come to life, too, surrounding them in diapasons of raucous laughter.

"Not now, Pip!" Seras warned.

The mansion became silent a second later.

Alucard and Judy glanced at each other shortly and then looked back at Integra.

"Sir…?" questioned Judy.

Integra looked at her vampire mate with a deadpanned stare. "Alucard, I told you not to interfere and accept Judy's assistance. I do not care if we can alter our clothing with our abilities—they still get soiled. Do you want to smell deader than you already are?" She told him. "I'm not your mother. I'm will not spend every waking minute rinsing out your knickers. We will be travelling for several weeks so you had better do your part. Please, let her assist."

"I'm more than capable of packing my own items, Integra." Alucard insisted with a scowl. "Do you not trust me to do it?"

Judy grunted softly. "Trust you? You would rather stuff your luggage with all that junk of yours than essential items."

"A laptop, a tablet and some ammunition—those are essential items!" The king of vampires assured the older woman.

"Ten boxes of ammo?" Judy claimed with exasperation. "Oh, for the love of all that's holy, those are not essentials."

"That's a matter of opinion." Alucard grumbled.

Seras was shaking her head at the ridiculous exchange happening in the office when a completely different thought came to mind. "What do you guys plan on doing for food?"

Alucard's eyes lit up at the prospect, smirking like the devil he was. "Indeed. I was wondering that myself."

"Before you think we're going to spend the next few weeks indulging in foreign delicacies… you're very much mistaken Alucard," Integra told him matter-of-factly. "I have set up a system where Judy will send blood by overnight express to where ever we are every couple of days. And if for any reason she cannot send it, Seras— you can take over for Judy. Are you ok with that?"

"Of course," Seras agreed. "That idea should work fine."

Alucard scoffed. "I'm curious how long you would last Integra if ever you were deprived of blood whenever you fancied a meal. Lucky for you, you have not felt what it is like to go without, not even for a day."

Pip chimed in, cutting off the awkward silence that grew in the room like a suffocating fungus. "Pardon my French, Sir Integra. But I don't think any of us want to see that side of you if that were to happen."

Inauspicious, Integra kept silent.


Chapter Text

Embracing Sin

Chapter 4 – Returning Romancia

Integra's Journal - August 30, 2031.

xx

At last, we did it.

We left the manor, drove to the airport and boarded the plane. The troubles of tomorrow rest in Seras's hands now. I wish her and Mr. Bernadotte all the best.

Farewell England!

I have left you for a time.

London is barely visible at this hour except for the grid-like strings of lights mapping out roads and buildings, glittering like tiny crystals in the sand.

It feels so insignificant from up here.

As we ascend above the clouds, all is soon gone and I am otherworldly, at least more so than I already am. Ha! What a bizarre thought, a supernatural being feeling otherworldly. Sometimes I simply forget that I am such. I suppose being on this undead side of things allows me an entirely new perspective, because even though I'm capable of entering other planes of conscience and have experienced my inner realm—the home of my gun spirit, it seems as if our aircraft is flying through a dimension of stars.

It is all quite mesmerizing.

My heart, though full of unlife, though inhuman, still feels an odd hominine pang (is this something I will lose as the years pass?). I wonder if this is how Alucard felt when he first left Romania. This feeling… it is anything but ache and sorrow.

There are no words to describe it.

My only question: why have I not done this before? Why did I wait for so long?

Leaving everything behind was not as painful as I thought it would be. I know now that I have to make a choice how I wish to live out this monstrous existence—in disgust and loathing, brooding my everlasting days in misery. Or, accepting this lurid fate and making the best of my decision. I will not bury my head in the sand! In fact, I'm rather liberated—maybe even more so than I should admit. I believe there was another creature yearning to break free, something laying dormant inside my soul all of this time, a nomadic creature longing to see places in the world I have never once stepped foot.

Will you listen to me? I dare say I am writing nothing but rubbish. Pure rubbish! I cannot imagine that this is how great travel journals are transcribed.

I'm honestly not even sure where to begin...

However, I will try my best to record my adventures dutifully, father. Just as you and grandfather once filled pages and pages of your own journals with your wild exploits, so too will I (though I cannot say for certain that mine is out of desideratum but rather a guilty pleasure). We are not exactly traveling for the sake of monster hunting.

Across from where I'm sitting, I sense Alucard is watching me.

I'm pretending not to look at him but my 'third eye', as he likes to call it, that in-tune sense that vampires have, tells me he is watching and is most inquisitive… perhaps even nostalgic. He probably has not seen someone properly writing in a journal for decades. But he remains silent, allowing me this moment of solitude.

It is interesting, how that works between us. I always thought that if I ever were to become a vampire that my personal space would be horribly invaded. When I was younger the very thought of Alucard knowing all my thoughts and feelings, how I thought curiously lewd things about him, made my cheeks burn. Though now, as a vampire, I am completely surprised to discover how wrong I am, for it is wonderfully obtainable, that solitude.

I have learned that there is an unexpected peace achieved when two people have absolutely nothing to hide from one another. That once that wall between two individuals is broken… there is only acceptance of who you are. Humans can never fully have this. We do not question each other endlessly about our whims… we just let them be. They are what we are. Nothing more.

Yet, his mind is a trove of whimsies. An immense and rare collection of dreams and nightmares—not so different from my own I realize. It would seem that all of the times I doubted him for his authenticity was simply untrue. For knowing his mind, knowing him so intimately in the past year has cleared that path for me.

However, Alucard being Alucard, it was difficult to tell when I was a mere mortal.

All of this makes me look at other monsters in a new light now. I cannot help but wonder what experiences made them into what they are. Do I even have that right to judge?

Perhaps I am a fool for saying this, but I cannot get over how wonderful our time together has been, Alucard's and mine. It is nothing I dreamed but it is everything I want. As for this journey, I want this for him as much as I want it for myself.

What a surreal feeling, it overwhelms me sometimes. How did I ever get to this point? How did WE ever get to this point?

This love is one enemy to which I would gladly admit defeat, for I have done so. Such wretched weakness! What has become of that old hag Integra Hellsing? Do not bring her back! I have no desire to know her anymore.

This is who I am now.

Even if I were slain tomorrow… I would have no regrets.

My dying curiosity to see Romania—to see where it all began—fills me with slight dread, admittedly. The last thing I wish for is to hurt my darling Count with memories of his human and inhuman failures. He has suffered greatly, too.

Yet, I feel this is a grand opportunity for closure, a way to begin anew—for both of us.

And, his Wallachia is only the beginning.

Together we will continue onto other countries across the steppes, exploring its vast richness, exploring each other. We will breed new experiences. We will live as regular people do.

Well, as regular vampires do, I suppose. I wonder, is that even such a thing? Regular vampires…?

I wonder if we will meet other vampires. I do worry about that. I will have to destroy them should they prove to be harming innocent people. That is still my sworn duty. Vacation or not, I cannot sit idly by and do nothing.

I think it would be best if they just stayed out of our way.

For Alucard (and I would be lying if I said that I was not eager for this too), I have arranged to have local blood donations sent to our various locations during our travels. I had to pull a few strings to make that possible but Seras assures me she will have it sent when I send word.

Our first stop is the renaissance city of Brașov and then Bucharest. We will travel around Transylvania a bit and see a few historical sites in  Târgoviște  before starting the steppes east of Bucharest. I have to see for myself the castle Alucard used to dwell in before my family captured him. I promise to make it quick, because there will be so much more to see.

Well, I guess that is it for now. I'll write again soon.

I. Hellsing


Brașov, Romania - August 31st, 1:47 a.m.

An airport taxicab ambled up a narrow interlocking brick laneway, driving through an older section of Brașov with two passengers in the back, both of them tourists. Abruptly, the car jerked to a stop. Up ahead a cat with a tortoiseshell coat darted across the street its glowing eyes flashing at them like two pinpoints before scampering away.

The driver cursed softly in Romanian and apologized to his passengers, before going on about how there were too many 'damned stray cats' and how he was more of a dog person.

With a quick glance at Alucard, Integra would have to agree, dogs were more her style, too.

The car continued along between the pale, tall, stuccoed buildings surrounding them. There was not a single soul moving about at such a late hour, giving the neighbourhood a ghost-town kind of feeling. Integra and Alucard's eyes were on the lookout for one particular building of interest, a simple white-stuccoed home with a terracotta rooftop with two hanging baskets on the windowsills full of purple flowers.

Alucard pointed up ahead.

"That's it," Integra claimed and urged the driver in English. "Please stop the car at the next house on the right. That's the place—the house with the purple flower pots."

Clearly, the driver dealt with tourists from the airport on a regular basis. His English was good, or so he told them, even with a Romanian accent. "Ok, that will be one hundred and fifty lei." He stopped the car and adjusted his ball cap while waiting for the money, sneaking a peak at his customers through his rear view mirror.

Integra handed the driver a bundle of colorful notes and everyone got out of the vehicle.

The cabbie headed for the trunk to retrieve the luggage, all while casting strange glances at the odd couple discreetly. The male passenger, he decided, was ridiculously tall and pale with sharp features, especially his nose, and he had the blackest hair that was longer in the front and shorter in the back. There was something captivating about the man and not because he was well dressed in a dark suit beneath a three-quarter length black coat with a red kerchief neatly folded into his left breast pocket.

It was something but the driver could not put his finger on it.

Then there was his female passenger, who was just as captivating, if not more so. A slender woman with darker skin than her companion, who had the most beautiful blonde hair he had ever seen. It went all the way to her backside in voluptuous waves. She stood to her partner's shoulder in height, and just like the man, was dressed rather fine. Underneath the long beige coat, she had on a pair of black slim trousers with a black top paired with a patterned red Russian shawl that looked as if it was made of the finest wool decorated with short fringe.

The lady was a knockout!

Yet, what puzzled him the most was the fact that both foreigners were wearing sunglasses in the middle of the night.

"So… where are you two from? What brings you to Brașov?" The cab driver questioned out of curiosity.

"I heard that the local delicacies here... are too die for," Alucard revealed, standing nearby with his hands inside the pockets of his coat, sounding typically aloof and indifferent.

Integra shot him a funny look.

The vampire continued. "It's kind of like bird watching. You can look all you want, but you can't touch. Of course, if there is ever an exempt to that rule the final decision is always up to my wife."

Wife? On impulse, the driver's eyes dropped to the woman's hands. There was no wedding ring on her finger. "Well," the driver began, adjusting his hat once more, "I'm sure you'll find lots of things to check out while you're here. If that's what you're saying."

"That's exactly what he's saying." Integra jumped in before Alucard could spew another word of utter nonsense. Then she motioned with her chin. "Why don't you make yourself useful and help the man with our luggage, Alucard?"

With a docile kind of smirk, the old vampire obeyed his queen's demand and retrieved the parcels from the driver's hands, including the refrigerated cooler that resembled a carry-on bag filled with donated blood. He grabbed it all in one go, effortlessly carrying the entire lot by himself.

He turned and headed towards the main entrance, an evil chuckle trailing behind him as if he had heard the rudest joke.

Stunned by this display of sheer strength the cab driver implored, "Sir, let me be of service." He took a step towards the ominous stranger only the woman held her hand up for him to stop.

He did.

"Leave him. He'll be fine," Integra assured with a tone of authority that had the cab driver staring at her blankly like a puppet. "Now, you asked where we are from. We are from England, London, actually. We came to Brașov because this city surrounds many other scenic locations that I'm most eager to see, but it is also rich in medieval history, mysticism and folklore. It is a subject my family has built their lives around. I'm sure we'll have a splendid time exploring everything there is to see. Have a nice evening." She finished the last part in Romanian.

The cab driver suddenly smiled at her in surprise. "Oh, that's not too bad," he replied in English regarding her attempt at speaking his native tongue. "I had a feeling you were from England by the sound of your accent, but I wasn't sure about your friend there." He looked off in the direction that Alucard went. "He could almost pass as a Romanian."

"Almost? Funny that you should say that," Integra replied smoothly and somewhat amused, yet she wore the best of all poker faces.

She did not say anything more on the matter.

The young man hesitated for a moment as if deciding on whether he should respond, but ultimately decided it was time to return to his car. He headed back to the car and pulled the driver's side door open. "Enjoy your stay in Brașov, then. Goodnight."

Integra stood on the curb watching until the cab's red rear lights disappeared down the lane and turned down another street. When the sound of the car motor was gone, she began to take note of all the other sounds, to the night sounds of Brașov. It enveloped her as she listened closely… murmuring human voices coming from within their homes, to the animals scuttling around under the protection of darkness, to the insects buzzing on their nightly brigade.

The white noise in Brașov was a little quieter here than in London, she noticed.

Then she sniffed quietly, long and full, profiling her new surroundings, making sure there were no dangers lurking nearby. There were a myriad of scents in the late summer air.

Human. Fauna. Earth. Death.

Blood.

So much rich foreign blood, oh, how its divine scent excited her!

This blood was unlike all the blood she has ever smelled in her first year of vampirehood. But, no matter how delicious it smelled or how badly she wanted it, Integra was stronger than that. As Alucard had so eloquently put it, they can look, admire and swoon over, but not touch. Bird-watching. She scoffed at the thought. Integra would not lose control so easily. Still there was nothing wrong with appreciating the bouquet, the mouth-watering aromas wafting through the streets like freshly baked bread.

"Are you going to stand out there in the street all night and get dizzy with bloodlust, my sweet?" Alucard rumbled inside her mind. "Mind if I join you?"

"Pfft, that won't be necessary," she replied and removed her sunglasses, stuffing them into the side pocket of her long trench coat now that she was alone. From where she stood, she could see the Hollywood inspired mountainside sign on the face of Tampa Mountain, only it read 'BRASOV' in big white letters. The home they rented was located only a few blocks away from Biserica Neagră, the Black Church, which got its name due to an unfortunate fire that partially destroyed the structure back in the 17th century. She could see one of its spires from here but not much else of the old church.

They would have to get closer, but there would be time to check all of that out later.

Finally, she turned towards the attractive home she rented. Like all the other homes on this side of town, it was snuggled up against the side of a cliff in the old city center of Brașov. Her hand settled on the wrought iron gate and gave it a push, which squeaked open and she followed a small path towards the front door with a lock box attached to its handle.

Alucard stood waiting for her still holding their bundle of luggage like an oversized pack mule.

She chuckled softly at him as she approached. "I'm sorry I kept you waiting with all of this. I just needed a moment to absorb everything. Have you noticed anything troubling?"

"Other than the fact that this is a terribly boring door to stare at for longer than two minutes… I would have to say no, I have not noticed anything troubling."

Integra felt herself relax a little bit more.

"You didn't really have to wait for me." She was surprised he did not just phase through the door like usual.

"When you get to be as old as I am, Integra, it's all about the little things." He informed.

"Even the opening of a boring old door?" she teased and punched a code into the lock, retrieving the key that was hiding inside the lock box.

"It's not about the door or what is behind it, it's about going through the door with you, my love," he enlightened. "Would you like me to carry you across the threshold?"

Integra understood where he was going with this now. She waved a hand at him bashfully and twisted the doorknob as common mortals do, swinging the door open into a blackened hallway. "You still believe in such traditions? Don't be ridiculous," she muttered. "We didn't just get married or anything."

Something about that statement bothered him a little. "It's not that ridiculous."

Integra looked around the house with its high ceilings and the staircase leading to the second floor. From here they could see the living room and into the kitchen. At the back of the kitchen there was patio door leading to the backyard. "Do you like it?"

"It appears exactly as it did in the pictures online. Only, it's much brighter than I'm used to." He noted the cream-coloured walls and soft white furniture scheme with hints of lime green and soft oranges accenting the place with its curtains and sofa pillows. Admittedly, he preferred the darker aristocratic look of the manor. "It's no English manor, but it has its charm."

Indeed, it was nothing like the manor but that was the whole point, Integra thought.

They did not require human lighting to see the inside of the Brașov home, but old habits die hard. Integra switched on the hallway light that also turned on the overhead living room and kitchen lights.

Alucard dumped the luggage on the floor. "Shall we christen the living room floor?"

Integra felt throb of arousal at the suggestion. "A lovely idea, but I want to give the place a once over first."

"Fine then, shall I go place the dirt under the mattress?" he offered.

"Splendid idea," Integra offered.

They could rest comfortably come sunrise.

Without another word, Alucard headed upstairs with a few parcels while Integra explored the rest of the downstairs. She slipped off her black lace shoes and hung up her coat in the hallway, before going any further. Picking up the cooler-styled piece of luggage, she padded over the hardwood floors. Along the way, she ran a hand over the arm of the sofa, feeling its coarse white fabric beneath her long, thin fingers. Gazing around the room, she noticed there was a large screen television set mounted on the wall opposite of the sofa, perfect if Alucard insisted on watching one of his action-packed movies he fought tooth and nail to bring along with him.

Well, perhaps not tooth and nail, but his demand to bring a few movies did come across as sounding rather whiny, in her opinion at least.

The house revealed a simple kitchen with a bank of cupboards and customary appliances. The only appliance that mattered to them was the refrigerator, in front of which Integra set down the cooler down on the floor and took a moment to stock it with medicinal blood.

Spotting the microwave, Integra produced a fang-filled smile. Travelling made one famished. She grabbed one of the cold plastic bags, and once she figured out how to operate the appliance, heated up a much-needed meal.

"Thirsty?" Alucard's voice was deep velvet.

That fang-filled smile of hers grew wider until it turned wicked. "I thought we might have a night cap, a toast to our first night on holiday."

Alucard nearly purred. "A creature after my own heart..."

Integra retrieved the warmed blood from the microwave and then teleported herself upstairs.

Standing in the middle of the dark room, she switched on the right side lamp with telekinesis. The mediocre-sized bedroom came into view under a warm glow. In the middle was a queen-sized bed with a stark white duvet decorated with purple embroidered flowers. At the head of the bed, on each side, was a small white end table with a lamp on it, the right side having a digital clock displaying blue numerals. The room was clean, cozy and had a large window at the far end with a white shade pulled all the way down.

"What do you think of this place, my love… a bit too cheerful?" Alucard asked her telepathically as he stowed the sealed bag of soil back into one of their suitcases.

"Perhaps a smidge," Integra admitted.

The two of them scoffed in unison.

Tearing the tip off the warmed blood that she brought with her, Integra drew thick tepid liquid up the straw-like tube. "I'll be damned if I'm going to spend our holiday complaining about atrocious home decor. It doesn't matter we won't be here that much anyways."

Alucard wandered in closer, stopping to stand before his mistress in the middle of the bedroom. "Hrmph, where's the fun in it if you can't complain? I am a man of great tastes, after all… especially in my women."

"Flattery will get you everywhere. Want some?" She held out the blood bag in offer after two mouthfuls.

Alucard leaned in and playfully opened his mouth.

Intrigued, Integra placed the tube between his lips, reminded of all the times she had fed this monster, drops of her blood as a human. Only now, she held the blood bag and watched as her vampire drank, their eyes holding fast as he did so.

"I didn't come all the way here to grouse." She said. "There's plenty of time for that back home." There is never a shortage of headaches when you are the head of the Hellsing Organization.

"I see. Then, do tell, what did you come all the way here for?" Alucard's question was fully loaded, provocative, his tone turning husky.

They were no longer talking about the rental space at all.

Integra's crimson eyes darkened with deliberate misdeed. She was feeling naughty this evening. "Hmm, I have a few things in mind," she said as she stole the tube out of Alucard's mouth and placed it back into her own, sipping leisurely.

The vampire king's eyes lowered to her mouth. He felt an odd sense of satisfaction as he watched Integra drink—a reminder that she was just as much an animal as he was. A crude smile full of bloody teeth graced his features, she was turning him on with this quaint little game for he envisioned those bloodstained lips wrapped around his cock instead of that measly little straw, sucking the juices out of him.

He goaded her on. "It's a dangerous game you play."

"Have I ever played any different, Alucard?" Integra replied to the recesses of his mind, letting her gaze roam over her mate with evident appreciation as she savoured her meal. She enjoyed how he looked without that flashy red necktie and how he left the collar of his white shirt unbuttoned, exposing his clavicle and his delectably long pale neck. "Did I mention that you're looking rather dashing tonight?"

Once more, Integra offered to share her meal.

Alucard used his exceptionally long and talented tongue to draw the drinking straw back into his own mouth. My, his bride was being an impish little minx this evening and she accentuated this behaviour when she gently squeezed the plastic medicinal bag she was holding, making the blood gush into his mouth. He swallowed noisily and quickly, avoiding having the blood burst from his mouth.

"Hmm, yes, you did tell me—on the plane earlier. And I believe I told you… that you look as lovely as always. I must admit, I enjoy the fact that we are kind of matching in attire this evening."

Integra forwent her usual business attire and decided on something more suitable for travel. She looked over her red and black ensemble. "I didn't dress like this on purpose. The colours were purely a coincidence. Seras helped me select this outfit."

"Mmm, well, good choice, or perhaps… we are simply growing on each other, picking up on each other's nuances." The idea amused Alucard much too much. He released the tube and offered her what was left of the blood. "Before you know it," he continued aloud, "we'll be finishing each other's sentences."

Integra sniffed as if that were ludicrous, swallowing the last of their shared meal. She then set the empty blood bag on the nightstand. Filled with fresh verve, thanks to lunch, she faced Alucard with licentious intentions, her hunger slightly quashed but never completely satisfied. "Would you be interested to see just how dangerous I've become?"

Alucard could not lie. "You have me in dreadful suspense, Integra."

It would seem anyone turned by the powerful No Life King inherited the ability to use shadow manipulation, and Integra was no different. Effortlessly, she created two arms out of shadow with elegant female hands, much like her own. The shadows slithered out of the floor, each one weaving around Alucard's legs like serpents, the hands pawing and exploring shamelessly as they wound their way up.

"You want me to taste you." She revealed his inner desires as the hands split up into four—one of them shamelessly brushing across the front of his trousers. "I want to taste you, too." Making a slight fist with her hand, the shadow reciprocated, fondling a handful of rock solid flesh beneath his trousers.

Alucard let out a pleasurable sigh.

"Someone has been practising their dark arts," he said. "You get better with this ability each time you execute it, my dear." A deep rumble vibrated out of the vampire as Integra's shadow hands continued to touch him sinfully. It was not something Alucard was unused to, Integra enjoyed teasing him with her shadow magic occasionally, using him as a pawn to practice her developing vampiric abilities. She was rather magnificent at this skill, especially how she used it on him. Even though she might not be able to stretch her shadows as a skin like Seras does, her dexterity with it was superb.

And she proved such deftness by carefully undoing his belt and lowering the zipper, without actually touching him physically with her own two hands. The shadow fingers tugged the pants down until they fell to mid-thigh, exposing Alucard's pale legs. Then, the hands slid up into his underwear and without hesitation, grasped a firm hold of his swollen flesh—one hand stroking gently and the other fondling. The other two hands squeezed his rear.

Integra wet her lips with her tongue as she watched the action unfolding in front of her. There was no denying that rendering Alucard helpless to her sexual prowess was supremely intoxicating. To know she had the most powerful weapon in the world melting in her fingertips brought a victorious smile to her face.

"This is magnificent, Integra, but I would much rather you touch me yourself… preferably with your mouth," he claimed, standing there desperately horny.

The flaxen-haired vampire nodded as if she were conducting business at one of her Convention of Twelve meetings. "Oh, I fully intended to go down on you. Don't be so impatient." Integra urged and got to her knees. With her own two hands, she lowered Alucard's underpants, revealing his buoyant manhood, while the shadow hands caressed and slid across other parts of his body. One ghosted over his chest, the other down his spine, the third grasped the back of his thigh and the forth combed into his hair.

Alucard was in sensation overload.

Flicking the tip of her tongue at his tip, Integra glanced up at him before she took him fully into her wet mouth. "I'm still thirsty."

Alucard groaned low and full as his length slid over her lips and teeth, her tongue gliding along the underside. He quaked all over. No matter how warm her mortal mouth used to be, he would not change a thing, he thought. He marvelled as she took him, marvelled how the head of his cock battered the back of her throat, how her shadow hands massaged his tender bits as she tasted him. Alucard felt a ripple of pleasure travel through his entire being over and over. It felt so good.

Her teeth gently scraped.

Her tongue wriggled and flicked.

Oh, yes. Those sultry eyes all alight with fire. How they looked up at him, to see if he was watching—eyes full of desire just for him.

"Integra," he murmured with intoxication. "Don't stop."

She wouldn't stop, as long as he did not reach his climax too quickly, she thought with amusement. Integra discovered that this was one of Alucard's favourite pastimes and he had a difficulty not losing control, within minutes. Integra recalled the first time she ever placed her lips near his genitals. He came almost instantaneously and, because she was a stubborn woman, swallowed a mouthful of his ejaculate, which contained a fair amount of vampire blood.

It was somewhat awful back then, she thought, but not now. Now, he did not taste awful at all. In fact, his scent, his flesh, even his bodily fluid drove her to want to taste him.

Perhaps one just had to be a vampire to appreciate the sapor of another vampire.

She loved listening to his deep growls of delectation when she focused her attention on him exclusively. Giving to him was as good as getting. He could reciprocate later… for now she wanted to treat him, to show him how much she adored him. Alucard grasped into her hair, petting her head lovingly, reflexively. She knew he was lost in the moment as he unconsciously thrust into her mouth, his mind completely taken over by gratification.

He was close, she could tell. His long, thick length was extremely stiff now and Integra used her real hands to grab hold of his firm rear, dispersing the shadows. With a remorseless squeeze, she increased her pace, eyes looking up at him.

With eyelids heavy with passion and lust, Alucard watched his beloved tending to his wickedness. He watched his cock move in and out between those beautiful pink lips that were no longer shy to conduct such delicious deeds. But when she looked up at him, those eyes smoldering with lucent heat—he was finished.

The vampire lost his mind and came into her thirsty, awaiting mouth. The stars fell from the sky by the thousands.

It all happened so quickly.

Integra pulled back and wiped her mouth before standing up. She wore a devilish smile. "I'd say that was a proper way to start the holiday, wouldn't you agree, Alucard?"

Dumbfounded, all Alucard could do was nod, 'yes'.

Integra chuckled at him. "I'm going to have a bath before we head out into town. I won't be long. Will you be alright?"

His hair seemed to squirm as he shook his head, 'no'.

"No?" Integra questioned, perplexed.

Alucard finally muttered. "You're going to be the death of me, woman."

Ah, he was just being dramatic per usual, Integra realized as she headed for her suitcase to find her toiletries, laughing softly. "I somehow doubt that, Alucard."

Chapter Text

Transylvanian Region – September 7th, 7:34 p.m.

One week later.

Seeing this side of Romania predominantly between sunset and sunrise did not lessen the experience. The rustic rural towns, the quintessential cities wrought by history, the surrounding ancient forests full of lore and natural beauty were simply… breathtaking.

Wistful and perhaps a tad bit curious, Alucard insisted that they visit the surrounding Transylvanian forests and neighbouring Carpathian Mountains first, before starting on the steppes then eastward to the other countries on their itinerary, as planned.

Not being your middling average pair of vampires and swept up in the splendor of discovery, they did not miss all sunrises or sunsets, not a chance. Perhaps being outside during the day was not as pleasant as the night could be, but Integra was not going to miss a thing. The sun was tolerable as long as she covered up well. She even managed to take a couple of photographs of those rich pink sunsets emblazoned across the rugged mountains lining the horizon to share with Seras.

Integra already shared a ton of other pictures she had taken also.

There were so many locations that Integra desired to see, and for some of them, she decided they should see by car. At any given time, they could simply park the car and teleport back to their lodging in Brașov for rest, and if they wished, could transform into bats and explore locations not easily visited by people.

Nonetheless, driving a car was still fun.

The beginning of their week started near the city of Bistrița, with a visit to Alucard's former castle in the Carpathians. It was the last place he called home when he went by a different name during a different life.

That name was Count Dracula, and it has been over one hundred years since he has last been there.

The castle was much too far to get to by vehicle from Brașov, so they used their power of omnipresence to travel to Tihuţa Pass, otherwise known as 'Borgo Pass', a name created by a certain Irish novelist.

From the pass, they transformed into bats to venture through the dense forests and hillside villages located in the valleys of the mountains. Eventually, they came across a small town hidden in the heart of the mountain range overshadowed by a very dark and very ominous looking castle.

The castle, it was so much more than what her grandfather's journals described.

It was on these hills, next to the black castle in an old cemetery with barren white crosses marking the graves of the dead that Integra's grandfather Abraham, struck down Dracula, thus rendering him a future servant of the Hellsing family.

Both Integra and Alucard knew without verbally expressing it that facing this milestone needed conquering first. It was almost as if by facing the harsh reality of the past, it would open a welcoming and untroubled path for the rest of their journey.

Maybe even for the rest of their undead lives.

Alucard was not surprised to discover that his old castle, refurbished some, was now nothing more than a tourist attraction. He found the idea rather amusing, actually. In a way, it made re-visiting this place a lot less melancholic, for it was hard to imagine his harrowing experience while imagining families taking selfies and licking ice cream from a cone whilst wandering the old castle grounds.

Integra had taken his hand and squeezed it gently. "This is a momentous moment." She said.

Of course, it was important to her, Alucard thought. This was the place, the cornerstone, the start of a legacy, the birthplace of the Hellsing Organization. Here in this place, a human conquered a monster, a mystical being.

It was beyond momentous...

It was godlike.

Alucard said nothing but he did return the gesture and gave Integra's hand a light squeeze in return. Whatever he was feeling, he shared silently and telepathically with his bride, for he did not trust himself to speak. Saying the words aloud felt worthless and stupid to him.

What was he even to say?

Sure. He could laugh at the tourist attraction he once called home, but a part of him still raged like a madman inside.

It was as if his nightmares that had haunted him for nearly a century now lay naked and glabrous before him, as bare as if he held his own bleeding heart on his hand, unprotected and vulnerable. It was here, in this very cemetery, that he felt the pain of a thousand burning suns as Abraham bested him.

Here, he lost his sovereignty.

Yet, here, a new life for him began. It was a life that he could not fathom at the time, a life with less solitude and an opportunity to have purpose. He cursed the Hellsing's for turning him into something worse than he always was, at the time. He cursed his pitiful existence, but that was until the young Integral came along…

He became no one to anyone except, Integra Hellsing.

Unexpectedly, a single bloody tear escaped Integra's right eye and slid down her cheek. Fiercely, she swiped it away with her fingers and said with cold assurance. "I think we've seen enough. Let's go."

"Wait. Are you sure you don't want a tour of the inside?" Alucard asked her.

The question made it seem as if Integra had eaten something sour. "No." Her reply was curt and snappy. "There is nothing left to see."

For Integra, it was difficult not to re-live those lasting moments in Alucard's mind and she was able to experience what he was thinking and feel what he felt. And she did not want to think and feel anymore! Through him, through the vampire she felt destined to love, she now understood what a stake to the heart might feel like should anyone ever attempt to best her.


Transylvania – September 10th, 9:30 p.m.

The next few days, after visiting Dracula's castle, were simply incredible. It seemed as if there was a definite weight lifted off their shoulders and neither had to say a single word on the matter. Together, they had slain a different type of monster, something that clung to their souls like vines, always hanging on, always keeping them grounded. For Alucard, it seemed as if something inside of him opened up, something that was not there before.

It was as if he was finally accepting the fact that, he could enjoy this trip also.

Indeed, acceptance set them free.

It strengthened their bond.

A few hours earlier, as day turned into night, they took the sleek black Volkswagen they rented and headed southwest from Brașov, to another place Alucard knew of from another time in his prolonged existence. However, it was not the time when he was a vampire count living in a scary black castle and eating the townspeople's babies, but a time when he was a man that ruled Wallachia.

But he was not just any man. He was Vlad Dracula or Vlad Țepeș (Vlad the Impaler) as people called him.

The moniker derived from his fondness of impaling people onto long spikes, often mounting the spike into the ground in front of a castle or fortress while the skewered remained dangling from the pole like a malodorous, fly-ridden trophy. The display was a reminder to those who might have thought to oppose Prince Vlad. That this would be their outcome too, should they resist his ruling wishes.

"Their final squeal of agony was music to my ears. Warfare is an ugly thing, as you know. There is no place for weak rulers, correct? I never went back on my word. Those who I deemed evil got punished."

At least, that is what Alucard explained to Integra as they drove along the Transfăgărășan north of Poenari castle. The fortress they were going to see. This world famous roadway cut through the mountains like a jagged scar and it was the sole reason Integra wanted to drive. It was also the first time Alucard saw this twisty thrill-seeking road for himself.

Integra read about this motorway on a Travel Romania website, and it was everything she hoped to find. It was remote and long and there were plenty of dark mountainside tunnels to drive through. Next to them on either side of the road, in some areas, the road dropped off into a huge green valley full of pine, spruce and alder trees.

The fresh country air whipped at their hair and clothes and blasted their faces, but they didn't care. At one point, Alucard had to grab his hat to keep it from flying away while his mistress gunned the car like a stunt driver on a tainted blood overdose. Easily, she was going well over the speed limit with the windows down and sunroof wide open.

Alucard noticed she did it all with cool determination and a satisfied smirk on her face, too. This woman, she was always filling him with inspiration. It made the old nosferatu laugh aloud.


Darkness had descended by the time they arrived at Poenari castle, a crumbling old fortress on top of a hill left mostly in ruins. For them, climbing the 1480 steps to the top of was a breeze when you are a vampire. Yet, the mountainside view was tremendous and absolutely worth seeing. The countryside was extra special this evening as a huge harvest moon sat heavily in the sky. It's warm golden light changed the entire scenery into a breathless piece of art.

Thankfully, there were no tourists here in the twilight hours leaving them to do whatever they wanted, which is how Alucard preferred it.

He preferred it—not just because he wanted Integra all for himself, but lately he noticed that she was acting odd the last few times they surrounded themselves with humans. It happened the first night they explored Brașov's main streets. They were walking along a cobbled laneway as a group of people filed out of a bar that was closing down for the night. For a moment, Integra simply stopped walking and turned towards the people going in the opposite direction. As if possessed, she took a step towards them, eyes burning hot with bloodlust.

Alucard dutifully grabbed her by arm and ushered her along to snap her out of it.

Then, a few days after that incident, after she assured him that she was fine and could handle herself, they attempted another outing. They invented a little game called Guess That Blood Type in the walled Old Town section of Sighișoara, his birthplace. The colourful city was milling with people shopping and going about their business one evening, a perfect place to hone one's skill at guessing a person's blood type simply by smell.

They sat on a bench wrapped around an old tree.

She was very good at this game for a yearling, but he was much faster at guessing the blood type than she was. Alucard was highly amused by the game, especially since Integra was such a poor sport about losing. After a while, he saw that look on her face again. The same look she had in Brașov, that hungry far-off gaze, the way an animal looks while hunting for its prey. Alucard knew the expression all too well, for he was in her shoes once. Before he could stop her, Integra unexpectedly transformed into a bat and flew away. The fast movement had a few people tossing strange glances his way, but the act had happened so fast, no one could really be of sure what they just saw. Only a few people saw the big white bat disappear above the rooftop of a tall yellow building with collective gasps.

It would definitely be a tale told around town for some time to come.

Clearly, this was a big test for Integra, seeing as she rarely placed herself in these sorts of situations before and she had skipped lunch. In the end, it was much easier if they just avoided large groups of tasty humans, altogether.

And it wasn't as if Alucard was against the idea of watching Integra rip apart these worthless beings as she feasted on their blood. Hell. He wished for it also. Nothing would thrill him more, truthfully. After all, it was what being a vampire was about.

However, he was not that kind of monster anymore.

He was not about to lower himself to the level of maggot like so many of those punk-ass vampires he vanquished in the name of Hellsing. In time, like everything, their turn would come again to savour the warm life flowing right out of the vein. He was sure of it.

In the meantime, Integra would have to work on her tolerance.

Sensing his thoughts, Integra said, "I… I had no idea I would have such difficulty controlling my bloodlust. Perhaps I got accustomed to the aromas back home and here—"

"—everything smells so delicious?" Alucard finished for her.

Sometimes she was so like him it blew his mind.

Integra gave the slightest nod of agreement and sighed. "I apologize for what happened in Sighișoara. It was reckless, and… I know better than that. I thought I had all this vampire nonsense under control."

Side by side, they leaned against the edge of a dusty wall once built of stone, gazing out over yonder into the darkness. Alucard was dressed in his customary red frock coat, something he often did when no one else was around, and Integra wore a pair of dark slacks and a long beige overcoat that she left open.

"Control…?"He retort incredulously. "You are still learning what it means to be a vampire, Integra. I told you long ago that I would guard you and teach you all that I know. Even the strongest have a few weaknesses." He so eloquently put it. Then he tossed her that charming smile of his. "Besides, I rather like watching you lose control every once in a while. It humbles you."

She scoffed in response and pressed the flat of her right hand to the cold stone, changing the subject. "This fortress, it must have been quite splendid once."

"It truly was," he said thoughtfully.

Alucard had to admit that seeing this old relic brought back many memories he thought he had forgotten. He treated Integra to those memories and gave her a genuine look at what this castle used to be like back when it was in its prime. The castle was a majestic, noble structure on the side of a mountain, a true symbol of imposing power and status. It once had a large keep and sturdy ramparts, proud corbels marking the corners and turrets reaching for the starry heavens in the sky.

Integra was speechless when next she blinked. Impossible! She was looking out at a medieval landscape through Alucard's mind's eye. All the neighbouring buildings in the distance, like the cozy little curbside restaurant and the power plant, vanished, along with the meandering highway Integra enjoyed driving on. She was standing on a solid rampart attached to an impressive fortress standing proud and mighty!

"Alucard…" she breathed, "It's wonderful."

He glanced over at her, revelling in her reactions to his vision. "I think tomorrow we should check into to the next place on our list. Bucharest, correct? From there we can go to Târgoviște, there is something there I would like to show you as well. The main court is in rubble but there is one building, a building built in my former name—it still stands."

Suddenly, the medieval memory vision was gone. "And say goodbye to Transylvania?" Integra said, turning her head to look at him.

"We've spent over a week here. My perverse curiosities are adequately satisfied," Alucard explained.

"Alright then, I would very much like to see a building built in your honour." If he was so willing to share, she wasn't going to stop him. Then she asked, "Tell me, Alucard. What do you really think about all this?"

"What do I think?" He shrugged and thought about it. "I think… it is definitely not England."

"That's it? That's all you have to say?" The blonde vampire gaped at her pale companion who usually had a lot more to say. "What is that supposed to mean?"

"It means this place has its appeal with its rustic medieval charms," Alucard began, "but it is nothing as I remember. What I knew is long gone. Believe it or not, home is where ever you are. You and Seras. That's all that matters to me now." He paused for a brief moment and shared a completely different thought. "There is a place with a strange smell that I think you would like."

"Strange smell?" Integra laughed indignantly unsure where he was going with this. "Are you making fun of my recent bloodlust?"

"Not exactly," he answered dryly. "There is an area more majestic than this crumbling pile of stone. Would you like to see it, my heart? This place smells typically of sulphur but it is a hidden gem buried in the heart of the mountains."

Alucard's voice had a strange sense of pride underlining his words.

"More majestic than all the other places you've brought me so far?" Integra sounded baffled. "That's a tough one, Alucard. Transylvania is such a beautiful place and I regret that we won't get to see all of it."

"Fear not, we have an eternity to see the rest of it." The lofty vampire reminded. "We don't have to do it all in one visit."

Sometimes Integra forgot about that.

"Come. Tonight the moon is full and the sky is so clear it seems as if the stars are going to fall upon us. It is the perfect time to see it," Alucard pressed.

"Should we fly there and leave the car?"

"I think that would be best. Driving there would be difficult and it would take too long. Besides, you might just drive us off the road and send us plummeting to our sordid deaths if I let you drive again." His eyes burned brighter with bedevilment as he tormented her.

"Tsk. How dare you, my driving was flawless." She knew perfectly well he was just instigating trouble. Integra pushed herself away from the old castle wall and without hesitation transformed into a snowy white bat with a long nose, a furry white body and a pair of small pointed ears, resembling that of a small fox. "Well then, you lead the way, my dearest count."

"As you wish," he countered smoothly and changed into a giant black bat resembling Integra's form.

Fluttering this way and that with a broad wingspan reaching at least three feet for Integra and over four feet for Alucard, they soared above small towns and treetops heading north. It seemed as if they were flying towards the moon, but no matter how much they travelled, it was always out of reach.

With vampiric speed on their side, they arrived at their desired location fifteen minutes later.

"Look, down there." Alucard announced and sailed downwards towards the secret place he was taking her.

High from the skies, Integra saw an isolated lake glittering in the middle of the mountains as if Mother Nature had created her very own swimming pool. The round-shaped lake, surrounded by trees, a pebbly shore and a small stone chapel nearby, was at least at an altitude of about 3000 feet. There were no visible rivers or run-off filling the basin, so how this mysterious pool of water got here, was anyone's guess.

"Is there an underground vein feeding this lake?" She wondered as they spiraled lower towards the water.

"Nothing feeds it." Alucard told her. "This entire region has been volcanic since prehistoric times and this lake is thousands of years older than me. There are many theories about how it came to be here, but most believe that it simply came from rainfall."

"Oh? And what are the other theories?" Integra's interest was piqued.

The master of mystic studies always wanted to learn more.

They landed soundlessly on a long wooden dock leading out into the lake. Both of them changed back into their humanlike form and took a silent moment to observe the splendid view. The water was so still and calm, it seemed as if it was made of shiny black glass with a perfect reflection of the moon upon its surface.

They walked along the pier, which creaked and warbled precariously as they went, while Alucard told the mythical tale of the lake's creation.

"There are two legends about how this lake was formed," he began. "The first legend is that a young girl named Ana, whose parents attempted to force her into a marriage she did not wish for, threw herself into the lake and drowned, thereby receiving its name. The second legend says that the lake formed after two competing brothers of noble birthrights fought over who had built the best carriage. Believed by some, one of the brothers used eight beautiful women to pull his carriage among the shock of onlookers. One of those girls being Ana, of course, cursed and prayed for the death of her captor. Her prayers were answered it seems, the brother died. Hence, the lake formed over where his palace used to be."

Integra turned her head to look at Alucard once he finished the last theory and sniffed. "What complete and utter bullocks, who would believe such a legend? If anything, the first story is much more plausible."

"Well, legends are often created by layers of falsehoods and truths all mixed together over time. Humans create fantastic stories to explain the unexplainable."

Alucard had firsthand experience on such matters.

"You are right about that," Integra agreed and wriggled her nose noticeably. "I see what you mean about the smell around here. Sulphur?"

"It comes from the nearby caves and swamps. I used to come here to reflect and attempt to free my mind, even if it was cursed and mad." He looked at her and raised his eyebrows in whimsical question, eyes as bright as embers beneath the shadow of his wide-brimmed fedora. "Tell me, is this lake not a hidden gem in the rough?" His voice lulled and deepened. "Is this not the most perfect evening? Here we are just you and me… without a trouble in the world. What is this madness?"

Integra chuckled. "I have often asked myself the same question. Perhaps, there is such a thing as second chances."

"But why would you need a second chance?" The old vampire was curious.

"You already know the answer to that, Alucard." Integra dug into her coat pocket for a cigar and lit one. She exhaled the smoke with a contented sigh. "Before you turned me into a vampire, while I was still human... I… I was already dead inside."

That was the irony, Alucard thought. The world was full of humans that had already died on the inside, people who still breathed and whose heart's still beat, but inside they were dead, slaves to society, puppets by engineering.

Tearing her gaze from Alucard's alluring stare, the cigar dangling from her lip, Integra leaned in a little closer to study the glassy surface of the water. She noticed something especially odd. "I can't sense any life in the water."

"There is no oxygen in the water and it is nearly distilled, so it is inhabitable to life, but you can swim in it. People have been coming here for ages seeking its medicinal properties." Alucard told her and began to shed himself of his clothing. He took off his hat and dropped it on the dock next to him. Then he removed his red coat, wickedness dancing across his lips.

"What are you doing?"

"What does it look like, Integra. I'm going to for a swim. Care to join me?" His smile grew bigger.

A thrill of excitement coursed through her body. She had never done anything like this before.

"If life can't survive in the water, do you think un-life counts?" she mused, crushing her cigar out under her shoe on the dock, and shrugged out of her own coat. The beige fabric pooled around her feet. Next, her long, thin fingers went to her shirt collar, leisurely undoing the buttons, her eyes never leaving Alucard's body as he undressed himself.

"Mmm, why don't we find out?" His voice was dripping with covetousness. Alucard loved watching his mate peel out of her clothes, unveiling that tight body hidden beneath. Her skin was still much darker than his was, even as a vampire, and it was beautiful.

"I doubt this lake will ever have any healing capabilities for our kind." His comment was a joke.

Integra gave a wayward chuckle and stood on the dock completely bare under the moonlight, like a siren of the forest. The moon seemed to make her platinum hair glow like silky strands of silver.

They shared a moment and simply admired each other.

Alucard devoured her with his eyes, a look that always made Integra hot. Nevertheless, Alucard felt the same as she did when she gazed upon his nakedness, her eyes always stopping ever so briefly on his neck, where she thought about biting him, and then his cock, which she anticipated plunging into her.

He gave her a goofy, tooth-filled smile as she drew her fingertips across the rigid contours of his chest. She was thinking those thoughts right now.

Much to her astonishment, Alucard unexpectedly launched himself into the water with a noisy splash declaring, "Last one in is a rotten vampire!"

Integra could not stop a gasp as a few droplets of water landed on her forearm.

"You're insane!" she bellowed from the edge of the dock, arms covering her breasts somewhat modestly and legs pressed together, knees slightly bent. "Well, how is it? Cold?" she wondered when he resurfaced, his wet black hair plastered to his scalp.

She felt abnormally timid all of the sudden.

"That is a human concern," he drawled in reminder. "It might not be a hot bath, but it is refreshing. Don't just stand there, my beautiful naked creature, jump in. Tonight you can live out your fantasy as the reckless and impulsive Constance Reid."

Integra resisted rolling her eyes. "Oh, please."

He was speaking of the main character from the novel Lady Chatterley's Lover, a book they shared an intimate relationship with when they read the book together over a year ago. They felt especially connected to the story because it focused on a young upper class woman who forms a sexual relationship with someone below her social order, the groundskeeper. It was relatable at the time when Alucard was still Integra's servant, just as Mellors, the groundskeeper, was Connie's servant.

That's how it was between them until Integra walked over the threshold of life and death—getting stuck somewhere in the middle.

Nonetheless, his taunt bolstered her resolve and Integra dove in gracefully, leaving very little splash in her wake. The water was shockingly cold for the first few seconds but she easily adjusted to the temperature, her undead body not affected by temperatures the way her human body used to be. She did not feel short of breath or go numb. She did not sweat or experience chill. She felt heat and cold but her regenerative mystical body adapted.

Still, Integra did love a hot bath.

She surfaced a few feet away from Alucard, legs kicking rhythmically to stay afloat. As much as an adventurer she desired to be, Integra really did not want to touch the slimy bottom of the lake. She was happy to find the lake was deep enough that her outstretched legs touched nothing.

His arms outstretched, Alucard beckoned to her, "Come to me."

The No Life Queen swam over and into his strong embrace. He held her oh-so tight as the water returned to its quiet still state all around them.

"Do not fear my feet are touching the bottom and its actually rocky here. I won't let go." Alucard promised.

Integra wrapped her legs around his waist and clung on with her arms around his neck, much to his delight. "Oh, Alucard, I'm so pleased you agreed to go along with all this—this holiday," she said. "Maybe this is what we needed to do. I think I get it now. This place, this lake it is magical."

Alucard softly pressed his cool wet lips to the side of her face, kissing her adoringly. "It has been an utmost pleasure," he murmured. "All of this freedom—I still can't get over how much everything has changed in a year. Whatever shall we do, now that our leashes have been severed?" He proposed his tone full of sarcasm and a sample of disobedience. "After bringing up that old book, I wonder, you didn't happen to pack any fun reading material, did you?"

Integra produced a mournful sort of groan then, "No, I did not think of that."

How exquisite it would have been to indulge in a steamy new book together while on holiday. Integra took such delight in having Alucard read to her, and they have not read anything new since Lady Chatterley's Lover.

"Perhaps we will find something to take back to England with us," he suggested as her hands slid up the back of his neck and into his wet hair, fingertips gently raking across the back of his scalp. It felt so good. "It will give us something to reminisce over after all is said and done, when we are once again nothing but the bored monsters of Hellsing Manor."

"Such an exaggeration, but a rather fine idea," she replied as a lovely idea came to mind, a very naughty idea. She whispered next to his ear, lips barely touching. "How about we add to our list of things to reminisce about right now?"

"You wanna—right here? Right now…?"

"Oh, yes. Here. Now," Integra purred.

His loins were already stirring with arousal, but when she used that sexy tone right next to his ear, he always lost his mind. "We really need to get out of the house more often," Alucard vowed with a deep cavernous chuckle, enchanted by how concupiscent and carefree his bride had become during their travels.

"May I remind you that our vacation is far from over," she told him. "Now, be silent vampire and kiss me."

To hesitate was sheer folly.

High up in the mountains of Transylvania under a shimmering runic moon, in the middle of a desolate lake spawned by legends, Alucard and Integra kissed like long lost lovers.

Chapter Text

Hellsing Manor – September 12th, 7:30 p.m.

xx

Taking care of Hellsing business, Seras thought with a heavy sigh, was a serious anti-climatic understatement.

Gregory Penwood lived by his word.

He took care of all the political issues with the Twelve while Integra was away, assuring Seras that 'we do not require your involvement in any particular matter… just quite yet', or so he said. Seras was eager to fit the part as Hellsing's surrogate mistress. She even got herself a nice no-nonsense business suit just like Integra.

Although…

There were no important meetings to attend.

The administrative side of the operation was exceedingly boring, she concluded. Paper work indeed sucked the life out of one's soul. Then again, there were not many supernatural issues to deal with either. The freaks of the world were taking it easy. Just her luck. Only a few minor problems came in but they turned out to be nothing really.

One was even a false alarm.

Two days ago her and Pip had to check out an incident where a woman reported that her dog was possessed by mischievous demons or some kind of goblin, claiming the animal was speaking to her in cryptic riddles. Only when they got there, it turned out the dog had simply swallowed a voice-activated mechanism from inside a small child's toy belonging to a creepy looking doll that went by the name of Charles Riddles.

Sigh. It was a dead end.

What the draculina would not do for a nice ass-kicking, bone-breaking, blood-splattering kind of fight right about now? Something to blow off steam. Something to get her out of the house.

"My lovely belle femme!" It seemed as if the walls in the room spoke to her with a lively French accent.

"This is such a travesty, such iniquité! Here you are, cooped up inside this stuffy office looking bored out of your pretty, fair-haired skull while Alucard and Integra are out having the time of their lives. We must rectify this situation… let's do something fun too, qui?"

Spending the last ten minutes mindlessly spinning around in Integra's office chair Seras reached out, caught the front of the desk with her hand and ceased the movement. She faced the room frontwards with a smile.

Pip always had a way of cheering her up.

Pip Bernadotte, the ex-mercenary leader of the Wild Dogs phased out of the wall as if he was peeling himself away from it, becoming a single solid entity. Being Seras's familiar, him being a part of her existence after she drank his blood thirty-one years ago, they worked together to protect Hellsing manor from any unwanted threats.

He sauntered up to the desk looking as he always did, wearing his Australian slouch hat on top of a head of braided, russet hair. Around his neck, he wore his favourite dark orange scarf over a bulky beige-coloured flak jacket, along with a pair of cargo pants and clunky black combat boots.

Before Seras could say a word, a ginormous smile spread across Pip's face as he slapped his palms down on top of the desk loudly, bracing himself as he eyeballed his woman. "Will you look at this? Mon dieu! That outfit you're wearing—" He whistled loudly. "When did you change into that?"

Seras giggled as she glanced down at herself briefly. She was wearing a slim-fitting business suit with a pencil skirt that showed ample thigh. It was burgundy in colour. Underneath the tapered jacket with a sharp lapel, she wore a white-collared shirt that rest over the collar resting on top of the lapels. Even her spiky blonde hair was tamed at the front with a tidy hairpin creating a very modern-chic sort of look.

"I decided I wasn't going to let this outfit go to waste even if I'm not needed at any meetings." She told him with determination. "I was bored. So, I changed into this a little while ago."

Pip's one good green eye was as wide as a one-pound coin as he gawked at her. "Oh boy, what I wouldn't do to have use of both my eyes this very moment," he lamented gently touching the eye patch that covered his left eye.

Again, Seras giggled. "Have I shown you Integra's latest email? She sent me a couple of beautiful photos. There is even one of her and master dancing, seems like they were in a fancy restaurant or something in Bucharest. Come take a look," she urged. "Maybe after we can put on some music and—"

"—dance?" Pip finished for her, delighted with the idea. "Oui! I would love nothing better. The women used to flock to me just so I would dance with them. We would drink and smoke and dance." He reminisced as he came around the desk to peer at the laptop to see a photograph of Integra and Alucard dressed formally in a lovely gown and suit caught in a moment of slow dancing. Integra was looking up at Alucard and Alucard was peering down at her with bounds of pride.

"They must have gotten someone to take their picture. It's so wonderful Pip, I never would have imagined them to do such a thing. They must be having such a lovely time." Seras shared.

"Perhaps everything does happen for a reason," Pip offered as he began to frown. He leaned in a bit closer and pointed at the screen. "What happened to their feet? It looks like they are floating on the dance floor."

Seras studied the picture again. "Oh. You're right. How strange. Clearly, the photographer is standing far enough away to fit them in the picture. Hmm."

Pip shrugged. "C'est la vie… probably just a glitch." He turned away from the photo and smiled devilishly at his lovely Seras. "I have not kissed you once today. How about it?"

Seras leaned in and softly met his lips for a gentle kiss. It made her forget all about the mundanity of her day.

Unfortunately, a knock came to the door.

"Beg your pardon Lady Seras, Sir Bernadotte, but you have two Iscariots downstairs asking to see Integra. What should we do?" It was Judy, the housemaid.

Seras sat up straight and Pip backed off, he stood on the right side of her chair. "Let them in, I guess. I cannot imagine what they want though."

"Hrmph, it's just like them to just show up here without notice," Pip said. He extracted a cigarette from his inside pocket and stuck it between his teeth, then lit it with a lighter.

It didn't take long before Bishop Makube and his second in command Heinkel Wolfe waltzed into the office, their heavy silver crucifixes swaying across the front of their long priestly robes. Neither had changed that much over the past year. Makube still carried himself with that distinct arrogance and Wolfe still appeared mad with those facial bandages and that glinting glare.

Seras felt her guard spike. Her senses were on high alert. If they came here to fight, she was ready. "This is unusual," she told them. "What can I do for you—what brings you two back to London?"

"Tch!" Wolfe scoffed loud enough for everyone to hear.

Bishop Makube merely tilted his head to the side in question. "I see that the hospitality in this place has not improved, but at least you did not make us wait an eternity before awarding us an audience, Miss. Victoria." Makube ceased his baroque speech accented by a rich Italian enunciation as if to let that all sink in for a moment. "However, I was under the impression we would be speaking with Integra Hellsing."

"Vhy are YOU sitting bevind her desk?" Heinkel inquired with distaste, looking over Seras dressed in a suit as if she was the head of the Hellsing Organization or something. "Vhat the hell is this? Vhere is vat demon's wife?"

"How dare you…" Seras's brows stitched together with a frown. So, the Iscariots know about Integra's transformation. They all knew this day would come eventually.

Makube set lazy coral-coloured eyes on Heinkel and then set them back on Seras and Pip. "Now, now… let's not be hasty. Please excuse my associate's pitiable manner. Of course, we have come to understand that Integra has joined you and Alucard in your unholy ranks in the realm of the undead, but I find… I am not much surprised by this information. To fight with you three would only end badly for us—Hellsing has become a force that is beyond measure. It is quite understandable why she would not reveal her new nature to us so freely. Thus, aside from what you might believe… I venture that we fight the evil together with Hellsing. Now, where is Integra? Surely, she isn't hiding from us?"

Pip was quietly smoking his cigarette until now. "She is away on business for a few weeks. As you can see, Seras is standing in for her."

"And Alucard?" growled Wolfe.

"He is with Integra." Seras said. "Look. Whatever the issue is she left me in charge, you will have to speak to me about it. If not, you will have to wait for Integra."

This revelation was so staggering that the leader of Section XIII had to calm his breathing. Makube became dangerously silent for a moment. The Hellsing manor was free of Integra and Alucard? He thought. What a wonderful change of events! This was his chance.

The head priest smiled a greasy smile of reassurance and personal triumph. "Why of course she has left you in charge, the impressive and powerful nosferatu, Seras Victoria. You have been by her side for over thirty years—she must have taught you everything you need to know about the Hellsing Organization. We simply came by this evening to assure Integra that we do not wish to create conflict between our organizations and thought it best if we told her this face to face. Besides, my curiosity is getting the better of me. I am rather curious to see what she looks like now as a vampire."

Pip was quietly observing the two Iscariots, his one good eye shifting back and forth between them, wondering why he did not trust a single word they said. "This cannot be the only reason you've come to London," he muttered.

"Of course not," Makube answered politely. "We have other obligations to attend to in London, you see, but we thought we would extend our hand first in this matter. After all, actions speak louder than words, is that not what they say?" The tall dark-haired priest placed his hands behind his back. "Section XIII will continue to work with Hellsing in the future, however, I suppose I will have to wait for Integra's return to ensure I relay these words to her also. A misunderstanding would be most unfortunate."

Seras sat back and placed her hands on the armrest of the chair, having a stare down with Heinkel Wolfe as Makube spoke. "I'm sorry but it could be a while before you see Integra. She will be gone for a few weeks," the draculina explained.

Makube held up a hand. "Please do not worry. We will return another time. My apologies for disturbing your evening, Miss Victoria, until next time, farewell."

Bewildered, Seras and Pip watched Bishop Makube head for the door with Heinkel trailing behind, who turned to toss them a nasty scowl before disappearing down the hall.

Makube simply held his finger up to his lips to keep Heinkel silent until they were safe. Only once they were back in their car and far enough away from Hellsing Manor, did he allow Heinkel Wolfe to speak.

"I saw it! The tome was right there on Integra's desk!" Wolfe hissed.

"Yes, it was. And the king and queen are absent. We'll definitely get our hands on that spell book." Makube squeezed the top of the steering wheel with assurance. "We will get it no matter what."

"And vat will be vee end of those filthy vampires—vee end of vee Hellsing Organization by vheir own witchcraft!"


Târgoviște – September 12th, 11:11 p.m.

"This is the place you wanted to show me?" Integra shifted her crimson gaze towards Alucard situated on her right, "Chindiei Tower."

They stood amongst the ruins of the Old Princely Court in Târgoviște looking up at one building that stood the test of time. It remained intact and still standing. It was a watchtower-turned-museum dedicated to Romania's valiant leader, Vlad the Third, aka Dracula, aka Alucard. Currently, it housed many of Vlad's artifacts, weapons and surviving documents from the 15th century. The building itself was a cylindrical four-story tall building once used to store state treasure, perhaps a prisoner or two, but it also served as a lookout point for any incoming threats.

"Yes, this is the place," Alucard confirmed. "Holding the throne was a short-lived endeavor back then and war was always upon me. I fear I did not have much time to delegate the building of many structures, except this one. I see that the tower has been refurbished significantly, it was never this tall back then." The vampire stood staring up at it, his mind swimming with old memories and feelings he was not sure how to label. It was so long ago, these memories, but being here in this place, standing before this relic made it all seem like yesterday.

However, when he swung his head of tousled black hair around, turning slightly to look at the surrounding area, the harsh reality of the present returned. He was a freak, a monster, a miniscule thread of the past. All around them stood crumbling walls of brick and stone, the skeleton layout of a once superior palace. "It is a shame that the Court is completely destroyed, it was once a magnificent structure. I spent a lot of time here. That cathedral that stands before it did not even exist yet. Well… not when I was voivode, perhaps it came after. In those days, there was only a chapel."

Integra turned her back to the tower to see the cathedral Biserica Mare Domnească (The Great Princely Church) that Alucard now spoke of, a large brown building with three pointed turrets. From what she read, the inside of this church was chock-full of fantastic frescos, artworks depicting portraits of historical leaders.

Yet, her interest right now was with the Sunset Tower primarily.

She grabbed Alucard by the hand and marched towards the tall building that rather resembled a grain silo or a rook game piece from a chessboard. "It's not every day that you get to visit an emblematic monument built for someone who is currently standing right next to you."

The old vampire guffawed, "Well… when you put it that way."

They slipped through the locked door of the tower like phantoms and entered the foyer. The most notable presence upon entry was the dark spiraling staircase leading all the way to the top. Along the way, up on the walls, there were bits and pieces once belonging to Vlad Dracula, when he was human.

Integra made her way slowly up the stairs, silently taking it all in.

Alucard wore a devil-may-care sort of expression as he followed his beloved around while she inspected his past. A few times, he explained what he could remember, but five hundred years ago made most things a little bit foggy.

Being in this place was as surreal for him as it was for Integra.

Up on the third floor Integra stopped in front of an old broad sword. The blade, blackened by time, was still a deadly looking weapon with a long and heavy edge with a pewter-coloured cross guard, grip and pommel.

"Was this yours?" It looked so familiar to her but she could not place it. Integra turned to look at the red-clad vampire who was watching her patiently.

"Yes. It was mine," he said. "You might recognize it because it is the same weapon I summon when I take on my human form from time to time." When Alucard changed his shape into his Vlad form, he often appeared wearing medieval armour and a sword. "This sword, however, is the real deal."

"It's so tarnished and worn." Integra wondered how many people gave up their lives to the edge of this sword. It was a number she could not fathom. She knew Alucard was human once. He killed many people even before he became a vampire. She was no fool. But, seeing all of these factual pieces from his past, things that intimately belonged to him once, made it that more real.

"Why are you looking at me like that?" It seemed as if pain and time reflected in his eyes as he questioned her.

"I don't know, Alucard. It all seems so morose. Perhaps we should not have come here. Do you wish to leave? We can leave." Integra wondered for a moment if she was being selfish by even making Alucard come back to his home country at all.

Alucard sniffed. "Preposterous. I cannot erase the deeds of my past. Nothing can change that. This is what I was. However, seeing all of this five hundred years later, well… everything seems so dissimilar, so far removed. That world I once lived in seems more like a dream."

Integra tried to lighten the mood. "I wonder… did you bring women in here?"

His mistress could not help herself. Even though she had blurted it out she still held her head high and proud. Perhaps she was baiting him.

"Oh, I see the lioness bares her claws." Alucard took the bait delightfully. "You, my love, are the first and only woman that I have brought in here, Scout's honour."

Integra's expression seemed doubtful.

His footsteps soundless, Alucard moved in closer to her. "The only people I brought here were lowlifes and scum that deserved nothing but the torture and death they received. I did not invite them in… I dragged them in."

"Oh. Wonderful," Integra muttered sarcastically. "There used to be a tunnel to the dungeons from here then?"

"Of course, you know as well as I, that a fortress requires multiple escape routes," he said as he backed Integra up against the wall. "Now, the real question this evening is… why are you driving me so crazy?"

Integra's lips curved at the corners as her back pressed up against the wall, jangling the ancient sword that was now flat against her back. "It seems it has become a common thing for us to lay romantic claim all over Romania, especially upon long lost ruins connected to your mortal dwellings."

Maybe he just wanted to change the memories associated with these beacons of his past life, change them with pitiful grasps at happiness.

And, why not…?

Being a vampire is inexplicably, wrought with sin.

At least, that's what Integra Hellsing thought as she parted her lips, allowing her undead companion to embark on an errant journey starting with her mouth.

"Alucard" she whispered her companion's name softly over their kiss, "This is exactly what we needed and we have Seras to thank for it. Let's make sure we find her a nice keepsake."

The towering dark figure cloaked by his favourite red coat pawed eagerly beneath his lover's beige sweater with his cool bare hands, touching her velvet skin underneath that always felt warmer than his own did somehow.

Maybe it was all in his head, but he didn't care.

Holding her close to him, his lips still lingering upon hers, he said, "Then we shall find her something suitable, for indeed, this was a splendid idea. I am not wounded by being here, like I said: the past is the past."

It was not every day they went on a vacation.

He captured her mouth in another chaste kiss.

Integra's moan of pleasure carried in the cylindrical space around them. It was as if they stood in an empty stairwell in a high-rise building, its eerie sound almost ghostly, haunting as it filled the hollow space. She kissed him in return. Her vampire's lips were demanding yet supple, cool, but inviting.

They were as delicious as they were deadly.

Upon his dead flesh, she could taste the fairest hint of blood and wine. It made her thirsty. He always made her so thirsty. It stirred up the beast that thrived within her.

It drove their endless passion that ruled on this soon-to-be eventful night.

With greedy hands, Integra unbuttoned Alucard's dark suit jacket and slid her palms beneath it around his lean waist over the crisp white dress shirt that he wore. She smoothed her hands across his lower back and over the swell of his rear before gliding them up along his back again, clinging on to him fiercely.

Their fervent vampire strength gently quivered the entire building, which unsettled the dust that landed around them like grains of sand.

"Easy Alucard, we don't want to destroy the place," Integra warned him, her voice full of amusement and yet sincere caution. "What would the people of Târgoviște say if two lecherous vampires destroyed the historical landmark dedicated to their national hero?"

It was not a memory Integra felt eager to pursue.

That had Alucard chuckling darkly. He began to kiss and nibble up along her neck, whispering Romanian sweet nothings in her ear. Alucard had her enveloped in his long red duster as he loomed over her, keeping her pinned against the rigid stone wall, his groin strategically grinding against her hip bone.

"You're such a wretch." Integra understood a little of what he said in his romance language, the years spent with him had taught her many phrases and basic communication skills. Now that she shared his blood and was a vampire herself, he telepathically spoke Romanian to her once in awhile and she was able to absorb it more easily.

However, it did not make her fluent when saying it aloud.

"I may be a wretch, but you're the one the one that started this. You were thinking wayward thoughts about me… I simply acted upon them." Alucard claimed in a deep, low tenor while nosing along her throat.

His breath stirred the fine hairs on her neck, making her shiver.

Acted upon them, oh yes, Integra thought while she relished in the trouncing of Alucard's undead heart. Agreed, she was the one that envisioned him taking her up against the wall when she brought up him bringing women in here.

She was incredibly wet.

Integra's fingers brushed the front of his trousers, and then curled, gripping a handful of hard flesh over the fabric. "Mmm… I can't wait to have you in me," she purred. There was not an ounce of shame in her voice. Integra was a woman that knew what she wanted.

Alucard nearly lost it, right then and there. His breath shuddered across her ear, "I never get tired of hearing you say that.

She flashed her fangs at him.

A deep chuckle rumbled out of his throat when she hissed at him. "My heart. Mmm! I want to taste you. I want to taste all of you."

"Then stop messing around, vampire." Integra taunted him boldly in her domineering way. "What are you waiting for?"

If she wanted fast and furious, he was good at fast and furious.

Alucard snarled as he spun Integra around ready to plow into her from behind, but the sudden movement dislodged the old war sword Integra had been admiring earlier. It fell from the wall, but Integra instinctively grabbed at it with her left hand before it could hit the floor, gravity having no chance against her vampiric speed.

She caught it by the blade, which sliced into the palm of her hand.

Everything changed in that instant.

Alucard froze and Integra nearly fell forwards onto the ground but caught herself. The entire tower was gone and they were now outside in a large field in the middle of the day. The wind howled. It was cold and it felt like winter.

The tall vampire with his red duster flapping in the wind stood up straight and looked around himself completely astonished. "What the devil?"

"W-where in the hell are we?" Integra questioned.

After a small and somewhat heated discussion about Integra's latest mishaps involving her omnipresent power, in which a few times she accidently teleported herself to a different location during sex, they could not be sure what exactly happened, only… they didn't have much time to dwell on that. Suddenly, surrounding them on this colourless dreary field was two large armies galloping towards each other ready for a fight.

Unsure what in blazes was happening, they dodged an incoming blast that seemed to come from a cannonball as men clad in armour, riding on horseback, pounded towards them on either side.

Quicker than the human eye can see, Alucard and Integra escaped, and from a distance watched the scene before them unfold.

The soldiers coming from the east side, dressed in late medieval armour carrying swords and spears, some with gigantic metal shields, rode in on horses in a group of about one thousand or so. This group was but a mere shadow in numbers compared to the group on the west side. The west army easily numbered ten thousand men and were dressed in an entirely different fashion. This group mostly wore pointy, turban-styled helmets, carried sharp spears and curved swords. However, a large section of their group consisted of similar armoured militants like those of the east army.

Clearly, the east army was about to be slaughtered they were so outnumbered and more war-torn looking.

"Ottomans," Alucard finally muttered staring at the army coming from the west.

Confused, Integra blurted, "What? How is that possible? Why are we here, why are we seeing this? Is this some kind of memory?"

Slowly, the events unfolding before them became clearer for Alucard. This battle… it was so familiar. It was familiar in a gut-wrenching kind of way.

He did not even flinch as the two groups collided together with a crash of metal and horseflesh, wood knocking against wood, steel on steel, and guttural cries of those killed on impact.

"Alucard… look!" Integra gasped and pointed to a rider somewhere in the middle of the fray. "Is that…?"

Yes, it was. It was he… there on that dark horse. "It's me." Alucard whispered.

"Vlad..." Integra could not believe what she was seeing. "And look! He's got your old sword, the sword from the tower."

Indeed, it was the same sword—that was now gleaming and polished looking—that had just cut her hand a moment ago. She glanced at her left hand again in wonder, the wound there was gone.

"Did I…?"

Was she, somehow, responsible for this current situation?

It was unusual but Alucard was mildly stunned for a moment. To stand on the sidelines and be the observer of such an event from his past blew his blood-loving mind. His old self was so formidable, sitting tall on his horse laden with long black waves of hair, heavy with armour and barking out orders like a calculating murderer. So brawny and cold-blooded, even back then. He watched as Vlad fought with every fibre of his being, fighting as if…

He was fighting for his life.

"This is the last battle." It suddenly dawned on the nosferatu. He remembered now that cold, colourless day in January of 1477.

Blinking stupendously, Integra could not tear her eyes from the fiery battle. "You mean…" She said as she watched another cannonball blast into a pit of men, sending a dozen of them airborne.

"This is the battle where I get captured and taken prisoner… taken away to have my head chopped off. Taken away from humanity to become…"

"…a vampire."

Alucard did not need to answer that. "Basarab Laiotă joined forces with the Ottomans in order to put an end to my reign. He succeeded. I was outnumbered and my men surrendered."

"Of course," Integra replied. "I recall the details from many hours of reading. Are we stuck here? Can't we just leave?"

"I cannot see or feel a path out of here," Alucard answered and gazed at the prized sword that Vlad was currently using to slice an arm off an unfortunate young Turk. "Perhaps…"

Integra read his mind with her vampiric sense. "That's it. We need that sword. It could be the link back to the present."

Alucard grunted. "Like I said, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore."

"Indeed not."

Men with cannons and spears were no match for the supernatural strength vampires possessed. Integra felt no fear as she launched herself into the medieval battle, aiming to get close to Vlad and his deadly sword.

Chapter Text

Wallachia – 1477

xx

So sure of bereavement,

let it cometh—I fear nothing.

The strongest men it will take,

to end this cruel existence.

Until we met,

Extinguished was the sun.

xx

Blood spattered and swords clanged, all around them the stench of spilled entrails, putrid fear and scorched earth overwhelmed the senses. Clashing among the field of men, courageous, heavy-bodied horses breathing heavily from their nostrils, some clad with thick leather or metal armour, released bursts of steam the air was so bitterly cold.

Some of the horses were without riders, running amok in chaotic circles, stomping on the dead that littered the ground.

Yet, the battle had just begun in a place where so much life has already been lost.

Alucard was going to increase that number, tenfold.

In a criss-cross motion, he extracted a pair of semi-automatic handguns from inside his long red coat. The trusty silver .454 Casull and his latest toy, another prized hand canon, the Professional, a 14-kilogram masterpiece equipped with a high capacity chamber and a matte Nitron finish. Its bullets exploded on contact, pulverizing anything it hit. With both guns, he began to blast the faces off Turks and Wallachians alike, mowing them down effortlessly, clearing a path for Integra and himself to reach Vlad.

By the looks of it, this was an ambush and these Wallachian troops seemed caught off guard. Surely, his former countrymen stood no chance against such an enormous Ottoman army, teamed with what appeared to be another Wallachian army led by another warlord seeking to regain the throne.

Wasn't that always the case?

Cannonballs came from the west, a round blasting off randomly every couple of minutes along with arrows zipping through the air from archers at the rear. Coincidently, one of those arrows sped past Alucard's ear, passing through a lock of his hair and grazing the side of his chin with its feathered fletching

—the small wound healed quickly.

Indeed, it was an all out siege against Vlad and his downtrodden vanguard.

He would have to move faster.

"Alucard, we must communicate through telepathy only. I do not think they have seen us yet. Hopefully we can keep it that way." Integra shouted into his head. He watched her scoop up a long iron sword from the hand of a dead warrior. The man was just a young lad. Yet, the sword he carried was massive and would have been impossible for Integra to wield as a human, but she was no longer that.

She swung the two-handed sword with one hand effortlessly.

He chuckled. "They haven't spotted you, my sweet. You are much too swift for these pitiful humans," Alucard praised and watched as she gracefully navigated through the throng of men and horses.

"It might not be wise to interfere too much." She warned.

Relishing in his macabre dance of death on the battlefield, Alucard shot off his two handguns with merriment and declared, "Brilliant! It's been much too long since I engaged in worthy battle."

"Don't get too carried away, Alucard. We're not here for your entertainment. Let's just focus. We're here to get to that sword and hopefully correct this anomaly, post haste!"

Ok, so, Integra would not admit she enjoyed the deadly dance also, swinging and slashing her borrowed sword into and across the bodies of men that got in her way. That included the screaming, incoming Ottoman warrior whose head she hacked off without a second thought.

"I'm not sure, I can't think of another way to fix this," she murmured as she licked a drop of blood off her bottom lip. Mmm, the blood came from a twenty-six year old male ripe with life. "If I brought us here by omnipresent power then it should easily be corrected, right?"

"Indeed. Time should not have any effect on such a power. If that power is failing…" And that is what worried Alucard. When Integra accidently triggered her novice power of being everywhere and nowhere, a power she probably won't master for decades, she usually disappeared by herself and he would have to go find her.

However, that did not happen now.

"All I know… is when I cut my hand on that sword in the tower…" She could not finish. From behind, another foot soldier charged at her loudly and Integra twisted around to cut him down, nearly splitting the man in two from skull to torso.

"Oh. Wonderful… you just killed a Wallachian." Alucard drawled with sarcasm.

With a grunt, Integra taunted him. "Feeling sentimental, are we?"

Alucard gave no reply.


Erroneous was a fitting word to describe the thoughts of those that believed they understood the Prince, Vlad (Țepeș) Dracula, voivode of Wallachia. For a man notably encumbered by obscurity and most often fear he had uncanny sense, and now this sense felt a wave of variance overcome his army, a shift in control.

He noticed it in the enemy, too.

Morale was at its lowest for his men. He could taste death, a sour and bitter coat on his tongue upon riding into battle.

How and when, well… that was the only question that mattered.

All of these years of fighting, of bloodshed, of political fuckery and dealing with power-hungry warlords, his men were ready to give up on him completely. He knew. So many of them had already defected, he was losing support. His men, they were sleep deprived and hungry. They missed their families, their warm hearths, and the comfort of their wives' bosom. The winter has been harsh. It gnawed on their spirits. And now this ambush. Was this God's will? Surely, it was going to be his end.

However…

Vlad felt it. He knew how to measure the temperature of an ongoing battle like that of water for a perfect cup of tea.

Morale was up.

Heed! There was a fresh verve weaving miraculous hope through the veins of his warriors like a pious light. It was happening before his very eyes. What was left of his army now fought like that of ten thousand men! From the enemy, this pious light was doing exactly opposite. From their eyes shone a look of trepidation, of dread, a look that was not there moments ago.

These thoughts ran rampant through the prince's mind as he slay through hordes of men, casting them to their deaths with a mighty swipe of his long broadsword.

"Charge forth! Charge forth!" He commanded in his native tongue, boosting his ranks even further. "God is on our side today! Give no quarter! Kill those savage men trying to steal your land and convert you!"

Then, he saw it.

He saw it while dodging a spear thrust at him from behind. He lowered himself swiftly, face pressed against the dark mane of his horse while the lunging spear hit nothing but air above his shoulder. He saw a pale blur trick before his sight.

Only… was it a trick?

He sat up straight in his saddle. It quite looked like a woman, he thought.

Suddenly, the Ottoman soldiers surrounding him began to fall in quick succession clearing the circumference around his horse. It was as if someone was pulling them out from under their feet. As they went, their blood splattered across his armour and one of their helmets bounced hard off the back of his horse's rear.

The animal reared up in surprise.

Gripping the reigns swiftly and in disbelief, Vlad managed to settle the horse back down. Just as he did, he heard the distinct sound of a blade whizzing through the air. It was moving so fast it was as if he had his head stuck inside a hive of honeybees.

Yet, there came no sting to his flesh. He was not the aim of the swiftly moving sword.

Then, he saw her.

It was brief, but what he saw could only be described by two words—an angel. He was right, it was a woman, but surely she was an angel with those long platinum tresses, pale mocha skin and greyish garb that billowed around her slender form as she slaughtered the enemy with a sword as long as her legs.

It was magnificent!

Otherworldly…


From across the way, over the leagues of men and trampled winter fields the fingers of an archer trembled as he nocked an arrow into his trusty bow. He could not understand the importance or fate that his arrow would have on this battle, but it was his job to try his best to take down the enemy.

…the Wallachians and the mad Prince that ruled them for the third time.

The archer did not tremble in fear but from cold. This land was unforgiving and desolate. He longed for his warmer origins. Yet, it did not matter if he froze on the spot, he would fight for the sultan, Mehmed II. His death would be glorious if he were to die here today.

He would fight for what was just.

Something inside of him said there was a reason he was here today. Good omens were at play, he felt confident in this next shot. This arrow was going to change the course of the battle.

He could feel it.

He had a clear shot. The target was wide open, standing apart from everyone else in his grand battle armour, with long hair as black as midnight atop his magnificent steed.

With a deep breath, he launched the arrow.

It sailed over the skirmish and headed directly towards the Prince of Wallachia.


Bang! A bullet destroyed an arrow a split second before it could hit Vlad.

At first, the voivode did not notice that another entity flew towards him armed with a pair of small hand weapons. However, the deafening sound created by the small weapons stole his attention away from the sword-wielding vision that took the appearance of a woman, to discover another new arrival clad mostly in red.

Red like that of dragon's breath—

Similar to that of the woman, the red stranger moved just as fast and disappeared as a blur. Vlad was only able to catch the tiniest glimpse of a tall, dark-haired man. Stricken, the prince felt sudden unease and caution swirl in his innards.

His mustache twisted with a scowl and he muttered, "What in God's name is happening here?"


By now, word was beginning to get through to the enemy of an unknown, perhaps even magical force aiding the Wallachian prince and his army. Starting out as a strategic victory, a final fight that should have brought Vlad the Third to the end of his bitter reign… was slowly shifting in balance.

Two faceless forces were favouring Vlad's war-torn army, and they were taking men down at an inhuman pace.

Perhaps it was true maybe the rumours were right. Vlad Dracula collaborated with the devil!

It did not take long before the head of enemy ranks led by Basarab Laiotă and a fellow Ottoman commander learned of this foreboding news.


Trying her best to go unnoticed by battling soldiers, Integra feared she was not wholly successful. Still, she did not have time to think and worry about that. All she cared about was getting her hands on that war sword and returning to her relaxing vacation, dammit!

Sure, this fight was rather pleasurable. It had been a long time since she put her sword training to good use, besides the fact that there was an abundance of delicious blood flying around, but it was time to put an end to whatever-the-hell this was.

It was neither the right place nor the right time for fooling around.

She saw her opportunity when Alucard shot a rogue arrow aside that would have struck the dark-haired prince. Vlad was too busy looking to see where the bizarre deafening gunfire came from to pay attention to his sword, which lay pointed towards the ground while atop his horse.

Integra did not hesitate. She grabbed the sword with her left hand, the same hand that she cut in the Sunset Tower by this very blade which was pristine looking now, not old and ancient like it was in the year 2031.

She squeezed and bit back a cry of pain as it cut into her palm, the sting was sharp and sudden and there was a hint of silver in the metal of the blade.

Vlad instinctively yanked back on the sword, drawing the blade across skin, carving it further into Integra's palm. Her cursed blood smeared along half the length of the broadsword.

"Unhand my sword, heathen!" The prince growled at her before he even knew who had attempted to pilfer his prized sword. Once the blade was free, he raised it above his head aiming to bring it back down with a fierce blow, but he hesitated once he saw who it was.

Vlad's blue eyes flashed widely at her just then, as if he had seen a ghost. There was a shift of awe and confusion in his gaze.

Believing they were successful, Integra tossed the prince a smart retort, "That's the first time anyone has ever called me a heathen." She laughed triumphantly and inspected her bloodied palm, her breath coming subconsciously fast with anticipation.

Any second now, they would flash out of here and go back to modern Romania.

She waited.

Around her the battle waged on, but before long all sounds tuned out. All was quiet. She could hear nothing except the trouncing of her own dead heart. A sense of worry wormed its way into her mind. Why haven't they left already?! What is happening?

"Integra!" Alucard barked at her. "They can see you!"

She blinked. "What?"

"It's not working," he grumbled. "We must leave this place. Now!"

Her first thought was how strange those words seemed, Alucard never considered retreat. Integra realized then that their plan had failed. Cutting her hand on that sword did not fix anything.

"Follow me!" she bellowed aloud before darting off, aiming to get as far away from the battle as possible.

Before Alucard followed his queen, he made sure that the almighty Vlad got a good look at him and he mocked in Romanian, "I guess it's your lucky day after all, King." With an evil chuckle, he chased after Integra leaving his human self behind, gapping with astonishment in his wake.

Vlad barely had time to process when suddenly he heard the horns of retreat blast from enemy ranks.

What? They were retreating.

He… he had won. Was he dreaming?

Men that started this battle believing it was their last moments on earth now gave chase to the withdrawing Ottomans and their backstabbing countrymen belonging to Basarab Laiotă.

Vlad's second-in-command rode up to him on horseback in a clatter his armour slick with enemy blood and his face dirty. "What happened? Why do they retreat?"

"I do not know, but it would seem as if God is favouring my return to rule. For now, we return to the capital and replenish our ranks with every abled body we can. That wretch Laiotă will be back, no doubt, to usurp me and steal back the throne. This time we must be ready! We've been given a sign!" Vlad spat with resolve.

The weary officer shook his head. "That's all very good. You know I am one of your few remaining faithful servants, my lord. However, something peculiar has taken place on this field today. I'm afraid our reputation exceeded us today… you will be thought to be using dark magic instead of sheer will to fight. The people will continue to defect. I cannot stand to see you suffer disgrace."

"Silence, Grigore!" Vlad closed his eyes and sighed deeply before he continued. "They will believe no such thing for we will have every man, woman and child hunting those interlopers down, no matter the cost." His armour clanked as he turned abruptly in his saddle and bellowed for all to hear. "Hark! Send word! Find for me those two trespassers with due diligence and you will be rewarded mightily upon their capture! Hear this and know it!"

Grigore nodded favourably. "Brilliant, my lord. I'll have notices placed in every town, village and church as soon as we reach the court."

The prince of Wallachia sheathed his sword and picked up the reigns in his gloved hands covered with gauntlets. "I have never been more sure of anything, Grigore, they changed the course of battle today. They cannot have gotten far. Send the dogs! We will find them, we must. Their fate now rests in my hands. Understood?"

Grigore gave a slight bow. "Yes, my lord."

Chapter Text

Târgoviște , Wallachia – January 14th, 1477, 5:44 p.m.

xx

There is no hunting like the hunting of man, and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never care for anything else thereafter.

– Ernest Hemingway

xx

Vlad Dracula climbed the dusty spiral steps all the way to the top of the Chindiei Tower and went to the west window overlooking the capital and directly below, The Royal Princely Court. On the other side of the recently fortified, Romanesque palace with its walled-in yard and defence ditches were homes and businesses of the townsfolk that lived in Târgoviște. On the north and south side of the tower, even behind the castle, were mostly barren fields oft-times used for training by the military in the nearby barracks.

Here, in this tower, he escaped to find a moment of solace, to find a place to take a deep breath and hear his own thoughts.

For the prince's heart and mind was in a state of bitter turmoil.

He ground his teeth and looked up towards the cloudy dusky sky, beckoning the heavens. "I have done everything in your honour, everything and more… what are your plans for me? What else in this punitive lifetime must I do?"

Silence. God would not answer.

He never did.

The Wallachian prince heaved a great sigh, wrapping his thick inky blue cloak more securely around him. The winter air spilling in from the window felt as if it were blowing directly into his tightly tied up tunic. Beneath his royal garb, his skin prickled in a vain attempt to trap his body heat. He had a feeling that no amount of clothing could ward off the ice growing like a shroud around his soul.

"My lord! Are you up here?"

Vlad closed his eyes and cursed under his breath. Damn. One did not even have the pleasure of lamenting about his freezing balls much less anything else around here, he thought to himself.

His murmur came with skilled patience. "I'm here, Grigore."

A man, two years younger than Vlad's age of forty-five, plodded up the spiral stairs, his steps loud under his heavy leather boots. The voivode turned to address the man who was half a head shorter than he was with curly, shoulder length brown hair streaked with grey, appear at the top step. The other man, dressed entirely in brown shades, pants and multiple layers, tunic, shirt and a warm button-up coat, stood with his purse strung across his chest.

Grigore Ciobanu had a friendly face and kind eyes that were as green as the summer grass. Vlad noticed his bushy dark beard was trim, his face fresh. He appeared rested. The man looked so different than he did on the battlefield all covered in blood and grime the other day.

Now, that kind face expressed concern.

This man was one of his greatest lieutenants, one of the few that refused to turn his back on him and go off to fight for other warlords… unlike so many others over the few decades. Even when half his army deserted him for his now deceased brother Radu, Grigore would not budge. Vlad did not hold resentment towards his brother, whom he believed the sultan brainwashed. Family was still family after all and war would always be war.

He would avenge his family name, no matter what.

When Vlad left Hungary's prisons… Grigore returned to his side and they retook control. It seemed no matter what wicked atrocities Vlad performed, this man remained devoted. For he understands Vlad's plight during these dark times.

With a scoff, Vlad turned back towards the small window, gazing across the land. The day was becoming night on the horizon, a mix of watery blues and a hint of pink on the sheets of clouds spread over the sky.

"Should I be gravely concerned that you have sought for me?" He questioned his friend, his second-in-command.

"No concern, my lord. It is only I that wished to speak to you… in private," the other man answered. "I saw you head for the tunnels—I knew you were coming up here. I decided to follow. My apologies for intruding..."

"Hrmph," Vlad sounded, "What's done is done. Whether you are here or not, I fear I will never find the answers I seek."

"What answers do you seek, my lord? You have barely spoken to me since the battle."

One side of his black moustache arched above his lip with a smirk and Vlad spun around to face his long-time friend. He had only one question.

"Why I am still alive?"

Grigore noticeably gasped. "W-what makes you say such a thing, my lord?"

Vlad had not spoken about it until now. "I have a quandary I must share with someone. I had a dream. A nightmare would be more fitting. It felt vatic in nature… just hours before the ambush occurred."

The Wallachian warrior waited for his master to continue. "And… what did you see that left you so unsettled?"

"It is not what I saw but rather what I felt," Vlad told him. "I felt my life was rushing out of me, draining. I could not take in breath as if my mouth would not open, as if my chest was separate from my head. There was fire burning up my arm—I screamed. It was an arrow, it had pierced right through my muscle. I fell from my horse and I lay looking up at a blood red sky, blood red. And then, I was alone on the battlefield. It was moonless and void… and I felt as if everything I had done was for nothingNothing!"

"My lord, surely all of this was brought on by fatigue. Stress—"

"—it was not!" Vlad demanded. "This vision felt so real. For next I could see myself lying on the battlefield as if my spirit rose above me! And his eyes, mine eyes, they looked up at me…"

Vlad hesitated a moment, unsure if he should continue.

The king looked right at his lieutenant and spoke low. "The eyes looking back at me were as red as embers—my eyes! A monster looked back at me. Truly, it was my end, Grigore. I know it. That ambush was to be my end! It was an end promising an eternity of regret!"

All that Grigore could do was stare at his master with even deeper concern than before. He had no idea what to say.

As if madness took over, Vlad began to laugh, loud and booming. It came from deep within his chest.

When Vlad calmed, he explained further to an anxious looking Grigore. "But God has not given up on me, you see. He heard my plea! He saw my vision, and gave me a sign that not all has gone astray. That arrow, did you know, came at me—just like it did in the dream. I saw it! But—it did not strike me as it had. Instead, a red figure appeared and struck it aside. Tell me that is not a sign of God's will?"

"Yes. Yes, of course." What else could it be? It was pointless to argue with someone as stubborn as Vlad, Grigore thought. He stared at the prince, whose blue eyes now shone brightly with something he had not seen within the voivode's eyes in many, many years… hope.

"Why haven't your men found those two warriors?" Vlad began to frown.

"I cannot say, my lord. We have sent out a few of our best men to search. We even paid mind to visit the lonely cottages along the way… not a single structure has been overlooked. Perhaps…" he faltered briefly, not wishing to upset his lord any more than he already was. "Perhaps they vanished, my lord."

Grigore had sworn an oath to protect his king and warn him of any possible threats, even if those threats seemed preposterous. "Perhaps they were nothing more than a sign of God's goodwill, and we have been given a second chance."

"You speak of magic now?" Vlad replied, aghast. "Ridiculous, there was no magic involved. In the beginning, I thought that maybe it was—just like everyone else—that they could be beasts created of my darkest desires. The way that they fought, it was incredible! But they did not appear as beasts so surely, they are just people, people not from this land. They could not have simply vanished. If you recall, the two of them attempted to steal my sword. For what purpose, I do not know. What were their intentions? Where did they come from? Swear that they will be brought to me directly when you find them."

"Yes, my lord. It should not be much longer." Grigore was confident. Hunting for people was his specialty. If they were real than he would find them.

"Excellent. Their intervention created this illusion of magic that spooked those turban-wearing maggots into running away. I want to know how they did it. If it proves they plotted to dishonour me in any way, then punishment will be swift for them. They will know how it feels to dangle from spikes," Vlad said and scowled dangerously in thought. "If I have achieved nothing in this life at least I have proven to be a man of my word, would you not agree, good friend?"

Grigore had no doubt about that. He grinned and nodded in agreement.

Whatever Vlad promised to do, he did it. Or, at least, he made every viable attempt to. Wallachia's ruler handed out severe penalties to anyone who crossed him or acted with treason against the kingdom, and that included snobby backstabbing nobles like the boyars who sold out his father Vlad II.

The causatum: Wallachia had the lowest crime rate around. People feared Vlad, the Son of the Dragon, but they also felt protected.

The lieutenant decided to lighten the mood. "Come, supper awaits us in the great hall. We won't be killing any of those warmongering 'maggots' on empty stomachs, now will we?"

At this, Vlad chuckled and came closer, clapping a big hand to Grigore's sturdy shoulder. "Perchance it is you that is the sorcerer, Grigore… you read minds. I'm famished."

Grigore scoffed. "Unfortunately, you have only me to enjoy your supper with given that your wife is still in Hungary. However, I will try my best to be a worthy companion."

"I surely hope not." Vlad's black goatee and moustache twitched with mirth. "I do believe a dress on you would be most unflattering."

"Excuse me..." The lieutenant replied, taken aback by Vlad's absurd taunt. "I do not even want to know what other chicaneries are playing out in your head. Who said anything about women's clothes?"

For a moment, Vlad found himself envisioning the beautiful blonde woman he saw on his battlefield, the one who tried to steal his sword with her bare hand and did not even cry out when it pierced her skin. She was not wearing clothing like that of a common woman.

Vlad found himself lost in his own thoughts. "I… I do not know. Let's go…."

Grigore stepped aside to let Vlad head down the spiral stairs first, then, he followed along shortly after. Baffled by his master's sudden shift in tone, Grigore tagged along without another word.


Wallachia – 1477, 5:44 p.m.

"It's been four days, Alucard." Integra bemoaned, "I'm starving."

The king of vampires shifted to the side, looking over his shoulder towards the voice of his bride who was still inside a dreary old tomb. Her mind entertained thoughts filled with murderous objectives. "As I told you yesterday, unless you eat someone… I cannot do much for you."

With arms crossed over his chest, Alucard stood leaning against the cold stone wall of the small house-like tomb they slept in for the day just outside of a nearby town. He waited for Integra to join him outside in the graveyard.

An incomprehensible grumble came from within the tomb, which grew louder as the grumbler came out. With her power of intangibility, Integra materialized next to him wearing a rather sour expression on her face. "I swear Alucard, you snored the entire time we slept! I woke up every hour on the hour."

The vampire shrugged and closed his eyes so that he would not roll them in grief. "Perhaps the air is too dry. Why can't you sleep as the dead should?"

"Never mind that," Integra admonished. "I want my own coffin. My own my bed. Ugh, I feel so restless. I cannot even think straight! What' is happening to me?" Integra raked her fingers through her dishevelled hair, anxious as an addict.

He voiced softly. "I know," he assured. "It's horrible, it's always more difficult for young vampires to control their hunger. It has only been a year, and this is the first time you have gone without a daily fix. If you remember, I did warn you of such things. You have the option of drinking my blood to ease the ache, but you will get no real fulfillment, as you know. There is the option of animal blood, though. I must warn you, it is rather repulsive, but it will tide you over longer than my blood."

His red eyes shone patiently as he explained this to her, Alucard was accustomed to going long periods of time without blood, Integra thought. But animals? No, there was something awful about their blood scent. Besides, she could not imagine killing a helpless animal, sinking her teeth into their furry hides.

"No, I cannot do that. I won't. I will just have to tolerate it until we get back, suck it up… somehow." She replied.

Alucard chuffed softly at her use of the phrase 'suck it up' but remained quiet and looked around at their surroundings. He had no idea exactly where they were but suspected when they were. The late 15th century and all their modern conveniences… gone. Together, they found sanctuary in this graveyard and managed to rest up a little after days of wandering from place to place, wondering what to do.

The area was now under the veil of night.

"I know this is Wallachia," he said. "But why we are still here and stuck in the past, I do not know."

"And he is hunting us down like dogs," Integra added while digging out a cigar from her pocket. She took a moment to light the tobacco, inhaling gratefully and reminding herself that she would have to be careful how many of these she smoked, lest she ran out before they made it back to their own time. "There are wanted posters in every town we've been through. There are men on horseback searching for us."

"Perhaps the almighty king wants to turn us into vampire shish kabobs." Alucard mused, his velvet tenor deep and sarcastic.

The Hellsing woman blew out a long puff of smoke. "This is no time for jokes, Alucard. Seras must be worried sick. Are you able to get a signal on your phone?"

Alucard pushed himself away from the tomb and stood his full towering height. He fished into the pocket of his long red duster and pulled out his smart phone. "I highly doubt it will work to contact Seras. Besides, I turned it off three days ago since there is nowhere to charge it. I did not want the battery to die."

Integra snatched his phone from his hand impatiently and powered it up. "Of course, I know all that, Alucard. I am curious to see if it has the time and date."

In silence, they both stared at the black handheld device until it finished loading up. Finally, when it came to the lock screen, which depicted a wallpaper picture that Alucard took two weeks ago, the photo of them inside his coffin back home when they both first decided to go on vacation, they noticed something strange.

Half of the picture was blurry. The tops of their heads erased nearly to their eyebrows.

"That is not how this picture looked before," Alucard remarked darkly. "It has changed."

A wriggling feeling of dread raced across Integra's insides as she stared at the picture. With a grunt, she entered the lock code on Alucard's phone quickly and checked the time and date. She frowned. "The date and time hasn't changed at all. It is the same as the time we left, September 12 just after 11 p.m. The time and day we were in the Sunset Tower."

Alucard snatched his phone back and brought up a few more photos of them while on holiday. He found his favourite photograph first. It was the one of them dancing at that fancy hotel ballroom when they shamelessly decided to crash some partygoers' wedding.

No one had any idea they were not on the invite list, and some guy even offered to take their picture.

"Half of our bodies are gone!" Integra clamoured as she gazed at the photo. Everything from their feet up to their waists were gone, invisible, like they were floating.

"We're being erased from existence," Alucard believed. "I trust we've changed history."

Both stood quietly staring at the eerie photos on Alucard's phone, all of them showing fading parts of their bodies. Even the photo where she was facing the camera and laying back against the pillows, hair spilling out around her a real smile dancing on her lips—half of her face was missing. And even the sneaky photo she took using Alucard's phone, where Integra caught him sipping on an early evening blood pack, lounging in a comfy chair on the balcony patio table, reading the local newspaper—his whole head was missing!

"Changed history?" Integra repeated, absorbing the idea. Fuck! Her face lit up with a chilling revelation. "That's why the sword did not work! If we've altered history then we must change it back, or else we'll be stuck here forever."

"No, not forever… we'll eventually cease to exist here as well." Alucard theorized. "Our future selves will be re-invented. Maybe you are never born. We could end up being completely different people."

"No Count?" Integra said. "Vlad could die a normal death."

"No Integra Fairbrook Wingates Hellsing." Alucard muttered. "Perhaps no Hellsing Organization."

Colder fingers than their own, gripped at their undead vampire hearts.

"It's the battle," the No Life King stated. "I think I understand now. That battle we intervened with…"

"…Vlad was supposed to be defeated." Integra finished knowingly. "We've been utterly stupid."

Alucard nodded.

Integra blew out more smoke. "Oh, bollocks…"

"Indeed," Alucard agreed. "Not only was I, Vlad, defeated, I was captured that day and brought before judgement. I lost my head."

The vampire's lips twisted in disgust of that memory.

"And now… we stopped that from happening," Integra alleged with amazement. "This is not good. Not good at all."

"No, it is not." It was all coming back to him. Alucard recounted the way the original battle took place and it all began to make more sense.

"That morning of the battle we were given false intel, and later ambushed in that valley by armies belonging to the Ottomans and another Wallachian warlord who went by the name, Basarab Laiotă. He wanted the throne back more than anything and sided with the enemy in order to get it back. I was vastly outnumbered. There was no chance in hell. We all knew it. It was over. However, a warrior never lowers his sword, not even when he knows that he is about to die—there is no honour for men that cower in the face of death. My men began to deflect within minutes of that battle, and I felt it… I had lost all faith in God. I was spent—in life, in belief, in spirit. Defeated."

Alucard made two fists at his sides until his knuckles cracked.

"An arrow brought me down from my horse and the morale of my army—well… they were finally free of my tyrannical rule, you could say. I was captured and shackled and brought before the executioner… they wasted little time." Alucard paused his rendition and met Integra's eyes just then.

They shared the rest of the story in cruel silence.

The fateful path of a dead man walking,

seconds before death,

desperately licking the ground soaked with blood.

Like a monster.

It was an event they both knew so very well. Something they felt so very well in their shared blood.

"Oh, what have we done?" Integra wandered a few steps away, smoking her cigar with disquiet.

It happened. In the back of Alucard's mind, he could not help but wonder what outcome this Vlad would have since they changed the course of history? Would he die a natural death or was vampirism a fate in which he had no choice?

Like a Pandora's Box, the cookie jar stood full of temptations with no one looking.

"It would seem the sword, the catalyst for bringing us here, did not work because we have no connection to the future anymore," Alucard suggested.

"Then we have to fix it." Determination was a common tone on Integra's voice. "We have to ensure Vlad returns to battle and is captured, return history back to normal. Then we use the sword again."

It was all they had to go on.

"I suppose we must," Alucard said suddenly deprived of conviction, causing Integra to spin around angrily at him.

"Do not even think it!" She hollered. "I… I can't lose you. Not now... Not yet. You and I—"

"Just think of the possibilities, Integra…"

"I will not!" She would not hear a word of it. "Don't, Alucard. I cannot bear to think of a future without you." Integra raised her chin up high. "Now, get your head out of your ass and start talking sense. That's an order."

That brought a real grin to the old vampire's face. "As you wish, my Countess. It was a frivolous thought. Forgive me."


Târgoviște , Wallachia, Jan 15th, 1477, 3:03 p.m.

A youth scampered down the castle hall his loose clothing ruffling like pennants in the wind. The sandy-haired page came to a stop before a thick wooden door and knocked rapidly.

"Sir! Sir!" He bellowed.

After declaring himself, the boy pushed the squeaky door open and entered Vlad's office, which also lead into his private sleeping quarters. Inside, Vlad sat at an ornate wooden desk, quill in hand, currently writing a letter on a piece of parchment. When he saw the pageboy enter the room, he placed his quill back into the inkpot and turned with interest towards the young lad.

"What is it, Gelou?" Vlad questioned with an arched brow. "Have you been running? Are we under attack?"

The boy shook his head. "No, my lord, Sir Grigore sent me to fetch you straight away. You have visitors. They are waiting for you outside the palace walls."

"Outside the walls…?"

"Yes. I do not know why they are outside on the street. I have not seen who it is. Sir Grigore and Sir Ion will not let me see and ordered me to come fetch you." The young man explained, standing near the doorway, hands behind his back.

Vlad pushed his chair back and brought his tall, sturdy frame to his feet. Briefly, he adjusted his heavy dark blue, silver-buttoned coat he wore over a white undershirt with a tassel-like leather belt around his waist. His black leather, knee-high boots thudded across the floor as he made his way closer to the boy, whose hair he ruffled in a friendly manner with his big hand when he reached him.

"Your diligence has been noted, boy. Now move along," he ordered the page.

Gelou nodded obediently and left without another word.

Vlad left his office and headed in the opposite direction than that of the pageboy. He shuffled down a curved staircase into the lower hallway heading towards the small chapel. He walked right through the chapel and headed for the front exit. Two armed guards let him pass quickly when they saw who it was and once outside in the sunny courtyard, someone hollered to open the palace gate.

Grigore and another brave soul under Vlad's command, Ion Lupescu, both sturdy, able-bodied fighters and leaders of his army, stood waiting for him. Both had a hand on the hilt of their sword that hung at their hip. As always, they were ready to physically deal with any threat should there be one.

"Halt!" Grigore waved at the doorkeeper to stop the opening the gate. "It must be decided by the king."

"My Lord!" Ion hissed when Vlad was close enough to hear. "It's them."

All around the yard, guards, servants and people looked on curiously, going about their business a little slower than usual. However, they kept their distance lest they wished to anger their lord, who was known to take matters into his own hands violently.

"Them?" Vlad looked over at the half-raised gate.

"The two interlopers, my lord," Grigore said heatedly. "They're here! They showed up all by themselves at the front gate, accompanied by no one. They asked for you by name."

Astonishment filled Vlad's features at first, sapphire eyes wide and lips surrounded by coarse black hair slightly parted. Then, quickly, it transformed into a hardened scowl. For a moment all was silent accept the whinny of a few nearby horses in the stables, the hammer of a blacksmith and the wail of an infant babe.

And the thudding of his mortal heart…

So, it is true. They are real. Just people. Now… they are here! They came alone. It was either incredibly brave or incredibly stupid.

"Let them in," he commanded, squaring his shoulders and taking in an unnoticeably deep breath.

No one made a fool out of a Dracula. He would make sure of this.

It seemed so painstaking, but the solid wrought iron gate began to lift inside the fortified wall with the pull of heavy chains. All eyes went to the two figures, most noticeably, dressed in a peculiar style of clothing, on the other side of the gate.

There was a man as remarkably tall as Vlad himself, dark-haired and adorned in a long red coat, a wide red-brimmed hat on his head with a pair of odd spectacles on his face, standing next to a woman who came to his shoulder. Her most striking feature was her hair, nearly void of colour, was platinum in shade. It spilled out of the left side of a grey hood pulled over her head, shading her face. She wore a long grey coat that went to her knees and belted closed at her waist.

"What are we going to do with them, my lord?" Ion wondered as the two began to walk towards them.

Grigore tore his eyes from the strangers, wondering what was next. "Sir?"

The prince, he had it all figured out.

As soon as the two were in reasonable reach, Vlad ordered his guards. ""Seize them! Throw them in the dungeon!"

Chapter Text

Târgoviște, Wallachia – January 15th, 1477, 3:12 p.m.

xx

 A pair of Wallachian royal guards decked out in armour approached them, and by the looks on their faces, they meant business.

“Hrmph! What did I tell you?” Alucard grumbled to his bride in private so nobody else could hear them. “I knew he would do this.”

Across the way, on the other side of the gate, stood three brawny men, one of them being Vlad Dracula, who scowled at them with menace and suspect.

Yup. Alucard's old self was going to be a serious piece of work, Integra thought. “Well, at least we’re getting inside the palace and hopefully we can persuade him as we discussed. We must try.”

Alucard looked over. The guards were nearly upon them. “Here they come. Be sure to relax your body when they grab you, let them believe we are nothing more than feeble humans. Quick, we should mask our eye colour,” he advised wisely.

The vampire king was a master of disguise, after all.

“You're right, it would be best if no one discovers that we are vampires.” With little effort, she returned her eye colour to a brilliant blue shade, and when a guard grabbed her arm, nudging her to move forward with a sword pointed at her back, Integra did as her mate suggested. She let him handle her in the manner of a mortal, instead of remaining planted on the spot like a stone pillar.

The strength of a vampire was no match for that of a human.

These were definitely thoughts Integra had not considered much before, seeing as she spent most of her time around those where she did not have to hide the fact that she was an inhuman creature.

Alucard and Integra walked towards the Wallachian prince and his two able subordinates, passing under the gate and onto the castle grounds.

“Know that you are my prisoners until I deem otherwise.” Vlad's dark threat came delivered with malevolence. “Guards, take them away. I will call for them shortly.”

The two vampires watched as Vlad turned his back on them and walked away, while all around them civilians ogled and whispered into each other’s ears.

Other than the fact that they smelled delicious, Integra paid them no heed. Instead, she was agog by the scenic view before her, The Royal Princely Court. The stone edifice stood unscathed, its ramparts proud and long halls leading to the keep at the back nicely fenestrated. It teemed with sublime glory as it did in the late medieval period, Romanesque architecture intact and functional, including the Chindiei Tower looming behind it.

Even though it was winter and the ground at their feet was frozen and barren, it was a sunny afternoon, which brought the center of Wallachian affairs to life.

“Will you look at that,” Integra breathed out in amazement. "It’s so grand. It definitely rivals many estates back home.”

All of this was something else for Alucard, something he could not quite put words to. He gazed upon a piece of himself that he never fathomed he would ever see again.

“Wonderful...”

The old vampire did not sound very enthusiastic and Integra looked at him sharply as Vlad’s royal guard shoved at their backs rudely. “What’s the matter?”

“I fear you are enjoying this a little too much, Integra.” He said.

She looked at him as if he was crazy. “Please, Alucard. This is a rare opportunity."

"Is that what you think?" Alucard scoffed. “You Hellsing’s never cease to amaze me. Given the opportunity to seek knowledge and exploit, even at the expense of your own life, you all gladly walk into the flames like inquisitive little moths.”

Inside Alucard’s mind, Integra laughed wholeheartedly, temporarily forgetting about her ongoing thirst for blood or the fact that the sun was irritating the hell out of her today. With a small adjustment to the hood of her grey coat, making sure it blocked out as much sun as possible, she said. “Oh, stop being such a poor sport. We’re stuck here, it seems, so we might as well make the best of it.”

Alucard hated to admit it, but “Perhaps you have a point.”

There were no other choices. If they changed history, it was up to them to set it back in place. And doing so started here in Târgoviște, with his former self, Vlad Dracula.

The guards led them around the side of the palace and down into a tunnel that led to the dungeon beneath the castle. Upon entry into the narrow, low-ceiling tunnels, they detected the horrid stench of urine, excrement and decay.

“Oh, magnificent, I’d nearly forgotten the smell of the fifteenth century,” Alucard muttered with complete disgust and lowered his head so it would not bang off the low doorway frame that seemed built for midgets, he considered irritably. “This place needs an air freshener.”

Integra was wriggling her nose and for some reason, the desolate state of the dungeons and the mention of air fresheners, briefly drummed up a memory of Walter, her former butler. "No wonder there were so many epidemics of typhoid, cholera and plague all over Europe back in the day.”

There was no natural light coming into the dank, dark tunnels, only torch light, which one of the guards grabbed off a wall sconce behind them. They passed by a few cells and from within came the rambling moaning of prisoners in several states of distress.

"Our new neighbours," Alucard taunted. "Should we invite them over for dinner?"

Integra did not even bother to respond to that.

Finally, at the end of the passage, one of the guards stopped and put a key into a heavy lock and opened another squat door with a tiny, barred window made of thick metal.

“Get in." The guards told them.

Without objection, they stepped inside, pretending to be Vlad’s obedient prisoners.

“You two are much too quiet for prisoners that could end up being stuck like a screamin' pig,” one guard declared in his native Wallachian tongue. He chuckled at the notion.

The other guard added. “They haven’t said a single word the whole time. Not a one. Might be your only chance," he told them. "Depending on what the voivode has in store for you two. From what I hear, you two have got him pretty riled up.”

Integra mused to herself. “Is that so?"

When neither of them responded to their derision, the two guards locked them inside and wandered away talking among themselves.

The lack of sunlight felt very welcoming to Integra, being up during the day was truly draining. Especially since, she was dying of hunger. Running her fingertips across the cold, damp walls made of stone, she muttered, “The accommodations need a little work.”

Alucard grunted. "That's an understatement."


January 15th, 1477, 8:08 p.m.

All that fuss and they only spent a few hours in the drafty dungeon before a different pair of guards came to fetch them.

Alucard reminded her before anyone saw them. "You best restore the gash to your hand, lest they discover you've miraculously healed since cutting it on Vlad's sword."

"Oh, that's right." Integra silently morphed a sharp claw from her thumbnail and tight-lipped, cut a fresh wound into her palm.

As they followed the guards, Integra was, once again, busy inspecting the details of the royal palace and all of its medieval charms. She took in the vaulted ceilings, the well-worn carpets and the beautifully crafted tapestries. Around her, on the walls, were paintings of noble men and women she did not know, and along the hallway massive gothic candelabras filled with burning candles, lighting the way.

At last, they reached a big room with doors thrown wide open, filled with officials and clergymen on both the right and left, leaving an aisle open in the middle. They all gathered, with great curiosity, to see what the Prince of Wallachia had in mind for the two trespassers.

The entire room was lit up by two enormous candle chandeliers winched up high overhead. Even then, the light was weak and gave the room a dusky atmosphere.

Alucard recognized this hall. This was where he had held numerous audiences with several rulers, passed down many judgements and sentenced a countless number of people to their deaths. Only now, he was on the opposite side of that power. Now, he was the subject of this assembly waiting to hear his fate.

Pft! How ironic. He stifled a snort of disbelief.

A part of him felt convinced that all of this was some kind of ridiculous hallucination. That he would wake up any minute now to find that they never even left London—never even went on the vacation, of which he could not deny, was actually starting to enjoy.

No. That would be too easy.

At the end of the hall, Vlad sat on his ornate throne with its tall back, raised up on a few steps, watching them sternly as they approached. The prince was still wearing the same dark blue coat adorned with silver buttons with a belt tied around his waist from earlier, with a pair of beige pants. His posture was brazenly arrogant with his fingers curled around the ends of the armrests, knees spread wide with one leg stretched out so that they could see the dusty sole of his tall, black leather boot.

Alucard decided right then, that they looked nothing alike centuries apart. Indeed, Vlad and he were the same height, had the same colour hair, but Vlad was brawny and had more colour on his face whereas Alucard was lanky and pale.

“I can’t get over how much hair you had back then,” Integra told him telepathically.

Indeed, he had. Vlad’s long wavy hair was as dark as a raven’s feather, even the sparse hair growing above his lip and at the base of his chin, which gave him a devilish, barbaric sort of look.

Integra could not help herself, finding all of this rather amusing. “I wonder what he'd think if he knew that I knew that he’s furry all over. That—I know what he looks like naked.” She knew, of course, from the countless times Alucard transformed into his Vlad form and seduced her. She knew, because she loved plastering her hands against that muscular, dark-haired chest moaning out Alucard’s name while he fucked her.

Sometimes, his woman was more debased than he was, Alucard thought. He wasn't sure if he should be proud of that or not and chastised, “Integra… now, is not the time."

Her response was an impish chuckle that resonated in the recesses of Alucard's mind.

When they reached the throne, a court official ordered them. “Kneel before the Prince of Wallachia”.

There was no room for debate.

They knelt.

There was a pregnant pause. A discommodious silence as they gazed up at Vlad and Vlad looked down at them. It was there, without words, a strange propinquity. Neither understood it, and no one questioned it. It simply existed by blood.

But shared blood or not there was nothing ordinary about this encounter and Vlad was very wary about these newcomers in his city.

“Remove your hat and spectacles.” He ordered Alucard in medieval Romanian. “How insolent of you to come before me hiding your face, I have struck down many for much less."

With a knowing smirk—for he was once this man seated on this very throne—Alucard responded as well in medieval Romanian, “As you wish, my lord. I meant no disrespect.”

For a moment, Vlad simply blinked at Alucard as he slid his orange-tinted sunglasses into the inside pocket of his long red duster and took off his wide-brimmed hat, holding it in front of his breast as if in deep regret.

The prince was very surprised by Alucard’s use of his native tongue.

Vlad’s thick brows stitched together and he took a hard look at the man cloaked in a red frock coat that pooled around him on the floor as he knelt. He noted his hazel-green eyes, sharp facial features and unruly unkempt black hair. “I… I see that you speak the language very well,” he said with caution. “Where are you both from? What are your names?”

“I am Alucard and this is Integra, we are nothing more than travelling mercenaries from England. Currently, we are without a lord to serve.” Alucard delivered his line as he and Integra decided before they got here.

“England?” Vlad shot a quick glance at the kneeling blonde-haired woman and then back to Alucard. “But you speak as if you were born here!”

There was a murmur among the crowd.

"Silence!" Vlad ordered them.

When all was quiet, Alucard continued. "My mother was of Wallachian decent, she taught me the language as a child," he lied, sort of.

Vlad was beyond curious now. “How did you end up in England?”

“Drifting from place to place… it is where I met my wife.” The No Life King glanced over at his vampire bride with nothing less than sheer adoration in his eyes.

But, Vlad was not so sure about that. “If you are married then where are your bands proclaiming such a union? I see no such ornamentation on your person."

Integra could not take it anymore. "Yes. Married. We were robbed." Her Romanian was elementary at best. "Placed rings in our hats."

"Appalling..." Alucard sighed.

"Oh, shut it!” she roared.

For some reason Vlad’s hard stoic look softened. Suddenly he was smirking as his attention shifted towards Integra once more.

"Did he teach you how to speak the language?" he asked Integra, while waving a hand in Alucard direction. Vlad noticed she wore the same clothing as she did on his battlefield, a long light grey coat over a beige sweater made of sheep’s wool, along with a pair of dark trousers and dark slip on shoes. "I believe you meant to say 'boot' instead of 'hat' perhaps? Seems like an unwise place to hide something of such importance. And it was stolen from you either way. How could you let them take it?"

The prince wore a doubtful expression then. For he saw with his own two eyes how these two fought on his battlefield, skilled in combat unlike he has ever seen.

Alucard intervened. “Forgive her. She understands the language better than she can speak it.”

“Ahh, I see. Then this is why she remains quiet and lets you do most of the talking,” Vlad mused. “Tell me, Integra, how did a woman like you learn to use a sword like that?”

Alucard was about to answer again but the voivode stopped him.

“No,” Vlad commanded. “I want her to answer. I find it rather… amusing.”

Why you ill-mannered boob! Integra was grinding her teeth, and instead of waiting for Alucard to guide her in speech, she forged ahead stubbornly. “My father teach me. Since I was old enough to hold sword. He say… I stronger than goat.” Then, she switched to English and muttered with annoyance, “I bet I could teach you a few things, voivode.”

It was so quiet in the assembly hall you could hear a pin drop.

Vlad brought in his stretched-out leg, planting both feet on the floor and sat up straighter, knees still spread. Then, like a bolt of lightening, he slapped the arm of his chair, which startled many, and laughed. His deep bellows filled the great hall and carried throughout the entire castle.

The prince's henchmen, Grigore and Ion, who stood next to Vlad on opposite sides of his throne, laughed also.

Integra seemed confused and looked over at Alucard. “I don’t get it, what did I say?”

Even the mighty vampire king appeared to be holding back a chuff of delight. “It seems that you told them that you are stronger than a goat… when you probably meant ox.”

Many people in the hall were snickering also much to Integra’s displeasure.

"What is that other language you speak?" Grigore questioned Integra above the din. “English? What did else did you just say to my lord?"

Before Integra could make things worse, Alucard answered Grigore himself. “She said that she uses her sword to slay the enemy.”

Abruptly, Vlad’s laughter came to a stop. His face filled with menace and his demeanor switched like day to night. “If that is so… then what possessed her to try and pilfer my sword on the battlefield?”He asked Alucard.

Not intimidated by Vlad’s haughtiness, Integra held her chin high. On top of that, she was not about to let Alucard keep speaking for her! “Perhaps, I wished to see if the prince’s sword was as sharp as his tongue!”

Everyone in the room gasped for she spoke perfect Romanian just then, but they also gasped when they realized what she said to their hotheaded ruler.

“Oh, now you’ve done it.” Alucard jeered at his woman. “We’ll be thrown in the dungeon and probably die here—never to return to the modern world. No. Better yet. We'll be impaled to death. Suppose I deserve it.”

Integra scoffed. “I will not stand here on my knees like some kind of vagrant and be laughed at for another moment by these arrogant fools, Alucard!”

“Then what will you do, Integra, my ferocious queen?" The king of vampires purred playfully. "Slay them with your wit?”

Vlad's firm gaze lingered on Integra longer than was appropriate and it made Alucard very uncomfortable. To him it was not a look of a man outraged. Rather, it was a look of a man transfixed. Alucard knew because, it was how he gazed at Integra every single day, but it was not how other men were supposed to gaze at his most prized possession.

The vampire had not felt these kinds of emotions in some time and before he could stop himself, Alucard cleared his throat obnoxiously loud. "She was not trying to steal your sword, prince. She was trying to save your life," he growled.

Without moving his head, Vlad’s eyes darted at Alucard, and then hardened. “There is something about you,” he said. “But I cannot put my finger on it. Have we met before? Why were you on my battlefield? If neither of you were there to steal my sword, or to kill me, then why were you both there?" Vlad pounded the armrest with a clenched fist in anger. "Dammit! Hand over your weapons and speak, man. Speak quickly, so help you God.”

You and your precious god, Alucard thought bitterly. He was reluctant, but the red-clad vampire dug out his two enormous handguns and placed them carefully on the step before him.

“No. We have never met." Alucard was not about to sugar coat it, because the fact that he just uttered such a line seemed perfectly preposterous. "However, we were on a journey and came across your outnumbered army in the midst of battle. Your struggle was evident—we decided to intervene, to assist. Being half Wallachian myself, I took pity on you and your cause." He tried very hard to keep a straight face. "Let it not be forgotten, we saved your life so that you could sit on this throne another day."

Vlad contemplated that for a moment.

"Now…” It was Alucard’s turn to narrow his eyes and demand his former self, “Believe what you will, Vlad Dracula. Drag us before the guillotine and separate us from our heads or let us rot on a spike, or… let us fight for you.”

Grigore broke the silence. He came over and picked up the two strange weapons that Alucard left on the step, holding them up by their stock. “They are so heavy!”

Distracted from the main discussion for a moment, they all inspected the strange metal hand weapons that Grigore held up on display.

“A man and woman mercenaries—and you just happened to stumble upon our fight?” Ion wondered, his tone full of distrust.

“It is true,” Integra insisted. “We DID just stumble upon fight.”

The men ignored her.

“Where did you get such weapons?” Vlad questioned Alucard. “They are… they are not of this world.”

“Then your country is behind the times, I fear, for England has many of these inventions. Careful, if you pull the trigger it will fire a bullet. And if you fire recklessly, you could shoot yourself,” the No Life King warned them. “It could end badly for you.”

Alucard did not care what they thought. It was not as if they could simply call England and check his story out any time soon. Hopefully by the time they did figured it out, Integra and he would be back in their proper time.

Grigore felt it reasonable to place the two guns on a tray held out by a nearby servant boy after the warning. The tray lowered significantly in the young man's hands from the sheer weight of the guns, but he did not drop it.

Gelou, the pageboy, wandered off with the guns quickly.

Vlad merely grunted at Alucard’s response about his country being 'behind the times'. “It still takes a real man to wield a sword than to rely on a weapon that runs out of fighting prowess,” he retort and turned his attention towards the blonde-haired foreigner again. “Yet, before me… stands a woman that wields a sword like that of a man. I have never… in my forty-five years… seen anything quite like it. Trust, I have seen women fight with sword, but not like how you did on my battleground.”

His piercing stare burned into her long enough to make Integra glower at him.

The prince merely smiled at her, for he too, was unthwarted by her fiery nature. “Tell me, do you always dress like that?” he asked her, his eyes roving over her clothes without reserve. “When was the last time you wore a gown more befitting of a woman?”

Alucard kept a stoic facade, but he was getting the distinct feeling that Vlad was flirting with his lady. What was worse was that he had the gall to do it right in front of him as if he was not even there! The vampire gnashed his deadly teeth together, flexing his jaw, resisting the urge to tear out dear old Vlad’s pompous throat.

“It…it’s been some time,” Integra finally answered, not sure where Vlad was going with this.

The prince looked downtrodden. “What a shame, perhaps there will soon be a reason to wear one, but it is entirely up to you—not his,” Vlad added tossing a scowl at Alucard. “I want you to decide yours and his fate, Integra.”

Their fate…?

Integra glanced over her right shoulder at her distraught vampire mate, who was glaring at the prince as if he would like have him for breakfast. Then, she looked back at Vlad charily and asked confused, “Decide how, exactly?”

“It is simple. I am taking you up on that offer. Fight for me. Join my ranks. Do so, or you both die slow and agonizing deaths.” The prince sounded so pleasant about it.

“Alright,” she said.

Alright…?" Vlad seemed uncertain by her swift response. "Alright, you wish to die…?”

Integra shook her head. “No. Alright, as in, we will fight for you.”

“Argh! I cannot remember being this much of snivelling maggot punk, I—”

“Alucard, don’t.” Integra stopped him in mind. “We’re in. We did it. He bought the story. Now all we have to do is get him back on the battlefield and captured by the enemy.”

“Is that before or after he gets his fill of toying with you?” Alucard sneered.

“Are you jealous that he finds me attractive?” Integra countered with disbelief. “Don’t be absurd, Alucard. He was once you. Perhaps… he cannot help it. Let him grovel. Maybe we can use it to our advantage. Do you not trust me? Do you think of me so weak?”

“Of course not,” the nosferatu grumbled.

 Integra assured her beloved in a soft whisper. “Never forget, Alucard, you are and always will be… my dear count.”

“And you will always be my darling countess,” Alucard replied affectionately. “But—just look at him, it’s pathetic. He’s gawking at you as if you are the ray of sunshine on his dark and dismal world.”

Hmm, it was true. Vlad was beaming at her. It was an endearing look for the barbaric warlord. "Well, am I not?" Integra reasoned.

As a vampire or a misguided human king, Alucard could not deny it. Integra was his salvation.

"Yes. It would be an honour to fight for you, my lord," she emphasized.

He was her salvation, too.

“Splendid!" The prince praised. "Then you are now my honoured guests. You must replenish your strength and heal that hand, Integra. Eat and get strong and then… we will conquer this land together! Welcome to my home."

The people in the hall began to cheer.

Grigore and Ion glanced at each other carefully.

Vlad waved them all to silence. "Now, all that is left is to prepare suitable rooms for you.” He held up a hand and ordered a nearby dark-haired servant girl dressed in a simple floor length, blue working dress with a white pinafore. “Integra can stay on the north side and Alucard in the servant’s quarters." He explained to the girl. "Now, be off.”

With a nod, the girl ran off to prepare the rooms for Vlad's new visitors.

“Wait—what?” Integra made a face. Did she just hear that correctly? “Surely you not untie me from my husband.”

Vlad appeared completely unmoved by her question. He also figured she was trying to say ‘separate' instead of ‘untie’ in her vain attempts to speak his language.

“I simply cannot trust either of you just yet—you must understand this. Your loyalties must be proven,” Vlad reasoned. “Besides, you cannot attest that you two are wedded before the eyes of God and, until you do, you will both slumber in separate quarters.”

Alucard was not buying any of that. “I’m telling you he’s a lying worm, Integra! He's just making this awfully convenient for himself. How about we go to the chapel right now… let's get married!”

“Hush, Alucard.” Integra urged her covetous mate and—at the same time—nodded towards the prince respectfully. “If that is your belief, my lord, then ‘ok’ it is fine.”

The Wallachian warlord scoffed, amused by her use of English and Romanian in one sentence. “Bellum Romanum!” He roared in Latin. “Do you know what that stands for, warrior lady?”

At this Integra repaid Vlad's righteous scoff with one of her own and asked Alucard to translate exactly what she was about to say, so it did not sound like a child replying.

"Fine," Alucard agreed. "She says: Of course, every scholar knows the meaning of that phrase. It translates into ‘Roman War’ literally, but in general terms means: to fight as the Romans do. Yes?”

Again, Vlad clapped a hand to the armrest of his chair with incredulity. “Yes, indeed! My, you are a well-versed woman. Truly, with the addition of two such glorious fighters in my defences,” he began to tell the court, “We will bring together a new army like no one has ever seen. We shall scorch the earth like Julius Caesar and drink our wine from the skulls of our enemies like that of the earliest tribes that once ruled this steppe. Nothing will stand in our way. We will crush those corrupt zealots like the bugs that they are!”

The assemblage praised and hailed more loudly than before, it was aberrant to see their leader in such high spirits. For them, it could only mean better things to come then the precarious life they lived now.

Ah, yes. The proclamation of new battles to fight and the addition of his two newest fighters gave Vlad an appetite. He even patted his belly with a groan. “I’m ravenous. Let us sup. You both must be very hungry, no?”

A querulous Alucard gave the prince a brusque nod. “Famished does not even begin to describe it,” he murmured oh-so graciously. “Give me your bloodiest piece of meat.”

“Oh ho!” Vlad liked such a hearty reply and rose from his seat, standing to his full lofty height. “Rare is always best. I must agree. Then, you shall have it, friend.”

Alucard tried his best to look impressed but almost certainly failed. “I cannot wait.”

While Vlad dismissed everyone from the court Integra spoke privately to Alucard.

“Does this mean I have to pretend to like human food?” She did not like the sounds of that.

“Stick to the meat and wine and it won’t be so bad,” Alucard told her. “If the meat is truly on the rare side, you might actually benefit.”

Vlad did not wait until the hall emptied before heading off towards the dining hall. He spun around to see if his guests were following in his wake. “Do not just stand there,” he lamented when he saw that they still rested on their knees before his throne. “Get up. Come. Follow me. We have many, many things to discuss. I will properly introduce you to my lieutenants, Grigore and Ion—they will teach you all that you need to know when it comes time for battle.”

Grigore gave a well-mannered nod in their direction.

Ion merely scoffed.

“You heard the man,” Integra said in English with a wry grin. “The prince awaits our company.”

The nosferatu grunted.

Chapter Text

Most of the time he was a man of God but right now, Makube wasn't sure what to call it. He stood with arms outstretched, shoving at Heinkel Wolfe's rear end, helping his second-in-command wriggle through the only opened window they could find.

What they were about to do… was nothing short of dangerous.

They were breaking into the Hellsing Organization's HQ while its occupants were away.

It was for the greater good, this was the Pope's decree and bending rules did not apply when being an extension of God's hand.

Makube would never admit that beneath his priestly robes, he was perspiring anxiously or that Heinkel's tush felt rather… nice. Yet, this was no time for analyzing the appeal of one's backside! He gave the other Iscariot and extra push.

Heinkel Wolfe, the shorter, blonde-haired Iscariot lost her balance then, and frantically reached out for something to grab, which resulted in flushing the toilet. She cursed and nearly crashed head first into the white ceramic bowl inside one of Integra Hellsing's pretty, little powder rooms.

Luckily, Heinkel avoided the toilet water and managed to catch herself, sliding through the window and into the tiny room like a show seal. Once the noisy toilet turned quiet again, she brought herself up on all fours on top of a soft white rug and listened. When she heard nothing, she stood and returned to the window, lifting the pane as high as it would go so that Makube could make his way inside as well. He was much taller so he could easily pull himself up and into the small washroom without much assistance.

Wolfe adjusted her priestly, long black coat and stuffed the chained crucifix back into her shirt that had slipped out during the fall. She swept aside her shaggy straw-coloured bangs out of her war-torn face and glowered at her reflection in the oval-shaped mirror, which mocked her above the oval hand sink.

"It's all vlear." Heinkel said, her unique intonation caused by her scarred mouth.

Before this act of unlawful entry, Makube and Heinkel scoped out the place and waited for the ideal moment when Seras and her annoying guard dog Pip left for the federal barracks for their scheduled meeting with Penwood's anti-freak squad.

Finally, all the tabs they have been keeping on Hellsing lately was paying off.

Usually at these times, Seras took most of the Hellsing task force with her for training support. Being their appointed commander for the last thirty years, she was diligent that Hellsing's forces always remained prepared for battle should there ever be other madmen like the Nazi Major or Sergiu Medrea.

Therefore, right now was the best time to snoop through the Hellsing manor in search of a special tome. It was special because the book contained a spell that could possibly put a stop to powerful vampires like Seras, Alucard and Integra.

This was their chance and the Iscariots were determined to get their hands on it.

It was risky, but Makube did not trust anyone else for this job. If Integra found them out, she would definitely make mincemeat out of them. As apocryphal as their relationship already was, it would sever all ties with Hellsing indefinitely. It could set off a war that Section XIII was not yet in a position to fight.

Until they found a way to destroy them, or even stop them, it was wise to keep the powerful Hellsing vampires as allies until they had the means to end them ad infinitum.

"Let's find that book and be quick about it." There was a stroke of urgency in Makube's tone. "There are not many people inside the house but there are other security measures we must be cautious about. Touch nothing along the hallways. You never know what Integra Hellsing has up her sleeve."

"Not to vorry avout the CCTV." Heinkel whispered. "We have thirty-minuets of interference crossing the signal—their cameras vill record nuffin'."

"Excellent," Chief Makube claimed. "Then let's find Integra's office first. That is where we last saw the book."

The bathroom door opened slowly and two heads turned left and right, peaking up and down the hallway.

The coast was clear.

They knew the layout of the house fairly well, due to all their nosey visits. It seemed much too easy to find the back staircase that led upstairs to Integra's office. So far, they did not hear a soul or encounter any traps. It gave them an aplomb boost of confidence.

Perhaps… this would be just in and out.

Just as Heinkel's hand reached out for the doorknob leading into Integra's office, they heard a voice. Suddenly, that confidence melted into a state of dread. Their blood ran cold. Shit. Shit. Shit!

"I can't understand what's going on with the cameras." A man said from out of sight. It sounded like it was coming from the main front lobby staircase. "Judy, I'm going over here to check things out just in case."

"Alright," replied the woman.

Heinkel and Makube wasted no time barging into Integra's office and dashing for her desk, under which, they hid like two sanctified sardines. The two of them packed themselves in the tight space, backs pressed hard against the desk, heads resting over each other's shoulder ear-to-ear, and hot breath blowing down each other's shirt collars.

Sure enough, the door to the office creaked open and the dreaded click of footsteps entered. The two Iscariots remained ramrod still, a hand clamped over their mouths to muffle their alarmed breathing.

The footsteps ricocheted like gunshots. They got closer.

And closer...

"Marvin?" A woman called from the doorway. "Shall I call Miss Seras and inform her about this?"

The hard-soled shoes—responsible for making all the heart-stopping footfalls—halted suddenly. Then, with a sigh of relief, they turned in the direction of the female voice. "No. That's not necessary," replied Marvin. "It's probably just a glitch, some kind of interference. It might take a while to find out if it is intentional. Stay on alert, though… just in case."

The voices began to grow faint as the two Hellsing servants left the office and headed down the hall.

Makube and Heinkel nearly spilled out of their hiding place into a heap of cramped limbs—their hearts pounding. They took a brief moment to regain their composure before getting back to the assignment at hand.

Thanking God, Makube crossed himself.

Wasting no time, they looked for the spell book they last saw on top of the desk. It was here a few days ago when they paid Seras a visit—only to find out that Integra and her bloodsucking lover boy were away on business.

However, the book was no longer there. They even checked the drawers and the entire office.

"Vhere is it!" hissed Heinkel, spittle flying past her lips.

"We cannot leave here without that book." Makube sighed and closed his russet-coloured eyes. They may never get another chance, and there was no way he was about to put himself in this kind of position again.

It was now or never. Yet, the options were endless. The Hellsing manor was an enormous place with a ton of rooms and just as many secrets. The book could be anywhere.

There was no other option but comb the house. Eventually, they stumbled into a huge unlocked bedroom with a large bank of windows facing the front yard with most of the curtains closed, blocking out much of the setting sunlight.

Makube ran his fingertips over a soft blue comforter that covered the queen-sized bed and noted the strange scratch marks on the headboard. It looked like claw marks from some kind of animal. Thinking there was no point rationalizing anything he saw inside the Hellsing manor, he knelt in front of the night side table next to the bed.

Perhaps he would get lucky and find the tome here.

According to the blue digital clock on the surface, they had twenty minutes left before the surveillance cameras came back online. Makube opened the cupboards of the nightstand, which revealed an expensive bottle of bourbon, a handgun, an un-opened bottle of red wine, an empty blood bag and a copy of Lady Chatterley's Lover.

The bishop picked up the book and briefly flipped through pages, wondering if there was any hidden information that could be useful. After reading a short passage, his face burned red hot.

"Oh mio Dio." Swiftly he crossed himself once more and set the book back into the nightstand. For the first time in a long while, Makube felt a very un-priestly response to such erotica.

Heinkel snarled in the direction of the bishop who seemed terribly out of focus all of the sudden. She noticed how the man's cheeks matched the colour of his eyes. "Vhat's the matter with you, Makube? Did you find anything useful?"

The high priest merely shook his head 'no' silently.

With a scoff, Wolfe pulled open a dresser drawer, rummaging around inside before realizing her hands were clearly going through someone's unmentionables. Were these Integra's…?

Hanging from her index finger, Heinkel pulled up a pair of sexy black lace panties.

Makube saw the underwear and turned an even deeper shade of red. "The book is not in there!"

Heinkel dropped the underwear back into the drawer as if it was a filthy disease. "Then vhere the hell is it?"

Thinking about it, Makube suggested. "Maybe it's in Seras's room? She is the only one here besides the housemaid and that security guy."

"Ugh! That means vinding the secret entrance to the basement!" Wolfe growled. "Vee will never find it in time."

"Maybe the housemaid put it away—the library, perhaps?" Makube offered, not sounding as calm as usual. Normally, the man was a master of keeping his cool, unlike Heinkel Wolfe, but now beads of sweat began to collect across his brow, betraying his mask of unyielding composure.

"Vucking vampires," grumbled Heinkel Wolfe. "Let's hurry."

They made their way downstairs and settled on the library because they had been to it on previous visits and it was easy to find.

The large aristocratic room was filled wall-to-wall with dusty old books on dusty old shelves, their colourful spines all lined up neatly. The place smelled of old paper, expensive spirits and residual cigar smoke, an aroma befitting a library belonging to the enigmatic Integra Hellsing.

Heinkel was clenching her teeth in frustration.

Where in the name of all things Holy could they even start looking with so many books? Releasing a heavy sigh of aggravation, Heinkel was starting to think that they might never find that sacrilegious tome.

"What a stupid idea… we're never—"

However, before Heinkel could finish Makube pointed to an old-looking Victorian reading chair upholstered in royal red felt, situated next to an old fireplace. He strode over, picked up a dark leather bound book from the seat and held it up.

The big book had a five-point pentagram encircled with Latin phrases and the Theban alphabet stamped on the front cover.

The thing reeked of witchcraft and paganism.

It was without doubt the distinguished Hellsing family spell book containing the formula for putting vampires to sleep. It was an enchantment so powerful it would even desiccate a terror like Alucard, which they knew worked when Integra had to put Alucard and Seras to sleep over a year ago after the events that took place at St. George's Cathedral. Therefore, it should do nicely to dry out all three of those sinning heathens indefinitely.

Leave it to the Hellsing's—those Masters of Beasts—to carry the key that could control Alucard. On the other hand, how ironic that their own unholy meddling would ultimately put an end to their own existence, Makube thought.

"Let's get out of vere," Heinkel grumbled.

Makube wanted nothing more than to get away from here.

They headed for the exit just as a stocky man of medium height with a shock of orange hair stood between the double doors leading out of the library. Standing next to him was a shorter, middle-aged woman wearing a black and white uniform.

"Not so fast!" ordered the man.

It had to be those two from before, Marvin and Judy.

"You two," Judy gasped in disbelief. "What are you doing here? What… what is the meaning of this?"

Fed up with the shenanigans, Heinkel was not about to waste a single breath answering any of their questions and lunged after them, knocking their heads together like two ripe melons.

Marvin and Judy crumpled to the floor in a heap.

"I don't know if that was the wisest choice," Makube drawled, gawking at the two unconscious people sprawled out on the floor. "Perhaps we could have just told them that we stopped by for another visit. Tell them that the front door was open and we let ourselves in."

"Pft! I voubt they would believe such vullshit, Makube. Stop whining and help me drag vem into the library. We need to tie vem up." Wolfe noticed the bishop's resistance. "Come on! Don't just stand vhere!"

With a heavy sigh, Makube went along with it. "You may have a point," he said. "And what does it matter anyways… we have the book. There is no point hiding the fact that we now have the upper hand, the ultimate weapon at our disposal. The next time we see those vampires we'll be ready to end their miserable existence."

Heinkel Wolfe chuckled nefariously under her breath. "Exactly, who veeds the 10th crusades anyways?"

Makube started to smile as he pulled out a roll of duct tape from his pocket and plastered a strip of it across the woman's mouth. Then, he went around to the man with shocking orange hair and stuck a strip of tape over his mouth, too.

"God bless," he said.


I ntegra's Journal

January 18th, 1477

4:45 p.m.

If someone told me that I would one day be writing a journal from the chambers of Alucard's old home during the late medieval period, I would say they were full of bollocks!

I have experienced many, many things in my lifetime but this… this is unprecedented. This jump in time defies everything I have ever known. I am in awe and yet… I am burdened. Am I to blame? Is the blood of Dracula flowing through my veins the culprit? Is this truly a chance to change history? Is that why we have been brought here to this time? Perhaps this is my penance for my selfish whims…

I am so tired. Weak. My hunger is a vile ache. There is no such thing as donated blood in the fifteenth century.

I am as famished as the people of this country are. What a brutal and toilsome era to be alive. The citizens are desolate and subjugated. They are constantly heedful of sabotage and of pending battles between the lords ruling their lands that often consume or destroy what little food and shelter they have in the name of war.

It is a typical life of disputatious countries. As always, the common folk suffer the most. It seems that living and working inside a castle as a noble or a tradesperson was definitely a more comfortable existence. That is, if you lived long enough, because if war did not kill you… then there are plenty of diseases that will.

All of this, I have observed on my trips outside the castle walls, or overhear as people go about their daily lives.

This city is functional, full of hard working and capable people though. Vlad is a remarkable ruler for his time, the people admire and fear him, but they respect him in a way that I can appreciate. Even though his ways can be extremely cruel, as shown by the culprits slowly dying on spikes outside the castle walls, he works to protect them and their beloved Wallachia from covetous invaders.

Moreover, he will go to any lengths in order to achieve this, which, in the end, was ultimately his downfall. My darling Count has explained this dilemma to me before.

Alucard suggested that I feed from unsuspecting victims. Not killing them—just drinking enough to end my suffering. I find I am at a crossroads. I cannot give in to these beastly whims and forgo all my principals. Shall I…? I might not kill anyone, but stooping to that petty level for a few drops of blood…

What if I cannot stop myself? Am I unwilling to admit to that I am, indeed, a monster?

Whom am I fooling?

I think about Seras and her amazing grasp on willpower to calm my thirst. I wonder if she even knows what is happening. Does she sense the disconnection? Is this my end? Is this the end of Alucard and me?

Vlad—he must be captured. We must see this to the end… no matter what.

Perhaps this weakness is a symptom of my evanescence. However, I did not wish to come here. Seeing this place in Alucard's mind was enough. Dealing with Vlad…

As I write this journal, I am reminiscent of my grandfather's dearest acquaintance Jonathan Harker. I am reminiscent of the time he spent in Dracula's castle as a prisoner, finding that his host only appeared at sunset and disappeared again by sunrise.

I am thinking of this because Alucard and I have been doing a similar thing here, how ironic.

I cannot sleep at night whilst I should. I forgot how in this period, business is conducted mostly during the daylight hours and that people actually sleep when it gets dark. The best way not to waste precious oil or wax. It is something that one does not even consider in the modern age.

Instead of sleeping, I roam the castle and visit my darling Count. For the last two days, I go to his quaint servant quarters on the other side of the castle and then we explore the city and castle grounds unbeknownst by anyone.

I hope no one has overheard our lovemaking.

Just before sunrise, we rest for a few hours in the nearby graveyard situated on the castle grounds. It is the only place, where I can find a miniscule amount of energy. As chance would have it, Vlad has been off running errands somewhere with some neighbouring lords, working on his petition for allies and for more soldiers.

He explained all of this over supper a few days ago.

Word has it that our involvement with their battle has travelled fast and the people who initially turned their backs on the prince were now having second thoughts. It appears that if Vlad has the means of driving off such an enormous army then they want to be on his side. We could be returning to battle soon—this is good.

Honestly, it does not matter how many soldiers he gets, I am convinced Vlad's army will never measure up to the Ottoman army. I apologize Alucard… this statement is in no way a mockery of your time as a human. Rather, it is the unsullied truth. Many armies were defeated by the Ottoman's power.

Either way, I have been able to rest most of the day away and wake up just before sunset unnoticed by anyone. The guard assigned to watch over Alucard and I have not been able to figure out the puzzle.

How long will this ruse take? I need to—

Knock! Knock!

The curls of smoke snaking up into the air from a cigar smoldering on the edge of a ceramic dish dispersed as Integra placed a feathered quill into a small pot of ink. With haste, she covered the journal parchment with a thick book, of which she opened to make it look as if she was reading in her room, even though it was written in archaic Romanian.

"Yes?" She called out.

"Greetings Integra, may I enter?"

Speak of the devil. It was Vlad. He was back already.

Her bloodhound nose picked up the scent of two people on the other side of the door across the room.

"Enter," Integra said. She stood up to greet them.

The latch on the heavy wooden door lifted and the voivode entered the room wearing a long black sleeveless tunic adorned with silver buttons, cinched together in the middle by a thick brown belt. Under the black garment, he had on a white shirt with long sleeves going over the backs of his hands and over that, a warm black cloak of equal length. Along with his knee-high leather boots, he had on a pair of dark pants.

With him was a young girl, around ten or eleven, with blond hair under a washed-out bonnet, most likely a child of one of the castle servants. In her arms, she held a festive-looking garment that had a hint of crushed red velvet and white linen trimmed with gold piping.

The girl gave a small curtsy before heading towards the four-poster bed adorned with a canopy of sheer white curtains. She lay the garment down upon the white bulky, feather-stuffed coverlet spread over the bed. Then, she gave another polite curtsy before leaving the room.

An awkward silence followed.

Integra looked from the garment on her bed to the prince in question.

Vlad remained standing by the door wearing an expectant look on his face, blue eyes cool and piercing. "Are you not going to invite me in? Am I to stand here shunned by the woman that helped turn the tides of battle in my favour?" he asked, his cheeks still adorably rosy from riding his horse through the chilly winter air.

There was no question. Vlad has taken a liking to her, and for that, she was flattered if not amused somewhat. It could make getting through this ordeal that much easier. However, he was not Alucard nor would he ever be. He was somebody with an entirely different set of values and beliefs. Alucard was nearly six hundred years wise, whereas Vlad was a pup in comparison. Indeed, he was handsome in his rugged, barbaric sort of way. Integra adored Alucard's Vlad form, which never came with pink cheeks.

Yet, the most appealing thing about the prince, Integra thought darkly, was how delicious his blood smelled. Like a virulent flower filled with sweet nectar, its blooms protected by thorns. Yet, no matter how many times he pricked her, she would jump at the chance for a small sample of his blood.

Integra did not realize that he had been waiting for her to say something, being unfamiliar with the social standards of these times. "Of course, come in," she told him in English and mused as an afterthought, "I'll try not to bite."

The prince frowned and walked over. He really had no idea what she just said. To him the language spoken in England sounded so bland, but he took it to mean that she had been given him permission to enter her chambers. Her body language did not seem to recoil at the notion. In fact, he was delighted to see her staring at him with such a come-hither expression.

Integra switched to her rusty Romanian. "You know, it not just me at battle, Alucard turned tides also."

"Yes. Yes. The husband," Vlad went on facetiously. "Tell me, what kind of name is 'Alucard' anyways?"

"A perfectly suitable name," Integra replied with tongue in cheek. "Now… what did you bring me?" She motioned with her hand towards the dress on the bed. "There is no need for gifts."

Vlad raised a thick black brow. He would not hear any of that. "A woman needs a proper attire to wear to a feast—you cannot go looking as such," he said so matter of fact. His eyes took note of the peculiar clothing that she still wore, the beige knitted sweater and dark trousers, which were cleaner than the last time he saw them. "Tomorrow night we will have a celebration for all the good fortune bestowed upon us. The people look forward to such events. It is expected."

The prince glanced briefly at the book Integra left open upon the desk and wrinkled his nose. Something was burning.

"What's this?" Vlad reached over and picked up the warm cigar that reminded him of a small burning turd and sniffed it with caution. "Ugh! Horrible!"

To her, his reaction was priceless. Integra did not hold back a chuckle and took the slim cigar from him. "It is called cigar and you smoke it. It calms the nerves," she explained and gave a demonstration. With delight, she exhaled the much-loved woody-tasting smoke. "See?"

Vlad was sure, for a moment, that she was attempting to cast a spell on him, but when nothing happened he seemed convinced that she was telling the truth. "Smoking is for mystics and sages and their ancient magic."

"All of which I am neither." With that, she crushed the cigar out in the small dish and addressed the voivode again. "How was your outing?"

His soul-filled eyes returned to her fake blue ones. "God looks upon me favourably, I have been promised five thousand new soldiers and possibly three thousand more from another region in the south—many are Ottoman slaves."

He delivered this news with a hint of appeasement, but when Integra did not react, he explained his felicity.

"You must understand that the Ottomans have a way of fighting unlike any other people. They are skilled in many forms of organized warfare and different armaments than that of native Wallachians. As they say, it is always best to 'fight Turks with Turks'."

Vlad laughed rumbustiously at his own pun.

What he said—it worked the other way around, too. For Vlad spent most of his childhood with the Ottomans as a hostage with his brother, learning the language, learning how to fight and being educated—a price his father had to pay for the sake of the country. It was part of what made Vlad so irrefutably jaded, Integra considered.

"A wise military maneuver of these times, I suppose," she answered.

"These times…?" Vlad was quick to catch all of her little isms. "Why do you say it as such? Does this woman thirst for another battle so soon? Are you not enjoying the warmth of my castle?"

Integra merely scoffed with her own brand of arrogance to match his. "My blade gets dull."

The prince's moustache twitched at the corners, his lips curved up in a genuine smile. "If action is what you seek then perhaps we should have a bout, sword against sword—the day after the celebrations. My men have rested enough, they could benefit from learning new techniques that you have to offer."

"A bout?" she murmured. "You and I…?"

For some reason his smile grew bigger. "Does that frighten you?"

Integra sounded baffled. "Won't your men laugh at you?"

The prince sniffed incredulously. "Laugh…?" he mused. "Why would they laugh at me when it is a woman that stands before Vlad Dracula? It could be most entertaining."

She refrained from rolling her eyes. Of course, she was a woman and therefore a focus of prejudice. No matter how great of a swordfighter she was, this era was a proverbial man's world, or so they thought at least. Truth is no matter how much bigger you are it is you who should be frightened of me, prince, for I can break all of the bones in your body in a heartbeat. Don't push your luck!

But it was not as if she could actually say that to him or even kill Vlad herself. Integra played along. "Let's do it, however… I will not go easy on you."

Normally he would chortle at such posturing, no one ever spoke to him in such a manner and Vlad simply ate it up. "You are so different from other women," he claimed. "You are fearless..."

Vlad has never met a Hellsing yet, and he will not meet another one for centuries to come. She would give him a run for his money. In fact, she decided, this could be fun. It could be a great way to air out her frustrations due to hunger.

Yet, the longer he stood here playing this flirtatious game with her the thirstier she became. "I am what I am… I chose this life for myself."

Again, her English had the voivode confused. "I do not know what you say, but I look forward to hearing more of it on the dance floor tomorrow evening." With daring, he took one of her slim hands into both of his big warm hands and brought it to his lips, kissing it gently. Then, he looked up at her. "I expect you to save me one dance."

He stood before her a whole head taller, his commanding presence charged with a curious delight. She noted his eyes were nearly aglow behind the black hair scattered across his forehead. His hot lifeblood raced faster beneath the surface and Integra became intoxicated by his scent. With him still holding her hand, she brought the back of his hand up to her nose, seemingly to kiss it back, only she drank in his scent like a junkie.

"You should leave," she warned him. "You shouldn't be here. It's not safe."

Vlad's feet felt cemented to the floor. "Your husband…?" he murmured. "You should not worry… he can do nothing."

She forcibly lifted her head from the skin on the back of Vlad's hand, yanked her own hand out of his grip, and turned her back on him so he would not see her fangs. "I thank you for dress. I look forward to tomorrow night, even though… I am not much of a dancer. Please leave."

Vlad was a man of certain respects. "If you wish it, I will go. I admire your resistance. It is a good quality in a person--one must do anything in their power to follow what they believe true and just. Perchance one day, I too, might be true in your eyes. I bid thee goodnight, Integra."

With that, he left the room and closed the door.

Gnashing her teeth together and clenching her fists—Integra stood in the middle of the room fighting off the desire to race after him and sink her teeth into his throat. "You're such a pitiful romantic. Trust me dear Vlad… one day you will. You will."

Chapter Text

Târgoviște, Wallachia – January 19th, 1477, 9:02 p.m.

xx

He was deep inside of her, thrusting, his long bony fingers gripping her hips. Growls of debased satisfaction escaped Alucard's fiendish snarl, while multiple red eyes of various sizes snapped open all across the front of his straitjacket chest watching his she-devil fist into the blankets, attempting to control her moans of pleasure.

Integra was side-faced down against the duvet, her legs off the side of the bed and ass up in the air.

Feeling self-indulgent, the older vampire decided to cloak himself in the form that she first met him in as a child. This elongated, lanky form wore a tight fitting black outfit covered by numerous belted straps. He looked manic and he felt manic as he took his vampire lover, smirking gloriously at how she covered her fangs with a hand adorned with claws so gnarly and deadly… they could shred through ice.

Alucard always knew he was doing it right whenever Integra's claws came out. However, she attempted to keep it quiet and not shred up the bed, since this was not their house and she did not want anyone to overhear them.

He fucked her just the way he liked it, hard and fast, using every inch of his masculinity, but sometimes he liked it sweet and slow, depending on his mood. Mmm, he loved the way Integra was quivering. It seemed as if she might shatter to into a million bits within his grasp. It spurred Alucard to plunge in to her even deeper, crumble her state of being into something beyond either of them, enjoying how the sensual torment exploded between her legs as he did.

Integra muffled an orgasmic cry.

Her body squeezed him.

Ah! He needed her more than ever. His No Life Queen…

"I'm almost there, too, my creature…"

Oh yes, her body seemed made for him and all his many forms. So soft and wet, she was always ready for him and he was always ready for her. All she had to do was look at him with those beguiling hot embers and his undead body stirred.

Ironically, he imagined, it sprung to life.

Once his woman… why yes—his woman. Alucard loved that he was still finding that sinful notion a novelty to embrace. Indeed, his woman, she opened up in ways he never could have imagined as a vampire. She even managed to introduce him to new ventures.

Now, to think he was in danger of losing all of that.

This beautiful splendor…

All this hope… that has blossomed anew within him.

Not even his old human self dare take that away from him. No! He will not have it!

Alucard was no fool, however. He knew Integra craved him more due to the lack of blood, attempting to fill an emptiness she could not control, a hunger teased mercilessly by Vlad's tempting cruor.

Why, who knew, until now, that as a human he used to have blood with a scent that would drive most vampires into a frenzied state? Drive them crazy like bats in the belfry, he mused. Vlad's blood was potent and Alucard was bewildered to discover this, but he had much more self-control than that.

Besides, the thought of eating his human self was absurd enough to quell any temptations. Yet, such was not so for Integra. If she lost control, Vlad could find himself her evening tea.

Maybe a part of him wanted to mark her this way, to rut against her, to howl for her and befoul her… even if it did not mean a damn thing to his overly muscled human skirt-chaser self.

He had to have her right now. Right now, before the banquet the prince has scheduled for this evening.

Naturally, he was curious how Integra would handle the kind of party Vlad had in mind. Whatever she thought, this was not going to be anything like the London Opera Ball.

His mistress was already dressed for Dracula's feast, well… sort of. Since the floor-length skirt of her crushed burgundy velvet dress, almost completely covered with a delicate ivory wrap, was hiked up to her waist like a bride being deflowered on her wedding night.

"Are you hungry, my sweet?" Alucard purred.

She flashed a snarl at him from over her shoulder and hissed.

"Ha. Ha. I see. Perfect." Alucard leaned over her a little, stretching out one of his arms, placing his wrist in front of her face for her to bite. "Don't be gentle," he encouraged.

This was it. Here it comes, the moment that drives him blissfully over the edge.

He timed it perfectly. Integra sank her teeth into his radial artery and the pain shot over Alucard's body, his limbs and across the length of his cock. Yes! He threw his head back and came with a growl, sharp teeth gnashed together while all the red eyes on his suit shut tight.

His throbbing flesh emptied into her and he shuddered while she impatiently drank from him, placating her thirst briefly with his malnourished blood, yet… treating him to a kinky orgasm.

Alucard discovered that when Integra drank from him he got aroused, at times. It felt wicked to mix his pleasure with a hint of pain. There was just something wonderful about being sucked on that felt so good, and it felt especially good performed by a vampire related to the Hellsing lineage.

That quirk of fate never ceased to tickle him.

"That's enough," he rasped. She would drink him dry if he let her.

Alucard pulled his arm away and slipped out of her. He glanced down at himself delighted to see there was barely any mess to clean up since Integra's body absorbed most of the ejaculated blood from both of them.

Magnificent.

Alucard did not normally feel tired after a good romp (quite the opposite) but he had to admit, now, he was rather lethargic. There was no blood for him to drink. He was starving and was not getting enough sleep in the nearby graveyard. A few hours here and there—it wasn't enough. Now that dear old Vlad was back in town, they had to more careful, so that meant even less sleep.

If exposed to be vampires, it would not end well for them.

People of these times were very superstitious and if things did not go their way then evil spirits were to blame, or the devil or perhaps… it was a curse, that's how people thought. God was always watching. He demanded complete servitude.

Alucard scoffed at his thoughts and fixed his clothing back to a less outrageous style.

Since he was not special enough to receive beautiful 15th century garb like Integra had, he wore his regular everyday clothes. Although, he forwent the red frock coat and chose to wear only the dark suit he always wore underneath, including the waistcoat and his elaborately knotted red cravat, of which he received many favourable responses from men and women alike.

Integra rolled on to her back and held out a hand for him to help to her feet. He took it and hauled her up, studying her bloody mouth with a gentle smirk.

"You're such a messy eater," he chastised and leaned in to kiss and lick off whatever she spilled.

"There was something different about you tonight, Alucard. Is everything alright?" Integra murmured as his tongue cleaned the side of her mouth. "You shouldn't have let me drink. You're weak."

Alucard lifted one eyebrow and backed off, looking directly at her. "There is no need to fret. I will be fine. Your ache is worse. I need you to be able to focus so we can get through this feast without any casualties." Was he really speaking just now? Alucard could not believe he was spewing such rubbish for one of his darkest desires is to witness Integra raging at the peak of her bloodlust. He could think of nothing more beautiful.

Integra started to chuckle then. "Again you give me little credit. I am not about to explode into a frenzy at this thing." She said it as if the very idea was absurd. "You're beginning to sound like I do when forced to go to the opera."

He was not so sure Integra understood what real bloodlust entailed and was taking the matter much too lightly. She would not even realize what she was doing if her natural desires for the hunt grew strong enough.

All Alucard could say was, "This is a hundred times worse than the opera, I assure you."

"Oh, it cannot be that bad," she said and began to fix her dress, palming at the front. "A part of me is curious about this feast. Vlad even brought me this dress. He has certain sophisticated tastes just like someone else that I know."

Alucard did not miss the pun.

Waving her hands aside with his own, Alucard took over the task of fixing Integra's new dress after rumpling it up during intercourse. He ran his thumbs over the golden braid and guipure lace that complimented the ivory velvet wrap worn over top of the fitting, burgundy velvet gown like a shawl. The dress had a peasant bride sort of style to it with burgundy satin ribbons running in a criss-cross pattern across her back and ivory satin ribbons criss-crossing across her front. The upper sleeves were fitted at the elbows and the lower sleeves long and flowing, reaching all the way to her knees.

Alucard had a hard time tearing his eyes away from everything to the slippers that peaked out from under the floor length dress and the gold chain dangling from her long slim neck, resting on the bare skin of her cleavage.

It was a stunning gown certainly made for the likes of a queen.

"Of course he has elaborate tastes—you deserve nothing less. Everyone will have their eyes on you this evening, let me assure you," Alucard predicted as he assessed her with a stare. "You are mesmerizing."

Her expression told him that she did not necessarily wish to be center of attention at all, but she thanked him nonetheless, tenderly placing her hand on his cheek and patting him like a treasured pet. He relished it.

"Come on, let's see what all the fuss is about, shall we?" She said.

Alucard nodded and followed her out of the room. "If we must…"

*****

The celebrations were in full swing and Grigore Ciobanu was in the middle of it when he noticed Vlad's mysterious guests arrive. The tall dark haired man and his fair lady, with her tremendously long pale tresses, stood side by side like handsome visions in the entryway leading into the hall full of people.

If he did not already know better, he would say they were the bona fide king and queen of The Royal Princely Court.

Around him, people were sitting on benches situated next to long wooden dinner tables laden with food and drink while others stood around the room conversing and dancing. More than half of the heads in the room turned to look at the newcomers.

Even the four musicians playing a consortium of lively tunes from their lute, viol, spinet and flute went off key for a jarring second upon glancing at the pair.

Indeed, who exactly were these strange people with the power to turn the heads of nearly every person in this room? Grigore had to wonder as he gazed at them, too.

Eventually, the thrum of festive frivolity and music continued as usual. Except now, the partygoers were gossiping about prince Vlad's newly hired mercenaries claiming they'd come from a faraway land.

Grigore shook his head and drank from a flagon full of rich dark ale, eyeing the prince carefully from the corner of his eye. He vaguely paid attention to the boorish noble yapping in his ear seated on his right. Their table, which was at the head of all the other tables set up in the hall, consisted of ten seats. Here the voivode's high-ranking military sat, while the lower ranks sat at the other tables.

Fluttering around the room servants maintained the supper, while whores entertained and flirted with the men, pouring drinks for soldiers that were nearly three sheets to the wind.

Nevertheless, the night was still young and not everyone was drunk, at least not yet. Grigore knew Vlad had the tolerance of ten men, so it would take him a lot more drink before he stumbled his way to his chambers.

It was as he thought as he spied his noble lord. Vlad was staring at Alucard and Integra with one hand fisting his silver cup with a white-knuckled grip, smiling falsely to all that could see him. Even though the prince appeared fine on the outside, Grigore knew he was anything but.

He knew his brethren well. Vlad was teeming with jealousy.

The lieutenant sighed. He had a bad feeling about this. He had seen this kind of thing before.

Entire countries had fallen because of a man's obsession over a woman. Men cut down by scheming women who brought nations to war out of sheer amusement and devious strategy. Obsessions could bring a man to his knees.

So, what was this couple's ploy? Grigore could not be so sure. Perhaps they were simply here by the hands of fate, intentions good or maybe this fighting duo was up to evil tricks and clever schemes?

Perhaps they were part of the sultan's janissaries, trained foreign spies. Maybe this was the sultan's newest tactic.

Yet, a part of Grigore could not ignore the sight of the beautiful fair-haired woman wearing that splendid dress Vlad brought back for her from his travels. She was a vision of loveliness, unlike the many courtesans in the room, dressed in their simple browns and blues. Certainly, no one would confuse Integra for a whore tonight.

Ah ha! So, that was it. Grigore half-smirked and sipped his drink. Now he understood why Vlad went out of his way to get that dress. The Prince of Wallachia did not want any other man putting their hands on that blonde tart.

He wanted to keep her all for himself.

Still, Grigore was confused for clearly the woman had affectionate eyes for her travelling companion—her alleged husband, whom he thought was quite a fetching fellow. Why did Vlad bother with her as such? Was it that dream Vlad told him about… was he reading too much into it?

Sigh, the hearts of men are so easily swayed. Honestly, this will just be trouble. Grigore was sure of it.

"Come, my honoured guests!" Vlad called out to them over the music and voices. "I have saved you a seat at my table."

Oh, here we go, Grigore thought wryly. Let the evening begin.

*****

Transformed into a banquet hall, Integra glanced around the same assembly antechamber where they first met Vlad as prisoners.

Instead of respectful townsfolk and clergymen gathered around, the room was currently full of men behaving badly and women indulging them with suggestive touches, smiles and capricious laughter. The room reeked of smoke, booze, roast meat and for two vampires… delicious bodies full of warm sustenance.

Integra glanced at Alucard.

"Not what you expected?" he murmured overhearing her thoughts.

"Not exactly… it's a little more rowdy than I imagined." Integra replied, wondering why Vlad gave her such a formal dress for something so… informal.

"It's a banquet for soldiers, partisan nobles and their heads of command—victory celebrations tend to be a bit crude and offensive. It's their reward for their vast efforts and allegiance."

She mocked. "The pillage and rape mentality…?"

"Integra, it's the fifteenth century," Alucard reminded her with little shame. "If I recall most of my supporters abandoned me by this time and rewards such as this happened a lot less frequently. Perhaps Vlad feels—after surviving the last battle—that it is time to regain their respect and trust in a more humble manner."

"So giving them some drink and loose women is payment enough?" Integra scoffed. She understood that these times were different but she still had her opinions. "Such simpletons..."

"Perhaps," Alucard agreed. He thought to himself. How different I might have been as the ruler of Wallachia if I knew half of what I know now….

But all of that mattered very little. Vlad was a creation of his era and his life experience. Alucard knew this grown man—this prince—he was still a crying child inside… a child brimming with hate for all who had hurt him.

"Come, my honoured guests! I have saved you both a seat at my table."

Shaken from his thoughts, Alucard smirked at his bride. "Follow me, I believe we're being summoned by yours truly," he muttered and then shared silently between them, "Try to be on your best behavior."

"Is that concern I hear in your voice, Alucard? That's so unlike you. What do you think I'm going to do? Shouldn't it be me warning you to behave yourself?" Integra mocked as she followed close behind, weaving through the throngs of people having a good time.

Along the way a brunette with a buxom form, breasts nearly spilling out of her simple floor-length dress, reached out and grabbed Integra by her wrist.

The daring woman leaned in close and whispered hotly in her ear. "I've seen you around the castle—you're very pretty. No wonder Vlad has his eye on you—it not a secret, you know. He might be wedded but that never really stops a man now does it. You could be the next queen. At least, that's what everyone is saying. Word has it you can swordfight better than any man in this room... fascinating! Please, allow me to visit you in your chambers. Later, perhaps? I promise to make it worth your while..."

Integra gave a soft chuckle, clearly surprised. She took the invitation as a compliment and replied to the woman in her best Romanian. "I must apologize, but perhaps another night."

The courtesan gave a small sigh. "Very well, just know that my offer does not expire," she hinted and wandered off to pour wine into a cup for a man that grabbed a strong handful of her rear making her squawk.

Laughter ensued as Integra and Alucard approached Vlad's table.

The prince was on his feet waiting for them.

"My! That dress looks splendid on you, Integra!" He praised with much enthusiasm, cool blue eyes taking their time checking her out. "Was it difficult to get into? You're so late for the banquet. Why so tardy?"

"I had other matters to attend to." Integra was an expert at hiding the truth her face gave nothing away.

Alucard advised them. "I believe a man should never question the rituals that occur inside a woman's quarters while she is preparing for a social gathering."

The handful of nobles at the table all dressed up in their finest doublets, tunics and boots made a sound of agreement. They all had wives, girlfriends or daughters. Each one of them knew exactly what Alucard meant.

"Well, this isn't the kind of banquet I was expecting." Integra ignored the snickering coming from the others at the table and noticed that Vlad was not overly dressed for this feast either. He had on a simple, soft black leather surcoat with capped shoulders, tied closed by black laces through silver buttonholes. Underneath he had on a long, ivory-sleeved shirt and dark pants and boots.

However, his long dark hair seemed washed and his beard trimmed. He was very dashing this evening, she thought and secretly compared him with Alucard. They were both as dashing and gallant as they were full of recklessness.

After ushering them to take a seat on the other side of the table, Vlad spoke up. "You belong to my army now, Integra. The way I see it, if you want to fight with the men… then, you shouldn't have a problem celebrating like one," he claimed arrogantly. "Surely this quaint gathering does not offend you, now does it?"

Integra played this sort of game numerous times with the Convention of Twelve. She waited until a humble servant girl poured wine into her empty goblet and then, she got straight to the point. "Are you trying to provoke me, Prince? I cannot help but notice how overdressed I am compared to all of you. I suppose I could not help but wonder why that is."

Across the table, Grigore choked on his beer and the other official men at the table looked on with mouths opened wide enough to catch a fly.

Vlad did not baulk at being address simply as 'Prince' in such an abased way in front of his kinfolk. He merely huffed with amusement, grinning like an urchin looking for trouble. "Oh! Listen to you. I see that you have been practicing to speak my language. You no longer sound like a mongrel in heat."

Integra briefly cut Alucard a fishy look. Mongrel in heat—Alucard had said the exact same thing about her Romanian speaking abilities before they even left England. Ridiculous, maybe the two of them were not so different after all. Maybe six hundred years was not enough, she decided with a scoff.

It was simple. She'd been submerged in the language for the last few days. It didn't take Integra long to figure a few things out.

Alucard did not seem bothered by the matter at all. His mind was on something entirely different. There was no reason to resist, he reached out and dipped his finger into a puddle of blood that was calling his name like a sweet siren. It was just there, pooling on a large platter of roast meat on their table. "I suggest you try a little, Integra. It's nearly raw, perhaps a bit watered down… but it's the best we're going to get for some time," he shared telepathically while popping the bloody finger it into his mouth.

Well, just great, now she has two numbskulls to deal with.

"Now that you can speak a bit better, we will have engaging conversation this evening." Vlad predicted as if nothing could please him more.

Integra sighed internally. "Yes, of course engaging conversation with two mules." Her voice was dripping with sarcasm.

Both the vampire and the man stopped short for a moment and looked at her before busting out with laughter, big, deep boisterous bales of delighted laughter.

It would seem that Vlad and Alucard finally agreed on something, even if it was on Integra's behalf.

Once they were done shivering with mirth, both of them gazed at her with their dark intensity but Integra remained indifferent. She wouldn't give them anything else in which to torment her. She was done playing their game.

"I believe we've angered her," Vlad alleged.

Alucard could not help but supply his human counterpart with more provocation. "You get used to it," he said ever so calmly.

Vlad gave a slight nod of acknowledgement and wordlessly saluted Alucard with his drinking cup.

Reigning in the urge to roll her eyes at them, Integra was still determined to know. "You never really answered my question about the dress."

Vlad waved her off like an annoying fly. "Let us not be bothered over such trivial issues this evening. Tonight is for celebration and good fortune. I trust I would not be here if it were not for the two of you and that vision. Thanks to you, I have set on a new path—a path that leads away from the darkness I believe. "

Alucard remained staunchly silent at that revelation, jaw flexing.

"'…that vision'… away from the darkness'…?" Integra repeated with furrowed brows. "Whatever do you mean by that?"

The prince would not indulge her.

"There will be a better time for such discourse," he told her pleasantly. Then, he set his sights on Alucard again, who was sucking on a bloody finger rather generously for a second time. He said to him. "Here! I propose we have a contest to lighten the atmosphere, Alucard. How well can you hold your spirits?"

The king of vampires paused with a finger jammed in his mouth, which he removed with a slurp before speaking. "Spirits…?" Alucard knew he could mop the floor with this guy. "I'm afraid I can drink you under the table…"

"Oh, ho! Dare you say great warrior?" Vlad quipped, hoping to provoke the other man. He wanted nothing more than an opportunity to test Alucard's worth. "Then we shall have a contest, you and I. Bring us more ale!"

Integra watched a young servant bring over a large jug of ale and set it before Vlad and Alucard.

"You cannot be serious?" she breathed, but it was as if no one had heard her speak.

Everyone at the feast seemed positively thrilled by the idea of a beer drink-off and most cheered for the Prince of Wallachia to 'kick that skinny man's ass'.

Vlad wore a look of cunning determination. He was eager to compete against Alucard.

Integra caught Grigore's gaze from across the table and she politely saluted him with her goblet of wine. Vlad's lieutenant returned the gesture before looking back at his lord. She sighed again. Vlad could not win this… vampires did not get drunk. Alcohol did not affect the undead.

Vlad and Alucard appeared full of mischief as they raised their own cups in salutation, ready to start their barbaric competition.

"God speed!" Vlad proclaimed before raising the cup to his mouth and with a few swallows downed the contents of his cup.

Alucard grunted. "I'm afraid God will not help you." Then he finished his entire cup in a couple of gulps.

Both men gave an accomplished belch and reached for another cup of ale.

Boots pounded the floor and hands slapped the tops of tables—the room was roaring with cheers and ovation.

Beer dribbled from the sides of Vlad and Alucard's mouths as they slugged down cup after cup.

Integra looked on, shaking her head. Alive or undead, boys will be boys after all, she thought. And the musicians fueled the party more by playing a tune in time to the drinking game and the crowd got even rowdier.

It was an all-out bash now, like a frat party or something.

Ok. A part of Integra had to admit that this contest was rather amusing to say the least. Of all the things she thought she would be doing on her vacation, this was the very last thing.

"You're taking advantage of our almighty prince, Alucard. You know he can't beat you." She spoke to Alucard privately.

"Perhaps, but it's his own fault, Integra. I look forward to seeing him slump over in his chair like the buffoon that he is." Alucard had his opinions about his former self. "He will not be bothering you for the rest of the evening."

"So you're doing this out of jealousy?"

"He needs to be taught a humble lesson."

Something about that did not sit well with Integra. "I understand, Alucard. Perhaps you are correct. But he should have at least one merry evening before the enemy chops his head off and the powers that be turn him into a vampire, don't you think? Let's give him that. He seems genuinely content. You know for yourself that this Vlad, right here—right now… he never existed up to this point. He never allowed himself this before death. He has re-acquired hope."

Alucard actually glanced over at her while drinking from his cup, his false green eyes full of conversance and awareness. When he finished the ale he was drinking, he set the cup on the table with a heavy thud.

"You pity him?" He said to her.

From Alucard's blood, she was able to look into his memories. Integra saw and felt Vlad's true past for herself numerous times, Alucard's human history was an open book. His life had been a dismal existence for the most part. "Do you think of me always so ruthless? Trust me… I want to return to my own time and my own home and I want you to be there when this is all over. However… don't destroy his revelry so soon."

Something in his voice softened just a bit. Alucard understood all too well. "If my lady wishes, I will spare him this humiliation. Let me to get a couple more drinks into him first, yes?"

Integra smirked. "Alright, two more and then that's it."

Vlad did not appear too affected after drinking about eight cups of ale, clearly having an impressive tolerance. Yet, Alucard, the natural performer that he was, called it quits much to the dismay of others.

"You have bested me, my lord. I fear that if I imbibe one more cup I will be unfit to dance with my beautiful wife later and that… is a pleasure no amount of ale can cure." Alucard waved off the server that offered to pour him another drink.

Vlad took it as an excuse for Alucard to back out of the game. "Very well, if that's your way of announcing your defeat, then so be it. Perhaps your lady would like a go of it?"

She held up a hand. "I'm afraid I cannot accept. I prefer to keep a sharp mind and eye at all times." Integra could drink the poor prince under the table just as easily as Alucard could, but she could not stomach human drink and food as well as he had learned to.

Grigore had been silent until now. "Spoken like a wise warrior," he said and reminded everyone, "My lord has mentioned that you and he are engaging in a sword fight tomorrow. Suppose it's best to keep your wits about you."

Hrmph. Alucard had tried to forget about that piece of news. What was Integra thinking? "It's merely to display some new sword fighting techniques that could be valuable to your army." Perhaps he could deflate the situation.

Integra did not see the big deal. "It would also be wise not to underestimate me," she warned Grigore.

Alucard sighed. There was just no stopping a woman wearing a pair of brass balls bigger than half the men in this room.

"Ha! Will you listen to her? Have you ever heard such swagger?" Vlad guffawed. The beer did not cause him to lose all his wits entirely, but it did make him feel rather happy. It made his dark enormity and intimidating aura pale for a short time. "I am in such delight!"

One of the neighboring boyars at the table pledged, "It is an amusing gesture but you are in way over your head, madam. Vlad is known all over the country for his fearless fighting. He is not known for showing mercy."

Vlad was silently watching Integra for a reaction but the woman did not even flinch.

Grigore felt the need to point out, "You all forget she fought on our battlefield…"

It was as if they had forgotten. A few of the men nodded.

Alucard felt it necessary to warn them. "You people do not know what kind of monster you're creating," he warned. "My lady has skills none of you can even fathom." Integra was the knight and Vlad was her dragon.

However, the men at the table merely laughed at his declaration. They were not taking his remark seriously enough.

"Fine," the vampire king muttered under his breath. "Don't say I didn't warn you." You fools…

"That's enough!" Integra snapped at everyone at the table. "This is a celebration. Tomorrow will come soon enough and then we shall see how I fare against your mighty prince. Now, who would like to dance with me?"

Vlad was on his feet before Alucard could say trigger-happy.

"Allow me the honour?" His request was sure-fire and whimsical and came with a devilish smile. "A woman that dares to challenge me to a sword fight will surely accept my offer for the first dance, no?"

Immediately, Integra glanced at Alucard thinking that perhaps she was pushing her luck. It was not her goal to upset her mate.

"It's fine, Integra. Let him grasp onto his hope for a little longer." Alucard eased her concerns. His voice was very composed inside her mind. "It's not like he'll take no for an answer. I know I wouldn't."

Integra really did not know what to say in response to that. She stood up and delightfully accepted Vlad's offer and they left the table to join the others who were dancing near the fireplace where the four-piece band was playing.

No one at the table said a word until Integra and Vlad were well out of earshot.

"You're a good man, Alucard." One of them said. "I don't know if I'd be so easy going about my wife going off to dance with another man."

Alucard would not be the lesser man. He said loud enough for the Wallachian nobles to hear. "My wife might be fearless… but our trust in each other is much greater. She can dance with whom she wishes for it is my bed she returns to each night."

The men at the table were laughing and slapping the table.

"Hear! Hear!"

Besides, the vampire seemed more interested in licking meat blood from his finger than his mate going off to dance with, unbeknownst to them, his human alter ego.

"Anyways, what am I to do? He's not just another man." Alucard explained to them. "He is Vlad Dracula, Prince of Wallachia. I will not stand in their way of harmless fun. You're all reading far too much into it."

It was amusing the looks on their faces. Surely, they thought him delusional or in denial. They all certainly wondered if his wife was having an affair with the prince right under his nose. It fueled them all with delicious gossip. Many of them inconspicuously watched Vlad and Integra join the dancing.

Of course, Alucard was irritated that Vlad kept chasing after his woman, but a part of him understood what his human counterpart was feeling. Integra was a beautiful woman that made his blood pump—she brought hope into his dismal medieval life filled with war and torment. Alucard knew all too well for he was once lost and hopeless until she came along in the form of a brave human child.

For as cold and calculating as Integra could appear to be on the outside… her intentions were always good, she had heart and purpose. She wanted Vlad to enjoy this night.

It strangely felt like this was some kind of last supper. For Vlad. For himself. For her.

If they did not fix this historical anomaly, it very well could be their last… anything.

*****

There was veil of alarm sounding inside of him, but Vlad pushed it aside as he danced with Integra, arms hooked together at the elbows, skipping in a merry circle. It was a sensation similar to when one enters a dark cave, not knowing what lay deep inside ready to swallow him up. Perhaps it was all the beer jostling around inside his belly. Maybe it was gas.

He ignored it all.

Instead, a pleasant smile filled his features for he has not felt this free in a long, long time. "I thank thee for this indulgence, Integra. It would have been an indignity to waste these threads sitting at a table full of drunken men. Even if you do present yourself as a warrior—and this is a feast for warriors—you are still a woman and thus play by a different set of rules. No?"

"I suppose so." Integra could not exactly argue that point and chuckled to herself wondering what Vlad was getting at. "I've never attended a feast quite like this one before. You have teased me plenty about my feminine plight tonight so I cannot say I feel like one of your soldiers just yet."

"But you are so lovely to tease… I find that I cannot help myself. If you had claws and whiskers surely you would hiss at me." Vlad laughed. "Alucard is blessed."

The irony did not bypass her. "Yes, yes he is. I am blessed to have him as well." She meant it.

They danced in silence for a minute before Integra dared to ask her own questions.

"Where is your wife? Surely you are married?" Of course, Integra knew he had three sons and married at least twice in his lifetime, but he had not mentioned any of them yet, not even once.

Vlad's blue eyes grew distant. "Indeed, I am. She remains in Hungary while I conduct my marches. War is no place for a wom—"

"There you go again with that." Integra accused him. "Except for a rare few of us, of course…"

"You are nothing like my wife, Integra." Vlad replied. "I look forward to seeing what else you can do on the battlefield even if…" He hesitated for a moment before continuing. "…even if I do not wish to see you injured."

"We have only just met but I pledged to fight alongside you," Integra reminded him. "Even if that means death that is an oath and I intend to stand by it."

Her words moved him immensely. "I fear that with every moment I stand in your presence the further I fall," Vlad declared with blind confidence. "I promise that one day I'll sweep you off your feet, Integra. You will change your mind about your husband and fall for me as equally hard… I know it. You are meant to be mine."

Integra raised a single brow. "Oh, really…? So then, I would be your mistress… a plaything."

"You make it sound so immoral," Vlad accused. "How can I deny how alive you make me feel? You must feel the same… only you stubbornly deny it. You cannot hide your attraction to me."

It was rather difficult to hide it when the man constantly reminded her of her most beloved vampire. Perhaps she was not hiding it as well as she thought she was.

"Let's not get carried away." Integra sighed. "Tomorrow I'm going to knock you on your backside and you will truly fall for me then."

Vlad's moustache twitched with a smile. "It would be my pleasure…"

*****

It was one thing that the Prince got to dance with Integra first but an entirely different thing when he began declaring his fatal attraction to her. Alucard stood up from the table without saying a word to anyone else and made his way through the crowd of people to the dance floor.

Enough was enough.

Vlad would get her one day—599 years from now—but not today.

Alucard hated to admit it but his human self was a bit of a horn dog. Indeed, Integra was a lovely treat, but he was not about to share her with Vlad the Impaler.

Sure, he might have started out as Vlad but they are completely different beings now and Integra belonged to him.

Around the tall vampire, people danced and barely paid him any interest, except the people seated at the head table. They turned in their seats and gawked, curious about what Alucard was going to do.

Alucard simply tapped Vlad on the shoulder. "Might I have a turn dancing with the lovely lady?"

Immediately, Vlad began to frown but then something came over him like a trance. His face softened. He let go of Integra's arm and slowly faced Alucard. "We are not finished here. Do not interfere."

With a gentle expression, Alucard stared deep into Vlad's eyes and leaned in a bit closer to his human self. He whispered to Vlad's subconscious. "Integra belongs to me. She will dance with me now and you will return to your countrymen who wait humbly for you at your table. Now, be off with you."

Vlad spoke as if he was daydreaming. "I… I think you should dance with Integra. I'll return to my table."

Off he went. Vlad left the dance floor and took a seat at his table like a puppet.

Triumphantly, Alucard collected Integra into his arms and spun her around in time to the music.

Integra gasped.

"You see, I knew he would listen," Alucard alleged. "He will simply think he's had too much to drink."

She scoffed and watched how Vlad sat at his table blinking with uncertainty, not paying attention to the things been said to him by his companions at the table. It was as if he didn't know how he got back to his seat.

"Did you use your Love Beam on him?" Integra accused.

Alucard groaned. "Why must you insist on using that Frenchman's term? It's ridiculous."

"Oh, I dunno... Pip might be right about that idiom. For a moment there, I thought you two were going to kiss each other." Integra did not hold back the vivacious laughter that followed.

"Well, at least he wasn't insinuating that I have an affair with him," Alucard said sourly, nearly grinding his fangs together.

"You're right. Perhaps it's worse than I thought," Integra agreed as she switched arms with Alucard and danced in the opposite direction. "I fear he's fallen for me."

"You think?" the vampire retort, sarcasm dripping like wet paint.

"What am I supposed to do about it?" Integra wondered.

Alucard suggested with evil menace. "Beat him to a bloody pulp tomorrow at the tournament."

Integra sighed. "They will all learn not to underestimate me… as long as I keep standing on my own two feet. I… I don't know how much of a beating I can give him when I feel so weak. "

"Why did you even agree to such a challenge?"

"Alucard…" Integra droned. "Must you even ask why?"

His false green eyes glanced towards the heavens. "You're too proud."

Integra gave no reply because he was right.

"As soon as this feast is over I'm going to crash in the graveyard out back. Will you be coming with me?" Alucard asked.

"I feel like I could fall asleep right now even though it's almost midnight and I should be waking up! Ugh, everything feels off balance these days. I wish the sword fight wasn't in the middle of the day," Integra groaned.

"Tell me about it." Alucard growled.

"I think I'm ready to go home."

"Me too…"

Chapter Text

Penwood Estate, London – September 27th, 2031, 9:46 p.m.

xx

Seras was on edge, serious edge.

It's been one week since Section XIII broke into the mansion, rough-handled Judy and Marvin and took the Hellsing family spell book. Of all the people from that insidious tenebrous group, it was those bastards, Makube and Heinkel, that were responsible for committing the crime.

And, it all happened right under their noses.

What nerve! Seras thought. What absolute madness. That tome was a very important heirloom and when Integra finds out about this… only God knows what she will do.

Were the Iscariots trying to start a war? There can be no good end to such treachery.

Integra was going to lose her shit.

What was Makube thinking, why did he want that book of witchcraft so badly? Seras tried everything to get in contact with them, but currently it seems all Iscariot were hiding deep within the Vatican. Of course, she cannot just go there and attack them, demanding that they return the book, not without consulting Integra first.

That would be excessively dangerous… unless, that is what they are trying to provoke.

It did not make any sense.

To make matters worse, Integra was not answering any of her phone calls or emails and neither was Alucard. In fact, every call to Integra or Alucard's phone ended with '…sorry this number is not in service…' recording. It's as if her masters have simply vanished. Could they be in a no-mobile zone with bad connections? Did they turn off their phones?

No one from the Convention of Twelve has had any contact with Integra since she left the country. September 12th was the last time Seras got any kind of update—the time when Integra sent her that email containing photos of her and Alucard dancing with blurred out feet.

The worst part was the vampiric connection Seras normally felt between the three of them was almost non-existent. Weak. Disconnected.

It did not feel right. Something was wrong but she had no idea where to start.

Seras Victoria could not help but think of all the trouble they faced one year ago with Sergiu and his gang of dhampirs. Was someone extracting revenge? Did the missing hybrids, that they never located, have something to do with this?

All these unanswered questions… it's what brought Seras to Penwood's estate this evening.

He had to know what was happening, other than the Iscariot Organization stealing Hellsing property. Integra told her to trust the Penwood's in her absence.

So maybe he knew something she did not.

She sat in a grand room full of antique furniture much like the aristocratic Old English fanfare that made up the Hellsing Manor. Only this place had more upholstery and large oriental rugs and gilded paintings of the Penwood ancestry. This room, in particular, seemed dedicated to lineage portraits. On the left wall above the fire place was a collection of all the Mrs. Penwood's throughout the ages, with their air of dignity and poise, hair coiffed and curled like that of old queens. On the other wall hung all the Mr. Penwood's starting with Gregory's great-great-great-grandfather, who appeared a stuffy old coot decorated with war medals holding up a bayonet rifle proudly at his side.

A stout, middle-aged butler with a shiny balding head came in and politely offered her tea and biscuits, much to Seras's dismay. He knew perfectly well she did not eat that kind of food, but he always offered it to her anyways, as if by some modus operandi, the few times that she came here.

Seras watched his shiny head leave the room with sigh.

"Where is Gregory? What's taking him so long?" The draculina muttered to Pip in a whisper.

"Your question is as good as mine—I have no clue, mon chérie." Pip said inside her mind. "Perhaps he has slipped and bumped his head?"

Seras shook her head and smiled in a goofy sort of way. "That's not very funny, Pip."

"Je suis désolé… I was just trying to lighten the mood," Pip insisted. "Shall I go peek around the house? We might not like what we find, however."

Seras thought about it and decided she had no desire to discover what Penwood did in private. "No, we better not. He'll show up—"

And just like that, Gregory ambled into the room looking flustered and his mop of black hair dishevelled. "So sorry to keep you waiting, Miss Victoria, I err… I believe there was something off with the potpie I had this evening. Beg your pardon."

Whatever it was that he had for dinner there was always something plaguing Gregory, Seras thought. She stood up from the loveseat that she was sitting on eager to get on with it.

"Oh, please sit—sit," Gregory insisted politely sensing her agitation. He began to loosened his tie as if it was chocking him and asked with caution, "W-what brings you here this evening?"

Seras remained standing and got right to the point. "Have you spoken to Integra recently?"

"Who…?" Gregory quickly remarked.

The draculina narrowed her eyes at Penwood. "Err… Integra Hellsing. One of your Convention of Twelve members…?"

Finally, recognition lit up the large man's face with a twist of his dark moustache. "Oh yes, of course!" he exclaimed. As if he was clearing his muddled thoughts, there was a pause before he answered the question. "No…  I have not spoken to Integra at all. I believe no one has heard from her in days."

The vampire sighed.

Penwood added, "There is something though…"

"What is it?" Seras encouraged.

Penwood moved in closer while pulling his phone out from his back pocket, finger navigating through the fields on the device. "I was browsing through some old fencing photographs when I found the most bizarre thing. Here. Look." He held the device out for Seras to see.

On the small glowing screen was a photo of Integra, she was wearing her fencing helmet and chest gear, facing the camera with the tip of her sword pointed to the floor, her other hand propped proudly on her hip.

"Her legs are gone!" Seras screeched and brought her hand up to her mouth in shock.

"I promise you I have done nothing with this photo—it's three years old. What do you make of it?" Penwood wondered.

"It's like she's fading away or something," Seras declared, thinking of the dancing photo where Alucard and Integra were missing their feet. Were all photographs of her like this? "A moment ago, you didn't even know who I was talking about. Do you have any pictures of Master?"

Penwood simply stared blankly at her for a moment.

"Don't tell me you don't know who I'm speaking of?" the draculina wondered and grabbed Gregory's phone from his hands. "May I…?

Penwood did not really have a choice as Seras swiped her finger across the phone's screen searching through his personal photo gallery. Then, it dawned on him that this pretty, blond-haired vampire might stumble across some more of his sensitive pictures collected in his gallery and made a move to grab the phone back.

Only Seras spun away from his hand and continued to search for a photo of Alucard, but all she found were rows and rows of cat photos. It was Mittens, Gregory's fluffy white Himalayan, captured in a profuse anthology of adorable poses, sometimes wearing cute jackets or hats made for felines.

Gregory withdrew his hand with a chagrined sigh. What could he say? "Everybody needs a past time," he mumbled.

"There!" Seras came across a picture of Alucard from last year's London Opera Ball. He was wearing a black-tailed tuxedo with black satin lapels, a matching waistcoat, white wing-tipped dress shirt and a red silk handkerchief in his left breast pocket with a black silk tie tied into an Eldredge knot.

However, she could not see the cool shades that hid his red vampire eyes that night because, "His whole head is missing from the rest of his body!" She wailed.

"Let me see," petitioned Penwood and came around to stand next to Seras. "By golly, it's true!"

"What does this mean?" Seras spoke aloud. "Why are all their photographs missing parts of their bodies?"

Penwood began to blink and take a few steps back. He appeared so puzzled and distant all of the sudden. "Pardon me miss, but who is that on my phone?" Then he gasped softly and looked startled at her like she was an intruder. "W-who are you? And why do you have my phone? Give it back. Ainsley!"

The balding butler arrived post haste into the living room when the lord of the house bellowed. "Yes, sir? What's happening?"

"You will escort this peculiar person from the premises immediately." He held out his hand nervously. "My phone if you will, miss." He demanded. "Please leave quietly."

"Sir Gregory…?" Seras questioned with alarm. "What just happened to you? You know me… what are you going on about?"

"I-I know how to sword fight," Gregory huffed and snatched his phone from the draculina's hand impatiently. "If you do not leave I will fight you myself, and I will!" He promised with that staunch Penwood nerve that made his grandfather famous.

Ainsley was now on his own phone with the police. "Yes, I'd like to report a home invasion. There is a strange girl on the premises."

Bewildered, Seras had no other choice. She fled the Penwood estate filled with more questions than she originally came here with.

******

Târgoviște, Wallachia – January 20th, 1477, 3:02 a.m.

The murkiness of the night devoured the chilling scream. Two Wallachian soldiers were dragging a young girl through the courtyard. The girl's bare feet floundered and scraped along the hard frozen ground helplessly, her nightgown billowing like a white linen sheet hung out to dry.

The girl could not be more than sixteen years of age.

These soldiers snatched her straight from her bed as she slept, everyone was either passed out drunk or sleeping from the festivities this evening to notice.

As if she were on the back of a horse-drawn carriage, the formidable Princely Court where her mother worked loomed in the background as they drew further away. Then, her eyes landed on a third soldier that followed behind, his salacious grin focused on her like a hungry wolf.

"Please, sir, do not do this," she begged of him. "I plead of thee!"

One of the men dragging her growled before the man behind them could reply. "Be quiet or we'll knock the wits out of you."

The man following them in the back barked out a laugh. "Wouldn't want that to happen," he alleged. "Then you'd miss out on all the fun were about to have together."

Lastly, the third man who helped drag the helpless girl through the courtyard sneered, "I want to see the look in your eye while I'm fuckin' ya."

To the girl's horror they all laughed, laughed like the soulless monsters that they were.

She fought back mightily. Lashing out with flailing feet, shredding her wool stockings, adrenaline pumping through her limbs like cold steel. She felt… nothing. There was no pain despite her bruised legs and bloodied feet.

Filled with terror, her screams were fearsome and shrill.

Through the barren gardens, they headed for the small graveyard where seldom anyone came during this time of year. In the deep night of winter, the gardens and graveyard were solemn, cold and murky. The trees resembled the gnarled fingers of the dead without the protection of their summer foliage, creaking like old bones in the wind.

When they entered the cemetery, one of the men could not resist taunting the girl again. "The dead are going to get a show tonight. It might actually make them stir." He chuckled with drunken menace, his belly still warm with the voivode's generous feast. "We're so far from the castle that no one will hear you scream now you little tart. Ha. Ha!"

The girl merely whimpered in fear.

Her eyes took on a few haunting old tombs followed by randomly placed headstones. Plant life now asleep for the winter, had taken over many of the stones encroaching them with blackened moss, spidery brown vines and brittle leaves. She knew that people tended to avoid this graveyard due to rumours that evil things dwelled here, ancient things that went way back to beliefs believed by the founding Goths.

"There. Put her over there," ordered the guard that followed, pointing his finger towards a darkened path that led to large coffin-shaped tomb. "Hike up her skirts—turn her around. I want first rights."

"The hell you do," argued another soldier who was bigger in size and using it to his advantage. "We agreed I would go first."

"Will you two shut up!" hissed the third man. "I want to feel those titties first before breaking her in. What's the rush?"

"The rush?" repeated one of them aghast. "It's bloody freezing out here that's the rush!"

They shoved the girl's back up against the tall slab of stone, the side of a tomb containing the remains of some long lost Wallachian noble. Two of the men kept her shoulders pinned against the stone while the third tore open the front of her nightdress, fabric ripping, exposing her soft white flesh to the frigid winter air.

"Like a little doll, she is," the man said, his breath steaming in great clouds before the girl's face while he admired his prize.

Disgusted, the girl turned her face from the horrid stench of alcohol on his breath. Yet, no matter how hard she tried to avoid her attackers, another set of eyes and a malicious smile full of rotten teeth met hers on either her right and left.

The foulness surrounded her and she begged of them once more. "I’m pure! Please, I'm saving myself for my wedding night. Have you no shame?"

"Tch! By the time we're done with you, there might not even be a wedding night," said the tallest of the three as he leaned in to lick across the side of her face like a slobbering dog.

Insatiable lust furbished their greedy laughter that followed.

"Somebody help! Please!" The girl cried out.

The Wallachian soldier standing before her began to loosen his breeches, thrusting a hand down the front of his pants, massaging himself eagerly.

"You're all going to rot in hell for an eternity!" she promised them. "In the name of all that is Holy do not do this..."

"Enough of your yammering…! Turn her around," snapped one of the men.

*****

Integra was fast asleep. Her head was resting on her Alucard's unmoving chest, when something stronger than her desire for slumber came over her like a rushing wave of water. Her crimson eyes snapped opened—fangs ready to feed.

Blood.

Humans were approaching. There were three, maybe four of them. Their hearts pounded like gongs in her head. Then, a piercing wail had Integra on alert.

It came from a young girl. Her lifeblood was of the purest scent. She was terrified.

Integra sniffed out the situation, picking up other nuances that only her vampiric gift could collect. She sensed the stench of dread and heathen desire. It was a repulsive gluttonous desire… the kind of desire that wicked mortals harbour much too often.

She nudged Alucard with an elbow. "Wake up," she whispered in demand. "I think something is going on outside."

Alucard grunted and scowled at the interruption of blissful rest he was sorely lacking. "I beg of you to ignore it and go back to sleep, my love. It will be daylight in a few hours… I'm weary," he murmured.

The scent of evil ne'er-do-wells was nothing new to the king of vampires. He had been dealing with their sordid stench for hundreds of years.

However, Integra could not ignore it so easily she was a Hellsing. Her mortal promise to protect innocent people still meant something to her in her vampire existence. She swore to use her unlife for good and not evil. Right now, something was terribly wrong and she intended to find out what it was.

Before Alucard could stop his bride, Integra vanished from the tomb without another word. "So be it," he growled and closed his eyes with the full intent on going back to sleep.

Then… he sensed it.

Integra's bloodlust went nuclear.

With a disgruntled snarl, he pushed aside the solid stone lid of the tomb and crawled out of it like a modern day Halloween attraction. His actions drew out a gasp from a scrawny man with his breeches bunched around his ankles, his long shirt covering up his evident erection. Along with him were two other men who currently had a young girl pinned up against the side of the tomb.

All three stared in horror at the towering being dressed in a red frock coat, a large red hat and a smile that oozed with danger. His eyes burned with evil purpose.

"Look. T-there's another one!" cried a man with scraggly dark brown hair.

Integra did not conceal her true form from these humans, who were clearly about to hurt this innocent. Her eyes flamed with fury, her menacing teeth bared amidst a snarl and her claws grew long enough to spill their innards with one swipe.

"How dare you?" she sneered at the rapists.

The soldier's faces went back and forth between the man in the large red fedora and the blond-haired woman that loomed over them in the dark.

"Demons!" One of them wailed frantically. "Undead!"

In unison, all three Wallachian guards let go of the girl and ran for their lives.

The young woman fell to the ground in a heap and cowered there in a whimper. She, too, was fearful of the unnatural looking beings that were suddenly upon them in the graveyard.

However, Alucard acted quickly. He scooped up the frightened girl and flashed away. He aimed for the castle, shielding her away from the oncoming slaughter that was about to take place in the graveyard tonight.

"Do not be troubled." The nosferatu told her in a rather gentle tone. "Those maggots will never harm you again, I promise. Now hurry, get to your bed and pray to your god and tell no one of what you've seen here tonight."

Bewildered and frightened, the girl knew something going against nature just saved her life. Yet, bravely she nodded and said to the tall red-cloaked man with untamed black hair and wistful crimson eyes, "Thank you, sir. I promise I shan't say a word to anyone."

Of course, she would not. Alucard stared sincerely into her soft blue eyes and mouthed enchantingly, "You will remember nothing of this night. Now, be off with you."

The girl nodded almost sleepily before turning around and walking away, off to find the comfort of her mother's warmth.

Alucard gazed off in the direction of the graveyard and chuckled wickedly. He rushed back to the cemetery just in time to find his beloved queen ripping an arm off one of the guards whose pants still hung appallingly around his ankles. As the sinew and flesh tore, the man squealed like a pig in slaughter and his blood splattered all over Integra's furious face.

Her vampiric rage had taken over. His bride was a beautiful, behemothic sight of spectacular bloodlust. Her hair floated around her like fine silk threads, a juxtaposition to her bloodstained face, which was full of malice and ruthless desire. Her body moved with such grace and speed, all with motivation to destroy.

Alucard watched the scene entranced. Oh, how he longed for this splendid moment.

Integra dropped the now armless man like dead weight and chased the two other men attempting to flee. They did not get far before she thrust her clawed hand right through the back of one fleeing guards, extracting his still beating heart, which she crushed before his dying eyes.

Without losing momentum, she was upon the third man who tripped over a short grave marker when he turned to look back at the snarling devil with long hair, demonic eyes and a mouthful of deadly teeth. He tumbled in a clumsy sprawl, rolled onto his back, and held his hands out in front of himself frantically.

This woman, this creature… she no longer wore the splendid velvet dress from the feast earlier this evening. No, she had on a simple long white nightgown probably provided by the prince as well. "You, you're Vlad's mistress," the man muttered with shocking recognition. "W-what, what are you!"

"A very hungry vampire," she hissed at him and chuckled darkly.

She had but one desire. Kill… kill…kill! Kill the bastards who knew no shame. Kill those who preyed on helpless women. Eat those whose blood ran sweet. She stood before the moon. Her shadow lay over the last man alive as he pleaded for mercy, but she merely smiled at him. She smiled at him and laughed with a bloodthirsty glee.

Integra wanted blood.

"No! Please…!" The guard scrambled backwards in a desperate attempt to get away but Integra was on him, straddling him and chomping her fangs into his jugular, so fast the man did not even have time to scream another word.

Mmm… blood, it washed down her throat and into her belly. There were no words to describe the raging strength stretching to her very tips. Every fibre sang anew with life and warmth.

Integra drank until there was nothing left, and only then did she lift her head.

Casually leaning against the edge of a tombstone, Alucard softly clapped his gloved hands from a few feet away.

Integra stood. She gazed over at Alucard with a maw full of bloody teeth and hissed at him. Shaking her head, she blinked a couple of times while the bloodlust loosened its grip on her and she realized Alucard was not prey.

"Magnificent, Integra," the vampire king praised. "I knew this day would come. How does it feel to unleash true bloodlust? It is truly wonderful, yes?"

With her hands held out in front of her, Integra watched the claws retract and her hands return to normal. Thoughts raced through her mind just as the fresh blood she consumed raced through her undead body.

Alucard pushed himself off the stone and sauntered over to the half-naked man with one arm. He lay on the ground groaning, twisted and broken. Where his other arm could be was anyone's guess. "This one is still alive," he observed with great interest. "May I… Integra…?"

It was hard to believe he waited for her to give him permission, especially after what she just did. Integra quickly found her voice and replied. "Of course, Alucard… I have deprived you long enough."

In silence, it was her turn to watch as Alucard got to his knees and leaned over the dying man's throat. With his long frock coat fanned out around him, the old vampire opened his mouth wide and sank his fangs into the vein with a satisfying squelch.

Alucard wanted to savour this treat, but his thirst was so strong he drank greedily. He drank until the half-naked man was empty. After which, he reached into the dead man's chest and destroyed the heart.

Finished with his meal, Alucard rose to his feet and glanced at his bride briefly, then down at the ground near her feet. The guard she finished eating a moment ago… the man began to stir to back unlife.

"Oh, look at that. Your very first ghoul is born, Integra." Alucard mused in good fun. The undead guard was trying to get to his feet. "You forgot to finish him off properly—through the heart or the head—you of all people should know better. That is… unless you are trying to create an army."

Behind her, a ghoul with a half severed neck and a head of stringy dark hair dangling in front of its face, stood shakily on infant feet. The undead guard was ready for her command. With a disgusted sigh, Integra tore the ghoul's head right from its shoulders and properly crushed its brains beneath her slipper.

The ghoul was no more.

Despite feeling so alive and warm, Integra gazed up at the night sky brimming with unpolluted constellations opposite of the glowing moon.

"You seem troubled. What's the matter?" Alucard patiently wondered.

"It was not up to me to pass judgement on them." The graveyard was so quiet now, peaceful.

Alucard sniffed. "Then who would have, Integra? God? Or, perhaps the upstanding laws of the fifteenth century? Vlad would have skinned them alive, nonetheless hung them out for the flies to feast. Do you really believe scum like that deserved anything less?"

Integra remained silent.

"The atrocities those men were going to do to that girl… the horrors she would have gone through." Alucard reminded. "Those kinds enrage me just as they enraged you, and you were quicker to respond than I was. You unleashed what it truly means to be a vampire, my heart."

The vampire king swooped in and took his blood-splattered bride into his arms, tipping her chin up to look at him. "There is no shame in what you are, Integra. What I saw tonight was a thing of unrivalled beauty. You are my perfect creature."

"You were right about everything, Alucard. My mind went completely blank," Integra revealed to him. "I had no idea what I was doing until I noticed you watching. What if—"

"—what if you lose control on Vlad or his men?" Alucard knew what she was going to say. "If you were going to lose it on them then you would have done so this evening at the celebrations. However, you did not. You have a lot more control than I thought, my love. Yet, these soldiers… these dogs… you know as well as I do that they had it coming."

"Perhaps you're right. Either way, we have to get rid of these bodies… someone will surely discover them," Integra advised.

Alucard pet over her platinum tresses softly. "I have just the thing," he assured and transformed his left arm into a writhing black and red shadow roving with red eyes that shaped into a giant hound with sharp white teeth. In fact, the writhing shadow took over most of Alucard's body—him being nothing more than an attachment to the shadow hound itself.

"You're going to devour them?" Integra curiously wondered as she let go of Alucard and stepped aside. "Do you think I can do something like this?"

"One day, perhaps. Even Seras cannot perform this kind of shadow magic just yet, but I am sure you both will, one day, as you get stronger. The trick is you have to embrace the shadows around you, manipulate them because they become a part of you. Just as the night creatures, the weather, they are a part of you also… if you let them." Alucard explained to her.

Integra guffawed. Her vampire was always willing to tutor her in the art of vampirism that uniquely belonged to his bloodline. She could feel the night speaking to her… she could sense the creatures nearby, but controlling them seemed so far out of reach. "I suppose I have to gain more strength by drinking more blood."

The centuries old vampire did not have to say anything because they both knew the answer to that. "A part of your kill belongs to you now. This time you drank your victim to death… can you feel his soul?"

She had not even thought of that yet. Alarmed, Integra placed a hand to her chest and focused on the energy flowing through her body. "I… I do not feel any different except that I am suddenly so energized. Do they speak to me? Will it take over my conscious? Will I… disappear?"

"I doubt it," her mate replied." You would have to consume many more souls before that became a problem. Hopefully by then you will have gotten better at cleansing yourself of unwanted guests." Killing a couple of unwanted souls took a lot less time than millions did, all denying him awareness and clouding his judgment. He would have to destroy those befuddling his own mind before he could find his way home again, to her.

He supposed the same could happen to Integra one day also, since she acquired the same omnipresent power when he changed her. Yet, she was still so new to many of her vampire powers that it would not be a concern so soon. He would be sure to teach her how to deal with it, because he did not want her to leave him for 30 years as he did to her.

Never again.

Integra was busy contemplating her newly devoured soul as Alucard's hellhound devoured the bodies littering the graveyard with open enthusiasm. She altered her nightgown to that of her regular clothes she came here with, a pair of dark trousers, beige sweater and a long grey overcoat. Her hand fished in the coat pockets. She had three cigars left to her name.

Integra extracted one and ever so grateful, lit it up and inhaled deeply.

The horrid crunching of bones and satisfied slurps stopped. "Where did you toss that guy's arm?" Alucard paused to ask. "Shall I chance it to the animals?"

For a brief moment, Integra sensed the aspiration of a nearby animal. It was a raven and it desired to consume the carrion that was the torn off arm that they now spoke of. A nameless power possessed her to raise her free arm and out of the nearby tree flew a raven, which came over and perched on Integra's forearm.

"What did I tell you?" Alucard murmured with knowing. "You heard it. I heard it, too."

"She wants us to leave the meat for her brethren. Then you may have it," Integra told the big black raven.

The bird cawed loudly in thanks before it flew off into the mist to find the amputated arm.

"Well, that solves that problem." Alucard chuckled with triumph at the mystical feat his mistress just performed.

Feeling rather proud of this achievement, Integra took a delightful drag off her cigar and exhaled. "I'm wide awake now. What should we do, Alucard? I don't think I can sleep a wink."

"Our kind should not be thinking about sleep in the middle of the night. Yet, we'll probably regret saying that tomorrow when you face Vlad for your friendly crossing of swords," he reminded her regretfully.

Integra gave her mate a shrewd smile. "Perhaps, but now… I am ready for anything. I am no longer weak and lethargic, Alucard. Now, I'm rather looking forward to this engagement."

Of course, she was. Alucard thought with sarcasm. "I cannot wait."

Chapter Text

 

Târgoviște, Wallachia – January 20th, 1477, 1:17 p.m.

 

Vlad waited in the palace courtyard for his challenger to arrive. His boots stood in a dusting of fresh snow and above him, the sky felt heavy with overcast like a cold sheet of steel. It was the middle of the day and people milled around conducting their usual palace duties. He heard the hammer of the blacksmith hard at work from the other side of the fortress and a cart-donkey braying.

Winter sucked the vibrancy out of everything it touched, but it did not slow down the people of Wallachia. And, it certainly did not slow down their prince, whose heart beat with new purpose.

This part of the courtyard, often used for training, was fitted with a couple of straw dummies and two well-used archery targets. Around Vlad, stood a handful of officers, men that managed his armies camped outside the eastside of the castle walls. Some of them were newly forged alliances with neighboring boyars, now in his favor all thanks to the wondrous survival of the thwarted Ottoman ambush.

Of course, they heard about Vlad's bold proclamation to face off with the beautiful fair-haired woman at last night's feast. They, too, were keen on watching this peculiar exchange of swords, curious to see this woman in action.

He was no fool, Vlad overheard people talk about Integra—the mysterious woman from faraway lands accompanied by an equally mysterious man, who just so happened to speak fluent Wallachian.

The warlord scoffed. Indeed, the mystery surrounding them was getting on his nerves.

Today, Vlad had sent Alucard—who bore such an odd name he thought—out on a scouting mission with his most trusted man, Grigore. It was time Alucard proved his worth, just as Vlad would prove Integra's here on the training ground all in one day. Vlad preferred it this way. It kept Alucard out of his hair while he sought the truth from his so-called wife.

Indeed, people talk and word already spread across the region that this woman was as great with a sword as he was, if not better, many having witnessed her deadly defeats on the battlefield during the ambush. Whispers spoke of her and her companion's possible connections to dark magic. Many believed they simply appeared on the battleground like apparitions, some kind of summoned spirits. Thus, several concluded that Vlad himself must have conspired with devils and black magic to win over the land from those that dare try to take it from him.

God, do you listen at all? You make a mockery out of me.

At this point Vlad did not see how any of that mattered anymore. Each great action he took in the name of God lay upon deaf ears. He had few supporters left, most killed during his relentless sieges and many went turncoat. He was running out of farmers and the sons of farmers to fight in his armies—soon there would be none left and Wallachia would starve.

There was no time to waste. Vlad knew in his gut that the Sultan was coming for his head. It was just a matter of when.

He had sacrificed so much to Him Almighty, yet… he got nothing in return. At least, that is, until now.

Vlad grunted in softly to himself. So be it, if these mercenaries from faraway lands were truly a gift from God or otherwise, here to support him and rally his forces, then he was not about to ignore it. Instead, he would embrace what Integra and Alucard could teach them.

He needed warriors to fight, dammit, not abecedarian farm boys!

Perhaps it was a covetous, this sparring match, yet so little has provided him with such pleasure. His mind would not rest. A part of him knew he was looking for excuses to be close to this woman, a fleeting indulgence when the horrors of war were upon them like a greedy undertaker. How foolish was he? Believing his heart shrivelled and forsaken… but, it was not so.

This woman stoked his flame into a raging inferno.

He would see what she has to offer with her swordplay—train his men with a few new techniques in hopes to gain the upper hand. After all, he would do anything it takes to get the advantage against the Ottoman Empire, anything to keep this country from falling into their subjugated grip.

This was his land! And these were his people! Vlad's strong, callused fingers curled into knuckle-cracking fists at his sides.

Integra was unlike any woman he had ever met, unlike any woman he tried to lure into his bedchamber, for that matter. She flat out refused to be his mistress. He would go easy on the foreign woman mercenary, he decided. Downplay his strength so at least the men watching might learn the style of her swift sword.

Yes. A simple exchange of skill, he thought… nothing more than a friendly jest. Today, he would unveil her talents to the rest of his men.

A murmur rippled among the audience. Vlad's blue eyes focused on the cause of the disruption.

The she-devil finally arrived. She made her way to him through a parting crowd, fitted with a long-sleeved tunic underneath dark studded leather armour complete with breastplate, scalloped shoulder armour and leather tassets skirting out at the hips. Her adornments, very similar to his, came from the armoury upon his command.

Such contrast from the beautiful gown she wore last night at the festivities.

His gaze travelled over her knee high boots and fitted trousers, noting one thick belt used to house a long sword and another belt to hold the armour snug to her body. Like him, she forwent a helmet. Over his large, lofty frame, he wore armour adequate for sparring, a dark leather breastplate, a pair of rawhide gauntlets and sword belt.

She walked up to him with all the swagger of one of his cockiest fighters. The weight of her armour did not seem to encumber her thin frame at all, which was baffling. Integra's pale hair was loose and brilliant, ruffled gently from the cold breeze.

Vlad noticed—the lifeless winter could not stop the glow of her golden crown. As he watched her, it all began to make sense to the warlord. A woman such as this, one who saunters so fearlessly towards him with the intent for combat, could never be so easily convinced to share his bed.

This woman was a warrior. He had been so imprudent, thoughtless.

Vlad's eyes revealed none of his unbridled thoughts. Outside he remained detached, a well-practiced visage of ice and stone. How could this woman be something wrought by the devil? Surly the injudicious rumours were falsehoods.

She cocked her head at him in scrutiny. "I believe the cat has your tongue, my lord."

Oh? Her Romanian today was adequate. She has been practicing. Yet, her grin was crooked. Maybe it was blind confidence.

"There… there is something different about you today," he replied carefully. Vlad could not quite put his finger on it. Slight colour warmed her complexion where it did not yesterday and her blue eyes radiated with scheming purpose. She is a most baffling woman.

"The festivities of last night were a much needed treat." She could not exactly share the true reason—that the lifeblood of those currish guards in the graveyard last night flowed through her veins, giving her skin a temporary flush of colour. And thanks to their blood memories, the Wallachian language came with much more ease. "Thank you for hosting the affair, my lord. I have not felt this light of heart in the many days since my arrival."

His voice was deep and calculating. "Nothing pleases me more, Integra..."

Integra did not want to drag this out. Her right hand went to the hilt of her sword. "Good, now let's not delay. I am itching for a fight. Come at me. Show me what kind of warrior you really are, one-on-one."

Astonished chuckles came from the bystanders close enough to hear them.

"As the lady desires. You shall feel the full extent of my blade." His smirk now rivaled hers as he lewdly minced words. Vlad unsheathed the very sword that this woman tried to filch from him on the battlefield. He held it at the ready with two hands, right foot moving back a step in a stance of readiness.

Metal sang as Integra extracted her bastard sword bearing a cruciform hilt and held it out with a steady two-handed grip. Her stance mirrored that of Vlad's. "Do not go easy on me as I suspect you are thinking. You men tend to do that. I, for one, will not go easy on you, my dear Count."

Vlad raised his sword above his head and swung at her without clemency, a growl escaping his throat. Integra was quick to block his strike, igniting a hot spark as metal met metal with a resounding clang.

"Count…?" Vlad questioned his face inches away from hers, their blades still crossed between them.

Integra played it off as if it was nothing, but inside she silently cursed herself. "It's just some English slang, I assure you."

With a grunt, both pushed off from each other and braced for the next strike, their eyes burning with a passion born of something neither could truly identify.

"Where did you send my husband?" Integra demanded, watching Vlad closely, anticipating his next move.

She already knew of Alucard's whereabouts thanks to their telepathic connection, yet, she curiously desired to hear it from Vlad's mouth. Integra brought up Alucard, because sometimes the rules of engagement called for psychological warfare to scramble an opponent's focus, and by the nasty look Vlad gave her, it appeared to be working.

A sneer swept across Vlad's features at the mention of Alucard, teeth gnashed together. Without saying a word in response, he lunged at her again. This time she met his strike at the side and parried as he came at her with all force, hacking his sword through the air like a lumberjack's axe.

Integra and Vlad became but a blur of black and gold before the growing crowd that gathered to witness the most unusual tournament in the history of their city.

Above, turn, block! Integra's question came laced with charm. "Have I struck a nerve, my lord?"

Their swords came to an impasse before them, blades grinding together as both tried to gain the upper hand. Vlad half expected her to fall to the frozen ground by now ending this charade just after the first blow, but much to his surprise, she met every one of his strikes and held it.

Perhaps he was wrong to think he would go easy on her.

This time gasps of astonishment came from Vlad's men. Integra was holding her own against the ruthless leader of Wallachia. Vlad stood as a giant next to her.

"If your precious Alucard wants to serve me then he needs to prove useful. Trust must be earned. I have an obligation to see if he is anything more than a useless tit!" Vlad spat and heaved against her with all his might.

However, Integra was not even breaking a sweat holding Vlad back with her vampiric prowess.

Trying to repel this woman was like pushing against a massive wall of stone. Confusion and pure exasperation began to furrow Vlad's brow, his unyielding gaze never leaving hers.

"How are you this strong?" He wondered with breathless incredulity. "It is impossible."

Bollocks! At once, Integra feinted remembering her place and took several steps back, but it seems as if she was determined to go from one mistake to another. For next, she held the long double-edge sword out with one hand, something nearly impossible for a human woman her size to do, let alone a grown man.

Cursing herself again, Integra placed both hands on the hilt. She kept her cool.

"I have trained for a very long time," Integra told him, but even she knew that sounded like a pitiful reason. She was forgetting how important it was not to expose supernatural abilities to this god-fearing, superstitious bunch of the 15th century.

Vlad gave her no quarter and came at her once more. "Then, I will show you no mercy, woman!" he roared and swung at her.

"Excellent! I would hate to fight against a snivelling coward." Integra provoked and arched back quickly like that of a gymnast. Vlad's blade swooped over top of her, sailing inches above her chest, chin and nose.

Integra had a counter attack in mind.

As she swayed backwards to avoid Vlad's sword, she also swung her weapon clockwise above her head, which came back full circle. The tip met with Vlad's leather chest plate cutting a clean slice directly through the tough animal hide.

The people watching them struck a staggering silence.

Stunned, Vlad inspected his breastplate with his fingers. He discovered her blade did not pierce the thick cloth beneath or his flesh. Still, she came unnervingly close. He let out a pent up breath and regarded her with an unreadable gaze, lips parted. Clearly, this was no simple woman bragging falsely gifted with sword here to amuse him. It was clear that what some had witnessed on the battlefield was as true as the current damage inflicted upon him now.

Pure marvel warmed Vlad's face, his moustache twitched at the corners.

"Nearly gutted while sparring against a woman… most unexpected!" He awarded and laughed wickedly. "You have achieved what many could not."

Suddenly and without warning, he kicked her square in the plated chest with his heavy booted foot.

Integra flew backwards, air knocked out of her. She hit the frozen ground hard on her back, sending up plumes of snow billowing into the air. Such an attack could not slow down a vampire. Integra rolled to the side just as Vlad's mighty sword smashed into the ground next to her like a bolt of lightning.

Bits of dirt pelted off her face and armour.

"You'll dull your blade if you keep doing that," she taunted, somersaulting past him and whacking the back of his leg hard with the flat side of her sword.

Vlad growled in pain and buckled at the knee for just an instant before gathering his wits and his balance. He spun around and glared at her completely flummoxed.

"Your speed is something to behold," Vlad acknowledged as she won a second hit. He did not even see it. "Upon appearance one would think you too fair to carry the weight of such heavy sword and armour. Yet, you wield it with such grace and speed. Perhaps you have been gifted by impious means."

With grace, Integra launched herself back to her feet.

They began to circle one another like caged animals.

"I am using it to my advantage that you are a lumbering oaf, my lord." She was not blind to the juxtaposition of their bodies. "The size of one's opponent does not matter as long as you have skill. Please, do not invent dishonourable reasons," she said.

Integra was indeed lying through her teeth. Of course, if it were not for her supernatural strength Vlad would have crushed her to death by now.

"Resorting to petty insults… many are not awarded the privilege lest they wish to keep their heads." Vlad took a moment to catch his breath. "I admit, I doubted your swordsmanship."

Integra kept her cool composure. "And you forget the rules. Always watch your flank lest someone removes one of your legs."

"Ha! Duly noted," Vlad replied affably. "Now you, sell-sword, come at me. Show me what else you can do, she-devil."

The brow above Integra's right eye lifted with bafflement. "Oh, now look who is the one doing the insulting. What exactly do you mean by she-devil?"

"Exactly as I said," Vlad retort.

Why did he sound so smug about it?

Her senses were ten-fold that of Vlad's. She saw his movements in almost slow motion and was able to react with plenty of forethought, except for that kick to the chest. That move took her by surprise, which worked in her favour. She could not win all the battles if she wanted everyone to believe her to be an ordinary human.

"I feared you would hold out on me, Vlad, but I am pleased that I was mistaken. You kick as hard as an ornery mule." This time she swung her sword at him, dancing around his form in a flurry of well-timed strikes practiced for decades with her fencing sword.

He noticed right away that she spoke his name instead of using respectful titles. He would not fall for anymore of her strategic devices. "You have proven it would be erroneous of me to underestimate you, it seems." Vlad blocked her sword at a speed that strained him focused lest she mock him again. "Your transition from one move to the next is rather… maddening."

The joust continued with neither landing a hit, putting on a grand display of nimble tricks and acrobatics only skilled swordsmen were capable of performing. Integra hit so hard for a featherweight warrior. Each time her blade connected with his, he felt the vibration rattle his jaw. The clanging song of swords echoed in his ears long after striking.

The spectacle had drawn in a few more people who were now cheering them on.

"Listen to that," Integra said strafing around him anticipating Vlad's oncoming manoeuvres. "We're giving them a mighty good show."

This time, Vlad fell for the ruse. The split second he turned his head to look at the crowd, she swept his legs out from under him and down he went, landing on his backside with a clatter of a felled tree.

A shadow overcame him. Integra stood over him like a curtain of gold, sword tip pressed to his throat, which pierced the skin to draw out a tiny bead of blood. For a moment, the vampire's eyes were transfixed on that delectable red droplet seeping out of Vlad's body.

The voivode pawed at the dirt on his right aimlessly, looking for his sword that slipped inches from his grasp. He hissed as cold metal pierced him further the more he wriggled around. He stopped moving, ceasing further injury, eyes transfixed on the woman holding a blade to his throat.

The silence was deafening. The crowd was nervous. A few of Vlad's officers placed a hand on the hilts of their sword in response, unsure of Integra's true intentions.

"Do you yield?" Integra demanded with such authority, it made Vlad narrow his eyes.

"Yield…? I pray that you are jesting," Vlad mused, his chest rising and falling with exertion and oh-so sweet exhilaration. "You will have to kill me before making me a mockery in front of my people."

At this, Integra laughed deeply and removed the sword from this throat. "I expect nothing less. You are as stubborn as always, Prince of Wallachia." She spoke with a strange tone of endearment. It was difficult for her to separate this man from his future monster self sometimes.

For a moment, Integra entertained the idea of what it would have been like to know Vlad when she was human, if she were born in his time. Perhaps together they would have conquered the world, re-writing history. Their rule feared and admired by all, opposition bent at the knee in submission.

With a roguish smile, Integra leaned down a little closer to him, as if she were about to pick up a dime off the sidewalk.

Vlad held his breath as she moved down towards him, forgetting all about the spectators that watched them. He thought for a moment that she might straddle him and kiss his cheek. Before he could stop it, he felt his wretched cock twitch in response. Now was not a good time!

Yet all she did was come close enough to whisper, "I fear you reek of stale wine and beer. You, my lord, are in desperate need of a bath."

Huh? Vlad simply blinked at her dumbfounded. She straightened up and stood nearby wearing a slight twist to her nose indicating she smelled something horribly rotten. In a huff, he grabbed his sword irritably and got back to his feet.

"Vixen," he growled at her. "You use your wiles to shaken the ground upon which I stand."

Integra chuckled at his indignant mewling and said, "I’m not sure why you are so worked up about it."

Vlad said in his defence, "If it humours you, I bathe at least once a week."

"Oh. Is that all?" Integra did not hold back on the cynicism. Sure, his blood smelled as if it belonged on the top shelf with all the other fine and rare spirits, but it was rather difficult to enjoy its full aromatic potential when masked by last night's festivities.

But just as Vlad was about to launch his next assault, a few guards from the front gate came running into the courtyard shouting. "Our auxiliary forces have returned after clashing with an Ottoman scouting party."

Integra perked up, she could feel her soul mate's nearness.

"Any prisoners…?" Vlad was all business now, sword fight and its delightful banter forgotten.

"Only one, my lord," replied the sentry guard, "The leader of a group of janissaries."

At this information, Vlad grew sinister and menacing. Janissaries were often men not born of the Ottoman race. They, as Vlad liked to call it, were 'stolen' people taken from various countries and foreign armies and brainwashed or often raised from boyhood (the Devshirme) to become elite fighters for the Sultan's armies. These men, given the option to convert were admired for the various military skills they brought to the empire. Many obtained ranks and squadrons to lead themselves.

These janissary warriors were not simply cannon fodder and nor should they be loosely called slaves because they were proud to be so. They were dangerous and most regarded with prudence and respect.

Vlad understood what they represented better than most.

"Bring him here and let us see what he can tell us. He will spill his guts of all he knows or I will spill them for him," Vlad said.

The merriment felt in the courtyard from the amusing sparring match dissolved into staunch tension. For many this was a common scene and for others a form of entertainment. There was also the stigma that if an enemy were here inside the palace walls, than perhaps they brought along a bad omen—that an unwelcomed attack would soon follow.

A group of five riders appeared first and behind them trailed a dozen foot soldiers, all looking a little dishevelled from the recent skirmish. Tethered by rope behind Grigore's horse, a bloodied and weary prisoner stumbled along on foot, fitted with a burlap sack over his head. Shredded was the man's ankle boots, his bloody toes frostbitten and caked with dried blood and mud. His style of clothing was different from that of the Wallachian people, loose fitting pants tucked into his boots under a belted long green waistcoat fit for the winter climate.

The prisoner crumbled to his knees in exhaustion.

Grigore climbed down from his horse along with Alucard and the other riders. Both men wore warm riding garb of dark clothing, trousers with a heavy fur-lined cloak over top a padded doublet, swords at their hip.

Alucard made solemn eye contact with Integra as soon as his feet landed on solid ground, appearing even more like his medieval counterpart in his current attire. "I fear you are about to witness the true wrath of my former self and the ugly delight the common folk take in enemy punishments. It's not going to be pretty."

Integra was unruffled. "Are you warning me about human brutality after I ripped the limb off a man and drank his blood last night? Have you forgotten what kind of childhood I've had, Alucard?"

The nosferatu grumbled. "That's not the point."

Integra sighed. She knew what he was trying to say even if he could not exactly say it. Alucard disliked the kind of man he had become near the end of his human reign. Not necessarily because of the violent things he did to other people as a mortal, but what it all meant, what he did it for. His blind devotion to a cause that was so bitterly lost.

Her tone softened. "I'm glad to see you're alright."

"It's been a while since I rode on horseback, it's such a trivial way to travel," Alucard complained. He changed the subject. "I see you survived the sword match in one piece."

He sounded rather proud and could not wait to hear the details of it all later.

"The next time a medieval warlord invites me to a swordfight remind me to keep my big mouth shut," Integra reflected as she spoke to Alucard's conscience. "Feigning my supernatural power was becoming a problem."

The old vampire actually let out a heavy sigh. "I grow so weary of this era, Integra." Alucard confessed sullenly. "It never ceases to astound me, the nature of humans, of my former self…. It is all for nothing."

"Your former self did what he thought just. It is pointless to analyze it after so many centuries, Alucard. You know better than that." Integra sheathed her sword into the scabbard at her hip and looked at the prisoner who was about to become victim to torturous interrogation. "I wonder how long he'll hold out. Do you think he will even tell us anything? I get the impression he would rather perish than say anything."

"I will make him talk if I must," Alucard alleged. "My darling Integra, this could be our opportunity to get dear old Vlad back on the battlefield." Alucard paused for a weighted moment before speaking his unease. "Something tells me you and I… we do not have much time left. If we do not correct this variance, and soon, our souls will slip from existence."

The thought alone was a sour one. Integra could feel it too, the distance growing between then and now, their web was losing its strength. "I want to go home, Alucard."

"Home," he murmured after her. "It never sounded sweeter."

Everyone's attention turned to Vlad as he approached the prisoner, drawn sword held to his side. Grigore forced the hostage back to his feet to stand before the voivode, and then he yanked the sack off his head revealing a messy head of sandy coloured hair tied back in a low ponytail. The harsh weather and his scruffy yellow beard hardened the man's features.

Promptly the janissary spat venomously in Vlad's face.

Unrest grew amongst the crowd, many calling for the prisoner's head on a spike in a heated uproar.

Yet, Vlad simply held up a hand to quiet them and they fell silent at once. Then he calmly wiped the spittle from his face with the palm of his free hand.

"What is your name?" he asked the captive.

The prisoner's dark eyes glared hatefully at the Wallachian warlord, despite his harrowing journey on foot. He maintained an air of fortitude, but he muttered something in Turkish that had Vlad nodding an order at his second in command.

Grigore nodded back respectfully and then grabbed the prisoner's right arm, holding it up with some struggle.

"Remain obstinate and I will make the pain last longer." Vlad wasted no time snapping the man's index finger cleanly to the side with a loud crack.

The prisoner let out a wail.

"Speak now! And I promise your death will come swiftly, but falter… and I will be sure to see that you suffer an agonizing bereavement. Now, tell me your name. Tell me how many days march is your horde from my city? How many of you are there?"

The imprisoned man continued to moan without uttering a word.

"Vlad knows this man will not tell him anything yet. His only hope is that the captive will succumb when he cannot handle any more torture and loses his mind," Alucard told his beloved, who was watching the whole thing without emotion. It reminded him of their old Hellsing days. She was always his rock, after all.

"When will you intervene?" She wondered.

"When it feels right..." He explained, "Too soon and it will look suspicious."

Vlad appeared to be losing patience the longer the wordless mewling continued. "I know how you came to be for I was once a son given to the empire to fatten the sultan's legionaries. Do you not remember your purpose before they taught you the glory of their ways? Give me your allegiance and we can fight back together—this torment can end here and now."

It would seem soulless eyes levelled on the warlord and the prisoner muttered in Vlad's tongue, "You will not win your petty war, monster of Wallachia."

Vlad barked out some orders and two nearby soldiers grabbed the prisoner and dragged him to a nearby post, where they tied him up with the same rope used to drag him by behind the horse. Then they stripped the man naked from the waist up, leaving him shivering with cold, fear and nerves.

The dark prince stood a haunting vision before the hostage, a ruthless man rumoured to eat his victims for breakfast. A man rumoured to enjoy watching the slow lingering deaths of the people he killed and create forests of death that would make the most fearsome leaders shudder. For the prisoner these horrific tales tormented his mind as he waited for the horrors Vlad Dracula would unleash upon him.

And he did not have to wait long.

To the crowd's delight, Vlad thrust the sharp tip of his sword in the center of the man's chest, deep enough to puncture the skin but not deep enough to kill him. The prisoner cried out. A tear of crimson wept from the prisoner's wound cascading over his stomach and onto his trousers.

"Remember I gave you the chance to surrender," Vlad reminded the janissary and cut a straight line down the middle of the man's chest, right to his naval like he was cutting into butter.

Screams filled the courtyard as the prisoner's innards began to push out of the laceration. Overhead, the sun broke through the clouds, creating a surreal scene of torture and hope.

Blood poured freely, soaking the ground upon which the prisoner stood tied to a post.

"Heed this. I will never cease my fight against the threat trying to rule my country. I will have the sultan's head." The prince vowed. "Here you will stay fastened to this post, freezing to death, but not before the wolves, birds and rats come to feast on you first."

The prisoner whimpered and began to plea.

"Oh? Does that proposal loosen your tongue? You desire a quick death then. Speak! Tell me what I need to know!" Vlad was more than done messing around.

Again, the janissary would not budge.

"Alucard," Integra urged with impatience. "I think it's time you do something."

"Very well…"

Alucard got inside the prisoner's mind, urging him to look in his direction just above Vlad's left shoulder. With much effort, the prisoner raised his head, anguish painting his face. When their eyes met, Alucard whispered in a hypnotic voice, unheard by anyone around them. "You are no longer an Ottoman pet and will tell Vlad everything you know. You are one of us."

Vlad frowned and glanced over his shoulder when the prisoner directed his gaze behind him. For a brief moment, he stared at Alucard questionably. To his astonishment, the tall mercenary simply shrugged and began to sneer at him until Integra elbowed Alucard in the ribs.

"Cut it out," she warned aloud.

Nevertheless, when the prisoner started to speak, Vlad did not think twice about Alucard's insolence.

Much to everyone's surprise the prisoner broke. He told them more than Vlad could have ever imagined—numbers, locations and even how the fellow Romanian warlord, Basarab Laiotă, was leading an attack on Târgoviște in six days time.

With an angry flash of his sword, Vlad sliced the prisoner's throat and turned on his heel, marching off without another word heading towards the castle. Everyone returned their gaze to the prisoner choking on his own blood.

The vampires heard his heart stop.

"Ugh. I wonder how difficult it is to get a bath around here." The prisoner's arterial blood spattered all over Integra's hair, face and armour. "Talk about being in the wrong place."

"Or the right one… kind of makes me hungry," Alucard disclosed staring at the bloody Ottoman morsel tied on the post.

The Hellsing woman rolled her eyes, touching a sticky wet spot on her cheek. "Tch, everything makes you hungry."

Alucard was about to remind that she was no better than he was until Grigore approached them.

"If you two do not have anything pressing to do… I believe now would be a better time than ever to gather our officers for a round of training. You heard what that prisoner said: we have six days to ready ourselves. The sooner we prepare…"

"…the more men ripe for the slaughter," Alucard finished for the man in his deep tone.

Grigore was hesitant, but he nodded. "Indeed."

A wayward grin crept upon Alucard's face with the notion of slaughter, but he would settle for training for now. "I would enjoy nothing more. It is time to take measure of your men. Hmm, just when I thought it was starting to get terribly boring around here."

Integra sighed and gave Grigore an apologetic look. "Never mind him—I think you are correct, there is no better time to begin training for the battle to come."