Nothing was as conceited as the forces of good.
They had a lovely little lie that they told themselves, to anyone who could listen. Goodness always won. Love always conquered. The hungry would be fed, and the meek would inherit the earth. Those stories were nothing more than dust on a barren plate. Goodness was never rewarded! It was ground down, whipped, beaten, murdered. It ended in an empty tomb, with nothing but sobs of its lovers to speak of its value.
People were supposed to emulate this? People were supposed to work diligently, sacrifice themselves for rewards that would never come? It was complete and utter horseshit. The only goods worth fighting for were tangible, those held by earthly hands. Dmitrii knew better. He took knives and cut the fat out of this realm. He robbed power from those too stupid to control it. He fought, back-stabbed, deceived all for this moment—for when the true strength of this world conquered the powers of the next.
He fed on evil and was victorious.
His opponent fasted for the delights of heaven and collapsed from starvation.
Dmitrii stared at his feet, glowing with pride. So this was Agent Arikado—no, Alucard? The legendary son of the Dark Lord Dracula, six hundred years old and going. The slayer of demons, destroyer of castles, gentle ally of humans. Impressive lineage. Terrible performance.
Oh, the dhampir had tried his best to stop him. His little transformations and fireballs were serviceable, annoying. The same power that blessed him damned him as well. Dmitrii was destined to be the new dark lord, the new manifestation of hell on earth. What was wicked was his to take. And Arikado—no matter how he lied, no matter how he tried to spin his fate—was a creature of the night. He was Dmitrii’s to rule. His to dominate.
Shaking shoulders were the only sign that Arikado was still alive. He laid crumpled at Dmitrii’s feet, black hair spilled over his shamed face. The abyss around them seethed with his stolen vitality. Dmitrii skimmed off its surface, drinking it in. Rich. Luxurious. Just as such a monster’s mana should taste. His power would feed this world well.
Dmitrii waved his hand to his newfound kingdom. “Help him to his feet, would you?”
Bodies peeled out of the floor. They bolstered Arikado, drew him onto aching legs. Their formation was a disaster, but they managed to keep the crestfallen agent propped up. They laid hands around his arms. Fingers clamped onto his thighs. Such support was more than enough. Not particularly artful, but compliant. That was all Dmitrii needed.
The agent raised his head. He stared into Dmitrii’s eyes, his own fogged by fatigue. Pitiful. About as bad as the empty gaze from the corpse hanging above them. Dmitrii studied it for a moment, smirking at the disturbed display. Celia looked holy, hanging from the molded cross of bodies. Her robes hid the rigid contours of her form, her hair the callous coldness frozen on her face. It was a shame she had to be sacrificed. But, ultimately, it was for the best. He had lost one tactician in his army but gained millions of foot soldiers.
Besides— now, she was literally the figurehead she always wanted to be.
“You’ve done well,” Dmitrii beamed. He glanced downward, back into those condemning, black eyes. “You too, Arikado. It’s not just anyone that can stroll their way to the throne of hell.”
Arikado retorted with arrow-sharp spit.
Dmitrii stumbled backwards, his fingers pressed in the corner of his left eye. He brushed aside mucus, scowling. What a foul little trick for a noble to pull! Completely unbecoming. Then again, this wasn’t Arikado’s finest moment. His polished veneer was cracking, flaking. The gleam on his shoes was gone, muddied by gore. One of his buttons had been torn from his double-breasted suit. Beneath its loosened folds was a dress shirt soaked with sweat, sticking to the rise and fall of his wet skin.
Dmitrii’s stomach twinged.
Cocky eyebrows pulled down. What was that?
Well, now was not the time to worry about little aches and pains. It was probably just a side-effect of the last set of powers he stole. Soma Cruz’s power of domination was something to behold. Too bad such a wondrous gift was given to a complete putz. He was like a kindergartner with a katana. Dangerous, of course, but too foolish to use his weapons well.
Arikado must have had a touch of telepathy to him. He had that same person on his mind. “Do not get comfortable with your victory. Soma is on his way.”
“I assumed. But, that doesn’t mean I can’t gloat for a while.” Dmitrii lifted his hand towards the spiral of bodies around him, his smile illuminated by the infernal glow below them. “I mean, look at this! The whole of the abyss opened, ready for my command. Pretty impressive, if I say so.”
Dark hair snapped back. “It’s perverse.”
Another pang flicked through twisted guts.
Dmitrii put a hand on his hip, bracing his side. No, he couldn’t be feeling a new power. This was inflaming, itching, beneath his skin. Something of Arikado’s doing. Perhaps he hadn’t drained every drop of magic from the agent. A single word from him was enough to give Dmitrii chills. Perverse. Just the way he said it. The press of his soft lips, the condescending growl behind his words, the way his fangs flashed for just a moment.
Hazel eyes rolled away, turning from one temptation to another. “You’ve always been a prude, Adrian.”
“Don’t call me that.” There again, with that low rumble. He just had to keep doing that!
Dmitrii crossed his arms. “You’re not in a position to argue about what I call you.”
“For now,” Arikado conceded. “When Soma arrives—”
Soma! Soma, Soma, Soma! Was that all he ever talked about? Even Celia kept yammering about him, going on and on about how she would ditch her fellow cultists the instant Soma reclaimed his throne. At least Dmitrii had shut her up. Arikado’s mouth was a different problem.
Why was he so keen on the boy, anyway? It was Soma’s fault that he was in this miserable situation!
“Oh, no. What ever should I do?” Dmitrii feigned. “Should I tell him the truth?”
A seething hiss was Arikado’s only reply.
Dmitrii turned back to his captive. That silence bound Arikado tighter than the undead hands gripping him. Finally, a little leverage! How nice of Soma to give him his precious agent’s reins. He truly was ignorant of his possessions. His power of domination. The extent of his fallen kingdom. The taming of this defiant creature.
Bold fingers wound themselves through long, curled tendrils. “Should I show him what you really are?”
Arikado pulled his head back, trying to shake Dmitrii’s hand free. “It doesn’t matter.”
“Oh, but it does.” Dmitrii clamped harder. “It’s why you’re here.”
There was little Arikado could do to escape him. All he could manage was turning his head. Dmitrii smirked, his fingers wandering towards a neck now exposed. What delicate design, for such a wicked creature. This close to Arikado, he could see how obvious it was that he wasn’t human. The arch of long, pointed ears peeking through his hair. The supernatural shimmer of tapetum lucidum in his eyes. The smooth coolness of his skin, even coated in sweat and grime. The fangs behind panting lips. Wasn’t that just the microcosm of his beauty? Sharp, arched, dangerous—beauty of one world wrapped in the beauty of another.
Dmitrii throbbed once more.
Surprise rattled him. It fell to smug satisfaction. Now, he knew what he was feeling. This was no black magic cursing him. It was simple biology. What a wonderful time to get hard! Here before him was a spectacular, frustrating man, a figurative thorn in his side. His glamour dug deeper. What was supposed to happen when faced with such beauty? It was going to draw blood, one way or another. At least this time, he was giving Dmitrii satisfaction.
Black eyes flashed open. A fresh scowl cut across Arikado’s face. He knew all too well what was now pressing into his side. “Get away from me.”
“Make me,” Dmitrii hissed.
Fangs snapped. Dmitrii jolted backwards, snarling with the same expression Arikado bared. Loathing splashed through his hot veins. How could he be so stupid? He wasn’t dealing with a pretty little princess. Arikado wouldn’t rip up like layers of pink tulle. His mouth was the only weapon he had left, but damned if he wasn’t going to use it.
The haughty little shit needed to be reminded of his place.
Dmitrii was all too ready to do just that.
His hot palm crashed against Arikado’s face. The dhampir flinched. It brought a sneer to Dmitrii’s lips. That pain was delectable, but not enough. He reached beneath Arikado’s jaw, snatching fabric laced around his throat. A dhampir with a tie. How ridiculous. It was just another leash for humans to jerk.
Fingers clamped onto a thick knot. Dmitrii pulled, pressed, threaded in two directions. One drew Arikado’s tie into his left hand. The other buried it in the dip of his throat. What little could come out of Arikado’s larynx crackled. Gasping. Keening. They sounded close enough—brought the same pleasure.
The fabric in Dmitrii’s trousers went just as tight as Arikado’s tie. It burned, cut, ached. Worse, as Arikado thrashed. Joints in the dhampir’s limbs buckled, shook against Dmitrii’s legs. The throng of the abyss held as tight as their master. There was no escape to be had, no release before Dmitrii had his own.
“What do you think of your precious little humans now?” Dmitrii foamed.
Jagged flames leapt in hazel eyes. Damn it all! It was too much! The way Arikado’s jaws opened, the screams locked silent in his throat, the arches of saliva bowing between his teeth. Blue. Everything was blue. His skin. His lips. Heaven long denied.
Dmitrii pulled away. Arikado’s tie snapped with him. Both men gasped for air, gulping in what they could. Dmitrii couldn’t tell which of the two was more deprived. Oh, sure. Arikado had just survived a minute or two of strangulation. But Dmitrii? He couldn’t feel his legs, his fingers, anything but the hot, throbbing swell splitting his pants in half.
The slightest of movement caught his attention. It was just Arikado’s knees sinking. But damn it all, what fell with them! His thighs touched, curving into a pathetic barricade. It was a boundary all too easy to break. Dmitrii slammed himself between them, snarling. Growling. Grinding.
He needed something. Anything. The slightest response. All he got out of Arikado was his condescending glare. Fuck him! Did he think he was any better than the new lord of darkness? Who was beneath who, here?
His captive threatened him once more. “Soma will be coming.”
“Not before I do!” Dmitrii snapped.
Leather echoed his rage. His belt slapped to the ground, into the bodies beneath him. Arikado’s fell not a moment later. Dmitrii grabbed beneath the ragged remains of Arikado’s suit coat, past his sweaty shirt, past anything Dmitrii had seen or felt. All that he discovered in this new abyss was cold. Limp.
He could feel Arikado’s protest bite into his shoulder. “Stop!”
“Why?” Dmitrii sneered. “Are you afraid Daddy will see you getting fucked again?”
Cool flesh jerked. It wasn’t Dmitrii’s touch that made it move.
Fine. Whatever. Even this movement was enough to work with. Dmitrii pressed against Arikado again, breathing into the agent’s soaked shirt and jacket. “His memories are still inside his head. He just doesn’t know about them.” Dmitrii twitched again, knocking into Arikado’s loins. “Soma—how do you think Soma would look at you? If…Oh, if he only knew!”
“It’s inconsequential!” God, if he could only think of Arikado shouting for something else.
“Really?” Dmitrii barked back. “All those nights he heard you crying your retainer’s name through the stone walls of his castle. Those bruises you left unhealed beneath your cravat. The very stench of each and every fluid those foul humans left on you. In you.” It was all Dmitrii could do to lift his head and stare at Arikado. “They didn’t matter?”
The dhampir stared at him with the same hallowed judgment as a stone saint.
Fuck him. Fuck his silence. Fuck his morals. They weren’t doing him any fucking good right now! Fucking piece of filth! Dmitrii slammed into him again, knocking him into his place. Arikado may be the prince of Dracula’s Castle, but that kingdom was long since destroyed. Dmitrii was the king of this shithole abyss. What he said went. His words were the only ones that mattered.
He roared again as tension rippled in a thick lump down his back, through his loins.
“You’re a fool. A tramp!” Dmitrii raked into Arikado’s jacket. Ragged claws tore into his breast pocket, ripping its red pocket square into garish streaks. “If he knew—if Soma knew—knew how you lied to him for so long—”
Flesh spasmed again. Dmitrii roared, spittle spewing from him. This wasn’t just his erection. His demons were squirming through his skin, celebrating with him. This was their victory too, wasn’t it? Oh, how devils loved it when angels fell! They would all feast on this flesh, whether or not Arikado would give it. Lions did not beg gazelles for their sacrifice. Neither would hell go soft on such soft skin.
A mad high cranked Dmitrii’s head back. His fringe fell like a tumbling crown. What was this? An orgasm? No, not yet. Just another power. He opened his mouth, letting heat fill his throat. Then, flesh. So much flesh. Spiraling, unending flesh!
What did this power belong to? A cave troll? It must have been something he picked up from Soma. What a good instinct its soul had! Why, they all had to be one in the abyss, didn’t they? Dmitrii, Celia, the undead legions of the abyss, and Arikado. All together. All in one flesh.
Dmitrii released his grasp on Arikado’s loins. He grabbed the dhampir by his shirt, pulling, angling him down. With one swallow, Dmitrii took Arikado’s wicked mouth into his own. Down pushed his tongue. Past sharp teeth. Past a smaller, struggling tongue. Down. Down. Deeper. Deeper. Faster. Fuller.
He licked Arikado’s navel from inside his stomach.
Now, they were together. Everything in the abyss, all as one monster. Dmitrii opened his eyes, and every set followed. He could feel everyone—everything. Arikado’s horror. The abyss’ writhing applause. The dead praise of Celia, staring at him with pride and joy. They were one, now. Communal in body and power. Whole. Full.
No orgasm came.
Dmitrii didn’t even realize what he was feeling at first. It came so coldly, sharply. Then, like flooding lava. He pulled out of Arikado’s mouth, his screams bubbling in his blood. His tongue! Arikado bit off his tongue!
He fell backwards, struggling to pull himself together. The abyss caught him. They pitched Arikado to the ground, leaving him to his vomit. From the dhampir’s mouth poured a meter-long tongue, wriggling, sentient in its pain. It squirmed back into its master’s throat, mending severed flesh, joining him in his screaming.
“You fucking viper!” Dmitrii screeched.
Arikado didn’t have it in him to shout back. He curled against his knees, bracing his stomach. His defilement was raw, dripping blood and saliva. It wasn’t even the beginning of what Dmitrii would do to him. He snatched the dhampir’s belt from the ground, cracking its buckle. Arikado liked his humans with whips, didn’t he? Wouldn’t he like what Dmitrii had in store for him?
The buckle jingled as Dmitrii readied himself. “Let me show you what Daddy should have done a long time ago.”
He was about to unleash hell when heaven fell.
From the gates of the abyss tumbled a jacket whiter than angel wings. It ruffled with the same fluffy furl as Soma Cruz landed. That stupid, innocent face of his was as confused as always. Dmitrii groaned. When it rained, it poured!
Soma didn’t give his presence half a thought. He was more concerned about the black worm writhing on the ground. Tired eyes raised to catch bright membranes, glistening in turn. “Soma?”
“It’s okay! I’m here.” Soma dropped onto his knees, scooping the agent’s right arm over his shoulders. “What happened?”
Dmitrii laughed. Wouldn’t Soma like to know? Maybe he could give the boy a demonstration. Let him pitch in. After all, he was nearly dumb enough to throw away his human innocence on one of Celia’s charades. How fast would he turn back into Daddy Dracula if he actually saw one of his friends suffering? No, not just any friend! His lying bastard of a son!
Arikado’s sighs were pathetic, unbecoming. He could only muster a piano-soft groan. “I’m sorry. His power…”
“Was that a bit too much for you?” Dmitrii mocked. He turned his attention towards Soma, adjusting his pinched clothing as he staggered forward. “Oh, if only you’d come a little sooner, Soma. You would have seen paradise.”
“Paradise?” Soma echoed.
Dmitrii nodded, raising his right hand up. “As Celia wished.”
The enormity of the situation finally caught up with Soma. He stared at Celia’s corpse, the room full of bloated bodies, the maw of the abyss itself. His jaw quivered. “What did you do?”
It was all Dmitrii could do to keep himself from bursting open with laughter. Wouldn’t he like to know? “This is what she wanted, Soma. To open the gateway to paradise. And here it is!”
Soma shivered in the heat of hell. “You’re completely bonkers!”
More shuddering startled him. Arikado lifted from Soma’s shoulder, forcing himself onto his feet once more. The supernatural spark was back in his eyes. Dmitrii smirked. Did the dhampir get his second wind? Did he want to go for another round?
“Soma,” Arikado scowled. “We must stop him.”
Dmitrii rolled his eyes. So, they were doing this again. “Please, Arikado. Even a dog knows when to lay down and die.”
Stupidity cast its fortune to Arikado’s side. Soma sprang up, drawing a blade in one smooth flick. What could Dmitrii do but smile? The boy was so eager to please. He would have as much fun breaking him as he broke his guardian.
“That’s more like it,” Dmitrii sneered. “Shall we see whose power of dominance reigns supreme? I’ve been dying for a rematch.”
He realized a second later that that was precisely the wrong thing to say.
Pressure built in his gut. Dmitrii slammed it down, seething. Was he getting a second wind, too? No. This didn’t feel good. It burned, but burdened him, scurrying between organs and skin. Another twinge flared in his shoulders. His ribs. His spine.
Dmitrii lurched forward, back hunched. Something was rattling around in his body. What was it? That stupid cave troll soul again? No. Greater than that. Massive. Filling. Prickling him like a stuffed balloon. If he didn’t want to pop before, he did now.
“No,” he hissed. “No, damn it! Listen to me!”
Soma stepped back. “Um…what’s going on?”
Arikado’s eyes widened. Finally, Dmitrii got a rise out of him. “The facsimile of your powers…His soul can’t keep it restrained.” He glanced down at Soma, his dread cracking through his words. “He’s losing control.”
That accusation was enough to make Dmitrii crack. “I’ll show you who’s in control!”
He didn’t even fathom what power he summoned. All he felt was rage, darkness, the void ignored and rejected. Its power flooded in his fingertips, spraying like a tidal wave across the abyss. It blasted Arikado aside. The dhampir crashed once, twice, rolling into a black, gangling heap of hair and limbs. Nothing rose. Not his back. Not his eyelids. Not his chest.
Laughter shattered cartilage in Dmitrii’s throat. He howled as Soma scrambled to Arikado’s side, each and every scream of joy shredding his lungs. Now, they would know just how insignificant they were. They may have been nobles of monsters, but here, they were nothing more than subjects. No. Objects. Objects to be objectified.
Screams kept bursting out of him. The joy from them was long expended. Dmitrii quaked, his knees locking together. Something was wrong. He could feel his mistake bubbling down his back, his stomach, deep in his core. Pressure scattered like roaches beneath his skin, beating against the cage of his very being. His demons were excited. Too excited.
He could feel the skin between his shoulder blades split.
“Stop it!” Dmitrii pleaded. “Stop!”
“Just give up!” Soma shouted back. “You can’t handle this!”
He had to. He had to. There was no giving up now. Not at hell’s front door, not with the crown of chaos to claim. Dmitrii dug into his scalp, his fingers cutting blood through blond hair. “I—I can—I am—”
Two seconds stretched into eternity. Mass billowed in his back, breaking his spine. Dmitrii had no choice but to kneel before Soma. He stared at his hands, at that brat’s shoes, at the stilled body beside them. They were all his. Soma. Arikado. This abyss and all souls writhing within its bounds. Within him.
He blew open, branding them with his blood.