Chapter 1: Wake Up
The station was busy as always. Businesspeople and travelers both, mostly human. You saw the occasional werewolf or someone who might have some noble blood in them. Sometimes you even got to see someone who must descend from the indigenous people who fully assimilated with the human conquerors centuries ago already. Humans will always stay the same, Frankenstein thought, sipping his coffee. He hadn't chosen this meeting spot without reason.
His thoughts were interrupted by a woman approaching them with a single plate.
„Here, that cake with the Dliberries of the Beta Toriga System.“ The ginger werewolf woman smiled at them warmly.
„Great. They smell like someone threw up on it. He will love it.“ Frankenstein laughed and glanced at his two companions. „More coffee? Cake? It's on me.“
Garda laughed as well. „Keep your money, Frankenstein, who knows how you got your hands on it.“
Seira and Regis shook their heads slightly. They were perfectly content. Frankenstein dug his fork into his own cake. „Anyway, it's good to see you again, kids.“ He finished his coffee. Ah, there he was, that familiar red head! For a second, their eyes met – and by the time Urokai reached the table outside the bakery, the blond man was gone already.
„Crap! I missed him again! Well, nothing I can do now. Hey there, kids.“ A polished badge gleamed on his chest, looking brand new and shiny. Of course, if Urokai really put his mind to it, he probably would catch that man. The port security would stop the fugitive.
„Any news?“ He glanced at the cake in front of him with crumpled nose. „I know you two just met with Frankenstein. Tell him to order tastier cake next time.“ Still, he picked up the fork. Muzaka would try to rip him a new one if he didn't eat that cake.
“I don't know what you're talking about,” Seira said innocently, though amusement gleamed in her eyes. Regis smirked. This game was well familiar to them, by now.
“Right. Anyway, I got news. Ludis and his guys caught one of those space rat ships. They had some interesting cargo. There's a sealed coffin, from earth. They're moving it to the University of Intergalactic History. I don't know about you, but I am definitely paying Rozaria a visit. Ludis said there's traces of noble energy clinging to it. I didn't know we had any relics left.”
Regis picked up his cup and took a sip. “Seira, your school is visiting the university next week, right?” Seira nodded slowly in response. A boarding school for extraordinarily gifted children from disadvantaged backgrounds, situated in the neighbouring solar system.
“Will you say hello to her from me? We are starting the trial on Maitland Mogg and his band of robbers this week, so I will hardly have any time for anything.”
“Oh, Maitland. Good old Maitland.” Urokai laughed. “That was one hell of a shootdown, I tell you. Make me proud, devil's little advocate.”
“The devil's advocate is standing on the side of the criminals, though,” Regis pointed out with a smirk. “Besides, get off my back already! I am not that short!”
“Sorry, kid, to me you will always stay the little pipsqueak you were when we first met.” Urokai snorted, setting down the fork. After a few bites, he definitely knew he would not do this to himself. “Hey, if Muzaka asks, I wasn't here. Frankenstein is the one who didn't eat his cake.”
He winked at the two white-haired nobles before getting up from his chair. “See you, kids!”
The two nobles sat down comfortably. The office was bright, the large window front offering a view over the yard of the university, planted with species from all over the galaxy. Rozaria leaned forward to pour Urokai a cup of tea. “Striped Zedoary?”, he inquired and she gave a little nod, adjusting her glasses. In half an hour, the research team would be ready to scan the mysterious coffin. Maybe they would even try to open it today. Science was always too slow, too meticulous for his tastes. If it were up to Urokai, he'd just get a crowbar and pry it open the good, old-fashioned way. Heh. Gejutel would skin him alive if he heard something like that.
“The energy is undeniable. And it's definitely from earth. If I had to bet, I would say it's the chosen resting place of a hermit noble.”
Urokai shrugged and sipped at his tea. Not enough sugar, but she'd added two spoons already. Show some self control, Urokai.
"Let's go and see. I am curious. It's been decades since the last time we found something from our old homeworld." She rose from her chair and Urokai followed without complaint, glad he got to leave this bitter tea behind. The hallways and elevators were busy as always, full of students, researchers and visitors. Even here, he insisted on wearing his uniform. People glanced at him briefly, then averted their eyes uncomfortably. Right, kids, obey the law! He adjusted the pin slightly while humming to the tune of the elevator down into the basement, where dangerous and rare objects were stored for further examination. Urokai placed a hand against the lid while Rozaria was distracted by her phone. Something... He could not describe the feeling. Quickly, he jolted backwards as something definitely moved inside of that coffin. “Rozaria!” Dragus manifested in his hands, an old habit, even though the age of soul weapons was long past.
No. No. No. No. No. This couldn't be. With drops of sweat forming on his forehead, he dropped to his knees. “Noblesse!” He hardly dared looking him in the eyes, these beautiful red eyes, framed by dense lashes. Like a God come again, sleep still clinging to him, clothing lightly creased from so much time in sleep. For a few moments, the tall man before him remained silent. Confused, Rozaria took a few steps back, not sure if she should be kneeling too. Noblesse... a term she heard ages ago. Could this truly be...?
“Urokai Agvain.” His voice held the calm of the morning sea.
“Cadis Etrama Di Raizel,” Urokai whispered, finally daring to look up. He stood before him, he, in the flesh. He'd seen so much in this life and nothing had quite felt like this.
"... and I think that's it. Well. Zarga is my partner. As in, we are... investigation partners. He joined the police force too. We tracked down almost all of the former union criminals." Urokai looked so proud, genuinely happy. Raizel could not quite describe the way it made him feel, to see the younger noble like that. They sat in Rozaria's office, Raizel had changed into the white and red uniform of a member of the university staff to raise less questions. Rozaria had poured them yet more tea and for the past two hours, she and Urokai explained what happened in the centuries after Raize's disappearance. The disbanding of the union, the destruction of earth, the fate of the nobles...
Raizel remained quiet for a few moments, gaze fixated on the tea in his cup. “What about Frankenstein?”, he asked after almost two minutes passed in silence. Urokai's lips pursed into a thin line. He might or might not have left out the whereabouts of Raizel's contractee.
“He's a wanted criminal. Half the galaxy is after him.”
A certain sadness appeared on Raizel's face as he nodded. Disappointed? Was he disappointed? Had Frankenstein turned back to chaos and destruction after he entered the long sleep? It appeared so. Urokai got up, walking a couple of paces.
“Come with me.” His voice held genuine excitement. “I will show you everything. We can go visit everyone. You are back! You are really back! I'm so glad-"
There was something else he'd left out: the part he played in the events surrounding Muzaka and his half human daughter.
Chapter 2: Easy as pie?
Over 1500 years... Raizel missed everything. What did he feel? Right now, he felt hardly anything at all. Urokai had brought him to the small spaceship he and Zarga had at their disposal, offering space for five people. The doors muffled all sound from the rest of the ship, but the soft purr of the engines was well audible from the observation deck, offering a vast view on the sky before them. It felt so... empty. Each star was an own sun, Urokai had explained in his excited ramble about this new world they lived in. Each star an own sun, like the one he had known (no one lived in the solar system anymore. Earth was little but radioactive ruins and mostly sunken debris now). He could see so many... Urokai also had added a number, but Raizel found himself unable to imagine several million suns. Even he, in this moment, felt overwhelmed by the vastness of it all. The world he knew was the sun falling through the window, the rustle of the leaves in the forest surrounding the mansion. The world he knew was so small. Softly, he placed the tips of his fingers against the cold, thick glass of the large window before him. They were on their way to find Muzaka. From what he heard... his old friend had found happiness. He'd like to see it for himself. After so much pain, after so much loss... Muzaka seemed to have found peace.
Urokai, too, seemed to have found peace. He always has been lively, yet Raizel could not remember the last time he had seen such genuine cheer in the young noble. Not since he became the leader of his clan before his due time. It was all so strange... To hear what had become of the nobles, his former companions... A part of him needed to see with his own eyes. The other part of him needed to see Frankenstein. An outlaw he may be, but he was still his bonded, the one human he had learned to cherish despite all the darkness, despite all the turmoil, against all odds.
“Paaaap – I'm bored.” The ashen haired boy sat on a chair next to the stove, watching his father roll out dough. He was one among the few real bakers left. Unlike most places, he still sold hand-made goods. Even though Muzaka preferred to stick to a mostly carnivorous diet, like most werewolves, he still appreciated the appeal of pastries. Even back then... He gave his son a little shrug. “Well, make yourself useful, then. Is it my fault that it's summer break here right now?”
The boy groaned. “I will go watch the ships, then. Can't we go visit auntie Lunark earlier?”
“No. She got ministry stuff to do. And Lord stuff. Hey – if you go, take your sisters with you, will you?”
The werewolf boy rolled his eyes and slipped off the chair. “Fine – oh, hi Mom!”
Muzaka turned around to catch a glimpse of Garda. Something was... off. For the first time in long years, he could see concern on her face. “Everything alright?” He clapped his hands twice, flour rippling from his palms and fingers to the floor.
“Raizel has returned.”
Raizel...? Muzaka was not even sure how to react to that piece of news. Garda would never joke about something like this. “Is he here?!”
“I hate this. Walls used to be better. You could just listen in and no one would notice.” Now, these walls of steel, almost unbreakable glass and other fantastic materials.. it shielded too well. Urokai could see them from where he was stood, sat by one of the tables. What were they talking about? Actually, it was only Muzaka talking, and Urokai figured it could not be anything of real importance. The bakery was the first of the stations they visited with Sir Raizel. Muzaka, a familiar face, someone he knew, someone who meant much to him.
Gradeus was still somewhere out there, though Urokai wasn't aware of any leads pointing towards him. An outlaw on the run, far less famous and illustrious than Frankenstein. Lagus had lasted quite long, but got put down, eventually. To get to Edian meant to get to the Lord – no, Raskreia, she did not carry that title anymore. So only Roctis left... He needed to remember to call him.
“Hey, Zarga, I gotta take care of a thing.” Stay cool. He didn't need to share his thoughts and concerns with him, he already knew the answer. Now that Sir Raizel was with his old friend... This was no matter he meant to discuss on board with him around. Besides, maybe... maybe Zarga shouldn't know either. Even after so many years, he still sometimes found himself thinking about it.
Urokai returned to their small ship alone, retiring to his room with the holographer. Establishing connection took almost ten minutes, but he knew that Bekenstein had a shit connection. Besides, maybe he was busy wrestling some chupacabra. Just as he meant to give up on trying to establish connection, the other end of the line picked up. There he was, in a simple dark green space suit, almost black, his hair tied back loosely. A monkey-like creature with purple fur and four large, black eyes sat on his shoulder, nibbling on a yellow fruit with red sprinkles.
“Hello Urokai. You didn't call in a while! Everything alright?”
“Yeah. The fuck is that on your shoulder...? Anyway. Guess who's back. Sir Raizel.” He was met with a few moments of silence. The monkey-thing jumped off Roctis' shoulder and out of the frame of the transmission.
“The Noblesse?”, Roctis repeated after a few moments. The quality of the hologram was rather poor, bad connection, but Urokai could swear that he had paled a bit.
“Yes. His coffin was recovered and he is with us now... shit. He has no idea of anything that happened.”
“Does he know what we did?”
“That's what I meant to talk about. We gotta keep lying to him, don't we?”
“Yes. It's been more than a thousand and sixhundred years. It doesn't matter anymore.”
“So we just lie to him? Is that what we are going to do?”
“Well, I am not going to do anything. He is with you. I know you hardly ever listen to anybody... but telling him the truth will bring nothing but grief. To him, to you, to us.”
Urokai grit his teeth, hands shaking as he clenched his fingers into fists. His nails dug into his palms. Of course, Roctis was right and Zarga would say the same thing: no matter how much respect they might hold for Raizel, telling him the truth... telling him that everything was their fault... would bring nothing but grief. He swallowed.
“Hey, how about we visit you? Surely you can get us some sort of VIP access. I know that you and Kei are keeping the interesting shit in there.”
“Hmmh... I will talk to him. I'll get back to you in a few days, does that sound good?”
Urokai nodded. “Okay. Fine. Sounds good. Oh.. and.. Roctis... you know, I'm glad you are out of prison. It's too bad you are not joining us.”
“Obviously, I'm glad too. Come visit me from time to time, I think I can see myself doing this for a long time.”
Urokai wondered whether he would leave it all behind once Ignes got released from prison, though that wouldn't happen before another four hundred years passed.
Zarga and Raizel returned to the ship almost three hours later and Urokai almost cussed them out for it - the wait was unbearable! Zarga carried a white box he could identify by the scent already. Muzaka had not let his friend leave without some pastries and other baked goods. Great! Hopefully Sir Raizel would decide to share with them. Though none of them needed food, there was no reason not to appreciate it anyway.
"Urokai. We decided to go and visit The Agora." The gigantic space station that also doubled as the largest city of the galaxy with a population of almost 14 million people. Seat of the galactic government and home to countless celebrities. Maybe they would even meet some familiar faces there. Urokai merely nodded.
“Sounds good to me. I also called Roctis, we could visit him at some point. “
Raizel paid little attention to their further conversation. The Agora... A single city holding so many people... Zarga had mentioned that the Lord would be there, even if she no longer carried that title. This world had changed so much... Even though he appreciated that his former companions were here by his side, even though he was glad to see Muzaka so happy... he needed to find Frankenstein.
Chapter 3: Of Time and Man
“I appreciate your congratulations, Frankenstein, but they are early. Nothing's decided yet. For that reason, I ask you not to visit me. If you do, I will call security on you. I cannot risk my intergrity by being seen with you. Surely you understand that.”
She received a mere huff in response, though Raskreia assumed that the message was clear. Slowly, she leaned back in her chair, turning around to watch the airborne vehicles race through the artificial sky of the diplomatic wing of the Agora. Sometimes she missed real sunlight, real wind, though she had grown used to the ventilation systems and the artifical day and night cycles by now.
“AH, Frankenstein. There is one more thing.”
“I presume that might interest you. Cadis Etrama di Raizel … has returned.”
Silence on the other end of the connection. Surely, Frankenstein must process this information first. So many centuries have passed, so many things had happened... None of them had assumed they would ever see the Noblesse again (actually, she'd presumed he had died. At least after the destruction of earth -).
“Are you sure?”, Frankenstein asked and he did not quite succeed hiding his agitation. Raskreia could read people enough by now to catch it in his voice.
“Yes. That is all.”
Before he had opportunity for further inquiries, Raskreia canceled the connection and rose from her chair, stepping closer to the large glass front. Several million people in this spacecraft alone, billions in this galaxy – if everything went well, if the polls so far could be trusted, she soon would lead them. So many lives that would look up to her for guidance and leadership. Rational decisions and values they, too, could believe in. To be an elected official was not the same as being a Lord, Her musings were interrupted by the door opening. The woman looked inconspicuous in her dark blue attire, blonde hair swept to the side and back, to keep it out of her face.
“I have arranged the press conference regarding the incidents in the Argos rho Cluster, Lord.”
“Councilor,” she corrected her calmly. “I am no longer Lord, Edian.”
Would Father be proud of her? Would he have wanted her to do this?
He must be. Though she was no longer Lord, she found herself unable to step down from leadership. Maybe this was her true destiny, after all: to lead.
Humanity was amazing, truly. Though Urokai had told him a lot about the Agora, the spacecraft that acted as seat of the galactic government, to see it with his own eyes was another thing entirely. A colossus of steel, platinum, titanium and other metals. Here, they would meet the Lord, though she no longer carried that title. Did Raskreia settle in? How did she bear the burden left to her by her father? Questions he knew he would not ask. Raskreia was an adult now, and from what he gathered, she'd led their people well. If they found happiness, then she must have done everything right. That was all he needed to know, all the Previous Lord would have asked of her.
From his usual position near the rear of the ship, he had a good view on the open space they were leaving behind, approaching the harbour of the Agora, passing vessels of all shapes and sizes. In front of him – behind the ship – metal doors closed. Where were they? After about two minutes, the door to his chosen favourite spot opened. By now, he had grown accustomed to the sound of Urokai's steps.
“Sir Raizel. We are in the airlock of the Agora now. We will be ready to get off board in about five minutes. The Lo- The Councilwoman expects us in her offices in half an hour. After that, we got most of the day on here. Unless another mission comes up. I heard they are close to tracking down Gradeus.”
Urokai and Zarga were both wearing their uniforms, sleek black, with shining badges on their chests. Raizel had changed into a simple black uniform as well, without badge to call his own. They did not seem to mind.
Upon stepping out of the ships and unto the docks, Raizel was flooded with sensations all at once – sounds, light, scent. The space harbour was so incredibly busy. Machines carried crates of equipments and goods, humans passed between them, some of them not quite entirely human. “Impressive, isn't it?” Urokai grinned and almost placed a hand on Raizel's back – then, just inches away from the dark fabric of his uniform, he refrained from this uncalled-for touch. The Noblesse may no longer be needed in this world... yet he still felt a certain sense of veneration. Maybe adoration, even. Either way, to touch him now would be... inappropriate.
Instead of heading for the long queues of humans waiting to be admitted out of the port, they passed by one of the doors using Urokai's badge as key. Easier identification. A rather bored human officer received them.
“Welcome Officers. Agvain and Siriana. Who is that with you? You know the protocols on bringing people here through military security without authorization.”
“For real? Are you going to be all nitpicky about -”
“It's alright, Urokai. Here.” Zarga cast the holographic image of a document from his wristcomputer. “An authorisation of the ministry of noble affairs. We're expected.”
Tne guard wrinkled his nose slightly, but nodded.
“Alright. Just don't cause any trouble.” As they passed through the next door, Raizel could hear the man muttering. Fucking nobles, still think they're better than us.
An artificial lake was the key piece of the governmental district where Raskreia's offices were located. From the broad window front in her office, she had a splendid view on the lake and the people who took leisure strolls along the promenades. Mostly diplomats and high government officials. An old clock was ticking on one of the cupboards, a replica, but the incessant tic-tac gave her a certain sense of stability. Time passes, slowly, at a constant pace. As long as she walked forward at the same pace – tic, tac, tap tap.
Slowly, she turned around to the three nobles in front of her. Raizel has been quiet the whole time. Urokai, respectful for once, had fallen silent too, though his foot tapped against the floor nervously. Buzzing with energy, as always.
“The Previous Lord would have been proud of you,” the Noblesse finally said, his voice felt off. He was part of this world they all left behind. “You lead the nobles well.”
“I know,” Raskreia replied after a few moments of thought. Once upon another time, many centuries ago, his words would have meant much to her. Once, she was insecure, struggling, lonely. Betrayed by the family leaders, left alone in this ever-changing world. However, just as father had wanted her to, she learned to play the game, learned to follow the currents of time instead of opposing it. She no longer needed the approval of a relic.
For a moment, Raizel seemed genuinely caught off-guard and Raskreia's facial expression softened slighty. “I still appreciate hearing it from you.”
Zarga was glad when their appointment (just a single hour!) was finally over. The silence was beyond awkward, not natural. Maybe because he forgot what it was like to have Urokai just shut up for half an hour. What was going on in Sir Raizel's mind? How did he feel about all of this? Was it overwhelming? Did it matter to him at all? Maybe he would never know.
When central headquarters called them in, he was almost relieved – though Urokai was reluctant to leave Raizel alone. It was alright, though. They had given him a spare wristcomputer, showed him how to contact them, if anything. Besides, they could just track him later, if necessary.
Maybe it would do him good, getting to spend some time on his own. Explore the perimeters. Sir Raizel was not a lost child, after all.
The warrens of the Agora were far from shiny and beautiful. Here, in one of the outer wings of the station, a small port blocked off from the rest of the spaceship, all kinds of people could be found – many of them refugees, immigrants hoping to be admitted to live on the Agora one day as citizens, others, like him, simply had no hopes of receiving a landing permit on the main station. Here, where the most desolate lived, the glamour of the new age faded. Humans would always remain the same, Frankenstein realized. Some would always try to be on top of all others, push and kick down to make sure others would not rise to their levels. He was too old to be bitter about it, too tired to be angry, too far away from it all to truly care. Once, he thought he could make a change. He even thought that maybe the nobles, the werewolves, the union, anyone, could change the way of this world. More than two thousand years later, he now understood how naive he has been. Humans never change.
Resistance was futile – just as paper, books, bills and coins all disappeared from this world, so did many other things. Frankenstein had learned to accept it. However, one thing he could not process: the return of a relic greater than clocks and printers. A sacrosanct halidom had returned to his universe. How could Raskreia ever be as cruel as to let him know? That woman could have left him in blissed ignorance, let him beleave that he was gone forever, dead and gone with the world they once knew. No. Instead, she had to tell him. Instead, she must cast him down into that pit of despair and hollowness he'd left behind with so much struggle.
Should he look for him? Should he try to find his old master? Would it make any difference, though? At this moment, Frankenstein couldn't tell. Torn between a wild need to see him again and the dread at the mere thought of what it might do to him, he wanted to do nothing at all.
However, fate was not kind to him, it never was. Though he was not ready to go out and find him, he'd come to him first. For the first time in far more than a thousand years, Frankenstein could feel it again. The slumbering connection reawakening, his presence almost overwhelmed him.
Frankenstein hurried through the alleys of the warrens, past groups of people, until, finally, near the entrance to the main station, he saw him.
The image of his face, imprinted in his memory forever, refreshed, painted again in fresh, vibrant colors.
Chapter 4: The beds we made
I am sorry the update took a while! College and all! But now I am back :)
Whenever the heavy, metallic doors closed behind him, Rael felt as though he just entered another world, cut off from the noisy, wild universe out there. Bright walls, planters of different greenery providing a friendly decor. Yet despite the bright, friendly facade, one should not forget that this was still a high security prison, fortified enough to even retain nobles and werewolves. Fully exposed for the first time, lonelier than ever, a new solidarity had built up between them. Good. Even the most despicable of them might change.
Unfortunately, they did not allow any foods or drinks to be brought to this place, or else he would have come with some of that coffee. He'd learned to like the bitter taste. Maybe some pastries from the former werewolf lord. Well. She would live without it. Ignes sat back on the comfortable lounge chair in the lobby of the area that was accessible to visitors. Their means of control were more subtle than chains. It was nice not having bars between them, along with other security measures. She probably was equally glad to be out of the high security tract by now.
“Heya, Rael. Something tells me you're in a good mood. You're not stomping.” Her hands were folded on her stomach.
“I don't stomp.” He huffed and sat on the other chair, forearms resting on his knees. “Anyway... guess you know me too well. I am going out with Seira next week.”
“Seira? The Loyard Clan Leader? So you are still after her... Forgetting about little old me?”
“Oh come on, Ignes. We all know you are the queen of all lesbians.”
Ignes chuckled softly. What a long way they have come – maybe she did not harbour as much regret as she should, but still, some things she probably did regret. Some things she actually missed. Some things she had found again. Maybe a few centuries from now on, she would be able to truly forgive father for handing himself over to the law – and for luring her into this trap, for giving her into their hands. One day she would forgive him in full. Maybe she was never all that angry. Maybe one day they would no longer need to run. Maybe one day... one day.... She was glad that Rael was still there. That pesky little boy he was, always glued to her heel. Her oldest, truest friend. Maybe her only friend.
“Anyway. More hot gossip I need to know of?”
“... Hm. Where do I start?” Rael pressed his index finger against his lower lip. “Regis might finally be about to find a girlfriend.”
“Oh come on, don't talk about people I never met.”
“Fine. Frankenstein and Urokai are still on their game of cat and mouse. Raskreia's campaign is slowly getting started... Hmmh. There's rumours. The Noblesse. Do you know who that is?”
Ignes blinked a couple of times. The Noblesse... A distant memory, reaching all the way back into her childhood. Raven hair, gently swaying in the evening breeze, along with white curtains. Painted gold and red by the sunset. Father only spoke of him with greatest respect. Oh how they admired him. Oh how they cherished him. Oh how they loved him.
“Yes. He died long ago.” Not disappeared. She had learned the truth. She knew that he was dead, gone, his fate sealed by the hands of his very own friends.
It had eaten father from the inside.
In this moment, the people around them did not matter. The gigantesque Agora did not matter. All the stars of this galaxy and all the galaxies of the universe – of this and all others there might be – did not matter. They all faded into the vast nothingness he'd felt for the longest time. In this moment, the man before him was the focal point of this galaxy, not the vast field of black holes that sat at the heart of the Milky Way. No. It was him. In this moment, Frankenstein hated him for that.
“Raizel.” Master burned on his tongue and his body wanted to kneel, remembered the pitiful pose too well. But Frankenstein did not kneel for anyone, called no one his master. No masters, no Gods above him, nothing but he open vastness of space. He would not let anyone change that.
Slowly, he approached. Did he want to hug him? Punch him? Turn around and never look back? All of them? Hug him, punch him, run? His steps came to an abrupt hand and, with a slight tremble, his arm rose, stretched out gently, as though he meant to run his fingertips across those pale cheeks just to make sure that he was truly there. There, alive.
Frankenstein stopped the motion mid-air, his hand hovered several inches away from Raizel's face and dropped to his side again.
“It's been a long time,” he started dryly, almost overwhelmed by a moment of truest awkwardness. Out of all the things he could have said... or maybe he really should have said nothing at all, after all. There was nothing left to say. Whatever might have mattered once... that was in the past, ashes and cosmic dust like the rest of Earth.
“It has. I am sorry so much time passed.”
His voice sounded soft, too soft, it made Frankenstein sick to the stomach. He wanted to be angry. Hasn't he been over it? Has he not learned to live again, as meaningless and empty as it has been? How dare he come here, invade his life once more by his mere existence? Frankenstein swallowed his anger. Now that he knew the truth... The fight with Muzaka... could he still be so full of rage? Raizel was at no fault and yet at the same time, he was.
“I have been looking for you,” Raizel continued, picking up words because Frankenstein certainly would not.
“Have you? Hah. For a change.” A bitter snort to match his sour expression. He did not want to hear it. Still... he could not bring himself to send him away, to tell him to leave. He could not. Instead, Frankenstein let out a heavy sigh and rubbed his forehead with the tips of his gloved fingers. “There's a coffeeshop nearby,” he started. Not as good as Muzaka's, but that did not matter. “If you want to talk, we can do it there.”
Raizel merely nodded in agreement.
“So, you knew this Raizel guy well?” Kei had rolled up the sleeves of his shirt, not because he was feeling too hot, but because he liked the looks of it. No one cared about how they dressed here as long as the job got done.
Roctis gave half a shrug. “Did anyone really know him? I guess I knew him well enough.” Carefully, he set down the Chelbon cub, hands covered in miniscule scratches and faint, shallow bite marks, though the small teeth hardly managed to puncture his skin at all. It healed right in front of his eyes. “He's so feisty, we should call him Urokai,” he mumbled.
Though now they were only the size of a medium earth dog, soon enough they would start gaining weight at an alarming rate and grow into large, dangerous predators. That was alright. There was a reason why mostly nobles and werewolves worked at this part of Bekenstein, an entire planet for the preservation of endangered species.
“Hah. Good one.” Kei snickered. Urokai was... quite a handful, yes. “I think it's time to release Ignes into the wild. The drake. Not -”
“I know what you mean.” She'd asked him to name something after her. Something cool. So he chose one of the drakes. Honoring her namesake, she'd grown into a fierce creature, alpha lady of their flock – and exactly as aggressive as one would expect of alphas. Kei was right, though he hated to think about it.
“We will need to go out and catch her, then,” he stated dryly. Adult drakes should not be kept together except when mating. And even though they hand-reared most of their creatures... in the end, instincts took over. That was the way of life. Live and let go.
“Urokai wanted to come visit with Ser Raizel. We can do that then.”
Kei nodded in agreement. A few weeks would not matter all that much, he supposed. Maybe Urokai could meet little Urokai, who currently tried to gnaw through the bars of the enclosure.
Chapter 5: Live and let live
I am sorry for the long delay, I was not very motivated. Yet here I am! Surprise! An extra long chapter as sorry
Children. From nothing they came into this world and pulled you into the grip of their tiny hands. To be a parent... maybe you could never understand it before you had children of your own. Once, he'd thought he loved Valerie Siriana, the woman he thought he would spend his life with, thought she must be the love of his life – yet when his little morningstar came into the world, he learned what true love is. When they tied their souls together, when they truly became one – he learned humility before the stars and all that was holy. When she became the first and the last woman of the cosmos, the sun and the stars, the womb of the world and the threads of fate, the blood in his veins and the dark force around which all matter revolves... that's when he understood what it means to love.
It had taken him enough centuries to understand that sometimes you must act against the ones you love for their own benefit – had he not stopped her from walking the road of destruction, even if he'd done so at the cost of all the trust she'd held in him? Was it worth it? It must be. For centuries their old bond has laid dormant, not a single thought, not a single sensation getting through to him – a thousand stars between them. He always insisted it was physical distance that cut him off from her.
His thoughts were interrupted by a deep grumble, a guttural growl that held no menace. Demanding, the black beast nudged its head against the palm of his hand, resting idly on its forehead. Lost in his own musings, he had found himself in places he would never see again, with people who would never look at him the same way they used to. Gently, his left hand ran through the soft plumage that adorned the back of the drake's graceful neck like a colorful crest. A moment of peace with his secret favourite. The black scales of her body had warmed up in the afternoon sun, her head rested in his lap easily. Soon enough he would no longer be able to wrap both arms fully around her muzzle. Though he hated to think of it, Kei Ru was right – this soft purr when he pet her muzzle could turn into a snarl anytime, these teeth and claws were made to kill, not to play. Sooner or later, this enclosure would be too small, the other drakes too many rivals, the prey they could offer too easy – and then they would have a problem.
Even now, surely only the nobles and werewolves working at the facility for Endangered High Risk Species should handle them at all – capricious and intelligent. Indeed, like her namesake, he thought. One moment, she'd nudge his hand for a soft caress, the next moment she'd lunge to sink razor-sharp teeth into that very same hand. Maybe he should merely enjoy this rare moment of quiet before he was forced to release her into the wild.
Absent-mindedly, his hand ran through the black feathers, slick and iridescent in vibrant colors while his other hand gently stroked the bridge of its muzzle. Once more he'd loose her.
Heavy footsteps approached from behind and, for a few moments, neither he nor the drake reacted. Kei's presence and scent were familiar to them. His hands were in the pockets of his dark brown jacket – more of an utility than a necessity to them. “You two really got a connection,” he remarked. The large drake shook its head and pulled away from Roctis, fluffing up its iridescent plumage in a display of what might be some kind of dominance – now, they were still acknowledged as the superiors. However, soon enough, once the drake had grown a little more... With a high-pitched shriek, Ignes pushed herself off the ground, flapping her wings to carry her to the next tree. Razor-sharp claws sunk into the bark. From there, she climbed up on one of the nests they had installed as perches for their drakes.
Now that the spot next to the older noble was no longer occupied by a massive black drake, Kei sat next to him instead. “You know, I think releasing them into the wild is my favourite part of this job. Cuddling them when they're young is all cute... but letting them go... nature at its finest.” Here, they got to see sights you no longer saw anywhere else in the universe – many species found their last refuge here, in these vast parks that tried to accommodate them as best as they could. Where humans had destroyed... they sought to preserve what little they could.
“Hey... Roctis... I know this isn't easy for you.”
“There is no need for concern.” He stared ahead, watched a Pheroicla hop through the grass, flapping its large soft ears along. Looking for nuts and berries, probably.
“What I just mean is... it's never easy, to let go of the reins and let nature take its course... but you know... life always finds a way.”
“I know you think I am equating the drake to Ignes... but I don't. Your concern is appreciated, but misplaced.”
With a sigh, he got up from his spot, tired of sitting in the sun. “What's best for me is not necessarily what is best for her. I know.” To keep her here... as company, as comfort... but whenever he saw those claws, whenever he saw those predatory eyes watching his movements too attentively during playtime, he remembered that this creature was not made to stay by his side. Live and let live... The confinement of being on the run was not the kind of life he'd wanted her to have... and so he had to give up on the trust she'd always placed in him, give up on centuries together... if only it meant that one day she would get the opportunity to live a normal life.
This was a certainty he must hold on to, the doubtless knowledge that he had done what must be best for her – at his own expense.
“Let's go. We should check on those Chelbons,” he finally said and, for the first time in the past few days, the corners of his mouth pulled his lips into a weary smile which Kei returned in earnest. It was good to have someone who tried to understand.
You could not expect this corner of the Agora to have nice places – but some were just less filthy than others. Frankenstein had ordered an imitation of black tea, not quite as good as what they used to have back on earth, but good enough. Familiar enough for the man he once called Master. Judging by the way he carried himself, he was not all too settled in with everything just yet. A sugary Oscaayard infusion for him. Just the right thing when you did not sleep for three days and did not intend to do so in the coming three days either.
They chose a quiet corner in the back of the coffeeshop, dimly lit, the scent of sweat and cheap beverages clung to this place, but it was alright. Ah, how out of place he looked here. A bit lost, yet at the same time, not.
“I heard you turned into a criminal,” he stated. Though an attempt at masking his disappointment has been made... in the end, it was impossible to miss.
“Always have been a bit of one, haven't I? That's just the bastard I am.” He ran his index finger over the rim of his glass. More than one thousand and sixhundred years.... He'd seen the rise and fall of empires during that time. And for the longest time... he had been searching for him. The contract... was it ever broken? Would he have felt, had he been dead? Frankenstein could not tell for certain.
“I understand that you're with Zarga and Urokai now?”, he continued and watched Raizel take a sip of what was supposed to taste similar enough to tea. Apart from the oldest of nobles and werewolves, no one remembered the taste of Darjeeling and Earl Grey. Slowly, the Noblesse nodded. They were the ones who have taken him in, for now, though...
“I hoped to see you,” he stated softly and his face took an expression only a select few ever got to see. A smile... not wide, not bright, no, that was not Raizel. It was subtle – you could almost miss it if you did not know what to look for. Right now, Frankenstein was not sure whether he wanted to see it or not.
“Well. You have seen me. So what now?”
Silence. Of course, silence. Frankenstein could see it in his eyes: Raizel had no answers for him. To see him... and then? Did he hope they would ride off in his spaceship, never to be seen again? Did he hope he would hand himself in to the authorities? Or maybe... maybe he thought they would be frozen in the moment of the reunion forever. Whatever would happen next... would come by itself. Everything would be easy, natural, as though nothing ever stood between them.
“I have been searching for you everywhere. I despaired. I raged. Sometimes I wanted to give up. And you never came. You never came. And so I mourned you.” To Raizel, it has been but a long nap, however, to him... sixteen centuries … How could he possibly expect of him to be okay with this? “You cannot mourn as much as I mourned you and not be changed and burnt out by it.”
Slowly, Raizel nodded. “I am sorry for the grief I caused you, Frankenstein.” His voice held no anger, no true sorrow – just the hollow realization that nothing was left of the world and the people he once knew. He should not feel malicious joy – though it may not be his fault, it still was not something he could just brush aside. Frankenstein sighed and downed the rest of his brew in a single swing, throwing back his head inelegantly.
“I know you never meant to hurt me... and maybe it's none of your fault... but right now, whatever you were hoping for... the answer is No.” The wounds he tried to hide have been cleaved open by his return... and now all he could do was retreat like a beaten dog until maybe he understood himself better. I am just confused. Like a girl not sure of what she was doing, except she knew exactly what she was about to do – the only question left unanswered would be 'why'. For the longest time, he thought he'd made peace with the loss of the one who changed his life forever... now, however, he sat before him and he saw: he built himself a house of cards blasted away by the return of the one whom he'd grieved so ardently.
“I respect that,” Raizel said softly, crimson gaze lowered to his half-emptied 'tea'. "I am sorry things are the way they are."
"I am sorry too," Frankenstein admitted softly and, briefly, reached out for his old companion's hand. For a moment, his fingertips brushed against the back of Raizel's hand. "The universe is full of miracles. I hope you will learn to appreciate them."
Frankenstein rose with a heavy sigh. “If the stars are more than just suns, we will meet again. If not by the will of the stars, by what we once had.”
“call me Jezebel, baby, but I'm still a queen ...” The blonde noble's sweet voice filled the room, drowned out the clangor of cuttlery and the whisper of some few conversations. This was not the kind of event Rael usually attended. Artists – poets, singers and the like. Such a terribly avant-garde gathering, overly sophisticated. A fundraiser for some social project. However, if Seira enjoyed it, he would try to enjoy it too. While most guests had only eyes for the noble lady on stage, Rael only had eyes for Seira – the way the soft reddish lights painted her face in new colors that complemented her eyes, the softness of her hair, her thoughtful expression. This music, this art, did not speak to him – but he enjoyed watching the way she listened to it. With her soul.
They applauded politely after the last song of the performance and, briefly, he turned his attention back to the stage to watch Karias hand the woman a bouquet of red roses. There he stood in his white suit, a red rose adorned his chest, there he stood where he belonged. Out there on a stage, in the bright lights. As an actor who had a story to tell, as a designer who had an idea how the world should dress... as host who knew how the evening should go.
“So... Seira...” An interlude of instrumental music. One of the rare occasions when you still got to hear real instruments. “... thank you for meeting me.”
Miss Seira... May I hope you will answer my advances favourably one day? He'd asked her almost fivehundred years ago. With soft eyes, she'd looked at him and nodded. Then thank you for allowing me to hope. And so he'd hoped – he'd met a couple of girls. A werewolf some decades ago, a half noble threehundred years ago... yet a part of him always remembered the one whose whisper could silence the shouts of all women in the universe.
Miss Seira. Would you like to meet up with me soon? He'd asked her last month. Softly, she'd told him about the gala Karias had invited her to – she did not favour going to such occasions on her own. Not the kind of place or event he usually went to... but for her, he would try to enjoy it anyway. So he sat here at a table with her, delicate amuse-bouches on hand-painted porcelain plates in front of them. A fond smile bloomed on Seira's face, reached her gentle eyes. Never did she look more beautiful than when she smiled.
“Thank you for accompanying me,” she finally replied after a few moments. A part of Rael had worried she might end up going out with Regis – however, it seemed like she considered him as a younger brother. That, he was grateful for. Would he be able to bear seeing her with someone else? He would have to, of course. Alas, this was... not the moment.
“This city is supposed to have a beautiful greenhouse,” she continued. Rael had read up on this station before coming here and nodded. Rare plants, not only native species from this planet but also flowers from other planets and system.
“We could go there after the gala?”, he suggested carefully and, once more, Seira nodded. He's been waiting for this moment for what felt like a thousand years – and now that it had come, he felt as though he held a butterfly in his hands, feared he might smother it in rashness and boldness.
Later that night, they entered the gardens of the park. Here, sheltered under a glass dome, they were alone at this time of the day cycle. An intense sweet scent of aelissaire blossoms made the air around them heavy and soft. With slow steps, Seira led the way, moving effortlessly in the elegant black dress she had chosen to wear for this occasion. Ah... so much time had passed and at the same time, almost none at all. By a small fountain of artificial stone, she stopped. The light of two moons fell through the glass dome above them, painted her white hair silver and red.
Rael stopped in front of her – though she did not seem to intend to say anything at all, he would not breach the serene silence between them. Their eyes met – and no matter how fast the universe was moving... to him, time stood still. Here, lost in her eyes – he dared to smile and, slowly, raised a hand to reach out and cup her cheek. Before his fingers reached the fine porcelain of her skin, she lifted her own hand and, softly, placed her fingers against his lower arm and pushed back his arm without force or insistence. Slowly, her fingers ran up to his wrist, lingered there for a moment – and with a smile that would have left the mysterious Mona Lisa fade into oblivion, she turned around, fingers brushing over her hand as she let go of him to slowly walk off towards the alcoves of roses and uprania.