In the morning Nathan Explosion woke up with a headache of unbelievable proportions, and lying on a couch.
This was standard procedure for Nathan, except that the couch was supposed to be red and spiky-backed, not a tasteful shade of off-white. And there should have been TV screens and recording equipment in the middle of the room, not a giant globe-thing on a pedestal. And he was certain that there shouldn't be windows, at least not windows that looked out on blue skies and white stone buildings. That definitely wasn't right. He shouldn't even be able to realize it was morning...
Fuck. He'd done it again.
He sat up and saw another off-white couch across from him. On it sat a brown-skinned young man with lavender hair, who frowned at him and said, "So you're awake, then?"
"... yeah?" said Nathan. He was pretty sure he'd been here before, and he could almost remember the man's name, something with a k in it, like Toki...
"Good," the man said. "I've already called Charles to come and get you, he should be here soon. In the meantime, have some tea."
Nathan stared at him, then at the elegant tea set sitting on a low table between them, then back at the man. "I don't drink tea."
"Coffee, then," said the man, springing up with a grace that Nathan was unaccustomed to seeing outside of television shows about antelopes and predators. "I believe Anthy made a pot this morning, there should be some left over..."
"Got any booze?" Nathan asked. "I really need some booze to help with this hangover."
The man glared at him. Akio, that was his name. Nathan couldn't remember how to pronounce it. "It's ten in the morning," he informed Nathan, "and this is a high school."
"... yeah so?"
"Just drink the tea," Akio said.
Nathan drank the tea. It tasted like really hot water.
Somewhere bells rang, and he heard a girl's voice calling - "Brother, he's here!"
"Please don't touch anything," said Akio, and went over to a pair of doors on a curve of the round room near the couches. "Charles, finally - no, come in, I insist. There's fresh tea, a special rose-hip blend of Anthy's..."
"Well, all right," came Charles's voice, and he came through the doors along with a girl who had dark purple hair and the same brown skin as Akio. "Just for a minute, though, then we'll be out of your hair."
"Charles there's no booze here you gotta fix this," Nathan said.
"There's some in the car, you can have it once we're off-campus," Charles said, sitting next to him on the couch and taking a cup of tea from the girl. "Thank you - don't worry, we won't be staying long."
"I really need some alcohol now."
"There's no need to rush, Charles," Akio said smoothly, reclaiming the other couch; the girl sat next to him, and he put one arm around her shoulders. "We have quite a lot to talk about, after all..." He picked up a cup of tea as well - what the fuck was with all the tea - and took a sip. "For one thing, how does this man keep finding his way here? If you insist on this band manager business - and you could be doing so much better - perhaps you could at least try to manage your band."
Helpfully, Nathan said, "There was this really good party. Really good. I mean I don't even remember it so it had to be a really good party, right, that's how you know it's a good party."
"I lost track of him while I was keeping Murderface from vandalizing half the Louvre," Charles said. "Sorry, Father. It won't happen again."
"I should hope not," said Akio. "Anthy found him behind the rose bushes in an unspeakable state, she was absolutely traumatized - weren't you, Anthy?"
"Yes, brother," Anthy said, perfectly cool and collected.
A tiny animal peeked out around her neck and made a "chu" noise at Nathan; Nathan stared at it. Maybe there were drugs in the tea. He drank some more, just in case, but the animal disappeared.
"- and completely ruined the music," Akio was saying. "Listen to this - I recorded it this time..." He pulled a square, old-looking tape-player from under the couch and pushed a button.
From the speakers poured an operatic chorus of voices, singing in unison mokushi kushimo shimoku kumoshi moshiku shikumo; beneath the chorus, clearly audible, was Nathan, growling apocalypse apocalypse apocalypse.
"Ah," said Charles. "Nathan, what have I told you about singing outside of concerts and recording sessions?"
"Don't do that because it's bad for my voice and also - also I don't get paid for it," Nathan said.
"That's right." Charles turned back to Akio. "If you need new equipment or singers, I'm sure I can work something out with Dethklok's suppliers -"
Akio waved the offer away. "No, no, we can manage quite well. But Charles," and he leaned forward, "there is another matter. Your birthday."
"Charles is it your birthday, man, you should have said something, we could make a cake."
"I tried to call you," Akio said, studiously ignoring Nathan, "and it seemed you were out of range."
"Ah, yes. I was in Amsterdam," said Charles with a carefully blank face. "The Dethphones have a very limited calling zone; I'll have it looked into."
"Please do," Akio said. "I know I'm often busy with certain matters, but I do try to make time for you."
"Yes, Father. If that's all, we should really be going - Nathan, what do you say to Mr. Ohtori?"
Nathan mumbled, "Thank you and 'm sorry I threw up in your rose bushes Mr. Ohdry - Dory - Mr. Charles's dad sir."
Akio sighed. "Don't worry about it," he said. "But you should be grateful to your manager; he could have been a prince, and instead he's babysitting -"
"Yes, Father, thank you, we have to go now," said Charles, and pulled Nathan up from the couch and out the door.
Charles hadn't brought any of the Klokateers with him, and was opening the car door for Nathan himself when the girl came out of the tower, calling, "Wait a moment, Charles!"
Charles left the door open and said, "What is it, Aunt Anthy?"
"He doesn't really mind it that much," she said, and carefully placed a green rose in the breast pocket of Charles's suit. "He likes the chance to see you, but he's just not very good at dealing with family... the duelists don't even notice, really. Don't let it bother you."
"I won't, Aunt Anthy. Is there anything you need?"
She yawned, covering her mouth with one hand, and said, "Some more of that hyper-caffeinated coffee, if you have it to spare... With everything going on at once, I haven't gotten any proper sleep in weeks."
"I'll have some sent," Charles said.
Anthy turned to Nathan then, the sunlight flashing off her glasses and concealing her eyes, and for a moment, in some part of him not deadened by metal and alcohol, Nathan Explosion was afraid of her.
All she said was, "I really enjoy your music, especially the song to wake the lake troll. Please keep working hard."
In the car Nathan said, "How come you get a flower and I don't get a flower, that's not fair. I want a flower too. Only black. That's brutaller."
"More brutal," Charles said automatically, and carefully steered around a group of wide-eyed schoolgirls on a bridge. "Her black roses are for a specific purpose; she can't just give them out."
"That place is really weird," Nathan said, peering into the fridge in the backseat, "like your aunt is way younger than you are and so's your dad, and there's no beer."
"Actually they're much older," said Charles. "It's a long and complicated story, completely irrelevant to the band. In fact, Nathan, considering what might happen if any of the others were to end up here, I would very much prefer it if you wouldn't mention this little - interlude - to the rest of Dethklok."
"Mention what?" said Nathan, already halfway through the emergency scotch.
"Exactly. Now, I think we'll just tell everyone that you ended up in Cancun - it's very nice at all times of the year, I believe..."
"Yeah Cancun's nice I like that place," Nathan said, but in the back of his head the chorus still sang zettai unmei mokushiroku.