Jean-Claude tries to modernize an old vampire before the world leaves her behind
It was about two in the afternoon by the time he awoke. Yuriya had already awoken and took her leave. She had her life at that time, so he paid her absence no mind. Anjou had rolled away by this point, and she was sleeping soundly on her side. He got out of bed on the other side, and put on his bathrobe. He then stepped out, and found that Maki had also left by that point, and that both Karin and Fumio were at work. He went into Karin’s room and pulled back the blind. The poles were still there, as were a pile of clothes beneath each one, but the bodies were gone—completely turned to ash and blown away with the wind. “At least Fumio won’t ask a lot of questions,” he thought, and he went to put himself together. Once he had, he left Anjou sleeping in the bed and closed the door quietly behind himself. He put on his sunscreen and sunglasses and went outside.
He retrieved the clothes, and found some ash that had not blown away with the wind. He looked at it for a moment, and then scattered the ashes to the wind. He used the clothes to wipe off his hands, and he then set them amongst some rocks and ignited them. He was going to insure that there was nothing left of them to be found by anyone. It would be as if they never existed. After this, he took some time to walk, pray, and think. He knew how Elda still did not like humans, although she tolerated Fumio and Kenta for the sake of the children, and Victor, because she just needed someone with whom to be close, (and because he reminded her of Alfred.) What he was wondering was if what Elda believed was true. Maybe there is no chance, and things like what she remembered were not going to stop. Maybe what he believed was a pipe dream after all. If his parents had never met, though he would not have existed, things would not have been so tragic. Perhaps if vampires did mind their own business, things would be better. He could not believe how cold-blooded he could be when dealing with renegades sometimes. Although they were reprobate, was it too much? He finally found himself on the porch, sitting on the swing, thinking about all of this. He sat there a good half hour before he went back in. By this point, it was close to sunset, and he went in to fetch his saber and diamond dust whetstone. When he did, Anjou had moved to the center of the bed, and she looked very comfortable. Then it dawned on him. He fetched the sword and stone, waked over to Anjou, kissed her forehead, and said, “I do this for you.”
He started going down stairs, and began to realize some things. Even if all he thought was the case, that would not have stopped Karin from being born. That would not have then stopped those that desired power using her for their own selfish gains. Where would Corn Muffin be right then? In fact, what would have happened that first night? Would Karin be in their hands by now, and would not have disaster then struck for the vampire? His very existence prevented this and the fact that Maki, Kenta, and now Fumio and Yukiko all knew the truth, and were comfortable with the whole thing. Moreover, Yuriya would still be more or less alone. No, this was a beautiful Job situation, he had come out better for it, and his resolve to change the paradigm was greater than before. He had not realized that the sun had set by this point, Karin and Fumio had already returned and were fixing supper, and he had not even started on his blade. He pulled it out, and began running the flat of the stone on the blade.
About five minutes passed, and Elda entered the room. She was wearing the slinky dress that she always wore around the house, and she saw the juggernaut whetting his blade. She examined him for a moment or two, and she then sat down on the couch opposite him. He looked up for a moment, and went back to his work, saying, “What’s on your mind, grandmamma?”
“I should despise you,” she said, “considering that you stand against everything I believe, but…”
Without even stopping, he said, “But what?”
Elda was weighing her words carefully, and she then continued, “…without you, we may have all died that night, and the grandkids would have been hurt, or worse. I suppose I owe you.”
He stopped, smiled at her, and said, “You don’t understand, it was my pleasure”
The then went back to his task, and said, “Besides, this is the first time that I have ever had a complete family, and did not have to worry about hiding.”
That hit her hard. She had come in to try to convince him to give up his silly notions, but then she saw how he stood against all that would bring destruction to the vampires, even if he were a half-breed. Furthermore, she wondered why he even would care, after all that had happened to him. She finally said, “Look, if James were still here, you and him would have gotten along so well. You are the embodiment of everything he believed.”
“And yet you are the opposite?” he queried.
“Son,” she said, “He was a dreamer, but delusional. We came here about 200 years ago, escaping the persecution of the inquisition.”
“I didn’t think that was still going on in 1809,” he said.
“Believe me,” she said, “When you live in a catholic controlled country like France, such things still go on.”
“You mean, ‘went on,’” he corrected.
“What do you mean by that?” she asked, confused, “Are you saying that they don’t do that anymore?”
“Not since the fall of Napoleon,” he said, “Besides, you were around with him. How was it still going on with him in power? I thought him a bit more benevolent than that?”
“It’s true he didn’t tolerate much church interference,” she said, “but when it dealt with our kind, the authorities turned a blind eye.”
Jean-Claude thought for a moment, and then said, “How much have you paid attention to the mortal world.”
She thought for a moment, and then said, “In truth, though we’ve been around things, and we have a rough sketch of history, we really don’t know much for details about the mortal world, because we spend so much time trying to avoid it, except to feed, of course.”
Jean-Claude was just finishing when he realized that he was going to have to educate her a bit. He re-sheathed his saber, set it down, and then said, “Much has changed in 200 years. What surprises me is why you did not go to the United States. There, those that fled the persecution would have had a much better chance.”
“I don’t follow,” she said.
“You were alive for the war for independence in North America, were you not?” he then asked.
“Again, we know of things, but we don’t have much dealing with mortal politics,” she said.
“That has been your problem,” he then said, quite frankly, “Just as much as those humans attacked you and your family out of fear, your fear has caused you also to act irrationally.”
“Irrationally?” she asked, “How have we reacted irrationally?”
“It is simple,” he said, “In order for fear to stop, on side or the other has to take the time to figure out what it is that makes the other side tick. When that happens, one often gets to the source of the problem. When that is attacked, education can begin, and fear can be dismissed. You really need to look at the philosophers that came along about one or two centuries before you had to flee. At that time, many places still scoffed at these philosophers. Yet, now, they are looked at as geniuses, because they had a handle on the human equation. Because of that, they were able to teach people how to cope with his fellow man better. This has not stopped evil men from rearing their heads. However, because of these thinkers, enough people arose to put them down. Since you have been here in Japan, much in the way of primitive thinking has gone by the wayside, many scientific advances have taken place, there have been two world wars, and man has even walked on the moon. Not bad for a bunch of ignorant humans, is it?”
Elda wondered just how much has happened under her nose, and yet how much she missed as she let it all pass by her without a glance. This also went for her peers, because the fear was still there. Seeing the gears in her head grinding, he continued, “There was one place, however, where many people fled, who understood the teachings of these philosophers, and were persecuted for it, where those ideas flourished. The ideas of Immanuel Kant and Descartes were put forth, as well as Jean-Jacques Rousseau, which led to the rise of democratic forms of government, the resurrection of the republic, and the belief that all people could live in peace. This place is now called the United States of America. Sure, it took them—us—some time to live up to our own ideals, but it happened. The point I am making is this: they established once and for all that all men, and in our case, all humanoids, were created equal, and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Governments are then formed to insure those things, but their power comes from the consent of the governed. If the government then becomes destructive to those ends, the people need to alter it, or abolish it, and put something in place that will get the job done. More or less, America has not only upheld those ideals, but they have always fought for others to be able to enjoy those freedoms. Elda, the kind of things that took place in France at that time would never have been tolerated, for the most part, in America. The church does not control the state, and vice versa. Because of those freedoms, humans have become more educated, and more tolerant of differences. We know that in the uniting as one the differences, it only makes us stronger, like the steel in that sword before you. I grant you, it would have taken some time to heal rifts, but it would have happened. In America, these days, you would find far more humans that would tolerate us than you realize, once they learn about the truth of vampires, and how they are not out to destroy and kill. That’s what they feared in the past, because they didn’t like the feeding habits—no more than that. In the Bible, it says that humans are not to drink blood, because, in the blood is life. However, we are not humans, so that really does not apply. For us in the blood is life, and if we cannot get it, we die. Yet, because of the blood-drinking ban, combined with the undead myths and so forth, they went after us. All that is gone by the wayside, for the most part. Even if the fear still exists, it is not as such that they would start another round of Salem Witch Trials. There was even a politician in the early 50’s that tried this against his fellow humans. Even though, for the most part, he was right, the way he went about it was so wrong that it reminded people of Salem. There is even a negative term because of him: McCarthyism. He tried to use it for his own power grab. However, too many people saw it for what it was, and now anything that even remotely resembles it is quickly attacked. Things have changed, Grandmamma.”
She was deep in thought by this point, and she wondered just how much she, and her kind, had missed. “Man walking on the moon?” she asked herself, “Why would they want to do that?”
She then figured that, since they had not been spending their time trying to find them, they had instead turned their focus on things that are more constructive. Only a people who were not obsessed with control and power could achieve such things. Jean-Claude then said, “However, there is a greater thing that stands out, and I think is the true reason why you, or anyone else, would feel they have to hide. Normally, those who are so destructive have only power on their mind. I guess what I’m saying is that, be one human or vampire; people are people. Put anyone in the right conditions where you tell that individual that they can do what they want without worry of consequences, and he or she will do it. When he feels that it should be that way for him, he feels that he is denied this, and then has the means to change it, he will do it. Believe me, Grandmamma, it isn’t just us that humans persecute, they persecute each other. Just because there is something a little bit different about another, some would be willing to annihilate those with the difference, if it would mean a greater grasp on power. These renegade vampires are not that different, except for the consequences that they would bring. You see, if they try for global conquest, there is no way we could stand against the entirety of the human race, because there is so few of us. Adolph Hitler was responsible for the deaths of 9 to 12 million people, 6 million of them Jews—his fellow humans—because they didn’t fit the human ideal. If he had known about vampires, they would have also been on the hit list. If he could do that to his fellow man, what would stop humans from annihilating us? It’s bad enough what he did. The point is that, if they are not stopped, then all the persecution that you fear will start again, except that, this time, there would be some justification for the action of the humans. They must be stopped if James’ vision is ever to be true. In today’s climate, there is more of a chance to be open. However, remember, there is never going to be a time where hate for us will entirely go away. However, there is still the chance that we can live in peace, despite the minority of haters, whose hatred would only be based off fear—panicked lack of knowledge. As you have seen with Fumio, Maki, and Kenta, education means the end of fear, the beginning of understanding, and allowance of tolerance. In America, there is the freedom to be what you want, without fear of reprisal. Some may not like it, but there, even if you hate something about someone, if you want you freedom, you have to tolerate it. That’s how the law of the land over there works. This is why I have hope, and part of the reason why I fight. If I can root out the majority of the cancer in the vampire world, we have a chance. Returning hate for hate only leads to death and destruction. Remember what I said about love. Like that Billy Joel song I sang last night, we may not have started the fire, it may still burn on, but we must try to fight it.”
Elda sat stunned. James had tried for decades to get her to see these things. She just never understood things until this outsider came in and said it again in his own way. Jean-Claude saw her deep in thought, and figured that he could toss this out: “If you still have hate, you are no better than those that murdered your family, as they did mine. I choose not to hate, because, if I do, then they won. You chose to hate, therefore, they ultimately beat you. This is why Jesus said to do good to those that persecute you, and to love your enemy. Even if you are an atheist, even that makes philosophical sense, doesn’t it. Stop hating Elda, because it is destroying you within your heart. Turn it around and beat them!”
He picked up his saber and he was preparing to go. In that time, she remembered the things she had done in the past to Kenta, to Yuriya, nearly to him, and other humans, and realized that she had been no better than those had that tried to destroy her. What would it have accomplished? On the other hand, she looked at the way he chose to live his life, and wondered just what the difference was. She had to know. She asked, “If that is true, then what is the difference between that and what you do.”
He stopped, turned about on his heel, and walked back, setting the saber back on the table. “That saber, and her cousins, has a history. Back in about the year that you fled Europe, there was a group called the Barbary Coast Pirates. They attacked shipping indiscriminately, and that included American shipping. They didn’t care who you were, or who they killed. You had what they wanted, and would take it no matter what. However, their fatal mistake was going after a nation that believes in justice and righting wrongs. The United States Marines went after them, and with the help of the locals in Tripoli, Libya, put an end to the terror altogether. They were not seeking to persecute, but stop persecution. They didn’t try to take power in Libya, but they put an end to an unjust bunch. The people of Libya were so grateful; they gave the Marine commander that same kind of saber as a gift. It has been the officer’s dress blade in the Marines ever since. It represents swift justice against tyranny. They were not vigilantes, who interpret justice any way they wanted, but were those who merely went after those that were truly guilty, and let the punishment fit the crime. That’s what I did to them last night. If I were just to kill any vampire because of what happened to my parents, then I am just as wrong as they are. If I take the time to insure that I go after only those that seek to squelch the freedoms of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and then I am justified, because, I seek to prevent more destruction than I would cause by stopping them. I am worse if I see this oppression and do nothing. It’s the renegades, not the humans, which are the true threat to our kind, because it is they that cause the myths to continue, and the hatred to grow. Chew on that for a while, and I think you’ll get the point.”
At that point, Fumio stuck her head in and said, “Time for supper.”
“Thank you, Usui-san; I’ll be right there,” he said, and then said to Elda, “By the way, I’ve only been a lone wolf because of the hate. That ended the day I met Karin, Anjou, and the rest of your family. They are doing more, because they realize that being divided is weakness. Civility starts in the family, and I think it’s high time that this family unite. We can set the example. Come and join us, would you, we are all dining together tonight. Tomorrow, they’ll be in the Tokyodome for my Rugby match for the all-Japan final. Why don’t you come and see just how far humans have come. You might just be pleasantly surprised.”
With that, he left her to her thoughts.
Jean-Claude came in, bowed his head in a quick prayer, and began to eat. Soon, Karin, Anjou, Kenta, and Jean-Claude were all chattering. Henry began to join in before long, as did Fumio, but Calera and Ren sat there wondering what was happening. “Okay,” said Ren, “What’s with all the chatter?”
Jean-Claude said, “This is what families do when they sit down to eat—they talk!”
“What does that accomplish?” asked Calera, truly interested.
“You become closer,” said Kenta, “and it shows that you care about the others to know what’s going on in their lives.”
“Yes, that’s true,” said Fumio, “Since I’ve been here, being like this has helped me to not be scared anymore, I’ve even forget quite often what you are. I guess it really doesn’t matter now.”
This was being said just as Elda was entering the room, and that hit hard, considering those words followed that lecture she had received. (She couldn’t really call it a conversation, because it was more one-sided than anything else.) There were two humans at the table, chatting and laughing with vampires as if it was something normal. She wanted to cry, but she managed to stifle it as she joined everyone for dinner. Had she been a fool for that long? After dinner, they all went into the family room, and Jean-Claude pulled out his guitar. He was surprised to see Anjou preparing to plug in her axe, considering the night before. “Where did that come from?” said Jean-Claude, quite surprised.
“My bats retrieved it for me,” she said.
“Wow!” said Jean-Claude, “Maybe I should think about getting a company for myself.”
Then Jean-Claude said, “Make sure you keep it down, though, we’re not playing a concert.”
He looked at her, then at Elda, and said, “Here’s a new one for you, Muff. Bob Dylan wrote this song during a time of change in consciousness, where many humans were thinking that the road of destruction they were laying was not what they wanted. It’s amazing that it took two world wars and mass genocide for them finally to get it, but there is always hope. It’s called The Times They Are a Changin’.”
He then went into the song, and began to teach her the chords as he went. However, there was an ulterior motive. He wanted to punctuate to Elda the point of what he said earlier, saying that times do change, and if she were not able to adapt, history would leave her behind. Furthermore, if a human could figure it out, then why couldn’t the vampires. He then went for something more upbeat, and started teaching Anjou The Hammer Song, and he said to her that those are the ideals he wanted to uphold. Before long, they realized that he did what he did, not entirely out of vengeance, but because, sometimes, he had to be the hammer of justice, and it had to strike hard. They now had a greater understanding of his mind, and Henry felt that he now had a right arm through which the rules could be enforced. If he could make the city and his family safer, then he was willing to tolerate his actions. He was the closest thing to a police force the vampires in the city had.
That evening, Boris was boiling over in rage. It had been 24 hours, and he had heard nothing from Ivan. When he could wait no longer, he went to the place where he had been told that the Marker child was being held. However, when he approached, the place was eerily silent. When he entered, everything seemed normal, except for the fact that there was much in the way of bloodstains on the floor. He began to smell around, and realized that the scent of humans had been there, and the scent of something of the vampire other than what had been there, but not quite a vampire. Ivan and his men were nowhere to be seen. They had not reported back, and he could only assume that, somehow, they had been stopped. It was like the two times before: no report back, no memory or evidence of whom was behind anything, and the loss of some good men. He knew Henry had not been behind this, and he remembered what he had been told about the half-breed. He had to take some time to look into things, and lay low for a bit. He had to know what he was fighting before he continued to fight, or else all his plans might be over before he started.