Soma Cruz deals with an unusual string of visitors. Spoilers, mostly for SotN, Aria of Sorrow, Lament of Innocence.
Greet the Dawn
There were too many hours in Soma Cruz's day. But then, you didn't get the powers of humanity's darkest dreams without some side effects, and the side effects in this case were a lingering malaise of, well, Dracula.
It flickered around the back of his mind, sometimes poking at the edges of his consciousness with an uncomfortable tenacity, like an itch under his skin. There wasn't all that much left of it, most of the spirit having been destroyed at its original body's demise, but it was there, and some eight hundred years of power and existence had left it a permanent attachment to its powers.
And that was before the string of rather unusual visitors had begun appearing at Soma's house. They always arrived just after dusk, and left with the dawn. Soma wondered why he wasn't dropping dead of sleep deprivation, but the thing he'd mentally tagged as the Remnant explained that it was doing most of the communicating and "Soma" was, in a sense, asleep.
Soma hadn't really had the heart to ask. He was glad, on some level, that his week at least began with the (ostensibly) living.
Arikado wasn't the most congenial of guests even under the best of circumstances. While impeccably mannered and graceful to a fault, the man had never mastered the art of social interaction or small talk. Not entirely surprising, considering the circumstances, but as much as he admired the man's courage and willpower, Soma wasn't comfortable with just talking to the guy.
The problem was, of course, only exacerbated by the fact that Arikado and his father didn't exactly get along, and their conversations were punctuated by long stretches of silence of the elephant-in-ballroom variety. Soma tried not to listen too much, allowing the Remnant almost full control, because on some level what passed between father and son was painfully private, and it wasn't something that Soma felt either the right or desire to pry into.
Soma sometimes thought that the man needed serious therapy, but of course you couldn't say that to a centuries-old half-vampire, and it was unlikely there'd be a therapist brave enough to make the sacrifice in the name of science. Most of the time Soma just let the Remnant take over and breathed a sigh of relief when dawn signaled the man's departure.
The serious young man who came to him on Tuesdays hid barely-contained hostility beneath his veneer of calm. All things considered, that was probably not unreasonable, and though Soma had no idea what the infamous Count Dracula had done to piss off the man so much, the Remnant did, and their exchanges were fraught with tension. Several times Soma had firmly warned the Remnant that part of the conditions for sharing his body was that no injuries were inflicted on said body.
Soma had to admit himself somewhat intimidated by the man, even if Drac wasn't. The man towered over Soma, leather armor strapped to a toned, muscular body filled with barely contained energy. Soma was quite certain that the guy could swat him like a fly if he wanted to, and simply the fact that the ghost was incorporeal didn't diminish the obvious feelings of threat.
That changed one day when he and the Remnant had exchanged some rather heated words in a language that Soma didn't take the effort to understand, and the Remnant had stormed off - back into the depths of Soma's mind - in a huff. The visitor, obviously agitated, was pacing the floor when Soma came back to himself. When the ghost snarled something else incomprehensible at him, Soma just gave a feeble grin and tried his best to look harmless.
That brought the visitor up short, and he leaned down to peer carefully into Soma's face. "You're . . . not him, are you?" he asked, in Japanese or maybe Romanian or whatever it was that they spoke in his dreams.
"Nah," answered Soma. "If it helps, sometimes I want to smack him a good one too?"
They'd shared a grin, and all of a sudden the warrior wasn't so scary after all.
Wednesdays were devoted to discussions of the arcane and alchemy way over Soma's head. The silver-haired man who initiated most of the discussions reminded him slightly of Arikado, a similar air of not-quite-there gathered about his person, but fortunately, unlike Arikado, Juste actually talked to people more often than once a century.
His friends, on the other hand, were an entirely different matter. Lydie, bubbly and cheerful when conversing with her friends, still seemed apprehensive when approaching Soma, and Soma regretted it most because she was very much like Mina in a way, kindness and enthusiasm evident in her every word.
Maxim never really bothered to hide his obvious suspicion of the Remnant, though he was at least giving Soma the benefit of the doubt. For his part, he was content to let Juste or Lydie do most of the talking, casting guarded glances at Soma or the Remnant.
Even though he wasn't a part of their circle and would never be, in the few instances when the focus of attention was off of him, Soma enjoyed watching the trio interact, and figured that people haven't really changed that much over the centuries.
The women who materialized on Thursdays always awed Soma. They were beautiful, the both of them, dressed in lovely gowns embroidered (and they must have been done by hand, considering the time period, which made Soma's head hurt just thinking about it) in delicate patterns of leaves and vine trellises, soft satin blossoms and fine lace accenting the silk. They held themselves with proud, graceful postures, hands folded in their laps and voices gentle and soft.
Feeling completely clumsy and awkward, Soma hadn't felt comfortable even to ask their names. It was weeks before he'd finally been able to catch one of the women's eyes and stammer out the request.
Lisa, she had told him, and he was surprised at how familiar the name sounded on his tongue. The second woman was Elizabetha, whose voice echoed like bells when she sang. Like Arikado, what passed between the Remnant and these women seemed too private for Soma to intrude upon, but they always remembered his presence, and more often than not their words were for him as much as the Remnant.
And then one dawn, Soma came back to himself after having spent most of the night slumbering in the most peaceful dreams he'd ever remembered having. He wasn't exactly sure what the Remnant had said to the women, only aware of their soft hands in his as they departed with the light. He'd stood there, stunned for a moment and reveling in feeling of absolute serenity. Then turned around to a polite cough and Mina standing in the doorway.
No, that wasn't it, it's not what it looked like, um, he'd tried frantically to explain. And Mina just smiled, and told him that she understood, because Mina was a miko herself.
The woman who appeared on Fridays was lovely too, but she was much more forceful than the previous ladies - and that's exactly what they were, though Soma had a hard time coming to grips with so archaic a concept - and had no qualms about grilling him for information. Her brilliant green eyes sparkled with more life than any ghost had a right to have, and her movements and gestures were quick and elegant.
How did you find the castle, she would ask. Or how he fought Dracula. Did he face Death? What about Orlox or Beezlebub? Did the castle change much from her day?
And for the Remnant she had questions too, questions rather more uncomfortable than simple cartography. Why did he kidnap her sister, anyway? Was the entire blood thing necessary, or was it a luxury like caviar? How'd he manage to piss off an entire clan of dedicated vampire hunters?
Soma and the Remnant played a game of cat and mouse, each trying to avoid questions they couldn't answer and push the other's consciousness to the forefront when faced with a particularly determined attack. Soma was surprised to find that, with this particular visitor, he had a much better grasp on communication with her than the Remnant. He had the feeling that the sort of women that the old goat was familiar with were the gentle, demure ladies like Lisa or Elizabetha, and the Lord of Night had absolutely no idea how to deal with a girl like this; she upset something central to his equilibrium.
Soma Cruz, on the other hand, was very much familiar with the Modern Independent Woman, and sometimes felt smug at the Remnant's expense.
Sometimes she asked after Arikado, and seemed vaguely annoyed when he mentioned Yoko Belnades. Soma figured that it must be the brooding aura - and the inhuman good looks, of course.
Saturdays were invariably "interesting", for certain definitions of the word. Soma usually tried to take himself off to the shrine on Saturdays, because his house wasn't really built to entertain so many guests, and it made him uncomfortable to see someone with half their body sticking into the wall, even if the ghosts didn't mind.
First there was Hector. Hector seemed normal enough - a little broody, like all his visitors, but rather articulate at times and never meaning any ill. Just don't let him get within shouting distance of Isaac.
Isaac, on the other hand, reminded Soma of some badly misplaced visual-kei rocker, someone who'd be much more at home on an album cover for Dir En Grey or Malice Mizer. He seemed to take particular delight in playing word and mind games with Hector, and sometimes their "games" sent both ghosts crashing through the walls in a furious tangle of fists and elbows that fortunately had no effect whatsoever on the furniture.
Along with the Dynamic Duo came a dysfunctional family of sorts. Soma had never been into the entire pirate thing, but unfortunately discovered that all the media stereotypes about the cursing, the clothes, the attitude, and the rum were accurate. Especially the rum.
Before the pirate could get further into his drinking and wenching, however, he was usually restrained by Sypha. Sypha was swathed from head to toe in a light blue robe, and everything about her screamed "wizard", from the orbs of glowing light that perpetually spun around her head to the way she'd so endearingly bounce the pirate up and down like a ping pong ball with a gesture of her hands when he was being an ass.
The final member of their little coterie was Trevor, who observed the entire mess like a proud patriarch, stopping every now and then to take Sypha's hand for an impromptu dance or chat with Hector. None of the gathering seemed to want anything in particular from Soma or the Remnant, though he'd get a half-hearted, menacing grow every now and then.
Soma used to hate Sundays. It was the one day of the week when the Remnant was annoyingly silent, leaving him to deal with his ghostly visitor alone. The first time it happened, the Remnant had taken one look at the ghostly apparition and figuratively fled to its room and bolted the door, enaminating waves of fear and guilt through Soma's consciousness.
Mature, Drac, real mature, Soma had thought irritably at it. Some Lord of Night you are.
Their visitor was, compared to most of the others, neither intimidating nor particularly majestic. He stood maybe a half a head taller than Soma, pale blond hair framing soft features and gentle blue eyes. There was no leather or chain mail in evidence, though the robe the ghost wore looked like something that might've been on display in a London museum.
Without the Remnant, there was only Soma, and Soma was quite at a loss as to what to say to a several-century-old revenant. The visitor, however, saved him the embarrassment with a healthy curiosity about the workings of the modern world.
Soon they were talking animatedly about the workings of aerophysics, the comparisons between fossil fuels and thermal nuclear power, or the magnetic rails of the Shinkansen, and Soma found himself pulling out textbook theories that he'd never realized he remembered. He was sometimes relieved that his guest was incorporeal and couldn't, say, attempt to operate a microwave on his own.
Through these conversations Soma could feel the Remnant seething in his self-defined area of Soma's mind, wanting to come to the forefront but not daring to, and rumbling with . . . jealousy, it had to be, that it was Soma who was talking so easily and fluidly with their guest. Soma knew it was childish but couldn't suppress a mental smirk at those moments. And sometimes it slipped, a gesture here or a word there, and from the reactions of the ghost they didn't go unnoticed.
When dawn colored the horizon in a pale violet haze, the ghost would walk to the living room window - the one vanity in Soma's otherwise modest house, a floor-to-ceiling monstrosity that gave them clear view of the river and town and mountains beyond. He would turn to face Soma, soft morning light a corona of gold around him and making a halo of his hair, a hand extended in obvious invitation.
Every time Soma would shake his head. It wasn't ready, it wasn't going to move on just yet. The apparition would smile, and nod slightly in understanding, before fading into thin air. And then Soma would sigh and mentally smack the Remnant for being a coward.
Mina had said that these things took time. Soma just wished that the unexpectedly wimpy Lord of Night would just get his act together and go rest in peace in whatever it was that vampires believed, even knowing that he'd miss these daily visits and the presence of the Remnant in the back of his mind when it was gone.
Soma sometimes wondered if his own angels would come calling for him when he died.