Chapter Twenty Three: Brothers' Confrontation
Time: The night of the Gala
Location: The Grand Ballroom
From my point of observation near the ballroom's central fireplace, I could see a gloom descending upon the twirling figures even as Sir Crux's song still hung in the air. The applause was cheerful as Miss Rose and the Lord took their bows. They were still blissfully unaware of the presence that approached from behind, overpowering and malicious, until it was much too late. Even as I had started forward from my position, I could see a great overwhelming blackness rising up from beneath Nicolae, seeming to emerge from his shadow to ensnare the three within it's grasp. The whole attitude of such was akin to a great wall of thorny vines closing in to asphyxiate a blossoming flower. An instant more, and they had vanished. A great gasp erupted from the startled onlookers who continued to gape at the empty spot as though the three would emerge once more at any moment. All the same, I hurried over to where they had gathered, pushing aside the still shocked patrons. Lazorus and Licorice had been close by, the latter in a swoon as her partner strained to keep her from falling. Karayan had descended from the orchestra's platform, the still wobbling Malphas following close behind. We all looked to one another, attempting to ascertain the nature of the occurrence and the location to where they may have gone when a shrill cry from a fellow onlooker arrested our attention. We turned to behold the guest who was pointing out one of the wide windows with a look of urgency. I turned as well, peering out into the night to gaze upon the castle's courtyard and the blossoming garden enclosed there.
Amidst the flowering vines, the two figures of the Lord Katsuto and Nicolae faced off in what I could only describe as a deadly dance. Such was the grace with which both moved over the ground, aiming strikes of blood magics at each other only to follow up and parry with blades formed of the same substance. Each clash of these brought forth a crimson flash and sent the spectacle into a multitude of colors before fading once more into the gloom of the surrounding night. I could just discern the figure of Miss Rose a small distance from the two. She was fully conscious, I was relieved to find, and she stood firmly, eyes wavering indecisively. She glanced at the two figures with unease, as though uncertain whether to rush forward or remain out of their reach. Thus far, her decision remained with the latter, and that was likely best. I turned to Crux and the others, nodding with an unspoken agreement before we made our way out of the room and into the night.
Immortal Rose's Journal
Nicolae's appearance had been sudden, and our removal to the garden even more so. I had hardly regained my composure and footing when I saw the Lord and Nicolae locked in a duel. I had never before seen a confrontation of my own kind, only the scuffles of the entities I had studied in the wild. This fight was much different in comparison. It did not hold the clumsy lunges of the territorial or feral, yet it was altogether more frightening in it's calm execution. Both parties were skilled in their magics, and no doubt taught from an early age the finely tuned dance of their ancestors and what it could mean in their birthrights as a way to usurp the throne. Blood magics and the books mentioning such were forbidden in the study of my father, and all I had learned of such was the pain and dedication it takes to learn to wield one's lifeblood as it's own weaponry. I vaguely wondered if this was how a successor was chosen of their kind as I watched. A carefully placed thrust from Nicolae's blade caused a small wound to his opponent, and I felt myself inclined to attempt aid. This, yet hesitation. If I were to act rashly in this manner, I would only become a nuisance or worse, a liability to the Lord that could cost him the battle. I debated as I watched them lunge and parry, listening to the words that accentuated their warring spells.
"Did I not tell ye, brother? Was I wrong in mine predictions? It did work! The land hast become whole and it is through her blood. Think of it, brother, think what else it wouldst be capable of! Join me, and we shall rule eternal in blood and night."
Here, Nicolae sent a venomous green bolt of light crashing to the
earth. Vines sprung up and threatened to bind the lord, who
slashed through it with his own blade before leaping up to send a
crimson beam in retaliation.
Brother... I cannot say that this revelation shocked me too greatly, for I doubt much else in this land could surprise me any longer. Still I felt pained, stung by the words and actions that had supposedly been brought about by Nicolae's instruction.
"You have hurt her enough, brother! Leave her be, avenge yourself if you must, but on me instead! How much more of your vengeance will you force her to suffer? Does she need to die before you will be satisfied?!" The Lord focused his will into the blood rapier, moving forward to an offensive swing.
Nicolae dodged the attack, lifting himself high up on a nearby pillar to become but a silhouette against the moon, all but his eyes dissipating into smoky dusk and only those orbs of flame burning brightly as though to incinerate any unfortunate thing that dare meet his gaze.
"Yes! A thousand times yes, dear brother! No mortal will ever suffer near that which I shall make her suffer! And mark my words, Katsuto, she shall live to see the end of it. I shall drain her very soul if I must, body, mind, blood all to waste! Till she cry out for death to have mercy, beg and plead that I end her. Even then, I have my plans. And thou, thou shalt be he who sends her soul to the pit!"
A peal of laughter rang forth the likes that I have never heard. It was as though the darkest fathoms of hell had opened exclusively for this occasion, and a chorus of demons sang out their curses in one infinite voice. I shudder still to think of it, trembling and nearly falling backwards at his sinister merriment before his eyes found mine...
- Immortal Rose