Annabel Hellsing, the only daughter of the late Sir Integra Hellsing, tiredly shook the hand of the final guest as they made their way out of the ancient mausoleum. The service had been somber and strictly regimented, rendering the entire ordeal impersonal and almost inappropriate for the loss of her mother. While she knew that none of the guests had known her mother as more than the face behind the menacing family name, she couldn't help but resent the cold, unfeeling eulogy delivered by a distant family member she had never known. It was as if her mother's passing was just another line on the schedule, and she found herself quietly hating the so-called mourners even as the last of them made their way across the tomb-littered field. When the pathway to the parking lot was finally empty, she motioned to Seras Victoria, who gave her a short nod and followed her outside, gently pulling the towering marble doors closed behind them. Casting one last, carefully guarded look at the silent house of the dead, Anna blew out a soft sigh and turned her steps toward the road.
The sky seemed appropriately overcast; rainclouds gathered over the grave of the fallen titan, rumbling mournfully but respectfully holding back their tears. The engine of the last guest rumbled to life, followed by the sound of rubber churning away at the old brick road into the distance. The cemetery was finally empty aside from the new mistress of Hellsing and her servant; the world seemed to hold its breath as the unusual pair made their way toward the wrought iron gates.
As they passed through the gateway to the hills of the deceased, the wind blew out a sigh, and the world turned again. A sleek, black Mercedes rolled to a stop before Anna's gloved white hand, and the chauffer made his way toward her to allow her entrance to the vehicle.
She forced a smile and nodded to the chauffer as he opened the door, sliding inside and quietly pulling the seatbelt across her lap. She waited for Seras to settle into the seat beside her, then met the driver's gaze. "Home please," she said softly. The man nodded and closed the door.
The car smoothly slid into motion. Anna sighed and removed her gloves, allowing her head to fall back against the headrest as she watched the cemetary fade into the distance. The English trees blurred by as they started back to the Hellsing estate, the bullet-proof glass providing an insulated shield from the sound of the vehicle piercing the wind. However, much too soon the car lurched to a halt.
Annoyed by the sudden delay, Anna leaned forward to tap on the window separating them from the chauffer. "What's going on?" she asked as the driver rolled down the glass.
"Miss Anna," the chauffer said uneasily, "there appears to be a man blocking our path. I have tried to signal him to move, but he simply stands there..." Sweaty fingers clasped and unclasped around the leather-covered wheel. "I'm...not sure what to do. Perhaps miss Seras...?"
Suppressing the urge to roll her eyes, Anna looked over at Seras. The young draculina nodded, giving her new master an apologetic look before popping open the door and stepping out of the car. "Excuse me, sir, but you are going to have to get out of the road," she called, folding her arms across her ample chest. Meanwhile, Anna had rolled down her window and leaned out to see what was going on.
The man stood about 6'2", cloaked in a floor-length black overcoat and a tangle of messily braided long brown hair. Eerie blue eyes set in a chiseled face gazed from beneath a veil of brunette bangs. His clothes looked normal at first glance, but upon further scrutiny they appeared to be just a bit off. Muscular arms flowed into fists that were clasped loosely behind his back. He did not seem the least bit perturbed by Seras' warning. "Is this the vehicle of Annabel Integra Hellsing?" he asked coolly. His voice was soft but edged, like a scalpel wrapped in silk.
Seras' eyes darted back to the car, willing her charge to remain behind the bullet-proof door. Her efforts were in vain; before she could protest, Anna had already opened the door. "Who wants to know?" she demanded as stepped out of the car, her sword still sheathed but ready to be drawn. Blowing out an exasperated sigh, Seras kicked her door shut and made her way around the back of the car to stand by her master's side.
A smile quirked the man's lip. Bringing a single hand to rest over his heart, he offered a small bow. "I do, of course," he replied, his smirk widening as he saw the look of exasperation on her face. "I have come to offer my condolences for the loss of your mother. She was an impressive woman."
"Yes she was. Now please move out of our way. Both my companion and I wish to go home. It has been a long day."
"I'm sure it has," he retorted silkily. "However, if I leave you to your own devices and go on my way without imparting to you the information I possess, your day may indeed become a lot longer."
She exchanged glances with the young vampire at her side. "How do we know we can trust you?" she asked warily, turning her gaze back to him as she moved her hand to the hilt of her sword.
"I suppose you don't. Then again, in light of the circumstances, what choice do you have?"
"Considering I am unaware of these so-called circumstances, I would say my options are still mostly open," she replied dryly. "Perhaps if you could illuminate, we could decide what to do from there."
"Momentarily." Before she could blink, he was out of sight. A gust of wind slammed into her, blowing the beautiful blonde hair that was her mother's trademark back behind her shoulders; a split second later, the man was pressed against her, hand extended over her shoulder. She heard a muffled cry immediately to her left; a small drop of hot black liquid slipped down her cheek.
Seras hissed, startled by the sudden appearance of the unseen assailant. Acting sheerly on instinct, she tore the body from the stranger's arm and flung it away, nostrils flaring as her eyes resurveyed the scene, searching for any sign that the threat remained.
Attempting to slow her racing heart, Anna reached up a trembling hand to wipe what she could only assume to be blood from her cheek. "You move quickly," she commented, forcing her tone to remain flat and calm. Despite her endeavors to seem unfazed, she quickly drew her sword, motioning for the driver to take off. The terrified chauffer immediately pressed the pedal to the floor, and the car sped off into the distance.
The man retracted his arm, examining the now-dripping extremity with mild interest. "Apparently not quickly enough. I thought I had destroyed all of them before I found my way to you; apparently one was fast enough to get away without my knowledge." With a single, swift swipe of his arm, he sent the tar-like blood splattering to the ground. "I had hoped to be able to properly warn you before the threat...made your acquaintance." The attacker's body, which had fallen to the ground several yards away, emitted a soft hissing sound as it dissolved.
Seras curled her lips in disgust at the growing puddle, then turned her gaze upon the newcomer. "Anna...we should go. I don't trust him."
"He saved my life, Seras," she replied wearily. "We can at least hear what he has to say." Having finished scanning their surroundings, she finally resheathed her sword and turned to the stranger. "What were those things? And are you sure you only missed one?" she asked, watching him carefully.
"I believe so, but one can never be sure with demons." A slender hand pushed a few stray strands of hair out of his eyes.
The calm pretense she had managed to portray fell away as she blinked in disbelief. "Demons?" she repeated, a mixture of skepticism and fear tinging her words.
"Indeed." The young man casually looked his arm over, searching for any stray flecks of blood. "They have been quite problematic on this plane as of late, what with the Vampire King's disappearance and his master's passing. Seems the underworld is no longer a desirable environment, especially when there's another unguarded plane ripe for the taking."
"I would think the underworld would never be a desirable environment," Anna snorted. "Now...why exactly are you here? And what do you expect us to do about this threat if we don't even know where Alucard is?"
"Ah, humans...so dependent on the monsters they claim to conquer." He shook his head. "The vampire king, or Alucard, as you call him, is nowhere he can be of immediate use. However..." His gaze met hers with icy mirth. "I am here, and I am willing to serve."
"Why should I trust you? You may have saved my life, but for what purpose, I can't be sure."
"How did you know to trust Alucard?" he retorted.
"Alucard has served my family...and my mother, in particular, for a long time. He has...had...always looked out for her."
He spread his hands wide. "And where is he now? Why did he not stop that demon from almost tearing you into pieces? Where was he when Sir Integra breathed her last breath?"
Her eyes hardened as she glared at him. "I'm sure if he could have come, he would have, and we would have had no need of your service today. Now unless you have any other reason for me to trust you, I suggest you leave me be and never mention my mother's death to me again." Brushing roughly past him, she started down the street toward the Hellsing Manor. Casting the man one last baleful look, Seras shook her head and trotted off after her master, falling easily into step beside her.
"Fine, have it your way," he called after her. "However, when the next demon attacks, you shan't be so lucky. Your pet vampire there is no match for the caliber of demons which have found their way to earth. The only thing keeping them at bay was Alucard himself, and he has been neutralized."
His words brought her to a halt in spite of herself. Her mind raced through the few things her mother had told her about the vampire Alucard; she had always said she believed he was still out there somewhere, but Anna had never been so sure. Grinding her teeth in frustration, she finally turned around. "What do you mean, neutralized?"
Seras turned with her, fixing the man with a narrow glare. "I would know if Alucard was dead," she spat. "He made me; I would no longer be here if he had ceased to exist."
"Alucard is no longer a part of this plane of existence, and therefore can never come running to your rescue again." He took a step toward the pair, blue eyes glinting in the gloomy atmosphere.
"So what do you propose?" Anna asked sharply, planting her hand on her hip as she willed herself not to take a step back.
"Allow me to serve in Alucard's place," he replied promptly, sweeping another elegant bow. "Only then will I tell you everything I know."
Anna and Seras exchanged a quick glance.
I don't think this is wise, Anna, Seras told her silently. You know nothing about him. For all you know, he could be the one who attacked and killed Sir Integra.
I know, she replied tersely, turning her gaze back to the stranger with narrowed eyes. But what if he DOES have information for us? What if he is the only way we can stave off whatever it is that's heading our way? I think we should play along for now.
Well, I guess that's too bad.
"Very well," Anna said aloud, ignoring Seras' withering glare. "You may stay, but you will not take Alucard's place. You are only filling in temporarily."
Seiryu gave her a lopsided smile. "From what I have learned, you have never met Alucard. He died before your birth."
She shrugged. " True enough, but I've heard enough about him from Seras and my mother to know that he will be back, and if you turn out to be less than honorable in your intentions, you will not live to regret your betrayal. Now, are you coming or not? I'm tired and would like to get home."
Another short bow. "Then home we shall go." Before he could straighten, the world dissolved around them, only to be replaced a split second later by the elegant interior of the Hellsing estate. The familiar castle walls welcomed them back with a warm sense of belonging; however, the comforts of the commonplace were offset by the presence of the newcomer, giving an air of unfamiliarity to the sanctuary of the mansion.
Seiryu's eyes traveled idly across what should have been the unfamiliar surroundings, briefly assessing and dismissing each painting, window, and light fixture. "Nice place."
Anna blinked and looked around, slightly surprised to find herself home so quickly. Rushing to recompose herself, she gave him a small nod. "Thank you. Seras will show you to one of the guest rooms. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have things I need to do." With that she spun and walked down the hall towards her mother's office.
Seras frowned and turned towards Seiryu. "I don't trust you."
"You don't need to trust me, little girl," he replied with a smirk. "In fact, you will shortly be obsolete. I will find my own way to my quarters." Without even a nod, he brushed past the young draculina and headed off down the hall, ignoring her eyes burning angry holes into his back.
Anna closed the door to the office, which had all too abruptly become hers, behind her with a sigh and headed over to the desk. Sitting down in the old leather chair, she started shifting through the reports that had remained untouched since her mother's death.
However, she had barely scanned the top sheet before a brisk knock came at the door. "Anna, I would speak with you." It was the young stranger's voice which floated through the ancient oak.
Rolling her eyes to heaven, she slapped the papers back down onto the desk with an irritated sigh. "Come in," she muttered, turning her gaze back to what she was reading.
The door slid silently open, and the young man stepped forth into the gloomy room. "I apologize for the intrusion; however, I feel that it would only be appropriate for us to complete the introductions which were necessarily placed on hold." Approaching the old wooden desk, he extended a slender hand. "My name is Seiryu, and I might add, albeit a bit belatedly, that I have desired to meet you in person for quite some time."
Realizing that the faster she got the introductions over with the faster he would leave, she sighed and took his hand, giving it one brisk shake. "Anna...but then again, you already knew that. Please, have a seat." She motioned vaguely to the two chairs on his side of the desk.
Seiryu eagerly returned the smile and settled into the chair on the left. "I must apologize for my rather rude entrance," he said apologetically, expression contrite. "But you have to understand, there was little time for explanation outside the safety of these walls. I also had to ascertain...that you were in fact the woman I was instructed to find."
"Instructed? By whom?" she asked, absentmindedly playing with the pen she had picked up after their brief handshake. Realizing that she was fidgeting, she set the pen down and placed her hands in her lap.
"Your father." Hard blue eyes searched her face for a reaction. "Maxillion King of the United States Anti-Freak Operation. I was in his service in a division of the US anti-demon agency, a highly classified branch of the military of which even your mother was not aware. With your father in command and myself at his side, we were able to keep demonic activity under control...until his death." A frown furrowed his olive brow. "When King passed, I was one against many. He instructed me to ensure the safety of your mother and yourself. However, had believed I was able to keep the threat contained in the States...until recently. Unfortunately, I arrived too late to save your mother, but I knew you were still alive. The rest you know."
"I see," she said slowly, not giving anything away. "So what do you expect to accomplish here, seeing how you could not contain the threat in the US?"
"I was bound to your father in much the same way as Alucard was bound to your mother," he answered briskly. "My last standing order was to ensure your safety in the face of the demon threat, and that is what I intend to do."
"Very well." She pushed a strand of golden hair out of her face, studying him closely as she attempted to feel him out. The contempt in his voice when he spoke Alucard's name had caught her attention, and she found herself uneasy despite his calm demeanor. "You don't like Alucard," she commented, forcing nonchalance through the veil of apprehension. "...why?"
His reply came immediately. "He was a fool. He placed your mother's life in danger countless times for no further reason than to amuse himself in battle. Allowed enemies to waste his countless lives in the interest of sport. Abandoned your mother in the time of greatest need, when the Nazi forces threatened to destroy all of London. Left you to fend for yourself against a threat of which you were yet not even aware." Setting clasped hands on the polished surface of the desk; he leaned forward and met her gaze with unwavering eyes. "Need I continue?"
"No," she said simply, carefully keeping her face blank. "So how do you propose we stop this threat?"
"Honestly, that is not my concern." He leaned back in his chair, having made his point. "My only desire is to fulfill my master's final wish, which was to keep you safe. So long as that is accomplished, demons can run rampant through this planet and I could not care less. I am one of them, after all."
"You might not care...but I do." She leaned slightly toward him to emphasize her point. "And if I have to find a way to stop them without your help, I will. However, since, as you so kindly pointed out, you are a demon, I would appreciate your insight."
He shrugged his broad shoulders. "I have no inclination to kill my own kind beyond what is necessary to keep you safe. However, should you place yourself in danger, I would have no choice but to come to your aid." His eyes glittered with amusement; he seemed to be almost enjoying their little exchange.
"Fair enough. Anything else you would like to share with me today? Because I really should get this finished before I retire tonight." She gestured to the mountain of paperwork before her.
"No, I suppose not." Pushing his chair back from the desk, he slid easily to his feet. "With your permission, I will find my quarters now."
She nodded once, attention already turned back to the task at hand. "Enjoy the rest of your evening," she replied dismissively. When he had gone, she blew out a small sigh of relief, then picked up the stack of papers and began again.