Description: Ah, finally! A chance to tend to Madam Rachel's sprawling garden - perhaps my favourite activity on the grounds - during a rare moment of leisure time around the Estate. Sadly, it seems that the blending of Castle Alucard into various spots around the earthrealm has drawn yet another uninvited guest... though I must say, this one certainly seems more polite and reasonable than OTHER recent intruders.
She had a name once, though it has been an immeasurable amount of time since she has heard it spoken aloud by any thing other than her own soft ruined voice in an attempt to retain what little of her sanity remained. Sometimes it was hard to remember what it had been, the memories of her life before being sucked into that dark and endless hellscape scattering apart like pieces of floatsam from a ruined ship only to drift back together once more in seemingly random patterns. She could no longer trust the visions of her own mind for every time she had thought that some semblence of reason and order had been established everything would change, her carefully crafted observations all proven to be little more than elaborate lies scattered like dust on the wind to the sound of cruel laughter.
She had lost track of time and could not tell how long she had been imprisoned, wandering in an endless cycle of blood and carnage for...months? Years? Decades? She couldn't even hope to guess at this point, it all blurred together into one neverending nightmare. Until, that is, she finally managed to find it - the source of all her misery and suffering; and with it the path to her freedom.
The woman pauses as the cold mountain air rushes to embrace her in its chilly grip, caught briefly offguard by the sheer intensity of it. Her eyes drift closed and she breathes it in deeply, savoring the sensation of its touch as it drifts over her face and through her long hair. She smiles in the manner of someone who has become reacquainted with an old friend and lets out a slow wistful sigh as she soaks in this simple pleasure for several minutes.
Behind the woman, the air ripples and oozes with an ugly red light, pouring a thick ichor into an ever expanding pool upon the ground as if reality itself has been wounded and ripped asunder. The gate wavers and wobbles unsteadily, struggling to maintain the passageway between that place of suffering and death and wherever it is she might currently be.
Curious about the answer to that particular question, the woman opens her eyes and finally takes a good look around. All around her stretches vast rows of hedges, immaculately kept walls of green shrubbery and thorny vines the likes of which even her own opulent family castle did not possess. She stands within a gazebo of white marble, its elegantly carved pillars and hand-wrought benches reminding her of something she had seen in old picture books from atleast a hundred years before she had been born. A ring of roses encircles the structure with a colorful array of dark colors, sporting the same sort of healthy and well-tended appearance as the surrounding maze.
Stepping down from the small platform, the woman makes her way towards the edge of this strange rose garden. Almost as if she had forgotten about it, she turns slightly to wave her hand at the bleeding portal and with a grotesque noise like wet flesh being pressed together it shrinks into a tiny ball of glowing red goop before falling with a splat upon the white stone. She kneels and plucks one of the flowers with a gloved hand, sniffing at it experimentally, as if not quite certain whether to believe that this dream-like place is actually real.
To say that recent events around Castle Alucard in the past weeks have been a tad exhausting - and, perhaps, even slightly overwhelming at times - for the vigilant sentinel of the grounds and ever-loyal servant Valkenhayn R. Hellsing would be... an understatement, to say the least.
The increased pace of his duties that followed the awakening of Madam Rachel from a decade-long sleep were not a problem whatsoever; in fact, the butler had grown rather bored during her long period of rest with only Nago, Gii and George to keep him busy around the sprawling Estate. Rather, it was the events caused by Terumi's release from the Boundary - with all the chaotic machinations and bizarre events that followed - which caused /all/ of the problems... not that he would ever complain vocally about that, however. It was his job to protect the Alucard land against all intruders and unwelcome guests, after all...
...but the blending of several portions of the Castle into the earthrealm - seemingly at random times and locations, never predictable - has increased the number of visitors by such an amount that he has been scrambling to both eject the unwanted individuals /and/ keep up with his regular tasks.
Tea time suddenly becomes /much/ more stressful, when one might be interrupted by an old friend-turned-rival, or a God of Chaos, or an annoying boy previously thought to be dead... even the return of his long-missed comrade Jubei had ended with another intrusion by Yuuki Terumi, and plenty of clean-up for the Lycanthropic butler afterwards.
Alas, such is life.
Though he could never have predicted this bizarre turn of events when he accepted Clavis' offer of employment (of course, the only other option at the time was death, but nevermind that)... well, there was no abandoning his post now. Honour would not allow it; and he'd grown to enjoy his domestic duties in the decades and decades he'd spent serving House Alucard.
It is one of these more pleasant jobs that he is presently occupied with; namely, tending to the sprawling rows of crimson roses that seem to encircle the massive, ornate structure of the Castle itself. Kneeled down on the edge of one such bed of flowers, he holds an old, well-worn metal watering can in one hand - tipping it forward to dribble the liquid onto the dirt from which Lady Alucard's favourite plants grow.
And then... an unmistakable scent from some distance away catches his attention. Blood on the wind. There can be no confusing that smell for anything else.
Letting out a deep sigh at the interruption, he takes one moment to finish watering the bed of roses he's knelt in front of before placing the can down onto the ground and standing straight up to sniff at the air - pinpointing the location of that odour. A small frown plays at the corner of his lips, as he brushes at the knees of his formal black-and-gold work uniform to swat away some dried dirt.
Striding off with a speed that betrays just a hint of the masterful prowess and grace he once exhibited in battle, Valkenhayn traverses the gardens quickly - soon turning a corner to make visual contact with the intruder. Clearing his throat silently, he slows his pace significantly and continues to step - calmly but with noticeable determination - towards Franziska, still some distance away.
"I'm afraid Lady Alucard is not present to entertain guests. May I help you, Miss...?" he questions politely without an edge to his voice, leaving that last word hanging in the air as if expecting her to identify herself.
Oddly enough, this is perhaps the first unrequested guest whom he did not immediately recognize from years gone by... could it be that Madam Rachel had invited this individual, and merely neglected to inform him of the fact? Yet, as far as he knows (and he is generally correct in such matters), the Lady of the House is away on business... likely spurred into some further action by the recent visit paid by that bastard, Relius Clover.
Even reminiscing upon that encounter causes the hair on the back of Valkenhayn's hands to stand on-edge - accompanied by a sudden rushing of red-hot blood throughout his own aged veins... he will never forget the indignity of being /muzzled/ by that man.
Suddenly clamping down on the rage that begins to rise within his mind and body, the manservant does his best to remain smooth and professional as he looks the new arrival up and down. The woman's style of dress seems to bring to mind some relic from the earthrealm's history, as though he had stood at Rachel's side while she Observed past events or, perhaps, he simply read about such matters during one of his rare moments of leisure. The curiosity is enough to have him questioning Franziska, where he might otherwise begin shuffling her away from the Grounds immediately:
"I must ask: what is the significance of that uniform?"
The scent of the rose is heavenly and as she allows its heady nectar to waft into her nostrils, the woman's eyes once more drift closed as the memories of an almost forgotten life blossom to life at its nostalgic aroma. She is a little girl again, strolling through the forest surrounding her family's estate in her travelling dress, a simpler affair than the usual clothes that she wore but no less expensive and elegant for that fact. Ahead of her, a young man walks, his well-toned frame clad in equally fancy attire. A surge of something she hasn't felt in ages rushes up to fill her chest, joy and comfort at the presence of this blurry image.
She once more drifts off into the land of her shattered mind and would like as not have stayed there for some time were it not for the sudden voice that calls out to her. Her mind still clouded with the overwhelming sensations of being alive again, the woman slowly turns to regard the old guardian with a mixture of curiosity and confusion laid bare on her face. Like everything else here, the wizened face of the butler seems to evoke long dormant memories that once more threaten to bury her consciousness in their clamour to be experienced yet again, to remind her of the many things that had been stripped away from her in her long exile.
A hand goes to her temple as the interloper concentrates for a moment to blink away the fog, waiting until the dream-like mixture of past and present solidfies into something recognizable. She offers a smile in response after a moment and tucks the rose into the nook of her ear, weaving it easily through her long flaxen hair so the bright red blossom settles against the edge of her hat. It makes for a stark contrast to the delicate paleness of her skin, nearly alabaster in soft moonlight, and dark black black of her military uniform.
Twin eyes the color of a muted sky peer back at Valkenhayn from beneath the brim of her cap, focused now on something which she has not encountered for what feels like entire lifetimes - another person. Strange that her revival would be so quickly answered with attention. She had not anticipated finding others within the depths of the forest that had swallowed her body and soul and most certainly did not expect to wander directly into some gothic castle straight out of old legends.
Even more bizarrely, the man speaks English rather than the language of the Fatherland. His question about her uniform causes her to glance down at it, almost as if she had forgotten what she was wearing and a faint chuckle of good humor escapes the mysterious woman after a moment. No one would have asked something with such an obvious answer from the time she can remember. My my, just what has been going on since she was gone?
"Guten abend, mein herr. I am am Franzika von Valken," she responds in kind, her English heavily accented, offering him a respectful bow. "But please, call me Franziska."
Franziska's smile widens into something truly magnificient, her face seeming to light up with cheerful energy as she finds that the sound of her own voice is not muted out by a sudden explosion of mortar fire nor swallowed within the dying screams of the damned souls trapped within her personal hell. She had half expected this momentary lapse to be little more than a fever dream, some tiny sliver of sanctuary created by her broken mind to escape the reality of her torment. In the abscence of that, she cannot help but be quite pleased, even in the face of this suspcious gentleman.
"Pardon my intrusion, I did not expect to find anysing here upon my return. Zere was little but forest and old ruins here, you see. Imagine my surprise to find zis magnificent castle. It is quite zee sight, I must say."
The woman stands up a little straighter, her hands tucking behind her back as she falls into a parade rest stance out of habit. Even this simple action fills her with a sense of relief as the familiarity of it starts to trickle back into her mind. It feels proper and dignified, something that she realizes she used to care about a great deal. Reclaiming that scrap of her former self, Franziska seems to gain in presence as if a great weight has been lifted from her shoulders.
"As for zis old thing..." She glances down at her uniform again and simply shrugs, smirking in a friendly manner, her voice playful in its tone. "Vell, zee ozer officers would likely have taken exception if I showed up to verk in my evening gown. Besides, I find it razer stylish! Hugo Boss certainly knows how to make a snappy ensemble, vouldn't you agree, mein herr?"
What seems like confusion on the part of the intruder appears to be picked up on by the sharpened senses of Valkenhayn, and it causes his own well-lined forehead to knit further in thought. Could this be another creature jarred loose from the sands of time? Some relic long thought forgotten, only to be brought back into the world by the events taking place across the realms as of late? At the very least, she seems far more cordial than many of the past guests who have stumbled upon Lady Alucard's Estate by mysterious means.
And of course, her style of speech is very familiar; though his own accent is long gone, polished away to smoothness by a lifetime of service to the Alucards, it does bring back ancient memories of his own youth. Not in the country that Franziska hails from, but a very similar place - simply from another time, another world. It didn't surprise him in the least when he discovered that this reality had a land with the same culture and language; he found it comforting in a way, knowing that there was a version of the Fatherland here as well - though he had yet to have occasion to visit in-person.
Although... that uniform of hers, a relic from a very specific time in that land, seems entirely out of place in /this/ era.
Even more surprising, is her surname. Franziska von Valken? How... interesting.
The aged butler continues to approach, his pace now slow and casual despite the fact that his posture remains as rigid and disciplined as ever. His bearing, noble and professional, may very well remind Franziska of some half-forgotten memory from her /own/ past; he would not look entirely out of place setting the table for an officer's dinner back in the Third Reich, despite his noticeable lack of insignia or party-affiliation upon his own arm.
Pausing several feet ahead of the interesting newcomer, his eyes continue to glance up and down her uniform as he slowly remembers events in this world's past; a vague look of recognition crosses his cold, blue eyes for an instant... before it's disguised once again with the impassive gaze of a professional manservant. Still, he wonders to himself, what is a woman from so many decades ago in this earth's past doing here? Particularly since she /seems/ to think she might still be residing in that specific time and place in history...
"Jawohl, ziemlich stilvoll," he states definitively, remembering a language he hasn't spoken in a span of time that amounts to several mortal lifetimes. He does hope he's speaking /correctly/, as he asserts that, yes, her uniform /is/ quite stylish. Despite the fact that most individuals in this reality tend to look back upon that uniform as something dark and best not spoken of, he never felt the same way... perhaps it was simply a pride in the Fatherland that carried over from his own ancient history, from another world /entirely/.
Whatever the cause, he certainly /did/ appreciate the aesthetic; those old Germanic soldiers always dressed in a far, far better manner than any other military unit this world had even bore witness to. But that hardly puts his mind at ease as to exactly what /this/ person might be doing here, dressed like she just stepped out of the 1940's... and why he can still smell the scent of blood hanging heavily in the air around her...
When he speaks again, he continues to do so in his native language - starting with a certain wariness at first, as though he were remembering the grammar and pronunciation (it really HAS been a lifetime, for him), it quickly smooths out entirely to sound as though he himself were standing in a briefing room in Berlin discussing matters with his fellow countrymen. It's all coming back to him now...
<Franziska, from Valken? Interesting parallel there; my own name is ValkenHAYN. Valkenhayn R. Hellsing,> he states in fluid German, pausing to sweep a gloved hand back to the sprawling Castle resting behind their place in the vast gardens, <I manage this Estate on behalf of my Mistress, Madam Rachel Alucard... we have been having many unexpected guests of late. Though most of them have been far less polite than you, I must say.>
Bringing his arm back down to rest straight at his side, the corner of his lips twitch upwards as he falls back into silence for a moment... his interest is certainly piqued; that much is visible on his wizened, aged face. But he is not permitted to entertain guests without the Lady's permission - to do so would doubtlessly cause her no small amount of annoyance. And one never can tell with these bizarre intruders of-late... who might be truly friendly, and who might simply be seeking access to the Castle.
<Pardon my impoliteness, but I'm afraid I /must/ ask you to leave. As I mentioned, Milady is not present to greet you properly. Allowing you to remain here would be a gross breach of etiquette on my part, and yours. I'm certain one such as yourself can understand the importance of proper procedure?>
No doubt, coming from where she apparently does, Franziska might recognize the value of these matters being handled properly. Hopefully she does not take offense to this sudden request to depart.
Franziska's eyebrows raise slightly with pleasant surprise at the sound of her own language, spoken with the casual ease of a natural born user, comes back to her from the elderly butler. She had detected few traces of an accent within his earlier speech, certainly nothing quite as obvious as her own verbal tick. Regardless, she is quite happy to be able to converse in German, yet another piece of the slowly reassembling puzzle of her memories falling into place. She beams at him with pride, her pretty eyes sparkling with delight.
A new memory floats to the surface in the wake of this exchange. She stands in the wide expanse of a large bedroom, elegant furniture and expensive paintings scattered throughout every corner. A full-sized mirror hangs on the wall infront of her and she twists and turns to admire her own reflection and the newly tailored uniform that she wears. She had never been much for black, preferring more vibrant and happy colors but there was just something about the way that the long coat and dress shirt went together that made it stand out. She felt imposing, dignified, powerful, even for someone such as herself, a noble with everything she could ever want.
The woman's hand, gloved in soft but sturdy white fabric, lifts to trace the brim of her officer cap's visor. The polished surface is pristine and smooth beneath her fingers as if she had put it on only yesterday, though she knows that most certainly isn't true. No, like her, this old uniform should be worn and battered, a decaying relic of a bygone time long since given up to the worms. And yet, like her, it is fresh and whole, despite all logic to the contrary.
"Truly? A most curious cirumstance indeed."
The Nazi, for that is what she is if the bright red band of fabric on her sleeve is to be believed, switches to German with ease, her voice flowing through the harsh gutteral words in a way that makes it sound almost melodic. She tries to pick her brain to see if either of those names ring any bells, something about them sounding familiar to her ears, but the fog encapsulating her mind remains obstinate on this particular subject for the moment.
Her gaze sweeps up to the castle once more, eyeing its floating islands and vast towers as a feeling that she suspects might be a twinge of envy run through her. She would very much like to see more of this magnificent estate, certain that there is a great deal of interest to be found within. It takes her a few moments to realize where this certainty comes from, only just now becoming aware of the radiant aura of dark power that surrounds the vast structure. Even from here, within its massive gardens several miles away, she can feel the imprint of is presence thrumming with magic like a great bestial heartbeat.
"Well, I most certainly would not wish to be seen as rude, Mister Hellsing. However, I am afraid I find myself in a spot of difficulty. You see, I know that it has been... a great deal of time since I last walked these lands and I am at something of a loss as to how I might proceed. Under normal circumstances, I would not impose upon your mistress' hospitality without proper invitation but I see little recourse other than to request your aid in this matter. Perhaps you might bring me up to speed? I'm not even quite sure what year it might be."
<Curious would be putting it lightly,> states Valkenhayn with a small chuckle, before raising one white-gloved hand in front of his face and waving it to the side, as if he were trying to dismiss some of the more troubling events that have plagued this Castle and his Mistress. After all, this guest - although uninvited - has proven, thus far, to be much more pleasant than the rest of the intruders who have stumbled upon the Alucard Estate...
...except, of course, his old friend Jubei; and even their lovely chat was rudely interrupted by the monster Yuuki Terumi, in an effort to draw out even more hatred to feed upon.
The Lycanthrope steps forward towards this strange woman, taking note of the pristine condition of her uniform. She looks as though she stepped straight out of 1940's Germany, not the slightest trace of wear and tear - or even natural aging - upon that historical uniform. Could her arrival in this era be caused by recent events, as well? Or perhaps some other occurence has caused her to become unstuck in the timeline and brought to the modern day; to the Mansion which now bleeds over into the earthrealm...
And still, that vague smell of blood assaults his nostrils; he can be seen sniffing the air around Franziska a few times - subtle, sure... but noticeable all the same.
<You are not the only one who has come to this Castle with questions, my dear,> he begins, his voice almost hesitant as he considers how best to proceed... he could attempt to explain the truth of recent events, but it's unlikely the woman would be able to wrap her head around such things. The Black Beast, Terumi, his Mistress the Observer... all of these would likely be beyond the grasp of someone born and raised on this particular earth, this particular timeline.
Best to leave things as simple as possible and only fill her in on the happenings in /this/ reality, he decides. With that goal in mind, he sets about answering her query with the same straight-forward, clipped Germanic tone. He's careful not to use the terms 'on your earth', and steer his side of the conversation away from 'timelines' or anything of the sort. Franziska seems to be confused enough on her own; no need for him to add to it by discussing such matters.
<Please, walk with me,> he requests, one hand sweeping out in front of his own body, gesturing to a path through the garden that encircles the entire Castle... she might become aware that he's looking to lead her /away/ from the massive structure that seems to radiate a dark magic.
<You've arrived in worrying times,> - there's an oddly regretful tone in his voice, though for what reason one could only guess - <I daresay even more troubled than that era which your uniform hails from. But I digress; the year is 2018. It is difficult to explain the state of affairs in terms you would be familiar with... things are very different, from the world you might remember.>
Something, of course, Valkenhayn can perhaps empathize with - but in an entirely different fashion.
<No doubt you recall Japan; allies to your country, now something else entirely - thoroughly westernized, no longer a bastion of honour in the Pacific. They were attacked, recently, by a globalist organization known as the 'United Nations'. A weapon known as the 'Justice Gear' was unleashed against them... and beaten back, finally, by the actions of a select few.>
Finishing a portion his explanation, he stops suddenly - the little stroll throughout the gardens ceasing as he turns his attention back onto Franziska. A quirk of his mouth is accompanied with a raised eyebrow, which stays arched as he continues with a piece of information that will, doubtlessly, be bad news to a woman in such a uniform.
<I regret to inform you... you've lost the war. As sad as it might be to hear, there is little in Germany today that would remind you of the country /you/ knew, Madam Franziska.>
His blue eyes remain fixed on her face at that last statement, watching for a reaction. If she really is an Officer of Nazi Germany, he has little doubt /that/ information might be particularly difficult for her to come to terms with. Valkenhayn wants to make sure she is able to absorb that bit of news, before he continues with his exposition.
He does, however, have a question of his own to add...
<What /is/ the last thing you remember, before you arrived here?>
The woman seems slightly unsure how to interpret the sniff test that she receives for the second time, one eye narrowing slightly at Valkenhayn in worry and curiosity, but as he offers no indication precisely what it is that he might be snuffling around for she says nothing on the matter either. The only thing that she can smell here is the cold dirt and fresh vegetation.
Happy to find something else to focus on, she inclines her head in response to his offer to lead her through the garden and follows along at the pace the old butler sets, trailing only slightly behind him. Something in the back of her mind tells her that getting lost in this place might very well be a permanent condition and she's had quite her fill of being trapped in isolation, even if this prison is a good bit more pleasant to look at.
Franziska chuckles softly at his comment about the times, struggling to think of anything that could be more harrowing than the experience that she has lived for... how long now? The answer to that question finally becomes clear when he announces the date for her. The officer stops dead in her tracks, staring at his back incredulously. Her mouth hangs slightly agape, her muscles of her jaw working as she tries to find something to say in response to this but fails. After a moment her legs start to move again of their own accord, her mind atleast functional enough to ensure that she doesn't fall behind as Valkenhayn continues to wander through the winding hedgerows.
When the old dog turns to face his guest again he would find her still wide-eyed, her face even more pale than it had been before as if the color had been drained from her flesh while he wasn't looking. The rest of what he had told here was a jumble of noise, words that had no meaning to her. United Nations, Gear, westernized Japan. None of it is of any consequence to her at the moment. And then the true cruel twist of the dagger comes as the fate of her nation is revealed in a simple statement of fact as if it were simply a matter of note in some dusty old history book.
For some time, Franziska falls silent, staring at the ground in quiet battle with her own thoughts. Much of what he had told her wasn't difficult to believe. She'd known that it was likely that years had passed since her encounter with the artifact but... this long? What would the world look like almost a century since she had last seen it? From the sound of the information that had been thought most pertinent to share with her first, global conflict still raged on.
War had been the last resort of a beleaguered and oppressed nation, unjustly punished for decades by its hateful and petty neighbors long after the fires of the first World War had gone cold. She had seen the effect this had on the populace, watched countless hundreds suffer from poverty and ruin. But...is that really what upsets her about finding out that the war had been lost? Now that she has a moment to ponder the matter, is she actually upset at all? In many ways, it was an inevitable outcome. As much as she loved her country, it was a rather small place with limited resources. Once the world had rallied against them again it was only a matter of time. Still, it's a fair bit to process.
Eventually, the young woman lifts her head to regard Valkenhayn and, rather than look depressed or shattered, she smiles at him again. There is a strange charisma behind the gesture, her beautiful features somehow magnified to almost unnatural magnetism as she gives a simple shrug and lets out a soft wistful sigh.
"Well, you win some, you lose some. Though it would seem Germany is on something of a losing streak when it comes to World Wars. Third time's the charm, mm?"
Her eyes sparkle with playful mischief as she laughs deep in her chest, her lips pressed together into that coy smirk. Most people would consider it a fairly horrible joke to make but then she's always been possessed of a rather dark sense of humor and something about having one's soul tormented for the better part of a century makes it easier to find the lighter side of things.
"As for me... hmm. The last thing I remember is..."
She closes her eyes and allows the insisent surge of memories to rise up and answer that question. Surrounded by dark twisted trees and black blighted dirt, she wanders with a handful of faceless figures at her side. Bearing torches and guns, they advance into an old ruin, descending through broken stone hallways and long winding passageways until they arrive at some long forgotten chamber. There, upon a dias of blood-stained stone, she found it, and her nightmare began.
"I was... hunting for something. You see, the Fuhrer has an..." She catches herself and lets out a grunt of self-reprimand, though her smile never falters. "Had... a rather deep fascination with the occult. I was often sent to old ruins to chase stories and local legends. Often they turned out to be just that, stories. But, much to my..."
She trails off for a moment, pondering. What does she feel about the circumstances that brought her to this point in her life? Regret? Anger? Delight? Certainly she had suffered as a result of her ambition but there are certainly benefits which she has reaped as well. The power that she had once commanded is now far greater than anything she could have dreamed. Perhaps she had merely paid the entry fee necessary to get into an exclusive club. Time will tell.
"Surprise," she says, finally settling on a word, though the tone that she imparts to it as it rolls off her tongue is laden with pleasantly honeyed subtext. "This one turned out to be true. I remember stumbling upon something and then... well, now I am here."
Franziska chuckles again that and shrugs, leaving out the details of her imprisonment. It's not the sort of thing one discusses in polite company and she's not entirely sure that she can actually trust this man. No matter how cordial he might appear, there's something about this place that reeks of something dark and primitive and she can sense it from the old man as well. Perhaps it's just a side effect of having served here for a long time and perhaps there's something more to this person than meets the eyes.
Yes; very much the reaction Valkenhayn had expected from someone learning that their country had been reduced to rubble in a struggle many of her countrymen thought they were sure to win. At the sight of her pale face and hanging head, the old manservant simply nods gravely - not speaking at present, simply giving her time to process the information as best she can. He waits, calmly, hands clasped behind his back as he regards her silently.
But then, Franziska raises her head with a smile; a shocking gesture from one who just received news that all her struggles - and those of her Fatherland - were for nothing in the end. The laugh, too, seems to unnerve him on some deep level - and his lips quirk to the side as he wonders what, precisely, she finds so amusing about the whole matter...
<I would think your people had seen enough death and destruction to last them for some time,> he finally says in response to 'third time's the charm', his voice taking on an almost melancholy tone as he contemplates the battles of his /own/ past. It was something he spent some amount of time thinking through, during his quieter hours around the Estate. The lives he'd taken, the deaths he'd watched with his own eyes, the years filled with nothing but bloody combat and unrelenting savagery.
And yet, more and more of late... a part of him /missed/ that. Before the return of Yuuki Terumi - with the memories and emotions that monster's arrival brought up in the elderly manservant - he would have loudly and definitively stated that he missed /none/ of it. Now? He realizes it was a part of him, inescapable and - in many ways - integral to the man he was today.
For without his days spent hunting and murdering alongside Relius Clover as an Immortal Breaker, he never would have been brought face-to-face with the Vampire Master, Clavis Alucard. The very man who made him the offer which turned him into the domesticated animal and vigilant guardian he was polished into. In a way, he almost missed those youthful days... the confidence of rushing into battle, feeling he was utterly invincible.
Even the days on-end which he had spent battling The Black Beast were now something that he almost fondly recollected... fighting alongside his comrades, throwing himself into battle against that monstrous creature with nothing but his bare hands... it was only remembering that Terumi - that beast who had betrayed the rest of them - fought beside him which soured the memory.
So, in a way... he understands the urge for battle. And from what he understood of this earth's history, those German men and women had more than their fair share of reasons to undertake such a titanic struggle not once, but twice. Was it worth it? Who could even be relied upon to answer that question? Were his /own/ years of struggle and bloodshed worth it? That was a question he still fought to answer, and he had lifetimes to ponder it; how could he expect a mortal to come up with a response to the same question?
Franziska begins to answer Valkenhayn's query about her last memories, as the man continues to lead her through the garden along a winding path between rows of roses and other flowers. Gradually, he moves her away from the castle and towards the distant trail; the one that leads away from this bizarre Castle - a place now existing simultaneously in multiple realms - and back into the world of men.
<As I understand it from the history books of your world, this 'Fuhrer' was often mocked for his belief in the occult. Perhaps, in this regard, he was wiser than most; for the earth has always held such mysteries... if one knows where to look.>
He leaves that statement hanging in the air, an odd quality to his voice; speaking as a man who knows full-well precisely how strange the world - even the earthrealm - truly is.
<It seems you, too, have learned the truth of such things - in some small manner, at least.>
Finally, he can put off the question no longer - they've travelled a fair distance from their original spot, and yet he can still pick up that strange odour in the air. It's clear, now, that it's clinging /to/ Franziska... vital fluids, as though she were dripping from open veins throughout their entire stroll. The Lycanthrope had done his best to avoid the issue, but if this woman is another oddity that has found it's way to Lady Alucard's Estate, it is his duty to ascertain the full truth of the matter.
<I must ask, Franziska... I smell blood in the air, all around you. And yet I do not see any injuries on your person," he asks, voice inquisitive - almost probing - as he narrows those cold, blue eyes at her, <Why is this?>
Franziska continues to walk as the butler turns to lead them further along the path, the castle of mysterious dark power drawing ever further away. She turns to glance at it from time to time, looking casually over her shoulder when she thinks that Valkenhayn's attention is elsewhere, unable to shake the sensation that within those cold stone walls is something that a hunter of the occult such as herself would kill to find. She had allowed her instincts to guide her on more than one occassion and each time it had borne fruit. Now, with her new-found powers to bolster her sensitivity to such things, she has no doubts that something terrible and awesome sleeps there.
"Hmph. There is much that the common rabble mock openly, oblivious to their own ignorance. But I cannot entirely fault them for this, as we put a great deal of effort into ensuring that none of our greater successes were ever discovered. They believed as they were conditioned to do so, though you'll note that most of those who mocked the Fuhrer did so from the safety of other countries."
She chuckles again, amused by this line of thought. She'd never had any particular loyalty to or love for Hitler. He was but a man like any other and the ideals that he espoused were hardly uncommon for the time. Fate simply chose him to be the vessel for the inevitable resurgance of the German people's prideful spirit, no longer willing to be trampled upon so callously by cowards hiding behind pieces of paper. While the idea that the Aryan was somehow the pinnacle of human genetic purity was quaint and alluring to much of the nobility, she'd simply used that wide-spread sentiment to further her own clout, being 'blessed' with blue eyes and blonde hair. Right body, right time.
Franziska comes to a halt as her guide suddenly broaches a question unrelated to history, shifting slowly to a military at-ease pose as she does so. The smile on her face shifts subtly, one corner of her slender lips twisting upwards into a wry smirk. The change is small but somehow seems to completely alter the character of her face, the expression becoming something that hints at a darker and more sinister nature beneath her pretty features.
"Well now, that is quite the question, isn't it? Quite the question indeed..."
Her deep rolling chest-laughter echoes through the chill midnight air, both it and her voice now also taking on more mocking and ominous tones. The air around the woman begins to stir and swirl with some unseen power and her hair and the tail of her long coat begins to flutter in this invisible gale. Franziska inclines her head forward slightly, a somewhat menacing gesture on it's own, but in so doing she tilts the visor of her cap down at a slight angle so that her eyes are thrown into shadow, revealing the faint but steadily increasing glow of crimson light from behind her pupils. The scent of blood, once faint but ever-present to the honed senses of the old wolf, magnifies tenfold in that short span of time until the sickly sweet cloying odor of diseased flesh and rotten vitae fills his senses.
"I knew right away when I saw you that there was something different," she says, the sing-song playful tone returning to her voice. "I couldn't quite put my finger on it. My memory isn't quite what it used to be, you see. I suppose seventy-five years of isolation with nothing else to focus on but the eternal torment of the Undying Battlefield will do that. But, excellent news, my friend! I've jogged my memory a big and now I remember precisely why your name sounded so familiar to me."
She laughs again, holding her hands out to her sides now in a grand gesture as the dark powers swirling around her finally seem to gain enough purchase to manifest their own hue, surrounding her silhouette in a thin line of dark red power flecked with floating chips of black debris.
"To think that I would stumble into the legendary castle of the great vampire himself! Oh, fate has smiled upon me this day!"
<Such is often the way; many people fear what they do not understand...> muses Valkenhayn in response to the first topic of conversation. From what he had learned about this earth, this man Franziska knew as her 'Fuhrer' had many issues and flaws; but one thing he did not lack was a driving vision, and the charisma to convince others to chase his own goals.
In some ways, it now reminds me of a man he knew once... one he worked with. One who had also, recently, reappeared in this timeline. Relius Clover; the man of science, who let his thirst for knowledge and grand vision almost unravel reality... a man of lengthy, self-aggrandizing monologues and few moral scruples. How ironic, the butler thinks, that such figures always seem to pop up - regardless of the time, or the place...
And then, that line of thought is completely derailed by the sudden shift in Franziska's bearing and mannerisms... the scent of blood grows heavier in the air, almost overpowering his incredibly keen sense of smell - were he a less composed individual, it might be enough to make him gag. Valkenhayn can practically /taste/ the old, coppery smell lingering around the body of this bizarre woman. If she weren't standing in front of him speaking, he might even guess she were the long-dead remnants of some individual who perished long ago. But then, this Castle has seen far stranger things, so it is hardly beyond the realm of possibility...
The sudden gust of unnatural wind sets his own, stark-white ponytail stirring in the breeze along with Franziska's hair and coat. In a fraction of a second, the elderly butler knows that what he'd hoped to keep a polite conversation is about to be shattered.
How foolish of him to hope for a simple, cordial chat with a fellow countryman - albeit one from a different time and reality entirely. 'You really ought to know better by now...' is likely what he's telling himself this instant...
...and yet, he doesn't pull back, doesn't step away to create any distance between himself and the uniformed intruder. The tall, lanky, well-dressed frame of Castle Alucard's ever-present sentinel simply stands firm in the face of that unholy power his 'guest' has begun to unleash.
Valkenhayn has witnessed no shortage of hidden things in this realm and others; things great and horrifying, things that would drive a man mad with terror... things best left hidden in the shadows. For a servant to the powerful vampiress known as Lady Alucard, such things are - in fact - second nature.
Still, that sickening odour of corpses and sticky blood assaults his nostrils with unrelenting force; getting worse and worse as the woman continues to speak in that cloying, bizarrely-happy tone of voice. It finally forces him to take several steps backwards, keeping his hands clasped behind his back as though this were all just business as usual.
So, too, might Franziska von Valken feel something change around the grounds of Castle Alucard. The heavy, dark clouds that rested far overhead pull back to reveal a large - too large to be of the earthrealm - full moon, suddenly illuminating the gardens which the pair of individuals have stopped in the middle of.
It seems to change the colour of Valkenhayn's eyes, as they transition from an ice blue to a dangerous, burning crimson; a colour that mirrors the silhouette which the intruder's bizarre power has drawn around her. A distant howl is heard, from far away... but perhaps it is just a trick of the wind; for the /real/ wolf has yet to reveal himself fully.
At that comment about fate, Valkenhayn actually cracks a smile - revealing a jaw /not/ lined with the pearly-white and perfectly straight teeth of the manservant... but the glistening, spit covered, deadly fangs of his Lycanthropic aspect. They practically glow in the otherworldly moonlight that hangs above the Alucard Estate...
<You may want to wait to thank fate, Miss Franziska... for I fear you are about to make a most grievous error in judgment...>
A warning, the only one she'll receive, given with perfect professionalism... though there is an audible sense of danger creeping into that calm, well-polished German speech.
<Consider this your final opportunity.>
Franziska continues to smirk as the revelation of a part of her true self causes the guardian to show his own cards in turn, her rather plain but pristine teeth flashing in counterpoint to the glistening fangs of the old wolf. She had suspected that there was something more to this elderly gentleman. Alone and wized by age, yet able to discover her presence within moments of her breaching the veil. Coincidence? Perhaps. But she'd long since ceased to believe in those.
Some tiny part of her rational mind, an insignificant speck of the woman she used to be, quavers in the darkness as these two horrible monsters prepare to square off underneath the pale moonlight. It screams, urging her to flee into the forest and never look back but the creature that now possesses this body had long ago ceased to hear that aspect of herself. Death had claimed her soul long ago and with it the things that made her human: fear, hate, anger, love - all she has left is the cold fire of ambition and an endless thirst for more power.
"What can I say? I'm an optimist."
Even now she cracks a joke, the amused expression never fading from her youthful features. The Nazi lowers her hands and clasps them behind her back once more as she takes a few steps closer, boldly closing the gap between them as she appears to lower her guard. Whether this move is a sign of disrespect or an unhealthy amount of bravado, she appears unconcered by the danger that Valkenhayn poses, continuing to chatter at him in a cordial manner as if nothing has changed.
"You know, I always wondered if there was some truth to those old legends. Dr. Abraham van Helsing, the mighty vampire slayer, hunting the greatest prey of them all! Ofcourse, I'm sure there was quite a bit of embellishment. Such things tend to get quite romanticized as they are passed along and I'm sure you know how the British love to be melodramatic."
She chuckles at this, as if enjoying some personal joke to which he is not privy. The stench of death grows stronger as she draws near and it becomes apparent that a small pool of some sticky ichor has begun to form around her feet, slowly expanding outwards at a sedate but steady pace. The rose tucked into her hair and the bright red band of cloth on her arm ooze thin streams of the same substance as if the very color itself is melting in thick messy smears that flutter in the invisible wind surrounding her like candle flames of blood.
"You know, we don't have to come to blow. I would be quite fascinated to meet this 'Madame Rachel' of yours. Is she perhaps a scion of the old devil? Quite clever, by the way, the name Alucard. I must admit, I felt slightly foolish that I didn't spot the connection quicker."
The fact that this intruder seems to be almost entertained doesn't cause any visible signs of worry on the face of Valkenhayn; such things as 'hesitation' or 'concern' simply do not enter into the equation, when matters involve defending the sanctity of the Alucard Estate. His Mistress, after all, can be /far/ more terrifying than any other person or creature he'd ever had the occasion to meet in his incredibly long life (barring, of course, her Great father)... he often joked (out of her earshot, of course) that Madam Rachel could make even the Black Beast turn tail and run away, when she was in one of her less-patient moods.
So, the Lycanthrope simply stands there smiling - and baring those glistening fangs - at Franziska as she has the gall to step towards one of the Six Heroes with arms held behind her back, as if mirroring his own stance. It certainly does serve to further rankle the lanky, well-dressed manservant; yet, he will not be the first one to resort to open violence... not without some more grievous disrespect or threat from this uninvited guest. She is not some hated figure from his past like Terumi or Clover - and what's more, she is an individual from /this/ reality's version of what he considers his ancestral homeland.
There is a certain connection there, which he would prefer not to sever by tearing her windpipe from her neck.
Prefer not to, but still utterly willing to do so if pushed. That sense of impending danger and unspoken threat ought to be palpable coming from the still, and perfectly restrained, body of Valkenhayn. Despite his apparent age, the man is still possessed of a potent spirit - and a control over his beastial nature that could only come with lifetimes of practice, making him deadlier in that regard than he was during his more savage youth.
His ponytail continues to gently sway in the otherworldly breeze as that massive moon shines an odd, yellowish light down onto the gardens. It seems to grow closer with every moment that passes until it appears to encompass the entirety of the sky overhead, swallowing up the blackness and stars.
<I wouldn't be concerned with legends, young one,> he finally speaks - unclasping his hands from behind his back to hold them straight down at either side, <The Immortals of your storybooks are but a shadow of those who walk this realm... take it from one who used to hunt them.>
A little reference to his days as an Immortal Breaker, tracking down the same creatures he nows serves without question... he'd done some reading on the folklore of this earth, and found their versions of the nocturnal creatures to be almost laughable. Just imagine, crosses and garlics used against Rachel Alucard or - even more amusing - her father, Clavis... the thought is enough to bring a small, unexplained chuckle from Valkenhayn's mouth - similar to Franziska's own private amusement with some personal joke. He truly would pity the hunter who tried such nonsense, based upon the stories they read in their youths... their careers would be rather short, indeed.
As the stink of death and blood and flesh grows heavier, becoming almost fog-like in it's thickness, he hazards a glance down at the spreading pool of crimson fluid that grows outwards exponentially at the intruder's feet. Even as it comes to cover the bottom of Valkenhayn's well-polished black dress shoes, he does not move to take a step back. No, he will not show weakness here, in the House that he has come to consider his home. Instead, he simply inclines his head slightly at the uniformed woman's final statement.
<Indeed, it does not. I have offered you the opportunity to depart without harm befalling your person. I suggest you take it. If you wish to speak to Madam Rachel, you may rest assured; I will inform her of your presence this evening. If she deems you worthy of her time, she /will/ find you... but even if she were in the Castle at present, which she is /not/... well... I will say this; there are more dangerous creatures that dwell in the night than the laughable monsters your people tell tales of.>
"Of that, I am rather painfully aware."
Franziska's smile falters slightly at this, becoming almost melancholy for a few brief instants as she glances down at the pool of blood now soaking the once pristine grass. Perhaps if she had been a bit more wise or perhaps just better informed, things would have turned out differently for her. Then again, many of the choices that guided the path of her life would take were made well before she was ever born. She could have simply done nothing, enjoyed what time was alotted her and passed quitely from the world, but that would have been nothing but comfortable surrender to destiny. Her fate, she had decided, would be a different one.
The window into what might be some glimpse of regret is short and the expression of relaxed amusement quickly takes its proper place yet again upon the young woman's face. She closes her eyes and lets out another soft chuckle that sounds almost apologetic, as if showing something that might be construed as emotional or weak infront of him is some sort of social faux paus. Silence reigns for several seconds after that as Franziska considers her options, frozen and utterly unmoving in a way that no living thing could possibly manage.
"Well, I suppose if the lady of the castle is away then there is no helping it."
The soldier opens her eyes again, revealing beautiful circles of sky blue devoid of the crimson glow of unholy power. The pool of blood at her feet begins to recede, slurping noisly as it seems to meld with the sides of her polished combat boots and sink into some internal resevoir. The swastika on her arm and the rose quickly return to normal as well, all traces of the fel blood magic vanishing into thin wisps of red mist and with it the overwhelming stench of death and decay.
"I shall simply have to come calling at a more convenient time. Do you perhaps know her schedule? I find that the weekends tend to be best for me but I'm pretty flexible. By some fortuitous stroke of luck, I have a distinct lack of prior engagements to clutter up my itinerary at the moment."
Valkenhayn's eyes, irises now crimson instead of their usual cool blue, remain narrowed keenly upon the form of Franziska; no doubt he's simply waiting for her to cross some imaginary line he has set, either in word or deed, that would justify him asserting his place as guardian of this Estate. The fingers of each hand curl up into his palms as he breaths in and out of that mouth which is now lined with vicious fangs.
He certainly seems like a man just waiting for the excuse to unleash the beast inside. If he were to be honest, the sentinel of this Castle would no doubt admit that he has - in some way - been enjoying the rage that the resurgence of Yuuki Terumi has unearthed deep within him, laying dormant behind layers of domesticity that had been built up over decades of service. Letting out the wolf makes him feel /young/, as he once was...
...and although his body, his speed and strength, are not quite what they once were... well, his spirit is no weaker than it was in his savage, reckless youth.
So, when Franziska finally finally closes her eyes only to re-open them seconds later possessing their former blue shade, he feels a vague disappointment. Though he doesn't show any sign of it on his expression or in his stance, that hot blood that was rushing through his own veins just a moment before suddenly returns to it's regular pace. With it, that giant yellow orb that now consumes the entire night sky seems to recede - in a flash - far into the distance.
The stars return, and with them the clouds that begin to creep towards the moon to snuff out it's light - returning the garden to that shaded gloom which it previously rested under. His fangs return to the perfectly straight teeth of his fully human aspect, and the curling of his fingers ceases as well... even his blood-red eyes return to their typical blueish hue.
<Thank you for not forcing my hand,> he states matter-of-factly, reaching into the sideof his black-and-gold-trimmed coat to withdraw a pocket watch. Opening the silver front of the timepiece, he glances at the time displayed on it's face... if Franziska were able to catch a glance of it, she'd notice a few bizarre things about the watch:
It has five hands which spin rapidly - some clockwise and some counter-clockwise - and the numbers on the face do not go from 1 to 12 as one would expect, but rather 9, 47, 302, 000, 741, 1222, 61, 2, 55, 466, 88 and '???'. Bizarre.
After a moment of regarding the pocket-watch, he closes it back up with a *CLICK* and slides it back into his coat before turning his attention back towards the uniformed woman, giving her an almost apologetic smile. Finally, he speaks with the usual smooth and professional tones of Valkenhayn the manservant, rather than the Lycanthropic guardian of the Estate.
<Her schedule has been rather hectic, of late; and time in this place doesn't work as one might expect. I hardly wish you to busy yourself with dropping in just to check... perhaps it would be best to wait for her to call upon you, as is the usual fashion. Don't concern yourself with being found; in fact, there's no place in any realm you could conceivably hide from her eyes. Observing is, after all, her principle duty.>
A small joke, there, which would surely be lost upon Franziska... nevertheless, it causes another minor chuckle to escape from his wizened lips before he falls into silence once again, waiting to see if this intruder might change their mind and make things needlessly difficult for the both of them.
Franziska inclines her head in a cordial nod at his appreciation for her restraint, though it is not for his benefit that she has chosen not to fight. Her entire existence for the past seventy-five years, a number that still boggles her, had been little more than constant carnage and violence without even the option to do otherwise. The mere act of being able to say no is empowering in a way and another piece of evidence that she has indeed finally managed to escape that terrible place.
"Well, I did say that I didn't wish to be rude. Wouldn't want to tarnish my sterling reputation, now would I?", she says, smirking playfully.
The advice that he offers is considered for a few moments and then she nods again, glancing over her shoulder at the castle one last time with a sigh. The dark towers wreathed in gloomy clouds and floating islands sing to her with the promise of their ancient secrets like sirens upon the rocky shores. For now, however, she's willing to wait on the off chance that the guardian of that forgotten place of power is telling the truth.
"Well, if that's how it has to be, I suppose I'll just have to contain my excitement a little bit longer." She turns back to Valkenhayn, smiling enthusiastically. "Besides, there's a whole wide world out there for me to explore! I'm sure the last century has created all sorts of interesting things to discover and occupy myself with."r
Bending at the waist, the woman gives him a formal bow fitting for a noble, one arm crossing over her midsection as the other stretches out to her side. It is a masculine gesture but then a curtsey would look sort of strange in her current attire and she'd gotten used to dealing with mostly men during her time in the military. It was simply easier to act like 'one of the boys', particularly when you were expected to be the one shouting orders in tense situations.
"Until we meet again, Sir Helsing."
Unless stopped, the anacronistic soldier angles herself slightly to the side and heads for the long path leading away from the castle, humming an old marching song jauntily as she vanishes into the misty forests.
<Mmm, yes... until then. Have a pleasant evening, Franziska von Valken,> he states firmly, seemingly enjoying the opportunity to use his native tongue as much as he possibly can before the German woman disappears. It had been so long since he'd had occasion to speak it, there's an almost regretful quality to his voice that the conversation was not able to go on for longer...
...but once she revealed her /true/ nature, he would have been remiss in his duties if he hadn't forced her off the grounds immediately. His sacred role in protecting the Estate of House Alucard comes before all else, even his own personal wishes in such matters.
There's no attempt to stop the 'guest' from departing down the long, winding path that leads through rows upon rows of flowers - away from the looming structure of Castle Alucard in the background. Indeed, Valkenhayn R. Hellsing is pleased he was not forced into battle against an individual who seemed - within the context of other recent intruders, at least - polite and cordial.
The Lycanthrope, now fully returned to his human aspect with the sudden disappearance of that full moon that once shone high above the Estate, simply takes a few short steps in her direction as she strolls away - not an aggressive motion, simply to ensure that she /does/ carry on down that path. Then, once he's certain she won't veer off course and attempt to double back towards the Castle, Valkenhayn stands with arms at his sides and watches her form recede into the distance.
Once she is but a pinprick on the horizon, the aged manservant calmly clears his throat and looks back over his shoulder - in the direction of the bed of roses he had been watering, prior to Franziska's sudden and unexpected arrival.
Well, with any luck there won't be any more intruders this evening. Though with the way recent events have been unfolding, he somehow doubts that...
Log created on 14:38:15 01/18/2018 by Valkenhayn, and last modified on 18:22:57 01/19/2018.