The inconveniences of travelling
The coach with Amy and Setsuka was now entering Frankfurt. They passed in the market place where there were a lot of shops selling different things and Setsuka noticed one with very beautiful dresses in the shop window. She looked at them with an admiring gaze before she turned to Amy.
-You know, Amy, I think I'll buy myself some European clothes while I'm here. I will go more unnoticed among the crowd… Will you come with me? You know European fashion better than me… We could shop together this afternoon.
-…Euh…Non. Désolée. I don't like to shop. Too many people… I want to find an inn… to sleep…
-You still didn't sleep last night? You should not worry that much, I'm certain your father is alright… And he would not want you to stay awake each night!
-Oh, he is very permissive on that…
-But he would not want you to ruin your health worrying.
-Non, he would not want that…
It was the first time since a long while that Amy had some sort of relation with another person than her father or a minion and she kind of enjoyed talking to Setsuka.
Thinking of it, Amy realised she never had much relation with anyone: First, she had her parents when they were alive, some neighbourhood kids with whom she played but never that much since she already was very shy and they tended to ignore her, they probably don't even remember her now, her little sister, but she died at two years old so they didn't have a big relation together, then she met Raphael, and then she talked to some servants and teachers but again not much since she was shy and none of them really tried to get close to her and then there was the minions, if they count as relation since she never talked much to them. And lastly, she had Setsuka. In all her fourteen years of life, she could almost count on her fingers the people with whom she had some sort of good relation and of them very few were really precious to her, Raphael being of course her most treasured relation by far.
The coach finally stopped in the city's relay. Amy knew she would have to part with Setsuka now since she didn't want her to discover that she was a vampire. She will begin to travel at night now and it would look strange… She told Setsuka as the coachman opened the door for them:
-Have fun shopping Setsuka. I must tell you au revoir because I must go as soon as I can to where my father may be.
Setsuka was surprised by the abrupt declaration.
-… We part so soon?
-I have to. Like I told you, I will go to sleep and then I will search for my father.
-So you will continue to search for him and you won't wait for him at home?
-Non. Well… yes, maybe… I think I'll search in Frankfurt then go back home.
Amy thought it may be a way to get rid of Setsuka by pretending to go back home.
-Very well… But… do you want to eat with me before we part? I'll pay. Said Setsuka.
Amy looked at her. She could not refuse that. Luckily she just saw an inn in front of the coach. It won't be too far to go and she won't suffer from the sun too much.
-I would like that. But I can pay for myself.
-No, I insist.
-If you wish. Merci.
They went to the inn. Setsuka thought that Amy must be hungry because she quickly ran into the inn while Setsuka walked slowly like a lady should. Inside they took a place and, looking at the menu a little embarrassed, Setsuka asked Amy:
-What is written on this? I don't know your written language…
Amy took the menu and read it for Setsuka. As Amy recited the many meals, Setsuka asked Amy:
-Do you think those sausages are good?
-Yes, it's very good.
After some time they both decided what they would eat and ordered.
They spoke about unimportant subjects for a while then after they finished eating, Setsuka rose from her chair, took her umbrella and told Amy:
-Now I wish you luck in what you will decide to do, be it seeking your father or going back home. What you do from here is up to you to decide. But whatever you choose, take care Amy. I hope we see each other again.
-Merci. Good luck against your enemy. You are good with your sword. You will succeed.
-Thank you. It's kind of you to encourage me. I shall kill this Mitsurugi and avenge my master!
Setsuka was really not certain of what she was telling Amy. She knew Mitsurugi's reputation, her master was not a beginner, he was a man of experience, a fast and agile fighter, a courageous man, yet he lost to this samurai. She was well aware that she may be heading to her own death. But she would not tell Amy. This poor Amy who had enough troubles searching for her father…
Setsuka saluted Amy before she began to walk away toward the exit and Amy wondered if she would see her again. But she would certainly not follow her to the crowded marketplace where she was now heading, especially since it was right in the middle of the day. She stayed in the inn and thought that she was now into the hard part: addressing people to know if they saw her father or where was Ostrheinsburg. She rose from her seat and went to the nearest persons to ask them her questions.
The boat accosted in Lowestoft port. Raphael was in a good shape, his wounds from the last fights had healed very well and he almost slept all the way here to try to save on his blood reserve. But his bottle was empty now so he was glad to finally arrive and he thought he would have to take some blood before he continues on his trip.
He walked out of town to get some victim in a less crowded place. He decided he would still try not to kill. He suddenly saw a woman walking on the road alone. He walked toward her, swiftly unsheathed his rapier and hit her on the head with the hilt of his sword to render her unconscious but not kill her. The woman barely had time to see what happened and fell down unconscious. Raphael took her to a more remote place then began to take her blood by cutting her wrist again. He really hoped he wouldn't do like last time and kill her.
But as Raphael was drinking, the woman woke up. She had a bandage on her wrist and she saw the man who attacked her, drinking something from a bowl. Raphael suddenly noticed her. He stopped drinking and looked at her. For only a second, his gaze seemed sad before it became cold and he told her without looking at her anymore:
-Go away. I do not want to kill you. Go away madame, please. I am sorry for what I did.
He bowed his head as he finished his sentence and could not hide anymore his shame. The woman suddenly noticed that what the man had been drinking was blood; she quickly understood the reason of the bandage on her wrist and began to scream in terror while trying to get up. But the fear and panic made her tumble and she fell down again. Raphael stayed away from her, looking again at her now with an indifferent gaze hiding his true feelings and trying to keep in control. He hasn't finished his bowl yet, so he casually continued drinking from it as she finally ran away screaming. He then murmured:
-I hate this life.
Raphael finished his bowl and left the place before angry people would come. At least, he hasn't killed his victim this time… Luckily she woke up and she had time to flee while he still drank from the bowl. But it was now more risky for him to go back into town and get a coach like he intended to. He would have to steal a horse to go to London…
After having been thrown out of the inn for harassing the customers with her questions, Amy went to the nearest shop to ask again. A vegetable shop. She bought some while asking her questions again. Nobody had seen her father or knew where was Ostrheinsburg. Somebody thought it was North maybe Northeast but wasn't certain. And he thought that if it was the place he thought, then she should not go there. There was unimaginable horrors that happened there… Amy then went into the neighbouring shops to ask for her father again but nobody had seen him or even knew him. When she had nowhere left to go without walking for too long in the sun, she hid in a shadowy alley and waited for the night.
When the night came she went out of her dark alley and went to the town's exit while still asking the few people on the way about her father. Nobody had seen him so she left Frankfurt.
Outside of the city, she breathed a sigh of relief. She had finally ended her socializing for today! She spoke to more people today than she did in fourteen years! Finally, she could be alone! She wondered if Setsuka was still in Frankfurt or if she left and found that samourai. She still hoped Setsuka would win… She kind of regretted not being with her anymore but she also greatly enjoyed her solitude. She didn't had enough those last days… She sat in the grass near the road and took one of her blood bottle to drink from. She hadn't heard about her father in the city but she wasn't discouraged yet; Frankfurt was far from Ostreinburg; it was probable her father didn't even come here.
Meanwhile, Raphael was hiding from the guards who had been alerted of his recent crime. As he was trying to steal a horse, those annoying guards had shown up and prevented him from doing so. He had remained hidden behind a pile of firewood for a while listening to them as they spoke among them.
The sergeant reminded his men of what the perpetrator looked like.
-It was a young man about 25-30 years old, richly dressed mostly in black, having a rapier, blond and with very pale skin. With brown and maybe even red eyes, the victim is not certain. He had a French accent.
One of the man asked the sergeant.
-…With the description you just told us and the fact he drank blood, could it be a vampire?
-Don't be ridiculous! Such creature doesn't exist! He's probably just some crazy man.
-Then why has the clergy also been alerted?
The sergeant seemed embarrassed and said:
-They don't want to take any chances. Maybe it's some devil worshipper. Now start searching! Look everywhere; don't let any suspicious man get away!
While Raphael remained hidden as the guards were going around, he thought:
And to think that if I had killed the woman, I would not even be hunted already. And they would not know what I look like… Why am I doing this again? Why did I take that risk just for one person…?
It was also for me… To remain human… Well, I won't remain human for long if they keep hunting me like that…
As the guards went farther to search for him, Raphael ran into the stables to steal a horse and get away as fast as he could. But he froze in surprise: some guards were still inside while he thought they were all gone. As soon as they saw him they fired on him. One of them hit his left hand. Raphael grunted in pain and swiftly disappeared into mist before he reappeared outside and ran to the forest. The stables were too well guarded; he would have to get away on foot, for now. So he went deeper into the woods to escape the guards.
Amy walked on the road for many hours when she suddenly felt really tired. The morning was almost there, the sun was beginning to rise. So she tried to find a good place to sleep. She suddenly saw an old abandoned mill; she entered in it, installed herself in a corner and went to sleep. She dreamed of her past life when she was not a vampire, when she happily lived in Toulouse with her father. She still often dreamed about that time. She was happy when she was asleep. But the dream suddenly turned strange; in it, her father had bought a cane and was poking her with it. He was really annoying and Amy got angry. She asked him why he was poking her like that. He answered:
-I want you to wake up!
She suddenly woke up as children were poking her with a branch.
-I tell you, it's a dead girl!
-She is not dead!
-Yeah, she is! Look at how pale she is! I don't think she's breathing…
Another kid interrupted.
-Look! Her back pack has blood bottles in it!
-Its not blood, you dummy! Answered another.
-Yes, it is!
The children were all some years younger than Amy. They suddenly got scared when she opened her eyes and they ran away, screaming. The kid holding her back pack let it drop as he began to flee. It made a broken noise.
Amy took her back pack and looked at her blood bottles; half of them where broken. She was very upset: How will she do when she will need blood? Was there enough remaining for her journey now? She didn't know how to hunt humans! She didn't want to!
The way the children had reacted to her also hurt her feelings. They were looking at her like some kind of weird thing, like a monster.
-I hate this world! I so don't feel like I belong in it! I feel so like an abnormality! This world is ugly and painful!
She fell on her knees; tears got in her eyes and she wanted to cry. She then thought she had to go away.
-It seems I am near a village… If the kids talk about me, the villagers will come for me… To burn me… I better flee… Stupid kids… Nuisances…
She got out of the mill and ran to the nearby forest but since it was now in at high noon, the sun burned her skin while she ran. She was glad to reach the wood; it had been painful but the sun didn't have time to damage her skin. She then continued to walk and tried to follow the road while under the shadow of the forest.
Raphael finally stole a horse in the next village. He wanted to get to London as soon as possible and preferably not with guards hot on his heels. He wanted to meet this countess in a respectable way. But he had to do another crime to be able to get out of the region fast. Since he killed monsieur de Savoie, he had always been deeper into crime to escape or hide from the authorities; he killed, he lied and lived under a false identity, constantly lying… Yet, wasn't what being an aristocrat was all about? He often lied in his aristocratic life too… But he did felt he now didn't have the choice to go deeper into crime since his first murder and to become a vampire certainly didn't arrange things… He didn't count anymore all the crimes he did since then…
When the night came Amy went out of the wood and continued on the road for a while but then rain began to fall. Amy grumbled but kept walking.
-I hate this life.
As she walked on the road, her pretty curly pigtails all uncurled under the rain, a coach passed by and stopped not far from her. A man got out of the coach.
Amy gasped with amazement: for a second, she thought she saw her father!
She quickly realized that it wasn't her father at all but a man looking very much like him. Maybe the man looked younger but even then her father already looked younger than he really was. So she had difficulties to estimate age. She would say they were about the same age since they looked pretty much alike but the man had a normal skin colour not like the paleness of her father and he had blue eyes just like her father had before. He was kind of handsome.
-Are you lost young girl? Why are you on the road at this hour? And in this rain… May I invite you aboard the coach?…
Amy hesitated and asked:
-Are you going toward Ostrheinsburg?
The man didn't seem to know.
-We are going in Hanover to see a doctor. I do not know where is this Ostreinburg located. I do not come from Germany.
Amy realized the man had indeed an accent. A French accent like her.
-You are French?
-Indeed. Now get on please. The rain is quite annoying. We shall take you to the nearest town.
Amy wondered: her father always told her not to talk to strangers, even less get on coaches with them… Not that she would have done it before; she never spoke to anyone and always stayed near her father. But this time… she was really tired to walk, the rain was indeed annoying and the man… was handsome. Amy slightly blushed as she gazed at the young man intensely; she liked to look at him, he looked so much like her father… He really made her think about Raphael and she liked the feeling to think she was near him so she got on the coach. A lady in her fifties and another lady who seemed about twenty years old, were sitting in the coach. Contrarily to the young man who was handsome and the older woman who still was beautiful with her nice traits, wonderful blue eyes and greying dark brown hair, the young woman was somehow very ugly; she had a long nose, her chin was also quite long and her eyes… To make things short, Amy thought she was ugly. The man followed and sat beside the older lady like the younger woman while Amy sat in front of them.
Then the carriage began to ride again. The older lady asked Amy in a Spanish accent:
-What are you doing alone on the road? You could be the prey to any danger! And…
The lady stared at her short skirt somewhat worried.
-…Have you already been attacked? What happened to your skirt?
-Non, I have not been attacked, I have my rapier with me to defend myself…
As she showed her weapon by her side, the three looked at her with surprise. Amy continued.
-…And my skirt is for practical fighting purposes.
Amy noticed the somewhat embarrassed, curious and offended stares she was subjected to by the three humans. The man was trying not to look at her legs and was blushing in embarrassment, the young lady was looking at her legs and her weapon mostly with surprise and curiosity while the oldest seemed quite offended. Amy tried to change the subject.
-Hum… In fact I am heading toward Ostrheinsburg… I am searching for my father. Raphael Sorel. Do you know him? Did you see him?
When she said the name Raphael Sorel, both the older lady and the man widened their eyes in surprise while the young lady looked at their reaction with some curiosity as if she waited for their response.
-So it was you… said the older lady on a haughty tone. The girl pretending to be my son's daughter… We heard about your search for Raphael Sorel in Frankfurt… Declaring this to everyone…
-Your son? Why do you call him like that? Amy answered with a neutral expression on a somewhat strange tone like if there was some reproach in it.
The lady then began to cough violently; the two others looked at her with worried looks. She got a handkerchief and coughed some blood in it. After a while she stopped coughing and took back her haughty attitude.
-Because Raphael Sorel is my son. I am his mother, Maria Sorel. This is his brother Claude, le comte de Sorel and his wife, Anne, la comtesse de Sorel.
-So as I suspected, you are his mother… and his brother… answered Amy now speaking in French.
Amy looked at them both intensely with a somewhat inquisitive but mostly cold gaze and said nothing more. She quickly gazed toward Claude. He really looked like her father, with his blue eyes… But he seemed to be extremely embarrassed by this situation and lowered his head while looking at her and his mother. He seemed nervous. He didn't have her father's maintenance at all. Maria answered in French too with also a cold tone.
-Yes. We are his family. And you are dishonouring his name and the Sorel name by pretending to be his daughter.
Maria was offended that this girl pretended to be her son's daughter and tried to take advantage of their family's name. She continued on a more angry tone.
-How can you claim to be his daughter? You have no right to use his name!
Amy answered straight away.
-How can you claim to be his mother when you abandoned him seven years ago?
Maria seemed surprised, hurt and offended.
-How dare you?
She then took a hold of herself and continued speaking on a somewhat cold tone.
-Raphael cannot be your father. You are too old.
-What do you mean? We have eighteen years of difference. I am fourteen years old. Anyway…
The older lady interrupted her.
-You won't make me believe Raphael had you fourteen years ago. He was not this kind of man. What do you expect to gain with such a claim?
Maria Sorel thought about Raphael's harsh judgment on his father's behaviour for womanizing so she would be very surprised if he acted the same way. He could not have had bastard children somewhere. He was too responsible and serious for that. And he was so cold and distant… Yet… he was popular among the ladies… He seemed to be playing hard to get and it seemed to work. His indifference and independence attracted women to him like bees to honey. He was courteous and gallant with the ladies but he never let one of them get close to his heart. Yet Maria knew many ladies would have done anything to be with him.
After Agnes Sorel, king Charles VII's mistress, the Sorel family had lost its influence at the court but Maria really believed Raphael could have reversed the situation and could have made a good marriage with a woman of higher standing to raise the family's own standing and influence with his good looks and confident attitude, so she never pressed him into wedding like she did for Claude. Both brothers looked almost alike and both were handsome, but Claude had not the confidence and the charm his brother had. He didn't know how to behave with women, how to attract them. He wanted to have someone but he always acted clumsily toward the ladies. His desperate demeanour toward them did not attract them and even less when they learned of his alcoholism. So his mother thought she had to act and found him a wife. But Claude wasn't satisfied, he would have liked more time to search for a better choice. Maria had to agree, Anne was not very beautiful. She was even kind of repulsive but her family was rich and powerful. So Maria had succeeded in accomplishing for Claude, what she expected of Raphael before and she was proud of it.
But now that Maria heard about Amy, she wondered what exactly did she really know of her oldest son's life? Raphael was very secretive and she never tried to know him. In fact, she never tried to get close to him, even if he was always taking her defence against her husband and condemning him for not being faithful to her… She now had some regrets but she never approved of Raphael's revolt against his father since she thought she and all her children had to be loyal to her husband and obey him in everything. It was their duty. Her husband was very dominating and she was extremely submissive. But that was when he was alive. Maria was now trying to make it up by controlling her son Claude, which was easy to do since he only drank and really lacked self assurance. He had a quick temper and often had tantrums but he always obeyed her in the end.
Amy replied to her question about what she expected to gain:
-I expect nothing. Raphael Sorel is my father, that is all. And like I was about to say, I am not his real daughter. He adopted me seven years ago… When his own family abandoned and betrayed him, coldly added Amy.
Maria looked at her with an icy stare.
-He adopted you? Why? He married some lady who already had you?
-Non. He adopted me because he liked me more than he liked you. I was kind to him.
Maria seemed really disturbed by this conversation while Claude was looking at the young girl with attention. She was very pale… like Raphael was last time… Meanwhile, his wife was staring at the argument wide-eyed in disbelief.
Amy continued speaking:
-Does it hurt? What I told you?
-Adopted is not a real child… And beside, if you claim being his daughter, what are you doing dressed like that? Raphael would never raise a girl of that kind…
-What kind? I think I know what you mean but tell me.
Claude murmured to his mother while lowering his head:
-Please Mother… do not… argue… Raphael could very well have adopted this child… Let them live wherever they live and let us leave… (He thought: and live)
He addressed Amy:
-Please… do not… disrespect my mother…
Amy saw that Raphael's brother seemed afraid. She didn't really know why. Maybe it was remorse instead?
Amy knew Claude had been unkind to Raphael. Raphael often talked to Amy about his brother, his annoying little brother, Claude, who was jealous of him and always ready to denounce to their father any mistake or disobedience Raphael would do. Raphael often told her that he was certain Claude would have done anything just to become heir to the family's title and domain, and Claude always sucked up to their father to get some advantages but since he was a complete loser in making alliances or in any social or intellectual discipline, their father didn't push him at the front like he did for Raphael even if Raphael and his father hated each other. Claude was less scary for their father since he didn't have a spine but the father needed Raphael. Raphael truly scorned his younger brother and Amy also scorned him, even if he was handsome like her father.
Raphael's mother answered Amy.
-I shall not say the kind, but you are not good enough for my son. You are just a scheming little thief trying to gain something with your lies. You are dishonouring my son's name.
-You're pathetic. You are now pretending to be a good mother looking after your son's well being and honour? When he got shot by his father, you didn't care at all. You hurt him too. It's all your fault. I am tired of people hurting my father.
Amy remembered the wound Raphael had on his left shoulder the time they met, he acted like it was nothing, but she noticed he had difficulties moving his arm sometimes even if he didn't want to show it and she sometimes heard him grunt in pain as he moved his arm, like when he grabbed her to put her on the horse during the trip to Toulouse. Each time they mounted back on the horse from one of their rest, he always let go a small grunt of pain as he lifted her but Amy was still too shy to ask him if he was fine and said nothing. She saw his wound one evening as Raphael was looking at it with some concern because it was infected; she told him a little horrified that the guards had really been close to kill him with that shot. Raphael looked at her sorrowfully and reluctantly answered with some sadness and anger in his eyes that it was not the guards who did it but his father. Amy was horrified that his father had been that bad toward him and she hated the father since then.
And his mother wasn't better; she didn't fire on her son but she never cared for him and Raphael once told Amy how she stayed there doing nothing as his father was pointing his pistol at him. But he didn't talk about his mother as much as he did about his hated father but he seemed to have suffered greatly from his mother's behaviour that time. Amy was angry at her too.
Each time Raphael talked about his father role, he always mentioned his own parents as example of what not to be. He idealized the role and tried to be the ideal father. He would not be like them.
From what she remembered from her own parents, Amy didn't think they were bad. She almost didn't remember her own father; she only had vague memories of him, mostly remembering him when he was sick and dying lying down on his bed… She remembers he was always grumpy but it was excusable since he was dying… Her mother was kind, but always depressed. But then again it was also understandable with the life she had. She didn't really remember her little sister… She died very young. It was her only sibling.
Raphael had a larger family; he had four sisters and one brother. But it seems Raphael wasn't very close with any of his siblings. He barely talked about his sisters, the only one he talked about was Henriette, since he regretted not having acted to prevent her wedding which lead to her death. She died of illness but Raphael was certain she let herself die. He even once confessed to Amy with some shame that he was the one who had arranged the alliance between the families but he blamed his father for having forced him to do so. He often compared Henriette's wedding to his own rejection from the family, saying Henriette must have felt the same way as he did some times later. And he had acted toward her like his mother acted toward him.
Maria was deeply outraged by Amy's insults. She suddenly began to cough violently again. Amy noticed she coughed blood again. Claude put his hand on his mother's forehead.
-Mother, you are feverish again…
Claude took a handkerchief from his vest and began to wipe his mother's forehead with it. Amy somehow felt embarrassed and her gaze softened. They looked pitiful. But then she remembered they hurt her father and her gaze turned cold again. She told them:
-My father gave me the name Sorel and he gave me his trust, his love and his protection. I gave him my affection and entire devotion. I shall be the one inheriting of Flambert later. If you have nothing more to say, I would like to go. I have nothing to do with you.
Amy ordered the coachman to stop and when he did she quickly opened the door and went out. Claude's mother was about to protest of this affront but Claude put his hand toward her and told her it was better to let her go. The mother was extremely surprised at her son's behaviour; during all the conversation, he didn't support her at all. And he pretended to care for her!
In fact, Claude was scared Raphael would know about this and would come to get his revenge. Since he understood his brother had become a vampire, the evening he celebrated his betrothal and Raphael came back, Claude was terrified. He was truly afraid Raphael would decide to hurt him one day. Raphael didn't do anything to him last time but the slaughter he committed on his guests made Claude consider his brother a dreadful monster and a dangerous threat. Claude was even surprised that Raphael didn't try to get his revenge on him last time. But not taking any chances, Claude had tightened security around the manor since then and hired some mercenaries to protect him, his mother and his wife. They in fact had a bodyguard right now but outside the coach sitting with the coachman. He never told both of them why he did it exactly, he was scared to traumatize his mother and give her a too big shock to learn her son was a vampire. He often thought or felt like telling his wife but since he was afraid she would tell his mother afterwards, he didn't and the fact that he would pass for a completely crazy man, also prevented him to do it. He even had difficulties believing it himself but he believed it enough to have been drinking even more since then. Seeing this young girl searching for his brother, he wondered where indeed was Raphael now? He could be anywhere…
Claude knew he haven't been very kind to Raphael, they never really liked each other. Claude often tried to bring discord between Raphael and their father, because of his jealousy and often succeeded since they both were quite headstrong men which Claude was not. He was more of a manipulator looking at their fights from afar. He still hid behind their father when Raphael got thrown out and even insulted him, knowing he was under their father's protection and favoured by him. Alone, he would never have done it but then, he was winning: Raphael had lost his title of heir and his inheritance. Claude was the heir now; what he so deeply wished to be.
But he never really realised the responsibilities and efforts the heir had to do to make the family remain in power, to gain alliances and all. Now that he was the heir and mostly since their father had passed away and he became count, he had to do everything and it really overwhelmed him. Another reason to drink again and to let his mother take control.
But this time he didn't listen to his mother; he got out of the coach and ran after Amy.
-Wait! Young girl… Please… do not be so hard on my mother… She is very sick… But take that…
He handed her his purse. Amy looked at him with an inquisitive gaze.
-To live. To buy food. Whatever you wish. You are my… somehow, you are my niece.
Amy looked at the money with disdain.
-I do not need your money. Keep it.
And she went away under the rain. Claude thought that even if this girl was not related by blood to Raphael, she indeed was his daughter because she had the same pride and noble bearing as him. He looked at her walking away, worrying how will Raphael take this when he will learn it, before he began to cough violently for a while and then went back into the coach.