"Prince." Yvonne St Clair remarks flatly as Gustav climbs aboard her private yacht, the Standart, from the speedboat that carried him here. The Marshal of the Legion then lifts her frilly gown by barely an inch, performing a polite but cold curtsy as Gustav approaches her, the sea breeze tossing his neatly groomed hair about.
"Marshal." Gustav replies before an awkward silence settles between the duo. Their bodyguards stand stock still, nerves wound up thanks to the tension that permeates the atmosphere. Just as St Clair is about to speak again, Gustav breaks the ice first.
"May we speak in private?" Gustav says.
St Clair narrows her eyes for a brief moment then shrugs at the request. She leads the group down the halls of the Standart, before opening the doors to a well appointed conference room. St Clair makes a vague gesture at the leather seats that surround the mahogany long table before pointedly taking her place at its head. Gustav nods to his bodyguards and they bow respectfully before leaving the room. A quick glance to St Clair elicits a curious look from the Marshal before she dismisses her own entourage.
"We are alone now." St Clair speaks with an eyebrow raised, "So get on with it."
"I need your help Marshal." Gustav begins but is cut off by a derisive snort from St Clair. The Marshal raises a hand up to stall any objections from Gustav as she begins to rise from her seat, clearly not interested in anything the Prince of Europe has to say. Cold sweat breaks out from Gustav's brow. He needs St Clair to listen.
He needs St Clair to help save his son.
"Nicholas is going to die." Gustav blurts out in a desperate rush, "Tensei will kill him in the duel."
St Clair settles back into her chair in an angry frown, "And whose fault is that? This duel was your idea Prince."
"I know. I know." Gustav mutters wipes his face with a wrinkled, well used handkerchief, "That is why I need your help Marshal. I have to save Nicholas. I must save him."
St Clair barks harshly and points at the Prince, "Just cancel the duel. What's so difficult about that?"
"I can't!" Gustav explodes angrily, "The Host and P5 won't let me! My hands are tied!"
St Clair leans back in her seat, stunned at Gustav's sudden loss of composure. The Prince takes a deep breath before managing to continue.
"You can help save Nicholas. I know you can." Gustav whispers imploringly. St Clair nods, now solemn, eager to hear the man out.
"How can I do that?" she asks.
"All your remaining troops." Gustav grits his teeth and answers, "Give them to me."
As St Clair stares disbelievingly at Gustav upon hearing this outlandish request, Gustav flushes in embarrassment and presses on.
"And I need you to help subdue the Narancha and its battle group." Gustav concludes, "If you do this, Nicholas will be saved."
"The Narancha." St Clair says slowly, dragging the words out, "The P5's aircraft carrier? That Narancha?"
"The very same." Gustav confirms, looking the vampire straight in the eye.
"Are you out of your mind?" St Clair explodes in rage, "Is this some kind of joke? How would doing any of this save Nicholas?"
"I was told you could help." Gustav starts looking down in confusion, "That this was the way to help Nicholas."
"You're insane." St Clair sneers, "Leave. Now."
Gustav then slowly reaches into his coat and St Clair instinctively tenses, alert for a possible attack. But Gustav does not draw a weapon. Instead, his hand carries a doll. A doll of a woman wearing a red veil. Gustav hesitantly places the doll on to the table and pushes it towards the Marshal, all the while looking at her expectantly.
"This should mean something right?" Gustav asks hopefully, praying with all his heart that he had not been sent on a fool's errand. St Clair meditatively fidgets with the doll, her face drawn into a guarded look.
"I promise nothing." St Clair grunts, but a large part of her hostility has evaporated, "And your request is completely impossible to perform. I am not strong enough to subdue the Narancha and its escorts by myself. Even with all the troops I have left, it can't be done."
Gustav perks up, realizing that St Clair has decided to at least hear what he has to say. He continues the conversation with more confidence, seeking to persuade the Marshal at this critical juncture.
"I will be there as well Marshal, with all my staff." the Prince asserts, "And the Matsui clan has agreed to help as well. There will be no shortage of men to take part in the attack."
"Hnh." St Clair makes a non-committal sound and continues to ruminate deep in her private thoughts. Her fingers idly play with one of the ribbons on her dress as the minutes tick by in pregnant silence. Finally St Clair speaks, having made up her mind.
"I need to think about this." the Marshal says evasively, her eyes darting back and forth, filled with unease. Delay. Delay is the best option when confronted with something completely beyond expectations.
"There's no time Marshal!" Gustav shouts urgently, "We only have a narrow window of opportunity to act, we cannot lose it!"
"Well, yes." St Clair concedes unhappily, "But then again, I need to prepare for the duel and care for Nicholas as well. What you're asking puts all that at risk."
"Marshal!" the Prince objects at the top of his lungs.
"After all this is all your fault Prince." St Clair continues rambling, "I do not think it is fair for you to pressure me into action when the crisis was brought about by yourself. I will however consider what you have said and - "
A crushing despair fills Gustav's entire soul. Events are playing out just as Celeste had predicted. And if Celeste was correct about the Marshal, then only one thing would be able to persuade her to provide assistance. The lone card that Gustav had refused to put on the table. To save Nicholas, the Prince of Europe would have to sacrifice him. To keep Nicholas alive, Gustav had to be willing to lose his son forever.
"You prayed for a miracle." Gustav interrupts St Clair as she begins her canned speech to see the Prince off. St Clair stops dead, her face expressionless with shock.
"This is your chance." Gustav continues, his voice ragged with emotion, "The miracle you wanted has been granted. All you need to do is say yes."
An eager, hungry look crosses St Clair's face before she smooths out her features. Her tiny body leans forward, yet the Marshal's presence is absolutely overwhelming.
"Are you sure?" St Clair whispers, "You do know what you are saying?" A sullen nod from Gustav is all the confirmation she needs. The Marshal draws herself up to her full, albeit tiny, height and snaps her fingers, summoning her staff and Gustav's bodyguards into the conference room.
"Come." St Clair announces without preamble and the group heads towards the infirmary of the ship.
"So this is how it has to be." Gustav muses sadly, but the Marshal pays him no heed, her attention fully consumed by building expectation. The group walks through the ship without incident, the crew giving crisp salutes as St Clair hurries past. A nurse emerges from the bowels of the Standart and deferentially ushers St Clair towards her destination.
Gustav covers his nose as he steps into the infirmary, the smell of medicine overpowering. But St Clair pays the stench no heed and crosses the infirmary with purposeful strides, towards a corner of the room screened off by a privacy curtain. Impatiently pushing the nurse aside, the Marshal pulls away the privacy curtain in a single motion, revealing the sole patient in the infirmary. Most of the patient's body is covered in bandages, but the man's identity is clear for everyone to see.
Nicholas von Amsterg.
"Nicholas." Gustav timidly approaches, his face lined with shame. But the heir of the von Amsterg family is dead to the world, sedated to accelerate the healing process.
"He's not your son anymore." St Clair snarls as she roughly pulls the Prince back. As Gustav stumbles and is steadied by his bodyguards, St Clair's fingernails grow to resemble claws. With a flick, the Marshal opens up her wrist, letting a trickle of blood flow. She then pinches Nicholas's nose shut and as the man begins to gasp for air on the bed, St Clair shoves her wrist into his mouth, forcing Nicholas to drink her blood.
Nicholas's body begins to twitch before escalating to full blown spasms as the disease in St Clair's blood extends its grip over him. But St Clair does not relent, and forces Nicholas to drink more and more, even as ugly veins stained black begin to grow visible just beneath the skin of his face.
"Marshal, that's enough!" Gustav protests, but St Clair ignores him completely and keeps feeding Nicholas her blood. Gradually, Nicholas begins to quieten down and the spasms stop. His face is drawn and weak, but the veins have faded back under the surface of his skin. St Clair tenderly strokes the man's hair and kisses his forehead.
"Such a brave boy." the Marshal coos, "A rapid transformation isn't easy, but you managed it. You will become a full vampire, I know it."
"So that's it then." Gustav thinks to himself as he slumps dejectedly out of the infirmary. He had saved his son. But lost Nicholas all the same. As the Prince makes his way to the ship's deck and stares off into the dark, turgid depths of the sea, he hears St Clair's affectionate, triumphant voice in the distance.
"Mummy will always love you, my son."