Wei Caihong kept coming back on his litter and Nikola kept dancing for him as if he was dancing for Penemue. Except the noble begun to stay around for the whole day as of late. The crowds didn’t dare to show the same among of excitement they did as before. But they still had smiles on their faces and more than one woman had asked Nikola to teach them how to dance as he did. Nikola never had the time for it, even though the old trader Hua had melted the spear and sold the gold and had left his house and shop to the former emperor. Nikola had ended up with four thousand and five hundred fifty-one silver coins, plus the three gold pieces he had gotten for the gold and silver ornaments of his old tunic. He didn’t need to keep performing for old granny Nuo Nuying anymore. But he still came back every morning.
He needed to speak with Wei Caihong but he also knew the noble’s kind. If the man wasn’t the one to approach him first, he would get nothing out of him. So, he kept at his seduction game and prayed that Penemue didn’t get a whiff of it. One day, as he was taking a break from dancing and going back to reading fortunes, Wei Caihong ordered his litter to be lowered and he approached Nikola.
“Once you are finished with her read mine.” Said the noble and for the first time Nikola saw him. He had brown eyes, although there were golden flecks in them. And his hair was loose with a bun high up, as it was the fashion of this land. He had sharp features, high cheekbones and a sharp, strong jaw. He was rather handsome, but he didn’t even hold a candle to Penemue.
“Oh, Master Wei! I just have one more question. Gege, will my husband remember our anniversary this year?” Nikola concentrated and then he winced. The woman huffed and a man begun to both glare at Nikola and apologize for a slight not even done. Nikola checked the man’s future and saw that even with the yelling that will commence once the couple gets home, he would still forget. And what was worse the anniversary was tomorrow. He shook his head and then looked up only to see Wei Caihong has already sat down and had extended his hand towards him.
“Will I meet the love of my life soon, Gege?” Asked the noble and Nikola stared at his palm. He didn’t need to but he still traced a finger over the life’s line. He did see love in the future of the noble but he didn’t want to believe when he saw himself wrapped happily in Wei Caihong’s arms. There was no way he would forget Penemue! The noble cleared his throat and Nikola noticed that he was gently rubbing his thumb over the life’s line.
“Ah…yes. Soon even. A very special lady will come from the capital and sweep you off your feet.”
Wei Caihong raised an elegant eyebrow and he smirked.
“You give me half-truths, Nikola of Troy. Try again.”
Nikola sputtered and some of the women from the crowd smiled knowingly at him. Does he tell this noble the truth? But he was merely using him to get to Penemue! Still…he had looked so happy. And Penemue had cheated first, hadn’t he? They had been so unhappy by the end, raising Pallas together although their hearts weren’t into it. Perhaps old lady Nuo Nuying was right. Had he stepped down and given Pallas the throne none of this would have happened. Perhaps Penemue thought so too and that was why he never answered any of his prayers. Perhaps…
“Well? I’m waiting for the truth.” Nikola was broken out of his musings by these words. Oh, to hell with it!
“You’ve met a man that has already swept you off your feet.” Said Nikola and he stubbornly looked down. That gave him a nice view of Wei Caihong’s lap and his fine, long fingered hands. A musician’s hands.
“I thought so too. But my love is very dishonest and hurt and prone to stubbornness.” A woman near the noble “ah’ed” and suddenly the women were clustering together and whispering. Stealing looks every so often at the two talking men and giggling. Nikola blushed in shame.
“Yes, well, good luck with that. Next!” Wei Caihong gripped Nikola’s hand and brought it to his lips. He looked remorseful as he did so.
“Come and spend some time with me in the palace. Dance just for me. Better yet let us dance together.” Nikola huffed.
“Can you even dance with a candle?” He asked and Wei Caihong pulled him closer to himself, hand still gripping Nikola’s.
“You’d be surprised at what I can do just for you. You’ve been trying to get my attention for days now. I have a slight idea why. A litter will be waiting for you in front of your residence at Nuo Nuying’s. Get on it and my servants will bring you to me. Until then, my Emerald.”
The women were all but foaming at the mouths but Nikola didn’t pay them any attention. Penemue called him like this! He wanted to shout at Wei Caihong to come back and explain himself but the man was already getting on his litter and the next woman was showing him her palm.
“Will my arrange marriage be happy?” A quick glance into her future showed her with many children and grandchildren, all crowding around her bed as she told them stories. He told her this, his mind still at that one word, and she clapped happily. The next woman came and Nikola paid her just about enough attention to answer her question. This continued until the sun set and he stood up, leaving granny Nuo to count her winnings and heading towards the house. The litter was indeed there and Nikola got on without a second thought.
The sharped roofed building showed itself in the distance but as he got closer and closer it gave way to gardens and blossoming trees. There was what passed for dragons engraved on the gate. It was far from the real deal. There had been dragons, once, but Azazel had killed them all off when he couldn’t use them as beasts of war. This long creature was dreamed up from some scholar who had heard the word and let his imagination run wild. One day the same will happen with Atlantis, Nikola knew that much.
Wei Caihong was waiting for him on the base of the stairs of the main gate. Hair let lose and gently flowing like a river pass his shoulders. But Nikola dreamed of curls reaching the waist and of sapphire eyes twinkling deviously at him.
“You came, my Emerald.”
“I’m not your anything!” Snapped Nikola, but he still took the hand offered to him and allowed for the stranger to hold his hand as they ascended the stairs.
“I can see the future too. I saw what you saw.” Said the noble calmly and Nikola remembered the picture all too well.
“How is that possible?” He asked, doubting the words of the noble. Bezaliel had shared the knowledge of how to see through the veil of time with the Atlanteans. He doubted that the angel was going to share the knowledge any time soon after the disaster the first time had been.
“I know many things, Emerald Emperor. I’ve spoken with your past lover, Penemue. He gave me a portrait of you and I fell in love. I can make you happy. I can…”
Wei Caihong was speaking but Nikola wasn’t listening to him. Penemue had whored him out? How dared he! After all the words of love over the years? After all the jealous fits? Were they all a game for the angel? Look at me and how well I play with the foolish Emperor! Behold how I can sway him to do my biding! Nikola realized he was pathetic in this instance, for he was searching for the reassuring weight of the feather even now. A feather that wasn’t even Penemue’s.
“Have I upset you?” Asked Wei Caihong and Nikola snapped his head towards him. They were at the top of the stairs, on their very edges. The movement proved to be too sudden and Nikola stumbled but was caught by the noble. “Careful now, my dear. You’ll break your neck if you fall.”
“What does it matter?” Hissed Nikola in Wei Caihong’s arms. “I’ll just put my neck back in place and then in a few days it would be as if I never fell. Penemue won’t let me die, you see. I’m his favorite pet…”
Nikola stopped at the last word he uttered and his expression soured further. It was the truth, though, wasn’t it? Why else wouldn’t the angel answer Nikola’s prayers, uttered fervently every night before sleep took him?
“He wanted me to look after you. He feels guilty for everything concerning Pallas.”
“You know nothing of Pallas or Vasiliki!”
“It’s true.” Wei Caihong’s voice wavered just a little bit, as if he was uncertain how to proceed. But Nikola didn’t give him a chance to.
“I can reduce you to a bloodstain on these very steps with but a word!” Nikola felt vicious. Penemue had always calmed him down when he was like this. But now the angel was nowhere to be found and the only lead Nikola had of finding his lover thought himself in love.
“You are not the only one who knows magic, Emerald Emperor. I can resist you.” The noble sounded sure of himself and Nikola barked a laugh. By the time anyone finds the massacre he would unleash in this place he would have already taken his things and gone away at the back of wagon. He concentrated on his dark emotions and tried to boil Wei Caihong’s blood in his veins. When the noble not only didn’t scream but chuckled Nikola blinked.
“You ultimately failed in keeping the world ordered, Emerald Emperor.” Said Wei Caihong and he gripped Nikola almost painfully. “So, the Watchers found a new Champion. But Penemue not only made you immortal all those centuries ago. He gave you a piece of his soul. He can’t take it back so you remain a relic of the past. There is much you can teach me. The Watchers didn’t have much time to bestow their wisdom to me, my Emerald. But they knew you’d wake again. Penemue placed you in a golden cage meant to protect you, after all.”
“Let go of me!” There was slight fear in Nikola’s voice. He wasn’t used to having equals. He was thought magic by the angels. Sure, some of his people were too. But the big stuff? The blood rituals and the sacrificial chants? These were all things only he knew of. Well, now there was one more who knew. And God only knew how many more.
“I’m not going to force you. I don’t have the power for it. I can barely stop you from heating up my blood. To be perfectly honest I feel warmth spreading all over my body. And that terrifies me, my Emerald. But I saw our future as clearly as you did. I’m not giving up.”
“Where is Penemue?” Nikola was done playing games. He wanted his lover back. He wanted his family with his many grandchildren back.
“In the Abyss. All the Watchers are there. Doomed to fall until the end of all the generations. I merely spoke with their aspects in dreams. But my concubines heard me mutter their names in my sleep and they told others and word reached the Emperor. Now I am stuck here in this village but I see that it was all for the best. For I have found you.”
Nikola pushed himself from Wei Caihong’s arms and then whirled himself to face him. He did his best to search his face for any lies yet he found none. Falling to his knees he gripped his hair and screamed. Penemue was out of his reach. He could only ever hope to see him again in a dream. And although that would be pure bliss for Nikola, he knew that the angel won’t show himself. Not as eaten away by guild as he was. Wei Caihong was next to him and wrapping his arms around his shoulders and Nikola didn’t have the will to push him away.
“Stay for tonight, my Emerald. If you do, I’ll speak with Penemue and I’ll beg him to show himself to you. This will tear at my heart but it will make you happy. Please say yes.”
Nikola knew that this was merely a ploy to keep him dependent on the other magic user. He rather doubted that Wei Caihong was above using his connection to Penemue to get what he wanted from Nikola. Granny Nuo Nuying’s warning about the man ringing in his ears.
“I want to hear his voice again.” And Nikola felt like he was selling himself but what other choice did he have? He was powerful and perhaps he was powerful enough to get just Penemue out of the Abyss. But for that he needed the angel’s cooperation.
“As you wish.” Said Wei Caihong, expression unreadable. Then he heard it. Mutterings and moans. He recognized some of them. Azazel’s angry hisses most of all. But no Penemue.
“He is quiet. He felt us trying to connect with him.” And Nikola opened his mouth and then closed it, biting his lower lip to keep from screaming.
“Tell him he is a stubborn mule! Tell him I forgive him, that I am to blame as well. That I love him, darn it all!”
“He says he knows. But he still refuses to speak with you. His guilt is…”
Nikola was laughing like a maniac and tugging at his own hair. He wanted to tear at his own clothes. He wanted to scream. Instead, he spoke.
“So, that is it? He passes me on to someone else and all ends are nice and clean? Tell him I’m going to find a way to get him out of the whole he flew into. With or without his consent.”
“He begs you not to try.” And Wei Caihong’s voice sounded urgent at that. “Not even his immortality will protect you from God if you do so. His own punishment is not until the end of all generations. Only for a thousand years.”
Nikola raised an eyebrow at that and pointed a finger at the noble. Speaking at him as if he was speaking to Penemue.
“And you expect me to wait that long, my love? That was my entire lifetime!”
“He says one hundred years already went pass by you as you slept.”
Nikola screamed into the empty night. Wei Caihong looked at him as if he had completely lost his mind. But Penemue was the crazy one. A thousand years? And then what? They’ll play hide and seek some more?
“Tell him to either speak to me directly right now or to forget about me!” Wei Caihong winced, expecting to be yelled at again. The only voice in Nikola’s head was his own. A tear fell down his cheek and he was soon hiccupping.
“He turned the connection off. Let’s go inside. I owe you a dinner after this, at least.”
“You don’t owe me anything.” Said Nikola between sobs. He let Wei Caihong place a warm arm around his waist. Nikola wasn’t going to let the future he saw unfold. Despite what he said he was going to wait for Penemue. But he didn’t want to be alone right now. He feared what he would do. Rice and fish were set into two bowls on the table. Silk cushions placed next to it. Nikola sat down. He missed the plush chairs of Atlantis. The cushions did nothing to soften the floor and they were more decoration than anything else. He picked at his food and noticed that Wei Caihong was staring at him.
“What?” He said, this time softly and with no malice coloring his tone.
“How do you boil the blood of someone?” And Nikola smirked at that. Figures that the man would try to get something out of him tonight.
“You need extensive knowledge in biology. You need to know all about veins and how they are connected to the heart. But you don’t want to know about that.”
“I do. I was promised…”
“No, you don’t.” Snapped Nikola and then regretted it. He had taken out his anger on Wei Caihong enough for one night. “You’d need to practice on someone and this magic? Well, it screams Atlantis. You won’t be able to use it anyway so why bother learning?”
Wei Caihong seemed to think it over but then he become smug all of a sudden.
“You took over the world with this magic. I can do the same.”
Nikola laughed at the nativity of the man and was quick to correct him.
“I took over the world by commanding the Nephilim. I used the magic to do so. But do you know what? I killed off all the giants and the Watchers are now somewhere where they can’t produce any more. And in the end my magic proved useless in keeping everyone in line.”
There was something ugly taking over Wei Caihong’s face and Nikola grinned. The future he saw could have been but a false image placed there by the noble. Now that he knew that the man could do magic, he wouldn’t put it pass him. While Wei Caihong was unguarded Nikola took a look into his future again and saw a much different picture. He was once more in the noble’s embrace, but the man looked to be biting his neck. Blood was dripping from Nikola’s neck. Wei Caihong’s face twisted further, apparently feeling the intrusion.
“I want your immortality.” Said the man and Nikola finally noticed how young he was. Nikola himself was stuck at eighteen, the age he looked when the angels came into his life and Penemue took his as a lover. Wei Caihong looked to be no older than twenty. And it seemed he didn’t want to get much older.
“And how do I give you it?” Asked Nikola. A part of him wanted to pass the torch. If he turned to dust now would he go into the Abyss and be with Penemue?
“Your blood is the key. But you are too strong for me to overtake.” And it gnarled at Wei Caihong to admit it. Nikola sat straighter on the pillow and he regarded the noble with a cool look.
“You’ll bring much destruction if you ascent. You seem to favor wearing red and black. Will you be the Crimson or Ebony Emperor, I wonder?”
Wei Caihong stood up, sake bottle in his hand, and he slowly made his way to Nikola. “I’ll be whatever you tell me to be.” He murmured as he poured the drink into the small bowl laid next to Nikola’s meal. “Just let me drink your blood. I don’t want to ever age. Or die.”
Nikola took the bowl and brought it to his lips. He had seen Wei Caihong pour himself from the same bottle. There was no poison inside. And even if there was Nikola would survive it.
“Let’s say I give you my blood.” Said Nikola. To be perfectly honest he didn’t even know what he was offering. The Watchers had had other favorites apart from him during the centuries. And they had been displeased with him more than once. If it had been so easy to pass over immortality, they would have forced it out of him. No matter what Penemue said or did in his defense. “How do you know you’ll survive whatever change overtakes you?”
“Azazel told me I will. That I will become faster and stronger. But he also told me that I will become weak to fire. Do you have such a weakness?” Nikola shook his head. Hadn’t Wei Caihong seen him dance with the candle plenty of times already? What a silly question he was asking.
“What else did he tell you?” Pressed Nikola and his bowl was filled again with sake. He drank it dry and when Wei Caihong tried to fill it again, he moved it out of reach.
“He said I’ll thrust for blood afterwards. But once you teach me all you know about magic it won’t be hard for me to get my fill of it.”
Nikola giggled drunkenly. Perhaps he should have taken the bowl away sooner.
“What you speak of has a name. It happened in Libya. Her name was Lamia and she had an affair with a Greek God. Well, it didn’t turn out well for her as she was forced to eat her own children and become a blood drinker. She was plagued with insomnia and her lower body was transformed into that of a snake. This is the curse you are begging me for.”
Wei Caihong paled at all that but he was determined to press on.
“Azazel said that my lower body won’t change.”
“Oh? He’s listening in, is he? Well, he did teach me how to fight and I do owe him. Besides, I don’t like you. You come off as if you own me just because you have Penemue’s permission to toy with me. You want to be cursed? Well then, I’ll curse you. How do I do it anyway?”
Let him drink from you and repeat after me…
Azazel! Long time no…well, it’s still no see so I suppose no hear? Just what is it that you want to accomplish here? He can’t steal my immortality. If it was possible you would have taken it away five centuries ago when I banished you from the island because of your debauchery.
Azazel grumbled and Nikola enjoyed this little victory. Of all the angels Azazel was his least favored.
I was pumping out more soldiers for you, you ungrateful whore. Now do as I ask or when I get out…
And when will that be, hm? During the end times?
Azazel screamed his frustration and Wei Caihong winced, proving that he had been listening in. Nikola huffed and raised his hands in the air.
Fine. Let’s get this over with. But I won’t be babysitting your Lamia. Nor will I move from here once the village folk tear him limb from limb after one too many young maidens disappear. Now, what’s the chant.
Ode to the night mother, she who suffers…
Nikola repeated it and begun to undress himself so that his shoulders were bare for Wei Caihong. He stopped his chanting to look at him with a sneer on his face.
“Well? I am supposed to chant as you bite me. So, go ahead and bite.”
Wei Caihong fell to his knees and gripped Nikola’s shoulders feverishly. He gulped as Nikola resumed his chanting undisturbed and then lowered himself so he could plant a kiss at the crook of Nikola’s neck. Nikola’s hand shot up in response and he gripped Wei Caihong’s hair, forcing his face down, his mouth pressed firmly to the creamy skin.
Bite, you fool! Screamed Azazel in Wei Caihong’s mind and the noble felt fear for the first time. Nikola’s grip became painful in his hair and a heat spread all over Wei Caihong’s body. A clear threat. Bite or die. Wei Caihong opened his mouth and sunk his teeth into the skin bellow, making his choice and sealing his fate.
“Accept this sacrifice, willingly made, into your embrace! For this night and all the nights to come!” Finished Nikola and he noticed that he no longer had to hold Wei Caihong close to himself. The man was gripping him desperately and drinking from him. His teeth had become sharper and now Nikola felt two fangs in his skin where before there had only been canines.
The change is complete. Said Azazel smugly into his mind and Nikola rolled his eyes.
I can see that. Why do you need a Lamia for? He was answered with silence and Nikola cursed the angel in his mind. Then he tugged at Wei Caihong’s hair and tried to get him off of himself but the newly made vampire wasn’t letting him go.
“Ok, enough now. Let me go already and go, ah…” Wei Caihong moved their bodies so that he was now laying on top of Nikola. Nikola tried to push him away, for he was still a warrior and in a good shape, but found that the noble was far stronger than before. So, he resorted to magic, heating up the blood in Wei Caihong’s veins and watching in amusement as the man tore his fangs out of him and screamed in agony. Nikola was still laying on his back, however. To anyone walking in this would look lewd. He scrunched up his nose at that thought.
Wei Caihong’s eyes were a deeper shade of brown and in the candle light they looked almost crimson now, the gold flakes completely gone. The man lowered himself so that his lips were inches away from Nikola.
“My Emerald.” He begun and when Nikola tried to push himself up Wei Caihong’s hands moved to keep him down. “I lied to you about our future together. It’s true. But there is still so much more I need to learn from you. Will you teach me and… WHAT?”
Nikola stared at Wei Caihong and propped himself up slightly despite the hands trying to keep him down.
“You…you…demons!” The noble screamed again and Nikola smirked at him. So, this was a trap after all.
“What is Azazel telling you?” Nikola didn’t really care all that much. But seeing Wei Caihong so bothered brought him a cruel sense of satisfaction.
“He says that sunlight and fire can kill me! That anyone can just come and behead me! You both tricked me!”
Nikola’s lips twitched. Good old Azazel playing with mortals. What else was new?
“I tried to warn you. I told you of the original Lamia, remember? And Azazel is more of a demon than angel these days. But you probably knew that already.”
“And you?” An accusing finger was pressed to Nikola’s naked chest. “What’s your excuse for not stopping this?” Nikola just smiled and winked.
“I’m not a saint, my Ebony.” He said, mocking Wei Caihong with false affection the same way he had been mocked. The vampire was on him in that instant and no matter how much magic Nikola pumped into his spell he still couldn’t shake him off. Finally, Wei Caihong screamed when his skin turned red as a crab’s and he dug his fangs inside Nikola’s skin again.
“Do you wish to die?” Nikola didn’t mind that there was blood dripping down Wei Caihong’s jaw and into his outer robes. He had others at home. He could spare a set. “Or do you want to get even with Azazel for tricking you? Because if you simply die now, he will gloat about it for days. I know. He gloated when I tried to throw myself into a volcano during the first days of my immortality. After my little sister died giving birth to Samyaza’s unholy spawn.”
The fangs were slowly removed from Nikola’s skin and he placed a hand over Wei Caihong’s hair, petting it gently.
“We can help each other. I can help you with your little sunlight problem. Not much I can do about decapitation, thou. In exchange you will help me get Penemue out of the Abyss.”
Blood was dripping down Wei Caihong’s mouth and yet even that had it’s allure. Nikola leaned in so that their noses pressed together and the noble closed his eyes, holding onto Nikola for dear life.
“My Emerald.” He whispered finally, then he leaned the rest of the way in so that their lips were touching. “It seems we won’t have our fire dance, after all. But can we have one without a candle?”
Nikola searched the features of the man in front of him. The man to whom Penemue has given him. If Penemue wanted to see how it felt like to wear horns then Nikola will oblige. At least he wasn’t doing it with one of the angel’s brothers.
I always knew you were a whore. Came from Azazel. Had I known you were so inclined to have a little vengeance on my dear brother I would have offered myself.
Shut up, Azazel.
Nikola looked at Wei Caihong expectantly and he ran his fingers over the man’s earlobe.
“Turn off the connection to the Abyss and let us find somewhere dark for the dance.”
Wei Caihong looked like he was about to throw a tantrum. He kissed Nikola forcefully and received a spell as a warning. Still, when the kiss eased up on it’s intensity Nikola returned it.
“I want Penemue to hear when I make you mine, my Emerald.”
Nikola griped his new plaything’s hair in warning and angled his head so that he could whisper in his ear.
“But that means having to listened to Azazel’s filth the whole night. And to the rest of them moaning in pain. Is it really worth it, my Ebony?”
Azazel begun to say something but he was instantly cut off. Nikola smiled and let himself be swept off his feet and carried.
“It’s really not, my Emerald.” Said Wei Caihong and Nikola muttered a quick incantation to heal all of the man’s internal wounds. He needed him healthy and whole for what they were about to do. “Now that we get along.” Begun the noble uncertainly. “Can I also ask you to feed me your blood every time I need it? So that the villagers don’t tear me limb from limb?” Wei Caihong opened a great decorated door with a tiger engraved on it. Nikola looked as if he was considering it but he knew he wasn’t going to leave the vampire to his fate. At least not until Penemue was out of the Abyss.
“Make me scream tonight and I’ll consider it.” Nikola was placed on a bed. And wasn’t it a pleasant surprise that the noble even had one? And then his legs were being lifted and his robes were being opened and he was wrapping his legs around a cursed being of the night and closing his eyes. In his mind he replaced brown eyes with blue and he dug up the memory of soft curls tickling his naked skin and he moaned Penemue’s name. Wei Caihong’s hands stilled in their mapping of Nikola’s skin for just a moment and then they resumed with more urgency. And the only thing that Nikola could feel for his new lover in this moment was pity.