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  1. BZRich64

    BZRich64 The Mustachiod Machamp

    Late For A Date
    (Bunnelby)
    Level 14
    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2017
    Posts:
    2,564
    PokéPoints:
    ₽6,846.1
    Description:
    “Be seeing you again soon, Luigi!”

    Normally those might be taken as words of comfort. A promise from a friend that even though they must part ways for the time being, they will meet again. Many people had said those words, or something to their effect, to Luigi over the years and it had almost always been something that he had seen as a good thing. But when the very incarnation of Death itself said those words, even as jovial as his tone had been at the time, Luigi could only take it as a threat, or perhaps a warning.

    “Be seeing you again soon, Luigi!”

    He was going to die soon. That was the only thing it could have meant. He didn’t know how soon ‘soon’ was. From the perspective of something like Death, a few years or perhaps maybe even decades could have qualified. It was possible that Luigi still had a very long and happy life ahead of him. But the fact that Death had singled him out among the large group of allies gathered there that day, meant that at the very least, he would be the first to go.

    It was a harrowing thought. Terrifying, even. Luigi had barely been able to sleep in the few weeks since that fateful encounter. Especially since it had come so soon after he had learned of his older brother’s mysterious passing. If he had learned that he was going to die soon before his last adventure, he would have panicked and probably spent the rest of that short life cowering in fear over the unknown. But he had grown since then and better come to grips with the harshness of reality. If he was going to die, then he was going to spend the rest of his life living to the fullest. That was why he was here, in that old mansion he’d ‘won’ from a fake lottery back in the day. The place where he had first faced off against King Boo. The place that would soon serve as his wedding venue, as well as his and Daisy’s home within the Mushroom Kingdom.

    “Be seeing you again soon, Luigi!”

    “Hey, are you okay, boss?”

    Luigi was shaken from his thoughts and turned to face one of Super Mario Bros. Plumbing’s newest employees, a portly yellow yoshi that went by the name of Roshi. He hadn’t known the small dinosaur for very long, but Roshi had proven himself a valuable friend and ally in their short time together. In fact, Luigi saw a bit of himself in the timid yoshi. That’s part of why he’d made Roshi’s hat, a staple part of the Mario Bros’ uniform, a similar shade of green to his own. The other part was that it matched Roshi’s green shoes. Said hat also had a lower case ‘r’ on the front to help differentiate it from the “R” of his other new employee, who was also somewhere around there.

    “Yeah, I’m-a fine,” Luigi shook his head and clapped his hands against his cheeks a couple of times to wake himself up. “Just a bit distracted.”

    “Yeah, I suppose that being here must be causing the whole situation to seem a bit more real.” Roshi nodded. “Getting married, and all that.”

    “Also, I hear this place used to be haunted.” A purple dragon, small by dragon standards but big compared to Luigi or Roshi, made his presence known as a pair of glowing golden eyes flashed up near the ceiling.

    “Augh!” Roshi let out a yelp and fell onto his rear. “Don’t scare me like that, Ridley!”

    “Sorry, force of habit.” The winged member of their crew swung around so that he was hanging upside-down from a banister. “Predator instincts and all that.”

    “What are you even doing up there?”

    “What are you doing down there?”

    Luigi shook his head with a sigh. He wasn’t used to being the one in charge, and it was clear that his employees were going to be a handful. Still, they generally got along pretty well despite the banter and were quickly getting the hang of plumbing despite neither of them having any experience in the field.

    After a couple minutes, Ridley finally crawled down from the ceiling and the trio pulled into a huddle.

    “Okie dokie, we-a shouldn't need to worry about the basement for now, so we’ve-a got three floors that need to be cleaned and three of us,” Luigi told the others. “It seems that-a the easiest way to do this is to split up so that we can-a each clean one floor.”

    “Sounds reasonable.” Ridley nodded.

    “I'm not sure about splitting up,” Roshi objected. “This place gives me the willies.”

    “It'll be fine,” Luigi assured him. “This place hasn't been haunted in years, and even if there were still a boo or two that I missed, we’ve got the lights working now, so that'll scare ‘em off.”

    “And if you need help, just yell,” Ridley added. “We’ll be over in a heartbeat.”

    “I-I guess I can do this.” Roshi swallowed, then puffed out his chest. “Yeah, I can do this!”

    * * *​

    After everything had been sorted out and they’d each gone to clean their areas, Luigi found himself vacuuming up his study. The act made him almost nostalgic for that night he had spent sucking up all the ghosts of the manor into the vacuum-like Poltergust 3000. Thankfully he only had to deal with dust this time around, though. Dust and a small gray squeek that suddenly ran out from behind a chair.

    The unexpected guest startled Luigi, causing him to accidentally whack a bookcase. The old shelves collapsed, nearly burying him in the process. Thankfully, he was able to jump out of the way in time. However, he found himself lying flat on his stomach as the mouse-like creature scampered around.

    “You gave me a bit of a start there, little guy,” Luigi said as he pushed himself up off the floor. “How long have you been… hey, what's this?”

    Luigi looked down at the book that had landed in front him, a dusty old tome bound in red leather and the words ‘Grimoire of Souls’ etched into the cover in an ornate script. That was certainly an ominous title and something about the book seemed… off, but Luigi couldn't say why. After a moment of consideration, Luigi decided to ignore. Unfortunately, the Grimoire had other plans.

    The Grimoire suddenly opened itself as Luigi stood up, the pages flipping rapidly as a vicious wind kicked up around the room. Luigi watched in horror as the squeek from earlier was carried off by the winds and whipped around the room before getting sucked within the book itself, flailing and screaming the whole way. Luigi then found himself getting pulled off the ground and desperately tried to hold on to the fallen bookcase to keep himself rooted down but his grip failed him. Before he knew it, he was being pulled into the Grimoire of Souls like a hairball getting sucked down the drain.

    “Be seeing you again soon, Luigi!”

    Those words ran through his head one last time as the world around him vanished.

    * * *​

    When Luigi finally came to, he was lying face down in mud. He groggily pulled himself up and spat out a bit that had managed to get in his mouth, looking around at his surroundings.

    He seemed to be in a forest of some kind with thick, gnarled trees everywhere he turned. That was about all that he could tell, though, as the canopy was so thick he couldn't even see if it was day or night. Squinting in the dark, he eventually spotted a bit of movement off to the side and cautiously approached. It turned out to be the squeek that had been sucked into the book with him, which had been caught in a deeper puddle of mud and was having difficulty pulling itself out of the muck.

    Luigi walked closer, intent on rescuing the poor rodent. He stopped, though, as something else shambled into view. He thought it was a person at first, but the way it moved was… unnatural. He backed away as it approached and not a moment too soon. More of them shuffled in behind the first and they closed in around the frantic squeek, which grew even more desperate in its attempt to flee. It was in vain, though, and the things practically dogpiled on top of the squeek, which let out one final cry of terror that was quickly drowned out by a series of sickening squelches and crunching.

    Luigi threw up a little as he backed away from the horrific scene, his knees trembling as he tried to figure out what to do. Then he ran. He didn't know where he was going and he didn't care, as long as he didn't run into any more of those… those things.

    He didn't know how long it was before he finally allowed himself to stop and catch his breath, but it wasn't long enough. More creatures stepped out from behind the trees and Luigi turned to run back in the other direction, but he was surrounded. The zombies, for there was no better word to describe the hideous monsters, closed around him and Luigi thought for sure that it would be his end. He wasn't any good in a fight without power-ups, and trying to punch or kick his way through would only leave his limbs vulnerable to them.

    “Help!” Luigi cried out, though he knew it was useless as there wouldn't be anyone around to hear him, let alone save him. “M-Mario!”

    It was instinctual, calling out his brother's name. Even though he knew intellectually that Mario was dead, he couldn't fight a lifetime of instinct formed from the elder brother always being there to bail him out. But now he was alone. He doubted that the others would have been able to follow him to wherever it was that he now found himself, nor did he want them to have done so. While Ridley might be able to handle himself, Roshi would be just as scared and vulnerable as Luigi in this situation, if not more so.

    A loud crack thundered through the forest, almost like a gun being fired, and one of the zombies practically exploded in front of him, followed by another. A man rushed in, carrying an old wooden torch in one hand and a whip in the other. The stranger deftly danced around the zombies, handling the whip with a graceful finesse that allowed him to dispatch the monsters in quick succession.

    “Hark, friend!” The man held up his torch once the final zombie had been slain, so that Luigi could get a good look at him. Wild, dirty blond hair fell over the man’s sharp features, partly obscuring one of his greenish-blue eyes, and he was dressed in a red and white long coat over dark clothes that almost made him look like some kind of medieval knight. “Are you unharmed?”

    Luigi looked up at the stranger sheepishly, before finally nodding his head in stunned confusion.

    “Good, I hesitate to think of what those creatures may have done if I was not here,” the man said. “What are you even doing in this forsaken place? The locals know to avoid these woods.”

    “I, uh, don’t know where we are, or how I got here,” Luigi answered honestly. “I was-a cleaning out my house when a book fell in-a front of me and I was-a sucked in.”

    “That is peculiar.” The stranger seemed to consider his words and for a moment Luigi worried that he wouldn’t believe him. “I knew there were dark magics in these lands but I know not what spells may have brought you here. I would offer to help you escape these woods but alas, I have business with the master of these lands that cannot wait. If you would accompany me, I will do my best to protect you but I cannot guarantee your safety.”

    “T-thank you,” Luigi stammered. “I-a suppose that would be the best I can hope for-a right now. I’m-a Luigi, by the way.”

    “‘Tis good to meet you, Sir Louis.” The man nodded politely. “I am known as Lord Belmont, but I would prefer that you simply call me Leon. I take it that you are a man of Italia. The Republic of Venice, perhaps?”

    Italia? Venice? Those were words that Luigi hadn’t heard in a long time. Were they back on Earth?

    “I, uh, think my family are from Genoa, actually.” Luigi wasn’t sure if he remembered that properly, though. “But I’m from New York.”

    “New… York?” Leon repeated. “I do not believe that I have heard of that province, though the name sounds English. I hail from France, myself. My family held lands in the south of Reims.”

    He hadn’t heard of New York? Even if he was French, it still seemed like he would have at least heard of the state, if not the city itself. America and France did have a history together, after all.

    “Um, where exactly are we?” Luigi asked.

    “Ah, right, I suppose you wouldn’t know if you were spirited away to this place.” Leon nodded. “We are currently in the Forest of Eternal Night, East of the Carpathian Mountains, in the Transylvania region of Hungary.”

    Transylvania? That place from all the old monster movies? Was that even a real country? Luigi was now even more confused than ever but he decided that it would be best not to get into it for the time being.

    “These lands are owned by Lord Bernhard, a vile man in league with the forces of the night,” Leon continued to explain. “I believe that he may have rejected his humanity entirely and become a creature of myth, what the people of these lands call a strigoi, or vampire to use the common term. But more importantly, he has spirited away with my betrothed, the love of my life, the lady Sara Trantoul.”

    “That’s horrible,” Luigi gasped, thinking of his own fiance, Princess Daisy. “I know that we have-a only just met and I am not sure how-a useful I will be, but as long as I’m-a here I will do what I can to help you get her back.”

    “Thank you, Sir Louis, but I cannot ask this burden of you,” Leon shook his head. “It will be far too dangerous. I know of a hut nearby, where you can stay until I am ready to escort you out of these woods. It will be the safest option for you at this time.”

    Luigi pondered the offer but shook his head. “No, I can’t just-a stand around while you’re putting yourself in danger for love. I know that I-a would do anything for my Daisy. I will do what I can.”

    Leon nodded. “Very well then, my good sir. Can you use a blade? I would lend you my sword if you are able.”

    Luigi looked at the weapon in question, hanging in its sheath from Leon’s waist.

    “I’ve used a hammer before but I can’t say that I’ve ever used a sword,” Luigi admitted.

    “Then perhaps now would not be an opportune time to learn, but we may find a more suitable weapon for you as we journey, should you still choose to fight by my side. Stick close to me for now and we shall make our way to Bernhard’s castle.”

    Luigi and Leon trudged through the dark forest, stopping only so that Leon could take down more of the zombies that seemed to pop up every few minutes. It seemed as if there were a near-infinite number of the reanimated corpses shambling about the woods and Luigi didn’t want to know what would have happened in this place to leave so many bodies.

    “I don’t think that I’ve ever seen so many ghouls before,” Leon commented after slaying another wave of zombie with his whip. “Not in my homeland, nor in the march to the Holy Land with my brothers-in-arms.”

    March to the Holy Land? Leon was starting to act like he was some kind of…

    “Are you-a saying that you’re a crusader?” Luigi was finally starting to put the pieces together.

    Leon returned the question with a pained smile. “Alas, I am afraid that I was a crusader, but no longer. I had to abandon my duties in order to come here to rescue my betrothed. I only pray that God will forgive me my sin, though I am afraid there will be nothing I can do to restore my honor among men. But this is something that I must do.”

    That confirmed it. Either Leon was some kind of lost soul who’d been trapped in these woods for centuries without noticing, or Luigi had been sent back in time. He was inclined to believe the latter, though the question remained of how long ago he was.

    “What of you, my friend?” Leon asked him. “I take it that you did not take up the call of the cross, and I recognize not the make of your clothes. What did you do before being brought here by forces unknown?”

    Luigi wasn’t entirely sure how to answer that. If he really was somewhere in the medieval period, then plumbing wasn’t a thing yet and aqueducts weren’t around anymore so he couldn’t try to pass that off as an equivalent profession.

    “I-a suppose you could call me a handyman,” Luigi finally settled on. “I make repairs and such to-a people’s houses when they don’t know how to do it themselves.”

    “A noble profession,” Leon replied. “Before I took up arms, I was just a baron with a small holding. My parents died when I was young, so I ended up ruling my family’s lands since I was practically still a babe. I did my best to watch over those under my care but I can’t say that the position ever suited me properly. Although, as I have abandoned my duties to the church, my family’s lands will likely be given over to one of the neighboring lords now. I do not know what life awaits me when I return.”

    “That… certainly sounds like a lot to give up,” Luigi said as she climbed over a particularly large clump of roots. “But I’d like to think that I would have-a done the same if Daisy were in trouble. And, um, I wouldn’t be so worried about God not being able to forgive you, if I were you. I, um, have a feeling that the crusade might not have been something that he wanted.”

    “What you speak is blasphemy against the church, though I cannot say that I have not harbored my own doubts,” Leon said with a grimace, tightening his grip on his whip and torch. “The things that we’ve done… cannot be of God. Hark, I see the castle up ahead.”

    Leon pointed with the torch, and Luigi saw it in the distance. A large structure, built like some sort of fortress. He was used to seeing castles, having been to so many over the years since he and his brother had first come to the Mushroom Kingdom. But, like so many things here, something about this one felt… wrong. It wasn’t as large or intimidating in its structure and design as many of Bowser’s, yet as they continued to approach, a shiver went up his spine. Even a Ghost House wouldn’t have been as unsettling as this place.

    “Castle Berhard,” Leon said as they walked up to the drawbridge that seemed to be the only apparent entrance into the castle. “Just as Mathias said. Ms. Trantoul must be here somewhere. Now, how do we enter his domain?”

    Before they could come up with a solution, a piercing howl echoed through the woods. Luigi turned in time to see a wolf running out to them. Except it wasn't a wolf, as the beast reared itself onto its hind legs, standing twice as tall as Luigi or Leon. Of all the things that Luigi would have wanted to face, a giant werewolf certainly wasn't one of them. Then again, Leon had said that this Lord Bernhard guy might be a vampire, so it shouldn't have been that surprising.

    “Watch out!” Leon tossed his torch to the side and drew his sword in his off hand, and charged the werewolf.

    Blade met claw as man and beast faced off against each other. After a series of slashes and parries from both combatants, Leon began to gain the upper hand by repeatedly striking the beast with his whip while his sword repelled the vicious blows of its claws. Leon’s victory seemed assured until the werewolf managed a lucky blow and managed to sink its fangs into the former Knight's arm.

    Leon let out a pained scream as the beast clenched down harder, and dropped his sword. Luigi watched on in horror at the sight but eventually managed to work up the courage to act. He ran forward, headless of the danger, and picked up the fallen sword before lunging it into the lycanthrope’s side. It was a clumsy blow but it was enough to get the werewolf to release its grip and stagger back a few steps. That gave Leon the chance he needed to wrap his whip around the beast’s throat. He then took his sword back from Luigi and jumped up onto the werewolf’s shoulders, plunging his blade just above its collarbone as the werewolf gasped for breath. With a squeeze, he tightened the whip’s hold and struck again with the sword, repeating the process until the helpless monster finally fell dead on the muddy ground.

    Luigi watched in increased horror as the corpse suddenly combusted as Leon quickly hopped off of it, burning away the beast until all that was left was a charred husk. A distinctly human-looking one that was far smaller than the beast they had just slain.

    Leon knelt by the body and muttered a prayer, as Luigi had to come to grips with what had just happened. They hadn't just killed some mindless monster, but a person. Even if it was in self defense, and he wasn't the one to land the final blow, this was the first time that Luigi had ever taken a life. He soon found himself staring down at the contents of his stomach, freshly emptied onto the muddy, and bloodstained, ground.

    “I know it can be hard,” Leon placed a gentle hand on Luigi's shoulder, “but the man was already long gone, consumed by the beast in control. What we have done was a mercy, as we have freed him from his curse and returned his soul to his creator.”

    Somehow, those words didn't make Luigi feel any better about what had just happened, but he knew that he didn't have time for this. A woman was in danger and he had promised to help his new friend rescue her.

    “I… I’ll be alright,” Luigi lied as he stood up. He hadn't even realized that he had fallen to his knees.

    “Somehow, I doubt that.” Leon shook his head. “The first time is always the hardest. I still remember the look of the first man I ever killed, as this very sword punctured his lung and the life slowly drained from his body. He had been defending his home from foreign invaders, from us, and I struck him down for that. I don't think that I will ever be fine.”

    Luigi wasn't sure how to respond as Leon pointedly refused to meet his gaze, so he said nothing. The two simply walked back to the drawbridge which, to their surprise, had been lowered for them to enter.

    “It appears that Lord Bernhard is expecting us,” Leon said at last. “Once we step through this threshold, there will be no turning back until Walter has been slain and Sara has been rescued. Are you sure that you wish to accompany me on this quest? This will be your last chance to turn back.”

    “I…” Luigi hesitated, unsure of what he wanted to do. He knew that Leon would not hold it against him if didn't want to go, but he wasn't sure if he’d be willing to forgive himself for not helping a friend in need. Finally, he gathered his resolve and made his decision. “I will fight by-a your side.”

    “Thank you.” Leon placed his hand on Luigi's shoulder again. “I could not have asked for a better companion on this quest.”

    The unlikely duo turned to the ominous castle entrance, which seemed to almost exude darkness, and took their first step forward. Luigi shuddered as he stepped through the threshold, as an oily feeling washed over him and everything faded to black.

    When Luigi opened his eyes again, he found himself standing in a grand marble hallway. This didn't feel like the same castle he had just entered. It seemed somehow both more grand and yet far creepier than before. The oppressive atmosphere of the no-doubt haunted castle seemed to press down on him, unlike anything that the poor plumber had ever experienced before.

    “L-Leon?” Luigi turned back to his companion, but the knight was gone.

    Luigi was alone once again. Except he wasn't alone.

    “Hello, Luigi.”

    Luigi flinched at the sound of the familiar voice and he shakely turned around. Death hovered in front of him, clad in dark robes and with a large scythe gripped tightly in his boney hands. A spectral light burned behind his empty eye sockets, that seemed to stare directly into Luigi's soul. They probably were, for all he knew.

    “I told you that we would meet again soon,” Death said amiably as he slowly hovered closer. “I just wish that it could have been under better circumstances, but I am afraid that the Master has given me strict orders. Any who enter these halls must perish.”

    Luigi barely had time to react before the scythe in Death’s hands came swinging down. He didn't feel any pain as his body fell limply to the ground, but that was hardly a comfort to him in his final seconds.

    Luigi was dead.

    Yet this was only the beginning of his story.

    * * *​

    “Well, that was a short game. I wonder how long it will be before the next fool ventures into my realm.”

    “Do not be so quick to count him out. I sense a great strength within this one.”

    “What strength? He is already dead.”

    “You have always underestimated the power of the human spirit, Dracula, and it has always been your downfall.”

    “We shall see, though it appears that at least some of your words ring true. He stirs, and a new chapter begins.”

    To be continued…​

    Well, that was cheery. Welcome to the second spin-off of Super Ridley Bros! I know this one has a much darker tone than the original or even Dread Reckoning, but I hope you don’t mind too much.

    Just as Super Ridley Bros. was inspired by Ridley’s reveal trailer for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, this story was inspired by the Simon and Richter reveal trailer. Of course, SRB took me so long to get through that this has completely stopped being relevant by this point, but it’s still a story that I want to tell.

    I should also note that while the story’s title is a reference to Symphony of the Night and this first chapter takes most of its cues from Lament of Innocense, the Castlevania game this is most inspired by is Harmony of Despair (and now Grimoire of Souls, which was released, sort of, after I came up with this story and builds on elements introduced in HD).
     
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  2. BZRich64

    BZRich64 The Mustachiod Machamp

    Late For A Date
    (Bunnelby)
    Level 14
    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2017
    Posts:
    2,564
    PokéPoints:
    ₽6,846.1
    Luigi had not been expecting to wake up again. He was dead, after all, so unless he came back as a ghost or something…

    Oh, he was a ghost. That would explain it. Being able to see his body lying on the ground off to the side was a surreal experience, especially when he was looking at it through his hand.

    He couldn't say that he had been expecting this to happen, nor that he particularly liked the idea. But mostly, he just hoped that he wasn't one of those ghosts who was stuck haunting a specific location and couldn't leave. He wanted to go home and certainly didn't want to spend the rest of his life stuck in Castle Bernhard. Or at least he assumed that's where he still was.

    There wasn't much point in sticking around where he died, so he decided to go looking for Leon. The former crusader seemed to have more experience with these sorts of things than he did, after all, and he wanted to make sure that his new friend was safe. Perhaps he could even still help rescue Sara, even in his current state.

    Before he could head deeper into the castle, however, the front doors slowly creaked open again. Luigi turned, hoping to see Leon coming in behind him.

    It wasn't.

    Four people entered the castle. The first was a man with long, dark hair and a nasty-looking scar running down the left side of his face. He was carrying a whip that looked an awful lot like Leon’s but he had a much darker disposition than the knight. He was followed by a blonde woman in vibrant blue robes who must have been a mage of some sort given the flames conjured above her hands, and a man wearing nothing but a worn set of trousers and a red bandana on his head. Bringing up the rear was a tall, white-haired man in a black coat who couldn't have looked any more like a vampire if he had tried.

    Luigi ducked behind one of the many statues that lined the great hall. He didn't know who these people were but they seemed like trouble.

    “Hmph, I was expecting more of a welcoming party,” the man with the whip said. “Are we sure that this is Dracula’s Castle?”

    “Do you think that I wouldn't recognize the place where I was raised?” the white-haired man asked. “This is definitely the right place.”

    “Maybe he doesn't know that we're here yet?” the woman suggested.

    “With the mess we made on the way here, not a chance.” The other guy pulled out a dagger. “Oi, Dracula! Get your lazy keester down here!”

    “Hm, here's a thought,” the first man sighed. “How about we don't tick off the ancient, extremely powerful vampire lord?”

    “Why, we’re ta kill ‘em anyway, ain’t we?”

    Dracula? Like the old novel? What happened to Lord Bernhard? Did he somehow get transported to some other vampire’s castle? Actually, that wasn't completely out of the question. Luigi was going to have to investigate that as soon as these people left.

    “Hm, what do we have here?”

    Luigi looked back up to see a pair of piercing red eyes staring straight at him. When had the white-haired man spotted him? Luigi let out a small scream and would have jumped if he still had a body, but instead floated away from the guy who was very definitely a vampire standing in front of him.

    “You don't look like one of my father's minions,” the man said as his companions drew closer. “Who are you and what are you doing here?”

    “I-I’m Luigi.” There wasn't exactly any point in hiding his identity at this point. It could potentially provoke them if he tried. “And I’m not entirely sure. I was with a man named Leon when we were separated and I was attacked by… by Death… and then you guys showed up.”

    “Leon?” The brown-haired man perked up at that name. “What was this man's family name?”

    “What, do you know who his companion was?” the woman asked.

    “Just a hunch.”

    “B-Belmont,” Luigi stammered, which elicited a surprised reaction from the others.

    “Hey, wait,” the shirtless guy started to say, “isn't that-”

    “And did he carry a whip like this one?” The brown-haired one cut him off.

    “Yes.” Luigi nodded. “And a sword with a silver handle with rubies in it.”

    “And how long did you say that you’ve been here?”

    “I don't know for sure,” Luigi stammered. “It feels like just a few minutes but I don't know how long it was between when I died and when I woke up again. Probably not long, though, since my body's still…”

    Luigi looked over to the empty stretch of floor where he had died.

    “That’s odd.”

    “Leon Belmont died about four hundred years ago.”

    Luigi froze. That couldn’t have been right, could it? It had to have only been a few minutes, hours at most, right?

    “You know, you could have built up to that a little nicer,” the woman scolded him.

    “F-four hundred…” Luigi muttered, unable to process what he’d just been told. “That can't be… it was just a few minutes ago. Are you sure?”

    “He was one of my ancestors, so yes, I’m sure,” the man said grimly. “This is the same whip he once used, the Vampire Killer, which has been passed down my family for generations. My name is Trevor Belmont.”

    “I'm Sypha Belnades,” the woman introduced herself next. “I'm a witch and monster hunter working for the church.”

    “Grant Danasty,” the shirtless man said with a sly grin. “Thief.”

    “If we’re all introducing ourselves, then you may simply call me Alucard,” the white-haired man sighed. “As you can see, I am a dhampir, born of a vampire father and human mother. If you were an ally of Leon Belmont, then you may have known my father before he turned. He was known at the time by the name of Mathias Cronqvist, but he has gone by many names since then and is currently known as Dracula.”

    “What kind of name is Cronqvist?” Grant chuckled.

    “What kind of a name is Danasty?” Alucard countered.

    “Fair enough.”

    “I think Leon mentioned a Mathias.” Luigi wracked his brain, assuming that he still had one of those, as he tried to remember where specifically he’d heard the name. “I think he was the one who told Leon that Lord Bernhard had taken Sara. But if you're his descendant, that would mean that he managed to rescue her, right?”

    “Nope,” Trevor said bluntly with a shrug. “According to his old journals, it was already too late by the time he got there. She’d already been turned into a vampire and he was forced to kill her. Though one legend passed down by my family is that her soul is what gives the Vampire Killer its power. Don't believe it myself but either way, he eventually settled down with a Wallachian woman named Felicia, had a couple of children. I think his firstborn was named Louis, though Emil was the one who carried on the family line.”

    “Louis? But that’s what he called me,” Luigi frowned in confusion.

    “Must’ve left an impression, then. I take it you're the Genoese knight, Sir Louis, that killed a pack of werewolves single-handedly, then mysteriously disappeared?”

    “What? No! There was only one werewolf and Leon was the one who killed it… him.” Luigi pointed out. “I just helped and I'm not a knight.”

    “I guess these things tend to get exaggerated over time,” Trevor shrugged. “I know my mother, Sonia, liked to romanticize your legend.”

    “Wait, your mother was Sonia Belmont?” Alucard suddenly asked, seemingly caught off-guard.

    “Yeah, why?” Trevor asked in turn. “You know her?”

    “Never mind, there are more important things here.” Alucard hastily tried to change the subject. “Like, what are we going to do now?”

    “Plan’s still the same,” Trevor said. “Storm the castle, fight whatever gets in the way, kill your dad. ‘Sir Louis’ here is free to tag along if he wants. Doubt he’ll be much help, though, in his current state.”

    “Probably not,” Luigi agreed. “But if there is anything I can do, I’ll try to help. I owe Leon my life, even if it didn't exactly last long, and I wasn't able to repay that debt when he was still here.”

    “Hm, perhaps that's why you remained here as a ghost,” Alucard speculated. “Fulfilling this life debt may allow you to pass on.”

    “Come on, we’re wasting time,” Grant said impatiently. “Let's just go already.”

    With that, the group of apparent vampire hunters set off deeper into the castle. As soon as they stepped, or floated in Luigi's case, into the next room they were attacked by a horde of zombies. Trevor’s whip lashed out at once, taking down three of the rotten corpses in one blow before he advanced. Luigi noted that while his form wasn't as refined as Leon's had been, Trevor seemed to be just as adept with the whip if not even more so. Meanwhile, Trevor's companions weren't exactly slouches, either. Sypha used her magic to conjure up giant spikes of ice that she launched at the monsters, not even needing a wand like the magic users that Luigi was familiar with, while Grant unleashed a flurry of knives and Alucard practically danced across the room with his sword. Luigi just ended up watching, unable to do anything else but hover above them.

    Despite how quickly they plowed through the horde, more and more of the oozing corpses seemed to rise up from the floor. It was clear that they weren't going to be able to thin down the enemy’s ranks, so Trevor and the others simply fought their way across instead. After a few minutes of fighting, they finally managed to reach the stairs leading up to the next hallway.

    “Not much of a challenge,” Grant said as they walked up the steps. “We sure this Dracula guy is actually here?”

    “He’s here,” Alucard said grimly. “I can feel his presence, like an overwhelming pressure bearing down on everything.”

    “I guess he wasn't expecting anyone to be crazy enough to come barging in while his forces are out there tearing up the countryside,” Trevor replied. “Only left the weaklings to defend the place.”

    “I wouldn't be so sure about that,” Sypha shook her head. “I have a feeling that the stronger monsters are going to be deeper in.”

    “Most likely,” Alucard agreed. “If I know my father, and unfortunately I do, then he's just toying with us. Probably doesn't even consider us a threat.”

    That certainly seemed foreboding. Luigi was starting to wonder just what it was that he’d agreed to help with.

    “So, what exactly is going on?” Luigi finally asked.

    “Oh, right, I guess we haven't explained,” Sypha looked up at the ghost of Luigi, a somber look on her face. “Dracula has amassed the largest army of monsters the world has ever seen and has sent them out to destroy everything. Villages have been burned to the ground and innocent people are being killed in droves. They say that he's declared war on humanity.”

    “That's awful.” It was an understatement to be sure but Luigi wasn't sure what else to say to that. “What would bring someone to do that?”

    “What's it matter?” Grant huffed. “What's important is that he is, and we need to stop ‘im.”

    “My mother was killed by humans,” Alucard explained. “Burned as a witch once people heard that she had married a vampire. He had been on the path to redemption. I didn't even know what a monster he had been before he had met her. But a part of him died with her. It broke him.”

    “I think I'm with Grant on this one,” Trevor grunted as they reached the top of the stairs and headed into the next chamber. “All that matters is that we put an end to this.”

    They were attacked by skeletons this time, of all shapes and sizes. Most of them didn't put up any more of a fight than the zombies but others seemed stronger, more resilient. It still wasn't much of a challenge but Luigi still felt that he needed to find a way to help.

    “Think, Luigi, think,” Luigi muttered to himself as he looked down at the battle below. “What can a ghost do?”

    The boos back home could physically interact with the world around them but that didn't seem to be the case here. He tried grabbing one of the skeletons but his hands simply passed right through. It was almost like he wasn't even a part of this world at all, which he supposed in a way he wasn't. Possession, maybe? He just passed through another skeleton when he tried. He couldn't even distract them as they simply ignored his presence altogether.

    The final skeleton fell with a strike of the Belmont family whip, and the team regrouped by the doors leading to the next room. So much for Luigi being able to help out. He lowered himself beside the others as they walked towards the doors. Maybe if they ran into any other ghosts, then he’d be able to help out?

    * * *​

    “Do you see? This pathetic excuse for a man will not be able to do anything in his current state. This game is already won. Continuing is merely a waste of time.”

    “We have all the time to waste. Please, humor me.”

    “Very well. I believe this chapter ended with the Belmont and his allies fighting Death. Perhaps he will be able to finish the job that he left half-done.”

    “Perhaps, or perhaps not. We shall see.”

    * * *​

    “Just how big is this stupid castle,” Grant complained as they cleared out another room and progressed to the next. This one seemed to be empty, which would give the mortals in their group a chance to rest and recover before they continued. It felt weird to Luigi that he couldn't be counted among them.

    “It is impossible to say,” Alucard replied, leaning against the wall. Luigi suspected that the half-vampire didn't need to catch his breath and was merely waiting for the others to do so, much like Luigi himself. “My father's castle is not so much a physical location as it is a creature of chaos. It is constantly changing and does not conform to the laws of reality as you would understand them. Even when Walter Bernhard was still its master, it was an unnatural place and that has only grown more true since my father took it over.”

    “What?” Grant just stared at him. “Bull.”

    “Believe what you will, it does not affect the truth.” Alucard turned to Luigi. “What of you, my friend? How are you faring in all of this?”

    “I wish that I could do more to help,” Luigi admitted. “It feels like I’m not even doing anything.”

    “Understandable.” Alucard nodded.

    The two undead, assuming that Alucard counted in that category, stared in silence as the living humans gathered around the center of the room, where Sypha had set off a magical fire for them to sit around. Luigi noticed that she leaned her head against Trevor's shoulder and briefly wondered if there was anything going on between them but it wasn't his place to pry.

    “Shouldn't you be with them?” Luigi asked after a while, turning back to Alucard.

    “Why? I am not one of them,” Alucard replied, continuing to stare in the direction of the others. It seemed to Luigi that his gaze mostly focused on Trevor, though. “I never was and never will be.”

    “What do you mean?”

    “As I explained before, I am a dhampir. I was born of the union between a mortal and the undead, something which should be impossible, and as a result, I am neither.” Alucard sighed and finally turned to face Luigi. “You were once a mortal man, yes? I cannot say the same. I thought that I could live as one, for a time, but I was wrong. I’m just a monster.”

    Luigi opened his mouth to speak but stopped. He took a moment to think about what he had to say, before finally saying it.

    “Even if you were a monster, that wouldn't mean that you're not a person. My brother died… well, I guess it wasn’t that recently but to me it still feels like it just happened. It hurts a lot, to think about how he's gone, but my friends have helped me to get through it. One of those friends is a… sort of purple dragon-y thing, I’m not sure how to describe him. Anyway, he was apparently a really nasty pirate before I met him. I've heard stories of some of the things he did before and… it’s not pretty. He even calls himself a monster but in the time that I’ve known him, he’s been anything but. Sure, he has a bit of a nasty sense of humor sometimes but he's been there for all of us when we need it and has even helped put an end to a war between two countries that have been fighting since before I first got there.”

    “Good for him but I don't see what that has to do for me,” Alucard replied stiffly.

    “The point that I was trying to make is that it's what you do that's important, not what you are. And even if you’ve done bad things in the past, as long as you regret those actions and work to change, there's always hope to be better.”

    “A noble sentiment. Thank you.” Alucard nodded slightly. “Although I am not so optimistic as to believe that everyone is capable of redemption. Sometimes a monster will always be a monster and needs to be put down. Do not assume that we will be able to simply talk things out with my father.”

    “I believe that everyone deserves a second chance,” Luigi sighed. “But I know that not everyone will take it when offered. It's not like I have much say in anything right now but if it comes to that, I’ll respect that choice. But it can't be easy, having to fight your dad.”

    “No, no it is not,” Alucard admitted, grimacing as he tightened his grip on the hilt of his sheathed sword. “A part of me does wish that I could convince him to abandon his foolish war and live as Mother would have wished him to but I know that won't happen.”

    “Well, at least you have friends by your side to help you,” Luigi pointed out.

    “Allies,” the pale man corrected him, a sense of pain buried deep beneath his eyes. “I don’t have friends, it… I will likely outlive not just these people but their grandchildren’s grandchildren. Such fleeting relations would be… painful… if I allowed myself to grow too attached.”

    “Oh,” Luigi glanced down at his feet. He’d never considered what it would be like to live that long. Perhaps that's why Rosalina always seemed so standoffish? “Well, maybe I could be your friend? I don't think I’m going to be going anywhere anytime soon.”

    “Hmm…” Alucard took a moment to consider the offer. “Perhaps, after this is all over, I might consider that offer.”

    They ended up waiting for around an hour, by Luigi's estimate, since no one knew for sure when or if they'd have another chance to rest. Luigi had wondered if they should have gotten a move on earlier but Trevor had pointed out that defeating Dracula wouldn't stop his armies that had already been set loose across Europe, which meant that taking a little extra time wouldn’t make that much of a difference, but that rushing things could lead to disaster. Getting the job done was more important than getting it done fast, after all.

    Once everyone was ready, they put out the fire and gathered around the door to the next room. The living humans in their group certainly seemed refreshed so clearly the rest must have done them some good.

    “Alright, everyone ready?” Trevor asked, though he already knew the answer. No one objected, so he pushed on the large double doors. They didn’t budge. Everyone worked together but they still couldn’t get the doors to open. “What’s going on here?”

    “Oh, you didn’t think I would allow you to pass, did you?” The voice was all too familiar to Luigi at this point but the tone was off. He’d never heard Death speak with such malice before. “I’m afraid that you won’t be getting in the way of my master’s plans anytime soon.”

    A blue flame burst into life in the air above the center of the previously empty room they had been attempting to leave, growing and shifting into a vaguely human form before dissipating to reveal the cloaked figure. His dark blue robes were tattered and seemed to be of a simpler make than the clothes that Luigi had previously seen the reaper wear but it was hard to mistake the floating, legless skeleton carrying an ornate scythe in his hands. There was definitely something very wrong about him, though. In his previous encounters with Death, Luigi had never felt this level of malevolence that seemed to radiate off him at the moment. Even when he had come to take Luigi’s life, he had seemed rather amiable.

    “What are you supposed to be, the Grim Reaper?” Trevor asked sarcastically, readying his whip.

    “That’s exactly who he is,” Alucard pointed out. “You could say that he’s like my father’s old drinking buddy.”

    “Dracula and Death sitting in a bar, now there’s an image,” Grant chuckled. “So, I guess we’re killing Death, then?”

    “I can’t imagine that it would be as simple as that.” Sypha shook her head and raised her hands, sparks emitting from her fingertips. “But we must do our best.”

    “Good luck out there,” Luigi said, and the fight broke loose.

    Trevor’s whip lashed through the air at sonic speeds, the resulting crack echoing like thunder. Death merely dove out of the way and took a swing with his scythe at Grant, who jumped back and tossed a knife that passed harmlessly between Death’s ribs. Sypha thrust her hand out and a blast of lightning fired from it. Death dodged out of the way, straight into the path of a second bolt fired from Sypha’s other hand. That gave Alucard the opening he needed to lunge forward with his sword, an upward slash cutting through the grim reaper’s robes. Trevor managed to wrap his whip around Death’s left arm, which seemed to let off smoke where it made contact. It seemed that they were already getting the upper hand in this fight.

    Then, with a wave of his scythe with his free hand, Death conjured a barrage of smaller sickles that arced through the air in a spiral pattern. The attackers were forced to disengage to avoid getting hit, allowing Death to retake control of the battle. Things were starting to look grim, pun unintended.

    Sypha tossed a few fireballs that each collided with one of the sickles, causing them to burst in small explosions of magical force. With that obstacle out of the way, the melee fighters pulled in close again. Death was ready for them this time, however, and managed to avoid getting caught in Trevor’s whip this time before striking at Alucard with his scythe. The dhampir parried the blow with his sword but that left him vulnerable as more sickles flew out from under Death’s robes. Alucard stumbled back awkwardly as he tried to avoid getting hit, while Trevor wasn’t so lucky and took a glancing blow to the arm. It was enough to draw blood and the flesh around the cut seemed to grow dark. The blades must have been infected with some sort of poison or curse.

    One of Grant’s throwing knives hit its mark, getting caught in Death’s right eye socket. It didn’t seem to do much other than draw his attention but that was enough to allow Trevor to regroup with Sypha. The witch ran her hands along his injured arm and a black smoke rose up from the infection as the cut seeled itself back up. It looked like it left a thin scar but Trevor seemed otherwise unharmed.

    It was hard for Luigi to watch this go on in front of him without being able to do anything to help. Surely, there had to be something that he could do.

    Grant made a run for the far end of the room as Death pursued him, scythe bared over his head and ready to swing down like an executioner’s ax. Luigi reacted without thinking, flying after them as Alucard also made to pursue. After a few more blows were exchanged, Grant found himself backed into a corner as Death came ever closer. Trevor lashed at the chthonic personification but Death barely reacted as the whip lashed his back. Luigi reached them just as Death’s scythe slashed downward towards the self-proclaimed thief and he reflexively held up his hands as if to block the blade. He closed his eyes, expecting the worst.

    When Luigi opened his eyes again a moment later, he found that he had managed to grab Death’s scythe by the handle and was holding it up, preventing the skeletal being from attacking. Alucard’s blade slashed along his ribs, one of Sypha’s ice spears struck him in the back of the head and Trevor’s whip wrapped around Death’s neck.

    Luigi stared up into Death’s eyeless sockets, and the blue flames burning with hatred behind them. His skull’s rictus-like grin seemed to hold nothing but contempt and murderous intent as he pushed harder against Luigi. However, as Luigi struggled against him, something seemed to give way and for a moment he thought he caught a glimpse of something else behind Death’s expression before suddenly he seemed to stop resisting for just long enough that Luigi was able to pull the scythe out from his grip entirely.

    Stunned, Death backed away from the group, rising higher into the air. Whatever had come over him seemed to have dissipated just as quickly and Luigi could almost feel the anger and hatred radiating off him.

    “You fools think that you can defeat me?” Death cackled wildly as the sounds of bones snapping and breaking filled the chamber. “I am Death, the end, destroyer of worlds and the one who comes for you all. This has only been the beginning but I shall now bring this to a close, as is the order of all things. Know fear and perish, mortals.”

    Death seemed to spasm wildly as the bones that made up his form continued to crack and distort. It was hard to watch, as Death’s ribcage elongated into an almost centipede-like body, his fingers fused together and grew into scythe-like blades that almost resembled the arms of a praying mantis, and spiky protrusions erupted from around the shoulder plates of his increasingly hulking form. The thing that now faced them no longer resembled a humanoid form to any capacity safe for the glowing skull, being more bug-like in its monstrous appearance than anything else. Luigi was sure that he would have wet himself at the mere sight of the creature if he still had a functioning bladder.

    “You will die.”


    * * *​

    “That didn’t happen.”

    “No, but this is my world which means my rules. Why not make the game a bit more interesting? You still seem confident in our guest’s chances, though.”

    “I am sure that he will find a way.”

    * * *​

    Death, or the hideous bug monster that had taken its place, sped through the air like an oncoming train, slashing its scythe-like hands as it chased down Luigi and his allies. Trying to dodge its attacks was growing harder by the second and he wasn’t sure how much longer they were going to be able to hold on.

    “Any- anyone have a- anyone have a plan?” Grant gasped, barely able to keep running.

    “I’m fresh out!” Trevor yelled back, pulling Sypha along with him. Of the three mortals of the group, he seemed to have the most stamina but even he was clearly growing tired.

    “This isn’t getting us anywhere,” Alucard slid to a stop and turned around. “I’m going to try and distract it.”

    He jumped and shot up into the air, higher than his legs should have carried him, before plunging his sword down into Death’s skull. The creature barely slowed down from the blow and seemed to ignore him entirely, continuing to chase after the others. Luigi drew a deep breath, out of reflex as he lacked any physical need to breathe, and gripped the scythe in his hands tightly. He was utterly terrified but he knew that he was going to have to fight as well if he wanted to make sure that the others made it out of this alive.

    Stealing his resolve, Luigi followed Alucard’s example and flew high into the air to avoid the slashing blades before diving down to strike. He was still rather clumsy in his new form, not being used to flying about under his own power, and overshot his mark. He ended up slashing the scythe into one of Death’s overgrown, spiky vertebrae. To his surprise, both the backbone and attached ribs were instantly destroyed by the attack, the remaining length of its tail-like structure shifting forward to reconnect with its front half. It seemed that they had a way to weaken it after all.

    “Hey, guys!” Luigi called out. “Its spine is its weakness! We can shrink its body by attacking it!”

    With that, the three humans split up so that Death couldn’t follow them properly and were able to run around to rejoin the fight properly. All five of them took turns striking the segments of the long creature, gradually chipping away at its body. Unfortunately, Death’s attacks only grew faster and more ferocious the more damage that it took. Eventually, however, they managed to shrink Death down to a much more manageable size.

    Of course, ‘more manageable size’ was still giant.

    The hulking figure of Death continued to lash out with its giant scythe hands, which were becoming harder and harder for them to dodge out of the way of. The monster managed to back Sypha up into a corner and was just about to finish her off when Trevor managed to wrap his whip around its neck and gave a mighty pull. He managed to disrupt Death’s attack enough that it went wide and clashed against a wall instead, but the Death beast wasn’t incapacitated for long. It turned around and began charging towards the Belmont. Luigi acted quickly, raising Death’s scythe and slashing it across the monster’s chest.

    Death let out an inhuman bellow, an echoey, hollow noise that sounded unnatural even by the standards of this place and writhed about wildly. It seemed that Luigi had finally struck the definitive blow. With one final howl, the creature of bone and malice reared back its head and promptly exploded into a pool of black ink.

    Not exactly the reaction that Luigi had expected, but at least it was finally gone.

    “Well, that could have gone better,” Grant huffed as he limped over to the others. “What even was that?”

    “I do not know.” Alucard shook his head, staring down at the murky puddle that had been their opponent just a moment ago. “I do not believe that I have ever seen anything like that happen before.”

    Trevor poked his boot into the edge of the inky mass. “Well, at least it’s dead now. What’s next?”

    Sypha uttered a quick prayer that Luigi didn’t quite catch before walking up to the others. “Whatever we face, but face together. Let no devil or enemy of God stand in the way of our mission.”

    “I feel sorry for anything that does,” Grant chuckled. “Now, who’s up for round two?”

    “I just hope that we won’t have to fight anything like that again soon.” Luigi floated down to them, still holding on to Death’s scythe. “I think that I’ve had all that I can handle for one day.”

    “Only one way to find out.” Trevor began walking back up to the doors leading to the next room.

    The others reluctantly followed him. There wasn’t much else they could do at the moment, after all, but move forward. Luigi was the last to pass through the opened doors.

    Once again, he found himself alone.

    To be continued…​
    Oh, no! Death killed Luigi’s accent! When I started Super Ridley Bros. so many years ago I had decided to try writing out Mario and Luigi’s Italian accents but quickly grew to regret that decision but I had to keep it up for the sake of consistency. I’d actually been planning for a while now to drop Luigi’s accent with this story and while I did briefly consider having the accent gone already when the story starts, I quickly decided to have Luigi’s accent go away when Death kills him. Not entirely sure why but it felt right. If you want, you can still imagine that he has the accent but I’m just not writing it anymore because I found it annoying and probably wasn’t that accurate to begin with.

    I was originally going to have Luigi die during the Death boss fight in this chapter but felt that it made more sense to end the first chapter with it. But then when I got to the boss fight here, I realized that I didn’t really have enough going on, so I ended up adding an unplanned second phase of the battle. Death’s second form here is based mostly off of Harmony of Dissonance’s second phase of his boss battle, with elements of Lords of Shadow 2’s depiction of Death thrown in to make him even more monstrous. I also hadn’t been planning on Luigi getting Death’s scythe but I realized that Luigi couldn’t really do anything at this point in the story but offer emotional support, which will be important for later chapters but would mean that he’d essentially be sitting out of all of the fight scenes, which didn’t feel quite right. Now the question is, how long will he be able to hold on to this new weapon?

    I would be lying if I said that I didn’t take some inspiration from the Netflix series when writing the Dracula’s Curse gang but I tried to mostly stick to the game’s lore with details such as Sypha being a witch hired by the church and Grant existing at all (apparently the showrunner didn’t realize that Grant being called a pirate in early English material was a localization error and thought that he wouldn’t fit in a landlocked country, thought personally I think the character dynamics work a bit better without him so I’m not really going to complain). I’ve also been doing some extensive note-taking on the Castlevania timeline as it would have happened in the Ridleyverse even though most of it's not going to come up. I spliced in elements from various non-canon games, for example, Gabriel Belmont existed in this timeline and was a knight of the Brotherhood of Light as per Lords of Shadow, but instead of going on a big quest (which would have been different since the Lords of Shadow themselves don’t exist in this timeline) and becoming Dracula, he ended up rescuing the King of France from monsters and was offered a Barony as thanks, retiring from the adventuring life with his wife Marie. That was rather short-lived, though, as Gabriel and Marie were Leon’s grandparents and I already covered what happened to him and his family back in chapter 1. Also, as mentioned in this chapter, Sonia existed in this timeline as Trevor’s mother and went on a quest to fight a vampire with Alucard, but it wasn’t Dracula (who was still happily living with a not-yet-executed Lisa at the time) but the infamous French knight-turned-serial killer Gilles de Rais. I’m not sure why I’ve put all this effort into it since chances are none of this is going to come up, but I did.

    Oh, and the reason that Leon referred to Luigi as Louis (the ‘s’ is silent) is because its the French form of the name Luigi. It’s not intended as a slight against him, like Bowser and his minions constantly getting his name wrong back in Super Ridley Bros, but just Leon using a variant of the name that’s more familiar to him.
     
  3. BZRich64

    BZRich64 The Mustachiod Machamp

    Late For A Date
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    Luigi was alone again. There was no sign that Trevor, Alucard or the others had even been there. If it weren't for the macabre scythe still clutched in his transparent hands, it would be as if his adventure so far hadn't even happened. Even the castle itself felt different. The open, grand hallways of before were replaced with arched ceilings and large, stained glass windows. The air was suffocating and there was an overwhelming sense of oppression bearing down on him.

    Luigi turned back to look for the others and the door opened behind him. A man walked through them, burly and getting up in years. His long, dirty blond hair was graying at the sides and his chiseled features were beginning to wrinkle, though his well-toned form and moderate tan showed that he was still very active. He wore worn, leathery brown armor that left his upper arms and legs exposed, and a familiar whip was hanging from his hip.

    The doors closed behind him and the new arrival pulled out the Vampire Killer as he noticed Luigi.

    “Hark, who goes there?” the man asked. “Wait, I recognize you… mustache, big nose… are you Sir Luigi?”

    “I-I, yes, I am,” Luigi stammered. “Who are you? What happened to Trevor and the others?”

    The man let out a gentle sigh, a concerned look on his face.

    “I am afraid that Trevor Belmont passed away when I was still just a boy and I have not seen Grandma Sypha in many years but last I heard that she was training a coven of young witches somewhere out in the countryside. Alucard sealed himself away shortly after Dracula's defeat and has not been seen since. I do not know of Grant Danasty’s fate.”

    “When you were a boy? Grandma?” Luigi began to panic. “H-how long has it been?”

    “Over a century,” the man confirmed. “My name is Christopher Belmont, great-grandson of Trevor and Sypha.”

    “Over a century?” Luigi curled up into the fetal position, hovering just a couple of inches above the floor. “But it was with them just a moment ago. What happened?”

    “I am afraid that I do not know.” Christopher knelt beside him and made to put his hand comfortingly on Luigi’s shoulder but stopped, apparently realizing that the distressed ghost didn't have a physical form. “I can't imagine what this must be like. I wish I could be here to help you through this but I am afraid that I have urgent business that I must attend to.”

    “W-what is it?” Luigi looked up, realizing that there was no point in sitting around and sulking. “Can I help?”

    Christopher looked at Luigi with a pained expression, glancing uneasily at the scythe still in his hands.

    “I do not think so.” He shook his head. “You may come if you wish but be advised that you will likely not be able to… lend a hand, so to speak.”

    Luigi nodded, noticing that Christopher seemed to almost be crying. “What's wrong?”

    “It is my eldest son, Soliel,” he said with a grimace. “He has recently come of age and we had prepared a ceremony for him to become the new wielder of the Vampire Killer whilst I step aside from the position to merely lend him my aid as he learns how to fight on his own, but… but…”

    There was no ‘almost’ anymore, Christopher was breaking down into tears.

    “It was that infernal Dracula!” He shouted, genuine anger in his voice. “It seems that no matter how many times we put him in his grave, he still finds ways to haunt our family!”

    “Dracula?” That was not a name that Luigi expected or wanted to hear. “But didn't Trevor and the others stop him?”

    “They did.” Christopher nodded grimly. “After you had disappeared, my ancestors and their allies fought their way up to his throne room and slayed the Son of the Dragon. They believed, as we all have since then, that it was the end of it. Other monsters and vampires still prowled the night, of course, but we did not expect another force such as him to terrorize the world once again. But then, when I was a young man, on the hundredth anniversary of his defeat, Dracula returned to this world. I do not know how or why he did but I was sent to finish what my ancestors started and slay Dracula once again. I did so, or at least I thought that I did but it seemed that the vampire had placed a curse upon my line. During the ceremony, before I could hand Soliel the whip, Dracula manifested himself through the curse and took my boy. Possessed Soleil and spirited him away.”

    “T-that’s terrible.” Luigi wasn’t sure what else to say. He could only imagine what it must feel like to lose a child like that, having not had the opportunity to become a father himself yet before getting whisked away to this place and having his life taken from him. He and Daisy hadn’t even discussed if they wanted to have kids together. Now it seemed likely that he’d never have the opportunity.

    “That’s why I’ve come back to this forsaken castle,” Christopher said as he stood back up, resolve returning to his voice. “I must break Dracula’s control on my son and bring him back. I may not have any experience with breaking curses or possession but I must do what I can to rescue Soleil.”

    “And I’ll do whatever I can to help.” Luigi did what he could to gather his own courage. “Even if all I can lend you is my presence, I will support you.”

    “Thank you, Sir Luigi.” Christopher nodded. “You truly live up to the reputation that you’ve built up among my family. Well, perhaps not live…”

    “I understood what you meant.” Luigi floated up, ready to go. “Let’s go rescue your son.”

    “At once.”

    Christopher marched to the next set of doors and shoved them open. Luigi followed close behind as they entered the darkened cathedral that awaited them on the other side.

    The floor was lined with rows of old church pews, all facing toward a podium set up at the far end of the room. A massive stained glass window was set into the wall behind it, depicting a white-haired man in a black and red suit that Luigi assumed must have been Dracula. More important than that, however, was the blond young man standing next to the podium, who couldn’t have been more than a teenager.

    “So, you have come,” the man spoke with two different voices at once. “I am surprised that you were able to make it here, Father. But it does not matter. There is nothing that you can do now to stop Dracula’s resurrection. You cannot defeat me but even if you did, it is far too late.”

    “Soleil!” Christopher called out, a tear falling down his cheek. “Soleil, snap out of it! He is controlling you!”

    “It does not matter, Father!” Soleil raised a whip above his head. Unlike the simple, dark leather Vampire Killer that Leon, Trevor and now Christopher wielded, this one was made up of a red arrowhead at the end of a spiked chain, attached to an ornate metal handle and with a pair of barbs sticking out above a dark red grip. “The Belmont legacy ends here!”

    The possessed boy lashed out with his whip, the barbed chain flying through the air towards Christopher, who ducked behind a pew. The weapon managed to break off a sizable chunk of the wooden bunch. Luigi flew up above them and watched with horror as the fight broke out.

    Soleil ran up to where he had last seen his father, but Christopher had rolled under the benches and was now near the front of the chapel, standing up and striking with the Vampire Killer. The boy let out a demonic cry as it slashed across his right shoulder and he took a swing at Christopher. The red spike at the end of the chain managed to graze his forearm but the experienced hunter ignored the pain. Or perhaps the adrenaline and destress drowned it out, Luigi couldn’t be certain. The two exchanged blows a few more times and a shower of wooden splinters rained down from the mess. It was hard to watch but Luigi forced himself to stay focused.

    “Soleil!” Luigi cried out, not sure what else to do. He’d never been in this sort of situation before. “I know you’re in there somewhere, right? Try to fight it!”

    “I am fighting!” Soleil turned his attention to Luigi and swung his whip. Luigi was surprised that the weapon actually hurt him as it lashed against his chest. Pain seeped in but he tried his best to follow Christopher’s example and ignore it. “Fighting you!”

    Out of options, Luigi entered the fray himself. He didn’t dare use Death’s Scythe against the boy, the goal was to save him, not kill him, but he could at least distract Soleil so that Christopher could get an opening. Soleil attacked Luigi again, who used the scythe to block it. The chain wrapped around his blade and Luigi pulled, causing the boy to stumble. That gave Christopher a chance to strike Soleil from behind with the Vampire Killer. Soleil let out another scream of anger before managing to wrest his whip free and turning around. Luigi took the opportunity to dive down and grab Soleil from behind. The possessed Belmont struggled to break free but Luigi did his best to hold firm.

    “Christopher, now!” Luigi shouted.

    The elder Belmont raised the Vampire Killer above his head, anger burning behind his eyes as he prepared to strike. Then he hesitated as he looked into his son’s eyes and realized just what he was doing. The anger was quickly replaced with growing horror and he took a step back. That gave Soleil the chance he needed to break free from Luigi’s hold and lash out with his chain whip, slashing a deep cut into Christopher’s face.

    “Even together, you cannot defeat me!” Soleil’s voice was still tinged with that unsettling double effect. It was as if you could hear both the boy and the vampire controlling him speak in unison. “Give up now and I may make your deaths painless.”

    “Soleil, please, stop this madness at once!” Christopher cried out, tears and blood alike running down his face at this point. “It’s me, you father! Please!”

    “You are pathetic.” Soleil took a step forward. Luigi charged, ready to do something, anything, to stop him, but he somehow saw it coming and managed to wrap his whip around Luigi, slamming him into Christopher and knocking both men down. “Look at you there, groveling and begging. What would your ancestors think if they saw you now?”

    “Soleil, my son…”

    The boy looked down at them with red eyes and a fanged smile. Luigi hadn’t even noticed until this point that he’d been turned into a vampire already. Or perhaps it was just a side effect of being possessed by one?

    “Your son is gone.” Soleil, or Dracula, or whoever said. “And now you will both meet your end at the hands of my Death Mercury!”

    * * *​

    “This fight is always hard to watch.”

    “I still consider it to be one of my finest moments.”

    “You are a cruel monster, Dracula.”

    “I know, and it looks like I’ve won our little game here once again.”

    “Not yet. He still has a chance to overcome this.”

    “I’d like to see him try.”

    * * *​

    Soleil slowly walked up to them, brandishing his whip. Luigi knew that he had to do something but had no idea what. Scrambling around, he felt his hand brush up against something and looked down to see the Vampire Killer on the floor, which had been knocked out of Christopher’s hands at some point. He absently picked up the whip and his panic slowly subsided, replaced with a sense of calm, clarity and reassurance. With newfound strength, he held the whip up to the crying warrior beside him.

    “Come on, Christopher, we can still do this!” he said. “I know that we can still save him.”

    “We have already tried everything.” Christopher accepted the whip from him, despite his outward protests. “You saw it too, did you not? He is already too far gone.”

    “That just means that we have to try harder!” Luigi held up Death’s Scythe and gripped it with both hands. “And even if we can’t bring him back, we can at least release him from Dracula’s curse.”

    “Of course.” Christopher finally stood up. “I am sorry, Soleil, but it seems that this is the only way.”

    “Oh, so you’ve finally decided to man up and kill your own son?” Soleil mocked. “Just try it, you old fool. I’m far stronger than you’ve even been- gah!

    Soleil let out a startled cry as the Vampire Killer tore clean through the fabric of his loose tunic and opened up a bloody gash across his chest.

    “You’re serious?” Soleil looked up at the two in panic. “I thought you were bluffing? Are you really prepared to kill Soleil?”

    “It is what he would have wanted,” Christopher said solemnly. “I wish it didn’t have to come to this but you have left us with no other choice, Dracula. It is my duty, as a Belmont and as a father, to strike you down here and now! Die, monster! Return from whence you came!”

    The first gash was already in the process of healing at a rate far behind what any human would be capable of when Christopher slashed open another with his whip. The possessed vampire let out an inhuman hiss and jumped back, spinning Death Mercury through the air to parry a third attack.

    “Fine, then I suppose that I’ll have to get serious!” A showy aura grew out from the vampire’s back and his movements seemed to grow both faster and stronger than before.

    It was all that Luigi could do just to keep up with the frantic monster. The spiked chain of his whip arced and slashed through the air like it had a mind of its own. Christopher was able to react in time and fight back. Luigi, however, found himself frequently getting hit by the dark, probably magical weapon. His current, ghostly form seemed to be far more durable than his old body of flesh and blood but even still, he wasn't sure how long he'd be able to hold out.

    Christopher managed to get in another good hit, slashing open a huge gash across vampire Soleil’s right bicep. That gave them a moment before Soleil would be able to attack again and Christopher pressed that advantage by running up to the boy and physically prying the dark whip from his hand, tossing the vile weapon aside and pulling his son into a tight hug with all of his strength.

    “Come on, Soleil! I know you are in there somewhere!” he cried desperately.

    “Let me go!” The vampire struggled against his father's grip, eventually resorting to biting into the man's shoulder.

    “Give me back my boy!” Christopher flinched but refused to let go.

    “Never!” Soleil hissed.

    Luigi looked back and forth between the two, not sure what to do. He knew that he needed to help, but how?

    The dark aura still protruded out from the vampire's back as he continued to draw upon his unnatural strength, flickering like shadowy flames in the dim light filtering through the window. It looked almost as if there were a face hidden within, glowering at Christopher with a look of utter contempt. The feeling it exuded reminded Luigi of how Death had felt during their battle, practically just a few minutes ago from his perspective despite over a century having passed.

    Wait a minute, that was a face behind Soleil. A vaguely familiar one at that. Luigi glanced back up at the stained glass mural set into the wall behind him. The depiction of Dracula it showed had the same, horrible red eyes. Suddenly Luigi realized what was going on and quickly figured out what it was that he needed to do.

    He tightened his grip on the scythe in his hands and readied his stance. Then he lunged forward and swung down, directly behind the struggling Soleil. The blade snagged onto something solid and ripped through it, a piercing howl screeching through the chapel. The boy slumped into his father's arms as a shadowy figure stumbled back, red eyes glaring at Luigi. The silent being backed away into a corner, leaving Luigi with the two Belmonts.

    “Soleil!” Christopher called out desperately as he gently shook his son back to consciousness.

    “Huh, Papa?” The boy’s eyelids slowly flickered open. “W-what happened? Where are we? I- Oh, no! What did I do?”

    “It's okay, my son.” Christopher hugged Soleil even closer, tears streaming down his face once again but this time from happiness. “Dracula was controlling you but we’ve freed you from his curse. You're free now.”

    Luigi let out a reflexive sigh of relief, glad that they'd finally been able to rescue the boy. It was satisfying to have finally been able to accomplish what he'd promised to help with for the first time since this crazy thing had started.

    “No, you don't understand!” Soleil gasped desperately. “I’ve already played my part in Dracula's resurrection! This whole fight was just his way of distracting you while his minions finished the ritual. It will already be too late to stop it at this point.”

    “No!” Christopher punched the floor in anger after finally releasing his hold on his son. “Curse that Dracula!”

    “What do we do now, Papa?” Soleil asked as the two both slowly stood up.

    “The only thing that we can.” Christopher placed his hand firmly on the boy's shoulder. “I have already defeated Dracula once before on my own. I am certain that he will be no match for the three of us working together.”

    “I would like to help but I don't think that I’ll be able to.” Luigi floated over to them. “If things go the way they have been, then I’m worried that as soon as I leave this room, I'm probably going to get sent further into the future again.”

    “Wait, are you Luigi? From the stories?” Soleil asked, just noticing their ghostly companion.

    “Yes, I ran into him just before I got here and he was instrumental in freeing you from Dracula’s grasp,” Christopher nodded, then turned to Luigi. “Thank you. I will never be able to repay what you’ve done for us.”

    “Oh, it was nothing.” Luigi scratched the back of his head nervously, feeling a bit uncomfortable at the praise. “I'm just glad that I could actually help for once. I'm sure that you can defeat Dracula together.”

    “Oh, I wouldn't count on that.”

    All three turned back to the corner of the room, where the shadow of Dracula looked over them.

    “What, did you forget about me already?” it asked, a mocking tone in its voice. “You may have gotten lucky when you faced me before, Christopher Belmont, but neither you nor your foolish son will do so again. And as for you, ghost. You do not belong here at all. Leave this place at once!”

    Luigi barely had time to react before the shadowy specter charged forward. A black, fiery mass rammed into him with intense force. If he were still a living being, it would have knocked the wind clear out of his lungs and probably broken a few ribs. Before he’d even had time to process what had happened, he found himself getting thrown through the stained glass window, which shattered from the force of Dracula's attack. Luigi fell, stopped only by the scythe still in his hand clattering against the stone rooftop, preventing him from passing through back into the castle itself.

    In a daze, Luigi saw a pair of black leather boots, just a few inches in front of his face. Hesitantly, Luigi looked up to see a grizzled-looking man dressed in dark furs and leathers glowering down at him. Piercing light eyes seemed to measure him up from under long, wild red hair.

    “You must be Luigi.”

    * * *​

    “I must admit, I was expecting that to go differently.”

    “Are you finally starting to see?”

    “Indeed, it seems I am. It appears that you were right to place so much faith in him. I am intrigued, now, to see how far he can make it.”

    “I believe that he may be the one who we have been waiting for all this time.”

    “Perhaps, but it is yet too early to know for sure. You have been confident of others in the past, yet none have ever made it to the end of our little game before.”

    “And yet I still cling to hope.”

    “Which means that you still feel despair.”

    To be continued…​
    This chapter ended up much shorter than I was expecting but I did manage to fit in everything that I wanted in here, so it really doesn’t matter if it has a smaller word count than the other chapters so far. I feel like Christopher is pretty underrated as far as Belmonts go, which is a shame because he’s actually pretty cool. He’s one of the only two Belmonts in the series to officially kill Dracula not just once but twice (the other being Simon, of course) and, like Simon, did so without any of the fancy magic or gimmicks that most of the other Castlevania protagonists had to use. Plus, there’s just something about a father trying to rescue his son that makes for a more compelling story, at least in my opinion, than what a lot of other Belmonts had to face. I’ve read that there’s a comic book adaptation featuring Christopher but I haven’t read it so I don’t know how good it is. I am glad to know that he managed to get a bit of love at one point, though, considering he seems to get the least representation of any playable Belmont from the main series. He doesn’t even get to be a part of Portrait of Ruin’s Greatest Five, with Juste somehow managing to take the slot instead. And I don’t mean that as a slight against Juste, but I wouldn’t put in the rankings of ‘five greatest wielders of the Vampire Killer’.

    For those curious about Soleil’s whip here, the name Death Mercury comes from leaked lore documents from around the release of Bloodlines, where it's listed as one of the three legendary whips passed down throughout the ages, alongside the Morris Clan’s Vampire Killer and the Belmont Clan’s Excalibur, though all that’s known about it is that it mysteriously vanished at some point. Naturally, this and pretty much everything from those old documents would all get tossed out the window by the time that IGA took over the franchise and all three whips were merged into the singular Vampire Killer instead. Meanwhile, I based the description of its design on the Dark Pain from Mirror of Fate, a replica Combat Cross that the Lords of Shadow timeline’s Alucard uses after becoming a vampire but discarded at some point before Lords of Shadow 2 in favor of the Crissaegrim for unknown reasons. Will any of this ever be relevant to anything? No, I just thought that it would be fun and help flesh things out here a little bit.

    And for those wondering about the chapter’s title, it’s a reference to a parable in the Bible where Jesus talks about a shepherd who loses one of his sheep, so he leaves the rest of his flock behind to search for it, finding it and bringing it home. I was originally going to reference the parable of the Prodigal Son but realized that didn’t tie into this chapter as well, thematically. I usually try to avoid direct religious references in my stories but felt that the occasional biblical allusion would be appropriate for a Castlevania story given how deeply Christian the Belmonts and most of their supporting characters are (except in the Netflix show but that’s a whole different beast than the games).
     
    #3 Mar 22, 2024
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2024
  4. BZRich64

    BZRich64 The Mustachiod Machamp

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    In a daze, Luigi saw a pair of black leather boots, just a few inches in front of his face. Hesitantly, he looked up to see a grizzled-looking man dressed in dark furs and leathers glowering down at him. Piercing light eyes seemed to measure him up from under long, wild red hair.

    “You must be Luigi.”

    Luigi slowly rose up from the castle ceiling, clutching Death’s Scythe in his hands nervously. This man looked like some sort of wild barbarian, with a sword sheathed at his waist and grizzled muscles. But then he finally spotted the familiar whip in the man’s hands.

    “Yes, I’m Luigi,” he replied. “Are you a Belmont?”

    “Yes, my name is Simon.” The man’s smile was surprisingly gentle despite his rugged looks. “I am the great-grandson of Soleil Belmont, who you helped rescue the last time you were seen. It is an honor to meet you, Sir.”

    “Um, it’s good to meet you, too.” Luigi wasn’t sure what else to say, so he looked around while he thought. To his surprise, the castle seemed to be in a state of complete disrepair. Large chunks of the stonework were missing and what was left was crumbling away and covered in ivy. “Dracula hasn’t come back again, has he? And how long was I gone this time?”

    “I am afraid that he did, exactly one hundred years since Christopher first fought him,” Simon explained. “It seems that his resurrections are likely to continue to happen every century but at least now we are prepared.”

    “So that means it’s been… ” Luigi tried to do the math in his head. “85 years?”

    “92,” Simon corrected him. “Christopher fought Dracula in 1591. Fifteen years later, you appeared to help him rescue Soleil in 1606. That was 85 years before Dracula was revived again and I had to slay him, and it’s been another seven years since then. We are now in the year of our lord 1698.”

    “Oh.” Luigi tried to make sense of that. “Wait, if it's been five years since you killed Dracula, then what are you doing here? This is still his castle, isn’t it?”

    “Correct, or at least what remains of it.” Simon nodded. “Castlevania seems to reappear in a new location every time that Dracula revives but for now this is just the ruins of its last iteration from when I defeated him seven years ago.”

    “That makes sense but it still doesn’t explain why you’re here,” Luigi pointed out.

    “That? Oh, that’s simple.” Simon smiled again, confidently. “I’m here to revive Dracula.”



    “What?” Luigi drifted away from the red-headed Belmont, gripping the scythe more tightly. Was his initial impression of this warrior correct? He didn’t exactly look the noble type but to think that a member of the Belmont line would fall so far as to serve Dracula… perhaps this was another case of possession? Regardless, it was clear that this was going to be a fight. One that he really wasn’t looking forward to.

    “Wait, no, that sounds bad without context. Please let me explain.” Simon raised his hands in an apparent sign that he meant to harm, his voice remaining as calm and polite as it had been this whole conversation so far. “You’d think that I would have learned to express myself better after all this time but I guess that just goes to show what a screwup I am compared to my ancestors. I hardly deserve to bear the family legacy. Anyway, take a look at this.”

    Simon turned around and partly unfashioned the leathers around his waist to reveal his back. What Luigi saw made him want to throw up, though he couldn’t in his present state. Simon’s flesh was blackened and withering away, looking almost like that of the zombies that he’d seen in the woods and with Trevor’s party.

    “W-what happened to you?” Luigi asked before he’d even realized it.

    “Dracula,” Simon said simply. “He placed a curse upon me that my body would whither away and decay as if it were already dead. After seven years, I visited the graves of my ancestors to pray for guidance on whether I should pass the Vampire Killer on to my son before my condition could deteriorate further. I was answered with the arrival of a mysterious young woman, a fortune teller, who explained the details of my curse and, more importantly, the only way for me to break it. If I am to be free of this deathly pox, I must resurrect Dracula myself so that I may slay him again. I have already gathered the fragments of his remains and am now on my way to the heart of this ruined castle to perform the ceremony.”

    That… was certainly a lot to take in. Luigi wasn’t even sure where to start but he eventually settled on the biggest questions that he had.

    “Wait, but how do you know that’s really the right thing to do?” he asked. “How do you know you can trust what the fortune teller told you? She could have been one of Dracula’s followers attempting to trick you into bringing him back.”

    Simon closed his eyes and nodded again as if expecting that reaction. “Yes, I understand your doubt. That’s been how most people have reacted when they heard what I was doing and I was skeptical myself at first. But I am confident that it will still work out even if this is some sort of trap. I have defeated Dracula before and I can do it again. And meeting you here has only strengthened my resolve, Luigi. You have a reputation for being something of a good luck charm within my family. Every time a member of the Belmont line has come to Castlevania to fight Dracula, you have been there for part of their journey, however small, and in the end they were able to overcome all odds and defeat the dark lord. I must admit, I doubted myself when you did not show up during my first quest here but now, I know that I will defeat Dracula again no matter what happens.”

    Luigi just stared at Simon, seeing the genuine hope in his eyes. “That’s a lot of pressure you’re putting on me. I haven’t even done anything, really.”

    “You’ve been there,” Simon objected. “Is that not enough?”

    “I, uh, guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree on that.” Luigi shook his head. “So, what are we doing now?”

    “I’m currently trying to get to Dracula’s throne room to perform the resurrection ceremony,” Simon explained. “Going by the records of your past appearances, it seems unlikely that you will be able to stay in this time long enough to accompany me all of the way there but I would still appreciate your companionship for as long as you can spare. If that is alright with you, Sir Luigi?”

    “Yes, I’ll go with you.” Luigi nodded. “I’m still not sure that this is the right thing to do but I’ll help however I can.”

    It wasn’t as if he had any other options at the moment, anyway. Being a ghost that was constantly being pulled through time didn’t exactly leave him with much to be able to do. He could only hope that he would eventually find a way to end the curse that had seemingly been placed on him, to put him in this situation in the first place, ever since he had been sucked into that strange book.

    “Thank you, Luigi.” Simon turned and began to walk along the rooftop, Luigi sticking close behind. “I still remember the way from my previous encounter here, so I’ve been retracing my steps. Right now, we’re making our way to that tower over there in the distance, where we will be re-entering the castle itself.”

    The two walked, or floated in Luigi’s case, for a few minutes in silence. He’d never really noticed just how big the castle was, though admittedly that was likely because this was his first time seeing it properly from the outside. Even Bowser’s Castle had never seemed this large to him before. But then again, Bowser’s Castle wasn’t magic as far as he knew.

    “What has it been like?” Simon asked, breaking the silence. “To work and fight alongside my ancestors? I have been fascinated by my family’s stories ever since I was a boy and I would love to hear your firsthand accounts, if you wouldn’t mind.”

    “Well, it’s been… sort of a whirlwind,” Luigi began. “I just keep getting thrust from one era to another, without any chance to stop or really think about what’s going on. But having the Belmonts there has helped, I think. I can’t remember, have I actually told my story to any of your ancestors?”

    “If you have, then I am afraid that knowledge has been lost with time,” Simon admitted. “All that we know is that you are a ghost who’s been appearing before our family whenever we venture into this castle, ever since the days of Leon, roughly six hundred years ago.”

    “I see.” Luigi considered that. “We’re in the 17th century now, right?”

    “1698, to be precise,” Simon reminded him. “It is almost the turn of a new century and I am excited to see what it brings with it.”

    “Well, if I remember correctly from my old history classes, it’s going to be a rather turbulent era,” Luigi explained. “And still a few hundred years before I’m going to be born. You see, I’m actually from the future.”

    “What?” Simon turned to his ghostly companion. “How is that possible?”

    “I don’t know.” Luigi shook his head. “I was just cleaning up my old house, getting ready for my wedding, when I suddenly found myself getting sucked into some old book I’ve never seen before and the next thing I know, I’m in the middle of the woods surrounded by zombies and nearly a thousand years in the past.”

    “That must have been quite terrifying,” Simon said. “What do you remember of that book? Perhaps we might be able to look into it, to find a way to return to your home or at least understand what brought you here?”

    “Um, well…” Luigi tried to think back on it but his memories were a bit of a blur. “All that I remember was that it had a red cover, I want to say leather. And it had the title on the front… Grimoire of Souls? I think that was it.”

    “The Grimoire of Souls,” Simon repeated. “I shall do what I can to learn more about this tome after I return home. With luck, one of my descendants will be able to pass what we find back onto you the next time Dracula returns.”

    “Thanks, I guess.” Luigi wasn’t sure what else to say to that. “Anyway, I was definitely panicked when I first arrived in that forest and I thought I was going to get eaten by zombies. But then Leon showed up and rescued me, and I agreed to help him rescue his fiancé who had been taken away by some sort of vampire lord. We fought a werewolf together but then when we finally got to the castle, suddenly Leon disappeared and I was attacked by Death. It was really weird, too, because that was actually the second time that I’d met him, or it, or whatever, and the first time he seemed more friendly. Actually, now that I think about it, he was still rather polite and apologetic when he… turned me into this. But then when I fought him with Trevor, Alucard and the others after that, he was incredibly hostile and… evil, I guess would be the best word to describe it.”

    “That is strange,” Simon remarked. “I fought Death the last time I was here and it was mostly just quiet. Like some sort of silent sentry guarding Dracula’s innermost sanctum.”

    “Well, hopefully, I’ll get answers eventually but I’m not holding my breath,” Luigi chuckled. “And not just because I don’t have any breath left to hold. Wait, what were we talking about? Oh, right, you wanted to hear about the other Belmonts that I’ve seen over the… well, it feels like it's just been one long night to me but I guess it's actually been over half a millennium at this point. That just seems weird.”

    “I imagine that it must,” Simon nodded along.

    “Well, as I said, I first met Leon. He seemed like a very noble and heroic figure but I could tell that he was hurting. He seemed conflicted over what he’d seen and done while fighting in the crusade, which I guess must have been the first one, and was still carrying that when we met. No offense to you or the rest of your family but I think he’s been my favorite Belmont that I’ve met so far. I’ve been… very out of my element since getting sent back in time by that book and he was able to help me through that. I’m still sad that I wasn’t able to help him save… Sara, I think her name was.”

    “That is correct,” Simon said.

    “Then, after I died and about five hundred years or so suddenly went by…” Luigi suddenly stopped as he looked back on that event. “You know, I thought that those five hundred years went by after I died and before I became a ghost, but… looking back on it now… I think I got thrust forward in time before that, when I entered the castle.”

    “What do you mean?” Simon asked, stopping in his tracks as well to face his ghostly companion.

    “Well, when I walked through the front gate, Leon disappeared and… I’m not sure how to explain it but it was like I was suddenly in a different castle than before. The same feeling I got when I went from Trevor’s time to Christopher’s and from Christopher’s to here. But when I died, I barely felt any difference other than suddenly no longer having a body, and then Trevor’s party walked in without anything else happening.”

    “That is strange.”

    “It's like I just keep getting more questions and no answers.” Luigi shook his head. “Anyway, that’s when Trevor, Alucard, Sypha and Grant showed up. I spent most of that time with Alucard so I didn’t really get to know the others very well but Trevor seemed kind of gruff and bitter.”

    “That would be understandable,” Simon replied. “The rest of the Belmont line had been wiped out when he was a child, which couldn’t have made things easy on him.”

    “Wait, what?” Luigi absently rose a few inches, as if jumping back in surprise. “What happened? Did a monster or vampire or something get to them?”

    “If only things could have been that simple.” Simon shook his head wearily. “No, it was the people of that era. They believed that the threat of monsters was a thing of the past, or even just a hoax, and feared the Belmonts for their incredible strength. My ancestors were banished into the countryside and slowly picked off over time until only Trevor remained. It wasn’t until Dracula’s sudden return that the church saw fit to end Trevor’s banishment.”

    “That’s awful!” Luigi stared out into the horizon, trying to process what he had just learned. “But, at least things sort of worked out, I guess.”

    “Yes but even so, my family have barely been able to scrape by since then,” Simon sighed. “It seems unlikely that we’ll ever return to the height of our glory days. But still, we try.”

    “Well, after Trevor, I met Christopher and helped free his son Soleil from Dracula’s possession,” Luigi continued. “Christopher seemed like a rather serious but passionate man and I could tell that he was definitely a very caring father as well.”

    “That’s what I’ve been told,” Simon agreed. “And it seems that our time here has most likely come to an end. We’ve reached the door.”

    Luigi looked up and, indeed, Simon was now standing next to an old wooden door on the side of the tower they’d been walking to, which would lead back into the castle.

    “This feels kind of odd,” Luigi said. “Normally there’s a big fight right before it ends.”

    “Well, I did fight a pair of living mummies in this next room the last time I was here. Maybe they’ll be back, just for you?” Simon said jovially.

    “Maybe they will,” Luigi smiled.

    * * *

    “Now there’s an idea.”

    “You could just let him have a moment of peace before the next chapter, you know.”

    “Yes, I could do that. But I’m not going to. You should know me by now.”

    * * *

    Luigi’s smile soon faded as they entered the room and, while Luigi unexpectedly remained by Simon’s side for the time being, it seemed clear that they were, in fact, going to have to fight some mummies. The stone bricks that made up the walls, ceiling and floors were a different color than before, more of a sandy brown that Luigi would expect to find in an ancient pyramid rather than the cool gray of the rest of the castle. More importantly, however, were the streams of sand trickling down from above, covering the floor. As soon as Simon took a cautious step onto the sand, a pair of mummies erupted from it, each standing at least eight feet tall and slowly shuffling their way towards Luigi and Simon.

    “It seems that I may have jinxed us,” Simon said as he readied the Vampire Killer. “Apologies.”

    “No, no, it’s fine.” Luigi readied his scythe. “I should have expected this. I’ll take the one on the left.”

    Luigi and Simon both charged towards their targets. Simon, having longer reach, struck first. The Vampire Killer snapped forward with a loud crack, lashing against the first mummy’s bandaged flesh. Luigi then swung at his with the scythe, slashing across its chest. The undead monsters barely reacted and pressed on.

    The second mummy lunged forward, trying to grab Luigi in its mighty arms. He flew up, out of the mummy’s reach, and arced his scythe down, driving the blade into its back. The mummy just turned around and took a swing at him. The creature was so slow, though, that Luigi was easily able to back out of the way and hit the mummy again.

    Meanwhile, Simon was having just as easy a time with his mummy, repeatedly lashing out with his whip while remaining well out of its reach. After another successful strike of the mummy’s chest, however, the monster managed to grab hold of the whip. The ragged cloth strips began to smoke with prolonged contact with the holy weapon but the mummy didn’t release its grip. Instead, it pointed its free arm toward Simon. Several bandages stretched out and wrapped around Simon’s arms and legs, constricting him.

    Simon let out a loud grunt, catching Luigi’s attention and distracting him just long enough to take a mummified punch to the face. He was a bit surprised that the strike actually managed to hit him, though he didn’t dwell on it too much. Instead, he rushed over to Simon. It took a few swipes to cut all of the bandages holding the Belmont but once he was free, Simon was able to yank the Vampire Killer out of the mummy’s grip.

    “I think that I have an idea,” Simon said as he stood back to back with Luigi as the two mummies closed in on them. “Let’s see if we can get them next to each other.”

    “Alright,” Luigi nodded and tightened his grip on the scythe’s handle, ready to move.

    Simon ducked as one of the mummies launched more bandages at him, managing to avoid getting grabbed this time. Luigi, meanwhile, rushed up to the other mummy only to back away again right as it swung out with one of its arms. He led the undead giant forward, dodging all of its attacks while coaxing it closer and closer to its counterpart.

    It didn’t take long before they’d managed to get the two mummies standing practically right next to each other while Simon and Luigi regrouped. Now that they were in position, Simon took a side swing with the Vampire Killer, the leather cord wrapping around the mummies, holding them together so that neither could move.

    “Now, finish them off!” Simon yelled and Luiigi did as instructed.

    With a single swipe of Death’s Scythe, both mummies suddenly found themselves a head shorter than before. Now decapitated, the mummies exploded into a cloud of dust and sand. Simon took a moment to wipe the sweat from his brow before pulling in the Vampire Killer.

    “That was a battle well fought,” he said.

    “Yeah, and it was certainly easier than most of the fights that I’ve been in so far,” Luigi replied, then froze as the room started to rumble. “I shouldn’t have said that.”

    All of the sand that filled the chamber began to swirl and blow around as if caught in a windstorm, before gathering together into a vaguely humanoid from before them, a giant golden version of an ancient pharaoh's death mask sitting atop it like a golden head. Even Simon, who wasn’t exactly short by any means, barely stood up to the giant’s knees.

    “I really should not have said that,” Luigi repeated.

    “I have not fought a monster this large before,” Simon said, readying the Vampire Killer. “But I do not doubt that we will be able to defeat this thing together, as long as we try our best.

    “I wish that I could share your confidence.”

    The sand giant lurched forward and pounded its fist into the ground where Luigi and Simon had been standing but both men were able to dodge to the side in time to avoid it. However, the giant’s hand exploded once it made contact with the stone floor, knocking Simon to the side and briefly stunning Luigi. The hand reformed itself as the giant stood upright again and prepared for another strike.

    Simon rolled back to his feet and finally drew his sword with his off hand as he charged toward the monster. The giant took a lumbering step forward before trying to stomp down on him. Simon abruptly came to a stop and jumped up. The giant’s foot burst as its hand had earlier, and the shock of the explosion carried Simon further up than if he had jumped on his own so that he was able to sink his blade into the giant’s waist. As the giant reformed its foot, Simon began to climb up to the giant’s shoulder.

    The giant reached a hand up to knock Simon off but Luigi, seeing what Simon was doing, rushed forward and slashed the giant’s wrist open. A fountain of sand billowed out and the hand collapsed before it could strike Simon, giving him the time he needed. Once in position, the head-haired warrior began lashing out at the sand giant’s golden mask. Each strike of the Vampire Killer formed a crack along the mask’s surface, forming a chaotic spiderweb-like pattern across it.

    Soon the giant had enough and its entire sandy body erupted, slamming Simon and Luigi into the far walls before reforming itself once again. As if in response to Simon’s earlier strategy, the giant’s body was no longer as smooth as before, with spikes of various lengths and thicknesses bursting out of it at random to discourage any more climbing. That didn’t stop Simon, however, who simply came up with a different trick instead.

    “Luigi! Catch!” Simon shouted as both he and Luigi charged towards the giant.

    He thrust the Vampire Killer out to its full length and Luigi was able to grab onto its end with one hand. Then, the two raced toward the giant’s feet. The whip served as a trip wire, knocking the giant over so that it came crashing down to the floor. Its whole body seemed to dissolve as the mask was flung into a wall and shattered into innumerable shards of glittery gold and blue, then went still.

    “Well, that was certainly something,” Simon said as he waded through the sand. “How are you?”

    “I’m fine,” Luigi replied, floating over to him. “Are you sure that we’re done this time?”

    “It would seem so.” Simon nodded as he patted himself down, trying to get some of the sand out of his clothes. “Unless something else wants to challenge us?”

    Simon held out his arms as if waiting for someone or something to accept his offer. Nothing did, so he lowered them again.

    “There you have it.” He nodded at last. “Now we just have to find that hole that leads to the next area. It should be around here somewhere.”

    “Right, I guess it is time to move on,” Luigi realized. “That means that it’s probably time for us to part ways, isn’t it? It was good to meet you.”

    “Yes, it has been an honor.” Simon bowed. “I wish that we could have spent more time together but I guess we just have to make do with what we can. Say hello to my descendants for me and I’ll be sure to have them pass along whatever information we’re able to uncover. Oh, it looks like the sand is flowing this way. That must be where the hole is. Fare thee well!”

    Simon waded his way over to the pit that the sand was draining into and gave one final bow before leaping down to the next floor. Luigi sighed and took a moment to prepare himself. There was no telling what would be waiting for him once he went down that pit but it was likely that he’d end up at least a hundred years closer to his own time and have to fight some other monster alongside another Belmont. He was getting tired of this but it wasn’t as if he had a choice. He could only wonder what would happen when he finally reached his own time. Would this nightmare finally come to an end or would he keep going even further into the future? He wasn’t even sure if he wanted to know. But all he could do was move forward and so he made his descent.

    He was not prepared for what he would face next.

    And so another chapter comes to a close, featuring none other than the original Simon Belmont. I based my depiction of him on his design in Castelvania Chronicles’ “Arrange Mode” because that’s my favorite design for him, it helps differentiate him from Christopher and because I feel that it contrasts nicely with him being the most polite and modest of the Belmonts (at least in his more recent appearances, earlier stuff didn’t give him much in the way of personality), though nowadays he’s usually depicted closer to his original 80’s Conan design. Other than that, this chapter was rather light. As cool as Simon is (seriously, he resurrected Dracula himself just to kill him again) there wasn’t much for me to do with him. So I guess this was just a chance for Luigi to get a breather after all the action and trauma up to this point, and all the trauma and action that he’ll be going through after this.

    For those curious, the sand giant was based on the Elgiza enemy from Portrait of Ruin and was mostly just here because I thought that the Mummy fight was kind of boring. I also considered using Astarte from the same game but ultimately didn’t go in that direction. If I had, then she would have tried charming Simon and Luigi but both would have managed to resist it. Luigi, by thinking about Daisy, and Simon would have a joking line to the effect of “Selena would kill me”, referencing the name of his wife in both Haunted Castle and the Lords of Shadow timeline. My first thought was to simply add more mummies but then I realized that might be a bit too repetitive given what next chapter’s boss fight is going to be. Poor, poor Luigi.
     

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