Rai had seen so many things, in the long years of his life. From the sill of his window, he had seen stars shimmering across a dark sky, painting a thousand constellations into life. He had seen the ice of winter and the life of spring, the scales of fish and the feathers of birds. Wind had fluttered curtains against his skin, and sunlight had brushed his face as nothing else dared to.
He had seen the world, and it was beautiful.
Rai had seen people too, and felt the warmth of a hundred souls. In the laughter of the old Lord, he saw a man who worried time moved to fast for old blood. In the unending tide of Frankenstein’s loyalty, he saw the hands that would catch him should he fall. In the corners of Muzaka’s grin, he saw the friend that understood him as no one else did.
Power made for lonely men, and Rai’s strength had always been absolute. Muzaka walked a path beside his, and it was just as empty.
It hadn’t always been. There had been the laughter of a child there, once, and it had made the air bright.
But their paths were lonely, and death came quickly to make them lonelier.
Rai lived life through a window, in the quietest corner of a silent land. He watched the wind catch his curtains, and was alone. He lived life in silence, but for the chirping of birds and the gentle wind.
He had seen the world, standing in the shadows of its night.
But it was only here, sitting around a table covered in trash and games, with the laughter of children echoing across his tea, that Rai could see the dawn.
He could see the dawn, and it was so beautiful.
The word was quiet, murmured into the space behind Rai’s ear like the wind that had once brushed his hair. It was a word from the time before the dawn, when the world was lonelier. It was from the time when Rai had stood behind a window instead of moved through it, a time when centuries passed in silence and sadness clogged his blood.
It was a word from the past, but it it belonged to them, to the contract between them. It was their word, and that made all the difference. They could bring it here, and speak it over the steam of tea and the scent of ramen.
Frankenstein stood beside him, and Rai thought the word could be as warm as the dawn.
“You look happy, Master.”
The tone was gentle, as Frankenstein was gentle beside him, as this space was gentle. They had walked through so much together, and here and now it felt like every blood price had been worth it.
The loneliness had been worth it, for this moment.
“They are smiling, Frankenstein,” he said, quiet as the wind itself. He didn’t need to say anything more, didn’t need to speak of the dawn that lingered in bright eyes.
Frankenstein knew everything he would say, in this space. Frankenstein had created a house for him to return to, a school for him to attend.
The children had made it a home.
Rai sat still for a moment, delicate steam swirling up from his tea until there was heat no longer. Frankenstein stood beside him, the guard at his door and companion of his heart.
He felt warm.
But the children did not let him linger there, in the silence of millennia of loneliness. They never let him linger, not when he sat beside his window, and not when thoughts clung to his skin like spiderwebs.
The dawn burned too brightly for that.
“Rai, come play!”
“We’ll go easy on you this time,” Shinwoo added, laughter bright and playful. The boy’s hair glinted in the lights like the fire of sunrise.
It was clear and uncomplicated, as each day was. As Shinwoo himself was, with a quick smile and quicker fists.
Rai did not smile, but he felt his eyes go soft.
A home was a kind place, and he had never thought to have one. He had never thought to have a family either, but the world had changed.
He had changed, and it was no weakness but strength.
“Stop that Shinwoo, Rai’s only played this one a few times.”
“Don’t worry, Rai, I’ll beat Shinwoo so he can’t be mean!”
Each word echoed through the room, light with a joy only happiness could bring. They clattered through snack bags, and a thousand crumbs, crinkled across paper and scattered board games. They sprayed out crumbs with Shinwoo’s every motion too, across the clean lines of the floor.
It was an attack of disorder, directed with perfect precision. Frankenstein wouldn’t be pleased, Rai thought. The man shifted beside him, every piece of dust a blow to centuries of composure. There was a furious energy at the corners of elegant lips, and hands that had run a thousand experiments twitched and bent.
Rai stared at the crumbs, and did not move. They would be hard to dig out of the couch, but he was confident Frankenstein could handle it.
His companion had always been the cleverest of humans, and a thousand years had not changed that.
It helped that others were so diligent, even in this chore. Regis treated cleaning as the duty it was, stepping forward to sweep crumbs from the table. This place would be spotless in a few precious moments, made as clean and lovely as Frankenstein could wish for.
It would be beautiful, but beauty did not make it a home. The people inside did, as the smiles and laughter of children did. For all the twitching of Frankenstein’s fingers, Rai knew the man understood that.
Family was worth a few crumbs.
But sometimes, Rai wondered if he should help the others clean. This was his life too, and the children had come for him. The world had changed while he slept, and he did not walk the lonely path of the Noblesse any longer.
Perhaps, he thought, setting his tea on the table with a gentle clink. Perhaps he should help, in this new world and this warm home.
A sudden chill spread through the room, like the wind that had kissed his ear moments ago. It was colder than the place above the clouds, and it held the fury of a storm. Were Rai the sighing type, he would have allowed the smallest sound to escape here.
Frankenstein was quite dramatic.
Regis froze, still as a prey before a predator. The children shivered too, motions loud and carefree.
They did not know the cold before death, and so their smiles remained.
“Did you feel a chill?”
“Yeah it suddenly went so cold!”
“Chairman, is the window open? You all could catch a chill.”
Quick fingers moved before him, as Frankenstein took a step forward. The man wore a smile, but Rai could feel annoyance boiling behind that expression like fire on his skin.
Frankenstein was always so protective of him. For so long, he had been the only one. Who stepped forward to defend the strong? Who risked life and honor for a man who could destroy the world?
No one had ever stood protected him, before Frankenstein. No one had thought they needed to.
Now six lives cared about his life more than his duty. Now there was a family here, and they stood together.
But Frankenstein still wouldn’t let him clean.
“Regis can handle it, there is no need to worry. Can’t you, Regis?”
The killing intent grew with each word, shaking the surface of Rai’s tea like the wind had once shifted his hair.
For all its force, it felt playful. Strange, that energy could feel playful. Stranger still that it could be a part of his life, after so long of silence and loneliness.
Strange that he could walk in the world, and see the dawn at all.
He picked up his cup again, fine china shifting beneath his fingers like carved bone. The energy faded away, and the chill faded with it.
Regis had never cleaned faster.
The children gathered their things and left, but the room was still warm from their smiles and laughter. Rai could feel it sink through his skin like sunlight. He could feel it linger, and with it the promise of another day.
See you tomorrow, they said, as they slipped on their shoes and left.
See you tomorrow, they said, like Rai hadn’t passed centuries without seeing anyone.
The dawn was so bright.
“Frankenstein,” he said, the word slipping from his lips as easy as breathing. It was always so easy, to call to the man who had first shaken his loneliness.
Master seemed to ghost out, loud in the echoing bond between them.
Frankenstein was always respectful, even when it was only the two of them. Rai wondered if the man would ever treat him as the children did, with casual ease and smiles.
Did Frankenstein wish to be equals? They were, whether the man knew it or not. They had walked the same path for centuries, but Frankenstein had grown with each day.
They were so much more than equals, in this home, with a family around them.
Rai could see the dawn, as it caught in Frankenstein’s hair and spun it gold. He could see past his window, into the world where he walked quiet steps. Laughter echoed around him, and crumbs sprayed across the spotless floor to stain it filthy.
Rai could see the dawn, and it was so beautiful.
“My tea is cold, Frankenstein.”