They remained in the Nathaniel Residence the following day, overseeing the unravelling of the events. It appeared that a small fraction from the underground had started a riot. It all ended when Gestur arrived and the guilty were found hiding in their nests underground. Gabriel had a hard time feeling sorry for them as they were beheaded, the silver blade of the ceremonial axe parting their necks, like picking a flower bud off its stem, the blood spilling on the courtroom floor. Content and peace settled among the House-members.
Gabriel watched quietly. He knew this was the kind of sentence he would have to deal out himself in the future. Fear was a powerful tool, and the promise of death at the end of a crime was the best way to control the masses, at least when dealing with vampires and werewolves and the other creatures of the supernatural society.
They left the following evening. Gabriel was happy to get away from the Nathaniel Residence. The young Jane had been set to entertain him with boring conversations about life in the south and silly small talk. Gabriel had been on the verge of vomiting. It was, no doubt, her mother who had taught her all the tricks of conversing. When did they learn that men should teach girls what men like, and not women teaching girls what they thought men liked?! He complained to Aenriques who looked confused at first before laughing despondently, replying that sometimes women dared to do what men seldom articulated they wanted them to do.
He had actually come to like Aenriques. His attitude as a newly educated Agent was a welcome change instead of Shade and Nathaniel’s blank faces and Zacharias’ humour-dry personality. Gabriel could not even remember when he had seen Zacharias smile genuinely; he figured it was in the company of Rachel. But Aenriques was a bright, young man of the Corona-Darklighter branch. Gabriel hadn’t had much to do with them. They had their conclave in Dubai, but last time Gabriel had been there it had been a private cruise for him and his father; a few days with plenty of alcohol and a final chorus of dumping the bodies of three young women in the waters surrounding the Palm Jebel Ali islands.
He and Aenriques shared a bottle of chardonnay as they left New Orleans and travelled to Osaka, Japan, where the Hayashi branch held a gathering and Matthew had been invited. They were received in the airport and escorted to the prominent home of Tanaka and Eve Hayashi, Eve being the sister of Luke Csoatěk Darklighter, the former head of the eastern-European branch, and thus bringing the name Darklighter to Japan. Eve had been allowed to form a branch under her husband’s name, but he was to become the head of the branch as soon as he had learned the customs and traditions. Tanaka came from an influential family himself and it did not take long before he had acquired the perfect mind-set for a Darklighter. Luke Csoatěk Darklighter, born Pelrosio like his sisters Eve and Anastacia, was the late husband of Isobel, and had mysteriously vanished into thin air shortly after Isobel’s discovery of his gambling and alcohol addiction. He was the father of Rachel; Patrick, Marek and Zacharias had each an unknown, or at least unidentified, father, who were probably not around any longer to be initiated into the family, if their status even allowed them.
Becoming a part of the Darklighter-family was a privilege only a selected few could be proud of. The family was, after all, a constellation of many interrelated marriages. To keep the blood pure. To keep the strength intact and the bonds tied. This of course stirred up a lot of different rumours of incestuous relationships in public, but Matthew never confirmed or denied any of them. Whether to keep the family interesting to the public or simply because he didn’t care, Gabriel had never really understood. He knew that the rumours definitely kept the family an interesting subject to most people, especially seeing that his father was a high-profile lobbyist with money in most of the pockets of the United Kingdom’s politicians and courtrooms.
This was basically also what had made Gabriel a famous face in public, as well as his handsome features, although the modelling contracts would never have been signed if he weren’t also the heir of the Darklighter Empire. Matthew had never entirely appreciated the events of the past, when Gabriel had been young and more reckless than he was now, when he had been the indisputable centre of attention in the expensive clubs of London, doing drugs, getting into fights or hanging with the wrong crowd. But he had changed. He had to, and now he had made a promise, which he would keep, and thus also lessen the amount of scandals following his wake.
His behaviour was also something, which had put him in bad standing among some of the other family members, especially the Hayashi- and Corona-Darklighters. These branches were of the conservative kind and strived with all their might to be just as strict, if not more, than the Core. They dared not rival Matthew’s position as the head of the family, but they sure did a good job at questioning Gabriel’s abilities as a leader figure. Gaia Phoenix, the heir of the Hayashi branch, hated him with all her heart, which was another reason his father brought him along to Osaka this time, to show that Gabriel was preparing to take over and she would have to answer to him.
It wouldn’t be long now. In fifty to one-hundred years, Gabriel would be the one sitting behind the mahogany desk. That was part of his father’s promise to him when he had made his own.
The gathering was nothing special, merely a ceremony where a man had to be approved to marry Tanaka’s niece, Kumi. Normally a formal ceremony was not necessary, but Tanaka had, courteously enough, asked Matthew to participate, to show his willingness to invite the Core into the matters of the Hayashi branch, and also in hopes that it sent a message to Matthew about wedding Gaia and Gabriel, although he knew Rachel and Deirdre were stronger candidates, and Gaia would hate him if any such reunion ever was formed.
After the ceremony, they were invited for dinner in the residence. Matthew and Tanaka had been discussing the latest events on the stock exchange, and Gaia had strained herself to entertain Gabriel with stories of the Hayashi’s night-life in Osaka, when Nathaniel interrupted with a hand on Matthew’s shoulder.
“There’s a call for you, my lord. It’s Vladimir. He says it’s urgent,” he whispered. Matthew excused himself and left for the chambers where he picked up the phone. His gaze turned to the window displaying a magnificent view of the garden, darkened in the night, the moonlight showering the blossoming Sakura trees and playing in the surface of the still water fountain. The moon was silent, the air quiet and the stillness revealed uneasiness in the fabric of the universe.
“The girls have been reported missing and the police are asking questions. You have to come home. It’s serious and I don’t think Thomas can handle it this time.”
“There’s no possibility of convincing them otherwise?” Matthew asked and turned as he heard the door behind him slide open and Gabriel entered.
“No. You’re needed for questioning.”
“Good, I’ll leave in the morning,” Matthew replied and the line died. Frustrated, he put down the phone and slid a hand through his hair. Gabriel had remained vigilant by the door. He approached now and put a calming hand to his father’s shoulder.
“What is it?” he asked kindly worried. Matthew looked up. There would definitely be questions now, and none of them would be easy. He reached out and pulled Gabriel into a careful embrace and said nothing for a while. The display of emotions was enough for Gabriel to know what was going on.
“I knew it would repay you some day, father,” he said before dislodging himself and taking a step back to look at Matthew, who smiled grimly.
“I didn’t take my precautions,” he said and looked away into the garden. “I should have known it was too risky.” Gabriel put a hand under his father’s chin. Their eyes met, the light splintering in the green and blue surfaces. He placed a calming kiss on his father’s soft lips and held the touch for a while to let his father register the affectionate gesture. A hand slid behind his neck and he smiled encouragingly as he withdrew.
“Don’t worry, father. Everything is going to be just fine.”