The council stares at Mika in shock, unable to believe what they just heard. “So then…that means you are also a….” Liam doesn’t complete his sentence, but Mikael understood what he was asking.
“Yes that’s correct. Like Noah, I am a Junsui demon. However, I am a Karyuhdo and only live off of animal meat and blood. So please don’t look so nervous, I pose no threat.” They all seem to relax a little. “Now not that I wish to rush you, but time is limited, so we should really get them to the infirmary as soon as possible. I will go handle Noah and bring him there once I’ve filled him in on everything.”
Vera purses her lips. “Excuse me, not to be rude either, but just what do you intend to do to our children? You showed up here and claim to be a demon and say you can save them, but only with Noah. Why do you need Noah specifically and what exactly do you intend to do?”
“I will explain everything once we get there, I promise, so please just trust me for now.”
Vera is still skeptical, but she decides to do as he asks for now, mostly for the sale of the kids. A few soldiers arrive seconds later and each one grabs the injured and makes their way to the clinic while the council follows behind. Tahno remains, but doesn’t interact with Mikael, but instead looks around to access the damage and identify the soldiers that were killed, some of which he recognizes. “Damn.”
Mikael walks over to Tahno with an empathetic expression and in a remorseful tone he says, “I’m sorry that this has happened. I thought that I had been through in my investigations for any potential threats that may have snuck into the academy, but somehow Ouran slipped under my radar. I’ve never encountered a reaper before since they’re rare, so I guess I didn’t recognize his energy signature. Also, since I saw that he had befriended Noah and was helping learn more about himself, the things I couldn’t teach Noah myself because of my promise to stay out of your way and let you do your thing with him. Ouran changed so much from how I remember her as a child. Sometimes I wonder if leaving her behind was a mistake. If only I’d known that she would turn out to be Bakemon I would’ve-.”
Tahno had been listening to his words with indifference, but Mikael’s words hit a cord and make him snap. “So your so called child is only worth sticking around for if they’re Bakemon, is that right?” He finally stands up and faces Mikael. “So you made it a habit of abandoning kids if they didn’t share your precious Junsui bloodline. It all makes sense now, so thank you for filling me in on where I stand.”
“Mason, that’s not true! I thought I was doing what was best by leaving Ouran behind to live a normal life as a human, not because I didn’t see his worth. As for you, Mason it was my father who sent you away. If I had been able to do anything about, I would’ve saved you. I would’ve never abandoned my own child willingly. As soon as I had learned what he’d done, I began my search for you and when I found you here I was so happy. Ever since that day, I’ve been praying that you’d find a way to forgive me and let me be a proper father and-.” Tahno goes from being complacent to enraged.
“You’re not my fucking father! I had a father, a really good one and a mother and even a little sister. I had a family and so I never needed you. But then your kind, those filthy fucking monsters, murdered my family and left me for dead, leaving me homeless and alone on the street at only ten years old! Where were you then? My parents had told me just moths earlier about my lineage, but for whatever reason I was born as a human rather than a Junsui and you know what, I was glad! I was so happy I was born human because I couldn’t stomach the idea of being a monster like that. But once they were gone, I found myself desperate to be one, just so I didn’t have to suffer. Do you know what it’s like for a kid who’d always been sheltered from the dangers of Hokkaido City to suddenly find himself in the epicenter of its worst slums? It hardened me and made me into the screwed up disaster I am today! The only thing that gave me strength to move forward was my hatred for you and all your kind. I was determined to be the best damn solider I could even without powers and prove that I was just as good as my Junsui brothers were. So I trained my body to the most extreme of limits and maybe it was due to my Junsui genes, active or not, but I got strong. I reached a level where I could withstand more than physically possible for most humans and developed the speed and skill of a superhuman. However, the fact still remains that I’m completely human. If I’m killed, I’ll die and that fact gives me comfort because I’d never want to live an eternity as a soulless beast. My goal is to eradicate you all for good.”
“So you would deceive your own brother and exploit his abilities for your own selfish gain then? For a misleading prophecy that may not even be true? Can you do such a thing in good conscious?”
“So what if I am? You’re one to talk. You have no right to judge me when you just want to use him too for an unproven prophecy just the same. The only difference is I’m not trying to turn him into some Great Savior to relive the past and leave him with no say in the matter as it’s his supposed “destiny”. I simply want to help him unlock his full potential so he can face the challenges necessary to secure the weapon that can and will eradicate all Junsui, which is ultimately what he wants too. His desires are directly matched to mine as he hates the Junsui just as much as I do, maybe more. He too has felt the horror of what they really are, monsters that take away loving families for no other reason than to kill on primal instinct. As for deceiving him, I’m not really keeping it from him, I just haven’t told him yet.”
“Ok, so perhaps you will tell him. Do you really think he’d still be willing when he learns that if this weapon does as it’s claimed to, that he will also have to die? Is he willing to sacrifice his own life?”
“If it means ridding the world of Junsui once and for all, then I’d gladly sacrifice myself.” Both Tahno and Mikael are startled to hear Noah’s voice, as he interjects himself into their conversation.
Mikael is completely surprised at his unexpected involvement. “Noah, you were listening? You heard-.”
“Yea, I heard everything…dad.” He emphasizes dad with a sarcastic tone, but doesn’t lose his indifferent expression, which makes it difficult for Mikael to read him and know if he’s bitter, happy or just doesn’t care. “So Tahno, or rather, should I start calling you Brother, Bro, Onii-san or just Mason?”
“Tahno will be just fine thank you. If you start treating me any different from before I’ll make sure your life is hell. Don’t think I’m going to go easy on you either. You have officially reached graduate status but you’ll still be under my command in your Junsui Hunter unit, so your struggle has just begun.”
“Oh don’t worry, I wasn’t serious. Learning that you’re my brother and that he’s my biological father changes absolutely nothing for me and neither of you mean anymore to me than you did before. I’m not interested in bloodlines or who did what or any prophecy’s or anything else, so spare me those details. All I want it to know where this Junsui killing weapon is and how I can get it. Actually, I’d love to know if there’s a weapon to eradicate the whole damn Bakemon race since it’s obvious there’s no such thing as a “good” or “innocent” Bakemon. I’ll definitely have to thank Ouran for teaching me that one when we meet again and I can stab that weapon right through his cold, dead heart. So about that thing you need me for, what do you want me to do Mikael Sir?” He stands erect, with eyes as empty as a pail.
Mikael looks at Noah in sadness, seeing that the light that had returned to his eyes after his family’s death had once again been snuffed out by the people he cared for being put in danger once again by someone he trusted all because of his existence as a Junsui demon. Adding in these secrets, it seems that he’s finally reached his breaking point and Mikael fears he’ll never be able to trust or love anyone again.
“Well old man? Are you going to tell him or will you wait until it’s too late to save them?” Tahno’s curt.
“Uh…right. Well, I was able to close their wounds so they wouldn’t lose any more blood, but they’ve already lost more than most humans can survive on and their internal organs are likely damaged as well. My healing powers cannot work on such extensive wounds beyond what I’ve already done and so the only thing that will heal them fully is Junsui blood. If they drink your blood, it’s healing properties will pass on to them temporarily and they can heal their damaged bodies. Normally, this isn’t something I’d suggest doing as there’s a chance that they could become corrupted Junsui, but I don’t feel they will be at risk of this since they already have a latent form of the Junsui gene within them. So the blood should adapt to their own and not corrupt them and make them full Junsui demons as it would normal humans.”
“Ok I get it, but if that’s the case, why do you need me specifically? Couldn’t you have done it just as easily. You are a full Junsui too aren’t you Sir?” Noah remains in his stiff and indifferent manner.
“Yes that’s true, and I could do it, but I felt that it should be you instead since they are your friends. Also, unlike me, who only has a single element like any other Junsui, you for whatever reason have been born with the ability to use all four elements and so your blood would likely be the most agreeable since it’s unlikely your blood would contain antibodies against any of their blood types since you do have properties of all four. So ultimately, it’s purely from a scientific standpoint I suggest it.”
“Ok, I don’t need a biology lesson, I’ve already had my fair share of that from classes. So basically, you just want me to feed them my blood. Ok, I’ll do it. It’s my fault they are in the mess anyway. They’re in the clinic right? I’ll head over now then; meet you guys there.” Noah walks away, devoid of all emotion.
“He’s like a robot. It’s as if all his life and emotions have been sucked out of him. It hurts to see that.”
Tahno simply scoffs and as he walks away he says, “Welcome to the real world, that’s what it really means to live as a human. Tell me how does it feel, to have three worthless sons? Aren’t you proud?”
Mikael looks down in shame. He feels as though he really has failed as a father, unable to save his sons from the harsh realities of the world. He thought that everything he’s done over the years has been for their best interests, but he can’t help but feel that it was all in vain. That perhaps he should’ve just taken all his boys and even Ouran and lived together with them away from the evils of the world, even if it were in an ignorant bliss. He looks to the sky, seeking guidance and although no words were spoken, it still renewed his faith in his cause. “Father, I may falter but I shall not relinquish my faith, I will carry out your will. In return, I simply ask that you protect my children, Demetrius, Helios, Silas and Ouran, keeping them safe and on a riotous path. In your holy name I pray, Amen.” Mikael resolves to finish what he started, even with his doubts. He chose the path of a holy monk because he believed in the prophecy foretold, that a new Great Savior will be chosen to fight a new Supreme Leader of corruption. He knows that Noah and Judas are the ones foretold of in this prophecy and he will do whatever it takes to see it through, even if takes many more years. For now, he will let Mason carry out his plan, so that he can see for himself that there is no way to eradicate the Junsui. If there was, he’d have probably done it himself long ago. But he will let them try, as one can only change by facing their decisions and its consequences and truths head on. He shuffles his cloak and then makes his way to the clinic after them.
“No, I will not have it! I will not let you infect my son with your disgusting demon blood. Forget it!” When Mikael arrives to the infirmary, he’s greeted by Vera’s angry shouting, directed towards Noah.
“What seems to be the problem here?” Mikael asks politely, though he’s sure he already knows why.
“You’re the problem, you and your beast of a son here. He had the audacity to show up here, slice open his arm, fill a glass with his blood and try and feed it to my son and the others. If you had told us that’s what you wanted, we would’ve refused immediately. I will not have his dirty blood contaminate my son’s, even if it is to save his life. I’d rather him die than to become one of you beasts!”
“Vera, calm down now. I don’t think it’s necessary to be so rude to them when they are just trying to help.” Viktor tries to calm her down and then turns to Mikael. “That being said, I’m afraid I too have to refuse this treatment. I don’t know Mai as well as I wish I did, but I’m certain she wouldn’t wish to take a risk like this. She’s quite proud and I’m sure if she were to die, she’d consider it honorable.”
Liam also makes a statement. “We appreciate you wanting to do whatever it takes to save them, but even if the risk is small, we’d rather not chance them becoming Junsui. Not to say your kind is bad but….”
Kira quickly jumps in. “It’s just, our kids have already had it rough with being treated differently for their own reasons and so we wouldn’t want to subject them to further exclusion because of this. We see how the other cadets reacted to Noah and we feel bad about that, but we don’t want that for our kids.”
Mikael smiles. “I completely understand where you’re coming from, but please just allow me to-.”
“What a bunch of racists pigs!” Tahno suddenly interjects, finally having had enough of their insults. “You all use careful wording to make yourselves seem less offensive, well minus Vera, she’s just a natural bitch, but in the end it still comes down to the same thing. You all are disgusted by the thought of your children becoming the one thing you’ve despised and feared all your lives. It’s the same reason you’ve treated Noah like a worm all these years. You see the Junsui as these horrible, monstrous beasts that can’t be trusted, but pay no mind to the person behind the mask. Look, don’t get me wrong, I agree that the Junsui are monsters and I despise them even more than you, but at the same time, I know a dangerous Junsui when I see one and I can tell you that Noah is not dangerous. He’d kill himself sooner than he’d go on a killing spree like the Junsui you all have seen. He may be a “monster”, but he’s not a monster. The fact that you’d let your own children die rather than be saved by the blood of what you despise is sick! He’s more human than the lot of you combined and hates his own kind just the same.”
The council all look down in shame, even Vera, who hates to admit, but knows he’s right. Mikael tries to ease the tension. “Mason, no need to be so hard on them, you should understand their reasons. I’m sure they don’t want their children to die, but perhaps you should consider that becoming a Junsui might be seen as a fate even worse than death to them. They have the right to be a bit cautious.”
Tahno just scoffs. “Whatever. You know what, you people do whatever you want to do, I’m done here.” He walks out of the infirmary, leaving a heavy cloud of guilt over the council’s heads.
Noah had been sitting idly by listening to their fighting, but decides that he’ll be on his way too if they don’t want to use him. “So, are you going to do it or not? Cause if you’re not, then I’m gonna go too.”
No one says anything and so he takes that as an answer and gets up to leave, but then he suddenly hears a familiar voice. “I want…do it….” He recognizes Nik’s voice and turns around to see him sitting up, but very weakly. “Please Noah…do it. I want…to take…the chance. So please…do it.” He collapses back onto the bed, unable to maintain his posture, but manages to beg once more. “Please Noah….”
Vera is quick to protest it. “No! He doesn’t know what he’s saying. He’s just scared is all. He doesn’t really want this. I refuse to let you-.” She’s silenced when she suddenly feels a tight grip on her arm. She looks down to see Nik staring at her with intense eyes, sending her the silent message that it’s his decision to make and he’s making it, so she shouldn’t interfere. She has no right to. “But….” She says nothing more and simply looks down, no longer attempting to refuse it. Nik let’s go of her arm.
“Me too.” Everyone is startled to hear another quiet voice, it’s Lili. “I want…to be stronger. I want…to make everyone proud. So please Noah…me too. I want to…try it too.” Her voice is pained.
Seconds after, Mai weakly sits herself up, getting much higher than Nik could manage. “Me three. I want continue to be at Lili’s side and protect her. The only honorable death for me…would be to die as her sole protector, not in a musty room of the infirmary. So please Noah…let me try.” She lies back.
Everyone automatically turns to Gunther, who as they expected, joins his friends. “I’ve always wanted to…be with everyone no matter…what. So I’m going to… try too. So Noah…please let me.”
As they all have spoken and made their own decisions, their parents make no other objections, understanding that they don’t have the right to refuse in their place. Besides the fact that they are 18 and legal adults, they’ve been absent in their entire lives. They realize how shellfish and rude it is to come back after 18 years of nothing and try to dictate their lives for them. They all quietly accept their decisions and look to Noah, who’s already making his way over to Nik with the glass he had previously filled. Rather than help Nik drink it as they expected, Noah hands the glass to Vera instead.”
Flabbergasted, she says, “What am I supposed to do with this? I don’t want it.”
In a monotone voice Noah simply says, “Your silence suggests that you’ve accepted his choice. If that’s true, then don’t you think it’s fitting as his mother to give him back his life with your own hands?”
Vera is stunned at his strangely sentimental philosophy as he looks at her with eyes of a dead fish, but she can see a sort of poetic justice in his words. This could be the new start she wanted, that they all wanted. So with continued disgust, she takes the glass from Noah and he goes to fill up the others. A couple of minutes later, they each hold a glass of Noah’s blood and proceed to offer it to their kids.
“Before you all do this, if you wouldn’t mind, I think it’d be fitting to say a short prayer for the sake of blessing their renewed life, in whatever form it may be received. Would that be ok with you all?” They all had wanted to just hurry and get it over with, but they figure it couldn’t hurt and it seems that Mikael is a monk or priest of some sort, so they humor him and give their approval. He closes his eyes and says, “Our father who resides in heaven, please send your blessings down upon these children as they receive your gift of life. Let them be healed and replenished to their fullest capacity and let their souls remain just and pure, protected from the pull of the corruption that seeks shelter. Offer them guidance as they enter a new chapter of their lives and bless them with all the joys and happiness that life can bring. In your holy name I pray, Amen.” He does his holy sign gesture and then motions for them to go on.
All at once, they each support their children’s heads and carefully hold the glasses to their lips as they drink. They all squint at the taste, but quickly adjust and drink down to the very last drop. Then their heads are gently placed back down onto the beds and in no time, they all fall asleep. “Is that all?”
In response to Liam’s question, Mikael says, “Yes, that’s all for now. Their bodies are going to take time to heal and so they need to sleep. You’re welcome to stay if you’d like, but it’s unlikely they’ll wake before tomorrow. They will also show signs of fever and perhaps discomfort as they sleep, but these are normal effects. I would suggest you have a doctor or nurse on staff through the night as a precaution.”
“I’d be happy to take that duty if it’s fine with the council.” A woman dressed in a black dress and wearing a white nurse’s hat that contains turquoise curls approaches them from the side, which leads to the clinic portion of the infirmary. Her matching turquoise eyes sparkle as she smiles and Noah’s eyes go wide as he recognizes her, however he doesn’t react in a way that others could notice.
“Oh Joy, I was actually just thinking of you.” Viktor, as the secondary head of the council when Hiro isn’t around, speaks to her. “That would be great if you could. As much as I’m sure we’d all like to stay as well, I think we’ve got quite the mess to clean up, so I trust we can leave it to you?”
“Of course Sir, I’d be happy to stay in your stead. I’ll take good care of them and alert you immediately if there are any significant changes.” She smiles sweetly and Viktor finds himself blushing.
Quickly composing himself he responds by saying, “wonderful, we’ll leave it to you then. Shall we?”
The rest of the council stands and rolls their eyes at his obvious perversion to her and agrees. They give Mikael and Noah their regards and go on their way, dreading the amount of work facing them. Mikael, Noah and “Joy” are the only ones left in the infirmary outside the sleeping patients. “So you’re back?” Noah is very clean cut and course, his sheepish demeanor from the first time they met gone.
With a smile she says, “Yes, I am. I’m sorry I left so suddenly, but…well I had to take care of things.”
“Does that include Judas?” She finally breaks her smile and looks uneasy, eyeing Mikael, who looks a bit confused. “It’s fine Rachel, it’s not an accusation. I’m just stating the obvious. Don’t mind him, I’m sure he’s already figured out your Junsui too. Isn’t that right Mikael?” He’s distant and cold.
“Yes, I was able to tell as soon as you walked out, but what’s this about Judas? Are you connected to him somehow? I don’t know if you know me, but I’m Mikael, Judas and Noah’s father.”
She speaks nervously. “Yes, I, I know who you are. Judas has mentioned you before and that you’ve been snooping around, especially around Noah and so I should be careful not to let you get the better of me and lead you to him. However, I just want to say that I’m not really loyal to him! I follow his orders because I have to, but if I could I’d never go back to him again. So that being said, I don’t wish to hurt you or anyone at this academy and I definitely had nothing to do with what happened here. That was all Judas and Ouran. I knew about it yes, but I wasn’t in a position to do anything about it, I’m really so-.”
“No need to defend yourself, we get it. It’s quite obvious that Judas saved you on that day and so you have no choice but to follow his orders. We all know that you couldn’t have changed anything anyway, so don’t beat yourself up about it. I can’t believe you’d have such a deep conscious now when you let your family be slaughtered in cold blood. What’s a few strangers to you now?”
Her eyes are teary as his harsh words pierce through her, though it’s worse because she knows he’s right. She did let her family die for her selfish gain, but it backfired and now she’s in a greater hell having to serve at the very monster that killed them. Those few dead soldiers mean nothing to her.
Mikael is feeling very uncomfortable and confused, as he doesn’t remember her nor does he know her history with Noah. However, looking at his watch, he realizes he’s late for an important meeting. “Well I’m sorry to have to rush off, but I really need to meet someone soon. I really wanted more time to catch up with you Noah, but it looks like we’ll have to do that another time. For what’s it worth though, I’m happy we could meet officially. I’ll check in on you and your friends soon. Nice meeting you Rachel.” He waves goodbye and is then is gone, leaving Noah and Rachel alone in awkward silence. Rachel can see Noah is quite different from before, no doubt due to Ouran’s betrayal and recent events.
“So Joy is it? That’s the name you’ve chosen to go by here? That’s kind of lame isn’t it?”
Rachel is surprised by his sudden words, but quickly replies. “Yes, I felt that it would be best to take on a whole new identity as a human for the likely chance that I’d run into you. Initially, Judas tasked me with turning you to the dark side as he put it or really just getting you to go rouge and embrace your demon. I was supposed to entice you with my body and make you trust me so that you’d do what he’d have me suggest you do. However, I couldn’t do it properly because I didn’t want to do what I know would be painful for you, so that’s when Ouran took over and…well you know what happened next.”
“Ah I see. So basically Judas pimped you out to me so that he could push me into doing what he wanted me to by playing on my residual feelings for you from our childhood. Smart, very smart actually. It probably would’ve worked really well actually. You should’ve just done it. I would’ve much rather deal with you and get some pleasure out of the deal too. But I guess I can respect your sense of morality, as skewed as it may be.” He gets up from the chair he’d been sitting on and looks around. “Hey, do you have any of that “cranberry juice” handy? I’m feeling super thirsty after giving out my blood, I think I need to replenish myself and I don’t want to go all the way to Tourer Kenai.”
“Oh of course. Let, let me see.” She quickly makes her way back into the clinic, happy for a distraction from that uncomfortable conversation. Noah follows behind her and closes the door to the other room, locking it behind him. She had been ruffling around in the fridge, but turns when she hears the click. Noah moves closer and Rachel closes the fridge as she responds nervously, “No, I’m afraid not.” She sees the way his eyes make their way from her legs up her entire body to rest their sight on her neck and it gives her shivers, but also makes her feel strangely aroused, perhaps because it’s Noah. She never feels like this when Judas looks at her this way and is instead rather disgusted. “Noah?”
He places his mouth on her neck and kisses it gently before saying, “Perhaps I can have some of yours then? I know you’ve fed recently; I can smell it. Perhaps those dead soldiers served as your lunch?”
“How, how could you tell that?” It’s true, she had just fed on those soldiers before arriving there, since they were just lying there and no one was around. “I just didn’t want them to go to waste! I Just….”
“It’s ok, I won’t tell anyone. Honestly, if you hadn’t, I probably would’ve, so you just saved me some trouble. So it’s fine if I just take a few sips isn’t it?” His fangs slide down and graze her neck.
She suddenly feels like her body’s on fire and she feels a rush of desire. “Yes…please…I don’t mind if it’s you Noah. You can do whatever you want, just be gentle please. It’s my first time doing this.”
“Is that so? I’m surprised Judas hasn’t already soiled you. Or were you referring to the bite?”
“Both. I’ve never been bitten and I’ve never done…that either.” She blushes. “I always thought Judas would be the one to steal it from me and it made me sick, but for some reason he never went beyond superficial touching. Perhaps he thought I’d be more desirable to you if I was pure?”
“Perhaps, or it’s probably just another part of his sick game. Either way, I’ll bite. I’ll take the bait. I have done “it” before, though this will be my first time with another Junsui. I would suppose the mechanics are the same though, so just leave it to me. Just make sure you tell Judas when you see him again that although I appreciate the sentiment, I don’t share my toys. With this bite and all that follows, I’m claiming you as mine forever more. So if he dares lay a hand on you after this, I will personally pay him a visit and kill him, even if it means ruining the grand finale of our tragic play. There will be no mercy.”
“Yes…I…will tell him.” Rachel is almost in shock by how intense Noah has become. As children she loved him for his kindness and compassion and sweet words to her and she saw that again when they first met again in this very room. However, like he’s become someone else entirely, this new Noah is aggressive, ruthless and cold, which would’ve made the old Rachel sad. However, she too has changed from the doe-eyed girl she used to be that lived to hear sweet nothings in her ear. She’s also hardened her heart and become more honest about her true nature. She’s always been rude and shellfish, but she doesn’t have to fight it anymore. In his own way, Noah is acting on his old feelings for her, but under the guise of possession rather than emotion, since he’s clearly shut them off completely. She too is acting on her old feelings by wanting him to have his way with her so desperately. They are literally a twisted couple, but it’s by that very fact that they can go so well together in this twisted world. As he sinks his teeth into her at last, pleasure surges through her entire being and she quickly succumbs to his embrace. Staring into his red eyes, she smiles as he ravishes her in a way only a Junsui demon can.
“And that was what he said.” Rachel clasps her hands and looks down as she awaits his reply.
“He said all of that did he?” After a moment of silence, Judas begins to laugh hysterically. “Yes! That’s the Noah I want to see. I knew leaving you pure would be beneficial, though I have to say, with that glow you’ve got on, I almost want to take him up on that challenge just to prove I’m better.” He sees her expression change to disgust and just smirks. “Don’t worry, I won’t test him, I’d rather not ruin our finale. I’m very pleased with your progress, Ouran’s as well. You both made him into just the heartless man I hoped he’d be, though it’s a shame I can’t find Ouran to reward him. I suppose it’s still mourning the loss of its friend. Well whatever, that’s just the way the game rolls. And of his other friends, they are awake?” She nods. “Excellent! At last, the overture has passed and our wretched play has now begun!” His sinister laugh echoes through the throne room as the curtain of rises up to begin a new act.