The Emperor’s first born. That’s what he had been known as in the times of the great Roman Empire under the rule of his father, Augustus Octavian, Imperator and great leader. For the most part, lost to the world and erased from history by his father’s romantic life, there were not many records of his living in Rome during the time of his father or afterward, though he had always been a local presence in the great cities along side his uncle Judah, who was no more Roman than the Germanic who constantly tried the Roman Empire during those days. In this city, he flew under the radar like a fly upon the wall. The only record of his presence was his name that was now attached to the lease of one building, co-owned by the beautiful whore, Cielo. The rest were in contracts, permits and legal documents that often went through the offices he had flawlessly found in his time of great need.
There often came moments when ambitions got the better of him. The people of this area of the city knew well enough not to approach him with violence. The ones who didn’t, learned very quickly for he was fierce as a warrior, as undeniably powerful despite his lack of power in the long run that was minimal when compared to the great Vampire overlord who had taken over both the city and the world in the most recent months. Outside, the guards had been easy enough to convince. Glamoured, or in this case, compelled to move to the side so that he could get through, he walked through the front doors that led to the very private, unknown location of the office Antinous worked out of for this sector of the city.
Blue eyes ran the length of the room he came into, peering indiscriminately toward the likelihood of presence within. Dressed immaculately, a three piece suit that had both suit jacket, suit vest and then, of course, trousers, he probably seemed the part of a shrewd business man who even carried along a heavy briefcase made of expensive Italian leather. He very much looked the part of a chiseled Roman man of early twenties, nails kept at adequate length, his small, yet impressive, beard well trimmed, his hair short and trimmed near the back, tall up front. The difference was pale flesh that held none of the European appeal often gained by time spent in the sun, the half-fanged smile he flashed as he looked around, waiting to be greeted.
Malakai was lucky, for he had been able to find the beautiful Roman god on one of the few occasions he was actually in his office. Typically Antinous either delegated his tasks to someone else, or was not there to begin with. He had on that occasion issued orders not to be disturbed, for Antinous conducted his business in the Red Light District in secret. He knew that this place didn’t like their rulers, and although temporary guardian of a city was not in any way like the cutthroat Empire he was used to, he knew well enough not to be a public face. Public faces got assassinated. No one murdered the man pulling the strings.
Despite his reluctance to be a public figure, Antinous did think he’d do an excellent *job* at being one. The young Bithynian was pretty beyond belief, with the cool attitude and demeanor of a marble sculpture. With his curled hair and the sensual twist of his lips, Antinous looked more like one of the commodities in the District than a man running it. He was flipping through papers as he heard footsteps down the hallway, and immediately dropped the stack he was carrying, standing up swiftly. Before Malakai came into his line of vision, Antinous’s eyes expressed brief panic for a split second until he saw the man and quickly appeared to calm. If Malakai was very perceptive, he might notice that Antinous seemed to defend himself a little bit–he stepped back behind the desk to lean on it in a casual attitude, but in a way that left the piece of furniture between him and Augustus’s son.
“Who are you?” the young god asked, eyes focused on the man. Well, he was very attractive, that much was certain. “Take a seat,” he added quickly, nodding at a leather armchair in front of the desk. “I haven’t seen you before.” But he *did* look Roman, and Antinous didn’t know whether or not to comment on that. He licked his lips, another slight tic that might belie his nervousness, before he sat down himself and motioned for Malakai to speak. “I’m not sure how you got past the guards I have,” he said slowly, eyes scanning the man. Vampire, Antinous thought, seeing the flash of sharp teeth. That put him a little more at ease. Antinous had some control over the undead. He hoped he wouldn’t have to use it.
It was not common or public knowledge that the man was the boon of the vampire who had plunged this world into the manifesting jaws of the abominations. Malakai had always been smart and protecting his identity was number one on the list of his accomplishments, though he knew well enough. He hadn’t wanted to go to war when his father presented him with the opportunity to build a name for himself on the field of battle as Julius Caesar had, as Augustus himself had done, the same as most Roman officials had at this time in their life. While he had died, been brought back as a half-ling, he had secured his wealth by developing a method of approach he had employed for several hundred years now. The effect had brought him riches beyond what he had expected. And indeed, he had collapsed economy on more than one occasion in the places he had ventured to. It’s why, presently, the Greeks were in the midst of a financial breakdown they would likely never recover from until their economy was flush with the currency of another.
When eyes fall upon the man who leads the district, he pauses for only an instant because he can read the momentary respite of potential fear. After all, he guards himself between the desk and Malakai which is an acute, but very accurate, response to someone entering the building unannounced and in the absence of both guard and prior engagement outside the room. “Malakai, but my friends call me Kai.” Offered the seat, he takes it without question, pushing back the unbuttoned blazer of his suit so that it’s not caught beneath him as he settles and very briefly crosses his legs before himself. “You may not have seen me but I’ve seen you,” Malakai starts, his voice a soothing undertone, higher pitched than most deep voiced men but apathetic to a point. “You were worshiped by a clan of necromancers and vampires. You, are in all rights and by blood and royal decree, a god who was previously worshiped by Romans but now, not so much with the decline of history and the rise of the internet.”
His demonstration is simply to show that he has read up on Antinous among other things. “I spend most of my days wandering the Western Districts, The Red Light. I spend my nights in this district’s brothels and, to the point, adult venues. I am very much one of your subjects, despite the fact that I live in the wealthy parts of Consequence where I am very comfortable. You and I,” he lifts a hand, well manicured fingertips pointing first in Antinous’ direction and then back at himself, “Share a complicated and thorough history in which neither of us has met or interacted. This is my bid to change that.”
Antinous eyed the man with growing suspicion and no small amount of concern. “I mean, I feel like I’m supposed to ask you to set up an appointment, Malakai.” He very deliberately did not call the man ‘Kai’. They weren’t friends. And as Malakai kept talking, Antinous felt even more firmly that they were not friends. For the clan of vampires, he felt he had been nothing more than a flash-in-the-pan god, someone convenient to draw power from and give power to. And more to the point, no one *knew* about that. Antinous did not make a habit of volunteering information about himself. He could count the number of people who knew how and why he died on his fingers. The number of people who knew he was a Roman was only a little higher. He wondered what else Malakai knew, and it made him uneasy. Despite all this, Antinous’s face displayed no emotion or worry. After that first flash of fear, he seemed to be in control–or at least pretending to be in control.
“Anyway, I’m not an emperor,” the pretty Bithynian said, gaze not leaving Malakai’s eyes. “I guess you’re not really my subject. But, I guess I’m glad you’re patroning this area as much as you do. We could use some more money.” They could use a *lot* of money. After consulting, Antinous had been trying to open up free health clinics in the area–he imagined that among the Red Light’s population of whores and drug users, medical clinics would be welcomed and would make him incredibly popular. However, you needed money to pay the healers, to get their supplies, and very little of it was actually making it into Antinous’s budget. It usually ended up running around the pockets of a gang lord. The youth tugged at a lock of his hair, looking for all the world like the naive teenager Hadrian had fallen in love with, and not a man of a calculating mind. “Are you part of the Giovanni?” he asked eventually, his eyes dropping down to glance at Malakai’s lips swiftly. “You know Caesar Augustus? Comprehendis Latinam?” You understand Latin? Antinous leaned forward, eager despite himself. “Are you *from* my history? Did I read about you in school, did Hadrian give sacrifices to you?” There was a gleam in Antinous’s eyes and a glow on his skin. He was excited.
His display is that of a vampire, an undead thing with relation to death. Antinous might believe him to be of the variety he can control to an extent due to his abilities but the truth is, he’s only a half-breed. His powers, even close by, would be limited in regards to the half-ling, though neither of them are aware of that. Malakai can see the flash of suspicion in his eyes, can tell that the further he continues, the less the other gives but that’s perfectly fine since he isn’t in the habit of offering information about himself either. However, he knows in order to gain trust, he must first exhibit it and that, in and of itself, is no easy task. A half-fanged grin is offered in pursuit of the other’s questions and he shifts in his seat so that rather than remaining coiled back like the snake he is, he’s leaning forward and apt with intention.
“No,” he said, shaking his head. “You are not an Emperor. At least not right now,” he managed a moment later, grin fading to a thin line at his lips. In the end, the questioning always comes up in this area based on his appearances. It’s hard for it not to when he has Augustus’ features, minus the curly hair that his father was well known for. His tongue traces a quick line over his bottom lip and he shakes his head. “I am not of the Giovanni, though I am in relation to it’s patronage. Pater Augustus.” He offers no further explanation than what he gives a moment later. “I have no current ties and have never had ties to that particular clan. My power is not theirs and theirs is not mine.”
“Intelligo te sunt,” he replies. “I understand Latin perfectly fine. After all, I was born in Ancient Rome. I was created in Ancient Rome and I lived there till it’s fall into it’s current state.” He clears his throat, shaking his head a moment later. “I was not present in your particular time line, at least not in the public eye. But I was very amused with the rebuilding of my father’s temples and the sacrifices that were offered. Considering I knew he was still alive.” He reaches up a hand, scratching very briefly at his hair line before his hand returns to his lap. “I’m afraid I was stricken from history. I was a no body, essentially.”
Antinous calmed down a little as Malakai said that he had no ties to the clan and to Caesar Augustus, the man Antinous had always heard heralded as a legend. He settled back in his chair, watching the man, but it did not take long before he sat forward quickly again. “Not in the public eye–but you saw the sacrifices, and the temples. And the mourning, and the emperors. So you were in Rome when I was? I mean, I wasn’t there long, but, you know. We could have met. Maybe I saw you once.” Antinous doubted he would have. Although Malakai had a Roman air about him, he did not look particularly Roman to Antinous. Besides, he was not unattractive, and the youth was certain he would have remembered a handsome semi-stranger. His opinion of himself was also high enough that he believed Malakai would have certainly noticed *him*.
Antinous truthfully felt he could continue grilling the man about ancient Rome and Caesar Augustus for years, but he forced himself to stay in control. “So why did you come looking for me?” he asked. “I mean, I assume you didn’t just do it to meet someone from a time similar to yours.” Although Antinous knew he would have sought Malakai out if he had known. He licked his lips as he stared at the man, his gaze practically ravenous for information, attention, anything from someone who had meant so much to the country and man that had effectively enslaved him. He folded one leg over the other, straightening his tunic as if to readjust his attitude to a professional one.
“I guess it doesn’t seem like our history is that thorough, Malakai. I didn’t know you existed,” the Bithynian said. “But, okay. You do exist! Which is…oh, it’s all kinds of things.” The glow of his skin brightened, flashing like a torch. Antinous grinned. “What do you want with my district, though? I mean, why do you come here all the time? Asides from the obvious, in which case I guess you don’t take after your father. Or at least public perception of your father. You do want something from me, don’t you? Or you’ve noticed problems and you’re reporting them to me? Is it something like that?” Noticed problems…Antinous was well aware of the problems. He had plenty of sources. Still, he was smart enough to know it never did to reveal the full extent of his knowledge.
He nods, as anyone in his position would. He has certainly said as much. Perhaps they had crossed paths, though living in the past and thinking the present is quite different than what one would typically assume. It was like asking if he had inspired Hitler to become who he had, though in truth, during that time of war and tragedy, Malakai had already left Rome and its surrounding areas for the Americas which was quickly becoming like Rome in it’s own way. Looking Antinous over, it was hard to imagine the god anywhere other than Rome but here he was, trying his best to establish Roman virtues on a place that was long past that stage. He erred on the side of continuity by shifting in his seat and then inching back on it till he was sitting back once more. It might have been hard, at first, to see the Roman in him. Every action was poised with an air of indifference and fleeting integrity, but there were things there that spoke volumes in other ways. A foreign mother, perhaps, also written out of history.
“I am not really a man of ambitions. My father didn’t like that which is why he put me in a position that led to my current well being. With years passed, I’ve spent most of my time out of the public eye. I invest, I help businesses kick off and run till they can’t anymore. I offer money when others can’t afford something,” he cants, his blue gaze moving to settle on the other’s. “In short, I’m a financial party offering a large portion of the money that comes in through taxes and supplies for the people you call your own. While I’m typically in the background, it would help my situation greatly to have a public face and, as I’m well aware, you often have others speak for you to avoid putting yourself in precarious situations that would otherwise harm you.” He pauses then, reaching into his coat to grab a folded sliver of plastic that is unwound into the corded, bent folder of legal documents that he sets on the table before the two of them.
“I currently invest in about twenty businesses in the Red Light District. I am on the title and deed to a building co-owned by a Cielo Den Ouden. I frequent this part of the city because it is where the most culture is.. As you can see, I’m someone the people can look to and understand to a fault. Many of them, I’ve worked with. I think you should hire me as your speaker and perhaps your financial manager as well since I am an excellent book keeper.” The way he presents all this information leaves him looking like someone who should be wearing glasses in that instant, the way he demonstrates his knowledge of the business and the presence he has among the other’s district. “I’m not a criminal, at least not openly. Just a very shrewd business man who wants to invest not only his money for the district but also his time,” he establishes in the end.
“When it comes to problems in the district, well, I’m not exactly the guy you want to speak with in regards to those particulars.”
Antinous remembered a story he had read about Tiberius’s Praetorian Prefect, Sejanus. Sejanus had been Tiberius’s most trusted ally in the ever-changing political landscape of Rome. Tiberius was paranoid, and had grown to only trust the man…and yet, slowly, Sejanus had been trying to turn the Julio-Claudians against the emperor and get into the family himself. He’d tried to marry in several times, and eventually was accused of murdering several of Tiberius’s heirs in order to secure a spot for himself. Antinous was no Tiberius, but Malakai looked very much like Sejanus to him. A counselor, one who appealed to his rational sense of paranoia, and yet one who was only waiting to get power himself. The Bithynian pulled the folder towards him, pretending to look it over carefully. “I don’t know if I can see that the people can look and understand you,” he said, glancing up. “The people really don’t like Caesar Augustus, here.”
No, they didn’t…and no, Antinous couldn’t trust his public image to a snake he’d just met. They had no rapport between them. Antinous drummed his fingers on the cover of one of the documents, staring at it without reading it. “I would like your financial assistance,” he said, eyes focusing on Malakai. “I really would. You seem like a very shrewd businessman.” Internally Antinous thought–shrewd businessman? Cielo Den Ouden is a nonentity right now. I’ve never heard of her. He’s dropping down money to finance a building with no security for if her endeavors go up in flames? Probably Malakai knew something he didn’t, Antinous thought, but he had thought Augustus was a poor military leader when he’d seen the man in Consequence, and he saw no reason to assume further competence on the part of his brethren. But at the same time, Antinous preferred to have the man on his side. He dropped the folder and leaned forward.
“Let me speak candidly,” the beautiful god said. “I don’t *know* you. I’d like your assistance financially, and well. If you’re good at that we’ll see. But I’m not giving you control of my public image. You have to understand I can’t regulate that if you mess with it, and I *can’t* trust you just yet.” He gave the man a sympathetic smile, as though it was out of his control. “I’ll hire you as my financial manager, and if you want to give a couple of speeches I’d let you do that. I don’t want a singular public face, though.” And if I did it would be someone I *knew*. “Is that okay?” the Bithynian asked. “I’d really like your help.” I’d like to keep an eye on you, venustus filius Augusti.
“If we’re being honest with one another, Antinous, the people here don’t like vampires,” he said, folding his arms over his chest. “I might appear to be one of them but I’m not. Not in the sense everyone’s come to know. I’m neither dead nor the undead.” He rises to his feet, inching around the desk. If there’s any time for Antinous to be fearful, it’s then. But he doesn’t attack. Instead, he grins and reaches out to touch the ‘other man, fingers settling on his arm. “Go ahead. Take my wrist,” he volunteered as an explanation. “Feel the pulse, even if it’s faint.” After, and only after Antinous does, does Malakai step back, moving around the table to settle back in his seat. “They respect money. They respect power. Many of the people here, as you are well aware of, have to work in order to eat. They are neither able bodied, educated or they have a criminal history that keeps them from elevating themselves. Some turn to selling themselves. Others, because of medical conditions, stockpile on drugs to survive.”
He slips in place, the crunch and gentle groaning leather pronouncing his seat upon it. “They don’t care for the dead because they know that the dead can be used against them, as shown by the nature of the attacks that transpired within the last year. In a sense of the word, you have an ability as shown during the last war that is both dangerous and offensive to them.” No, he’s not blackmailing, just trying to allude to the fact that neither of them are naturally a voice the people would choose to respect or gather under. “But I understand the risk factor and your lack of desire to place yourself in alignment with someone who could turn out to be just as ravenous as the previous Imperator of this city.”
He sighs, but otherwise offers a small smile to top it off. “Financial manager is perfectly fitting for now,” he finishes, slipping free of the leather seat. “I came for a job and I have it. You can expect to see me on a regular basis. Feel free to ask around about me. I’m sure you’ll hear nothing of irreparable status beyond what I’ve told you.” In fact, most records are expunged of his name in general other than the ones he’d mentioned earlier, permits and the like. And many of the businesses he’s helped have risen above their current status and are gradually growing more and more popular with the locals. Construction work, marketing. There’s a significant amount of people who have been changed by his work.
“Would you prefer to shake on it? I know there are a number of people on this planet who prefer not to have contact with one another.”
Antinous touched his wrist lightly. He was not fearful of contact–in some way, it seemed to soothe the rabbit-pulsing heartbeat in his chest. Antinous liked physicality, liked touching others. It provided him greater reassurance than words did. And Malakai’s words were not reassuring to him. For saying he was satisfied with the position Antinous had offered him, Antinous felt he was trying far too hard to make the Bithynian change his mind and hand over more power. Perhaps it was innocent, but it combined with what Antinous absolutely perceived as blackmailing did nothing to allay his suspicions. He nodded, rising to his feet.
“I don’t have that power anymore,” the youth said, shrugging a shoulder lightly. “Your people gave that to me when they worshipped me, and they took it away when the imperator died. I don’t have any power anymore.” That was an utterly shameless lie–or at least certainly not the truth. Antinous had no idea whether he still had the power to summon the dead. He hadn’t tried since the last war. “Sure, Malakai,” he said. “I’ll ask around about you.” He was expecting to find nothing but positive notes. No one told someone to look them up if anything damning was on record. Perhaps the man truly was as forthright and noble as he claimed to be. Antinous’s full lips twisted to the side briefly in thought before he extended his hand to the man. “I *love* having contact with others,” he said, eyes flashing in a teasing glint. It was almost flirtatious. “You can have as much contact with me as you want. Whatever that means to you.”
After the hand shake, Antinous pushed the folder back towards Malakai. “Here. Keep those. I don’t have a whole lot of use for them, I think. Also, do you mind undoing whatever you did to my guards? I kind of employ them for a reason. I mean, you understand, I don’t want to have to be afraid for my life or anything. Like you said, the people don’t like the dead. Except you, I guess.” He did not like how much power Malakai was amassing, and it frightened him. Cults of personality were strong, and Antinous’s rejection of a public face could be damning if the people really did want Malakai to take care of things for them. And surely he would likewise be capable, and Antinous would rather him than another or anarchy, but a large part of him was furious. It wasn’t *fair*. He had been stuck with Hadrian for five years, learning information he was never able to use, and now he’d been elected and there was already a plot going on. Maybe it was a plot against him, maybe for him, but the youth felt Malakai was being as forthright as Antinous himself was–namely, not very. Couldn’t he have *anything* here? He sat back down in his char and drew his papers towards him, slowly parsing through the English that he had only just half-learned how to read. “You can go,” he said to the man, the glow of his skin gone. Antinous was starting to understand how easily you could become paranoid in a position of power.
Malakai admired beauty and on occasion, had let other men admire his own. He was never one, on a typical note, to mix business and pleasure and the flirty air that surrounds Antinous when their business is finally concluded drawls the faintest of grins from him. Flattery, he supposes, is the only way to feel in regards to what he believes is transpiring right now between them. However, the only interest he has currently are women and it is very obvious that Antinous is working with the wrong equipment to finish the job that is required for those who serve Malakai in that manner. He does not wish to disregard the man’s thoughts. In the end, the only thing left to do is to reach out and politely take Antinous’ hand, though fingers clasp around forearm and wrist rather than his hand directly, stern pressure applied to make sure his grasp is remembered.
As young as he appears, there’s a firmness to his voice that wasn’t there before. He leans forward, head just barely nearing the other’s in correspondence before he replies. “Perhaps I’ll follow up on that another evening,” before he’s letting go of the other’s arm, grabbing hold of the legal documents and folder to bind them, fold them and stuff them in his pocket from hence they’d come. He only pauses to bend down and grab his brief case before he’s peering back up toward Antinous. “The guards will return to normal as soon as I’m within safe range. You can understand my desire to have firewalls,” he spoke with a small, half-fanged smile before exiting the office with Antinous’ permission, not that he needed it.
And he is quite right. The moment he passes by them, exits sight once more, the guards are immediately back to how they should be. Protecting, evaluating and doing their job of keeping Antinous safe. Though now, there’s always the prospect of Malakai coming around whenever. Antinous will surely have to reinforce the idea of his safety to his men. Warn them of the complications of looking in the eyes of passersby.