Walking the streets of Rome, Daken thinks to himself that a man once said that Rome is the city of echoes, the city of illusion, the city of yearning. But it’s dead now. The greatest empire in the world, reduced to broken stone and the few, brief words of the ancient dead.
Rome’s leaders could not hold it. Its people could not lift it on their shoulders and bear it forward in greatness. Incompetency, and a lack of resolve, will murder even that which should be immortal. Nothing lasts. Not dreams, not desire. We burn with desire. But it all becomes so cold. Cold as death, and ruin.
He was so stupid, Daken thinks to himself. He was so blind. Wolverine played the game and won. He beat him. He had him beat from the beginning. Because that was what Romulus wanted. Romulus always intended for Wolverine to ascend to the throne. To take command of a network of power that was thousands of years in the making. The power to rule the world, to change the world, with nothing but a word whispered in the right ear. It should have been his.
And yet, he can’t help but wonder… whether deep down he knew all along what Romulus intended. Allowing himself the delusion, the delusion that he had a place in the world, even one that he’d have to carve out with blood. Why would he do that? How could he be so weak? And now he has nothing. Wolverine cut out his Muramasa claws, the only things that can take his life. He holds the keys to the kingdom, but he’ll never use them. He will never allow him to achieve his destiny. And without an heir to continue his legacy, the empire that Romulus built will fall, and disintegrate into nothing. Ruined, nothing left but echoes, illusions, yearning.
Just then, a young girl bumps into Daken and attempts to steal his wallet. Grabbing her arm, Daken tells her in Italian her that she should watch where she touches a man. She should be careful of the men she touches. Starting to pop his claws, he tells her some men bite. As the young girl begins to scream, Daken covers her mouth and tells her that she thinks she’s a thief. She thinks she’s so quick, and smart. Grabbing her in a reverse bearhug, Daken tells her to smile; this won’t take long.
Hiding her from the tourists passing by, Daken orders her to shut up. He tells her to never cry, never show weakness. She’s asking for someone to hurt her if she does, asking to be used, manipulated. If that happens, no one will pity her, no one will care. Certainly not the person who told her to pick his pocket. The person who is controlling her life, and who set her up to fail. With that, Daken tells the girl to get up and to get out of there. Standing up, the girl says to Daken that maybe she could stay with him. Irritated, Daken yells at her to go away. As she does, Daken looks down at the ground.
Later that evening, Daken is in a museum and thinks to himself “he who is brave is free.” As he admires a statue of Caesar, a young man comes up behind him and remarks, in English, that it is so beautiful, yes. Daken turns towards the man and says, in Italian, gorgeous. The man asks Daken that he is Italian? He thought he was… Daken tells him, in English, no apologies. People often assume he’s something he’s not. When the man asks if they are often wrong, Daken replies often, but not always. He then proceeds to ask the man if he lives nearby.
Sitting on the back of the man’s motorcycle, Daken leans in close to him. He can feel his heart beat deep within his chest. It is strong, confident. He’s done this before – lured someone in, set the trap, played the con. But he knows what he is. He knows what he thinks he is – a predator, a hunter. He thinks he’s hunting him. He looks at him and sees prey. What a precious little fool. He’s perspiring, nerves, anticipation. Leaning closer towards the man, Daken whispers in his ear that he’s got a surprise for him. As they continue to ride down the street, another man on a motorcycle begins to follow them.
Once they stop, Daken gets off the bike and tells the man it’s a beautiful area and then asks him if he has an apartment there. The man tells him perhaps one day, when he graduates from university but that is a dream. Daken sees the man’s puppy dog eyes as he talks about his dreams. Maybe he practiced in the mirror. Daken then tells the man to tell him his dreams. He wants the man to tell him what he thinks he wants to hear. Impress him.
The man informs Daken it is silly. But it would be nice to have luxury, comfort, ease. Not for the sake of such things but because money it its own protection, he thinks. Touching the man’s hand, Daken says to him what he’s talking about is power. He understands. Power keeps him from getting hurt. Power gives him peace of mind, knowing you’re safe from the world. Power gives you space to breathe.
Looking up at Daken, the man tells him he does understand. Daken asks if that is so surprising. When the man pulls his hand away from Daken, Daken tells him he’s sorry and asks if he said anything wrong. The man answers no, he’s perfect. Pointing behind them, the man tells Daken his apartment is over there but he should warn him, it’s not very nice. Daken says to him that he should warn him, he’s not either. Smiling, the man tells Daken that he likes him.
As the man starts to walk over towards his apartment, he invites Daken to come on. Daken then runs up to the man and grabs his arm. He wants to see how far he’ll take this charade. Leaning in to kiss the man, the man looks surprised and pulls away. Daken can tell the man doesn’t have what it takes. There are lines he’s not willing to cross. When the man tells Daken to wait, Daken says to him that he thought… the way he looked at him…
In his mind, Daken knows that the man measured him up from the very beginning. Decided he was weak, blind, an easy mark, a victim to be manipulated. He thinks he’s right where he wants him. Turning away, Daken asks the man if he’s changed his mind. He says to him that he can still walk away. The man responds no, impossible. But his apartment is quite unattractive.
Daken tells the man him and that apartment. Not everyone cares about what’s on the surface. It’s those deeper truths that count. Ugliness is just a mask, and so is beauty. The man says er, yes and then tells Daken that he needs to get some cash from the bank machine down the alley and they will buy some wine. When Daken asks “then?” the man tells him then they will drink some wine.
As the man heads into the alley, Daken asks him to let him come with him. It looks dangerous and he wouldn’t want him to get hurt. When the man looks behind them, Daken asks him if someone is back there. The man then tells Daken to wait and tells him not to go in there. Turning around, Daken asks him what’s wrong. Putting his hand on Daken’s shoulder, the man tells him that he thinks he should leave now. Daken asks him why, is there something he hasn’t told him? The man proceeds to tell Daken that he’s not who he thinks he is. Pushing the man’s hand away, Daken tells him “yes, unfortunately he is.”
Grabbing the man by the collar, Daken says to him that, once they reached the bank machine, he would have informed him, quite ashamedly, that he didn’t have any money in his account. Since he’s told him he’s a poor student, it would have made perfect sense. Charmed as he is, he would have offered him money. He would have offered him more than money. And once he got a look at all that cash, he would have signaled his partner to rob him.
As the man who was following them earlier emerges from the shadows carrying a knife, Daken tells him it’s quaint but to walk away and not to look back. When the man with the knife walks away, the man in Daken’s clutches yells out to him no. Daken proceeds to tell the man that nothing lasts. Not desire, not faith, not any power. No amount of money will keep him safe from that. The man begs Daken to forgive him. Popping his claws, Daken informs him that he can’t. He’s done nothing wrong. With that, Daken walks away from the man.