The clouds hung low in the sky, looking as though prepared to drag away the children walking down the streets. With a great red eye they looked down upon the earth, discussing which one of the children they should steal away.
With a cough, they scattered snow over the streets.
In the end, this is what Devils are--so said God.
Prologue 1: The Boy and the Girl Before the Coffin
Drip drip they drop
A rain of blood drip drip plop
May 2003. The Chapel of Waldstein Castle, on the Island of Growerth, Germany.
"Viscount Waldstein, sir?"
It was a word that could not exist in this country.
With the Proclamation of the Weimar Republic in 1919, the nobility had indeed lost all their power and privilege. But setting even that matter aside, the title of 'viscount' could not possibly have existed in this country at all. Instead of the title of 'viscount', the Germans used words like 'Wildgrave', 'Palsgrave', 'Burgrave', 'Markgrave', or 'Raugrave' to indicate all sorts of positions between the ranks of baron and count.
And in this ancient castle of the country that bore this history, the foreign word was repeated once more.
"Viscount Waldstein, please tell us."
In the majestic chapel, two children stood before the altar. They were children by legality, but physically they were teenagers--both around fifteen years of age.
As the boy looked on nervously, the girl continued to address the great container before them with the word that could not exist.
"Viscount Waldstein, when are Relic and Ferret going to return to this island?"
Although her tone in addressing an aristocrat was somewhat lacking in refinement, the girl's voice showed unmistakeable respect. This courtesy was not borne of any sort of class differences. It was a sense of respect forged from a bond of trust.
Before the girl, however, was nothing but a still white coffin and the altar before it.
A ray of sunlight hit the coffin through the skylight. The children narrowed their eyes as the light reflected off the white surface and into their eyes.
No voice answered the girl's question. The chapel was enveloped in silence.
"I see… So you don't know, then… But they will come back one day. Right, sir?"
The girl continued her seemingly one-sided conversation. The boy next to her also watched the coffin fixedly, as though there was nothing strange about the girl's discussion.
"I'm so glad to hear that. I was so scared that I'd never see them again…" The girl said, replying to a silent answer once more. The boy, who was about a year or two older than the girl, suddenly spoke up excitedly.
"Uh, sir! Um, well, uh… Once Ferret comes back, you see, I, uh… Would you allow Ferret-I mean, your daughter and I to start dati-"
There was something like the sound of water. At that very moment, the boy fell to the chapel floor as though he had been thrown by an invisible force. He had flown in a graceful arc and fallen to the floor.
"Sir!" The girl cried to the coffin, and worriedly looked back at her brother.
"D-don't worry, Hilda. This is between me and the Viscount." The boy said, gently pushing back his sister and getting to his feet. He stepped towards the coffin once more.
He then stared at a point before him, just like his sister had done earlier, and suddenly spoke up again.
"Yes, sir! I know this is supposed to be between me and her! But they say that if you want to shoot the general, first you have to shoot the horse--I, uh, I don't mean to imply that you're a horse, sir! Anyway, what I'm trying to say is, would you allow me and Ferret to--huh? Don't call her name without permission? …Uh, sir! You see, I'm just practicing for our future together. What? You can't give your daughter to someone like me?! Sir, you're supposed to be her parent! Loving and understanding! You can't just close off her future like--N, no, sir! Uh, what do you mean, do I think I have the right to speak to you this way?"
The boy rambled on incoherently, gesticulating as though in a one-man show. From a distance it was a surreal sight, but the girl named Hilda only watched with a smile on her face.
"I know, I know! No, sir. This isn't about chivalry or anything like that! As a man, I want to protect my lady in body and soul! …Huh? What do you mean, you'll test my strength? I couldn't defeat you, sir! W-wait! I'm not ready yeeeeeeeeeeeee--"
There was a splash of red.
Blood gushed forth into the air, filling the chapel in a fine mist.
The girl watched as her brother fell into a pool of blood, the smile never leaving her face. She looked as though the terrible scene before her was little more than an innocent puppet show.
The coffin in the chapel was bathed in sunlight.
The pristine white coffin was instantly stained by a crimson splash of blood.
Under the gaze of sacred statues, blood dripped from the edge of the coffin, drop after drop.
Drip drip plop
Prologue 2: The Boy and the Girl Inside the Coffin
A splish splash of red
A splish spash of blood
April 2004. Somewhere in Yokohama, Japan.
Let me tell you a little bit about my family.
Huh? No, it's just the stars. Looking up at the stars at night by the sea just reminded me of home. It's a little island somewhere between Britain and Germany. The night sky is nothing short of dazzling.
What about during the day?
I couldn't really tell you. I've never seen the sky during the daytime.
Come on, you already knew that, didn't you? No, I'm not mad at you.
Right. My family, huh?
I'm not gonna give you a huge history lesson on my family tree or anything. I guess there's only really three people in our family, anyway.
I have a little sister--we're twins, by the way. She has to treat me like the older brother because I was born just a few minutes earlier. Don't get me wrong, but I'm glad I'm older than her. You see, my sister's always so true to herself that someone has to keep her in line all the time.
She has her faults--she's proud, and she looks down on humans--but I think that's her way of defending herself. So I'll understand if you get angry at her. But please don't hate her for it.
A noble title and a special bloodline is about all we have to our name. My sister always tries to build a wall around herself because she's so conscious of the fact that she's different. Always telling herself 'I am an aristocrat'. I guess it's nice that she's always polite, but I don't know how much more of her 'Honoured Brother's I can take.
Then again, I guess I'm in the same boat. Yeah. It bothers me, too. I feel like I'm being crushed by all the pressure. And if my sister's going through the exact same thing as me, then maybe the fact that she never lets it show means that she's pretty incredible.
And as for Father… Huh? That's right. My birth mother passed away. Our real parents were murdered before the two of us were old enough to know anything. The father that adopted us avenged our parents' deaths and took us in as his own--though I don't know how he was related to our real parents.
Father? He's a gentleman among gentlemen.
That's the best I can do with my vocabulary.
I'm not saying he's a decadent aristocrat or anything like that. Well, I guess he can be a bit extreme. But, uh… He's polite, for a start, and he's classy. He might act a bit exaggerated, kind of like a gentleman in a top hat from those comedies, but… It's hard to say. I'm trying to say that I respect this gentleman… That's right. I respect him.
It's different from the way I respect him as my father. I also respect him as a man. Whenever I talk to Father, I feel at ease. It almost feels like I can just shrug off the pressure that's suffocating me.
My father and my sister are polar opposites, but I love them more than anything in this world.
That's right. I don't need to hesitate. Because I really am telling the truth.
And… Uh, right. So, what I wanted to say is…
I treasure my family. And even though I feel like I'm being crushed under that weight, I don't resent my circumstances. Sometimes it makes me a little sad, but I think I have to accept that fate.
What makes me sad?
Well, something like what's happening now, for one.
My blood is boiling. I can't control it.
You know, when you're in love with someone… You just want to hold them, right?
…Oh, I guess you finally figured out what I was trying to say.
Then I'm going to make this clear. There's two things I want to tell you.
First, I… I think you're really beautiful.
And second… I'd like to… well, I'd like to suck your blood.
Don't worry. I'll be gentle.
"Rejected again, Honoured Brother?"
Shut up. It's none of your business.
"Did your guest not accept your invitation with full knowledge that you are a vampire? And yet she had the gall to turn you away at the moment of truth!"
Don't make that face. You're scaring me. And besides, I still look too young to seriously seduce a woman.
And I admit I messed up there, too. When I said "I'll be gentle", I was just trying to lighten the mood.
"Is that not a peculiar thing to say?"
You're still a bit… lacking when it comes to things like this. But then again, I guess my face wouldn't still be intact if you weren't.
"Me? Do violence upon my Honoured Brother? Certainly not."
…Sometimes you really scare me, acting like that. I'm fine now, though.
It's almost dawn. I'm going to bed now.
"Please do not change the subject."
All right. what were we saying, again?
"That human woman you so graciously invited. How could she turn away the aristocrat Relic von Waldstein, a master of the night? Even if you did not want to kill her, it would have done just as well to make eye contact and hypnotize her, or drink her blood by force."
That's all my decision, you know. And please stop calling me an aristocrat or that 'Night Master' thing. Sure, you see that in novels and stuff, but frankly, it's really embarrassing.
"Honoured Brother, you really must try to behave in a more refined fashion than these plebeian creatures--"
And one more thing! I know I've been telling you every singe day for the past three years, but could you please cut that out? Stop acting so formal. We're family.
"It is because we are family that these formalities are necessary. Honoured Brother, you are my only blood relative. You… are the only one in this world to whom I can truly give my sincerest respects."
I just said, please stop going on about the world and blood and family and all that. That's what humans do. Those 'plebeian creatures' you look down on so much.
"By that logic, we also share a common tongue and a heart that can feel emotion! Please, Honoured Brother. Do not try to change the subject with irrelevant arguments!"
Tch… I was so sure I could get you with that one.
Besides, we have Father, too.
"In the end, even Father does not share our blood!"
Ferret. Don't make me get angry.
"Um… Father's someone I can really respect, but…"
Haha! There you go. You should talk like that more often.
"…! I-I have merely been caught off-guard. I will speak no more!"
Don't get angry, Ferret. I'm just glad you weren't badmouthing Father.
Father, huh. I can't believe it's already been a year since we left home.
Maybe I should get back soon. I'd really like to see Father again. What about you, Ferret?
"I shall do as my Honoured Brother wishes."
Then just be yourself. That's my wish.
Prologue 3: The Rabble Around the Coffin
Squelch squelch goes the blood
From shadows to darkness, squelch squelch
April 2004. A bedroom in Waldstein Castle, on the Island of Growerth, Germany.
"Serves you right." Drawled a tall young man, who was looking up at the lavishly ornamented ceiling.
The ceiling was far from the only part of the room that was so ornately decorated. The entire chamber was filled with majesty, as though it had been lifted straight from a museum. The harmonious placement of paintings amidst the luxurious furniture eradicated all hints of vulgar decadence. There was also no light in the room, the darkness lit only by the faint glowing of the stars.
With the moonlight at his back, the young man raised his arms into the air dramatically.
"Ah, I shall say, I shall say--though you may criticize my words with claims of triteness, I shall say--Fuck your face, you son of a bitch."
Though it was the dead of night, the man's eyes bulged from behind a pair of sunglasses. He wore a shirt with a skull emblazoned on it, and a pair of black jeans. Over his shoulders was a black leather jacket. And before this man, who stood stifling his laughter, was a plain white coffin. There was nothing upon its surface save for the words 'Gerhardt von Waldstein' engraved upon it in red.
"You don't live up to even an iota of that ostentatious name. That crazy age of yours is just a number, you hear me?!" The young man roared, stomping on the lid of the coffin.
And as if to respond to him, a figure popped out from the shadows.
"Ahaha! But Master Watt, you just made it so that he couldn't hear!"
The newcomer was a girl about fifteen years of age, dressed like a jester. There was a distinctive pattern painted over her eyes and nose, but the lower half of her face was bare. The red Santa-esque hat she wore also made her look younger than she actually was.
The moment the jester leaned in closer, the man's fist rammed into her face, painting over her makeup with a coat of red.
"Shut your trap."
Pulling his hand out of the jester's face, the young man called Watt shook her blood off his hand. The blood scattered all over the floor, but left no stain on the red carpet.
And without even bothering to wipe his hand, Watt put a foot on the coffin once more.
There was something off about this coffin--some sort of resin had been applied to the space between the base and the lid, sealing off all openings.
"We've known each other for a damn long time, but looks like it all ends today. Eh, Count?"
There was a sneer plastered on Watt's face. The jester, her forehead still spewing blood, burst into laughter.
"Ahahahaha! Master Watt, that's another mistake! Gerhardt is a viscount!"
"Tell me something I don't know."
Watt drove his hand into the jester's face once more, this time without even turning around.
The force of the attack overcame her vocal cords, preventing her from screaming. The jester fell to the floor dramatically.
"Ohhh… That really hurt, Master Watt…"
The jester squeezed out a distorted voice from her bleeding throat, rolling on the carpet in pain. And yet Watt kept his eyes focused on the coffin, repeatedly stomping down on the white lid.
"'Count' is more than good enough for fucking vampire aristocrats." He said, his mouth twisting into a grin. A set of unusually long canines were glinted in the dim light.
And as though that served as a signal, the number of presences in the room instantly increased. Multiple sets of feet stood upon the red carpet, the jester managing to continue her rolling between them.
"Mr. Stalf. It will be sunrise in approximately three hours." One of the newcomers said, his tone making clear his respect. However, this was the kind of deference reserved for an employer, as opposed to a master. Suffice to say, it clashed greatly with the regal atmosphere of the chamber.
The man who had just addressed Watt was wearing a grey suit. His appearance was just as contradictory to Watt and the jester as his tone was to the setting. Not only that, the other newcomers were all visibly eccentric characters of their own. There was no hint of unity to the group's appearance.
"I'm afraid tardiness will not look so favourable on your records, Mr. Stalf."
"Fuck those bigwigs. It's not like they even keep numerical records anyway. You still can't shake acting like a Japanese salaryman, Magic Man?"
The man, who had been addressed by the monicker of 'Magic Man' as opposed to his real name, looked at Watt awkwardly.
"I am of the opinion that the lack of numerical scoring is precisely why we must strive to please our superiors."
"Zip it, Magic Man. Before I go all amateur magician and vanish your upper body." Watt said, still not looking back. The Magic Man flinched.
In appearance, the Magic Man was a plain looking man of Asian descent. His expressionless face made it difficult to judge his exact age.
And as if ridiculing the silent Asian man, the figures standing around the room stirred. Of them, a particularly large shadow stepped over to Watt, blocking the window behind himself.
Surprised by the sudden cutoff of light, Watt turned around towards the window.
"What'm I s'pposed to do?"
The man speaking to him was large. A veritable giant whose head nearly reached the ceiling.
"…? …?! …Huh?! Wh-who the hell are you?!" Watt cried. The Magic Man stepped in to explain.
"Mr. Stalf, that would be the newcomer who's just been placed with us todaaaaaargh?!"
"And. Why. Did. I. Not. Hear. About. This?"
As though to mask his surprise, Watt kicked the Magic Man in the shin as hard as he could.
"B-but Mr. Stalf! You're the one who told me to hold the introductions for later!"
With tears in his eyes from the overwhelming pain, the Magic Man hopped over to the door and slowly reached over to the modern light switch beside it. He flicked it.
With a click, the chandelier came to life and brightened up the pitch-black room as though it was midday. The eerie atmosphere dissipated, leaving behind what looked and felt like a luxurious hotel suite. The figures standing in the room winced at the sudden burst of light.
"Well, Mr. Stalf. The newcomer here is called-Guh!"
Watt's boot smashed right into the man's mouth. The hapless Magic Man was thrown to the wall. Watt followed up by stomping on the man's face with his heel over and over again.
"Who told you you could turn on the lights? Die, shit-for-brains! Die! You just had to go and ruin the mood, didn't you? I could have basked in my glory a little longer, you son of a bitch! Die, shit-for-brains!"
Watt continued to kick at the Magic Man's face, his pace reminiscent of an automatic weapon. Suddenly, the jester, who seemed to have recovered fully, grinned and butted in.
"Oh, Master Watt! You just said 'Die, shit-for-brains' twice! That's terrible! Your vocabulary, I mean!"
Though Watt was standing on one leg, he expertly pivoted around his foot and landed a heel drop on the girl's head.
The jester began floundering, blood spouting from her forehead and neck.
The man responsible for the bloodbath took a step away from his victims and approached the giant, whose full form was not visible in the light.
The giant's face was covered in a thick beard. His form was large and bloated, though it was impossible to tell if it was fat or muscle that lined his body. Of all the unusual figures in the room, he was the most out of place under the elegant chandelier.
"You're m'boss, righ'? Nice t'meet you." He said slowly. Watt raised an eyebrow.
"…You're fucking huge. You just a plain old monster-born? How'd you manage to hide this long?"
Before the large man could even finish, his body began deflating like a balloon, revealing the form of a little boy about ten years of age. The surprising newcomer was dressed in expensive clothing, a far cry from the raggedly dressed giant who had been standing there only moments ago.
"I have no trouble blending into crowded streets in a form like this."
The boy greeted Watt once more, his voice, attitude, and tone having done a 180. Watt took in the new information and narrowed his eyes from beneath his shades.
The boy grinned impishly, suddenly changing form once more.
"Or maybe this'll be more to your liking, hm?"
With an incredibly seductive voice, the boy's body had been replaced by that of a voluptuous woman. It was like watching a piece of claymation--his body collapsed like a pile of mud, then reformed itself in the blink of an eye. The shape of the skull, the colour of the eyes, the nose, the mouth, and even the clothes on the boy's back.
The other figures, who had been watching everything from the start, responded to the change with cat calls and murmurs. Watt, however, gave a small Tch and hoisted the woman into the air by her neck.
"Huh?" The Giant->Boy->Beauty's eyes widened in shock.
"I see what your game is. I get it now. You could even say I'm floored." Watt glared at the woman and spat anxiously. "…So what the hell do you actually look like? A little warning, here. If you tell me you transformed so much that you forgot your true form, I'll crush you. I don't need any brainless underlings who can't even remember what their own fucking face looks like."
Overwhelmed by Watt's display of immense hatred, the creature in the shape of a woman struggled to point towards the window.
Because the room had been lit up by the chandelier, the glass window reflected the interior of the room like a mirror.
Watt compared the appearance of the being in the window and the woman he was holding up, then released her with a nod.
The others all turned towards the window to have a look themselves, but the woman gave her hand a harsh wave. Every single window in the room shattered.
There was no sign that the woman had so much as touched, or even thrown something at the windows. Normally, onlookers might cry out in confusion at the sight, but the group in the chamber was unfazed.
"So that's what you are. That's about it for you, then."
"Um, my name-"
"Now it's my turn to introduce myself."
Ignoring the being who had suddenly transformed back into a boy, Watt smiled and continued.
"The name's Watt. I'm the leader of this team. I doubt I'll ever like you people, so I'll just tell you about what I don't tolerate."
He leapt up into the air and landed a sobat square on the boy's chest.
The boy was thrown into the wall, getting the wind knocked out of him. The man responsible for this superhuman feat continued as though nothing had happened.
"You know what bugs me? Getting shown up by my own flunkies."
And without even turning to look back at the boy, he stepped over to the coffin once more and stamped his foot onto the lid. He made no effort to hide his hatred of the object, as though they had some sort of a history together.
"Then let me continue. …Now that I think about it, we've already known each other for-"
As he began his majestic speech at the coffin, Watt suddenly caught wind of a commotion taking place behind him.
"Amazing! Never seen anyone who could transform into everything."
"I mean, half the guys here could turn into bats, but still."
"What about your clothes? Are they actually part of your body?"
"Say, what's your name?"
"I've seen a lot of people like you in American comics!"
"More in Japanese comics these days, right? Manga and anime."
"It's called 'Japanimation'."
"But isn't that just what the Japanese people call it?"
"'Animation by Japs', huh? Talk about self-deprecation."
"Shut up, people! You're getting on my nerves!"
"Turn into that hot chick again. Without clothes this time."
"My friends, wait a moment! A naked woman will only serve to disrupt order!"
The other figures in the room crowded around the collapsed boy. Watt put even more weight into the foot he had placed on the coffin and sighed, astonished.
"Why… are all my underlings retards? Huh?! What the hell do the bigwigs have against me?!" Watt complained, adjusting his sunglasses. The Magic Man, his face still bloody, spoke up.
"I did say it was important to please one'e superiors, did I not?"
Watt made to lash out at the Magic Man with a kick once again. However--
"It's time. Setting you aside, Mr. Stalf, we can dilly-dally here no longer." Watt had kicked at thin air. The Magic Man was already behind him, whispering into his ear.
As Watt ground his teeth, the Magic Man took out a scarf from his pocket. Opening up the dark orange cloth over his face, he calmly recited a spell.
"One, two… three."
On the count of three, he elegantly flicked aside the scarf. The bruises and bloodstains on his face had been wiped clean, replaced by his usual pale and neat complexion.
The moment the magic trick ended, Watt thrust his fist into the Magic Man's stomach. But the punch was caught by the hand that had popped out from the Asian's torso.
Watt, taken by surprise, found that he could no longer move his hand.
"Voila. As you can see, there were no tricks or devices of any sort. Were you surprised?"
The arm did indeed belong to the Magic Man. Watt had not realized that the hand that was not holding the scarf was not in the sleeve where it should have been. The Magic Man had pulled his arm into his shirt while Watt was focused on the scarf.
"I suggest you do not go overboard, Mr. Stalf."
Watt frowned. The Asian man smiled mechanically as though scolding him.
"Yes, you are theoretically my superior. However, in terms of pure vampiric power, you are the weakest among those of us gathered here today. I had been trying to save you face until now, but I'm afraid that time really has come upon us. If you'll excuse us."
Watt struggled to squeeze out a jab at his subordinate, not sensing the slightest bit of helplessness from him.
"Didn't I just tell you… I won't tolerate being shown up by my own underlings?"
"That's exactly why I'm doing this, Mr. Stalf. I'm willing to be slightly underhanded in the pursuit of a positive workplace atmosphere."
A moment later, the Magic Man snapped his fingers and flipped the hem of his jacket. The jacket suddenly grew to several times its size, as though growing into a cape, and disappeared into thin air--taking the Magic Man with it.
With that as a signal, the other figures in the room also disappeared one by one. Some melded into the floor, and others dissipated into the air. And yet others, as though they had never existed.
Instead of watching the room slowly fill out, Watt sensed the draining of presence from the room.
Finally, only himself and the jester remained in the room--the former standing in silence, the latter rolling around on the floor, wailing.
"Oi, Clown. That's enough."
"Ouchie, it hurts… Huh?"
She stopped in her tracks, looking at Watt curiously. The man did not look back at her, his eyes still fixed on the coffin.
"Cut the act. It's time for you to leave." He said, not letting a hint of emotion rise to his face.
The jester looked truly sad to hear that remark. And as though to obey him, her cut face, her injured forehead and neck, and even the blood flowing from her wounds turned faint like smoke, the reformed. Her wounds were gone. It was not as though she had been healed--it was more like the flesh around her injuries had been dissipated for a moment and reformed in an instant.
"Beat it. You might be talented when it comes to turning to fog, but even you aren't immune to sunlight."
The jester hesitated, but she soon nodded and disappeared like mist--literally turning her body into a fog.
Her form grew faint like a mirage. At that very moment, her pale skin, her colourful makeup, and her gaudy clothing dissolved into a multicoloured fog. She soon disappeared into the air.
Only the man and the coffin were left in the room.
The man kicked away at the coffin lid, not allowing a hint of expression to rise to his face.
He kicked at it limply like a sulking child, like a wind-up toy.
Thud. Thud. Again and again.
Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud.
By the time sunlight began filtering in through the window, Watt stopped kicking at the coffin and stretched.
He then looked back at the coffin with a refreshing grin.
"You listenin', Count? 'In terms of pure vampiric power, you are the weakest among those of us gathered here today', that damned Magic Man says. Doesn't it just make you laugh? Huh?"
He dramatically spread his arms wide and stepped towards the window.
"Humiliated by my own subordinates, and getting pity from that brat of a clown… Did she seriously think I wouldn't notice? In the end, a brat is just a brat. An imbecile. …Then what the hell am I supposed to be, getting sympathy from an imbecile like her?"
The man stomped down on the shards of the broken window, slowly raising his voice.
"That's right. I'm just a small fry. I admit that. I'm just a powerless punk. A dog. A minor-leaguer. And a literal half-baked piece of good-for-nothing. You think so too, don't you? But think about it. You just lost to this half-blood."
Allowing the light of the morning sun to envelop him fully, Watt twisted his lips into a grin.
"You lose, Count! I don't know how many decades, centuries, or millennia you've lived longer than me, but your excellent vampireness just lost to me! A half-breed dhampyr who's only got half your power and lifespan! You can cry and shake in your boots and call for your mama and blubber like an idiot and that still wouldn't be enough for you. Roll around in a cesspool of humiliation and let me hear you despair and wail. Just keep floundering in that pitch-black coffin for-fucking-ever!"
After roaring at the coffin, Watt regained his composure and took a seat on the coffin lid.
"…But let me just make this clear, Count. I don't despise my heritage. I'm thankful to my parents. My father, the average human, and my mother, the average vampire. And in the end they gave birth to a below-average half-breed, but…"
He trailed off for a moment. Watt then put on an atrocious grin.
"You know, I'm actually thankful for my own weakness. Because I know how good it feels to crawl up from the bottom."
He got up energetically and turned around as though in a dance.
"And once you feel this pleasure, you can't go back. So I'm gonna start climbing from now on, Count. With your defeat as my foothold! The fact that I'm the weakest means that I can enjoy the feeling of my own growing strength more than anyone else! You just sit there and watch me. Watch me struggle and climb like an unsightly weakling! You can stay there and wait for your inevitable pathetic defeat…"
After his long, dramatic claim, Watt added:
"I'm going to keep moving forward. I'll kill those bigwigs, anyone who gets in my way, or looks down on me. I'll slaughter them all--"
And just before he stepped out the door like a normal human, he threw out one final comment.
"And in the end, I'll slaughter your beloved little brats."
The sealed coffin shook.
Watt turned back towards it, worry clear in his expression, but the coffin moved no more. The room was enveloped in eerie silence.
Several seconds later, he put on a truly sincere smile and switched on the electric lights.
"So you finally show me your anger. I'm surprised you're still conscious three hours after you've been sealed inside, but I'm gonna have to thank you. I'm feeling a lot better now. …No, well, I personally didn't want to go this far. I wanted to take you down like a man, but orders are orders."
Taking advantage of his subordinates' absence, Watt allowed his true face to show.
"I was bluffing just now. As soon as I finish off the bigwigs, the first thing I'll do is get you outta there. Then I'll slaughter your brats while you watch."
The coffin shook once more, as though reacting to Watt's final words. Watt chuckled, and closed the door from the outside.
"'Til then, take a nice, long rest, Gentleman Count."
There were no longer any footsteps in the sunlit room. Only the silent coffin remained.
Prologue 4: The Girl Outside the Coffin
Slurp slurp - blood dribbling down
A moist set of lips - slurp slurp
In the darkness.
A lone man ran through a space of pure darkness. Was it the interior of a building? A cavern? Or a deep, dark forest where not even the moon would shine through?
With a meaningless scream, the man advanced forward into the shadows before him.
He was not heading for a destination, but moved as though in fear of something behind himself. His feet kicked off the ground endlessly, laced with fear and moving far faster than any human was capable of.
Though the rest of his body was overcome by terror, his eyes alone displayed clear consciousness.
Distrust, rage, and endless despair.
'How could such a cursed being be allowed to exist?
'Why me? Why me?
'Why, why, why?'
As he allowed his thoughts to show clearly in his eyes and despised himself for being cornered this far, even his outrage was devoured by the despair dogging at his heels.
Suddenly, the darkness gave way to light. The moon peeked out from between the clouds, faintly illuminating the world.
Though the area had been pitch-black until just a few moments ago, the man had been running in a nearly straight line through the forest, giving away the fact that he was perfectly aware of his surroundings in the dark.
The inhuman man let out an inhuman scream. The voice echoed across the forest like a sonic wave.
And in an instant, his body and his voice turned black like a shadow, scattering in all directions.
It looked rather like the sight of a school of fish scattering in the wake of a shark attack, but gathering once more together were not fish, but countless ink-black bats.
Rather than the canine faces of greater Indian fruit bats, they were closer to vampire bats, hideously squashed noses and all.
But anyone who could observe the scene fist-hand would deny both categorizations. Perhaps they would not even call these creatures bats. Their unnatural black coat was one of the reasons, but more prominent was the appearances of the creatures' eyes.
The flock that had emerged in the wake of the man's flight had, without exception, the same eyes as those of the man. The bats' eyes were not like those of animals. Instead it looked as though human eyes had been forcibly transplanted into the bodies of the bats. This single abnormality would be enough to make a chill run down anyone's spine. It was more than enough to prove that this 'creature' was a monster--a vampire.
But it was waiting for him.
The despair that chased after him had been waiting for this very moment.
Just as the man's body was about to dissipate entirely into the flock, he felt a powerful impact on his back.
The strange shock affected not only the man, but also the countless bats that were scattering from his form. From a distance it looked almost as though a great stream of water had been turned on its side. The objects thrown by the pursuer drove themselves into the backs of each and every one of the bats.
A scream that transcended the hearing abilities of human ears began to echo from the mouths of dozens of bats.
A moment later, each and every one of them helplessly fell to the forest floor.
'What is this?! What just hit me?'
The fallen bats did not even have the strength to regroup. But the vampire's singular consciousness was desperately trying to understand what was going on.
The impact that had struck his scattered body--the backs of the bats--gave way to a cold pain that pierced them all the way through to their bellies.
'What… What in the world is going on?! What am I being stabbed with?! This colour. Is it silver?! No. My cells are not being destroyed. Calm down. Calm down. Focus and put strength into those wings and re-converge and I can change into a wolf but I have to re-converge if I want to transform again--no. No. Please, if only I could get at least one bat out of here--'
The vampire desperately struggled against the coming despair. But she slowly emerged from the dark as though mocking him.
The bats floundered on the ground.
Before the man could even get his thoughts in order, a slender leg stomped down on one of the bats--her thin ankle wrapped up in a large, rugged boot used for mountain climbing.
The man screamed, not out of pain, but terror. But as a flock of bats, he could not even utter words in a human voice--all anyone could hear was the sound of squeaking.
'Despair' watched the sight stoically and spoke to the man.
"Melhilm Herzog. You have all sorts of abilities, but turning yourself into fog is not one of them."
As he heard the mechanical recitation of his personal information, the man's mind fell deeper into despair.
'How does she know my name? And how in the world does she know even my abilities?! How could a human girl know so much about me?!'
The despair illuminated by the moonlight was a young woman with pretty features, likely of Asian descent.
She was the one who had given pursuit to the vampire called Melhilm.
Though he should rightly be much stronger than a human, for the first time in his life he had experienced true fear, at the sight of this girl who looked to be even more frail than most others of her species.
It was difficult to swallow this sense of humiliation, but he was soon overcome by another emotion.
'Who is this girl?! A mere human a powerless human how could she move even faster than I stronger than I why will my powers not work why why why-'
Initially he suspected that she was a vampire like himself, but the girl before him carried a purely human scent.
'Even if she's a dhampyr like Watt she's too strong! What is this how could something like this exist why my research is almost complete then we would be revered like legends and myths my dream so close so close--'
In an attempt to stave off the despair swallowing him whole, Melhilm attempted to bring another emotion to the surface of his thoughts.
This human woman who had achieved certain victory over a vampire--what kind of expression did she wear? The defeated man used one of the bats to look around at the woman's eyes with its own human eyes.
And so his wish was granted.
On the girl's face was neither a look of mechanical duty nor an expression of rage, but excitement. Her eyes as she looked down at Melhilm were wide and expectant like a child on Christmas morning.
As Melhilm calmed the chaos of emotions in his heart, he focused his consciousness at looking into the girl's face through one of his bats. She suddenly shut her eyes lightly, a smile on her lips.
"--Thanks for the meal--"
Her words were spoken in a foreign language that Melhilm did not understand, but everything would become clear to him soon enough. The girl picked up the bat he was looking through and brought it near to her face.
She took a peek at the bat's eerie human eyes. Though there were countless emotions swirling through its face, at the root of it all was intense fear of what was to come.
And as soon as she took note of this,
The girl bit off its tiny head without even blinking.
Joy, and greater joy still.
The vampire did not even have time to turn his consciousness away from the bat before he felt the sensation of his head being devoured.
It was a sensation on a different scale than mere pain. His psyche was simultaneously hit by the feeling of loss, and something being drawn from his body like a stream of energy.
In the midst of the flood of infinite agony, the man finally understood what this girl was and cried,
'An Eater! So that's what you were! How could a lowly human-'
The final screams of the vampire Melhilm Herzog echoed from the bats as tiny supersonic waves, but they were lost to darkness, never to reach anyone's ears.
By the time she had finished devouring one bat, her mouth was covered in blood.
She then reached out towards a second bat without a moment's hesitation.
The bats, each of them skewered through the back with metal forks, writhed and struggled even more intensely than before. But the forks embedded deep in their bellies would not allow them to move, as each despaired and awaited their turn.
Of course, each of the bats' consciousnesses belonged to one vampire.
Whether she realized this or not, the girl chewed off another bat's head and gulped down its blood.
Though the sight of blood dribbling down her chin was terrifying to behold, it made for a surprisingly harmonious picture with the light of the moon.
Just like a vampire out of a storybook.
Continued in Chapter 1.
Continued in Chapter 1.