Here's the final update of the first volume of Vamp! Thanks everyone for participating in the name spelling discussion. Volume I's names are set in stone now, unless someone can come up with an earth-shattering revelation that defies description.
To be honest, this is my least favourite book in the Vamp! series (it's not that I dislike this volume, though). So it was a bit of a pain to get through. But I'm of the opinion that this series gets better each volume, so far culminating in volume 5, which is my favourite book in the series and was my favourite Narita novel until 1711 dethroned it last week.
On that note, translation work on 1711: Whitesmile has already started. It's the final volume in the 1700s arc of Baccano, and I'll be making comments on the chapters as I post updates. Stay tuned!
(I'm probably going to work on volumes 2 and 3 of Vamp, which are parts 1 and 2 of the same story, once I finish Whitesmile.)
Epilogue: Ten Characters / Ten Colors in the Coffin
Just when I thought I was going to disappear, the viscount spoke to me.
[Have you any intention of cooperating, young lady?]
No. I'm working for Master Watt. I couldn't betray him.
[Is your loyalty your way of life? Or perhaps something you reserve only for him?]
I don't know what you're trying to say. I just want to see Master Watt smiling. I want to see him smile again and again and again. So I want him to live for a long time.
[Then might I suggest that you devote your energy to working for me, so that you have the opportunity to ask for the lengthening of his life?]
…If I ask, are you going to save Master Watt? Even from that girl?
[So long as my faithful subordinate's request does entail my breaking my own morals, I intend to oblige her request.]
I thought for a second. If I disappeared now, I wouldn't be able to help Master Watt.
I didn't know if I could trust this person, but maybe I could still be of use to Master Watt, even if this vampire betrays me. I'm weak and useless, but even I might be able to do something as long as I'm still alive.
I might be able to see his smile again.
And that's why I betrayed Master Watt.
The wide street leading from the castle to the city was lit by street lamps, peaceful as it should be in the dead of night.
"I told you not to follow me, Clown! Take one more step, and I’ll pretend you don't exist for as long as I live." Watt roared, stopping suddenly. Shizune was still slung over his shoulder.
'Oh no, he's mad.'
The jester had tried to follow Watt in fog form, but it seemed he had noticed her presence. She materialized into a physical form and nervously bowed her head. Watt did not turn to look at her.
"I'm feeling good. You understand?"
The jester tilted her head. This was not like Watt.
"I tasted hell because you bastards betrayed me. And I know that popularity is something you earn for yourself. None of you are gonna sympathize with me."
The jester tried to deny it, but Watt did not let her interrupt.
"But listen up, Clown. I know better than anyone how damn good it feels to crawl up to the top. That's right. I'll start all over again from the pits. I'll enjoy every step I take, and one day I'll reach the top and push off everyone else. That's what I'm living for."
Watt's voice grew more passionate. The jester thought that she could see his usual vulgar grin beyond his shoulder.
"So don't even think about taking that fun away from me, Clown! I was the idiot for leaving the fun to other people this time. But I'll start crawling up again, with my own strength. Again and again, as long as it takes! So listen up. …I will get you back. You, the Magic Man, the transforming bastard, those powers… Everything! I’ll take it all back with my own two hands! What could be better than that?"
He stopped, then turned back to face the jester.
"So you just sit tight and wait, Clown. No… Swear loyalty to the fucking count and do whatever he tells you to do. If he tells you to kill me, you better not show me any mercy! But if that time comes… I will do everything in my power to take you back."
The petty villain rambled on about dreams that were too good for him.
"I’ll get it all back one day, all for myself. For me."
On his face was the very same smile the jester had seen so long ago.
"So you better wait for me, Clown."
The jester said nothing—she merely beamed and nodded.
Seeing this, Watt began walking again.
"See you around, Clown. Say hi to the count for me."
Some time before Watt's attack—
When the transforming vampire fled from the viscount's presence, Mihail and Ferret decided to go into the forest to look for him. But they had scarcely stepped into the woods when Val appeared before them.
"…Are you here to finish me off?"
Val was in the form of a young boy, but he looked much more fragile than before, as though he was only a touch away from shattering to bits. Ferret was taken aback by the change in his attitude, but Mihail nonchalantly tossed his cell phone to Val.
"Hey, I erased that picture from earlier. Don't worry."
The boy looked at Mihail in disbelief.
"Why? Well, you don't want people to find out who you really are, right? It's gonna be fine. I won't tell a soul."
"But you're human, aren't you? Aren't you scared? Don't I disgust you? Aren't I-"
Mihail nodded without hesitation.
"You know, there's this vampire girl I really like. That's why someone being a vampire doesn't scare me. If it did, then that would mean I didn't like Ferret."
Ferret was stunned by Mihail's incredibly fearless confession.
The boy stared at Mihail curiously for some time, but finally spoke.
And, he transformed into Ferret and gave Mihail a kiss on the cheek.
Both Mihail and Ferret were left in a daze by this act.
Ferret quickly turned aside and mumbled,
"…I shall not be jealous."
"That must mean that right now, you are jealous, and I finally know how you feel about me—oof!"
One well-placed punch was enough to knock Mihail unconscious.
It had been nearly a full day since.
Waldstein Castle was enveloped in a lively air.
"…So what in the world was the true form of Valdred?"
"Sorry, that's a secret. Anyway, I'm more curious about this big cargo of yours… Whoa!"
Mihail stumbled several times as he carried along a piece of luggage almost as tall as he was. Ferret and the others had only been able to rest after the night of the commotion had passed—and by the time the sun set and they had awakened again, the cargo they had left at the harbor office had been delivered to the castle.
Along with dozens upon dozens of familiars.
"Don't worry, Mr. Mage. I'll get that for you!" Relic called, spotting the bespectacled magician hoisting up his luggage.
"Please, Master Relic! Allow me to do at least this much. After all, this is all a vampire like me is good for! Treat me as one of your familiars, a snake, or an owl!"
"I couldn't do that."
When Relic had unleashed his powers, all he did to the man was toss him into a wolf's jaws to give him a scare. But this was the result. It seemed that the Magician was the type to pledge his loyalty to those stronger than himself, no matter the situation. So long as Relic remained powerful, the Magician would probably remain on his side.
"I dream of the day when you assimilate many organizations under your power, and make me one of your officers, sir! And I’d only be glad to help…"
"…You don't try to hide anything, do you?"
The Magician suddenly stopped, and looked around at the familiars who were assisting Hilda and Mihail.
"What a fascinating island."
"An area so densely populated by the fantastic… no such place exists in Japan. But it feels as though creatures like us continue to gather on this island one by one. Is there something here, I wonder, that draws us to this place?"
"I don't really know. But I really love this island. I'm sure you'll come to love it too, Mr. Mage."
Although the former Magic Man had treated him so harshly the previous evening, Relic addressed him as though nothing had happened. Understanding that this was Relic's true nature, the Magician closed his eyes.
"I’m already very much in love with this island. And those familiars of yours also seem to be wonderful people."
Relic nodded and looked back at the familiars.
"…Huh? Are there more of them?" Relic asked a nearby maid. She smiled sheepishly.
"That's right, Master Relic. They were trying to hunt us down at the harbor on the mainland, but they ended up coming along with us somehow!"
At a glance, Relic could see a group of surprisingly energetic vampires going about their work and having some unusual conversations.
"All right, all right, all right! We're having a welcoming party today, yeah!" "M-A-I-D-S! M-A-I-D-S!" "You know, in Japan, they have a call-in maid service now." "Seriously? Like the ones in Japanimation?" "What, those Japs? Haha!" "J-A-P! J-A-P!"
Not only that, working between the werewolves, witches, and maids in green were Cargilla and the other exterminators.
"Huh? Are they still under control?" "Our parents are back to normal, so what happened to these guys?" Hilda and Mihail wondered. The jester laughed loudly.
"Tee hee! You know, the viscount said he didn't just want to let them loose and risk getting innocent vampires killed. So he's going to re-educate them! Like a brainwashing session! Ahaha!"
The jester paused for a moment, and addressed Hilda in a more serious tone.
"You know, I found this out when I was controlling your parents. Your mom and dad love you so much. Even more than themselves. It's up to you two if you want to forgive them or not, but I just want you to know, okay?"
"…Okay. Thank you."
"Forgive them? There's nothing to really go that far for!"
Although Hilda still seemed to have mixed feelings about the situation, Mihail answered energetically.
"I already expected something like this. I'm in love with a beautiful vampire princess, after all. You don't need to tell me twice that she's too good for me. And to be honest, Ma and Pop not agreeing's nothing compared to maybe getting rejected by Ferret!"
"Tee hee! I bet that princess of your just doesn't have very good taste yet!"
"Young Master Gerhardt. You weren't scared, watching the castle alone for an entire year?" An elderly woman with an arched back asked the viscount with some difficulty.
[Aha! I am no longer a child, Grandmother Job! Each day was filled with adventure!]
"What's this about adventure, now? Haven’t you any idea how much I worried that you'd dry up without us? In my eyes, you've still a long way to go, Young Master."
"That's Granny Job."
"What?! But last time I saw her—"
"She gets taller and her back straightens out when she transforms. I don't think it has much to do with age."
Relic and Hilda were talking normally, when Hilda suddenly changed the subject.
"You know, about that 'Shizune' person from yesterday…"
The real Relic had been watching everything from the ballroom roof, hiding his presence. He had attempted to use his powers several times when Hilda was in trouble, but he had been so exhausted that he could not produce even a single bat. Things would have truly ended in disaster without the viscount's intervention.
But there was one other thing bothering Relic—and Hilda had caught hold of the subject.
"That Shizune lady said that you tried to flirt with her or something."
It was a bitter blow. Most vampires had no need to sweat, but Relic's psyche was breaking out into cold sweat at the thought.
"I-it's a hallucination Eaters tend to have. Vampire blood is actually hallucinogenic, you know."
"Ferret told me everything."
Relic decided to come clean and apologize.
His heart was already fracturing, sensing the impending heartbreak. But—
"Is it true you're going to leave on another journey soon?" Hilda asked quietly, never once allowing her smile to fade.
"Huh? Oh, yeah. I think I might go on my own this time, without any of the servants."
"I'll forgive you if you promise to take me along too."
Relic's eyes lit up at the surprising proposal.
"Uh…! Yeah! Definitely!"
As his heart grew warm with joy, Hilda added one condition.
"So you have to decide during the trip whether you'll turn me, control me, or leave me as I am. Okay?"
By the time they had just about finished moving the luggage back into the castle, Relic went to the viscount.
"Father, how can I become like you?"
[Well, first you must inject a special bacteria into your blood]
As the viscount began in a textbook tone, Relic waved his hands in front of his face.
"No, not my body. I wanted to know how I could stay calm all the time like you."
[I must comment that I think myself to be rather hot-blooded, but… Ah, if you wish to become more composed, you must resolve to become a gentleman. Yes, a gentleman. Have pride in yourself, and respect those around you.]
"Can you be a bit more specific?" Relic pressed the viscount, unable to understand.
"It is a simple matter. All you have to do is set up a table, chair, and tea set in your heart. Eighty percent of the world's problems would be solved if every human being on earth became like gentlemen. Of course, those who subscribe to certain lines of thinking also choose to enter conflict because of their gentleman status. That is a difficult matter indeed, but a true gentleman must accept all situations at hand and smile. Do you not think so, Relic?]
"I see… Right. I'll do my best." Relic smiled.
"Master! What is that mess in the ballroom?!"
A maid in green came forward and glared at her master with a look sharp enough to kill.
The viscount trembled, and twisted around to form words of excuse in the blink of an eye.
[I happened to entertain a miage-nyūdō(1) as my guest, but alas, I found myself looking up at him. A most regrettable tragedy.]
"Don’t think that lies will work on us, Master!"
"And please don’t fall asleep!"
[Now, now. Do not worry over such tiny details. >___<]
"Please don’t use emoticons like that, Master. It’s disturbing! Every time, you get yourself into so much trouble, even though you’re the weakest of anyone in this castle! Just like the time you watched a movie and signed up for an internet correspondence course on 'dual gun karate', even though you can’t even hold a gun! This is precisely why a parasite like Watt was able to become mayor…"
As he listened to the maid's lecture, the viscount quietly formed a smaller set of words for Relic to read.
[I understand that you are concerned about Miss Hilda. Relic, if you truly love her, then you must continue to contemplate what you will do with your resolve. After all, contemplation will only strengthen resolve.]
[And once you have arrived at your answer, you must see your choice through to the end. Even should your desire refuse to walk down that path.]
Neither denying or accepting Relic's urges as a vampire, the letters of blood continued as though smiling.
[After all, resolve that continues growing for eternity will never lose out to base instincts.]
Let me tell you about my family.
Recently, our family's gotten bigger. Other then Father or Ferret, there's Hilda and Mihail. A girl that looks like a clown, someone who can transform into anything—human or vampire—and a magician who acts a bit like a bad guy. And so many others. I feel like I was able to let go of so many worries in these past few days. But I still have a long way to go if I want to be like Father.
To Father, this entire city is his family. Even the monstrous vampires living in the forest, and people like Watt. Maybe he considers everyone he's ever met his kin. It might sound kind of foolish, but it's because he sticks to his own foolishness that I respect Father so much. That's why I think his body—that pool of blood—is a perfect fit for him. Warm and free, able to take on any shape he wants.
Yeah. I know that I can't just follow after Father's back. One day, I'm going to overtake his back—although seeing as I can't figure out where his back is, I feel like I have a tough journey ahead of me.
Epilogue-Within-An-Epilogue: The Mayor of the City of the Coffin
When Shizune Kijima opened her eyes, she could see Watt nearby, not wearing his sunglasses. A bright light shone through the windows. She guessed that she was probably in a hospital.
"Ah, so you're finally awake. Good thing you opened your eyes just when I came to visit."
Watt laughed, his tone completely different from what he used when he wore his sunglasses. His smile was not at all vulgar—in fact, it was refreshing. But something about it looked slightly forced. Shizune then remembered what had happened before she awoke.
She tried to sit up, but her body wouldn't move so easily.
"Even an Eater will be out of shape after a whole week unconscious in the hospital. It's a miracle you're still alive after losing all that blood. I guess that's an Eater for you, don’t you agree?"
"…Why are you talking like that?"
"Because I'm supposed to be the mayor. Did you honestly think I would spout profanities at city hall every day?"
Shizune remained cautious, observing Watt. He did not seem to be taking a hostile stance, but she could not see an opening to attack. Not only that, she had no idea why he had opted to bring her here after what she had done to him.
"…I thought you hated putting on an act like this."
Although Shizune had known Watt for a long time, she had never seen him with this kind of an expression before. She was angry at herself for saying that they had a bond of trust. She regretting saying, "Thanks for the meal".
"You know, I hate losing."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"I hated being shown up by Viscount Gerhardt von Waldstein, the lord of this island. So I decided to rule over the city on the official stage. Simple."
Watt's tone, almost childlike in a way, left Shizune uneasy. Was he truly the same man from before?
"And once I became mayor, I realized I didn't want to lose to the criminals. I didn't want to lose to the bad economy. I didn't want to lose to the three other cities on this island. And eventually, it came to this—I can't stop now, even if I wanted to."
"…Why are you telling me all this?"
Before answering, Watt gathered his things and prepared to leave.
"I just wanted you to know how much I hate losing."
The mayor looked out at the streets and smiled, as though treasuring the tranquility outside.
"The count and I are pulling a lot of strings behind the scenes at this hospital. Talk to the doctor and he'll get you everything you need."
"What do you mean?"
"You know, like blood packs."
Shizune had no idea what Watt was trying to say. But what he said next confirmed her worst suspicions.
"Looks like you're the type that's immune to sunlight. Congratulations."
"…? …?! No… It can't be…"
Realizing something, Shizune looked down at her own body. Her left hand, torn away by the Magic Man, was whole. She could not feel anything of the terrible wound that should have been on her abdomen. Not only that, despite her sluggishness, she could not feel any sort of pain from her injuries.
"You… you didn't…!"
Watching Shizune's face grow dark with despair, Watt flashed her a satisfied grin. It was not the faked smile of the mayor, but a truly petty, villainous smirk.
"I told you. I hate losing."
Shizune reached up to her neck, and discovered two little puncture marks.
"Getting betrayed all the time really is no fun. So let me just tell you exactly what you told me then."
Looking at Shizune's hopeless expression, Watt bowed politely.
"Kijima Shizune. Thank you for the meal."
"In fact, seeing as I’ve freed you from the cursed life of an Eater, I almost feel I deserve your gratitude."
Returning to his role of mayor, Watt addressed the trembling Shizune. But Shizune's reply was filled with indescribable bitterness that few sixteen-year olds could be capable of.
Shizune had no idea what this change meant for her. Perhaps Watt was right, and he had freed her from her cursed fate. Or perhaps he had thrown her into a new sort of hell altogether.
But right now, she needed a reason to live.
Having had her entire life denied, Shizune desperately struggled to find meaning in her existence. Anything was fine. Any goal would be fine, as long as she could continue being herself. Even if it meant destroying everything but herself.
And so, she swore revenge against the man standing before her. She swore to avenge her life upon him—this was her goal. Though she had once lost sight of revenge during her time as an Eater, she had returned to her original purpose once more.
It was an almost tragically foolish situation. Even Shizune herself understood this, but her resentment was infinitely greater than any shame she might have felt.
"I will never forgive you."
"I'm not going to kill you… I will destroy—these streets—this island. Your city. I will stop at nothing… This island's happiness… Brace yourself."
Perhaps Watt was imagining things, but he though he saw something like a smile on Shizune's face when she uttered her final statement. But he did not try to confirm his suspicion—the mayor was no longer looking at Shizune.
Listening to the resentful words aimed at him, Watt headed for the door, his footsteps silent.
"In that case, I will also do my best. I will stop at nothing—I will use every underhanded means and every trick in the book to retain my position as mayor, and protect this city from you. After all, that is my role as mayor."
Without even looking back at Shizune, he declared his resolve to her calmly.
"I am the mayor. If anyone but myself decides to bring harm to this place, he or she will have to answer to me."
Opening the door wide, Watt put on his sunglasses and repeated himself—
"'Cause I hate losing."
(1) A Japanese youkai that gets taller the more one looks up at it.