In this chapter: things start getting interesting.
Chapter 3 - Doctor and Professor Hole up Underground, and...
Underground, Waldstein Castle. The Execution Area.
There could be nothing more out of place here than her very presence.
“...Oh! Hello, Viscount Waldstein.”
The silhouette at the center of the scene gave them a mature smile.
Stretching in the center of the sprawling flower was a girl with skin as smooth as silk.
Although she was wearing nothing, she did not seem to care very much about her own nudity.
[Though I understand that my visit was quite unexpected, might I humbly request that you clothe yourself, Miss Selim?] The viscount asked, his words formed at a slight angle from the girl. He was turning his senses away from her.
‘My goodness. It’s not as though he’s obligated to look away. The viscount is much too stubborn sometimes.’ Val thought, having taken on the form and character of a woman. She was looking directly at the girl in the flower.
The girl with the gentle smile squirmed into the gigantic flower that looked like it had been taken straight out of a theme park. The vines that were sprawled out around her folded in towards the little chamber created by the flower petals. At the ends of the vines hung things like clothing, undergarments, and glasses.
The objects were seemingly sucked into the flower where the girl was. And only a moment later, the vines withdrew without the objects they had been holding, crawling back up the walls of the cavern and stopping still.
“One, two... one, two...”
A childlike voice squeaked from inside the petals. Soon, the flower opened up once more to reveal the girl, this time dressed fully and wearing a pair of glasses over her eyes.
“Oh, good morning, Viscount Waldstein.” She said, bowing slowly. Her languid but fluid movements were very much like the twisting of a mimosa, or the sight of a plant sprouting in fast motion.
[Ah, I see that I may finally behold your presence in all propriety. And let me apologize for being so late to greet you. You look most lovely, as always.]
“Ahaha. You’re embarrassing me, sir.” The girl laughed sweetly, fixing her glasses before they could fall. She then noticed the presence of Valdred, who was in the form of a woman in a black dress.
Shock spread over the girl’s face as she hurriedly looked around. She quickly pulled one of her petals close and hid behind it, stuttering nervously.
“I, um... I-I’m sorry! I had no idea we had a guest...”
The girl trembled and bowed at Val with eyes like a newborn animal’s. She moved like a rusted machine, stumbling awkwardly in a total 180 from her poise when she earlier greeted the viscount.
[Ah, Miss Selim. I do believe that you and Young Valdred have met in the past...] Said the viscount. Selim tilted her head in confusion. The name seemed to be familiar to her, but it did not match what she remembered of the person with that name.
“Oh my, I’m sorry. I was in a different form the last time we met...” The woman in the black dress said, and transformed her body as though in a flash of CGI. Her shape, color, and physical texture made a smooth transition into a new form, bringing forth the appearance of an innocent-looking boy standing in front of the wall.
“Oh! I... um... I’m so sorry!” Selim apologized for no apparent reason. Val awkwardly held up his hands.
Selim Vergès was a rather unusual vampire.
She was originally a plant, much like Valdred, and the human form she took on was but a small part of her entire body.
From the girl’s ankles downwards, she was connected to the center of the large flower. When she had a need to move around, she moved her roots and vines in order to propel the entire flower from one place to another.
Although a part of her body was nothing short of being a lovely young girl, this part of her could not be detached from the rest, forcing Selim to live underground, in the company of these tools of death. Including the great flower under her, she was more of an eye-catching sight than most vampires.
The one time they had encountered one another, Val and Selim had not had a chance to speak to one another. But Valdred had a great deal of interest in his fellow plant-vampire.
But in the aftermath of their previous encounter, he had been unable to figure out where she was residing. He was also too embarrassed to ask anyone where he could find her, leaving time to pass with nothing happening between them.
But now that she was right before his eyes like this, Valdred could not think of anything to say.
The fact that they were similar in nature did not necessarily mean that their struggles were also alike. Perhaps Selim was proud of her nature as a plant. Perhaps Val, created from the mixture of many souls, was fundamentally different even from her. Perhaps Selim had slowly built up her own identity, like humans did. In that case, she would be possessed of a clear sense of self.
What should he say to someone he knew nothing about, Val wondered. Nothing came to mind.
[We are here to speak to Doctor and Professor. Are they currently in the laboratory?] The viscount said before Val could begin. But Gerhardt’s question reminded Val why they were here in the first place.
In contrast to Val’s silence, Selim once more regained her smile and voice.
“Yes. they’re both inside.” She beamed, and pointed towards a corner of the cavern.
The great flower underneath her slowly began to curl inwards, and the vines and roots below began to wrap around her lower body as though to protect her.
The flower was now about half the size of a human, covering the girl’s lower body. It looked rather like a fancy skirt the people wore as part of a costume for a play.
Her lower body stood in total contrast to her innocent face. The vines wrapped around it began to squirm as the girl began advancing through the cave, sliding as though on a moving sidewalk.
Although Val was taken aback at the sight, he quietly followed after her.
[I apologize, Valdred. Miss Selim is quite wary of strangers, you see. She is always fearful before those she is unfamiliar with, but allow me to assure you that she is a gentle soul possessed of an iron will.] The viscount said, floating between Val and Selim. Reading these words, Val thought for a moment that the viscount’s body was very convenient for holding secret conversations.
‘Scared of strangers, huh? I remember freaking out when Mihail saw my true form last year.’
Remembering the human boy who had promised to forget his true form, Valdred silently followed Selim and the viscount.
The beautiful natural cavern gave way to a clearly artificial corridor. The execution area that Selim had been nesting in seemed to be the center of the caverns, and this place had likely been built further inside the earth. Although there was no flooring covering the ground, the path was even and lit by lightbulbs hanging from the ceiling.
They walked this way for several minutes.
“Whoa...” Val breathed, looking at the object that was standing before him.
The rock faces around them had suddenly given way to a wall of concrete.
There was an office-like door in the center of the wall. From the looks of the electronic lock installed in it, the door would not have been out of place in a modern apartment building.
Val was almost underwhelmed at having come into the cavernous basement of a Medieval castle only to find a modern structure inhabiting the depths.
“Doctor? Professor? The viscount is here to see you.” Selim said, pressing a button on the intercom beside the door.
<Ah, yes. Do come in.>
A voice came from the intercom. There was a click. The sound of the door unlocking.
Something about the voice bothered Val greatly, but he convinced himself that he was hearing things and followed Selim and the viscount through the door.
He then realized that he had not heard wrong.
“Hm... And what brings you here, Viscount Waldstein? Hoh hoh. I see you continue to enjoy your fluid and nearly immortal body, as usual.”
[Not without some complaint, I fear. Only last year, I found myself frozen and locked inside a coffin--I had very nearly passed from this world!]
“Of course, of course. I happened to observe the situation myself. Why, I considered lending you a hand, but it’s certainly a relief to see that you managed to take control of the situation without my assistance.”
[I am glad to see that you are as uninterested in the world as ever, Doctor.]
Doctor and the viscount traded jibes in good humor, but the former soon took notice of Valdred, standing stiffly by himself.
“And this young man would be... now, who were you again? Terribly sorry--my memory isn’t what it used to be, I’m afraid.”
[I believe this would be your first meeting with Young Valdred, Doctor.]
“Ah! Of course! Young Valdred. Dear me, I’d completely forgotten. I’m very sorry, young man.”
“He said this was our first meeting...” Val trailed off, but this was not the point he really wanted to make.
Doctor’s manner of speech was almost comically exaggerated to convey the image of an elderly man. But the voice that articulated these words could not have been more dissonant. The nagging feeling from the intercom once more assaulted Val.
It was not that Doctor’s voice was not pleasing to the ears. In fact, his voice was exceedingly clear and beautiful.
And although it did not match his manner of speech, it was a perfect fit for his appearance.
The ‘Doctor’ that greeted Val and the others at the door was a young man. A boy.
At this moment, Val thought to himself--the term ‘pretty boy’ probably existed to describe this boy.
It was a different kind of beauty from that of Selim in the execution area. Her beauty came from her harmonic unity with nature.
Doctor, on the other hand, was possessed of something more resembling artificial, geometric elegance.
He had shimmery silver hair like a mirror, and beautiful eyes that glinted like crystals. His irises were a light silver, juxtaposed against the pitch-black pupils within. His very eyes were already a work of art.
His nose, ears, the shape of his lips, and the pale skin peeking from under the sleeve of his lab coat were no different.
However, there was nothing resembling ‘future potential’ in the boy’s appearance--the potential that every child possessed, hinting at their eventual growth and maturation. From this, Val surmised that this boy’s appearance--early teens at the very most--was likely already complete. He also determined that, should this boy ever grow into adulthood, he would likely be able to bend every woman on the island to his will.
But this beautiful boy used the kind of language expected from someone much older than his appearance. It was extremely unnatural to behold, but there was only one reasonable explanation for his choices.
But this was no time to be asking questions to confirm such suspicions, Val thought, and stepped into the laboratory.
The facility, built deep inside the caverns, was quite modern. It was full of all kinds of technology, and the unnecessarily pristine walls and ceilings bore down upon the minds of all who walked through the hallways.
‘This is awkward. Never thought I’d find a place like this under the castle...’
When the viscount first mentioned a ‘doctor’, Val had imagined the chamber of an alchemist from the Middle Ages, brewing purple liquid in a cauldron while adding lizard tails or mosquito eyeballs to the mixture.
But what he was faced with was the essence of modern science and technology. Surprised at his guess being so far off the mark, Valdred walked through the door without complaint.
‘That’s right. Who’d use a cauldron in this day and age, anyway? Even the witches at the castle use... test... tubes...?’
In front of the computer inside the room was a gigantic cauldron, a mysterious purple brew boiling inside.
Val almost lost his balance.
‘I should have known. This guy’s a friend of the viscount.’
He pressed down on his temples with an incredulous expression, when Doctor suddenly turned towards him with a raised eyebrow.
“Young man, does the presence of this cauldron bother you? Why, I’ll have you know that some things never change, despite the passing of the ages. Researching a relic of the past--an unchanged essence of power--with modern technology should be nothing deserving shock. After all, the form, material, and mass of a witch’s cauldron is imperative for the creation and use of certain kinds of magical powers.”
“Oh... uh, I’m sorry.”
Val hung his head, having been read like a book. But Doctor chuckled and placed a hand on the edge of the steaming cauldron.
“This cauldron, however, is a simple humidifier.”
“Wait! No way! What? ...There’s a power cord on this cauldron! And the steam is cold!”
“That is because this is an ultrasonic humidifier. Keeps the room quite cool, don’t you think?”
“This purple stuff is just silicone! And there’s even bubbles in here to make it look like it’s boiling!” Val cried, examining the cauldron. He felt no heat from it. “What kind of a scientist puts a humidifier right in front of a computer?”
“A healthy work environment and pleasing atmosphere outweighs the need for a computer in tip-top shape. And young man, I am not a scientist. ‘Doctor’ is merely a nickname, for I am a simple researcher... or an investigator, you could say.”
“Well, you’ve done a great job creating an atmosphere. And what kind of a vampire cares about his health?!” Val found himself raising his voice. Doctor’s childlike features twisted into a grin.
“Ah... Viscount, this young man is more insolent than I gave him credit for.”
[Haha! Is it not most pleasant? Ah, from his current tone and hot-blooded character, I presume that Valdred is currently in the form of a young boy.]
Val deflated instantly. Because his form was always constant to the viscount’s senses, the latter had to determine the kind of form he took on by listening to his voice and observing his character.
“Please... don’t.” Val said, his head still bowed.
[Ah, if this matter bothers you, Valdred, then I shall speak no more of it.] The viscount responded. [But was not our visit to Doctor precisely for the purposes of asking for his assistance in the matter?]
With some difficulty, Val reminded himself why he was here. In order to find out more about himself, he would speak with Doctor and--
‘Wait a second.’
“Wasn’t there someone else? A professor or something?”
At that moment, they heard voices from a door on the other side of the room.
And as the door opened, the voices instantly filled Valdred’s ears.
“...C’mon. We’re just asking for money.”
“Considering how much we’ve suffered for your experiments, you know?”
“We demand fair compensation!”
“We’re not asking for wages here. Just your gratitude. Which we will not accept in any form other than cash! That is the hope that lies in capitalism!”
“Let’s be frank here. We want money! Hand it over now!”
Val breathed a sigh of relief at the appearance of these familiar voices and their chatter.
The newcomers were a group of five or six vampires in casual outfits. They were once Watt’s henchmen, but they had turned against him after falling head-over-heels for the maids of Waldstein Castle. But Valdred himself had also turned against Watt, so he was in no position to criticize their actions.
Strangely enough, a good chunk of these former henchmen of Watt were quite interested in Japanese games and animation. They were also quite human in behavior, almost to the point of exaggeration.
But Valdred’s moment of relief was quickly shattered and thrown into utter confusion by the ‘thing’ that the vampires were surrounding.
<Eek! Everyone! Please calm down!>
‘It’ was speaking in the kind of voice most suited to a female anime character--a magical girl, or a kitten, perhaps, one might see in anime or video games.
But Val could not even determine where ‘its’ voice was coming from.
‘It’ was a white, two-meter tall coffin.
The owner of the sweet animesque voice.
Unlike most coffins, this particular casket was standing on its narrow end, which was equipped with caterpillar tracks.
To add, a robotic arm was sticking out of the back of the coffin. The arm was inside the sleeve of a very large lab coat.
[Ah, Professor! I was beginning to wonder where you had gone. Entertaining some company, I see!]
The viscount went on the plainly greet the coffin, adding fuel to the flames of Val’s confusion.
[Your soul glows a most beautiful color as usual, Professor. I suspect that things have changed little since my last visit here.]
<Eek! Flattery will get you nowhere, Viscount Waldstein.>
Val silently watched the scene unfolding before him. The vampires, who had noticed the viscount’s presence, crowded around him.
“Hey, it’s Val and the viscount.”
“Setting the viscount aside, I never thought I’d see you here, Val.”
“Oh! I bet the witches upstairs were giving you a hard time, am I right?”
“Sexual abuse, I bet.”
“And now you want to sue them.”
“Heh. This is all because you haven’t transformed into a maid for us! But it’s not too late, Valdred! Hurry, become on with the green!”
“Big boobs, please.” “No way! Flat chests all the way!” “What are you, a pedo?!” “Don’t be an idiot! I like grown women with flat chests!” “Shut up.” “Then how about we ask for one flat side and one bouncy side?” “That’s an Amazon!” “Heh. They say that the Amazons chopped off their right breasts in order to make archery easier. I know. I understand this!” “Who cares about warriors? I’m asking for a maid!” “Or how about a warrior maid?” “Whoa, what kind of a psycho maid are you asking for?”
As the vampires began to go off on one tangent after another, the gigantic coffin once again called out in a cutesy voice, surprising Selim.
<Eek! Miss Selim! Please get these perverts out of here!>
“Oh? Oh! Yes, Professor!”
Selim blinked for a moment at the sudden request, but she soon extended several vines from her lower body and began to restrain the chattering vampires.
“Gah! She got me?!”
“If you think about it, the fact that you’re tangled up with a girl’s body sounds pretty ouch ouch ouch okay okay sorry please don’t squeeze that hard uncle uncle uncle!”
“Damn you, Doctor! Professor! You’re not going to get away with giving us no pay!”
“Viscount! Save us!”
[Ahaha. Have patience, my dear friends. I shall add an extra bottle of milk to each of your dinners from this day forth. What do you say?]
“That’s... no better than paying us peanuts!”
“I demand cash, Doctor! Cash!”
“We’re going on a strike, you hear me?!”
“Our struggle has only just begun!”
Doctor watched as the vampires were slowly being restrained.
“Capitalism is but a dictatorship that serves money as its king. Am I wrong?”
“...?! Wait! That was such a cool line I almost fell for it!”
“Even communist countries give people pay, you idiot!”
“You’re not fooling us, kid!”
The look on Doctor’s face suddenly changed at this last remark.
“I’m too elderly to be called a child by the likes of you infants!”
“Hah... So you thought that I bore the appearance of my true age, young vampires?”
Val, finally back to a state where he could think, turned his thoughts to the handsome young boy before him. He set aside the talking coffin for the moment.
‘He must have been turned when he was a child. And he never aged since then.’
Vampires who were born to vampire parents generally aged to the peak of their adulthood, somewhere between their twenties to their forties, at which point their aging halted almost completely. Depending on the bloodline, many such vampires could live on for centuries without growing old.
However, vampires who were once human before being turned were different. Their maturation and aging processes froze at the moment of their turning. Although changes in things like muscle mass or fat deposits could still occur, any form of maturation, such as the growing of permanent teeth in place of baby teeth, would no longer occur.
There were, of course, some exceptions. But this particular vampire known by the nickname of ‘Doctor’ was undoubtedly one of the latter. A vampire turned at a young age, never allowed to mature from that point onwards.
“Youngsters these days... No respect for the elderly.”
The vampires, overwhelmed by Doctor’s show of authority, paled and went silent.
And so the Doctor revealed his true age to his audience.
“As of this year, I am twenty-seven years of age, you rapscallions!”
There was silence.
The vampires that Selim had tied up exchanged glances, looking at one another incredulously. But soon, their shock gave way to outraged complaints.
“Twenty-seven... Which means you’re younger than me, you little bastard!”
“Shit! Don’t scare us like that!”
“What kind of a twenty-something acts like an old man, anyway?!”
“You’re taking ‘precocious’ way too far!”
“What are you, a wannabe tweenager?!”
As the vampires raised their voices, spit flying everywhere, Doctor chuckled like an enlightened man and turned to Selim.
“Show these youngsters out, would you, Selim?”
Selim smiled brightly, apologized to the vampires with an entirely different expression, and left through the door.
Unwillingly following after her, the vampires floated behind like helium balloons in the hands of a child. Valdred watched the cartoonish scene unfold before him, but the moment the door closed shut, he remembered that he was also a player in this story, not an audience member.
He had forgotten about his purpose for coming several times over by now, but seeing everyone go off on different tangents made him more inclined to take an observer’s seat than anything else.
But once he regained his calm, he would probably be able to take a more objective view of his own situation.
But stopping his thought processes from proceeding any further in that direction was the presence of the coffin-robot, which stood right in the middle of his field of vision.
“...Um... Viscount Waldstein? What in the world...”
[Ah, my apologies for the delayed nature of this introduction. This here is Professor. Professor, this is Valdred. He seems to be curious as to his own nature, so I thought it best to bring him to the two of you for consultation.]
‘Wait, what? No. Viscount Waldstein, please don’t introduce me to weird people(?) like this without even asking me first. Please.’ Valdred thought.
<Oh, I see! I thought it was strange that you came to see us. Not many people come to visit us without getting referred here.>
‘But I didn’t even-’
“Hmph. I am quite interested to learn more about this young man.”
Sensing something strangely resembling despair at Doctor’s comment, the boy decided to let the situation unfold before his eyes. But before that, there was one thing he wished to confirm.
“Um... Professor? Why a coffin? You... are inside it, right?”
<Eep! But we’ve only just met! Such a personal question...>
‘Uh. What do I do now?’
<But you know, you know? If you really insist, I don’t mind opening up for you!>
The joints on top of the caterpillar tracks spun back and forth. The entire coffin pivoted around it. Val desperately wanted to ignore this outlandish image, but he found himself even more curious than before about the contents of this coffin.
“...If it doesn’t make you uncomfortable, then please let me see.”
Val hesitantly stepped closer to the coffin. He pulled off the lab coat from its arm and opened the lid.
It flipped open with surprisingly little resistance. Val looked inside.
He slowly closed the lid.
Inside the coffin was a set of human bones, lying completely still. The moment Val had opened the lid, the caterpillar tracks and the robotic arm on the coffin ceased functioning. They remained stationary, just like the bones inside. But as soon as he closed the lid again, the coffin’s unusual voice returned to the room as though nothing had happened.
<Eep! I’m so embarrassed.>
<No! Please don’t say a word! A lady’s secret isn’t something you should show to the world at large!>
‘Let’s not think about it.’
Val set aside his curiosity about the coffin for a moment and turned to Doctor.
“Um... Doctor? What kind of a relationship do you have with Professor?” He asked, trying to change the topic at hand.
Doctor glanced up at the ceiling with a bittersweet look.
“...Have you ever heard of Fermat’s Last Theorem?”
“That is precisely the relationship between Professor and myself.”
“That’s not an answer! That wasn’t even subtle!” Val cried without even thinking. Doctor turned to him with a very gentle look.
“Ah, to be young again. Young man, you will understand one day. Once you’ve become an adult.”
“I don’t want to hear that from someone who looks like a kid! So what is it, are you together or what? I just want a ‘yes’ or ‘no’.”
“Young man, are you aware that you sound much like a Japanese businessman from the time of Japan’s bubble economy? Now, let me begin by defining ‘yes’ by analyzing the three letters that compose it. ‘Y’ is-”
“...I’m sorry. Never mind.”
‘These people. Are. Weird. They’re the weirdest acquaintances of the viscount I’ve ever seen, and that’s saying something. And that coffin--is it even a vampire to begin with?’
[Ah, what might be the matter, Valdred? I see that your soul is currently in a very stable state.]
“Hoh hoh. I see your blood has cooled somewhat.”
<Just like a young master coming out of meditation and fasting!>
“...I’m going back upstairs.”
With three sets of expressions focused on his face, Val turned to leave through the door.
‘That’s right. I’ll talk to that girl--Selim--on the way back. That’ll be a lot more productive.’ He thought, and took hold of the doorknob. But the voice that reached him at that very moment put a complete stop to his newly-made plans.
“Since time immemorial, watermelons have been relatively susceptible to being turned into vampires. That is probably the reason for your current existence.”
His feet stopped in their tracks.
The hand holding the doorknob would not move. Although it was only a combination of illusion and telekinesis, Val had accustomed himself to moving as a human would. This was why his perceived movements betrayed the state of his psyche.
“...Did the viscount tell you about me?”
Badly shaken by Doctor’s comment, Valdred thought to himself that if he had a heart, then it would now be beating loud enough for the entire room to hear.
But Doctor continued quietly, pushing Val further into a corner.
“Not at all. I was told by no one, but I did keep tabs on you. This is the first time I’ve seen you in the form of a boy, but the security cameras I installed show you as nothing more or less than what you are without the assistance of your illusions.”
Val reflexively turned towards Doctor, wearing a look of sadness, anxiety, and anger.
“Professor and I are always watching, you see, from this laboratory. We observe the many different vampires who live in this castle.”
Doctor, quite happy to have seen Valdred change his expression this way, took a seat at a computer chair.
“As I told you at the very outset, I had ‘forgotten’ you. Or to be more specific, I failed to recognize you. After all, this is my first time observing you in the form of a human being.”
Val could not find a way to answer. Doctor put on a very gentle look and picked up a pen from beside him.
“Now, then. Shall we begin with a physical examination?”
Sometime that morning, at Neuberg Harbor.
“If there’s such a thing as injustice in this world, it’s that you’re so amazingly beautiful, Ferret.”
The boy’s declaration left the girl in the black dress sighing loudly.
“From my perspective, the only remarkable injustice in this world is the fact that I had to encounter someone like you.”
“C’mon, that doesn’t apply to relationships. Fate is something you make for yourself, you know. That’s why I think this is a good time to start planning for the future. How many kids do you think we should have?”
“...Sometimes I wish that your brain would function like a television--if only you could behave properly after receiving a sufficiently powerful strike...”
A young couple was standing by the freight entrance at the ferry harbor, whispering sweet nothings into each other’s ears.
Or to be more accurate, the young man was the one doing the whispering, receiving no appropriate response in turn.
“A television, huh? I think we should get a really big one for our living room. Oh! Also, don’t worry about our income. I told you before--I’m going to write children’s books and live with you on a house on the hilltop. And you’re going to be my inspiration for those books, Ferret. I want the children of the world to know the truth! And this is the reality: Ferret, you’re the only truth in my life.”
“...Did you call me out in the middle of the day just so you could subject me to your harassment?”
They were both just past their mid-teens, but the way they carried themselves could not be any more different. The boy was bright and energetic like a child, but the girl was frigid and looked rather like the sheltered daughter of an aristocrat.
“No way! I mean, I think it’s important for me to express my love for you, but if that’s all I wanted, I’d just dive into your coffin!”
“In which case my fangs would tear into your carotid artery.”
The vampire--Ferret von Waldstein--half-joked at her childhood friend’s flirting.
She was looking rather cold to have been making a joke, but this was not enough to deter Mihail.
“Haha. I’d be more than happy if you could drink all of my blood.”
“Of course not. I would toss you away on the spot.”
“What? That’s so cruel of you! But anyway, I love you so much, Ferret!”
As their conversation slowly began to lose coherence, Ferret raised her voice without even thinking. But Mihail did not seem at all hurt by her attitude.
“So the reason I called you out there today is because of the Carnale Festival. Y’know. The opening ceremonies being at your place and all... I wanted to ask you to go see it with me. I mean, last year, things were so hectic I didn’t get a chance to go. But I’m not going to miss it this year!”
Ferret’s home was in Waldstein Castle, the main stage for the Carnale Festival. Each year, performers from around the island were invited to play songs composed by Strassburg in the castle’s music room, and guests would dance to the songs in the ballroom. The castle’s halls were also decorated with Strassburg’s paintings. It was in this castle that Ferret the vampire resided.
Although she was a vampire in name, she was an unusual sort who had no weaknesses to sunlight, running water, or crucifixes. However, she had no special powers that vampires tended to have, like turning into a flock of bats or dissolving into fog.
Ferret’s older twin brother, Relic, was the complete opposite. He was possessed of countless abilities befitting a vampire, but he also possessed as many weaknesses as the vampires in movies and novels.
Yet despite the twins’ curious nature, Mihail had treated them no differently than he would treat anyone else. However, this did not mean that he treated them as though they were the same as humans--he respected their nature as vampires in their interactions, while showing them nothing but honest kindness. He was someone the twins were always thankful to for his overwhelming care.
‘If only that care would be directed in a better way.’ Ferret thought to herself. Although she almost treated Mihail as she would a stalker, Mihail was well aware of this and did not care. In some ways, he was quite thoughtless in this attitude. But his reckless flirting continued today nonetheless.
“Ferret, did you know? If two people look at Strassburg’s paintings while listening to his music on the night of the Carnale Festival, they’ll be blessed for all eternity!”
“Oh my! Then I shall be going in the company of Honored Brother.”
“Wait, what? No, wait! This only works for the two of us, Ferret!”
“And why might that be the case?”
“Because I made it up just now!”
Before she had even realized, Mihail had taken a hold of Ferret’s hand. She tightened her grip in retaliation.
“Ouch! Ugh... Heh... Heh heh. For you, Ferret, I can create legends. And I can even sacrifice a hand or two for your sake!” Mihail said with a triumphant grin, despite the cold sweat running down his back. Ferret sighed softly in surrender.
“My goodness... Even I cannot help but bow to your stubbornness, Mihail.”
“Haha, don’t be shy, Ferret. I’m the one who can’t help but look away because you’re so beautiful. And, uh... if you forgive me, maybe you could let go of my hand now it’s really starting to hurt--”
“Of course. If this foolishly tragic legend of yours will elevate your intelligence even minutely, then I shall allow you to accompany me to the performance at the Carnale Festival.” Ferret said quietly, looking away. Mihail grinned like a child on Christmas morning, although the cold sweat on his brow from the pain of her vice-like grip did not disappear.
“Sweet! Ouch, ouch... F-F-Ferret? Uh, the tips of my fingers are turning purple, I think... Wait, I’ve got it! You’re holding my hand so hard because you’re trying to fuse our bodies together, right? Don’t worry! I’ll accept all of that and ouch ouch ouch...”
This was just Ferret being too shy and awkward to make her true feelings clear, Mihail convinced himself, as he watched his hand slowly grow numb.
“So where are we supposed to get this thing to?”
“Waldstein Castle. We contacted a local transport company, so we just need to get it to their depot.”
As Mihail lost himself in his one-sided fantasy, two men working on the cargo in the harbor stood before a particularly large piece of freight that had been standing there all morning as they chatted amongst themselves.
“Huh. That’s not part of our contract, is it?”
“What can we do? I mean, they’re pretty close by and all, but no way they’d send in a truck to pick up one piece of private cargo. How’s that one girl supposed to lug this thing up to the castle by herself, right?”
The cargo was a large wooden crate about two meters in diameter. It had been hoisted onto a very large transport cart with a forklift. The men looked up a the crate, which they had just barely been able to push with their combined strength, and began to push the cart along to finish their job.
“Seriously. How heavy is this thing? What the hell is inside?”
“I hear it’s a suit of armor they’re going to display at the festival.”
“A suit of armor?”
“Yeah. One of Strassburg’s designs, so it’s crazy expensive. So why would they just send in one girl to transport it? And where the hell’d she go, anyway?”
The men grumbled, pushing the cart towards the harbor exit. But they spotted a familiar face about fifty meters ahead.
“Shit! It’s Miss Ferret!”
“Damn it... Does she remember us from before?!”
Just over a year ago, these two men had been caught badmouthing Relic, and were almost murdered by Ferret. At the time, Relic was there to save them. But today, he was nowhere to be seen.
“...We’ll be fine. I hope. It’s been over a year now, right?”
The men nodded, trying to calm themselves despite the cold sweat running down their backs.
They slowly trudged forward, drawing closer and closer to Ferret with the cart rolling ahead of them.
For a split second, Ferret turned towards them as she heard the cart approaching. Her eyes moved towards the men, even as she continued to speak to the boy beside her.
The two workmen could feel their hearts threatening to leap out of their throats, but Ferret quickly turned back towards Mihail, having lost interest.
The workmen breathed a sigh of relief and veered slightly away from Ferret as they continued towards the exit.
At that very moment, they sensed something.
Something inside the crate was moving.
A powerful impact rocked the cart as they found themselves stopping where they stood.
Before they knew it, the scene before their eyes changed.
First, there was white.
A white stake that had shot out of the side of the crate, looking for all the world like a great white bullet.
Then, there was black.
The scene of the stake piercing the chest of Ferret von Waldstein.
The white stake provided the perfect contrast to the black of her dress.
Then there was red.
It began to seep from the boundary between the two shades, slowly eating at the white stake.
The scream of the boy beside Ferret pierced the darkening skies over the harbor.