This was a physically draining chapter to translate. Narita's written plenty of violent stuff before, but I think this chapter kind of takes the cake in terms of emotional intensity (for now, anyway).
Enjoy! (or maybe not.)
Chapter 4 - The Two Walk the Path of the Eater, and...
Rudy was dreaming.
There was a story unfolding in his dream.
A re-enactment of his past, caused by the memories etched into his mind.
This was why the boy could allow himself to suffer. Because the scene before him was both a dream and reality.
Because its nature as a dream made it impossible for him to resist.
“My name is Theodosius M. Waldstein. Call me Theo.”
He was dreaming. These were the words of the vampire before him, who wore a gentle smile.
With that image as the start, images from the past began to weave themselves into a tale before his eyes. Sometimes in fast motion, other times slowly, and yet other times, repeated over and over as though in a proud boast.
But it was fun.
The images he saw were from much happier days.
It was partly the joy of having made a new friend. But if he were to be honest, looking back on it with hindsight in consideration, it was perhaps closer to a sense of amusement derived from his feeling of superiority to the rest of the world.
Having met a vampire--having broken out of the limited frame of the mundane world--Rudy felt as though he had become someone special.
The moment he saw Theodosius--Theo--transform into a flock of bats, he became the hero of a fantastic story. The hero of the tale he created for himself. His childhood friend Theresia, ever by his side, was probably the best fit for the role of heroine.
This was what he thought.
To be frank, perhaps he had never thought this way at all. But now, as he thought back on it, that was the only possibility that presented itself to him.
‘If I never thought that way... then I never would have done such a thing. I never would have stupidly brought him to the village...’
The boy was disappointed. He had managed to befriend someone from what seemed like another world entirely, yet there was no audience to witness it.
As he became dissatisfied, he began to grow greedy.
‘I’ll introduce this vampire to other people.’
He was certain: To be friends with a vampire was an astounding feat.
‘I’ll act as a bridge between the world of humans and vampires.’
He was already playing out the story of his own heroics in his head. A selfish tale where everything ended happily ever after, with himself on the receiving end of endless praise from the people.
But in the end, the boy’s failure was not the fact that he trusted a vampire.
It was merely that he was unlucky.
That the vampire he just happened to encounter was Theodosius M. Waldstein, a fiend and monster without peer. This was the start of the tragedy.
There was screaming.
Blood, flesh, death.
They were dying. They were all being murdered.
In his dreams, his family and his friend were being killed.
“Why... why did you kill them?!”
“Tell me. Why?! What did I...? What did they ever do to you?!”
His words repeated themselves over and over again. In the reality of that day in the past, and in the nightmares he saw since that moment.
And for the first time in a long time, his dream continued beyond where it normally stopped.
“It’s because I love you two so very much.”
The vampire in his dream wore a terribly twisted grin, just as he did in the reality of that day, as he looked down upon the boy.
“That’s why I could never forgive you. I could never let your eyes fall onto anyone else. Yes... That’s right. Call it jealousy. I was just jealous.”
The vampire chuckled casually.
And in his arms was the boy’s most beloved family member.
“Oh, I almost forgot something important!” The vampire said, his voice brimming with hope as Rudy fell deeper into despair.
“Tell me. Do you love your sister? Or do you hate her? Or do you maybe not care about her at all?”
In spite of the fact that this was merely a dream, Rudy could feel his heart falter.
If he answered that he loved her, then the vampire would kill her on the spot, using something like jealousy as an excuse.
So the boy decided that he would claim to hate her. Although he would have preferred to have his own mouth torn open instead, he could not trade his sister’s life for anything.
And so he steeled himself--but at that moment, the vampire’s vulgar smile twisted into something even more grotesque.
“If you tell me that you hate her, then I’ll kill her for you!”
“If there’s something you hate, it would be better if it didn’t exist. And I would do anything for your sake, you know? But don’t be a bratty kid and ask me to kill myself or revive the people I killed, okay?”
The piece of scum standing before the boy could not have been more casual about laying out his offers, complete with caveats, but the boy still could not strike back.
He was too afraid.
Even though his sister was in such danger, his anger could not defeat his fear.
“So... what you tell me now is going to decide if your sister will live or die. I’ll kill her if you say you love her, and I’ll kill her if you say you hate her. What are you going to do? Hah! Try and stop me if you can! Come on, try and save your sister! Ahaha! It’s all on you now. How does it feel, holding your precious family’s life in the palm of your hand? You could even say that you have control over her, just like a vampire! Ahahaha! Hahahahahaha!”
The vampire’s sense of logic did not entirely make sense, but it was enough to etch his words into the boy’s thoughts. It felt as though the sounds entering his ears were rattling his brain from the inside out.
The vampire soon stopped laughing, putting on the most gentle smile yet. He slowly spoke to the boy.
“Now... tell me your answer.”
There was a story unfolding in his dream.
A re-enactment of his past, caused by the memories etched into his mind.
But the despair he felt in the dream was no less real than what he had felt that day, all those years ago.
Rudy must have had this dream many, many, many, many, many times by now. But the depth of that despair never changed.
The dream continued in real time, refusing to spare Rudy.
In the dream, he trembled as he finally opened his mouth to speak.
And suddenly, he awoke.
Or to be more accurate, he had been awakened.
‘I sense a vampire’s presence.’
He hurriedly opened his eyes, but he found himself in a very small space he did not recognize.
The thought of being trapped in a cramped, dark space almost sent him into a panic, but he quickly remembered what was going on. They were on their way to Growerth. He would enter the island with the cargo, having been placed in a crate by Theresia and Sigmund.
Although he could easily enter the island if he removed his armor, they were informed that this island was home to an abnormally large, concentrated population of vampires. In such an event, going to the island without wearing the armor would pose him a rather large problem. So he elected to be boxed in with the cargo for the journey to Growerth.
He was used to being treated as freight, so this experience was nothing new for him. And he had already forgotten the dream he was having only moments earlier.
But the presence of the vampire lingered. This was one thing he could never let slide.
Unlike Shizune, Rudy’s grudge was not against all vampires.
The only vampires he despised were those who fed on humans, and the vampire called Theo.
Rudy decided that, before he leapt out of his box, he would have a look at the vampire he had just sensed. He turned his gaze to one of the many peepholes drilled into the sides of the box.
From the way the crate was shaking, he was probably being transported somewhere at this very moment. And the vampire’s presence was growing nearer and nearer.
He identified her at a single glance.
The girl in the black dress was clearly different from the world around her.
She was probably slightly younger than himself, but appearances counted for nothing when it came to her kind.
Upon closer inspection, Rudy found that there was a boy beside her whose hand was tightly gripped in hers. At first, he thought that she was assaulting him. But the boy’s face and radiant smile told him otherwise.
As Rudy wondered what was going on, the boy and the vampire’s conversation began to come into earshot.
“Anyway, Ferret, I’ll be the perfect partner for you at the Carnale Festival. You can count on it!”
“...I am afraid your escort may only cause me worry.”
“Well, if you can’t count on me... you could drink my blood and make me your slave!”
The boy’s words rattled Rudy.
‘So this kid knows he’s talking to a vampire? And... he’s not under her control. I’d heard all the rumors about this place, but who’d have thought they’d actually be true?
‘I’ve never seen humans and vampires just... chatting like this in the middle of the day where anyone could hear...
‘No. I have seen it before, haven’t I?’
Reminded of his childhood self, Rudy clenched his fist inside his armor.
‘I’m sick of this mission already.’
Although he was to be given more detailed orders from Sigmund upon arrival, according to the rumors, Growerth was home to a very large vampire population, some of whom were living amongst the humans. Of course, this was the extent of his knowledge and he had no desire to look into things any more.
Remembering this. Rudy took notice of the dark emotion swirling through his heart and quickly rejected it.
If this emotion was anger, he would not have hesitated to unleash it on the spot. But it was something else. An emotion he did not wish to acknowledge--after all, how could he be envious of these humans, living in harmony with vampires?
Perhaps this was why he never felt like finding out more about this island. He had only learned the details of this mission after being treated like cargo and boxed into a wooden crate. If he had known from the start, he might have turned down the mission altogether.
‘Damn it. I’d better finish this mission quick and get off this island soon.’
Rudy mumbled to himself as he returned to observing the vampire he was slowly approaching.
“Please, I must conduct myself in a manner worthy of the eldest daughter of the Waldstein family. I have no need to be escorted through the festival by a man!”
The moment the word reached his ears, darkness welled up in his heart once more.
This time, it was outrage.
It was hatred.
And so, he had neither need nor desire to deny himself.
“Following your escort may very well end with you dragging the Waldstein name through the-”
The girl did not even have a chance to finish her sentence.
The white stake he launched drove itself into her chest.
It was refreshing.
It felt so very refreshing.
“We’ve lost her...” Theresia sighed in disappointment. She was standing in a back alley a slight distance from the harbor.
Staining the ground under her feet were strange black droplets. The trail of stains had begun dotting from around the corner, finally stopping where she stood.
Before the final trace of black droplets was the alley entrance, the many tourists who were here to enjoy the festival, and the main street filled with locals and lined with shops opening up for the day.
“If only these droplets were blood, I could follow after her...”
Things had begun a little earlier.
When Shizune found herself restrained by the ankles, Theresia’s whip bearing down on her--
She drew a pair of knives and tore off her own legs.
Although the knives were not so large as to be able to sever human legs so easily, Shizune had forced the blades through flesh and bone with raw power and speed.
She then pivoted around, allowing gravity to drag her to the floor, and plunged the knives into the hands holding her ankles.
Ignoring the wincing Melhilm, Shizune put strength into her arms and leapt forward in a handspring.
The sound of the air told her that a powerful attack had torn through the spot where she had been standing only a moment ago.
But she did not have time to look back. With her arms against the floor once more, Shizune used all of her strength to throw herself off the side of the building.
Theresia, watching this unfold, hesitated to follow after her.
“...What are you still doing here, Theresia?”
Melhilm, who was cradling the hands he had returned to his arms, glared at the Eater.
“...She’s getting away, isn’t she. Should I chase after her?”
“Yes!” Melhilm shouted angrily. Theresia calmly explained herself.
“That woman threw herself into a major street. There are too many potential witnesses around for me to hunt her down in secret. And these eye-catching clothes won’t help, either. Wouldn’t it cause problems for the rest of our mission if I made a scene now?”
As Theresia predicted, they began to hear people gathering below. It would be unnatural for people to not crowd around when a woman with her legs cut off jumped down from the rooftop.
Melhilm considered Theresia’s question for a moment, and finally gave her an order.
“...But we cannot risk her disclosing your presence to other vampires. Maintain a low profile and follow after her. Once you find her hiding-hole, take care of her without being caught.”
“That’s a pretty tough order to follow up on. We’re not assassins.” Theresia said, her expression clouding. Melhilm snorted.
“Then assassins you will become. Remember that the two of you are nothing more than tools of the Organization.”
Without giving Theresia a chance to retort, Melhilm transformed himself into a flock of bats. Strangely enough, each of the bats were possessed of human eyes. This alone lent them an eerie air. Seeing them in a flock of hundreds made them no less than monstrous, Theresia thought to herself, as her superior flew off into the distance.
She quickly leapt to the roof of the next building, then returned to the ground as she began to track Shizune’s trail of blood.
Even if the stream of blood was interrupted at points, Theresia could follow Shizune as long as she continued to bleed. It was not the scent that she chased after--it was the blood, which practically brimmed with vampiric presence. So as long as Theresia continued to chase after the presence, she would catch up to Shizune.
She pressed on, doing her best to remain unremarkable. But in spite of her worries, her clothing blended in quite well with the rest of the island. Many people were dressed in even more eye-catching costumes, dressed up like puppets and dolls. People did not pay Theresia any mind in the midst of all this.
The trail of blood led Theresia towards a construction site just next to the harbor. She could probably confirm Shizune’s presence there and follow her in person from that point onwards.
However, she stopped in her tracks in front of the paving machine.
Shizune Kijima’s trail of blood came to an abrupt stop here.
If she had lingered here, her presence would only have been strengthened. But why in the world had it gotten weaker?
As she stood there in confusion, one of the construction workers approached her.
“You shouldn’t be here, young lady. We’re in the middle of work... and there’s a bit of a fuss going on here. It might be dangerous.”
“Did something happen?”
“Well, the asphalt tank is busted.”
The workman pointed towards a yellow vehicle. Smoke was rising from it.
A hot asphalt mixture was leaking from the tank on its back, covering part of the road in black.
As the pool of asphalt continued to grow, Theresia noticed something else.
There was a trail of black leading from this pool.
Almost like the trail of blood.
‘It can’t be...’
Having arrived at a certain conclusion, Theresia quickly turned her gaze to the trail of black stains. They led into a back alley, at which point she could no longer sense the presence of blood.
‘She couldn’t possibly have found anything to stop her bleeding with wounds like that... So... did she use molten asphalt...?!’
Being a vampire, Shizune was in no danger of dying--but it was a crude method of treatment nonetheless. In fact, this ‘treatment’ could turn out for the worse. Even if Shizune possessed regenerative capabilities, this method could at worst leave her crippled forever.
“Geez, what are we supposed to now? The mayor was already pissed that we couldn’t get this done in time for the festival...”
Ignoring Theresia’s shock, the workman worriedly surveyed the site. He then noticed that the former was still there, and quickly softened his expression.
“Anyway, you’re a new face. Are you a tourist, young lady? Weird stuff like this happens sometimes on Growerth. Don’t worry about it. Go on, have fun and enjoy the festival!”
Theresia responded to the man’s smile with one of her own, in spite of herself.
Without sparing the man a glance, she turned and began to follow the trail of black.
‘I’m sorry. We’re here to completely destroy this festival you love.’
As Theresia began to follow Shizune’s trail, a vicious scene was unfolding in the harbor.
By the time he had managed to utter her name, her eyes were already lost to darkness.
Mihail caught her in his arms as she fell, calling her name at the top of his lungs.
It had begun all too suddenly.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a pair of workmen from the harbor transporting a large wooden crate.
And when that crate passed right beside Ferret, there was a noise like the crisp sound of splintering lumber as blood began spouting from her chest.
“A... a... grk... uh...”
Choking incomprehensibly, Ferret brought her hands to her chest in shock. Blood dribbled over her snow-pale skin, sticky and red.
The attack must have reached her lungs and paralyzed her respiratory system. Ferret breathed weakly and collapsed where she stood.
“Ferret! Wake up! Someone... someone call a doctor, please! Get an ambulance over here!” Mihail cried, loud enough to shake the harbor. He was so distraught that he had forgotten the cell phone in his own pocket and the fact that there would be no use in sending a vampire to a human doctor.
He then realized that a white stake had been driven into her back.
“N-no... No... No! Ferret! Don’t... please don’t turn to ashes! Ferret!”
Stakes were no weaknesses of Ferret, so Mihail actually did not have to worry about her turning to ash. But he had forgotten even that. Mihail desperately tried to pull the stake out of her back, but it was slippery with her blood, refusing to be dislodged.
As he fell further into panic, Mihail struggled to save Ferret.
At that moment, a calm voice addressed him from above.
“I see. So this place is sister cities with a town in Japan.”
The large shadow cast over Mihail read the sign posted in the harbor in a dissonantly casual tone.
It would have been understandable if Mihail had ignored this voice in his state of panic, but something in this mysterious voice sent a chill down his spine. In spite of this, Mihail could not turn his eyes from Ferret. He continued to listen to this voice with the back of his head.
“They say that ambulance services are free in Japan. What about this island? Is it just like the mainland? Do you get a bill in the mail after you get a lift?”
‘Who cares?! Hurry up and call an ambulance, you idiot! I’ll foot the bill even if it takes me my whole life to pay it off, so just call an ambulance so the doctor can save Ferret!’
In Germany, doctors are dispatched alongside ambulances. Depending on the situation, even helicopters could be dispatched. But not even in Growerth were there ambulance services for vampires.
‘I don’t care if it’s a human doctor. So someone please get some help! Someone help me stop Ferret’s bleeding!’ Mihail wanted to yell, but something in the voice of the large shadow stopped him. The pressure he felt was almost physically sickening, but he could not let himself fall--at least, not while Ferret lay in agony in his arms.
Perhaps it was this powerful determination that helped him turn around and recognize the caster of the great shadow.
A person wearing a gigantic suit of armor.
Although its overall design seemed to be mostly European in style, parts of the ornamentation looked much more Oriental.
Behind the suit of armor was a smashed wooden crate on a cart, and two hapless workmen struggling to get to their feet and escape.
The suit of armor covered its wearer’s face completely, but from the voice that came from it, the wearer was likely a young man.
“That’s right. I’ve been on an ambulance before, back on the mainland. But... the rest of my family... they got to ride something less common. A police vehicle. A car... that carries corpses...”
Although the man’s voice trailed off, the weight of his presence only intensified as he went on.
Mihail could feel his senses blanking out from the pressure. But he could still pick out the element in the man’s voice that had been bothering him all this time.
The coldest, most murderous emotions he had ever seen were bearing down on him, focused on the vampire in his arms.
At that moment, it finally hit Mihail that this armored man must have been the one responsible for driving a stake into Ferret’s back.
“You... you’re the one who... how could you... HOW COULD YOU?!”
‘It was him it was him it was him it was him it was him
‘How could he how could he how could he how could he HOW COULD HE?!’
He thought nothing.
Mihail gently laid Ferret’s body on the ground before lunging at the suit of armor with his hands clenched into fists.
He honestly thought nothing.
The sound of eggs cracking slid off the surface of the armor. Several new joints were broken into Mihail’s fingers. The skin over the new bends in his digits were torn apart as his fists turned red, like sponges soaking in scarlet ink.
There was a sharp pain in his hands, followed by a delayed wave of agony.
Despite the unrelenting assault of pain, Mihail continued to think nothing. His only driving force was the anger and hatred he felt at the one who had hurt his beloved.
And his anger at himself, for being unable to so much as scratch this hateful foe who had appeared out of nowhere.
The bones in his hands were broken, barely wrapped in folds of skin. He could no longer make a fist with his hands, but he continued to strike at the armored man’s stomach.
“Damn it...! You bastard! How could you?!”
Red stains began to appear on the surface of the armor, and Mihail’s fingers looked to be on the verge of being ripped off entirely. But at that moment, the armored man reached out with both hands and took Mihail’s wrists.
“...Stop this. I don’t have any business with you.” He said calmly, turning his gaze towards some point behind Mihail.
Noticing this, Mihail slowly looked back.
His look of outrage was instantly erased by an overjoyed smile.
“That... is correct... This is not your battle, Mihail...”
Standing there was the vampire on whose behalf Mihail had been fighting--Ferret, her clothes soaked in blood and holding the white stake in her right hand, having pulled it out herself.
The hole in her chest had already been mended, but perhaps she had lost too much blood--her usual pallor had only worsened, making her look almost like a corpse.
“Ferret! Are you okay?!”
Shaking off the armor’s grip on his wrists, Mihail tried to embrace Ferret. But she took his arm and pulled him behind herself.
“That is what I would like to ask you, Mihail. Now, please... you must get away from here.”
“What? I couldn’t do that, Ferret! I’m not going to leave you!”
Although the fact of Ferret’s survival had erased most of Mihail’s hatred of the armored man, his anger had yet to abate. He continued to glare at the man, alongside Ferret.
“You will only get in my way, Mihail. And I do not know if I could defeat this man to begin with...” Ferret mumbled, before turning to glare at the armored man.
“...How barbaric, tearing the clothes of a complete stranger.” She said mockingly, although on the inside she was desperately trying to find answers. The man’s voice was completely unfamiliar, and she did not know anyone who was so strange as to walk around the streets dressed in full armor.
But something about the armor itself felt vaguely familiar. Although she could not recall where she had seen it before, the distinctive design of the work was carved into some corner of her memories.
As Ferret slowly regained her calm, the man in the armor confessed his shock.
“That’s amazing. I thought I’d pierced your heart for sure, but to think even that stake wasn’t enough... And your regenerative capabilities are top-notch, even counting all of those damned vampires I’ve killed so far.”
From the man’s words, Ferret was certain that he was in the business of hunting vampires. A group of Hunters had also come to the island last year, and this man was likely similar to them. Although Ferret also considered that the man might be a vampire, the words ‘damned vampires’ made the possibility quite unlikely.
‘Why did he attack me, even though I was walking outside in the middle of the day? How did he know that I am a vampire?’
Her black dress, eye-catching as it was, did not adequately explain the attack. Even setting aside the fact of the festival, no Hunter would attempt a kill based on manner of dress alone, lest he risk being hunted himself by the police.
Then how did this man in the armor know that she was a vampire?
There were two possibilities.
The first was that this Hunter had been hired by someone to kill her specifically, and was given a photograph to find her by. Ferret wondered for a moment who might do such a thing, and quickly remembered the face of the mayor of Neuberg.
The second possibility was that the man in the armor was a human being who could sense the presence of vampires--an Eater.
As Ferret cautiously continued to speculate about his identity, the man in the armor continued speaking, utterly calm.
“Well, anyway. Looks like you’ve trained that human well, and without even imposing control. How’d you get him to listen? Or do perfect-looking vampires like you just have to do a little sweet-talking to get men kneeling at your feet?”
“Hey, you’ve got that wrong! I’m following Ferret because I want to follow her! And this isn’t something to brag about, but Ferret has never tried to sweet-talk me! Ever!” Mihail cried, stepping forward to protect Ferret. But she caught him and slammed him backwards.
“I understand, so please get yourself to a doctor now, Mihail!” She said, the intensity of the fixation of her eyes on the armored man speaking for how dangerous she understood him to be.
But the man turned his gaze from Ferret, as though his venom had subsided.
“...Looks like we’re getting some onlookers coming our way.”
People were gathering towards the harbor, drawn in by the loud noises. There seemed to have been some sort of a commotion nearby earlier, and the people the first incident had drawn were now moving on to the incident at the harbor.
“I’ll let you off easy for today.” The armored man said. Ferret glanced over at the harbor entrance.
Not a second later, a jolt of pain ran up her leg.
A long, thin, white stake was sticking out of her leg, over her skirt. It was slightly different in shape from the one that had been driven into her back earlier.
‘When... did he...?’
The armored man showed no sign of having budged. But something shot towards her like a bullet, lodging itself in her ankle.
“I see. So you’ve never been in a real fight before.”
Mihail, who lay crumpled in a heap, raised his voice as he took to his feet and rushed towards Ferret so he could carry her to safety.
But the armored man caught him easily, pulling him off the ground at breakneck speed.
Before he knew it, Mihail was lying on his back on the deck of the ferry moored in the harbor.
And although Mihail had no idea what was going on, Ferret, who was pulling out the stake from her thigh, saw everything clearly.
The suit of armor, which looked to be easily over a hundred kilograms in weight, had flown through the air and landed on the ferry.
No human was capable of such strength.
In fact, most vampires were probably no match for this display of raw power. Ferret was now certain of the man’s identity, for she had met a woman with similar abilities in the past.
The woman’s name was Shizune Kijima.
‘He must be an Eater!’
Doing everything in her power to ignore the pain in her leg, Ferret kicked off the ground to give chase.
Compared to her armored foe, she was physically much weaker. But being so lightweight, she managed to propel herself onto the buoy floating beside the ferry. She then leapt from it and barely managed a landing on the deck of the ferry.
Because the crew was still preparing the ship for its next trip, only Ferret, Mihail, and the armored man were on the deck.
The man noted Ferret’s pursuit, surprised by her determination.
“So you followed after me, huh. Does this mean you’re confident you could beat me? Or that this human’s just that important to you?”
The man’s youthful tone struck a stark contrast to the appearance of his armor, but Ferret did not let her guard down. She still had no idea how he shot those stakes at her, but they were fast and devastating. Ferret was not confident that she could dodge them, even if she focused her senses to their utmost limits.
Then why in the world had she come after the man?
If she ran to the castle and called for help, she could have enlisted the assistance of one or more of many creatures who could defeat this man. So why did she insist on pursuing the armored man?
The answer was simple.
But she did not want to admit it.
If the situation was not so dire, she might have spared a moment to allow herself to blush. But ‘danger’ did not even begin to describe the state she and Mihail were in now.
“In any event, I ask that you let that human go. Those like him should have no bearing on the conflict between vampires and Eaters.”
“You talk like you’ve come straight out of the past... that reminds me of him.”
There was a powerful emotion filling the man’s comment, but Ferret had no idea what it meant.
“Anyway... I’m actually a bit thankful, you know? For your regenerative abilities, I mean. If I’d ended up killing you then and there... I’d have lost the clue I was so desperate to find.”
“...A clue?” Ferret wondered. The armored man continued coldly.
“Where is he? Where is the vampire named Theodosius?”
‘I have never heard of anyone by that name.’ Ferret was about to reply.
But there was something tugging at the corners of her memory.
Theodosius. The rhythm and tonality of the name was unfamiliar to her, but there was something about it that continued to bother her.
After a moment of thought, she finally recalled a very vague memory.
As she thought, Ferret had never heard the name before--but she had read the name once in the past.
It was many years ago, when she and Relic were still quite young. They were sitting in the castle’s dining room. Their adopted father Gerhardt was going on about nothings at length, and Ferret faintly recalled that name being mentioned at one point in her father’s speech.
As Ferret stiffened, the man in the armor questioned her again.
“Theodosius M. Waldstein. How many vampires do you find with ostentatious surnames like that? Is there someone among your family by that name?”
Ferret’s memory began to come into focus.
‘I remember. Father was speaking to us about the Waldstein family, and-’
“So you know something, don’t you?”
The man in the armor did not miss Ferret’s moment of silence.
But Ferret would not back down so easily. As long as she was in possession of the information their attacker needed, she still had a chance of negotiating with the man.
“...I will speak on one condition. Let Mihail go this instant!” She cried.
To Ferret’s surprise, the armored man’s helm nodded easily as he tossed Mihail towards the far end of the deck.
Of course, even a light toss by an Eater was enough to send Mihail flying almost ten meters, slamming onto the deck with a chilling thud.
As she began to call his name, Ferret naturally turned towards Mihail.
And she repeated her mistake.
She had once more turned her attention from the armored man, at whom she should have focused all of her senses.
The voice calling for her childhood friend scattered at the impacts that shook her body.
In that short span of time, seven white stakes had been shot at Ferret.
Of them, four had accurately pierced the tendons of her arms and legs. Ferret lay spread-eagle on the deck, looking little different from an insect on display.
Pain overwhelmed her. An indescribable sense of heat, accompanied by agony, began to assault the rest of her body as her mind descended into maddening confusion.
As Ferret lay there, her ability to hear no longer apparent, the armored man addressed her in a monotone voice.
“Now that I know you’re sturdy, I’m going to go rougher. The people at the harbor office are probably going to hear about the commotion and climb aboard here soon.
“So consider yourself... fuel. Fuel to bring him despair.”
Filling his voice was hatred. Directionless animosity.
But there was something about that voice that also carried a tone of self-loathing.
As the vampire lay at his feet, Rudy calmly began to calm the flames burning within.
‘I can’t kill her. Not yet. Not yet.’
Holding back his excitement, the Eater in the armor slowly approached the fallen girl.
‘First, I’ll make her tell me where Theo is. Then I’ll smash her head while Theo watches. So I can’t kill her. I can’t kill her yet. I have to hold back...’
He had wanted to place all the weight of his armor upon the head of the vampire, who was now completely still, and crush it where it lay. But he desperately quelled his urges.
Although he had no mercy for most other vampires, Rudy had never felt so fervently emotional on a hunt. But today was a special exception.
He had been hunting down the vampire who had massacred his family for nearly ten years. And now, a clue to his nemesis’s whereabouts was finally within reach.
And of all things, the clue lay with a vampire who shared Theo’s surname. Perhaps they were relatives. Perhaps they were family.
‘So he has a family?’
The thought fanned the flames of hatred in his heart.
‘So he steals away my family... massacres my loved ones... and goes on living as if nothing’s ever happened?! Tasting happiness with a family to call his own?!’
Before he knew it, he had shot another stake, this time into the girl’s stomach.
The vampire groaned in pain. But Rudy didn’t feel even a sliver of pity.
‘That’s right. This vampire must be just like him. Seducing humans with her words... Shit! Just like him! I can already tell... in the end, she’s going to turn on that kid, too.’ Rudy thought, taking one step towards Ferret.
“...Now talk. Where is he?”
The girl was barely able to vocalize, let alone speak, but Rudy questioned her heartlessly. When he noted that her lips were not moving, he raised one foot in order to break her leg.
But as he stood with one foot in the air, he froze.
When decided to torture the girl for information, he had hesitated for a single moment--was this really the best place, he wondered. The presence of the human boy bothered him--the boy who was so very much like himself when he was still a child, deceived by a vampire.
‘This might be hard for him to watch. But that shouldn’t matter to me. And he’s still better off than the way I was left back then. He’s... going to get over it.’
He glanced over at the direction in which he had thrown the boy.
‘Wait. Where is he?’
He was certain that the impact of the fall had knocked the boy unconscious. But before he knew it, the boy was gone. With his injuries, he could not have moved at anything faster than a walking pace. So where had he gone?
‘Did he run off?’
The boy had probably understood the danger he was in and leapt off the ferry. Now there was nothing stopping Rudy from brutalizing this creature. All he had to do was finish before onlookers arrived.
He began to slam down his foot to start where he left off, and looked down at the vampire.
But his eyes widened in an instant as he hurriedly angled his foot away. He almost ended up losing his balance, but he just managed to stay on his feet.
There was someone covering the place where Ferret was lying.
It was the boy named Mihail, the one he had tossed away before.
The boy gave all of his attention to the girl, not even looking at Rudy.
He was focusing all of his efforts into pulling out the stakes that were lodged into her. For vampires, having stakes piercing into their bodies was usually more damaging than the blood loss that followed the removal of the stakes. But whether Mihail understood this or not, he helped Ferret sit up and took hold of one of the stakes.
Rudy anxiously grabbed Mihail by the arm and forcibly pulled him away from the girl.
He had been jolted by the fact that the boy he saw as being very much like himself had taken such an action.
Mihail, held in midair, showed no sign of fear. Instead, he swung his mangled right arm at Rudy again.
“Let go! Let me go! I’m going to help Ferret! Don’t get in my way!”
His emotions must have gotten the better of his sense of reason, Rudy thought. It was almost as if Mihail had locked all of his hatred and anger within himself by prioritizing the safety of the vampire.
Rudy easily caught Mihail’s punch with his other hand. His grip began to tighten.
“...You’re the one who’s getting in my way.”
The force of his grip grew stronger.
Although it was little more than a trifling show of strength for beings like vampires and Eaters, their power was itself a weapon for normal humans like Mihail.
A moment later, there was a sickening noise.
There was a stomach-churning sound.
Mihail’s right hand, which had been forced into the shape of a fist by raw determination, went limp. His fingers, splayed out in all sorts of unnatural directions, flopped helplessly like puppets with their strings cut.
Noting the damage he caused, Rudy turned to resume his interrogation of the vampire. He judged that Mihail would be incapacitated by the pain of the compression fracture.
But Mihail betrayed his expectations once more.
He stared at his right wrist, now completely numb, with a puzzled look. Then--
“STOP GETTING IN MY WAAAAAAAAAAY!”
He swung his broken arm at Rudy, still intent on fighting back.
His annoyance at the human boy worsened.
Rudy had no idea why this boy’s actions bothered him so much. No--he did not want to know. He must not know. His every thought guided by this focus, Rudy cut off all lines of thinking.
A moment later, a white stake was driven into Mihail’s shoulder.
Although it was not an immediately lethal wound, the boy would inevitably lose a great deal of blood. The agony of the injury spun through his every nerve, threatening to disable even his breathing and vision.
Having done such violence upon a normal human being, Rudy momentarily broke free from his outrage.
“Let me make this clear. You’re powerless. Determination alone won’t be enough for you to change things here.” He said to the weak human being.
Rudy then came to a realization.
‘Wait. This tone... it’s just like Theo’s...’
Realizing that his image of himself was beginning to overlap with that of the man he loathed above all else, Rudy shook off the thought in horror. He realized that he had been denying this thought for quite some time now, and understood that he was currently not himself.
Normally, he would never take any action that drew attention to himself. This change in him was all the fault of the Waldstein name.
‘But it’s going to be all over soon. That name won’t bother me anymore. I’m so close...’
As long as he could find the whereabouts of Theodosius M. Waldstein, everything would be all right. Or rather, nothing else would matter. He would no longer have any reason to take orders from Sigmund the Green, Melhilm the Violet, or Caldimir the Blue. All he needed was Theo’s location. He would then torment his nemesis and finally take his life.
Killing him would end everything.
As Rudy once more steeled his resolve, he heard from underfoot something like the croaking of a dying frog.
“Aaaaargh... agh... graah... hah...”
It was Mihail, lying on the deck and twitching with the stake through his shoulder.
The pain had finally overtaken his brain functions. The explosive anger he had shown earlier was no more.
Yet he still latched onto Rudy’s ankle with his intact left arm and, in contrast with his earlier emotional outburst, he squeezed out a trembling voice in half-sobs.
Rudy’s annoyance evaporated at the sight of Mihail’s foolish pleading.
Seeing the boy prioritize his own life over that of his loved one, Rudy remembered his own past.
‘That’s right. You’re doing good. You’re just human. Forget about vampires and live your life in peace.’
For Rudy, acknowledging Mihail’s plea for mercy as as good as acknowledging the actions of his past self. He was, in a roundabout way, trying to seek acknowledgement that his choice on that day was a perfectly natural one for a human being to make. Even though he knew that this acknowledgement--this acceptance--would solve nothing, he still sought it out for himself.
“...Please... don’t... don’t do it...”
‘Humans don’t belong in fairy tales. Those stories are for looking at from a distance, from another world altogether. That’s the role given to humanity.’
“All right. I’ll spare you. It’s my personal policy to spare anyone who begs for their life, but I never had any reason to kill you in the first place, anyway.” Rudy mumbled, slightly relieved, and offered Mihail a hand.
Although the boy was badly injured, he was not even close to being on the verge of death. But these injuries would eventually become scars that reminded him to never approach vampires and their like ever again. Then another tragedy would be averted.
“...I... I don’t care... what you do to me... So please... don’t... don’t kill Ferret...! Please... Please... I’m begging you... spare Ferret...”
Rudy’s thoughts stopped.
The right hand he reached out towards the boy tensed as his nerves and muscles stiffened.
Mihail’s words were essentially an act of rejection towards Rudy’s past actions.
Although he never intended for such a thing, this was indeed as good as rejection to Rudy.
‘Why... why would you choose to save the vampire instead?’
His ears must have been playing tricks on him, he wanted to think. But Mihail stumbled to his feet as though in bold defiance, and stood before Ferret to defend her.
“You’re... not going to kill Ferret...”
His words and actions both were borderline nonsensical to Rudy. Although Mihail’s wounds were not fatal, they should have been deep enough for him to begin fearing for his life. And Mihail did not seem to be the type to be unaware of death at all.
‘Because of Theo... I left my sister to die... and begged him like a dog to spare me... So WHY? Why is this kid going so far... even though she’s not family... even though she’s a vampire... even though she’s related to Theo?!
‘I don’t understand.
‘I’m so confused.’
Images from the past came to life before his eyes.
The scene from his dream unfolded before him.
In his waking dream, he could see himself standing there begging for his life. But he no longer saw the image of Mihail overlapping with the child he once was.
Rather, the image of Mihail defending the vampire looked almost heroic and lofty, while his old self--standing there with tears rolling down his face--looked nothing short of foolish.
‘Is it just because he’s older than I was back then? Is that why he’s willing to throw away his life to save someone?!’
With that thought, Rudy found himself re-imagining the past, placing it several years after it had originally taken place.
Perhaps he might have acted otherwise if he had the power of an Eater as he did now--but the self that had lived as a perfectly ordinary human being would never deviate in his choice, no matter his age.
‘Then... Then what about now?! Why am I repeating the same scene from before... but from the same viewpoint as that bastard?!’
The thought he had tried to shake off returned to him once more.
And unlike his old self, this boy named Mihail refused to back down. He continued to stand before his loved one, fighting on her behalf.
In other words--
‘Does this mean that... I’m just an inferior version of Theo...? The “me” that’s standing here now... is just like...
‘No no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no...
‘No. Things are different.
‘That’s right. I just didn’t go far enough.
‘That Mihail kid hasn’t been scared enough yet. That must be it.
‘Yeah. This is different from the kind of suffering I had to experience.
‘So I have to make him understand it.
‘All the pain... so much pain...’
At this moment, Rudy’s mind was engulfed in confusion.
Another stake was driven into Mihail’s shoulder.
The boy could no longer even scream. Rudy grabbed him by the arm and threw him to the other end of the deck.
And without even watching Mihail fall, Rudy turned back to face the vampire.
‘I get it. I get it now. He keeps defending her because he doesn’t know what it feels like to be betrayed! Because he hasn’t been betrayed by her yet... That’s the difference!’
“I’m gonna add one more condition to sparing your life.”
Ferret was just barely breathing. She opened her eyes weakly.
She was so exhausted that she could not be certain that she had clearly heard the exchange between Mihail and the armored man.
But Ferret was essentially an immortal being. She was unaffected by running water, stakes, or sunlight. And according to Doctor, she could probably recover even from being burnt to ashes, given enough time. He was quite keen on conducting such an experiment, but Ferret had politely declined.
The armored man had probably threatened her because he had no idea that she could not be killed.
But immortality was not enough to grant her endless strength. And setting her body aside, her mind was far from invincible.
But this was no time to be thinking this way, she told herself. The many stakes piercing her body prevented her muscles and organs from regenerating. At this rate, she could very well be chopped into pieces.
However, that was also an option that she could not ignore. If she were in pieces, the armored man would leave her for dead. Then she would have escaped peril. And once she had gotten these stakes out of her and recovered, she would make him regret everything he’d done.
‘I will make you regret what you did to me... and Mihail.’
But the armored man’s demand was about as unexpected as they came.
“...Cut off that Mihail kid’s right hand. Personally.”
“What... are you saying...?” Her lungs had recovered just enough to allow her to speak, albeit with great difficulty. “...Are you... insane? ...What meaning is there... in such an action?”
But either way, she was not obligated to meet the man’s demands. If he wanted to cut her to pieces, he would. If he wanted to crush her, he could do so with little effort.
“There is no meaning to it. You two just annoy me, that’s all. I’d love to kill you both, but I don’t want to kill a human, and you still have the information I need. So what am I supposed to do with this frustration? Just looking at a damned vampire like you annoys me. So what am I supposed to do?!”
Ferret didn’t even know why the man was so frustrated in the first place. Perhaps she could understand if the man was only attacking her. But why did he have to involve Mihail as well?
She wanted to point this out, struggling to speak, but she began to sense the growing madness in the voice of the man as it surged like a great wave. At this point, words would be useless.
“...Say something now you monster I said you’re annoying so can’t you even apologize properly?”
Ferret remained silent. The armored man stomped down on one of the stakes boring through her leg.
Though she did not want to let out a scream, Ferret’s body automatically reacted to the pain. And as she lay there in agony, the armored man placed even more weight into his foot as he continued to ramble in frustration.
“I’m telling you to prove it monsters like you can never ever befriend human beings you can chop off a person’s hand without a second thought to save your own skin so prove to me you’re a damned monster hurry up do it now!”
There wasn’t a speck of reason or logic in the man’s breathless demand.
The stake that he continued to drive into her leg left her entire body in agony. It was a kind of pain she had never experienced before. Had she ever faced such direct bloodlust and suffering before?
Eventually, her brain stopped relaying the pain to her altogether. Perhaps something had happened to her spine--her other senses were beginning to freeze up one by one.
But her mouth was still working.
She could still speak.
Though her lungs were clearly weak, on the verge of paralysis, she coldly glared up at the armored man.
“You... are pitiful... Do I look like a woman... who would stoop so low... to save something like her own life...?!”
The disdain in her tone was clear. So another stake was driven into her stomach.
“...So it still hasn’t hit you. The fact that you’re going to die.”
She could feel the man’s voice go cold in an instant.
She could also feel the emotions in his voice reach the breaking point once more.
The armored man stomped down on Ferret’s slender body over and over again, turning his shaky breathing into howls like a child in a fistfight.
“So is that all life is worth to you?! Treating it like dirt... and you don’t even think about the fact that your life could also be put to an end! That’s what pisses me off the most about you vampires! Acting like you’re completely safe, as if you’ll never be held responsible for your actions! You... you vampires! You... trample on humans like they’re ants... you toy with human lives just like humans step on insects and grass!”
He stomped down again and again and again and again.
Over and over again.
Again, until he began to lose count.
Ferret could feel her upper body go numb, but even in her daze she tried desperately to see if Mihail was all right. But unable to sit up on her own, she had no choice but to give in.
But she heard it.
Her ears, still functioning despite her injuries, clearly picked up his voice.
“Stop... hurting Ferret... with that nonsense...”
It was a dying voice, the words being stuttered out between gasps of pain.
And she saw him.
Her eyes, still able to sense light, clearly saw everything.
‘No... get away...’
“...By your logic... from the ants’ perspective... humans are monsters... did you ever think about that?”
‘He’s going to kill you, Mihail! Please, you have to leave me and go!’ Ferret wanted to scream, but she could not move.
Although her eyes and ears were still alive, her mouth and vocal cords failed to respond so accurately. It wasn’t just the physical trauma getting in her way--the psychological shock of the assault had also rattled her body.
“...So you’re still moving, huh. I’m surprised you can still bring yourself to talk, but I gotta hand it to you. That’s some determination you’ve got there, trying to fight me after all that.” The armored man said to Mihail, his voice lowered. “But you should have stayed down. At this rate, you’ll end up dying before that vampire.”
“...No... you’d never... be able to kill Ferret...”
“I can, and I will.”
The armored man attempted to take Mihail’s stammered claim as a bluff.
“Ferret... Ferret is a strong vampire... she doesn’t have... any weaknesses... water, fire, stakes, crucifixes... she’s special. She’s not weak to any of that stuff... So even if you tear her to bits... even if you break her... she’s never going to die!”
‘Mihail, you idiot! Never mind what he does to me--you are provoking him into hurting you!’
Ferret cursed herself, unable to move or speak. She desperately tried to dislodge the stakes that were buried in her body, but at this point, she had lost the strength for even that.
“...But you know... that doesn’t mean... you can hurt her... and get away with it... But I... I can’t do a thing to help her! This... isn’t fair... this is not fair...!”
“So what’s your point?”
As Mihail’s cries grew stronger, the armored man slowly turned to him.
‘“Not fair”? Is he talking about how weak he is? Ha. There’s no such thing as “fair” when you’re up against a vampire. This isn’t a game or a sport. This is a hunt. This is revenge.’ Thought the armored man, but the boy before him cried out as though in rejection.
He took a deep breath and raised his voice, ignoring even the pain searing through his bones and flesh.
“Why... aren’t you... killing me? I’m the one you’re really angry at!”
“I may be stupid, but even I can see that much! Don’t underestimate me! So... so why are you trying to kill Ferret and not me?! Kill me! Just because you’re an Eater... just because you hunt vampires... That doesn’t mean hating vampires is going to solve everything! Damn it... Damn it! So if you want to kill someone, kill me!”
‘He saw through me.
‘This kid... read me like a book.’
It felt as though something dear had been taken from him and ruthlessly trampled upon.
For a split second, the taste from his nightmare returned to him, instantly clouding his thoughts.
In the past, Theo had marched into his world, taking advantage of his weakness. And in what was an uncomfortable retread of his pain from that day, the boy before him was now reminding him of that very weakness.
‘He saw right through me.
‘This kid... who doesn’t even know how good he has it... saw through me!
‘How?! How could he know?!
‘He’s a vampire.
‘I want to tell him not to act like he knows what I’m thinking... but it’s true. It’s all true.
‘I’m envious of him.’
‘But I have to say it. I have to say it out loud...’
“...Stop acting like you know me!”
“If... if I knew you... I wouldn’t be saying stuff like this to begin with!”
‘Let’s pretend that I didn’t hear that.
‘That’s right. I don’t hear a thing. I didn’t hear anything.’
“...No. It’s over. Don’t say another word. I know what you’re thinking. You want to become a vampire, don’t you? You’re so crazy about them that you want to join them, right? I get it. You’re thinking that even these injuries must be a cheap price to pay for immortality.”
‘I know. I know. I’m jealous of him. So that’s enough. As long as I know.
‘Kid, I’m going to kill you.
‘I don’t sense anything from you, but you must be a vampire. That’s right. Let’s just say that you are.
‘So I’m sure killing you won’t cause me any grief. Because I’m just killing someone I’m jealous of.
‘In fact, I bet it’ll feel great.
‘It’s okay. I...
‘...I’ve always been really good at lying to myself.’
Readying one of his stakes, Rudy took aim at the boy’s head.
“EYAAAAAAAAAAHH! Wh-what’ve you done?!”
Suddenly joining them on the deck was the voice of a third party.
Rudy turned, realizing that he had let his guard down. He saw men in work wear, parents with their children, and office workers boarding the ferry. They must have been drawn here by the commotion.
At the head of this line was an elderly woman with a bent back, hobbling straight towards the scene.
“What is the meaning of this, you ruffian?! For pity’s sake, what’ve these children done to deserve this...?”
‘Damn it. I took too much time.’
At this rate, the police would be on the scene in minutes. Of course, the bigger problem was the fact that so many people had witnessed him.
But now, Rudy had neither time nor reason to worry about the completion of Melhilm’s plans. His first priority was to take the clue that lay before him and escape this situation. He could subdue civilians with ease, but he could not waste any time.
‘Maybe I should just kill this kid before I go.’
“Goodness me, we’ve got to bring a doctor here, quickly!”
The old woman’s exclamations continued to interrupt Rudy’s resolve to kill. She even stepped in front of Ferret, her baggy, loose-fitting clothes billowing in the wind.
Rudy glared at the woman, irritated. But he began to sense something strange.
‘What is this feeling? Something’s not right.’
Because Rudy had been estranged from ordinary human life for so long, it took him some time to understand what was bothering him so much.
And this time he took left him vulnerable for a critical moment.
‘That’s right. Some guy in a suit of armor beats a couple half to death, but none of these people look scared--’
“-ugh...! What...? Is this...?!”
By the time he understood the reason for his discomfort, he was reeling in pain.
At first, Rudy thought that he had been shot with a cannon.
There was the sound of a powerful impact, followed by an overwhelming shock as he entire body shook form the blow.
His body felt the numbness before the pain, which meant that he had no idea where the attack had come from. As he turned in confusion, looking from side to side, he caught sight of a bizarre scene he had no memory of seeing before.
“If you’ve got a mouth, try and speak, you hooligan.”
It was a guttural, bestial voice. A voice that seemed to rumble out of the depths of the earth.
The words it formed were no different from the kind spoken by the elderly woman who had been standing there only moments earlier.
But the creature that now loomed before him could not, by any stretch of the imagination, be reconciled to her appearance.
Until just moments ago, Rudy’s suit of armor towered over everyone that was present at the scene. But the creature before him, covered in white fur, was almost an exact match in height.
The elderly woman’s baggy clothing were a perfect fit for her new form, allowing her to move about freely. And in spite of the summer temperatures, steam was rising from her breaths. And on that note, her face was taking on the shape of something suspiciously similar to a muzzle.
The skin that showed under the sleeves of her clothing were covered in inhuman fur. The tips of her fingers were adorned with claws that could rival knives of steel. Her eyes were full of strength and determination that could kill anything that met her gaze.
“A werewolf...!” Rudy cried without thinking, finally realizing what kind of a creature the woman was.
‘Is she the girl’s familiar?! Or maybe... Theo’s?!’
Either way, no sane werewolf would transform in the midst of such a crowd. To reveal her true form before onlookers was essentially an act of asking to be attacked.
As Rudy questioned the woman’s motive, this time he felt an impact on the back of his helm.
He quickly turned. There was a child there, about ten years of age and glaring at him with lupine eyes. He was accompanied by his family. He had leapt high into the air to kick the suit of armor in the back of the head.
Rudy had not been taken off guard because his attacker was a child. In fact, he did not even have time to lower his guard in the first place.
The boy’s father hurriedly rushed in and grabbed the boy by the collar, holding him back. His movements also were inhumanly quick.
“Hey you! Pick on someone your own size! Stop hurting Ferret and Mihail!” The boy cried, swinging his arms and legs in spite of his father’s hold on him. And in spite of the strangeness of this entire scene, the onlookers showed no sign of surprise or shock whatsoever.
All Rudy could see in their eyes was a united sense of outrage directed at himself.
‘It can’t be... are these people all werewolves?! Swarming in the streets in broad daylight?! And just how many of them are there?!’
Rudy stood there in shock. At that moment, a group of rowdy young men, their hair dyed in reds and blues and their ears and noses pierced, began to taunt him.
“Hey... Dunno who you are and what hole you crawled out of, but whaddaya think you’re doing, hurting Miss Ferret?”
“You ain’t no Hunter. Why the hell’d you even attack Mihail?”
“Who cares? Let’s just slaughter him.”
“No. We keep him alive. We need to find out if he’s under orders from someone.”
“Hey, Granny Job. We can help out too.”
“Let’s grab this punk. We’ll beat the answers out of him later.”
The men stepped forward one at a time. Their eyes were already clearly inhuman--they were ready to transform at a moment’s notice.
Rudy considered the blow from the silver werewolf before him, and the kick from the young werewolf.
An adult werewolf at full strength would obviously be stronger and faster than a child. With that in mind, Rudy guessed at the overall strength of this group of werewolves.
‘They’re strong. They’re in a whole different league from the ones I killed at the mine.’
Were these werewolves merely of a stronger bloodline, or had they trained themselves more than the ones from the mine? Although Rudy could not tell, if these werewolves’ eyes could match their physical speeds, not even his stakes would be effective against them.
‘I wouldn’t break a sweat destroying them all if I took off my armor, but... I can’t. I can’t risk taking this off. If only Theresia were here...’
Ferret and Mihail were already in the arms of the elderly silver werewolf. The other werewolves were now beginning to transform as well.
‘Shit! Now I’m going to lose that vampire... The clue I found after all these years... gone!’
Rudy clicked his tongue, irritated. He then bent his knees very slightly, leaned forward, and kicked off the deck of the ferry.
There was a loud noise like cannon fire. Part of the deck collapsed inward as Rudy used the momentum to leap high in the air. He had, however, leapt away from the harbor--he was headed for the ocean.
Stretching his armor, he fell vertically into the waves.
Though loud, this impact was decidedly different from the one before. Water splashed upwards, all the way up to the deck.
Several werewolves quickly went up to the edge of the ferry and looked into the water. But they did not see the suit of armor float to the surface.
“Did he kill himself? Maybe he thought he couldn’t beat us all...”
“No. Judging from the strength of that jump, I wouldn’t put it past him to swim through ocean currents in that armor.”
“...In other words, he ran away.”
“Granny Job. Want us to go after him?”
The werewolves turned to the oldest member among them, the silver werewolf.
But Job shook her head and growled at the others in a low voice.
“We’ve got to take the boy to a doctor and get these cursed things out of Miss Ferret... Leave the ruffian. Even if you find him, you’ll not beat him on your own.”
Having already judged their foe’s strength, Job gently placed Ferret on the ground.
Mihail seemed to be relieved now. He had lost consciousness entirely, and was now calling Ferret’s name as though sleep-talking.
Ferret was still holding on to consciousness, albeit by a very slight margin. She opened her eyes and weakly looked at Job.
“I’m sorry, child. We thought we ought to give the two of you some time alone and went to prepare for the festival over yonder... We never should’ve taken our eyes off you.”
The werewolf bowed her head in apology. Ferret heard Mihail calling her name. And with that, she smiled in relief, allowing herself to slowly fall unconscious.
Afternoon. The southern shores of Growerth.
Rudy approached a deserted shore, water spouting from every gap in his suit of armor.
The shore was rocky, unsuited to swimming but perfect for fishing. However, most of the would-be fishermen were busy with the festival preparations today. Even the roads and residences nearby were nearly deserted.
‘Perfect place for a break, huh.’
Rudy took shelter behind the rocks, slowly relaxing his senses.
He relaxed his thoughts.
He began to wonder why he had gotten so angry earlier.
There had indeed been a reason. That boy.
But he cut off his thoughts there.
Of course, the memory was still fresh in his mind. But he refused to go any further, for fear of once again letting his rage boil over. The foe he wanted to take it all out on was not here to begin with.
‘I shouldn’t waste my energy for no reason. I’ll have Theresia help me kill that vampire girl while we’re doing that mission for Sigmund.’
His thoughts then wandered to the werewolves.
‘What were they, anyway? They must be servants of the local vampires, but I’ve never seen so many of them in one place before. And I don’t even know if that was their entire population, or just a fraction...
‘Now... how do I meet back up with Theresia?’
But at this point, Rudy let his guard down. He found his thoughts once more wandering to the incident at the harbor.
The fact that this boy called Mihail had seen through him.
The fact that the boy could so easily overcome the past he himself could never overcome.
At the moment of this remembrance, Rudy quietly got to his feet.
He let out a howl of anguish, screaming as though calling to the ends of the earth.
And when his endless scream finally ceased,
The boy in the armor was weeping.