Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Vamp! II - Chapter 5

(Download the updated version in PDF/epub format here.)

I've made a change to one of the terms I've been using in this series. 'Imposing control' is now 'subjugation'. I'm not going to go back to change all the blog updates, but the pdf is going to reflect the changes.

Enjoy the chapter!

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Chapter 5 - The Green Army Marches Silently, and...


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‘It’ had already infiltrated the island.

It crawled into the island’s depths, spreading its hands wide and thin.

And at this very moment, it opened its fists and reached out with its fingertips.


It was as though it was seeking to grasp something.


<=>


The front gates of Waldstein Castle.


“Mr. Mayor! A word, please. Are you visiting for the purpose of inspecting the site of the festivities?”

“Yes, that’s correct. Waldstein Castle is already our island’s pride and joy, but I’d wanted to personally examine the area to make sure that visitors to our island will not be disappointed.”

“Thank you, sir. We have quite a few reporters coming in from overseas; do you have any words for them?”

“Yes. As a resident of Growerth, I hope that the man known as Carnald Strassburg will inspire you to learn even more about the history and culture of our island. And rest assured that we will spare no effort in making your experience a memorable one.”

The suit-clad man being interview by the reporter flashed a practiced smile at the cameras.

The area before the castle gates were packed and lively, and there were many news correspondents and their cameras dotting the crowds.

The courtyard, usually a place of solemn majesty, was today decorated with all sorts of trimmings. Spotlights were being set up one after another to illuminate the garden. Although the rehearsal had taken place several days ago, the lights had been taken down temporarily so that they would not get in the way of decorating the rest of the courtyard.

The castle, where Strassburg had worked as the court painter, was a treasure trove filled with his many works. This garden was also one such creation, and it was usually opened to the public.

The garden was clearly made to look pleasant, but it radiated a sense of energy rather than tranquility. Because the festival organizers knew this well, they were bringing the extravagant lights to illuminate the castle--the center of the festivities.

The party was not exclusive to the castle, however. The people living in the city were also hard at work preparing for the festival. Shops, streets, and harbors were all decorated to match the celebration.

The entire island was swept up in the excitement preceding the festival. Everything was leading up to the climactic opening ceremony that would take place tonight.



But one of the reporters came up to the man in the suit and asked a rather downbeat question.

“There’s been reports about a commotion that took place in the harbor just earlier, sir...”

“...? I’m sorry to say that I haven’t been told of anything of the sort. But I will confirm it as soon as I can. We’re doing everything in our power to make this a safe Carnale Festival, so I’d like to ask each and every person on this island to take care to make public safety a priority.” The man in the suit said, and walked into the castle with his secretary in tow.

Once he was certain that no one else had followed them inside, he took out a pair of sunglasses from his pocket and replaced his glasses with them.

“...Shit. What’s this about the harbor? Hey. Call the cops and look into it.” He said to his secretary as he strode into a corner of the castle.

He stepped past a ‘no entry’ sign without so much as a moment of hesitation. Suddenly, someone appeared before him.

“The viscount has been awaiting your arrival, Mayor.”

A maid dressed in green greeted him with a deep, formal bow, as though she had been standing in that spot from the beginning of time.

“The master has graciously granted you permission for a brief audience. If you could come this way, sir.”

“Ha. ‘graciously’ my ass. Like hell the count’d say something like that. Who do you think you are, putting words in your master’s mouth? Fucking bitch.”

The maid grinned.

“Please try to mind your manners, you freeloading dhampyr.”

“Whoa. What am I supposed to call that, racism? If you were talking to any other dhampyr, you’d have broken their heart so badly they’d have turned to dust on the spot.”

“Not to worry, Mayor. I wouldn’t dream of speaking this way to any other dhampyr. It’s only that looking at you compels me to wonder if even others of mixed heritage could be troublemakers like you. And so I ask that you please take your own life for the sake of the reputations of all other dhampyr.”

The maid made no effort to hide her venom as she led the viscount’s guest through the stairs in the back.

Watt said nothing more, quietly following the maid with his secretary in tow.

Along the way, he blew his nose on a piece of tissue. He considered tossing it in the hallway, but he quickly changed his mind and threw it into a garbage bin in the corner of the hall.

“My, my! You’re being quite well-behaved today.” The maid said, surprised by his actions.

“Shaddap. I just didn’t feel like littering in the castle where I’ll be giving my opening ceremony speech. Today’s a pretty damn important day for me as the mayor. Otherwise I wouldn’t be here to say hi to the fucking count.”

Watt then went on to add, so quietly that not even the maid or his secretary could hear:


“...Even I’ve always had a soft spot for this festival.”


<=>


Watching Watt disappear into the castle, ‘it’ turned and walked away without so much as a sound.

Like a scout having located his target, it left the front lines in one smooth motion.

To be accurate, this place was not yet the front lines--at least, not until this evening.

It knew of the future to come. This was neither a prophecy nor a guess, but a plan.

“...Where in the world has Nidhogg gone? We must finish things here by evening and assemble together...” It wondered, taking out a cell phone.

It called someone on speed dial. The sound of the speaker came before the tone could even begin, as though they had been waiting for this call.

<Sigmund?>

“Yes, Comrade Caldimir. Everything is going just as planned... Ah, from your voice, I judge that you have been injured in some way.”

<Nothing to worry about. It will heal quickly. Things are not unfolding quite the way I imagined on my end, but that matters not. Everything is still within my calculated margin or error. Now, Sigmund the Green... I regret to inform you that several of our members are headed your way to stop you.>

Listening to the overly dramatic voice coming from the cell phone, ‘it’--Sigmund the Green--nodded emotionlessly.

“What would you have me do if I am hindered, Comrade Caldimir?”

<Ignore it. If anyone gets in your way, silence them. The ones who’re headed for Growerth are those who have disobeyed me. Show them the foolishness of their ways. Teach them the pointlessness of rebelling against one greater than themselves...>

“Understood, Comrade Caldimir.”

Sigmund hung up on Caldimir and left the area as though nothing had ever happened.

Though the world at large was full of lively energy, Sigmund alone was silent and tranquil, like the sound of falling snow.

The contrast was a stark one to behold, but the people were much too occupied with thoughts of the festival to ever notice the vampire in their midst.

Not one would notice.

Not one vampire,

And not even the long-lived viscount of Waldstein Castle.


<=>


Underground, Waldstein Castle. The laboratory.


Just as the mayor arrived at the castle, Val’s physical examination in the laboratory was coming to an end.


“...There. You may undo your illusion now.”

<Thanks for all your hard work!>

The two voices, coming from opposite ends of the spectrum of registers, prompted Val to slowly shake his consciousness awake.

Then, he used the consciousness of his soul to look upon his own body.

‘A... watermelon.’

He saw a watermelon.

It was circular and smooth, with little holes cut in the sides in the shape of a face, like a jack-o-lantern.

But these holes were not his real eyes. After all, what other explanation was there for his ability to observe them without the aid of a camera or a mirror?

And as though answering his questions, Doctor grinned and explained.

“Ah. From what Professor observes, your soul seems to already believe that your true form is humanoid. Have you noticed that the sights and sounds you observe are observed from a different viewpoint than that of the watermelon? It is quite unusual for one to be able to observe one’s own body in this way. Ah, yes. I’m quite envious, myself.”

“But... well, this isn’t really a body I’m proud of.”

As of this moment, Valdred had undone all illusions and returned to his original form. His character, however, remained the same as his most recent form--the form of the young boy.

When Doctor first asked him to undo his illusion, Valdred had adamantly refused. But he was eventually coerced into following Doctor’s directions.

Of course, though the fact that the laboratory doors were now locked was also a contributing factor, what really changed Val’s mind was the fact that he had met Selim, a fellow plant-based vampire, and Professor, a creature that was more than a match for himself in terms of strangeness.

Thankfully, it was this Professor who did most of the hands-on work during the examination. Although Val had a complex about the fact that he looked so different from humans and vampires, it was somewhat comforting to have the even less human creature--the talking coffin--examine him instead of Doctor.

Of course, a part of him was still quite uncomfortable with this situation.


The viscount had left through the vent earlier, saying something about greeting a guest. The sight of a mass of blood being sucked into the hole in the ceiling was terrifying to behold, leaving Val slightly shaken during the examination.

But to his surprise, Professor was quite steady with her hands. He was quickly freed from the examination table, wondering if this really was all.

Before his CT scan and magnetic flux examination, he was given a physical examination and a small part of his skin was scraped off for analysis purposes. Although he felt no pain, his regeneration speed was slow for a vampire. His skin was only completely restored after the tests had ended.

After learning that radiation and magnetism did not do him much harm, he underwent many more tests. But Doctor and Professor made sure to never use needles.

“We have no idea where your weak points may lie. We can’t have you turning to ashes the moment we insert a single needle, now can we? Hoh hoh...”

<That would be scary! Fwoop!>

Now that he thought about it, Val realized that he had never really paid attention to his weaknesses in the past.

Because he was completely immune to sunlight and crucifixes, he only needed to protect himself by using his illusions and telekinesis to layer a human form over his main body to keep it safe.

A weak point.

The phrase finally hit Val with all its magnitude, sending a chill down his spine.

The thought of his own death had never occurred to him until now. But it was true that, as long as he was not protected by his illusions and telekinesis, he could be easily killed by something so weak as a single person’s misstep.

There was no guarantee that he could be restored if he was smashed to bits. Although there was a chance that he could heal himself, he did not feel particularly inclined to test that theory. To do so would be like committing suicide to confirm the existence of an afterlife.

‘I’m getting scared.’

He decided to take human form for now, scattering a veil of illusion around himself.

Returning to the form of a young boy, Val turned to Doctor and Professor.

“Hoh. You’ve got quite the sense of fashion, young man.”

<Oh... I can’t see it. I’m sorry.>

Val smiled awkwardly at the disappointed Professor. Because she was a coffin with no eyes upon which he could project an illusion, she saw everything directly through her soul, just like the viscount.

But Val was used to having his form exposed to the viscount, and showing this form to Professor did not feel at all like showing it to a human being. He felt no discomfort in her ability to see him.

But the fact that Doctor had seen him through the security cameras meant that he had seen him in watermelon form all this time. Val could feel some sort of emotion--shame or anger, perhaps--welling up within.

‘Wait, isn’t that a breach of privacy, having hidden cameras all over the castle?! I can’t believe nobody’s complaining about it...’

Although he quietly complained to himself, Val took a seat in a nearby chair and waited for Doctor and Professor’s diagnosis.

‘Sure, I got the physical examination done like the viscount told me to. But what’re they going to find out? Am I even going to get anything out of this?’ He thought, zoning out. Doctor was examining the results of the tests, like X-ray images, while stroking some invisible beard in an almost comical fashion.

“...Now, about your results, young man. You have three options. A: Have me speak bluntly in a manner that is guaranteed to traumatize you. B: Have me sugarcoat the results and put your mind at ease whilst concealing the truth. Or C: Let me put on an unreadable look as I say, ‘...there is a minor possibility’. Please, take your pick.”

“...Well, I know I don’t have anything to look forward to now.”

“Hoh hoh hoh. It was a joke, young man. I’m no doctor; I feel no pangs of guilt about having a chuckle or two this way.”

“I also know that you’re one hell of a jerk. Actually, I’ve known that for a while now, I think.”

Val was over his anger, now more desperate than anything else. He looked at Doctor with his most sympathetic expression; but the latter ignored him and kept his eyes trained on the pieces of paper that held the test results.

“Let me start with the conclusion: Young man, among us vampires, you are indeed a rare breed.”

“A ‘rare breed’?”

“An invaluable individual. Only 0.001% of vampires share your physical traits.”

“Wait. You’re talking about watermelon vampires?”

This news did not make Val very happy. He felt less like a valuable being and more like a member of a minority group.

But Doctor shook his head, rejecting the idea.

“Not at all. Watermelon vampires are actually quite common, you see. There are many folktales surrounding such creatures, and many researchers study this field specifically, hypothesizing that there is something particularly remarkable about the Cucurbitaceae family of plants. I have even heard tales of a foolhardy researcher who rushed to the birthplace of this family--the Kalahari Desert--and ended up a desiccated husk. Of course, ‘common’ is a subjective term, considering that you are the first of this kind that I have ever encountered.”

“So what about me do you consider ‘rare’, anyway?”

“Ah, yes. Hm... Simply put, young man, your soul is quite the peculiar one. Plant-based vampires such as yourself have the general tendency to rely more on their souls than their bodies for memories, emotions, and abilities. But in your case, an unusually high ratio of functions that are usually allotted to the physical body have instead been allotted to your soul. The fact that you are capable of seeing your own body from a different perspective is one such example. Even your vision relies on your soul. And do you not usually see your ‘self’ as a being with a human form?”

“Huh? Um... yes.”

The machines in the laboratory weren’t quite state-of-the-art, but they were of a scale so large that Val doubted that some hospitals could be equipped with such devices. And yet, in spite of the presence of such machines, Doctor did not hesitate to use the word ‘soul’ in his diagnosis. Although there was nothing strange about such a word coming from the viscount, hearing it again in this particular setting made the whole situation quite unscientific.

But Doctor was right--Val was not looking at himself from his physical body, but from something that surrounded it like a shell.

That ‘something’ was probably his soul. But as long as he was in a laboratory like this, Val would have preferred to hear a more scientific explanation.

As he lost himself in thought, there was a sudden flash as the lights in the room flared brightly, pouring powerful rays upon him all at once.

“Whoa! That’s too bright! What was that for?!” Val cried, bowing his head without so much as a thought. Doctor pressed a button to dim the lights and calmly continued his explanation.

“Hm. Now, I’ve had the chance to observe briefly. Judging from your physical reaction to this flash of light, including the near-instant shrinking of your pupils... Astounding. This body of yours, though an image of your soul formed through telekinesis, is intricate enough to recreate even the physical functions of your ocular organs. Such a case is thus far unheard of.”

“You could’ve at least warned me you were going to do that.” Val said, disgruntled. But though the sudden test bothered him, he decided to get his questions answered before anything else.

“So... I have a question. You keep talking about ‘souls’ and stuff, but I’m confused. What does that mean? Are souls kind of like ghosts?”

“Dear me... To think I would have to explain even that...” Doctor said, astounded. “Perhaps a soul is much like a ghost, or perhaps not. After all, even we vampires have yet to confirm the existence of ghosts or an afterlife. They may or may not exist. But in that sense, perhaps you are as close to one can get to becoming a ‘ghost’ than any other being.”

“What does that mean?”

There was nothing pleasant about hearing that he was very close to being a ghost. Val was anxious at the new question brought up by his first inquiry, but he patiently waited for Doctor’s explanation.

“Hoh hoh. Don’t rush me, now. Professor, do explain.”

Just as soon as Doctor finished, the coffin standing next to him chirped cheerfully.

<Yes, Doctor! Let me explain what a ‘soul’ is! Although we haven’t proved its existence quite yet, we vampires call the metamorphosis into ‘monsters’ like us an ‘evolution of the soul’. But you already know this, right?>

“I think I heard something similar from the viscount a while back. He drew up an evolutionary chart or something with his body.”

<The viscount loves that example! Well, it’s mostly accurate. And here’s the thing: A soul is kind of like an amalgamation of information! Here’s an example with the human brain. Memories are made in the hippocampus and the surrounding entorhinal cortex, the perirhinal cortex, the parahippocampal gyrus, and other parts of the brain, and are stored in the neocortex! Of course, that’s not getting into things like declarative memory, procedural memory, and retrospective memory, but I won’t get into the details.>

“Right.”

The second part of Professor’s explanation flew straight over Val’s head. But he decided not to ask any questions, because he likely would not understand even if she gave him a more detailed explanation.

<So! A ‘soul’ is kind of like a ‘heart’ born from the consciousness, memories, emotions, and other functions of the brain. This ‘heart’ becomes a ‘soul’ when we treat it as an amalgamation of information. If ghosts existed in this world, we could theorize that they’re wandering pieces of information, who exist even without a body, which is where memories are usually stored. But this isn’t only a matter of signals passing through synapses. Let me give you an example. Rumors are information, and they don’t take on any physical form, right? It’s the same way with the ‘amalgamation of a consciousness’s information’--what we vampires call a soul. It exists on a different plane than what’s been proven by science! That’s why it’s such a hard topic to define.>

“...So it hasn’t been proven yet, huh?”

<Nope. Although it is true that we do have souls, even though there’s so much we don’t know about the bodies of vampires. The viscount is a living example!>

The image of the floating mass of blood flashed into Val’s thoughts. He had never tried to find a scientific justification for the viscount’s existence, however--the mere fact of his presence was enough for Val to wave away the curiosity.

“And on that note, have you not noticed that your telekinetic powers are also an ability that is derived from your soul?”

“Oh...”

Doctor’s comment led Val to think more on his own abilities.

His power to create illusions and use telekinesis to match the images was a skill he developed after a great deal of experimentation. But now that he thought about it, this power matched no law of physics he knew of.

‘Huh. So this “power of the soul” thing was closer than I thought.’

As he thought on the soul he now considered less valuable, he remembered what the viscount had told him earlier today.

‘I guess he was right. I never really made the effort to learn more about myself after all.’

But now that the examination he feared was over, Val felt at ease. Although no diagnosis would not hurt him, he began to feel as though he could overcome the troubles that they would pose him, one at a time.

And so, he turned to Doctor and Professor and got to the point.

“So, uh... what in the world am I? What is the real me?”

“Ah, I’d almost forgotten. Oh, yes. This laboratory was supposed to be the final stop in your search for answers. Of course.”

<It’s good to be young!>

“Sorry but could you not talk like that it’s really annoying.” Val complained quickly, but he agreed that he was indeed quite young. If he were able to think more calmly about things, such problems would not bother him in the first place.

But he could not hold back his emotions. He wasn’t yet able to heal his own inferiority complex.

This was why Val had tried to find the answers from others. Because he had no idea who he really was, he had been trying to learn about his place to be from other people.

His consultation with Doctor and Professor was, in some sense, a comical one to behold. But Doctor’s laughter soon faded as he continued speaking in a serious voice.

“Hm... Young man, what is the conclusion that you wish upon yourself?”

“What?”

He had come to this laboratory to find the answer to that very question. And now the question was being addressed to himself.

But Val wasn’t particularly upset about this. After all, he had never really tried to answer the question himself.

“What do you mean?”

“You want to find the ‘real you’--no. You want a ‘self’ that has been tainted by no one. But young man, what will you do? If there was indeed a way to take hold of a new self--a self unaffected by any other--would you choose to take it?”

“...If it helps me not feel inferior, yeah.” Val said solemnly, without giving the words much thought.

Doctor shook his head, troubled.

“To be perfectly honest, young man, there is a method by which a soul like yours may be cleansed and your memories erased.”

“Th-then...”

“But, you see... To forget the past is to kill your past self, and the self alone. From the perspective of an outsider, you are still alive. And your new self may end up living under the shadow of your former self.”

Although Doctor had been speaking in a half-joking tone all this time, he had for once grown serious and composed. Val was taken aback by this sudden change, but this was no time to be complaining.

In spite of his apparent youth, Doctor’s expression was the picture of gravity. Val felt like he was being crushed under the weight of his gaze.

“Would you willingly make that choice? If you do, you will indeed get the chance to live on as an untainted, singular individual, affected only by the environment of your new life. But to do so is also to kill completely your current self. Humans and vampires would find the afterlife awaiting them after their deaths. But if you choose to erase your memories, the you who stands here will disappear without a trace. Your heart and memories will not reach the afterlife, as your body remains alive.”

Val could not find the words to retort. Although he did want to change the self he hated so much, if even the self that despised himself were to be lost, would the cleansing not be the same as oblivion?

“Then...”

Knowing that he was running out of options, Val nervously spoke up.

“Then... What am I supposed to do? I... I can’t just stop here! I can’t just wait and see what happens!”

“There, there. Young people these days! Not an ounce of patience to be had. Young man, I haven’t even gotten to the most important part. The part where I answer that question about your identity.”

“Huh?” Val gasped, his eyes opening wide.

<Yes! Let me explain. There’s one big thing about souls, you see? For example, when a human being becomes a vampire, their ‘self’ affects their physical forms via the soul! It’s the ultimate form of evolution. For information to affect the physical realm... the placebo effect has nothing on on this! I’m talking about the thing that lets vampires turn even their clothing into bats and fog, or allow vampires to fly through the air!> The coffin exclaimed, proudly twisting her body side-to-side.

<The viscount told me this analogy: For vampires, the soul might be a remote control that controls the body via the heart, which acts as the receiver! And in your case, Val, your body and your consciousness--that is, your soul--is already ninety percent separate from each other! This is very unusual! Even in the viscount’s case, his soul is completely bound to all of his blood. So if the blood freezes or dries up, he loses consciousness. So if you compare normal vampires to remote-controlled cars, you’re closer to being an independent robot, Val!>

Val tilted his head, still not understanding any of the explanation. But Doctor chimed in to add to Professor’s lecture.

“In other words, as a result of our examination, we found that your watermelon body has no physical function whatsoever. To be blunt, if you choose to believe, you would be completely unharmed even if someone should smash that watermelon.”

“...What?”

‘Wait, what? So... my real body is the watermelon, but... it’s not?’

“Um, Doctor?! What does that mean?! That can’t be right. I know my main body affects me! I start feeling unhealthy if I don’t get any sunlight, and-”

<That’s only because your soul thinks so! It’s convinced you that you need sunlight to survive. It’s like self-induced hypnotism! Your watermelon form heals itself because you believe that it’s your real body, so your soul unconsciously alters your form to match your image of the watermelon.>

“Wait, wait. I lost you.”

‘In other words, what I thought was me actually wasn’t me, but the me that’s thinking this is actually me? What?’

“...Hm. I’m afraid we may be overloading you with all this information. In any case, that watermelon still functions as a psychological core of sorts for you. It will be in your best interests, young man, to safeguard it for the time being. After all, casting it aside too suddenly may cause your psyche to collapse.”


Val spent the next few minutes with his head on the desk, thinking all sorts of thoughts. But he eventually turned to Doctor, exhausted, and feebly asked:

“Doctor? So... if I’m not a watermelon, then... then what in the world am I?”

“Who can say?”

“Wha?!”

Doctor’s answer was too straightforward for Val’s liking. The latter’s illusionary face paled.

“All we can tell you for certain is that you do indeed exist before us. And as for the rest, to borrow a younger man’s words... ‘That’s none of my business’.”

“But... even my sense of self was gathered from other vampires. So... even though I don’t like being a watermelon, I always thought that it was the real me, at least... Oh, man... I mean, I’m not really badly shocked or anything, but I guess... uh... I guess I really didn’t enjoy being a watermelon after all. Uh. Huh? Wait, I’m sorry. I’m so confused.”

As Val rambled on in self-analysis in spite of his downcast mood, Doctor mumbled something about him being high-maintenance and suggested an answer.

“Regarding your memories and sense of self, young man, I frankly can’t offer you any solution but the one I mentioned earlier--a complete cleansing. But if it’s that body of yours that bothers you, then that is a different story altogether. Hoh hoh hoh... After all, if you truly put your mind to it, you could even metamorphose that watermelon into a human form.”

“Metamorphose?”

“In the case of plant-based vampires such as yourselves, they obviously do not start out in anything resembling a human form. But there are some among them who compel themselves to evolve into human-like shapes. I sincerely hope you weren’t expecting such a change to come about naturally, young man. But in any event, the soul is capable of bringing change to one’s physical form in the span of less than one generation, consciously or not.”

‘From plants to humans?’

Val had, over the past several years, failed to alter his watermelon body. So was such a thing really possible?

But just as he began to ask, he remembered a living example he had encountered on the way to the lab.

“...Like Selim?”

<Yes! Miss Selim was originally just a vampire shaped like an ordinary flower. But she slowly changed her form to look like a human girl!>

The moment Professor finished her sentence, Val leapt off his seat and ran for the door.

“Um, thank you for everything today, Doctor! Professor!”

And without even waiting for an answer, he opened the door and sprinted away.

Although Doctor and Professor had no idea what kind of an expression Val was wearing, they could see that he was now motivated to move forward.

Watching Val leave, Doctor grumbled to himself.

“My word. And without even taking the time to hear the rest of his diagnosis.”

<It’s so wonderful that he’s all energetic again!>

In contrast to Doctor’s sullen tone, Professor sounded nothing short of ecstatic.

Listening to Professor’s cheerful voice, Doctor put his lips to the cup of tea on his desk. He downed the tepid drink in one go, and said to himself what he had been planning to tell Valdred.

“Young man... you are more special than you realize.”


Doctor, a vampire who sought eternity, sounded truly concerned for the boy’s future.


“You will only be able to die when you desire death, and have evolved your body to be capable of such a thing. In other words, until that time comes, you will never die. After all, no one yet knows how to destroy a soul.”


And he added, in an incredibly envious tone:


“If Young Relic is a ‘standard’ created by the combination of countless vampiric traits--a Relict--then Val, you are an ‘invincible’. After all, you are not even a vampire.”


<-ctor...? Doctor? Doctor?>

“What is it?”

<You’ve been talking to yourself for a while now. Is everything okay?>

“...Oh. Yes. I’m fine.”

Doctor smiled awkwardly and chuckled.

“I was saying... because we vampires are so difficult to kill, we fear death even more than humans do.”


<=>


Waldstein Castle, residential area. Parlor.


[Yes! We vampires may be powerful beings, but we are at the same time possessed of many weaknesses! That is why, in the distant past, I joined a community of those intent on protecting vampires. Unworthy as I may be, I was several times granted the honor of acting as chairman to many of our meetings. But alas, duty called me back to my homeland of Growerth, for I was tasked with the responsibility of officially succeeding my adoptive father. Though Caldimir questioned me, asking, ‘Which do you value more, your friends, or your people?’, I answered that I valued both, but that I trusted my friends to do everything in their power to make the world a better place. And that is how I left the Organization, and...]

“I don’t remember asking you to give me a history lesson, Count.” Watt said with a wave of the hand, slouching on the parlor sofa. His feet were on the marble coffee table, shoes and all, and he stubbornly carried himself like a man sprawling out in his own living room.

The female vampire next to him was trembling, her head bowed as she shrank into the sofa with an obvious look of fear.

[Ah, but was it not you who asked to hear about the Organization’s exploits? If you are here in the role of the mayor, perhaps you could act with a smidgen more courtesy to match the weight of your responsibilities.]

“Shit. How am I supposed to act all well-behaved when I’m basically sitting in an acid bath? What’s with all the lecturing, Count?”

[I am a viscount, Mayor.]

At the center of the parlor were Watt, his secretary, and the trembling pool of blood. But they were not the only ones in the room.

Four maids dressed in green were each standing in one corner of the room, cautiously glaring at Watt as though daring him to try something. And in the shadows of the pillars of the large parlor were the castle’s werewolves, already in wolf-form and standing by to react to any hostility.

“This welcome of yours is so fucking warm I could make coffee with it. So why is the guy who’s supposed to be Growerth’s master of the night acting all chicken-shit in front of a no-good petty villain, anyway?”

[I assure you, I insisted that I would not need their protection for today’s meeting. But it seems that the residents of my castle are unnecessarily guarded around you. If you turn this around, of course, that would mean that this is the degree to which they fear your power. Is it not something of which you can be proud? But it is indeed true that this is no atmosphere for a gentlemen’s conversation. I shall have them clear the parlor.]

After the long-winded speech, the viscount made to signal the maids and the werewolves to leave. But Watt stopped him.

“Never mind. We can keep rolling like this. We’ve come this far, so I might as well let all of you hear why I asked ‘bout the Organization.” Watt said brusquely, taking out a crumpled piece of paper from his suit pocket.

It was the short letter that Melhilm had sent him the other day.


When the viscount finished reading the letter, his entire body shook in waves as it drew excited letters in the air.

[My word! To think that Melhilm had survived!]

“...You look happy.”

[Is there a reason as to why I shouldn’t be? Ah, so Miss Shizune hadn’t devoured him whole after all! To think that my old friend was still alive... I foresee a wonderful Carnale Festival this year. Ah, yes.]

“Why don’tcha go learn to read properly and come back later, Count?” Watt said, anxiously kicking the table.

The teacups teetered over and fell. Tea spilled onto the table. But the viscount, seemingly unconcerned, calmly wrote out another series of words for Watt.

[But is it not true that you and Miss Shizune are guilty of having attempted to murder him? I must say that this threat is not entirely undeserved. What goes around comes around. Or perhaps you could call it karma.]

“...”

[And of course, if I were to find that my old friend has gone so mad that he would involve innocents, I would do everything in my power to stop him. And should he make an attempt at Relic, then I would also plainly refuse him.]

Though the viscount’s statement was not nonsensical, it did not give Watt a very meaningful answer. Watt, clearly tired of trying to nitpick at every one of the viscount’s tangents, changed the subject.

“As if I’d want help from the likes of you. Listen up, Count. I’m gonna put Melhilm out of his fucking misery. So don’t get in my way.”

[Though I would like to point out the nonsensicality of asking a man to stand by idly as his friend is murdered, I must inform you that carrying out your plan will only lead to your permanently turning the Organization against yourself.]

Watt laughed defiantly.

“Well, then? I say bring it on! That’s why I’m here begging you for information in the first place.”

[I fear you may need to take some time and meditate upon the meaning of the word ‘beg’, Mayor.]

Each time Watt stepped across the line of formality, the chill in the air grew stronger. And when the air grew colder, his secretary would tremble even more. The viscount, alone free from this cycle, tried to continue his conversation with Watt without caring for the reactions of those around him.

[Ah, in any event, as I mentioned earlier, I have little to do with the Organization now. In fact, in more recent years, I’ve had no contact whatsoever with their members, even for personal reasons... Pardon. I apologize! I’ve forgotten that I frequently play massively multiplayer online role-playing games alongside Garde the Black as party members. Garde slipped my mind, as this friend of mine rarely participates in any of the Organization’s meetings, in spite of being an officer.]

“...Never heard of him.”

[Hm? You have never heard of Garde Ritzberg, the Black Gravekeeper? The dark destroyer who ravenously devours corpses of all affiliations at the front lines of every war and conflict, feared even by fellow vampires?]

“How am I supposed to know? And what kinda superhero name is that, anyway? Or is this buddy of yours tryin’ to become a professional wrestler in America? Is that Black Gravething his ring name or something?” Watt said, astonished. The viscount looked troubled by his attitude.

[Ah, so I see you have knowledge of but a few of the Organization’s officers. Hm... You see, the Organization bestows upon each officer a moniker connected to a color. For instance, I was once known to them as Gerhardt the Redblood.]

“Full points for creativity.”

[Ah, you do not find it a particularly likable name, then? Personally, I’m quite proud of the way it sounds. Rather like some secret agent from a Japanese cartoon.]

Watt ignored the viscount’s comment and glared, silently urging him to get the conversation back on track. Although the viscount was not particularly intimidated by this act, he nonetheless continued to discuss the other officers of the Organization.

[I suppose I should begin with the one I presume is the current leader of the Organization, Caldimir the Blue. Then there is Bridgestone the Yellow, Ishibashi the Indigo... and outside of Rainbow, we have Rude the Gold, Mars the Silver, Yamada the Pearl...]

The viscount listed off the names of one officer after another, but stopped partway through and changed to a more serious font, giving Watt a piece of advice.

[I will cite the officer Sigmund the Green as one reason why it is in your best interests to at least remain in good standing with the Organization.]

“...Who’s that?”

[Ah, listen well, Mayor. This vampire is one that you, as mayor, should never hope to face as an enemy. This is because--]


<=>


[-My sincerest apologies, but as today is the first day of the Carnale Festival, I must receive many more guests today.]

After a discussion of the officers of the Organization, and granting official permission for the castle’s use during the festival, the viscount apologetically ended the conversation.

[As a citizen under your care, Mayor, I wish great success upon this year’s Carnale Festival.]

“If you’ve got time to be making wishes, why don’tcha try and lend us a hand like the other hardworking citizens here?” Watt said, getting off his seat and leaving the parlor, emphatically stomping down on the carpet.

When he opened the parlor door, he saw a girl standing before him.

‘Ferret? That’s not right.’

She was a total stranger.

The skinny girl, dressed in humble clothes, nodded lightly towards him and stepped into the parlor as though in his place.

Watt left the room, the sound of the maids closing the door ringing behind him, as he continued to ponder how he could get the better of the viscount next time.


<=>


‘It’ continued to encroach upon the island in total silence.

Over great distances, spreading out thin.

As far as its hands could reach.

Little by little--


<=>


“Fucking Count. Slithering around without a fucking clue ‘bout how good he has it.” Watt spat anxiously as he descended the hill. He had elected to take the back door out the castle and down the deserted hill in order to avoid showing his anxiety to the cameras camped in the courtyard.

Suddenly, his secretary’s cell phone rang.

“Hello? Yes. Yes... Oh...”

Ignoring the secretary, Watt continued walking down the path alone. She was probably discussing something related to work or the opening ceremony that was to begin in several hours’ time.

However, from the tone of her voice, Watt soon realized that her conversation was much more serious than he initially believed.

“...What’s wrong.” He asked, stopping in place and turning towards her.

The secretary hung up and reported the contents of her conversation with a mystified look.

“I’ve been told that the incident at the harbor has left some injured. There seems to be a great deal of information flying around at the moment, but we’ve confirmed that things are now moving as usual in the harbor.”

“...Tch. So we still haven’t caught the son of a bitch who decided to go rabid on us.”

“Also, sir... City Hall received a strange phone call asking for you.” The secretary said, looking even more bemused. Watt impatiently raised his voice.

I’ll decide if it was strange or not. Tell me what it was about.”

“Oh! Yes, sir. The phone call was from a martial arts dojo in the city. A man calling himself Traugott left a message for you: ‘I’m taking care of a friend of the mayor, badly injured. Please send help’.”

A martial arts dojo and a man named Traugott. Watt frowned at the mention of both. The dojo was a municipal facility where students learned martial arts like karate or judo. The man called Traugott was, essentially, the master of the dojo. He was a skilled warrior who had participated in many international competitions, and he had been awarded honorary citizenship at Neuberg several years ago. Watt remembered clearly because he had been the one to award it to the man. It was also rumored that he had entered the tournament that had taken place at Waldstein Castle last year, not budging an inch in the face of his vampire opponents.

“Ol’ Traugott said that? ...A friend of mine?”

“I’ve been told that her name was... Kijima Shizune...”

‘So it was Shizune, huh.’

The pieces fell into place.

‘Ha. And I was so sure she was sticking to homeless life all this time. I get it now. Other than the count, there aren’t many people on Growerth who know Japanese.’

Ignoring the fact that he himself was one such person, Watt continued to reason out Shizune’s situation.

‘Yeah. There’s Japanese people attending that dojo, and Tarugott’s trained in China and Japan. Makes sense. So what, has he been feeding her all this time?’

But that was not the problem right now. The fact that she had been injured--grievously enough that Traugott took the time to give him a phone call--meant that she was likely in critical condition.

That led Watt to a single answer.

“So you made it in time for the festival. Eh, Melhilm?”

He did not care an ounce for the fact that Shizune--the strongest of the cards in his hand--had been incapacitated.

Watt grinned menacingly, his hands curled tightly into fists.

As though he was excited for the prospect of facing this powerful new threat.


However, Watt never realized that far overhead, over the mountain path at the back of the castle, a flock of bats were in flight.

The bats glanced at Watt, but ignored him and flew towards Waldstein Castle.


The bats had human eyes.


<=>


Underground, Waldstein Castle. The Execution Area.


He remembered the beautiful sight that had greeted him this morning. The beautiful vampire who was once a flower.

Wanting to see her once more, Val returned to the execution area to be greeted by a somewhat different Selim.

She had minimized the size of the flower and vines that were wrapped up around her lower body. She was reading a book, leaning against the guillotine.

Despite the great difference in scale from before, she was still a stunning sight to behold--as least, this was Val’s honest opinion.

In a corner was a pile of vampires who looked to be recovering from strangulation, slightly cutting down the pristine beauty of the scene. But Val decided to pretend he hadn’t noticed them.

His admiration for Selim was directed at her entire body, including the great flower and the vines, but he thought that even the girl that made up her upper body was quite lovely. Of course, this particular opinion was likely from the character of another vampire that had been injected into him.

Although his current form was just an illusion, Doctor and Professor had told him that even the watermelon--his main body--had no significance.

‘Then what in the world am I?’

Wanting to find answers to his question, Val decided that his first course of action should be to ask for the story of the girl who had changed herself from flower to human.

But how should he ask her?

If he were to come out and directly ask her ‘Why did you decide to look like a human girl?’, he might end up hurting her feelings in one way or another. He stood there, rooted to the spot, unable to think of any sensitive way to parse the question.

In the meantime, Selim seemed to have noticed his presence. She put down her book and flashed him a gentle smile.

“Uh...”

Now it would be even harder for him to ask such a personal question.

‘If only I were someone really brave. Someone who’d never be intimidated by anything...’


Selim watched as the boy before her underwent an incredible transformation.

Val’s body stretched vertically. His boyish face grew sharper, and a pair of sunglasses popped up over his eyes. Even his clothing changed--he was wearing a skull-print T-shirt and a leather jacket.

It was an unfamiliar face to Selim. But to Val, this was the form of the strongest, most brazen person he knew--Watt Stalf.

“Hey. Let’s talk.”

His attitude did a 180 as he strode towards Selim. Although Val thought that borrowing someone else’s character at a time like this was about as counterproductive as it got to his quest to find himself, he did not seem to care at the moment. After all, even his character had become close to that of Watt.

“Oh, yes...?”

“Don’t get scared. You know I can transform, right?”

“Um... Yes.”

Selim nodded, still slightly confused. Val approached her and put an arm around her shoulder without a moment’s hesitation. The guillotine she had been leaning on, he found, was surprisingly cold. There was a chill around them.

‘Now, where should I start...’

“You’re amazing, Valdred. You can transform into anything you want...”

Val realized that his character hadn’t entirely changed to Watt’s. He had remained silent for long enough that Selim had started the conversation.

“I’m a little jealous. To be able to change into so many looks and personalities so easily...”

Although her words could have sounded sarcastic depending on the tone, there was nothing but pure wonder in her voice. However, this only served to embarrass Val and drove him to quickly change the subject.

“Then what about you?”

“Yes?”

“...I just heard from the doc. He said you didn’t always look this way. Dunno if you changed yourself ‘cause you wanted to or not, but... I-if you know why you did, then tell me.”

His tone was a little too gentle for Watt, but Selim had no way of knowing that.

She hesitated for a moment, but Selim soon put on a sad smile as she slowly spoke.

“It’s... admiration.”

“Admiration?” Val repeated. Selim nodded and continued.

“My form... is something I admire. It’s... also my dream.”

“What’s that mean?” Val asked, approaching the truth. But at that moment--

“AAAAAAAAACK!”

They were interrupted by a sudden intruder.

“Master Watt! Master Watt! What are you doing here?!”

A childlike voice echoed in the execution area. Then, fog began to gather by the guillotine.

Not a moment later, the fog took material form before Val and Selim, and changed into the form of a girl in her mid-teens who was dressed like a jester.

“No no no no no! Even an adorable girl like you has no right to sweet-talk Master Watt, Selim!” She cried, repeatedly pounding on Selim’s shoulders. The latter stood there in shock, but Val hurriedly turned back into the form of a young boy.

“Y-you idiot! It’s me! Val!”

The moment she realized the truth, the jester froze. Her face turned so red that the flush was visible through her makeup.

“...Um. So s-s-s-so no? D-did I get the wrong person? Oh. Oh. Oh. Selim. I am so sorry!”

The jester shook her head left and right, apologized to Selim, and proceeded to turn her fury towards Val.

“Stupid, stupid, stupid Val! Even I admit that Selim is adorable, but you can’t turn into Master Watt to flirt with her! That’s cheating!”

“No, no! You’ve got the wrong idea...” Val said, trying to fend off the jester’s punches.

Selim watched the scene unfold, still not understanding fully what was going on. But once the jester finally began to calm down, Selim joined the conversation.

“Um... is something the matter? It’s unusual for you to be up so early in the evening.”

It was only then that Val realized it was evening. He hadn’t noticed because he had been underground all day, but the examinations must have taken longer than he thought.

“Hm? Oh, yeah! You know, the Carnale Festival starts tonight! Tee hee! I was so excited I couldn’t get a wink of sleep, so I was taking a teensy stroll around the cave! Master Watt is going to come to the opening ceremony, you know? As the mayor! So I’m going to hide somewhere he can’t find me, and then throw confetti all around him! Tee hee hee!”

The embarrassment and confusion from thirty seconds ago had already left the childlike clown, having been replaced with admiration for Watt and innocent excitement for the coming festivities.

Selim smiled at the jester’s joy, but there was something lonely in her look, Val thought.

“Aww, why’s everyone sleeping in a corner like that? Those slowpokes! Master Watt’s going to give his speech for the opening ceremony really soon!”

The jester noticed the unconscious vampires lying in a heap in a corner of the execution area. She went up to them to take them aboveground to the party.

Val said nothing, instead turning towards Selim. He was certain that there was something downcast in her eyes.

“...Hey.”

“Oh? ...Oh! Yes?”

Val had taken Selim by surprise. She quickly straightened up and looked at him.

Val intended to continue the conversation from before the jester’s intrusion. However, another question rose to his lips before he could stop himself.

“Do you want to go see the festival?”

“What?”

It was such a direct question that the flower and vines that composed Selim’s lower body shook.

‘It was pretty obvious you wanted to go, you know.’ Val thought, suppressing a chuckle. Selim’s eyes swam as she waved her hands before her face, her cheeks beet red.

“I-I couldn’t do that! I-if something like me showed up in front of humans, they’d notice me instantly! And then... that would end up making things difficult for everyone else who lives here, too... That’s why I can’t leave this place. Wait! But I don’t mind at all! Really! Melina is in the lake here, and Doctor and Professor always lend me books to read... And, um...”

‘She really is easy to read.’

Despite the fact that Selim was likely much older than himself, there was something quite adorable about her, Val thought. At the same time, he found himself angry at the circumstances that forced her to hide underground.

‘I’m free to go to the festival even though I’m not even looking forward to it that much. But Selim... she doesn’t even have a choice.’

And so, he took a moment to think. And once he took hold of an idea, he did not even consider it before sharing it with Selim.

“Let’s go.”

“What?”

“You want to go to the Carnale Festival, right?”

“Oh? Um, yes. Yes. But... um... you see, I...”

As Selim stuttered in confusion, Val held out his hand towards her.

‘I get it. She must have been downcast because I didn’t consider how she might feel before coming up to her and asking her questions directly. If only I could do something for Selim in exchange for getting her story...’

Although his intentions were quite selfish, Val did not realize that he had held out his hand before even deciding on his selfish intentions.

“Let’s go.”

“But everyone will notice...”

“Notice what?”

“...?!”

Selim followed Val’s gaze downwards, and stopped at her lower body.

In place of the petals and vines that were a part of her body, there was a skirt over a pair of legs--the skirt was designed in a way that it was a perfect match for her top.

“???”

Selim fixed her glasses, taken aback by the sudden disappearance of most of her lower body. But no matter how many times she looked again, her familiar lower body was gone.

She tried moving her vines. She could still feel them, no different in any way from before. They were merely invisible.

“I can use my illusions to make clothes and stuff as long as it’s within range. So I tried covering your lower body with an illusion. Um... my power doesn’t reach too far, though. So I guess the only problem is you have to stick by really close to me.”

“...”

Selim did not respond. She was staring at her lower body, speechless. Val began to wonder if he had done something to hurt her feelings.

“W-wait! Huh? Oh! Right! Uh, just because I’m casting an illusion doesn’t mean I’m touching your legs or anything like that! Or maybe you don’t really want to walk next to a boy? I know! I can transform into a girl! Like... a girl who looks just like you, so we can even pretend to be twins!” He stuttered, desperately trying to remain in Selim’s good graces.

But Selim’s reaction was a shy smile, accompanied by a slight bow of the head.

“...Thank you, Val. You’re such a kind person.”

“Huh? ...Uh, not really, but...”

Val wasn’t used to being thanked. He averted his gaze, blubbering incoherently.

He found himself face-to-face with the jester.

“WHOA!”

“Hee hee hee! Did I surprise you? Did I surprise you? I was totally surprised, you know? Val, you’re such a ladykiller! See? You didn’t even have to pretend to be Master Watt this time! Oh, you charmer, you!”

She jokingly elbowed his chest, wearing an impish grin. Val no longer had the energy to protest (and he was quite certain that the jester knew this well), so he listened quietly with a tired chuckle.

“But you know, Master Watt’s still the best! Tee hee!”


<=>


Neuberg City Hall. The Mayor’s office.


There was a loud sneeze in the office, occupied by none but its owner.

“...Shit. Is it all the flowers at the venue?”

There were two hours left until the opening ceremonies. Watt was reviewing his speech, dressed impeccably and wearing the face of a mayor.

“...It’s annoying enough having to give the count’s place compliments, but I still gotta win some points with the people here...”

Remembering that the municipal elections were scheduled for next year, Watt quietly began to practice his speech.

He had sent his secretary to Shizune earlier. She should have arrived at the dojo by now, provided that driving conditions were decent. Although he did consider going personally, he could not allow himself to abandon his duties as a mayor.

He read the speech over and over again, and once he was satisfied that there were no errors, he opened the door to head to the venue of the opening ceremonies.

“Good evening, Mayor.”

A familiar voice and a microphone.

A man had been waiting in front of Watt’s office. He was of a nondescript height and build, and had a somewhat morose look about him.

It was the man who had interviewed Watt earlier in the day at Waldstein Castle.

“Do you have any comments about the incident at the harbor?”

“...Sir, if you’d like an interview, I’m afraid you’ll have to follow official procedures.” Watt said, feigning ignorance. He passed by the reporter, ignoring him. But the reporter then spoke to his back, his voice full of hostility.

“So you would abandon your pet Eater, Mayor?”

“...Who are you.”

The mayor instantly cast aside his mask and slowly turned to the reporter.

Receiving a look that conveyed even bloodlust, the reporter continued speaking in a completely different tone from before.

“Perhaps you would understand if I told you that I am a friend of Melhilm’s.”

It was a surprisingly quick answer. Watt kept his foe’s nonchalance in mind as he shot back, equally casual:

“So you’re so sick of Melhilm that you decided to come join me. I gotta say, good choice. I’ll at least keep you alive as a reward.”

The reporter, without so much as a single reaction to Watt’s condescending comment, spoke plainly and mechanically.

“Watt Stalf... I have been told that you are a man who values his worthless pride more than his own life. And so, I have decided to take special measures against you.”

“...I don’t know what you’re up to, you piece of shit, but you could at least have the courtesy to tell me your name.”

Watt had meant to display his own lack of fear with this utterance.

But the moment the reporter answered him, Watt’s nonchalance was shattered.

“I am Sigmund the Green.”

“...!”

The human blood flowing in Watt’s veins allowed a chill to run down his spine. He broke out into cold sweat.

The vampire the viscount had warned him about--the one he should never turn against him--had, of all things, sided with Melhilm and come to Growerth as his enemy.

“Ah... From your reaction, I assume that you have heard of me.”

“...Picked up a couple things here and there.”

“I see... So you understand. You know, then, that my presence here already spells checkmate for you.”

Watt listened in horror as he recounted the viscount’s description of Sigmund from earlier that day.


[By the act of biting a human being, you see, a vampire may cause one of three things to occur. First is the drinking of blood, the second is the subjugation of the human, and the third is the act of turning the human. Now, let me explain why this vampire--Sigmund the Green Army--is your proverbial silver bullet. Why there would be no greater foe than Sigmund for you, Mayor, on this isolated island.]

“I’m dying of old age here, Count. Hurry up.”

[Though Sigmund has great difficulty in turning humans, in exchange this vampire is capable of subjugating humans with terrifying efficiency. How? Sigmund’s own blood, of course! Once a human is administered with this blood in any form]

“Hey, our--I mean, the Clown that’s staying with you--she’s a freaking master when it comes to subjugation-”


But the viscount plainly laid out the facts before him.

Watt deflated. The words bore down upon him as though they carried weight.


[Sigmund’s blood, you see, is capable of airborne infection.]


<=>


“All right. Let’s go.”

“But... is this really all right? If you have to be beside me all the time, you won’t be able to enjoy the festival, Val...”

Though Selim was clearly bursting with excitement, she could not bring herself to go. Val smiled in an attempt to clear her worries.

“It’s okay. I wasn’t really planning to do much at the festival anyway. But I thought maybe it would be more fun if I went with someone...”

“But...”

“...So could I ask you this favor? Could you come to the festival with me? I mean, there’s a bunch of things that I want to talk to you about, too.”

‘Right. I’m not doing this for Selim. This is for me, too.’

Convincing himself that he had ulterior motives for taking Selim aboveground, Valdred kept talking to her. He would help her enjoy the festival and take in the sights of the outside world.

How did this fellow plant-based vampire see the world, in contrast to humans and vampires? Perhaps she could provide Val the answers he sought. And with that thought, he gently took her hand in his.

And little by little, he escorted the girl to the outside world.

As he held the humanlike hand, so very warm in his, Val began to feel his heart grow warmer as well.


<=>


“So what? If you’re here to kill me, why’d you go to the trouble of telling me your name?”

“That is because our master, Comrade Caldimir, did not make your death a part of his plan. In fact, he plans to make use of you. Although I cannot speak on Melhilm’s behalf.”

“...And you think I’m gonna do whatever you vermin tell me to do? What do you think I am, some vampire’s retarded lapdog?”

Sigmund shook his head.

“The opposite. Comrade Caldimir has high hopes for you. Though you may be a petty man, you would never abandon your subordinates or citizens unless you intended to use them as tools to begin with.”

“...”

“Doubtless you would not wish to bear witness to the sight of your citizens killing one another one by one, as journalists from all over the world capture the sight in their cameras and reports.”

Watt ground his teeth at the nonchalant threat.

“You son of a bitch... Not like I have any right to say this, but do you really want Relic’s powers that badly?”

Though he had not intended for such a thing, Watt’s sore comment drew out new information from Sigmund.

“...No. Our true target is not Relic. In that alone you may take solace.”

“What...?”

“After his discussion with Melhilm, Comrade Caldimir discovered a vampire even more useful to his plans than Relic von Waldstein. A being with unlimited potential--potential for immortality and invincibility.”

Watt frowned at Sigmund, not knowing who he might be talking about. Sigmund chuckled and revealed his goals.

“Melhilm’s letter must have spelled everything out for you already. He is here to take back everything.”


<=>


“Let’s start with the opening ceremonies. I think the jester girl was going to do something funny there, too.”

“Oh, yes! That sounds wonderful.”

Selim climbed the stairs leading aboveground. The smile plastered on her face grew even brighter.

And Val once again found himself seeing her as nothing short of ‘lovely’.

‘This feeling... if all of my souls agree on this one emotion, then maybe this is what the real me is feeling.

‘Then maybe I could use this feeling as my core. Something to base my real self on.’

Excited at the possibilities that lay ahead, Val energetically stepped aboveground.

Although this wasn’t the only prospect he was excited for, he had yet to realize what this other thrilling possibility was.


And so, they left the underground.

They set foot towards a new world--towards something each needed to attain, not knowing what truly awaited them ahead.


<=>


“What was it that Melhilm demanded back from you? And what is it that we are here to find? It is the young vampire we had left under your command, Watt Stalf.

“Valdred Ivanhoe, I believe that watermelon’s name was...”


-----


Chapter 6+Extra Chapter.



-----

6 comments:

  1. All these telekinetic abilities must be really useful for playing MMORPGs ^^

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  2. thanks for another great update

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  3. "I sincerely hope you weren’t expecting such a change to come about naturally. young man."
    There should be a comma, not a period there. ^.^''

    "If Young Relic is a ‘standard’ created by the combination of countless vampiric traits--a Relict--then Val, are an ‘invincible’."
    I... I don't think that part about Val is correct.

    Thanks a bunch for the translation. I really love Narita's works.

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  4. Look! Another Narita's worlds' connection!
    You see, Traugott that was mentioned earlier was a famous German martial artist whose dojo franchise is very popular all over the world. Orihara Sisters and Akane Awasuku of Durarara were disciples in one of the dojo in Ikebukuro!

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  5. Yay! The Jester is back! I'm really liking Val and Selim so far. Can't wait for more Ferret and Mihail

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