A short update. Enjoy!
Chapter 8 - Snow White is Dyed in Red, and...
Waldstein Castle Parlor.
“It’s delightful to see you again, Viscount Wa- I mean, Gerhardt!”
[It’s been too many years since our last meeting, my most lovely fiancee. It gladdens me to behold you in all your graceful beauty!]
The lovers delighted in their reunion, surrounded by vampire maids and the werewolves. Everyone but the couple looked on in stunned silence at the sudden nature of Dorothy’s visit.
There was nothing surprising about the viscount receiving a visitor. But that surprised everyone was the fact that he had introduced the woman as his fiancee.
Anyone who wasn’t used to the viscount’s appearance, however, would have been lost for words for a different reason entirely.
The woman had nearly-transparent white skin and long white hair that shimmered like freshly fallen snow. Unlike the white hairs that cropped up on the heads of aged humans, Dorothy’s locks were soft as silk. Though one might have feared that the juxtaposition of her hair against her skin made it seem like she was wearing a wig, Dorothy’s features blended together in pleasant harmony; a beautiful sight to behold.
With the exception of her pupils, even her eyes--not a blood vessel in sight--were a pristine white. The tongue that flashed between her light pink lips looked even redder in contrast.
Even her clothing was uniformly white. Its simple design was straight out of a fairy tale, from the wardrobe of a princess in a land far, far away.
She was a veritable snow elf, anyone would think from appearances alone. And there was nothing out-of-place about this judgement. Dorothy was like the personification of snow itself.
The problem was the creature that held her in its embrace.
The bloody viscount who needed no introduction had somehow fashioned his body into something resembling human form. It was an appearance that would be most appropriate in an old B-movie.
Yet Snow White showed no reservations about making physical contact with the creature.
It was a nightmarish sight, as though the princess were being devoured by a red mass of slime.
And how in the world had she embraced the viscount in the first place, when his entire body was liquid? From the fact that the blood was not staining her clothing, it seemed that there was a telekinetic membrane of sorts covering Gerhardt’s entire body.
The happy couple spent a moment in sweet embrace. But the maids, finally able to speak again, bombarded them with complaints.
“You never said anything about a fiancee, sir!”
The parlor grew more and more chaotic by the second, filled with the maids’ voices.
“When is the wedding scheduled to take place, Master?!”
“We can’t make preparations unless you tell us about it first, sir!”
“Please don’t even think of eloping, sir! You have your reputation to think about!”
“You’re always so fickle, Master! Please try to be more considerate of our duties!”
“I’ll begin the preparations right away, sir. Please give me the names and number of relatives you will be inviting to the ceremony. An approximate number is acceptable.”
The onslaught finally came to an end with a statement from a particularly composed maid. The viscount awkwardly began to write out a response in the air.
Most of his body, of course, was still maintaining the shape of a man. Although he was no longer embracing his fiancee, Gerhardt was still holding her pristine white hand.
[Ah, my sincerest apologies. My fiery love and yearning seems to have gotten the better of me.]
He made a gesture like he was scratching his head, pointless though it was.
In any event, it was clear that he was now ready to explain everything. The maids, the werewolves, and the suit-clad vampire called ‘Mage’ surrounded the happy couple in a semicircle.
Mage spoke on behalf of the others in the parlor.
“Master Gerhardt. We’d be grateful if you could introduce us properly...”
The viscount began weaving his response in the air, in both German and Japanese out of consideration for Mage.
[Ah, a most wise suggestion. Then allow me to introduce you in all proper form! This is Dorothy Nifas. Her surname means ‘snowflake’ in Greek.](1)
“...It’s a pleasure to meet you, everyone. My name is Dorothy Nifas.” Dorothy said with an elegant bow. She moved with fluid grace and regal bearing.
“I’m terribly sorry about the confusion. Gerhardt can be quite forgetful sometimes. To think he hadn’t spoken a word about me! I suppose some things never change.”
In spite of her looks, Dorothy’s voice was full of energy and enthusiasm. She even openly (but lovingly) criticized Gerhardt without a moment’s hesitation.
[Ahaha! Indeed, they do not. Ah, I had convinced myself, it seems, that I had disclosed the fact of our engagement earlier. Now that I think on it, I’d thus far only told Grandmother Job and Doctor!]
Although there was little in the way of an apology in the viscount’s words, it was clear from his pulsating body that he was deeply embarrassed.
He then continued his thought from earlier, completing his introduction of Dorothy.
[Dorothy and I grew close in the past, when I was still affiliated with the Organization. In fact, it was Dorothy who suggested the formation of the Organization. It was also she who nominated me as an officer of the Organization.] He wrote nostalgically. Dorothy looked away, also looking slightly embarrassed. A hint of pink stained her white cheeks, turning the elf human for but an instant.
The occupants of the parlor had been fully convinced as to Dorothy’s good intentions. The greeting would end without a fuss. But Mage decided to point out something that had been bothering him for quite some time now.
“Um. Master Gerhardt.”
[Hm? What might be the matter?]
“It feels as though... It’s been getting colder.”
Although the question had come out of nowhere, no one could disagree that the temperature had indeed taken a dip. Everyone sensed the change, which seemed to be originating from Dorothy.
[Ah! It seems I had forgotten one very important po in t!]
The viscount’s letters began to grow disorganized as he continued.
[Dorothy uses telekinesis to control matter around herself, but she is unable to mo v e large o bjec ts.]
As the viscount’s movements grew stiff, the servants addressed him with great concern. But Gerhardt continued to write in the air.
[In exchange, she is capab le of h alting the mov ements of sma ll objects. She c an slow down th e movements o f molec u le s, for ex a mple! In e ss e nce, this m e ans she is capabl e of lowering the t em pera ture. B ut it seems t o b e a diff i cu lt ab ilit y to control; she u n for tunate ly c o o l s down t h e tempe ra ture ev en w h e n s h eeeeeeeeeee...]
His writing stopped.
Mage turned to the viscount’s main body, still in the shape of a man, and noticed something.
The viscount was not sloshing in liquid form as he usually did. His entire body was now a solid, white frost beginning to set on the surface.
“AACK! Master Gerhardt is frozen!”
Mage’s scream seemed to have finally alerted Dorothy as to her fiancee’s frozen state. She hurriedly let go of his hand and embraced him in an effort to warm up his body.
“Oh dear! Gerhardt! I’m so sorry! You never froze so quickly in the past! Please, wake up!”
Her embrace seemed to have the opposite effect entirely. The letters floating in the air froze solid, finally falling to the floor.
The letters, a part of the viscount’s very body, shattered like glassware.
[My humblest apologies! My joy at our long-awaited reunion seems to have gotten the better of me!]
The maids had showered him with the contents of the parlor teapot, and the werewolves had rubbed his body with cloth with all their might. The viscount had finally returned to liquid form, gaining freedom once more.
[Ah, yes! As I recall, this is far from the first time I lost consciousness after embracing Dorothy!]
“She’s your natural enemy, Master! How in the world did you get engaged?!” The occupants of the parlor cried in shock. But the viscount twisted his body abashedly and wrote out a response.
[...Do you not agree... That a difference in temperature is such a trivial thing in the face of true love?]
“This? A ‘difference’? Master Gerhardt! It’s closer to being an impenetrable wall!” Mage said pointedly.
[Hahahahahaha! Now, let us return to the matter at hand.]
Gerhardt tensed as though waving aside Mage’s critique. It seemed as though his font had also changed to a more businesslike one that was used in newspapers.
[What did you mean, Dorothy, when you said you had come to protect Relic?]
“...My goodness, I’d completely lost track of time! Gerhardt, I sent you an email earlier. Didn’t you read it?”
[Ah, I’ve yet to check my inbox today. I am sorry to say that I’ve been terribly busy today, what with all the guests to entertain...]
Although it was difficult to see a visual connection between the pool of blood and the internet, the viscount was actually skilled enough with computers that he could surf the web freely. He was able to use the same telekinesis that moved his body to use things like the keyboard and the mouse. And the fact that he was not limited to ten fingers meant that he was the quickest typist on the island.
But even the viscount was unable to communicate using telephones. Email was about the only way to contact him.
[I already know of Melhilm’s arrival, but was even Caldimir involved? And if you’ve come to protect Relic...]
“Um... Master!” One of the maids said, remembering something. “I’m terribly sorry, sir. Miss Nifas’s arrival was so sudden I couldn’t report to you immediately, but there was an incident concerning Miss Ferret earlier today.”
[Hm? Some urgent business, might I ask?]
“Yes, Master. And... I think Miss Nifas may also be involved...” The maid trailed off, looking slightly suspicious of Dorothy.
[...That is enough of suspicion, now. Mark my words--Dorothy is entirely trustworthy.]
“Oh, of course! My apologies, Miss.” The maid said, having been read like a book.
“Not at all. Please don’t let it bother you. But from what you’re saying... Something must have already happened.” Dorothy said, her expression darkening as she guessed at what might have occurred.
The maid once more bowed her head apologetically and reported to everyone in the parlor:
“Yes. It was earlier today, Master, at the harbor. Miss Ferret--”
At the same time, Waldstein Castle. The laboratory.
The laboratory was built in an artificial alcove at the end of the caverns. Its entrance was equipped with all kinds of modern security features, a far cry from the natural environment outside.
A girl dressed like a jester was rapping on the door and calling at the top of her lungs, accompanied by a group of murmuring vampires.
“This is a golden opportunity, guys.”
“Yeah. Now that Selim and Val are aboveground, Doctor and Professor are like helpless little sparrows with their wings torn off.”
“You mean helpless little bats. Vampires, remember?”
“But don’t bats die if you pull of their wings?”
“Heh heh heh... In the realm of the night, the punishment for disrespecting your elders... Is death.”
“‘Bout time we teach ‘em to fear true vampires.”
“Let’s show them what we’re made of!”
The vampires grew more and more dramatic in their rally. The jester suddenly stopped knocking on the door.
“You know, you know? I heard Doctor’s actually really strong, too! Not as much as Relic, but he’s still really strong! Granny Job told me! He’s probably a lot stronger than the werewolves, too! You guys wouldn’t stand a chance even in your next lives! Tee hee!”
The vampires gulped in unison and exchanged glances.
Then they amended their prior claims as though nothing had happened.
“Heh heh heh... The punishment for denying us our well-deserved pay... Is death.”
“‘Bout time we teach ‘em to fear part-timers.”
“Let’s show ‘em what unemployed people are made of!”
Ignoring her friends’ ineffectual threats, the jester once more faced the door.
She slowly brought her skinny right arm to the door, and turned her body into fog. Even the clothing she wore and the part of the door that was in contact with her costume followed in the transfiguration.
The jester’s form quickly grew faint like a mirage as she slowly turned into a thick, colorful fog. The fog flowed in through the gap she left in the door, and reformed into the clown on the other side.
The missing chunk of the door was reformed in her right hand. It fell to the ground with a thud.
The vampires gawked at the hole in the door, partly melted as though it was a piece of glass that had been attacked with a blowtorch.
“Since when did you know how to do that?”
“That’s pretty boss, yo.”
“You’re a beast!”
The jester looked mystified at the vampires’ reactions.
“Huh? ...Oh, I get it now! I totally get it! You guys had no idea, did you? You don’t know!”
“Last year, silly! When you guys weren’t here! Relic almost turned this entire island into fog and bats!”
For a moment, the vampires did not register the meaning of the jester’s claim. But once the understanding hit them, they froze.
“Nope! Not one bit! It’s because Relic’s so strong that Master Watt can’t give up on getting his hands on Relic’s powers, you know? Isn’t he dreamy?” She cooed, her eyes sparkling.
A single look at the jester’s eyes was enough to fully convince the long-lived vampires of Relic’s superiority.
“...Remind me to never pick a fight with Relic.”
“Or with Doctor.”
“Or with Selim.”
“Or the viscount when he’s going off about economics.”
“...In other words, we shouldn’t pick a fight with anyone.”
“Awesome!” “We’re a buncha pacifists now!” “It’s like I’m holding the fate of the world in my own two hands!” “Once our pacifistic hands finally curl into fists, our true power will be unleashed!” “Enemies of Earthlings appear before us... And they’re all hot babes!” “What? I like handsome, buff guys.” “Proposal rejected. Anyway, an ill-fated romance is a given.” “Tragedy approaches!” “The power to turn tragedy into triumph... That is my true power!”
“Heh heh heh... We’re pretty amazing, that’s what we are!”
The jester ignored her friends, who were going further and further off-track, and sauntered into the laboratory.
“Do~ctor! Profe~ssor! Today’s the day of the festival, you know? You know? It only comes once a year! You missed it last year, so you just have to make it this time! Um... If you don’t go, you might get killed! So let’s all go together and cheer on Master Watt!” She hollered, stepping further into the lab without a hint of hesitation. From her comfortable behavior, it seemed that this was not her first time visiting this place.
She stopped before the entrance of the lab where the duo usually worked, and slammed open the door.
“Doctor... Oh? Hey, it’s Professor! ...Huh?”
Upon glimpsing the state of the room, the jester tilted her head in confusion.
The room was not particularly messy. In fact, it was organized more neatly than it usually was. The countless monitors mounted on the walls displayed images from all over the island in real time, and there was a familiar white coffin in the center of the room.
There were a pair of arms attached to the coffin, and caterpillar tracks were supporting it from below. It was the kindly and energetic vampire(?) known as Professor.
For some reason, her arms were hanging powerlessly behind her and her caterpillar tracks remained so still the jester almost thought they had rusted. And most startlingly, the speakers that usually played Professor’s cutesy voice to listeners were silent.
The lid of the coffin was open. Inside was a humanoid skeleton.
It was almost a horrifying sight to behold, but the jester only frowned and wondered to herself:
“Hm? What happened here? Did she get into a teensy fight with Doctor?”
The jester thought for a moment. And once she heard the sound of the other vampires coming down the hall, she slowly shut the lid of the coffin.
Professor’s mechanical arms sprang to life and her caterpillar tracks began whirring once more.
The coffin shook much like a wet dog might, and a moment later Professor’s childlike voice crackled from the speakers attached to her arm joints.
<Eeek! Thank you so much for closing my lid, Miss Clown! By any chance have you seen Doctor?>
Seeing as Professor knew that her lid had been opened and closed, it was not likely that she had fallen asleep. She quickly came to her senses, looking around for her partner.
But Doctor was nowhere to be found. Professor turned to the monitors set up on the wall, but still she could not locate him.
<Oh no, oh no... What do I do...?>
“Say, did something happen?” The jester asked. At that very moment, the other vampires burst into the room.
“Hey, you are here!”
“Why’d you pretend you weren’t?!”
“Heh. You don’t even make any money, Professor. We don’t have any business with you. And you can’t even sell yourself to make cash, huh?”
“Forget this creep and hand over the Doc, Prof!”
The vampires furiously demanded Doctor’s presence. Professor responded in a trembling voice:
<Doctor... Doctor’s disappeared somewhere!>
Her mechanical arms touched the top of her coffin as her caterpillar tracks shook. From her gesture and tone, it seemed that she was crying.
As everyone came to the same conclusion, the speakers projected the voice of a weeping girl.
“Eek! Don’t cry, Professor!” The jester said, quickly patting the side of the coffin to console her. At the same time, she turned her head and shot the other vampires a glare.
“You meanies! How could you make a coffin cry like that? How could you?! You’re inhuman!”
Though her choice of words could be taken as nonsensical, the jester’s expression was the picture of gravity.
“Whoa, don’t get mad at us.”
“Making a coffin cry, huh? That’s definitely inhuman.”
“In more ways than one.”
“Back to the point! What’s this about Doctor being missing?”
“Yeah! That’s the real issue here, right?!”
The vampires were now collectively trying to alleviate the weight of their guilt by listening to Professor’s side of the story. Although their attempts at sympathy were awkward at best, Professor accepted them and swallowed her tears (or the sound of them, at least).
She explained how Doctor had been watching something through the monitors with a terribly serious expression.
How he suddenly told her his name as though saying goodbye, and how he flipped her lid open.
How he disappeared, saying something along the lines of ‘get some rest and stay behind so you don’t get involved’, as she remained there unable to move or speak.
But Professor neglected to mention one final thing--his final words to her.
“But you know, I’m not worthy of salvation. Not now, not ever.”
Such ominous words.
It was, in some ways, a will of sorts. Professor could sense the weight of something terrible in Doctor’s unusually childlike tone. She could not bring herself to repeat it to the vampires, for fear that the burden nesting in his words would only grow heavier.
She knew that it would be better to discuss it with everyone.
But the soul within the coffin was affected by her emotions. She hesitated to put a voice to the words Doctor had spoken to her earlier.
The vampires, with no understanding of Professor’s emotional state, stood in a huddle and whispered amongst themselves.
“What’s going on here, d’you think? Where’d Doc go?”
“You know, we just came in from the caverns. Isn’t it weird? If he left the lab, we’d have run straight into him.”
It was an obvious point, but no one could find Doctor in the laboratory. The vampires crowded around the monitors that displayed images from inside the lab, but there was nothing moving on the screens.
“In other words, he turned into bats or fog and went aboveground while hiding from us.”
“But why?! Does he really hate us that much?”
“Hold on. D’you think he went to get some cash from the bank to pay us with?” One of the vampires said with a triumphant grin. But Professor shook her body from side to side, rejecting the idea.
<We have plenty of money here in the safe...>
“Then hand it over now!” The vampire replied, quickly changing the subject to their salary.
The jester shot him a murderous glare.
“Uh... Right. Uh... Man, I’m worried ‘bout Doc.” He stammered quickly.
The jester’s eyes returned to normal size as she turned to the Professor.
“But why is he hiding from us? Maybe to keep us out of something dangerous?” She wondered, concern clear in her voice.
<I think that must be it.> Professor said feebly.
The jester thought for a moment with a frown creasing her brow. But soon, she stood up with a surprisingly determined smile.
“It’s settled, then! Let’s all go help him!”
Though her body was incapable of showing expressions, something like shock filled Professor’s voice at the fact that the jester would ‘help’ Doctor instead of merely finding him.
“I don’t really get what’s going on, but Doctor might be in trouble, right? Right? So let’s go! We have to help him!” The jester said matter-of-factly. Professor swung her arms in panic.
<N-not at all! You were all on your way to the festival, weren’t you?! Please, you don’t have to go to all this trouble for our sakes!>
But the jester refused to back down. She grinned innocently and turned to the other vampires.
“It’s totally fine! Right, guys?”
“Uh... You askin’ us to agree with you?”
The vampires looked quite hesitant. But the jester said confidently, without a moment’s hesitation:
“If Doctor left without telling anyone, that must mean he’s trying to keep us all safe from something really bad, right? Isn’t that really amazing? Isn’t that sweet?”
“Hey, that ain’t gonna convince us, y’know? Even I know stuff like that never turns out well. When a vampire’s got problems, they’re usually pretty deep. Bad news all around. And ‘sides, we’re just here to get out money.”
The vampires still seemed quite hesitant to join in the jester’s quest.
“Anyway, we ain’t friendly enough with Doc to give him charity like that. It’s a professional relationship we’ve got with him, y’know? With cash?”
“Yeah, cash! That’s what vampires need more of!”
The vampires’ continued obsession with money seemed to have reminded Professor of something.
<Doctor... is the only one who can open the safe.>
Ten seconds passed by in utter silence. The vampires slowly turned to the jester. Naturally, their eyes were filled with the kind of greed that had permeated the air when they first saw her use her powers to slip through the laboratory door.
The jester, however, ignored their desperation and grinned impishly, getting to her feet.
“I’m going now! Tee hee!”
“Wait! Hold up! Your Majesty!” One of the vampires cried, attempting to use flattery to hold her back. But the jester ignored him and turned herself to fog, leaving the room.
The remaining vampires exchanged glances and sighed loudly. They then headed off to follow the jester.
“There’s money on the line. What’re we supposed to do, ignore it?” One of the vampires said in all honesty. The coffin bowed forward as much as physically possible to show her gratitude.
<*sniffle* Thank you so much! I’ll contact you by cell phone if I figure out anything!>
“With those arms?!”
<Thank you! Thank you!>
Not even the vampires’ realistic concerns were enough to stop Professor’s unending stream of gratitude. They left the room quickly and abashedly.
One of the vampires sighed as the group walked down the hall towards the caverns.
“Feels like we’re getting in over our heads here.”
“Stop talking like that. You’re giving me the creeps.” Said another. But the first vampire shook his head.
“Y’know... Back when I was in the Organization, I heard rumors about a kid. A boy. And I think... He might be Doctor.”
The other vampires frowned at the way their friend was circling the topic. There was something ominous about the way he phrased his sentences, so unclear and vague. They responded with questions to try and lighten the mood.
“...What’s that s’pposed to mean?”
“Never heard anything like that before.”
“You’re scaring us, man.”
“And why didn’t you say anything earlier?”
The man paused for a moment. He then spotted the jester walking ahead in the distance, and making sure that no one else was around, whispered to his friends:
“Well, it’s not like I was 100% sure it was the same guy. And... It’d be rude to Professor either way...”
The man trailed off, his lighthearted behavior evaporating. He was silent for several seconds, before finally averting his eyes and mumbling as though to himself.
“...I mean... If you think of a prettyboy vampire with silver hair and silver eyes... Isn’t that a dead ringer for Doc?”
“...True. You never really see hair like his anywhere.”
“What was it, ten? Fifteen years ago? Forget if it was Russia or Germany, but remember how a whole bunch of humans in the countryside got massacred or disappeared off the face of the earth?”
The other vampires blinked at the sudden mention of the incident. What could the silver-haired boy have to do with this?
“Thousands of humans went missing or died in a whole bunch of different places... Over the course of a year.”
“...Come to think of it, I think Mr. Melhilm was running around a lot back then.”
“Sure, it was all in different places. Everyone died or disappeared in different circumstances. And humans just thought it was earthquakes or fires and never made the connection. But...”
The vampire was finally becoming more and more specific in his recollections. There was a hint of both curiosity and even a touch of awe in his tone.
“...I heard the culprit was... A kid. A kid who grew up into a vampire. You know Laetitia the Orange? The officer? I heard her talking with another officer in a bar. Looked real excited about it, too. I never saw her laughing like that before, so the whole thing stuck with me. Just how bad was this kid, you know?”
“...Okay. Forget what I said earlier. Maybe the silver hair really is a coincidence. And seriously. Thousands of humans? One vampire? No way. We’ve all heard crazy rumors about the officers. Legends about Black, or Mirror’s antics... Hah.”
The first vampire, however, refused to let the matter pass.
“Doc said he was twenty-seven years old. Y’know... His age... It fits perfectly.”
“Wait. Hold it. A crazy vampire that went around like an idiot killing humans left and right? The Organization should have finished him off ages ago!” Said the lone woman among the group. The other vampires had also been thinking this way from the start.
One of the Organization’s purposes was to protect vampires from human persecution. This was why the act of showing off the presence of vampires to human eyes and creating an image of vampires as evil creatures was essentially an act of hostility against the Organization.
“Yeah. There’s no way the Organization’d let him off the hook just like that. In other words, he’s already one of their targets. But this kid is still alive and kicking.”
The first vampire nodded and brought the storm of rumors to stillness with a single sentence.
“In other words, this mass murderer is still at the top of the Organization’s blacklist.”
(1) Dorothy’s surname is pronounced Nipasu in the Japanese version, and the viscount claims that it means ‘snowstorm’ or ‘blizzard’. Greek Anon has pointed out that this does not seem accurate, though Nifas is a word meaning ‘snowflake’. I decided to go with the more authentic Nifas for this translation.