Have a long chapter full of twists, turns, drama, and comedy. Enjoy!
EDIT: I can't do math. Error fixed.
Chapter 5: Vampires…!
A forest in southern Germany.
“Argh… Damn it… What the hell are those freaks?!”
A small car raced through the woods.
Horst was in the driver’s seat, constantly glancing over at the rear-view mirror.
‘They’re vampires! They’ve got to be vampires!’ He told himself over and over as he tried to shake off the looming dread that pursued him.
The reason he kept his thoughts to himself was because he was concerned about Alma, who was sitting next to him in the passenger seat.
But no matter how hard he tried to shake his pursuers, they persistently dogged his heels. He felt trapped. He was about to be crushed by despair.
‘Damn it… Shit! Shit!
‘Why the hell did this happen?!
‘Why won’t they just leave us alone?!
‘What did Alma do to deserve this?! What did she ever do to them?!
He cursed their pursuers in his head, but he could not stem the constant flow of fear.
He glanced at the passenger seat. Alma sat with her arms crossed, embracing herself. Her tiny form was visibly trembling.
Horst saw his honest self reflected in that little girl. His fears only grew worse.
‘Damn it… how did this happen…?’
Several hours earlier.
“Let’s get out of here.”
“My folks live over in Munich. It’ll be easier to live there, and I can commute to work here from their place.”
“It’ll be better than renting an apartment here.”
“…I’m sorry… This is all my fault.”
Alma hung her head. Horst smiled at her reassuringly.
“C’mon, Alma. I told you not to worry. The people who started the fire are the bad guys. Anyway, have you ever been to Munich? Everyone there’s great. They’re not like the touchy people here. And you’ve heard of Oktoberfest, right? We get millions of tourists from all over the world, and they even set up a theme park in the square!”
Horst raved with as much enthusiasm as he could muster—not so much for Alma as for himself.
But even he was falling prey to fear.
On the way back from the police station, Horst received a phone call from the man who used to deliver mail to the village before him.
The man was in the hospital. He said that he had been pushed off a flight of stairs.
When Horst went to see him, the older postman said,
“Did you by any chance find any strange graffiti on your house? You’d better keep an eye out if you did.”
The older man did not seem to know that Horst’s house had already been burned down.
But it became another explicit sign of the fear that strangled his thoughts.
The older postman had nothing to do with the incident, and he had stopped going to the village a long time ago. So why did even he have to suffer?
“Well… I was at the bar the other day when I heard some bastards say these awful things about Alma. I gave them a stern lecture, and afterwards, I’ve been getting harassed like this every once in a while.”
The older postman said that he had not seen his attacker, either.
He had seen suspicious people around, yes. But sometimes they were men, sometimes they were women, sometimes they were office workers, and sometimes they were young thugs. There was no common ground connecting these people, and he could not even begin to figure out who could have been responsible.
But Horst knew.
His fellow postman had probably been attacked by them all.
It was an invisible coagulation of malice.
Everyone they met sympathetically met Alma’s gaze.
No one showed any signs of fear or dislike.
But among them were the arsonists and those who would agree with their actions.
Horst decided to escape from that; he made up his mind to leave the city with Alma.
Alma did not wish to remain in the city, either. But she reminded Horst that as long as he continued to protect her, he would also be persecuted. Horst, however, could not leave her.
Perhaps he was not motivated by altruism alone.
If he abandoned Alma here, he would find himself just like the other people of the city—someone who abandoned a little girl because he was defeated by fear.
He was being sympathetic; he was also being stubborn.
Gripped by the thought that he was now fighting against the entire city, it even occurred to Horst to set fire to the entire neighborhood. But he caught himself before the line of thought went anywhere, and decided to leave town before he lost his mind.
He clenched his fists tightly, swearing that he would never become like the people around him.
The moment of fate was upon them.
They bought the bare necessities at a nearby store, loaded the car with some changes of clothes, and began the drive to Munich. At the post office, Horst filled in a form requesting a leave of absence. But he thought to himself that, depending on the situation, he might never return to the city again.
When the sun slowly began to set, they decided to spend the night at a roadside motel.
Finally liberated from the city, Horst felt free.
There was something unbearably murky about the air there. It had felt as though they were a pair of saltwater fish pushed in with a school of fish in the river.
But if the rumors were true, Alma was essentially a shark to the people of the city. The freshwater fish, unable to even vent their frustrations, could do nothing but try to eliminate the supposed threat from the shadows.
Even though a shark could not survive in fresh water very long.
Horst looked out at the city and ground his teeth at the injustice.
The motel was built partly in the forest, and the area was deserted.
There was a strangely eerie chill in the air.
At that point, Alma came up to Horst, speaking so quietly he could barely hear.
“Hm? What is it, Alma?”
“If… if I was a vampire… what would you do?”
Horst sighed, astonished.
“Hey, don’t you start believing those rumors too, Alma. Don’t worry. Vampires don’t-“
“But what if?”
Alma cut him off forcefully.
Rattled by the gravity of her tone, Horst pulled back his forced grin and listened seriously.
“If I’m really a vampire, just like the people say… are you going to kill me too, Horst? Are you going to stab me in the heart or set me on fire or-“
“Don’t be stupid!” Horst cried without thinking. He quickly looked at Alma apologetically.
But she did not look surprised at all by his outburst. Alma only looked up at him with a somber expression.
Horst could feel guilt welling up inside. It was just like the time she looked up at him sadly as they left the police station.
“Don’t be stupid… If you really are a vampire—if you’ve really been bitten and turned into a vampire—I’ll do whatever it takes to turn you back.”
He was trying to reassure her.
But the moment he finished, the look on Alma’s face darkened even more.
However, she was not blaming him. It looked more like she was in despair at her own state of being.
“So… being a vampire is wrong?”
“I… I have to be a human, or it’s wrong. Right?”
He tried to say something.
But Horst could not manage a voice. His lungs worked in vain to try and produce an utterance.
He knew he had to say something, but he could not find the words.
‘It can’t be.’
His throat was dry. His tongue was dry, and even his nose and eyes.
It felt like water was evaporating from his face.
‘Or maybe… could it…?
‘No… it just…’
He could not bring himself to complete his thought.
The incident at the village was already something beyond common sense.
How could so many people disappear without leaving so much as a single drop of blood?
If anyone was capable of doing such a thing, it had to be a monster, like a vampire. This was the only conclusion he could jump to.
Creatures of fantasy began to grow clearer in the fog of fear.
If this was an ordinary conversation, or a warm family dinner, he could probably say,
‘Even if you are a vampire, you and I are still family.’
But there was a weight to Alma’s words that stopped him from speaking.
This was not the time for a thoughtless answer.
This was not the time to ignore Alma.
Horst tried to say that he didn’t care whether she was a vampire. But his dried-out tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth, preventing him from saying anything meaningful.
He barely managed to call her name.
That was his limit.
“…I’m sorry for asking such a weird question.” Alma said with a smile, shaking her head.
But her eyes were clearly tinged with sadness.
‘What did I just do…?
‘I swore I would protect her!
‘So why the hell… why the hell did I end up hurting her instead…?’
At that moment, his thoughts came grinding to a halt.
There was a mirror hanging on the wall, on the other side of the room.
Reflected in its surface were his own frozen face, and the scene out the window behind him.
He thought he saw something move in that scene.
Noticing Horst’s expression, Alma turned. She gasped in a half-scream.
Behind Horst, outside the window, she saw the flickering of countless lights.
Trembling and trembling,
Trembling and trembling,
Shakily the lights glowed in the dark. Although they were not headlights, it was clear that they were quickly spreading into the woods.
It was as though the motel was being surrounded by will-o-wisp.
Horst slowly turned. But he could not tell what these lights were.
They were most likely from flashlights and lanterns.
But what was going on with these lights, right now in the dead of night?
Horst tried to force his hazy fears into a question.
But he was interrupted by Alma.
She was pale as a sheet, and her shoulders were trembling.
“Hey, what’s wrong?!”
“The village… they’re the ones who…”
Alma did not finish her sentence.
She must have remembered something specific. Tears began to fall from her terrified eyes.
But that alone was enough.
Chilled to the bone, Horst desperately fought the urge to fall to his knees in terror as he whispered to Alma,
“…Let’s get out of here.”
He quickly moved away from the window.
Alma, still trembling, did not take a single step.
Horst picked her up in his arms and ran out of the room with nothing but his car keys in hand.
The chase began.
How far had he driven his car?
Horst stepped on the gas pedal like his life depended on it, trying to shake off the lights that came after them. But the glow spread endlessly, as though filling the entire forest.
By the time he spotted lights in the distance directly ahead of them, Horst’s determination began to run out.
But when he turned on the headlights, he saw figures in the distance.
‘Those are people.’
The realization jolted Horst back into reality.
“Those are people…! What the hell is this?! Shit!” He cried into the air, but Alma replied to him.
“I… I don’t know what they were… They were humans, but they weren’t. And… that night, they came to the village and… and…!”
She had said the same thing at the police station before.
That the villagers had been attacked by something.
That was the only fact that mattered to Alma. Nothing else.
Or at least, that was how things should have been.
Alma was keeping one secret that she did not disclose to either Horst or the police.
It was a secret she could not reveal.
After all, revealing the truth would not change reality.
Even if she confessed, the police would assume that she was traumatized and out of her mind, or that the incident had its roots in some religious conflict. And because neither supposition was true, it could not solve the mystery behind the disappearances.
There was a good reason why she did not confess the truth.
The truth was something she could not tell even Horst.
It was a secret she should shoulder—no, carry—to the grave.
Alma was about to bite her lip when she spotted something ahead.
It was a large trailer, blocking off the road.
“Hey… What the hell is this?!” Horst cried, hitting the brakes.
From the shadows on the truck, multiple shadows emerged—all carrying lanterns.
He did not know what was coming after them.
And whether or not he knew, Horst could tell that his life was in danger. He was certain of that.
The figures illuminated by the headlights were, from their necks down, completely normal. People in suits, people in T-shirts, and even women in skirts.
But their heads—including their hair—were covered completely.
Some had cloth wrapped around their heads. Some wore hats, sunglasses, and hospital masks. Some wore full-face masks, and carnival masks sold in souvenir stores. It was an incredible assortment of faces, but the completely ordinary clothes worn by the bodies under the heads lent an eerie air to the scene.
‘I don’t know what those freaks are up to… but we’re in trouble. They’re different from the people in the city who’re trying to hurt Alma.’
The people, holding flashlights in their hands, silently walked over in the direction of the car.
“…Hold on tight, Alma.”
Horst took a deep breath.
He turned the steering wheel and drove the car into the mountains.
Several minutes later.
Horst could still see lights in the mountains reflected in the rear-view mirror.
Just how many of them were there?
A group numbering at well over dozens was driving them into the mountains and hunting them down.
‘…Don’t tell me… are they vampires?’
Remembering the shadows of the ‘Others’ he considered only a legend, Horst floored the gas pedal.
Eventually, the slope of the mountain grew steeper, and the car would not go forward. When he tried to back the car, the wheels spun, caught in the rocks.
“Damn it! …They’re going to find us if we stick with the car. We’ll have to run on foot!”
They stepped out of the car and stumbled up the mountain.
Several minutes later.
They climbed blindly up the slope, trying not to look behind them as they fled without a destination.
Alma slipped. Horst quickly grabbed her hand.
“You all right?!”
He tried to pull her back up, but the slope had gotten so steep that it took them some time to get back on track.
If Horst hadn’t gotten used to climbing rough terrain as he delivered mail to Alma’s village, he would have long ago slipped and fallen.
But they could not linger much longer.
When he pulled Alma back up, Horst found himself glancing at the path down which they came. He could see the macabre lights flickering like stars under them in the woods.
“Damn it… we ditched the car, so we have to find a place to hide…”
It was a miracle that they had gotten so far from the car without a single light guiding them, Horst tried to think optimistically. But if the throngs they saw swarming around the mountain searched the woods carefully, it would be only a matter of time before they were discovered.
They strained to find footing on a nearby tree.
Because there was no path in the mountains, one wrong move would send them sliding down the slope.
As they remained trapped, Alma began to sob.
“I’m sorry… This is all my fault…”
“I told you not to apologize, Alma.”
Horst did not care if he was just doing this for self-satisfaction. He refused to let himself blame Alma.
Driven to the brink of hopelessness, Horst took out his cell phone to see if he could find another way out. But the screen only told him that he was out of the service area.
“Shit… can’t use the phone, huh…”
He ground his teeth.
At that point, his cell phone began to vibrate as it played a ringtone he had never assigned to any function.
This was the moment of truth.
The nights of humans and Others, normally never to cross, collided.
The mysterious group of pursuers surrounded and closed off the mountain.
The masses of lights that were chasing down Horst’s car slowly came to a stop.
“I can sense them.”
“There’s no mistaking it.”
“And many of them.”
Sensing the change in the air, the faceless figures began to whisper.
As tension overcame the woods, the figures smiled twisted grins under their masks and whispered,
“…Things are going even better than planned.”
Horst hesitantly took the call. But before he could even put his ear on the receiver, a cacophonic voice began buzzing from the phone.
<Hey there! You two doin’ alright? If you’re still there, you’re in luck! Whoa, lemme introduce myself. The name’s QAWSED, also known as Hackey, if you wanna call me that.>
“Wh, who’re you?!”
Spinning on Horst’s cell phone screen was a mascot with a mouse design.
Naturally, he had no memory of downloading such an image. He wondered if this was a virus of some sort, but was is physically possible to give up control of a cell phone just by accepting a call?
The hijacked phone began to snicker.
<Sorry for scarin’ ya! But we’re on your side, yanno? Wipe those tears and lift up those chins! You’re about to get some badass helpers over there. The answer? After the break. You can check it on our website after that, folks!>
The voice on the cell phone spoke without an ounce of caution. It was like watching a suspense film where the protagonist was being cornered, alongside a radio program where a DJ nonchalantly read out the contents of a letter.
As the tension around them crumbled, Alma and Horst went silent.
But the quiet was soon broken by two voices approaching from either side.
“Hey, this brings back memories. I remember running off just like this.”
“Like a cycle of karma. Now we’re the ones doing the rescuing.”
Horst and Alma flinched. Two figures seemed to materialize out of thin air next to them.
The men were of different ethnicities; one caucasian and the other East Asian. But their physical features were so similar—with the exception of the colors of their eyes and hair—that they could probably pass for twins.
“Wh, who are—“
The men were both showing their faces, which meant they were not part of the group that were chasing Horst and Alma.
The Asian man calmly turned to the confused Horst.
“I apologize for scaring you. We were having a bit of a difficult time tracking you by your cell phone signal. We’ll explain the details later, but I’d like to make it clear that we are on your side, and that we intend you no harm.”
“Enough of the chit-chat. We’re takin’ you by force, whether you believe us or not.”
“Yellow! Do not alarm them!”
The strange duo bantered as though Horst and Alma’s shock meant little to them.
Horst tried to ask the men once more who they were. But at that point,
Before they could resist, Horst and Alma were each hoisted by one of the two men and carried up the mountain.
They were being carried by humans, Horst thought in the darkness, but something about the sensation of the movement was different.
It felt like riding on a convertible. He could feel gravity pulling at his body and impacts and sounds that came at regular intervals.
He squinted open his eyes and saw the trees around him flowing past rapidly.
‘Impossible… These people can’t be human!’
Cold sweat ran down his face.
But the wind quickly swept away the droplets of sweat.
Very soon, the ‘creatures’ carrying Horst and Alma slowed down.
“Wh, where are we…?”
When he finally came to his senses, Horst found himself at a rest area about halfway up the mountain. Because this mountain was relatively small and covered in trees, a facility was built here for hikers and visitors to enjoy the environment.
Horst and Alma both stared blankly.
The moment they were set on the ground again, they noticed more shadowed figures around them and shrank back.
But to their surprise, they were approached by a relieved German boy.
“Thank goodness you’re both all right! We were getting pretty worried… whoops, almost forgot: nice to meet you. My name’s Mihail Die-“
Suddenly, a boy in Gothic-style clothing cut off Mihail and offered Alma a hand.
“M, my name’s Fannie! Y, you’re Alma, right?”
The boy calling himself Fannie looked even more nervous than Alma. But what shocked Horst most was what the boy said immediately afterwards.
“Um, well… Mihail here’s human, but don’t worry—I’m a vampire!”
Alma also was shocked by the boy’s declaration.
But unlike Horst, her look of surprise was purely that—bewilderment separate from fear or suspicion.
“So, uh… well. You’re going to be okay now! I’m real sorry about the villagers, but from now on, I… I, uh… I’ll…” Fannie stammered. But Alma did not listen to him finish, instead speaking up blankly.
“Are you really… vampires…?”
The answer came this time from the Asian man.
“Would this be proof enough?”
A shadow curled over the man’s left hand, and like a mirage a bat emerged from the shadow. It began to flutter around Alma and Horst.
Having determined that the people around them were clearly monsters, Horst got up to protect Alma.
But when he saw the look on her face, he stopped.
The shock had gone now, giving way to tears.
They were not tears of fear or resentment, but relief and joy.
Horst could do little but stand in stunned silence.
“Alma… were you really a vampire…?”
“Nah.” Answered the boy Fannie introduced as a human. “So, uh. They said that Alma’s 100% human. But…”
The boy named Mihail paused for a moment and continued hesitantly.
“But she was the only one in that village who wasn’t a vampire.”
Some time earlier.
Doubs smiled merrily in the middle of the dining hall and nonchalantly laid out the facts.
“Yes! The village was, in fact, a settlement of vampires. Though the residents were immune to sunlight and running water, their only powers consisted of superhuman strength and abilities connected to the act of sucking blood.”
The commotion in the dining hall reached its zenith.
As each voice was swallowed up in the flood of murmurs, Gerhardt spoke up, immune to the overpowering noise.
[Ah, it is a surprise to hear that such a settlement existed in Germany, but it does not seem quite so far-fetched. But that begs the question; why in the world did the villagers disappear without a trace?]
“The answer to that is simple. Although it is an unusually unfortunate conclusion.”
Doubs shook his head ruefully, although he did not at all sound mournful.
He paused. Then, he lowered his voice.
“They were hunted by humans.”
[There were dozens of vampires in that village, were there not?]
“It’s not necessarily impossible. After all, the Hunters were a group of Eaters.”
At the mention of the word ‘Eaters’, the commotion in the dining hall was silenced.
“A group of Eaters?” Melhilm broke the silence, getting to his feet with a frown.
“Aha. Once burned, twice shy. I suppose someone who has been eaten in the past would be somewhat sensitive to the topic.”
“Damn you…” Melhilm growled.
But his bloodlust was quickly calmed by the pool of blood sloshing in the air.
[Patience, Melhilm. And Doubs—I advise that you avoid needless provocation.]
“Please excuse me.”
Bringing the meeting back on track, Gerhardt turned to Doubs.
[Now… what of the lone survivor?]
“A girl from the only human family in the village, whose parents were killed in an avalanche… or something to that effect. Although all I had to go on for this information were official records.”
[…So she only survived because she was human.]
“That is the answer! On the night of the macabre massacre, the vampires were murdered by Eaters one after another, naturally turning to ash and leaving not a drop of blood behind. After all, Eaters are capable of sensing vampires. Is this not the most connivingly convenient setup?”
With a bitter chuckle, the Iridescent Extra revealed the truth behind the incident.
Every emotion flashed past his face—joyfully, ruefully, like the shimmering iridescence of his clothing.
“And so, the human girl was spared. But once the Eaters caught wind of her survival, they began to fear that she had seen their faces. They wanted to be rid of her. After all, most Eaters have official records, and a run-in with the police can destroy their lives forever. And that, my friends, is the case in a nutshell.”
Mihail and the others had gathered at the rest area to protect Alma.
Fannie shook Alma’s limp hand up and down, looking very downcast.
“I’d really like to get you out of here myself, but if I’m with you, the Eaters are going to sense my presence. So you have to go with those humans over there.”
Fannie turned. Mihail was smiling obliviously, and further back was a sickly-looking young man leaning against a tree.
“What do you mean…?”
“I’ll explain later. Right now, you have to get out of here.”
Not knowing what to do, Horst turned to the relatively approachable Asian man.
And as though having expected such a question, the man answered,
“I understand that you are suspicious of us, and that this is a difficult situation to accept. But at the moment, we must prioritize the safety of the young lady. And to add, the boy named Mihail is an absolutely trustworthy human being.”
The Asian man then looked down at the masses of light further down the mountain.
“If you’ll excuse us, we have work to do.”
East of the woods, at the Mars family country house.
The disturbance was contagious.
Just as Alma and Horst were being chased by mysterious pursuers, darkness was beginning to draw over Dorothy and Ferret as they prepared to go after Mihail.
Or perhaps the darkness was being cast over the mansion itself, where the Organization was gathered.
“What… is that?”
Dorothy and Ferret had left the front gates by car on their way to find Mihail.
But not far down the one-lane road, they found a large trailer sitting across the path.
There was no sign of a traffic accident—the trailer was there for the sole purpose of blocking the road.
Dorothy chuckled bitterly and turned to Ferret.
“Before I apologize, I need to ask you; how is your physical strength?”
“It is adequate.”
“Then I’ll just apologize for this—“
Before Dorothy could finish, countless figures emerged from the shadow of the trailer. Dorothy’s car was engulfed in light.
“It looks like even you’ve gotten involved now. I’m sorry, Ferret.”
“There is no need to apologize. I am here of my own accord.”
There seemed to be powerful spotlights set up on top of the trailer and the road.
Dorothy stopped the car. She slowly opened the door and stepped onto the pavement.
Ferret followed her out and whispered,
“…Myself aside, I fear for Mihail’s safety.”
“Yes… I think he’ll be all right if he’s with an officer, but…”
One or two dozen was too small a number to describe the group before them.
Through the blinding light, they could see humans stepping off the trailer one after another.
Although Dorothy and Ferret had no way of knowing, these people were different from the ones pursuing Alma in that they were dressed almost uniformly.
The people wore black balaclavas and helmets. Their black jackets were designed in a military style, lending them the look of a special force.
But they were not armed with assault rifles or shotguns, like soldiers were. All they had were objects reminiscent of grenades hanging from their belts, and short knives. From the unnecessarily ornate designs of the blades, Dorothy deduced that they must be made of silver.
“If you’re worried about Mihail, you should go on ahead.”
Ferret indeed wanted to go. But she could not leave Dorothy. And how was she to find Mihail, when she had no lead?
“Maybe the power of love will guide you to him?”
“…I cannot believe how calm you can be in a situation like this.” Ferret said sullenly. Dorothy chuckled and handed her something.
“I’m just joking. Here.”
It was a white cell phone. On it was a sticker of a photograph Dorothy had taken somewhere with Gerhardt. It almost looked like a ghost sighting featuring a beautiful woman in white, but Ferret decided to not point this out.
“I’ll contact you later, so head east for now. Mihail should be somewhere between this manor and the closest city to the east.”
“But we must first do something about these people—”
“Don’t worry, Ferret. It looks like your ride is here.”
There was an impact.
Ferret turned to the source of the sound. Two motorcycles had appeared next to her out of nowhere.
The people by the trailer froze, cautiously observing the scene.
But the moment Ferret realized who the newcomers were, she was simultaneously shocked, perplexed, and relieved.
Riding the motorcycles were a blue-haired man and his bald friend.
They were werewolves from Growerth, whom Ferret met often and could trust.
“C’mon, Miss Ferret! Let’s get going!”
“Sorry you’re gonna have to ride behind someone you’re not even dating!”
The werewolves joked, turning around and revving the engines.
Dorothy gave the confused Ferret a gentle push.
“But what about—“
“Don’t worry. We’re used to situations like this.”
Ferret bit her lip.
“…Thank you. Let us meet again soon.”
“Of course. See you soon, Ferret.”
With that, Ferret climbed onto the seat behind the blue-haired werewolf. But—
“I shall not let you escape.”
All of a sudden, a dignified voice broke the silence veiling the people in uniform.
From the quality of the tone, the voice seemed to belong to the leader of the group. But his form was hidden in the bright lights.
The werewolves, however, paid the voice no mind as they started their motorcycles.
‘Now that I think about it… how did they get here on these motorcycles? There is a trailer parked across the road, and that sound from earlier…’
Seeing familiar faces had relaxed Ferret enough to finally wonder about the logistics of their reunion.
But her question was soon answered.
“Hold on tight!”
The blue-haired werewolf began to drive, and immediately raised one leg.
And with his hands still on the handlebars, he kicked off the ground on one side with both his feet.
There was an explosive noise.
It was as though the ground itself had exploded beneath them. A moment later, the werewolf’s feet were again on either side of the chassis.
One thing, however, was different.
The motorcycle was high in the air.
It flew in an arc over the trailer, further and further into the sky.
Yet Ferret did not so much as scream.
She was not even shocked at this superhuman feat.
Because every thread of her emotion had been gathered into one mass, only to be undone when she was finally reunited with her foolish childhood friend.
“Hmph… They got away.”
The voice did not sound particularly disappointed about having lost the motorcycles.
Dorothy’s eyes, finally adjusting to the lights, caught sight of the man at the center of the commotion.
The man was pale and looked to be in his early thirties. He was wearing a black suit, and his black hair was slicked back and fixed in place.
Although there was a sharp glint in his eyes, there was no life in the rest of his body. He looked like a living corpse.
Someone who had no idea what vampires were truly like would identify a man like him as a vampire.
Unfortunately, the man’s physique did not quite live up to the force behind his voice. Unless he was a comedian or an actor from a horror movie, the fact of his being a vampire was all that was clear about him.
“This is a rather distinguished guest we have here today. Should I introduce myself?”
“No need for that. I have no intention of revealing my name to a lowly wench like you.” The man said pompously, cutting the conversation short.
“Then I suppose I won’t be introducing myself.”
‘This man is probably a vampire.
‘But… if what I heard earlier is true, these people around him are Eaters.’
‘I might get killed if I’m not careful.’
As Dorothy silently let out a bitter chuckle, a laid-back voice joined the scene as though cutting through the tension in the air.
“Excuse me? What business do you have with my mansion?”
It was Romy Mars, the owner of the country house.
Next to her was Rude Gardastance. Gold and Silver, standing side by side.
“Oh? Miss Dorothy! You’re here! Thank goodness. We were so worried you’d get caught up on your way here.” Romy said cheerfully.
The vampire who seemed to be the leader of the Eaters cleared his throat.
“Well, if it isn’t the head of the former Mars Clan.”
“Would you happen to be a member of another Clan?”
“Yes. Of course, I have no intention of identifying myself to a plebeian former human being who only took control of the family after the rest of her Clan perished.”
The man was clearly looking down on Romy and the others. Gardastance, who had been smoking a cigar, cracked his neck and joined the conversation.
“I finally understand. The mastermind behind this incident is a Clan that plots to drive us to oblivion.”
It was a keyword that had been repeated many times over the course of the conference.
For vampires who valued blood ties above all else, the rise to power of the Organization—a nameless group of vampires—was nothing short of unwanted. This was quite natural, as Clans ostracized any vampires with no blood relation to its members.
The man who lived up to the rumors of the prideful Clans responded to Gardastance.
“‘Mastermind’? Not quite. I gave no orders regarding the village. Although it is true that the attack was carried out by Eaters under my influence…”
With an eerie smile on his pale face, the man continued plainly.
“…These Eaters make a living off of hunting vampires.”
The officers were not particularly shocked. After all, they had both heard the rumors and watched Doubs’ presentation earlier.
There were many humans who secretly made a career of hunting vampires. And it was not uncommon for such humans to be working for vampires. Many hired Hunters to expand their territory, out of a sense of justice or for the sole reason that they saw all other vampires as an eyesore in their plans to extend their influence into human society, as the Clans did.
But what surprised the officers most was what came afterwards.
“The ones who hired these Eaters… were the humans who live in the city at the foot of the mountain.”
“There must have been a rumor floating around about them. Even our exalted family had never heard of vampires with official records living alongside humans. Everything began when these foolish Eaters came crying to us about the commotion they ended up causing in the human world.”
“I think you mean that was when your luck finally ran out.” Gardastance replied, his pride a match for the pale man’s pomp.
“It all makes sense. As soon as you heard that the Eaters under your influence wiped out a village of vampires, you conspired to used that fact alongside the mass murderer incident from ten years ago to cast suspicion on us. I’m lost for words. I suppose we could flay you alive and sell your thick skin as a winter coat for a decent price. Personally, I would buy it for three dollars and toss it out before I tried it on.” Gardastance said with a puff of his cigar.
“Silence, you uncultured wretch!” The pale vampire cried. “You mere vampires should never have even existed in this world! And I cannot stand for your having more influence in the human world than us!”
Rude, however, remained completely calm as he fixed his cigar.
“Unbelievable. You’re beginning to sound like a textbook example of an extra from an action movie. If you wish to be treated like an exalted being, I suggest you try and refine yourself further. As a vampire, you don’t live up to an ounce of the dignity of Christopher Lee.”
“What are you babbling abour?!”
“Hm? You’ve never heard of Christopher Lee. Incredible. And you still have the nerve to call yourself a Clan member? You couldn’t possibly be the head of a Clan, but you’d best keep your ignorance a secret from the rest of your brethren! And to add, I sincerely hope that you have at least heard of the noble Sir Baskerville. If not… you may very well be cast out from your kin!”
Dorothy felt a twinge of pity for the flabbergasted vampire.
Christopher Lee was the actor who played Count Dracula in a film, and Sir Baskerville was a character played by Christopher Lee in The Hound of the Baskervilles.
It was amusing to watch the man flail in confusion, Dorothy thought. Vampires from Clans tended to avoid contact with human culture, so such a reaction was natural.
‘Really… I think Gerhardt might be the only one who could rival Rude’s bluffs.’
As tension drained from the air, Dorothy lightly leapt back and stood behind Romy.
When she looked, she spotted other vampires from the mansion poking out their heads to take a look at the scene. About seven or eight Colors were also among them.
“Hah. Uncultured rabble, the lot of you.” Said the pale man, trying to hide his humiliation. “You’re all already within my grasp. Try and act nonchalant while you still can.”
“I could say the same for your attitude as well.” Rude said, as calm as ever.
“Pfft… Ahahahaha! How can you be confident with such puny numbers?!” The pale man chortled, dignity draining from his tone.
“Our true enemy today is not you, or these Eaters you’ve brought along. It’s the humans.”
“Those simple humans who know absolutely nothing about the reality hidden underneath. How their fears give rise to a twisted sense of justice that justifies their actions. How something so trivial as fear allows them to scapegoat an innocent girl. How their good intention to protect the peace brings about a malicious end where they hunt down a girl who may or may not be a vampire. That is the enemy we must face. Not a petty buffoon like you.”
The pale vampire’s voice dropped an octave as he ground his teeth—
The man’s lips cracked open to a humanly impossible degree as he laughed and laughed and laughed.
Like a cheater bursting into uncontrollable laughter as he emerged victorious with a hand he had set up earlier, but the man laughed with even greater intensity as the sounds filled the woods.
“HAH HAHAHA! Foolish dogs… bark while you still can!”
“From the sound of the barking, you’re the only dog I hear around here.” Gardastance pointed out, but the man ignored him.
“The Eaters you see here will be more than enough to destroy you all, but I’m a careful man! If you’re out to exterminate vermin, why not go all the way and pick them off one by one like you’re picking out lice?”
With that, the man raised his hands on high.
At that moment,
A starry sky began to spread all around them.
Lights. Lights. Lights.
Easily a hundred strong, the lights came on in the woods and surrounded the vast Mars country house with sheer numbers.
Each and every one was carrying a weapon of some sort. They were dressed more or less the same as the Eaters around the trailer. The lights were coming from the helmets they wore on their heads, each pointed at the officers by the manor gates.
“Ahahaha! What do you think? I understand that you rabble also keep Eaters for yourselves, but this is beyond anything you could ever dream of!” The man cried arrogantly. Gardastance sighed, astonished.
“It certainly is a large group you command. It will be all the more humiliating for you if your plan ends in failure.”
“Don’t take me for a fool. I’ve already dispersed your numbers, just as I planned. According to the reports, there is but a fraction of your full number at this mansion. And perhaps you’ve been given a report that claimed that there were twenty or thirty Eaters at most at my disposal?”
The man rambled at unnecessary lengths in a bid to lord over his foes and throw them into despair.
Allowing his twisted sadism to take over, the Clan member snapped his fingers.
“Heh heh heh…”
A familiar chuckle arose form among the officers.
With the almost malicious snicker, a man stepped forward from the Organization members.
A man wearing an iridescent suit and a distinctive hat.
“Doubs?” Dorothy asked suspiciously. But the Iridescent Extra ignored her and stepped over to the Clan member without a care.
Stopping several steps before the man, Doubs greeted him with an elegant bow.
“Well, if it isn’t Master LeVillio. Your concern for my well-being humbles me to no end, sir.”
Then, Doubs turned and bowed again.
“Heh heh heh… Don’t think too badly of me, everyone. Now I can finally be considered a part of a Clan, however lowly of a position it may be.”
“Hah! How does it feel, being betrayed by one of your own?”
It was a fatal flaw in the Organization’s system, one now exposed for all to see.
Fully convinced that his attempt at forcing his foes to despair was successful, the master of the Eaters cried out jovially.
“Fooled by this man’s misinformation, you sent most of your officers to the east side of the forest! I did indeed send Eaters in that direction, but our true goal has always been a particular officer who should have remained here! Romy Mars!”
“What?! Me?!” Romy cried, her wings flapping in bewilderment.
“What are those wings on your back…? In any case! You are indeed a former cornerstone of a Clan! After all, over ten thousand vampires—weak and powerless as they are—flock to you and serve you as their leader!”
Romy was shocked. When in the world had she become a leader of any sort?
This was LeVillio’s only chance.
He should have realized a crucial fact.
That the officers standing in a row before him were not even close to the abyss of despair.
“No need to play dumb! After all, who else could head such a violent and chaotic rabble of nobodies?!”
“Indeed, Miss Romy Mars! It’s incredibly inelegant of you to dubiously deny your involvement!” Doubs joined in.
Romy frowned in confusion.
“After everything you did, assigning me the terribly troublesome role of a mole!”
Romy finally remembered, clapping her hands together.
“Yes, you’re right! I am the leader! That’s right. I was in charge of your pay, weren’t I, Mr. Doubs?”
LeVillio was confused by Romy’s reaction, but he quickly decided that she was a fool spouting nonsense.
“Hah. Caught in a trap set by your own mole? What goes around comes around! Hahahaha! Now, it’s time to wrap up this story. Doubs. Have you any final words for your former comrades?”
“I wonder…” The iridescent man fixed his hat and thought for a moment, then broke out into a snide grin.
“How about a bet, everyone? Will you be able to defeat all of these Eaters here—over two hundred of them? The stakes are, of course, your lives and mine!”
“Hahaha! You’re quite the cruel one yourself, Doubs. I’ll join in! If you can defeat every Eater I’ve brought with me, I’ll gladly surrender my life!”
The Eaters began to snicker alongside LeVillio.
They laughed and laughed and laughed.
Wearing smiles convinced of their superiority.
“Then if you believe yourselves capable of deftly defeating these Eaters, please! Proudly put up your hands!”
At Doubs’ call, every officer raised their hands.
Including Doubs himself.
“I would also like to bet on the Organization’s victory.”
“What is the meaning of this, Doubs Hewley.” LeVillio growled. Doubs chuckled.
“I only mean that, once this battle is over, I will hand my very life to you, Master LeVillio. A ritual of loyalty, if you will.”
Although it obviously sounded like Doubs was only flattering him, LeVillio was so convinced of his superiority that he did not doubt him.
“Of course! Now I understand. Hah! Ahahaha! Excellent! I shall personally petition our family head and have you accepted as our jester!”
“A heavenly honor, sir.” Doubs bowed deeply.
No one could tell what kind of face he wore, shadowed under the brim of his hat.
Of course, with the exception of the Colors who had known him for many years.
“Now, let us begin! I have no time to listen to your final words! Try and fit them into your death throes!”
When LeVillio raised his hands, over one hundred Eaters at his beck and call erased the laughter from their faces. Unchaining the bloodlust within, simultaneously they leapt off the ground-
At that moment, the Eaters noticed something about Romy Mars, the girl whom they had been instructed to target first.
She was mumbling something—a word—and at that point, there was a sword in her hands.
They also noticed that the sky was glinting silver.
The east side of the forest, near the city.
The city was visible between the trees from the mountain slope.
But between the vantage point and the city was a barrier.
Eaters carrying lanterns.
They were Hunters who ate the flesh and blood of vampires, mixed the leftover ashes with blood to drink them, and broke anything that turned into ash and stuffed them into their mouths. Through this act of feasting, they would remain human yet gain the physical strengths of vampires.
Eaters were the natural enemy of many vampires, killers to be avoided at all costs.
Such beings had come together to form a group, and were now spread out through the forest between the mountain and the city.
From a distance, the lights flickered and swam as though trying to frighten the very mountains.
“…It looks like things are working out on that end as well.”
Several men, presumably the leaders of this group, were having a conversation beside a trailer parked to block off one of the mountain roads.
“Then it looks like we’ll have to begin our hunt.”
“What about the survivor and her guardian?”
“Kill the man. Make it look like a vampire did it. And we’re to take the girl back to the ‘fortress’. Alive, if possible.”
“Jesus Christ. Our boss’s got one hell of a hobby.”
The men joked and laughed.
They smiled, convinced of their safety.
There was no fear in the air around them.
“Anyway. This is what those people from the city are going to agree to—the girl was a vampire, and the man was killed by her. Doesn’t matter to us either way, and whatever we do, it looks like they were convinced the girl was a vampire to begin with.”
“You know what? Humans are scarier than vampires.”
The men stood leaning against the trailer as they watched the lights climb higher up the mountain.
They were Eaters who had eaten vampires in the past.
Those around them were the same. Eaters who had long surpassed the realm of humanity. And since they did not have the kind of regulations a formal army did, they naturally allowed themselves to let down their guard.
“I sense more of them.”
Just as they also reached for their weapons,
The Eaters noticed something and looked up at the mountain once more.
They could sense vampires, but they could not sense the presence of other Eaters.
That was why they were carrying lanterns to identify their locations.
But the lights twinkling in the woods had grown fewer.
On a closer look, they realized that they had not ‘grown’ fewer.
The lights were continuing to disappear from the mountain, one after another.
“Hey… what’s going on here?”
“Someone run into trouble?”
Although the Organization’s officers were the cream of the crop, they were still failures and stragglers who were cast out by the Clans.
At least, that was what their superiors had told them.
Then how were they to explain the darkness spreading before their eyes?
By the time they realized the disturbance, it was too late.
The darkness ran down the mountain as though tearing through the carpet of lights, cascading directly towards the men at the trailer.
But the Eaters refused to panic, preparing for battle.
Their foes were probably intending to ambush them from the darkness. But such tactics were useless in the middle of the road, where everything was exposed for the Eaters to see. The men were also certain that the dozens of Eaters in their group would be enough to fight off any adversary that came their way.
But composure soon drained from their expressions as they braced themselves for the enemy rushing from the shadows.
Darkness was coming.
It was near.
Darkness fell like an avalanche. Something was about to emerge.
They were prepared. But they were afraid.
What kind of monster would emerge from the darkness?
The shadows fueled their fearful imagination, deepening their terror.
They would soon know.
That what emerged from the darkness, rending the lights,
Was darkness itself.
“I’ll protect you, Alma.”
“Once you grow up and become an adult, I want you to make a decision.”
“Will you live as a human, or will you become a vampire?”
“But whether you stay human, or whether you become one of us…”
“I love you so much, Alma.”
The girl should have been happy.
This was a secret she could not reveal to those outside the village.
The fact that they shared this secret with her was the link that bound her to them.
She had no fears about becoming a vampire.
Once she became an adult, and the boy she loved so much stopped aging—
Then she would ask him to turn her.
So that she could live peacefully in this village forever.
Ever since she was young, the girl dreamed of this future.
Not fully understanding the meanings behind eternity, both good and bad, she innocently continued to harbor a wish.
But her wish was so simply shattered.
Before she even understood what it meant to live forever,
A tempest of violence swept through the village.
“You have to hide here, Alma. Don’t come outside.”
“Those people are here to kill us vampires.”
“Why? What did you do to deserve any of that?!”
“They’re trying to kill us because we’re vampires.”
“I think they can sense where we are.”
“But you’re human, so they won’t find you. So you have to stay hidden in here, okay?”
“No! I don’t want that! I want to—“
The girl pleaded with the boy.
She begged him to make her a vampire.
She clung to him as he refused.
She was tired of being alone. She was sick of it.
So she would become a vampire and die with the boy.
That was all she wanted.
Then, the boy smiled kindly and gently bit down into her neck.
But he did not turn the girl.
Though he had the power to turn her, he chose to let her live on as a human being.
Not knowing this, the girl fell unconscious at the sudden loss of blood. And just before she blacked out, she heard him say,
That was the story of the girl and the vampires.
Afterwards, she was found by the human postman. Just as the boy wished, she had to live on as a human.
But the humans would not allow even that.
It was not that an individual rejected her existence.
The wills of countless individuals, coalesced into one great body known as the city—
The fear welling up within that body was what tried to destroy the girl’s happiness.
In the woods.
“At the hospital… and at the police station… everyone was talking about it.” Alma confessed as they walked through the forest.
She was not talking to Mihail or Rudy, who was leading their party, but to Horst, who was holding her hand.
“They said that… that vampires attacked the village… that the villagers were killed by vampires…”
“I wanted to tell them that they were wrong! That the villagers were the vampires, and that they didn’t do anything wrong! They were killed just because they were vampires! But… even if I told them, no one would have believed me. No one ever said that vampires could be good… So… that’s why I, I couldn’t… I couldn’t tell anyone…”
Alma stammered, perhaps trying to choke back sobs. Horst made up his mind to believe in her.
To be perfectly frank, it would be a lie to say that he was not confused.
If he hadn’t seen what he saw just earlier, he would never have believed.
But as the confusion began to settle, Horst began to understand.
Why Alma looked so sad when they left the police station, and when they were at the motel.
When he—the human she was closest to—openly deemed that vampires were evil, she took it to mean that his opinion spoke for the stance of all humanity.
It was true that many humans considered vampires evil.
It was precisely because she understood that fact that Alma had no choice but to lock up the secret within her heart.
‘I’m a goddamned idiot.
‘Acting like some kind of knight in shining armor, when I didn’t know a thing about Alma to begin with!’
Horst’s mistaken impression was an understandable one, and by normal standards, perhaps he was correct about vampires to begin with. But his misfortune was in the fact that this incident went far beyond the boundaries of normalcy.
At that point, the young man who stepped past that boundary said without looking back,
“…You’ll be better off if you forget. About that village, and the vampire you loved.”
“Those memories are going to torment you one day.”
Horst frowned. Alma looked back and forth between Rudy and Horst, not knowing what to do.
Rudy was accompanying them as their bodyguard.
He had been chosen because Eaters could not sense other Eaters, and because of his combat skills. Though the Organization had other available Eaters, the broken Rudy had probably been selected for this mission because of Doubs’ meddling.
The Iridescent Extra was a man who reveled in such cruelty.
Because Rudy knew this well, he was not particularly distraught about his assignment. He merely carried out his mission with utter calm.
His body was still breaking.
His strength was now less than half of what it was when he went to Growerth half a year ago.
Yet he was still leagues above Eaters who had eaten one or two vampires at most. Acting as the advance guard, he approached the lights in the woods, knocked out the Eaters in the shadows, and took away their lanterns.
As Rudy repeated the process, Alma and Horst had come to see him as the most dependable member of their party.
That was precisely why his advice to Alma came as such a shock.
Not even looking at the surprised Alma, Rudy continued quietly.
He cried out in a whisper, so his voice would not ring out overhead.
“Vampires and humans just happen to look the same and use the same language! That’s all!”
“There’s no way they could truly understand one another! Vampires… they can’t… they could never… Damn it!”
Frustrated at himself for venting like this, Rudy turned to Alma.
Though she was holding back tears, she defiantly met his gaze.
‘I believe in the people from our village.
‘No matter what anyone says, I’ll never stop believing in them.’
Although she said nothing, her eyes spoke for her determination.
Rudy was about to respond—
But at that moment, he was interrupted by a voice coming from Horst’s cell phone.
<That’s enough, Rudy.>
It was a metallic, artificial voice.
The voice of the officer Hackey Mouse.
Although his name was QAWSED, the officers generally just called him ‘Hackey’. He was a vampire whose soul was fused with the digital plane. It was rumored that he was currently in a conflict with a similar being somewhere in Japan over the digital plane, and not even Rudy had seen his physical form. Hackey always attended conferences through computers.
“…Mr. QAWSED. This has nothing to do with you.”
<You’ve got some nerve, eh? You obey Melhilm, Caldimir, and Garde like a dog, but you’re pretty damned cold to ev’ryone else! That ain’t good. You gotta learn to be social! Expand your horizons!> Hackey said affectionately. Rudy did not want to listen.
<‘Sides, you shouldn’t pick fights with a little girl over something like that. You’re being one hell of an insult to your sister. Hm… her name was Elsa or something, right?>
The moment Hackey mentioned Elsa’s name, Rudy froze.
“…What does my sister have to do with any of this.”
<I’d have been a-okay stayin’ quiet, yanno? But Doubs put me in charge of all his bugs, so I heard it all from everywhere. ‘Bout your sister.>
The word ‘bugs’ should normally have been a point of provocation. But no one pointed that out now.
“What the hell do you know about her…?”
<Don’cha wanna know why she forgave Theo?>
The question was a wild card.
She was Rudy’s sister, taken away by the mass murderer Theodosius M. Waldstein.
She was the one who supported Theo after he regained his sanity.
She was, ultimately, turned to ashes by Rudy’s childhood friend. Now, only her bones remained as the vessel for a soul that was, or perhaps not, hers.
Rudy almost stopped. But his sense of reason won out over his emotions, keeping him focused on his mission. He continued to walk in silence.
In other words, he wanted to hear more.
<All righto. Lemme tell you. ‘Bout your sister’s secrets. That last secret Theo held back from you, even after acting like he spilled it all.>
Rudy broke his silence with a self-deprecating laugh.
“…You mean… Theo is still hiding something?”
<You betcha. He was just ‘bout ready to take this one to the grave. You still wanna hear? …To tell ya the truth, I haven’t even given this info to Doubs yet. I wasn’t gonna say a word, no sir. But you were just being damned awful to Alma here. You left me no choice, yanno? But if you just apologize to her…>
“Never mind. Tell me.”
His anxiety surfacing, Rudy rushed Hackey and mumbled to himself masochistically.
“It’s not like I could fall any further.”
<All righto. Don’t say I didn’t warn ya. You’re gonna regret this one.>
Underground, Waldstein Castle. The laboratory.
“So you really want to know?” Theo asked, half-defeated.
Professor gently tilted her coffin forward, her voice more serious than it ever was.
<I’m not going to try and become more like Elsa, or try and act like her.>
The vampire who was a match for the viscount’s otherworldliness twisted her arms around and looked straight at Doctor, at this moment more human than anyone else.
<I… I just want to know more about you, Doctor. And about the girl who saved you and loved you. …Heh heh. It almost sounds like I’m a clingy girl asking my boyfriend about his ex-girlfriend.”
Although Professor sounded embarrassed, her painfully raw emotions carried through to Theo.
And so, the chains of guilt around him grew heavier and tighter around his heart.
But Doctor endured it. He put on a gentle smile and slowly began.
“I’ll tell you everything. About me and Elsa. But before that, I just want to tell you… Thank you… for listening.”
The past. Somewhere in Germany.
I killed killed—
I killed. I killed. I killed.
I killed killed killed killed killed killed killed killed killed.
Killed killed killed killed killed killed killed killed killed killed so I killed killed killed—
‘Because I’m a vampire.
‘Because. I’m a vampire.
‘Kill. Kill. Kill kill kill.
‘I am a vampire.
‘Yes. I am a vampire.
‘So please no one abandon me.’
A clump of the mass of vampires that had taken root inside him.
The boy’s sanity was trapped inside that monstrous clump.
‘A vampire must not be found by humans.
‘A vampire must remain in the darkness.
‘But I am a vampire. I need—
‘Blood. Blood. Blood. Blood.
‘This isn’t me.
‘It’s not! This can’t be me!
‘But I am a vampire and I need blood blood blood blood kill kill kill kill—’
Though his psyche was lost to senseless madness, the only thing that rose to the surface was an innocent, childlike smile. The only words that escaped his lips was a gentle and intelligible question.
“Do you want to be friends?”
So simply the words came to him.
But there was no sanity behind them.
All he did as a vampire was trick people, betray them, kill them, and drink their blood.
In him dwelled a combination of countless vampires’ souls. This system of betrayal was all that settled in his brain.
Like a hunter instinctively chasing his prey.
Not of his own will, but like an insect born naturally with the ability.
Though there was no reason in him, the vampire had become a vampire with nothing but a combination of symbols.
But as the system finally took root, something changed.
The completion of a system meant that madness was no longer necessary.
On occasion, sanity returned to the boy.
It was not a cycle of sleep and waking, or that of multiple personalities. It was as though he could begin to vaguely observe the world around him. As though he was dissolving with the world itself.
The world was out of focus. His heart did not even try to clarify the images, meaninglessly tilting the lens in every direction.
On that day too, he was watching the unfocused world beyond the lens.
Rudy and Theresia.
He became friends with two people with those names.
He would kill the villagers.
He would betray them, suck their blood, and throw them into despair.
But he felt nothing.
Though his consciousness was nearly clear, it registered that he was taking action, without feeling a thing.
It was as though his body had been taken over by another and his emotions killed by medication as he watched everything from afar.
If he were to be completely honest, Theo would confess that his hazy memories had begun to resurface, a little while before he met the two children.
But at this particular time, he was truly watching himself move from afar, not even understanding what he was doing.
Rudy and Theresia would soon become sacrifices.
Without so much as a shred of pity for them,
Theo silently watched his body move on its own.
But that soon came to an end.
He must have felt something. His subconscious slowly came into focus.
It felt as though he had heard a voice.
Rudy was talking to someone on the phone.
The tiny voice he heard from the telephone had made his world clear, if only by a small amount.
Then, the moment of fate.
For the countless victims,
The moment Rudy brought Theo into town and invited him home—
Everything grew clear.
Though his emotions had not returned, his vision and consciousness was sharp.
He fully understood every word that left his mouth.
The memories from this point onward were quite clear to Theo, different from the hazy images of the past.
But at this point, his emotions and control over his body had not returned.
The twisted souls of countless vampires moved his body through the front door of a certain home.
He walked through the hallway, and into a room where a meal was waiting for him.
When he turned the corner, the image of the room came into sight.
And there, the boy found Elsa.
Underground, Waldstein Castle. The laboratory.
“There was something I left out when I first told you about my past.”
She must have had a hunch.
There was a hint of hesitation in Professor’s voice.
She wondered if she was really allowed to know such a thing.
But she had to listen.
No matter what happened to her from this point onwards, she felt a sense of responsibility to listen.
Taking Professor’s silence as determination, Theo remembered the face of a certain girl.
“…I never told you the name of the vampire girl I met on Growerth, did I?
“Her name… was Elsa.”
A forest in southern Germany.
Rudy’s mind refused to accept the words he heard over the phone.
“What… are you saying…?”
<I’m tellin’ ya that your sister—even before Theo bit her right in front you ya—was a vampire!>
He found himself laughing.
His emotionless mask cracked as unfeeling laughter escaped his lips.
“That’s… hilarious. Hey… did you hear that? He says my sister was a vampire. From the beginning… Heh. Isn’t this crazy?”
He turned round at Mihail, Alma, and Horst with a positively childlike look.
Alma and Horst, not knowing much about Rudy, could not react. They almost felt as though, if they gave the wrong answer, Rudy would kill them where they stood.
Mihail, on the other hand, knew well what all this meant to Rudy, and so could not bring himself to speak.
If the voice from the cell phone was correct, Mihail could not imagine just how much this information must have rattled Rudy.
“Big Sis was human. Because I’m one, too. So how…? How could she have been a vampire?”
<D’you remember seeing any pictures of yourself as a baby that included her? Nah, lemme put it this way. From when do you remember your sister being in your life?>
<Elsa, see, wanted to throw out her life as a vampire. She wanted to be human.>
<Then she finally found what she was looking for. A couple who took her in as their daughter, knowin’ she was a vampire.>
The past. Somewhere in Germany.
Someone else’s family
“This is my sister Elsa!”
I see her eyes Elsa’s eyes so surprised to see me
I’m nervous no it can’t be
Elsa is dead murdered killed by humans that’s what they said
Humans killed Elsa
Stop it not those eyes
Don’t leave me don’t leave me don’t leave me don’t leave me don’t leave me don’t leave me don’t leave me don’t leave me don’t leave me don’t leave me don’t leave me don’t leave me don’t leave me don’t leave me don’t leave me don’t leave me don’t leave me don’t leave me don’t leave me don’t leave me don’t leave me don’t leave me don’t leave me don’t leave me don’t leave me don’t leave me don’t leave me don’t leave me don’t leave me don’t leave me don’t leave me don’t leave me don’t leave me don’t leave me don’t leave me don’t leave me don’t leave me don’t leave me don’t leave me—
Theo’s numbed emotions came rushing back like a tsunami.
But what returned first was hatred and outrage, and the desire to take back the one he saw.
If put together, perhaps the three emotions would amount to a sort of love.
But his emotions flooded back into his twisted heart at once.
The system crashed—
The cunning he used to murder discreetly disappeared—
Leaving his free body to the whims of something in his heart, Theo filled his soul with emotion.
And at that moment,
There was a bloodbath in that once-peaceful town.
He planned to kill Rudy, Theresia, and everyone who lived in that town.
“I’ll spare the two of you.”
He did not mean it. He had before planted false hope before breaking it.
He thought to disguise it all in a fire or a disappearance, slowly but surely cutting down the population.
He thought. He thought. He thought.
The completed ‘system’ of a vampire in his heart ceased to function, leaving him a simple mass murderer who flaunted his power to the townspeople.
But Rudy and Theresia—
It was Elsa who led him to leave two survivors.
She had tried to stop Theo, but the mass murderer was too powerful for her. She could not prevent his rampage.
“It’s because I love you two so very much.”
When Theo said this to Rudy, he was carrying Elsa in his arms.
The blood flowing from her neck meant that Theo had impulsively bitten her and sucked her blood.
He laid out many fanciful words, but Theo ultimately planned to kill Rudy anyway.
Elsa knew. This was not the same boy she met all those years ago.
But she was also sure that the boy was somewhere within this creature.
She had no proof or evidence. She just wanted to believe.
She slowly wrapped her arms around him and pulled herself close, placing her lips on his.
At that moment, there was a change in the boy.
A flicker of sanity in his heart.
‘What… am I doing…?’
“So… what you tell me now is going to decide if your sister will live or die.”
His mouth was forming words contrary to his thoughts.
Words to make Rudy despair.
‘Rudy was my friend why am I why—’
“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!”
‘…Aaahhhhh… r i g h t El sa
‘Elsa weren’t you so glad you’re alive what ? Kill her why?’
“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’ve subjugated her, just like a vampire! Ahahaha! Hahahahahaha!”
‘No this isn’t me I would never say this—’
The boy’s consciousness began to struggle for control over his body.
But he did not win his freedom. The remnants of the system led him to follow its rules.
The boy named Rudy said something.
He was pleading.
He was begging for his own life. Begging to be spared.
Listening to her ‘little brother’, Elsa slowly leaned in towards Theo—
“I… I wish… you never existed…”
At that moment, Theodosius M. Waldstein’s consciousness tasted absolute despair.
The girl he loved, pined for, and sought.
The girl he thought he had lost forever.
In the moment of their reunion, the boy’s very being had been rejected.
The mass murderer in Theo, born of the trigger of despair, disappeared inside him with that same trigger.
Leaving Theodosius to contend with the results of his carnage.
The past. The island of Growerth.
When Theodosius opened his eyes,
He saw before him a nostalgic sky full of stars.
At the same time, tears fell from his eyes.
That was all that he could do.
When he opened his eyes, Theo had returned to being that boy from the past.
Though he had the body of a vampire, his heart was again human.
And he understood everything.
Everything that had been done to him,
Everything that he had done.
He did not even have the chance to recall it all before the tears streamed down his face.
All he understood was that he had taken Elsa somewhere else before his consciousness cut off.
But that no longer mattered.
He had finally, truly lost everything.
Not even an eternity in the fires of hell would be enough to cleanse him of his sins.
It was over. It was all over.
‘Why? Why was I even born?’
He found himself remembering his parents, who were both probably still alive. Tears began to well up again.
Perhaps he could go back to the past and kill himself.
If only his present self and all the tragedy he wrought had never happened.
Knowing such a thing was impossible, Theo’s eyes welled up once more—
He felt someone sitting beside him. A familiar voice shook his eardrums.
“The viscount told me everything. About why you became a vampire.”
Her voice was endlessly gentle; endlessly sad.
“The viscount was so angry that he couldn’t save you. Could you imagine? The viscount, getting mad? …Oh, right. I guess you’ve never met him, have you?”
Theo was certain that the voice belonged to Elsa. But his emotions refused to order themselves.
‘Why are you here, Elsa? Are you… here to kill me?’
He no longer called her ‘Big Sis’.
He was no longer allowed to use those words.
“Thank goodness… It’s really you, Theo.”
“You know… after I said goodbye to you, I crossed over to the mainland. And all that time… I thought that I wanted to die.”
She was not blaming anyone. All she did was tell her story.
Of how she met a certain couple.
How she became a big sister.
How she made many friends as a human being.
How she spent her days, forgetting that she was a vampire.
From trivial details to turning points in her life, she recited her imperfect autobiography to Theo.
Theo, meanwhile, said nothing.
Her every word was etched into his mind and his heart. But he could not respond.
Because at that moment, he did not have the right to respond to anyone.
All he wanted was punishment.
His sins could not be forgiven.
If only the girl could take his life—if only he could soothe her heart, even a little—
But no matter how long he listened, she did not try to kill him—or even blame him.
But when she began to talk about her little brother, she finally shook.
“Whenever I looked at Rudy… I… I always thought of you, Theo.”
“Isn’t it stupid? I… I abandoned you, but I…! I ended up seeing you in him… my precious little brother… that human family I wanted so much…!”
Her voice began to tremble, gripping Theo’s emotions.
She was not blaming anyone; she poured out all of her frustrations onto herself.
“Maybe… maybe I should have just been a family with you. If I’d known this would happen, it might have been better for me to just turn you! But… I couldn’t drag you into this world. I just couldn’t! Because I hate vampires… even though you love them so much, I hate vampires with all my heart…!”
She finally went quiet.
There was a moment of silence. The night breeze from the sea blew past them both.
“…I really am a vampire, aren’t I?”
Theo struggled, but managed to respond.
Although he had nothing to back up his words, he sensed despair in the girl’s voice. The same despair as his own. He wanted to reject that, if nothing else. She could not be allowed to shoulder such pain.
“If I were human… I might have killed you already. You killed the people I loved… right before my eyes… I… I lost my family… If I were human, I would have been too scared to move… But in the end, I… I was relieved!”
“You know? I thought that I’d finally stopped thirsting for blood! But when I looked at Rudy, I… I thought of you… And for the past little while… I’d been wanting to suck his blood! My little brother’s blood! I wanted to turn him…. no, not just him. Mom, Dad, and all my friends… deep down, I wanted to turn them all!”
Theo did not know what to say as Elsa berated herself.
Elsa went quiet for a moment, but she then muttered,
“That was why I was so relieved. I was glad that I didn’t end up turning them myself. That Rudy, at least, survived.”
‘But Elsa. If you really were, you wouldn’t tell me all this like you’re trying to repent.’ Theo almost said, but Elsa whispered first.
“But… that doesn’t mean I can forgive you.”
Though his heart was shaken by her declaration, Theo also felt a sense of salvation.
‘That’s right. I shouldn’t be forgiven.
‘So… if it makes Elsa feel even a little bit better… that’s enough for me.’
But the girl continued.
She would truly detach herself from Theo with this.
“That’s why… I’m going to forgive you.”
‘You can’t. No.’
“You know? I actually came back to this island because I wanted to spend the rest of my life killing you in the execution grounds underneath the castle. But when the viscount told me everything, I… I couldn’t bring myself to do that. But… I still couldn’t forgive you.”
“I’m forgiving you to punish you. I… I won’t let you repent for what you did.”
Punishment existed for atonement.
It was salvation for someone who wished to repent for their crimes.
But Elsa had declared:
Because she could not forgive him, she would forgive him.
To let Theo know that his sins could never be forgiven. To bind his heart forever.
“So… don’t ever forgive me, either. I wish I never met you… I wish I never loved you… Even now, I feel like things would have been fine if only you weren’t around. So please… don’t ever forgive me…!” Elsa said, her back turned to Theo. He was again lost for words.
“Finding happiness among humans… it was a dream that could never come true. But I still dreamed. And I dragged you into this. So please don’t ever forgive me, Theo…”
He hated his own ignorance.
He hated his own powerlessness.
He hated his own youth.
Why couldn’t he think of words to say to her at a time like this?
At the same time, he thought to himself that he had no right to console her. Theo lay spread-eagle on the ground and looked up at the night sky.
“From now on, I’ll be murdered every moment of my life, for all eternity.” Theo mumbled, looking up at the unchanging stars in the sky—stars that had shone since before the birth of humans or vampires.
“I’m going to make sure I don’t die and find salvation by accident. I’ll become as close to immortal as a vampire can get.”
Elsa was silent.
She also did not know what to say.
Knowing this, Theo continued without waiting for an answer.
“But… let me just say one thing.”
“…What is it?”
“Back when I played with you on this island… I was still human, but I was so happy.”
Silence enveloped them once more.
Seconds passed by like moments of eternity.
The wind caressed them both—
“You’re terrible, Theo…”
Before Theo knew it, Elsa was crying.
“Do you have any idea… how cruel you’re being…?”
“I know. But… I had to tell you.”
Theo remained where he was, lying on the ground.
He would have been perfectly happy to be killed by Elsa.
That was what he wanted.
But Elsa could not allow him to repent.
Holding his hand, she broke out into sobs.
As Elsa choked back tears, Theo also began to cry.
Holding back the urge to cry out as she did, he shed tears in silence.
So that his sobs would not hurt her.
The night sky in Growerth, the rushing breeze—it was almost frustratingly identical to any other day.
That was the very thing that saddened them both. Theo and Elsa wept together.
On and on,
So that their wounds would never heal.
Present day. Underground, Waldstein Castle. The laboratory.
“Then, I came under the viscount’s protection… and things came to this.”
“About how you were born… I’m sure I’ll have another chance to tell you someday. But that’s not as much of Elsa’s story as it is Theresia’s. If I ever find my courage, I’ll bring it up with you.”
With that, there was silence.
But Theo slowly walked up to Professor and leaned against the coffin.
“I’m sorry. Just… let me stay this way for a while…”
Professor said nothing more, supporting Doctor’s back.
Doctor was crying.
There was something that they did not realize.
In an inconspicuous corner on the underside of the desk, Doubs Hewley had planted a bug.
And as a result, one more vampire came to know the truth Doctor tried to hide.
A forest in southern Germany.
“It can’t be…”
Theo and Elsa’s past was played through the cell phone.
Having heard everything, Rudy placed a hand on a nearby tree trunk, breaking out into cold sweat.
A moment later, he dug into the tree trunk by the strength of his fingers alone and cried out defiantly,
“You’re lying! This… this is all a trick!”
<Who knows? Maybe it is. at this point, we’ve got no proof, one way or another. But ya never know. Someone just might have the truth you’re lookin’ for.>
“No… but… if that’s all true, why…? Why was I…?!”
<You’re livin’ proof that humans and vampires could coexist. Though I guess that depends on if Elsa really did want to suck your blood, you were a happy family right up ’til Theo showed up.>
Rudy, who had rejected the coexistence of humans and vampires more than anyone else, had once lived happily with a vampire without knowing.
It was an ironic truth. If he accepted it as a fact, then what about everything he had done up until today?
Rudy could not acknowledge it.
His entire body shook as he slowly knelt down on the mountain slope.
Reflected in his eyes was not anger or despair.
It was not an emotion to begin with. Rather, an instinctive glint of rejection.
His heart had determined that acceptance of this fact would be the end of him. His agitation was forcibly held back as his breathing grew ragged and heat rushed to his heart.
Rudy would not be able to move until he had regained his calm.
Mihail glimpsed something in his line of sight.
A light that had been prowling at a slight distance was growing closer. An Eater must have heard Rudy’s cry.
Horst also noticed the light. He glanced down at Rudy, who was still kneeling with his face pale, and shouted into his cell phone.
“H, hey! That wasn’t exactly the best time, asshole!”
<Good point. But seriously, man. I couldn’t help myself, yanno? Anything to shut Rudy up.>
The voice on the cell phone sighed, not sounding in the least bit apologetic. Horst raised his phone into the air, just about ready to throw it to the ground.
<Whoa, hold it! Hold up, buddy! You’re still good over there!>
“Like I’d believe that!”
The light drew closer and closer as they argued.
The Eater must have figured out where they were. They probably spotted Rudy, who was immobile and closest to him. The Eater fixed the grip on his knife and began to sprint across the slope with the speed of a professional athlete.
‘Is this the end?’
Rudy smiled faintly, prepared to accept death—
But at that moment, a figure leapt in between them without a moment’s hesitation.
‘Why… why the hell is he trying to save me…?!’
No sooner than he had asked himself, Rudy realized that he already knew the answer.
‘Because this guy’s an idiot.’
Not knowing that Rudy was thinking so badly of him, Mihail leapt forward without thinking. He did not intend to die a dog’s death—after all, he had to become happy with Ferret. But his impulsive character propelled him towards Rudy.
Even if Mihail had the time to think, he would have stepped forward anyway.
If he abandoned someone to die here, then perhaps he could never make Ferret happy.
Rudy knew: Mihail would give his life for his beliefs, no matter how stubborn and pretentious, without a moment’s thought.
And he also understood—
This was precisely why Mihail could so easily trust the vampire girl.
The blade rushed forward. It lunged forth.
The Eater switched his target to Mihail, who was now closer. But he showed no sign of slowing down. Though he could sense no vampiric presence from the boy, the Eater’s eyes peering through the cloth wrapped over his face showed no hint of hesitation.
“Damn it!” Horst cried, convinced of Mihail’s death.
<C’mon, man. I said it’s gonna be fine.>
<They’re just about here.>
Then, there was a sound. The roar of an engine. And a massive lump of metal fell from the sky.
With a dampened impact, it flew directly onto the Eater’s head.
Horst and Alma realized that the unconscious Eater had just been crushed by a motorcycle.
Mihail, however, first looked at the two figures on the seats.
And when he saw the person on the back seat, every ounce of worry left his body as he ran straight to her.
Shattering the tension in the air to bits, Mihail went to his ‘Sweetheart’.
Ferret was truly relieved to see him unhurt, and smiled.
And with that angelic look, she slapped Mihail on the cheek with positively demonic force and sent him flying into the mountain slope.
She was considerate enough to keep him away from tree roots and rocks, but those who did not have the chance to notice this watched in bewilderment.
“Honestly… Are you happy now, Mihail?! Are you happy that you made me worry so?!”
Ferret withdrew her smile and emotionlessly stepped off the motorcycle.
Mihail looked up at her with a grin, prepared to joke around—
But when he saw the tears welling up in her eyes, he stopped himself and said one word.
With that, Ferret, gently held out her left hand.
“I’m so glad you’re all right.” She whispered, so only Mihail could hear.
Even the blue-haired werewolf, with his superhuman sense of hearing, pretended that he did not hear a word.
At the same time, the only being who could have matched up such a well-timed rescue—Hackey Mouse, who had been giving Ferret directions—said into both Horst’s and Ferret’s cell phones.
<See? Told ya it’d be fine.>
The east side of the woods, on the road.
Surging before the Eaters around the trailer was darkness itself.
Black shadows rushed towards them, transformed into darkness given mass.
Heading the charge of shadows was one gigantic bat, gliding over the ground like a bullet in motion.
In the shadow cast under the bat, another bat made of shadow emerged into the third dimension and lifted off the ground.
The shadow-bat cast yet another shadow on the ground, creating another bat in its wake.
The darkness grew again and again, and a wave of shadow-bats, with the real bat in the lead, came crashing over them.
The avalanche of darkness gave the Eaters no time to think. It overwhelmed them all with incredible mass.
Although it was only made of shadow, the avalanche did indeed possess mass. And whatever the scientific explanation, it was true that the Eaters on standby on the road had been swept away.
“Damn it… run for it!”
Those who were lucky enough to avoid the wave began to look left and right, trying to find the owner of the bizarre attack.
Then, the avalanche began to slow as a certain vampire emerged from its center.
“Damn it. I said I was gonna be fine on my own. You’re s’pposed to be my brother, not my mother.”
The blond vampire, dressed like an ordinary young man of his physical age, grumbled to himself with a toy gun in each hand.
“Shit. When they said we were fighting a bunch of Eaters, I was expecting someone on Rudy or that Shizune chick’s level. Hey, assholes. You say you’re Eaters, but you’ve only ever taken a couple of bites at most, am I right?”
The man shook his head, clearly disappointed.
The Eaters around him, still wary of the squirming shadows, set their sights on the blond vampire.
“Whoa there. Aren’t you raring to go?”
Twisting his lips into a grin, the gunman slowly pointed his guns at the air.
“Y’know, whenever I watch TV, I root for the villain’s nameless underlings. The ones who can’t do a goddamned thing against the hero. Maybe one day, they’ll team up to kill the hero and turn their weakness into their strength.”
As he spoke, the man shot multiple black masses into the air.
“So, hey. I’m rootin’ for ya.”
There was no noise to signal gunfire, though there were no silencers on the guns.
But it was clear that something had been shot into the sky.
The Eaters sensed the unknown danger. Those among them who carried guns simultaneously opened fire on the gunman.
But before their shots reached the man, several of the projectiles launched by the vampire suddenly changed course and spiraled down at the Eaters, striking their weapons out of their hands.
“It can’t be…” One Eater moaned.
The gunman was firing small bats from his guns.
They were homing projectiles that moved at bullet-speed.
The gunners who had been aiming for the man stood gaping as their weapons fell to the ground.
At that moment, the countless bats fired into the sky began to fall upon them like shooting stars.
Black bullets fell like hail, spinning rapidly as they tore at the Eaters’ arms and shoulders.
Because they were not ordinary bats, their fangs were never broken and their bodies never damaged. They mercilessly tore through the Eaters, leaving spouts of blood in their wake.
“Everyone! Scatter! Scatter under the trees!”
Following one Eater’s instructions, the others made to flee the rain of death.
But the moment they stepped into the woods, they found themselves bound by something, unable to move.
When they looked, they noticed thin white strings hanging between the trailer and the woods. Although it was impossible to see at first glance, some of the strings were glinting thanks to the lights form the trailer.
‘This is… a spiderweb…?’
Although it was a spiderweb in texture, the Eaters could not shake it off. The strings would stretch like elastic, but would not break.
By the time they realized that this was not an ordinary spiderweb, a little boy had emerged from the woods.
The Eaters immediately sensed a vampiric presence from the boy.
About five or so Eaters had been caught around him, rendered completely immobile.
“So… you’re the ones who got Alma into all that mess?”
The Eaters then realized:
There was something slightly different about the boy’s presence from those of humanoid vampires.
“Little girls don’t like murder, so I’m not going to kill any of you.”
At that moment, the boy’s inhuman eyes glinted suspiciously as he put on an innocent smile—
And two carapace-covered ‘legs’ emerged from either side of his body.
The bodies of a mammal and an arthropod had been united within one Gothic costume.
The strange vampire stretched his six arms and said with childlike innocence,
“So I’ll just take your arms or one of your legs.”
A second later, the earth shook as countless dots rose from the ground.
Hundreds, thousands, and tens of thousands of spiders.
They spread all over the ground and squirmed as though they were merely a part of the boy’s body. They climbed onto the Eaters, sinking their fangs into their arms or one of their legs and injecting them with poison.
With the screams of the Hunters ringing in his ears, the boy—a king over spiders, from the way he carried himself—looked down at his vassals and sighed loudly.
“If a girl ever saw me like this… She’d hate me for sure.”
On the mountain slope, a slight distance away, a man was still screaming.
But he was not an Eater—he was an officer of the Organization.
He was Satō Ichirō the Grey.
By all appearances, he was an ordinary human being. He ran desperately from the Eaters’ tenacious attacks like a bystander caught at the wrong place at the wrong time.
“Why me?! Why?! Ohh, I never should have come here! I should have just stayed behind at the manor!”
As he fled, he narrowly evaded the blades and bullets rushing at him from every direction.
He was quite deft and agile, even by vampire standards, but he seemed to be unaware of this fact as he shrieked and flailed.
A blade passed right before his eyes, but he instantly turned himself into fog and let it pass through. That was when the blade hit an Eater who was about to attack Satō from behind.
“Th, that was close!”
The man drove his enemies to confusion, in spite of the fact that all he did was run away in tears.
The officers who were watching him from afar all made their own comments.
“Y’know, if you think about it, isn’t Ichirō one heck of a vampire?”
“Too bad he’s too sycophantic to notice.”
“This also is the guidance of karma… namonamo.” “You’re food! You’re food!”
As they watched Satō’s one-man show from the safety of the treetops, the officers suddenly noticed the Eaters being attacked from behind.
The Eaters fell with their tendons torn apart, eyes round with pain and shock. As they looked back at their attacker, each exclaimed the same word.
“I am a wolf!”
With the same response as usual, the vampire dog butted the Eaters on their chins to knock them unconscious. The peanut gallery on the treetops watched dubiously.
“…Well, Wol is a chihuahua.”
“But that’s… quite the argument.”
“This also is the guidance of karma… Guten tag.”
“What… what the hell is this…” An Eater stammered, unable to process the scene before him.
“W, weren’t Eaters supposed to be vampires’ natural enemies?”
The answer came from the vampire standing before him.
“No frog would fear the eggs of a serpent. Eaters are our natural enemy, yes. But to produce so many, your leaders could have fed you no more than one vampire per person. Perhaps you would need to have devoured a hundred or more to be truly considered our natural enemy. And truth be told, we are not like the rabble who act alone. We are rather long-lived, you see.”
“F, forget that, you monster! Are you even a vampire…?!”
“What is this, now? I am a monster, just as you say. I am a vampire. I suppose if you ever met Steel Blue, Iron, or Deep Deep Deep Blue, you would die of heart failure.”
The officer was a quintessential ‘Other’, his creaking body like an alien straight out of Hollywood.
His dark grey body easily repelled the Eater’s silver blade, and his honed claws cut his gun like a hot knife through butter.
The Eater made up his mind to escape from this monster.
Unlike Rudy, these Eaters had not chosen this path out of hatred or a desire for revenge.
They had no reason to die here like dogs.
The moment he turned and ran, he felt something at his feet.
‘…Is this… piano wire…?’
The moment the thought registered in his mind, he saw a flash of light on either side of him.
“Would you look at that. Camouflage’s skeletons’ work, you think?”
“Probably. Or one of Crimson’s self-destruct attacks.”
Yellow and Aiji idly commented on the officers’ progress, standing on the road with no foes left to defeat.
“Christ. Talk about being uselessly bizarre. Every one of our officers.”
“You think so?”
“Sure, we’ve got normal people like Satō the Grey, but then we’ve got freaking spiders like Fannie. Two robots, a chihuahua, and a T-Rex. Then there’s Dark Grey and Sky Blue, but I don’t even know what I’m s’pposed to call them…”
“Vampires. Just like alligators, frogs, and snakes are all considered reptiles, we’re no more than monsters under the category of ‘vampires’.” Aiji said sagaciously.
Yellow thought for a moment and frowned.
“…Aren’t frogs supposed to be amphibians?”
Realizing his mistake, Aiji quickly looked around. Making sure that no one else had heard, he concealed his shock.
“…Don’t tell anyone. I’d rather keep my pride as an officer.”
Yellow paused. Then,
“Your ‘pride as an officer’?”
From afar, he watched an officer trying to flirt with a female Eater and end up with a smack in the face. Yellow grinned wryly.
“Not like a lot of us have any of that.”
In front of the Mars country house.
Ten meters above the head of Romy Mars.
There, parallel to the ground, floated a gigantic silver disk.
The Eaters froze and cautiously glared up at the mysterious wheel.
The disk, reflecting the light shining from the trailer, looked almost like an inverted silver stage.
LeVillio, the Clan vampire, also looked upon it suspiciously.
‘That is an unfamiliar sight.’
But once his eyes grew used to the glare, he corrected himself.
‘Are those… arms?’
The great disk floating in the sky.
It was a collection of thousands upon thousands of sharp objects arranged in a circle, spinning rapidly in the air.
The weapons were probably being controlled with telekinesis. That was understandable, as many vampires had that power—even members of LeVillio’s Clan.
But what shocked him was the number of weapons at Romy’s disposal.
The disk gradually began to slow, revealing its intricate details to the world.
At the center of it all was one gigantic disk. It looked like a wheel made of pure silver.
Around the wheel were two gigantic scythes, their blades bent at an elegant curve. Outside that circle was a circle of four halberds, and outside that was a circle of eight axes.
Each circle was made of a different kind of weapon, and the size of the blades grew smaller as the circles spread further.
Although it was impossible to count them all, if the number of blades doubled at each layer:
One disk. Two gigantic scythes. Four halberds. Eight axes. Sixteen broadswords. Thirty-two silver stakes. Sixty-four katanas. A hundred and twenty-eight European swords. Two hundred and fifty-six chakrams. Five hundred and twelve daggers. One thousand and twenty-four knives. Two thousand and forty-eight needles. A positively deranged number of weapons floating in the air.
“What… is that…?”
Gardastance calmly put out his cigar on a portable ashtray and replied.
“Hm? Didn’t our traitor tell you? Those blades circling around the silver disk known as Castlevania… I suppose ‘Special Attack’ is too cheap a term. What to call it? …Of course. That disk above Romy is something you might call her own ‘style’.”
“Mr. Rude.” Romy said, looking quite serious.
“Hm? Do you have an objection, Romy?”
“I like ‘Special Attack’.”
“…I suppose I won’t question your personal preferences… In conclusion, this is her ‘Special Attack’. We call it the ‘Stage of Silver Wheels’.”
The Eaters ignored Gardastance as he laughed elegantly, and turned their attention to the blades.
Was she planning to throw them all at once with telekinesis? With their numbers, the Eaters could come out of such an attack alive. In the worst case scenario, they could have some of their own focus on defense and ambush so they could be used as human shields.
But at that moment,
“If you intend to run our Organization to the ground, I will meet your challenge.”
Romy had already taken hold of a sword. She began to whisper something.
“O frail warrior of spirit bold, destroy the abyssal darkness’ wandering soul! Spelunker!”
The moment she recited her spell-like words,
The blade of her sword began to glow radiantly.
The light easily overpowered the spotlights on the trailer. It was enough to knock unconscious any bats or birds that might have been flying past.
Eaters were not immune to flash attacks.
As they reflexively shut their eyes and shrank back, Romy took a step forward and swung her sword.
The Eaters around her felt an impact.
Their bodies had been struck by ‘somethings’ at the speed of a machine gun.
Romy had neither thrown her blade nor fired a gun.
But the moment she swung, incredible power shot through space and hit the Eaters’ bodies.
‘Is this… telekinesis?! It’s too strong…!’
“Damn you… Hold your ground! She can’t overpower you with strength alone!”
Realizing what Romy was doing, LeVillio shouted orders to his Eaters.
But the Eaters’ eyes had not yet recovered. Romy took the opportunity to raise her sword ‘Spelunker’ into the air.
The sword then floated on its own back into the silver stage. In exchange, multiple swords flew down and began to circle around her protectively.
“Escape the hellfires of viridian thread and pierce the rift of infinite dread! Dig Dug!”
At her call, the silver, drill-shaped stakes sliced through the air and shot the spotlights like armor-piercing bullets. Sparks flew everywhere, and LeVillio hurriedly stepped away from the trailer.
Romy continued to recite her spells, her blades twirling to her will each time.
“I shall encircle all, ere resurrection and fall! Libble Rabble!”
Two knives flew in opposite directions, zooming between the Eaters hiding in the woods.
The blades were connected by threads of telekinesis, and as the knives flew, the Eaters were tied to the trees one after another.
“O fierce and noble knight, fall to crimson despair and cut down the light! Red Arremer!”
With a katana in hand, Romy spun as though dancing.
At that moment, something struck the Eaters—and only the Eaters—surrounding the manor.
A sudden gust of wind sped between the Eaters, and in the blink of an eye, wounds appeared on their bodies as blood spewed in the darkness.
Romy took up another sword and cried out,
“O sacred planet’s lifeblood, return to your place in a torrential flood! Field Combat!”
‘What… is all this…?”
Instead of falling to the ground, the Eaters’ blood began to reach upwards like a plant growing at incredible speeds. The blood was sucked into the silver disk spinning above Romy’s head.
The blood was swirling in midair.
By the time Dorothy commented, “It looks just like Gerhardt”, most of the Eaters were rendered immobile from the blood loss.
With this, the sheer number and power of the Eater army had been defanged in a matter of seconds.
“As needlessly powerful as ever. …Hmph. And not the kind of strength I could buy with money, either.” Gardastance said, praising Romy’s performance in his own way.
Romy, however, shook her head and calmly took up another sword.
“Not at all. This power belongs to my weapons, not me.”
“Of course. Demonic blades that respond in different ways to a vampire’s telekinesis. But it’s worth commending the fact that you’ve collected so many, if nothing else. …Come to think of it, I’ve heard that there are katanas and broadswords that possess wills of their own. Have you one of those?”
“That’s outside my specialty, I’m afraid. Although I would love to own one for myself…”
Gold and Silver lost themselves to idle chatter, even as their enemy stood before them.
But no attack would ever reach them.
Most of the Eaters were fully unconscious at this point, and those that remained were completely demoralized. The lights in the distance began to disappear as Eaters began to abandon LeVillio.
“I’ve said this before, but perhaps you could do something about that ‘poetry’ you recite when you use your weapons? There’s the chance you could be attacked before you finish.” Gardastance said plainly. Romy put on a confident grin.
“That’s true, and people always tell me it’s ‘childish’ or ‘like the teenage years I want to forget’. But you know, calling out attack names and calling out incantations… it’s a romantic dream!”
“A dream? Then I suppose I can’t question your choices.”
Instantly accepting Romy’s argument, Gardastance laughed and turned to the trailer.
“To immortal beings like us, romantic dreams can become ideals by which we swear. Tell me. Do you have dreams?”
LeVillio, who stood blankly in front of the trailer, did not answer. Instead, he moaned absently.
“It… can’t be…”
“I understand how shocking it must be for your proud army of Eaters to have fallen. But at times like this, a little shopping might lift your spirits. If you have no money on your person, I can easily provide you with ten thousand dollars as a consolation gift. Now, take it and leave.”
Not even listening to Gardastance, LeVillio glared at Doubs.
“What is the meaning of this?! You never told me this would happen!”
“Heh heh heh. You never asked. In fact, why didn’t you, Master LeVillio?” Doubs replied lackadaisically. LeVillio clenched his fists and shook.
“You bastard…! You were a double agent! Pretending to betray your allies while setting me up for a trap!”
“What an astounding accusation! Me, a double agent?! That is nothing short of an impossible insult!”
The man in the iridescent suit spread his arms wide and leapt onto the trailer. He then announced to anyone who could be his audience—the officers by the gates, the still-conscious Eaters, and the outraged LeVillio.
“It is embarrassing to say, but including the Organization, your humble servant Doubs Hewley is currently affiliated with four Clans, three anti-vampire groups, two nations, five individuals, and one gang! Perish the thought of double agents! I am a vigintuple agent! Far beyond the likes of spies who pass information between only two groups! I’d gladly sell off information on any group and lure them into a trap!”
“Don’t make me laugh!”
In contrast to the indignant vampire, the Organization officers watched with disinterest.
LeVillio took notice of their reactions and lashed out at Gardastance.
“Bastards… you knew all this from the start?!”
The answer came from Dorothy, who had been looking on in awe.
“I thought everyone knew that Doubs was a traitor.”
“When Doubs first attended one of our conferences, he introduced himself as an informant who sells intelligence to others. The Organization keeps sensitive information away from him on principle.”
Although it sounded like a joke, Dorothy was dead serious.
“Y, you never said a thing about-“
“If I told you that I was an informant, you would have gotten angry at me.”
“Well, the Organization does not. Of course, Mr. Caldimir hates me so much that he won’t tell me a thing.”
The Iridescent Extra laughed, personifying the color of his title. LeVillio ground his teeth, but he desperately steered his anger towards the other Organization members.
“Just what are you?! Are you not an organization?! I don’t understand!”
“We are vampires.”
“You? Vampires like us?! Deplorable! You accept the likes of dogs and sharks into your ranks!”
“That is merely a matter of perspective.”
Gardastance took a step forward and spoke for the Organization.
“From the perspective of the Clans, centered around blood relations, it is natural that the label of ‘vampire’ be applied only to select individuals. But the Organization is not concerned with who is or isn’t a vampire. What we focus on is the relationship vampires have with human society.”
Gardastance produced a cigar from his pocket and began to walk closer to LeVillio.
“Vampires, by nature, avoid contact with human society. After all, we are not human to begin with—just as insects do not obey human laws. Of course, whether out unfettered state is good or bad to humanity depends on the situation.”
He explained things not as a lecturer, but as a friend introducing a new appliance. But there was still a tone of pride in his voice.
“But on the other hand, many vampires live in human society. Like us. While on one hand, we are free from their laws, on the other we enjoy everything good their world has to offer. A powerful vampire, you see, is like an independent nation. Should he be hostile to humanity, or friendly? The outcome is a result of the relationships between individual humans and vampires.”
Gardastance lit his cigar and sucked on it. Then, he continued his explanation as he exhaled.
“The Organization merely tries to embrace that majority. I am repeating what Gerhardt told us in the past: Unless it disadvantages all of vampirekind, we must accept all ideologies and individuals. Of course, when Caldimir was in charge, Gerhardt’s ideals waned and the Organization also took part in attacking other vampires.”
Gardastance stopped. He lowered his voice.
Although he was by nature a proud man, at this very moment he neither condescended upon his foe nor praised himself. His every word was filled with nothing but pure determination.
“And if you would still choose to try and destroy the Organization, I swear—not as a member of the Organization, but as the individual—the independent country—known as Rude Gardastance. Right here and now, my individual ‘nation’ will declare war on your ‘society’.”
“…I’ll annihilate you, you insolent worm!”
Gardastance once more returned to his usual proud self.
“Hmph. Seeing as you’ve limited your threat to me alone, I suppose Romy’s weapons must have given you quite the scare.”
“You son of a—“
LeVillio began to give off bloodlust as his muscles shifted audibly.
As the Clan member prepared for battle, his appearance still unchanged, Gardastance commented,
“I’d almost forgotten. I suppose I should sprinkle some salt on you before our battle.”
“The food at the party just wasn’t enough for her, you see. I suggest you run while you still can.”
Not understanding what Gardastance was talking about, LeVillio prepared to tear out his throat.
But at that moment, he sensed a strange vibration underfoot.
There was a new sound accompanying the sparks crackling from the remains of the spotlights. Not only that, he spotted the still-conscious Eaters at the edges of his vision running from something in terror.
At that moment, he felt something like water dripping onto his head.
And when he looked up,
He saw a great reptilian maw—
And in the span of two seconds, LeVillio’s upper body entered the jaws of a Tyrannosaurus Rex.
The east side of the forest.
“Anyway, how’d you get here, Ferret?” Mihail asked, having been saved from his life-threatening predicament.
“…That is what I would like to ask you! Just why—“
Ferret was just about ready to pour out her frustrations on Mihail.
But a bald man on a motorcycle, who had arrived shortly after her, interrupted.
“They noticed us, Miss Ferret. We gotta get outta here.”
As if on cue, the blue-haired man stepped off his motorcycle and took off his shirt.
“We’ll take care of ‘em. You go on ahead.”
Before the man even finished his sentence, the two newcomers transformed themselves into humanoid wolves.
Horst screamed and embraced Alma protectively.
Alma also opened her eyes wide, having never seen a werewolf before.
But Mihail flashed them a reassuring grin.
“Don’t worry. These guys are good people.”
His smile was pure and trusting.
Under any other circumstances, it might have been worrying to see such undoubting innocence. But now, Mihail provided Alma and Horst with complete reassurance.
“You’re coming too, Rudy! C’mon, get up!” Mihail said, trying to pull Rudy back to his feet.
But because his right hand was paralyzed, Mihail had to struggle with his left hand.
Rudy was again rattled.
He saw with his own two eyes how Mihail’s right hand was rendered unusable—
And at that moment, Ferret stepped in.
Rudy’s eyes brimmed with terror at the sight of her. He remembered how she commanded him to disappear from her sight back on Growerth.
At the time, his outrage at Theo was enough to overpower any other emotion. It was easy for him to ignore Ferret’s anger.
But the way he was now, Rudy was fearful even of his own memories.
Ferret stared at Rudy for a moment.
Then, she silently reached out and took hold of his arm as he flinched, pulling him up alongside Mihail.
Not understanding what was happening, Rudy looked on blankly.
“Wh, why are you… after everything I did…?”
“I have no idea what you are talking about. I have never met a cowardly man like you in all my life.”
She was suppressing her frustration, avoiding Rudy’s eyes at all costs as she quietly confessed,
“And… just before I arrived, Mihail was trying to save you. I could not leave you here after that.”
Unable to respond, Rudy quietly took to his feet.
“I’m… all right now.”
With that, he stepped forward to take the lead.
So that no one could see his foolish expression.
So that he would not be shaken any more by the sight of Mihail and Ferret.
The words from the cell phone still lingered with him.
Whether the cell phone was telling the truth or not, all Rudy could think of was the face of a certain boy.
‘…I have to get revenge on Theo.’
Even if revenge was wrong, Rudy had no other choice.
Now that he had been betrayed by Theo and Theresia, and his trust in his sister shaken,
Rudy no longer had anything he could believe in.
The remaining Eaters, having sensed Ferret’s presence, lunged at the group at once.
Rudy and the two werewolves stood in their way, but for every Eater they knocked out, two more drew near.
“There’s no end to ‘em.”
“These Eaters are just strong enough to hinder us. But if we went all-out, we would kill them.”
The werewolves, though technically not human, had official human records. The Eaters they faced probably did as well. Killing them would cause problems further down the line, and the werewolves were uncomfortable with allowing Mihail and the little girl to witness murder.
If things came down to it, they would kill their foes. But now was not yet that time. The werewolves considered leaping to safety with everyone in their arms, but setting everyone’s weight aside, they could not risk being attacked before they got into a stable position.
In Rudy’s case, he was not at all enthusiastic about killing humans.
Eventually, lights from even further away began to approach. They could see a number easily double that of the Eaters they had defeated coming closer.
“…I shall fight as well. We will minimize our disadvantage if we cover four sides.”
“No!” Ferret cried, cutting off Mihail, and quietly clenched her fists.
‘I might end up dying here.
‘I haven’t even told Mihail how I felt.
‘But… I will never allow Mihail to go through such pain ever again!’
She prepared herself to defend not only the boy she so treasured, but everything he was trying to protect as well.
And the moment the lights finally reached their group—
The Eaters suddenly clutched at their throats and fell to the ground, groaning.
“What’s going on here?”
Rudy and the werewolves were taken aback by the sudden development.
The Eaters were all twitching on the ground, the whites of their eyes showing.
A second later, blood spewed from the mouths of the Eaters—
And formed letters of blood in front of Ferret.
[I apologize for being so late, Ferret.]
“F, Father?!” “Viscount Waldstein!” “Sir!”
Ferret, Mihail, and the werewolves cried out at once.
[My word… it’s a good thing I choked these Eaters in time.]
Another light approached them, but the lantern was being carried by bats with human eyes.
The bats placed the lantern on the ground and instantly converged, forming the body of a vampire.
“I’ve taken care of this side, Gerhardt.”
[You’ve made quick work of them, I see. Are you unhurt, Melhilm?]
“Your concern is unnecessary, Gerhardt. But in any case… I see that this is the state of Eaters who have taken in so little power. I’m surprised that the Clans thought this would be enough of a weapon against us.”
[Ah, perhaps they would have had more success with ordinary human mercenaries. Perhaps the Organization should explore the option of hiring humans ourselves.]
“That won’t be necessary. If needed, we can always ask for Rude’s cooperation.”
Horst and Alma looked on blankly at the laid-back conversation. The vampire aside, the floating pool of blood forming letters in the air must have given them quite a shock.
Mihail and the others, meanwhile, realized that the conversation signaled the end of the tense chase through the woods. They also noticed that the sounds of battle were fading from the forest.
As relief spread through his body, Mihail called to the girl who had resolved to protect him from the Eaters.
“Wh, what is it?”
When she turned, she found Mihail’s face right in front of hers. She had no time to put on airs or a mask of indifference.
Whether he understood this or not, Mihail mumbled to her,
I was not doing this for your sake, Ferret would normally have replied.
But Mihail’s smile was so familiar—so little different from his usual expression—that she realized something.
She had not made up her mind to protect him in order to convey her emotions, loose her anger, or save him from peril.
She had just wanted to see him smile like this.
One look was enough to wipe away her confession and the anger she bottled up. Noticing this, Ferret looked straight into his eyes.
“…You are terrible, Mihail.”
Mihail was confused. But by that point, Ferret had already turned around.
Hidden from his sight,
Ferret was wearing a smile very much like Mihail’s.
The distant eastern skies began to glow.
The hour of vampires had come to an end, beckoning the time of humanity.
The Mars family country house. The recreation room.
“It’s all over.” Caldimir mumbled as he received the news from a subordinate. He moved one of his chess pieces.
Sitting across from him as his opponent was Laetitia, who had done nothing during this incident.
“Gerhardt managed to convince that lunatic to stay back. If Garde joined the fray, we’d have nothing left but a load of corpses and a lot of headaches to deal with on the human side. And speaking of which, I’m surprised you weren’t there to watch the show in person.”
“You know how much I hate Doubs Hewley.”
“Is this what they mean by ‘hating your own kind’?”
The woman in the military uniform acknowledged the point with surprising ease, moving one of her chess pieces as well. “And what about you?”
“I’m not going to let them say I sat around doing nothing. I plan to take care of the rest of our problems.”
“To make it so that this entire mess was a conflict between humans, solved by humans. …Sigmund.”
At Caldimir’s call, a woman dressed like a secretary bowed from a corner of the room.
“Yes, Comrade Caldimir?”
The woman called Sigmund bowed once more at Caldimir’s command and left the room without a word.
“Hmm… That’s an interesting move.” Caldimir said, impressed by Laetitia’s move.
No longer concerned with the incident, he focused his thoughts on the game at hand.
“Heh heh heh… A masterful strategy, I’ll grant you. But don’t think you can outwit me with this.” Caldimir cackled dramatically. Laetitia looked at him with a hint of seriousness in her face.
“I know nothing about the rules of chess. All I’ve done was mirror your moves.”
Caldimir froze. Laetitia snickered.
“A masterful strategy, eh?”
Several seconds later, the room was filled with Caldimir’s embarrassed scream. But the sound attracted the attention of no one, fading into the halls of the gigantic mansion.
The next morning.
It was in a city in southern Germany.
Until the previous night, some of the people who lived in this city harbored an intense fear in their hearts.
There was a rumor that the people who lived in the mountain village were all vampires.
Those who half-jokingly hired a group to annihilate the village.
Those who seriously hired a group to annihilate the village.
Those who, knowing nothing, fell prey to the rumors and began to suspect the surviving girl.
And those who set fire to her guardian’s home.
Hearing that the girl had been taken away by her guardian the previous night, those people sighed in relief.
The seeds of fear had been finally eliminated, they thought.
Even those who hired the Hunters found peace of mind, finally freed from the vampiric presence in their midst.
But their bodies felt a little heavy, perhaps due to all the stress of the past few weeks.
Many people awoke and headed for their sinks as they did every morning.
There, they realized something.
Tiny droplets of blood were falling from their necks.
When they followed the trail of blood, they noticed two small, circular wounds.
However, this had happened at most of the houses in the city.
To those who had nothing to be guilty about, they were little more than tiny insect bites.
But to those who understood what it meant, the wounds were as good as a cursed mark.
The deeper their guilt, the stronger the curse.
They were trapped in an inescapable abyss of fear.
The night of humans and vampires was finally erased by the morning sun.
As though the darkness of night had never existed to begin with.