Monday, 10 February 2014

Vamp! V - Chapter 1

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

Another update. Sharp-eyed readers might spot a small Durarara!! reference somewhere in the chapter.

Enjoy!

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Chapter 1: The Silver Wolf Doth Savor!


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Vampires were make-believe creatures.

That was what the woman believed—and would continue to believe for as long as she lived.

‘Believe’ was a somewhat misleading word.

After all, there was no hint of uncertainty in her opinion.

The woman knew that vampires did not exist.

It might be most accurate to say that she did not believe in things like vampires.


And so, the woman partied late into the nights. And today, she again stepped out of her friend’s house with a bit of alcohol in her system.

Though she was alone, she had come by car; she would be safe. She justified her intention to drive drunk by reminding herself that she was not even tipsy.


“Make sure the vampires don’t get you.” A man had teased her, bringing up a traditional myth that had been part of the island for years.


“Better a vampire than a creep like you.”


That was the last thing she said to her male friends.


‘But seriously. It’s dangerous out there. Be careful, okay?” Said her female friends, remembering the murder case they read about in the newspaper.


“Don’t worry. The dead girl’s ex-boyfriend or whatever’s probably pissing himself scared in his room right about now.”


That was the last thing she said to her female friends.


She had heard the news. A woman’s body had been found somewhere on the island.

But she did not think it was something to worry about.

If the island was home to only a thousand people or so, she might have been scared.

But Growerth was a large island with a population of well over a hundred thousand. She believed that she could not be unlucky enough to be murdered, out of so many potential targets.

If she had known at this point that the police had found a second body, things might have been different. If she had known that a mysterious notice announcing a murder had been delivered to the police, things might have been different. If it had occurred to her that the murderer was not motivated by anger, but madness, she might have been extremely cautious.

But she believed. She tried her best to believe that a mere hope could be reality.

It was a large island, with a population of over one hundred thousand. What were the chances?


But the world betrayed her.

Vampires were make-believe creatures.

That was what the woman believed—and would continue to believe—for as long as she lived.

If she continued to live, that is.


Her corpse was found inside a dried-out well on the outskirts of the city.

It was clear that she was killed at the bottom of the well, but strangely enough, there were no signs of anyone climbing up or down—other than that from the police officers who went to retrieve her. There were no marks from ropes hung from the edges of the well, and the lid covering the well had been broken years ago and lost.

Perhaps small things like a chicken, or a single shoe, could have escaped; but there was no sign that an entire human being had climbed out from the well.

From the blood staining the walls of the well, it was clear that the woman was killed there.

That alone might have shed light on the possibility of multiple culprits, but the police were baffled by something else: The stone cover over the top of the well, which weighed in at several hundred kilograms.

There was no sign of any heavy machinery having been driven near the well. And if the stone lid had been brought here by human hands, just how many culprits were out there?

As talk of Satanists and cultists’ rituals began to arise, the police began to investigate with multiple killers in mind.

But the people began to silently bring up rumors—rumors that became power that circulated through the streets.

Strangely enough, it was the very same rumor that had begun in southern Germany concerning the mass disappearances.


'Maybe vampires were behind the murders.'


Normally, such suggestions would have been easily laughed off. But the wounds on the victims’ necks—marks that looked like they had been bitten—lent an eerily realistic tone to the rumor.

The investigators, of course, were not swayed. But some among the people began to truly fear something. And certain people involved with the media sniffed out that fear, independently making contact with the island.


It was as though they wanted to bring the island’s darkness into the open, enjoying the people’s fear from the front-row seats.


<=>


“Mr. Mayor. Could you give us a comment on the recent serial killings?”

The media was camped out in front of City Hall. A bespectacled female reporter stepped up first with a question. The mayor, also wearing glasses that made him look quite intellectual, answered mechanically.

“The police are currently putting all their efforts into the investigation. However, I cannot guarantee if it will be minutes, days, or weeks before the case is solved. All I can say is that we will put a stop to these murders as soon as possible, so I would like to ask for the cooperation of every citizen on the island. Please take care to avoid walking around alone at night, and avoid deserted places.”

Reciting a perfectly-practiced warning, Watt Stalf narrowed his eyes and continued emotionally.

“I’m sure many citizens are frustrated that the culprit has not yet been apprehended. But let it be said that we are all eager to put the killer behind bars.”

The reporters bombarded the mayor with yet more questions.

The mayor cautiously answered them, a hint of anger in his voice, when the bespectacled reporter from earlier suddenly blurted out an outlandish question.


“Mr. Mayor. There are rumors that the culprit may be a vampire, or a werewolf—“


Normally, it might have been a strange question to ask.

Some people chuckled. But others looked quite serious.

Anyone who knew the details concerning the murders would think at least once:

“Was this really the work of humans?”


The incidents had begun only a week earlier.

On the first night, the first victim vanished.

Initially, it was thought that she had simply run away from home. But on the third night, she was discovered dead. Fear and worry began to course through the streets.

She was not the only one. Three women went missing in the past week, and all were found dead.

The victims were all women in their teens or twenties.

From their corpses, it was clear that they had died of blood loss from the wounds on their necks.

The grisly marks on their necks, which almost looked like their throats were torn by animals, furthered the horrific nature of the serial killings.

The wounds were clearly bite marks, but no saliva of any sort was found on them. Some news outlets decided to emphasize this mysterious fact.

The announcements sent to the media and the police only increased the scale of the commotion.

But the island of Growerth was the only place lost in this particular storm of confusion.

The attention of the mainland and the rest of the world had been seized by a more provocative incident elsewhere:

The mass disappearance in southern Germany.

It was a case where the population of an entire village vanished, leaving behind only a single girl. The village was a cluttered mess, hinting that its inhabitants were no more. The entire world was shocked by the incident, and soon reporters from not only Germany, but across the globe gathered in the area.

Some speculated that the incidents taking place on Growerth were caused by someone influenced by the case in southern Germany. But once it was confirmed that the three serial killings were committed by the same person, who was also the one sending announcements to the police, the media finally began to move onto the island.

Naturally, the mayor could neither allow the situation to escalate nor allow any more citizens to be murdered.


“Vague rumors and misinformation only causes confusion in the city. I would like to ask that no one blow any gossip or speculation out of proportion.” Watt Stalf said, expertly holding back his anger. He ended the press conference and disappeared inside City Hall.


<=>


The mayor’s office.


“So? Any idea who’s behind all this?”


A woman’s voice, light on emotion, greeted Watt as he stepped inside.

“If we could actually get something concrete for once…”

The woman was sitting on the mayor’s chair, leaning so far back that the back of the chair looked just about to break. Her feet were on top of the mayor’s mahogany desk. Though she was quite mature and voluptuous, there was a hint of youth in her face.

Playing on the television was footage of the reporter speaking in front of City Hall. The woman in the chair—Shizune Kijima—shot Watt a mocking glance.

Watt sighed quietly. He took out a pair of sunglasses from his breast pocket and switched out his non-prescription glasses.

His attitude did a 180 as he slammed on the desk, not even trying to hide his hostility.

“Things’d be fucking simple if you were the culprit. All I’d have to do is snuff you out right here and now—oh, the killer was an illegal immigrant and I was only defending myself. That’d solve every fucking problem.”

Watt’s tone, his expression, and even the air around him was completely different. And it was only because the woman was neither a citizen nor a human that he allowed his hidden self to surface.

Shizune, the Eater-turned-vampire, belligerently rejected his claim.

“Like I said before. You’re at the top of my shit list. If I wanted to make a mess on the island, I’d have driven a tanker truck into City Hall by now.”

She shot a murderous glare at the man who turned her into a vampire. Watt responded with a hostile look of his own.

“A vampire launching a tanker truck attack. I’m dying of laughter here. The decay must’ve spread all the way up your brain at this point; I thought I turned you into a vampire, not a fucking zombie.”

“…It’s strange. Right now, it’s like you’re trying too hard to make sarcastic comments.”

“What?” The mayor spat, his brow furrowing. Shizune uncrossed and re-crossed her legs over the desk.

“I can practically hear your body going to pot.”

“…”

Watt was silent. Shizune grinned condescendingly.

“Word on the street says you got your hands on Relic’s powers. But I guess that was too good for your half-blood body.”

“‘Too good’ my ass. You’re the one who’s sitting in that chair without the citizens’ support.”

“A chair is a chair. Doesn’t matter who’s sitting in it.”

“Same difference.” Watt cracked his neck and showed off his sharp canines. “Power is power. Doesn’t matter who’s using it, whether it’s me or Relic, that pampered little prince.”

“But it’s not like sitting in the mayor’s chair’s going to kill me… Anyway. Let’s stop this. We’re getting nowhere.”

“I’d be just fine with an endless argument.”

“I should just videotape this and send the footage to the media. Those poor citizens, having to find out that their sweet mayor was actually a foul-mouthed lowlife. A few of them just might die of shock.”

Though she was the one who suggested that they end the argument, Shizune had wanted to end with a hostile comment. She finally stood.

“I’m heading back now. Try and stay alive, Mr. Mayor. If I don’t kill you one day, anyway.”

“You came all the way here to tell me something you don’t even mean?”

“…I just came to tell you that I’m not responsible for your little mess. And one last thing to nag at you before I go—you know how I still have an Eater’s senses?”

Eaters were human beings who crossed a forbidden line in the quest for power that surpassed those of vampires. They drank the blood and ashes of vampires to accept them into their own bodies, greatly enhancing their strength and reflexes. An Eater who had even once drank the blood of a vampire had the ability to sense the presence of vampires, just as they heard sounds or smelled odors. Shizune had once walked this path in the quest for revenge, and even now—as the hunted rather than the hunter—her sixth sense remained with her.

Shizune grinned impishly and reported to the mayor the results of her ‘scan’.

“I sensed a few vampires among the media camped out outside. I guess the dark side of the island has its eyes on the incident, too.”

“…”

Watt was silent.

“Be careful, or you’ll end up embarrassing yourself in front of people. Humans and vampires.”

Shizune shrugged and stepped out of the mayor’s office, her tone mocking to the end.


“I’ll be cheering for you from the shadows, Mr. Mayor.”


<=>


A series of text messages.


Pamela: [What did you think of the mayor’s press conference, Master Dimguil?]

Dimguil: [It was unexpected. I had heard that the mayor was a rather uncouth man.]

Pamela: [That is only the face he shows to humans. As a vampire, he is violence incarnate.]

Dimguil: [I see.]

Pamela: [Ultimately, he is but a petty villain and a dhampyr. Too trifling a man for you to concern yourself with, Master.]

Dimguil: [That is not for you to decide.]

Pamela: [My humblest apologies for daring to overstep my bounds.]

Dimguil: [Not to worry, Pamela. In any case, what of the castle?]

Pamela: [Security seems to be somewhat lax. Werewolves patrolling the premises at most.]

Dimguil: [I see. Then we won’t have any problems.]

Pamela: [They are a rabble of impulsive brutes. It will be but child’s play for you to obliterate them, Master.]

Dimguil: [Do not confuse our goals, Pamela. Today, we are here only to observe.]

Pamela: [My apologies.]

Dimguil: [In any event, I am looking forward to seeing just how splendid this rare beast called ‘Relic’ truly is.]


<=>


Growerth was a large island in the North Sea, under the jurisdiction of Germany.

Not only was it a prominently large island, it was also under development as a tourist destination. It was also actively establishing sister cities overseas in countries like Japan, America, Italy, and China.

Including Neuberg, several cities were on the island, upon which was everything from streets resembling the Middle Ages to modern-day civic centers and hotels. The cities were also surrounded by scenic displays of nature—about the only kind of environments missing from the island were deserts and glaciers.

Of course, there were no skyscrapers on the island—other than the city hall building, five-story hotels were about as tall as they went. And yet not a single room was vacant during the busy tourist season. Old buildings by the large streets that had been renovated into hotels were also quite popular with visitors.

In more recent years, the annual festival had become such a success that the island was rapidly transforming into a tourist hotspot. Local opinion on the development was still mixed.

Many small peaks rose up near the center of the island, covered with deciduous trees. And near the top of a peak on the southern side of the island was a large castle taken straight out of the Middle Ages. Waldstein Castle, the symbol of Growerth and one of its most popular tourist destinations.

Its majestic beauty harmoniously blended with the viridian forests and mountains. Countless visitors lost themselves in the wondrous sights as they stepped into the storybook setting.

Thanks to the fact that many works of art by Growerth’s very own Carnald Strassburg were displayed on the premises, Waldstein Castle was considered the most prominent sightseeing destination on the island known for its rich culture.

But most people had no idea.

The castle was not merely the boundary between industry and nature—it was the boundary between the world of humanity and the dark world of ‘Others’.

And that the vampire who reigned over the island sat in the throne in the residential area as the Lord of the castle.


Relic von Waldstein.

He was the adopted son of the former Lord, Gerhardt von Waldstein, and the current master of Waldstein Castle.

But was he in this seat of his own accord? There was no clear answer.

His adopted father offered to also pass down the title of ‘viscount’. But titles were normally downgraded a rank when they were passed down. And to add, the title of ‘viscount’ did not exist in Germany, except for one exceptional case when it was accorded by the King of France. Gerhardt explained that this was the reason why the Emperor granted him this title—‘A title that should not exist for a creature that should not exist’.

[Considering the unusual circumstances, I do not believe any human would be particularly upset about my handing down this title of viscount to you as it is, my son.] Gerhardt had said irresponsibly, but Relic could not agree.

Other vampires could turn themselves into fog or flocks of bats with ease; Relic’s powers, though identical, could do so on a grander scale—transforming the entire island and controlling it like a part of his own body.

He was a being worthy of the envy of all creatures, not only vampires. The boy created to be a vampire among vampires sat in the throne that symbolized his position, and—


Sighed loudly as he listened to a maid’s lecture.


“…I never thought I’d still be studying at this age.”

Sitting in the large throne with his knees bent in front of him, Relic complained without thinking.

There was a high but narrow desk set up in front of the throne. Atop the ornately designed piece of furniture was everything from old notebooks to parchment papers to a high-end laptop.

Relic sighed again at the sight of the mound of information. A vampire dressed in a green maid uniform pushed up her glasses.

“Master Relic. In human years, you are still young enough to be attending school. Life is a never-ending journey of learning. You have nearly an eternity to continue to learn and teach others.”

“Hearing that makes the rest of my life sound so tiresome. Although it’s true I need to learn more about this stuff, whatever it is I end up doing in the future.”

Though he was reluctant, Relic acknowledged the point of his education and turned to the notebook in his hands. It was crammed full of tiny letters, and anyone who knew German could tell that it was a research paper of some sort.

Suddenly, the letters grew hazy.

Realizing that a thick fog had settled around him, Relic chuckled.

“Did you come to play, Pirie? Sorry, but this stuff might end up boring you even more.”

He had spoken to thin air.

But no one in the castle thought strangely of patches of fog materializing indoors. And if the fog happened to be colorful, with patches of red and blue, they could instantly tell that a certain freeloader was behind the phenomenon.

“Aww… What’s this, Relic? What is it? If it’s that boring, you should quit. Just put it down!”

A high-pitched voice echoed from the fog. It was not coming from inside the haze, but from the haze itself.

The voice and the fog soon gathered and materialized, and soon a girl in colorful clothing appeared next to the maid in green.

The clownlike vampire—Pirie Mistwalker—returned to physical form. Twirling in place, she smiled at Relic.

“Say? Whatcha doing?”

“Well, I’m studying about vampires.”

“Really? Why now? Did you want to learn more about yourself?” The jester wondered. The bespectacled maid answered in Relic’s place.

“Even humans study about their own bodies, Pirie. Of course, in this case, Master Relic is studying social science rather than biology.”

“Hm? I don’t get it.”

Pirie tilted her head, then rotated her head a full 360 degrees. She had probably turned her neck into fog, but it was a sight that might kill the faint of heart.

Relic, already used to such things, smiled kindly.

“Have you ever heard of Clans? Not the word ‘clan’, but the term used for groups of vampires.”

“Hmm… Mmm… Oh… Oh! I think I’ve heard of them! Master Watt sometimes kicked his chair, muttering about ‘Fucking Clan assholes’! He said ‘Fucking Organization assholes’ a lot too, so I thought they were the same thing. Weren’t they?”

The Organization was a group of vampires founded by Relic’s adoptive father Gerhardt. It had no name, and was a gathering of vampires considered unusual even by their peers. But it boasted a membership of over twenty thousand—the undisputed leader when it came to size alone.

Relic was created as a result of one of the Organization’s experiments. But he had come to terms with his origins at this point, and held no particular feelings towards the Organization now.

“Yeah. Clans are separate from the Organization. And they’re not on very good terms, either. …Although I only just learned about it, so maybe things aren’t so bad after all.”

“You are still a little lacking in knowledge, Master Relic.” The maid said with a smile as Relic grinned sheepishly. “But Master Gerhardt deserves some of the blame as well. To think he hadn’t spoken of the Clans to you or Miss Ferret… And to think that he’d allowed the two of you to travel overseas without that knowledge. The next time he comes to the island, I will have to give him a stern lecture.”

The maid was smiling, and sounded quite pleasant. But Relic still had the feeling that she was quite angry with Gerhardt. He shrank back.

“…I’m sorry. I’ll study hard and learn all the details.”

“You truly are honest, Master Relic. I’m sure you’ll one day become a beloved Lord.”

Smiling honestly this time, the maid turned to Pirie and handed her some documents as well.

“Since you’re here, Miss Pirie, why not join the lesson? Let us learn about Clans.”


<=>


Countless vampires existed all over the world.

Some numbered them at about fifty thousand, but that was not a large number at all.

And very few of these vampires had the terrifying powers humans came to expect from cartoons and movies. Most were easily hunted by a mob of angry villagers.

The Organization was founded by such vampires in order to protect themselves from human persecution. Presently, there were about one hundred officers and twenty thousand members. There were different factions within the Organization as well—those who saw humans as food, those with a grudge against humans, those who dreamed of coexisting with humans, and many others. Due to the influence of Gerhardt, the current chairman, the most prominent of the many stances was the one that antagonized humans as little as possible.

Meanwhile, there were other groups of vampires called ‘Families’ or ‘Clans’, which were very much like aristocratic human families.

As the word implied, Clan members considered themselves family. Clans were composed of vampires with blood relations, humans turned by a family member, and witches and werewolves under subjugation.

There were no precise standards, but communities numbering at over thirty members—including children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren—were called ‘Clans’. According to the Organization, seven were currently in existence.


The Viradis Clan based in Eastern Europe, which boasted over a hundred members and over a thousand servants.


The Xiang Clan of China, which was too numerous to be numbered and held great influence over human society.


The Chagzulu Clan, with a massive territory that spanned the coasts of the African continent.


The infamously exclusive Aleksandros Clan, based in multiple places in Russia, Europe, and America.


The mysterious Kumanobe Clan of Japan, whose base was unknown and who participated little in human society.


The Sunfold Clan, openly hostile to the Organization and treating humans as nothing more than prey.


The all-female Shreemeice Clan, which also accepted unrelated vampires into their midst so long as they were female.


Most Clans saw humans as lower lifeforms and abhorred the Organization.

One reason was that Clan members prided themselves on being ‘true’ vampires, just like the ones from movies and stories. The Organization, which accepted purebloods and dhampyr alike, and even dogs, spiders, and watermelons as members, was little more than a group of disorganized hoodlums.

The Xiang Clan and the Shreemeice Clan were more neutral to the Organization, occasionally even sharing information with them.


“There were more of them in the past, but these seven are the only true Clans left today. Several in the United States were assimilated into the Organization. You see, because many vampires cannot cross the ocean, there were relatively few vampires in the Americas to begin with. Others, like the Hijiribe Clan in Japan, intermingled with humans to the point that they dissipated naturally. The Ridlock Clan of the west was eradicated by another Clan. Romy Mars of the Organization was originally part of a Clan herself, but because she is the only surviving member, the Mars Family is no longer counted as a Clan.”

Pirie gasped in wonder at the maid’s lecture. Relic nodded.

“I see… So the surviving Clans are powerful organizations in their own right.”

“The Viradis Clan poses the greatest threat to the Organization, and the Xiang Clan is keeping their power in check by often interacting with the Organization. The Shreemeice Clan maintains a position of absolute neutrality, and poses little danger as well.”

Relic chuckled.

“An all-female Clan, huh? They’re just like the Amazons. Forget neutrality, I’d almost like to be friendly with them.” He joked.

The jester, who had been listening quietly next to him, shrieked.

“NO! Relic, you can’t cheat on Hilda! I’m going to tell on you~!”

“What?! N, no, that’s not—“

Even the maid chuckled.

“Oh? Then what were you thinking of, Master Relic?”

“Uh… well.”

Relic was at a loss for words. The jester snickered. She partly turned her body into fog and wrapped herself around him.

“Well, you’re a guy too, Relic. Maybe you want to play Lord properly and hoard all the girls to yourself! And, and, and! Every night you’d— …Ohh! What are you making me say? You’re awful, Relic! You studnoodle, you!”

“‘Studnoodle’…?”

Pirie prattled meaninglessly, lightly punching Relic in the head. Though Relic’s dignity as Lord of Waldstein Castle was no more, the maid looked on warmly.

“Ouch, Pirie. That hurts! Anyway, I’m surprised you listened to that lecture about Clans so quietly.”

“Hm? But it’s fun to learn about stuff I didn’t know!”

It was a surprising answer from someone in such garish clothing.

“If I don’t know a lot of things, I can’t trick people perfectly. It’s not right to play tricks if I don’t know everything!”

“Huh. So that’s what goes on in that head of yours.” Relic laughed, and turned to the maid.

“I have a question.”

“Yes, Master?”

The maid bowed politely. Relic spoke up hesitantly.

“Uh… well… would I be nothing special to those Clan vampires?”

“…”

The maid’s smile faltered slightly. Silence followed.

“I, uh… I don’t think I’m anyone that special, but… there’s the reason I was made by the Organization and all, and… and I thought that maybe the Clans might not be too happy with someone like me.”

Relic was the product of the Organization’s experimentation.

That did not mean that he was a clone or an artificial creature of some sort—he was the result of a generations-long breeding program. A thoroughbred of vampires, so to speak.

He was created to be like the Clan vampires—possessing all sorts of abilities held by vampires of myth and legend, wielding absolute power. A jack and master of all trades.

Being a vampire created to reign as king over others, there was a good chance that the Clans—who claimed pureblood status for themselves—saw Relic as a nuisance.

The maid thought for a moment and carefully chose her words, revealing only what she knew to be true.

“Allow me to be honest, Master Relic. Of the Clans I described to you, the less favorably disposed they are to the Organization, the more hostile they will be towards you.”

“I guess that makes sense.” Relic said with a quiet sigh, not sounding particularly unhappy.

Considerate of the emotions Relic was trying to hide, the maid continued.

“But not all Clans will see you in a negative light, Master. The Xiang Clan and the Chagzulu Clan are rather different as far as vampiric traits go, and are less likely to show hostility. The Shreemeice Clan seems to be rather wary of you, but that is likely because you are male. In fact, they once contacted Master Gerhardt, saying ‘we are willing to take the female twin into our care’. Master Gerhardt saw that they were purely intending to protect Miss Ferret as opposed to trying to take her hostage.”

“Really?”

“Of course, Master Gerhardt declined their offer. But in that sense, it may be acceptable to see the Shreemeice Clan as a neutral party.”

“I see…”

After a moment’s silence, Relic chuckled.

“Now I’d like to get to know them even more. I’m sure their members must be very beautiful.”

“Reliiiiiic?” The jester growled.

Relic was prepared to have her wrap herself around him again, but Pirie put on a mischievous smile and leaned into his face provocatively. Relic froze.

“I get it now, Relic! I totally get it!”

“Wh, what?”

“Oh, Relic. It actually kind of hurt your feelings, didn’t it? When you heard that these people you never met hate you anyway? That’s why you keep talking about those girls—so we’d end up talking about Hilda instead! Because you thought you could fool yourself into feeling better once the conversation warmed up! But I got you! Tee hee! You should have just called Hilda and told her that you missed her from the beginning, Relic!”

“…”

The jester must have hit the nail on the head. Relic averted his gaze without a word. If he were human, he would have flushed beet-red by now.

Pirie gently butted heads with Relic and giggled.

“You have to take good care of Hilda, Relic. It doesn’t matter if she’s human or a vampire—I really really like her. And she’s really serious about you, so you have to be serious about her too!”

“Pirie…”

“How’re you going to be a good Lord if you can’t make Hilda happy? Ahahahaha! You’re such an idiot, Relic.”

The jester continued laughing, partly dissipating once more and going around behind Relic.

She then gave him a push on the back, forcing him to his feet.

“You’re a vampire, Relic! People you’ve never met before call vampires monsters, so don’t worry about a few people who hate you! Hilda and Mihail care for you so much! Don’t be greedy—you don’t have to be loved by every person in the entire world! Ahahahahaha!”

As the jester laughed maniacally, Relic’s eyes widened. He then mumbled self-deprecatingly,

“Thank you, Pirie.”

He asked the maid for permission to leave, and stepped out of the throne room.

Relic von Waldstein was a vampire.

That would not change, even if humanity or vampirekind were to die out.

But as he thought of the girl who loved him like an ordinary human—the girl he loved above all else—a sad smile crept up on his face.

‘Heh… I wish I wasn’t such a coward.

‘Someone always has to give me a little push.’

He would go see Hilda.

With but one thought in mind, Relic turned his body into a flock of bats under the early evening skies.

The vestiges of sunlight in the west stung his skin, but Relic endured it as he flew over to the village.

Would he turn Hilda into a vampire? Or would he love her as she was?

Still not even close to a decision on their future, the boy only followed his instincts to see her once more.


Seeing Relic off, the maid pushed up her glasses and turned to the jester.

“That was rather nosy of you.”

“Just like you! You and the other maids are cheering them on too, right? Tee hee!”

“You’re a gentle spirit, Miss Pirie. To be frank, I’m not sure why someone so kind and clever as you are is so obsessed with a man like Watt Stalf.”

“EEK! No! No, no! You can’t insult Master Watt like that!”

Pirie pouted, then began spinning in midair as she spread her arms, listing off the things she loved about Watt.

“Master Watt is petty, nasty, selfish, boorish, vulgar, rude, violent, petty, proud, arrogant, ready to chop people, awful, petty, and always obsessed with the past, but I still think he’s great!”

“I’d like to point out that you said ‘petty’ three times. I agree with your observation, but I will apologize for insulting the man you so admire.”

The maid gave a heartfelt apology and bowed. The jester moaned in frustration.

“I guess the people in this castle really don’t like Master Watt.”

The maid thought for a moment, and gave an honest answer.

“So long as Master Gerhardt does not dislike him, I am hopeful that he is little worse than a nuisance. And as for his face as a human… I admit that he is doing an acceptable job as the mayor of Neuberg. …And I am not averse to changing my mind, if he would think to work for the island even while wearing the face of a vampire.”


<=>


Growerth. Harbor area.


(Not good. I’m so tired…)

(I need a fuck.)         (Man, I’m hungry.)

(Shit. Wish they’d all just die.)         (I don’t feel like working…)

(Am I ever gonna get to play a round?)         (Ugh. Does this jerkass think I’m his girl or something?)

(I’d better start thinking about what to do once Grandpa passes away…)         (The culprit must have been a vampire.)         (Maybe I should just die.)         (Was the mayor single? He’s pretty young.)         (Going home makes me feel so depressed.)         (Muyifendoaahahahahaha! Man, I just wanna shout something nobody’ll understand.)

(I’m surprised she hasn’t figured out that I’m cheating on her.)         (Wonder if I can flip that girl’s skirt.)         (I want to hurry up and get out of the boonies here. I want to live in the city.)         (I’m craving sausages.)         (Oh my oh my oh my.)         (Wonder if Dad really thinks Mom doesn’t know he’s cheating on her…)         (Wish he’d just die already.)         (Maybe I should go grab my savings from the bank while I’m at it…)         (I’m surprised he hasn’t figured out that I’ve been squeezing rag water into his soup since yesterday for cheating on me.)         (Who’s that freak with the goggles?)

(I want to die.)         (Sweet!)

(I really want to do something, but…)         (Or maybe the killer is somewhere in this crowd.)

(If someone jumps out of there and tries to mug me, I’ll dodge this way and—)


“Ah… How relaxing. Such pleasant air.”

Mirald leaned against a streetlamp in front of the harbor’s shopping district, his mind lost in the countless ‘sounds of the heart’ around him.

In the garbled noise made of countless emotions, he picked up each and every tone and smiled as though he were listening to a piece of classical music.

(-or someone is reading my mind. …I already know you’re looking into my head! Or something like that. Heh.)

Hearing such thoughts from a boy in the area, Mirald mischievously sent out a thought—“So you’ve noticed!”.

The boy flinched; he looked around in confusion, then ran off, terrified.

“That was a little cruel of me. Then again, he’ll probably think he was just hearing things.” Mirald said to himself. Someone came up to him.

“(Ugh… I still feel sick)Hey. Are you reading every mind in the area?”

Dorrikey was clearly in bad shape. Mirald answered immediately.

“I can shut them out if I want to.”

“(Urgh… I should have come by freight in my coffin…)…I’m surprised you haven’t gone insane yet. Mind-readers in films and novels never like crowds.”

“It feels pretty good once you get used to it. It’s like the roar of a vacuum cleaner suddenly becoming a soothing lullaby to your ears. …Anyway, are you all right? You can’t stand running water. If you were much weaker, you would have turned to ashes already.”

Many vampires were weak against flowing water, like rivers and oceans. Although most of such vampires could evade the weakness by flying over water as a flock of bats or using vehicles like ships or airplanes, those like Dorrikey were weakened by the mere act of traveling over flowing water.

“(I’m going to puke. Ohh…)Hah! I logically determined that I would survive the crossing. It’s only that I didn’t expect the motion sickness. Damn you, running water—my greatest enemy…”

“Why did you come all the way here? You’d have been better off going to Mr. Gerhardt’s conference. The only thing I’m reading in that mind of yours are complaints about your seasickness.”

It was a natural question to ask. Dorrikey struggled to stand, straightening out his back.

“(Urgh… I feel sick)Hahaha! It’s because you rely too much on your telepathy that you’re incapable of deduction. I thought it might be a good idea to look into the mass disappearance in southern Germany, but there also happens to be a very peculiar serial killing case occurring on this island as well!”

His condition improved as he took deep breaths. Enthusiasm began to tint Dorrikey’s voice.

“(A mysterious serial killer who continues to evade the police… How the islanders must be trembling in fear! But now, they can set aside their worries! The ace detective is here!)Where there’s an ace detective, there is crime! Where there is crime, there is an ace detective!”

“You’re still too decent of a person to be a vampire. Now if only you could do something about your constant false leads…”

Mirald chuckled and sighed at Dorrikey’s sincere wish to solve the case for the people of Growerth.

Suddenly, something occurred to him. He turned.

“Now that I think about it… I don’t see your assistant anywhere.”

The self-proclaimed ace detective struggled to turn his head. He carefully observed his surroundings.

Finally realizing that the partner who had been with him on the ferry was missing, he deduced that he was in a rather difficult situation.


“W, WATSON?!”


<=>


At the same time. A residential area by the harbor.


“…I’m lost.” Mumbled a silver-haired girl of about fourteen or fifteen.

She had short, very curly hair hidden underneath her bowler hat. She was also wearing a suit of a very old design, which could pass easily for one made for men. That was why she looked like a boy from a distance—however, from up close, her features made it clear that she was female. There was a strangely downcast air in her expression, but the youthful look of her face made her look more sad than depressed.

Her name was Watson.

‘Watson’ was not her real name. It was one given to her by the man who obtained her—Key Dorrikey—who claimed that “It’s the only proper name for a detective’s assistant”.

She did not know her real name, and she had no memories of her parents. In fact, she did not know completely just what kind of a creature she was.

But she knew clearly that currently, she was dressed to look like a detective’s assistant named Watson. Of course, she did not know exactly what a detective’s assistant was.

Things were fine until she came to Growerth alongside Dorrikey, but she was distracted by the scent of a sausage truck that was driving down the street. She was easily separated from the others, which led up to this moment in time.

She realized that she was alone only when the truck stopped at the square. But all she did was mumble, “I’m lost”, sounding content enough in knowing her present state.

Grumble.

Hearing the sound from her stomach, she produced a small purse from her pocket.

She opened the zipper and turned the purse upside-down. There was nothing but dust.

“…”

Placing a hand on her growling stomach, the silver-haired girl began to wander the square.

“Hey there. That’s a weird outfit you’ve got on—something happen?”

She was approached by a group of slightly older boys, who looked to be delinquents trying to flirt with her.

Watson sniffed. She noted that the boys were not carrying any food with them.

“…”

“C’mon, say something. The name’s Hans—I’m pretty popular around the schools here.”

The well-muscled boy snickered as he took hold of Watson’s shoulder. She replied,

“You don’t look tasty.”

“Wha?”

Hans frowned. The boy next to him threateningly grabbed Watson by the chin.

“Don’t think we’ll go easy on you just because you’re younger than us, bitch. Hans here’s gone through everyone from brats like you to ladies old enough to be your grandmother.”

He tried to push her chin to the side in a show of strength—but it was as though he had grabbed onto a solid tree branch. She would not budge.

Something growled as the boys felt a warm breeze on their faces.

“H, hey…”

Hans and his cronies noticed something; they took a step backwards.

“What?”

The delinquent with his hand on Watson’s chin looked at her without thinking.

And at that moment, his thoughts came grinding to a halt.


Right before his eyes was the girl’s face, slightly different from before.

Her fangs glinted between her lips, covered in saliva. The color of her eyes were shifting into an inhuman shade.

The girl’s expression remained the same. But her shrinking pupils stared a hole through the boy’s.

“…Let go.”

Even her voice began to change. And with that, her hand lightly took hold of the boy’s wrist. ‘Lightly’ being from the girl’s perspective.

“Urgh…!”

His wrist caught in a vice-like grip, the boy’s body was forcibly bent back.

At that moment, the other delinquents noticed something.

Silver fur began to cover the girl’s hand. Her fingernails were growing hooked, and her hand had doubled in size.

“Agh… Arghhh…!”

She was not human.

Though the boys were residents of Growerth, they did not know about the existence of vampires.

But even with their ordinary upbringings, they could tell for certain—the girl was not human.

“…You definitely don’t look tasty.”

Sensing the texture of the boy’s arm, the girl mumbled to herself and flung him aside. The delinquent was sent flying several meters by the girl, who was shorter than he was.

The other people in the square began to turn, wondering what was going on.

Hans, the leader of the delinquents, was silent for a few moments.

“AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH?!”

Then, he cried out and forcibly snapped his body out of its frozen state.

The boys turned tail and ran off at once.


“…”

As the boys left, Watson returned her hand and face to their original forms.

She was a werewolf and a partner to Key Dorrikey, but it seemed she had no idea just what she was in relation to human society.

The people around them at first gave their attention to the fleeing boys. But one by one their eyes began to return to the girl in strange clothing.

“?”

Watson cocked her head, wondering what to do. But the swell of hunger in her gut stopped her train of logical thought.

Perhaps she should tear off the limbs from the more tasty-looking onlookers, Watson was beginning to think.

At that moment, a stranger took her by the hand and pulled her aside.

“Over here!”

Running with the werewolf’s hand in hers was a girl slightly older than Watson.

Watson hesitated for a moment, but hoping that the stranger was going to feed her, she decided to follow along.


<=>


After a short dash through the streets, the two girls came to a stop in a narrow alleyway.

The older girl took a moment to catch her breath and smiled at Watson.

“Are you all right? I dragged you along because I thought you might cause a bit of a commotion.”

“…”

‘She’s a little skinny. But she looks tasty.

‘But if I bite her. Dorrikey will get mad.’

Not knowing just what kind of grisly thoughts were going through the werewolf’s mind, the older girl grinned.

“My name’s Hilda. I live on this island. And you are…?”

“…Watson.”

“That’s a funny name. Do you live here?”

Watson shook her head.

“I came on the ferry. I got separated.”

It was a mechanical answer. Hilda made to ask about Watson’s implied companions, but was interrupted by a grumble.

Watson’s stomach growled as sadness tinted her eyes.

“I’m hungry.”

Her emotionless mask had given way for the first time, and to a look of sorrow—of all things.

Not knowing in her wildest dreams that she was being treated as ‘emergency rations’, Hilda gently spoke to Watson.

“Would you like to get something to eat? I can buy you a bit of food, if you’d like.”

Watson’s eyes began to sparkle as she silently upgraded the girl from ‘emergency rations’ to ‘a nice person who feeds me(don’t eat her)’.

Following her instincts, the werewolf named her food of choice.


“Raw meat.”


<=>


Harbor area.


“This is terrible… positively dreadful… If Watson were to kill someone in her hunger, my reputation as a detective will be ruined! I’m not wealthy enough to somehow compensate the victim’s family, and above all else, could Watson even be sent to a human prison in the first place? Can she even make up for her crimes? No—before all that, is there even a way to make up for the loss of life?”

The self-proclaimed ace detective wandered the streets, muttering to himself.

“Mirald. Couldn’t you find her with your telepathy? I’m sure she’s rambling to herself about her hunger.”

“Hate to tell you, but even my telepathy has a limited range. She’s not in the area—if she’s still alive, that is.”

Dorrikey grabbed Mirald by the collar and growled,

“If that was a joke, it wasn’t a funny one. I hate the thought of my assistant dying more than the thought of her killing someone. (This isn’t good! What if she tried to hurt someone and ended up being retaliated against by the local vampires?)”

After his surprisingly serious outburst, Dorrikey was once again back to being a nervous wreck. Mirald mumbled a brief apology and shook Dorrikey aside.

Then.

(Hey, that’s the park they showed on TV.)

(I got a text saying Hans and the guys got attacked by a girl. That was real?)

Hearing several quite similar thoughts at the same time, Mirald turned his attention to the convergence point.

There was an electronics store in one of the shops nearby, with televisions displayed inside.

Gesturing at Dorrikey (who was still muttering to himself), Mirald pointed him over to the televisions.

And on the screens, they saw—


<=>


The mayor’s office.


<This is Juna Riebeluka from ZZZ Network, reporting to you live from Neuberg City Square. A violent incident seems to have just taken place here, as the city continues to be terrorized by the mysterious serial killings. A young man was left with thankfully mild injuries, but we’re receiving strange eyewitness accounts describing a young girl’s transformation into a fur-covered monster. Here are some interviews with locals on the scene.>


“…Which shit-for-brains werewolf was that?”

Watt sighed loudly as he spotted a familiar city square on the television while doing his work.

He determined that the victim was not hallucinating or making up tall tales—Watt was sure that a young werewolf really did nearly reveal herself to the public. That was the simplest conclusion.

“Shit. As if the serial killings weren’t fucked-up enough to scare the piss out of people. Relic, that incompetent little—“

Though he complained out loud about Relic, Watt was inwardly afraid that perhaps the werewolf was one of those under his influence. But none of his subordinates were young girls, and none of them had any daughters.

He breathed a sigh of relief, but then came the next question.

‘What if she’s from outside?

‘What if she transformed because she didn’t know the rules around here?

‘Is this the Organization’s doing? Do they never get sick of invading this island?’

By the time he began to wonder if this had something to do with the serial killings, the word ‘vampire’ happened to be mentioned on the news program.

<They say that this island has a long history of myths involving vampires and werewolves. Could there be a connection? Perhaps someone is going around in disguise as a vampire or a werewolf.>

‘Hey, hey. Why the hell’re you jumping to vampires now?

‘And who the hell would dress up as a werewolf girl to beat up a man, dumbass?

‘Fuck it. ZZZ Network—if you’re gonna waste money reporting, chase some real leads for once.’

Now that he thought about it, the reporter was the same woman who had asked him about vampires earlier that day at the press conference.

Adding ZZZ Network to his list of nuisances, the mayor returned to his duties.

But the news about the werewolf continued to bother him. He ground his teeth and glanced out the window.

There was Waldstein Castle, the symbol of the island.

Some of the lamps were lit, supposedly for security purposes. With a tch, Watt grumbled to himself.

“I should have a talk with that wet-behind-the-ears prince…”


<=>


Harbor area. Shopping district.


<We’ll be following not only the mysterious serial killings, but also this strange incident that occurred at the square this evening. This is Juna Riebeluka, signing off from the island of Growerth.>

When the bespectacled woman finished, the screen cut to ZZZ Network’s studio. Several people were discussing something, but Mirald shrugged and turned to Dorrikey.

(That was obviously your partner just now.)

Because he did not want anyone to overhear the conversation, he broadcast the thought straight into Dorrikey’s mind.

(…Wait a moment. Don’t let prejudices color your deductions. As we all know, there is a large werewolf population on this island. In other words, another werewolf may be responsible for the incident. Or perhaps this was a trick involving a twin switch. The culprit is on this island!)

(Calm down.)

Mirald sent an image of a peaceful, flowing stream into Dorrikey’s mind to settle his thoughts. After a moment’s confusion, Dorrikey finally got a hold of himself and sighed loudly.

(Oh, Watson… How many times have I told her that she mustn’t transform into a werewolf? It’s a complete infringement of Knox’s Decalogue—)

(You’re one to talk, Dorrikey—what’s one measly werewolf transformation when you’re the one who always subjugates those involved in a crime to reveal the answer? Well, anyway. I have a problem on my hands.)

(What might that be?)

Dorrikey shot him a dubious look. Mirald shook his head.

(Well… You know that I have to regularly quench my thirst for blood at my soirées—taking care to not turn the human in the process.)

(Of course—I was there myself, after all. You only need it once a month, but who hasn’t heard of your addiction to sucking blood? …Wait. Wait a second.)

(That’s right. Well, hmm… Remember that intruder? James something-or-other? We left for Growerth right after that commotion.)

(Don’t tell me.)

Mirald grinned, embarrassed, and shot Dorrikey’s mind a pleasant smile.


(I’m itching to suck some blood very soon.♥︎)


<=>


Night. A park.


“You must have been starving.”

“…It’s tasty.”

The girl munched happily on the raw meat they picked up at a nearby butcher. Watching her, Hilda thought to herself.

‘I guess the people who were with her must have been vampires or werewolves.’

In the deserted park, Hilda recalled the sight of the young girl in the square, her arm suddenly taking on bestial form as she tossed aside a boy even larger than she was.

At first, Hilda had thought to step in and help the girl. But seeing what happened, she quickly realized that Watson was a werewolf and dragged her away before a commotion arose.

She had never met this non-human girl before.

Normally, that might have been reason enough for Hilda to be on edge. But she was rather unusual in that she was particularly close to the ‘Others’ that lived on the island. Not only was she familiar with vampires and werewolves, she was on very good terms with them. Though her parents were always worried for her sake, her older brother Mihail was even less cautious about vampires—and he was very much beloved by the ‘Others’ of Growerth.

That was why to Hilda, werewolves and vampires were little different from humans.

Of course, if Watson were a grown man, Hilda might have been more nervous for a different reason. But werewolf or human, Watson was ultimately just a girl a little younger than herself.

It was when her thoughts reached that point that Hilda had taken the girl’s hand and fled the square—remembering the face of the vampire she loved, knowing that, in the worst-case-scenario, she could discuss the problem with Relic.

And things came to this moment.

Hilda nearly lost herself in the lovable sight of Watson savoring her meal.

Although she almost wanted to show this scene to others, it might be rather difficult for people to agree with her assessment when the adorable being in question was chewing on raw meat.

‘Mihail would probably agree, though.

‘…I wonder if he’s all right.’

Her expression darkened as she remembered her brother.

Mihail was currently on the mainland, doing a part-time job for a group of vampires called the Organization. Hilda’s close friend Ferret had also left the island, intent on bringing him back, but she had not contacted her home since.

Recalling that she had found Watson just as she was thinking of discussing Mihail and Ferret with Relic after shopping for groceries, Hilda began to go over her next course of action.

‘Relic might know something… about both Mihail and Ferret.’

At that point, Hilda began to doubt herself.

‘I wonder… am I relying too much on Relic?’

She had been involved many times in incidents involving vampires now. And each time she had been rescued by her boyfriend Relic. And now, Relic had become the Lord of Growerth. Although she didn’t know exactly what the position entailed (and Relic echoed her sentiment), it was clear that countless vampires, werewolves, witches, and hags were under his authority.

They were supposed to be relying on each other, but wasn’t she now being supported solely by Relic? Perhaps she was being a burden to him.

Relic himself never said such things. But having been helped by him many times, Hilda was beginning to question herself.

She was afraid that, perhaps, she was a nuisance to him. But Hilda could not think of anything that an ordinary human like her could do.

Lost in unhappy thoughts, she sighed without thinking.

Long, pale fingers stroked her cheek.

“…Watson.”

Watson was staring, tilting her head. She was worried for Hilda.

“…Are you hungry?” She asked, holding out the bag of meat. Hunger must have been the greatest cause of sadness she could imagine.

“N, no thank you, Watson! I’m sorry. I was just thinking about some things…”

Hilda quickly sat up straight and smiled.

‘What a sweet girl.

‘I’m sure I’ll be able to find her companions soon.’

Deciding to discuss the matter with Relic after all, Hilda turned her attention to Watson’s meal once more.

Though the sight of Watson munching on the red meat was undeniably adorable, there was something quite awkward about it all.

“Is it really all right for you to eat all that meat raw?”

“…”

Watson nodded, wordlessly chewing on her food.

Supposing that she should listen to Watson’s side of the story while she was still eating, Hilda asked her a simple question.

“What kind of people did you come to the island with? Umm… other werewolves? Vampires? Or humans?”

It wasn’t clear if Watson would answer honestly, but the conversation would not begin without an answer.

Watson stopped for a moment. She cocked her head and fell into thought for about ten seconds.

Then, sounding quite unsure herself, she described her partner.

“…Ace… detective?”

“An ace detective?”

It was an unexpected answer. Hilda paused.

“Oh. That’s why you’re Watson.” She replied with a stilted answer of her own.

Not knowing that she would end up being part of the case that the ace detective had claimed for himself.


-----


Interlude 1.


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Viradis Clan: ヴィラディス
Chagzulu Clan: チャグズール
Shreemeice Clan: シュリーメイス


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10 comments:

  1. The Hijiribe clan has currently a full vampire (whereabouts unknow), a dhampyr (whereabouts unknow) and a half-dhampyr whose vampire blood has been awakened in a weird ritual (currently an idol).

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  2. “My name’s Hilda. I live on this island. and you are…?”
    Capitalization on the last sentence.

    Both Pirie and Watson are both such cute people. I love 'em.

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  3. thanks for another great chapter

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  4. The first chapter certainly does not disappoint, many thanks for your time and effort in translating this! :)

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  5. Thanks for the chapter.

    Is this volume as long as the previous one?

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    Replies
    1. It's about fifty pages shorter than IV.

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  6. Hi there, thank you so much for all your translations!
    I just finished reading your translation of Crack Flag and thought this was an OK place to ask: the Maas family mentioned there is just an alternate romanization of the Mars clan, right? I'm a bit confused because the origins of the Mars family from Vamp IV Chapter 3 (gaining power through the stock market and having been describable as nouveau riche until relatively recently) don't really match up with a >300-year-old family (although they are implied to be still around in the prologue by Talbot).

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    Replies
    1. Yes, 'Maas' was an early romanization of 'Mars'. I hadn't read Vamp yet when I was working on Crack Flag, so I had no idea what to make of the name. It was only when I read Vamp! IV that I found out the Mars family was from England, and by them it was kind of late to go back and change Crack Flag.

      And by 'nouveau riche' it's just implied that they couldn't be considered 'old money' until relatively recently. Speculation here: maybe they were only rich in money, without the kind of social influence one would expect out of a more established family.

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