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[But beware! The streets at night can be a dangerous place. This story is about a series of horrid murders that took place on the island of Growerth.]
[A mind-reading vampire, a quiet young werewolf, a vampire detective, a pair from a certain Clan, and a TV crew investigating the case. Sneaking into that darkness are my son Relic, the human girl named Hilda who has accepted the Night, and the great petty villain, Mayor Watt Stalf.]
[On this most outrageous of nights, what thoughts cross the minds of the vampire, the human, and the dhampyr? This particular tale is one you must see with your own eyes.]
A conversation involving a certain Clan member.
Pamela: I do not understand why you would show so much interest in that—that relict, O most noble and proud Master Dimguil.
Dimguil: Humans visit the zoo sometimes to look at pandas and lions, Pamela.
Pamela: Ah! Citing a lower life form as an example. Your sense of humor is as exquisite as always, my honored master.
Dimguil: But your eyes don’t look very entertained… In any case, are you going to conceal your eyes again when we leave for the island?
Pamela: But of course, Master. How could I possibly burn the image of aught but the property of Sunfold into my eyes?
Dimguil: I see. I think you might be quite attractive to humans and vampires alike if you were to show your eyes. But it’s true that some men are, strangely enough, attracted to blindfolded women. I suppose you wouldn’t have many problems.
Pamela: Wh, what do you mean by that, Master?!
Dimguil: I’m talking about your love life, Pamela.
Watson (Detective’s assistant?): *chomp* *munch* More meat, please.
Hilda (Village girl): The castle’s always so lively after dusk. It’s like there’s a masquerade happening here every night. …Come to think of it, do you know how to dance, Relic?
Relic (Vampire lord): I think it’s more lively during the day thanks to all the tourists. Although I’m always asleep then, so I guess I wouldn’t really know. …Wh, what? No, I’m not avoiding your question. Really.
Growerth was an ordinary island in northern Germany.
It followed the laws of Germany, and like other parts of the country, it was governed by the hands of humans for the goal of a democratic welfare state.
Humans living their lives, raising families, making money, and building up their culture—it was a perfectly typical tourist town, little different from any other.
With the exception of the minor fact that the island was home to a large population of vampires.
Being in a position of political power did not guarantee knowledge of vampires. Presidents and prime ministers could be in the dark, while employees at a bakery by the parliament building might know about them.
And depending on the place, there was the chance that a human being who was actually half vampire was the mayor of a small city. One such place was the city of Neuberg on the island of Growerth. Watt Stalf, elected twice now in the municipal elections that took place once every six years, was without a doubt a dhampyr. But thanks to his affable nature, he was popular with a large majority of the citizens, political affiliation notwithstanding.
However, this only spoke for his face as a human being. As a vampire, he put on a different mantle. But most people did not know this—in fact, most people did not know about the existence of vampires to begin with.
Of course, some citizens knew about vampires, about the Lord of Waldstein Castle, and the caverns underneath the island. But because such people never went out of their way to disclose these facts, Growerth continued to function today as an island of humans.
Being an island of humans also naturally meant—
Like any other human settlement, shady murder cases did occur on the island. And like any other settlement, sometimes such cases were lost to the city’s labyrinthine streets forever.
And perhaps Neuberg’s minor difference—the presence of vampires—would shed some light on such normally-unsolved cases.
Whether the humans wanted it or not.
“This is Juna Riebeluka from ZZZ Network, reporting from the island of Growerth in northern Germany. This morning, the body of Ms. Zara, who was recently reported missing, was found in the harbor area. She is the third victim of the serial murder-kidnapping cases that have been plaguing the island since last weekend. Investigators say that the body was found at the precise location that was announced to the police and media, making it likely that the announcement was sent by the kidnapper. The mayor of the city of Neuberg, Mr. Watt Stalf, has issued a statement requesting the cooperation of the investigators—“
Prologue: The storyteller doth arrive!
It should have been a night to celebrate.
The night he would finally break free of his past and take a new step towards the future.
It was the middle of the night. He was abiding in the silence of the rooftop.
His name was James Sutherland.
Just a few years ago, he was a seventeen-year-old engineer at a small furniture factory, with the resolute dream—or vain delusion—of one day being recognized globally for his designs.
But then came an unavoidable turning point in his life.
It was brought on by a being who both defied reality and description.
A being more commonly known as a vampire.
The memories of losing his beloved, to whom he had promised his future, played back like a movie on the back of his eyelids.
The monster sunk its fangs into the woman’s neck. But it did not subjugate her or turn her into a living corpse. All it did was tear out her carotid artery.
The sensation of her blood spouting onto his cheek. He could still feel it, clear as day.
But today would be the end. He would no longer be chained by such memories.
He was not certain if the vampire really existed. He even began to think that everything he saw that day was just a hallucination. But the warmth of her blood on his face cried out, endlessly reminding him that his memories were real. He found himself stepping onto the ridiculous path of seeking out the vampire.
And so, James Sutherland finally found an answer!
There was indeed a creature different from humans!
A vampire! His lover’s murderer, and his own sworn enemy!
He stepped into a building where the vampire’s soirée was supposedly taking place.
The humans gathered there must have been enslaved by the monster. It occurred to him that perhaps he should kill them as well, but because he had no reason to fight every person on the premises, he quietly asked them, “where is the vampire?”. The people gathered there exchanged glances, each and every one, and told him with a laugh that the vampire was moonbathing on the rooftop. Although he was curious to know if these people knew he was here to kill the vampires, he trusted what they told him and went up to the roof.
And there, it happened.
He came face-to-face with the terrible monster that stole his life away—the vampire!
‘Shut up’, he said.
But his voice echoed aimlessly across the rooftop.
After all, there was no one here to speak other than himself.
“Shut up! Whose voice is this?! Where the fuck are you yammering from?!”
“I’m not yammering, you know. And that thing just now—that was a silent voice. One that doesn’t create vibrations in the air.”
The voice was different from the one ringing through his head. It was a sound with a clear source—a sound created by an organism’s vibrating vocal cords.
When James turned to the source of the voice, he found me standing there.
He had a suspicious pair of goggles over the top of his face. Like a set of mirrors, the lenses of the smartly-crafted goggles cast a distorted reflection of James and the moonlight. The man was probably about twenty years old. His shimmering black hair glinted in a different way from the surface of the goggles.
He was wearing a black, high-end tuxedo, though without a necktie. The top was obviously expensive, though unbuttoned, making it very difficult to tell what kind of man he was.
In front of this suspicious man, James thought to say, ‘Shut up, you monster!’.
“Shut up, you—…?”
At that moment he finally understood.
The man before him—in other words, me—was reading his thoughts and speaking directly into his mind.
“I see. So I appear to be about twenty to your eyes. Just to let you know, My time stopped when I was seventeen years old.”
“Shit… what the hell are you?!”
“I think you already know. Of course, it looks like you want to deny that answer. The fact that this creature you so wanted to kill could be so terrifying.”
The man felt it to his bones.
He realized just what kind of a creature he was trying to murder.
“I told you to shut up!”
He cried out again to dispel his fear—
“Shut up… shut up shut up shut up shut up shut up shut up! Shut up shut up shut up shut up shut up shut up shut up! ————! ———————————!! —!!!!! ——!! —————————!! —————————————!!”
Shouting won’t… Whoops. Maybe I should say this out loud.
“Shouting won’t stop me, you know. I’m sorry to tell you this, but this is a hobby of mine. It’s become a habit, you see. Taking my time to read someone’s thoughts while teasing them.”
“————————————————————!! —————————AAAAAAAAAHHHHHH! AAAAAAAARRRRRRGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!”
Oh. So you didn’t hear what I said out loud.
Hey, I told you shouting won’t do you any good.
A bunch of ‘aaarrrrggghhh’s? You’re just going to embarrass me.
Well now. I guess I’ll talk to you with this voice.
How’re you going to avenge the girl in that sorry state?
You’re going to draw that katana you have slung behind your back and try to behead me with a horizontal slice. See? I told you so.
You’re an open book. You know I’m talking into your mind, and you know I can read your thoughts. But you still pick and choose a target before you lunge. Really, the pinnacle of stupidity. You say you’re fighting for your beloved—your murdered lover—but that’s a complete lie. I bet this is what the girl’s thinking—
‘Please don’t put yourself in danger for my sake.’
…right? But you’re selfishly picking a fight you can’t even win! With techniques so basic that even I can predict them! Heh heh heh. Sorry. I lied. I lied just now. It was a tiny piece of fiction I made up. Heh heh. You really are fighting for your beloved. And I bet this is what the girl’s thinking—‘Kill that son of a bitch even if it kills you. Skewer the little shit until he screams like a fucking bitch and avenge my death’. That’s right. You are fighting for her. Hm? I just acknowledged your goal, didn’t I? So why’re you getting angry? You know, your girlfriend was pretty amusing when she wept in that voice. Heh heh… Heh heh heh heh! See? Your moves are getting even easier to read. I can see clear as day where you’re going to attack next.
Oh. You stopped moving.
Did you overheat? Your mind is totally blank.
I guess you did put your all into it. Here, a sign of my respect. I’ll talk to you normally.
“I don’t blame you for being confused. I put a few dozen seconds’ worth of words into your brain in just a couple of seconds. But that’s not enough to overload you. If I wanted to, I could cram years, decades, or centuries of information—not just sights, but sounds, smells, tastes, and sensations—all into your brain at once in a single clump. Then your mind really might fry. I’m no brain scientist, so I can’t explain anything about synapses to you, though.”
“Oh. Kneeling already? You’re shaking. Covered in cold sweat, too. You’d better not overdo it.”
“Don’t make such a scared face. C’mon. Give me one of those murderous glares again.”
“…All fried, huh. I guess the party’s over.”
Oh, since we’ve come this far, let me engrave a little piece of information into your mind.
I’m not the one who killed your fiancée. All that stuff I said earlier was just me trying to provoke you.
You seem to be under the impression that I’m the only vampire in the world. Let me correct that.
In other words, your coming here was a simple misunderstanding. A complete misstep.
As James collapsed in a heap, the bespectacled vampire turned his back and sighed. Although vampires did not necessarily have to breathe, they still had the option of doing so. Vampires inhaled, exhaled, and blinked in different ways depending on the individual, but most were similar to humans. Some vampire-borns also breathed and blinked unconsciously, but the cause was still a topic of research among certain vampires.
Realizing that he had sighed, the bespectacled vampire shrank back slightly and addressed the stairwell leading inside.
“Eavesdropping, Dorrikey? You detectives and your sick hobbies.”
Reacting to the thought was another ‘mental voice’, this one coming from the stairwell.
(Like you’re one to talk, Mirald. Unlike you, I can’t use telepathy, so I don’t know what you said to that man. But it was obviously something despicable.)
Listening in to the sarcastic thoughts coming from the stairwell, Mirald spoke out loud.
“If you’re a detective, why not try and deduce what happened between me and that man? I’m sure what I said with my mouth was enough for you to figure something out.”
“(Damn it—if I can’t deduce this, I’ll be humiliated)Unfortunately, I make a policy of reserving my deductions for proper cases.”
“Finally, you talk. Although your mind’s been spewing words for a while now.”
“(Dammit you mind-reading bastard)You’re one hell of a bastard, Mirald. Why don’tcha just go die somewhere?”
The man in the shadows shook his head, spitting out words a little harsher than he intended, and emerged into the moonlight. The man—Key Dorrikey—was a vampire with a monocle over one eye, holding a Holmes-inspired pipe in one hand. He faced down Mirald nervously. Though Key’s clothing was weighty and fit for a nobleman, his still-youthful face and somewhat unbalanced mien made it seem as though his outfit was the center of his bearing.
“For a self-proclaimed detective, your mouth and body react too quickly. You’re far removed from rational, logical behavior.”
“(Where did that come from)What do you mean, ‘self-proclaimed’? It seems to me that our definitions of ‘rational’ and ‘logical’ are different. In any case, what are you going to do with that young man? I de-(that was close. If I said ‘deduce’, he’d remind me that I said I save my deductions for proper cases)… I suspect that he won’t show hostility to you again. Poor thing. What kind of trauma did you force into his mind?”
“Nothing terrifying, necessarily. I only informed him that I can clearly read his thoughts, his past, and his desires. A little payback for disturbing my wonderful soirée with a misunderstanding.”
Mirald shrugged. Dorrikey chuckled bitterly and thought sarcastically to himself, knowing that Mirald could hear him.
“…(How is this a ‘wonderful’ soirée, anyway? I don’t need telepathy to see what these people want from you).”
“Your… what was it now… ah. Your attempt at sophisticated reasoning is really admirable. It’s like every fiber of your being is bent on becoming a great detective. Although I do recall you being a little less refined and calling me a ‘mind-reading bastard’.”
“(Mind. Reading. Bastard.) All right. Let me put it nicely. Since you’re creepier than a beheaded cockroach that keeps crawling up the wall, why don’t you just swallow a can of insecticide whole and blow it up? That’s right. It’ll be a suicide that was carefully disguised as murder. Then I’ll solve your case and be hailed as a hero.”
“Death by insecticide explosion? I’d prefer not.”
Mirald snickered and turned his attention to the voices of the soirée attendees in the floors below.
(We are chosen people, are we not? Is it not clear as day?)
(Eternal youth so close at hand…)
(I want to be powerful.)
(That foolish young man must be dead about now.)
(I would’ve loved to personally watch that idiot being murdered.)
(It’ll be okay! I’m the most beautiful woman here! Mirald is going to like me! Damn it, I wish everyone else here was ugly as sin. Anyone who’s prettier than I am can jump off a bridge.)
(I don’t care what happens to all these people, but I can’t get on the vampire’s bad side—)
“Ah, yes. So many ambitious humans are gathered again.”
(I can’t believe that vampires really exist…)
(Oh Lord, please forgive me for participating in a vampire’s soirée. But I do not think that he is truly an enemy of humankind.)
(I hear he can read people’s thoughts. How much, though? I wonder if he can hear all this…)
(I don’t need to become a vampire. I just want to be friends with Mr. Mirald.)
(Bastard wants me to believe he can actually read minds? I’ll sell out that smug son of a bitch to the Church one day.)
“Ah, yes. Not only the lowest of the low, but the terrified, the gentle, the innocent virgins, and the spiteful… It’s a wonderful night full of all sorts of voices! Cheers! I propose a toast to myself!”
“Anyway. What’re we going to do now? We should get going soon.” Dorrikey said, pulling a card from his pocket.
Written in red on the card was a message.
[I propose a meeting. All available Colors, gather at the Mars Family’s country house in Southern Germany at midnight local time on the final day of he month.
-Gerhardt von Waldstein]
It was a simple call.
The two men were officers of an Organization created by vampires, and were responsible for other vampires in their area. Mirald and Dorrikey were not responsible for many, but some officers were in charge of hundreds of vampires. In that sense, the two men here were relatively free to move about.
“We got the invitation via telepathy. Through Hawking.”
“I’ve always wondered: Hawking is supposed to be a sentient black hole, correct? Does he really exist? And can we really call him a vampire?”
“No one’s seen him with their own eyes, but I can personally guarantee that his will is on a galactic scale. Any vampire capable of telepathy can communicate with him from any location, after all.”
At that point, a certain voice entered his mind.
(Hm? Did you call?)
(I see. Have a good aeon, then.)
It was a conversation lasting 0.1 seconds.
After the short discussion, Mirald continued speaking before Dorrikey could even figure out that Hawking had chimed in.
“…And remember what Mr. Gerhardt said. ‘If you think of particles of light as blood flowing through the universe, I see no reason why he shouldn’t be considered a vampire’. So we’re in no position to complain. Although I should apologize to Mr. Gerhardt.”
“? (‘Apologize’? What’s he done now?)”
“Well, I don’t think I can make it to the conference.”
“What? You, reject Mr. Garhardt’s invitation? What are you up to?” Dorrikey asked, bewildered. Mirald grinned mischievously, his eyes narrowing.
“I’m really fond of Mr. Gerhardt, you know.”
“(Is this guy gay?)If you’re so fond of him, why don’t you attend the conference?”
“For your information, I am straight. And I’m not attracted to liquid creatures, just to add. And as for your spoken question… when I heard that he passed on his position as Lord of Growerth to his son, I realized that I hadn’t yet met the new Lord in person.”
“Being the Lord of Growerth doesn’t mean much at this point, especially since most humans don’t even know about the position… And if you really want to drop by, why not when Mr. Gerhardt is not busy?”
“That wouldn’t be any fun.”
Mirald snickered and began to imagine what the new Lord of Growerth might be like.
“When I read Mr. Gerhardt’s thoughts, I saw that he trusted his son. So is this relict—Melhilm’s artificial weapon—worthy to reign as king over all vampires? Or is he an ambassador of peace who coexists with humans? It’s because Mr. Gehardt is away that this is the perfect opportunity to visit Growerth, no?”
“(Talk about a disgusting personality)…”
“Now, separated from the support of his powerful father, what does the artificial vampire Relic von Waldstein think? Heh heh… There’s nothing as amusing as rudely listening in to people’s thoughts!”
“(I hate this guy)Just go die already. As horribly as you can.”
Mirald once more ignored Dorrikey’s harsh comment and looked up at the moon.
“Now… before we go, let me listen just a little more to these avaricious voices.”
And so, he turned his attention to the countless voices from below.
But at that point, a powerful, singular will echoed through his mind.
(I’m hungry. Hungry. Grumble. Rare meat. I’m hungry. I’m hungry. Rare meat. Rare meat rare meat rare meat rare meat rare meat rare meat. Meat. Meat. Meat. Meat. Meat—)
That was the extent of coherent thought. The rest of the individual’s thoughts consisted of a rapid series of images of the individual’s incredible hunger and the moment of finally getting to partake in meat.
“Your assistant is drooling over my guests.”
“!! W, Watson?!”
Mirald watched his friend hurry down the stairwell and turned around.
James was kneeling, nearly back to his senses, looking up at Mirald blankly.
“You don’t understand what just happened, I see. Well, Watson is… no. Why don’t you just look into it yourself?”
Mirald looked down at James with neither sympathy nor scorn, but childlike curiosity. He shrugged.
“To you, I’m just a simple storyteller. That’s why I’m not going to take your life. Like I said earlier, I’m not the one who murdered your beloved. But if you still can’t forgive me… come back once you’ve grown. Although I can’t guarantee that I would have grown by that point. I might end up playing tricks on you. But if that ever happens, I’ll at least explain the situation you’ve gotten yourself into.”
Remembering what just happened, James cried out and embraced himself, trembling.
In his mind flashed an image. The moment of his beloved’s death.
Mirald looked at the vampire in the image, and shook his head. And instead of mocking the young man, he slowly began to turn himself into fog from the feet up.
The mysterious fog distorted the air, reflecting multiple moons in James’s line of sight.
When the kaleidoscopic scene faded, James found himself hoping somehow that everything up to this point had been a hallucination.
Reading James’s thoughts while in fog form, Mirald chuckled wryly and left his body to the winds.
‘Now, then. Relic von Waldstein.
‘I guess I should go meet you now. And tell you a little about yourself.
‘Seeing as you’re Mr. Gerhardt’s son, I hope you know to be discreet.’