And a Vamp! update.
Interlude 3: The Mayor Doth Declare Candidacy!
Over ten years ago. An abandoned factory.
[Ah, here you are.]
“…That you, Lord of fucking everything? I was just thinking it might be pretty damned badass to get shot down by the cops.” Watt snickered masochistically.
[This was the second favorite haunt of my friend Lorenz. And speaking of his favorite haunts… he was quite proud of how he met you at the abandoned church.]
“Tch. No shit. That’s where he kicked out the whole crew I rounded up.”
[Not so. He boasted about you. I still remember how his soul lit up as he said, ‘I’ve found an interesting friend’. It was quite unusual for him to speak, not of his own exploits, but of someone else. I recall each and every word of that unusual conversation.]
“…So now you’re here to get revenge for your old buddy.” Watt said with a shrug.
Perhaps he had been shot by the police—his clothes were torn in places, his regenerating wounds peeking through the gaps.
But Gerhardt also made a gesture like he was shrugging, and wrote in a very firm font:
[I am not here to play the villain. I am quite certain that you are not the one who took his life.]
“What makes you so sure?”
[Perhaps you may be villainous enough to murder Lorenz in spite of the fact that he helped you. But you are not the sort of man to take off in fear after the act of killing him. You would sooner take an innocent hostage or set up an ambush, fighting the police force until, to your satisfaction, you turn to ash. I could not imagine you fleeing without putting up any sort of resistance.]
“Are you makin’ fun of me, or are you trying to flatter me? Stick to one side, you little shit.”
Ignoring Watt’s irritation, Gerhardt continued.
[Also… I was just coming back from seeing his body. There was a look of satisfaction on his face.]
[That is why the identity of his killer bothers me. I was merely wondering if, perhaps, you knew.]
“Is that any way to ask a human a favor?”
Though he was quite badly injured, Watt was forcing himself to put up a strong front. The viscount calmly continued.
[I understand that I am in no position to ask a favor of you. But I am not so magnanimous as to pass off my friend’s death as part of some natural cycle of karma. Would you not tell me, Watt?]
There was nothing different about the way Gerhardt spoke. That was exactly why Watt could tell how serious he was.
“Just come out and say it straight. You could’ve even threatened me from the beginning.” He grumbled. Then, Watt exhaled quietly and recounted what he had seen.
“The one the stabbed the old bastard? It was his son.”
[His son? That is a surprise.]
The viscount seemed shocked, but Watt could not tell if it was the existence of Lorenz’s son or the fact of his stabbing that surprised him.
“First I heard about the guy, too. The old bastard sent me to get him a pack of cigarettes, and the next thing I know, he’s hunched over getting stabbed by some asshole I’d never seen before.”
There was a slight grin on his face, but not even Gerhardt could read the eyes behind Watt’s sunglasses.
[And that was his son?]
“Didn’t know back then, though.”
They continued to speak, prodding for information, but Gerhardt could tell that Watt was not lying. Though he had no solid evidence, he did not even think of suspecting the young dhampyr. To be more accurate, it was a hopeful hunch that a young man Lorenz had found interesting would not lie about his death.
And, unusually for Watt, he confessed everything to the viscount at that point.
“I went up to the guy. I was gonna fuck him up, but the old bastard—the asshole stabbed him everywhere—he grabbed my leg and stopped me. And the shithead son of a bitch who stabbed him took off.”
“…Why the hell’d you stop me, you fucking bastard?! The asshole stabbed you! The ambulance can wait until I pulverize that son of a bitch!” Watt cried without thinking. But the bloodied old man chuckled.
“…That’s exactly why I stopped you.”
Not understanding what the old man was saying, and not knowing what to do himself, Watt crouched down in front of Lorenz.
“Fine, fine. I’ll call a doctor! We can talk later!”
“It’s too late, boy. Wounds like this are a bit too much for an old man like me.” Lorenz said, although he didn’t sound at all urgent. Watt snapped back in confusion.
“Th, this is insane! Wh, why the hell d’you get stabbed, anyway?! Why?! That son of a bitch just now looked even younger than me. He was shaking like a fucking leaf! I can take him. I’ll catch up and—“
The old man guffawed and shook his head weakly.
“Never you mind. This is family business. There’s nothing for you to do—leave this to the police.”
“What the hell’re you talking about?”
“That boy just now is my son. I got a woman pregnant on this island when I was sixty-five.” Lorenz said nonchalantly.
“…The fuck?!” Watt exclaimed.
“That’s a perfectly normal reaction. But anyway… Things might’ve been simpler if I were just another casanova, but there was a lot going on at the time.”
According to Lorenz, he had gotten into some trouble with a smuggling ring that worked on the mainland. Fearing for the safety of his lover and their unborn child, he had willingly chosen a life of homelessness.
The son had no idea about his father’s situation, and resented him for abandoning the family. His hatred slowly led him into delinquency, and by some chance, he ended up being ordered by a gang to carry out a certain task.
The old man at the abandoned church, who prevented the gang from setting up base on the island—if he were to kill the old man, the gang would accept him into their ranks and give him the job of go-between for Growerth and the mainland. And depending on his accomplishments, they even promised him leadership over smuggling jobs on Growerth.
Believing their offer, the boy was, in a way, much like Watt in the past. Wanting to be a heavyweight of the underworld, he chose to murder an old man.
Not knowing that the old man was his own father.
“I knew, you see… At first I thought he just wanted revenge for the way I left him and his mother. So I let him stab me.”
“What the hell?! Are you out of your fucking mind?!” Watt swore, but the old man nodded with a grin.
“Hah hah. I once made a vow to myself. If the son I abandoned came to kill me one day, I would let him take my life.”
“…That makes no sense! You did that for your woman and the kid!”
“That doesn’t matter. If I were a little more clever, or a little stronger… if I had been a little more cunning with the smuggling ring, I never would have had to abandon them in the first place. Even when the gang went quiet for a while, I didn’t know how I’d face my son. So I never did. That’s why I deserved to be stabbed.”
His expression clouded over.
“But… do you know what he said when he stabbed me? ‘Sorry, old guy. Now I’m set to join the gang’. Then I thought, wait—this boy doesn’t even know that I’m his father.”
The old man grinned, blood spilling from his mouth, and continued impishly.
“I didn’t mind being killed, but I couldn’t just let him go not knowing. so I said, ‘take care of your mother. And those smugglers, by the way—they’d kill her without a second thought, so don’t even think about joining them’.”
“Aren’t you supposed to keep your mouth shut at a time like that?!” Watt hissed, forgetting for a moment that Lorenz was gravely wounded.
The old man chuckled in agreement.
“I’m no saint. I’ve told you before—I was a gang member. But that boy of mine has a surprisingly good head on his shoulders. I think he understood what I meant. He started trembling, saying I must have been lying. That was when you came in.”
“That’s why you let him go.”
“Calm down. Leave the boy. Whether he has the gall to join the smuggling ring, whether he turns himself in, or commits suicide… that’s all up to him. But I still couldn’t let him be beaten to death. I had to stop you.”
At that point, Watt began to stop fearing for the old man. Though he was covered in wounds, a dying man could not possibly talk so much, he reasoned. The wounds must not have been life-threatening. There was a great deal of blood pooled around Lorenz, but it was not nearly enough to kill him.
Watt slowly regained his calm and returned to his senses.
“…And you think that’s going to help your kid, old man?”
“Who knows? But I won’t be able to rest easy if you became a murderer on account of my family.”
“Cut your worryin’. I’m a vampire.”
“Not completely, you aren’t. You’re half human. Listen up. Since you’re neither human nor vampire, you don’t need to abandon either side. You’re a cunning young man. You can deal with them both. …And now that I think about it, whenever I see Gerhardt, he never stops talking about you. I see he must be just as entertained as I am.”
Lorenz snorted and continued.
“All this blood reminds me of the viscount. Boy. Open up that pack I sent you to get.”
“Enough about the fucking blood monster.” Watt spat, and handed the pack of cigarettes to the old man.
As usual, Lorenz opened up the pack and lit it with a lighter from his pocket.
‘I knew it. This guy’s completely fine.’
“Heh. Try to be friends with him, eh? I think you’ll make a fine team.”
“Fuck off.” Watt replied. Lorenz gave a wry smile and inhaled.
“Feels good. Put the money on my tab.”
‘He’s gonna live to be a hundred at the rate he’s going.’
Watt frowned, but he thought he should try and stop Lorenz’s bleeding. The old man continued to speak.
“I was scared to face my son. I thought I might make up for it somehow by looking after young punks like the Geissendorfer boy… but I was wrong. Helping people doesn’t absolve you of your sins.”
“Took you long enough, genius.”
‘“Look after” my ass. All he did was send me on errands.’ Watt grinned, about to voice his thought—
“But I don’t regret… looking after you punks.”
With a triumphant smile, almost too full of life for a man past eighty—
His cigarette fell into the pool of blood.
And Watt realized that he could never curse at the old man again.
“…Shit. I’m half-vampire. How the hell was I supposed to know how much blood a human can lose before kicking the bucket?” Watt shrugged. “After that, I got caught by a cop who happened to be passing by. And now I’m a wanted man.”
Watt was laughing. Gerhardt replied calmly and gravely.
[I have a contact on the police force. I will speak with my friend immediately.]
“…You looking down on me? Like hell I’m gonna be in your debt.”
[Make no mistake. This is my gift to Lorenz. He will not want you to be arrested and sentenced for a crime you did not commit. No more than he would want his own son arrested.]
“Whatever. I’m not gonna thank you. I’m not obligated to, anyway.”
With a click of the tongue, Watt turned his gaze to the scene around him and changed the topic.
“First an abandoned church. And now an abandoned factory. This island is full of goddamned rubble.”
[I fear I cannot deny that observation. This island was a more energetic place in the past.]
“The old bastard said… He got into that shit with the smugglers ‘cause they were trying to use this island.”
With a crack of the neck he continued, his tone almost joking in nature.
“With this economy, there’s obviously gonna be asshats who jump at the chance to join ‘em. And law enforcement here’s a fucking joke. The old bastard went out and ran circles around ‘em instead of staying in his fucking bed like a geezer should, and ended up getting into one hell of a mess.”
[What are you trying to say?]
“If this island were in better shape, things might have been different.” Watt said, curiosity and resentment filling his voice.
Gerhardt did not shy away from the unspoken question.
[I understand what you are trying to say, and I’ll not deny your accusation. Though I call myself the Lord of Growerth, I am powerless to intervene in matters of economy and politics.]
“All right. But if you just set your goons loose on the smugglers, they’d be fish bait by this point. Well? There’s no law that applies to you vampires. You can technically do whatever the hell you feel like with ‘em.”
[Indeed, I am a vampire. Perhaps if the Church were involved, things might be different—but I cannot be brought to justice in a human court. But that does not mean that I believe I can behave as I please.] Gerhardt wrote in a dignified font. Watt chuckled bitterly and clicked his tongue.
“A hundred points for the teacher’s pet. You know what? You’re right. You are. But I’m not gonna accept you, whether you’re right or wrong, Count—wait, scratch that. I will accept you, then I’ll swallow you whole.”
[An interesting thought. But I would like to ask why you insist on calling me a count.] Gerhardt scolded gently. Watt snorted.
“Heh. You said you got the nonexistent title because you don’t actually exist? Fucking hell. A dhampyr like me can see you right here. And you’re even going around like a shit hypocrite—don’t you have any shame? ‘Count’ is more than good enough for you, asshole.”
[Ah, that is an understandable reason. But I would prefer, for clarity’s sake, that you correct yourself and call me a viscount.] Wrote the pool of blood, trembling as though in laughter.
Watt snorted again. Then, though his injuries were still not healed, he got on his feet.
“You know when I’ll call you a viscount? When you do something that I can’t.”
Having passed on Lorenz’s final words, Watt turned. He was no longer under any obligation to speak to the man who believed in his innocence.
“But before that… I’ll do stuff that you’ll never even dream of.”
The next day, the smugglers on the island were arrested. As a result, an investigation on the organization on the mainland began as well.
Officers responded to a report about gunshots coming from the alleys the previous night. There, they found a group of delinquents who had been beaten unconscious, their hands and feet tied up. A short distance away they found a young man crumpled on the floor, his knees weak. The young man testified that he had been tricked by the smugglers into stabbing his own father to death. When he had realized that his target was his father, the young man had complained to the smugglers and was nearly killed.
Things were quite clear up to that point, but the rest of the young man’s testimony was deemed a hallucination brought on by the shock of killing his own father.
“It was a vampire… A vampire saved me! They shot him so many times I thought for sure he was dead… but then his body turned into bats, and…!”
‘Ah, a vampire.’ Thought some members of the police force, but as they could not record such information on official reports, they instead made it so that the young man was rescued by a passing martial artist.
By the time Gerhardt realized from that story that Watt had been shot, not by the police, but the smugglers hiding on the island—
Watt Stalf had already disappeared from Growerth.
Present day. On the back of a truck in Southern Germany.
[I had assumed that his wounds were from a confrontation with the police. But the reason he sounded like he had overcome Lorenz’s death when I spoke to him was because he had already done what was necessary. Though I was surprised that he had for the first time accomplished the feat of transforming his body into bats, I was also shocked that he had defeated the smugglers without taking a single life.]
Gerhardt shook as he reminisced about the nostalgic past.
[He disappeared for some time afterwards. How shocked I was when I heard Watt’s name next. Having graduated from a university, he had joined a political party and declared candidacy for mayor!]
“And now he’s the mayor of your island.”
[When he spoke of something that I could not do, I first thought that he was speaking of defeating the smugglers. But when I thought on it, I remembered that, at that point, he had already defeated them. And what he said was indeed true—he could run for candidacy because he had records as a human being.]
“That was around the time he came into contact with us.” Melhilm said, thinking over what he heard of Watt’s past. “As a vampire, he is nothing but a violent petty villain. But… you’re right. I take back what I said about his being scum. …However, that does not mean that I forgive him. You will not convince me to forget that he is my enemy.”
Gerhardt shook happily at his friend’s declaration.
[And I will not try to convince you otherwise, my friend. You reap what you sow. So long as you do not involve the people of the island, as you did during the Carnale Festival, I have nothing about which to complain.]
“I still don’t understand. What in the world do you see Watt Stalf as?”
[I consider him an excellent rival. After all, he is the noblest of petty villains.]
Slowly raising his body, Gerhardt continued.
[If Waldstein Castle reigns over the Night, as the guardian of the vampires, Mayor Stalf is the guardian of the Day—of the humans.
[Of course, he seems to be quite fond of working late. Perhaps he will one day try to extend his guardianship to the Night as well.]