"Tohno-kun, can you walk?"
"----Barely. We're going to kill Roa, so we can't go in like this."
"That's true. Then please walk on your own from here."
Senpai lowers me to the ground.
It's a miracle! He can walk again! He's HEALED!
"...... What isn't good?"
"...... Yes, the True Ancestors are said to be originally from the moon, so they gain much strength from the moon.
This is the same for Roa, as a Dead Apostle under the True Ancestors, so he is practically immortal tonight.
...... With my current equipment, I may not be able to fully kill him."
She grits her teeth.
But that doesn't mean a thing to me.
If I can get close. Even if in the next instant I'll be stabbed in the chest once more, if I can get close----I can pierce his "death".
"----It's very bright tonight. It will be difficult to conceal ourselves in darkness.
...... I'm rather fond of moonlit nights, but it's a little different tonight."
...... The pale shining moonlight and the frigid night air.
I can even see the lines of death growing.
"Really? I don't like moonlit nights."
That sounds like a pretty severe problem.
"...... Rather than in sunshine, I can unpleasantly see everything clearly in the weak moonlight. I like the strong sunshine that erases everything, or a real darkness."
Not pain, but my brain actually does start creaking.
"Man----It seems like I'll go especially crazy tonight.
Everything seems to die easily, it's like I'm in the deserts of the moon."
----But, with this,
there's no way I'll miss Roa's "death" either.
"Tohno-kun, we'll split up here."
Senpai says this suddenly.
"From here on, please go ahead by yourself. I will be doing something else."
"...... Something else----Senpai, you're going to do something?"
"Now look, even my goal is to deal with Roa. It seems this Roa is stronger than his previous hosts, so I can't face him directly.
When you and Arcueid are killed by Roa, I will use that opening to dispose of him."
She says this directly with a serious expression.
Gee, thanks, good to know we can always count on you.
"...... You really seem serious, Senpai."
"Yes. That was the last time I'm letting personal circumstance enter my work.
You're fighting for her, aren't you, Tohno-kun? Like that, I also have my reasons. So from now on----I cannot help you."
"Oh............ yeah, thanks, Senpai.
Since this might be goodbye, let me say I liked you, Senpai. It was fun spending time with you and Arihiko talking about stupid things."
"----Yes, it was like a dream for me too."
Music: play track 6
He's in pretty damn good shape for a guy that couldn't stand 5 minutes ago.
I pass through the hallway and reach its intersection with that passageway.
----That's the last stop.
I start to dash towards her,
but before then,
Arcueid, still kneeling, looks up at me intensely.
I can't move......!?
The instant her eyes fixate on me, my body----as if it became stone, doesn't move at all......!
"----How awful, binding your friend with your Mystic Eyes like that. It would have been okay for you to let him die with you."
SHIKI----no, Roa, laughs amusedly.
...... She doesn't say anything.
She doesn't say anything to me.
She only glares at the enemy in front of her as she breathes painfully.
I can't even shout out.
Not because of her Mystic Eyes,
but I've finally made it here. Cursing my ineffectiveness, my body which I forced for so long starts to lose its heat.
Roa laughs loudly as he watches the two of us.
ZIP. UP. YOUR. PANTS.
"My my, you're pretty good, Shiki. It seems the princess here is going to fight me to save you.
If it were the former princess, you would be terrifying, but you are now just a regular vampire. You don't even have the power of a True Ancestor anymore.
----Geez, it would have been better if only you fell to your desires."
Arcueid's voice echoes through the hallway.
Roa stops walking forward.
"----Marble Phantasm? You can still use that? As to be expected from the royalty of the True Ancestors."
Roa retreats fearfully.
"However, you cannot win against me. Because I have something you lack."
Arcueid stops breathing.
As if ceasing all movement in order to gather up all her strength.
"You know, don't you? Right, it is the experience of death.
I know what death is, but you do not. That is our difference.
...... Well, as long as something is alive, it cannot experience death. The only one who knows is probably only an infinite reincarnator like me."
...... The wavering of everything around Arcueid grows stronger.
"Humans are instinctually afraid of the unknown. This does not change even for transcendent races like the True Ancestors. No matter how much of the occult you study, no matter how long-lived you are, you cannot experience death.
You all gain so much power by resisting death, but at the same time it is the source of your weakness.
You run away from death whereas I accept it. That is the difference in nature between you, Arcueid Brunestud, and I, Michael Roa Valdamjong.
I don't mean to interrupt your self-important diatribe, but Shiki killed Arcueid pretty early in the plot.
"----I know. About death. About the darkness. The nothingness which I have journeyed through so many times----!
To me, death is little more than a common ritual.
Let's say you destroy this body right here. I'll still remain in this world. Why don't you understand it's useless to fight me?"
Roa spreads his arms higher.
Arcueid doesn't answer.
"---Alright. If you still insist on challenging me, I will not stop you. Your resistance will be rewarded."
Does she have to put up with this shit every time she kills him?
Roa lowers his arms and crouches.
Everything around Arcueid seems to burst apart any minute now.
I can't speak.
This isn't good.
My brain screams to me. I shouldn't let this happen.
I don't know why, I don't even have proof.
Just, I, someone who has seen lots of death, can tell.
Roa and Arcueid. Which one of them is closer to death.
The sound of the air itself ripping apart.
The warping of Arcueid's surroundings propagates along the entire passageway.
In a single instant, Roa's body disappears.
Distorted, sliced, compressed.
All that remains are his ankles.
The sliding of the hallway ceases.
Maybe it only lasted a moment.
The passageway is like it was before.
Only all that's left are Roa's ankles.
But, it didn't end there.
The ankles start to move.
They start to run towards Arcueid.
As they do,
with each step, a leg, his hips, his other leg, his torso, his arms sprout to life.
I couldn't warn her in time.
The completely regenerated Roa slices through her stomach.
Like cutting cleanly through the "line", with no slicing of flesh, no flowing of blood.
"----This is the power I got from experiencing death.
Ironically, I did not know how to use this myself. But he taught me. For someone who has seen death, perceiving its form was not difficult."
Roa boasts as he kicks Arcueid.
Her body tumbles towards me.
I can move again.
----It's because the power behind her Mystic Eyes has vanished.
...... It means her power is no longer working.
She's... she's just sleeping, right?
Shaking the thought from my mind, I hold her close.
Even if you haven't been listening to the music so far, play this track right now as you read.
Music: play track 7
"You...... what kind of stupid things are you saying? Why----why did----"
...... I can't speak clearly.
I wanted to say something more, something better, but my brain doesn't work.
I can't be calm now.
As I hold her, the lack of lingering warmth in her body tells me it's hopeless.
If I took off my glasses----there's no doubt I would see something even more hopeless.
----More than anything else,
I don't want to see that.
It's all I can manage to say.
Exasperated at myself,
I hold her tightly.
...... There's no embrace in response.
She doesn't have any strength left in her.
All she does is smile happily.
"----Why----why did----why did you do it all by yourself......! We're partners, we said we'd help each other----to the very end......!
"...... Oh yeah...... that's right, yeah. I...... kind of forgot."
"How can you forget......! This--this makes me useless. I said I would help you. I said I would definitely help you----but I couldn't even help one bit."
"...... No, that's not it at all Shiki. You've helped me more than enough. ...... That's why... it's... enough... already."
She coughs up blood and smiles painfully.
"...... So... I wanted to... thank you. In the end, I'm glad... I was able... to protect you... from Roa."
...... Arcueid's glazed over eyes don't see anything.
Not her wound, or even Roa who still lives.
...... Her time.
Since attacking a while ago, ended right then.
"Ah----y-yeah. Thanks. Than... ks."
I can't even lie properly.
...... The light in her eyes is fading.
Her body warmth is rapidly approaching zero.
"...... Ar... cueid."
"...... Drink my blood. If you do that, you'll get your power back......!"
...... Not even thinking, I scream that out.
She doesn't answer.
she shakes her head.
Don't tell me you're still scared? Look, you said it before, right? You asked what if birds or fish had the same amount of intelligence, could I eat them?
I would. If it meant I would live, I would. Isn't stealing things from others to live a natural law of the world......!?"
That's what she said herself back then.
"I... don't like... talking about 'what ifs'."
But that was----my line back then.
But she said before...
She likes playing 'What if'. Because it feels like there's hope.
"---Really? I, like what ifs.
Even if it is sugarcoating things. I feel--there's always... some hope..."
isn't there? But I can't finish.
My throat is just so tight.
I can't... speak properly.
"...... That's true...... But right now, there's... something else I want more."
With a wavering voice, I ask her what it is.
"Yeah...... I want... you to kiss me... Shiki..."
Such a simple thing? Is that alright?
I press my lips to hers.
It isn't sweet like before, or gentle.
a kiss where I press my lips against her cold lips without any warmth.
she smiles as if extremely happy.
"...... I always... wanted to do... something like that."
"...... Oh? You really like strange things."
"...... Yes, but I'm still happy. Just that... felt so good. I've lived for so long... but I've never been this happy like I am now."
"I kind of thought to myself... maybe... disappearing like this might be good."
What have I been doing?
...... I wanted to make her happy.
I wanted to teach her so many things.
I wanted to take her to so many places.
I wanted to be with her forever.
But, it can never happen.
She's done it.
No matter how you look at it, there's nothing more.
Suddenly, before I could say the right thing, she went off and passed away by herself.
For my entire life------I won't be able to forget this.
This maddening calmness.
I'll never forget it.
I hear the footsteps of the man who was watching it all.
"Yeah, it's finished."
I turn towards my enemy.
Music: play track 9
"It seems those who can see death are good at escaping death. It isn't a matter of the strength or weakness of your life.
----However. Normally, people call that useless effort."
"...... You're one to talk. You and I, we've already died once."
"Exactly," Roa says as he smiles.
"Those returning from the dead can understand death. You and I are special cases of that kind.
I've experienced death seventeen times before I got to this----but you've only done it once. Honestly, it must be the difference in our latent ability. I am really curious what kind of ability it would have been if I had reincarnated in your body."
----A bothersome, overly-composed voice.
Just hearing it makes my head hurt.
"...... The first question is the most important.
You----why did you kill Arcueid?"
"Why? She was trying to kill me, so wasn't it natural to kill her back?
Well----the one I desired wasn't this weak princess who came here.
My current self could have taken apart the princess while she lived. But there's no point in taking in a True Ancestor no different from a regular vampire.
So I figured there was no value in taking her in, and decided to settle it. Even I'm disappointed with the way things have turned out."
Twisting his lips, the "enemy" laughs.
----My head, hurts.
Hurry----I have to kill him as fast as possible.
I can't stand him "existing" a single second longer.
"Well, what do you plan on doing now? Don't tell me you think you can fight me in your condition? Resisting is useless, Shiki."
...... I know that more than anyone else.
Dizziness causes me to collapse to my knees.
But still----even if I don't have any power left to even stand, I gaze at him.
Roa takes another step forward.
"Isn't this power wonderful, Shiki?
You should be happy. We're probably the only ones who possess the Mystic Eyes of Death Perception in the entire world. It would be a shame to lose such a rare ability, and more than anything else, we're the same entity. We can understand each other more than anyone else.
There's no other partner who would assure me as you."
"...... You're trying to tell me to be your partner?"
"No, not asking, I'm letting. I don't care about what you want. That would only get in the way.
You can relax----After I drink your blood and plunder even your soul, I'll make you into an existence where you won't hesitate to use your power."
"...... I see. Then the next question.
What you see, are they lines or points? No, I'll make it simpler. You can only see it on living things, right? You can't possibly see it on anything else."
"...... Hm? Of course, non-living things don't have any life. Only living things have this 'place' indicating the source of life."
"----I thought so. I understand completely, vampire."
I grip my knife.
The headache completely governs the inside of my brain, and all I can see is one thing.
"...... You're not being clear and those aren't really fitting final words...... but enough talk. There's also the hiding woman from the Church I have to deal with.
----You're lucky, Shiki. Once I make you my subordinate, your first opponent will be that woman you trust."
My wavering vision isn't fixated on his figure.
"All you're seeing is life. You don't understand death at all. That's why you can't kill me, and you're only able to kill a weakened woman."
My brain reaches a white heat.
"If you could see death, you couldn't maintain your sanity. All you can perceive is the part which keeps things alive.
If you could see death----you couldn't even manage to stand."
----To give an example, it is the world on the moon.
Everything is like a desolate wasteland.
The seam of death on everything I see.
Events of the world which disappear when I touch them.
Roa's voice falters.
...... Of course.
Because he can't even understand the slightest bit of what I'm saying.
In other words----his eyes and mine may be similar, but they're completely different things.
"----Stop it. Those eyes----don't look at me with those eyes."
Fear mixes into Roa's voice.
He even said it himself.
Humans are instinctually afraid of the unknown.
"...... You don't know of the illusion that the whole world could perish in an instant.
----That is what it means to see death.
These eyes, this power isn't something you can boast about like you did."
Yeah, back then, I was even scared of walking.
Even I would----If I hadn't met that person, I would have long since been insane.
"----I'll show you.
This is what it means to kill something."
I thrust through the hallway's "point" on the floor.
The passageway is literally killed.
The blocks which lost their meaning break apart and crumble away.
For Roa, it must have been a total surprise attack.
Pulled down by the destruction of the hallway and the collapsing rubble, Roa falls to the earth.
In front of my very eyes, the passageway crumbles away.
Enduring the pain in my head and the burning in my body, I head to the stairs.
I head past Arcueid's corpse and hurry to the courtyard.
...... He's really something.
The lower half of Roa's body is almost completely gone.
Yet coming out from underneath the rubble, the upper half of his body still moves, ignoring that fact.
This amount of life may almost be something worthy of respect.
"----What, was that?"
Quivering, Roa wonders aloud.
Walking on top of the rubble, I move directly in front of him.
Roa lifts his head to look at me.
His eyes seem to practically ooze with hatred.
His voice equally full of indignant hatred.
Replying, I stand in front of him.
"----This time, you can't come back."
----I don't care about that.
It would have been alright.
Even if I turned myself into a vegetable, it would've been worth it to stop Roa sooner.
That way, you wouldn't... had to have----
Music: play track 4
"Y, you, you------"
With bloodshot eyes, he makes his way onto my collapsed body.
"Fading, Disappearing, I...... am, dis, app----"
His bloody arms wrap around my neck. "Why, why, I----disappear, hoW, DId, yoU, kILl, ME, mEeeE, mee, mEeE mEEEME EEee----"
Opening his saw-like mouth, he moves to bite my neck.
"I WoN't... disAPpeAr, yOU, aND i, ARe CoNNEcted, You SEe. Y, ou, tRAn, sFer, mY eXisTEnce, LInks, caN nOt, be... cUT.........!"
dig into my neck.
"I'm saying, I'm the one who killed Roa.
...... No matter who your opponent is, you should not kill humans. You are not someone who should come to my world. So I'm the one who killed him."
Senpai says this haughtily as she places her hands on her hips.
But... he wasn't human...
"...... Senpai. That's just sugarcoating it."
"Maybe it is. But it is a kind lie, so isn't it okay? Even if it is hypocrisy, doesn't it allow room for hope somehow?"
Those words are similar.
When I told her not to talk about "what ifs", she answered with something like that.
"...... Yeah, that's right...... somehow----somewhere, if there's hope, then."
How happy can that be?
"But, that isn't really important, is it? Are you okay Tohno-kun? Were you bitten!?"
Senpai rushes quickly to care for me.
My consciousness fades away.
I don't want to move anymore and my brain wants to rest.
Eyes still open,
with the glass-like moon overhead,
my consciousness completely ceases.