Part 15Music: play track 1
Arcueid said she was weak.
She said she was at her limit just a while ago, so I don't think she considered what I could do after she went to sleep.
The room is quiet.
We're on the eleventh floor, the top floor. Since she rented out the whole floor, there are no other guests here.
The only sound is Arcueid's breathing.
When I see her like this---she really looks nightmarishly beautiful.
That white, smooth skin and that silky, light blonde hair,
The soft lines of her body and those long eyelashes that look like swift brushstrokes.
A perfect body--down to even the small details--the like of which I've never seen before.
You know what you have to do, Shiki.
No, to be more precise...
...... The kind I never would have seen in my entire life.
Sensei even told me.
My eyes are strange, so they would in turn attract strange things.
Then I should be prepared to take responsibility.
At the very least, I should keep my promise and protect her for tonight----
The kind you see when you wake up.
That color calls some nostalgic memories to mind.
Chiiirp. Chirp Chirp.
Chiiirp. Chirp Chirp.
Cicada shells are lying in the clearing.
As if the sun is right by my side,
the clearing is roasting.
A hot midsummer's day.
As if the entire world became a frying pan.
waa, u, uwaaa.
waa, u, uwaaa.
waa, u, uwaaa.
Akiha is crying.
Japanese sure do love their onomatopoeia.
Akiha, who would always obediently stay close behind me, is brimming forth with tears.
The adults are coming.
The fallen child is still dead.
The adults are yelling.
Did you kill him----!?
Music: play track 3
"It's not 'Eh?' I told you to wake me up when the sun went down, and you go and fall asleep!"
"...... Crap. Sorry, I was feeling out of it."
I guess Arc isn't the only narcoleptic one. A perfect match!
...... I don't remember when I fell asleep, but I'm sure it was while I was staring at Arcueid's sleeping face.
"Geez. You'll lose your qualification as a bodyguard like that. If the enemy had attacked while we were both sleeping, we could have both died, you know."
"---I said I'm sorry. Besides, you said it was safe during the daytime."
"I can't say that for sure. Familiars like the one we saw this morning could have come for us."
Arcueid is angry.
...... Well, she's got a right to be. I've got no right to talk when I, the bodyguard, dozed off while she was sleeping.
"And besides. I am a vampire, you know. How can you just sleep there without feeling any danger?
I don't want you to be afraid for no reason, but it'd be nice if you were at least tense enough not to sleep."
I take that back.
Arcueid doesn't seem to care that I didn't do my job as a bodyguard. She just doesn't seem to like the fact I fell asleep.
"I can move my body a little better and wake up, only to find you sleeping there happily. You looked so vulnerable, I was seriously starting to feel uneasy that I might not have the dignity befitting a vampire."
Well, I don't think she has much dignity.
Say, you killed me. Wanna go to my hotel and guard me? I don't see what can go wrong with this.
"Now that you mention it, you're right. ---I wonder why I did that? I guess I just had complete confidence in you since we spoke in the alley."
...... Well, saying that doesn't make me feel bad for her...
"Okay. Since you trust me so much, I'll try my best. So, should I just keep watch from now on?"
"Yeah, until sunrise tomorrow. I can't leave the room, so be on guard if someone comes up to this floor."
...... Be on guard, huh. Being on guard is going to do me no good if one of those black dogs from this morning comes for us.
Shiki seems to conveniently forget that he can kill anything, using only a piddly little knife.
I let out a sigh. As expected, this is too heavy a role for me.
"...... Let me ask you something. Was the black dog that attacked us this morning something your enemy sent out?"
"I don't think so, it was probably for surveillance. His patrol route happened to pass through where you and I were talking, and it seems my presence was revealed as a result."
...... Arcueid's enemy. In other words, the serial killer who's been causing the stir in this town---a vampire.
"...... Arcueid. I want to ask you something. Will you answer my question?"
"I don't mind talking. But why are you being so formal all of a sudden?"
"---Yeah, I haven't asked you the most important thing yet... So, what's your ultimate objective here?"
Music: play track 1
"Me? I'm here to hunt down the vampire. Killing vampires is my duty."
"Yeah, I do remember you saying something like that before. But you're a vampire, right?"
"What? You still don't believe me?"
"Oh, don't worry, I believe you so much it hurts. I'm asking why would you, a vampire, claim to be doing something as odd as killing other vampires?"
"Oh? You don't like the idea of beings from the same species killing each other?"
...... The act of killing doesn't exactly make my list of favorite things, but she is right. I'm not comfortable with the idea of vampires killing vampires.
"......? Then you're saying something makes you different from the vampire you're hunting?"
"That's right. The one I'm after is a human vampire, just like the stereotypical vampire from you humans' folklore.
He kills humans by draining their blood, turning them into The Dead, then uses them to increase his power and influence---that's the sort of vampire I hunt.
The one lurking in this town is that sort of old-style vampire."
---"That sort" of vampire? It seems like there are different types.
"...... Don't tell me you want me to be your shield so you can get this guy."
"---Yeah, that was my original intent. But after talking to you, I've changed my mind.
You see, at first, I thought you were someone from the Church.
So I thought you might have information about the location of the enemy, but you turned out to be a perfectly ordinary person.
You didn't even know about vampires, let alone the location of the enemy's coffin."
"I don't follow you at all, Arcueid."
"Ah, hold on for a moment... let's see... How should I explain this...?"
With that, Arcueid's gaze begins drifting.
...... She doesn't seem used to holding a conversation.
"Don't worry about it and just explain everything about the current situation. I don't understand any of this, but I might be able to see the general gist of things."
"Really? Thanks, Shiki."
"You don't have to thank me. Just keep talking."
Arcueid nods obediently.
He's not very powerful right now as he doesn't have many Dead serving him, but as the victims increase, so does his power.
It would be best to destroy the main body before that happens, but I haven't found where he sleeps yet.
He's hidden so well right now I can't even feel his presence."
...but then, SOMEBODY just happened to kill me... gee, I wonder who that was, hmm?
"...... I see. I kind of understand the situation now. So in other words, some evil monsters are based in this town, and you're here to eliminate them.
Since you didn't know where they were, you went looking for them, and that's when I, uh---killed you. So now you're weakened and hiding out while you recover... Is that about right?"
"To put it simply, I think so."
"---Then, next is the main topic.
You casually call yourself a vampire, but I still don't really understand that term.
...... It's obvious you're not a human, that much I can see, but I don't get the feeling that you're a vampire, either."
"Alright. Then the first period's lessons will be Vampires 101."
"...... Okay, but... What's with 'Vampires 101'?"
"You're an amateur at this, so we've got to start with the basics, right? That's why I'm going to start teaching from the very beginning."
"---Okay, whatever. Just keep it short."
Music: play track 9
"Although we're typically called simply 'vampires', we're divided into two main categories.
Those who were vampires from the start, and those who become vampires.
The former are called True Ancestors, and the latter are called the Dead Apostles.
The ones you call vampires are the Dead Apostles. They drain the blood of humans and turn them into their slaves. They're weak against sunlight, and you can vanquish them with a baptism ritual.
Our enemy is one of these Dead Apostles."
It's gone from "my enemy" to "our enemy".
...... Well, I don't mind. She's not wrong, considering the situation I'm in now.
"...... Hmmm. So you're saying these Dead Apostles aren't vampires from the start? What do you mean by that?"
"Dead Apostles were once humans. They've attained immortality through magic, or had their blood sucked by one of the True Ancestors.
Either way, the ones that become vampires become immortal, even though it's imperfect immortality."
Those who were vampires from the beginning, and humans who became vampires.
...... What is this?
I get the feeling that there's some kind of huge contradiction to all of this. It feels like some important fundamental is missing somewhere in this theory.
"Yeah, that's pretty much all true.
They drain the blood of virgins because one's blood cells are more pure before one has exchanged bodily fluids with others. That makes virgins most suitable for repairing the vampire's own degenerating genes.
The Dead Apostles---the ones that become vampires have imperfect immortality.
Since they became immortal, they won't die from old age. However, they need to replenish their energy frequently, or they'll disappear. All living creatures need nutrients to be able to move, right? It's the same thing.
It's just that vampires don't die from age as long as they take in the nutrients."
"The Dead Apostles suck blood because they need it to stay alive.
Immortality is a strain on their originally-human bodies.
The genes that compose their bodies are different... when they become vampires, they begin to degenerate at an incredible rate.
To make up for that, they must drain the blood of others in order to absorb genetic information and stabilize their own bodies. To a vampire, drinking blood is not like eating, but it's the minimum requirement for them to continue to exist."
"So, moving on.
The ability to bind someone with just a look is a type of Mystic Eyes. Eyes and words are both common types of magic circuits, so there are many vampires who have Mystic Eyes.
We usually possess the Mystic Eyes of Enchantment.
We don't enchant people by looking at them, rather, we enchant those who look into our eyes. A powerful vampire using Mystic Eyes can impose his own will into the brain of another and completely dominate their thoughts, but the Mystic Eyes of a Dead Apostle doesn't have that much power."
Wolves--and other animal transformations--are a byproduct of a vampire's repairing its damaged body from its familiars.
For a vampire living a long time, stabilizing their bodies with normal lives is not sufficient.
Humans are not fundamentally powerful animals, so it's more effective to repair one's body by absorbing beasts, as they surpass the human species in this respect.
Vampires who repair their own bodies with beasts can return those beasts to their previous forms and use them as familiars when they need to."
"Hmm... from what I've heard, there's even a thousand-year old vampire whose body is made up entirely of familiars. They say he contains 666 beasts within his body, or something like that, anyway."
I think Arcueid's getting a little too wrapped up in her own speech.
To be honest, I'm not finding this world easy to understand.
"Yeah, that's about it. It's just an explanation of the very basics, but now do you know what a vampire is?"
"Well... I suppose."
The reality of Arcueid being a vampire begins to feel harder and harder to accept.
"Now, it's my turn. Actually, there's something important I've forgotten to ask you too."
"What? You're not going to learn anything from me. I'm not a vampire or anything, just an ordinary student."
"Hmmm. Then let me ask you this, Shiki. How exactly did you kill me?"
"I'm asking about the method you used. I'm resistant against stuff like Runes and Kabbalah, so those don't work on me. The only things I'm not resistant against is magic I've yet to experience, which is probably limited to the ancient Shinto in this country and the treasures in South America."
Oh yeah, I can dismantle anything by poking it with a cheap, antique knife. I kinda forgot about that. Totally just slipped my mind.
"Actually, there is one thing... I'm not sure whether it's relevant, but..."
Arcueid is still staring at me.
...... It doesn't seem like I'll be able to keep quiet about it.
Yes, she really can 'defy your expectations in a good way' ...okay, that one was reaching.
"I mean, I see these lines where things can be cut.
Living things, the ground, anything touchable.
It's like a black line, and I can cut things clean when I let anything sharp through it... does that mean anything to you?
It's convenient to be able to cut steel with a knife and all, but it's not like I can cut it anywhere I like.
I can only cut things where I can see the lines, and when I cut you--well, you can cut a girl's skin with just a knife, right?"
"----I see. I thought the Mystic Eyes of Death Perception only existed in fairy tales. But, I guess there is someone who can use them, a mutated monster like you."
"W--what!? I don't think a vampire can call me a monster!"
"A monster is a monster. There isn't anyone, even amongst us, with Mystic Eyes that can 'see the death of things'."
"...? See the death of things...?"
Arcueid nods in affirmation with an inimical gaze.
"A circuit must have opened in your eyes, Shiki. Were you born with eyes like that?"
"No. They became like this a long time ago, but I wasn't born with them."
"...... Hmm. Then you must have had at least one near-death experience at some point, right?"
It's true. Eight years ago, I got in an accident where I almost died.
"Just as I suspected. You had the latent ability, but that must have been the trigger... The Mystic Eyes of Death Perception, huh. Yes, with those, you could definitely kill even me."
With a small sigh, Arcueid's eyes return to normal.
...... I remember now.
When Sensei gave me these glasses, she had told me something similar to what Arcueid said.
But there's a subtle difference to what Sensei said and what Arcueid said.
What I'm seeing are only lines, and not something as disturbing as death.
"What are you saying? What I see are just the lines where things can be cut."
"I'm telling you, those lines are the 'death' of the object.
Listen, Shiki. Everything in existence has an end. There are differences to when, but it's an end nonetheless.
Death does not 'arrive'. It is already contained within the object at its creation, and it's bound to happen someday.
This is what is called the principle of causality. You've heard of that before, right?
As long as something has an origin, it must have an end. When it will end is determined from its beginning. That's its so-called 'time of death'.
So, as it already exists from the beginning, it's not impossible for one to see it with their eyes, given that they can comprehend the concept of a 'time of death' and they have the appropriate circuit in their brain and eyes.
When I first saw Arcueid.
When I wasn't myself.
When I took off my glasses, I could see the usual scribbles---and black points, where the scribbles seemed to flow from.
"...... There were. It only happened that one time, but---definitely. I saw black points. There were several on your body, and the black lines flowed between them, joining them up."
If I had to make an analogy, I would say they were like blood vessels.
"...... I see. 'The lines where things die easily', and 'death itself', huh? I'm surprised you've stayed alive up until now like this. You must have a very tranquil heart, Shiki."
Arcueid says this philosophically.
In my own way, I understand what she is saying, but I don't want to believe any of it.
"---What? There's no way that sort of thing exists, let alone me being able to see it...!"
"Well, you are seeing it.
Usually, when you cut a living being's neck, they die. This means it stops because you've cut it.
Conversely, you can say that if you can't cut something's neck, it won't die. Ah, this is about me, so just consider it an exception."
I think lots of things die without having their necks cut.
"See? What else can I call you but a monster?
You may just call them lines along which something can be cut, but those eyes are more special than those possessed by any other user of supernatural power in history.
You, Shiki, have the eyes that can kill anything, just like death itself."
I'm... at a loss for words.
If that really is what I see, just like Arcueid is saying...
Those black lines really are the 'time of death' for all things.
The lights are off.
The only illumination is the faint moonlight coming in through the window.
"Come on, it's alright. Try it, seriously. Ah, wait, could it be you can't see them with those glasses on?"
"-------Are you sure about this?"
I take my glasses off. Only to see the lines, of course.
At the same time, the room begins to writhe with the black lines.
"...... If I hadn't been killed by you, I don't think you'd be able to see any at all, but right now you can probably see them.
You see, although I have no 'times of death' during the night, some do appear during the day.
You could kill me because it was during daytime, but you can see my 'time of death' during nighttime now since I've used up a lot of energy to regenerate myself.
---In other words, I've lost my immortality. So, can you cut the lines on my body, Shiki?"
...... Let's see.
I think I probably could, since the lines are there, but I don't think I could do it so briskly and without hesitation like that time before.
"...... I think it'd be hard. The lines keep fading in and out, so I probably couldn't do it unless you're sleeping."
"You can't, right? That's your biggest weak point. No matter how many 'deaths' you can see, you need to trace the line with your own hands.
No matter how weak I am right now, my athletic ability isn't so low that I'd be caught by you."
I feel a stab of pain run through my head.
Looking at the lines gives me a headache, just like it did when I was a child.
I put on my glasses, and the world returns to normal.
Arcueid is staring intently at me.
"...... What? Is there something else?"
"No, that's not it. You can't see the lines if you put those glasses on?"
"Yeah. I got them from someone a long time ago, when my eyes first became like this. I'm only using the lenses now, but thanks to them, I can lead a normal life."