I take a deep breath as I sit on the floor.
It's almost six o'clock in the morning.
The sky outside the window is brightening but heavily laden with clouds.
"...... Right. I should close the curtains."
I spur my tired body to stand up.
I close the curtains and sit back down again.
As I lower myself the strength drains from my knees and I collapse on the floor.
"----Man, it seems like I'm exhausted too."
It's pitiful but I can't even stand.
Come to think of it, I spent all last night talking with Arcueid and I didn't eat for more than a day.
In addition----even though I put my glasses on, I still have a headache. My brain is ringing with this headache.
"...... Arcueid...... I wonder if her wound is alright......"
Her bleeding has stopped, and she is someone who regenerates after being sliced apart... so maybe I don't have to worry.
"...... I wonder why."
Right now I'm so exhausted I could collapse.
Yet I'm more worried about Arcueid than myself----
Music: play track 9
...... I wake up to a man's generic, uninflected voice.
"Nng----Did I fall asleep?"
When I come to, I find myself lying on the floor under a sheet.
It's about past noon.
Arcueid is no longer on the bed and uninteresting news fills the room from the television.
"...... Where did Arcueid go?"
And, I sense someone in the kitchen.
"That idiot, moving around with such a wound."
I get out from under the sheet and stand up.
I have to go to the kitchen and check up on her wound.
"Next on the news. A massive number of people went missing in the early morning hours at a hotel in southern Minamiyashirogi city."
"What----are you saying? Bloodstains? It wasn't----something that small and cute."
I don't know why, but I'm amused at the thought of "small and cute" little bloodstains.
The newscaster reads off the script with a disinterested tone. The screen switches to the scene of the hotel I stayed at earlier and then lists the names of the 103 missing people.
----Of course neither my nor Arcueid's name are on the list.
"Furthermore, a large amount of wild animal hair was found within the hotel. It is presumed that the hair is connected with the suspect in some way. Some of the confirmed hair samples appear to be from a large breed of dog, wolves, and there was also evidence of a bear.
There were numerous different hair samples found on the scene. Ridiculously, what appeared to be shark bites were also reported from the scene----"
Click. I switch off the television set.
A hundred people. About a hundred people back then. In just half an hour, they were all brutally killed.
How can you say that when you have that much information.
I understand completely.
Everyone staying in the hotel was killed by those incomprehensible beasts and devoured without a trace.
A hundred people.
A hundred people... killed without even leaving their bodies behind, only blood.
The face of the man in the black coat surfaces in my memory.
I don't know who he is.
But it is no mistake to think he's behind everything that happened.
----Is my heart still numb?
Right now, hatred wins out over fear and disgust.
Or maybe----even the feelings whirling inside my chest are just another kind of fear.
I grit my teeth.
I don't know if it is regret or fear, or maybe an unpleasant revulsion.
But just recalling the face of the man in the black coat makes me want to break something, and irritates me----
"Arcueid----is... your wound okay?"
"Yes, for now."
She laughs confidently.
She seems exactly like before, probably better than I am.
"...... Oh. Then... that's good----"
At least. At least the person near me is safe.
Hey, wait a minute.
Arcueid isn't human.
Forgetting such an important thing... I'm really spaced out.
"...... Anyway, I'm happy your wound wasn't serious."
"Oh? What's wrong, Shiki? And just a little earlier you were calling me a monster."
"Idiot, I still think you are. But, that's something else. I just wanted to thank you for helping me."
Shiki has yet to realize that he IS missing, and would be on that list if anybody knew he was at the hotel in the first place.
"----But if I didn't make you watch over me, you never would have been involved in all that. I'm the one messing up your everyday life.
So wouldn't it be more appropriate for you to hate me rather than be indebted to me?"
"...... Well, certainly I do think you're a big bother. But you know, in the end I think I have to take responsibility for my actions.
...... A long, long time ago someone taught me this. She said whatever happens around me, I have to stick with things I started to the very end.
While it seems quite natural, I am a supporter of that idea."
Which is why I don't hate Arcueid.
I just feel like I'm involved in something pretty bothersome.
I don't think 'pretty bothersome' really quite covers it, dude.
"----Oh. Now that you mention it, I did say I needed a shield because you killed me. So I guess I don't have to apologize for involving you in such things."
"Right. The situation I'm in is my own fault."
"Your fault, huh. Hm, I think you have bad luck, Shiki. If only you killed some other girl than me, things never would have ended up like this."
In the first place, you can't just assume I would kill someone other than you, Arcueid.
I've only felt like that, stalked and killed only once, only Arcueid.
...... Or I want to think she would be the only one.
That's a really fucking odd metaphor.
"But no matter how superb a killer, no matter how excellent your technique, the victim this time was a poor choice.
I don't know how many people you killed until now, but I think it was time for you to be caught when you chose me as your prey."
"'Th-th-th'? What's with that scary face all of a sudden. If you want to say something it's better just to say it. We've never held anything back between us, right?"
----That may be true.
I nod and motion her to come near me with my hand.
"Hm? A secret?"
Arcueid approaches excitedly. I bring my mouth close to her ear and clearly state what I want to say.
"...... You know, Arcueid..."
Idiot, diot, iot, ot.........
My shout echoes through the room.
I strike her eardrums with full power, not holding back one bit.
I fail to see why she should be anything but surprised (or angry).
"----No way. It was your first time yet you were that skilled......!?"
"...... Yeah. Certainly I do have the strange eyes but I still lived an honest life. I never even thought once of using these "lines" to kill people."
"But--then why did you kill me? You never even saw me before."
"I don't know why either.
I just became so fixated when I saw you on the street--when I came to, I had already, sliced you into pieces----"
Music: play track 8
In this room.
Without reason, without purpose.
...... Yeah, I see.
I don't have any right to be angry at Arcueid.
Even if she's alive right now and isn't human.
The truth is, I killed her with my own hands.
"--Sorry. I'm sorry, Arcueid. I, Tohno Shiki killed you. More than anything else... I should have apologized for that from the very beginning----"
...... There really is something wrong with me.
It's only natural she mistook me for a killer.
Because, I don't even understand that impulse myself.
might be a real killer------.
"----The reality is, I killed you. So----I have to accept my sin and punishment.
A killer like me, can't mix in with the rest of society."
----Not realizing such an important thing until now is just too cowardly.
No matter what Arcueid is--I am someone who kills for no reason.
"Ohhh, you only wanted to kill ME. Well, THAT'S normal, then."
"I see, then there's no problem. You're not a killer, Shiki."
She says this lightly, almost dismissingly.
"I don't think you have to receive any punishment.
By chance, I was the one you wanted to kill and worse, you were equipped with this unparalleled killing technique.
But luckily I am a vampire so no one died, right? So you don't need to be troubled so much.
I don't think you have to worry about those morals of human society."
In the anime they use the phrase "choplogic" instead of "sugar-coating it". I wish I knew why, because it seems like a HORRIBLE way to translate it. Sugar-coating it carries all the same meaning without any of the awkwardness.
That won't be the last time he says her name like that.
"Come on, we have a much more troublesome problem to worry about. Now that you are up Shiki, I want to talk about now on--"
As she speaks, Arcueid collapses on the floor.
I rush over to her.
Sweat glistens on her forehead and she is breathing painfully.
"...... Aw man, it seems I still can't do much."
I look down.
Her white top is soaked red near her stomach.
"You, that wound----"
"Ah, this? The effects of your attack are still lingering and I can't even heal my wounds.
I closed off the wound at least but it seems it didn't work too well."
Her tone is very cheerful.
But I notice it has a hint of pain.
"Close off the wound? With what, Arcueid......!?"
Arcueid points to something on the floor.
At first glance, it looks like a doughnut or a baumkuchen, but it just turns out to be a roll of packing tape.
Can somebody please tell me what the hell a "baumkuchen" is?
"Don't be ridiculous, what're you going to do if it opens up again!?"
"It's fine, just leave it alone. You should stop acting stupid too. Trying to rip off a girl's clothes like this, you're worse than Nrvnqsr."
Trying to sneak a peek is totally worse than devouring 103 people in half an hour.
"----Look. I don't see you as a human, so guy or girl it doesn't matter. Calm down okay?
If you die from an injury you got protecting me, I'll be feeling guilty about it forever......!"
If she dies, I think she'll have a lot more to worry about than you feeling guilty, Shiki.
Arcueid looks at me in displeasure, and this time, rolls towards me.
More than that, I'm pissed off.
I lower her shirt back and pick Arcueid up.
"Hey--what are you doing, Shiki!?"
"I'm putting you to bed. I'd take you to the hospital but it's not like I can do that."
As carefully as possible, I place her on the bed.
"Look. Until I come back, don't move around. If you walk around like before, I'll just forget all about you, so be prepared for the consequences."
I look around the room.
As I thought, there's nothing like a first aid kit around at all.
"It's absurd but do it. I've heard your bodily functions weaken when you sleep.
I think if you sleep with open wounds, your immune system will get weak and your wound will get even worse.
Sleeping will only help your tiredness, not heal your wound. So for now, at least don't sleep until I get back."
"----Really? Okay, I'll do that Shiki."
Arcueid smiles happily.
...... As expected, Arcueid's thought process is completely a mystery.
Arcueid said she doesn't eat regular food.
So I don't even have to think who this food was for.
"Damn it----what's with her?"
I'm getting very irritated.
I'm getting so irritated, so I decide to hurry up and get something to treat her as fast as possible.
Although I say first-aid, the only things which come to mind are things like restraining bandages or painkillers.
But it's still better than nothing.
Even if it's a small thing, if it's something, then it's not zero.
Believing that, I buy whatever I can think of.
Music: play track 3
But there are still four golf ball-sized black holes from the fangs of the crocodile.
It might actually be bad for a wound this big, but considering the possible infection, I apply some disinfectant.
I put gauze over the wound after that and carefully wrap it around in bandages.
"Ahahaha, quit it. You're too good."
Arcueid is laughing cheerfully.
I ignore her and pin off her bandages.
In order to stop the blood flow, I press a little to tighten the bandages around the wound.
"----Ow. Sheesh, I'm taking points off for that one Shiki."
Whew. For now, I've done all I can.
"You can sleep now. Sleep will bring your strength back and you'll heal soon right? I'll keep watch so just relax and sleep."
"No, sleeping won't really help me regain my strength. You said yourself sleeping only gets rid of tiredness.
For me, regaining strength is only a matter of time. By tomorrow I'm sure I will be able to move normally."
Five minutes, Turkish.
"----Just go to sleep already. You look like you're having trouble even talking."
"Yes, but since you're up Shiki, it seems like a waste if I sleep now."
Arcueid sits up in bed and talks cheerfully.
There are some things I want to ask as well, so I guess it's alright to keep Arcueid company.
Music: play track 4
What kind of man is he? Does he like movies, or walks on the beach? His eyes are so dreamy.
"But you guys were talking about a lot of things."
"It would be hasty to call him an acquaintance because of that.
Nrvnqsr is a famous vampire so no introductions were necessary when we met, that's all.
Isn't it natural to know the name of vampires with unusual power and a long history?
Among those, Nrvnqsr stands out even more.
Despite being one of the oldest vampires, he has neither a castle nor territory and is an eccentric wanderer.
The Church has given him a second name, Chaos."
"...... Chaos? What's that?"
"Literally squirming, squelching chaos.
Like various things mixed together in a primordial earth with no one knowing what will fly out...... a meaning I'm guessing from last night."
"Not knowing what will fly out......?"
"Geez. You saw his body too, Shiki. We spoke of it earlier but aged vampires cannot easily regenerate damage to their bodies.
To restore the body after centuries of existence, the weak life of a human isn't enough.
So using the simply more superior life forms, wild animals and magic beasts, as raw material, they compose their body.
...... As one of the oldest vampires, Nrvnqsr probably is in a league of his own regarding the sheer amount of beasts he has caught and used for his body."
"A league of his own----Things like those black dogs are a part of his body then?"
"Exactly. But there is a limit to a human's capacity. Probably only about thirty beasts can be controlled at once.
Having more than one illusionary beast such as a magical or phantom beast would overload one's capacity.
Putting that into consideration, all of Nrvnqsr's familiars are probably real animals.
...... Yeah, that may be fortunate."
...... I don't quite get the last part but that means there's thirty of those black dogs.
"Whatever. Anyway, we at least know his weapons are twenty or thirty familiars.
...... So now we can understand why he's called Chaos."
"Eh......? His name really isn't Chaos?"
"Yeah, most long-lived Dead Apostles don't use their names from their human lives.
But they don't make up a new name themselves, the Church assigns them one.
They add on names as they find new, special characteristics of the vampire so some of them have names as long as spells."
"...... And, I guess the Church must really have hated him to name him Chaos.
It would have been enough for one lion to hunt the entire hotel, right? But he let loose all of his beasts to feed, meaning he seems to enjoy such excesses."
...... Thirty beasts inside the vampire Nrvnqsr.
Just with that, he killed and ate without trace a hundred people at the hotel in thirty minutes.
Hey, but at least he didn't try and sneak a peek at some boobies. That would've been just intolerable.
"Come to kill us, tonight......?"
"Yes, he said so himself."
----What is this?
He----that man in the black coat is coming tonight?
I... don't know what I should say.
I should escape. I know that's the wisest decision.
But Arcueid is in this condition.
Even if she ran away, I don't think she can get away from that monster.
No, less about her and more about me.
If I stay here----if I stay involved with Arcueid, there's no mistaking the fact I'll face him.
He is... dangerous.
Clearly put, he isn't sane.
More than his body which houses those animals, his eyes are like a machine's.
Devoid of even a single emotion.
The true eyes of a killer which does whatever it is assigned to do.
As one who has experienced his attack, I am sure that without a doubt, he is to be avoided.
"But it's alright. Even Nrvnqsr isn't a problem for you. No matter who it is, you can kill anyone with a single blow."
Arcueid says... something outrageous,
as if it was completely ordinary.