Music: play track 4
"Arcueid---What, are you--"
I can't even finish.
It's clear what she intends to do without saying anything.
Without a doubt, there is nothing but the pure, unadulterated intent to kill.
"Hey---What are you, thinking......!?"
Arcueid doesn't answer.
Her eyes are fixed solely on a man in a business suit walking by.
"Shiki. Take off your glasses and look at that person."
"That person---you mean that business man?"
"Hurry. If you want to know what I'm doing, then leave the questions for later."
"----Alright. I don't like to look while in town, but---"
...... What is that?
Certainly, all humans have "lines" on them.
But they only have countable amounts and they also look like geometric patterns.
But---what is that?
There are "lines" running all through him. Those "lines" are all over him like blood vessels... so much that I can't even make out his appearance.
I want to puke.
Those, black "lines"---scribbles making a human shape... everywhere throughout it, I can see "black points" that look like they are flowing blood----
"Shiki, how does it look? I was hoping it would look normal to you."
I can't answer.
Right now---it takes all my strength just not to vomit.
Well fuck you, too, lady.
"As you saw, you can't call that thing human anymore. It's a vampire that deceives death by sucking the blood of other people."
Arcueid quickens her steps.
She walks straight towards the man.
"Stay there Shiki!"
Did that young man realize Arcueid was there? He starts running towards a back alley.
Arcueid strides silently.
Underneath the moonlight, she disappears into that alley.
My glasses---I have to put on my glasses.
If I don't do that, I'll see terrible things.
I'll see something so terrible that everything I've seen so far would be nothing in comparison to it.
---Th, u, mp.
But my body won't move.
My eyes that can see this patchwork world look towards that alley in fascination.
Suddenly, sounds vanish.
And the presence of other people,
the sound of the wind,
and the smell of the dirt.
All of it freezes.
No way I can see it,
I can't hear anything.
------A sickening sound
But I can see it.
My eyes definitely see the sound of death and death crashing.
I'm panting excessively.
I can hardly breathe.
Even though I put my glasses back on, I can still feel a lingering remnant of that "death" and it makes me sick.
Arcueid walks out from the alley with faltering steps, breathing even harder than I am.
"---Shiki...... I see, you were, still here."
Shoulders heaving up and down, she passes by me.
Her body sways back and forth, and she walks weakly as if she was sick.
"...... Hey now. You say that, but you look like you'll collapse too."
"It's just my anemia. If you have time to worry about me, worry about your health."
"---It's fine. There's no point in worrying about it anyway."
Her breathing really is weak.
"Don't tell me---that wound from that time---"
It hasn't healed? But I can't bring myself to finish.
It's because she got it saving me.
She doesn't answer and looks down.
That is affirmation rather than disagreement.
Two minutes, Turkish.
"Stu----What are you doing in your condition!? You have to take it easy until you're fully healed!"
"I do think I'm, taking it, easy."
"No you're not! Even if you are at a level beyond humans, what in the world were you doing earlier in your condition---"
...... I just can't leave her be.
"Don't be silent and answer me. Until you tell me, I won't go away......!"
I grasp both of her shoulders.
Still looking down, she gives a slight nod.
"...... Geez, you really are persistent. Fine, let's go somewhere else to talk."
Releasing herself, she waveringly starts to walk away.
Music: play track 2
"Well, as you wish, Shiki, I'll talk about whatever you want."
I don't know where her previous weakness went, but she looks really haughty all of a sudden.
"Then I'll ask, but just what was that guy earlier? You said he was a vampire, was he what you were after?"
"No, he certainly is part of my target, but putting The Dead back into the grave isn't my goal. I only got him because he was a minion of my 'enemy'.
If I left him alone, he would kill more people to increase his power."
"...... I suppose. But the killing of all those people by sucking their blood might be the work of "The Dead" like the one you saw earlier.
Shiki, you remember how Nrvnqsr's body was made of all those familiars, right?"
"---Yeah, that's not exactly something I can easily forget."
"The Dead are like that. When humans have their blood sucked by a vampire, they can also receive some of the vampire's blood.
They die, but remain in this world as a servant of the vampire. They are called The Dead and they are like the vampire's familiars.
Ah, maybe it's easier to understand if I use the word zombie. It's closer to the voodoo belief in Haiti where the white serpent-god Damballah is invoked to control a dead body, but let's just say a dead body that moves is a zombie, okay?"
Ohhh, Damballah, it all makes sense now... no... no it doesn't.
---Yeah, I can visualize it better that way.
"I get it, so that man was killed by a vampire, who uses him as a zombie?"
"Yes, yes," Arcueid nods happily.
"---I'm still confused though. Why would a vampire do that?
Killing people---not letting them die but controlling them, what bad taste."
"You're right, those vampires do have bad taste. But that's something only the Dead Apostles do. Those that were always vampires from the very beginning do not do such things."
Always vampires from the very beginning ......?
"Simple, I'm just saying that Dead Apostles used to be humans. They either gained immortality through magic or became servants of the True Ancestors that sucked their blood.
...... Shiki, you said it was bad taste to use killed humans, but that's just the least of it. There are other vampires who think up of worse games."
"---A game---what is that? You guys kill for fun, and use their dead bodies as toys......!?"
"...... I won't deny that.
For vampires, "amusement" is the same as breathing. For those who were once human but gain imperfect immortality, their greatest enemy is boredom.
They didn't have a reason to become immortal to start with, so once they gained immortality, they lost all kinds of greed.
Their goal was immortality itself, so I guess that's just the way things are."
"That's what I said, they got everything they wanted. After that, there is no meaning to existence.
As soon as someone realizes they have no value---that their life is stopped, then their meaning of existence disappears too.
Immortality is also another word for death.
So they started to wear down and they started to create their own amusement, as if to tell themselves they could have fun as long as they lived. ---That's their beginning.
Somehow I don't think 'hobby' is the right word to describe an ancient game of killing people and then abusing their corpses.
"Well, we'll change the topic, but the Dead Apostles were originally human.
There are a few cases where they became vampires through their own magical research, but the majority of them were humans who had their blood sucked.
They are immortal, but they can't last forever. They can only be immortal if they drink the blood of others.
Didn't I say their immortality was imperfect? If they can't feed on humans then their immortality is gone."
"...... Wait a minute, isn't that odd?
In order to become immortal they drink the blood of humans, but doesn't that mean new Dead Apostles will be born every time they do that?"
"That's true, but things get complex from here.
The people who have their blood sucked die. But at that time, if the Dead Apostles place a little of their blood inside the corpse, the body cannot die.
Those bodies that were unable to die stay a number of years in the grave and when the brain decays and the soul is "fixated" in the body, they become a flesh-eating corpse (ghoul).
Only one out of every hundred people have this potential, so not everyone gets to 'stay'.
She talks about it like it's a fucking privilege
...... Well, there are those that have a natural ability to 'step up' this progress and become a vampire immediately, but this is so rare it's out of the question.
"And after many years, once a Living Dead is able to restore it's intelligence, it becomes a vampire.
There's probably about only one out of every ten thousand who have this ability. I said it before, but the more potential you have, the higher the success rate to stay.
We call the Dead Apostles the ones that make all these kinds of vampires."
"...... That's still odd. If this game goes on, then won't the world be overflowing with vampires eventually?"
"Not necessarily. The Dead Apostles usually get killed by the new vampires they created.
Didn't I say it before? They act like humans. For their own enjoyment, they place their own blood inside the humans they preyed upon.
These corpses go through the one out of tens of thousands rate to become vampires and eventually kill their parent vampires, becoming a new Dead Apostle themselves.
"...... I see. Then, that Dead that you killed earlier...... that was something like a soldier of the Dead Apostles?"
"Not so much a soldier as a puppet. The Dead Apostles control the dead bodies by skipping the process of becoming a vampire.
The Dead are completely connected to their parent vampire.
In order for them to survive, they attack others to eat their flesh, but more than half of that energy goes to their master.
Like a queen bee nourished by the worker bees, the Dead Apostles can use The Dead to increase their power while they sleep."
"...... My 'enemy' can't be found easily because he's using a lot of The Dead.
He only dirties his hands once. After that, he simply controls The Dead while he sleeps and expands his territory.
---They say many bodies are found in the recent supposed serial killings, but those are actually just failures.
To tell the truth, there are over a hundred victims in this city.
But only a small amount, the ones discovered, are the victims in the news."
"......... That's ridiculous."
Three days ago.
I remember how all those people in the hotel were killed for no reason.
I was there but I didn't see it, so I can only visualize and can't really tell what kind of violence it was.
It's still the same.
I can't fathom the existence of vampires that suck human blood, just to increase their own territory.
without reason, without even recognition, if someone close to me died liked that, how would I act?
I don't want to imagine it, but just a bit.
I imagine Akiha being drained of blood and discarded like trash.
You would think of Akiha.
What makes me mad---is that this worst case scenario could happen at any minute in this town and I didn't even have a clue about it before.
"I knew you would be angry, Shiki.
...... I didn't want to talk about it, because for the prey---for you guys, this is an inexcusable evil.
For people like you, the actions of the vampires are inexcusable."
"...... That's right. That's just all so ridiculous.
Even if it's people I don't know about, they have their past and even the dreams they hoped for.
Even I---don't want to be killed just for the fun of it. That's just too regretful. It's too meaningless.
That's all just so---so regretful, isn't it?"
The abruptness of its ending.
A death no one else even knows about.
When it happened, I was broken apart by the complete irrationality of it all.
My fear of Nrvnqsr disappeared and more than anything else, I hated him.
"...... I can't accept it. No matter what the reason, I can't accept it."
I grit my teeth.
"Shiki, there is no reason. For them, it's just a game."
"---That's why it's ridiculous. It's just a game to you all......!? Nrvnqsr and this other guy, what do they think human life is......!?"
"But, Shiki. If you talk about it that way, your human species is really strong.
The ability to make up for their weakness as a species with other things, that makes them the strongest in a way.
Probably, the only ones that can kill the greatest creature called the 'world' are you humans."
"But even though they are strong as a species, they are weak as individuals.
They can't live without sacrificing the lives of those not of their race, which is the ultimate 'evil', is it not?
It doesn't matter if they have intelligence or not, for you guys, everything is fair game for food, is it not?
So---the ones doing the killings are always right. If there is a sin, then it is you guys not being able to protect yourself under that rule."
"That---that's just the argument of the strong. Humans aren't as strong like you all.
Because we can't protect ourselves fully, that's why we have to live together, to help each other---I don't know what to do if somebody like you guys came in and---"
"That's true. That is your defense mechanism.
Since you can't protect yourself when those kinds of species enter your group, you guys make rules to ensure they are unable to enter.
...... Yes, it's just like you say, Shiki.
So usually, this town's case doesn't happen.
"Yes. The reason vampires hide the bodies of their victims and stay out of sight isn't because they don't want to be known to humans.
To protect their own lives, they conceal their identity and expand their territory.
They don't want it to be known that vampires exist at all. If they moved freely about, the defense mechanism would arrive.
Well, they probably haven't arrived even though that "Modern Day Vampire" news is going on because this is an atheist country."
Her word choice is too unique and I can't really grasp what she's saying.
Music: play track 8
"But you can relax, Shiki.
Even if their avowed enemies are not in this country, I'm here right now.
Didn't I say earlier my purpose was to execute vampires?"
I don't know where that heavy atmosphere went because Arcueid instantly becomes cheerful.
Everybody needs a hobby.
"Well, doing that does bring the Dead Apostles after me, but you beat Nrvnqsr who was pursuing me, didn't you Shiki?"
"Ah--yeah. That makes me happy, but--"
But---are you okay by yourself?
Those words float in the back of my head.
...... There's something wrong with me.
Feeling guilty about letting her face danger all by herself. There really has to be something wrong with me.
"Shiki? Why are you making that troubled face again?"
"Because I'm troubled. This is something that involves the city I live in."
"I said you shouldn't worry. In two or three days it'll all be over, and there won't be any more victims."
Yeah, honestly, I don't want to be involved.
---But, saying that line...
Shouldn't I, the one actually living in this city, say that line instead of Arcueid?
No matter how many times you say it to yourself, you aren't going to suddenly start caring about the city.
"...... Arcueid. Um, can I ask a question? This 'enemy' you speak of, is he strong?"
"Well, he should be many times superior than The Dead earlier. I haven't met him this time, but he has been latent for eight years so maybe he's a Class Five by now."
"---You're saying he's stronger than The Dead before?"
Looking like she was in so much pain from fighting just him, isn't she taking him a little lightly?
"...... Class Five? I don't get it, but does that mean he's stronger than Nrvnqsr?"
"Not a chance. Nrvnqsr was special. He was a pure, supreme vampire that would be difficult to defeat even with my full power. Compared to him, this enemy is pretty weak."
"----Oh. Then there's no way you'll be defeated."
I breathe out in relief.
"Hm, who knows? A few days earlier and he wouldn't be a problem, but now I'm just recovering. The possibility that he has more power is actually high."
"...... Recovering? Are you sick or something, Arcueid?"
"Yeah, I still have the effects from when you killed me and I don't think I'll be fine for at least a few more days."
Five minutes, Turkish.
That's right--the reason why Arcueid is weak... it isn't anyone's fault but mine.
I'm at a loss for words.
It's completely my fault she's in that position.
Why doesn't she hold it against me? Why does she just give that innocent smile---?
"...... You need to stop. Until you heal up, you should just rest. If you take a day or two off, things won't be that bad, so---"
"That's no good. Thanks to Nrvnqsr coming, 'the enemy' knows I'm here. If I rest, that's like telling him I'm weakened."
"So you're saying you're going to keep on going like this?"
"Yes. Since I don't know where 'the enemy's' lair is, I have to keep destroying his blood supply.
If I cut that off, it will force him to come out."
Arcueid won't stop.
If I leave her alone---she probably won't even be able to talk like this anymore.
It makes me mad, but she's not even afraid of her own death.
"...... Is that so?"
...... Why does she smile like that?
If she doesn't smile like that---If she acted more like a real vampire, I wouldn't have to feel like this.
See? Nothing to do with the city. Shame on you, Shiki.
"What's wrong, Shiki? Your body is shaking, do you need to go to the bathroom?"
"--You, why are you--"
Why are you so relaxed?
"...... Damn............ it."
...... I don't want to lose her.
I don't know what this feeling is.
But these past four days are not something I can just forget about.
So---to part here, with the possibility she may die tomorrow, the regret would be completely, utterly, unbearably---difficult.
This is the same.
Definitely, the opponent this time isn't normal.
There's really no need for me to be involved.
Since Arcueid is saying she'll handle it, I can rely on her.
But even knowing all of that.
...... I can't, I just can't leave her alone.
On the bright side, maybe this will signal the end of his sibling lust.
"Hey, really what's wrong, Shiki---? You're not acting normal."
"Yeah, I'm not! If I was acting normal, I really wouldn't say this......!"
I really don't want to admit it, but it's already a done deal.
Because my mouth has already confirmed it for me.
"Shiki. Is that, for real?"
"I didn't hear it. Please, can you say it again?"
I groan more.
No matter how much I regret it, it's done.
The instant I formed my feelings into words---I can't lie to myself any longer.
"Hurry. I want to hear those words again."
Arcueid asks softly.
Looking off in the distance, I try to sound reluctant.
"...... I guess it can't be helped. It's my fault that you are weakened now and I can't leave the monster roaming the streets alone either.
I can't rely on you taking care of it by yourself, so if you let me, I want to help you... that's what I said."
Arcueid's eyes are suddenly alight.
She grabs my hand and happily shakes it up and down.
"...... Well, I may not be that helpful, but it has to be better than nothing."
"Yeah......! If you are helping me, there's nothing to be afraid of!"
She keeps shaking my hand up and down.
...... How do I say this?
She really does seem happy.
Twelfth? So much for hundreds...
"Basically. But since this 'enemy' is a vampire, he needs to steal the blood and energy of others.
So, even though he knows I'm searching for them, he has to send The Dead out to get the minimal blood he needs."
Then, the minimal Dead he sent out was that man from before, huh.
"So, searching further tonight will be useless, I think."
"...... Well, I don't mind. But it is tedious though."
"Yeah, hunting vampires is tedious work. We have to find the coffin of this 'enemy' somewhere in this city, so it won't be easy."
Arcueid lets go of my hand and jumps back softly.
"Tomorrow---wait, where should we meet......!?"
"Here's fine. The time---yeah, around ten o'clock should be fine."
With a smile, she makes that promise.
"Good night, Shiki. I'll see you here tomorrow!"
waving her hand, Arcueid disappears.
"Say, Shiki didn't return. Should we leave the gate open for him?" "...no."
"Well...... I do think she is pretty."
I don't understand my feelings right now.
Right now, I'm not too sure what is right and what is wrong.
At any rate, it looks like I'll be helping Arcueid once again starting tomorrow.
So for now, I shouldn't think of anything else but getting a good night's sleep----
Every day was fun.
No one thought about ever growing up,
and we believed that days and nights would always be the same.
It was just a childhood spent playing like puppies.
We got along wonderfully, and were the best of playmates.
Whenever I turned back, Akiha would be there, waving her hands and hiding shyly.
Yes, always the same.
At that time, the mansion was a giant playground.
The garden, a deep forest.
The house, a tall castle.
We played in our own little world, which would take days to explore.
I slowly awaken and open my eyes.
The morning light wraps around me and my sleepiness starts to lift.
As the last vestiges clear,
I sense that I had a very nostalgic dream.
Music: play track 2
I take in some air.
After taking a few deep breaths, I manage to calm down.
"Why did I---so early..."
See those lines so clearly this early in the morning?
It's difficult to see the lines of death in buildings.
It's usually hard to see them, and seeing them so clearly like I just did now is rare.
What's more, I even saw those "points".
I think my headache is getting worse too.
Sensei said these eyes would attract things that weren't good.
I think Arcueid and these vampires are certainly not good.
So, maybe it's all affecting my eyes and making them stronger.
I'm probably just tired.
...... The reason doesn't need to be said.
She must be angry over yesterday because I didn't get back until very late, worked my way into my room and slept.
"Hisui, last night, um......"
"Shiki-sama, there is no need to give me any excuses."
Answering quickly, she starts walking towards the door.
"Then please excuse me. Nee-san has prepared your breakfast, so please hurry to the sitting room."
"Yeah, I planned on doing so......"
"Hey. Good morning, Akiha."
I try to greet her as naturally as I can. Akiha's eyebrow twitches as she places her teacup down and slowly looks at me.
"Good morning Nii-san. It was quite late when you came home last night, wasn't it?"
"...... No, not really. It was at most a little past one o'clock, quite normal for a healthy young man in high school to be up, right?"
"I see. My bedtime is also past midnight so I was up at that time. But I would come home much earlier than that."
I'm so happy for you. Would you like a medal?
"Ah...... well, there were some pressing circumstances and I couldn't get back. But I did return, so---"
"Yes, very late at night and you went back to your room. Without saying anything or without making a noise.
...... Goodness, you acted like you were out doing something you felt guilty over."
Her stare is pure ice.
...... This is the second time, and I'm sure even though Akiha looks calm, she is quite angry.
I don't know what went on at the Arima house, but here the curfew is eight o'clock. It is a rule that must not be broken.
The gate will be locked after that, so please don't climb in like a robber."
"...... The surveillance camera showed me quite clearly.
It is a good thing Kohaku realized it was you and turned off the alarm system because otherwise you would probably be detained right now."
"...... Oh. I should thank Kohaku-san then. And, um, Akiha, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have kept quiet about it."
Akiha's gaze tightens.
She suddenly stands up.
Kohaku-san comes in from the kitchen.
The meaner she gets, the faster Shiki can stop lusting over her
"...... Shiki-san, you should not make Akiha-sama so upset. You are her big brother, so please treat her better okay?"
Saying that, she walks after Akiha.
The teacup sits, still steaming.
"---Well, in short..."
I'm left by myself to calmly consider my situation.
"Guess I'm skipping breakfast today."
Yeah, no doubt.
...... I should stop by a convenience store on the way and buy some bread.
Music: play track 3
I give a big yawn.
The class is completely unchanged, the whole day progresses with nothing out of the ordinary.
Come to think of it, I've been through so many strange experiences, I almost feel odd just sitting in class.
And after classes are over and night falls, I'll have to go out once more with Arcueid.
Thinking of that, I really don't have the time to be fooling around here.
----Hey, wait a minute......!
"Wha, wha, wha----"
I push myself onto the window and look down.
I can only see the very edge of the rear courtyard,
but without a doubt,
Arcueid, in her usual manner, is at my school.
I look around the classroom.
----Fortunately, there's no one who noticed the strange foreigner waving to me.