Part 36Music: play track 3
"Then I'll ask you. Arcueid, could you tell me a little about your interests, your past, and your three sizes?"
"You want to know about that? You sure ask strange things, Shiki."
"It's not strange. I don't know anything about you, so it's natural to want to know about you."
"Ah, I feel the same way, perhaps----in that case, I don't mind."
Well, she's taking that question rather well.
"But, interests and a past... I don't have any of those. I've also never measured myself so I can't tell you my three sizes. I never recorded my age or my height like you guys do."
"What do you mean? You've never even wondered about yourself?"
"Before I came here...... hmm, that would probably be about eight years ago then.
At that time, I wasn't in this country, but in some other country hunting a vampire.
A vampire made its lair in a small, French countryside village that became a ghost town. After two days, I found the 'enemy' and dealt with the female Dead Apostle controlling the town----"
As if remembering something horrible, Arcueid closes her eyes and cuts off.
"Eight years ago? Then up until now, what were you doing, Arcueid?"
"What was I doing? I just went back to my castle and slept. My duty is to hunt Dead Apostles. I have no other meaning for existence, so until another Dead Apostle stands out, there's nothing to do but continue sleeping, right?"
Continue sleeping? Does she mean literally?
No, in the first place----
"Uh----no, that's not a really appropriate expression. Um, I mean, you're a, um...... princess?"
"Yes, it seems that way. A long time ago I was told not to cut my hair and scolded to act more like royalty."
...... I'm speechless.
Come to think of it, that Nrvnqsr guy always called her "princess."
"A royal princess?"
I steal a glance at Arcueid.
She's beautiful enough to take your breath away, but such a rambunctious person a princess? She's not quite what comes to mind when I think of a princess.
"...... Well, at least you are as selfish as a princess."
I give a deep sigh.
Smooth, Shiki. Real smooth.
"Hey now! I only said it because you asked, so don't respond like that!"
Her Royal Highness glares at me.
...... Arcueid doesn't seem to think of herself as a princess either, so I think it's just best to forget about this.
Still angry, Arcueid resumes eating her hamburger.
After she's finished and calmed down, we decide to go somewhere else.
Music: play track 3
This time I'm the one tilting my head.
There's no sign of anyone on the school grounds.
It's not even quite six o'clock yet.
At this time, there should be a lot of athletic clubs still practicing----
"Shiki, it seems there's no one here."
Hmm, I'm not sure why, but there really is no one here.
I don't see anyone in the building either.
"Shiki, there's no one inside you know."
Arcueid stares upward at me.
...... Somehow, I'm pretty sure I know what she's trying to say.
I refuse her bluntly.
But, she doesn't listen to me.
"If there's no one there, then I can't get in trouble for going in. We came at a great time, didn't we?"
"I told you, I don't want to."
"Wow, it's bigger than I thought inside. The school building is also really huge, it seems well-suited for its task."
...... That's strange.
Arcueid's voice isn't coming from right near me, but from inside the school grounds.
"Shiki, this door won't open, so is it okay if I break it down?"
What blurring speed!
Arcueid is already right next to a glass door with her arm cocked to break it.
"Y...... you, why won't you listen to what people are saying--!?"
With all my strength, I dash towards the glass to prevent it from being broken by a big idiot.
"...... Is going to my high school this much fun? There's a lot of other better places I can take you, so let's just get out of here."
"I don't think so. The place you always come to, it seems pretty fun."
Arcueid gives a mischievous laugh and smiles devilishly.
"Shiki, I want to go inside here. Can you kill the lock on this?"
"K, kill it? You----"
"Wouldn't it be less messy than if I did it? The way you slice something apart doesn't leave any cross-sections that look like the action of a blade. If someone finds it later on, it'll just look like it fell apart on its own. C'mon, c'mon."
She points to the glass window by the hallway.
"...... Sheesh, you're acting like a kid."
I half-lower my glasses.
"All set. Let's go in here."
Lifting open the glass window, we enter the school building.
I knew it.
Arcueid declares she wants me to guide her to my classroom first.
"Hey, Shiki. What do you study here?"
"What?----Normal school stuff. History, and a lot of deep studies into the culture of my country. And to know about how things work, we study physics and math. And we might go overseas one day, so we study English too."
"Oh really? Taking you into account, I thought you were studying things like the best way to slice up people or how to use various blades."
She says something pretty funny.
Yeah, that's what most schools teach 17-year-olds.
This is one of my favorite scenes on the entire Arc path. The music really makes it, for those of you listening as well as reading. I don't want to soil this scene with commentary, so I'll be quiet for awhile.
Music: play track 7
"What is it? Suddenly looking serious like that. You really did have a reason for bringing me here, didn't you?"
"No, there wasn't any reason. I just wanted to hear about this kind of place."
"...... This kind of place? About school?"
"Yeah, you spend about half your day here, right? Is there a use for all the knowledge and experiences you gain here? Are you just wasting your time learning things unnecessary for you?"
Her question is the least understandable so far.
"For example, there's some skills you learn here that will never be used. Isn't that a waste?"
"...... Well, maybe it is a waste. I learn math, but we only use the simplest of math in our daily lives. I learn about this country's history and English, but I don't know if I'll ever use it."
"Oh, so you realize it then. But...... then, why do you do such pointless things? Your time is so short, you don't have time to waste."
"...... Something to live for, huh? That may be true. But are useless things that bad?"
"Isn't it alright to do extra things?
Even if I use what I learn only here, it still becomes a reminder of my days here.
Some years later, there'll be a time when I'll just think. And I'll remember back and say 'yeah, that's how it was back then' and give a bitter smile. So there's meaning in it."
"...... I don't get it. Those memories themselves are pointless, but you're saying there's fun in remembering them, Shiki?"
"Yeah, that's okay. People are designed not to remember painful things.
But in the first place, the lives of humans are full of pointless things. To think of it, isn't life itself pointless?
So I don't think about it too deeply. I think it's best to just fool yourself and live like you don't realize there's no meaning to life."
"...... That's true. I don't understand that either. I wanted to ask you because you don't seem to do anything but pointless things, but now I'm totally confused."
"Yes, yes. I'm sorry, I'm only a completely pointless person."
"I'm sorry. I understand what you're trying to say, Shiki.
Humans are a collective, so their worth isn't determined by the individual but by the whole group. Even if an individual is mistaken, if the group is correct then it is forgiven.
But as for us, we are solitary creatures so we can't allow ourselves to be mistaken. We can't allow our wills to be influenced by anyone else.
So----that's why I was always taught never to do extra things."
She talks as if she was in a confessional.
"Maybe I... broke down.
I've never been awake for this long until now----Maybe I'm already fast asleep dreaming about all this."
...... With empty eyes, Arcueid whispers these words.
I can't speak.
Her image flutters like a projected hologram.
"...... Broken? What do you mean? You look pretty normal to me."
"Maybe on the outside, but I'm different on the inside. ...... Happiness and pain, all of these extra feelings are becoming greater. I can't ignore things that I used to be able to in the past. So I'm broken, right?
And also, I'm not normal. I'm different from you, Shiki. I'm a vampire."
Saying that, she seems to laugh.
Really faintly, as if hiding in the red of the setting sun.
It's just... weird.
The dusk classroom.
Bathed in the red sun, a vulnerable looking girl.
This scene, it's...
"Things you can't ignore, having to do pointless things, if it's not causing trouble to anyone----isn't it alright just to let it all go?
I said not to think about yourself too seriously.
I don't know what you're thinking about, but I don't see a problem.
You're not----causing trouble to anyone."
"Really? But you always yell at me, is that different?"
"----I'm an exception. I have the sin of killing you, so dealing with you is just karma.
It's okay, I'm doing it because I want to. So please don't think about the trouble you're causing me."
"...... Please Arcueid, get it straight now.
It's true that you're selfish, you don't listen to other people, and you're full of problems.
But, other than that, you're pretty normal. You're not broken, you're just like a normal girl.
----So smile. If you keep making that expression, it'll make me feel bad."
"...... That's pretty mean. Am I really that selfish?"
Arcueid looks at me suddenly as if studying my expression.
I'm taken aback a little.
It seems this princess didn't realize she was selfish.
"----Hahahahaha! What are you saying? If you take every bit of selfishness out of you, there'd be nothing left but bones! Just bones!"
What I'm saying doesn't quite make sense, but it seemed very funny.
--Because even in my wildest dreams, I never imagined I would see Arcueid embarrassed over herself.
Oh, she got mad.
"But you know, I guess it's better for you to be lively. I'm a little relieved."
"Eh......? Wh, why are you relieved? Aren't you supposed to be heartless towards me?"
"Ah----yeah, that's right."
I tilt my head questioningly.
...... That's strange, I don't even know why myself.
...... Before, I just didn't want to see her looking depressed, and I wanted to protect her----
Without a doubt, she is pretty, and I know she's a good person. Also, it isn't boring to be with her.
...... But no way can such a ridiculous thing be happening.
Get a hold of yourself, Shiki. She's a vampire.
"That's pretty vague. Are you saying you don't understand yourself?"
"...... Be quiet, it's alright if I don't understand myself. I've always been aware of how strange I am from the beginning. That's why my memories are always vague."
"Oh, I see. That's why you're always spaced out, Shiki."
Arcueid nods to herself as if deeply understanding the matter.
Having her take my excuse so seriously makes me wonder if maybe it really is true.
We can't stay in this classroom forever.
We should hurry up and leave before we're found by teachers left in school.
"Shiki, do you enjoy things?"
"...... Are you sick today or something?"
"Don't make fun of me. I know a little bit about your body. Even you know it, right?
That it isn't strange for you to die at any moment."
The scar on my chest almost feels like it's squirming.
"You----well, humans die eventually."
"But in your case, death will come quicker than for other people."
...... Her eyes are serious.
But, everyone has lines of death on them, so there are many places where they can die easily.
It's not like----I'm the only one who's very close to death.
"Answer me. Do you ever have moments where you enjoy yourself even though you have such an unstable hold on life?"
"------You really are stupid.
There's no way I can know that."
I never realized it until I died once.
But the world is so peaceful and such a fun place to be.
They say fun things cannot be found, but I think for humans, just living is fun.
That's why----I can continue living like this even knowing that it's all pointless.
...... That's why.
If someone asks me if I'm enjoying life, unless it's something really unforgivable, I can't help but answer that I am.
No matter how much despair it is, I'm satisfied with just existing.
That's something more certain than the nothingness of death.
No one had to teach me that, but I still know that.
Just being allowed to be here really is a wonderful thing----
"----It's just... isn't living enjoyable enough? Everything up until now was fun, so I can feel like living.
...... Well, I guess this is how I can answer your question."
I can't really say anything too profound. I've only been alive for seventeen years.
"Yes, but for now the hard feelings have faded. I can't stray off course until this vampire is defeated. Until then, we will fight together."
Gee, thanks for reminding me. We were having a wonderful moment there.
"Right?" She says, smiling.
Until this vampire is defeated, huh?
"...... That's right. That was the relationship between us."
Because today was just so normal,
I completely forgot about that most important fundamental fact.
Just, without thinking...
"When this is all over----when we're done defeating this vampire... Before we part, can't we do something like this just once more?"
Those words really come out of my mouth naturally.
"Eh----? What do you mean?"
"I'm saying after your task is finished, let's do these pointless things one more time.
In the end, we're here together because we agreed to help each other.
So----I really was wondering, what would happen if we were to meet again without any responsibilities... if we just met for no particular reason."
"----If you're too busy, then it's okay. I only thought of it just now, anyway."
But that's really the opposite of how I feel.
After her eyes widen in surprise, she nods.
"What, already? Didn't the sun just set?"
"Yeah, but it wouldn't hurt to start earlier. We've played around long enough today, so we should be serious at night, right?
Arcueid, let's stick to our decisions."
"Shiki, you're strangely serious. If you're this serious, then why did you break our promise yesterday?"
"Hey, I couldn't help that; I couldn't even move. I really did intend to go before."
Yeah, if Akiha didn't stop me, I probably would've gone ahead to the park in my condition.
...and then died.
"Hmmm, I see. Then, let's do that."
With a slightly empty expression, Arcueid says something I don't understand.
"You intended to go to the park, right Shiki? We still have time, so if you couldn't get it done yesterday, then isn't it okay if we do it now?"
She starts to run lightly.
She really seems to be serious about going to the park.
"--Hey, wait. Hey......!"
I run with all my strength so I don't lose sight of her.
Music: play track 1
"I knew there would be a lot of people here now. It's a bit unsettling since I can feel their presence everywhere."
"...... Like I said, why... won't you... ever... listen... to what I... have to say...?"
"Hm? I hear your voice all the time."
"...... Oh. Then... you hear me... but you just ignore me, that's... worse..."
"I don't ignore you. If I answer whenever you scold me, you'd just call me an idiot so I stay quiet."
"...... Oh. Then maybe... I have a problem... too?"
I still try to catch my breath.
From my school to this park is roughly six kilometers.
Even if it was a little jog, going that far is too much for a heart like mine.
...... It's not that she was running all that quickly. Actually, she seemed to be running slowly.
But probably because of the effects of my anemia, I don't feel too well.
Time is the only thing which passes by.
A quiet night.
It's completely different from two nights ago and there isn't a single cloud in the sky.
The bright, pure moonlight illuminates the park and Arcueid.
If it was as bright as this back then, maybe I could have seen the bandaged man's face...... wait a minute...
"Oh yeah! I was so interested in her breasts, I totally forgot that I almost got killed!" God I love this game.
I jump up from the bench.
I don't think I need to explain what happened when Shiki did that.
"Arcueid. I was attacked two nights ago by a strange person."
"Eh? A strange person? What kind?"
"Well, that is----"
I calm down and I describe as clearly as I can what happened last night.
"So what is it Arcueid? That bandaged man, and that person wearing those robes like some priest, are they enemies of yours?"
"...... Yes. Both of them are 'enemies'. I don't know just who or what that bandaged man is, but that woman wearing those Catholic robes, I have an idea about."
She narrows her eyes as if she was in a bad mood.
No, she looks less like she was in a bad mood and more like she's irritated.
Music: play track 9
"I may know the person who helped you, Shiki. ...... Man. If it's really her, she'll probably be able to find the enemy before me."
She bites her lip vexedly.
"Wait a minute. I didn't say that person was a woman though."
"No, there's no mistake. That woman is the only agent given authority to hunt heretics alone and who uses Black Keys that combine the Cremation Rite and the Steel Shell Effect."
At least they seem to be limiting their technique names to three words or less.
Her irritability is almost like hostility.
Even when she spoke about Nrvnqsr, her voice was never saturated with emotion to this extent.
"...... Arcueid. Um, that person who helped me, is she a vampire......?"
"No, that's not it----that's right, I have yet to tell you about something else that's very important."
"...... Well, it's because humans aren't stupid. If they find out monsters like that exist where they live, they'd attack them. Even though humans are weak, they do have things like police, so they might be able to do something."
"---Well, I guess that's true, but police are only a law-enforcement group against humans. We don't consider them at all.
But, it's correct to say that vampires hide their presence for the sake of self-preservation."
"Shiki, there is a natural enemy of the vampires. A group of something like professional killers that now have the power balance in their favor.
...... It's true for other transcendent species, but especially for vampires, it is fatal for them to reveal themselves.
Even if a vampire made a secret kingdom in a village somewhere in the mountains away from all civilization, this natural enemy would definitely notice if victims keep increasing.
Vampires exploit the humans in secret, for no reason other than self-preservation.
The vampires hide their dead victim's bodies, not out of fear of human society finding out, but in fear of these natural enemies discovering them."
"...... Huh? The natural enemy of vampires? Yet another group of monsters I don't know about."
For a normal guy like me, I just want all these unnatural things to stop appearing.
You can cut people into pieces in seconds. You want to fuck your sister. YOU ARE NOT NORMAL.
"What are you saying? Their natural enemy is without a doubt you humans."
"-----? Natural enemies, us?"
"Yeah. Starting from a long time ago, humans used many kinds of magic, the occult, magical ceremonies to create an organization and started to eliminate primates other than humans.
The greatest of these is Christianity---the pride of the Vatican, the Exorcists. The Catholic Church always viewed "nonhumans" as impurities, but vampires are considered the most dangerous."
"There are many religious groups in the world, but the Catholic Church looks at vampires with more hostility than the rest.
You know, it's almost an obsession. They are so insane, I don't even want to mess with them."
Arcueid lets out a sigh.
"Then aren't they like us? If this Burial Agency is a group whose purpose is to hunt vampires too, can't we search together?"
"----That won't work. For them, it's enough that someone is a vampire. To them, non-human primates are just "Evil". It doesn't matter if they suck blood or not.
This exorcist may have even just came here to seal me rather than fight the vampire who lives in this city."
Sounding irritated, Arcueid starts to pace back and forth again.
Things have gotten quite complicated.
Arcueid's enemy is sought after by both a vampire, and a group that hunts vampires.
"...... What is this? Then doesn't that mean she's all by herself?"
Thinking aloud, I watch Arcueid as she paces back and forth.
Under the white moonlight,
Arcueid appears to be dancing a solitary waltz.
Music: play track 1
"Arcueid, is it alright now?"
"Yeah, it's alright."
She agrees with me, but she doesn't really seem enthused yet.
"You've been acting strange since before, Arcueid. Is there something wrong?"
"----Not really. I was just concerned about that bandaged man you told me about."
Arcueid sighs as she ponders to herself.
"Oh, that's right. Shiki, last night someone hit on me here."
"I'm saying, some guy started to talk to me here."
"...... No, I heard you. I thought you said you were thinking about that bandaged man though."
"I was, that's why I remembered. Just like when you were attacked, someone started to talk to me."
"...... I see. Well, that's good. Just looking from the outside, you are a beautiful person so if you were waiting around by yourself, it is entirely natural for a guy to talk to you."
I give a serious response.
Sometimes, I'm a little too honest.
For once Shiki actually says something nice, then immediately regrets it.
"You think so? I thought it was an enemy at first, but I remembered you saying something before about how I always stand out. So after studying him briefly, I saw he was just a human."
"...... Wait a minute. Don't tell me you did something to the guy trying to hit on you?"
"No, I didn't do anything. I just talked with him a little bit and made him forget about it. ...... But if I didn't remember what you said, I might have."
I sigh as I glance around the park.
...... A month ago.
If those serial murders never started occurring, there would still be young couples around and the figures of students hanging out.
But now, the only ones talking here are me and Arcueid.
I calmly think about my current situation.
Since when did Tohno Shiki step off onto the path of such a world----?
About the same time he started wanting to fuck his sister.
"Ah. Hey, see."
Arcueid suddenly calls out to me.
"What, did something happen?"
"Yeah. See? Look at the clock. It's time."
She points to the park's clock while giving a full smile.
Looking----it's ten o'clock now.
Music: play track 8
The promised time.
The promise backed only by words, to meet here at ten o'clock at night.
...... Last night.
The promised time I couldn't keep.
My words get stuck in my throat.
Why does such a trivial thing suddenly cause my chest to tighten?
Why... does such a trivial thing make her so happy?
"...... Let me ask you something."
----Stop it, Shiki.
"Yeah, what is it?"
"...... Are you..."
----Don't ask her that.
"Um, am I what?"
"...... Really a vampire?"
----What kind of answer are you hoping for?
"A vampire?--what's with that all of a sudden, Shiki?"
"It's not all of a sudden. I was just thinking."
I look away.
"Huh? I can't tell if you're really stubborn or not. I don't really mind, but that's pretty insulting. Tell me why you're asking that."
There's no reason.
But----at the same time, there's no real proof she's a vampire either.
"...... Well, you said you don't even like to see blood. What kind of vampire is that? You even said you weren't a full vampire, but a vampire that hasn't sucked blood isn't a vampire, is it?"
----That's not it.
Isn't it just that Tohno Shiki, deep inside, wishes she wasn't a vampire?
"Shiki. Stand up."
Arcueid approaches the park bench.
I stand up.
Our eyes meet.
We're about two meters apart.
Arcueid gives a huge sigh, and suddenly grins.
...... That's a relief.
I thought this question would insult her----but thankfully, she seems to have taken it as a joke.
"----Yeah. You really don't look like a vampire at all."
"Ahaha," Arcueid laughs again.
"Then, shall we try?"
She says this, still smiling.
"Shall we see if I can really drink blood? If I could, can you give me a prize, Shiki?"
"You mean... other than my blood? Since I'm the only fucking person here?"
With that smile still on her face, she takes a step closer.
--it. But I can't even finish.
It's not her power----but me who stops.
One step. Another step.
Looking down, bit by bit.
I----not even able to lift a single finger, am transfixed by her lips----
I stop calling her name.
With my own will, I stop.
Because I know if I call out her name, she'll pull away.
Her breath is so close.
Her white fingers on my shoulders are trembling.
My mind is blank and I'm not scared at all.
But, Arcueid is the only one shaking.
I can't see her face.
Just the swirling of her breath around my neck, and the feel of her trembling body against mine.
It changes from a weak breeze to heavy breathing.
A pained gasp escapes me.
But her claws do not let up.
They sink in as if not allowing me to escape.
"Arc----I'm sorry, I guess I joked around too much. I'm sorry----so can you, let go?"
Her fingers don't move.
----This isn't good.
My mind screams in warning and I gather up all my strength.
My arms move to push her away.
Pain shoots through my shoulders.
After the grip increases one more time from her white fingers,
Arcueid flies back, practically screaming.
Music: play track 9
When skimming, I did not read that as 'breaths'.
Her entire body shaking, she gasps as if to suck in the entire atmosphere as she stares in disbelief at her two hands.
Her white fingertips are now dripping with my blood.
The redness flows from her fingers to her palms, and then along her arms.
She looks at it, and seems to be on the verge of collapse.
"...... Arcueid, just now, was----"
I call out to her.
Looking up from the blood on her hands, she meets my gaze.
"Please----go home, Shiki."
With that, she starts to run.
She disappears fast.
Not like she ran before, where she was taking me into account.
With a speed I couldn't even match if I sprinted with all my strength, she vanishes into the night towards the city.
She thinks I can just go back after seeing her like that?
"That idiot----where is she going when she's in that much pain......!?"
I can't just go back home.
Even though I don't know where to find her, I start to run after her into town.
The game has now entered full-on ...with a few bits of and for good measure.