Right next to me, I feel someone's heartbeat.
My eyes and ears don't seem to be working, but I know quickly that it is Arcueid.
My own heartbeat.
Maybe it's because of the terror I've never felt before combined with being on the verge of death.
Black. I feel like this thick blood which was hiding somewhere is now surging through my body.
Even though Arcueid's body is cool to the touch, she has the definite warmth of a living being.
Just being held like this calms my once raging heart.
My heart beats stronger.
Blood containing a strong will that seems to not be mine circulates through my body.
But that's odd. How can blood that's not mine stay hidden within me for so long----?
Music: play track 9
This scene is mostly the same, with a bunch of small differences since Arc wasn't the one to get wounded this time. We're not on her path, so we don't need to feel too guilty about her!
---A news caster's voice flows from the speaker.
...... That voice wakes me from my slumber.
A large room I don't recognize.
"...... Huh, this is----"
I take that back. I do recognize this place.
I've been in this room once before. "It's Arcueid's room."
I am lying in bed covered by sheets.
It's about past noon.
Arcueid doesn't seem to be anywhere in the room and uninteresting news fills the air.
I'm sure it was pretty interesting to Takada Youichi.
"...... Where did Arcueid go?"
And, I sense someone's presence in the kitchen.
"In the kitchen?"
I get out of bed
Curious, I check my stomach for wounds but it's perfectly healed.
I touch it timidly.
If I itch it, I feel the scratch. If I pinch it, it hurts.
It looks like that black blubbery thing has really become part of my body.
Description: shoots crocodiles that seek nearby enemies.
If the name of the city is Minamiyashirogi, Arcueid can NOT call her last name a long one.
I stop dead in my tracks.
My eyes become glued to the newscaster on the television set.
"One hundred and three people staying at the hotel are still unaccounted for.
Furthermore, bloodstains can be seen within the hotel and the police are beginning to suspect that they were involved in some kind of a crime."
"What----are you saying? Bloodstains? It wasn't----something that small and cute."
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 a listing of the names of the 103 missing people.
----Of course neither my nor Arcueid's name are on the list.
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.
I resist the urge to throw up.
I can't allow myself to vomit when I recall each and every event which occurred last night.
Such a petty sympathy would set me lower than a filthy pig.
For me, the only one who escaped death in that hotel, I won't allow anything else other than hatred for the one behind it all.
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.
At least he didn't try to peek up anybody's shirt, though. That would've been intolerable.
----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, you---shouldn't you be asleep right now? It's the middle of the day."
"That's true, but there's no way I could sleep while your condition wasn't stable. ...... And I was thinking I slept yesterday so it's your turn today."
For some reason, I feel embarrassed and look away.
...... Even though she's not human, she is really attractive.
That's two steps away from, "Say, nice tentacles! Did you shave them this morning? You really know how to turn me on!"
"A-Anyway, Arcueid. Why did I sleep in your room? That man in the black coat you called Nrvnqsr... What exactly is he?"
"You're here because I brought you here. Shiki, you lost consciousness in that hotel hallway."
"---I remember that vaguely. But, why did that Nrvnqsr guy leave? He seemed to be saying something terrible."
"That's because the sun was rising. By the time you and I had left the hotel, it was above the horizon. You remember that vampires lose their power in sunlight, right?"
She speaks like she's talking about a third party, but she's a vampire herself.
"Arcueid, you say that... but doesn't that go for you too?
That is---you said after I killed you, you became weak right? Did your body recover a little?"
"Yes, thanks to you. I'm feeling better than I was yesterday. I'm finally able to move my arms and legs around too."
I can't make any Turkish jokes on this path
Finally able to move her arms and legs around... Don't tell me--
"Wait a second, Arcueid. You mean, you weren't able to move around fully before......!?"
"...... I... see. So how much have you recovered now?"
"Lets see... I can at least move my body. My body will be fine by tonight.
But I'm not able to gain back the power I used when I regenerated myself so it doesn't change my weakened state."
Her face is expressionless as she speaks these words.
There's one! "Five minutes, Turkish"
"...... I see. Even if it's only little by little, I'm glad you're getting better."
I sigh from heart-felt relief.
"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."
"Duh, you ARE a monster... you're just a monster with GREAT tits."
"Eh? I saved you, Shiki?"
Arcueid's eyes widen in surprise.
It seems she wasn't even aware of it.
"...... Yeah. I have a few problems with your method, but you did save me.
So it's a little late but thanks. If you weren't there, I would've joined that list of 103 names."
"Thanks----It wasn't really anything. I'm the reason you met Nrvnqsr, so you don't have to feel like you owe me."
"Maybe, but the truth is that you saved me. Since you did, I want to thank you."
"----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."
"----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.
"Hm? Did you remember something you forgot?"
"No, that's not it. ...... I never really thought about it before, but I just wondered why I wanted to kill you."
"There's no reason at all, right? Because you're just a born killer Shiki."
What, did, this, woman, just say about me----?
"While I was still off guard with surprise, you killed me with your first strike, and just finished off by slicing me into pieces----Yeah, your surprise attack was perfect.
How perfect was it? A painting of you from that time would have been an unparalleled masterpiece, that's how perfect it was."
Time and repetition sure haven't made that analogy any better.
"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.
I love the mental image of the childishly excited Arcueid bouncing on her toes towards a really pissed-off looking Shiki.
"THAT'S NOT IT AT ALL, YOU IDIOT----!!"
Idiot, diot, iot, ot.........
My shout echoes through the room.
I strike her eardrums with full power, not holding back one bit.
Arcueid exaggeratingly covers her ears.
"I'm ticked off now! What are you doing all of a sudden Shiki!?"
"I'm the one who should be angry! I was wondering why you were asking me all those impossible things, but now I understand!"
"Eh----? Understand what......?"
"About you asking me to be a shield against a monster and watching over you because you think I'm some crazed killer!
...... Geez, you're unbelievably mistaken. You thought so highly of me because of that.
Look, I'll tell you right now. I'm not a killer or a homicidal maniac.
You----you were the first person I killed."
Arcueid's mouth hangs open.
...... Damn it, she really does seem totally surprised.
"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.
Why----did I conveniently forget such an important thing?
"--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.
Except that he did enjoy it.
"...... Yeah. Other than you, I never felt like that before."
"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."
"----That may be so, but it doesn't change the fact I killed you."
Even if there is no punishment, the sin will never disappear.
"Of course. Even now I still resent it, so it would be troubling if you just forgot.
But you know, Shiki. If you feel that way and will always regret it, then I don't think there will be a problem."
----But, that's just sugar-coating it.
"Shiki. There really are people who will not sell their souls to the devil even if they hated the world. Like... someone so honest they could apologize to a vampire.
So I think it's alright. No matter what people say and no matter how much you say you're not----you can still stay in the world you want to live in."
...... I'm speechless.
How can you----how can you smile and say that to the person who killed you?
"Come on, we have a much more troublesome problem to worry about. Now that you are up Shiki, I want to continue our conversation from before."
...... That's right.
More important than my own situation, I have to know about Arcueid and---what happened at that hotel.
"...... That's right. Arcueid. Can I ask about the hotel from yesterday?"
"Fine, but we don't have to stay standing. Shiki, if your body isn't quite fully adjusted, maybe you should lie down."
"Idiot. You're the one who should be lying down. Isn't daytime hard for you? Don't worry about me, lie down and we can talk."
"It's okay... I finally have a chance to talk to you so it would be a waste if it wasn't face-to-face."
...... Arcueid smiles faintly, and looks directly at me.
Music: play track 4
"Well, I'll ask then.
The guy last night----the one you called Nrvnqsr... just what the hell is he?
I'm being serious here, so please don't say something like he's a magician who can make crocodiles appear from his body."
That title now belongs to Shiki!
"I won't say that.
I think you know this already but he is also a vampire. We call him Nrvnqsr and he is quite an exception.
...... To tell the truth, he isn't someone you could talk to so casually like this."
So he was a vampire after all.
But, for some reason----like Arcueid sitting in front of me, he doesn't match my image of a vampire either.
"So, this Nrvnqsr... what kind of guy is he? You seem to know him or something."
"Of course not. I don't have any vampire acquaintances. Knowing them means I'm going to kill them the next instant. This is the first time I ever met a vampire without killing it."
"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."
"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.
"...... No, that can't be right. Black dogs weren't the only things rampaging in the hotel. I think there were things like lions and leopards too."
"Right. ...... To be able to bring together thirty animals of the same type is one thing, but for Nrvnqsr to have different beasts in his body truly places the strength of his willpower apart from others.
...... Well, it does seem odd that if he has that sort of power he would only use wild animals. I would have thought he would employ more magical beasts with his sort of willpower----"
Hmmm. Arcueid descends deep into thought.
"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."
"----I can't believe it. He's a complete monster."
"Yes. He really is the worst opponent I could have at the moment. He's one of those you never want to meet.
But what's worse is that such a guy knows where we are.
Even now I'm sure his familiars are watching us."
"Isn't it obvious? We were saved earlier because the sun rose, but we can't count on that tonight. He knows of this place so he will certainly come to kill us at the height of his power at midnight."
"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.
At least he doesn't sneak inappropriate glances at women, though! You just couldn't let a guy like that walk the streets, now could you?
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.
When I answered, the room changed colors
"Arcueid. Sorry, but I can't. He's too different. Even if I fought him, I wouldn't even be able to scratch him."
...... I'm not sure where she gets that from, but she tilts her head as if doubting me.
"...... I'm glad you think so highly of me, but I can't do it. Our promise was just for me to watch over you for one night. I don't want to have anything more to do with that monster."
"Hmm, it may be too late. Nrvnqsr met you. Even if you were no longer with me, I don't think he would leave you alone."
She speaks lightly as if discussing some third party.
I blurt out, and then I understand.
That vampire Nrvnqsr is the one killing people in this town. There's no reason for him to leave me alone once I saw his face.
"Guess I'll just have to kill you then! "
Her smile doesn't fade.
...... She really seems intent on coercing me.
"............ You devil."
...... I'm trapped.
If I'm going to be attacked either way, then there's no other choice but to help Arcueid.
I look up at the ceiling and take a deep breath.
Fortunately, that prepares me just a bit for what is to come.
"Okay, I'm ready. ...... Come to think of it, there was no running away from the time I met you. Coming this far, I guess I have no choice but go all the way."
Arcueid tells Shiki how to go about killing Nrvnsqr. They develop a plan to have Arcueid act as a distraction while Shiki attacks from behind. Even though she has her reservations about whether or not Shiki can actually do it, she puts the plan in motion and they go to the park around midnight. Nrvnsqr shows up and Shiki gets so nervous that he has to consult his panelists.
"Don't get it wrong, Nrvnqsr. The Dead Apostles are not a group of twenty-seven, but of twenty-eight. You do not recognize 'The Serpent' as one of your own?"
"Of course. His ideals differ from ours. He is a vampire, but he does not hold to the meaning of being a vampire. Consequently, we do not accept him as one of us."
"----But, we are old friends. I believe I understand him more than the other Dead Apostles."
"...... I see. Come to think of it, you are like 'The Serpent' as well, as you are unlike the other vampires too. Since you are both heretics, you must share common interests."
Oh god finally, a new choice... sort of... fuck it, it'll do. Voting time!