My mind was fuzzy. Where was I? The floor was oddly close by, so had I fallen over? But it didn’t feel like I was lying face-down. My vision was situated low to the floor, but it was not angled at all. It was almost like I had been buried upright with just my head sticking out.
“Oh, Satori-kun. Did you come to?”
I responded to the girl’s voice I heard from nearby. I did indeed see a familiar silhouette standing by the wall.
The air was awfully dusty, the floor and walls were damaged here and there, and the atmosphere was damp and gloomy. Some light was leaking in through a thick curtain, so it must not have been night. This place had to be like this year-round, but that was why the familiar girl’s voice soothed my heart so much.
The Class Rep was wearing her usual glasses, her headband that pushed up her long black hair and left her forehead bare, and her blazer-style school uniform. But her skirt was a little short. And since I was on the floor… Wait, you’re way too close! Are you not even paying attention!! What is with this angle? I can see up your skirt…and I can even see the small ribbon on that white cloth! I-I can’t believe it! Ahh! Class Rep, ahhhh!!
“I’m glad you came to, Satori-kun. Here.”
“Don’t crouch down, Class Rep! I can see everything! And why are you placing your soft hands around my face!? No, wait! If you lift me up like that, my face will go right into your chest!!”
My adolescent mind began panicking with everything going on here, but I still managed to notice that something was wrong.
Ahn? She isn’t gathering her strength to pick me up… It’s like she’s easily lifting up just my head like a soccer…ball…?
“C-Class Rep, wait a second. Is it just me or am I unnaturally light? I mean, there’s something wrong with my physical weight. Or…”
I trailed off.
The Class Rep picked my head up with both hands and tilted her head curiously. I caught sight of something in her small face. Or more accurately, in the lenses of her glasses.
It should have been my face reflected there.
But, um, this was weird.
All I saw reflected there was a gigantic garlic about the size of a human head!
“Wait! What? Um, wh-wh-wh-what is this, Class Rep?”
“Shh. Satori-kun, not so loud.”
“You’re acting like I’m being unreasonable here, but I’ve turned into a giant garlic without a face or a body! I mean, why aren’t you questioning this? Am I the only one that finds this surreal as hell!?”
“Oh, honestly. This is…oh, no. Did she hear all the noise? This way.”
“I still haven’t processed the first stage, so don’t just move onto the next- mghmgh!!”
O-oh, no. The Class Rep held me to her chest, so my mouth was sealed by those two divine mounds that were smallish but had an incredible presence, but what was going on? Did she just climb under the bed while my endorphins were pumping!?
“C-Class Rep, on top of the bed would have been one thing, but climbing under the bed is certainly a unique choice. Well, I’m willing to try it that way if you-…”
“Shh. Be quiet. It’s all over if she notices us.”
A moment later, I heard a noise.
It was a wet noise like dragging a thick cloth along the floor after soaking it in rotten water.
That blew all questions and excitement out of my mind. It was like how you might want to have a few words with a masked man who breaks into your house but your mind would go blank when he threatened you with a knife.
That was how it made me feel.
That odd sound was something I had to stay utterly focused on, just like the glinting tip of a knife.
Under the bed, the Class Rep did not provide any further explanation. She probably couldn’t. I was still contained in her soft arms and I sensed her cold sweat and erratic heartbeat more than her sweet scent.
And the sound…
That sound of a dragging wet cloth…
This was bad. It wasn’t leaving. It was not moving from in front of the door. Then I heard the clattering of scraping metal. Was someone…messing with the doorknob? I tried to look up at the Class Rep’s face, but she said nothing and did not even return eye contact. That confirmed my fear: the door was not locked. In fact, this was someone who could not be kept out with a locked door. And a locked door would only gather their attention. That had kept her from trying to hole up in this room.
It opened. The room’s door creaked open. But it did not feel like any fresh air entered the cramped room. In fact…what was this? Simply calling it sweet didn’t do it justice. It was a mass of a sickly sweet aroma that seemed to make the air sticky. It was probably a rose scent or something similar, but it was so powerful it was like an assault on the senses. If I had to ride an elevator filled with the aroma, I would probably pass out and crumble to the floor before reaching my destination.
I desperately tried to gather information from the limited view I had from below the bed.
Whoever it was seemed to be barefoot. Their footsteps sounded awfully light on the floor. They may have been a girl. I couldn’t tell what she looked like or what she was wearing, but I could see the long cloth that was dragging along the floor.
The way she walked suggested she did not have a set destination in mind.
She slowly walked irregularly around the small room.
I realized where the smell was coming from.
Something dripped to the floor in tune with her light pace. It was brightly colored. Seeing it felt a lot like watching the blooming of a lovely flower, but was it…blood?
I just about cried out, but the Class Rep suppressed it by holding my garlic head tightly to herself. Meanwhile, the wandering person continued to move.
There was a great tremor.
As soon as I realized she had climbed onto the bed, the destructive shaking continued like she was having a fit of anger. This was the result of illogical, incoherent, and violent thoughts like someone jumping around and stomping their feet in frustration that things weren’t going their way. It was like someone cursing and throwing a nearby flower pot against the wall after stubbing their little toe on the corner of their dresser. But this told me something, even if I had no concrete proof.
That bestial roar from directly above gripped my soul.
I knew we could not let her find us.
It was a stinging sort of confusion. It was how you froze in place if you were riding an elevator alone late at night and were suddenly joined by a man holding a grass-cutting sickle and muttering to himself. This was broken. It was not at all normal. The standard motives like hatred, pleasure, or profit did not matter. Once this saw you, you would be killed like a stuffed animal having its stuffing torn out and it would be for an uglier and muddier reason that could not be described with words!
As the girl raged atop the mattress and springs, I also heard what must have been a liquid dripping down due to her violent movements. The oppressive and unbelievably sweet smell grew even harsher. My garlic body did not have eyes or ears, but my vision blurred regardless. What felt like the back of my “eyes” hurt. If I was feeling like this, the Class Rep had to be gagging and struggling to breathe.
I had heard of potable perfumes that used a special arrangement of herbs to intentionally alter your scent since what you ate would alter your body’s smell. But how could it change this much? Surely not even using an IV to directly pump your veins full of bathroom air fresher would have this much of an effect!
I shuddered and the childish tantrum on the bed ended. No, she had gotten carried away and rolled right off the bed. It made a loud thud, but I was not about to feel sorry for her. She was far too frightening for that.
And more importantly, this introduced a pressing problem.
She had rolled off. She was collapsed on the floor. A girl in a red…yes, a bloody dress was squirming on the floor with her legs and butt pointed our way, but she was down on our eye level now. If her rusty silver hair swayed and she turned this way, she would see us below the bed!!
Don’t worry about what’s behind you!
Don’t ask any weird questions and just leave!!
The red-stained dress writhed as her fingers and toes kept slipping in her own pool of blood.
She’s not…standing up!?
Is it all over!?
But the Class Rep did not move. She remained silent and kept holding my garlic head to her chest.
The girl moved.
She must have decided standing up would be too much effort because she dragged her red-stained body along. I could hear the sound of dragging wet cloth. She made her way to the room’s door, stuck her slender fingers through the gap, pushed it open, and entered the hallway headfirst.
I couldn’t move for a while.
I seriously thought I would find the bloody dress girl smiling back from just outside the door the instant we relaxed and crawled out from below the bed.
The Class Rep must have been the same.
She did not move out from the bed, but she did whisper to me.
“(Looks like she’s gone.)”
“(C-Class Rep? What was that???)”
When I asked that far-too-obvious question, the Class Rep relaxed her shoulders just a bit and answered.
“(I thought you would know more about those than me, Satori-kun.)”
I was confused, so my childhood friend continued.
“(A vampire. I don’t know why, but she seems to be wandering around this abandoned hospital, the old Peace Committee Convalescent Hospital.)”
With that, some things clicked into place.
Although there were still plenty of questions, like why the Class Rep and I were in that abandoned hospital and why I had turned into a garlic head. But most of the signs…no, symbols seemed to fit together.
We had an extremely large stage.
I had the Class Rep as a flag I could not afford to lose.
We had the vampire as an absolutely powerful foe.
And there was the garlic.
…Wasn’t that one of the most famous weaknesses of vampires, right alongside sunlight and crosses?
“M-Maxwell!! These settings are all messed up! It’s bugged to hell! Have I been thrown into some surreal game space where I have to play as a goat or a slice of brea-…mgh!?”
“Shh! Can you not learn, Satori-kun!? Make too much noise and she’ll come back!!”
I had discovered a new rule: make a lot of noise and the Class Rep would unconditionally hold me tightly to her chest. But if I went too far, we would encounter that bloody dress girl. Don’t set up death traps in such weird places!? Are you a monster!? Sniff, sniff!!
And the desperately roleplaying Class Rep had more to say:
“Also, Satori-kun. I don’t think there’s much point in bringing up Maxwell now. Our phones don’t have a signal.”
Wait, hold on.
My mind was growing blank, so there was one thing I had to ask before I all-out panicked.
Wait, wait, wait!!
“What is it, Satori-kun?”
“Th-this is some bizarre game space created by Maxwell, my disaster environment simulator, right? I mean, how else can you explain that I’m garlic, that we’re in an abandoned hospital, and that there’s an invincible monster in a bloody dress!?”
Are we on earth? I had thought it was as simple a question as that. There was only one possible answer.
But an awkward silence followed. It might not have actually lasted even a full second, but it felt horribly out of place like a slight lag in an otherwise smooth video.
And her words delivered the final blow.
“What are you talking about?”
Am I in real trouble this time!?
Maxwell: My user’s second form and an anti-Archenemy biological weapon with especially powerful effects against vampires. Incidentally, its sterilizing properties mean it is viewed favorably by Miss Ayumi, the zombie who uses so many preservatives on a daily basis.
Garlic comes in a variety of forms, but in my user’s case, it appears to have eight cloves. However, the garlic is extremely large, it can roll on its own, and it rapidly grows further bulbs while buried in dirt. None of this can be explained using the traits of the normal perennial plant of the Liliaceae family, so is this silhouette really garlic…?
The most famous vampire weaknesses are sunlight, a wooden stake, and garlic. There are actually plenty of others, such as fire, sacramental bread, holy water, silver weapons, etc., but I think those three are the ones most people will think of.
Compared to sunlight and a wooden stake, garlic does not seem very holy or powerful and it even seems kind of silly, but if you read the world’s most-famous vampire novel which is somewhat biased about blood transfusions, you will find that garlic is used as a convenient tool. Not only does a necklace made from garlic flowers keep the vampire away, but it is also used to protect a home. And it seems the actual hunters use it in similar ways.
As an additional note, the idea that vampires immediately turn to ashes when exposed to direct sunlight is only found in later movie adaptations. The novel only has the vampire weakened during the day. And driving a stake through the heart is not absolute; after the stake, you have to chop off the head and stuff garlic in the mouth.
…The vampire Archenemy we will be seeing today actually does turn to ashes in sunlight and dies instantly from a stake through the heart. Discussing that can get into “chicken or the egg” territory, but garlic is still a necessary component when facing them. Any who mock the old traditions will find themselves in tears later on.