"...By the way, I do not recall authorizing this kind of club?"
The quartet was casually doing their own thing in the "club activities room" as usual when a girl suddenly visited and declared.
Viewing the surprised quartet with disdain, she continued even more mercilessly.
"So, please relinquish this place as soon as possible. You do realize you are occupying a classroom illegally, right?"
"Why!? Why was my club not authorized? All we're missing is confirming the name and the activities description, right!?"
"Let me say this, in that case, you guys do not even qualify as a hobby group, let alone a club!"
Before the other three could even retort, the girl already answered Rushella directly on their behalf.
This person exuded an aura of dignity that differed from Rushella. With gently wavy hair coiled behind her head, she was dressed in her uniform in a fashionable yet strictly rule-abiding manner. An existence that no one in the school was unaware of.
Student Council Vice-President, Uno Kirika.
Having joined the student council as a first year, she was now a second year high school student. In the last election, she was able to ascend to the position of vice-president.
From the brief introductory exchange earlier, it was readily apparent that her personality was harsh, uncompromising and dutiful. Consequently, the complete lack of support from the female students resulted in her losing the bid for the president position. At the same time, due to her combination of beauty, talent and upfront ways, her approval rating amongst male students was reportedly the highest in the history of the school.
Amongst the current student council members, due to her being the only one with past experience on the council as well as her business-like personality, rumors speculated that she was the actual boss running the show.
Faced with her merciless announcement, Rushella was the first to object.
"What is going on!? Why can't you approve our club!?"
"What is going on? Because there is no paper trail. Besides, how do you even plan on applying with neither name nor content confirmed? Are these not questions that come before approval? Furthermore, you do realize the challenges of starting a club from scratch like this? Even if you do get approved, more than likely you will end up as a hobby group with neither club classroom nor club budget."
A completely correct explanation.
Even without her dignity as an upperclassman and as the Student Council Vice-President, her reasoning was flawless.
"Mmmmmmm... You dare speak to me in such a manner..."
"Excuse me, but she does bring up good points. By the way, did you even fill out the application? Based on common sense, shouldn't the name and activities be confirmed first before the club is established?"
Hisui's questioning made Rushella display a displeased expression.
"I already told the principal! I ran over to his office and declared 'I shall create a new club!!' Then with a blank stare, he answered 'All shall proceed as you wish...' He approved it!!"
"Clearly you used your 'mystic eyes' to force him to agree!! That's even worse than gaming the system!!"
"Shut up, if the boss already agreed, there's no problem, right!?"
"I say, even if we do it your way... The effect of 'mystic eyes' only lasts for a day, right!? Forcing your way into high school, having to run over to the principal's office to use the 'mystic eyes' every single day would be too much, which was why I asked Kariya to take care of the proper paperwork..."
"Hmm... Well then, can't the club be dealt the same way..."
"You must create the club properly in accordance with school rules. It would be too conspicuous if we meddled in this affair. Even though it would be troublesome for us if your area of movement expands after school, we cannot assist in this matter."
Eruru asserted expressionlessly.
Under normal circumstances, she seldom spoke to the group, but her words were always merciless when she did.
After all, she was only attending this school for the purpose of monitoring Rushella and Hisui.
Belonging to an undisclosed division of the Metropolitan Police Department, as a special consultant to the Supernatural Investigations Section and as an expert in vampire combat -- this was Kariya Eruru's identity.
Hearing Eruru's flat rejection, Hisui ignored Rushella's pouting and had no choice but to attempt negotiations with Kirika.
"So, the matter of the club aside... Why did you come here?"
"Even though our school was affected by the declining birthrate and decreasing trends in student numbers in the past, enrollment has increased in recent years due to the redevelopment of the station area. This in and of itself poses no issue. But at the same time, the problem of clubs operating with a lack of transparency gradually surfaced. My visit here today, could be described as for the purpose of investigations."
"...What do you mean?"
"Sports clubs are basically fine, but we have problems getting a grasp on the number of cultural clubs and hobby groups as well as their membership. Some of them are disbanded in reality and yet they continue to be allocated a budget. There are also chaotic cases of multiple hobby groups carrying out similar activities. Even more outrageously, there are clubs whose activities and existence are unknowns. Given someone malicious, one could easily embezzle the school's club budget under the guise of other clubs."
"...I see. That really is a problem."
"Many teachers who were once club advisors have left the school for various reasons such as retirement or quitting. To be honest, the school administration has no way of finding out the actual situation of all the clubs. Hence, the student council has decided to conduct an investigation. Do you understand now?"
There was clearly no room for negotiations.
Handled carelessly, this issue could end up making the entire school their enemy.
"Even if classrooms may be currently unused, in consideration of greater student numbers in the future, we must start managing them so that they can be distributed in a disciplined manner as the need arises. Or perhaps, once the club investigation is complete, the classrooms can be returned to the school administration, to be assigned to officially recognized clubs... In any case, we cannot let you use this classroom for completely unproductive activities of a group that does not even qualify as a club."
"...Lowly human, you dare speak in this manner to an exalted vampire such as me... Well then, by my 'mystic eyes,' thou shalt obey...!"
Faced with Kirika's high tension attack, Rushella who had kept silent all this time suddenly murmured horrifying words.
Alarmed, Hisui frantically pulled her hand and tried to soothe her.
"Idiot, stop it... Even if you drive her away right now, she's going to return, right?"
"It is as Kujou-san stated. Even if you use the 'mystic eyes' to control her alone, there would be too many targets once the entire student council and teaching staff are on the move. Besides, the effect of 'mystic eyes' does not last long enough, resulting in a vicious cycle, would you not agree? Badly handled, you may even expose your identity."
Eruru restrained Rushella's rage with words of reason.
Unable to object, Rushella had no choice but to stand still, clenching her fist.
"...Just as I have said, if you do not have any further matters, please hurry and..."
"Ah, wait a minute, Senpai!"
Just as Kirika was about to end the conversation, Mei joined in.
"We understand the situation now, but isn't it kind of mean to throw us out like this? Even though an unofficial club or hobby group unrecognized by the school is not proper, but honestly, though we appear to be accompanying our club president who's a little unfortunate in the brains department while we pretend to engage in club activities, in reality, all we do is chat around."
"Hey... I don't quite get what you mean by that, but surely you're speaking ill of me, right...?"
Ignoring Rushella's terrifying teeth-gnashing behind her, Mei continued:
"...Conversely, what we're doing does not cause trouble to anybody. There is no school rule forbidding students from chatting in classrooms after school, right?"
Inane to the extreme.
Simply stated, they were killing time.
Precisely because of that, they were not bound by any rules.
Mei was countering using the tragic truth, an act of merciless practicality.
At the very least, until the classroom was assigned an official purpose -- they wished to remain here.
Presumably seeing through Mei's intentions, Kirika relaxed her tone of voice and answered.
"...True. Indeed there is no such rule. However, the rules do advise: students who have nothing to do should leave school promptly, but enforcing that sort of thing is unnecessary. Rather than obeying meaningless rules, there would be more value in improving them."
"You agree, right? So, we can..."
"...The reason I came here today is not only for the purpose of investigating clubs and classroom usage. Recently in the past week, the student council's complaints box was stuffed with anonymous letters concerning this empty classroom after school."
"Anonymous letters... What did they say?"
Hisui was the first to ask as the quartet wondered in puzzlement.
Kirika looked at them as if sizing them up, then continued.
"Let me see... The first letter -- a busty beauty had pushed a slender male student down on the ground, licking his neck with her tongue... That was the eyewitness account. Others have mentioned occurrences of pouncing to bite and lick the neck, or hardcore situations that rival bedscenes from foreign movies."
"What are you talking about...!? In this place of learning, such unwholesome and immoral acts!!"
"I'm sorry, but they're talking 100% about you. It must be that time when PE class taught basketball in the gym where you don't have to worry about sunlight. Hence you were in extremely high spirits, saying whatever 'I'm tired and want to suck blood! Hurry and let me suck!!' Then after school you came for a heavy meal of blood, remember?"
Rushella displayed great indignance as Hisui retorted in amazement.
Even though this classroom was relatively remote and unfrequented, due to Hisui's desperate resistance, it was possible that people came to check out the noise.
"There is more. A pony-tailed beauty, far surpassing high school students in sexiness, was guiding a slender male student's hand towards her chest, thighs and even up her skirt. That seductive body was all over him like performing a pole dance or something."
"Wow... For something like that to occur in a school. This person is even worse than a nymphomaniac!"
"I'm sorry, but they're talking 100% about you. It must be that time, when you were saying 'Once a month, there's always this time when I'm consumed with desire' and pounced on me, right? That force and momentum almost crushed me so I couldn't breathe, you were trying to take my virginity that day, weren't you?"
As Mei displayed exasperation, Hisui retorted with a twisted face.
Thanks to Rushella's arrival, his virginity remained untouched. After that, the sparks of war were ignited between the two girls. The scene was like a tournament for the throne of the strongest supernatural creature. It was possible that people came to check out the noise.
"In addition, a slender male student was sighted being beaten up ferociously by a female student even shorter and smaller than him. Despite the male student's apologies and pleas for mercy, the girl continued relentlessly, finally stomping him into the ground."
"How scary. Well, given the victim of assault still counts as male, how utterly useless and incompetent is he?"
"I'm sorry, but they're talking 100% about you. It must be that time, I was trying to stop Rushella and Sudou from arguing and was sent flying when they crashed into me. I ended up touching your chest due to some irresistible force of fate. It was a total accident, but you beat me up mercilessly, remember?"
Hisui retorted, his face completely pale.
He could recall his painful screams, so it was possible that people came to check out the noise.
"Also there are many instances similar to the likes of 'Riajuu Kujou must die.' 'Kujou is an idiot.' 'I'm not jealous of him!!' In addition there were even ones like 'By the way, wouldn't you agree that... Hisui is sort of cute?' 'To be frank, if I were to be alone with that kid... Dangerous.' 'Honestly... Does gender matter actually?' 'Hey... Can you do it... With me?' That sort of stuff."
"Scary!! Hey, what the heck is with the later ones!? What kind of attitude towards me is that!? Of course, I don't want to be the public enemy, but those gazes are even more terrifying! Umm, what the heck are these people complaining about!?"
"In order to safeguard personal privacy, no such details may be disclosed."
"Hey hey hey! My virginity is at stake here! Besides, isn't it a bad thing for your student council as well!?"
"Impure heterosexual relations aside, the school rules say nothing about impure homosexual relations. As for matters of conduct related to 'B' and 'L,' the student council's official position is a policy of noninterference."
Kirika's final blow crushed Hisui's hopes completely.
Collapsing to sit on the ground, powerless, he clutched his head in his arms.
Without even glancing at him, Kirika continued to speak mercilessly to the other three who were rooted to the spot.
"In any case, I forbid you to use this classroom. If you want to engage in club activities, you must abide by the school rules to the letter: gather at least five members, confirm the club's name and activities, then confirm the teacher advisor and finally apply to the student council through proper procedures. We will go through careful consideration, making sure there is no overlap with other club activities, as well as ensure a positive theme, only then will the formal approval process begin. That is all I have to say, any further questions?"
Hisui answered dejectedly on behalf of the whole group.
In actual fact, neither Mei nor Eruru were affected very much.
Only Rushella had her face turned away in disgust.
"Well then, you are dismissed. If you have nothing to do, please leave the school promptly."
Concluding with great solemnity, Student Council Vice-President Uno Kirika left.
And so, before it could even begin officially, the club was facing a disbandment crisis.
The next day, Hisui's group of four gathered once again in the empty classroom to discuss how to handle the crisis.
"......By the way, it's only been a day, and yet we're running over to this classroom again, isn't it kind of bad? That vice-president is famous for doing things strictly. Combined with her academic excellence and integrity of character, she's essentially the representative of the teachers, right? If we oppose her like this, aren't we going to get the short end of the stick?"
"I agree. Besides, why are you so obsessed with the club?"
Hisui and Mei were uninterested in the club in the first place. With zero enthusiasm, they asked Rushella.
"It's all your fault for putting in no effort! Whether assisting me in school life, or seriously investigating clues to my memories, why aren't you people showing me some enthusiasm!?"
"Even if I don't do the club, I've been taking care of your living space and all sorts of daily chores, and we really have been working hard on the matter of your memories, right?"
Living a wonderful life of cohabitation with the beautiful vampire, Hisui sought agreement from Eruru beside him.
Immersed in her notebook computer as always, she nodded lightly after hearing Hisui's question.
"We of the Supernatural Investigations Section are working on it full time. But we are already short on numbers, so our efforts have not bore fruit. Anyway, we did pick up rumors of vampires in this area."
"What, there are others of my kin around here!?"
Hearing Eruru's statement, not only Rushella but also Hisui and Mei leaned closer to listen.
"Yes -- or perhaps 'yes, in the past' would be more accurate. Many eyewitness reports indicate, in the past decade, there was once a woman with extremely pale skin who wore black gloves even in midsummer to prevent exposure to sunlight. Even though most witnesses saw her at night, but summing up the various accounts -- her face was beautiful enough to make one's heart stop momentarily. Despite wearing sunglasses in most situations, her beauty still left a vivid impression on others. Reportedly, some have even witnessed her 'unobscured face' when she took off her shades at night, and they have asserted -- such beauty could only belong to the heavens."
"Mmmmmmm... Based on her beauty, indeed she must be my kin -- or rather, she is more than likely of the same blood. Any other characteristics!?"
"Vivid blood-red lips, eyes that appeared crimson on occasion, as well as dazzling white skin -- basically the appearance of a classic vampire. Reportedly, she always brought a parasol with her, and considering her unusual style of dress, the possibility of being your kin is rather high. Other eyewitnesses have described her appearance as age twenty or so. Over the past decade, all reports of her age have stated the same thing."
"No change in appearance over ten years... In other words, she is an immortal unaging vampire? Really, in this area..."
Mei also exclaimed as she nodded.
Even though Rushella's claims of suddenly waking up in a coffin in the mountains was quite unbelievable, at least it was certain that a member of her race existed in this area.
"Are there any further descriptions of that woman, any other details? If we investigate this thoroughly, perhaps it might be related to my memories!"
"Ultimately these are all eyewitness accounts. Of course, some were summed up after cross examination, but there was nothing in regards to your origins. However, there were several testimonies that stood out."
Rushella leaned forward to ask, but Eruru answered indifferently.
"In most situations, she was not alone... A companion was sighted. According to the earliest accounts, she was leading by the hand a child who appeared five years old or younger."
"...Could that child also be my kin!?"
"No, according to later testimonies, that child showed signs of growing up. Based on appearance and build, it should be the same person accompanying that woman."
"A human who stays by the side of my kin...!? This person is rather concerning... Who on earth could it be!?"
"...I'm sorry, that child is most likely me."
Hisui raised his hand with a pained expression on his face.
Confronted with this suddenly revealed truth, all eyes focused on him.
"It's you...? Then who is that alleged vampire..."
"...Most likely my foster parent. She was aware that her eternal youth would be easily discovered, so she tried as much as possible to avoid being seen... Nevertheless, it looks like her efforts were in vain."
Hisui smiled wryly, his tone of voice helpless.
Subtly hidden was also a sliver of sadness, but the other three noticed.
Hisui was the only pure human present -- however, he was also different from ordinary humans in one special area.
He was raised by a vampire.
When he was young, he was about to be murdered by his parents when that certain vampire killed his parents to rescue him from his unfair fate, thereupon taking up the responsibility of nurturing him.
Savior, parents' murderer, foster parent who raised him -- vampire.
In the end, she met her demise to save Hisui's life.
"I guessed it was something like that. After all, most eyewitness accounts took place around your house. Most likely, it was when you accompanied the vampire late at night for walks?"
"...Don't people inevitably feel like going to the convenience store or visiting a roadside ramen stall on whim at night? Apparently, vampires also have similar habits."
Hisui shifted his gaze away and muttered.
His nostalgic tone of voice was truly filled with the kind of affection one held for a loved one.
"...Hmph, my hopes were raised thinking you had found some kind of clue, but it turns out to be this inane and stupid thing."
Rushella displayed undisguised anger.
Mei frantically tried to smooth things over with an honest question.
"...But the vampire who raised Hi-kun might not necessarily be unrelated to you, right? You both appeared in the same area, and even though you missed each other due to separation of time, you both lived in the same house. Doesn't this imply some sort of blood relation?"
"No no no. They are completely unlike in appearance. If you had to force a comparison, their only commonalities are that massive bust and arrogant attitude. Furthermore, the person in question said she had no blood relatives."
Hisui denied flatly.
Failing in her bid for harmony, Mei could only shrug. On the other hand, Rushella continued to face Hisui with a stiff expression.
"An otherworldly beauty, and yet you say she is completely unlike me in appearance, what do you mean by that? Are you trying to say that I am such a super otherworldly beauty that even that otherworldly beauty does not even come close?"
"I think standards of beauty are very subjective, but in terms of attractiveness and common sense... My foster parent definitely beats you."
Hisui once again asserted directly. Immediately realizing he said something wrong, he entered a defensive pose.
Defense readied... The attack never arrived.
Rushella turned her face just like that and walked back to her original position, not even giving him a glance.
"...What is going on?"
Hisui asked Mei beside him.
From her tone of voice, she was clearly pretending.
But Hisui was still clueless, scratching his head, he awkwardly stated their future direction.
"In any case, regarding your memories and past, we will continue investigating as before... But there's no need to do it as a club, right? It's not like the school has any clues."
Hisui's reasonable analysis caused Rushella's gaze to wander.
Her voice much more timid than before, she asked:
"You... Is it because of that? You have something else you want to do... Another club?"
"No, not at all... I did mention I'd hoped to join the 'Go Home' club, right?"
"...But, umm... You could have changed your mind and joined some other club, couldn't you?"
Arrogant and self-centered just earlier, she was now looking up at Hisui with pleading eyes -- as if afraid to anger him.
But Hisui failed to notice the change in Rushella and simply answered indifferently.
"Well...... If I happened to run into friends with similar interests and they invite me...... I would consider it. Ah, but I'm no good with sports clubs. As for cultural ones, I'd simply turn into a member in name only. But if I do that, I suspect that vice-president's gonna drag me off to be disciplined. Honestly, I'd prefer to get a part time job. Or maybe get a driving license to buy a motorcycle or something."
"...W-Well what about, are you going to shack up with that fake or some other woman to get all lovey-dovey whatever..."
"Huh? Something like that...... Well I can't deny that I wouldn't want a girlfriend. But it's not like we have to make out all the time... Simply walking home after school together, that kind of feeling like couples is..."
Just as Hisui imagined all sorts of fulfilling images of school life, Mei and Eruru sighed as they shook their heads.
"I knew it!! That is why you treat me like some low priority, right!?"
"Huh!? I didn't say that......"
"I-In any case, don't forget you are my servant, so you have to follow me properly after school! You hear that!? Participate in the club properly with me!!"
Rushella pressed forward.
Even though she was intimidating, Hisui decided to strike back against this unreasonable master.
"Then what do you want me to do!? And why do you have to keep talking like I have to be alone with you!? You want me to be following behind you, serving you at your beck and call after school!?"
Hearing his words, Rushella instantly blushed.
Her intimidating aura instantly vanished for some unknown reason, Rushella lowered her gaze and began to fidget with her fingers.
"Actually, you must be planning to do something to me, right!? What do you want to do to me after school!?"
Rushella could not help but retreat from Hisui's interrogation.
"I-It's not like I want to do something to you, I mean..."
Hisui took a step forward.
Now their separation was the same as every morning -- in other words, the intimately close distance where his blood could be sucked at any instant.
Even though they were so close they could feel each other's breath, Hisui did not move, in order to look Rushella straight in the face.
"......S-Shut up!! You're not allowed to disobey me! You are my servant, just stay by my side and that's it!!"
"Huh!? What the heck!?"
Just as Hisui inclined his head in puzzlement, Rushella returned to her usual attitude.
Her face blushing, she looked towards Hisui with trepidation -- and then at the two girls beside him.
The other two girls remained silent and simply gazed at Rushella with a certain expression of amazement.
As fellow girls, they understood Rushella's feelings.
There was a sense of resonance and sympathy between them.
Using easily understood terms, it was --
This girl really said it out.
That seemed to be what the two girls' eyes were saying in concert.
"S-Stop it, you're not allowed to look at me with that kind of gaze!"
"...It's fine, I didn't hear anything."
"The room seems a bit hot and stuffy, let us open the window for a bit."
The two girls tried hard to feign ignorance.
But even Hisui could tell they were subtly suppressing laugher.
Wailing, her voice failing her, Rushella rushed out the door.
"Ah, where are you going!?"
"S-Shut up, don't you dare follow!? I absolutely forbid you to chase after me!?"
Then she ran at full speed through the corridor, rushing away into the distance.
Presently, still stunned by the aftershock of Rushella's sprinting departure, Hisui sat back down on his seat completely puzzled.
"What the heck is up with her..."
"She's simply... Possessive. Don't people always love to tie up their pets with leashes?"
Mei answered as if she understood.
Her words felt rather stinging to Hisui's ears.
"I still don't get it. What, you're trying to say, that girl not only treats me as food but also a pet to toy with!?"
Hisui asked, his face pallid. Mei simply shrugged and asked Eruru:
"Eruru, did you hear his statement just now?"
"Yes, I heard it of course, Sudou-san. What utterly worthless trash he is."
"Hey, what are you two talking about!? Did I do something to that girl!?"
"...Despite hating vampires with a passion, I still sympathize with her as a fellow member of the fairer sex. You are essentially like a favorite doll that one wishes to hug all day. Her feelings are simply an extension of that."
"Eh, I'm now an inanimate object instead!? What dignity do I have!?"
"That sort of thing never existed anywhere on your person from day one. From the day you were born."
"My entire life from birth has been disregarded completely!?"
"Since she left, I will be going. You two better hurry up and leave as well, or else the vice president will give another lecture."
Eruru shut off her computer and stood up.
Hisui and Mei exchanged glances and got ready to leave school.
With that, no solution was reached for the club disbandment crisis -- before the club ruled by the vampire even began officially, it was already on the verge of natural demise.
"...Why are you following me?"
"No particular reason."
Eruru questioned with displeasure but Hisui continued to follow her with a nonchalant expression.
Rushella had run off while Mei went home as usual.
But Eruru continued staying behind in school.
Hence Hisui started following her.
Their distance was too close to be considered tailing, but neither were they walking together as there was clear separation between them.
"If you have no business then go home? By the way, is it fine for you not to chase after her?"
"She told me not to follow, right? So why should I waste the effort..."
"There is a saying 'Do not push the button, absolutely do not push the button.' Have you heard of it?"
"Huh? I said, even if I caught up to her, she'll definitely show a bad attitude, perhaps even resorting to punching and kicking, in the worst case I'll get my blood sucked..."
"I am not going to refute your speculation, but if you do not chase after her, I fear even greater trouble will come of it."
"I will call you if I run into trouble, I'm relying on you to save me. Remember to bring a gun and silver bullets."
"I will first blacklist your cellphone number."
"...You never told me your number in the first place, right?"
Physically they were within arm's reach, but there was clearly an unbridgeable gulf between them.
On one side was the boy who was raised by a vampire and currently a vampire's servant. On the other was the half-vampire who hated vampires with a passion. Essentially, the two were completely incompatible.
"You should know your boundaries and stop following me, okay? I am about to call the police."
"You are the police, right? Anyway, you were the first to say you're leaving, but why are you still in school?"
"This has nothing to do with you. Is that your reason for following me?"
"You...... Did you really come clean with everything you discovered in your investigations about that girl?"
The mood instantly tensed.
Eruru turned around and coldly glared at Hisui.
"...Are you calling me a liar?"
"Even if you didn't lie, I'm sure you didn't offer the whole truth."
Hisui immediately retorted.
Although he did not believe Eruru was one to deceive casually, expecting her to be honest and upfront with a vampire was an entirely different matter.
"Your small-minded cleverness remains the same as always. Is that what you followed me in order to ask?"
"Another thing... You took part in today's PE class, right?"
"Huh...? What about it?"
She could not tell what Hisui was getting at.
Eruru did indeed participate in the PE class in the afternoon.
The class only consisted of simple outdoor exercises.
Mainly running, which could be rather strenuous, but there was nothing special about it.
"Is it that strange for me to go to PE class? Granted, my duties consist of monitoring you two rather than going to class, but precisely because of that, I must play the role of the student properly. Attending a mere PE class should be perfectly natural, right?"
"...That freeloader who lives with me, watched without participating in PE class today."
"Of course, given the bright and sunny weather, how do you expect a vampire to be active?"
A perfectly logical answer.
Rushella opting out of PE class was only natural.
She hated sunlight because it was her fatal weakness.
Correct -- sunlight was the bane of vampires.
Well then -- what about someone who inherited half the bloodline?
What about a half-vampire, born from the union of a human and a vampire? In other words, Kariya Eruru?
"You haven't been looking well lately. Are you getting enough sleep?"
"Unlike a carefree student like you, I am extremely busy. Do not underestimate civil servants..."
Before she could finish her sentence, Eruru halted in her steps.
Her vision unsteady, her consciousness gradually faded.
That pale complexion of hers, even whiter than Hisui's, proceeded to lose further color of blood.
Seeing Eruru faint and collapse, Hisui caught her tiny body in time before she struck the floor.
"...Like I was saying."
Eruru's last image before she lost consciousness was Hisui's face, full of concern.
Upon waking up, Eruru found herself lying on a bench behind the school building.
The bench was located in a shaded spot beneath some trees. Even during the daytime it would be quite dark, and there was virtually no sunlight after school due to the foliage.
Hisui's voice instantly brought her back to her senses.
Surveying the surroundings, she could see the sun was still up in the sky despite the change in scenery, hence, not much time should have passed.
Most likely, she had only fainted for a matter of minutes.
Then while she was unconscious... Hisui brought her here.
"What are your intentions!? To think you would kidnap a girl... Could you be!?"
"......What strange things are you imagining? I only helped you a bit by bringing you somewhere out of direct sunlight. Or perhaps -- you'd prefer if I took you to the infirmary and explained everything to the teacher?"
Hisui's words rendered Eruru silent.
He had made the correct decision.
Bringing her here was indeed the most appropriate measure she approved.
"Looks like you probably know why you fainted. Please take better care of your health."
Even though she knew Hisui was worrying about her, these words only reminded Eruru of her constitution, causing her to grit her teeth and avoid eye contact.
Half-vampires' characteristic -- like vampires, they were afraid of sunlight.
Their bodies would not turn to ash on contact with sunlight.
Nevertheless, sunlight, and intense sunlight in particular, still eroded their bodies and sapped their strength. Even though they could endure through willpower for a while, fainting was inevitable after a few hours.
By avoiding intense sunlight and taking sufficient rest as well as appropriate nourishment, there were no serious effects -- but Eruru had to cope with work and study, hence a lack of sleep was her everyday life.
Combined with the exertion of PE class -- her accumulated fatigue finally exploded, causing the earlier result.
"I know your constitution is like a vampire's, and nocturnal... But since you still need to go to school during the day, it's better to secure sufficient sleep. Also, when PE class is outdoors, you should rest instead."
"What you want to say is... Because I am a half-vampire? Oh my, I am truly sorry for being nonhuman."
Eruru retorted with agitation.
Rather than saying anything, Hisui tossed to her a sports drink he had bought earlier at a vending machine.
"It's for you. I originally thought it'd be better to get the type for oral rehydration therapy, but it wasn't available."
Silently, Eruru caught the bottle and began drinking.
Rehydrated, Eruru turned her hostile gaze towards Hisui.
"...How thorough of your preparations. You predicted I would faint?"
"I bought it while you were unconscious. Rather, I should say I know my own body better? Even an ordinary person would collapse if they didn't rest after exhaustion. Especially with the blazing sun right now, that's even more obvious."
"So what? Are you saying that just because I am a half-vampire, I should not mind what happened?"
"Yes yes. Whether human or half-vampire, anyone who busies themselves without knowing their limits is simply a brat who makes trouble for others."
Behind the light-hearted tone of voice was strict admonishing.
Eruru frowned in response but Hisui continued unfazed.
"But I didn't come up with that. This was what my foster parent the vampire who lived a thousand years in human society said."
"...Clearly just a vampire, I have no wish to be lectured on how to live my life by the lessons she gleaned from human society. After all, she must be someone who hides in the dark, the ancestor of shut-ins and social misfits."
"Actually, she has worked virtually every job with night shifts, ranging from convenience store clerks to hostesses at drinking establishments. At one point, she was even the top courtesan at Ginza."
Eruru remained silent, presumably picturing the sight.
If reports were true, given her beauty, she must have been quite popular indeed.
As for working at a convenience store, she would be most suited to the prevention of theft and robbery. Even if an armed robber came with a gun, she would have handled the situation with ease.
"What kind of vampire was she...!? Could she really be a 'True Ancestor'!? If that girl who lives with you heard this, she would be rendered speechless with amazement!?"
"Apparently she thought that even as a vampire, one must conform to capitalist society in order to survive. Because her life experiences were rather rich, she tends to lecture quite a bit. Such as whether one should compromise work and knowing one's limits were completely separate issues."
"...Coming from your mouth, such advice completely loses all persuasiveness. If your foster parent hears of this from the afterlife, surely she must be sighing."
"Vampires are reduced to nothing when destroyed... Isn't that what happens? Or perhaps they also have souls, allowing them to go to heaven or hell?"
Hisui's casual expression vanished.
When vampires were destroyed, they turned into inorganic dust, leaving no body behind.
No one knew this better than Hisui.
Unable to stare straight into his eyes, Eruru shifted her gaze.
"Overlooking my own health... Is my negligence. I have... troubled you."
"Don't worry about it."
Hisui answered casually and began to drink the mineral water he bought at the vending machine.
Watching him from the side, Eruru spoke after a period of silence.
"You are not... afraid?"
"Indeed I needed rehydration. But if it were possible, appropriate replenishment of salt was also necessary."
"......? Well, I guess it counts as a heat stroke for you. What's the matter, you're dissatisfied with the sports drink?"
"Ultimately it is something for human consumption. For a half-vampire, there is a more suitable liquid."
Eruru stared at Hisui's neck.
That delicate pale skin which rivaled a woman's.
That certain liquid, coursing through those subtly visible blood vessels, was what Eruru urgently desired at this moment.
Carrying water and salt, as well as life itself, fresh blood.
"Fortunately, my symptoms are not severe... But were I to lose my sanity and bite you, what would you do?"
"That's right... What would happen once you sucked blood and recovered your sanity? I feel like I can imagine your loss of composure."
"...Are you a fool!? Before saving someone, please consider these obvious risks. You should be quite familiar with the characteristics of half-vampires, right?"
"Just go ahead and bite, it's fine. As long as you don't tear out the flesh or suck me dry to death."
Hisui was completely unconcerned.
Due to his special constitution, making this kind of statement was not problematic. In fact, he never feared Eruru in the first place -- he never feared half-vampires.
"You are incurably stupid. I will not be responsible for the consequences, you know? Do you think you can use your ridiculous philanthropism to build a bridge between two different races?"
"I'm not that kind of saint. To be honest, I wouldn't care if a great villain was being sucked to death by a vampire. Neither would I involve myself if I saw a vampire dying of thirst."
"Liar. If you saw an incurable villain being threatened by the fangs of a vampire, you will still save him. If you saw a famished vampire, you will offer your own neck. That is the kind of person you are."
"...Are you praising me?"
"I am criticizing you. Open your eyes to the truth."
Ending the conversation, Eruru stood up from the bench.
She had recovered her strength and was able to move freely. Now that the sun was setting, the most active time of the day for half-vampires had begun.
"Sorry for troubling you. I am fine now."
"Then it's about time you tell me, why did you stay behind in school? If it's for monitoring me and Rushella, there's no point if we already left. You should have left instead and followed us, right? But today... yesterday as well as the day before, you stayed in school. We all left the classroom together when club activities ended, but at the shoe cabinet at the entrance, you parted with us, why?"
Hisui asked with a serious expression.
Eruru finally surrendered and shrugged.
"Your observation skills are sharp as ever. I do have a mission. Even though I have to monitor you two as well, I expressly transferred here, to this school -- or rather, I should say to this area of Seidou city to conduct investigations."
"What investigations... Is there anything in this city worth mobilizing the Metropolitan Police Department? Well, I guess the earlier incident counts..."
"Before that incident, secret investigations were already underway. The reason why we of the Supernatural Investigations Section were stationed at the police station here, was because of this particular matter."
That's right -- Eruru and Hisui's first encounter happened at the closest police station, Seidou Police Station.
Originally he had thought they were sent here due to Rushella's appearance... But it looked like he was wrong.
"What is this about?"
"Crime cases in the neighborhood as well as missing persons have been on the rise recently. However, the increase is only slightly above average norms, this in and of itself is not worthy of note. Nevertheless, as the investigation progressed deeper, we discovered that a portion of the cases were greatly related to supernatural beings. Amongst them, there were clear cases where vampires were culprits -- corpses that had been sucked completely dry."
"You are suspecting... Rushella?"
"This was before her awakening. Even though we cannot believe everything she says, given her straightforward personality she does not seem to be lying. These cases are most likely unrelated to her. But this makes things even trickier, after all, there is a vampire working in the dark which the Supernatural Investigations Section cannot track."
"That's true... But then I've been living in this city ever since Miraluka adopted me, and this is the first time for me to hear something like this. When I was young, I never heard stories of strange happening or supernatural phenomena. Why would you people......?"
As Hisui crossed his arms in thought, Eruru continued.
"That's right... The incident that caught our attention happened only recently. However, you can think of it this way. The foster parent who raised you -- in other words, the existence of the vampire Miraluka, could it have acted as some sort of suppressive power?"
"Consider this carefully, if a 'True Ancestor'-class vampire lived somewhere, then first of all, other vampires will stay away. As long as they are unrelated by sire, they would all keep their distance. This would apply to other supernatural creatures as well -- no one would want to approach the residence of the existence crowned as the king of the night, the highest ranking of the undead race. Even though it is unclear if this was done out of her conscious will, simply by living here, she created a kind of safety zone. Precisely because of that, you received her protection and were naturally unaware of supernatural commotions. What do you think?"
"...What you say makes sense."
In his heart, Hisui basically agreed with Eruru's deductions.
Although he was not too clear on the mindset of supernatural creatures, it was plausible that there would be a lack of troublemakers recklessly approaching a 'True Ancestor'-class vampire. If a supernatural creature were to run over here and do evil, it would definitely be exterminated.
"Also, before you and your foster parent moved here, all sorts of strange rumors already existed in the area."
"Really!? Rumors, you don't say!? Is it those kinds of scary ghost stories that are common amongst folklore!?"
"Completely different from that kind of rumor. Rather than folkloristic strange tales, they are more like urban legends -- and for some unknown reason, they mostly involve western supernatural entities rather than eastern youkai."
"What... I've heard that this place used to interact with foreign countries, with frequent commercial trade, would that be the reason? I don't really know much about local history."
Arms crossed, Hisui recalled his memories of this city from early childhood.
"As expected, you do not know either. Rather, it is very likely that everyone your age have no impression."
"...So something existed in this city before Miraluka arrived. After that, it either left or concealed its tracks... Is that what you mean?"
"Nevertheless, that vampire is no longer. The time of her disappearance -- right, it was after your summer holiday during your third year of middle school."
Hisui instantly paled.
Images surfaced from memories he did not wish to recall.
"I investigated your immigration record. Prior to your summer holiday during the third year of middle school, you really traveled all over the world. Rather than foreign vacations, it would be more appropriate to describe your stays as a series of short term study abroad sessions. However, starting from that particular summer, you never left the country again."
Hisui did not answer.
He already expected his past to be dug up. Naturally, Eruru would not have spared any efforts in this area. This did not really matter.
But she was also digging Hisui's old memories from his mind.
"The last time you returned from overseas, you were under a certain country's embassy's protection, transferring through another country before reaching Japan. This was only natural, seeing as the country you went to had broken out in civil war and fallen into complete chaos. Vampires aside, a human like you must have suffered much hardship."
"When you returned... You were alone. Records indicate you had also left Japan alone, so it might have been reasonable. However, will a child really head over to that kind of tumultuous country alone? Even if the exit records did not indicate it... Perhaps there was a legal guardian in accompaniment?"
Legal guardian -- that's right, the foster parent who was much older than him.
The one who played the role of mother and elder sister, and closer to him than any other family.
"However -- you returned alone, carrying two objects which you did not have when you left Japan."
"The first is a massive cross. Very likely, it is that sword in your basement. The other is --"
The sudden outburst silenced Eruru. Or rather, she swallowed the remainder of her words.
Hisui's emotions surprised her.
"Please stop talking about my past. Do you want to be mistaken for a stalker?"
"...My apologies. I should not have said these unnecessary things. Anyway, something exists in this city. Something that laid low while your vampire foster parent was living here, but is now restless once more."
"After all, we already have a strange vampire as well as a golem of Frankenstein's. But apart from them, what else is out there? Besides, you're investigating within the school?"
Without answering, Eruru walked into the forest behind the bench.
Hisui followed in puzzlement.
Soon enough, Eruru stopped walking and bent down.
"It appeared today as well."
Craning his neck, Hisui looked at what lay before Eruru's eyes.
Then he could not help but frown and avert his gaze.
Calming his heart, he looked at the thing on the ground again.
Lying on the soil -- was the corpse of a black cat.
It looked like it had been rolled over by the tire of a car, with a huge depression on its belly. The sight was most tragic.
Based on its size it should be a kitten, which evoked even more pity.
"You were looking for this...? By the way, how did you know it would be in this kind of place?"
"Because including the one today, this is the third occurrence."
"About a week earlier... I was strolling within the school and happened to pass by this area. Smelling the stench of blood, I came over for a look... And found the corpse of a black cat as well. Compared to today's, its appearance was even more pitiful with its entire belly ripped open."
Eruru spoke indifferently. Very likely she acted in the same manner as today, staring away without reservation.
"Three days after that, I walked here... And found another similar corpse. Although there were no visible external injuries, it was most probably poisoned judging from the strange smell coming from its mouth. After that... It appeared again today."
"What is going on here... Completely mind-boggling... Are you telling me there's a lunatic in the school who cruelly kills kittens and leaves their corpses lying around in the wilderness!? No, wait a minute... since you came to investigate, is the culprit a supernatural creature?"
"Unclear at this moment, but one thing is for certain. This cat is a live sacrifice."
Hearing Eruru's assertion, Hisui looked at the black cat's corpse again.
The kitten's tragic appearance -- on the soil beneath it, strange patterns had been carved.
A circle just large enough to surround the kitten's body, with symbols written within it as well as various shapes with a triangular motif.
Even without expert knowledge, most people would understand the meaning of this circle.
It must be -- a magic circle.
This shape was drawn for the sake of performing magic.
The exquisite detail made it difficult to believe it was merely some sort of prank.
Furthermore, most alarming of all was the way the magic circle was drawn.
The perpetrator did not use some tool like a branch to draw on the soil. Naturally, it was not drawn using chalk like in PE lessons either.
Black with a slight shade of red, along with the smell wafting in the air. Hisui knew what had been used to draw the circle.
It was blood.
Blood which slightly stained the soil red, carving the magic circle in the ground.
"This is completely tasteless... What is it, cat's blood? Or is it..."
"Human blood. Judging from the smell. As much as I hate to admit it, I am actually quite sensitive to anything blood-related, that needs to be clarified. Furthermore, this is..."
Eruru picked up a handful of soil and casually scattered it over the magic circle.
Falling, the soil covered a portion of the circle.
However, -- very quickly, red lines appeared over the obscuring soil.
Clearly when the blood was seeped into the ground, it should have disappeared when covered with fresh soil or if the blood-stained ground was dug up -- but the magic circle did not disappear.
"What is going on here... Not a prank...? Could it really be...!?"
"Looks like... It should be some sort of magic. What is known as black magic. In any case, there is a need to undertake...... Hey, what are you doing?"
Ignoring Eruru's calls, Hisui picked up the dead kitten.
"Please do not touch it recklessly! What are you thinking!?"
"The same as you."
Hisui pointed to the depths of the forest.
"After all, you're going to bury it for sure, like the previous two. If there were flowers, I'd like to offer them as well."
Eruru blushed and turned her face away.
Hisui smiled and dug up a grave just as she had done before.
At this very moment, the kitten opened its eyes.
Its golden pupils glowed brilliantly.
Narrowing its eyes into a straight line, the cat's gaze pierced Hisui.
"Those who recklessly involve themselves in the way of magic, shall surely be cursed..."
The kitten definitely spoke.
When it was clearly dead.
It should not have been able to make any sound at all.
Nevertheless -- it spoke with a hoarse human voice.
Using that tone of voice, a mixture of hate and anger, it continued to speak.
"Shall surely be cursed...... Shall surely be cursed......!!"
This time, the kitten not only talked but also extended its front claws, making a scratch on Hisui's his right wrist.
Hisui could not help but let go, dropping the kitten onto the ground.
At the same time, it closed its eyes.
Then it lay there motionless. The kitten returned to the silent state of death.
"......The previous two, did they talk as well?"
Trembling, Hisui asked Eruru but she shook her head with a grave expression.
"...No. Nothing similar happened previously."
The two fell silent for a moment. Hisui rubbed the wound from the scratch.
It seemed to be fine.
The scratch extended from the wrist all the way to the forearm. Due to his constitution, the bleeding stopped very quickly.
"...Will I be cursed?"
Eruru was unsure.
The awkward atmosphere made one at a loss for words. Hisui carefully reached out to pick up the kitten once more.
It seemed like it was not going to move again.
"Are you still doing it... Already cursed?"
"Don't say unlucky things. Well... Looking at things from its perspective, it must really hate us. Humans are all the same in its eyes. Next, I can handle this alone..."
"No, I shall help as well."
After that, Hisui and Eruru made a simple grave for the kitten and returned home.
As they parted, Eruru said to him:
"Please keep today's incident a secret from that girl who lives with you. I have no wish to be hassled by her questioning."
"Sooner or later, Sudou-san will join in to assist... But you should not act alone for now. If anything comes up, report to me immediately. Understood?"
Then they went off their separate ways.
Along the way home, Hisui suddenly recalled the words of his foster parent.
When he was first adopted by Miraluka, just as they started living in this house, he had asked her -- why live here?
Because he felt that vampires seemed more suited to live in ancient castles deep in the mountains.
After hearing his question, Miraluka thought for a moment before answering in the following manner:
--Well, the reasons are hard to describe... But first of all, it's because this is more interesting.
--Yes, a strange fellow lives here.
--In this very city...
Reaching here, she smiled lightly with profound meaning. Parting her lips to reveal her pristine white fangs which flashed with cold luster, Miraluka leaned over and whispered softly in Hisui's ear.
--A witch lives. Even now, her blood continues to pulsate.