"...And so, why did you call me out specifically? And of all places, why here?"
Hisui's puzzlement was only natural.
The tall building standing before him was no stranger to any Tokyo local, or even Japanese people in general.
In it resided an organization that no one would want to enter for a cup of tea, yet it was indispensable to society.
And this place was its headquarters.
This landmark frequently appeared in crime dramas, standing tall in the heart of police territory—The Metropolitan Police Department's headquarters.
"To me, this is simply my workplace. Because the Supernatural Investigations Section's headquarters is here as well."
Eruru was speaking in a business-like tone of voice.
Yet she had changed into weekend attire consisting of a frock and frilled skirt.
Naturally, Hisui was dressed in casual clothing as well, consisting of a loose-fitting shirt and casual tie on top with jeans on the bottom. He had picked this choice of attire in consideration of the fact that he was going out with a girl.
Of course, never did he at any point consider today's appointment a date with Eruru—but this sort of rendezvous point had him completely floored with surprise.
"Although I expected it was most likely something to do with your work, I never would have thought it'd be this place. And anyway, why did you ask me to bring this thing?"
Hisui pointed to the load he was carrying on his back. The human-height cross wrapped in white cloth.
People often used "carrying your cross" as a figure of speech but Hisui was currently carrying a real cross weighing close to thirty kilograms.
This was the Tzara Blade usually embedded on the floor of his home's basement.
Hisui had specifically brought this massive anti-vampire weapon with him as part of Eruru's request beforehand.
"Even though you helped arranged a car for me, which helped a lot... This thing is really heavy. Besides, even wrapped in cloth, you wouldn't want to get near it, right? How about you keep a bit more distance from me?"
"It matters not to me, but you will get lost, you know? It is fine, so please follow me."
Although she was afraid of crosses, Eruru led the way unfazed.
Helpless about the fact that the giant cross was excessively conspicuous, Hisui had no choice but to hurry and follow her.
Despite the challenge of walking under the weight of this thirty kilogram cross, Hisui could not allow himself to hand it over for Eruru to carry.
Even separated by cloth, were she to touch it, surely she would suffer ill effects.
As a half-vampire—the offspring of a human and vampire pairing—she was vulnerable to all vampire "weaknesses," be it crosses, sunlight, garlic or the like.
In spite of all that, she still asked Hisui specifically to bring the Tzara Blade. This implied that the matter must be quite serious indeed.
The path Eruru led him along was apparently reserved for staff with passage restricted to a select few. It led straight to the underground of the Metropolitan Police Department.
There were very few people around and the surroundings had gotten dimly lit before Hisui could notice. In the end, no one else could be seen around.
Advancing along the path in the depths of the Metropolitan Police Department towards who knows where, Hisui inquired Eruru about the matter from yesterday.
"You must have planned the cake buffet thing beforehand, right? Most likely to get Rushella away. If you wanted me to go out on a holiday, you can't have that girl getting in the way. This was the trap you designed to make her separate from me voluntarily. For the purpose of making that glutton with the sweet tooth fall for the bait, a girls only cake buffet is the best plan."
"But letting that girl wander the streets alone is very dangerous too. Besides, monitoring her is part of your duties. That's why you sent Sudou and Senpai to accompany her. When Sudou received a text message back then, you were the sender, right? Probably a message like 'I'll give you a buffet voucher later, tempt that girl to go along too.' Going with the flow, Senpai was invited as well, right?"
"You really are smarter than average still. So what if that is the truth? Are you going to reproach me for being a calculating woman?"
"Of course not. This is the best decision. After all, no one is getting the short end of the stick. If anything at all, at most I lost a valuable holiday's worth of time. Anyway... Asking me to bring the Tzara Blade, and requiring both of us to team up here, it must be no simple matter, right?"
Completely sincere, Hisui was not angry.
This was despite the fact that he had basically figured things out when Eruru asked him out.
It was surely related to vampires—And now that they had to run over to the Metropolitan Police Department, things definitely seemed unusual.
Eruru also appeared to have no intention of covering things up. Continuing to walk in the lead, she explained patiently without rushing.
"...A few days ago, offshore of the Seidou harbor, a sunken ship was dredged up. During the course of a resource survey completely unrelated to us, something was discovered... After we investigated, we realized it was a tricky situation."
"What was it? Some sunken ship as famous as the Titanic?"
"The ship is nowhere near that romantic. This ship sank at most ten years or so ago. And most likely it was privately owned. In terms of luxury it is comparable to the Titanic but it does not count as a passenger ship. Also, this ship is apparently illegal and not registered. Despite having sunk so long ago, for this matter to be discovered only recently, something fishy is going on for sure."
"I see. I guess there's no dormant treasure inside either."
"Several human skeletons were found. Their identities are currently under investigation."
"We have arrived."
Eruru stopped before a secure door.
The door looked like it was made of heavy metal. It was also equipped with a card reader, fingerprint verification and other strict security measures.
Its thickness was probably quite frightening too.
Or perhaps, Hisui was only witnessing the tip of the iceberg as the first of many layers of security.
"Of all the objects dredged up, the most important one was transported here. Today I asked you here in order to perform a test—Or rather, I wanted you to participate in the unsealing operation."
"Unsealing? ...What the heck did you dredge up?"
Eruru opened the door instead of answering.
Accompanied by the sound of activation, the door opened, its left and right halves sliding apart.
Before them was another door, separated by a corridor a few steps long.
Hisui and Eruru followed the corridor, passing through several heavy doors along the way that opened up for them.
After passing through multiple layers of security, they finally reached a large, plain room surrounded by four walls.
The top part of the walls had a portion made of glass, which seemed to count as windows.
It resembled operating theaters where medical interns could observe. Behind the glass, several figures were watching from an elevated position.
Since so many strict layers of security were passed along the way here, the glass up there were most likely reinforced to withstand average impacts.
However—why on earth was such strict security needed?
"I hope it's not for imprisoning some vicious criminal... Come on, what on earth is the thing?"
As if answering Hisui's question, the lights overhead turned on, focusing on an object sitting in the center of the room.
It was a coffin.
Multiple layers of chains were wrapped around it, imprisoning whatever lay sleeping inside.
From gaps between the chains, one could catch a glimpse of the coffin and see that its design was quite intricate.
With a high-class appearance of deep purple, the coffin was ornamented with detailed carvings.
As if highlighting the owner's stature, the outer appearance was exceedingly ornate. This was no simple burial vessel but a worthy work of art.
The outline covered by chains seemed familiar to Hisui.
Approaching it, he examined its appearance in detail.
Whether the skilled carving technique or the overall impression exuded—all of it seemed so similar.
Absolutely too similar.
To that particular coffin he was used to seeing every day.
The coffin Rushella had placed in her own bedroom.
"This was dredged up along with the ship."
Hearing Eruru speak, Hisui slowly turned around and asked:
"Are we going to open this?"
Eruru nodded silently.
Hisui returned to his position just now and stared at the coffin.
On that day, Rushella had woke up from her coffin in the mountains.
That was the beginning of everything for that "True Ancestor" girl.
Then what was going to appear from the coffin before his eyes here?
No one knew the answer, but one could make a basic guess. Hisui tightly gripped the Tzara Blade carried on his back.
"Yes, this is great!"
Enjoying the cake buffet, Rushella was greatly pleased.
Piling her plate with cake, she swept everything clean with ravenous appetite.
Starting from the banquet's opening, she had been eating nonstop, causing Mei and Kirika who were sitting opposite to be at a loss for words.
"How could you eat so much... I never knew vampires had such a sweet tooth?"
"Perhaps your nerves for sensing fullness are damaged? Be careful of getting fat... Though I guess vampires have no worry of that."
Mei and Kirika shrugged in exasperation successively.
The amount of cake on their plates were relatively normal. Cakes were wonderful and all, but for the sake of maintaining their figures, they had no choice but to rein in their appetite.
"I'm not sure why but my body seems to be thirsting for sweet tastes. But ultimately, nothing tastes sweeter than blood. I'm feeling a bit thirsty, it'd be nice if nearby there was..."
Rushella licked the cream near her mouth as she murmured with thirst.
The sight of a vampire like this was enough to send chills down one's spine.
"Hey don't show your true self in a place like this. If you want something to drink, there's as much juice and tea as you want."
"In my view, the taste of blood does not match very well with cake. Or perhaps a vampire's sense of taste is peculiarly different after all?"
Kirika was clearly being sarcastic but Rushella pondered her comment seriously.
"Hmm, that makes sense. Hisui's blood is more tasty when savored by itself. I'll have a good drink when I get back!"
Rushella's eyes glowed as she declared.
Precisely because this statement came sincerely from her heart, pure and innocent, it felt even more terrifying to the viewer.
Hisui very likely felt an inexplicable chill right now.
"I never understood all this time, why are you so obsessed with Hi-kun's blood? Though I suppose he is young and handsome, which should satisfy a vampire's tastes."
"Indeed, I am quite curious too. I heard from grandma that vampires normally prefer the blood of women instead..."
The subject of this conversation between girls might seem a bit too bloody, but precisely because Hisui was not present, it was a perfect opportunity to explore the issue.
But Rushella simply dodged the question.
"...No idea. Do I need a reason to like things? It's just like the cake before my eyes!"
"That sounds like a carefully phrased, shocking confession?"
"So it's that principle after all? The same way that food cooked by the person you love tastes especially good?"
Mei nodded in agreement with the viewpoint put forth by Kirika.
"Are you two misunderstanding something...? Besides, people who possess blood worthy of my attention are exceedingly rare. Simply through unaided vision, I can tell roughly what a person's blood tastes like. For example, you two completely fail to arouse my interest! The same goes for any other male! Make no mistake about this!"
Despite Rushella's domineering tone, she was blushing.
In order to hide her embarrassment, she turned to wolfing down her cake and averting eye contact.
"Oh well whatever. No matter how much affection you show towards Hi-kun, you always turn cold within short time."
"What are you talking about?"
"Senpai, you should understand. After all, one of them is a vampire while the other is human, right? The age difference resulting from the passage of time will become more and more pronounced. Perhaps the blood of the youthful is more tasty and once someone grows up, the attraction will be cut down by half? At least for the blood?"
"Ah, that does make sense......"
Kirika nodded in agreement.
With a human couple, growing old together through life and the passage of time was a worthy experience to savor. But a human and vampire couple would be a different matter. Only the human would age by him or herself.
The flawless viewpoint proposed made Rushella dumbstruck.
Although they appeared to be the same age currently, Hisui was going to age visibly sooner or later.
The taste of his blood would probably decline.
Furthermore, their relative positions... No, only Hisui's position would gradually change.
"Th-That guy should simply become my servant as soon as possible! Then with that...!"
"I will not allow anything like that to happen... That's what I'd like to say, but there's no need apparently. Hi-kun's constitution makes it impossible."
"Apparently so. I was quite shocked earlier... To think he could get his blood drained to such a degree without being turned. Your method surely will not work."
Completely immune to being turned into a vampire, the Anti-Drac.
Despite having his blood sucked by Rushella in full view of these two girls, Hisui's body never underwent any changes.
The fact of the matter stood firmly, better than any argument.
"Hmph... One day I will surely make him my servant. As for now... Well, recovering my memories is more important!!"
"True. Although I hate helping you, it's better to have you recover your memories sooner. Once that happens, you will voluntarily leave Hi-kun alone."
" "......?" "
Kirika and Rushella displayed puzzlement.
"You don't get it? Because once you recover your memories, of course you'll remember your kin... Or about your family, then you'll return home, right?"
"Ah... That makes sense. Although it is unknown how long you have lived, given you are an undead vampire with perpetual youth, it would not be strange to have a large family."
Kirika was the first to understand, nodding in agreement.
Indeed, vampires who had lived through the ages was very likely to have their own families.
"Let alone a boyfriend, perhaps you might have married, with children even. In the end, you might find out you're the mother of two or something like that? If that's really the case, Hi-kun no longer needs to take care of you, and you'll go home, right?"
Mei smiled malevolently.
Rushella objected with blushing embarrassment.
"W-What are you talking about!? O-Of course there's no... No lover at all! First of all, no other male even registers in my eyes..."
"...Perhaps not in the present, but who is to say it didn't happen centuries ago? It's not like I believe you are a 'True Ancestor,' but given eternal youth, it's probable that you've experienced a few romances more or less, right? In that case, marriage and children is perfectly normal. Besides, without your memories, on what basis are you refuting this?"
Unable to find words to object, Rushella could only turn her head away.
Channeling her displeasure elsewhere, she reached out with her fork to snatch away the last piece of Sachertorte chocolate cake from Mei's plate.
"Hey, what on earth are you doing!? I wanted to save this cake, the one that was limited in quantity, for the very last!!"
"You're being noisy, so shut up!!"
Rushella stood up directly and headed off to find new prey.
"...Jeez, does she really have to get so flustered when she gets poked in a sensitive spot? What a petty 'True Ancestor' she is!!"
"...Indeed, rather than the lord of the night... Describing her as a girl of our age would be a better fit. But why is it like this......?"
Kirika began to ponder with a bemused expression.
Compared to Mei, she had not spent as much time getting along with Rushella.
Although she had already heard Hisui explain basic facts such as her being a "True Ancestor" and "amnesia"—It was still difficult to accept.
"You look like you have a lot to say... Is there something wrong with that girl?"
"Do you not find it suspicious? Her personality, preferences, tone of voice... None of it resembles a 'True Ancestor' who had experienced a lifetime of eons. She is essentially a spoiled high school girl who throws tantrums all the time."
"Well, apart from drinking blood, that's really true... But isn't it just the result of losing her memories?"
"Wiped of memories, I suppose mental age would be set back more or less... A lack of life experiences would indeed feel more childish. But even so, her personality cannot change entirely, right? It is not like erasing data like a machine results in a pristine child."
"What you say makes sense..."
Memories—in other words, everything one had seen and heard throughout one's life had a great influence on the formation of personality. This was indisputable.
Nevertheless, Rushella was quite strange indeed if considered from this perspective.
"And speaking of losing memories, she should have no memories from before waking up in her coffin, right? But the minimum memories... Or rather, she does have knowledge essential for staying alive. No, based on what I heard from Kujou-kun, she is quite knowledgeable about vampires. In that case, her personality is supposed to resemble more of a vampire who had lived centuries, no, millennia... But in actual fact..."
"It completely doesn't feel that way. You're right, if all her memories were lost completely, then even if her body had matured, her mind would regress back to a child's... But Rushella was not childish to that degree, yet one could not feel traces of age from life's experiences... What is going on?"
"Did she really... Lose her memories?"
Kirika wondered with a solemn tone.
Entering into contact with Rushella as a third party, she seemed to be figuring something out about the matter.
"Hey hey Senpai, are you suggesting that she's pretending? That can't possibly be right no matter how you look at it. At least I don't think she could deceive Hi-kun... Besides, what would she gain by doing so?"
"No, I am not saying she is lying... Rather, I am wondering if her memories ever existed in the first place."
"Looking at her, you really cannot tell she is a 'True Ancestor' having lived for millennia and lording over all vampires from the pinnacle. How should I describe her? ...Perhaps I am not expressing this very clearly, but take for example a girl of our age, suddenly turned into a vampire... That is the kind of feeling I get."
Mei was unable to refute this hypothesis.
Naturally, there was no definite proof either.
Nevertheless, the 'True Ancestor' vampire before their eyes was currently stacking cake on her plate.
Possessing neither life experiences nor fragments of lost memories, she was simply a girl in the springtime of youth, a smile blooming on her face from the sweetness she tasted in her mouth.
Maintaining her solemn expression, Kirika took a sip of tea.
Amidst the drifting steam, she narrowed her eyes and used a "Witch"'s sharp gaze to scrutinize Rushella.
"Where on earth... did you actually come from?"
"—Next let us begin the unsealing operation."
Eruru announced solemnly at the underground of the Metropolitan Police Department.
In response to her orders, members of a police tactical team put on protective gear, took up their tools and surrounded the coffin.
Due to the special job requirements of the Supernatural Investigations Section as well as precautions against potential threats hidden in the coffin, neck guards were added to their issued gear, protecting their necks securely. Other parts were also carefully reinforced to prevent penetration from vampire fangs.
Just to be on the safe side, they all hung crosses around their necks as well.
A normal person would probably fall over in laughter if they saw such a scene, but everyone present were completely serious in their expression. Furthermore, the Tzara Blade carried on Hisui's back could also be considered a cross they relied on psychologically.
Under Hisui and Eruru's gaze, the team members began the task of cutting the chains.
Due to soaking under seawater for so long, the chains were severely rusted and had lost their former sturdiness.
Very soon, all the chains were severed in turn, revealing the coffin's full appearance to all present.
It looked more and more similar.
At the very least, Hisui was certain it came from the same craftsman who made Rushella's coffin, or a closely related maker.
"Then... Please open it."
Eruru issued orders solemnly.
The team members nodded to each other in acknowledgement and gripped the coffin's lid.
Slowly, slowly—the long sealed lid was gradually opened.
A faint fragrance of the tides wafted out.
The coffin from the bottom of the sea, its content was going to be fully exposed today.
The team members cautiously moved the lid aside—Then retreated together and kept their distance.
Rather than suddenly struck with fear, they were probably following Eruru's strict orders given beforehand.
This was for the sake of handling what was contained in the coffin, in order to keep casualties to a minimum.
There was nothing inside.
The coffin was lined with comfortable cushioning as fit for a vampire's sleeping quarters—but the owner was absent.
Eruru stood expressionlessly in one place while her team looked at one another in puzzlement.
Only Hisui walked up to the coffin to confirm its interior.
No one tried to stop him.
Or rather, there was no need to stop him.
Because no matter how one looked, it was empty.
Examining the inside in detail... Still no clues could be found.
Because a lot of seawater had seeped in, there was a heavy damp smell and it was quite wet.
But apart from there was nothing special of note. No trace nor possessions left behind by the owner could be found.
Sticking his neck in to investigate deeper, Hisui still found nothing.
Then to understand the coffin's structure and tactile feeling, Hisui reached with his hand towards the coffin surface.
Just as his fingertips were about to make contact with the coffin's edge—
Hisui withdrew his hand in surprise.
But the surrounding people simply reacted with bemused expressions at his behavior.
They apparently had not heard the voice.
(...Was I hallucinating?)
Just as this notion flashed across his mind, he suddenly felt an intense chill.
Perhaps having been submerged in seawater for so long, the coffin's surroundings were comparatively colder.
Just now when he had heard what sounded like a human voice, Hisui had felt a cold sensation flying past... But that was all.
The empty coffin before him showed no unusual signs.
"...What is going on?"
Hisui turned around and asked. Before Eruru could answer, another person in the corner of the room responded.
"What a complete embarrassment, wouldn't you say, special consultant Kariya?"
There were several members of the police before Hisui's gaze.
The one who spoke was a woman dressed in a suit and leather shoes who appeared to be their leader.
She had a tall and trim figure with slender arms and legs. Combined with a very short black hair, the description "cross-dressing beauty" seemed a custom fit for her.
Were she to appear on stage with a male role, surely screams of excitement would be elicited from the audience.
Her exquisite face showed no traces of cosmetics. Rather than beautiful, it would be more appropriate to describe her as handsome.
Roughly twenty years of age or so—Quite young for a proper police officer, but given her presence here, she was most likely no ordinary member of the police.
"Oogami Rangetsu—here to make your acquaintance. Unlike the special consultant over there, I am an official police officer of the Supernatural Investigations Section."
As if showing off her identity, Rangetsu displayed her police ID badge.
"Uh... Hi... What did you mean just now when you said embarrassment?"
"Just as you see here. Clearly there is no vampire but to have allocated so much personnel and squandered so much time, what an utter waste of police resources and facilities. All this effort for naught."
Her voice sounded husky like a young man's while her words were completely merciless.
This tone of voice somehow reminded Hisui of his first encounter with Eruru.
"But how could one know without opening it......"
"How utterly foolish. Before it was unsealed, the coffin had already been examined in various ways such as X-ray and ultrasound. All tests reported an empty interior... But this person here stubbornly insisted on carrying out the unsealing operation in this special facility."
"I am not implying that it should not be opened. Anyone in the Supernatural Investigations Section would recognize it as a vampire's possession. Besides, as an object dredged from sunken wreckage, investigations are definitely in order. However, there is no vampire in it, right? Then it's simply an antique and investigations should be left to forensics upstairs. Does everyone here agree?"
Rangetsu's words were addressed to the people watching above on the other side of the glass.
Although Hisui could not see the expressions on the people above, he could see several of them nodding in agreement.
Rangetsu's words were like a closing statement. Losing interest, the figures turned and left, disappearing from behind the glass.
Then the team in charge of the unsealing operation began to clear up and leave the scene dejectedly.
"Oh what a disaster for you too, getting called out here expressly on a holiday. Oh well, since she exterminated the vampire she raised personally, she has no choice but to turn to civilian collaborators."
Her words mocked Eruru mercilessly.
The vampire she raised personally—this was obviously a reference to the man who had concealed his identity and worked by Eruru's side, kidnapped Rushella and finally was exterminated by Hisui.
It was true that he was the subordinate she trained. But had she known he was a vampire? obviously she would not have kept him by her side.
"I can understand how you might be a little zealous in trying to make up for your past blunder, but you should pay a little more attention to others. Otherwise, you'll just end up causing trouble for others—"
"Actually, didn't this turn out great?"
Faced with her endless lecturing, Hisui stretched himself and interrupted.
"Be quiet, child. This is an investigation..."
"Why can't we be happy that things turned out peacefully? No matter how much checking you do, this does concern a vampire, and ultimately the coffin needs to be opened directly for confirmation. Supposing the being inside the coffin actually existed, it should be quite weak after being immersed in the sea for so long, and indeed such strict security might not have been necessary... But isn't this just hindsight? Could you really assert that just because you arranged heavy security and it ended up being bogus, taking precautions was unwarranted? What's the use of criticizing after the fact? Precautions are taken just in case. If nothing happens, it's a happy ending. Isn't that the way it should be?"
Hisui looked greatly unimpressed, his eyes full of derision.
After listening to him, Rangetsu responded aggressively.
"Looks like you have become this half-vampire's dog. Have you been struck by the 'magic eyes'?"
"Eh? Half-vampires can't use the 'magic eyes.' But they do have sharper eyesight than normal humans."
"I was being sarcastic. Are you that dim-witted?"
"Oh my god, there's actually someone who needs to clarify she was being sarcastic? What a total fail."
Hisui covered his mouth and suppressed the urge to laugh.
Rangetsu frowned and summed up with a face of displeasure.
"...In any case, learn from your mistakes. Please think carefully before you act, special consultant Kariya. Although based on my predictions, the higher-ups will be less inclined to listen to your opinion from now on."
Then she led her subordinates and left.
Hisui remained rooted to the spot, watching them with a bored expression.
"...Let us leave. Sorry for troubling you."
Eruru spoke and led Hisui back to ground level.
Along the way back, Hisui carefully selected his words and inquired about what just happened.
"Could it be possible... That you're in a rather complicated position?"
"It has always been this way. The purpose of setting up the Supernatural Investigations Section was to make effective use of cryptids surviving in the modern age. Humans serving under my command are tasked with monitoring me at the same time as assisting me. Oh well, who could blame them for I am the half-vampire inheriting half my ancestry from vampires."
"Don't say that. So who is that Oogami woman supposed to be?"
"Exactly as she introduced herself, an official member of the Supernatural Investigations Section. With several subordinates under her, she can be considered a squad leader. For some reason, she is always trying to compete against me... But she is quite capable in all respects, especially in handling the higher-ups."