Vampire hunter d volume.., p.1

Vampire Hunter D Volume 27, page 1

 

Vampire Hunter D Volume 27
 


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Vampire Hunter D Volume 27


  VAMPIRE HUNTER D 27: NIGHTMARE VILLAGE

  © Hideyuki Kikuchi, 2018. Originally published in Japan in 2010 by ASAHI SONORAMA Co. English translation copyright © 2018 by Dark Horse Books.

  No portion of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the express written permission of the copyright holders. Names, characters, places, and incidents featured in this publication are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons (living or dead), events, institutions, or locales, without satiric intent, is coincidental. Dark Horse Books TM and the Dark Horse logo are registered trademarks of Dark Horse Comics, Inc. All rights reserved.

  Cover art by Yoshitaka Amano

  English translation by Kevin Leahy

  Book design by Lin Huang

  Published by

  Dark Horse Books

  A division of Dark Horse Comics, Inc.

  10956 SE Main Street

  Milwaukie, OR 97222

  DarkHorse.com

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Names: Kikuchi, Hideyuki, 1949- author. | Amano, Yoshitaka, illustrator. |

  Leahy, Kevin (Translator) translator.

  Title: Bedeviled stagecoach / written by Hideyuki Kikuchi ; illustrated by

  Yoshitaka Amano ; English translation by Kevin Leahy.

  Other titles: D--Mashō Basha. English

  Description: First Dark Horse Books edition. | Milwaukie, OR : Dark Horse

  Books, 2017.

  Identifiers: LCCN 2017018316 (print) | LCCN 2017018786 (ebook) | ISBN

  9781630081621 () | ISBN 9781506701998 (paperback)

  Subjects: LCSH: Vampires--Fiction. | BISAC: FICTION / Horror. | FICTION /

  Fantasy / Paranormal.

  Classification: LCC PL832.I37 (ebook) | LCC PL832.I37 D28713 2018 (print) |

  DDC 895.6/36--dc23

  LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2017018316

  First Dark Horse Books edition: August 2017

  10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

  Printed in the United States of America

  Mike Richardson President and Publisher Neil Hankerson Executive Vice President Tom Weddle Chief Financial Officer Randy Stradley Vice President of Publishing Nick McWhorter Chief Business Development Officer Matt Parkinson Vice President of Marketing Dale LaFountain Vice President of Information Technology Cara Niece Vice President of Production and Scheduling Mark Bernardi Vice President of Book Trade and Digital Sales Ken Lizzi General Counsel Dave Marshall Editor in Chief Davey Estrada Editorial Director Chris Warner Senior Books Editor Cary Grazzini Director of Specialty Projects Lia Ribacchi Art Director Vanessa Todd-Holmes Director of Print Purchasing Matt Dryer Director of Digital Art and Prepress Michael Gombos Director of International Publishing and Licensing Kari Yadro Director of Custom Programs

  Those Called by the Rain

  chapter 1

  I

  From off somewhere in the urgent pattering of the rain there came a far deeper echo like a rumbling in the earth. The room began to quake a bit.

  “Oh damn!”

  Grabbing the traveling bag resting by his side, Bligh used it to hit the girl and the procurer lying to his right.

  “What in the—?!”

  “Just what do you think you’re doing?!”

  Looking them in their irate but still sleepy eyes, the man told them, “The ground’s rumbling. There’s a massive landslide on its way!”

  And with that he jumped down to the dirt floor ahead of them. As if from the force of his landing, the building then shook quite clearly.

  Exiting the hotel, Bligh ran off toward a hill to the west he’d noticed before checking in, and behind him was the sound of voices and footfalls. At the very least the other two from his room, plus another girl who’d been staying in the big room, had been saved. No matter what fate the future might hold for them, at the moment his heart was clearly carved with the words Where there’s life, there’s hope.

  Bligh didn’t invite them to join him. The rest would depend on the luck of each individual.

  Rain lashed him from head to toe. The wind was blowing in exactly from the west.

  That figures, he thought to himself. First a landslide, then a downpour right in his face. That was still kid stuff. All he needed now was to be surrounded by an angry mob and some cannibals, and then he’d finally be ready to throw in the towel.

  After he’d run for about three minutes, two shadowy horses and their riders passed him on the right. Apparently there’d been customers willing to take a private room at that old spook house of a hotel. On passing the man in the hall, Bligh had gotten the impression he was a traveling warrior. The other one with him was probably his wife.

  Bligh finally turned and looked back. Lightning flashed. He would’ve killed for an umbrella. All five of the other figures were using their arms to shield their faces and heads. Fortunately most seemed to subscribe to the Frontier traveler tradition of not changing into pajamas, and all either had their baggage on their back or in hand.

  What about the hotel staff? Bligh wondered.

  He squinted his eyes in that direction just as the lightning flashed once more, and by its light he saw the rickety form of the two-story building fold like a house of cards.

  They’ve had it, I guess.

  At the same time the ground beneath him rumbled and shook, and behind the figures who fell, one after another, something big and black that could’ve been either a wall or a wave was rolling right that way. Just a bit ahead of it, there towered a steep cliff. Since the sides and top of it were devoid of plant life, if it collapsed the heavy downpour would swiftly turn it into a ravenous mud monster, bearing down on them and devouring everything in its path.

  “This way. Hurry up!” Bligh shouted, pointing with one hand and running like a man possessed. He could hear the rumbling of the earth much closer.

  It was five minutes later that he reached the bottom of the hill. He climbed it without thought of anything else. Fortunately the slope wasn’t very steep, but that also meant it would take some time to reach the summit.

  Now that he was on the hill, he could finally let up a little bit. Trees were growing all over it, so it didn’t seem likely to give way easily.

  After about a minute’s wait, the rest arrived one after another. There was a plump, oldish man in a jacket with a girl dressed in the inimitable fashion of a traveling country bumpkin, a strangely sexy middle-aged woman whose profession was evident at a glance, and a young couple who each appeared to be about twenty years old, give or take a year. He immediately knew the story behind the oldish man and the country girl, but he wasn’t sure about the young couple. From the way they were dressed, they were probably a pair of sweethearts headed back home from a big town, perhaps even engaged to be married.

  Lightning flashed. Everyone was soaked to the skin. Still, the rain kept on pounding them mercilessly and beating down on the hill.

  “What the—!” Bligh exclaimed, straining his eyes.

  The people had been transformed into inhabitants of a stark white world, and behind them something came into view that seemed out of a dream. She wore a dress as white as snow, her arms and neck were adorned with bracelets and necklaces of gold and jewels—yet all that could be taken away, and still her youthful beauty and lithe form would’ve burned themselves into the retinas of any who saw her, even in a blinding world of brilliant colors.

  Bligh stared at her in amazement, forgetting the rain, the rumbling of the ground, even his own fate. Stared at her? No, the world had already been enveloped once again by darkness. Had it just been a fleeting illusion?

  T
he trembling that reached him through the soles of his shoes shook Bligh back to his senses.

  “Climb the hill. The landslide’s nearly on top of us!” he shouted, taking the middle-aged woman by the hand and digging the toes of his shoes into the slope.

  By the time they’d climbed to the top, all of them had reached the limits of their strength. Three of them were women. It was incredible they’d all made it that far.

  The rain didn’t let up in the least.

  As the shadowy figures huffed for breath like beasts in their death throes, Bligh said to them, “Okay, we should be fine now. I don’t see any landslide coming up this far.”

  Bligh looked down at the base of the hill. He couldn’t see very well.

  Lightning flashed.

  The man’s blood froze. His field of view was filled with a sea of churning mud.

  “A-all the way up here?!” he stammered.

  Mud surged up to his ankles. When it then quickly receded again, Bligh nearly grew catatonic.

  From off to his left, someone asked, “What’s wrong?” While the speaker was still wheezing for breath, the voice was full of vitality.

  “Didn’t you just see that?”

  “See what?”

  A fresh flash of lightning picked out the round-faced old man neatly dressed in a suit and tie, but Bligh’s interest focused at the bottom of the hill. The snarling sea of mud was retreating. And quite clearly back the way it had come.

  “What are the chances of that happening?” he groaned in spite of himself, but he actually got a reply.

  “None at all!” Framed by the rain bouncing off him, the plump man quivered.

  “The god of the mountain must’ve ordered it back or something, eh?”

  “Actually, it looked more like it was avoiding the hill.”

  “This hill here?” Bligh looked all around, but he couldn’t see anything. He had to wait for the lightning.

  “What’s that?” the plump man grunted, cupping a hand behind his ear.

  Bligh, too, listened intently.

  From up ahead there was the sound of hoofbeats. Two horses were approaching. By the time the pair halted beside them, Bligh had guessed the riders’ identities. It could only be the couple who’d left the rest of them in their dust.

  “I’m surprised you got away,” the man said to them from the back of his steed.

  To Bligh, he sounded high-handed. He wasn’t at all concerned about their safety. Their continued survival surprised him only to the extent he questioned why they’d been spared. In other words, in his heart he believed they’d have been better off dead.

  “Yeah, well, your horses were so fast, we had to speed up chasing you.”

  The man on the horse grinned. “Well, don’t take it personally. We barely made it out alive ourselves. Allow me to introduce myself. I’m Lyle Brennan—warrior.”

  “Sorry we ran off and left you to fend for yourselves,” someone said in a sensuous voice, making Bligh recall there was a woman there, too. “I’m Josette—his wife.”

  “Both of you are warriors? Isn’t that cozy.”

  “Not my wife. She’s just an ordinary woman.”

  “Beg pardon. My confusion came from her being just as quick to run away.”

  At the tail end of his sarcastic remark, Bligh felt something cold run down his spine. A powerful thirst for blood.

  The warrior moved forward on his horse.

  “Now, dear . . .”

  Josette’s voice halted his advance.

  “Watch that mouth of yours,” the warrior said in an intimidating tone crushed free of emotion, but the rain needled his words.

  “Come, come now,” the plump man said, stepping between them. “I’m Bambi Arbuckle. Physician and procurer of women. A pleasure to meet you.” Ignoring Bligh, whose eyes had gone wide, he continued, “Since we’ve all been fortunate enough to be saved, it would be a shame for us to go killing each other now. As for the two of you—have you found nowhere on this hill where we might take shelter from the rain?”

  “Over that way, there was one big old tree. Lots of branches to it, so it should be enough to keep the rain off us. It’ll probably let up by morning, anyway,” the warrior’s wife said in a tone that made it seem that she, at least, was sincere.

  “Hear that, everybody?” Bligh called out in a tone that ceded nothing to the rain. He knew that the rest of them had gathered around him. “All we’ve gotta do is wait for sunup. Okay, just have to tough it out a little more. So, how far is it to this tree of yours?”

  “Roughly five hundred yards.”

  “Sheesh—is this hill as big as all that?”

  “Bigger, probably. Even by the flashes of lightning, I couldn’t see all the way to the ends of it.”

  “Wow.”

  “At any rate, let’s get going. That girl and the lady I’ll take on my horse. The other one can ride with my husband.”

  The girl Josette referred to was the one traveling with the plump man; the lady was the fairer half of the young couple. Who “the other one” was went without saying.

  “Oh, that’ll be a great help!” the alluring woman said, gathering the hem of her nightgown and making a beeline for Brennan’s horse. Extending her hand, she said, “I’m Charlotte. Charmed to make your acquaintance.”

  “Lyle Brennan.”

  “You’re a warrior, didn’t you say? That’s marvelous!”

  In the meantime, the girl and the young woman went over to Josette’s horse and introduced themselves.

  “My name’s Beth.”

  “I’m Emily.”

  “Welcome. The trip’s only five hundred yards, but it’ll be a pleasure having you aboard.”

  Just as the rider extended her hand and was about to take hold of the girl, the plump man grabbed his young charge by the collar and jerked her back.

  “Just a minute—what do you think you’re doing?” Josette asked angrily.

  “I believe I told you I’m a procurer of women. The girl’s merchandise I’m in the midst of delivering to the town of Gillian.”

  Bligh and the others could only stare at him in amazement. He had indeed said he was a procurer. However, the plump man had looked so much like a courteous physician, it’d made them forget that fact completely.

  “As such,” he continued, “I can’t have the girl leaving my side. Take that young lady’s beau with you instead.”

  “No. I’m fine,” the young man protested.

  To which Arbuckle replied, “Go on and climb aboard. You should conserve your strength, since there’s no telling what could come next. As I recall—”

  “Get on,” Bligh also advised him, and the young man did so without further reluctance.

  “Sorry I didn’t introduce myself sooner. Jan Rollin is the name,” he then said.

  “The rest of you, wait here. Once we’ve unloaded everybody, we’ll be right back.”

  With Josette’s words as a parting gift, the two horses dashed off.

  Using both hands to shield his head, Bligh said, “We’ll catch a cold in this for sure, eh?”

  “Uh-huh,” the plump man said with a nod, while the girl just lowered her head.

  “Miss, just hang in there a little longer,” Bligh told the girl. He then inquired in a calculatedly rude tone, “So, old-timer, what was it you were about to recall, anyway?”

  As a doctor, he was accustomed to more deference. Glaring at him, Arbuckle said, “A long time ago, this area had one of the Nobles’ facilities. According to the stories, it was a top secret laboratory built on direct orders from their Sacred Ancestor, no less.”

  II

  Though the eastern sky lightened, the rain didn’t abate. The tree was so massive it would’ve taken ten grown men just to link arms around its trunk, and its great leafy branches reached out in all directions like helping hands, granting sufficient shelter from the rain, though it could offer no aid in deciding what they should do next.

  “I know it was a hard climb up
the hill and all, but there’s really nothing to do but go back down again, head to the highway, and wait for a patrol wagon to come by.”

  Brennan voiced his opposition to Bligh’s proposal, saying, “Look at this rain. First of all, wagons from the Capital won’t be running on time in this. Plus, I don’t quite think the landslide’s over completely. As a result, there’s a very good chance not just the road out to the highway but even the highway itself is buried in mud.”

  “Yeah, but staying here’s not gonna solve anything, is it? If it’s like you say, rescue parties won’t be here for a week and a half or more. So we’ve got no choice but to go to them.”

  As Bligh was refuting Brennan, he heard someone say, “Does it hurt?”

  Arbuckle had noticed the girl was lying back against the tree trunk. She had a red handkerchief pressed to her right ankle, though the red dripping from it suggested that wasn’t the handkerchief’s true color.

  “I cut it on a fallen branch,” the girl said, her lips twisting in pain. Apparently the sandals she wore hadn’t offered much protection.

  “Let me have a look,” Arbuckle said, pushing the handkerchief aside and immediately smiling broadly. “It’s nothing serious. However, it wouldn’t do to have any strange germs get into the wound either. I’ll patch you right up.”

  And with that, he opened a leather-bound suitcase and began rummaging through its contents.

  “Look at that. The girl won’t be able to move. Which means he won’t be able to leave here, either. I guess we’ll just have to wait after all,” Brennan said triumphantly.

  “I agree. I’ve had it with running here, there, and everywhere,” said Charlotte, her tone one of fatigue.

  Each and every one of them was soaked from the rain and utterly exhausted. If rescue wasn’t soon in coming, they would be sapped mentally even more quickly than physically.

  “Well, then I guess this is it for me,” Bligh said, standing up. “I leave the rest to you. Hang in there, everybody.”

 
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